October 6, 2009

From the Front: 10/06/2009

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

Joshua Foust: Photos of Kamdesh - A friend sent me photos he took in 2007 of the Kamdesh area and one of the outposts that was attacked this weekend. (VIEW PHOTOS)

Doc H: View from the Front - Just pictures today. Steve was TC for a recent patrol and got these neat pictures. (VIEW PHOTOS)

Army Household6: Update on SGT Daddy - I just wanted to update you all what was going on...SGT DADDY finally called me this evening. He is ok and doing fine. We didn’t get a chance to talk long on the phone but that was the BEST phone call EVER!! I was never so happy to hear his voice on the other end of the line. I don’t know many of the details yet and even when I do I’m not sure I’ll be posting them on the blog. (I need to get the ok from SGT Daddy on that one ) Thank you to everyone that called, emailed, IM’d, commented and prayed ! You guys are amazing and are total rockstars in my book!! Keep up the prayers , there is a lot of pain being suffered right now by the families that didn’t get “that call from their soldier” . As I find out more information and what is needed, I’ll be sure to let you all know what I can. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Reading Tea Leaves - I have been in Dubai on a business trip for the past week. The boss is spoiling his talented group of Canadians and I in preparation for expanding out efforts into the most contested districts in the country. He didn’t have to spend the money as my colleagues and I are motivated by the challenge – although staying at the Raffles Hotel in Dubai was pretty damn cool. Saturday evening my inbox started filling with news of a serious fight in Nuristan. I checked the wires and found nothing. I checked again Sunday morning and nishta – I even emailed my Buddy Michael Yon and he too was hearing something was up but but did not know what was happening. The wires started humming about the attack on two isolated outposts in Nuristan Province about 24 hours after I had first heard about it. The New York Slimes has an OK roundup of what happened here. (READ MORE)

A World Away: More wounded Wisconsin soldiers identified in Time photo essay - A Time magazine photo essay called "A Window on the War in Afghanistan" includes photos of at least four Wisconsin National Guard soldiers, including three shortly after they were injured by an explosion. They are members of the 951st, a state guard Sapper, or combat engineering, unit that is clearing roads of IEDs. The photographs were made in September. On Friday a member of the unit was killed and seven were injured by a rocket propelled grenade. In one of the Time magazine photos, Specialist Codey Johnson of Eau Claire cries while comforting his best friend, Specialist T.J. Fecteau of Scofield. Insignias identifying the soldiers as members of the state guard are visible. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: ABC News reporter embedded with MEDEVAC Unit - This last weekend I started getting emails on Saturday morning telling me about a major battle going on in eastern Afghanistan that dealt with several outposts and multiple US casualties. However it was asked of me to stay quiet and not blog about it at that point. Of course I did stay quiet because I was asked and because the first reports from the battlefield are always wrong. And in this instance they were. The initial reports I got were a little off, to include the exact province, unit involved and some other details. As we know now thanks to the MSM releasing the story, the battle has happened. It was a terrible battle with 8 US and 6 Afghan Forces killed, over 24 wounded and over 300 enemy fighters attacking two combat outposts. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Camp pets and school supplies - Last night before going to bed, I overheard some contractors talking about Teenie and Boogie. The more I listened, the more I became intrigued. They were talking about the pet names for their scorpions and about the combat matches with camel spiders. Boogie was the former champion scorpion until he met his fate when he fought 2 camel spiders at once. Boogie apparently killed one camel spider but was viciously attacked by the other spider. In the end, all three creatures succumbed due to their wounds. Now Teenie has entered the ring and holds the title. This afternoon, a death match with a camel spider was scheduled, but I haven’t heard the results. Earlier I took a picture of Teenie in its secured habitat. Only one person has suffered a scorpion sting at the camp and was med-evacuated out to a hospital for treatment. Guess I better shake my boots more often. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan: Latest attack in Nuristan - In my most recent blog entry, I stated that I found it laughable the idea that the Taliban and insurgents could conduct coordinated assaults and challenge US forces on the conventional battlefield...and then a day later they go and kill eight soldiers in a conventional-type attack. Everyone out there knows that Nuristan is full of insurgents. The terrain in Nuristan so severe that anyone could hide out there for years without getting caught, and Coalition forces have virtually no presence in the province. The US Army unit we were partnered was often on reserve-alert to support police stations up that way which were in extremis. It's very disheartening for everyone to see us lose that many guys in one battle, but I stand by the assertion that with decent terrain selection and unit-tactics this type of thing will not happen. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: On ANA pay - Some people objected to Ann Jones' statement, which I referenced here, saying ANA soldiers were deserting and re-enlisting, bumping up their numbers. I see the current Canadian OMLT commander's saying the same thing: [Col.] Burt, who is wrapping up his tour to Afghanistan, said he started looking into the matter a couple of months ago when he noticed many of the Afghan soldiers were either not renewing their military contracts or choosing instead to go AWOL -- absent without leave. Or so he thought at first. "They've gone AWOL from here, but they're signing up in the north and getting in again, and are getting the same (pay)," said an exasperated Burt. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Connect With Kids Through Visuals - I got a call from my daughter’s school the other day, the one every parent dreads. My daughter’s teacher was calling me to point out some “behavioral issues” my daughter had been having for several weeks. I decided to have a one-on-one with my 7-year-old to see what was going on. She’s generally a very happy kid and normally breezes through school without any major problems. Turns out her best friend from last year had been ignoring her at recess and she was devastated. My daughter’s shy and it’s tough for her to make new friends so this was a huge hit to her ego. I decided to use a visual technique I picked up at DoD’s family readiness conference last month. Trevor Romain, a noted children’s author and advocate, had described several methods he uses to help military children that I thought were pure genius. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: Slow and Steady - It's been a week since my last post. Sorry about taking so long to post. There just hasn't really much going on to write about. Possibly it could be that I'm just not creative enough (lazy) to come up with a good topic. The other problem, is the last two topics I was going to write about turned out to be a bust. First, I figured I'd talk a little bit about the change in weather. I waited for about a week of "colder" weather to declare it fall here and write about it. I figured I'd talk about how I was freezing cold at night as the temps go down to 78 degrees. No joke. I'm shivering in 78 degree weather. I put on a sweatsuit in 87 degree weather. Also, those nasty winds and sandstorms came to a halt. It was nice. Anyway, the day I decided to write about fall beginning in Kuwait, mother nature played a joke on me. It ended up being in the 100's and a sandstorm rolled through. So much for my story about the fall weather. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Shiite Iraq Possibility - After seeing a few posters promising to cry tears of blood for the recently departed Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, I thought it would be good to talk to some people who support his party's alliance. I spoke with a few who really want a religiously managed government. We stood outside chatting, and I was a bit distracted when some people walked past us. I couldn't help but notice that they were speaking Farsi. Anyway, over falafel sandwiches we discussed the benefits of an Iraq led by the new Shiite alliance. I was told that it would restore honour in the Eastern way of life. The West has done plenty, they argued, to corrupt and whittle away at everything we hold dear. The West backed Saddam for the longest time. It's time to stop listening to the advice of the Europeans and the Americans, who are responsible for all disasters. They tried to persuade me, but they did not succeed. We agreed to disagree. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Five killed in suicide attack at UN office in Islamabad - A suicide bomber killed five United Nations workers in an attack at an office in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad. The suicide bomber penetrated security at the World Food Program offices and detonated inside the building, killing four Pakistanis and an Iraqi national. Six Pakistanis were also wounded in the blast. Two employees are said to be in critical condition. Pakistani police are attempting to determine how the bomber was able to get past the security measures in the capital. The UN compound is housed with other foreign offices and embassies in a high security district. Security checkpoints and blast walls ring the compounds. "We are investigating how he managed to enter inside the building," Bani Amin, the deputy inspector general of police operations told AFP. "There are scanners, there are cameras, and strict security arrangements." (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Still Surviving - We arrived at work yesterday to a rather frightening sight. Thick smoke was billowing up from someplace very close to our building. The closer we got, the worse it looked. I went down to a guard tower and took this picture. The actual fire was about a quarter of a mile away, right at the entrance to the base. We thought that a suicide bomber had struck. Today, we heard the rather mundane news. It was apparently started accidently by the driver, who had squatted underneath his gasoline tanker trailer to cook his breakfast. Yes. Cook his breakfast. Nobody was hurt, but there was one helluva big load of dishes to clean up. I haven't made any posts in a while because my blasted internet connection has rarely been up. It's going now, but I'm typing like a mad man, trying to get this post in so that all my fans (all three of you) know that I'm still alive and well. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Nuristan Violence Part of a Years-Long Campaign? - In 2007, according to ethnolinguist Richard Strand, al Qaeda began a “major strategic thrust toward Afghanistan’s capital” by increasing its presence in Nuristan. Prior to 2007, Nuristan was mostly the domain of Hezb-i Islami Gulbuddin, and the two groups rarely worked together (HiG militants thought al Qaeda too extreme). Strand estimated the number of militants in the low hundreds, with supply backers in Pakistan, most likely Chitral. Since then, violence in Nuristan has spiked. The increase probably has as much to do with an increased American presence as it does insurgent activity, after two PRTs were established in 2006. In mid-2007, several hundred militants moved into the Bargimatal region north of Kamdesh, along the border with Pakistan. It received scant attention in English media, though it was reported Le Monde and several local outlets like Pahjwok. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: The most bizarre items in the Post Exchange in Iraq - Every journalist (or wannabe journalist) has their "slow news day" story that they keep in their back pocket, ready to publish when they can't think of anything else to write about. Today, I'm dipping in to that "tactical reserve", so to speak. I'm going to lampoon the bizarre collection of items available for sale at the PX, and the dearth of items that, you know, I might actually need. Former US Navy SEAL Dick Marcinko has a little glossary in the back of many of his books to define certain phrases he and his SEAL buddies use all the time. When I was in high school, a few friends of mine took great pleasure in using many of these terms--usually filled with all sorts of colorful expletives--in general conversation all the time. One term he uses bears special recognition--the term "wannabe". (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Military’s Mini-Monster Truck Arrives in Afghanistan - The military’s hulking Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles are credited with keeping thousands of soldiers alive during roadside bomb attacks in Iraq. But the monster trucks are second-rate at navigating Afghanistan’s primitive roads. Which is why, earlier this summer, the U.S. Marine Corps put in orders for a smaller, more nimble version. Now, courtesy of Oshkosh Corporation and the Air Force, the first batch of the new blast-proof trucks, pictured here, has arrived in Afghanistan. Oshkosh scored the lucrative contract to build the new vehicles — on condition that they could start delivering, ASAP. “In the next year, we will field thousands of these life-saving vehicles,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday. The initial order provided for 2,244 M-ATVs, and the Defense Department quickly upped orders for the new trucks. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: After Deadly Assault, Questions Linger Over Afghanistan Strategy - Over the weekend, eight U.S. troops and two Afghan soldiers were killed in an assault on a pair of outposts near Kamdesh, in the Nuristan province of eastern Afghanistan. According to a news release from the International Security Assistance Force, Nuristani tribal militia launched the attacks from a local mosque and nearby village. Coalition forces repelled a complex attack by hundreds of militant fighters, but reports suggest that one of the outposts was partially or nearly overrun. The Associated Press, quoting provincial police chief Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh, said that insurgents flooded an Afghan-held outpost at the bottom of a hill, then attacked the American outpost on higher ground from several directions. News of the attack comes as the Obama administration deliberates Afghanistan strategy. (READ MORE)

Zeke: Until We Meet Again... - Jesse Davis, my friend and brother in arms, took his own life one week ago today. His passing has left a scar on all of us who knew him. Jesse was a team leader in the same squad as me, 2nd squad 1st platoon of Able Company 2/136 Infantry 34th Div. "Red Bulls." I spent nearly every day with him over a two year period during our Iraq deployment. Now he is gone. The last time I saw Jesse was mere weeks ago. We ate lunch together, and reminisced over a cold one. Everything seemed fine until I heard the news. It simply does not seem possible; it is still so surreal. Jesse was bright and funny. He had an intelligence that surpassed education and book learning. He was a great soldier and a better friend. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: The Battle of Wanat, Massing of Troops and Attacks in Nuristan - After the Army’s AR 15-6 investigation, General Petraeus has ordered a new investigation of the Battle of Wanat, in what may be deemed a victory for the fathers of both 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom and Private Gunnar Zwilling who had requested such an investigation. The increased attention brought to bear on the Battle of Wanat comes partially as a result of an unpublished study by an Army Historian at the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth named Douglas R. Cubbison which I have reviewed as I stated two months ago. I found that Mr. Cubbison did a remarkably able job of laying out the framework, historical and military, for the engagement, and made careful use of the facts to weave a narrative together of the event and things that lead to it. Where I found Mr. Cubbison’s study lacking was his focus on heavy kinetics and the lack of meetings with elders. (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: Where Did My MoJo Go? - So far this deployment, I have had some major levels of MoJo. Boundless energy, time management magic, deep sleep, even temperament followed me wherever I went. I felt great and did great things. In fact, I took on new challenges--beginning a running program, volunteering with our local pro bono legal services organization, adopting two new soldiers, etc. I suppose I was on an even keel and didn't realize that I was actually on a tightrope with little room for error. The two trips I took back-to-back in September, while I enjoyed both immensely and would not have missed them for the world, messed with my MoJo. The antibiotics are on board and yet, I feel very listless. I read in the paper this weekend that my area is among the nation's worst places for allergy sufferers right now. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
6 Are Killed by Bomber at Funeral in West Iraq - A suicide bomber detonated himself among mourners at a funeral in western Iraq on Monday, killing 6 people and wounding 16 in a region that has grown increasingly violent during the past few months. The bomber, a man in his 20s who wore a belt packed with explosives, walked into a crowd that had gathered in a tent for a funeral in the Anbar Province town of Haditha before blowing himself up, an Iraqi security official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest VBIED cell leader, ISI leader during security operations today - Iraqi Security Forces arrested six suspected terrorists today during a series of security operations conducted near Baghdad and Kirkuk. The Iraqi security team, with U.S. advisors, arrested four suspects during an operation near Tarmiyah, located approximately 32 km northwest of Baghdad. The security team searched several buildings and apprehended a key member of a Ramadi vehicle-borne improvised explosive device network. (READ MORE)

2nd Human Rights Conference Highlights Iraq’s Commitment - Iraq’s Minister of Defense, Mohammed Abdul-Qader Jassim hosted the 2nd conference of Human Rights Oct. 5 in the Ministry of Defense here to highlight Iraq’s commitment to human rights. The conference was attended by senior Iraqi Army officials, civilians, Iraqi government employees, political leaders and women from the Ministry of Human Rights, as well as select members of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, responsible for training and advising the MoD on human rights issues. (READ MORE)

Iraq Graduates First Class of Rotary-Wing pilots in Years - The newly emerging Iraqi air force celebrated advancement in military capability when 23 airmen earned their pilot’s wings during a graduation ceremony here Sept. 27. Eleven Iraqi officers became the first class of student pilots to earn their rotary-aircraft pilot wings in 12 to 15 years. Twelve Iraqi airmen earned their fixed-wing pilot wings. (READ MORE)

General Shares Promotion Ceremony with Iraqi Counterpart - U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, director, Iraq Training and Advisory Mission –Air Force, was promoted to major general Sept. 30 after delaying his promotion ceremony for 42 days in order to share the occasion with his counterpart Iraqi air force Commander, Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar at the new Iraqi air force headquarters here. Anwar and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commanding general, Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq, pinned on general Kane’s second stars while Kane’s wife, Katy, watched the event via a video teleconference from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. (READ MORE)

Leaders Attend Iraqi International Academy Workshop - A three-day conference on English-language curriculum development began Sept. 29 to bring together a range of subject matter experts from around Iraq to discuss, evaluate, and decide on their preferred approach for the Iraqi International Academy, or IIA. The conference at the United Kingdom Embassy was co-chaired by Esther Hay from the British Council and David King, the Iraqi International Academy director from Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. (READ MORE)

Serviceable U.S. gear going to Afghanistan - The 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron here is preparing for the drawdown of U.S. forces by inventorying materials and equipment for possible use elsewhere. Soon after arriving in June, the 407th ECES completed an inventory of all items from expandable shelters down to the hand-tool level. The inventory allowed them to see what items could be sent to Afghanistan, while still being able to perform their mission here. (READ MORE)

Advisory Council discusses Iraq’s IT future - The third annual Iraqi Industry Advisory Council (IIAC) convened at the Rasheed Hotel here, Sept. 29, to discuss information technology in Iraq. There were more than 160 attendees representing the Government of Iraq, Al Mazaya, Technology Partners, ZAIN, Kufan Group, RiTs (Ramin Information Technology Solutions) and U.S. forces. (READ MORE)

Cargo checkpoint facilitates Iraq-Iran trade - Work to improve commerce and security in Iraq continued as a Cargo Transload Area (CTLA) opened here along the Iraq-Iran border, Sept. 26. The $5.3 million project was a combined effort by Border Transition Team 4351, Task Force Drifter, Point of Entry Team, Iraq Ministry of Finance, Civil Customs, Army Corps of Engineers and Iraqi Security Forces. The area allows for commerce and secure trading between Iraq and Iran. (READ MORE)

Pak Taliban claims responsibility for UN building attack - The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for Monday's suicide attack on the UN World Food Programme (WFP) building in Islamabad in which five persons were killed and three others sustained grievous injury. "We accept responsibility for the attack in Islamabad. All these organizations are slaves of the United States," The Dawn quoted Azam Tariq, a self-proclaimed TTP spokesman, as saying. (READ MORE)

Clinton, Gates: Goals Are Same in Afghanistan, Only Details Under Review - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton made a rare joint public appearance Monday, telling an audience at George Washington University American goals in Afghanistan are not changing, as President Barack Obama and his top advisers examine how they want to pursue those goals. The two secretaries spoke for more than an hour at the event, which was recorded for broadcast on CNN. (READ MORE)

President meets with lawmakers on Afghan policy - President Barack Obama keeps his attention on global terror and security matters on Tuesday, as he continues a series of meetings with advisers and others on Afghanistan. In the morning, he'll visit the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington and meet with top officials there. He'll also address NCTC staff members. (READ MORE)

Bodies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan due back in U.S. - The flag-draped coffins of at least four U.S. soldiers killed during a weekend onslaught against a U.S. military outpost in Afghanistan were scheduled to arrive Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the military said. The bodies will include Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk of South Portland, Maine; Spc. Michael P. Scusa of Villas, New Jersey; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin of Kincheloe, Michigan; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson of Reno, Nevada, according to the Air Force mortuary affairs office. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Taliban Head Cracks Jokes, Vows Vengeance - Flanked by heavily armed fighters, the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban sat on a blue blanket, amiable and relaxed as he cracked jokes and mixed in threats of vengeance for deadly U.S. airstrikes. One day later, a suicide bomber attacked a U.N. office in Islamabad. (READ MORE)

Kazakhs allow French military transit - Kazakhstan agreed to allow French military personnel and equipment to transit through the Central Asian state to Afghanistan. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy oversaw the signing of the transit agreement by their foreign ministers. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Braces for Taliban Attacks as It Prepares Offensive - The Pakistani interior minister said Tuesday that the government was expecting more attacks by the Taliban as the military prepared to launch a major offensive in South Waziristan, the rugged northwestern tribal region considered a stronghold of Taliban. The minister, Rehman Malik, also accused the Taliban of orchestrating the suicide bombing of the headquarters of the World Food Program in Islamabad on Monday. The blast killed five people — four Pakistanis and an Iraqi — and led the United Nations to shutter its offices in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

NATO faces battle to regain Taliban 'jewel' Kandahar - The US Army faces a major challenge to win back the Taliban's historic stronghold of Kandahar -- a key battleground in the increasingly bloody fight to control Afghanistan. "Kandahar city is nationally critical," said Steve Biddle, from the Centre of Foreign Relations think tank in Washington. "It's one of the small numbers of places where a true setback could be a war loser." (READ MORE)

Surgical Strikes Shape Afghanistan Debate - Peter Baker reports in Tuesday’s Times the White House has begun touting the missile strikes and raids that have taken out Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere, noting that President Obama will visit the National Counter Terrorism Center on Tuesday to call attention to the operations. While aides said the effort is not related to the Afghanistan review, it could give Mr. Obama political room if he rejects or pares back Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops. (READ MORE)

Afghan War Units Begin Two New Efforts - The Pentagon is establishing two new units devoted to the Afghan war, highlighting the military's focus on the conflict even as the White House considers scaling back the overall US mission there. The units - a so-called Afghan Hands program run out of the Pentagon and a new intelligence center within Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - are designed to help troops deepen their intelligence about the country's complex political and tribal dynamics. (READ MORE)

Gates Wants Leaders' War Advice Kept Private - Washington Post. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates cautioned military and civilian leaders Monday against publicly airing their advice to President Obama on Afghanistan, just days after the top US general in that country criticized proposals being advocated by some in the White House. "In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations - civilians and military alike - provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately," (READ MORE)

Tensions Rise Over Afghanistan War Strategy - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that President Obama's advisors should keep their guidance private, in effect admonishing the top commander in Afghanistan for publicly advocating an approach requiring more troops even as the White House reassesses its strategy. The comment by Gates came a day after Obama's national security advisor, James L. Jones, said that military commanders should convey their advice through the chain of command... (READ MORE)

'They Feel Like Outsiders and They Don't Want to Be' - Within days of the attack on the US outpost in Wanat last year that killed nine soldiers, American troops withdrew from the Afghan village and the surrounding Waygal Valley. Fourteen months later, they have still not returned. For the dead soldiers' families and the troops who repelled the assault, the retreat is yet another blow. (READ MORE)

Afghan President’s Running Mate Poised for a Political Comeback - Once the most powerful man in Afghanistan, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim sat on the political sidelines for the past five years after being accused of corruption and maintaining an armed militia when he was defense minister. Now, after President Hamid Karzai drafted him as a running mate, he is poised to take up power again and is re-emerging as an important power broker for Mr. Karzai, despite lingering reservations about him among American officials and others in the West. (READ MORE)

US Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance - Steps by the United States to vastly expand its aid to Pakistan, as well as the footprint of its embassy and private security contractors here, are aggravating an already volatile anti-American mood as Washington pushes for greater action by the government against the Taliban. An aid package of $1.5 billion a year for the next five years passed by Congress last week asks Pakistan to cease supporting terrorist groups on its soil and to ensure that the military does not interfere with civilian politics. (READ MORE)

Bomb Blast Hits UN Agency in Islamabad - An apparent suicide bomber set off an explosion inside the heavily guarded office of the United Nations' World Food Program on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding five others, according to police and UN officials. Five people working for the WFP were confirmed dead after the attack, and a number of others were hospitalized with injuries, some of them critical, the agency said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Suicide Bombing Raises Questions About Security - A suicide bomber disguised as a Pakistani security officer attacked the lobby of a heavily guarded and fortified UN office Monday, killing five people and heightening fears of renewed violence in Pakistan's capital after a long lull in suicide attacks. The midday bombing occurred at the Islamabad headquarters of the World Food Program. (READ MORE)

If We Lose Afghanistan - At the heart of the Obama administration's deliberations about Afghanistan is the question of whether U.S. security rests on the defeat of the Afghan Taliban movement. The discussion often gets narrowed to the point of whether al-Qaeda, which is based in Pakistan, would gain a new haven in Afghanistan if the Taliban returned to power, so we'll start there. We won't, however, linger long, because for almost all military and civilian experts on the region the question is a no-brainer. (READ MORE)

Does Obama Have the Backbone? - Barack Obama's trip to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the Olympics would have been a dumb move whatever the outcome. But as it turned out (an airy dismissal would not be an unfair description), it poses some questions about his presidency that are way more important than the proper venue for synchronized swimming. The first, and to my mind most important, is whether Obama knows who he is. (READ MORE)

A General Within Bounds - Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has come under fire for making public comments about the war. While answering questions after an Oct. 1 speech - in which he avoided taking sides in the policy debate - McChrystal challenged a popular alternative to the approach that President Obama sent him to Afghanistan to pursue. An op-ed on this page Saturday argued that a battlefield commander should not get ahead of his president in public. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan and Leadership - 'We're at a point in Afghanistan right now in our overall campaign," the US general says, "where increasingly security can best be delivered by the extension of good governance, justice, economic reconstruction." Afghan security forces "fight side by side with us" more and more frequently, he adds, and American troops are working hard to develop the Afghan security forces. (READ MORE)

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