October 20, 2009

From the Front: 10/20/2009

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

SPC Alperin - My Point of View: Finally, some pics... (View Photos)

Michael Yon: Adopt-a-stan - 18 October 2009 - The inbox was peppered with hyperlinks to Dexter Filkins’ story in the New York Times, Stanley McChrystal’s Long War. One message came from Kathryn Lopez at National Review, asking if I had seen the article and for any thoughts. To be clear, I have developed a strong belief that the war is winnable, though at this rate we will lose. Mr. Filkins seemed to unfold a similar argument. In my view, we need more troops and effort in Afghanistan—now—and the commitment must be intergenerational. In Mr. Filkins’ article, a couple of seemingly small points are keyholes to profound realities, and to a few possible illusions. For instance, the idea that Afghans are tired of fighting seems off. Afghans often tell me they are tired of fighting but those words are inconsistent with the bitter fact that the war intensifies with every change of season. The idea that Afghans are tired of war seems an illusion. Some Afghans are tired. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Bad News For Karzai: Election Complaints Commission Releases Fraud Findings - It’s official. The UN-backed Election Complaints Commission (ECC) released their findings this evening (Kabul time) and have stripped Afghan President Hamid Karzai of 1 million votes from the Aug. 20 election. That pushes Karzai to 48 percent of the electorate, below the necessary threshold to claim outright victory over Abdullah Abdullah, the runner up. According to an ECC press release, results from 210 polling stations where discarded because the ECC found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” at the polling sites. The ECC passed the findings on to the Afghan Independent Elections Commission (IEC) today. Afghan law requires the IEC to accept the ECC’s results and take appropriate action, in this case, starting the runoff process. The Constitution stipulates that a runoff must be held in the next two weeks. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Turks, Frabbits And Azerbaijanis - Recently Captain Scaribay and I trained three Turkish OMLT’s (Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams) at the Turkish Camp Dogan. We had been told that all the Turks could speak and read English, so we sauntered on over to teach a nationality that we had never worked with totally unconcerned with the challenges of language. Bad intel. About a third could speak a reasonable amount of English, another third understood a good bit of what was said but found it difficult to discuss it in English, and a good third of them couldn’t speak a lick of English. For us, who are used to working with and through interpreters, you would think that the situation would not be that difficult. But we had no interpreter. The team leaders, Lieutenant Colonels, had to interpret for their men. This was incredibly time consuming compared to using an experienced interpreter. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Drinking Tea with the Sergeant Major - Today I had my first sit down meeting with my ANA Command Sergeant Major. We exchanged pleasantries and he invited me into his office. He is rather short in stature but his size has no bearing on his commanding presence and the way he carries himself. When he walks into offices and dormitories his soldiers rise to attention and listen intently as he barks out orders. Personally I think he still acts like he has retained his former Soviet rank of colonel. The CSM has been in the army for 36 years and 5 of that have been with the reformed ANA army. He graduated from high school and received a bachelor’s degree in Logistics from the Soviet Union. He is married and has 8 children (4 girls and 4 boys) with ages ranging from 5-18. He is responsible for 120 Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) and 253 askars (soldiers). (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Now taking requests… - For the past 10 months and change, this blog was a lot like the old TV series “Outer Limits” — we (the Soldiers of the 314th PAOC) have controlled the vertical and horizontal, etc. Well, that has all changed — at least for the next few days. Until Friday, our faithful blog readers are going to be in control. You tell us what you want to see (I’ve got my point-and-shoot camera ready to snap) or what you want to read (got the pen and paper ready, too). Send your requests to this blog entry as a comment, and we will do our best as long as it does not violate the four forbidden government topics — security (can’t violate national security concerns), accuracy (has to be truthful), propriety (can’t be inappropriate), and policy (can’t go against government rules). (READ MORE)

Down Range 46: No Trace Left of the Buffalo Trace - A few weeks back while driving out to the air terminal at Baghdad International Airport to pick up a couple of our Soldiers returning from a mission, I had the radio turned up listening to an AFN (Armed Forces Network) music program. It was a stateside program called The Woodsong's Old Time Radio Hour. The program features American folk music (mountain, country, bluegrass, folk, etc) from mostly lesser known artists mixed in with a few well known musicians. As I drove I was swept away by the music and the moment. It had a bit of an impact on me so I later wrote an email to the host of the show telling him how much I enjoyed the broadcast. A few days later I got emails from him and a host of others representing the sponsors of the show in Lexington, Kentucky. They asked if they could read my email on the air and to reprint it in a publication to share my experience with the audience. I agreed, and they did. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan...: Dealing with the ANA - Getting what you want out of the ANA is a huge part of the job. If you can't get along with your ANA commander, and get him to do things your way, then you aren't going to get much done, because most ANA commanders can't be relied upon to show any initiative to improve and do their jobs well. We all certainly had our ups and downs in the relationships with the different ANA commanders we worked with. Sometimes some of us, including myself, didn't always do things the best way. I definitely don't have any magic formulas for how to work with them, but I did learn a few things. I'll throw this little anecdote out there. During my last tour to Afghanistan as an embedded trainer with the Afghan National Army (ANA), I conducted training sessions on the M-16 rifle as part of the ANA’s transition from the AK-47 to the M-16. The ANA soldiers had a habit of showing up late for my training sessions. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Indians fight the Taliban - Indians are flocking to join the British Army to fight the Taliban. They are entitled to sign up, as nationals of the Commonwealth. Army sources say there has been a surge recently because of the threat of a Taliban victory in Afghanistan, which would have serious consequences for India’s Muslim neighbour, Pakistan. Sharat S. Mulchandi, 18, from Karnataka, is undergoing army cadet training at home and plans to join a British infantry regiment when he flies into the UK. Last night he said: “Pakistan is a breeding ground for terrorists, it’s dangerous for India. “We will never forget what the fanatics did last year in Mumbai.” Pakistan is reeling from a wave of attacks in the past 10 days, which killed 150. The Taliban threatened violence if Pakistan’s pro-US government did not cease operations near the Afghan border. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Aussie Gunners support Brits in Helmand - British troops are working with a variety of coalition partners in Helmand province, including Australian Gunners, who over the summer have been supporting 19 Light Brigade in the Upper Gereshk Valley. The Gunners, from the 105th Medium Battery, 1st Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, have been based at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Armadillo supporting British and Danish ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops as well as Afghan National Security Forces. The Aussie Gunners joined up with 19 Light Brigade in early April and in the first four months of their deployment the Australian Artillery troop engaged in 42 fire support missions and laid on numerous others, totalling 1,008 rounds fired in anger in support of Danish and British infantry units. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: Back to the grind - We had to report for an outbrief at 9am. The brief was about 30 minutes. We waited about an hour or so after the brief to take a bus over to the flight terminal. We were placed on a flight according to space available (stand-by) and in Alphabetical order. I missed 4 flights before my name came up. Didn't make it back to my room until 4am. Talk about a long day. They have to come up with a better way to get people places than to have them sit in a room for hours and hours waiting for a flight. Overall the trip was ok. It did the job it was supposed to do, but I thought it could have been better though. Maybe a slight increase on the 3 beer limit. I would recommend it to anyone over here who is interested. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Few More Conspiracies - Everyone is waiting patiently for the politicians to decide about the election law, which they keep postponing the vote on. They claim now the hitch is Kirkuk -- of course it is. Most people say that they don't believe the parliament will decide upon a new law, they will just claim that they could not reach an agreement and will have to go ahead with the elections with the existing election law. It means they get to keep their closed lists. We'll see. Otherwise, there have been some interesting theories about the suicide attack in Iran. The theories range from the British. Yes, who knows why they would get into suicide bombings. Another theory is, of course, the Americans bombed the Sunni-Shiite meeting. But the most predictable is that the Israelis did it. Why? Because they don't want the Sunnis and Shiites to get along. They don't want stability in the region. How did they get the suicider to commit murder on Israel's behalf? (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: War Wife Weekly: The Hubs Sends A Vignette - know. I am supposed to be the silently pining wife, checking the doorstep every day for that awful moment that no family member of a deployed soldier ever wants. My life is supposed to be like either a Norman Rockwell painting or that of a character in a TV sitcom living crisis-to-crisis complete with close-up moments. But being a milspouse is not quite that way. While we miss our loved ones a lot, in fact they cross our minds constantly, life goes on. And if I can be even more precise, life is good. The reactions I've had when people learn my husband is deployed have ranged from gratitude to verbal lashings, but the worst are those who become weepy. The reason I say it's the worst is that there's nothing I can say or do to convince them that we don't live our lives as though it were an impending tragedy. Getting on with life means learning that the dog can walk up to 90 minutes a day for several miles. (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: The Commute - The drive east on the interstate 70 turnpike is pretty common for people in Eastern Kansas. Residents of Lawrence and Topeka who work in Kansas City drive into the sun in the morning and again at night. I skirted around Kansas City proper, heading North on the 435 loop to Kansas City International Airport for a flight to Washington, DC. Kansas City is a hub for federal agencies. The flights to DC are always filled with politicians, bureacrats, lobbyists and lawyers. This Monday was no exception. I parked my car in the garage. Kinda pricey at $18 dollars a day, but it wouldn't be there long. A friend of mine was flying home from Seattle in the evening and would drive my car home. It worked out good for both of us, especially since I will not need my car until December when I get home from working in Iraq. Yeah, I have a long commute to the office. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan carefully advances in South Waziristan - The Pakistani Army is slowly marching to the heart of Taliban country in South Waziristan and has surrounded the home town of a dangerous Taliban commander. The military claimed 78 Taliban fighters and seven soldiers have been killed during the first three days of the operation, while the Taliban claimed 68 soldiers have been killed. Pakistani soldiers, backed by strike aircraft, attack helicopters, and artillery are advancing on the Taliban strongholds of Makeen and Ladha in the North and Saraogha in the Northeast. Troops from Ramzak are advancing on Makeen, soldiers from Wana and Shakai are moving on Ladha, and soldiers from Jandola are pushing towards Sararogha. More than 28,000 Pakistani troops and 10,000 Taliban fighters backed by thousands of foreign fighters are thought to be facing off in the mountainous region that has long been under the control of the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi forces detain Iranian Revolutionary Guards operative - Iraqi security forces detained an Iranian operative in southern Iraq in the latest operation designed to curb Iran's influence in the war-torn country. The Iraqi troops captured a weapons trafficker working for Qods Force, the covert external operations branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, during a raid in Basrah. "Iraqi security forces detained a wanted man in central Basrah," an official at Multinational Force Iraq told Voices of Iraq. "The man, a suspected member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, carries arms and munitions from a neighboring country into Iraq with the aim of backing the militias and armed groups." Iraqi security forces have detained four Iranian operatives since the beginning of October. On Oct. 1, the US military announced that Iraqi paramilitary police from the National Emergency Response Brigade arrested Khalid Masur Isma’il during a raid in the Shia slum of Sadr City. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 18 Oct 09 - ok so I have been here a little over a week now and I am finally in my permanent room, with internet…I also have a little tiny fridge, and a microwave…I have a tv but can’t seem to find any channels–gotta get with the lodging dude and find out which cable goes to the free AFN (Armed Forces Network) channels…my new “home” is actually a 20×8x8 foot ISO (International Standardization Organization) container–you know, those big metal boxes they have on cargo ships…it has been converted into a room–there are thousands of them stacked 2 or 3 high and welded together with staircases mounted to the sides and walk ways on the front…it’s actually a pretty nice inside…there are wood panel walls and a panel floor making it seem like a little studio apartment or something…I have a twin bed with drawers underneath, a couple little tables, and a wall locker/shelf unit…it’s a decent set up for this type of location… (READ MORE)

Bruce R: You want to know what I think? I'll tell you what I think - Back in mid 2007 I was told my Afghan tour would be as S2 for the Operational Mentoring and Liaison effort in Kandahar Province. I spent over a year reading everything ever written relevant to what the Americans called Foreign Internal Defense, and every personal memoir I could find of working with indigenous forces in both the insurgent and counterinsurgent role. Then for seven-and-a-half months* I worked embedded in an Afghan ANA Brigade HQ, at the time rated one of the best in Afghanistan, with daily contact with that brigade's intelligence staff and senior leadership. I figure I spent about 20% of my waking hours at Camp Hero, another 20% on operations in the city or the districts, and the rest inside the soul-destroying confines of KAF. At the end of my tour I got an extra half-a-medal because someone thought I'd done a better than average job in the role. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: The relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban: Friends with benefits? - A few days ago, karaka pend asked me whether or not it was worth the $35 to purchase War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age. I thought it was a great book, don't get me wrong, but I hate spending $35 for e-books, so I recommended not buying it. Another reader disagreed with me, stating that the book was well worth the money--but caveatted their response with the fact that some of the material in the book might already be common knowledge to some people. Now, I'll agree that much of the book reiterated information that I felt that I was already familiar with. That being said, War 2.0 (along with another book I've been into recently, In the Graveyard of Empires) does tackle a very important issue which has, until recently, been overlooked in the debate on Afghanistan: the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Double Header - Yesterday was a full day out and about in Mazar e Sharif. We visited both of the clinics we work with in the area. All told we spent about 3 hours travelling and 3 hours talking. As has become my rule, I did not exercise after wearing the Body Armor for 6 hours yesterday. The biggest treat for me was to be the TC, or Truck Commander for our MRAP. You definitely get a different perspective on the 20 tons of rolling thunder that is an MRAP when you get a better field of view. I called in some checkpoints and got to help turn some of the systems on or off. It wasn't really that much like commanding, since the Sergeant next to me who has run this route about 100 times kept prompting me what to do next. Nonetheless I was glad for the opportunity. I think more than anything the soldiers who run this patrol let me sit up front because I do ride with them so often and inevitably end up in the back. I did get some low quality photos of a typical day on the streets of Mazar e Sharif to share. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 20 Oct 09 - well, I am definitely back in Afghanistan– we got attacked last night…8-10 Mortar rounds and some small arms fire (AK-47)…no injuries, casualties, or any damage to anything (except maybe the bad guys’ egos)…I didn’t even wake up…the rounds landed outside the base down on the end of the base further away from where I stay–about a mile and a half from me…but, it’s just another day in Afghanistan…all operations continued as normal today…anyhoo, last night I got another instant message from some people passing thru that had nowhere to go and needed showers…so, I went to the USO and picked them, headed over to one of the other camps so they could hang out with some of our other training classmates…they also got to shower and freshen up over there…we ended up staying up BSing until about 0100…I was beat, maybe that’s why I didn’t wake up during the attack… (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Disputes over Kirkuk delay new election law - The thorny question of how to organize voting in the disputed province of Kirkuk is threatening to undermine the integrity of crucial national elections that the U.S. military hopes will pave the way for a mass drawdown of American troops. The Iraqi parliament today missed a second presumed deadline for passing an election law to regulate the poll, scheduled for January, because of the dispute over voting procedures in the oil-rich province, which is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans. (READ MORE)

Violence Threatens Barack Obama’s Pledge to Pull Troops Out of Iraq - President Obama’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq and end combat operations there by September 2010 is under threat because of increased levels of violence and bickering within the Iraqi parliament, the top US general in the country has told The Times. General Ray Odierno said that militant groups were likely to conduct a bloody campaign in the months ahead, as Iraqis prepare for national elections at the beginning of next year. “It’s clear that al-Qaeda and other groups do not want the elections to occur,” he said in an interview. (READ MORE)

Election Law Stalls in Iraqi Parliament - The Iraqi parliament failed for a second time Monday to vote on an election law crucial for organizing elections in January that will choose a new parliament and serve as a milestone in American plans to withdraw combat troops from the country. As is often the case in Iraq, deadlines come and go. But election officials face a logistical challenge ahead of the Jan. 16 vote, the first national election since 2005. They say they need the law passed now to give them roughly three months to prepare for the vote, although they could gain a week or two if the election is delayed. (READ MORE)

Army Cancels Brigade’s Iraq Deployment - An Army brigade slated to deploy to Iraq in January was relieved of its deployment orders this weekend without current plans for a new mission, Pentagon and Army officials said here today. The 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team was off-ramped by Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, because of the improved security situation there, and not to bolster forces in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. “This [decision] is based on General Odierno’s assessment of the security environment in Iraq,” Whitman explained. (READ MORE)

Washington Plays Host to Iraqis in Search of Investment - The Iraqi government, backed by the Obama administration, kicks off its biggest post-Saddam investment roadshow in Washington Tuesday, to convince American businesses to join the country's reconstruction efforts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is speaking at the opening day of the conference, which is considered to be the first major event under an agreement between the two countries that outlines their long-term relationship in economics, trade, education and culture. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Campus Is Under Gang’s Sway - Mustansiriya University, one of Iraq’s most prestigious universities, was temporarily closed this month by the prime minister in an effort to rid it of a shadowy student gang accused of murdering, torturing and raping fellow students, and killing professors and administrators. The decision to close the 24,000-student university in northeast Baghdad was made last week after members of the group, the Students League, beat and pistol-whipped Abdullah al-Bayati, 63, an education professor, on campus. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police search for members of terrorist network, arrest 7 - Iraqi Police arrested seven suspected terrorists today during three security operations in northern Iraq. Near Al Wajihijah, located approximately 75 km northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi Police, with U.S. advisors, arrested two suspects during a security operation targeting a suspected terrorist who is associated with key members of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq. While searching two buildings for the individual, the security team arrested two suspects based on incriminating evidence found at the scene. (READ MORE)

ISF releases former female suspect to family - Iraqi Security Forces, with U.S. advisors, returned an Iraqi woman initially identified as a terrorist financier to her family in the Salah ad-Din province Oct. 18. The woman fit the description of an individual warranted for arrest by the Central Investigative Court of Salah ad-Din. After the woman was detained, she was taken to a secure location with an escort who identified himself as a family member. The ISF allowed the family member to accompany her while they investigated her actual identity. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police arrest 5 in hunt for terrorist-network members - Iraqi Security Forces arrested five suspected terrorists today during three security operations conducted in northern Iraq. Near Bahiyah, located approximately 103 km northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi Police, with U.S. advisors, arrested one individual during a security operation targeting a suspected terrorist closely tied to key members of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq. After searching a building, the security team arrested one suspect based on incriminating evidence found at the scene. (READ MORE)

Reaping the benefits of strong relations - U.S. Soldiers here interact with the citizens of the Yusifiyah region every day to build stronger relationships and ensure the safety of the community. "This results in a peaceful community, with people living together in harmony," said Staff Sgt. Steve Matthews, civil affairs non-commissioned officer with B Troop, 1st Battalion, 150th Armor Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, from St. Louis, Mo. "The greatest benefit for me is to see a smile on a child's face when we give supplies to the children at their schools." (READ MORE)

Building progress north of Baghdad - The shift of U.S. forces out of Iraqi cities has created a new set of tasks for troops in the Iraqi countryside, and a newly-formed group is concentrating on infrastructure projects here. Combining the talents of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment's leadership with members of the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team North and the 1479th Civil Affairs Company to form a Project Working Group, the goal is to highlight projects that benefit the local populace. (READ MORE)

Deployed family members reunite in Iraq - Life in the Army is often marked by deployments that separate families. But that doesn't mean families on the Army team can't see each other downrange. Circumstances at Camp Liberty, here, Oct. 16, allowed a rare meeting between Maj. Richard Dennis, a 1st Cavalry Division military police officer, his father-in-law, Senon Valdilles Jr., a Department of Army civilian, and Valdilles' son, Spc. David Valdilles. All three know a thing or two about being separated because of deployments. (READ MORE)

Troops, Iraqi Police support schools - A recent humanitarian assistance mission by Iraqi Federal Police (FP) and U.S. Soldiers here, Oct. 12, gave Iraqi children basic school supplies for the new year. The 37th Engineer Battalion- Joint Task Force Eagle, based out of Fort Bragg N.C., joined the 6123 FP Training Team, based out of Fort Riley, Kan., and their FP counterparts to address the needs of school children in the area. The U.S./Iraqi mission was an opportunity for the FP to interact with the local population and contribute to their community. (READ MORE)

Pathfinders Bring Water to Muthanna Desert - The Muthanna province in southern Iraq is a vast area, sparsely populated and dominated by wide expanses of desert. Life here remains much the same as it has for centuries. Bedouin tribes herd camels while subsistence farmers scratch out a living in the harsh landscape. The people of Muthanna are particularly hard hit by geography, living near the end of river flows obstructed further north by dams constructed under the regime of Saddam Hussein and never restored to their former glory. Access to clean water, reliable power and health care are in short supply. (READ MORE)

Cav Medics Rush to Aid Local Man - In between the long, daily tasks associated with patrolling the dangerous areas north of Baghdad, U.S. troops of have added another way to accomplish their mission of protecting the people of Iraq by saving lives along the Baghdad-Mosul highway. "Our joint security station sits right on top of one of the busiest roads in all of Iraq," said Capt. Johnathan Westbrook, commander for Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "The locals call it the Baghdad-Mosul Highway." (READ MORE)

Afghanistan sets date for run-off vote - Afghan President Hamid Karzai will face a run-off vote against challenger Abdullah Abdullah after neither candidate received more than 50 percent of votes in the Aug. 20 first round, election officials said on Tuesday. "It will go to a second round on November 7th. The reason was Karzai's vote was 49.67 and could not reach above 50 percent," said Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for Afghanistan's government-appointed Independent Election Commission. (READ MORE)

Pakistani troops kill over 70 militants - The Pakistani security forces have killed at least 78 militants as they continued their push into the Taliban heartland in South Waziristan Monday, the army said. At least nine soldiers were killed and 35 others wounded since the new operation Rah-e-Nijat was launched in northwest Pakistan Saturday. Major General Athar Abbas, director general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), said 18 insurgents and two soldiers were killed Monday in South Waziristan. Twelve security personnel were also injured. (READ MORE)

In Pakistan, who will win the war? - Thousands of troops are all set to launch a major military offensive against the increasingly aggressive Taliban in a do-or-die war that appears to have united Pakistan like never before against the Islamist outlaws. As Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar still reel from the spate of audacious terror strikes, nearly 30,000 troops are moving towards the lawless South Waziristan region close to Afghanistan for Operation 'Rah-i-Nijat' (Road to Deliverance). (READ MORE)

Pak double game: Army strikes deal with anti-US Taliban militants in Waziristan - The United States may have been very proactive about the Waziristan offensive, but the Pakistani military seems to be defying Washington by striking a deal with two anti-US Taliban militants, who have been involved in attacking NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan. The deal, under which Pakistani forces have agreed not to attack areas controlled by Taliban renegades Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, is set make the offensive less effective than the U.S. had hoped for, The News reports.(READ MORE)

South Punjab residents fear Taliban infiltration post offensive - Following the launch of the Pakistani Army's offensive against militants in South Waziristan, people living in the tribal region of Southern Punjab are panic-stricken over the prospects of fleeing Taliban militants infiltrating into their areas. "Taliban may take refuge in the tribal areas of Southern Punjab in the aftermath of the army Operation in SWA. Rangers should be deputed in the areas to combat any possible infiltration of Taliban escaping from the troubled area of SWA," The Nation quoted tribal elders, as saying. (READ MORE)

US rejects Pakistani charges on India's role in Afghanistan - The US has questioned Pakistan's allegation that India's massive developmental efforts in Afghanistan pose a security threat to it, saying on the contrary a stable and more prosperous Afghanistan will only contribute to regional stability. 'I don't see how helping Afghanistan develop its economy and its infrastructure could be seen as a security threat to any other country in the region,' State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Monday. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan will have second vote - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to a second round vote after a UN commission threw out nearly a third of the ballots cast for him in the August 20th election. Karzai, under heavy US pressure, has been thanked by US President Barack Obama for "ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will." In a statement, Mr Obama said the constructive actions by President Karzai would establish an important precedent for Afghanistan's new democracy. (READ MORE)

Battle intensifies as Taliban retakes Pakistani town - Taliban militants attacked Pakistani forces and recaptured a strategic town today on the approach to an insurgent base in South Waziristan, security officials said. Government forces captured the small town of Kotkai, the birthplace of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, in fighting last night, but militants struck back today to retake it, security officials said. The fighting for control of lawless South Waziristan is a major test of the Government's ability to tackle an increasingly brazen insurgency that has seen a string of attacks in various parts of the country. (READ MORE)

Germans thrust into "war" in perilous Afghan north - German Lieutenant Jens U. marvels at how violent this lush corner of northern Afghanistan has become since his first deployment to the region in 2006. Back then, Taliban fighters were a rare sight. His platoon could drive through the dusty streets of Kunduz and the green valley that surrounds it in lightly-armored jeeps, without worrying too much about their safety. "In those days, our only concern was cattle-herders who were paid to shoot off the odd rocket-propelled grenade in our direction," said the 27-year old platoon leader, whose full name the German military did not want used. (READ MORE)

Afghan election runoff set for Nov. 7 - Afghanistan's election commission Tuesday ordered a Nov. 7 runoff in the disputed presidential poll after a fraud investigation dropped incumbent Hamid Karzai's votes below 50 percent of the total. Karzai accepted the finding and agreed to a second round vote. The announcement came two months to the day after the first round vote and follows weeks of political uncertainty at a time when Taliban strength is growing. President Obama commended Mr. Karzai's decision. (READ MORE)

All Due Respect - Generals and Presidents - President Obama and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s relationship for a brief moment seemed to resemble the Truman-MacArthur dynamic: a field general incommunicado with his civilian superior, the general requesting additional support and resources to steer the war, and a president who does not immediately want to commit to a decision even if he is accused of being soft on an “ism,” terrorism, in President Obama’s case. While the historical analogy is an amusing mental exercise, it is not apt in this case as the dynamics and details are dissimilar in many aspects. (READ MORE)

As the Commander in Chief Deliberates, Frustration Builds Within the Ranks - Only nine months ago, the Pentagon pronounced itself reassured by the early steps of a new commander in chief. President Obama was moving slowly on an American withdrawal from Iraq, had retained former President George W. Bush’s defense secretary and, in a gesture much noticed, had executed his first military salute with crisp precision. But now, after nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military. (READ MORE)

Fraud Panel Throws Out Votes in Afghan Election - The UN-backed commission investigating reports of fraud in the Afghan presidential poll has ordered the country's election officials to invalidate results at 210 polling stations. Diplomatic sources in Kabul say they believe the findings set the stage for a second round of voting. The Electoral Complaints Commission says it found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" after its nearly two-month-long investigation into Afghanistan's August 20 poll. In its report, the Commission says some polling stations had what it described as "uniform markings" on all of the ballots that were submitted. (READ MORE)

Hamid Karzai Faces Another Ballot After 1m Votes Ruled Out - President Karzai was under intense pressure last night to accept a deal with his main opponent or a second round of voting in Afghanistan’s disputed election after UN-backed observers declared more than a million first-round votes invalid. Sources at the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) confirmed that its two-month inquiry had found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud”, reducing Mr Karzai’s share of the vote from 55 to 48 per cent - and requiring a run-off ballot under Afghan law. (READ MORE)

Karzai Expected to Agree to Runoff - Obama administration officials said they expect Afghan President Hamid Karzai to announce Tuesday that he will accept a runoff in his country's disputed election, after the invalidation of nearly a million of his votes by the commission investigating fraud in the Aug. 20 race. The findings by the UN-backed International Complaints Commission, released Monday after two months of political turmoil, stripped Karzai of nearly a third of his tally. (READ MORE)

Afghan Leader Said to Accept Runoff After Election Audit - Under heavy international pressure, President Hamid Karzai appears set to concede as early as Tuesday that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation’s disputed presidential election, but the path to ensuring that the country has credible leadership remains uncertain, American and European officials said Monday. The officials said Mr. Karzai was moving toward accepting the findings of an international audit that stripped him of nearly a third of his votes in the first round, leaving him below the 50 percent threshold that would have allowed him to avoid a runoff and declare victory over his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Continues Waziristan Offensive - Pakistan's military says an anti-Taliban ground assault backed by air support is progressing well in the mountainous region near the Afghan border. Officials say that at least 78 insurgents and nine soldiers have died since the offensive was launched on Saturday. The fighting is taking place as USCentral Command Chief David Peraeus and Senator John Kerry held talks with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad. Pakistani authorities say the "decisive military" offensive is targeting insurgents in the South Waziristan tribal region where al-Qaida and Taliban militants have set up terrorist training facilities for staging attacks in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

As Pakistan Makes Gains, Resistance From Taliban - The Pakistani Army said Monday that it was progressing in its push into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, but it acknowledged that it was meeting strong resistance. The military began the much anticipated offensive against Taliban militants over the weekend, with about 28,000 troops backed by artillery and fighter jets moving into the region from three directions. After three days of fighting, army troops had taken control of important tactical heights overlooking the town of Kotkai, which is the home of Qari Hussain,... (READ MORE)

Pakistan Says Offensive is Gaining Ground - Pakistani soldiers surrounded militant hideouts and seized heavy weapons in the Taliban-riddled hills of South Waziristan on Monday, military officials said. On the third day of a major ground and air offensive to root out Islamist insurgents, officials said, the army faced pockets of stiff resistance that included rocket fire. But they said they were making progress, killing 18 fighters in a tribal region that Pakistan says is home to plotters of a recent series of deadly domestic assaults. The United States considers South Waziristan a haven for militants attacking international forces in Afghanistan and planning attacks overseas. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Targets Mehsud Hometown - Pakistani forces closed in on the hometown of the Pakistan Taliban's leader Monday, pursuing an offensive into the South Waziristan tribal region while swarms of refugees streamed out of the area. The long-awaited invasion is aimed at dismantling a Taliban mini-state in a region that has become a base for al Qaeda and a magnet for jihadis. US officials have said they are providing surveillance and intelligence feeds to support the effort. The Waziristan offensive against the Pakistan Taliban, which began over the weekend, has eased a controversy between Islamabad and Washington over a $7.5 billion US aid package. (READ MORE)

Gates to Press Asia, NATO for More Afghanistan Support - As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates travels this week to Japan and South Korea before heading to a NATO defense ministers conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, he’s expected to ensure the issue of support for Afghanistan remains solidly on front burner. In a break from the frequent national defense team sessions President Barack Obama has called in recent weeks as he reevaluates the US strategy in Afghanistan, Gates will be on the road this week, shoring up long-standing alliances. (READ MORE)

‘You Have Atomic Bombs, but We Have Suicide Bombers.’ - He explained that under a cease-fire agreement between the Taliban and the army, all civilians were required to get out of their cars when an army convoy approached. For Taliban vehicles, though, only the driver had to get out. The practice, I realized, allowed the Taliban to hide kidnapping victims and foreign militants from the Pakistani Army. That morning, Badruddin arrived at the house in Miram Shah where I was being held with Tahir Luddin, an Afghan journalist, and Asad Mangal, our driver. (READ MORE)

Endurance Test - When it comes to Afghanistan, hawks back Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 or more troops while doves try to parse the distinctions between the Taliban and Al Qaeda to justify rejecting his view and eventually heading for the exit. Right? No, wrong. I’m a hawk on Afghanistan but for that reason I’m skeptical of a major troop surge because it might bolster the view that there’s a quick fix for a country that’s the fifth poorest in the world, enjoys life expectancy of 44, and has been lacerated by three decades of war. (READ MORE)

The Slowly Vanishing NATO - There is almost no sense anywhere that the war in Afghanistan is an international operation, or that the stakes and goals are international, or that the soldiers on the ground represent anything other than their own national flags and national armed forces: Most of the war's European critics want to know why their boys are fighting "for the Americans," not for NATO. Most of the American critics dismiss the European contribution as useless or ignore it altogether. (READ MORE)

The Battle for Pakistan - Rising violence, targeted and random, has become a fact of life in Pakistan today. It threatens the country's political and economic future - and there still does not appear to be a strategy to stop it. The fledgling civilian government, composed of a weak coalition of opportunistic parties, has conceded to the military responsibility for organizing campaigns against insurgents who have set off a wave of attacks across the nation over the past two weeks. The latest military campaign in South Waziristan, launched Saturday, is a good example of the disconnect between the government and the military. (READ MORE)

Lone Medic - A logistics convoy was driving across the desert, Oct. 13, to resupply Afghan and American soldiers at Forward Operating Base Atghar in the remote Atghar District of Afghanistan's Zabul province. An Afghan route clearance patrol from 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps led the way, followed by a combined force of Afghan soldiers, police, and American Paratroopers from 4th Brigade Combat Team (Task Force Fury), 82nd Airborne Division serving as combat advisors. (READ MORE)

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