October 16, 2009

From the Front: 10/16/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Radio Interview on WUSF 89.7 FM - Here is a link to today’s interview which ran on WUSF Radio 89.7 FM in Tampa during National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and it will run again this afternoon between 4 pm and 6:30 pm during the station’s pledge drive. The topics discussed included the Afghan elections and corruption related to stuffing ballot boxes, having the flu in the war zone and old fashioned remedies from Pennsylvania used to feel better. Hence the title of the interview on WUSF’s website. (MORE)

Highland Sailor: (PHOTOS) Three Cups of Tea - If you haven't read "Three Cups of Tea", I strongly recommend that you do so at once. It's required reading for all officers in USFOR-A. It offers a wonderful insight to the Pashto People. Available at your local bookstore or library. (MORE)

Old Blue: Hero - Recently, an email came in from an officer who quoted an ANP chief in a district in which I did some work as a mentor. The ANP chief said that he was looking forward to winter so that the leaves on the trees could no longer the Taliban and he could kill them all. Fair’s fair, after all. They’ve repeatedly tried to kill him. He’s been wounded twice since I’ve known him. We were getting ready to do a conference for trainers from all over the Army and some of our Coalition allies, and it was brought up how great it would be to have the ANP chief, a Colonel, come and speak to these officers and senior NCO’s about his experiences. Since I knew him, I said that I could perhaps help. Through a series of communications, we were able to get through to the Colonel and schedule time for him to come and speak. (READ MORE)

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq: Troop Support! (5/365) Hire veterans! - This war is producing many young men and women who have completed their military service and are reentering civilian life. Remember, they took care of us, lets take care of them! Whenever you can, look to veterans when you are seeking a new employee. They have so much going for them. Veterans are used to responsibility, accountability, and working as part of team. Believe me veterans know what it means to show up and turn in a solid day of work, come rain or shine. Do not be afraid of hiring disabled veterans. You will find that drive, training, and experience will overcome apparent limitations. Many federal support programs are in place to be sure that this is possible. (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: This Is Familiar - What’s up? Same shit, different deployment here. Nothing really to write about. The beer was good in Germany. Kinda pissed the Germans off by asking for American beer. But I think they’re all still pissed off about WW II. Spent the night there, then did the jumpseat back into theater. One of the pilots was a furloughed American pilot, the other was a FEDEX pilot. Good guys. Kinda sad to see that not much has really changed around here. I see the same people I saw the last couple of tours from the other branches that we work with. Some things that have changed…. Well, there’s a couple new sidewalks. I guess nobody believes we will all be out of here before Christmas next year. But hey, the President did get the Noble Peace Prize. AFN (Armed Forces Network) is still the same crap. The DVD collection has gotten a lot bigger. The laundry guys crack me up here. TCNs (third country national) from the Philippines. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Bomb disposal specialists honoured for Afghanistan service - Just days after returning home from the dust and heat of Afghanistan, members of the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group were honoured in front of proud families and friends on Thursday, 15th October. More than 90 soldiers predominantly from 58 Field Squadron (EOD) part of 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) and 11 EOD Regiment RLC who together formed the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group proudly marched onto the parade square at Carver Barracks, Wimbish, to be awarded their Operation HERRICK campaign medals. The Royal Engineer and Royal Logistic Corps Bomb Disposal and Search Specialists worked in teams to provide three different capabilities: (READ MORE)

High Heels & Combat Boots: Day 76: JDB and Me - Sigh. When Josh left for Iraq he was thissure that he would be taking his R&R in December. At first I was less than thrilled because that meant we wouldn't have even met the halfway point. And I personally would rather spend more time apart in the beginning than in the end....But then I got adjusted to the idea. He would possibly be home for Christmas and if all the stars aligned...he would see me graduate college. Alas....nothing goes as planned in the military and someone kinda sorta wanted Josh's dates. And Josh, being the jovial cat that he is...volunteered. It's not approved yet, but it looks like we may be back where we were. Now I must go through the depression-acceptance-get excited phase again. I will get there. But it will take a few days. Now I must try and plan that sweet R&R vacation again. I wanted Hawaii...but that was vetoed by 'the man'. He didn't want to spend any more hours on an airplane and I can't say I blame him. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Gets the Aircraft Ready to Fly - For door gunners and crew chiefs in Company A, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment, the longest days are the ones when they don’t fly. This Illinois-based Army National Guard unit uses a push crew to make sure every mission takes off on time and each aircraft gets back to mission-ready status as soon as possible. If a mission is set to fly at 6 a.m., the flight crew arrives for a pre-flight briefing at 3 a.m. The push crew begins its work at 2 a.m. “The first thing to do at 0200 is start the coffee,” said Cpl. Ricki Jenkins, 40, of Glasford, Ill. “Before going to the airfield, the push crew writes down the crew roster, the tail numbers of the birds, time out and time back.” The push crew normally consists of one crew chief or gunner for each pair of Black Hawks, but sometimes the crew is just one Soldier. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Flies this Aircraft? - I will be writing more soon about the crew of the Blackhawk I flew in on Saturday, but I wanted to give you a preliminary description of the four-man crew: two pilots, a door gunner, and a crew chief. They are all from an Illinois National Guard Company attached to our unit for this deployment. In the National Guard, you get people of many backgrounds serving together and that is true down to the smallest units--like a Blackhawk crew. Pilot 1--Has 21 years in the guard, the whole time flying. He just completed flight school as the Gulf War ended so he was not deployed until 2004. At that time he was based at Balad and flying air assault missions. He said, "This (meaning the trip I was one flying at 1000 feet and 125 mph) is garrison flying. If you were here in 2004 you could have gone on a real mission--175 mph at 50 feet of the ground. That's fun." He actually gave the speeds in knots. I am sparing you the conversion. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: What if the Shiites lose? - Here's a different take on the election law issue in Iraq. The parliamentarians missed the deadline for the election law. They were supposed to vote on it in time, but they postponed until next week. "What do they care? The sons of shoes!" said one obviously exasperated man, who explained that the new law was supposed to pass in time to print the ballots for the January election. If they don't vote in time, they jeapordize the entire process. "They want to keep their seats." He went on to say they have a good deal, the officials. They live well, why would they give it up? "They all say they want an open list," he said about the election ballot. "Most Iraqis want it, but I assure you at least 50 percent of Iraqis don't know what an open list is." Is that fair? "It's reality," he said. "Saddam taught this generation to walk with a swagger of the gun, not the swagger of the education." (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Part 2: War, Patient Confidentiality & Should I Be A Writer? - Earlier, I went over the reasons why patient confidentiality must be upheld by all those who provide care for the injured and sick during a time of war in the FST. Actually, this pertains to all health care providers --from clerks to doctors, and even insurance companies throughout the US at all hospitals and clinics. If you send an email or letter to a relative who has a blog, you must be specific and say, "not for publication." If you send it in an email, you must write, "do not post, publish or forward this to anyone else." Better yet, do neither. But if you're prone to taking risks, then you must also tell them the reason they can't blab to Aunt Madge and let her put it on Facebook. And tell them the reason is due to patient confidentiality. If they break that rule, they are not only betraying you, they have betrayed the entire team, the patient and the patient's family. (READ MORE)

The Line of Departure with Jamie McIntyre: When Truth Is Outlawed… - When Truth Is Outlawed… Only Outlaws Will Have The Truth - The debate over whether the AP should have distributed a photograph of a mortally wounded marine was a healthy one. It was a debate over a judgment call, weighing the competing responsibilities of the press, informing the public, while displaying sensitively to families of fallen soldiers and respect for the dead. But the key point was that it was a decision that was left to news media to make, for better or worse. Now, according to Editor and Publisher, the military has gone a step farther, — too far in my opinion — in an attempt to not just censor, but prevent news reporters from recording video or still images of any American combat deaths. (Presumably the ban does not apply to enemy dead.) I certainly understand the intention of the policy... (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: German al Qaeda leader sanctioned by US Treasury - A senior al Qaeda leader based in Pakistan's tribal areas who has recently starred in al Qaeda's propaganda aimed at Germany has been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department. Bekkay Harrach, a German national who is based along the Afghan-Pakistani border, has been designated as a terrorist under Executive Order 13224 "for acting for or on behalf of al Qaeda." The designation allows the US to freeze his assets, prevent him from using financial institutions, and prosecute him for terrorist activities. In May 2009, Harrach was designated as a terrorist by the UN Security Council's al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee. Harrach, who goes by the alias Abu Talha al Almani, has been a member of al Qaeda since March of 2007, according to the German Federal Public Prosecutor. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: And Now It Gets Interesting - This is so late breaking I only heard about it when I read the headline: Runoff Expected in Afghan Election - An investigation of allegedly fraudulent ballots in Afghanistan's troubled election has reduced President Hamid Karzai's portion of the vote to about 47 percent, an outcome that will trigger a runoff between him and his closest competitor, according to officials familiar with results. ... The findings have major implications for the Obama administration's ongoing deliberations over Afghanistan war strategy and could eventually help remove the cloud of illegitimacy hanging over its partner government there. But a new election could also make a difficult situation worse, particularly if fraud is once again alleged or if the vote has to be delayed because of the onset of winter. Indeed. Buckle up, this is going to get interesting. I'll try to pass on what I can! (READ MORE)

Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian: Lyons community rallies to help when soldier is injured in Iraq - Walk past the neon Coors and Michelob signs, the video-poker machines, the shuffleboard game and pool table, and hanging on the back wall of the Red Barn Bar & Grill you'll see it: a photo of the band that plays the joint, and perched in between the musicians is the bartender -- the one plenty of patrons fondly call "Mom." Around the photo's frame hangs a yellow ribbon. No one in the bar on a recent afternoon could say who draped the ribbon there, but every customer on every stool knew why. Everyone in Lyons, for that matter, must know about the mid-August night the Red Barn's phone rang, and when bartender Samantha Jones answered, she learned bad news out of Iraq about her youngest son. Everyone must know, because since, townspeople in Lyons and neighboring Mehama, the tiny burg where Jones lives, southeast of Salem, have done what neighbors do: (READ MORE)

Pat Dollard: Cry Me A River New DOD Photo Rules Prompt Outcry - U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are retreating somewhat from an effort to ban embedded journalists from publishing photos or video of American soldiers killed in action there, according to ground rules issued Thursday. But the new limitations on embeds – put in place after a flap between the Pentagon and the Associated Press over a photo of a wounded soldier - have elicited deep concerns from military journalists and press advocates. “It’s punishment for war photographers. They’re saying if you want access, you have to play by our rules. And our rules are this — the public will NOT see dead U.S. soldiers,” the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Lucy Dalglish, said in an email. “For thorough reporting on Afghanistan, I guess we’re just going to have to rely on unembedded reporters running around on their own — posing a danger to themselves as well as the troops they’re trying to cover. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Camel Ride - Today was another fairly low key Jumaa. The day started like many others with PT. After a quick breakfast there were emails to answer and paperwork to do. The work day was rounded off with a long meeting. Then there were the camels. Our MWR committee had them brought on camp for rides and photos for a donation. It was not that different than riding a horse. There was just more distance from me to the ground than on a horse. It was not as wobbly as an elephant. But it was not as messy as one either. I could not discern any overpowering camel smell. Perhaps the notorious Mazar e Shariff dust had clogged my nose thoroughly. Later I came by the area and noticed that someone had cleaned up after the camels. We can't have anything disgusting tainting our pristine gravel. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: R&R day 4 - On day 4 I signed up to go to the Museum of Islamic Art and the Old Souq. I went back to the Old Souq for two reasons 1) It was free and 2) I wanted to see it in the daylight. The day before when I went it was dark. The reason I went on the free trips was not to save money, but because the trips you have to pay for, they only accept this thing called the Eagle Cash Card. The cash card is what it looks like the military is moving to to stop the flow of American Dollars into these other countries. I'm not sure if there is an economic reason or if it's expensive to move the money back and forth or what. Regardless, they were really pushing it in Kuwait, and here in Qatar it is the only way. The problem for me is that it is all done through direct deposit so you need all your bank account info. I didn't bring it with me, so I'm stuck on the free trips. The museum was pretty interesting. (READ MORE)

Love My Tanker: "Worlds Apart" - When service members come home from combat sometimes they feel "Worlds Apart." No matter your service affiliation or duty status, the below will hit home (and hopefully be of help) for many. Video targets Marine reservists who often feel out of place back home - In an unusually direct way, the Marine Corps is warning reservists and their families about the alienation and psychological pain that Marines can feel when returning to civilian life after duty in a war zone. A video titled "Worlds Apart" made by a San Diego production company warns that even well-meaning civilians cannot be expected to understand what it is like to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. The story has actors portraying a returning enlisted Marine named Jeff; his wife, Eileen; and their friends and family members. At first, Jeff's return is joyous, but he soon becomes sullen and angry and begins drinking heavily and withdrawing emotionally from Eileen and their young son. Their marriage deteriorates. (READ MORE)

Andi: Goin' Postal - Yesterday was one of those days when I swore my head would explode before the clock struck noon. It was a day which called for a little Deployment Rage Syndrome (DRS), but there was just one little problem - my husband isn't deployed. So, since I couldn't just that very reasonable and justifiable excuse, I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw and didn't make a scene which would later horrify me (and my family). While I was in the depressingly long line at the post office, I noticed something that began to irk me to the core. Scores of people walk into a post office totally and utterly unprepared. That, I came to understand, is why the line was so long. There were people who were actually boxing items up at the counter, people who were sending certified mail yet didn't have their forms completed, people who didn't know what they should have done and needed to do in order to get mail from point A to point B and people standing in line for stamps when the stamp machine... (READ MORE)

Marine Wife: Conspiracy Theory - I know there's a lot of stuff in the news about how overweight we are as a country. And I certainly don't dispute that. However. In the military, or at least in the Marine Corps (which is where I've lived the last 12 years of my life), there seems to be a conspiracy of fitness. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. It is what it is. Obviously, the Marines (and other service-members) need to be in the best possible shape. But what about those of us who only married into the military? Have you ever seen the Marine Corps Evening Dress uniforms? Field Grade Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers wear these. So who is wearing these again? That's right. Service-members who are getting older, whose metabolism may be slowing down a bit. But these uniforms are designed so that any extra weight in the torso will make the uniform extremely unflattering. I know because I've seen it. Not often, it's true. (READ MORE)

Stryker Brigade News: Marysville Native Serves in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Pfc. Robert Moritz, a radio telephone operator with 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, awoke one afternoon in Nasir Wa Salam, when the driver of his Stryker vehicle barged in with news of a mission. No stranger to this kind of wake-up call, the native of Marysville, Wash., put on his gear, readied his M4 carbine and headed out to where the rest of the members of the scout platoon were waiting. Even with a mission as simple as escorting interpreters to a nearby joint combat outpost, the team must have every aspect of the mission worked out. That's where the importance of Moritz's job comes into play. "Communication is the key to success. It's important that everybody knows what's going on within the battalion," Moritz said. "It's important that the [platoon leader] communicates to all right people about the situation." (READ MORE)

The Torch: Brit battalion to move from KAF to Helmand/Taliban strengthening/Who's the US fighting? - Further to this post, 500 more British troops for Afstan announced--with maybes - some details: As The Daily Telegraph reported last week, a total of 1,000 more British soldiers will go to Helmand province. Five hundred will be new troops from Britain. The remainder is a British battle group currently deployed in Kandahar province under international command. The Prime Minister said the Kandahar battle group was being redeployed “to meet the changing demands of the campaign, which require greater concentration of our forces in central Helmand”... That is actually the Black Watch battalion, which has been based at KAF as a quick reaction force for Regional Command South as a whole. So their replacement battalion will be moved to become an integral part of the British force at Helmand. (READ MORE)

The Torch: CF commander in Afstan: A "serious, desperate situation" - The audio (it's important to realize that the overall impression from the interview is a lot less sensational than the Reuters' story below suggests): In an interview from Kandahar, he updated CBC radio host Anna Maria Tremonti of The Current on Canada's progress in the war-torn country, the successes Canadian soldiers have witnessed and the challenges they face. To listen to the full interview, click here. Still, the strongest words yet from a senior Canadian officer, I think (some other realism here); the Brigadier-General in charge of Joint Task Force Afghanistan (next Roto 8 is arriving now) speaks: "Afghanistan is in a 'serious, desperate situation' which constitutes a major emergency, Canada's top commander on the ground said in a frank interview broadcast Wednesday." (READ MORE)

David Axe: Axeghanistan ‘09: Cargo Jam! - It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself: Lieutenant Colonel Dan Krall has problems. Four hundred tons of them, to be exact. That’s the amount of cargo that arrives every day at Bagram air base, the main logistics hub for military operations in Afghanistan. Krall and his 120 airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron receive... (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Clear, Hold, Build...in Fayetteville NC - Tom Ricks opened the field to a debate in his blog regarding the merits of light infantry leaders in counterinsurgency operations. In The Gamble, Ricks mentions the merits of commanders in the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions, noting that it was they who participated in the "small wars" and peacekeeping operations--Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Haiti, Sinai, etc, as opposed to the tank divisions which merely sat in Germany the entire time. It prompted a response from an armor officer who noted that many of the early COIN successes came from armor officers such as now-Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, a particularly brilliant counterinsurgent who, nevertheless, won an important tank battle during the first Gulf War at the Battle of 73 Eastings. Now, I hate to break it to Tom, but this debate isn't exactly new... (READ MORE)

Wired: Danger Room: Operation Fail: Afghanistan ‘Embed’ Project Misfires - The U.S. military’s practice of embedding reporters with frontline military units can have its flaws: shifting ground rules, questions about access, and the limitations of the “soda straw” view. But when the system works, it provides an unfiltered view of war — and a unique chance to record the stories of men and women who are risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that uncensored view of a military at war, it seems, is a bit too much for the Australian Defence Force’s top brass. The Australian military just took a trial run of a new embedding system in Afghanistan — and according to journalists who took part in the experiment, the results were less than spectacular. Defense writer Ian McPhedran described the Australian military’s “media embed trial” as more of an escorted battlefield tour, not a 24/7 immersion in the life of troops at war. (READ MORE)

Army Live: What milbloggers mean to the Army - Today I’m chagrined to be missing the MilBlog Track at this year’s Blog World Expo. It’s one of the few times each year our geographically displaced milblog community get together to connect, discuss and learn from one another. Along with the MilBlog Conference in Washington, D.C., it’s a great opportunity for Army public affairs flaks such as myself to really get to know the needs of this community, and better learn how to work with them. As little as 2 years ago the relationship between the military and bloggers was not an overly positive one. Unclear policies and the growing disconnect between traditional and social media outlets left us in a strained relationship, at best. For me, from the beginning of my Army career the milblog community was one I knew I needed to reach out to in order to be able to successfully tell our Soldiers stories. Since then they have grown even more critical, and more connected to traditional media outlets. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Soldier survives head shot - A British soldier in Afghanistan has been shot in the head by a Taliban fighter and escaped with nothing more than whiplash. It was a lucky shot but the force of the bullet sent Lance Corporal Iain Maynard flying two metres before he hit the ground. When fellow soldiers came to help expecting the worst, they were amazed to see the deadly tip of the bullet sticking through the inside of his army issue helmet. This incredible incident happened while Iain and the rest of the fire support group were on a routine patrol, sweeping the area for IEDs, on Tuesday 13 October. Lance Corporal Maynard of 2 Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards said: ‘Literally out of nowhere I got shot in the helmet. I wasn’t knocked out by the initial force of it but it knocked me straight onto my back.' (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Department of Defense to End Preemptive Military Strike Doctrine - From Bloomberg: The Pentagon is reviewing the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive military strikes with an eye to modifying or possibly ending it. The international environment is “more complex” than when President George W. Bush announced the policy in 2002, Kathleen Hicks, the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for strategy, said in an interview. “We’d really like to update our use-of-force doctrine to start to take account for that.” Kathleen Hicks is currently Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces. She is a major actor in the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review 2010. When referring to the co-called Bush doctrine of preemptive military force (or otherwise anticipatory self defense), she is referring to the doctrine outlined in a Bush speech at West Point in 2002. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraq's Plan for Referendum on US Pullout Fades - Plans to hold a referendum that could have accelerated the withdrawal of American forces have quietly been shelved, as even those Iraqi politicians who were pushing for the poll conclude that it no longer would be a useful exercise. Sunni Muslim politicians had wanted the referendum on the US-Iraqi security pact to be conducted in January, at the same time as national elections. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Miss Target Date on Election - Iraq's parliament missed a deadline Thursday to pass a law needed to hold parliamentary elections slated for January, raising the chance the polls could be delayed. A delay in the election, which is seen as a gauge of Iraq's stability, could force American commanders to push back decisions about how quickly they can withdraw troops from the country, US officials said. The parliamentary vote was rescheduled for Monday. (READ MORE)

Commanders Pass Company Guidon in Iraq - Joint Task Force Eagle, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., company commanders Capt. Carl Oborski, of Clarksville, Tenn., respectfully passed the 887th Engineer Support Company guidons to Capt. Patrick Caukin, a Murfeesboro, Tenn. native, during the company Change of Command Ceremony. "Under Capt. Oborski's command the Empire has shined. However it was not easy as they completed their transformation and really regenerated combat power from a previous Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, all without a true Bn. headquarters for the majority of their preparation and train up for this current deployment. (READ MORE)

ISF target terrorist leadership, arrest Baghdad-based AQI leader - Two suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists were arrested Thursday during separate security operations conducted in Baghdad and Mosul. During an operation in Baghdad, Iraqi Police, with U.S. advisors searched several buildings for and found the suspected Baghdad-based AQI leader. Iraqi police arrested the suspect without incident. The arrested individual allegedly transported large quantities of explosive materials into Iraq to facilitate large-scale attacks in urban areas. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces arrest 4 during search for AQI terrorist group members - Four suspected terrorists were arrested during two regional security operations conducted today. Iraqi Security Forces, with U.S. forces advisors, searched for al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist groups in Ta’min and Diyala provinces. During a security operation in Kirkuk, the 3rd Emergency Services Unit arrested two suspects while searching for a Kirkuk-based vehicle-borne explosive device network member with ties to AQI. The security team searched one building in a southern Kirkuk neighborhood and questioned two suspects found at the scene. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces arrest three AQI terror cell suspects - Iraqi Security Forces arrested three suspected terrorists today during separate security operations in the Baghdad and Salah ad Din regions. ISF, with U.S. advisors, arrested one individual while searching for the suspected leader of an al-Qaeda in Iraq cell, planning improvised explosive device attacks in Baghdad. While searching for the AQI leader, ISF apprehended an individual who was questioned on scene and determined to be a security threat. ISF arrested the suspected terrorist without incident. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army soldiers arrest one in search for Mosul extortion-ring leadership - Iraqi Security Forces arrested one suspect in eastern Mosul while searching for an Islamic State of Iraq extortion-network leader. The 7th Brigade, 2nd Division Iraqi Army, with U.S. advisors, made the arrest of an individual identified as an ISI associate during the search of several buildings. Evidence found at the scene indicated that the suspect is a member of an extortion network that steals money from construction sites in the city by charging contractors a fee based on the cost of projects; and that those that do not comply with their demands are threatened or attacked. (READ MORE)

New ‘Twin Schools’ open for Taji students - Following two years of hard work, a ribbon cutting ceremony here celebrated the grand opening of two schools nestled in a small village north of Baghdad, Oct. 12. Known as the “Twin Schools” to American Soldiers, the facilities can now provide the more than 1,200 students of the area with the high-quality education they deserve. In the past two years, this project experienced many hurdles and it wasn't until the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division assumed the project that the schools had any hope of being open for the new school year. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police shooting skills on target - U.S. Military Police recently invited the Hawijah area Iraqi Police (IP) here to hone their skills during a three-day marksmanship course. A total of 278 IP fired Avtomat Kalashnikova-47 rifles, also known as AK-47s, and Glock 9mm handguns. "The great success of this range was that we were able to get all the ammunition we needed from the Kirkuk Provincial Iraqi Police Headquarters," said 2nd Lt. Megan Howell, platoon leader for 3rd Platoon, 218th Military Police Company. (READ MORE)

From Green City to Red Mosque - I grew up in Islamabad in the 1980s in a residential neighborhood called F-6. Our neighborhood consisted of the residences of government officials, diplomats and politicians. Paper mulberry, pine and eucalyptus trees lined the adjoining streets. Kohsar Market was nearby. It was also called Gora Market, or “Market for the white folks,” as diplomats and foreigners used to shop there. The city had an open feel to it back in those days. It was clean and green. (READ MORE)

Karzai Aide Says Afghan Runoff Vote Is Likely - The government of President Hamid Karzai is preparing for the likelihood that he will have to face an election runoff with his main challenger, Afghanistan’s ambassador here said Thursday, acknowledging an outcome that Western diplomats had been pushing for but that could complicate the debate over whether to send more American troops. The comments by the ambassador in Washington, Said Tayeb Jawad, were the first in which Mr. Karzai’s government conceded that a runoff was likely... (READ MORE)

Runoff Expected In Afghan Election - An investigation of allegedly fraudulent ballots in Afghanistan's troubled election has reduced President Hamid Karzai's portion of the vote to about 47 percent, an outcome that will trigger a runoff between him and his closest competitor, according to officials familiar with results. The tally by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, which one official called "stunning," is due to be finalized Friday. Preliminary results by Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission had given Karzai 54.6 percent of the Aug. 20 vote. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Ambassador to US Expects Runoff - fghanistan's disputed presidential election probably will be decided by a runoff contest, the country's ambassador to the United States said Thursday, a development that would add new uncertainty to the Obama administration's tortuous deliberations over Afghanistan policy. Ambassador Said T. Jawad, a former close advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, predicted the runoff in an appearance Thursday before a Washington research organization. (READ MORE)

Runoff Called More Likely in Afghan Vote - Afghanistan is likely to hold a runoff election to decide the country's new president, said some Afghan and Western officials, an outcome that would prolong the political uncertainty that has hurt US efforts to beat back resurgent Taliban militants. The United Nations-backed Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission on Thursday completed an audit of votes from the August first round of the election, which was tainted by allegations of widespread fraud. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission will now subtract from the total count the votes disqualified by the ECC. (READ MORE)

Vote Dispute Complicates US Debate, Senator Says - The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday that questions about the legitimacy of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are a major problem for the Obama administration as it debates a new Afghanistan strategy. Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), a leading skeptic of proposals to send more US combat forces to Afghanistan, also estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 additional US military trainers will be needed to accelerate and expand the growth of the Afghan army and police forces. (READ MORE)

Obama Adviser Jones Shifted Afghanistan Views, A Lot - National security adviser James L. Jones - the president's point man in a momentous debate on US policy in Afghanistan - has repeatedly shifted his assessments of the war as he transformed himself from a top Marine general to a civilian adviser in recent years. Mr. Jones declared as recently as 2006 that the Taliban had been tactically neutralized by coalition forces in southern Afghanistan. In the ensuing years, though, he has warned that the Taliban is expanding its reach while offering varying opinions on whether more US troops are needed to fight them... (READ MORE)

US Ignored Warnings Before Deadly Afghan Attack - Three intelligence reports warned that Taliban insurgents were planning an attack just days before this month's raid on two remote military outposts in eastern Afghanistan that killed eight US soldiers, but the reports were dismissed as insignificant, US officials told The Washington Times. As a result, military officials did not send additional troops or make preparations to protect the 140 US and Afghan troops at the combat outposts near Kamdesh in Nuristan province by the Pakistan border, the officials said. (READ MORE)

Italians Bribed Taleban All Over Afghanistan, Say Officials - A Taleban commander and two senior Afghan officials confirmed yesterday that Italian forces paid protection money to prevent attacks on their troops. After furious denials in Rome of a Times report that the Italian authorities had paid the bribes, the Afghans gave further details of the practice. Mohammed Ishmayel, a Taleban commander, said that a deal was struck last year so that Italian forces in the Salobi area, east of Kabul, were not attacked by local insurgents. The payment of protection money was revealed after the death of ten French soldiers in August 2008 at the hands of large Taleban force in Sarobi. (READ MORE)

Italy Denies News Report That It Bribed the Taliban - The Italian government denied a British newspaper’s report on Thursday that Italy’s forces paid off the Taliban in 2008 to maintain calm in an area of Afghanistan under Italian control. In a statement, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s office called the report, in the Thursday issue of The Times of London, “completely groundless.” Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa called it “offensive” and “rubbish” and said the ministry was looking into suing the paper. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Attacks Show Tightening of Militant Links - A wave of attacks against top security installations over the last several days demonstrated that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and militant groups once nurtured by the government are tightening an alliance aimed at bringing down the Pakistani state, government officials and analysts said. More than 30 people were killed Thursday in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan, as three teams of militants assaulted two police training centers and a federal investigations building. The dead included 19 police officers and at least 11 militants, police officials said. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Attacks Kill at Least 39 - A spectacular spasm of insurgent attacks that penetrated high-security zones on Thursday prompted shock and confusion across Pakistan, where intelligence agencies and the military have long been viewed as the nation's most potent and prepared institutions. The assaults killed at least 39 people and included three seemingly coordinated invasions of law enforcement facilities in Lahore, Pakistan's bustling cultural capital. They were the latest in an 11-day wave of attacks that included a stunning weekend siege at the nation's army command center. (READ MORE)

Attacks Ripple Across Pakistan - Militants struck targets across Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 26 people, including 14 in nearly simultaneous attacks on police buildings in Lahore that demonstrated an ability to hit key state security installations seemingly at will. The Lahore raids on three security compounds, in which nine militants died, were the latest in a wave of attacks that has targeted United Nations offices, markets and police facilities, leaving scores dead. (READ MORE)

US military says 4 Americans die in blast - Four more American troops died in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Friday, as a U.N.-backed panel completed most of its investigation into whether the level of fraud in the August presidential election would require a runoff. Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States says he expects a second round vote will be required. (READ MORE)

Pakistan bombs Taliban strongholds - Pakistan has gone on the offensive against the Taliban after Thursday's serial attacks and its warplanes are bombing suspected Taliban outposts in the South Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan today. Twenty-seven people have reportedly been killed in the bombing. (READ MORE)

N.C. Ministry Gives Life to Afghan Children - The war in Afghanistan has lasted eight years and some of those affected most are the Afghan children. Many have physical and mental scars, but an organization in Charlotte, N.C., is committed to helping those children heal. For 9-year-old Khai, Charlotte, N.C., is a long way from his home in war-torn Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Wrong-headed strategy in Afghanistan - I became angry after reading the recent Associated Press article about a father who says the death of his son (a Marine) shows the errors of the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. It is time to get rid of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and put in people with brass somewhere other than on their hats and shoulders. They appear to be more concerned about the media flak they may take if a few Afghan citizens are killed than they are about setting a true strategic defense for our forces. (READ MORE)

LeT, JeM ,Taliban troika posing existential threat to Pakistan - New York, Oct.16 : Thursday's blatant spree of terror attacks in Lahore has made it clear that the terror groups such as the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which the Pakistan government had once nurtured to fulfill its own nefarious aims, are fast spiraling out of Islamabad's control. (READ MORE)

Afghan probe said to reduce Karzai's vote share - A fraud probe into Afghan elections has trimmed President Hamid Karzai's vote share to just 47 percent, a report said Friday, while a senior aide conceded a second round could be in the offing. The much-awaited tally by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission will trigger a run-off between Karzai and his nearest competitor, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, because Karzai's portion of the August 20 vote was lowered to below 50 percent, The Washington Post reported. (READ MORE)

Media institutions, schools, Taliban's next target in Pak - Pakistan security officials have warned that the Taliban could target the offices of private television channels and other media institutions in the country apart from security establishments. According to The Daily Times, security officials have intercepted a telephonic call of a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander in which he has given directives to the fighters to launch attacks on media offices across the country. (READ MORE)

India expresses concern over growing Taliban terror - External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Friday expressed concern over the Taliban's terror activities in the region and said forces of terror within Pakistan are threatening to spillover. "I am concerned about the forces that are at work in Pakistan, which have created instruments of terrorism and invariably India is the object of their attacks," Krishna said. (READ MORE)

NATO mulls troops surge in Afghanistan - NATO’s top defense officials will examine proposals Saturday for a big troop surge to contain Afghanistan’s escalating insurgency but any such move hinges on a decision by the US president, NATO military officials said. The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has recommended sending at least 40,000 additional troops and trainers as part of a beefed-up counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, something being considered by the administration of President Barack Obama. (READ MORE)

Obama holds new war cabinet talks - US President Barack Obama huddled with his war council for a fifth time Wednesday, debating whether to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan to quell a growing conflict. Obama is to unveil a new strategy within weeks to contain an insurgency fueled by Al-Qaeda militants and the Taliban, which is resurgent eight yearsafter being ousted from power. During Wednesday's three-hour meeting Obama was briefed by key aides on efforts to strengthen the civilian mission in Afghanistan and train Afghan security forces: (READ MORE)

Heratis mourn rebel commander Govt says Herat now safer after death of Ghulam Yahya Akbari - Over 5,000 men and women accompanied the body, while more women stood on their balconies and rooftops and wept. It could have been a hero’s funeral; instead, the man being buried was a rebel, labelled a dangerous insurgent by the government and foreign forces alike, reports Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Ghulam Yahya Akbari was killed on October 8 in a firefight with foreign and Afghan troops in the hills surrounding Siyawooshan, where he had made his base. His son confirmed his death. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Use Technology to Track Insurgents - In an attempt to curb Southern Afghanistan's recent surge of violence, Task Force Zabul's Provincial Reconstruction Team is starting to track down and identify high valued targets through the use of a biometric facial recognition system. The Biometric Automated Toolset system collects fingerprints and facial biometrics and stores them in a secure, globally accessible database. Not only does the BAT system immediately identify wanted individuals on the spot, but it also helps locate insurgents, terrorists and criminals from evidence collected from IED's, weapons caches and other locations. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Kill, Detain Militants - Afghan and international forces killed and detained multiple suspected militants in operations to interdict Taliban activity in Afghanistan's Zabul and Wardak provinces in recent days, military officials reported. A combined force was fired upon during a search Oct. 15 in the Bahar District of Zabul province in pursuit of a Taliban commander and his element believed to be responsible for attacks in the region. They returned fire, killing the militants, one of whom was found to be wearing a suicide vest. (READ MORE)

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