October 7, 2009

From the Front: 10/07/2009

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

The Lede: (VIDEO) Fighting Uphill in Afghanistan - Video shot this summer in Afghanistan by a British television crew near an American military base that was attacked on Saturday — in a battle that left eight Americans and four Afghan security officers dead — illustrates quite dramatically how tough the fight there is for soldiers trying to secure villages nestled in high mountains. This video blog post was filed in August by Stuart Webb, a cameraman for Britain’s Channel 4 News, while he was embedded with American soldiers at a base in the Kamdesh District of Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province, which was attacked on Saturday: (VIEW VIDEO)

The Torch: How the US deals with Afstan/Conspiracy theory - Two interesting pieces in the Wall St. Journal: 1) Afghanistan and Leadership and 2) Afghan War Units Begin Two New Efforts - As for conspiracy theory, it has been rumoured that the White House itself leaked the McChrystal report to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post in order to set the scene for the administration's coming consideration of Afstan. Not sure if I buy that seeing the trouble caused, but who knows which Machiavels lurk where. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Tacoma News Tribune Interview - About a week and a half ago, I set up a group interview with four soldiers to talk to Scott Fontaine of the Tacoma News Tribune. Tacoma is near Fort Lewis, WA where the 17th Fires Brigade is stationed when they aren’t deployed. It’s a pretty good article that nicely sums up where we are in Southern Iraq. Even though Scott is an LSU fan, he’s a good writer. Also, the photo he used on the blog page has to be one of Galloway’s most used photos. It was even the “Mother Jones Were Still at War: Photo of the Day.” (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Okay, So Maybe My Day Wasn’t So Bad After All - We had scheduled to do some training in Kunar, and so we set out on the arduous aerial tour that would take us to the remote outpost which was our destination. My team, consisting of myself, CPT Jean-Luc and two interpreters flew into Bagram planning to catch another helicopter to Jalalabad and yet another out to the outpost in Kunar. At Bagram we discovered that the flight to Kunar was originating from where we stood, but we would wait overnight to catch it. It sounded like it was worth the additional pain of a night in Pogadishu. The terps groaned; they hate Pogadishu, because it makes them feel like sub-humans in their own country. But, they were good sports and took one for the team. We arrived a half an hour before “show time,” the time when they call the roll for the flight, and immediately noticed the red band on the display. “Canceled.” (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: A first hand account of treating the wounded from last weekend - The other day I put up a posting about an ABC News reporter that was on the medevac flight that was bringing the dead and wounded from the terrible battle that happened from Fri-Sun in Nuristan Province. Well as I stated in that posting, I knew about this battle but could not say anything. Except for the body counts on both sides (today the Military stated that over 100 enemy fighters were killed in that battle), we haven’t heard much first hand info from the battle. Well the husband of spouse milblogger Army Household6 (Tammy Munson)has written his wife some first hand accounts of what he experienced in the aid station that was the first stop in medical care for those wounded in the battle over the weekend. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Three al Qaeda trainers killed in western Afghanistan - US and Afghan forces have killed three al Qaeda operatives who served as embedded trainers for the Taliban in western Afghanistan. The three al Qaeda operatives were killed along with with three Taliban fighters during a clash in the Gazara district in the western province of Herat, which up until two years ago was a relatively peaceful area. "A joint operation of Afghan and NATO forces was kicked off in Gazara district since Monday to clean up the area from rebels and so far six militants including three Arabs have been eliminated," Abdul Basir Ghori, a spokesman for the Afghan military told Xinhua. The three al Qaeda operatives “provided military training to Taliban insurgents in the area,” Xinhua reported, based on Ghori’s statement. (READ MORE)

Army Household6: SGT Daddy’s Story - This is a REALLY LONG POST — this came directly from my husband, SGT Daddy (with some minor edits from me for OPSEC reasons) The morning began with the siren signaling incoming. I ignored it. I hate putting on my gear and besides the big boy voice had dutifully reminded me that I should remain in hard shelter. I didn’t argue by deed or word. In the meantime the 155’s began to blaze away in support of some action that did not affect me. Later I was called out of my room to help in the aid station. Two of the COB (combat operations base ) were in the midst of a full on assault by the Taliban. Rumor had it they had made it inside the wire signaled by claymores just outside the gate exploding in response to encroachment. Later some treated would say that some of the Afghan Army had turned their weapons on them. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Elite force shows true grit on Operation Panther's Valour - For some the thought of being ambushed, rocketed, shot at and trapped for hours in the fierce Afghan heat would be the stuff of nightmares. But for soldiers of 19 Brigade's elite Reconnaissance Force (BRF) who recently experienced just such a scenario, being in the thick of it is what it's all about. Under cover of darkness and using night vision, the patrol of more than one hundred men including Afghan National Forces and a Counter Improvised Explosive Device team (CIED) left Camp Bastion in 26 Jackals and two Mastiffs - one of their biggest deployments to date. "The lads are always up for it, always ready to do their job in the most difficult of circumstances," said Captain Euan Grant the unit's Operations Officer. "We've had a tough tour this year but despite that the lads know they've done a sterling job so far, really taking the fight to the insurgents. I'm sure this operation will be no different," he added. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? -- MEDEVAC Pilot - Maj. Anthony Meador is near the end of his third tour Iraq as an Army aviator. He served in Baghdad in 2004 and at Joint Base Balad in 2007. He now commands Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, a Wainwright, Alaska, based Army unit currently attached to 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation Regiment, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. During his first tour Meador served as a MEDEVAC pilot during some of the most intense fighting in the war. "We were slammed in 2004 and in April things got really bad," he said. "One night we evacuated 44 soldiers in two and a half hours on six Black Hawks. We had burns, gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds…the 2/5 Cavalry got ambushed in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. The whole year was non-stop for all of us." (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Death Before Dismount - That is what the tankers and mechanized Infantry units used to say all the time back in the day. What it referred to was that they would die before they dismounted their vehicles and had to walk. This mantra had seemed to come back over the last few years in Afghanistan and Iraq with the advent of up-armored Humvees and MRAPs. Over the last couple of years we have seen more and more forces riding through villages and across the countryside behind inches of bullet-proof glass and heavy armor plating. Even though that is great for personal protection of our forces, it is terrible for executing COIN and collecting Human Intelligence. I realize that sometimes you need to drive to an objective area in order to get there safely and quickly. However once there, you need to dismount the vehicles and walk the ground. You need to get out among the populous, you need to talk to people. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Classic Cynic - An older man said today that he will not vote in the upcoming elections. Naturally I asked doesn't he want things to change? He said of course, but the only change coming is the turbans. I said not if people like us go out and vote. He said that I don't get the reality of Iraq. I asked the man to explain, and he did with enthusiasm: Because of Saddam Hussein, 90 percent of Iraqis are uneducated. The old man said that was Saddam's plan. "Don't you remember when he swore he would only hand over an empty Iraq?" He did not mean empty of land, the man said, "He meant empty of thought!" He said because of that ignorance, people will vote for the religious. "The people are uneducated; they know nothing," he said. "I only have a third grade education," he said, saying he had to quit to work to help his parents. "But in my day, people read books to expose themselves to different ideas." Because of Saddam, the only books people read where about Baathists. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Condolences, The Little Girl, A New Book, and Burns - This post will not make you happy. But then that's never been my aim. It was a hard weekend for all of us families over here, waiting for news to come out. First off, condolences to the families who lost loved ones this past week. FOB Keating was in Nuristan and is no more. The Hubs sent an update on the little girl, I've been following. I wrote about it in My Daughter's Shirt. "It is quiet again today. ALL of my local patients are burn victims. Mostly children. They have lots of open fires here and they cook with propane and sometimes kerosene or worse so burn injuries rampant. But the kids are so cool. They smile and stand up straight when they see you. And they shake your hand and say something nice. Except the girl with the amputation learned how to say, "Give me a doll!" She is already engaged, can you believe it? She is actually really nice too." (READ MORE)

Life at Joint Base Balad: Back Home at Last - When I last posted, I was on the airplane flying from Fort Bliss, TX, back to March AFB in Riverside. We got off the airplane on , Sept. 26, at about 8:30AM. We walked off the plane, and were greeted by BG William Frink, as well as several other local army folks. They had some Marines from the local base to pick up our luggage, which was nice. Our group had about 65 or so people by this time, many cross-level soldiers having already left to go directly home from El Paso. The big wigs made us wait around an hour or so, as they were organizing our “welcome home” procession. So after waiting until about 10AM on that Sunday morning, we rode on two buses out from March AFB, and were greeted by an escort of about 25 motorcyclists. The California Highway Patrol also closed down the Interstate 215 freeway for about five minutes for our caravan to pass. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: 'More than 100' enemy killed during Nuristan battle: US military - The US military now claims that more than 100 enemy fighters were killed during the Oct. 3 assault on two joint Afghan and US outposts in Nuristan province. The military also backed away from its previous statement that a "Nuristani tribal militia" conducted the attack and said the attack was a collaborative effort by multiple extremist groups. Several days ago, more than 300 enemy fighters launched the attack on the two remote outposts in the district of Kamdish, just 10 miles from the Pakistani border, after organizing at a nearby mosque and a village. The US military is now claiming that more than one-third of the assault force was killed while US and Afghan forces repelled the attack. Initially, the US had said "several" fighters were killed, but various press accounts put the number at between 20 to 50 fighters killed. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: The Anglosphere: It Must Be Preserved - Today's random thought-- Coalition ops are great, except when they're not. The coalition at its best gives you a huge range of capabilities as well as the great intangible-- the manifest political will of many nations, arrayed against one foe. Except that is, when some of the many nations aren't arrayed against thefoe. When some of the many nations are doing fuck all. When one or two of the many nations aren't doing much more than eating chow and filling up shitters. However, it's an undeniable fact that the Anglosphere-- the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand-- is the backbone of this coalition. Some of the other shitheads, the real BFQs, we can do without. But go it alone without our fellow English speakers? No way. There are too many cultural links, too many unspoken understandings, too much common history and common interest. (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: The feast - COMBAT OUTPOST OUTLAW, Kandahar Province -- After days on end of the ubiquitous Meals Read to Eat, the soldiers of the 1st platoon - part of the Fort Lewis-based 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - were ready for a change. More than two dozen soldiers pitched in to buy okra, potatoes, onions and some odd-looking tomato sauce produced in Iran and distributed through Russia. Though some of these guys are partial to the cheese manicotti MRES, I would not call any of them vegetarians. They craved some meat, and hungrily eyed the sheep that milled about the fields surrounding this outpost in the Arghandab Valley. On Monday, they finally struck a deal with a local herder to purchase one of the animals. Since there is no refrigeration here, they planned for a giant mutton feast. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: EMPTY ARMOR OR STALWART WARRIORS: WHAT FUTURE THE ANA? - During my first tour in Afghanistan, I was struck by the detritus of war. The hulks of tanks, APCs, and MICVs dotted the countryside. Nowhere was this more in evidence than in the Panjshir valley, where armored vehicles serve as bridge supports and tank sprockets serve as garden fences. By looking at them I could never tell if they had been destroyed while in Soviet or Afghan hands. Under Soviet guidance, the DRA armed forces were built up to an official strength of 302,000 in 1986. In 1989, when the Soviets left, the Afghan Army had 1568 tanks, 828 armored personnel carriers, 4880 artillery pieces, 126 modern fighter-bombers and 14 attack helicopters. The Afghan Army also had scud missile launchers and between 1988 and 1992 more than 2000 of these were fired inside Afghanistan, the largest amount of ballistic missiles used since World War II. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: The problem with offshore balancing... - I was thinking about this while wandering about aimlessly today (yeah, nothing to do right now), but Robert Haddick beat me to it in today's SWJ. Basically, Haddick brings up the one big hole in the policy of offshore balancing--namely, the lack of human intelligence in the region. Although Haddick is concerned with the Homeland Security aspects of decreased intelligence on al Qaeda operatives, my concerns are a little more mundane. As some really smart people have discussed earlier, (namely, Exum and Kilcullen) Predator drone strikes in Pakistan have certainly killed a great number of people, but they haven't exactly done much to eliminate al Qaeda's presence in the region. By relying on airstrikes from afar--such as Predator strikes, F-15 strikes, and Tomahawk strikes, we risk having incidents like the NATO airstrike in Kunduz... (READ MORE)

World-Wide-Matel: Who Ought to Sing Tenor in the Quartet - The State Department blog featured an interesting discussion about discrimination against people with disabilities in the FS. I won’t go into details. Suffice to say the idea was that people who go to places like Afghanistan and Iraq derive career benefits and that the system is thus unfair since only the able-bodied can do these kinds of assignments. This takes the idea too far. I agree that we should make reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities wherever we can, but there are some places where we can’t. If we think a job is important enough to be done, we have to allow those who can do it to do it. My job in Western Iraq was more vigorous than most others because we had to travel across the largest area of operations in Iraq. I didn’t have to be in top-condition to do the job, but just humping onto a helicopter or into an MRAP with body armor and gear is hard. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: An Now; The Rest Of The Story - It made all the papers back home; the story of an American who was shot by an ANP enraged over the Soldier drinking and smoking in plain sight during Ramadan. Many opined that our Soldiers need to be more culturally aware. I replied to email chains from friends, and sometimes angrily contended that when I was actively mentoring, the ANP would serve us chai and sweets during Ramadan, ever the gracious hosts. After the failed mission to Kunar, I was instantly put to work with a group of PMT’s from Georgia’s 48th Brigade Combat Team. A good lot, they have been working with the ANP for over four months now. One of the teams I was working with had been present that day. The Soldier who was shot in the leg by the ANP that day is doing well and is in good spirits, they informed me. They were irritated that the story had been turned into something that it was not. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Attack at Kamdesh, Nuristan - Following up on our coverage and commenting on recent attacks in Nuristan, Afghanistan, and the consequent deaths of eight U.S. Soldiers, ABC News has an interesting account. "The remote base in northern Afghanistan where eight U.S. soldiers were killed this weekend in a deadly battle was well-known inside the military as extremely vulnerable to attack since the day it opened in 2006, according to U.S. soldiers and government officials familiar with the area. When a reporter visited the base a few months after it opened, soldiers stationed in Kamdesh complained the base’s location low in a valley made most missions in the area difficult. 'We’re primarily sitting ducks,' said one soldier at the time." (READ MORE)

McQ: Kamdeysh: Wounded Warriors Stay To Fight - I'm sure, like me, most of you have been reading and watching all you can on the deadly battle near Kamdeysh in Nuristan province, A'stan. As Uncle J pointed out, it appears very similar to that which occurred near Wanat. There's no question the Taliban is doing a better job of planning, massing and executing its attacks. That's not to say they're being terribly more successful, but they are mounting more large operations of that nature it seems. I'm not going to get into the politics or strategy of the fight. We'll sort all of that out later. But I do mourn the loss of 8 of our soldiers in that attack. It was apparently fierce and our guys fought back like lions. Sometimes what crosses your mind when you read about a fight like this is to wonder how the morale of our troops is in such a remote area, living in truly spartan conditions in some of the worlds most hostile territory. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Centcom Responds to Post on Iraqi Deaths - James Glanz’s recent post, “After Years of Secrecy, a Glimpse Into the Numbers of Civilians Dead in Iraq,” drew a response from Pentagon officials, who assert that information on Iraqi civilian casualties was made widely available to reporters in 2007. Below is a note from Rear Adm. Hal Pittman and Mr. Glanz’s reply to the admiral: In regard to Mr. Glanz’s assertion, I would like to take the opportunity to provide some elaboration. United States forces in Iraq adopted a strategy emphasizing security of the Iraqi population in 2007, and since then have tracked reports of violent Iraqi civilian deaths as a critical indicator of whether their strategy was working. (READ MORE)

Scuffle With Security Contractors Highlights Iraqis' New Clout in Green Zone - In a dramatic illustration of shifting authority in the Green Zone, once an American preserve here, Iraqi soldiers confronted a security detail contracted by the US government, detained four of the guards and beat them in a standoff last week that lasted at least two hours, according to Iraqi officials, the company and the US Embassy. (READ MORE)

U.S. Soldier dies from non-combat related injuries - A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Division-South died of a non-combat related injury October 6. The Soldier’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member’s primary next of kin. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police search for AQI members in western Iraq, arrest 6 - Iraqi Police arrested six suspects in western Iraq today during two separate security operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq members and conspirators. The 3rd Emergency Services Unit, with U.S. advisors, searched several buildings for a warranted AQI member who supports and facilitates terrorist operations near Kirkuk, the security team encountered three suspects, who after questioning, were identified as associates of the warranted AQI member. Iraqi authorities on scene arrested the three suspects. (READ MORE)

Al Anbar ISWAT rescues boy, disrupts kidnapping organization - RAMADI, Iraq – As Iraqi Security Forces continue to bring down terrorist and insurgent networks, the availability of funding and safe havens are becoming more difficult for these illegal organizations to find, which may often lead to drastic measures. “The insurgents’ finance here has been cut off by the government.” explained Col. Sa’ad Muhammed Hamoud, commander of the Al Anbar Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics. “That’s why they now go and kidnap people [for ransom]; to get their finances,” (READ MORE)

Shaykhs, Iraqi Army discuss concerns - U.S. and Iraqi commanders, along with prominent members of the Abu Ghraib community, met to discuss security gains as well as rebuilding dialogue in the western community of the capital city, Oct. 3. Col. John Norris, commander of 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, suggested a representative from Iraqi Army (IA) attend the council meeting to help bridge the communication gap between Abu Ghraib shaykhs and the IA following a recent rift. (READ MORE)

U.S. forces focus on civil programs - As U.S. combat forces are now out of Iraqi cities, the Multi-National Corps - Iraq deputy commanding general says it's imperative that U.S. forces continue to support the improvement of civil capacity here. "U.S. Forces will [help] the Iraqis in building infrastructure and developing essential services in order to improve their communities and achieve economic stabilization," Maj. Gen. James P. Hunt said. (READ MORE)

Obama Rules Out Large Reduction in Afghan Force - President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general. Meeting with leaders from both parties at the White House, Mr. Obama seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan...” (READ MORE)

Afghan Strategy Divides Lawmakers - Congressional leaders left a rare bipartisan meeting with President Obama on Tuesday divided over what strategy the administration should adopt to fight an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan and how quickly it must do so to protect US forces already on the ground. Obama called congressional leaders to the White House at a key moment in his Afghanistan policy review, which will determine whether the United States pushes deeper into a war that military officials have warned will probably be won or lost over the next 12 months. (READ MORE)

Obama Mulls Middle Ground in Afghanistan War Strategy - At a White House meeting aimed at tempering increasingly politicized debate over the war in Afghanistan, President Obama told congressional leaders Tuesday that he does not plan to dramatically reduce the American troop level or switch to a strictly counter-terrorism mission. Asking for patience until he completes an assessment of the situation over the next few weeks, the president urged lawmakers to keep their minds open to a nuanced range of options. Obama did not indicate to the bipartisan group whether he is leaning toward or against a significant troop escalation. (READ MORE)

Behind Afghan War Debate, a Battle of Two Books Rages - The struggle to set the future course of the Afghan war is becoming a battle of two books - both suddenly popular among White House and Pentagon brain trusts. The two draw decidedly different lessons from the Vietnam War. The first book describes a White House in 1965 being marched into an escalating war by a military viewing the conflict too narrowly to see the perils ahead. President Barack Obama recently finished the book, according to administration officials, and Vice President Joe Biden is reading it now. (READ MORE)

Returned Artifacts Displayed in Kabul - On most days, the news from Afghanistan involves something exploding. Which is why Tuesday was such a surprise: instead of bombings, it brought the unveiling of stolen treasures, some as old as the Bronze Age. The National Museum was celebrating the return of about 2,000 artifacts that had been smuggled into Britain over the years of war in Afghanistan. British authorities confiscated the smuggled items and, after several years spent figuring out where the artifacts had come from, sent them back to Afghanistan in February. (READ MORE)

Obama and the General - Democrats have found someone worth fighting in Afghanistan. His name is Stan McChrystal. The other night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went after the commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, "with all due respect," for supposedly disrespecting the chain of command. Around the Congressional Democratic Caucus, we're told Members refer to General McChrystal as "General MacArthur," after the commander in Korea sacked by Harry Truman. White House aides have fanned these flames with recent leaks to the media that "officials are challenging" his assessment asking for more troops. (READ MORE)

Beijing’s Afghan Gamble - In Afghanistan’s Logar Province, just south of Kabul, the geopolitical future of Asia is becoming apparent: American troops are providing security for a Chinese state-owned company to exploit the Aynak copper reserves, which are worth tens of billions of dollars. While some of America’s NATO allies want to do as little as possible in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, China has its eyes on some of world’s last untapped deposits of copper, iron, gold, uranium and precious gems, and is willing to take big risks in one of the most violent countries to secure them. (READ MORE)

Marines Construct New Position Near Taliban Marketplace - Since the first raid on Lakari Bazaar in mid July which turned up thousands of pounds of drugs and bomb-making materials, the Taliban has continued to use the market as a staging area for illegal activity – launching more than 20 attacks against coalition troops in the immediate vicinity from there. To stop this, more than 300 British troops conducted a second raid in the early morning hours of Sept. 30, seizing caches of weapons and killing several insurgents after receiving enemy fire. (READ MORE)

Obama convenes 'situation room meeting' focusing on Pakistan - Concerned over the increasing clout of Al-Qaeda and Taliban even after putting in place a revamped AFPAK strategy, US President Barack Obama will convene a 'situation room meeting' on Pakistan with his top aides on Thursday. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the meeting would primarily focus on Pakistan as the Obama administration believes that it is very necessary to have an apt strategy for Pakistan in view of the fact that top Al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders have taken refuge in the lawless tribal region of that country. (READ MORE)

Senior Taliban commander killed in Pakistan's Swat valley - Pakistan's security forces Wednesday killed a senior militant commander in Swat valley, as troops swooped for the holed-up Taliban leaders, the military said. Nisar Ahmed, alias Ghazi Lala, was a close aide of Swat's Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah and served as his local commander in the Matta area. 'Nisar was killed in a gunfight early on Wednesday,' said an army spokesman in Mingora, the main town of the valley in the north-west of Pakistan that used to have a thriving tourism industry two years ago. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan forgotten in Bam terror talk - President Obama delivered a speech yesterday on terrorism at the National Counterterrorism Center without ever once mentioning Afghanistan -- a place he and other Democrats once held should be the central focus of the war on terror. "We know that al Qaeda and its extremist allies threaten us from different corners of the globe -- from Pakistan, but also from East Africa and Southeast Asia, from Europe and the Gulf," he said. But never once did he utter the word "Afghanistan" during his 10-minute talk. (READ MORE)

'RAF would have lost 'Battle of Britain' with Afghanistan-like shortage' - A former British commander has lambasted the equipment shortage faced by the country's troops in Afghanistan and said that had the Royal Air Force been faced with a similar situation during the Battle of Britain, it would have lost it. “It's extraordinary it's taking nine months to redeploy some helicopters. If we were talking about the same delays with Spitfires in 1940, we would have almost certainly lost the Battle of Britain,” The Sun quoted Colonel Richard Kemp, as saying. (READ MORE)

Militant rocket hits Afghan civilian bus, kills 2 - An insurgent rocket ripped through a bus driving on a highway in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing two people aboard and wounding about 25, the government said. The militants appeared to have been aiming for a nearby police checkpoint, but the rocket fell short of the target and hit the busload of civilians instead, the Interior Ministry said. (READ MORE)

Cash vouchers for 10,000 families in Kabul - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cash vouchers to 10,000 vulnerable households in Kabul. Between September 2009 and February 2010, each selected family will receive a cash voucher of US$30 a month to buy food or other items of their choice from 20 identified retailers. The retailers can cash the vouchers at local banks. (READ MORE)

Spanish soldier killed in Afghan mine blast, daily says - At least one Spanish soldier was killed and five others injured Wednesday when a mine exploded near the lorry in which they were travelling in Afghanistan, the daily El Mundo reported on its website. The explosion occurred near Herat, where the Spanish contingent of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is based, the daily quoted Defence Ministry sources as saying. (READ MORE)

US media reflects bitter Afghan debate - Debate in Washington is raging over what the US should do in Afghanistan. This selection of recent opinion pieces illustrates the deep divisions in thought. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, writing in Newsweek magazine, sets out why the decision facing President Obama is so tough. (READ MORE)

Despite our setbacks, all quiet on the Afghan front - The United Nations reported this week that Afghanistan ranks second worst in the world for human development. It also ranks as the fifth-most-corrupt country, according to Transparency International, the Berlin-based organization that tracks such things. This, then, is the country we are trying to save from itself, although really for ourselves. (READ MORE)

U.S. Afghanistan Base: Death Trap From The Beginning - The remote base in northern Afghanistan where eight U.S. soldiers were killed this weekend in a deadly battle was well-known inside the military as extremely vulnerable to attack since the day it opened in 2006, according to U.S. soldiers and government officials familiar with the area. When a reporter visited the base a few months after it opened, soldiers stationed in Kamdesh complained the base's location low in a valley made most missions in the area difficult. (READ MORE)

Okada says sending troops is not sole option in Afghan support - Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Wednesday there is a need to provide income guarantees and vocational training to prevent people in Afghanistan from turning to the Taliban, while hitting back at arguments that such a focus could mean a shift by Japan to "checkbook diplomacy." "Sending troops is not necessarily the only way to provide support," Okada told reporters at a time when the government plans to end its Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in January when a law authorizing it expires. (READ MORE)

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