October 28, 2009

From the Front: 10/28/2009

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

The Captain's Journal: Video of COP Keating (Kamdesh) - Following up on Kamdesh Troops Were Sitting Ducks: The Importance of Terrain, this video is a stark reminder of just where COP Keating was located. They were completely walled-in by the terrain. Perhaps the ease of vehicle movement and delivery of logistics was the reason for locating COP Keating where they did. But they didn’t have even a single hill which abuts the COP (or or on which the COP is at least partially built). Every direction is up. It would have been better to have utilized a hill and go to the hassle of building, walking and driving on sloped terrain. (VIEW VIDEO)

P.J. Tobia: Multiple Attacks Underway In Kabul - KABUL, 8:45 a.m.–A UN guest house was assaulted at dawn this morning and three UN staff members are reportedly killed. Police are still surrounding the building and involved in a shootout with the insurgents inside. Gunfire could be heard reverberating in the morning sky and helicopters are circling the city. I have received unconfirmed reports of an attack on the four-star Sarena Hotel, small arms fire on Butcher Street and rocket fire throughout the city. More as I hear it. UPDATE 10:30 a.m. local: The attack on the UN guest house, where foreign UN staff lives appears to be winding down. An announcement on local radio by the Minister of Interior, said that six UN staffers died in the pre-dawn raid. In the ensuing battle, three insurgents were killed as well as two Afghan police officers. As the minister made the announcement, small arms fire could be heard popping in the background. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Convoy to Airborne – Part One - After yesterday’s entangle with the demonstration, I was sure our mission might be postponed for a few days. Instead, we decided to roll out the next morning. This time the ANA would lead the way and we would escort several 7-ton trucks full of winterization equipment. The air is getting colder in the morning and at night, so everyone started donning warmer clothing. The gunners have it the worst and most will wear face masks to keep warm. Once again I would be the convoy commander, but the ANA pick-up truck would be the lead vehicle. As we drove through the center of the city, we passed by several government buildings. This time the police were in their riot gear including helmets with face shields. They stood stoically next to each other forming a human wall with their protective shields in front of them. Since it was early morning and rather brisk out, I figured we had a good chance of missing the organized demonstrators. (READ MORE)

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq: 12/365 Give a soldier a vacation! - I've come across several organizations that offer free vacations to troops returning home from deployment. Each of these organizations is usually the effort of a small number of individuals or merchants, each donating time in their own vacation home, or a gift certificate for vacation and travel related services. This is a great way to help troops and their families one at a time. If you have a vacation home, offer up a free week to a troop. They are very responsible, and are used to moving in and out smoothly. As an individual family, you could contact a military base or hospital near your home. Check in your area, there may already be a cooperative that is organizing vacation donation to troops. If you have the organizational skills, draw together other families or hotels/Inns that would offer free vacations to troops. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: On the ground and in the air - brothers deployed to Afghanistan - While Army Warrant Officer Class 2 Mark Boardman is helping to improve the infrastructure in Helmand province, his brother, RAF pilot Flight Lieutenant Richard Boardman, is flying overhead in the Tornado GR4, providing tactical reconnaissance to troops on the ground. WO2 Mark Boardman, aged 36, is in the Royal Engineers. He is currently based at Lashkar Gah with the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team where for the past six months he has been working as part of a multi-national group to improve everyday life for Afghans; from constructing schools to installing an oxygen generator in a hospital that supplied oxygen for 20 beds. He said: "The effect you can have on ordinary people's lives is massive. The highlight of my tour was enabling a contract to improve Bost Airport. Its development will create local jobs and improve trade, and in so doing help with Afghanistan's reconstruction." (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Families Can Offer PTSD Support - A few years ago, a military family invited me to their home over July Fourth weekend. The soldier, an Army specialist, had deployed to Iraq a year earlier, but had returned early after explosions damaged his back and ear. But it was the psychological damage that had the greater impact. He was on a convoy when a suicide bomber struck. The Iraqi’s car was on fire and when he looked inside for survivors he saw a woman hanging out the back window and a baby engulfed in flames. He told me that image had never left him. “I hear that baby screaming in my nightmares,” he said in an article I wrote about his experiences. He later was diagnosed with and treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event. I was curious about how his PTSD had impacted his family and, perhaps more importantly, how they helped him through it. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Today's essential Afghan reading - AWK on the CIA payroll... who knew? I've never met AWK, and all I know about this one is what I read in the papers. But a year ago in Kandahar, there was at least one "police station" on a convenient secondary import/export route that had no apparent formal connection with the rest of the ANP and no mentoring presence, and twice to my knowledge officers from ANA 205 Corps attempted to take action to seize armed men or weapons they had identified near the city and were told by higher authorities in their own chain of command to back off. In all 3 cases, the president's brother was cited as the dodgy guys' employer. The ANA more or less concluded that he was untouchable, at least as far as they were concerned. After the allegations of massive voter fraud and the gunning down of a guy who was by all accounts a really good city police chief without consequence, it's fair to say their concerns back then seem even more warranted. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Kashmiri, Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives aided 2 Americans in foiled Danish terror plot - Two American citizens who have been indicted for plotting terror attacks overseas have direct connections to a senior al Qaeda commander and two Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives. Chicago natives David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana have been charged in federal court with plotting to conduct attacks against a newspaper in Denmark, according to a criminal complaint that was unsealed today at the US District Court in Chicago. Headley was in contact with al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri and two unnamed Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives. Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, was detained on Oct. 3 after he attempted to travel to Pakistan. Headley has been charged with "one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to that overseas terrorism conspiracy," according to a press release written by the US Department of Justice. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda takes credit for Baghdad suicide bombings - The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda's affiliate, took credit for last weekend's deadly dual suicide attacks in Baghdad that killed more than 155 people. The statement was released on the Internet on Oct. 26, just one day after the suicide bombers detonated minivans laden with explosives outside the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial administration building. "Suicide bombers targeted the dens of infidelity and pillars of the rejectionist Shi'ite state in the land of the caliphate," the statement said, according to a translation provided by Reuters. "Among the chosen targets were the ministry of oppression known as the ministry of justice and the Baghdad provincial assembly .... The enemies only understand the language of force," the statement continued. (READ MORE)

Richard S. Lowry: INCOMING - Here are the details of the Firefight at COP KEATING - It began at dawn on Saturday, October 3, 2009, at an isolated outpost in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban had been harassing the troopers at COP Keating for months, attacking them three or four times a week. Most attacks consisted of a few bursts of small arms fire and a lobbed mortar round or a single RPG; nothing like what the soldiers at Keating were about to experience. Combat Outpost (COP) Keating had become a thorn in the enemy’s side. The American cavalry troopers of Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment had occupied the small COP deep in the Afghan mountains for some time and the American soldiers had been trying to win over the local civilians. It appeared that the Americans were there to stay. So, the enemy launched a massive assault on the isolated American stronghold. (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: New Kunar road to bring prosperity, security - The Kunar provincial governor and leaders and village elders from Marawara and Sarkani districts met Oct. 26 to officially open the new road connecting Nawabad to Marawara. Fazlullah Wahidi, Kunar provincial governor, Mer Azam Gujoorwall, Marawara district sub-governor, Dr. Hamish Gulab, Sarkani district sub-governor, and village elders from both districts met at the Marawara Bridge to celebrate the opening of the $2.7 million, 11.5 kilometer road between the two towns. “We are so happy to have the road…the PRT provided the funds and the construction company built it. Before the road was too bumpy and dusty and people had a lot of problems with it, but now people can transport a lot of things much easier,” Gulab said. According to the Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar engineers, the short term benefit of the road project was the construction provided jobs to local workers. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Reason to Quit? - Matthew Hoh's resignation from the State Department is a great story. A Marine hero scarred by the Iraq war becomes a government aid worker in Afghanistan and finds nothing but greater disappointment. His letter of resignation is an eloquent testimony to the power of his convictions. I only wish the reasons behind those convictions--the reasons that he ended his career in the Foreign Service--made more sense. Hoh is convincing on the human toll of the war, but in my opinion there are holes in his analysis of the regional security situation and the nature of the insurgent and terrorist threat. He argues, for example, that the presence of U.S. forces--the perception of an "occupation" of Afghanistan--is destabilizing Pakistan and feeding a growing insurgency there. To some extent, that's true. To some extent, it's also true that crooks don't like to see cops on the beat, and that it took Western intervention in Afghanistan to prod Pakistan to address a problem that it had ignored for too long. (READ MORE)

Registan.net: And by opposing end them? - With the White House admirably standing in for Elsinore castle of late, we are nevertheless inching closer to a decision on Gen. McChrystal’s request for additional troops. The lobbying from all sides continues and while there are many uncomfortable dynamics about the lengthy deliberations, at least we are finally seeing a healthy debate about the overall strategic aims of the mission in Afghanistan. Much as one might have a soft spot for the formur POTUS’s unequivocal Texan approach, there really was not much of a debate in high policy circles about the ends and means of the mission from about 2004 onwards (NATO having jumped into the water at that time with both toes). I firmly believe the population-centric COIN approach is the way to go, although it is going to be extremely difficult in its application and challenged by the limited patience of politicians and publics back home. (READ MORE)

Axeghanistan ‘09: Tale of Three Districts - From tiny Forward Operating Base Altimur 50 miles south of Kabul, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gukeisen and around a thousand soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, part of the 10th Mountain Division, oversee three districts with a combined population of several hundred thousand, mostly farmers. The three districts represent progressive stages of American counter-insurgency practice. As U.S. troops have spread into Baraki Barak, Charkh and Kherwar districts, in that order since January, they have brought increasing security — and with it, reconstruction projects meant to win local residents’ loyalty. Just three Americans have died here this year. A CBS radio reporter was badly injured in a bomb blast. Gukeisen, a towering, gruff-voiced man with nearly three years of combined Afghanistan experience, adheres to the David Petraeus school of counter-insurgency. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Fighting Afghanistan’s Dumbed-Down — and Deadly — Bombs - Afghanistan’s low-tech, relatively primitive bombs might be even harder to stop than Iraq’s comparatively sophisticated improvised explosives. The Pentagon is sinking almost a billion dollars into new tools to stop this dumbed-down threat, like sensors and software that can detect minute changes on the ground, along with dozens of other initiatives. It’s a particularly urgent need: Between 70 and 80 percent of coalition casualties in Afghanistan are now caused by improvised bombs. The International Security Assistance Force announced today that eight U.S. troops — and an Afghan civilian working for the coalition — were killed in “multiple, complex” roadside bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan. In Iraq, the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization played a cat-and-mouse game against sophisticated insurgent bomb-making cells who used military-grade explosives and radio-frequency triggers. (READ MORE)

This Ain't Hell: Biden plan hits UN roadblock - It’s hard to know who to cheer for in a fight between Joe Biden’s plan for the war in Afghanistan and the United Nations. Biden’s plan is to use Special Forces soldiers and drone aircraft to take out Taliban and al Qaeda leadership, exposing fewer troops to actual combat. But the UN has stepped in and want the Obama Administration to prove how their plan is legal, according to the Associated Press and the Stars and Stripes: “Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly’s human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June.” (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Standing Tall - I met USMC Lance Cpl. James Crosby in June 2004. He was 19. He was a kid from a blue-collar background in Winthrop, Mass., and his body was a mess. But I could tell within minutes of meeting him that he was no ordinary kid, and I was pretty sure I’d hear his name again. From the Boston Herald archives: “‘I WILL walk again,’ Crosby said last week at the West Roxbury Veterans Administration Hospital, where the Winthrop native has been in physical therapy, fighting infections and undergoing surgeries since mid-April.” Crosby had a tough go. His young wife left him shortly after he left the hospital and his father died of cancer shortly after that. Within a year of coming home, Crosby fought successfully with his congressman’s help to ensure that war-wounded soldiers and Marines don’t lose their hazardous duty pay the minute they are medevac’d out of the war zone … a deep financial hit to military families at the worst possible time. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: Actively helping the war effort in Afghanistan- Spirit of America - I had the chance to meet Jim Hake of Spirit of America last Friday in DC. They have been doing tremendous work supporting our troops with items that help them accomplish their missions, largely in Iraq. Now they are making a civilian surge into Afghanistan and I think that is tremendous. There is an excellent feature piece on them and the work they have done with the USMC in Leatherneck that you may read here. “This Spirit of America is more than a great feeling; it is one of our country's most unique and innovative nonprofit organizations. For six years Spirit of America has supported the Marines' outreach efforts by providing supplies for them to give to local residents-items the Marines have identified as most needed and beneficial-everything from tools and textbooks, to sewing machines and irrigation equipment.” (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: One year since it all began... - October 28th. I wish this date was never on my calendar….I think I’ve decided that one year later is worse than when it actually happened. The reason I say this is because when I got the call, everything else was run on complete adrenaline. I thought moment to moment, hour to hour. I was praying for the best and hopelessly optimistic. I had no other choice. I KNEW Rob was going to be ok. He had to be. A year later, dreadfully anticipating this day and the next 34, I know the outcome and there is nothing I can do to change it. It’s a helpless feeling, making you feel sick. Two days ago, I was thinking “This was the last time Rob called home and I heard his voice.” For the life of me, I can’t remember what we talked about that day. I’m sure it was the “same old same old” but I just wish I could remember exactly the conversation. I wish I could have told him NOT to go out on the mission 2 days later. If we only knew... (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

Burial in Najaf for Baghdad bomb victims - The cars streamed into Najaf over the last two days as families buried loved ones killed in Sunday’s double bombing in Baghdad. By Tuesday afternoon, what was thought to be the last of the dead were brought to the Valley of Peace cemetery, the most sacred burial ground for Iraq’s Shiite majority. Undertaker Mehdi Assadi had listened to mourners’ screams as at least 80 of the estimated 155 killed in Sunday’s Baghdad bombing were buried in the Valley of Peace. (READ MORE)

Legislators in Iraq Block a Deal on Election Law - The country’s political parties failed to agree on election laws on Tuesday, despite a proposed deal put together by the nation’s top political figures the day before. The stalemate was another blockage in negotiations that have dragged on for weeks, threatening national elections scheduled for Jan. 16. The official deadline for passing the election laws was Oct. 15. Elections can still be held on time if the parties agree on terms this week, but not much later, said Said Arikat, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, which proposed guidelines to break the logjam among the parties. (READ MORE)

Extremist Group Claims Responsibility for Baghdad Bombs - The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni extremist group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, has claimed responsibility for twin bombings Sunday that targeted key government buildings and killed nearly 160 Iraqis, according to a claim posted online. The group called the targeted sites "dens of infidelity," according to a statement posted on a Web site used by extremists to make such claims. Its authenticity could not be independently verified. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army arrests 2 in search of Baghdad IED-cell member - Iraqi Army soldiers arrested two suspects today during a warranted security operation conducted in northwest Baghdad. A security team of Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for a Jaysh al-Mahdi member who was allegedly planning improvised explosive device attacks against security forces in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Bombings show challenges, official says - Terrorist bombings that struck Baghdad Sunday demonstrate the security challenges that exist there, a senior Defense Department official said here at the Pentagon yesterday. News reports say more than 150 Iraqis died and hundreds more were injured Sunday as a result of two massive blasts that targeted the Iraqi justice and municipalities and public works ministries and a provincial headquarters building in downtown Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Troops see school renovation through - This small village celebrated the official opening of the newly renovated Medina-Al Munawera School during a ribbon cutting ceremony here recently. The ceremony was attended by Dr. Dammadi Radi, directorate General of Education in Babil province, local village shaykhs, the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team and a crowd of supporters who celebrated the opening of the school. (READ MORE)

Mapping protects Iraq's ancient sites - While many Soldiers head home in the late hours of the second shift, Sgt. Ronald Peters sits at his desk scanning over imagery, maps and the Internet, looking for answers to ancient questions. Peters, a geospatial analyst from Fort Lewis, Wash., with Multi-National Corps - Iraq C-7, is undertaking the largest mapping project of his career. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
Grim Reality for German Forces in Kunduz - Tall Germans bearing rifles, their faces red from the harsh Afghan sun, their beards and stubble caked with the fine dust of the desert road, asked a group of four men with a tiny roadside bicycle repair shop in this village some 17 miles north of Kunduz if they had seen any Taliban recently. “Two days ago, on motorcycles, with AK-47s, their faces masked,” the eldest of the four men, with a long white beard, answered without hesitation through a translator. When had he last seen the Afghan army? He thought for a moment, looking a bit perplexed, before saying, “sometime in the spring.” (READ MORE)

Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll - Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials. The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home. (READ MORE)

Bombings Kill 8 US Soldiers in Afghanistan - October became the deadliest month for US troops in the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan when two powerful bombs killed eight soldiers and an interpreter in separate attacks Tuesday. This time of year typically brings a decline in violence as insurgents regroup as cold weather approaches. Instead, the bloodiest days this month have displayed both the range of threats American soldiers face and the persistent danger of the most basic weapons. (READ MORE)

Militants Attack UN Guest House in Kabul, Killing Nine - Taliban gunmen stormed a guest house in central Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing nine people, including six United Nations employees, two Afghan security officials and an Afghan civilian, according to police and UN officials. Three attackers wearing suicide vests also were killed by the police, said Syed Abdul Ghafar, head of the criminal department of the Kabul police department. (READ MORE)

Insurgents Attack Hotels Housing UN Workers in Kabul - Insurgents Wednesday morning attacked two guesthouses and a hotel in downtown Kabul that housed United Nations staff and other international visitors, in one of their most daring attacks on the Afghan capital. The assailants managed to take over one of the guesthouses, Bakhtar, but were repelled by security guards at another, the Imperial. They also fired several rockets at Kabul's largest hotel, Serena, that hosts many foreign diplomats, senior UN officials and journalists. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Attack Kills 6 UN Workers - An early morning assault on a Kabul guest house by attackers armed with suicide vests and assault rifles killed six UN workers today, just a day after eight US troops died in a pair of roadside bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month of the eight-year war for American forces. The campaign of violence foreshadowed an effort by the Taliban to disrupt a presidential runoff election that is less than two weeks away... (READ MORE)

Obama Redefines White House Relationship with Top Field Commander - President Obama and his predecessor differ significantly in their approach to America's wars. They differ at least as much in their relationship with their top battlefield commander. During the Bush administration, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the then-ground commander in Iraq, assumed the role of a trusted advisor who frequently visited the White House or talked to the president by phone. But Obama's commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, occupies a defined place in the chain of command. (READ MORE)

US to Protect Populous Afghan Areas, Officials Say - President Obama’s advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability. Mr. Obama has yet to make a decision and has other options available to him, but as officials described it, the debate is no longer over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed. (READ MORE)

‘Af-Pak Hands’ Strives for Continuity in US Mission - The US military is building a cadre of officers who each will serve a multi-year assignment dedicated to a narrow piece of the US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Known as “Af-Pak Hands,” the program steeps officers in the language and culture of the region, and limits the range of their duties and focus on a single area for a four-to-five-year cycle. Officers will serve in a similar job at home and downrange, an aspect of the program military officials say will enable them to create and maintain relationships with the local populace abroad, a lynchpin of counterinsurgency doctrine. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Votes, the UN Dithers - If the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential elections, now scheduled for Nov. 7, is a rerun of the fraud-stained first round, it will be catastrophic for that country and the allied military mission battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In the next week and a half, the United States and the United Nations, which has a mandate to support Afghanistan’s electoral bodies, must do everything possible to ensure that the election is, in the words of that mandate, “free, fair and transparent.” (READ MORE)

Doubts Abound Among People of S. Waziristan - As Pakistan's army battles with guns and jets to wrest control of the restive South Waziristan region from the Taliban, it remains unclear whether the military will have another kind of ammunition it desperately needs: the support of people who have lived in the militants' grip for years. Among refugees who were jostling for donated blankets last week in this dusty town in North-West Frontier Province, few dared to discuss the Taliban fighters controlling their villages. (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Oct. 28: Update to Helicopter Incident; Afghan-International Security Force Operation, ISAF Casualties - U.S. military authorities have determined that the cause of the Oct. 26, MH-47 helicopter incident in Badghis province was a combination of factors caused by very low visibility. The crash killed seven U.S. service members and three U.S. civilians. The incident occurred at approximately 3:30 in the morning when the helicopter lifted off following a successful operation against militants. (READ MORE)

Force Recovers Missing Crew, Aircraft in Afghanistan - International Security Assistance Force members today recovered the remains of three civilian crewmembers and the wreckage of an aircraft missing for two weeks in the rugged mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, military officials reported. The crew was flying an Army C-12 Huron when they failed to return to Bagram Airfield after a routine mission early Oct. 13 above Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. (READ MORE)

Afghan president's brother denies getting CIA pay - The brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai is denying reports that he's been on the CIA payroll for years. The New York Times, citing current and former American officials, reported yesterday the CIA pays Karzai for a variety of services. They include helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA's direction in and around Kandahar. (READ MORE)

NATO chief assails Taliban 'enemy of the Afghan people' - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned Wednesday a suicide attack on UN staff in Kabul, which he said proved that the Taliban are "an enemy of the Afghan people". "The victims of these terrorist attacks were devoted to helping the Afghan people build better lives. In targeting them, the Taliban has demonstrated once again that it is truly an enemy of the Afghan people," he said. (READ MORE)

How should aid workers, military personnel interact? - More than a year after a modus operandi was approved by humanitarian and military actors in Afghanistan, aid agencies have differing views on its success, but almost all agree it could be more strongly implemented and more widely disseminated. “I think to a degree… the Guidelines are achieving their purpose. (READ MORE)

While Obama Mulls Troop Decision, Taliban Attacks Grow Bolder - Taliban militants wearing suicide vests stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital early Wednesday, killing 12 people -- including six U.N. staff -- in the biggest in a series of attacks intended to undermine next month's presidential runoff election. One of the six U.N. dead was an American, the U.S. Embassy said. (READ MORE)

In Afghanistan, International Troops Outnumber Taliban 12-1 - There are already more than 100,000 international troops in Afghanistan working with 200,000 Afghan security forces and police. It adds up to a 12-1 numerical advantage over Taliban rebels, but it hasn't led to anything close to victory. Now, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan is asking for tens of thousands more troops to stem the escalating insurgency, raising the question of how many more troops it would take to succeed. (READ MORE)

Deadly Attack Won't Deter UN In Afghanistan - Mission Chief - A Taliban suicide attack that killed six foreign U.N. staff at a Kabul guesthouse Wednesday won't not deter the world body from fulfilling its work in Afghanistan, the head of the U.N. mission said. "This attack will not, I repeat, will not deter the U.N. from continuing its work to construct, reconstruct and to build a better future for the Afghan people," Kai Eide told reporters. (READ MORE)

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