October 22, 2009

From the Front: 10/22/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Are you my cousin? - As fate would have it, we traveled half way around the world to meet, not realizing we may be related. Such was the case today, when my team traveled to Camp Phoenix to clear our special project account and replenish our funds. The morning started early for the Captain and I as we woke up before anyone on the team. The air was rather brisk as we loaded several mattresses into the back of a beat-up Ford Ranger. We transported them to ANA land and loaded them on the 7-ton trucks. These trucks were heading south and we saw an opportunity to provide mattresses to our ETT team in southern Logar. They have been sleeping on cots since they arrived on the ANA installation. The US FOB next door is unable to support them. Our challenge this morning was conveying our intentions to the ANA without an interpreter. Some of the ANA soldiers speak rudimentary English and much better than our Dari. (READ MORE)

Anna Husarska: The human cost - There has been such expectation and speculation over Pakistan's latest anti-Taliban campaign in South Waziristan that the start of major operations has the feel of something long overdue. Comment and reports by local and international media have focused on troop strength, tactics, and body counts. But those of us who have been working in humanitarian aid in the region recall the human and specifically civilian cost of similar operations in Pakistan's north-western tribal areas exactly one year ago. Last month I met internally displaced persons from Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies (i.e. areas) still stuck in camps outside Peshawar. Those campaigns went largely unannounced and without remark and their real cost is difficult to estimate, as few if any humanitarian agencies have access to the tribal lands along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But destruction was widespread, most people lost everything: (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: R2D2 Tales - Well, it’s pretty bad when you see your job being replace by robots. The pilot is rapidly becoming obsolete. It’s a new era. The Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) and Unmanned Piloted Systems (UPS). New acronyms are coming out daily. They have fixed wing platforms (Predators, Global Hawk), and now rotor wing models (Fire Scouts). They come in all shapes and sizes, from Ravens that are hand launch-able to the big Global Hawks, which are as big as regular aircraft. Little known factoid, the Air Force produced more UAV pilots (oxymoron) last year than they produced real pilots. It’s the wave of the future. Some of these vehicles can stay airborne for more than 24 hrs. They switch out operators to cover that long of a stretch. To add insult to injury – waiting for a UAV to take off…. it just kind’ a slaps you in your face. Some are remotely piloted from all the way back in the states. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Military Kids are Unsung Heroes - A few years ago, I interviewed several military students for an article I was doing for that year’s Month of the Military Child coverage. I was curious about how they felt about the frequent moves, long separations from loved ones and the adjustment to new schools. To be honest, I expected to be showered with a litany of complaints and problems. I wouldn’t blame them at all. My family had moved several times before I was 11. That last move was the worst. I was the new kid starting sixth grade — middle school — and still today, I get shivers down my spine thinking about it. I’m sure I’m not alone on that one. So, when I met these children and teens, I expected to hear the worst. I ended up shocked, and immensely impressed with the way they handled the challenges of military family life. One then-senior’s dad was deployed to Afghanistan and would be missing his son’s prom, high school graduation and departure to college. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: In Helmand, a model for success? - Before a battalion of U.S. Marines swooped into this dusty farming community along the Helmand River in early July, almost every stall in the bazaar had been padlocked, as had the school and the health clinic. Thousands of residents had fled. Government officials and municipal services were nonexistent. Taliban fighters swaggered about with impunity, setting up checkpoints and seeding the roads with bombs. In the three months since the Marines arrived, the school has reopened, the district governor is on the job and the market is bustling. The insurgents have demonstrated far less resistance than U.S. commanders expected. Many of the residents who left are returning home, their possessions piled onto rickety trailers, and the Marines deem the central part of the town so secure that they routinely walk around without body armor and helmets. "Nawa has returned from the dead," said the district administrator, Mohammed Khan. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Danish troops close off the battle zone for Brit allies - Danish and British commanders met frequently during Operation Ring of Steel, coordinating the course of the fight. "The British are polite people, but also we could feel the real respect for us rise as they gradually saw what our units are capable of achieving," says a Danish officer. An important phase in Operation Ring of Steel was recently concluded. Platoons of Danish 2 Light Recce Squadron have been in numerous firefights with the Taliban during the past weeks. The battles have been hard fought and there have been casualties on both sides of the front. But together with British and other allies they have stood their ground, the soldiers from Bornholm, an island in the Baltic Ocean and the most eastern part of Denmark. The islanders took part in laying an iron circle around an isolated pocket of Talibs. The enemy has been clearly aggravated and annoyed with this. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Jumble of News from Home - I just checked the on-line box score and my oldest daughter's college soccer team lost again today. Not a great season so far and it's almost over. I haven't talked to Lauren today, but she is a tough competitor, always fights to win, and won a lot of games from Junior High School through graduation. Defeat will give her a chance to learn the grace that only loss can teach, but I wish she were learning this grace another way. My other two daughters were home last weekend, Iolanthe brought her boyfriend Devon to Lancaster and they went to the Renaissance Faire as did Lisa and her Mom. I am looking forward to going back next year. While they were home, Lisa and Iolanthe both tried to play a new drum riff that Nigel had learned. Neither could play it so Nigel demonstrated how to do it. He was happy to show them his new skill and they were very entertained by their brother and his increased ability. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: New Alliance - The new alliance announced by Jawad Bolani is being well received by Iraqis. Many are impressed with the names who joined in. Unlike Nouri Al Maliki's alliance, which has no big names, Bolani's has Abu Risha and Samarrai, as well as others of note. The conversations about the upcoming elections all appear to have one thing in common: the politicians are all talking about the unity of Iraq and an end to sectarianism. The politicians must sense that this is what Iraqis want and that's why they keep talking unity. So what happened to all the so-called experts who have been saying that Iraqis hate each other and long to live apart? My cousin says the Iraqis tasted sectarianism and hated it. They voted for the religious parties and hated the results. If the politicians ever get their act together, the elections will take place in January. Maybe the Iraqis really will vote secular the way they did in the last elections. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda commander reported killed in US airstrike - The US airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan may have killed a senior al Qaeda operative. But the reports may be confusing one of al Qaeda's senior-most leaders with a senior explosives trainer and expert. The attack, launched earlier today at a compound in Spalaga near Mir Ali, killed three al Qaeda operatives, according to Pakistani intelligence officials. The report changed much later in the day, when Pakistani officials claimed an explosion inside the compound, and not a US strike, caused the deaths. But US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal confirmed that the US carried out the attack inside Pakistan. The officials said Pakistan changed the story from a Predator strike to a detonation inside the house because the attack occurred in North Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Thomas Joscelyn: Another former Gitmo detainee killed in a shootout - On Oct. 13, a former Guantanamo detainee named Yousef Mohammed al Shihri was killed in a shootout at a checkpoint along the Saudi-Yemeni border. Al Shihri and his accomplices were stopped by Saudi security forces after their suspicious behavior drew attention. Two of the travelers, including al Shihri, were reportedly dressed as women. Saudi security personnel decided to search the al Qaeda car and its passengers, but al Shihri and the others opened fire. Al Shihri and one other al Qaeda member were killed in the shootout, while a third was arrested. One Saudi security officer was also killed. Al Shihri’s death comes just weeks after one of his al Qaeda colleagues, Fahd Saleh Suleiman al Jutayli , was similarly killed in a shootout between the Yemeni Army and Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. Shortly thereafter, Al Shihri called his family in Saudi Arabia to tell them of al Jutayli’s death and to ask them to inform al Jutayli’s family. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Sunday in the Park with George - As our days here in Iraq start to dwindle I’ve been spending some time reflecting on our work schedule during our time running the Media Operations Center. It’s been a vicious cycle of steady work interspersed with bouts of sheer madness and sessions of inescapable boredom. This is definitely a theater of operations on its way out the door…but that’s a good thing. My job here has been relatively steady…as the commander EVERYTHING this unit does is my responsibility, which is why I was careful a year ago to ensure that I had officers and senior NCOs who could do their job. So, what’s a typical week like for me? Here goes… Monday: This is the day where I tackle all of the things that I, uh, postponed over the weekend. Time to read through the emails sent over the weekend, tasking us to do this or that, catch up on other emails, and generally get caught up on paperwork. I have one meeting at 1700 (5 p.m. for you non-military types) at the DSTB. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Karkh Area Command Graduates First Class of Strike Team Soldiers - Sixty-nine Iraqi Army Soldiers stood at attention on the parade field at al-Muthana Air Base, here, Oct. 19, during a graduation ceremony for the first class of the Karkh Area Command Strike Team. IA Soldiers from six different units, that formed the new team, trained together for six weeks under the tutelage of combat advisors from the U.S. Air Force, special operations, the KAC Advisory Team, and D Troop, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. Training focused on movement and weapons skills, advanced small unit tactics, mounted combat patrols, intelligence gathering, explosives ordinance disposal, and physical fitness training, which culminated in a combat patrol in west Rashid. “This is the first class of the Strike Team that will eventually number over 400 Soldiers,” said Capt. John Stires, of Palatine, Ill., the KAC Advisory Team operations officer. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: When "T" Turns to "P" - Yesterday over at the MoD, we were on our way back to USS EGGERS (LHD-1369) when we got diverted to swing by another office to pick up some documents. I had just been to two meetings, which works out to two or more cups of tea. The chai was well advanced on the journey to its inevitable destination by that time. I made a quick assessment that I couldn't take a third cup without significant discomfort. However, the porcelain conveniences at the MoD are notoriously primitive. I turned to my 'terp and said in Dari, "R---, where is the bathroom?" "Sir," he replied in a tone he might have used to prevent me from walking up to an IED, "can't you wait??" "Neh. It cannot be denied." "If you must, it is there--" indicating a dank room off the corridor. As if the smell didn't give it away. "Please be cautious. It is not good." Mustering more courage than I thought I possessed, I proceeded. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: If you don’t want flies… - A wise man told me “if you don’t want flies, don’t put out the honey.” He also told me that my brown army t-shirt was like a baby doll tee and I should wear my army top over it at all times… if I want to keep the creep guy next door away. It started when I was introduced to the old guy next door, because he’s from the South. Southern people like to know they have other Southerners nearby. Every time I pass him, I say Hi, ask how he’s doing – small talk. Our relationship changed drastically last week when Barney thought it’d be fun to embarrass me, which he often likes to do. When we walked up to the office, the old guy was outside with a friend. They told us the electricity was off and without missing a beat, Barney said “that’s because king plugged her vibrator into the wall.” (he also said I had anal beads in front of the Command Sergeant Major… thanks, barney) (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: More From The "No Shit" Category - My fellow Marines continue to lead the way down in Helmand: Before a battalion of U.S. Marines swooped into this dusty farming community along the Helmand River in early July, almost every stall in the bazaar had been padlocked, as had the school and the health clinic. Thousands of residents had fled. Government officials and municipal services were nonexistent. Taliban fighters swaggered about with impunity, setting up checkpoints and seeding the roads with bombs. In the three months since the Marines arrived, the school has reopened, the district governor is on the job and the market is bustling. The insurgents have demonstrated far less resistance than U.S. commanders expected. Many of the residents who left are returning home, their possessions piled onto rickety trailers, and the Marines deem the central part of the town so secure that they routinely walk around without body armor and helmets. "Nawa has returned from the dead," said the district administrator, Mohammed Khan. (READ MORE)

The Torch: "Canadian officer: Yes to McChrystal, and here's why"/President watch - I've been reading an unusually candid report on the Afghan war a Canadian military intelligence officer delivered earlier this month in Ottawa. Capt. G.B. Rolston, who served in Kandahar from September 2008 to April of this year, offers several striking observations about the state of the war that go a long way toward explaining why the current approach has been so unproductive. They also speak to the crucial question of why Gen. McChrystal's proposals are about much more than just adding more troops and in fact amount to a call for radical change in the conduct of the war. Welcome to an Afghan army brigade headquarters: "The table is [the brigade commander's] CP. His cellphone is their primary comms link. The G2 is off somewhere playing chess with a source, the G3 is driving around the city by himself looking for troops to jack up and the G4 is taking a nap. Most of the rest of the headquarters are off playing cards or chess or watching Bollywood videos on a cellphone." (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: DEBUNKING THE AFGHAN BOGEY MAN - President Obama is on the verge of making a policy decision on the future strategy of the COIN fight in Afghanistan. Before looking at a possible strategy, I think we should take a hard look at Afghanistan and sacrifice a sacred cow that we all took as gospel. Afghanistan has been called the “graveyard of empires.” That is some impressive IO phrase. It makes us fear failure in Afghanistan because it foreshadows the collapse of the whole western world -- not just Afghanistan. As scary as that prospect is, this specter is a figment of our imagination. I think what is never mentioned is that the greatest empire that went to grave was the Afghan Empire itself. The British themselves smashed the Afghan Empire when, in 1837, it formed an alliance with the Sikhs in order to prevent the Afghans from retaking its former empire which went to Peshawar and Quetta. Thanks to the British, the sun would permanently set on the Afghan Empire, never to rise again. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Parliament admits failure in effort to pass election law - The Iraqi parliament acknowledged failure in its efforts to pass an election law today and referred the issue to the Political Council for National Security, an informal advisory body comprising all the heads of the major political blocs. The move seems certain to delay at least until next week an agreement on the new law needed to regulate nationwide elections due to be held on Jan. 16, putting at risk the date of the election. (READ MORE)

Open for Business - A milestone in the war in Iraq passed this week largely unnoticed here in a capital consumed more recently by Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, not to mention the economy or health care. Hundreds of Iraqi officials — said to be the largest delegation from Iraq ever to visit the United States — gathered in a hotel near Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss neither security nor American troop levels. Rather they came to promote something that was once, and might still be, more of a hope than a reality: investment. (READ MORE)

Oregon soldiers help secure the perimeters at Camp Victory in Iraq - Here's what separates inside from out at this massive U.S. military base near Baghdad International Airport: an array of badges, biometric checks, body scans, explosive-sniffing dogs, X-rays, blast walls, pop-up barriers, handbag searches, surveillance cameras, no-nonsense conversations with Ugandan contractors -- and soldiers of the Oregon Army National Guard. "The TSA has nothing on this ECP," says Capt. Brandon Ditto of Salem, responsible for two ECPs, or entry control points, at the base. In other words: the U.S. Transportation Safety Agency can only dream of using all the military's tools to screen air passengers. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Lawmakers Fail to Agree on New Election Law - Iraq's parliament again has failed to agree on a new electoral law for the January parliamentary election, raising fears that the vote may have to be delayed. The United Nations special envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, warned on Wednesday that further delays could undermine both the date and the credibility of the election. Lawmakers again failed to vote on the agreement Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Stalemate in Parliament Could Delay Iraq Elections - The Iraqi Parliament announced Wednesday that it had reached a stalemate over drafting an election law. That could well delay the election, scheduled for Jan. 16, and might even slow down the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. While the United States is looking for credible elections in Afghanistan, possibly to justify sending more troops there, in Iraq it is looking for credible elections to justify removing more troops. (READ MORE)

Election Delay May Slow US Troop Drawdown - US commanders may have to slow the pace of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq if Baghdad delays national elections scheduled for Jan. 16 or if other political instability develops, senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday. A more protracted drawdown of the 120,000 troops now in Iraq would not prevent President Obama from boosting the number of US troops in Afghanistan, but it could increase stress on American ground forces: (READ MORE)

In Iraq, Battling an Internal Bane - After helping to stanch a stubborn insurgency and harrowing sectarian fighting, security forces in Baghdad now worry they could face a challenge no less difficult: their own men. A recent spate of high-profile crimes, including a brazen and violent robbery of Baghdad jewelry shops thought to have involved police collusion, has forced Interior Ministry officials to confront head-on the corruption within the ranks of the 663,000-strong security forces. (READ MORE)

Iraq Drawdown on Track, Policy Chief Says - Although much work remains to draw down the US troop presence in Iraq, Pentagon officials told Congress here today the Defense Department is well on schedule to meet President Barack Obama’s withdrawal timeline. Obama announced in February plans for a responsible drawdown of forces in Iraq. His plan, in accordance with the US-Iraq security agreement signed in 2008, called for U.S. forces there to cede operations within city limits by June 30 and ultimately transition into an assistance and advisory force for the Iraqis. (READ MORE)

Al Qaim SWAT arrest suspect in Iraqi Police murder - The Al Qaim Special Weapons and Tactics unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspect in an Iraqi Police murder Oct. 19 based on a warrant issued by the Republic of Iraq Higher Judicial Council Magistrate Court. According to the arrest warrant, the suspect is also accused of having al Qaeda in Iraq ties and involvement with insurgent activity. SWAT officers ensured the safety of the women and children while questioning took place. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest suspected father, son terrorists - Iraqi Security Forces, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested two suspected terrorists in the Salah ad-Din province under the authority of warrants issued by the Government of Iraq Oct. 16. The ISF arrested Diyah Adib Hassan Albu Nassir in his home in Bayji with a warrant issued by the Federal Appellate Court of Salah ad-Din. Nassir’s son, Farhan Diyah Adib Hassan Albu Nassir, was found in the home and arrested after it was determined there was also a warrant for his arrest. (READ MORE)

3rd ESU captures suspected Kirkuk VBIED-network member - The 3rd Emergency Services Unit arrested a suspected member of Kirkuk’s al-Qaeda in Iraq network today in an area located approximately 50 km southwest of Kirkuk. The arrested individual allegedly belongs to a terrorist organization responsible for vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks throughout the region. The security team, with U.S. advisors, found and arrested an individual, based on a warrant, after conducting a search of several buildings. (READ MORE)

Information Black Hole - Before the Pakistani military launched its offensive against Taliban militants in the rugged tribal region of South Waziristan, Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, the powerful Pakistani army chief, called the region an “intelligence black hole.” For journalists — from both the print and electronic media — the region is also close to an “information black hole.” (READ MORE)

Attention Intensifies on Afghan War Strategy - Now that Afghan election officials have agreed to a presidential runoff vote on November 7, attention will intensify on US President Barack Obama's difficult decision about whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama has been waiting for the election dispute to be resolved before announcing his new war strategy. As the fighting continues to rage, US officials stated repeatedly the election process had to be settled before President Barack Obama could make a reasoned decision about sending additional troops and resources to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Obama: Troop Decision Possible Before Afghan Run-off - US President Barack Obama says he may make a decision on a revised Afghan strategy before that country's run-off presidential election on November 7. But Mr. Obama also says an announcement may wait until after the votes are in. The president makes clear he believes the situation in Afghanistan is still fluid. In an interview with NBC television he hinted there might be twists and turns ahead. Mr. Obama was asked if the run-off could delay the release of his revised strategy for Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Collaboration Drives Afghan Strategy Review, Gates Says - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today praised a close collaboration between the military and the White House in examining the US strategy in Afghanistan, dismissing news reports of a rift. “These stories may make good reading, but they are not a reflection of reality,” Gates said here in response to a question during a joint news conference with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa. Gates cited a “very close, collaborative effort” between military officers, including commanders in the field, and civilian government leaders who meet on an almost daily basis as part of President Barack Obama’s strategic review. (READ MORE)

Afghan Election Officials Consider Options to Address Fraud Before Runoff - Officials in Afghanistan are working to organize the second round of nationwide presidential voting, scheduled in about two weeks. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the media the United Nations wants to replace more than half of the 380 district election heads in Afghanistan, in order to make the runoff on November 7th more credible. But UN spokesman Aleem Siddique tells VOA from Kabul that staffing is just one of the many things Afghan election officials have to consider in the coming weeks. (READ MORE)

Changes Needed to Avoid Repeat of Afghan Vote Fraud, Says Abdullah - The man who stands between Hamid Karzai and a second term in office as President said yesterday he was ready for the run-off vote but demanded major changes to avoid the “widespread, massive fraud” that bedevilled the first round of voting. Addressing the media in the garden of his Kabul home, Abdullah Abdullah - former eye surgeon, Mujahidin commander and Afghan Foreign Minister - cut a relaxed figure, in contrast to the strained appearance of Mr Karzai less than 24 hours earlier as he conceded that he had not won the outright majority needed to claim a first-round win. (READ MORE)

Afghan President's Leading Rival Agrees to Runoff - One day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai reluctantly agreed to a runoff election, his top rival followed suit Wednesday, paving the way for a rematch between the embattled incumbent and his polished former foreign minister. But even as this country appeared to avert a constitutional crisis, political aides and electoral experts acknowledged that daunting obstacles remain in preparing for the Nov. 7 vote - including the possibility of Taliban intimidation or violence: (READ MORE)

Karzai Rival Prepares for Afghan Runoff Vote - Abdullah Abdullah, the chief rival to President Hamid Karzai, said Wednesday that he was preparing for a runoff to decide the disputed election here. But he left open the possibility that he might join a coalition with Mr. Karzai that would make a new round of voting unnecessary. The prospect of a coalition government seemed remote here on Wednesday. After an initial burst of interest, Mr. Karzai and Mr. Abdullah were unable to reach any kind of agreement, Afghan and Western officials said. (READ MORE)

Security Fears Revive Ahead - The Afghan government, international forces - and the Taliban - began preparations for the Nov. 7 presidential runoff, even as Western officials also continued advocating a power-sharing compromise to avoid the problems of a second round of voting. President Hamid Karzai's rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, said Wednesday he has held conversations with President Barack Obama and Mr. Karzai, but he said no power-sharing deal with the incumbent was discussed. "Right now we're focusing on the elections," Dr. Abdullah said. (READ MORE)

In Helmand, a Model for Success? - Before a battalion of US Marines swooped into this dusty farming community along the Helmand River in early July, almost every stall in the bazaar had been padlocked, as had the school and the health clinic. Thousands of residents had fled. Government officials and municipal services were nonexistent. Taliban fighters swaggered about with impunity, setting up checkpoints and seeding the roads with bombs. In the three months since the Marines arrived, the school has reopened, the district governor is on the job and the market is bustling. (READ MORE)

Efforts Aim to Get Taliban Off Battlefield in Afghanistan - New efforts aimed at persuading low-level Taliban fighters to lay down their arms have become the centerpiece of US and Afghan government strategy as the White House debates whether to boost troop levels there. Officials are looking at programs that will provide jobs and training so insurgents have a reason to leave the battlefield. "From the president on down there is a belief that this is an essential part of succeeding in Afghanistan," said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (READ MORE)

Australia Eyes Early Afghanistan Withdrawal - The Australian government has asked military commanders to find ways to complete their missions in Afghanistan as soon as possible. The announcement is being seen as a clear hint that Canberra may pull its 1,500 troops out of Afghanistan earlier than expected. Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner has asked military chiefs to recommend how their forces can complete their tasks swiftly, and prepare for an eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan. Australia has the largest non-NATO troop presence in the troubled country. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Continues Waziristan Offensive, Closes Schools - Pakistani helicopter gunships attacked Taliban strongholds near the Afghan border Wednesday on the fifth day of an offensive in the tribal region of South Waziristan. Officials say troops are facing fierce resistance as they fight to gain control of Kotkai, the hometown of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud. Pakistan's army says about 115 militants and 16 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began. There is no independent confirmation of the tolls, as the region is closed to outsiders and no journalists are traveling with Pakistani troops. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Brigadier Assassinated in the Capital - Two assailants on a motorbike fired on a Pakistani Army jeep amid heavy rush-hour traffic Thursday morning, killing a brigadier and his driver, a security official said. The assassination of the brigadier, Moinudin Ahmed, was believed to be the first targeted attack on a senior military officer in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and also suggested a new tactic in the ongoing war between the government and Islamist militants. Until now, the military has been able to mostly move freely through the capital. (READ MORE)

A Rope and a Prayer - I stood in the bathroom of the Taliban compound and waited for my colleague to appear in the courtyard so we could make our escape. My heart pounded. A three-foot-tall swamp cooler - an antiquated version of an air-conditioner - roared in the yard a few feet in front of me. I feared that the guards who were holding us hostage might wake up and stop us. I feared even more that our captivity would drag on for years. was 1 a.m. on Saturday, June 20, in Miram Shah, the capital of the North Waziristan tribal agency in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

There’s No Substitute for Troops on the Ground - “I hope people who say this war is unwinnable see stories like this. This is what winning in a counterinsurgency looks like.” Lt. Col. William F. McCollough, commander of the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, is walking me around the center of Nawa, a poor, rural district in southern Afghanistan’s strategically vital Helmand River Valley. His Marines, who now number more than 1,000, arrived in June to clear out the Taliban stronghold. Two weeks of hard fighting killed two Marines and wounded 70 more but drove out the insurgents. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Fights Back - Until a few months ago, Pakistani officials often used the term "miscreants" when they described the Taliban fighters operating from the western tribal areas. This moniker conveyed the sense that the Taliban was a nuisance - a ragtag band of fanatics and gangsters who could be placated with peace deals - rather than a mortal threat to the nation. That state of denial appears to be over. This week's offensive against Taliban sanctuaries in South Waziristan is the latest sign that Pakistan has awakened to the seriousness of its domestic terrorism problem. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Army officer with UN shot dead in Islamabad - A senior Pakistani Army officer, who was the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, was gunned down along with another soldier Thursday, as the military stepped up its offensive against the Taliban in the restive northwest areas. Brigadier Moinuddin Ahmed, who was former deputy director general military operations, was killed by gunmen who ambushed his jeep at 8.30 a.m., three days after twin blasts killed seven people in the International Islamic University campus here. (READ MORE)

UN begins distributing Afghan runoff ballots - Ballots and voting kits are already heading out across Afghanistan ahead of the Nov. 7 presidential runoff. International election monitors called on authorities to avert the widespread fraud that marred the first round of voting in August as the United Nations began delivering voting materials today. (READ MORE)

NATO chief calls for perseverance in Afghanistan - Afghanistan is the most complex challenge that NATO has ever undertaken, but the alliance must remain engaged there to prevent the country turning back into an al-Qaida training ground, the organization's top official said Thursday. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said some critics are starting to say that the cost of engagement in the 8-year-old war is too high, but he countered that "the cost of inaction would be far higher." (READ MORE)

Afghan ambassador chastises election critics - Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada is accusing the media of "unwarranted pessimism" about his country's planned run-off election and he's chastising the diplomatic community in Kabul for a "condescending attitude" toward the fledgling democracy. Jawed Ludin, who once served as President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff, is appealing to Canadians to cut Afghanistan some slack -- no country, he says, runs fault-free elections. (READ MORE)

Afghan troops detain over 3 dozen suspected insurgents - Afghan forces have arrested over three dozen suspected militants across the country, a press release of Defense Ministry said here Thursday. "Over the past 24 hours, the troops have detained 39 suspected persons from different provinces and handed them over to concerned authorities for investigation," the short press release added. (READ MORE)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You guys often carry links on Oregon-based troops; just curious, do you have a special interest in the state?