October 1, 2009

From the Front: 10/01/2009

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


Loving A Soldier Blog: I Will Not Go Home Today


Family Matters Blog: Family Photo Album: Moms in Uniform (VIEW PHOTOS)


War, the military, COIN and stuff: More pics from Afghanistan (VIEW PHOTOS)


Sorority Soldier: Longest Month of the Year - I can officially say I'll be home next month.  The problem is that this is the longest month of the year… come soon November!  I can't wait to see my family and friends! (READ MORE)


this is our life...: six months - Today marks the six month mark. Ben left six months ago today. 26 weeks 184 days 264,960 minutes To celebrate our half-way mark we are going bowling tomorrow. But really, I think 6 months is long enough. He can come home now. (READ MORE)


Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Dispatches from the front - Link Photos - I just received photos from two new fabfi users in JBad. The placements and attachment strategies for new reflectors are 0ften very creative: (VIEW PHOTOS)


Highland Sailor: Mountain Views - Recently, most of the photos I have taken I am not able to publish due OPSEC...so I am left with mountain views from my hooch. It really does look a lot like Pocatello, Idaho. This evening a few folks in my shop had dinner together to celebrate the promotion of our Albanian friend. Congrats to our new Lt Col. Until next time: Keep your eye on a shipmate, head on a swivel and stand by to Give'em Hell! Hooah (READ MORE)


Castra Praetoria: Warrior Culture 101 - To: Molaviis From: America's 1st Sgt. Re: Your Recent comment on Castra Praetoria - According to you, republics need only citizens with a passing familiarity of shooting skills, heavy weaponry, and enough knowledge of chemistry to concoct some homemade explosive. Frankly, that sounds like your average Al Queda cell. You also say that the most important characteristic is that they be capable of critical thinking. That could be the only thing I might agree with you on. Let's define warrior first: A person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier. A person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness. One who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict. Now when you have a pest control problem do you call someone who has a passing interest in mixing insecticide chemicals or do you call someone engaged or experienced in vector control; a professional exterminator? Generally, I find that when a professional isn't put on the job, the enterprise will end in disaster. (READ MORE)


Doc H: Interpreter- Turjuman - The Dari and Arabic word for interpreter is turjuman. Interpreters are very important to all that we do here. I cannot mentor or work with my Afghan counterpart if we cannot understand each other. Even though my Afghan counterpart and I can communicate in some small way with my limited Dari and his limited English, it is always best to have an interpreter present. I once had a conversation with my counterpart without an interpreter present as I toured him around our camp. He was shocked when I talked about our "Fire House". He thought that we were shooting weapons inside of our Fire Department building, oops. We had our Afghan Police Medical Director and his Quartermaster come to visit us today. As always we made some progress on several issues and learned more about each other and the system that we each work with. We were lucky enough to have two interpreters present today. (READ MORE)


Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Grenadiers Guards return to Afghanistan - Report by Lt Col Roly Walker Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards - 11 LIGHT BRIGADE promises to be one of the best trained and supported British Brigades to take to the field: in 2006 the UK Government spent around £750 million on military operations in Afghanistan. In 2009 it will be around £3.5 billion. We will be based in a relatively new area of operations so conditions will be pretty rough and rudimentary. Most of the soldiers will be living in patrol bases, which are basically local Afghan compounds improved with some barriers and sentry positions, in the heart of the local community. Food will be mainly rations, self cooked. Water comes from local boreholes or is shipped in on supply convoys. We will wash using wash bowls and shower bags, and sleep on camp beds - some in tents, others in buildings of opportunity. The routine will be busy, noisy, and dusty. (READ MORE)


Bruce R: On ANSF pederasty - The increasingly influential (and rightly so) Josh Foust takes on the Canadian mission for tolerating pederasty in the ANSF, basing his concerns largely on some after-the-fact allegations from 2006. Given what I did on tour, I suppose the concern requires a response. It is no lie to say that homosexual behaviour is extensive and pervasive among members of the Afghan security forces. For a Western mentor it is literally an unavoidable part of life, found in all organizations and at all rank levels. And it should also be no surprise that Afghans' sexual preferences in this regard often incline towards youth and beauty. At times this approaches, and even descends into, outright pederasty. No question. Pervasive, yes; rapacious, not necessarily. We're not talking in the main about police trucks kidnapping and driving off with young schoolboys here. THAT we'd know what to do about. It's the grayer shades of the issue that frustrate mentors. (READ MORE)


Iron Camel: Response to The Military's Overlooked Brain Trust by Courtney E. Martin, American Prospect - Imagine yourself in Baghdad, unable to move through a traffic circle because it's rush-hour. Every person walking down the street is a potential threat. You don't know who wants to kill you, but you know some of them do.  Will they be brave enough to throw a grenade at your vehicle, or will they keep on walking?  Imagine that someone has planted an IED on the side of the street and somewhere someone with a cell phone detonator and a video camera is watching you, deciding if they are going to kill you, or wait for a better, more news-worthy target. While you're looking through heaps of trash and crowded streets doing your best to determine what looks "normal" and what looks like a threat, imagine that a car filled with 500 pounds of explosives, neatly packed inside 120 mm shells, inside the trunk of a car stuffed full with nails, glass, ball-bearings and several 5 gallon jugs of fuel racing at you at 40 MPH.  The weight of the explosives causes the car to ride on its tires, the driver, staring directly at you, refuses to acknowledge all the signals you are giving him to stop driving at you. You have to make a choice: (READ MORE)


In Iraq Now (at 56): Bike Update - As of yesterday, September 30, I passed the 3000-mile mark here in Iraq. I also cut 2 minutes from my 5k run time the previous week. It is much easier to improve when one is slow. Last week I ran it in 30 minutes and 20 seconds. This week I was down to 28:22. The civilian who runs the race gave me a medal for finishing 3rd in 50-plus (out of three guys who signed up). It was really a close race between the first two guys--they finished in 23:14 and 23:20. I was most of a half mile back in third. The bike mileage means I have also made more than 200 laps of Tallil Ali's Perimeter Road. Katharine Sanderson, a friend from the UK, wrote recently. I replied to her something about the war. She said, "Somehow I forget that you're fighting a war at all. Weird. It must be your witty blog posts about books and PR!" Along the same lines, my wife said, "I'm enjoying the other-personal glimpses on your blog.  Since I've been wrestling so intently with my students over verbs, I think your "fights" (as in "Who fights this war?") catches my eye... (READ MORE)


In Iraq Now (at 56): Envy is Relative - I have a new office. A really nice office. An occasion for envy for everyone in the unit I left and for many people who come to visit the other people that work in my office. The people in my office are the battalion commander, the executive officer, and their assistant--and me. I have an office with a real wooden desk, a book case, a table, a comfortable chair and a door. I was working in a dusty corner of the motor pool on a folding table. This is a big step up in the world. But then, as my wife pointed out when I told her about my new digs, nobody I work with back home would be jealous. My new office is in a trailer. It is an Italian-made, double-wide, really nice trailer, but it is still a trailer and I still have to walk 75 meters to use the latrine trailer. But it does have a coffee maker. (READ MORE)


Thomas Joscelyn: Former Gitmo detainee killed in shootout - A former Guantanamo detainee has reportedly been killed in a shootout between the Yemeni Army and Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. The former detainee, Fahd Saleh Suleiman al Jutayli, was captured in Pakistan after fleeing the Tora Bora Mountains in 2001. He was repatriated to his native Saudi Arabia in May 2006. According to the Yemen Post, two other former Gitmo detainees - Yusuf al Shehri and Othman al Ghamdi – called their families to tell them Jutayli had been killed in the fighting and asked them to inform Jutayli's family. Earlier this year, the Saudi government included all three of these former Guantanamo detainees – Jutayli, Shehri, and Ghamdi - on a list of the Kingdom's 85 most wanted terrorists. (READ MORE)


Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer: Analysis: A look a US airstrikes in Pakistan through September 2009 - In August and September of 2009, the US covert air campaign in Pakistan's lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal agencies scored four high value al Qaeda and Taliban targets. The deaths of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and three senior al Qaeda leaders have helped to fuel the push for increasing the role of strikes in Pakistan. The US is now urging Pakistan to take on the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Omar, and other targets in Baluchistan, and has considered expanding the air campaign outside Pakistan's tribal areas. The US is also considering switching from a counterinsurgency-based strategy in Afghanistan, which focuses on securing the Afghan people and building up the government and military, to a counterterrorism-based strategy that focuses on covert raids and airstrikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan. This potential strategy shift is meeting resistance from circles within the US military and the intelligence communities: (READ MORE)


Bill Roggio: Afghan police detain Taliban shadow governor of Bamyan - Afghan police have detained the Taliban's shadow governor for the central province of Bamyan. Mullah Burhan, the shadow governor for Bamyan, "was appointed by the Taliban leadership to plan and carry out insurgent attacks in the peaceful central Afghan province, Governor Habiba Sarabi said," according to a report in Quqnoos, an English language Afghan newspaper. Governor Sarabi, Afghanistan's first woman governor, warned that the Taliban are pushing into Bamyan from neighboring provinces where the insurgency is growing strong. Bamyan borders Day Kundi, Ghanzi, and Wardak to the south and east, and Baghlan to the north. The Taliban have increased their strength in these four provinces over the past two years. Much of Ghazni and Wardak provinces are considered contested or under Taliban control, while several northern districts in Baghlan are considered to be under Taliban control. (READ MORE)


Michael Yon: The Greatest Afghan War - The Greatest Afghanistan War has deteriorated so noticeably that one can now feel the enemy's growing pulse. Each month it beats steadier, stronger, and in 2010 it will finally be born. On Sept. 11 in Kandahar, a South African civilian working without security was visibly upset - not at the Taliban but at the police. The 16-year police veteran recounted seeing Afghan police speeding through crowded streets and hitting a bicycle. The rider gymnastically avoided impact while the bicycle was tossed down the road. The South African, with whom I spent a week in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, said the police never slowed down. "That's part of the reason the Taliban are gaining ground," he said. "The police are out there recruiting Taliban." I have searched for answers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with the more strategic questions (for example, should war be pursued?) are those closer to the shop floor: Are we gaining or losing popular support? Is the enemy gaining or losing strength? Is the coalition gaining or losing strength? The first answer is a common denominator for the rest. (READ MORE)


SPC Alperin - My Point of View: Writing and then writing some more... - I hope I don't get writer's block, sometimes I think it may happen. It came close to happening early on when I sat for like 3 to 4 hours without getting through the first paragraph of a story I was doing. So far so good, it hasn't hit me too much. I did a story recently at Camp Slayer on some Soldiers taking a tour of Saddam's palaces and Ba'ath Party headquarters that were hit by U.S. bombs in March of 2003. One of the palaces was run by the son of Saddam, Uday. The wreckage was striking, pardon the pun. It was easy to see how Saddam saw himself. He was a dictator no doubt, his image and name show up all over. I will try to get some pics posted soon. (READ MORE)


PRT-Kunar: Kunar government use land grant to promote education, development - LOY BACHI, MARA WARA DISTRICT, Afghanistan – In the remote village of Loy Bachi Afghan children are learning in tents without the basic necessities. Thanks to a generous donation by a village elder, that is about to change. Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar engineers visited the Loy Bachi School construction site Sept. 28 to officially break ground with the Kunar provincial governor, other government leaders and area shura members, as well as to assess the contractor's progress to date. When the school is completed, it will represent a vast improvement in the educational resources for the children of the village. It was possible because Mir Zaman Khan, a village elder, donated land for the school to be built upon. "There was another man who was asked to donate his land, but he refused," said Khan. "I got mad and told (the governor) I would donate my land to the government for the school..." (READ MORE)


The Quatto Zone: Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight - This month, Lt. Jim Adamson from the 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland earned the Military Cross. His experience carries a larger lesson about the paradoxes at play in Afghanistan. A 23-year-old platoon commander with 25 Soldiers under his care, Lieutenant Adamson was trying to push the Taliban out of an area near the town of Musa Qala in Helmand's Green Zone, which is very difficult terrain. He was literally up to his chest in that terrain, wading down a river between two positions, when his team came under fire. After emptying his magazine, the lieutenant made the split-second decision to charge the bank and stab a Taliban gunner with his bayonet, saving his team. Aside from the personal courage of that act – and its machismo (fellow soldiers reportedly overheard him yell "Have some of this!" during the firefight) – what strikes me about this example is that more than two thousand years of traditional warfare – from the long bow to the cruise missile – had been dragging the young lieutenant away from that decision. (READ MORE)


The Torch: What's Obama to do about Afstan? And what about the Afghans? - Further to this post, Gates and the generals, and admirals/McChrystal Update. How long will the president's consideration of Afghan strategy, er, drone on: 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. The White House unexpectedly decided to review its strategy in Afghanistan after a series of recent setbacks in the war, including allegations of fraud following last month's presidential elections and surging violence throughout the country. It begins just days after Gen. McChrystal submitted his request for as many as 40,000 additional troops to the Pentagon. (READ MORE)


The Torch: Afstan: What the Commons' resolution says and what the government says - Obfuscation, to put it gently. Further to this post; CAN Troops to Stay Post-2011? Here's a comment by Milnews.ca at Milnet.ca: .... from the House of Commons (Hansard, QP, 30 Sept 09): Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs about Afghanistan. The motion that we passed in the House was very unambiguous and very clear with respect to Canadian troops being redeployed out of Kandahar by December 2011. Certain comments have been made by other ministers and by other candidates for the Conservative Party with respect to the intentions of the Conservative Party post-2011. My question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs is about Canada's presence in Afghanistan. Is he sticking to the motion that was passed by the House in March 2008? Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I will say this clearly and succinctly so that the member will understand. Yes, we are sticking to that motion. Yes, the Minister of National Defence answered that question previously with the same response that we always give. We are putting an end to our military combat mission by 2011, and that is clear. (READ MORE)


USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: HEARTS AND MINDS: A NEW CANADIAN APPROACH IN AFGHANISTAN - "The answer lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the Malayan People." General Sir Gerald Templer, Director of Operations and High Commissioner for Malaya, 1952. Templer's phrase, "hearts and minds," was coined during the Malaya Emergency in the 1950's. A simple phrase, it has been the most misunderstood concept in the following decades of counterinsurgency warfare. For years, the practice of hearts and minds in the field has been little more than handing out soccer balls, painting orphanages, supplying books, pencils and toys to kids or running the occasional medical clinic. The aim has been to get people to "like" the soldiers. We want the population to side with us because we are the "good guys." This does not work, because all of the short term good-will does not prevent the insurgents from sneaking into the village at night and undoing all that good-will through insurgent intimidation. We misinterpreted Templer's meaning. (READ MORE)


Wings Over Iraq: Chapter XVI: Whether it is better to fear or love butt bombs... - The US Naval Institute's blog carries a number of fascinating posts—some regard naval history, some regard the nature of 4GW and the OODA loop. And then, we have some which primarily regard the use of what the authors refer to as "butt bombs". A little background: A recent al Qaeda plot involved the attempted suicide bombing of Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism minister. The attacker hid the explosives not in a suicide vest, but rather, as some news sources refer to it, in his "anal cavity". The attack was ultimately unsuccessful; with the attacker eliminating himself from the gene pool after a fellow al Qaeda operative sent him a text message, detonating the cell phone-triggered explosives, and left the counter-terrorism minister shaken, but not stirred. Al Qaeda must be running out of ideas—this was used in the last Batman movie, The Dark Knight—only without the bomb in someone's ass. (READ MORE)


David Hambling: After Leaflet Drop Kills Afghan Girl, a Search for Safer Psyop Tech. Missiles, Anyone? - The Royal Air Force has accidentally killed a young girl in Afghanistan — by dropping a box of leaflets on her. The British Ministry of Defence is carrying out a full investigation. Meanwhile, the seemingly antiquated practice of leaflet bombing continues. In the 21st century, it remains one of the primary tools of psychological warfare; U.S. Special Operations Command is even looking to build leaflet-carrying missiles. And while top American commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has virtually banned "kinetic" air strikes, paper bombs are in regular use. According to the BBC, the leaflet box was supposed to open in mid-air, spreading pro-coalition propaganda over rural Helmand province. But the container failed to break apart, landing on top of the girl, who died later in the hospital. Leaflets have been used by militaries since at least the Napoleonic wars, when the British navy dropped them over France using kites. (READ MORE)


The Captain's Journal: The MEK, Iran and Iraq - Tom Ricks has a depressing and saddening post on the influence of Iran in Iraq relying on a first hand account by an Army officer. For various reasons I am not concerned about Sunni-controlled areas like Anbar in Western Iraq (I am convinced that the Iraqi Police in Sunni-controlled areas have the upper hand).  But I am very concerned about the degree to which Iran controls the politics inside of Iraq, and no President since Carter has seriously confronted the Iranian Mullahs.  This was the great risk in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we have not acted to in any way ameliorate that risk. A good indication should be forthcoming as to where Iraq stands in its independence from Iran.  The MEK (People's Mujahedin of Iran) had previously been in some trouble with the advent of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). (READ MORE)




News from the Front:


Unity Is Rallying Cry Ahead of Iraq Elections - Iraqi politics has a new catchphrase, the "yes, we can" of the country's coming parliamentary elections. It is "national unity," and while skepticism abounds, it could well signal the decline of the religious and sectarian parties that have fractured Iraq since 2003. Across the political spectrum - Sunni and Shiite, secular and Islamic - party leaders have jettisoned explicit appeals to their traditional followers and are now scrambling to reach across ethnic or sectarian lines. (READ MORE)


Odierno: US to Withdraw 4,000 More Troops from Iraq - The commander of US and coalition forces in Iraq says he is accelerating the drawdown of American troops, with 4,000 more coming out ahead of schedule by the end of October. General Ray Odierno spoke to the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives Wednesday. General Odierno says the coalition effort in Iraq is "in reach of our goals." He described a situation in which attacks and casualties are down sharply, and he said life has "returned to normal" in many parts of the country. (READ MORE)


Women's Army Corps veteran proudly serves in Iraq - While some people turn to reading reference books or searching the Internet for a lesson in military history, the personnel at the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq have another option. They can simply have a conversation with Pat Riley. Riley enlisted in the Women's Army Corps in June, 1973. She was a member of the last all-female basic training class at Fort McClellan, Ala. (READ MORE)


Hearing aids, supplies help deaf students - Various U.S. units recently joined forces here to deliver 80 hearing aids and much needed supplies to girls at the Amal School for the Deaf. This two-room school house and primary education facility to over 40 girls was identified by the Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2008 as a facility greatly in need of support and resources. (READ MORE)


Ground breaks on Iraqi Air Force facility - Iraqi Airmen proudly stood at attention during a Sept. 30 groundbreaking ceremony for their new Air Operations Center here on Camp Victory. The Iraqi Air Force's new $1.7 million facility will support 85 personnel with an operations floor and multiple support offices. Construction will be overseen by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel from Gulf Region District and the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq. (READ MORE)


Company ceremony reunites father and son - A recent ceremony here saw father and son reunited, as retired Lt. Col. Thomas Hendrix traveled from Baghdad to see his son relinquish command of his company. The 3rd "Greywolf" Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers and guests gathered here in front of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment operations center, Sept. 28, for the Bulldog Company change of command ceremony. (READ MORE)


Jacoby: Partnership will define success - With Iraqi Security Forces taking the lead in accordance with the Security Agreement, mission accomplishment is in sight for U.S. forces here, says the Multi-National Corps - Iraq commanding general. "We are not going to falter; we are going to complete this task; we believe that it is close at hand and we believe in our Iraqi partners," Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr. said. "We are going to continue our best efforts to finish this with success and honor." (READ MORE)


Iraqi Air Force Completes First Phase Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Training - Members of the Iraqi security forces 70th Air Reconnaissance Squadron completed the first phase of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance training with 34th Red Bull Infantry Division's intelligence section this month at Contingency Operating Base Basra. Iraqi fighter pilots with the 70th who have combat experience from the Iran-Iraq war, some with as many as 800 hours of combat flight time, worked with Soldiers from the 34th Inf. Div. intelligence section to become familiar with remote control surveillance cameras attached to their Sama CH200 and SBL-360 Seeker aircraft. (READ MORE)


Soldiers Deliver Smiles to Iraqi Children - Kids love anything free. So when Border Training Team Tribal delivered children's medicine and candy to the people in Iraq's Maysan province Sept. 6, the kids were elated – at least for the candy. The team's mission was to distribute children's medicine to the soldiers of 1st Battalion, 41st Iraqi Army Brigade. "What we're trying to do is build relationships with the village," said Army Sgt. John Young, an Aurora, Colo., native and a medic with Team Tribal. (READ MORE)




Several Afghan Strategies, None a Clear Choice - The president, vice president and an array of cabinet secretaries, intelligence chiefs, generals, diplomats and advisers gathered in a windowless basement room of the White House for three hours on Wednesday to chart a new course in Afghanistan. The one thing everyone could agree on: None of the choices is easy. Just six months after President Obama adopted what he called a "stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy" for Afghanistan and Pakistan, he is back at the same table starting from scratch. (READ MORE)


On War, Obama Could Turn to GOP - With much of his party largely opposed to expanding military operations in Afghanistan, President Obama could be forced into the awkward political position of turning to congressional Republicans for support if he follows the recommendations of the commanding US general there. Congressional Democrats have begun promoting a compromise package of additional resources for Afghanistan that would emphasize training for Afghan security forces but deny Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal the additional combat troops he has indicated he needs to regain the initiative against the Taliban insurgency. (READ MORE)


Gates Doubts US's Afghan Strategy - President Barack Obama met with senior counselors for three hours Wednesday to launch his review of Afghan war strategy, amid indications that his defense secretary - the key link between the White House and the military - is among those undecided about the right approach. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior US commander in Kabul, is advocating a manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy that focuses on protecting the Afghan populace rather than hunting individual militants. He submitted a classified assessment over the weekend calling for up to 40,000 US reinforcements. (READ MORE)


Obama, War Council Review Afghanistan Strategy - President Obama, amid political contretemps at home and expanding international turmoil over the disputed Afghan election, summoned his war Cabinet to the White House on Wednesday for a high-stakes review of his Afghanistan strategy. The session, which produced no announcements concerning additional troops or strategy, came on a day in which the highest-ranking American serving in the United Nations mission in Afghanistan was fired. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan Talks Focus on Means, Not Ends, Press Secretary Says - The US aim in Afghanistan remains on defeating extremism, but high-level talks at the White House today center on the best means to achieve this goal, the Pentagon's press secretary said today. Today's meeting in the Situation Room, which comes six months after a new strategy refocused the US mission in Afghanistan on thwarting al-Qaida and its allies, convenes both top national security advisors and a range of proposals for the way ahead. "The objective is clearly still to disrupt, dismantle and destroy al-Qaida," Geoff Morrell told reporters. (READ MORE)


GOP: Let Generals Testify on Afghan War - As President Obama met for three hours with his national security team to plot his next moves in Afghanistan, he faced intensifying pressure from Capitol Hill Republicans who want to force top brass to testify on whether more troops are needed to win the war. The president huddled in the Situation Room with a team that included Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., key Cabinet secretaries and top generals, and which linked in Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal from Afghanistan with a video hookup, with a goal of settling on a firm strategy for the war. (READ MORE)


UN Secretary-General Fires Top American at Afghan Mission - The United Nations secretary-general has fired the top US official serving in the UN mission to Afghanistan, following reports of a dispute over how to handle election fraud allegations. A statement released Wednesday said Ban Ki-moon has decided to recall Peter Galbraith from Afghanistan and end his appointment as the deputy special representative of the secretary-general. The statement said Mr. Ban made the decision "in the best interest of the mission." It did not elaborate. (READ MORE)


Diplomat Fired in Clash Over Addressing Afghan Vote Fraud - Peter W. Galbraith, a former US diplomat who served as the second-highest-ranking UN official in Afghanistan, was fired Wednesday after clashing with his boss over how to contend with allegations of fraud in the country's presidential election. Galbraith had pushed the UN special representative in Kabul, former Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, to forcefully address the claims of fraud, and the disagreement culminated in Galbraith's abrupt departure from Afghanistan this month. (READ MORE)


After Clash Over Afghan Election, UN Fires a Diplomat - The United Nations fired its No. 2 official in Afghanistan on Wednesday after the diplomat, Peter W. Galbraith, wrote a scathing letter accusing the head of the mission here of concealing election fraud that benefited the campaign of the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai. The head of the mission, Kai Eide, angrily denied the accusation, and senior United Nations officials and diplomats said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had decided to recall Mr. Galbraith because of irreconcilable differences with Mr. Eide, who is Norwegian. (READ MORE)


Sacked Envoy Peter Galbraith Accuses UN of 'Cover-up' on Afghan Vote Fraud - The top American in the UN mission in Afghanistan was fired yesterday after refusing to take part in what he called "a cover-up" of fraud in the Afghan election. Peter Galbraith, the son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, left the country abruptly last month after a clash with his Norwegian boss, Kai Eide. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, announced yesterday he was dismissing Mr Galbraith "in the best interest of the mission". (READ MORE)


Afghanistan's People Have Advice for US - Take advice from locals instead of trying to impose your own ideas on a tribal society. Invite the Taliban to the negotiating table. Use traditional governing structures rather than reinventing the wheel. And spend a lot more money on plowshares than on swords. Afghan shopkeepers, women wearing head scarves, day laborers, analysts and former mujahedin fighters are exhausted by three decades of war. Now they worry that conditions are deteriorating again. (READ MORE)

Afghan Suicide Bomber Strikes Foreign Convoy - Officials in southeast Afghanistan say a suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into a foreign military convoy, killing at least one person. The attack occurred Wednesday in Mandozai district of Khost province, near the Pakistani border. International officials say the blast killed at least one American service member. Also Wednesday, British officials confirmed that a box of leaflets dropped from a British plane in June killed a local Afghan girl in rural Helmand province. (READ MORE)


3 Missile Strikes Hit Northwest Pakistan - Pakistani officials say three suspected US missile strikes have hit the country's Waziristan tribal regions since late Tuesday, reportedly killing at least 18 militants. But such attacks may in fact hurt public perception ahead of an anticipated Pakistani military offensive in the area. The latest missile strike occurred Wednesday in the North Waziristan tribal region. It was the third strike in 24 hours allegedly by unmanned US planes that targeted suspected Taliban and al-Qaida militants along the Afghan border. (READ MORE)


US Credibility and Pakistan - Critics of the war in Afghanistan - inside and out of the Obama Administration - argue that we would be better off ensuring that nuclear-armed Pakistan will help us fight al Qaeda. As President Obama rethinks his Afghan strategy with his advisers in the coming days, he ought to listen to what the Pakistanis themselves think about that argument. In an interview at the Journal's offices this week in New York, Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi minced no words about the impact of a US withdrawal before the Taliban is defeated. (READ MORE)


Obama Can't Outsource Afghanistan - So our top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has told CBS's "60 Minutes" that he has spoken with President Barack Obama only once since June. This is a troubling revelation. Right now, our commander in chief is preparing to make one of the most important decisions of his presidency - whether to commit additional troops to win the war in Afghanistan. Being detached or incurious about what our commanders are experiencing makes it hard to craft a winning strategy. (READ MORE)


A Showdown In Waziristan - The zigzag trip to this garrison town deep in the tribal area of South Waziristan tells a story that's more than a century old: The fierce Mehsud tribe and its allies are a law unto themselves in these rugged mountains, and wise travelers steer clear of their strongholds. The Mehsud warriors have defied the British Raj, the Pakistani army and lately the Americans and their high-tech Predator drones. (READ MORE)


New Generation of 'Dragon Wagon' Roars Into Afghanistan - Using less fuel, travelling longer distances and offering a smoother ride for passengers and cargo, the new logistics vehicle has arrived in Afghanistan. The new vehicle, officially titled the logistics vehicle replacement system, brings increased load capacity and greater load bearing flexibility to convoy operations. The LVSR will meet the Corps' requirement for a heavy tactical logistics distribution system capable of transporting bulk liquids, ammunition, storage containers and bulk cargo. (READ MORE)


Nimruz Governor Visits Camp Leatherneck - Nimruz Provincial Governor Dr. Ghulam Dastigar Azad visited Camp Leatherneck Sept. 24 to meet with Brig. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, and discuss ongoing modernization and security efforts taking place within Nimruz. The primary goal of this visit, the second engagement between the command and the Nimruz provincial government, was gaining Azad's concurrence with the electrification project slated for the city of Delaram. (READ MORE)


ISAF Operation in Helmand; Militants Detained in Kandahar, Logar, Ghazni - After an extensive engagement with insurgents fighting from a compound in Nad Ali district, an International Security Assistance Force aircraft dropped a single precision-guided bomb on insurgent's position in the compound, Sept. 30. Following the engagement, ISAF received reports of a number of persons killed in the compound, including women and children. A shura on the incident is being held today between village elders and ISAF. (READ MORE)


Afghan lawmakers charge UN with election bias - A group of Afghan lawmakers called Thursday for criminal investigations into alleged fraud in the country's disputed presidential election, saying a probe by a U.N.-backed panel has been tainted because some U.N. officials are biased in favor of President Hamid Karzai. The appeal by about a dozen lawmakers who support Karzai's main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, was issued after the top American U.N. official here was fired in wake of a dispute with his boss over how to deal with fraud charges in the Aug. 20 balloting. (READ MORE)


US commander spells out Afghan difficulties - The debate over how best to prosecute the faltering Afghan war effort moved from the White House Situation Room to London on Thursday as U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned Britain that success is not guaranteed. McChrystal, whose frank warning to President Barack Obama has raised grave doubts about whether the Taliban insurgency can be repelled, told British academics and reporters that the current coalition strategy is not winning over the Afghan people. (READ MORE)


White House split on second Afghan troop surge - President Obama is confronting a split among his closest advisers on Afghanistan, with military commanders solidly behind the request for additional troops but other key figures in the administration divided. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, and Richard Holbrooke, the special Afghan and Pakistan envoy, appear to be leaning toward supporting a troop increase, a White House official revealed after a strategy meeting yesterday. (READ MORE)


Debate Over Afghan War Heats Up In Congress - For years, the war in Afghanistan got little attention from Congress as lawmakers battled over the Iraq war. But Iraq has increasingly become the forgotten war on Capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers say President Obama should accept the recommendation for additional troops made by his top commander there. Some key Democrats, meanwhile, express doubts about that war. (READ MORE)


Provide details on Taliban, Pakistan tells U.S - The United States should provide information about top militants in Pakistan, a government minister said on Thursday, as Washington stepped up pressure on Islamabad to go after Taliban leaders. The United States, struggling to contain rising insurgent violence in Afghanistan, says top Islamist militants, including Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, are in Pakistan. U.S. ally Pakistan rejects that. (READ MORE)


In Pakistan's Swat valley, volunteers form anti-Taliban militias - With government support, thousands of armed volunteers have banded together to form traditional militias against the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat valley, which the army recently wrested back from the hands of extremists. The militias - known as a "lashkar" - are being organized in individual villages across Swat, a scenic area in Pakistan's North West Frontier province, where the Taliban had unleashed a reign of terror. (READ MORE)


Afghan civilians killed in anti-Taliban operations - Up to seven civilians were killed in NATO-led operations, including an airstrike, that also left several Taliban militants dead, provincial authorities said Thursday. NATO confirmed in a statement that it received reports that civilians, including women and children, were killed Wednesday when its forces dropped a "single precision-guided bomb" on an insurgent position in the Nad Ali district of the southern province of Helmand. The bomb was dropped after "an extensive engagement" between NATO troops and militants in the compound, it said. (READ MORE)


UN Afghan envoy says sacking a 'terrible signal' - Peter Galbraith, sacked as deputy UN special envoy to Afghanistan, said his dismissal sends a "terrible signal" about the body's commitment to a fraud-free election for the country's next president. UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday sacked Galbraith, who had been embroiled in a dispute with his boss over Afghanistan's controversial election. (READ MORE)

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