September 30, 2009

From the Front: 09/30/2009

[Ed Note: Please excuse any formatting errors; this post has been posted via email]


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


Bouhammer: It is Time to Lead, Follow, or get the hell out of the War - Back in April the Administration announced a strategy for Afghanistan. Nobody really knew what that meant except it was going to focus on giving $5 million dollars a year to Pakistan for 5 years, and was supposed to surge in civilian experts. Of course the surge of military that happened in the spring was already planned for by the previous administration. Also, the surge of civilian experts never happened. A few months later we see the General that had been in charge get fired and forced to retire because he was not the right man for the job. We then see GEN McChrystal and Rodriguez get put into place as the "best guys for the job". As soon as he was put into place, McChrystal was ordered to do a comprehensive 60 day review to define what is needed to succeed in Afghanistan. That review was sent to CENTCOM and the Pentagon on August 30th. Today is Sept 30th and now we are hearing a meeting will happen today with the President, VP, SecState, CJCS ADM Mullen, CENTCOM CDR GEN Petreaus, and of course GEN McChrystal via secure video. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan My Last Tour: Orphanage visit - Today's mission was to visit the In Allauddin Orphanage in Kabul City and deliver school supplies, toys, clothing, hygiene items, and bring some happiness to the parentless children.  My team in conjunction with the camp team members formed the convoy.  Later on we would meet with the Afghan National Police (ANP) for this joint venture.  Maj "O" the convoy commander gave the morning convoy brief and detailed the events for the day.  Despite going to the orphanage, our security was paramount.  We would have gunners in the armored HMMVWs along with security on the roof.  The rest of the participants would stay armed and interact with the children.  My job was to capture the images with my camera. We arrived at our destination and after parking the HMMVW, I was greeted by some young boys.  They were dancing without music and seemed very happy with our presence.   I was able to take two pictures before I was surrounded by the boys.  Meanwhile, the trailer was being unpacked with the goody boxes and folding tables. (READ MORE)


The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Combat And The Afghan Mission - The position of the Liberal Party is that after 2011, Canada will stay committed to the Afghan mission--but combat operations must end. This might also be the position of the Tories, but they are more open-ended about it, telling us only that the mission "as we know it" will end (not that such vagueness is a good thing, really, but least they aren't ruling things out). In the radio show last week, Ujjal Dosanjh categorically stated "no combat" multiple times, including in his answer to my question. That's the Liberal message. The milnews blog makes the right point, which should be stated to every person who supports the Afghan mission as long as there's "no combat": "As long as there's an armed adversary willing to kill and maim to prevent humanitarian and development aid or programs from being delivered, someone is going to end up in a situation that some will consider 'combat' in order to keep the work going." (READ MORE)


In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? -- Flight Medic - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – "I am never nervous on the flight out," said Staff Sgt. Cynthia Dalton, describing her experience as a flight medic in Iraq. "I go over every possible scenario in my mind. But when we touch down, I just go." Dalton, who is assigned as a flight medic to the 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation Brigade, part of Task Force Keystone, said her first rescue mission in Iraq was the hardest. It was a vehicle rollover in bad weather. One Soldier was dead at the scene, two more were badly injured. She and the other medics at the scene treated the Soldiers as much as they could and then loaded them on their Black Hawk helicopters for transport to the nearest emergency medical facility. "Both Soldiers made it," she said. "But after a mission like that I am really hard on myself. I can see why people burn out. I go over everything I could possibly have done differently. We did our jobs, but it always seems like there is something I could have done different or better." (READ MORE)


Bruce R: Associated strategery musings - Okay, I'm tired of talking about T.E. Lawrence, but he does constitute a common frame of reference of sorts, so I'm going to do it one more time. Lawrence, you'll recall, had three great insights worth remembering in the Afghan context. He advised both British and Arabs that the large Turk garrison in Medina, which was exerting no effect on anything, could be safely ignored; that the long rail line to Medina could be savagely interdicted, and that the port of Aqaba, if taken, could secure Arab logistics and their participation in the war. Hence, his early strategy of bypassing Medina, attriting the Turks along the railline, and seizing Aqaba. Lawrence was, of course, an insurgent, not a counterinsurgent. In the Afghan context, one might ask, where is the insurgents' Medina? Where is their Aqaba? The rail line equivalent, one would argue, is fairly obvious: the long ring road Western and Afghan forces keep free of IEDs and ambushes at great cost every day. (READ MORE)


IraqPundit: More on the Upcoming Vote - A lot of Iraqis predict that Nouri Al Maliki will win the January election. They say he has done well, Iraq is much more stable now. Al Maliki has chosen the middle ground and made it his own. His government is kind of secular, as liquor flows freely and so on. But before Al Maliki gets too comfortable with that possiblity, he should listen to what at least some Baghdadis are saying. Al Maliki is excluded from the new Shiite group, which includes Ammar Al Hakim, Moktada Al Sadr, Ahmad Chalabi, as well as others. The prime minister says he will soon announce his own list or coalition of names of who will be on the ballot. He feels confident that he can run without the rest of the Shiite politicians on his side. A group of men explained today why they will not vote for Al Maliki. They said it's because he is too close to Iran. The men believe Iran is doing its best to control Iraq, which would give it power over perhaps the largest supply of oil in the world. (READ MORE)


Bill Roggio: US aircraft strike in North and South Waziristan - The US conducted two airstrikes in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan today. The first strike took place in Sararogha in South Waziristan. An unmanned Predator or Reaper strike aircraft fired two missiles at a compound operated by Ifran Shamankhel Mehsud, a local Taliban leader, Dawn reported. Ifran, who is said to be close to Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan, is thought to have survived the attack, but five Taliban fighters were reported killed and six more were wounded. The Taliban immediately cordoned off the area and began recovering the dead; more fighters may be trapped in the rubble. The Sararogha region is under the control of Waliur Rehman Mehsud, who took control of the group's branch in South Waziristan after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in an airstrike in August. (READ MORE)


PRT-Kunar: Kunar government, PRT bringing education, development to province - MARA WARA DISTRICT, Afghanistan – In the hot Afghanistan sun beneath a UNICEF tent, Mara Wara District children are watching their future being built. Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar engineers visited the Lahor Dag School construction site Sept. 28 to evaluate the progress and craftsmanship of the school that will house hundreds of area children. The school is part of the provincial government's plan to increase the number of schools in the province to educate their children, while providing an additional benefit of generating jobs. According to U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jay Burgess, PRT senior engineer and resident of Oklahoma City, Okla., the progress on the school is going well, with only minor issues the contractor needs to address. (READ MORE)


USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: DRIVING & COIN IN KABUL WITH ÉRIC AND TIGER CHOW (THE ONE MAN QRF) - If one ever needed a metaphor to illustrate the "Hobbesian Universe," driving in Kabul would be perfect. There are no traffic signs, no lights, no lines on the road and as best as I can figure, no qualifications needed to take to the road. There are cars, trucks, bikes, donkeys and goats all trying to dominate the same space. However, once you have driven there for a while it does have its own desirable rhythm. Basically the biggest vehicle wins. If you can fit a car in a space, go for it and the horn is the most essential part of the car -- the louder the better. Believe it or not, driving is also an arena for COIN and the all-important "information operations lens." We were working in the west end of Kabul at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Regional Development on a special project for Minister Zia. It was me, Éric, and Tiger Chow (the one man QRF). We were doing our morning commute down the Duralaman Road. (READ MORE)


Wings Over Iraq: MRAP Madness - Today's NY Daily News includes an article entitled "Soldiers Rap on MRAP", which documents many of the concerns some troops have regarding the off-road capabilities of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. We've covered this before in a previous post, which was inspired by an article in Small Wars Journal during which a Marine sergeant quipped that the MRAP was a behemoth of a vehicle which was only capable of driving on the paved road of Iraq--oddly enough, right where the enemy would put improvised explosive devices. The desire for force protection, once again, severely limits the mobility of American forces in Afghanistan--a crucial component of any military strategy. As the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers (from the 3rd Brigade Combat drinking buddies) note--it's no good to simply slap more armour on the vehicle when the enemy simply learns to make bigger bombs. (READ MORE)


The Captain's Journal: Generals Who Talk Tactics Rather Than Strategy - The inability of the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police to independently create the conditions for stability and security in Afghanistan at the present (or anytime in the near future) has been a recurrent theme here at The Captain's Journal (see Here is your Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police category).  Yet the strategy being implemented (i.e., heavy use of trainers and less U.S. troops than needed to secure the population) implicitly relies on this very strategy.  The fact that so few are seriously calling into question the basic tenets of the plan makes it unnecessary to defend it. But Steve Coll gives us yet another reason for concern over the strategy. "I can think of three cases during the last four decades in which programs to strengthen Afghan security forces to either serve the interests of an outside power or suppress an insurgency or both failed because of factionalism and disunity in Kabul." (READ MORE)


Greyhawk: The war the times forgot - Whether you support or oppose the effort, whether you believe we've won or lost, one thing is certain about Iraq: it's a country with 130,000 U.S. troops who aren't in Afghanistan, and plans are for it to stay that way. "Why is that so," you may wonder, "with Afghanistan falling apart and only half that many troops there?" A short answer yesterday: You'd think the battlefield with the greatest number of U.S. troops would get the most attention, but the one with the greatest need for troops has made everyone forget Iraq altogether. But not "everyone" has forgotten Iraq. Those who decide where troops go know exactly where they are. And those of us who've been there find it harder to forget. John Burns, on Iraq: "As for where the balance lies in all this -- whether it has in any sense been worth it -- that's an issue for history..." And that is certainly true. Somewhere in that history should be an acknowledgment of Burns' contribution to its documentation. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:


General Says Iraq Troop Reductions May Quicken - The senior American commander in Iraq said Tuesday that he could reduce American forces to 50,000 troops even before the end of next summer if the expected January elections in Iraq went smoothly. That could ease the strain across the American armed forces and free up extra combat units for duty in the Afghanistan war, which has become a priority for the Obama administration. (READ MORE)


US General Says Iraq Exit Is on Track - The top US commander in Iraq said the US is on pace to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Iraq in coming months despite a spate of recent attacks there. In an interview, Gen. Raymond Odierno, who is due to testify on Capitol Hill about the war Wednesday, said American troop levels in Iraq will fall to 115,000 by year-end and then to roughly 50,000 by mid-2010. (READ MORE)


Iraqi Journalists Fear for Safety as US Exit Nears -  Muhammad Khalil looks warily to the quickly approaching day when US Strykers rumble out of his dust-blown desert compound for the last time. He fears it may be a deadly change. Khalil is neither a member of the Iraqi Security Forces nor a high-profile politician, but he works in one of the most dangerous professions in Iraq: journalism. "Right now if you write an article against someone powerful, he could send someone to come kill you in the night," said Khalil, the manager of the Diyala Media Center... (READ MORE)


IP intercept VBIED-making material in Kirkuk, arrest 5 in searches - Iraqi Police arrested five suspects today while searching for members of improvised explosive device networks in Kirkuk and Muqdadiyah. The 3rd Emergency Services Unit with U.S. forces advisors searched for and arrested a warranted criminal in southern Kirkuk. The criminal, Diya' Abdul Ghani Musa, is a member of a VBIED network that plans and executes deadly attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and residents in Kirkuk. (READ MORE)


U.S. Transfers Control of Zurbatiyah Cargo Trans-load Area to Iraqis - Iraq assumed formal control Sept. 26 of the newly opened Zurbatiyah Point of Entry Cargo Trans-Load Area, or CTLA. The hand over was part of a ceremony marking the completion of the $5.4 million facility that was funded by Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. Cutting the ribbon were U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., MNSTC-I's director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission, and Iraqi Maj. Gen. Ali Essam, director of the Zurbatiyah Port of Entry. (READ MORE)


Iraqi Air Force Assumes Control of C-130 Air Operations Mission - The Iraqi Air Force officially began fully independent C-130 air operations Sept. 29 in a ceremony marking the end of the C-130 air advisory mission here. This was formalized through the deactivation of the U.S. Air Force's 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and the assumption of C-130 operations, maintenance and training by Iraqi Air Force Squadron 23. (READ MORE)


Shrine cleanup strengthens cultural bonds - American and Iraqi Airmen worked to clean and remove trash from the Sultan Saqi shrine and cemetery here as the month of Ramadan neared an end, Sept. 18. Sixteen volunteer Airmen from the 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron filled garbage bags with trash and weeds that littered the cemetery grounds while Iraqi Airmen washed the shrine with scrub brushes and a fire hose. (READ MORE)


Five pre-fab Police stations placed in Mosul - 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. The Nineveh Governorate Council and Iraqi governmental officials, with the assistance of the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, are bringing civil stability back to this city. (READ MORE)


U.S. commander assesses power plant needs - Improvements to essential services like power generation is just one of many areas that U.S. Forces focus on to bring stability to the Kirkuk province of Iraq. Lt. Col. Hugh R. McNeely, deputy commander of the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, recently visited the Mulla Abdulah Power Plant to see how the plant would be affected by one of its suppliers of natural gas cutting back for a month to perform maintenance. (READ MORE)


Officer Familiarization Course commences at Bomb Disposal School - Fifty Iraqi Army junior officers are expected to attend the new Iraqi Army Bomb Disposal School Officer Familiarization Course starting Oct. 1. Iraqi Army Col. Jasim, IABDS commandant, and his senior officers worked in conjunction with officials from the Iraq Ministry of Defense, in order to approve the Officer Familiarization Course. The course is designed to provide junior engineer officers with an overview of Bomb Disposal Operations. (READ MORE)


Advise and assist brigade aids detainee release - In the ever-complex environment of post-insurgency Iraq, an anti-tank platoon of paratroopers was called upon to perform a detainee release in Fallujah Sept. 23, 2009. Members of the 3rd Anti-Tank Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade) worked with Iraqi authorities to ensure the safe and orderly release of 14 detainees from U.S. custody in accordance with the Security Agreement. (READ MORE)


Iraqi Army searches for ISI suspect known to steal from companies in Mosul - The 3rd Brigade, 1st Division Iraqi Army arrested two suspects today in Mosul during a search for an Islamic State of Iraq extortion and finance emir. The security team, with U.S. forces advisors, searched two buildings for the targeted ISI emir who approaches construction sites in and around Mosul, threatens contractors and demands a percentage of their earnings. The ISI extortionist then uses stolen profits from local companies to fund terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces. (READ MORE)




White House Starts Review of Afghan Strategy - The White House began its review of the Afghan war strategy in earnest Tuesday, with senior administration officials meeting via videoconference with the top commander in Kabul, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the start of what could be weeks of debate over whether to send thousands of reinforcements. White House officials said President Barack Obama will join in the discussions Wednesday, when he is expected to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among other top officials. (READ MORE)


Obama, NATO Chief Agree on Afghanistan Strategy - The secretary general of NATO says he agrees with US President Barack Obama's approach to the war in Afghanistan. The two leaders discussed strategy on Tuesday. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the leader of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, says President Obama is right to decide strategy, then troop strength, for Afghanistan. "The first thing is not numbers," Rasmussen said. "It is to find and fine-tune the right approach to implement the strategy already laid down. And all NATO allies are right now looking at McChrystal's review." (READ MORE)


NATO is in Afghanistan for the Long Haul, Says Anders Fogh Rasmussen - The NATO Secretary-General assured President Obama yesterday that the alliance would stay in Afghanistan "as long as it takes to finish our job". Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Mr Obama used their first meeting to present a united front that masked intense debate within NATO and the US on how to prevail in Afghanistan, given the crisis of legitimacy that has engulfed the Government of President Karzai since last month's fraudulent election. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, said yesterday that the result of the election would be announced by October 7. (READ MORE)


Obama Calls Afghanistan NATO's Most Important Mission - President Barack Obama today called Afghanistan the most important mission to NATO and underscored that the war there is a multinational effort. The president appeared with new NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the White House following talks that also covered missile defense and NATO-Russia relations. "We both agree that it is absolutely critical that we are successful in dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al-Qaida network and that we are effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for that country," Obama told reporters after the meeting. (READ MORE)


UN's Top Afghan Envoy Supports Call for More Troops - The UN's top envoy for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has expressed support for the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan's call for more troops in that country. Eide told the UN Security Council Tuesday that more international troops are necessary to help train Afghan military and police forces. Eide said he did not want to get into the debate over the need for additional international fighting forces, but he called US Army General Stanley McChrystal's assessment of the war, "clear, straightforward and demanding." (READ MORE)


From McChrystal's Mouth to Obama's Ear - When President Obama looks at the screen in the Situation Room on Wednesday, he will find a face he has not seen lately except in newspapers. There, via secure video from Kabul, will be Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, his commander in Afghanistan, explaining directly to the president for the first time why more troops are needed. General McChrystal has not spoken with Mr. Obama since submitting his grim assessment of the war a month ago and has spoken with him only once in the 100 days since he took command of all American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)


30 Afghan Civilians Killed in Roadside Bombing - Local officials in southern Afghanistan say a roadside bomb blasted a passenger bus Tuesday, killing 30 civilians and wounding at least 39 others. The latest violence comes days after a UN report declared August the deadliest month of the year for civilians in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is blaming the Taliban for the latest attack outside the southern city of Kandahar. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed dozens of civilians, including women and children riding on the bus. (READ MORE)


30 Afghan Civilians Killed as Packed Bus Hits Bomb Outside Kandahar - At least 30 Afghan civilians were killed and 39 wounded yesterday when their packed bus hit a roadside bomb outside the southern city of Kandahar. The dead included ten women and seven children. Afghan authorities blamed the Taleban, and the bombing underscored the grave dangers faced by a civilian population as the eight-year-old conflict between the insurgents and the US-led NATO forces turns increasingly violent. (READ MORE)


Suspected US Missile Strikes Kill 12 Militants in Pakistan - Two suspected US missile strikes in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan killed at least 12 militants Tuesday. Local officials say that in the first attack in South Waziristan, missiles fired from an unmanned aircraft hit the compound of Taliban commander Irfan Mehsud, killing at least five militants and wounding six others. They say the compound, located some 60 kilometers north of the region's main town of Wana, was completely destroyed in the strike. (READ MORE)


Forward in Pakistan - Pakistan - the "Pak" in the critical "Afpak" theater where the United States faces the twin threats of al-Qaeda and the Taliban - has taken a back seat in the emerging debate over US strategy in Afghanistan. That reflects some modest but significant good news: In contrast to last April, when many in Washington feared that Pakistan was in danger of collapse as a secular state, the civilian government and the army have rallied. The army has driven Taliban forces out of the Swat Valley near Islamabad and taken the offensive in neighboring districts of the North-West Frontier Province. (READ MORE)


Decision Time for Obama - As President Obama approaches a decision on the way forward in Afghanistan - the most historically consequential choice of his presidency so far - military leaders seem impressed with his decision-making process. During the next few weeks, Obama has scheduled considerable time to be personally involved in discussions. In the White House economy, presidential attention is the most valued commodity - coveted, hoarded and stolen. Obama's engaged, deliberate style has fans in the military. (READ MORE)


How Not to Defeat al Qaeda - President Obama has announced his intention to conduct a review of US strategy in Afghanistan from first principles before deciding whether or not to accept General Stanley McChrystal's proposed strategy and request for more forces. This review is delaying the decision. If the delay goes on much longer, it will force military leaders either to rush the deployment in a way that increases the strain on soldiers and their families or to lose the opportunity to affect the spring campaign. (READ MORE)


First M-ATVs Deploy to Afghanistan - With unprecedented speed, the first of thousands of mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles —known as M-ATVs -- are being deployed to Afghanistan just three months after a delivery order was awarded. Conventional MRAP vehicles feature a V-shaped hull to deflect roadside bombs, and are proven to be lifesavers on the battlefield. The procurement of the M-ATV grew from an urgent requirement to provide troops a smaller and more maneuverable vehicle that can travel off-road and navigate Afghanistan's difficult, mountainous terrain, Marine Corps Systems Command officials said. (READ MORE)


Stimulus, Afghanistan policy on Obama's agenda - President Barack Obama travels to suburban Maryland on Wednesday to make an announcement about stimulus funding to support research into cures for cancer and other diseases. He'll also tour a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will take the tour as well. (READ MORE)


MoD: Efforts under way to secure N Afghanistan - The anti-government militants have been tried to expand their activities in relatively peaceful north provinces, but efforts are under way to overcome these problems, said spokesman of Defense Ministry on Wednesday. "Defense ministry and international community are concerned about insecurity in north but it is not a big concern, all sources would be used to overcome these challenges," Gen. Zahir Azimi told a joint press conference with spokesman of ISAF (NATO-led International Security Assistance Force). (READ MORE)


UN deputy envoy 'not returning to Kabul' - The deputy UN special envoy to Afghanistan will not return to his post after a row with his boss over fraud-tainted elections, dealing a blow to US prestige in the country, a UN official said Wednesday. Peter Galbraith, who left Kabul earlier this month after a dispute over how fraud allegations in the election should be dealt with, "won't be coming back to Kabul," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. (READ MORE)


US soldier, 22 Taliban killed in Afghanistan - A US soldier was killed Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy in southeastern Afghanistan, while Afghan and foreign troops killed 22 Taliban militants in a joint operation in the west of the country, officials said. A US military spokesman in Kabul said that one US serviceman died from injuries he sustained in a roadside bomb blast in the southeastern province of Khost Wednesday morning. (READ MORE)


Half of Finns supports peace mission in Afghanistan - About half of the Finnish people believed the country should continue its peace mission in Afghanistan, according to a survey by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday. Over 50 percent of the 1,000 respondents to the poll carried out by Finnish Gallup said Finland should not withdraw its troops, while 35 percent believed the opposite. (READ MORE)


If Afghanistan is its test, NATO is failing - Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is looking peaked and significantly worse for wear. Aggressive and ineffectual, the organization shows signs of premature senility. Despite the smiles and reassuring rhetoric at its annual summits, its internal politics have become fractious to the point of dysfunction. Perhaps like any sexagenarian in this age of health-care crises and economic malaise, the transatlantic alliance is simply anxious about its future. (READ MORE)


Danish soldiers sent home from Afghanistan over illegal ammunition - Three Danish soldiers have been sent home from Afghanistan and face charges over possessing illegal ammunition, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported Wednesday. The three soldiers - including one officer - had 20 so-called dum- dum bullets, a bullet designed to expand upon impact but which is banned under international conventions, the report said. (READ MORE)


Mullah Omar not in Pakistan, Taliban commander says - Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is not in Pakistan and the United States is only saying he is there to justify an expansion of its drone missile strikes, a Taliban commander said on Wednesday. The Washington Post said this week U.S. officials had expressed concern over the ability of Omar and his lieutenants to launch attacks into Afghanistan from sanctuaries around the Pakistani city of Quetta. (READ MORE)

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