October 15, 2009

From the Front: 10/15/2009

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

MAJ C: Afghanistan - It seems like everytime that I turn on the news there is some political pundit, politician, academic, or political activist stating no more Troops for Afghanistan, and pull our Troops out now. It must be nice to be able to make statements, with no regard for our Allies, Enemies, National Security Policy, and our own Nation's security. First off, whether you agree with why we went to War in Afghanistan, the simple fact is we are there now. Which leads to a very important concept. "If you break it, you bought it", sounds like something you would tell your children. But, within International Law and Norms if you invade a country, and unseat their government, you are responsible for rebuilding it. So we, very simply put, have a solemn and legal responsibility to help rebuild the Country of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

A World Away: Sights and smells on the Iraqi side of Camp Taji - From Nick Druecke at Camp Taji, Iraq, roughly 6,339 miles from home in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Sorry about not posting in a while, we have been just busy enough to keep me from doing anything for long periods of time. Camp Taji is divided in two. The american side is by far the smaller portion, but even so its roughly the size of juneau. The Iraqi side is huge, but its also pretty spread out. On the American side there is an order to things, we established the camp in a matter of years, so things were all pretty much laid out in a sense able manner. Entrance and exit is strictly controlled by armed guards. There are concrete barriers almost everywhere, there to protect us from mortar rounds and the like. Also there is gravel everywhere to help cut down on the dust during the summer, and the trash is kept to a minimum. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Helo mission conclusion - After dinner the Captain and I still had some unfinished business. When we walked outside, it was pitch black. There were no pole lights and very little illumination from the tents and b-huts. We used our flashlights to navigate around. Even then, I managed to trip on something and sprain my knee. We took care of business and the Captain and I went our separate ways. Without warning my fluorescent blue flashlight (for security we do not use white lights) died and I found myself in total darkness. I stood stationary for a few minutes and allowed my eyes to adjust to my new environment. It took me a few minutes, but I made my way back to our tent. In the morning after breakfast, we explored a few more buildings on the post. After a long walk, we found the gym. It wasn’t anything too fancy, but there was sufficient weight lifting equipment and treadmills for the soldiers to maintain or enhance their physical state. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My last Tour: Thank You, Independent Day School! - From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: They came right at 9 am in their big yellow school bus and pulled up next to SS American Victory, the museum ship in downtown Tampa behind the Florida Aquarium that serves as our principal drop off and storage location for the school supplies drive for Afghan children. Inside the bus 20 students and three teachers from Independent Day School in Carrollwood, one of Tampa’s northern neighborhoods. They came with boxes of donated supplies and tons of team spirit. All were happy to roll up their sleeves and get school supplies packed and ready for shipping to Afghanistan. We split the students in two groups – one went to work immediately and started packing, while the other went on a tour of the ship with our wonderful volunteer guide Miss Judy. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Going After The IEDs - I've been keeping an eye out for news on Task Force ODIN-Afghanistan. ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize) began in Iraq in 2007 with the specific goal of stopping the IEDs. It's one of the under-reported stories of why the war in Iraq turned around so dramatically in 2008; ODIN devastated the bombmaking network, killing 2400 bombmakers in a single year. Now, the required caveat: I know Afghanistan isn't Iraq, and that methods which were successful in one place might not work in the other. But IEDs have skyrocketed in Afghanistan over the past year, and the vast majority of Canadian casualties are caused by them. If ODIN can do for Afghanistan what it did for Iraq, the mission would suddenly became less deadly--and the political support for it would magically reappear. Unfortunately, ODIN-Afghanistan is off to a bad start. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Out of Dodge - “Can you believe you are leaving soon?” This is the question that is continually asked me by family and friends who know we are about to disembark back to planet earth shortly. The answer to that question is; no I don’t. I will not believe I am actually leaving until the plane is wheels up and is in another time zone. Why? Because the potential for something to go wrong always hovers about menacingly. If you recall our trip here was an interesting experience and merely getting on a plane is no guarantee that bird will take off. Consider how many stories we’ve heard in the past about commercial planes being stranded on runways and passengers not allowed off the plane? So the next few days will be a litany of checking, checking, rechecking, double-tapping, following through... (READ MORE)

Doc H: PT - Every person in the US Armed Forces has an obligation to PT. According to Navy Regulation it should be done at least 3 times a week. PT is good for the body and certainly gives the mind a chance to process things as well. For those who may not be familiar with the abbreviation PT, it stands for Physical Training. A more common term is exercise. When I am back at home I do a little exercise. I usually ride my bike to work two or three times a week. I will get out and run about once a week. In the summertime I play in the pool with the kids almost daily and that certainly counts as exercise if you have ever witnessed the event. But my exercise plan at home has been more about maintaining. Here it is different. I work out a lot here at Spann. I started out with just a little every other day while at Ft Riley, but here I have become, well ......dependant on it. (READ MORE)

the semi-normal, day-to-day life of a female marine: Women in COIN (III): The view from Helmand - Here's a comment from Cpl. Nicole Zook, who has been involved in training Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan. Phrases in this note about training such as "I put them through the wringer" go a long way toward explaining why these FETs seem to work. I'm impressed. "I have trained female Marines for the FET teams here and participated in them, as well as participating in both Lioness-type search teams and women's engagement and medical teams in Iraq. The women who volunteer for these teams - and it is a volunteer effort - are some of the most physically and mentally strong, intelligent women the Marine Corps has to offer. They are also some of the most caring. After finishing my tour of duty doing security missions in Iraq, I volunteered to train any willing Marines from my unit to prepare for the FET missions here in Afghanistan. There were ten. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan: Hash - Drug cultivation was not something we really dealt with in Kunar. When it comes to illegal trade funding illegal activity, Kunar is more known for the timber trade...you might say the situation with the opium in the south is analogous to the timber in the northeast mountainous provinces. Undoubtedly, some opium is cultivated in the mountainous regions, but it wasn't something we really saw or dealt with. What we did deal with regularly was hashish smoking among the ANA. The hash smoking was something I saw much more of at the more austere bases, and not so much at the more developed bases we were responsible for. I suppose you might say the hash provided a bit of an escape from the poor living conditions at those bases. The fact that the ANA smoked hash was not a surprise to any of us. I'd seen the same thing with the Iraqis, and we were told we'd see it from time to time, if not regularly. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Sesame Workshop Helps Children Cope - For my daughter’s first birthday, I decided to create a cake resembling Elmo, her favorite “Sesame Street” character. I used about a gallon of red frosting and a pre-shaped pan, and about an hour later, I ended up with a big, red mess. But my daughter clapped and smeared cake frosting without a care in the world. Still today, the fuzzy red muppet holds a special place in our hearts. So, you can imagine my excitement at the opportunity to meet the fuzzy red toddler today. I’m heading to Sesame Street to attend the taping of a new video production aimed at helping military children and their families. The story deals with the loss of a loved one, in this case, Elmo’s uncle. I’m looking forward to the privilege of watching how the Sesame Workshop folks tackle such a tough, yet important, topic and teaches lessons of coping and strength. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Afghanistan's helicopter force takes to the skies - On a Russian-built helicopter above the fertile Helmand valley in southern Afghanistan, a US Air Force adviser tests the knowledge of an Afghan pilot. "Do you remember how to change to manual frequency?" asked Captain Tyler Rennell. An interpreter translated the conversation taking place in the cockpit of the Mi-17 taking a dozen Afghan soldiers between Kandahar and Helmand. In any other context, the scene would be enough to make even the best flier nervous. But these are special circumstances. The United States is training the Afghan Army National Air Corps (AANAC) to help it fight the increasingly bloody Islamist Taliban insurgency that is spreading across the country. With difficult terrain, air support is vital. "He wants to land, sir," said the interpreter. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Pain, like Envy, is Relative - At the risk of being gross, for the past several days I have had two painful bug bites in my hairline that won't go away--although they are finally getting somewhat better. They are in my hair, above my ear right where the helmet covers them. So every time I ride, they get bumped. And then I got a very painful swelling inside my nose. So it's hard to breath and it hurts. So I was riding along thinking 'You broke all those bones and now you are bitching about what is essentially three zits. What a baby.' The trouble really bad pain leads to really good drugs. But you don't take morphine for injuries. So I just get aggravated by the pain and swelling. My head hurts. My nose hurts. My heel hurts because I ran today. These small pains bother me more than I think they should. I suppose that is what is ultimately so difficult about getting old--there is always something wrong with a body that is not growing any more. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: R & R day 3 - Went to the pool again today. Ordered some Chili's poolside too. I went on a tour of the Gold Souq and the Old Souq. The Gold Souq is blocks and blocks of nothing but jewelry stores. The main things they sell are gold and pearls. Both are a bit cheaper than they would be stateside. I'm not really into jewelry, especially gold and pearls, but I did buy a couple watches. They did deny my debit card there. When I got back, I called my bank. They put a freeze on my account because they saw the out of country purchases. I told them I was going to the middle east before I left so this wouldn't happen, but apparently it wasn't passed on. The Old Souq is something like a flea market I guess. It's as close as you can get to the old traditional market places of the old days in Arabia. They also have a few modern places and restaurants there. We ate at a place called The Fish Market. It was pretty good. A little pricey. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: A Bad Yoga Mat Ma, Bringing Milblogging Outside and Viva Las Vegas - Life is good. Except that I have lost my cell phone. The Hubs is busy doing work that means a lot to him. Probably more than any other work he's done in his professional career as a surgeon. I'm writing a lot. My own novel is in the throes rewriting the final draft --so what does this make it... the final final draft? I guess so. I've also been publishing "War Wife Weekly" updates over at Blogcritics. After reading the informational posts on Tim's Lynch's Free Range Int'l blog, it's clear that milblogs must aim for a broader platform. If we don't start submitting our better stuff to non military aggregates or blogs, then we've created a milblogging FOB. It really doesn't serve any other purpose than to keep telling one another what we all know. Hence, that's why you'll find my most recent article on Blogcritics right here. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Dog Tags - As I sit here and listen to “Winter” by Bayside I realize that everytime I hear it I look at the dogtags hanging on the wall above the table with Pokey’s things. We seat aside a corner in the livingroom for Pokey.. The flag the General handed to me at the funeral is there.. along with each one of the medals. He recieved 5. There is the blue cord his father put on him when he graduated bootcamp. Pictures of his smiling face… His Pokey toy that went everywhere with him. The walls are filled with plaques and awards he earned. And hung over the Gold Star flag above the table are the dogtags he was wearing that day… they were one of the last of his things we recieved.. they didn’t come off him until Dover. They hung around his neck next to his heart. We’ve had other dogtags made for us and we wear them. But these are special and hung in honor. I think I’m the only one who touches them. I’m not sure the kids realize they are the ones he was wearing that day. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Terrorist assault three police centers in Lahore - Taliban assault teams launched simultaneous attacks against three police buildings in the eastern city of Lahore. Twenty-six people were killed in the attacks. The attacks follow last weekend's assault on the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The assault teams targeted the Federal Investigation Agency building, the Manawan police training centre, and the Elite Force Headquarters. "Different group of attackers have attacked and tried to enter two police training centres in Lahore," Kamran Ahmad, a Lahore police official, told AFP. "We now have three near-simultaneous attacks against police facilities," At least three terrorists have been reported to have entered the Federal Investigation Agency building. Four government workers, four terrorists, and one civilian were reported to have been killed during the fighting. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber strikes police station in Pakistan's northwest - A Taliban suicide bomber killed eight people in an attack on a police station in Pakistan's insurgency infested Northwest Frontier Province. The attack was launched as the Taliban and al Qaeda released propaganda denouncing the Pakistani Army. A suicide bomber rammed his car packed with explosives into the Saddar police station in the settled district of Kohat in Pakistan's violent Northwest Frontier Province. Eight Pakistanis, including policemen and civilians, were reported killed in the attack, and another 20 have been wounded. "Some school children are among the dead," a policeman at the scene said, according to a report at Dawn. Today's suicide attack is the fifth since Oct. 5, the day after newly appointed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud announced that attacks would take place nationwide if the military does not halt operations in Pakistan's tribal areas and the Swat Valley. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: 68 Taliban surrender after commander killed in Herat - Scores of Taliban fighters loyal to a recently slain Taliban leader have surrendered to the government in the western province of Herat. Over the past two days, 68 Taliban fighters loyal to Ghulam Yahya Akbari have surrendered to the Strengthening Peace Committee in Herat and vowed not to take up arms against the government. The 68 fighters came from the districts of Gazara and Pashtun Zarghon, two Taliban strongholds in Herat. The defections from the Taliban began just four days after Akbari and more than 20 of his followers were killed during a joint Coalition and Afghan raid in the Gazara district on Oct. 9. Akbari, who was known as the "Tajik Taliban," broke with the Karzai government last year and stepped up attacks in the formerly peaceful western province. In an interview with Al Jazeera in 2008, he claimed to operate more than 20 bases in the region and boasted of having more than 600 fighters under his command. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: Hezbollah Isn't a Model for Afghanistan - According to the Washington Post, some White House foreign-policy hands may be willing to call it a day in Afghanistan if the U.S. military can beat the Taliban down into something that resembles Hezbollah. I suppose I can see why this appeals to those who know just enough about the Taliban to think it's possible, and just enough about Hezbollah to think it's desirable. Hezbollah is moderate and almost reasonable compared with the Taliban. It participates in democratic politics and even conceded the most recent election to Lebanon's "March 14" coalition. Not even its worst fanatics throw acid in the faces of unveiled women as the Taliban does. Its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, doesn't require women to wear headscarves, let alone body-enveloping burkhas, in territory he controls. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Happy Anniversary,, 211th MPAD - Well, five days ago, anyways. It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since the 211th gathered in Bryan, Texas on October 10, 2008, to begin this odyssey that has been our deployment to Baghdad. For some of us, the work began over the summer, with conferences to attend, training to plan, equipment to be ordered, and contracts to be moved through the system. It took a lot of hard work on the part of a handful of people to ensure that when our Soldiers arrived on “hit day” everything was in place so that Soldiers could focus solely on the looming pre-mobilization training. Slowly we worked through the summer and early fall, working towards the date of 10 October. When it arrived, we were ready. Our battle roster was full and we were ready to head to Ft. Dix a week later for 21 days of RTC. Since I supervised or did most of the paperwork prior to “hit day”, I knew a lot about our inbound Soldiers…and I hadn’t even met them yet! (READ MORE)

Pat Dollard: French Troops Died After Scared Italian “Soldiers” Stopped Paying “Don’t Hurt Me” Money To Taliban - When ten French soldiers were killed last year in an ambush by Afghan insurgents in what had seemed a relatively peaceful area, the French public were horrified. Their revulsion increased with the news that many of the dead soldiers had been mutilated — and with the publication of photographs showing the militants triumphantly sporting their victims’ flak jackets and weapons. The French had been in charge of the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, for only a month, taking over from the Italians; it was one of the biggest single losses of life by Nato forces in Afghanistan. What the grieving nation did not know was that in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet, The Times has learnt. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: And Now for a Little R&R - Home. It sure is good to be home. I'm in my own house, sleeping in my own bed, being with my wife, playing with my dogs. Life is good. Had a great welcome-home. When I arrived at the airport, Janis was waiting out in the parking lot with the dogs. The dogs didn't see me until I called out to them. Their two little heads snapped around, there was a split-second hesitation as if they were thinking, "Daddy? Really?" and then they came running at me full-bore, jumping and licking and wagging their whole bodies. Janis's welcome was a bit more subdued since we were in a public parking lot but she made up for it that evening ... (okay, that was TMI; I'll try to restrain myself). Unlike some of my previous trips home, I don't really feel a culture shock. Rather, I feel a great appreciation for all the little details of home. It's cool here, very green, and the leaves are changing. (READ MORE)

War Is Boring: Afghanistan for the Casual Reader - As you may know, WIB’s fearless leader, David Axe, is currently in Afghanistan seducing the locals reporting on the front lines. He will doubtless return with some fascinating stories, posts and insights. In the meantime, how can us normal folk keep track of what’s going on? While your humble substitute blogger is slammed with deadlines, here are some things worth reading (or watching) on Afghanistan. Frontline, one of the best media outlets in existence, proved their greatness again with last night’s program. The first half is spent following around a company of U.S. Marines during their Helmand Province offensive in July, and the second meditates on Kabul and Pakistani support of the Taliban. The program is really worth watching in full, and all of the interviews are with the most reputable people in their field. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Pics: Afghanistan’s Beautiful, Horrible War - The day before the elections in Afghanistan, I ran into Peter van Agtmael, the war photographer, at a Marine Corps outpost in the town of Garmsir. He and the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins were coming from Mianposhteh, where they had spent the last few days with the marines of 2/8 Echo company, getting shot at. I was on my way to do the same thing. Good luck, Peter told me. You’ll need it. Two-and-a-half weeks later, I ran into Peter at the Dubai airport. We were both on our way out of Afghanistan, and heading to Europe. We drank a couple of beers, to celebrate making it out of Mianposhteh intact and to remember the troops that were still in such awful, dangerous places. Then he showed me his pictures from his time with Echo. They were haunting and gorgeous, vivid and heartbreaking. (READ MORE)

World-Wide-Matel: The Few, the Proud Get More Numerous - All the armed services have exceeded their recruitment goals and they are recruiting higher quality than ever. The Marines managed to reach their EXPANDED goals years early. The “Washington Post” article reporting this still suffers some of the old-fashioned thinking that people are somehow driven by dire circumstance into joining up. In fact most recruits come from middle class or upper middle class backgrounds. The military no longer gets most, or even many, of its recruits from among the poor and uneducated. Unfortunately for these guys, they cannot pass the tests or requirements to get in. Ethnically as well as economically the military looks like America. The military is a little more rural and a little more southern than the general population. There is a lot of speculation about why this might be true. Rural people tend to be patriotic, in my experience, and they also tend to know how to use guns and operate heavy equipment. (READ MORE)

Donald Douglas: Taliban Campaign Strikes at Cultural Heart of Pakistan! - My Monday report is here, "Peshawar Carnage: 41 Dead as Taliban Siege of Pakistan Continues; Obama Cowardice Enables Militant's Impunity!" This seems to be a near-daily update.This morning's Taliban incursion into the heart of Pakistan is the fifth strike in ten days. Now this, from the New York Times, "Coordinated Attacks Strike Cultural Heart of Pakistan": Militants dressed in police uniforms simultaneously attacked three law enforcement agencies in Lahore on Thursday morning, the fifth major attack in Pakistan in the last 10 days. The assaults took place on the regional center of the Federal Investigation Agency and two police training centers just before 9:30 a.m. in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province and Pakistan’s second most populous city. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Afghan Lunacy - “Taming” this land and its human inhabitants into a civilized country will require great investments in time, resources, imagination and intelligence. Bringing Afghanistan out of the Stone Age is not a decade-long project; we are already seven years into the war, and it’s only getting worse. Some people say it will take two generations, but more realistically, a century will be needed. Afghanistan is not Iraq. This is a very primitive, almost lunar place. Yes, cocktail party correspondents can surf their way through meetings in Jalalabad, or Kabul, or Mazar-i-Sharif, and come home with reports of success. But they are wrong. And the counterinsurgency “experts” who come here on short trips, and fly home to America or Britain with poison dripping from their lips, spitting words that we are winning, are doing Great Britain, the United States, and our allies a great disservice. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Women Behind The Wheel In Kabul - The Desk has been known to fly off the handle about the way women are treated in Afghanistan, so when I saw this story in The LA Times today I thought I should highlight this glacially paced advance for women here. The piece is about how more women in Kabul are driving, with or without a license. To wit: In the first six months of the fiscal year that began April 1, the number of driving permits issued to women in the Kabul area was up fourfold. That sounds great until you consider that officials issued just 180 licenses to women in the last 18 months, compared with 27,985 for men. Men own the roads of Afghanistan, and many of them want it to stay that way. They say it is un-Islamic and culturally offensive for women to get behind the wheel. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
When the Walls Come Down - “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down…” So when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s generals announced on Aug. 5 that all blast walls along the streets of the capital had to be removed within 40 days, it was a widely popular decision, one the poet Robert Frost might have lauded. “No exceptions will be made,” said Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command. (READ MORE)

Syria-Iraq Dispute Colors Regional Security Conference - Tense relations between Iraq and Syria set the backdrop for a meeting on Iraqi security Wednesday. Officials from Iraq and its neighbors attended an annual conference, hosted this year by Egypt, on how other countries can help improve conditions or, at least, not make them worse. The Iraqi government has been furious with Damascus since massive explosions ripped through Baghdad in August. (READ MORE)

Wounded Soldiers Return to Iraq, Seeking Solace - Soldiers have often returned to old battlefields, to honor fallen comrades and to exorcise persistent demons. British soldiers go back to the Falklands. Normandy cemeteries are on many VFW and American Legion itineraries. Vietnam veterans can even get package tours now to the places where they were stationed. Now, Americans wounded in the Iraq war are being ferried back to the scenes where they were maimed to help achieve psychological closure, the first time such visits have been tried while a war is still in progress. (READ MORE)

Eight Killed In Baghdad Jewel Heists - Armed men killed at least eight people and wounded nine Wednesday during the robbery of three jewelry stores in Baghdad, a brazen, daylight crime that residents blamed on security forces. Sectarian violence has fallen sharply in the past year, in Baghdad and other areas across Iraq, but robberies and killings remain common. Many say that the country's security forces, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, often play at least a tacit role in the incidents. (READ MORE)

Judge Closes Off Pretrial Blackwater Hearings - A federal judge blocked the public Wednesday from attending a critical set of pretrial hearings in the prosecution of five US security contractors accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007. The hearings, which are expected to last through next week, will examine whether the government improperly used immunized statements by the Blackwater Worldwide security guards in its investigation. (READ MORE)

Community Policing Conference Highlights Successes - More than 250 community policemen attended a conference Oct. 14 here to highlight successes and to present concerns. The conference was hosted by the Baghdad Provincial Police Headquarters in close cooperation with the Public Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Interior. According to the MoI PAO, the community police, or civilian police service, is a mediator between security institutions, like police stations, and organizations of leaders of the communities. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers, Iraqi Police detain IED suspect - Multi-National Division—Baghdad Soldiers, along with Iraqi Security Forces detained one individual on an Article 4 Terrorism warrant south of Baghdad, Oct. 13. At approximately 9:00 p.m., U.S. troops from 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, partnered with members of the Bayaa Iraqi police force and 2nd Federal Police Division, served the warrant in the Radwaniyah area. The suspect is believed to be a key figure in an improvised explosive device emplacement cell operating in sections of southern Baghdad. (READ MORE)

New NTM-I Commander Welcomes Visitors at Open House - The new Commanding General for NATO Training Mission-Iraq, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero hosted an open house at the new headquarters at Forward Operating Base Union III Oct. 10. Amb. Martin Howard, assistant secretary general for Operations for NATO and Iraqi Minister of Defense Abdul Qader later dedicated a plaque on the new headquarters building that commemorates five years of the NATO training mission in Iraq. Other dignitaries included various Iraqi and U.S. general officers; and ambassadors & diplomatic representatives. (READ MORE)

MNSTC-I CG visits Baghdad Police College - BAGHDAD – U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command- Iraq, toured the Baghdad Police College Oct. 12 to get a better understanding of its functions and to meet the team of civilians, military and international advisors who advise and support the program. The BPC, located at Forward Operating Base Shield, is the principal trainer of all the officers for Iraq’s community police force. (READ MORE)

Joint Forces Discuss Military Ethics - Iraqi and U.S. Forces hosted their first commander’s conference here Oct. 13 to discuss military ethics. The purpose of the professional conference was to highlight Iraqi and U.S commitment to building professional and ethical capacities throughout the Ministry of Defence. The conference was attended by senior Iraqi army, navy and air force officials, civilians, Iraqi government employees, political leaders and several others from the Ministry of Defence, as well as select members of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Engineering School Begins Unit Set Fielding - The Electrical and Mechanical Engineering School recently began its Unit Set Fielding training when 124 soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Army Division’s Field Workshop Unit arrived at the Training Center early in October here. USF is a concentrated field exercise that focuses on new equipment training, basic individual refresher skills and mission specific collective skills training. This is the first time the EME School has conducted Unit Set Fielding in its 50 years of existence. (READ MORE)

Commanders Complete Counterinsurgency Seminar - Thirty Iraqi army officers, assigned as field company commanders from all 14 Iraqi Army Divisions, completed an advanced seminar in Counterinsurgency and Civil Security at the Iraqi Army COIN Battle Command School here Oct. 8. These commanders, ranging in rank from first lieutenant to major, received advanced instruction and theory-based analysis training on cordon & search, population and resource control, raids, protecting oil refineries, safeguarding schools, and emergency support to hospitals and clinics. (READ MORE)

Air Force grooming Iraqi helicopter pilots - U.S. Air Force pilots here train, advise and assist Iraqi helicopter pilots around the clock, helping the Iraqis to develop a capable Air Force to secure their country. Christopher Elam, Mi-17 instructor pilot, and Jack Swinehart, UH-1HP Huey Military Transition Team lead, both majors with the 721st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, fly side-by-side with Iraqi pilots, fine-tuning their daytime combat skills and recently introducing them to nighttime flying with night vision goggles. (READ MORE)

Helping hand for Rashid elementary school - Children at a girl's school in the Rashid district here recently received school supplies from Iraqi Federal Police (FP) and U.S. Soldiers with Company A, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. The U.S. Soldiers gave new back packs stuffed with pencils, pencil sharpeners and educational materials to 2nd FP Division officers to hand to the students of the Imtithal Elementary School. The Soldiers also gave soccer balls, crayons, coloring books and office supplies to the school's principal, Eman Ibrahim Hussein, to distribute and use later. (READ MORE)

Paratroopers pass lifesaving skills to Iraqis - Iraqi Policemen (IP) can now provide lifesaving medical aid to residents and visitors here, thanks to a new course taught Oct. 5-6 by U.S. Army medics. Nearly two dozen IP graduated the Basic Lifesaver Course following 16 hours of intensive, hands-on training with medics from Company A, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade). (READ MORE)

Wheelchair donations help kids in need - U.S. Soldiers and Provincial Reconstruction Team members recently distributed 20 wheelchairs to children here at the Moosawii Private Hospital. The wheelchairs were donated to the PRT by Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids, a non-profit organization created to meet the needs of Iraqi children who suffer from mobility-limiting disabilities such cerebral palsy, chronic rheumatism and kyphoscoliosis. (READ MORE)

Wounded Warrior Reunited With Comrades - The room was silent, and would occasionally erupt into laughter at a funny story as reunited brothers in arm swapped stories. Retired 1st Lt. Edwin Salau, of New Bern, N.C., who served as a platoon leader with Company C, 120th Combined Arms Battalion "Tuskhogs," 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team in 2004 only had one thing to say. "Hi, I'm Ed. I'm a Tuskhog." (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
New Medical Clinic Opens on Kandahar Airfield - Kandahar Airfield opened the U.S. Joint Medical Treatment Facility, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009. The building will be run by the 575th Area Support Medical Company. The facility will provide health services and sick call care to U.S. units without organic medical assets. "The new clinic will take on U.S. forces personnel to take some of the load off Role 3," said Sgt. 1st Class Lee Bucklin, non commissioned officer in charge of the clinic. (READ MORE)

Afghan National Security Forces, ISAF Partnership Increases Road Safety in Wardak - Afghan national security forces along with Catamount Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, continued ensuring freedom of maneuver by establishing traffic control points near the village of Haft Asiab, Wardak province, Sept. 15. "It's a joint operation," said 1st Lt. James Peck, a platoon leader with Company C, 2-87 INF. "It's really important to get the Afghan national army and police working together." (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Oct. 15: Afghan-International Security Forces Kills, Detain Militants; ISAF Casualty - Afghan and international security forces killed and detained multiple suspected militants in search operations to interdict Taliban activity in Zabul and Wardak provinces today. A joint security force killed enemy militants while conducting a search in Bahar District, Zabul province in pursuit of a Taliban commander and his element believed responsible for improvised explosive device and armed attacks in the region. (READ MORE)

Obama Focuses on Civilian Effort in Afghanistan Strategy Review - President Obama, convening his fifth war council meeting in as many weeks, pressed his senior national security advisers Wednesday on the political situation in Afghanistan and the effort to train the country's security forces, officials said. Allegations of fraud in the Afghan presidential election over the summer have raised questions about the legitimacy of Hamid Karzai's government, complicating US efforts to partner with him. (READ MORE)

US Officials Look at Scenarios for Afghanistan 'Middle Path' - As the Obama administration debates whether to shift its aims in Afghanistan, officials at the Pentagon and National Security Council have begun developing "middle path" strategies that would require fewer troops than their ground commander is seeking. Measures under consideration include closer cooperation with local tribal chiefs and regional warlords, using CIA agents as intermediaries and cash payments as incentives, said current and former officials who described the strategies on condition of anonymity. (READ MORE)

Obama Weighs Afghan Strategy, Not Just Troop Buildup - Intense debate has raged for weeks on whether President Obama should send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but the dispute over numbers may be distracting attention from the more important decision he is facing: the need for a new strategy. "Additional forces are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely," Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, wrote in his now famous report to the president that was leaked to the press in September. (READ MORE)

Press Secretary Cites Candor on Afghan Troop Levels - Defense Department officials have been straightforward about the number of US troops flowing into Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today. As deliberations on the way forward in Afghanistan continue at the White House, Morrell addressed media reports that implied the department was sending an extra 13,000 servicemembers to Afghanistan as enablers for added combat forces. “There was no effort under way by the president, by the secretary, by anybody in this department to try to, in any way, mislead people about the forces that had been approved and were flowing into country,” Morrell said. (READ MORE)

Britain to Send More Troops to Afghanistan - The British prime minister says he plans to send an extra 500 troops to Afghanistan, if NATO coalition partners follow suit and the Afghan government speeds up training its own forces. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown began his regular question time in the House of Commons as he has always done, reading out the names of British soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan. Because it was his first appearance after the summer recess, the list was long: 37 names. Despite Britain's growing losses in Afghanistan, Mr. Brown is sending 500 more troops... (READ MORE)

British Plan Would Deploy Bigger Afghanistan Force - Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a cautious and heavily conditioned plan on Wednesday to send 500 more British troops to Afghanistan, which would raise Britain’s contingent - the second largest in the 41-nation coalition fighting the eight-year war - to 9,500. Mr. Brown hinted strongly that discussions with President Obama and other American leaders had persuaded him that their current review of Afghanistan strategy would result in a similar approval for at least a modest increase in American troops - perhaps linked, like Britain’s, to strict conditions on President Hamid Karzai’s government in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Gordon Brown Pledges 500 More British Troops to Afghanistan - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged Wednesday to send 500 additional troops to bolster international forces in Afghanistan but only if other coalition countries pull their weight as well. Brown also conditioned the increase on an assurance by the government in Kabul that it will recruit more soldiers and on the availability of sufficient equipment for the extra British troops, a hot-button issue here after recent reports of a shortage of military hardware. (READ MORE)

More Troops Needed, Says Afghan Diplomat - Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States has called for President Obama to adopt a clear counterinsurgency strategy for his country, and to back it up with the deployment of additional troops. In an interview with VOA's Gary Thomas, he says the intelligence agencies of neighboring Pakistan were involved in the recent attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Ambassador Said Jawad told VOA sending additional US troops to Afghanistan would be viewed in Kabul as what he calls a clear commitment to success against the resurgent Taliban. (READ MORE)

In Afghan Stability, Abdullah Is Pivotal - Abdullah Abdullah stood before a roomful of supporters at a hotel here last week, slamming the failings of the Afghan government like a man still on the campaign trail - which, the presidential candidate insists, he is. "It doesn't seem to me we can avoid a second round," Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai's former foreign minister, said in an interview, repeating what has become his refrain since Afghanistan's fraud-marred election in August. Abdullah may yet be proved right. (READ MORE)

Airstrike Targets Militant Hideouts in Pakistan - Intelligence officials say Pakistani fighter jets have bombed militant targets along the Afghan border, killing at least nine insurgents. Pakistani officials said Wednesday's air force attacks on militant hideouts in the South Waziristan region come as troops continue to prepare for a broader ground operation against the militant hub. Military airstrikes have hit suspected Taliban hideouts in the region for weeks. On Tuesday, fighter jets targeted the Taliban strongholds of Makeen, Ladha and Nawazkot in South Waziristan, killing at least two people. The airstrikes follow four high-profile terrorist attacks that killed more than 100 people in the past week. (READ MORE)

Coordinated Attacks Target Multiple Sites in Pakistan - Approximately 25 militants dressed in police uniforms simultaneously attacked three law enforcement agencies in Lahore on Thursday morning, the fifth major attack by militants in Pakistan in the last 10 days. The regional center of the Federal Investigation Agency and two police training centers were the targets of the assaults that occurred just before 9:30 a.m. in Lahore, the capital of the province of Punjab and Pakistan’s second most populous city. (READ MORE)

Pakistan: Gunmen Attack 3 Sites in East, 18 Killed - Teams of gunmen attacked three law enforcement facilities in Pakistan's cultural heart of Lahore on Thursday, killing 18 people in an escalation of audacious terror strikes as the Taliban try to keep the government from waging a planned offensive on the militants. Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik vowed not to let the attacks deter the government in its pursuit of Taliban and al Qaida fighters. "The enemy has started a guerrilla war," Malik told a local television station. (READ MORE)

Careful to a Fault on Afghanistan - Afghanistan could be the most important decision of Barack Obama's presidency. Maybe that's why he is, in effect, making it twice. What's odd about the administration's review of Afghanistan policy is that it is revisiting issues that were analyzed in great detail - and seemingly resolved - in the president's March 27 announcement of a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The recent recommendations from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal were intended to implement that "Af-Pak" strategy - not send the debate back to first principles. (READ MORE)

To Beat the Taliban, Fight From Afar - As President Obama and his national security team confer this week to consider strategies for Afghanistan, one point seems clear: our current military forces cannot win the war. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander there, has asked for 40,000 or more additional United States troops, which many are calling an ambitious new course. In truth, it is not new and it is not bold enough. America will best serve its interests in Afghanistan and the region by shifting to a new strategy of off-shore balancing, which relies on air and naval power from a distance, while also working with local security forces on the ground. (READ MORE)

Italy says did not pay Taliban in Afghanistan - Italy's government denied a report on Thursday that it paid Taliban commanders and Afghan tribal leaders. French troops, unaware of the payments, later took charge of the area. Britain's Times newspaper said Italian secret service paid tens of thousand of dollars to insurgents to keep the Sarobi area east of Kabul quiet while Italian forces were stationed there. The report cited unidentified Western military officials. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Taleban more dangerous than ever - A wave of Pakistani Taleban attacks over the last 11 days shows that the militant network is more dangerous than ever, despite the death of its charismatic leader in August and the apparent success of the army’s six month campaign in the northwest. It also suggests an unprecedented level of cooperation between Pashtun militants in north-western Pakistan, Al Qaeda and other foreigners sheltering there, and militant groups based in Punjab - the country's most populous province. (READ MORE)

Strategies For Negotiating With 'Good' Taliban - The Obama administration has begun to distinguish between "good" and "bad" Taliban as military commanders in Afghanistan consider negotiating with Taliban who agree to peace. Vahid Brown, who teaches at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, talks with Renee Montagne about the differences between the two. (READ MORE)

Afghan candidate says he has faith in fraud panel - The runner-up in Afghanistan's unsettled presidential election said Thursday that he has faith in a U.N.-backed panel that is trying to determine whether there are enough fraudulent votes to force a runoff. But Abdullah Abdullah stopped short of saying he would accept its results. "I will reserve my full reaction post-announcement," he told reporters at his home in the capital, Kabul. (READ MORE)

Afghan top challenger cool on joining future government - With only a few days to the announcement of the much-awaited official results of the Afghan presidential elections, Abdullah Abdullah, the incumbent's top challenger, denied Thursday that he was to make any deal for forming a coalition government but said he was open to discussions after the final results were known. The results, which had been slated to be known by mid-September, have been delayed by a UN-backed Election Complaint Commission, which is looking into widespread allegations of fraud. (READ MORE)

36 die as Taliban hits Lahore, blasts rock Pakistan cities - Pakistan Thursday vowed revenge after the Taliban laid siege to Lahore city with audacious and simultaneous attacks on three police establishments that killed 25 people, including 10 of the attackers. Suicide bombers claimed 11 more lives elsewhere in the country. An unknown number of armed men - and probably a few women - dressed in military fatigues stormed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) building in a thickly populated area of Lahore, stunning the authorities. (READ MORE)

Obama still undecided on Afghan troop surge - The White House has denied reports that President Barack Obama is set to approve a substantial US troop surge in Afghanistan. Mr Obama is currently considering a request from military commanders for an additional 45,000 soldiers to help fight Taliban militants. BBC's Newsnight programme has claimed Mr Obama could announce approval for the move as early as next week following the British Government's decision yesterday to deploy an additional 500 soldiers. (READ MORE)

Afghan forces kill over 20 Taliban insurgents in south - Afghan forces in joint operation with NATO-led troops against Taliban militants in Zabul province south of Afghanistan killed nearly two dozen insurgents, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said Thursday. "The operations launched since Wednesday night and covered Nawbahar and Arghandab districts had left 22 rebels dead," Rahman told Xinhua. Fourteen insurgents, he added, were killed in Nawbahar and eight others in Arghandab districts. (READ MORE)

Silvio Berlusconi attempts to duck Afghanistan bribe scandal - Silvio Berlusconi today sought to duck the blame for a series of secret Italian payments to Taleban fighters that left French soldiers exposed in Afghanistan. The Italian Prime Minister denied any knowledge of money paid to Afghan warlords in an apparent attempt to divert attention over the clandestine deals to his predecessor’s administration. (READ MORE)

John Kerry Arrives in Afghanistan for Meeting with Stanley McChrystal - The US senate's foreign relations committee chairman John Kerry has come to Afghanistan to meet the chief US and Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal who has recommended a radical change in US strategy there. Kerry, in Afghanistan on Thursday, said he had many questions for McChrystal, who has asked for at least 40,000 more troops to fight the war there. (READ MORE)

Taliban have a free ride in Kunduz - The vehicle is marked Kunduz provincial police headquarters, but the occupants are not necessarily servants of the state. The Taliban in Kunduz recently captured eight police Ford Ranger pickups in Chahr Dara district, and they use them to move around. It is not hard to tell the difference, however. (READ MORE)

India takes off against 'Red Taliban' - India's Maoists have signaled they are not intimidated by the government's tough new attempt to tackle them. In a series of attacks on government infrastructure and police personnel over the past week, they have indicated that they intend to push on with their violent campaign against the Indian state. The Maoists went on a rampage early this week in the northern states of Bihar and Jharkhand, setting ablaze a railway office after taking eight officials hostage, blowing up railway tracks, digging up roads and destroying telecom towers. (READ MORE)

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Linked at: H&I FIRES* 15 OCT 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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