October 2, 2009

From the Front: 10/02/2009

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

Wings Over Iraq:
Afghanistan picture roundup

Noah Shachtman:
Shootouts, Pot Fields and Spy Drones: Danger Room in Afghanistan - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The final day was, in some ways, the worst. During nearly four weeks on assignment in Afghanistan and the surrounding region, I didn’t see a single person get seriously hurt or killed. That changed on a last mission, with an Air Force rescue team. A British soldier had his hand and his foot blown off, just outside of the air field here. The rescue squad quickly scooped him out of the minefield, saving his life. But that soldier will never recover from Afghanistan. This gallery chronicles my trip in pictures, from the shootouts to the spy drones to the 12-foot-tall marijuana fields. (Look for much, much more in an upcoming issue of Wired magazine.) (VIEW PHOTOS)

Brad's Excellent Adventure:
New Orders! - Friday 2 October 2009 1300 - Well, finally! I just received an email with a copy of my new orders. I am to report to Heidelberg Germany next month, exactly as I had requested. After three years in the desert, I am totally psyched for a normal country with woods, mountains, and everything else. Hooah! Now comes the fun part- figuring out how to get there. Ironically, the very day I posted the description of my little mini-Odyssey through the bureaucracy I started getting encouraging news that they might actually handle this in the way that makes the most sense to me - going straight from here to my next assignment without being required to go back to CONUS first to demobilize. I am going to act on that premise until somebody gives me a convincing reason to do otherwise. There's not really anything I can do today, but I will get started on the process as I can reach the right people to get the ball rolling. (READ MORE)

Fire and Ice:
Finished......Sort Of - Well, the Grenadier is finished.....sort of. The next step in the creative process is to take what I've just completed to a foundry to be cast in bronze. This piece will be cast using the lost wax technique. The next step in this process is for a foundry to make a series of molds. These molds will then be used to cast hollow wax versions of what you see in the top picture. The wax facsimiles will then be coated, both inside and out, with silica. Once fully prepped with the silica the wax will be melted out as the ceramic is baked, hence the term lost wax. The final mold is then filled with molten bronze and allowed to cool. Once cooled the work is then hit with everything from large hammers to small delicate drills to dislodge the ceramic. In the final steps the bronze will be buffed, sandblasted, treated to an acid bath to create the surface patina, and given a final coat of bowling alley wax. In future posts I'll show you the lost wax process as it unfolds. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII:
How Things Are Going… - Well, been home for almost two months now… Since I got home, I really haven’t noticed any psychological after-effects of the deployment – but I didn’t experience anything “traumatic”, just a few rocket attacks that were too far away to really get my attention (exciting, yes, but not frightening)… I don’t dive under mailboxes any deeper now than I did before we left (that behavior is a result of previous military experiences), so I think I got off lucky on that score. My thoughts and prayers go out to the guys and gals who got a lot closer to the action than I did – THEY are the ones who need your powers of prayer, not me, I’m good, thanks… Physically, I’ve got some VA Claims going on, two for conditions I believe were caused by the deployment, and a few where an existing condition was aggravated by the deployment, mostly falling under the category of “this is what happens when you try to keep up with folks half your age…” (READ MORE)

Free Range International:
The Internal Focus of ISAF - Earlier in the week I had one of those trips from hell which make being in Afghanistan such a drag. The drive between Jalalabad and Kabul takes less than 2 hours on a good day. Last Sunday the drive took over 12 hours – 9 of them spent sitting in a traffic jam just outside the the Poli Charki pass. The reason I was stuck with thousands and thousands of Afghans is that the French army had closed the road between Kabul and Jalalabad. They had (again second time in a week about the 50th time this year) rolled one of their armored vehicles and insisting that no traffic pass the accident scene until it had been recovered. The vehicle went over the side of the road into a ravine so the recovery required an industrial size crane which did not even arrive on scene until around five hours after the accident. That is five hours worth of traffic which should have been flowing freely but ISAF does not think that way. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan:
Scots soldiers smash Taliban bomb-makers' stronghold - Hundreds of soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), launched an 'audacious' night-time assault on an insurgent stronghold in Kandahar province, finding an 'Aladdin's cave' of weapons. Almost 500 soldiers, including Afghan Warriors and Canadian IED (improvised explosive device) experts, swooped into Howz-e Madad in Zhari district in three waves of six Chinook helicopters in the early hours of Monday 14 September 2009. The masses of troops landed almost within touching distance of enemy positions, causing chaos and mayhem among the insurgents who were quickly engulfed by ISAF forces. Supported by British, Canadian and American fast jets, attack helicopters and unmanned drones co-ordinated by experienced fire controllers from 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, the soldiers touched down in an area known to be one of the biggest insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56):
Who Fights This War? -- Flight Medic 2 - This story was published on line on Wednesday and was also in a weekly newsletter I do now as part of my new job. When the United States led coalition forces in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, SSG Quincy Northern, 32, began his first of three deployments as a flight medic. For the first months of the war Northern flew MEDEVAC along the invasion route led by the US Marines. "It was non-stop action from the time we crossed the wire," said Northern describing his first deployment following the Marines across Iraq in the opening days of the war. One MEDEVAC call he remembered vividly was an all-terrain, 8-wheel- drive HEMMT cargo truck that hit a mine and rolled over. The call itself was not out of the ordinary. He and his crew responded to many calls for trucks that hit mines or had rolled over and trapped the badly injured crew. What made this rescue different was the landing zone. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit:
More Iraqi Views on the January Vote - While mainstream papers such as the NYT mock Iraq's politicians for calling for unity, ordinary Iraqis are paying attention to what the candidates are saying. Sure it's funny that the politicians all claim they can unite Iraq. But what the western papers are missing is that this is what the people want. In other words, the MSM misread Iraq when they claimed Iraqis all want to kill each other like savages. But these politicians don't have to impress anyone but the Iraqi people. They need votes. And for the first time, the needs and wants of Iraq's citizens are being taken into consideration. Today Nouri Al Maliki announced his group that will run in the January elections. It includes all manner of Iraqis and promises to keep the country united. Why would he do that? Because the Iraqi people made it clear in the last winter's provincial elections that they have no patience for anyone who wants to divide the country. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre's Line of Departure:
Propaganda or Plain Ol’ PR? - The folks at the Pentagon Press office are being raked over the hibachi again for alleged propaganda mongering, and the guy with the bulls-eye on his back is a nondescript career civil servant named Bryan Whitman. The charge is that the Pentagon, back during the dark Rumsfeld days, conspired to dupe the American people, by wooing hapless retired military officers to knowingly spread lies and disinformation about the war in Iraq in return for coveted access. It’s a premise that won a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Time reporter David Barstow last year, and has resurfaced on rawstory.com, which seems dismayed to learn that the President has not fired every civil servant who ever worked for Rumsfeld. You can read both the original New York Times story, and the Raw Story version online. Both portray the program as a sinister and cynical effort to provide briefings to military analysts in a ham-fisted attempt to turn them into pitchmen for the Pentagon’s official line that the war was being won. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche:
Take Luck - A lot of families have that special phrase or word that just says it all. It's almost like a code for I love you, be safe, I miss you, be careful all in one little word or phrase... for me and Pokey that phrase was "take luck". We had been listening to a Brian Regan CD in the car on the way back to Ft. Campbell from my dad's house on the last visit we had with him before he deployed. "Take Luck " is one of his skits and we all thught it was hilarious. Somehow 'Take Luck' seemed fitting as my phrase to say to Pokey. He logged off before I could type it that last conversation... Some of the others guys in his unit immediately knew it was from a comedy skit when I would sign my emails with it. They too had enjoyed it. But I never told them that it wasn't just a humorous reference to a comedy skit.. I never told them it was my special phrase and good luck charm to my son. To this day when I talk to a soldier I tell them to 'take luck'. And I hope they do. (READ MORE)

The Life of the Wife:
Personal Space is for losers - Howie has turned into my 3rd arm since Hubble left. Not that I mind...terribly. He is pretty good company and warm. It has just gotten chilly here and he lays on my cold toes in the morning while I lay around and drink coffee (usually about 2 hours...ahhh). I received some skinny jeans I ordered from the Gap in the mail yesterday. I was really worried if they would fit or not--I don't have a typical body type, so jean fit can be hit or miss. Anyway, I was verrrry pleasantly surprised. I ordered one size larger than normal because most jeans aren't CrossFit friendly* and the leg fit is perfect. They are big in the waist and hips, but I think I can dry them to a crisp in the dryer and they'll hug my butt just fine. So far I've worn them tucked inside my Frye boots and they are wonderful! *I don't have skinny atrophied legs because I actually use mine. Most designers cut the legs waaayyy too skinny so I can't get the jeans past my thighs and when I can the waist and hips are way too big. bleh (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio:
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader thought killed in August strike in South Waziristan - Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate that the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was killed during a US airstrike in South Waziristan in late August. Tahir Yuldashev, emir of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is said to have been killed in a strike by an unmanned US aircraft in the town of Kanigoram on Aug. 27, 2009. The strike took place in a known stronghold of the Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Nazir. Eight Taliban fighters and Uzbek fighters were reported killed in the attack, but no senior leader was initially reported killed. The first report of Yuldashev's death emerged on Sept. 28, when a man called Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek service for Radio Liberty, identified himself as a bodyguard for Yuldashev, and said the leader died from wounds one day after the strike. According to the caller, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was trying to hide Yuldashev's death. (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar:
Provincial government building Afghan future with agriculture - CAMP WRIGHT, Afghanistan – The seeds of a better tomorrow in Afghanistan are being planted by the farmers of Kunar Province today with help from the provincial government, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar. According to Kunar Province Agricultural Director Mohasal Khan, the provincial government is working hard to improve the quality and quantity of the agricultural production in the province for both consumption and commerce. “We grew 48,000 metric tons of wheat last year. This year, with more rain and improved seeds, better chemical fertilizers and insecticides, we grew 75,490 metric tons…a 92 percent increase,” Khan said. “But that is still not enough to feed all the people of Kunar Province. We need to increase from two metric tons per hectare to four metric tons. Also, when we get more crops we will need to find markets for those products.” (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust:
Discussing the Unpersuasive Ways Forward - In one sense, all the discussion about how to move forward in Afghanistan is moot—until Barack Obama makes his do-I-stay-or-do-I-go decision, the how of either of the three main decisions (escalate, maintain but redirect, drawdown) really doesn’t matter too much. That being said, it’s still interesting to examine the many cases being discussed if only for how poorly reasoned they are. First up is Peter Bergen, talking about why we need to stay and fight on. “If U.S. forces were not in Afghanistan, the Taliban, with its al-Qaeda allies in tow, would seize control of the country’s south and east and might even take it over entirely. A senior Afghan politician told me that the Taliban would be in Kabul within 24 hours without the presence of international forces. This is not because the Taliban is so strong; generous estimates suggest it numbers no more than 20,000 fighters. It is because the Afghan government and the 90,000-man Afghan army are still so weak.” This is actually not a given; regardless, the Taliban don’t need to conquer Kabul for anything other than the power of symbolism—they can eke out a reliable safe haven from the “Pashtun Belt” along the south and east. (READ MORE)

LTC Clark:
Working with the Afghan National Army...THE SOVIETS DID IT BETTER?!! - “I had good and bad Soviet advisors. I had good and bad U.S. advisors. It seemed at times as though the Soviets took better care of us.” -comment made by an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer to SFA researcher, 2009 Comments like the aforementioned should cause us to reflect about our performance in Afghanistan. Did the Soviets really take better care of the Afghanis than we are now? Granted, this is one officer’s comment and does not reflect the view of the entire ANA…but it could! Are we investing in the future of the ANA the same way that we are in other countries? Are we sending ANA officers to U.S. military schools and allowing them to conduct internships with our military in the same volume as other partner nations? Some other general trends from the Security Force Assistance research team were: -Afghans trust and value those whose caveats permits them to go into combat with them (i.e., allowed to conduct direct FID, involving combat) (READ MORE)

Daniel Cnossen:
Bronze Star - Day Two of physical therapy - with the help of the therapists in getting him up, Dan sat upright all on his own in bed today! He even touched the footboard of the bed. PT is the highlight of his day, and he's so excited about continuing to progress. God bless physical therapists. His right leg is even ready to be prepared and fitted for an initial prosthetic device. The left thigh still has a huge open wound that will need several more weeks before it can be closed with a skin graft, so prosthetic preparation will come later for that leg. The NG tube, aka the Devil, is annoying to both Dan and his nurses, but is improving his stomach distention day by day. This is a tube that goes through his nose into his stomach and is hooked up to suction to remove fluids from his GI tract. This decompresses and rests his bowels until they are ready to start working again. A big concern right now is his inability to eat or drink anything: (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone:
Watchmen: Seeking Daylight - Yesterday, General McChrystal spoke at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, an appearance that was generally well received in Britain. About the worst that could be said was said by Bronwen Maddox of The Times, who noted that the general failed to detail how more troops would be used to better effect. Fair enough, although considering that the document posing the question about more troops is sitting in a desk drawer at the Pentagon until the administration's strategy review is complete, the ommission is perhaps understandable. On the other side of the pond, reporters weren't about to let the actual substance of the IISS presentation get in the way of a good political story. The Washington Post pulled off the impressive feat of using anonymous administration sources to slam General McChrystal's assessment while making the general appear to be the one playing politics. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger:
All Apologies - We should have known that fate was out to get us when our hood flipped open five minutes out the gate. My gunner noticed the load on the jingle in front of us was shifting. Losing 1500 pounds of plywood would make for a bad day, so we called for a halt to tighten the load. As we came to a stop, inertia took charge — flingng our hood open in front of the windshield! As the five of us screamed, my driver hit the brakes hard. When I dismounted to shut the hood, I’m pretty sure our Afghani national was laughing at us as he tightened his chains down. Back on the road, we entered Altay, a large local city. Downtown we encountered the typical Afghan traffic jam: Corollas, bicycles, pickup trucks with cattle in the back, and horse-drawn carriages. No problem. Then a patrol of other American troops unexpectedly merged onto our road and blended in with our convoy. (That’s pretty much the tactical equivilent of walking into a stranger’s house and helping yourself to a Push-Pop from his freezer. Inconsiderate and baffling.) (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog:
Army Wife Roaring - I was having a great day today. I even wore my Army Wife Network t-shirt to preschool, the one that says my husband serves so yours won't get drafted. I have had the kids to school on time, lunches packed, picked up on time, dinner on the table, homework done, and the laundry attacked. I was mowing the lawn this afternoon with my youngest in the backpack thinking "I am an Army Wife hear me roar," feeling pretty good about how I have handled the first week of deployment. Then... I ran the lawn mower over a giant bullfrog. It was the grossest most disgusting pile of guts. All the air went out of my balloon, I sniffled my way through the rest of the lawn. I tried to pick up the decimated Kermit, but I couldn't. My feel good hooah Army wife moment destroyed with a swing of the blades. (READ MORE)

Threats Watch:
Believing in the Tooth Fairy - "Oh, how the media doth spin the yarns," or as Mark Twain once wrote, "the report of my death was an exaggeration." The same may hold for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Some sentiment exists that espouses the belief that the al Qaeda ideology of global jihad is in decline. “With its central leadership thrown off balance as operatives are increasingly picked off by missiles and manhunts and, more important, with its tactics discredited in public opinion across the Muslim world. ‘Al Qaeda is losing its moral argument about the killing of innocent civilians,’ said Emile A. Nakhleh, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency's strategic analysis program on political Islam until 2006. ‘They're finding it harder to recruit. They're finding it harder to raise money.’” Yet another view is that al Qaeda is fractionating and being replaced by a "generation of dispersed, aspiring terrorists linked largely by the Internet -- who still pose a danger, but of a lesser degree." (READ MORE)

The Redhunter:
Both Extremes Wrong on Counterinsurgency - As President Obama faces his moment of truth on Afghanistan, we again hear differing views on how the war should be fought. There are two extremes that are both wrong and need to be corrected. The error made by some on the right is that our forces are hampered by overly restrictive Rules of Engagement, and if we only "took the gloves off" our military would win. There are two errors made by some on the left. One group says that we can adopt the "small footprint" strategy or reducing our forces and fight the war through targeted raids and precision airpower. The other group says that military progress can only come after political progress. In addition to the links provided below, my source is everything I've written on this blog from early 2007 on, so for background go to "Categories" at right and see the posts for Afghanistan and Iraq. (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: Afghanistan at a Crossroads - Three stories underline an unsettled issue discussed in an earlier post (The Real Thing): what is the administration up to in Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that General Stanley McChrystal rejected, in a speech before the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the notion of scaling down the war before achieving the desired goals. You can hear his speech here. The NYT reported: "The top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, rejected calls for scaling down military objectives there on Thursday and said Washington did not have unlimited time to settle on a new strategy to pursue the eight-year-old war. In a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a private policy group here, General McChrystal said that the situation in Afghanistan was serious and that “neither success nor failure can be taken for granted.” (READ MORE)

Soldier's Angels Germany: Once the military's busiest trauma hospital in Iraq, 'Baghdad ER' closes down - 'Baghdad ER' turns off the lights By CHELSEA J. CARTER (AP): BAGHDAD — Army Capt. Amy Prichard took one last look around the room where thousands of war-ravaged soldiers and civilians were treated by U.S. medics in Baghdad's protected Green Zone. Before turning off the lights, she began to cry. "This is the room where we saved lives on a routine basis, and sometimes we lost them," said Prichard, who earlier served as a morgue assistant. "There are a lot of ghosts for me in this room, in this hospital." The U.S. military was scheduled Thursday to return Ibn Sina Hospital — dubbed the Baghdad ER — to the Iraqi government, ending the American role in what was once the busiest military trauma center in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Here we go again - Our team leader received the call and was directed to stop everything and prepare for a new mission. Our new mission was a contentious subject and revolved around re-certification on the crew serve weapons. We were in disbelief. Apparently our previous instruction by an Army weapons specialist was insufficient. This time we were going to get it right by attending a class taught by Air Force instructors. So we canceled our planned missions, packed our bags and headed towards Camp Phoenix. The picture of the stoplight counting down the seconds is the only stop light I know of in the entire city of Kabul. The city was already bustling with traffic and people were shopping in the crowded markets. We arrived at Camp Phoenix and checked into our new accommodations. The building was a hardened shelter and the roof resembled a cylinder cut in half. These facilities have been nicknamed the “domes”. The domes were partitioned with about 80 metal bunk beds in each part. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Deciding or dithering - I tend to agree that one should know what was going to do with extra troops before one sends them. I therefore don't have a problem in theory with the Obama administration taking its time on a troop-increase decision at this point. (Aside: It doesn't bother me, much, either, that McChrystal doesn't talk much one-on-one with Obama. That's the way it should be... as a sub-theatre commander, it's the equivalent of Bradley expecting to talk much with FDR, or in the Canadian context, Simonds with Mackenzie King. Not necessary if the chain of command is functioning as it should.) That said, it's not always that simple. It's all well and good to say take time for the "new tactics a chance to work ", as Marc Lynch does in the first link above, but as Tim Lynch (no relation, one presumes) documents from the field, that's not happening, or likely to happen any time soon. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Young soldier speaks of intense Taliban battle - A recently-recruited Scottish soldier has spoken of his role in an intense contact with the Taliban in Babaji district, Helmand, during which two colleagues from his company tragically lost their lives. Private Declan Walton, aged 18, a rifleman in 2 Platoon, Alpha (Grenadier) Company, had not long completed his basic training when his unit deployed to Afghanistan with The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) Battle Group. During an operation when his platoon had been tasked to set up a defensive screen to provide the Royal Engineers and Welsh Guards with protection as they closed an old checkpoint and crossing point on the Shamalan Canal, Pte Walton found himself in the middle of an intense battle with the Taliban. The operation began on 30 August 2009 when, under cover of darkness, 3 SCOTS had moved into the enemy-held area and settled in among the compounds which would provide them with protected firing positions at dawn. (READ MORE)

Major Mehar Omar Khan: An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan - Over the last three months that I’ve spent in the United States, I’ve heard with concern and trepidation the growing calls for a possible pull out from Afghanistan. No sane citizen of our world, let alone a Pakistani infantry officer who may soon end up being another name on an ever-growing list of the fallen soldiers in the war against terror, enjoys thinking about the painful possibility of our world’s greatest military power and history’s most inspiring nation retreating in the face of an onslaught by Kalashnikov-wielding bearded barbarians riding on the back of motorcycles, hungry horses and perspiring mules. What is being realized with increasing intensity is the pain of a seemingly endless and bloody war for almost a decade now; the pressure of a US public opinion that’s almost irreversibly weary of war (at least for now); the misery of a mismatch between resources and mandate; (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
Iraq's Maliki Unveils Broad Coalition - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced a broad-based coalition to take part in general elections set for January. The bloc hopes to offer an alternative to sectarian-driven politics. The State of Law coalition includes Sunni Muslims, Kurds and Christians, people who have had little voice in Iraqi national politics since the 2003 US-led invasion. Announcing the formation of the broader group Thursday in Baghdad, Mr. al-Maliki said it represents an historic point in the establishment of a new Iraqi state. (READ MORE)

Maliki Creates Coalition To Compete in Iraqi Vote - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday unveiled a coalition to compete in parliamentary elections in January that will decide whether he remains in power, as the focus of Iraqi politics moves from months of backroom negotiations over electoral alliances to a contest to sway a largely disenchanted public. Maliki's alliance, the State of Law coalition, continues to be led by his Dawa party, a venerable Shiite Muslim group that has lately sought to portray itself as less sectarian and more nationalist. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Leader Creates Broad Coalition - Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced the formation of a broad political coalition on Thursday, setting the stage for a parliamentary election campaign dominated by rival blocs claiming to appeal across Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic divides. Mr. Maliki, a Shiite seeking a second term, assembled an array of political figures and tribal leaders in a hotel ballroom inside the heavily fortified Green Zone and pledged that his coalition, State of Law, would represent those “believing in the unity of Iraq and its social diversity.” (READ MORE)

Maliki Coalition Tries to Bridge Iraq's Deep Sectarian Divisions - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a broad new electoral coalition, made up of more than 40 parties, that he hopes will propel him to victory in next year's parliamentary polls. The coalition mirrors a nonsectarian agenda the Shiite prime minister campaigned on this year in local elections. It reaches across Iraq's deep ethno-sectarian divides to include prominent Sunnis, who may help him broaden support beyond his own Shiite constituency. (READ MORE)

Some Troops in Iraq May Face Deployment Extension - The deployments of about 1,600 US troops in Iraq could be extended in the weeks following the national election slated to occur in January, Pentagon officials said today. Some 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Cavalry Headquarters in Baghdad could be asked to stay up to 23 days longer and some 600 Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Anbar province could be extended up to 79 days, according to defense officials. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraqi engineers build strong foundations for citizens of Iraq - Whether it is for a new building, a bridge or even a nation — a strong foundation — with the proper supports, is what makes it possible to flourish and grow and stand the test of time. American and Iraqi engineers are doing just that; building strong foundations today that will ensure a safe and secure Iraq for the future. (READ MORE)

IP clear rockets, explosives from AQI weapons cache in Mosul - Iraqi Security Forces discovered a hidden cache of weapons and explosive material used to facilitate attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq operatives today, and arrested one suspect connected to terrorist activity in Mosul. The 3rd Brigade Federal Police, with U.S. forces advisors, confiscated numerous weapons and explosive material used by Islamic State of Iraq members to build vehicle-borne bombs and suicide vests for attacks against the ISF and civilians in Mosul. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Operations Forces arrests Hezbollah financier, recruiter - Elements of the Emergency Response Brigade arrested an alleged Khitab’ Hezbollah financier and recruiter in a warrant-based operation in Sadr City recently. Khalid Masur Isma’il, who is also known as Abu Mustafa, was arrested by the ERB when he positively identified himself upon contact and admitted to working as a manager for a security firm alleged to be a front for Khitab’ Hezbollah. (READ MORE)

MNSTC-I Commander Holds Farewell Press Conference - U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick held his final press conference here Sept. 30. His agenda included a realistic discussion of the training, advising, equipping and manning of the Iraqi Security Forces. Helmick has commanded MNSTC-I the past 15 months, which gives him detailed knowledge of the training and equipping needs of the Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

Odierno: Progress could speed withdrawal - The United States may be able to draw down troop levels in Iraq quicker than anticipated if progress continues there, the commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq said here, Sept. 30. An agreement that took effect in January calls for U.S. troops to cease combat operations and reduce their presence in Iraq to 50,000 by Aug. 31, 2010. All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to be out of the country by Dec. 31, 2011. (READ MORE)

Military docs meet for medical conference - U.S. and Iraqi Army doctors gathered for a joint medical conference to share knowledge and experience for the first time at the Muthana Military Hospital, the sole Iraqi military hospital here, Sept. 30. "We hope to keep these medical lectures going," said Lt. Col. Jeff Callin, the Multi-National Division – Baghdad surgeon. "We're focusing on programs over projects...because in the long run you've educated a generation, instead of built a brick and mortar building." (READ MORE)

Paratroopers Relieve Marine RCTs in Official Al Anbar Handover - Marines officially handed over their security mission in Al Anbar province in a ceremony Saturday to a brigade of U.S. Army paratroopers, after a nearly six-year presence in the region. Marine Regimental Combat Teams 6 and 8 of Multi-National Force – West were replaced by 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), an Army unit specially tooled to provide security-force assistance to Iraqi security forces, said Maj. Adrienne McDonald, a spokesperson for the brigade. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Obama meets with Afghanistan commander - President Barack Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan to a 25-minute meeting aboard Air Force One before returning to Washington. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs that Obama invited Gen. Stanley McChrystal to meet him Friday in the Danish capital, where he was pitching the International Olympic Committee's on the United States' bid to host the games in Chicago. (READ MORE)
Civilians Killed in Dutch Air Raid - A Dutch F-16 fighter plane made a number of civilian casualties during an air raid in the Afghan province of Helmand on Wednesday. The Dutch Defense Ministry said it is still unclear how many people died in the air raid, but it confirmed that a woman and several children were wounded. The French press agency AFP quoted a local authority saying nine people died, including six children. (READ MORE)

Does Afghan War Have Strong Public Support? - President Obama is weighing whether to send more troops to Afghanistan — even as polls show support for the war declining. In what's known as the Powell Doctrine, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that military force should be used only if there was a clear exit strategy. He said the force used should be overwhelming and the operation must have strong public support. (READ MORE)

US, British troops killed in Afghanistan attacks - Two international troops - one American and one British - were killed in separate clashes in Afghanistan following a month that witnessed a drop in deaths among the international force, military officials said Friday. The American died when Taliban militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a patrol late Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said. Several other Americans were wounded, she added. (READ MORE)

Afghan prisoner hearing postponed in Ottawa - A public hearing into what the Canadian army may have known about the alleged torture of Taliban prisoners in Kandahar, has been postponed amid accusations of government obstruction. The Military Police Complaints Commission has been overwhelmed with motions filed by federal government lawyers and has decided to delay the opening of the inquiry, slated for Monday, until Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Afghan man mutilated for voting to be treated in Italy - An Afghan man who was mutilated by militants because of his intention to vote in his country's elections, arrived Friday in Florence for medical treatment. Plastic surgeons will attempt to reconstruct the 40-year-old Lal Mohammed's ears and nose which were sliced off by Taliban fighters while he was on his way to a polling station on August 20. (READ MORE)

Dalai Lama doubts Afghan mission - Canada's military mission in Afghanistan met with skepticism from the Dalai Lama yesterday in Calgary. And the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet predicted he'll one day return to the homeland he fled 50 years ago. Following a question and answer session with an audience of 1,200 at the Telus Convention Centre, the 74-year-old Buddhist monk said the jury is still out on NATO's campaign in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Obama administration initiating dialogue with Pak religious parties - US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, is initiating a dialogue between the United States and Pakistani religious parties to try to improve Washington's image in the country. "The purpose is to broaden the base of American relations in Pakistan beyond the relatively narrow circle of leaders Washington has previously dealt with," The Dawn quoted Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to Holbrooke, as saying. (READ MORE)

Pak ISI chief denies nexus with Taliban -Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has categorically denied any links with the Taliban. The Daily Times quoted ISI Director General Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha as saying that the ISI is a professional agency and does not have links with any militant outfit, including the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Pentagon Opens New Inquiry on Wanat Battle - Thom Shanker reports on Gen. David H. Petraeus’s decision to order a new military investigation into the 2008 battle at Wanat, Afghanistan, one of the deadliest engagements of the war. According to a Pentagon statement, the new inquiry will examine whether decisions by senior commanders contributed to the deaths of nine American soldiers in the firefight, officials said Thursday. (READ MORE)

White House Eyeing Narrower War Effort - Senior White House officials have begun to make the case for a policy shift in Afghanistan that would send few, if any, new combat troops to the country and instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, continued assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban. In a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the White House, senior advisers challenged some of the key assumptions in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's blunt assessment of the nearly eight-year-old war... (READ MORE)

McChrystal Rejects Scaling Down Afghan Military Aims - The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, used a speech here on Thursday to reject calls for the war effort to be scaled down from defeating the Taliban insurgency to a narrower focus on hunting down Al Qaeda, an option suggested by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as part of the current White House strategy review. After his first 100 days in command in Kabul, General McChrystal chose an audience of military specialists at London’s Institute for Strategic Studies as a platform for a public airing of the confidential assessment of the war he delivered to the Pentagon in late August... (READ MORE)

McChrystal Defends Military Goals in Afghanistan - Speaking in London, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said he opposes strategies that would require fewer troops and focus on fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership through drone attacks, airstrikes and similar approaches, according to transcripts and audio recordings of his remarks. Such an approach is favored by some Obama administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden. (READ MORE)

General McChrystal: Success in Afghanistan is Not Assured - General Stanley McChrystal, NATO's top commander in Afghanistan says the situation there is serious and success is not assured. Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the general said it is the Afghan people who will decide who is winning or losing. General Stanley McChrystal says there is no simple solution in Afghanistan. "It is complex difficult terrain, both the land and the people, it is a tribal society with a culture vastly different from what most of us are familiar with and it varies around the country, so you cannot assume what is true in one province is true in another," he said. (READ MORE)

US Needs to Redefine Afghan Fight, Top Commander Says - The war in Afghanistan can be won if forces there change the way they fight, the top military commander on the ground said today. “We must operate and think in a fundamentally new way,” Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said in a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank. In his first speech since submitting his recent assessment on the situation in Afghanistan, the general said that the fight needs to be redefined - more focused on earning the trust of the Afghan people and less on chasing out the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Back Your General and Send More Troops, David Miliband Urges Barack Obama - David Miliband urged President Obama to embrace a renewed “hearts and minds” strategy in Afghanistan as ministers indicated that they would not send more British troops unless the US adopted such an approach. The Foreign Secretary did not mention America by name but called on every government in the coalition to back troops, aid workers and diplomats in support of a clear plan. “We came into this together. We see it through - together,” he told the Labour conference in Brighton. (READ MORE)

McChrystal Urges European Allies to Show Resolve in Afghanistan - As the White House deliberates over the future of US strategy in Afghanistan, the top American commander there issued a call in Europe on Thursday for "resolve" in the war effort, saying that "time does matter" in charting a new course in the escalating conflict. In his first major speech since issuing a stark assessment calling for up to 40,000 fresh troops within the next year or risk losing the war, Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned of the "serious" risks facing allied forces there. (READ MORE)

Experts Caution Senators Against US Military Surge in Afghanistan - Experts at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday advocated a US strategy in Afghanistan that focuses more on political and economic initiatives than on a military surge. The hearing comes as President Barack Obama is meeting with his top advisers to help him formulate a new strategy for the region. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry began the hearing by highlighting what he called "a landmark change" in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan... (READ MORE)

US Envoy: Bin Laden, Taliban Leadership Operating in Pakistan - A senior US diplomat says al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is alive and in Pakistan and fugitive Afghan Taliban leader Mohammad Omar is possibly hiding in the southwestern city of Quetta. Speaking to reporters in Pakistan's capital, US Deputy Chief of Mission Gerald Feierstein said the United States "strongly believes" Osama bin Laden is operating from Pakistan's tribal areas near the Afghan border. He also said US officials believe Quetta has become the control and command center of the Taliban leadership. (READ MORE)

Pakistan to Target Taliban ‘Epicenter’ - After fighting peripheral wars against militants for the last several years, the military is poised to open a campaign in coming days against the Taliban’s main stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal areas, South Waziristan, according to senior military and security officials. For three months, the military has been drawing up plans, holding in-depth deliberations and studying past operations in the area, where previous campaigns ended in failure and resulted in some of the military’s highest levels of casualties. (READ MORE)

Bottomless Pit for US Aid - The United States has long suspected that much of the billions of dollars it has sent Pakistan to battle militants has been diverted to the domestic economy and other causes, such as fighting India. Now the scope and longevity of the misuse is becoming clear: From 2002 to 2008 - the period when al Qaeda built itself into the formidable group it is today - only $500 million of the $6.6 billion in American aid actually made it to the Pakistani military, two army generals tell the Associated Press. (READ MORE)

Hillary Clinton vs. Afghan Reality - In a PBS interview on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton dismissed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's detailed assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. "I respect that because clearly he is the commander on the ground," she said, "but I can only tell you there are other assessments from very expert military analysts who have worked in counterinsurgencies that are the exact opposite." She said the administration's goal "is to take all of this incoming data and sort it out." (READ MORE)

Airmen Aid Local Schools With New Furniture - Recently, more than 300 pieces of furniture left storage at the Transit Center at Manas for a new home at five different Kyrgyz schools and villages as part of ongoing humanitarian efforts between Airmen here and Kyrgyz schools. The desks, which cost about $26,000, were loaded into trucks by the volunteer efforts of Airmen here and will benefit about 3,000 students in the local community. (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Oct. 2: International Security Assistance Force Service Members Killed - In separate incidents, two International Security Assistance Force service members were killed as result of enemy activity in southern and eastern Afghanistan, in the last 24 hours. An ISAF service member was killed in an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan, Oct. 1. (READ MORE)

Engineers Assess Construction Projects in Afghan Province - Members of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District North performed site assessments and a helicopter flyover to view construction and road projects here Sept. 20. The district engineers are working with the national and regional governments to improve Kunar’s infrastructure to benefit governance, security and development. (READ MORE)

Officials Meet With Afghan Elders After Reports of Civilian Casualties - Members of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force met with village elders today after reports that civilians, including women and children, had been killed in an engagement between ISAF forces and insurgents yesterday in the Nad Ali district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province. After extensive fighting with insurgents at a compound in Nad Ali district yesterday, ISAF aircraft dropped a single precision-guided bomb on the insurgents’ position. Following the engagement, ISAF officials received reports of civilian casualties, and a number of civilians with injuries reported to ISAF troops. (READ MORE)

Afghan Decision Expected in Matter of Weeks - President Barack Obama is getting the ground-level perspective on Afghanistan, and soon will address the strategy and resources needed in the country, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expects a decision on the way forward in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, Morrell told MSNBC. “I would remind you that the Bush administration when they were deliberating whether or not to surge forces into Iraq took about three months to come to that conclusion,” he said. (READ MORE)

U.S. Needs to Redefine Afghan Fight , Top Commander Says - The war in Afghanistan can be won if forces there change the way they fight, the top military commander on the ground said today. “We must operate and think in a fundamentally new way,” Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said in a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank. (READ MORE)

US drone strike kills key al-Qaeda ally Tahir Yuldashe - A key Islamist radical with close ties to al-Qaeda and the Taleban is believed to have been killed by a US missile strike in north-western Pakistan, intelligence officials said today. Tahir Yuldashev, the veteran leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was wounded by a missile fired from a US drone in the tribal region of South Waziristan on August 27 and died of his injuries a few days later, according to the officials. He was about 42-years-old. (READ MORE)

US-Pakistan split emerges on whereabouts of Taliban leaders - Mutual trust between Islamabad and Washington has sunk further amid US complaints about Pakistan's inaction against the Afghan Taliban leadership, which it said has sanctuaries in a south-western city bordering Afghanistan, a claim Pakistan has rejected. Speaking with reporters Friday in Islamabad, a senior US official raised the issue of the alleged presence of the Taliban's top leader, Mullah Omar, and his close aides in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province, parts of which border the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. (READ MORE)

Team Introduces Afghan Farmers to Saffron - The Kansas National Guard agribusiness development team here, along with local and provincial officials, participated in a ceremony to introduce a profitable crop to area farmers at the Laghman Agricultural Research and Development Center in Mehtar Lam district, Sept. 29. Saffron, a type of crocus, is deep orange in color and typically is ground up and used as a cooking spice or food colorant. (READ MORE)

High stakes in Afghan vote recount - The logo for Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) turned out to be fitting. Two hands cup a ballot box. Are they guarding the sanctity of the ballots? Or is someone trying to get their hands on the vote? More than a month after millions of Afghans cast their ballots, a controversial election is going down to the wire, to the last institution on this chequered political landscape. (READ MORE)

Fledging Afghan army grapples with high expectations - Gun shots ring sharply across a valley littered with rusting hulks of Soviet tanks as Afghan soldiers crouch down and open fire into the dusty haze. No one fires back and enemy positions are empty. Here at the Kabul Military Training Center, the exercise is part of U.S. efforts to put the Afghan army on its own feet in hopes that, one day, Western troops could leave Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Cameron plans Afghan 'war Cabinet' - Tory leader David Cameron will set up a "war Cabinet" to deal with the Afghan conflict if he wins the general election, he revealed. The select group - comprising top ministers, armed forces and intelligence chiefs - would meet "from minute one, hour one, day one that I walk through the door of Downing Street if I am elected", Mr Cameron told The Sun. (READ MORE)

Turkey's army says "not to engage in operations in Afghanistan" - Turkey is set to take over from France the Kabul command of the International Assistance Force in Afghanistan for a year, a spokesman with the Turkish military said on Friday. "Turkey will assume as of November 1, 2009, the ISAF regional command in Kabul for a year." Gen. Metin Gurak, head of the communication office of the Turkish General Staff, told a weekly press briefing. (READ MORE)

Taliban burn two NATO fuel trucks in northern Afghanistan - Taliban insurgents burned two fuel tanker trucks Friday in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, nearly a month after a deadly airstrike on militant-hijacked petrol trucks in the same province. The trucks were transporting fuel to NATO forces from the Tajik border and were on their way to Kabul when they were ambushed by the Taliban, provincial Governor Mohammad Omar said. (READ MORE)

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