September 29, 2009

From the Front: 09/29/2009

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

Afghanistan My last Tour: Library ribbon cutting ceremony - It was another 0430 hrs wake up and we trudged our gear up to the parking lot and prepared our armored vehicles for today’s mission. We were returning to our former camp for a ribbon cutting ceremony (or inauguration as translated by our interpreters). In addition, I was scheduled to attend a drop off of school supplies at a school I previously featured on my blog. We watched the sun come up and patiently waited for the brigade interpreter to show. Ten minutes went by and then it turned into twenty. The interpreter apparently lost his cell phone the day before and we had no means of contact with him. The convoy commander made a decision to leave without him and he would drive to our destination without an interpreter. By the time we entered Kabul, it appeared it was just waking up and very little traffic was on the streets. We weaved our way through the capital city with ease and the traffic would stop for us at the unmarked 4 way intersections. (READ MORE)

A World of Trouble: (VIDEO) "Westerners say why do they wear a burkha or hijab?" - Afghanistan is infamous for the Burkha. The loose garment that completely covers the woman's body and face in a meshed veil. How does a society that values this garment as proper dress view a woman's right to say an education, or even to go outside unaccompanied? The following are some interviews conducted in Nuristan, a particularly rural and conservative province in the far Northeast of Afghanistan. (VIEW VIDEO)

Armed and curious: Military Facebook pages: Being there is not enough - Today a growing number of military units and organizations have an official presence in social media and especially on Facebook. Unfortunately, it seems that most organizations just seem to think that being there is good enough. Their fan pages are nothing more than a place to push the same news releases and self congratulatory comments. A perusal of many major organizational pages shows that administrators don't seem to have an idea how to truly build a community and leverage the power of social media and its ability to engage the public in ways unimaginable through traditional means. It truly seems that most military organizations are just happy to have finally built a page and that is the extent of the progress. The last year has seen an explosion of organizations building outposts in the social media world and specifically a wave of Facebook fan pages. Some are having a measure of success in a large number of friends and followers who are linking to the pages. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Alone and Adrift in the Army - Tuesday 29 September 2009 0800 - The Army does not do a very good job taking care of individually-mobilized reserve component soldiers. How do I know? Because I am one, and I am alone and adrift in a Kafkaesque nightmare. The Army does a pretty good job of managing active-component soldiers through their assignments. It is also set up to do a pretty good job of mobilizing and demobilizing entire reserve component units. But when it comes to individual reservists who are mobilized and sent to fill augmentation positions in deployed units, the system leaves a lot to be desired. When I was first mobilized I was pretty impressed with the thoroughness of the process. There were times when certain actions were duplicated and other times when people in various positions had incomplete or contradictory information, but on the whole it was pretty straightforward and got me overseas within a couple weeks after I reported for duty. (READ MORE)

Chandler's Watch: “A Disparate Assemblage So Close To The Hand of God” - A speech by Major General Robert Scales USA (Ret), Truman Library, 12 September 2009 - What a great thrill it is see my comrades in arms assembled here so many years after we shared our experiences in war. Let me give you the bottom line up front: I’m proud I served in Vietnam. Like you I didn’t kill innocents, I killed the enemy; I didn’t fight for big oil or for some lame conspiracy. I fought for a country I believed in and for the buddies who kept me alive. Like you I was troubled that, unlike my father, I didn’t come back to a grateful nation. It took a generation and another war, Desert Storm, for the nation to come back to me. Also like you I remember the war being 99 percent boredom and one percent pure abject terror. But not all my memories of Vietnam are terrible. There were times when I enjoyed my service in combat. Such sentiment must seem strange to a society today that has, thanks to our superb volunteer military, been completely insulated from war. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Change 2 - Change is an inevitable part of life. The military specializes in change. The highest rates of change seem to occur in the military in war time. Orders which are authoritatively passed to troops one minute may be countermanded the next. Like reading the names of fathers in the old testament; one change begets another which begets another. Upon arrival here I was briefed by the person I replaced that my job was to supervise in processing and vaccination of ANP recruits. This task takes approximately 60% of our time. Our team made the decision that this was really only a secondary job, since our primary job is to mentor the ANP Medical Director and his staff. (Change 1) I have been eagerly awaiting the end of the Ramadan and Eid period. Now I can get back out and my secondary job. Last week our team started getting some interesting emails with powerpoint slide attachments which indicated this secondary mission of in processing may be handed over to contractors and Afghans starting in January. (Change 2) (READ MORE)

Iron Camel: No News Broadcast About Iraq - As I rifled through the many reports, emails and hyperlinks that I am requested to go through each day, I came across one that linked me to a compilation of “major” news events coming out of Iraq. As I scrolled through the pages, most of the stories were about the findings of a report where the British Army as a whole was blamed for the death of a group of Iraqis held in a detention facility. Scrolling further to the end were the final three sentences: ABC News with Charles Gibson: No news broadcast about Iraq. CBS News with Katie Couric: No news broadcast about Iraq. NBC News with Brian Williams: No news broadcast about Iraq. Yesterday, I went to a remote area just south of Baghdad where a ceremony was being held for the opening of a new health center, community center and farm bureau office all built within the last 6 months. Although it may sound small, it shows that there is a sense of community, pride and determination to a better life in this small village. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? - MEDEVAC Pilot - This story went on line yesterday on Armed Forces News service so if you want to see the pilot's picture, just Google my name under the "News" tab and this story will come up with photos. CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – Maj. Matt Stevenson sits alone in the ready room next to the medical evacuation hangar at 11 p.m. He is hunched over his personal computer, editing a document for a meeting the next day. “I’ve got to get some sleep in case we get a 2 a.m. call,” he says, mostly to the air. The rest of his crew is asleep or resting, waiting for the call. Stevenson is a senior staff officer with 2nd Battalion 104th Aviation Brigade, but two to four days every week he is a MEDEVAC pilot on a 48-hour rotation with Alaska-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment. His shift will be over at 9 a.m. the following morning, but he had a long flight in the afternoon and a long day of meetings on either side of the flight. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Change Ahead - Lots of Iraqis are tired of the government of Nouri Al Maliki, and they say they are ready to vote change in the upcoming parliamentary elections. It's really easy to criticize the Iraqi government. Most people know it's full of corrupt politicians out for themselves. And the country has the dubious honour of being among the top three most corrupt nations in the world. Iraq's government has attempted to deal with this by setting up the Kafka-esque Ministry of Integrity to investigate charges of corruption in its ranks. At least they can say they're trying. But it's unclear how successful they have been with their work. Most recently there have been calls to set up a parliamentary committee to investigate reports of a Kurdistan minister’s purchase of shares in the Norwegian oil giant DNO International, which works in the north. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: War: Taking Care Of The Wounded - I never said this blog would be easy. My readers should know that I tread a very fine line between writer and wife. I've been a writer for over 20 years --far longer than being a the wife of a soldier. And so it's always this instinct that comes up first, followed by questioning whether or not I share it. And so, I weigh what gets put into the blog. And then, even with their wisdom, it winds down to me sitting here making a final decision. I received these photos from The Hubs. The write up he did was so complete, I wondered if they were intended for the public. He said, "No, just you." But then, I thought that wasn't quite right, that certainly the way he described it was to a larger audience. So we both thought about it ...and then I asked a few people "in the know." And the decision was to run the photos --edited. (READ MORE)

Life at Joint Base Balad: At Fort Bliss (it was better in Iraq) - We just finished our time at Fort Bliss. But I wanted to put up a post discussing only Fort Bliss, so that you the reader will have a basic understanding of what de-mobilizing is like. Every reserve unit has a “Mob Station” from which it mobilizes and de-mobilizes. The 304th Sustainment Brigade’s was Fort Bliss, which is in El Paso, Texas. As discussed in the last post, we had a very long trip from Kuwait to Texas ona chartered airplane. When our airplane arrived at about 6AM, we were all very tired and beat. The first thing they did was they made us all line up in a hanger-like building on Biggs Field, the Fort Bliss runway. We then turned in our weapons. Here is a photo of me a few minutes after our arrival, parting with my old friend for the last time: After that, they gave us a TB test shot, and let everyone eat a little breakfast. The eggs were runny, the potatoes rubbery, and the french toast was burnt to a crisp. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban, Frontier Corps clash in North Waziristan - The Pakistani Army and the Taliban clashed at a military base in North Waziristan as the government considers launching an operation in the tribal areas. The fighting in Ramzak, a military garrison in a town that borders North and South Waziristan, broke out after the Taliban launched more than 110 rockets and mortars at the base. The Frontier Corps returned fire with artillery and claimed to have killed between 12 and 15 Taliban fighters and destroyed two Taliban bunkers. Two Frontier Corps troops were killed in the attacks. The Taliban disputed the claim and said only three of its fighters were killed in the attack. According to Azam Tariq, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the assault force also captured a large quantity of weapons from the military. The fighting is the second major encounter between the Taliban and the military in Ramzak over the past week. (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: Kunar provincial leaders, PRT sign school bundle promise - CAMP WRIGHT, Afghanistan – Kunar Provincial government leaders and Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar members signed a construction project implementation commitment Sept. 27 to build five new schools in the province. Fazullah Wahidi, Kunar provincial governor, told a crowd of more than 100 gathered mullahs, village elders and government directors that the new school in Narang and four schools in Asadabad represent the Afghanistan government’s commitment to the people to improve education. “The time of fighting is done, now is the time for education,” said Wahidi. “Education is important for everyone because it takes people out of the darkness and into the light. We want Afghanistan children to get an education.” The governor said while the buildings are important and the first step to improving the development and security of the country, it is when teachers teach and children learn that education begins. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Happy Birthday, Janis - Today is my wife Janis's birthday. No, I won't say her age - I value my life. We had our first date 18 years ago this very day, when we went out for dinner and a movie. (Pretty original, huh?) She's celebrating it in some unique ways: having some of the windows on our house replaced and simultaneously wheeling and dealing on eBay. Our neighbors are going to have her over for grilled hamburgers later on tonight. Wish I could be there! I made my first deployment back in the Dark Ages. It was 1978, to be precise, and I went with my first ship on an Indian Ocean cruise. The only way we had to communicate with home was with hand-written letters. They could/did take weeks to make it to their destination. Mail was a high-priority item for the deployed fleet. It would come from the APO in San Francisco, then flown out via whatever route they chose to Diego Garcia, then flown again up to the aircraft carrier we were with. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: An Artificial Bifurcation - Rajiv Chandrasekaran has an interesting opinion piece on the two options supposedly facing Barack Obama: go all-in, or fold. Ignoring the questionable use of poker imagery for a moment, I’m curious how this lines up with the Post’s Ombudsman Andrew Alexander’s very public hand wringing about various forms of social media, saying “nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment. We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism.” Well, I don’t know what it means to have a senior and very respected correspondent like Chandrasekaran penning opinion columns—it’s impossible for a reporter of his stature not to have opinions, and frankly, given his experience, I’d rather have them out there than hidden under paragraphs of quibbling text. But whatever—what about his ideas? (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: Bravo Company meets the shovelers - JELEWAR, Afghanistan -- The man in the brown robe was digging in the desert sand. He was accompanied by three teenage boys and a donkey pulling a wooden cart. Was he scooping up sand to help make concrete? Or was he trying to bury a roadside bomb? The soldiers in this Stryker convoy from the Fort Lewis-based 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division stopped to investigate. This was one more imponderable among so many as these soldiers patrol a vast area of the Arghandab River valley that is a stronghold of the resurgent Taliban. Many patrols are an uneasy mix of trying to build bridges with villagers and fighting Taliban soldiers who have taken refuge in the irrigated orchards that straddle the river. There have been plenty of firefights. But IEDs - improvised explosive devices - placed on roadways and on foot paths have been the most pervasive threat in the more than two months since the brigade arrived in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

SemperFi Wife: Mission Accomplished!!! - Lancelot and I went on a mini-break (can you tell I love "Bridget Jones' Diary") last week. We traveled out to San Clemente on Tuesday for a couple of days with no hard plans at all. We just wanted to enjoy a beautiful place, eat good food, read and relax. At the end of the week, we were off to Spousebuzz Live at Camp Pendleton. Ahhhh....what a break!!! We arrived on Tuesday evening in San Diego. Even in the dark, we were greeted with familiar sights all the way up the 5 to San Clamente. Lancelot and I lived in the area from 2003 to 2005 and really loved it there. How could you not love living in Paradise? We spent the next couple of days eating all the food we missed from places like In -n- Out Burger. Rubio's, and Surfin' Donuts, We ate dinner one night on the San Clemente pier and watched the sun set. We finally made it to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. I started reading Dan Brown's latest book. And after about seven weeks of feeling like I'd been hanging on by my very short fingernails, I started to relax a little. (READ MORE)

Andi: Gallows Humor: The Milspouse Version - gallows humor - Function: noun Date: 1901 : humor that makes fun of a life-threatening, disastrous, or terrifying situation - At SpouseBUZZ LIVE Camp Pendleton, we began a discussion about funny or odd things that we've heard from civilians. Before I knew it, we were off in a different direction, that's the nature of our LIVE events and that's one thing that makes them so interesting, but I wanted to revisit this topic here on the blog and add a few things that I wanted to say Saturday, but didn't get a chance to say. Service members, police officers and fire fighters often laugh about things that would freak the average person out, or even offend them. In many ways, it's a coping mechanism. Milspouses have their own version of gallows humor, especially when it comes to some of the questions and comments we get from civilians. Laughing at them, or rolling our eyes, doesn't mean we hold civilians in contempt, far from it. (READ MORE)

McQ: Afghanistan - It Is Decision Time - It is decision time for our involvement in that country - i.e. whether we continue or whether we pull the bulk of our troops out.And placing that decision on the back burner is unacceptable. As I said in another post it is time to fish or cut bait. Or, in Texas Hold 'em parlance, go all in or fold. Some look at those two very stark options and point out that there are many other options in between. True. But, given how this war has gone, I think those are the only two viable ones. What we're doing now, which falls squarely between them, isn't working. And variations on that aren't going to work any better. It seems to me we have to either make a concerted and focused effort to again nation build (and all that entails with time, blood and treasure), or we have to decide to leave that up to the Afghan people and concentrate on al Qaeda hunting on a much smaller scale. That, of course, would be the "fold" option. (READ MORE)

The Burn Pit: Then and Now: the Homefront of WWII v. Afghanistan - What percent of Americans do you think supported continuing war efforts in Germany during the Battle of the Bulge? Everyday as I walk to my office I pass a row of WWII posters. As I passed them last week I stopped to actually look them over, and it struck me how connected the WWII generation was on the homefront with the troops who served overseas. There are those iconic pictures of families gathered round the ginormous radios and listening to the latest dispatches from the front lines. Hollywood was busy aiding the war effort by making films, and some men were serving who would later go on to big and small screen fame. (Look at the service records of James Doohan, Gene Roddenberry and Deforest Kelly of Star Trek fame as one example.) Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the posters of WWII with the results of this CBS News/NYT poll on Afghanistan from last week. Take a look at it and let me know what you think. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: Gates on Afghanistan: corruption, troops, and other strategies, foreign and domestic - George Stephanopoulos' interview with Robert Gates provides significant insight to developments (or lack thereof) on the issues of strategy and troop numbers. A careful listen requires an acknowledgment that the Secretary is rightfully cautious when describing what others might be thinking (especially when others include combat commanders or the President of the United States) but clearly he's in a better position than most to access and understand that thinking. There's much here of note. But this brief excerpt: “STEPHANOPOULOS: But did -- but didn't General McChrystal take these problems of the election into account? He didn't even deliver his report until August 30th, which was after the elections. Dennis Blair, the head of National Intelligence, said back in February or March that we could foresee that there would be problems with this election. GATES: Well, I think -- I think that the potential magnitude of the problems in the election really didn't become apparent until the vote count began in early September. So -- so I think it was really after he submitted his -- his assessment.” (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

New Bridge Built on Washed-out Route Arnhem - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – The leadership of 7th Engineer Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division inspected a bridge construction site on Route Arnhem in Maysan province, Sept. 6. The bridge, located near the border of Dhi Qar and Maysan provinces, is near completion and will replace a temporary bridge built when the road washed out several years ago. (READ MORE)

Iraq Is Struggling to Buy Equipment - A severe budget crunch here is holding up the sale of billions of dollars of American military equipment, including tanks, more than two dozen helicopters and thousands of radios. The hardware is seen by Iraqi and US officials as crucial in helping Iraq's military and police force completely take over security from American combat forces, scheduled to depart by August 2010. (READ MORE)

At Least 16 Dead in Bombings in Iraq - Police in Iraq say at least 16 people were killed and dozens wounded in a series of bombings across the country Monday. In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber killed seven policemen and wounded 10 others when he blew himself up near a police station in western Anbar province. Earlier, back-to-back bombings in Baghdad left at least three soldiers dead and at least 15 people wounded. (READ MORE)

Bombings Across Iraq Kill 15, Wound Dozens - Explosions across Iraq on Monday killed at least 15 people and wounded many others, police said, further testing the ability of the Iraqi armed forces to keep the country safe. A suicide bomber driving a water tanker loaded with explosives blew himself up near a police station in Anbar province, killing seven policemen and wounding 10. (READ MORE)

Holy Month Ends, and Violence Rises Again in Iraq - Eighteen people were killed and at least 55 others were wounded in bombings across Iraq on Monday as the country’s level of violence picked up again after a relative lull during the holy month of Ramadan. Monday’s attacks occurred in Shiite and Sunni areas of the country and took aim not only at the Iraqi Army and the police but also at civilians. (READ MORE)

Furat Training Center Graduates1,449 Police Basic Recruits - One thousand-four-hundred and forty-nine Iraqi police graduated from the Furat Training Academy here Sept. 28. Training began Aug. 25 with class focusing on certifying currently working Iraqi Policemen who had not yet had a full certification for the basic recruiting training program in their personnel files. (READ MORE)

Five new police stations under way in Mosul - The Nineveh Governorate Council and Iraqi governmental officials, with the assistance of the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, have taken steps to bring civil stability back to the city of Mosul. The recent renovation of the old Mosul Courthouse and construction of the police academy are evidence of that commitment. The Gulf Region District’s Mosul Resident Office, in partnership with the Iraqi government, is again taking steps to stabilize the region through the construction of five expedient Iraqi police stations — with a heavy emphasis on expedient. (READ MORE)

MNSTC-I’s School of the Advisor Graduates its 500th Student - The 500th student graduated Sept. 27 from the School of the Advisor Course at the Ministry of Defense’s Ministerial Training and Development Center. U.S. Air Force Maj. George Woodworth, an advisor to the Iraqi Director General of Armaments and Supply, accepted the honor from U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commanding general, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. (READ MORE)

Reading program keeps families connected - Although deployed parents cannot tuck their children in at night, they can still read them a bedtime story thanks to a USO program here. The United Through Reading program, offered by the United Service Organization (USO), allows service members to create a video recording of themselves reading a book, then send the video and book home to their family. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces arrest 16 wanted terrorists - The Iraqi Emergency Response Brigade's 3rd Battalion, Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), with U.S. advisors, arrested 16 suspected terrorists during an early-morning operation in Mahmudiyah, Sept. 27. The elite Police Force was operating under the authority of warrants issued by the District Court of Babel in accordance with the Republic of Iraq’s anti-terrorism law. (READ MORE)

Soldiers keep sky straight, pilots safe - Day and night, the flight line here is bustling with aircraft coming and going; performing missions essential to the success of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. The control tower is in charge of the air space 3000 feet above the tower and five nautical miles from the center point of the airfield, according to Staff Sgt. Alfredo Rivera, from Fort Knox, Ky., the facility chief with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment. (READ MORE)

10th Mountain Division 'Commandos' Set to Return to Dramatically Improved Iraq - The new 10th Mountain Division commander told his soldiers preparing to deploy that they’ll play a critical role in “one of the most challenging and dynamic deployments” to Iraq as they transfer full operational control of the Iraqi security forces to the Iraqi government. Army Maj. Gen. James L. Terry heralded the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team – “one of the Army’s most-experienced, most deployed and most successful brigade combat teams” -- during a rousing Sept. 25 deployment ceremony here outside the division headquarters building. (READ MORE)

Now Playing in Swat - The Taliban are gone in Swat, and one of the best illustrations of their absence was on display a few days ago at a local cinema: the movies are back. The men began lining up at 10 a.m. Forty-five minutes later, they began surging past a security guard into the courtyard through a side gate. They sidestepped the ice cream vendor and shoved and jostled their way to the box office for 150-rupee tickets. (READ MORE)

Bomb Kills 15 Civilians; 12 Wounded - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WILSON, Afghanistan – Fifteen Afghan civilians were found dead and at least 12 were wounded after an improvised explosive device exploded beneath their bus Sept. 29 on Highway 1 in the Kandahar province. Afghan and International Security Force partners are assessing casualties and damage. Afghan emergency medical personnel arrived quickly on the scene and supported ISAF medical staff to treat the injured casualties. (READ MORE)

Joint Force Clears Insurgents in Shewan; Afghan-International Force Interdicts Uzbek Militant in Takhar - KABUL, Afghanistan - The Afghan national army's 1st and 6th Kandaks, ANA commandos and U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted an operation to clear insurgents from Shewan City, Farah province, early Monday. More than 500 Afghan and coalition forces participated in the operation which killed a large number of insurgents. (READ MORE)

Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team Proves 'peace, Partnership, Progress' Possible - PANJSHIR, Afghanistan - Traveling through the Panjshir province of Afghanistan, one hardly realizes there's a war being fought in the rest of the country. Children play outside, markets are open for business and schools are in session, all with an air of fearlessness. The people here simply live their lives. (READ MORE)

Afghan-International Security Force Detains Militants; International Security Force Service Member Death; Militants Stopped in Wardak - KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan and International Security Force detained several suspected militants today after searching a compound in Wardak province known to be used by a Taliban element responsible for supplying large numbers of weapons to subordinate militant commanders in the area. (READ MORE)

ANGLICO: the Liaisons Between Comrades at War - LASHKAR GAH, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – "What does your body armor look like?" asked one U.K. soldier. "How do we get an Afghan civilian to a hospital in Lashkar Gah?" asked one U.S. sailor. "What type of information do you have on insurgents in the southern oasis of Now Zad?" another U.K. soldier queried. (READ MORE)

Frederick Marine killed in Afghanistan - Just before Lance Cpl. Jordan Chrobot of Frederick died Saturday, he was "happy and upbeat" in Afghanistan, his mother, Kandy Poole Johns, said. "Just knowing that has helped," as she arranges for her 24-year-old son's funeral, Johns said Monday. Johns, who had not talked to her son since May, said Chrobot and his wife, Amber, spoke for almost 30 minutes Saturday, shortly before he went out on a mission. (READ MORE)

US Accepts Hamid Karzai as Afghan Leader Despite Poll Fraud Claims - The White House has ended weeks of hesitation over how to respond to the Afghan election by accepting President Karzai as the winner despite evidence that up to 20 per cent of ballots cast may have been fraudulent. Abandoning its previous policy of not prejudging investigations of vote rigging, the Obama Administration has conceded that Mr Karzai will be President for another five years on the basis that even if he were forced into a second round of voting he would almost certainly win it. (READ MORE)

General Stanley McChrystal Opts for 40,000 More Troops in Afghanistan - The top US military commander in Afghanistan is believed to be seeking up to 40,000 additional troops, among a range of options he proposes, to regain the advantage and eventually win the war against the Taliban. The request from General Stanley McChrystal is at the higher end of estimates first raised last month. General McChrystal's troop request follows last week's leaked release - from an assessment of the Afghan conflict ordered by US President Barack Obama - of the commander's view that the war will "likely result in failure" unless more troops are sent within a year. (READ MORE)

New NATO Chief Says America's Allies Stand Firm Against Taliban - In his first major speech in the United States, the new head of NATO is expected to respond Monday, to President Obama's concerns that the United States is doing the lion's share of the fighting in Afghanistan. In prepared remarks, Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledges more resources are needed to fight the battle against the Taliban. However, he is expected ask the United States to stop downplaying efforts by America's allies. The new head of NATO is set to defend the international body's contribution to the fight in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

NATO Chief Says More Troops Needed in Afghanistan - Stepping into an intensifying debate in Washington, the new head of NATO said Monday that more allied troops are needed in Afghanistan to help train the country's security forces. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who took over Aug. 1 as NATO's secretary-general, said he agreed with an assessment last month by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, who emphasized the need to secure Afghan cities. (READ MORE)

No US Request for More Afghanistan Troops in Stephen Smith Meeting with Robert Gates - The Rudd Government received no further request for assistance in the war effort against the Taliban in Afghanistan today as Foreign Minister Stephen Smith met senior officials of the Obama administration in Washington. As US President Barack Obama weighs up a request from his top military commander in Afghanistan to send up to 40,000 additional troops, Australia has reaffirmed its position that the 1550 soldiers already committed remain its limit. (READ MORE)

If McChrystal Gets His Afghan Surge, How Many Troops Will Be There? - Gen. Stanley McChrystal, as part of his comprehensive strategy review for the war in Afghanistan, has asked President Barack Obama for up to 40,000 more troops. It’s not clear he’ll get them - President Obama is concerned about spending more lives and money propping up the the deeply corrupt government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai - but the pressure to make a decision on the matter is mounting. No matter what Obama decides, the United States commitment has already dramatically expanded during 8 years of war. (READ MORE)

US Says Taliban Has A New Haven in Pakistan - As American troops move deeper into southern Afghanistan to fight Taliban insurgents, US officials are expressing new concerns about the role of fugitive Taliban leader Mohammad Omar and his council of lieutenants, who reportedly plan and launch cross-border strikes from safe havens around the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. But US officials acknowledge they know relatively little about the remote and arid Pakistani border region, have no capacity to strike there... (READ MORE)

Musharraf: Afghan Debate Shows US Weak - Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Monday that the US would make a "disastrous" mistake if it withdrew from Afghanistan and warned that a delay in sending more troops would be seen as a sign of weakness. Mr. Musharraf also denied that Pakistan's elite Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was giving secret support to the Taliban, which the ISI helped build in the 1980s to confront the Soviet Union. (READ MORE)

The View From Pakistan's Spies - The headquarters of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is a black-ribbed stucco building in the Aabpara neighborhood of the capital. Its operatives, described by wary Pakistanis as "the boys from Aabpara," play a powerful and mysterious role in the life of the country. Their "tentacles," as one ISI officer terms the agency's spy networks, stretch deep into neighboring Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Pakistanis flee Taliban stronghold - Pakistani soldiers have traded rocket and mortar fire with militants as hundreds of civilians fled the Taliban and al-Qaeda's main stronghold in the northwest. A suicide car bomber killed five people including a prominent tribal elder. Pakistan's civilian government has vowed to root out militants in the northwest, many of whom allegedly use the mountainous tribal areas along the border as a base for attacks on American and NATO troops in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Bank in Afghanistan set ablaze, guard killed - Unknown armed men have set ablaze a branch building of the BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) bank in Afghanistan's Kapisa province, a local newspaper reported Tuesday. "Several armed men raided the office of the BRAC bank in Hisai Duam district Monday night and set it on fire after killing the guard," daily 8 Subh writes. Kapisa province is 80 km north of this Afghan capital. (READ MORE)

Illinois 33rd Brigade wraps up Afghanistan mission - The last handful of soldiers from an Illinois National Guard deployment that once numbered 2,900 has left Afghanistan after a yearlong tour. Heading home over the weekend were the last eight members of the command staff that includes Brig. Gen. Steven Huber, who led the task force at the center of Illinois' mission to train, advise and protect Afghan forces. (READ MORE)

NATO secretary general not sure of success in Afghanistan - Victory in Afghanistan is not guaranteed, and NATO needs to change its strategy in the country, the alliance's secretary general said Monday at a Washington-based think tank. "Despite everything that we have already done, reaching our goal in Afghanistan is not guaranteed," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told an audience at the Atlantic Council. "We cannot simply continue doing exactly what we are doing now." (READ MORE)

NATO Chief Calls For New Afghan Strategy - Monday, NATO's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a new strategy in Afghanistan as he acknowledged the diminishing public support for the war in the land-locked country, but reiterated that the alliance "will stay for as long as it takes to succeed." In his first address in the U.S. since taking over as NATO's secretary-general last month, Rasmussen attributed the decline in support to the perception that the coalition was "not getting anywhere." (READ MORE)

U.S. experts divided on whether U.S. troops should pull out of Afghanistan - U.S. experts are divided on whether the U.S. and NATO forces should quit as the war in Afghanistan approaches its eighth anniversary and has shown little improvement. U.S. Congress is growing impatient and so does the American public. (READ MORE)

Ball State freshman was Afghan translator - Khalid Fazly arrived on U.S. soil in August carrying his mother's homemade cookies, a prayer rug, dried dates and thousands in $100 bills tucked into his trousers. He was pretty certain he was prepared for America. Except for a car trip to Pakistan, Fazly had never been outside Afghanistan. Now he almost certainly is the only freshman at Indiana's Ball State University who has been threatened with death by the Taliban, survived insurgent ambushes and braved roadside bombs. (READ MORE)

U.S., Afghan soldiers kill 30 Taliban fighters - A U.S. team working with Afghan soldiers swooped in on a militant stronghold in the country’s west, killing at least 30 Taliban fighters, U.S. and Afghan officials said Monday. Elsewhere, a Taliban highway ambush left six truckers dead, and a roadside bomb killed six Afghans in a crowded van. Farah provincial Gov. Roh ul-Amin said no airstrikes were used during the battle. U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made protecting Afghan civilians a priority and sharply restricted airstrikes. (READ MORE)

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