September 28, 2009

From the Front: 09/28/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Shipping school supplies to Afghanistan - From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex got back safely from his latest mission but was too exhausted to write anything. So instead I’m borrowing the space tonight to show you couple of encouraging photos from the school supplies drive. The first photo is the back of my car – filled with donated school supplies. The second photo is the back of Rex’s car with donated supplies right before we headed out to Tampa’s main post office to ship this car load to Afghanistan. We ran out of packing tape and customs forms so we only shipped 11 boxes today; 6 more boxes are sitting in my car and I will get a lot more tomorrow when I meet with some former students at University of South Florida who have been collecting supplies since the beginning of the fall semester. I hear our other locations are making great progress too. Our “side office” run by our friend Carolyn Matthews in Biloxi, Miss., apparently managed to ship off 20 boxes this weekend. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: ANP visit and new camp puppy - After breakfast this morning I was outside the DFAC conversing with the French colonel. When we looked down a very small puppy was at our feet. The puppy seems to be too young to be away from his mother, but he was busy lapping up the crumbs dropped by people at the outside picnic tables. So now I might have a new friend. The camp has several cats inside the barriers, but this was the first dog or puppy I’ve seen. There are several dogs running around ANA land too. Today we were accompanying camp personnel on a convoy to the Afghan National Police (ANP) Headquarters. The US military at this camp are responsible for mentoring the ANP in the same manner my team mentors the Afghan National Army (ANA). While at the ANA building I was introduced to a policeman who was shot above the knee by insurgents while on duty in the Tagab valley. He was rather fortunate and recovered from his wounds, except for a noticeable limp. The ANP have lost just as many if not more policeman in battle than the ANA. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Flying High against the Taliban - At first glance it doesn’t look like much. The skeletal wood cross members are constructed of cheap bamboo rods. The deltoid-shaped face is made of thin crepe paper glued to a bent bamboo frame. They come in varied vibrant colors and the attached string is really not a string. Instead it is fabricated rayon line wound around a large plastic spool with 2 handles protruding from the sides. What I just described are the composite materials of an Afghan kite. Kite flying (gudi parahn bazi –Dari for kite playing) has been a part of Afghanistan’s history for the past 100 years. What most people don’t realize is kite flying and kite fighting were outlawed during the Taliban era. The Taliban rulers deemed kite flying as un-Islamic. They used to beat up the children and break their kites when they were found to be defiant of the decree. Kite shops were burned and shop owners were beaten and jailed for defying the Taliban law. (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: Reality Bites - There's a war in Afghanistan that hasn't reached the media by its design: the information counterinsurgency. Mike Yon has been disembedded from the much sought after unit 2 Rifles following his criticism of the purseholders of the Ministry of Defense (namely the shameful lack of helicopters in theater). The media ops of the British military made it their mission to complicate Mike's critical job of reporting on the soldiers in Helmand Province, the flashpoint of Taliban resistance. He has a clear and indelible respect for the British fighting men, so to see him tossed out on his ear by some desk riding pogue is most alarming. One particular line about a media ops major caught my attention: “Media Ops people—who do not leave their base or go on missions—who are spooling out ‘the message’ to the media. They are clueless about the state of the war in Afghanistan. For instance, many of the Media Ops officers will insist that we have enough helicopters in Afghanistan. Those officers are either completely oblivious to the actuality of the situation or lying.” Shades of experience. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Don’t get pissed! Reenlist! - Funny thing about young Marines; sometimes they don’t “get it” until they actually commit themselves personally and professionally to our warrior culture. During their first enlistment they mostly gripe and moan about how they are tired of people telling them what to do and can’t wait to get out and grow their hair long. The idea that you can get a job on the outside and not have someone tell you what to do tickles me to no end and I never get tired explaining the concept that those who do not have a boss usually don’t have a paycheck either. The hair bit I can identify with though; I plan to spend my first 30 days of retirement not shaving. Something happens to the Marine who recommits himself for another hitch though. I’m not talking about the ones who do it for an outrageous bonus or other bribery that some feel they are entitled to for reenlisting. I’m talking about young Americans like Cpl Byrnes who sported a mustache and pushed the limits of regulation haircuts right up until the moment he signed his name for another four years of honorable service. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Lapsed Evangelicals - In other posts, I have written about the choirs and the services at Church and how different it is from civilian life. Of course, one of the big differences in the Chapel versus home is the number of women. More women than men attend Church for the very good reason that women are more likely to be poor and disadvantaged than men, and the Church ministers to those with needs--material and spiritual. And for the same reason, the Church has more old people than young people. So Chapel services are about 90 percent male regardless of denomination, which more or less reflects the population. But considering that 80 percent of the military is under 25, the soldiers attending Church are, by Army standards, somewhere between old and ancient. So where are the kids? Avoiding Chapel just like their college-bound counterparts avoid Church. In fact, I've talked to young men who were active in youth group, went to Church every week and chucked all of it right after basic training. You want to go to Church during basic because those who don't clean the barracks. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Riding in the Dark - I've got another riding buddy who gets stuck in meetings till a few minutes before dark but really wants to ride so I go with him. He has got a five watt (dim) headlamp. I have a blinking LED headlamp that is bright enough for on-coming cars to see us, but even though I am getting close to 200 laps of this place, I miss a gouge or a hole once in a while. It is a lower intensity workout because we can't sprint in the dark--not actual dark, we've got a quarter moon and lots of security and airfield lights. Although the rifle halves in the pack seemed like a good idea, my back hurt from riding strictly on the seat. I will have to solve the rifle barrel whacking my helmet problem before I can carry the rifle in backpack. For those who read the Nick and Nora Nordstrom story, Lenore Skenazy, formerly of the New York Post, now of is interested in their story so they may become minor celebrities. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Real Deal - When it comes to the Middle East, the Obama administration is totally at sea. WaPo readers learned this: "A new wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has slowed the arrival of hundreds of U.S. civilian and military officials charged with implementing assistance programs, undermined cooperation in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and put American lives at risk, according to officials from both countries." I'm not sure the wave is new, but that's the claim. The same article reports that only 16 percent of Pakistanis polled expressed a favorable view overall of the United States, and only 13 percent expressed confidence in Obama. It's not as though Pakistanis loved the United States 10 or 20 years ago. The White House is waking up to this rude reality. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, it should tell readers that it's not the fault of the president of the United States. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Mesh Channel Selection - There's been a lot of discussion about how to select wireless channels in JBad. As anyone reading along will notice, it's getting really crowded up on the water tower (nine downlinks) to the point where it's important to worry about airtime on the radios: A standard wireless router has 11 available wireless channels. Of these 11, only three are completely non-overlapping (ie: can talk at the same time without interfering with each other). In our implementation, no two nodes can communicate unless they're on the same channel. In short, this is because if they could, eventually everythnig ould end up on the same channel, which we don't want. In terms of OLSR this is important, because if two nodes are on separate overlapping channels, they will interfere on each other's transmissions if they try to talk at the same time, but will ignore each other's RTS CTS messages, so they won't ever coordinate. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: FabFi 2.0-AF wrap-up - Oi, it's been a long time since the last post. Hard to write when you're gettin' 'er done... I'm gonna make this short since Amy beat me to just about everything important due to our slighly different approaches to blogging (I tend to avoid it until I have time to compose something neatly organized and complete, whereas she tends to work on the newsflash model). Anyway, here's the skinny: Fabfi 2.0 was a gigantic success. In two weeks we moved the FabLab, got the shop bot running, turned out a pile of fabfis, upgraded all the hardware and software and made two new links. After we left, there was a hardware failure on the 4km link, and one of the little reflectors on the tower pointed in the same direction transparently picked up the slack! (then I broke it from afar before Amy replaced the bad box) More importantly, we've had another pair come up in our absence, bringing the total number of downlinks off the tower to nine. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre's Line of Departure: Hitting the Pause Button on Afghanistan - If you are wondering why the Obama administration is suddenly having serious second thoughts about poring more troops into Afghanistan, here’s the short version. A lot has changed in the past few months. Here are the big three: 1. The Flawed Afghan Election - Instead of the recent elections conferring legitimacy on the government of Hamid Karzai, the widespread fraud has undermined confidence in the central government, in a country by the way, that has never really had any functioning central government. So instead of supporting a popularly-elected regime, the U.S. is seen even more as the outside occupying force that has installed a puppet president. No matter the reality, the perception is very problematic. 2. The More Effective, Resurgent Taliban - The Taliban has been on the rebound for years, but in the just last few months it’s shown an amazing ability to plan and execute increasingly sophisticated attacks. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Friday In The Garden Of Dog: Leaps Of Faith - In our backyard. The winds blow toward the house from the desert. The desert winds have blown through, making their arrival yesterday by blowing the flags toward the house and puffing on the large wind chime that The Hubs bought some time ago. The cat, dog and I sat on the porch for some time, wallowing in the heat for a bit. Earlier this week, there was a new story run on the web about how private donors have furnished enough school supplies, clothing, pots and pans for the people in Asadabad, in the province of Kunar. More than 500 women, ophans and disabled ascended on the Governor of Kunar's compound to receive needed items. I can attest that this just isn't smoke. The Hubs and the team have been personal recipients of numerous boxes of items from friends of this blog who have put things together for the locals around his FOB. Each effort made to establish a relationship with a local takes a leap of faith. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: "Soulless Muslim Bastards" - * WARNING* this blog entry may offend you. But I believe we don't have the right to not be offended, so if it does too bad. During his time in Iraq, Micheal often referred to the enemy as "soulless muslim bastards" . At the time it bothered me. I had always felt that as humans we are basically good. It would be some months after he died before I truly comprehended what he was saying. It took conversations with people who had been in Iraq and the watching of videos of those in Palestine for me to "get it". It comes down to the muslim culture is a culture of hate.. so much so that the hate has eaten the very souls of these people. When you see videos such as this you understand that from birth these people are taught nothing but pure hate. Is there a way change the next generation? When the children as young as 3 years old have had their minds so poisoned? I'm a mother, my life has been centered on raising my children, the thought of hurting a child sickens me. (READ MORE)

Life as an Army Duck: And the bad news is... - Excuse any misspellings, I'm typing this on B's phone here at his parents house for the funeral on Wednesday. I thought it would be a good time to take this nice moment to jot down some of my thoughts that have been running through my mind at the moment. Have you ever been really excited about something in life and then realised how selfish you've actually been for being so excited about it when it all turns to crap? The thing I was keeping from you, the thing I was excited about was a transfer B was making at work. A transfer from a combat corps to something less demanding. A transfer for many reasons that I can't even begin to list but basically a transfer that felt like the best decision to make at the time for B, for myself, and for our future. Selfishly the decision meant that B would be home more, that I could worry less. B was the one who originally suggested the idea and until he made his decision I was careful not to input to much but once the decision was made it felt right and I was one happy bee. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan opens new terror camps after Mumbai assault - Ten new terror training camps have been opened inside Pakistan since the November 2008 terror assault in Mumbai, India, which was launched from Pakistani soil. The 10 additional camps raise the total number to 62, according to Indian intelligence agencies. The report, which was first noted in the Hindustan Times, was confirmed by US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal. P. Chidambaram, Indian's Home Minister, "shared details of the camps, along with maps and intercepts of conversations between terrorists and their Pakistani handlers, with the US government" during a visit to the US in early September. The number of jihadi camps used to target India has fluctuated over the years. In 2005, it was estimated that there were 55 jihadi camps in Kashmir and Pakistan, but 15 were thought to have been wiped out during a deadly earthquake that struck Muzafarrabad and the surrounding areas in Pakistan-held Kashmir. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban suicide bombers strike in Pakistan's northwest - The Taliban killed 20 people and wounded more than 100 in two suicide attacks in the Northwest Frontier Province. The suicide bombers detonated vehicles packed with explosives in the cities of Peshawar and Bannu. In the Bannu attack, a suicide bomber rammed his truck into a police station, killing 10 people and wounding dozens more. Bannu is the gateway to the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Two days ago, the Taliban killed seven pro-government tribal leaders in Jani Khel who had raised a militia to oppose the extremists. Al Qaeda is known to have hosted its executive shura, or council, in Jani Khel and to deposit money in a bank there. In the Peshawar attack, a suicide bomber detonated his car outside a bank and a housing complex where soldiers and officers live. Ten people were reported killed and more than 75 were wounded. More people are thought to be trapped in the rubble. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Balls to the walls -- with pride - Shortly after lamenting the lack of information on Daniel's deployment in my last post, I got a breathless call from my son: “It’s balls to the wall, Mom. I’m leaving in an hour.” Before you judge my son for his crude language or his mother for raising a potty mouth, I must interject this definition from the online Urban Dictionary: "Term used by pilots: when accelerating quickly, the throttle is pushed all the way to the panel and the throttle lever (ball) actually touches the panel (wall). Hence, balls to the wall." So, after that brief call where I unsuccessfully tried to hold back miserable tears and sniffs, Daniel was off. Moments later, I got a text from my daughter, Erin: “I love you Mom.” She knows me well. For all my attempts to act like the old veteran at the prospect of Daniel leaving again, she knows I’m just a big marshmallow inside. Darn. I thought that if I acted tough, I would be tough. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: The Arab Preference for War - Egyptian playwright Ali Salem visited Israel in 1994 to “rid himself of hatred,” as he put it, and he wrote a slim volume about his experience called A Drive to Israel. His book was a bestseller in Egypt, but Cairo’s intellectual class ostracized him. The Egyptian Cinema Association and the Egyptian Writers Association canceled his memberships. The Middle East Media Research Institute just translated an interview with him in Kuwait’s daily An Nahar newspaper that makes for depressing reading. His interlocutor harangues him throughout and comes across only somewhat more reasonable than the intellectual colleagues who shunned him. “My trip posed a serious challenge to the Egyptian intellectuals and the entire Egyptian society,” Salem said. “How are we to treat this small society next to us [i.e., Israeli society]? Reality forced us to embark upon a peace campaign with the society that defeated us ruthlessly in 1967. My generation cannot overcome the hurt of 1967. All the attacks on me were because I forced them to face the truth.” (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: AED engineers assess Kunar Province projects - CAMP WRIGHT, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Afghanistan Engineer District (North) engineers did site assessments and a helicopter flyover Sept. 20 to view current construction and road projects in Kunar Province. AED is working with the national and regional governments to improve infrastructure within Kunar Province to increase governance, security and development. According to Martin Reed, USACE-AED construction representative/quality assurance lead and a native of Omaha, Neb., said the overall efforts on the various projects are going very well. “We received helicopter support from our headquarters that allowed us to couple with the PRT on an overall mission to fly around and see as many of our projects as possible and meet with people on site to discuss the projects,” Reed said. “Things looked good.” One stop for the AED engineers was the construction site of the Afghanistan National Border Patrol station in Khas Kunar. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: ... and then there was one - My friend Joe left Iraq today on his way home. His deployment here is over and he's on his way back to the real Navy, where the water is salty, ships are gray, and men don't wear cammie pajama outfits to work. Joe's the last of our little Band of Buddies to leave. Everybody else has gone home or been transferred to other bases in-country. There was Robert, who's home now - he was our absent-minded professor, always taking pictures of things he shouldn't and getting away with it ... usually because he was never aware that he wasn't even supposed to have a camera there! There was "Air Force Joe", a really smart guy who kept a tight rein on his projects. He went home, too. There was Eric, a scary-smart Air Force captain who is (literally) an astronautical engineer, who is now in Fallujah to work on a sewer project (aren't you impressed with the way the Army decides where to put people?). (READ MORE) Our Other Perennial Theme - Well, it’s that time of year again. Time, of course, for the start of the Uzbek, Turkmen, and soon, Kazakh, cotton harvest. This is an issue that we cover every year at, and since we like to consider ourselves somewhat more aware of Central Asia than our immediate compatriots in North America, I thought it might behoove us to attempt to get right to the meaty truth, while avoiding sensationalism from either side of the aisle, though I’m sure we’ll invite plenty of sensationalist comments from both sides of the Ocean. There are more than two sides to this issue, but two of the loudest on Registan in the past have been the righteous indignation [UPDATE: New Link] of western human rights activists of various stripes and the small but vocal minority of former cotton pickers that comment on this blog. At the risk of triteness, their arguments could be summed up as the following: Human Rights Activists: But, this cotton is picked by children! (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Withdrawal is not (Necessarily) Surrender - It’s finally being put into motion: the withdrawal from vast tracts of indefensible bases in places like Nuristan. This news comes right as General McChrystal goes on the teevee to notice that the country is actually worse off since he took over—a brave thing to do, considering the hagiography being built around him. So, will this work? I am a deep skeptic of conceding territory for a variety of reasons: it often leaves the area in question worse off, and in many cases the abandoned area becomes a staging ground for further insurgent attacks on the newly consolidated territory. When the decision finally comes down to retake said abandoned territory, it is often much more difficult and expensive and deadly to retake it than if the Coalition had maintained even a minimal presence all along. However, in a world without infinite resources (ahem), we realistically must decide which places to abandon and which to focus on. (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: Kandahar Air Field on a growth spurt - KANDAHAR AIR FIELD - The big summer push to increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan has turned this air field into a military boom town. Tent camps stretch for acre upon acre as construction crews dig the foundations of new buildings and place prefab container units of newly minted barracks. There are plans to improve sewage treatment, but for the moment there is a giant, waste pond that wafts an odor that is carried by the desert winds as it sweeps across this barren site. Even with all the construction, living conditions for many of the troops are cramped. When they venture out of their rooms to take a stroll through the night air, they traverse a landscape of gravel and dust. Greenery here is scarce as palm trees on Arctic tundra. I arrived here early Thursday morning in a C-130 cargo plane, which had most of its belly converted to passenger space. (READ MORE)

There's sand in my: Student meets the Master - Some of the new US OR team showed up this week to start training to take over the hospital from the Canadians in mid-OCT. It's a good group that are young but really chomping at the bit to begin, those of you who know me well know that I'm throwing my hands up in the air and telling them to run with it! haha. They will undoubtedly be able to handle anything that is thrown at them. The person who is going to be the head of the OR is LCDR Keith Ferguson. He happens to be the reason that I now work as an OR nurse! He talked me in to coming with him in 2004 in Jacksonville, FL to check out the OR to see if I liked it, obviously I did. It was definitely a surprise to see him here after 5 years of being apart. Welcome Keith and you’ll do a fantastic job. The first picture posted is of me and Keith. The second picture is of me eating a "healthy" dinner after 11 hours in the OR! (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: SAD-SACK DO-GOODERS AND WHACKO THEORIES ON COUNTERINSURGENCY - Ralph Peters has expressed some concerns about the safety of the troops with regards to ROE that really resonated with me (see article here). It reminded me of the dark days of the 1990’s and endless tours that we had in the Balkans. The rules of engagement at that time were so restrictive that soldiers were taking the firing pins out of their rifles because they feared court martial more than combative-action fire. I was a tank commander with the British Army then. I remember saying to the troopers that “it was better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.” My CO at the time made sure that “that Canuck Colonial” never got near the press. Good thing too! Gen McChrystal’s recent efforts to lesson civilian casualties in Afghanistan has left some with the impression that he is basing his actions on a Counterinsurgency manual that was written to please “peace advocates” and “humanitarian workers.” (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: The only man crazier than Qadaffi: Ralph Peters - Spencer Ackerman is keen to point out that Ralph Peters is back to his old tricks in the New York Post. In today's post at Attackerman, Ackerman notes that Peters is claiming that the rules of engagement in Afghanistan don't allow troops to unleash mass destruction upon the enemy. Now, you're probably about to note that in population-centric counterinsurgency, enemy body counts aren't important—it's better to secure the population, clear the area of insurgents, and build security forces and social services on top of these areas—basically separating the fish from the water, to reverse-engineer Maoist insurgency. You know—the "clear, hold, and build" we learned from David Galula. Well, along comes Ralph Peters to claim that the only way to win is through brute force. Says Peters: “Over the decades, political correctness insinuated itself into the ranks of our ‘Washington player’ generals and admirals. We now have four-stars who believe that improving our enemies' self-esteem is a crucial wartime goal.” (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Update on Sora - Remember Sora? I told you about her a few months ago. Her family is in Basra and she was torn between staying here or going back to Chicago to start pharmacology school. Well, she decided to go back. I keep in touch with her on facebook and she’s loving it, but she definitely misses her family in Iraq. From her pictures, it looks like she’s having a great time! I’m so happy for her. I can’t imagine making that decision. It seems pretty simple to those of us not in her shoes, but she was deciding between her entire family in a war-torn country and her friends in the semi-safe (very safe compared to Iraq) states. She says I’m welcome to come visit Chicago and I think I just might! (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: McChrystal, Troop Levels and Rules of Engagement - 60 Minutes did a report on General Stanley McChrystal in which the main theme was that General McChrystal is trying to deprogram eight years of bad habits in Afghanistan. Killing civilians, running drivers off of the road, and generally being insensitive to the human terrain have kept us from winning the campaign. It’s the ham handedness that is killing the effort – or so the report goes. The exercise of air power has come to a virtual standstill in Afghanistan, and to contrast the current state of affairs with the previous, 60 minutes shows McChrystal visiting a town’s marketplace versus what I recognized to be a YouTube video of an A-10 run against a Taliban hideout. The interviewer presses the issue of combat power. “The hallmark of American military power was its overwhelming firepower. Now you’re describing a situation in which firepower is almost beside the point?” Martin asked. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Shiite political party seeks new talent, says don't be shy - Today, Shiite cleric Sheik Jalaluddin Saghir, a senior member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, or SIIC, gave a telling glimpse of his political party’s internal thinking, with national elections on the horizon. SIIC, has had a rough year. In August, the party’s leader, Abdelaziz Hakim, passed away and was succeeded by his 38-year-old son, Ammar Hakim. The death came after the party’s trouncing in provincial elections last January. Rumors abounded about internal divisions over the young Hakim’s succession. (READ MORE)

Disunity Threatens Sunni Iraq - A number of prominent Sunni politicians in Iraq have abandoned a once-formidable bloc, lowering expectations of significant gains in parliamentary elections that are just a few months away. In 2005, Sunni Arab politicians largely boycotted Iraq's first parliamentary vote, and they've regretted it ever since. Shiite and Kurdish candidates swept those polls, sidelining Sunnis when it came time to assemble a government and put together provincial councils. Sunni Arabs make up about a fifth of Iraq's population, and they constituted the ruling elite during the era of Saddam Hussein. (READ MORE)

Many Investors Still Avoid Risks of Iraq - The Diyala State Company for Electrical Industries here staggers along, making transformers, spark plugs, ceiling fans and steam irons that few want or can afford anymore. Its labor force has tripled in size, even as production has slumped. A deal to lure $60 million in foreign capital - one of only a handful of foreign investments in Iraq’s state-owned industries - collapsed. (READ MORE)

The Emergency Response Brigade’s 3rd Battalion arrests 16 alleged terrorists - BAGHDAD – The 3rd Battalion of the Iraqi Emergency Response Brigade, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested 16 suspected terrorists during an early-morning operation in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, Sept. 27. The battalion-level of the elite police force also known as the Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics Team were operating under the authority of warrants issued by the District Court of Babel issued the warrants in accordance to the Republic of Iraq’s anti-terrorism law. (READ MORE)

3-8 Soldiers’ work with ISF, Iraqi judicial system critical to operations - TIKRIT, Iraq – MOSUL, Iraq – Basic police work such as collecting evidence and eyewitness testimony have become commonplace for the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and their Iraqi Federal Police counterparts. The Soldiers of 3rd Bn., 8th Cav. Regt. have partnered with their Iraqi Security Forces counterparts to establish a process through which they can find, detain and prosecute insurgents and criminals who harm Iraqi civilians, ISF and U.S. Forces. (READ MORE)

Weapons caches found in Diyala - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, BAQUBAH, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces, working alongside Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, discovered three caches while conducting reconnaissance near Al Byaa in Diyala province, Sept. 25. The three caches consisted of 108 mortar fuses, six mortar boosters, an 82mm mortar body, a 62mm mortar body, a rocket-propelled grenade booster, an explosive charge with blasting cap and initiator, a mortar sight, a dushka round, a tail fin, a damaged M-67 hand grenade and an oxygen tank. (READ MORE)

Pathfinders take on border interdiction mission, train Iraqi allies - FORWARD OPERATING BASE SYKES, Iraq – A Pathfinder platoon from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade deployed to Forward Operating Base Sykes in Aug., to conduct vehicle interdiction missions targeted at countering smuggling operations. Partnered with 3rd Iraqi Army Division’s Commando Company from nearby Al-Kisik Iraqi Army base, they join together as a highly mobile quick reaction force to interdict time-sensitive targets, according to Capt. Bryan Herzog, a platoon leader. (READ MORE)

9th RCB Soldiers seek out, arrest suspect in Iraq National Tae Kwon Do team murders - RAMADI Iraq – Soldiers from the 9th Regional Commando Battalion, Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspect in the kidnapping and murder of at least 13 Iraq National Tae Kwon Do team members in 2006 near Khalidiyah, Iraq, Sept. 24. A warrant was issued by the Magistrate Court in Karmah for the suspect’s alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of the team members. (READ MORE)

Combined force clears dangerous route - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq—A combined force consisting of Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers, Iraqi Police and Sons of Iraq conducted a large-scale clearing operation, Sept. 23, along a key road in Kirkuk province to prevent insurgents from staging attacks with improvised explosive devices. The road between Kirkuk and Hawijah has recently been the scene of multiple IED attacks targeting both Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. Forces. (READ MORE)

Iraqis, U.S. Work to Support the Drawdown of Forces - ALI BASE, Iraq – A joint visit here Sept. 24 by an Iraqi and American Air Force general provided the Iraqi Air Force a better understanding of what assets will be available to support them during the transition and U.S. draw down. Iraqi Air Force commander, Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar, and U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Kane, director, Iraq Training and Advisory Mission – Air Force a part of Multinational Security Transition Command - Iraq, visited the 407th Air Expeditionary Group at Ali Base. (READ MORE)

Six suspects arrested during search for al-Qaeda emirs - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces arrest six suspected terrorists today during separate security operations in northern Iraq provinces. The 3rd Brigade Federal Police with U.S. forces advisors apprehended four individuals during a search for an al-Qaeda in Iraq extortion and finance emir in Mosul. After further questioning, the four were identified as suspected AQI associates and arrested. (READ MORE)

Brassfield-Mora base in final closure stage - COL BRASSFIELD-MORA — As the drawdown of U.S. military forces and equipment continues here, military installations throughout Iraq are closing with the land being returned to the Iraqi government. This location, now in the final stages of closure, served as a staging point for food, water and other basic supplies for surrounding patrol bases. (READ MORE)

Solid waste program established in Kirkuk - KIRKUK — It doesn't take a sanitation engineer to see that garbage collection and disposal is a major problem throughout Iraq, and efforts are underway to change that. The sweet smell of success is starting to permeate from the Kirkuk Solid Waste Management Program — at least in a metaphorical sense — thanks in part to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers here. (READ MORE)

Forces detain insurgents, seize weapons - WASHINGTON — Iraqi troops, aided by U.S. forces, detained suspected insurgents and seized weapons in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported. Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers detained 14 people Thursday after they attacked a U.S. patrol in Kirkuk province. The Soldiers were attacked while establishing security positions along a high-traffic route near the town of Shalikh in Rashad Valley district. Soldiers had been observing the attackers for suspicious activity. (READ MORE)

Portable bridge connects key villages - KIRKUK — A rural area in Kirkuk province, which had lost a critical bridge to insurgent attack, now has a new bridge to reconnect the communities and improve security. Insurgents had detonated explosives on the bridge connecting two Iraqi Army units on either side of a ravine in the town of Awashra, only a short time after the troops set up outposts there. (READ MORE)

New tactics, techniques increase efficiency at Safwan Port of Entry - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA — Iraq's border is more secure thanks to the concerted efforts of the Safwan Port of Entry Transition Team, 17th Fires Brigade and Iraq's Port of Entry Police. The main entry point along the Iraq-Kuwait border, Safwan lies approximately 64 miles south of the city of Basrah."Our mission is to advise, train and assist the Iraqi Safwan Port of Entry Police," said Lt. Col. David M. Miller, Safwan PoETT team chief and a native of Paducah, Ky. (READ MORE)

Troops bolster Iraqi education prospects - KIRKUK — During the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division's time in Iraq, the unit has helped build and renovate 25 school facilities now ready to open for the upcoming school year. "The three schools I visited in the last two weeks in the vicinity of Rashaad are excellent examples of how the Soldiers are making a tremendous difference in their areas of operations," said Lt. Col. Hugh R. McNeely, the deputy commander of 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. (READ MORE)

Medical Clinic dedicated to fallen Soldier - COL Q-WEST — The Troop Medical Clinic here was renamed the Cpl. Christopher J. West TMC during a dedication ceremony, Sept.17. West, or C.J. to his friends and family, was a medic assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. He died Feb. 4. 2008, of wounds suffered during combat operations in Muqdadiyah. (READ MORE)

Cavalry Guardsmen Provide Convoy Security - CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION SPEICHER, Iraq – Logistic convoys move supplies throughout northern Iraq, under the careful protection of Mississippi Cavalry Guardsmen. The 1st Squadron, 98th Cavalry, provides convoy security escorts to military and civilian logistics convoys in northern Iraq, said Lt. Col. John Nipp, the 1/98th Cav. commander. The 1/98th was a scout unit, but it has adapted to its new mission in support of sustainers and their convoys, he said. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, U.S. Air Force Work Hand in Hand to Support the Drawdown of Forces - ALI BASE, Iraq – As the U.S. Air Force continues to support the responsible draw down of forces in the country of Iraq it is also working to prepare the Iraqi air force to support and maintain its own flying operations on airfields across Iraq. Because of this, the Iraqi air force commander and the director, Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission – Air Force, visited the 407th Air Expeditionary Group on Sept. 24 at Ali Base to conduct a site survey of the airfield and facilities, and to speak with members of the media from the local city of An Nasiriyah about the future of the base. (READ MORE)

Gates: Setting Afghan Withdrawal Date Would Be 'Strategic Mistake' - Defense Secretary Robert Gates pushed back against calls by Congress for the administration to set a timeline for withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan, as unease about the White House's handling of the war grows on Capitol Hill and among the public. In two television interviews, Mr. Gates argued that the Afghan war was vital to US national security. Laying out a timeline for removing American troops from Afghanistan would be "a strategic mistake" that could embolden al Qaeda and the Taliban, he said on CNN's "State of the Union." (READ MORE)

Gates: Afghan Exit Timeline 'a Mistake' - Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said it would be a "strategic mistake" to set a deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, saying such a move would emboldened al Qaeda terrorist operations. His comments are a blow to liberals and some Democrats, including Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Dianne Feinstein of California, who have been pushing for a schedule to wind down US military activity in Afghanistan." (READ MORE)

US Believes Karzai Will Be Re-elected - The Obama administration has told the government of Hamid Karzai that it believes he will be re-elected as president of Afghanistan for another five-year term, two administration officials said Sunday, even though the results from the disputed Aug. 20 vote are still under review because of evidence of widespread fraud. The United States and other NATO countries also told Mr. Karzai’s government that they have pledged to help him wage an expanded campaign to peel away insurgent fighters from the Taliban, these officials said. (READ MORE)

US, Allies Vow Support for Karzai - The United States and NATO countries fighting in Afghanistan have told President Hamid Karzai's government that they expect him to remain in office for another five-year term and will work with him on an expanded campaign to turn insurgent fighters against the Taliban and other militant groups. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other NATO foreign ministers, meeting Friday in New York with their Afghan counterpart, reached "consensus" that Karzai would probably "continue to be president," whether through a runoff or as the legitimate winner of more than 50 percent of votes cast in disputed Aug. 20 elections, an Obama administration official said. (READ MORE)

US Defense Secretary Defends Review of Afghanistan Strategy - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied Sunday that a rift exists between the Obama administration and America's military commanders on how to proceed in Afghanistan. The secretary's remarks came after a report by the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan calling for additional troops was leaked to the news media last week. Army General Stanley McChrystal's stark assessment of deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan has yet to be formally presented to President Barack Obama. (READ MORE)

Gates: McChrystal is ‘The Very Best’ Officer to Command in Afghanistan - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today gave his unequivocal vote of confidence to the senior US military officer in Afghanistan. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union news show, Gates told host John King that Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is “the very best commanding officer we could possibly have” as commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Gates said he believes President Barack Obama shares his strong confidence in McChrystal’s abilities. (READ MORE)

British General Supports Request for 40,000 New Troops in Afghanistan - Britain’s top general in Afghanistan backed calls for more troops, insisting it would be impossible to deny al-Qaeda their terrorist safe havens by “simply patrolling from the skies”. In an exclusive interview with The Times, Lieutenant-General Jim Dutton, said yesterday that he supported a formal request made by his boss, General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander, for up to 40,000 new troops. On Friday General McChrystal submitted a formal request to NATO and the Pentagon for a surge in troop numbers to help to tame a growing insurgency. (READ MORE)

Deadly Bomb Targets Afghan Minister - A car bomb narrowly missed Afghanistan’s energy minister as he was driving through the western city of Herat to the airport on Sunday morning, in what a Taliban spokesman described as an attempted assassination. The minister, Ismail Khan, a regional power broker, was unharmed, but 4 civilians were killed and 17 others wounded in the attack, including 2 women and a child, Afghan officials said. Mr. Khan said later that western Afghanistan was becoming more treacherous and that he would leave the cabinet if tougher measures were not introduced to contain the growing violence. (READ MORE)

Afghan Official Threatens to Quit After Attack - A powerful member of President Hamid Karzai's cabinet threatened to quit after a suicide car-bomb attack targeted him Sunday, killing five people, in the Taliban's latest attempt to destabilize Afghanistan's struggling government. Two Americans were among six NATO troop deaths elsewhere. Shortly after the bombing, in the western city of Herat, Energy Minister Ismail Khan railed against the dramatic rise in violence in Afghanistan, saying that thousands of new refugees are seeking shelter in Herat because of militant attacks in outlying districts. (READ MORE)

US Threatens to Escalate Operations Inside Pakistan - The US has told Pakistan that it may start launching drone attacks against the Taliban leadership in the city of Quetta in a major escalation of its operations in the country. Washington has long been frustrated at Islamabad's reluctance to target the Afghan Taliban's ruling council, the Quetta Shura, which is accused of directing large parts of the insurgency across the border in Afghanistan. State department and intelligence officials delivered the ultimatum to Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, last week as he visited the US for the United Nations' security council sessions and the G20 economic summit. (READ MORE)

Car Bomber Kills 4 in Pakistan - A suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a car carrying a pro-government tribal elder and at least three other people Monday, killing them in the latest explosion to rock Pakistan's militant-riddled northwest, officials said. The attack occurred in Baka Khel, an area just outside the lawless regions along the Afghan border where the Pakistani military has been battling Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. The target appeared to be Maulvi Abdul Hakim, a tribal leader who was instrumental in allowing security forces to pass through the area and gain access to the North Waziristan tribal region, a paramilitary official said. (READ MORE)

Obama Can't Downsize to Success in Afghanistan - During last year's campaign, Barack Obama stressed that while he wanted to withdraw from Iraq, he was no pacifist. "As president," he said on July 15, 2008, "I will make the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win." He began to make good on his word on March 27 when he announced a "comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan" that included 21,000 additional troops. The goal, he said, was to "reverse the Taliban's gains" and "prevent Afghanistan from becoming the Al Qaeda safe haven that it was before 9/11." (READ MORE)

What Bush Got Right Offers Clues for Obama - President Bush made a courageous decision in the summer of 2006 to reverse direction, but not the reversal sought by Congress (including then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden), the American public, the overwhelming majority of the press (including this newspaper), and even most of his own military advisers. Instead of cutting our losses and pulling out of Iraq, as we did in Vietnam, Bush doubled down. He invested more troops and, more important, embraced an entirely new strategy. And Bush was right. (READ MORE)

A War President? - All spring and summer, it looked as though Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut, would play the same role in the debate over President Obama’s Afghanistan policy that he played in the struggle over Iraq: as a champion of the surge-style counterinsurgency that Obama endorsed in March and as a defender of a wartime White House against the Democratic Party’s leftward flank. But that was before Afghanistan’s fraud-riddled elections, before Obama’s new top commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, came back with a dire report and a request for further reinforcements and before a spooked White House entered full-scale reassessment mode. (READ MORE)

Testing Afghanistan Assumptions - In the coming weeks, President Barack Obama will make the most difficult choice a commander in chief can face: whether to send more troops into harm's way. The challenge of making the right decision was dramatized recently by the grim disclosure that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has warned that unless he gets more troops the eight-year war there "will likely result in failure." The general provided a bleak catalogue of misaligned military operations, a corrupt Afghan government, and an increasingly lethal insurgency. (READ MORE)

Marines Investigate Insurgents' Underground Highway - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM, Nimruz province, Afghanistan – Some people go cave exploring for fun, but when there is a possibility of stumbling on explosive materials, an armed enemy or a nasty surprise they've left to be triggered in the dark, it's about as far from fun as you can get. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are searching wet, pitch-dark tunnels ranging from 40 to 100 feet underground that connect the karez system – a network of wells and tunnels between the snow-capped peaks of the Buji Bhast mountains and the arid desert plain here. The karez system was originally constructed hundreds, maybe thousands, of years ago. These days, insurgents are using these tunnels as a form of covert transportation and storage for IED-making materials. The Marines are putting a stop to that. (READ MORE)

Marines See Change in Bakwa - COMBAT OUTPOST BAKWA, Farah province, Afghanistan – The Marines here have found fighting insurgents alone won't bring peace in this region. Experience has shown that Marines must also develop strong relationships with the locals to bring about positive change. A platoon of Marines living here from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment – have gained the locals' trust and respect through kind acts and helping their Afghan neighbors with tangible, everyday problems. These same people who hid from them and even hindered their efforts a short time ago are now assisting them with information and access. (READ MORE)

Afghan Mi-35 Pilots Once Again Patrol the Skies - AFGHANISTAN - The Afghan National Army Air Corps recently reached a milestone with the completion of the Initial Operations Capability Mi-35 attack helicopter program. American and Czech Republic mentors recommended the Mi-35 program to the Ministry of Defense to provide security, show force and patrol the skies of Afghanistan. The accomplishment required many hours of practice and training, but careful preparation was important when utilizing such a powerful aircraft. (READ MORE)

Obama: Destroying Al Qaeda Remains U.S. Goal in Afganistan - WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2009 – The overriding U.S. goal in Afghanistan is to dismantle the al Qaeda network , President Barack Obama said yesterday in Pittsburgh. Speaking at the closing press conference of the G-20 summit, Obama said the only reason the United States went into Afghanistan was because al Qaeda had killed 3,000 Americans and vowed to kill more. U.S. officials were not were interested in entering that country or positioning ourselves regionally, he said. (READ MORE)

Taliban threatens Germany ahead of vote - German authorities have uncovered a new video threatening attacks against the country over its military engagement in Afghanistan ahead of this weekend's pivotal elections, an official said Friday. The new Internet video threats are believed to come from the Taliban, an interior ministry spokesman said, and demand that Germany withdraw its troops from the war-torn country. (READ MORE)

Canadian commander sees hope in Afghanistan - A funny thing happened to Canadian soldiers on patrol in Panjwaii district the other day. An ordinary Afghan showed them where three roadside bombs were buried. Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, commander of Canadian Forces overseas, related that incident to reporters Thursday, a trace of wonderment in his voice. (READ MORE)

Taliban ratchet up fear in Kandahar city - The fast of Ramadan had ended and the feasting of Eid had begun. The little girl, who lived in Kandahar city with her family, wanted to buy some candles to give to friends as gifts. Her 12-year-old brother wanted some shoes and a haircut. So they squeezed into the back of a wagon being towed by a motorcycle that two male neighbours were driving into a shopping district in the heart of the dusty city. Their father followed behind them. (READ MORE)

U.S. Afghan war commander submits troop request - The Pentagon’s top military officer flew to Europe to talk to the commander in the Afghanistan war about how many troops he needs to turn around the faltering campaign. President Barack Obama would not say whether he thinks the war requires more troops and said he is in the midst of a review of whether the United States is pursuing the right strategy now to defeat al-Qaida. (READ MORE)

McChrystal: Things getting worse in Afghanistan - Amid concerns that he might resign over a rift between the military leadership in Afghanistan and the civilian leadership in the Obama White House, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, America's top commander in Afghanistan, sat down for an interview with David Martin of 60 Minutes, airing Sunday. The moment making headlines in advance clips comes when Martin pointedly asks, "Are things worse, or better?" (READ MORE)

Osama asks Europe to quit Afghanistan - Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has called on European countries to end their alliance with the United States and withdraw their forces from Afghanistan, the SITE Intelligence Group monitoring service said on Friday. “An intelligent man doesn’t waste his money and sons for a gang of criminals in Washington, and it is a shameful thing for a person to be in a coalition whose supreme commander has no regard for human life and intentionally bombs villagers from the air,” the US-based SITE quoted bin Laden as saying. (READ MORE)

UK’s Afghan policy under scrutiny - The resignation of a senior British general has exposed a widening rift between the military leadership and Prime Minister Gordon Brown over how the war in Afghanistan is being fought. Maj-Gen Andrew Mackay, a former brigade commander who oversaw critical operations in Afghanistan, resigned on Thursday, the Ministry of Defence said, asking for the reason behind his decision to remain a private matter. (READ MORE)

Northern Afghan violence under cuts US supply route - Growing Taliban influence in northern Afghanistan is threatening a new military supply line painstakingly negotiated by the U.S., as rising violence takes hold on the one-time Silk Road route. The north has deteriorated over just a few months, showing how quickly Taliban influence is spreading in a once peaceful area. Local officials say the Taliban are establishing a shadow government along the dilapidated road that ultimately could prevent vital supplies carried in hundreds of trucks every week from reaching the military. It also raises the danger that the supplies could end up in militant hands as fodder for suicide attacks. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan needs more NATO help to fight drugs - Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is likely to decrease by next year, an Afghan official said on Sunday, but the country needs more money and help from NATO to reach its goal of becoming "poppy-free". Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the world's biggest supplier of the source material for heroin, has decreased by 22 percent so far in 2009, compared with last year, according to the United Nations, with 20 provinces now described as "poppy-free". (READ MORE)

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