November 2, 2009

From the Front: 11/02/2009

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

Sour Swinger: Photos: Children Of Iraq Set 2 - On to the pictures shall we? Today I have for you another set of pictures from the children in Iraq. Only one more left after this one. I picked out 5 pics to display below. You can view the complete set here. There’s exactly 60 pictures. Enjoy! (VIEW PHOTOS)

3rd Time, New Country: Happy Halloween - Another week has come and gone here in Kabul. It has been a week of no convoys or any traveling. I think this has been the first week I didn’t go anywhere. I started the week with an admin day where I stayed in the office and tried to get caught up on all the outstanding admin. I finished the DOTMLPF (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materials, Leadership, Personnel and Facilities). It is a 17-page document. That took me most of the day. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday was the ANA Medical Leadership Conference. It was hosted and run by the ANA with very minimal input from the US mentors. This was an all of Afghanistan conference. The Brigade Surgeons, Hospital Commanding Officers and Senior Nurse Officers all presented, as did some others including MG Yaftali, the ANA Surgeon General. The counterpart US mentors from throughout the country also attended. It was locally catered for tea breaks during the day and lunch was provided. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Guest Blogger: David F after Keating attack - This post was written right after FOB Keating was attacked. Hi. Things have settled down a bit now. We were not as busy as I thought we would be – which is actually a bad thing. I don’t think there is any news agency here. Information goes pretty much by two way radio and IRC on the SIPR-net. So it is just slow information travel I think. Over a hundred T’ban / tribals stormed FOB Keating and a little outpost nearby. The US and Afghans had to be extracted by Air Force SF. They couldn’t get to us for 16-24 hours so they were in just awful shape. Keating is completely demolished. Really terrible. It clearly shows how AQ is much better at the propaganda phase of all this. McCrystal’s plans had us pulling out anyways. We had already quit the northern province. But now they will credit themselves with conquering all of Nuristan. It is quiet again today. ALL of my local patients are burn victims. Mostly children. (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: Good intelligence vs. Bad men, not easy to distinguish (part 1) - “What we do isn’t classified, but how we do it is,” Dan said from his small plywood office covered with maps marked Secret. He wore a beard and civilian clothes. His cell phone was constantly ringing from Afghans who wanted to meet with him. I’d seen him work the day before. We’d trudged through rows of farmland along the river to a mud and brick compound (qulat), where an Afghan patriarch with a salt and pepper beard welcomed the American Provincial Reconstruction team. The man’s brothers and sons spread a rug over the hard packed dirt and served the Americans Chai tea without sugar, a sure sign they didn’t have much. It was a simple meet and greet, one that happens dozens of times a day in this rugged northeastern province of Nuristan, where the U.S. Army has recently announced it's pulling out of some remote outposts before a recent insurgent attack killed eight soldiers. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Miss America joins school supplies drive - From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex has departed on a multi-day mission and asked me to update his readers on a couple of wonderful new developments with our school supplies drive. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Hoad, University of South Florida’s Vice President of Communications who is also Associate Vice President of Communications for USF Health, the health/medical research and treatment arm of the university where I have taught since 2002. With Michael came USF grad and Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson who now works with USF’s Diabetes Center. Michael organized our lively coffee break to introduce us two ladies to each other because Nicole had recently returned from Afghanistan. What stories she could tell! And she had even been to Rex’s old camp at Camp Blackhorse and seen some of the projects Rex’s team worked on. (READ MORE)

Army Household6: 5 years - Today is November 1st and Army Household6 is 5 years old! Of course, the blog hasn’t always been ” Army Household6″ .. I wasn’t even an “Army Wife” yet when I started it. We had just decided to join this crazy military life. SGT Daddy and I had been married as “civilians” for 7 years at that point. We thought our life would greatly change and boy did it ever! So much has happened since I started writing.. heck I even managed to get some really awesome paying gigs from it, not to mention my dream job!! I’ll continue to write as long as you guys are here to read it. Oh who am I kidding… I’ll continuing writing even if no one is here. I just love blogging and social media that much! The blog has gone through lots of changes too (names, layouts, format) over the last 5 years but one thing remained the same… authenticity and honesty. (READ MORE)

John Burns: Ahmed Wali Karzai and the C.I.A. - For those charged with finding a path for America through the political and military minefield of Afghanistan, it has been a tough week –- and the Times’ front-page story of Oct. 28 on the C.I.A. links of Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s brother and a man long linked to the country’s opium trade, has been only part of it. The burden of the momentous decisions on war strategy that will have to be made in the next few weeks was powerfully transmitted by President Obama’s visit in the early hours of Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland, and by the photographs of the president saluting at the cargo bay door of a C-17 cargo plane as a military honor party carried the flag-draped casket of Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., to a waiting hearse. The aircraft brought home the bodies of 15 servicemen and three Drug Enforcement Agency officials who were killed on operations in southwest Afghanistan: (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: You're Not Helping - On Tuesday night, the New York Times revealed that Ahmed Wali Karzai has been been bankrolled by the CIA since 2001. None of us can be sure what exactly this relationship entails, but I found this news incredibly depressing. I waited a few days to see what else came out. I'm still depressed. Nobody should trust the ability of the CIA and American special forces to pick "their guys" in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the CIA chose Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as "their guy" over other more moderate and effective muj leaders, and funneled him the vast majority of money and weapons. Hekmatyar, as is well known today, is a radical lunatic who started a vicious civil war in the 1990s which killed 10,000 Afghans in a single year. Since 2001 his men have undoubtedly killed many of our soldiers, not to mention Afghans. In December 2001, American special forces in Kandahar gave their support to Gul Agha Sherzai over the other tribal leaders. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Jack of All Trades - Some days I am limited to office work. Other days I spend all day travelling. Then there are days like today when I do many different tasks in one day. Mentor- Today we went downtown to meet with our ANP Counterparts in their clinic. We had the usual niceties and discussion of how well our families are doing. Then we went through our list of discussion topics. Our counterparts were very gracious and gave us some Baklava which they pronounce Baghlava. No matter how you pronounce it, the Shirini (sweets) were good. We had such a good time that I made it to the mythical 3rd cup of chai, which indicates a good and lasting relationship. We continue to make progress and pass useful information. Contractor- Today I supervised an engineering site assessment for my counterparts clinic. I know nothing about Engineering; so I delegated, or subcontracted as much as possible. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan...: Balance - It's a common thing to see articles in the news media about the negative aspects of war on the micro level. The dead, the wounded, the mentally and emotionally damaged all appear to get a fair amount of coverage and exposure, so I'm going to focus on a few of the good things some of us get out of serving in combat - because many of us are getting a lot out of it. Wearing a uniform that says 'US Marines' has always been a great honor for me, and more so when I've been able to wear the uniform overseas. Knowing you represent the ideals and power of the United States gives one quite a bit to live up to, and a lot of pride goes with that. Being out in the middle of nowhere, knowing you represent the end of the line of America's reach is quite a thing...I can remember thinking how the power of all those billions of dollars and millions of people ended right there with us at a lonely outpost in an isolated valley. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: The State of Play - The best way to view the current state of play in Afghanistan is to start at the top of food chain and work down to what is important. The presidential election remains undecided and now Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the run-off election. Our Secretary of State says that means nothing. I agree but for different reasons; in the end it does not matter who is leading the country – the Afghan government will not be a proper COIN partner and will continue to be part of the problem regardless of how these elections turn out. Conducting a runoff will only give the bad guys more opportunity for mischief while accomplishing nothing. Another big story from up the food chain concerned former Marine Captain Matthew Hoh who resigned from the State Department because he no longer knew why we are fighting in Afghanistan. As a fellow Devil Dog he will be spared my harsh opinion because that is the way us Marines roll: (READ MORE)

Corporal Jamie Hilton: Soldier tells of enemy attack on the front line - A soldier who is serving on the front line in Afghanistan has spoken of the moment he came under enemy fire. Corporal Jamie Hilton, of the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was deployed to Helmand province in August. As a section commander, he is in charge of eight men. Since the summer, he and his soldiers have been involved in operations to expand security. They have also built two new checkpoints and are building a bridge across a canal to allow greater freedom of movement for locals, as well as the military. Cpl Hilton, aged 23, said: “We were under some heavy enemy fire. “We were suppressing the enemy. Then a rocket-propelled grenade came in and made an explosion and blew me off the roof. One of my lads was right in front of my face shouting man down. I was hanging off the roof by my arm, wedged in by my weapon system..." (READ MORE)

Lt Col Robert Thomson, CO 2 RIFLES: Humbled by his riflemen - When we were told in 2008 that we would become the Battlegroup responsible for the town of Sangin and the Upper Sangin Valley, we were only too well aware of the challenge that lay ahead. Having deployed each and every year over the last ten years, we had the right operational experience but there was not one iota of complacency as we headed out to Afghanistan on our toughest assignment yet. We have a saying in the Battlegroup that one is only as good as the next operation so, as we grabbed our rifles, body armour and packs, we knew we would be called upon to strain every sinew over six hard months. We were not wrong. Our area of operations, the patch, was about the same size as Dorset, approximately 2,225 km2, a massive area for a Battle Group numbering 1,100 soldiers; there were over 25 different cap badges represented in our ranks including the RAF and one sailor! (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: Dr. Abdullah’s election exit - So, unless this is a desperate bargaining tactic, Abdullah has pulled out of the runoff election. BBC says: “Abdullah Abdullah had set out conditions he wanted to be met for the contest to be considered fair. But Mr Karzai rejected his demand that election officials who presided over the first round should be dismissed. Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a pull-out would not invalidate the legitimacy of the vote.” Well, that’s wishful thinking on the part of Secretary Clinton. After the first round, there was no way that this process was going to have much legitimacy. As for Abdullah, the withdrawal from the run off election is probably the “smart move” on his part. Why accept a coalition or power sharing offer in a hyper-centralized state where you could ( and would) be easily be marginalized? And why contest a second round if you will just lose to the same machine? (READ MORE)

Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Cartwright, Black Watch commander: "It has been an honour to lead these men." - IN A corner of Kandahar airfield, amid the whop-whop-whop of Chinook helicopter rotors and the roar of the engines of Hercules transport planes, sits the headquarters of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. It is a wooden hut and when temperatures at the base, Camp Roberts, reach their highs of about 55C, the building is lost amid the shimmer of a heat haze. For the past seven months this has been home to the battalion's commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Cartwright, from where he has planned mission after mission in the districts of Babaji, Zhari and Nahr-E-Saraj, exotic place names now as familiar to his soldiers, from Perth, Dundee and Inverness, as the names of their own towns. But today the maps, once pinned to the walls of the planning room next door, are gone: (READ MORE)

HERMANEUTICS: AFGHANISTAN: On the Homefront - Mark has asked me to share a little about the emotions from home, and what a unique and challenging position that can be. Although I am not there in Afghanistan, home is full of it's own battles. And, honestly, considering the emotions I have already gone through, I would rather be deployed with Mark. It's such a challenge to explain. I feel like our neighbor, Katherine said it best when she came to visit me the first day Mark was gone. Having been through a 13 month deployment with her Marine husband, she said, "It's like your heart could just stop because it hurts so badly." This was exactly how I felt: My husband, my best friend and the person I love more than anyone in this world, the one I want to spend every waking second with, was simply not there one morning. The night before, in what seemed like a "Twilight Zone" experience, I watched him dress in his uniform and pack all his gear and we headed to the hangar from which his group deployed. (READ MORE)

HERMANEUTICS: AFGHANISTAN: About Bagram - Imagine a place with free food, 4 meals a day, including steak/shrimp/lobster every Friday night. If that isn't good enough there's always Burger King, Pizza Hut, and a Green Beans coffee shop. A decent gym is free to use and a game room with billiards and ping-pong are open 24hrs. The showers are usually warm and all of the buildings have heat and A/C. The office floor is so shiny and clean that it is almost slippery. Where there are contractors paid to clean up after you and even do your laundry. The rooms even have wireless Internet and cable (with HBO) available for a nominal fee. Sounds like a pretty nice place, right? I can't complain. But Bagram is a contradiction. The Port-a-John's are permanent and often disgusting. With only one main paved road on base, everywhere else is covered in uneven rocks which wreak havoc on your ankles. Concrete bunkers are available for cover when the loudspeaker announces incoming enemy rockets. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Fresh Fruit Every Day - In previous posts I have talked about how good the food is here. Soldiers who have deployed before and have long careers have told me, "I never at this good in the Army. Ever." For me, the best thing consistently is the fruit. Every meal, every day, there is fresh fruit. And in two of the three chow halls one to three kinds of fruit are cut when you walk up to the serving bars. A small south Asian man with a big knife cuts watermelon, pineapple, cantalope, and melon. So nearly every meal I am eating the fresh cut fruit. We also get plums, apples, bananas, grapes, kiwi, oranges, and grapefruit. Last week I was eating with a few older soldiers and we were talking about going home. "We're never going to eat like this at home," said one of the sergeants. He was so right. Because even if we could eat like this, the price would be ridiculous. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Lazy Lawmakers - It came as no surprise that the Iraqi politcians postponed, yet again, the decision on the election law. They are supposed to vote on it Sunday. This inability to work together does not speak well of the parliamentarians. And the Iraqi people are well aware of what's going on. Meanwhile, Iraqis are trying to get on with their lives. This story in the LAT says, "As the election season gets underway, a new sense of nationalism is emerging to challenge the raw sectarianism that plunged Iraq into conflict a few years ago." The reporter appears to have spoken only with politicians, who clearly are uninterested in the average Iraqi's life. One example is this fairly high-ranking government man who told me today to forget Iraq. I asked why, he said because its people are no good. I asked what he meant. He said to take his own life for example. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Cole's Crackpot Commentary - For the hell of it, I had a look at Juan Cole's site today. If it is possible, the man is making less sense today than he did some months back. He argues against any progress in Iraq, which he appears to believe is worthless. About the electoral process he says: "The parliamentary and provincial elections and the referendum on the constitution were always imagined by the Bush administration as propaganda exercises on behalf of the Republican Party and Neoconservatism." What? I assure you that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis know nothing about the Republican party and even less about Neoconservatism. Cole goes on to say, "Although the elections have not been meaningless," Gee, thanks, professor. All those people who walked to the polls despite the threats from al-Qaeda thank you for your support. He continues, "and a lot of Iraqis obviously express their political spirit through them, they have been highly flawed and artificial." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Army surrounds major Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan - The Pakistani Army has surrounded two major Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan and is clearing a third. Nine Taliban fighters and two soldiers have been killed during fighting over the past 24 hours, according to a statement released by the Pakistani military's Inter Services Public Relations. The military said the towns of Makeen and Sararogha have been surrounded and forces are consolidating positions on the outskirts. Makeen is the hometown of Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was killed by US strike aircraft on Aug. 5. Baitullah was replaced by Hakeemullah Mehsud, while Waliur Rehman Mehsud took control of South Waziristan. Waliur Rehman is thought to be directing operations from Sararogha. In January 2008, the Taliban ejected the Frontier Corps from a fort in Sararogha. (READ MORE)

The Life: Hobbies - Hobbies are a great way to brighten the day and to grow as a person. If nothing else, hobbies provide a method to productively take your mind off the stresses of work, school, family, or life. Sometimes when we think of hobbies, we only think of them in the narrowest fashion. Sports, art, music, or other passions that people spend years practicing and require often a great deal of time. However, hobbies can be seen more broadly through a variety of other pursuits as well. Reading, food, exercising, writing, games, and more can all fall into the category of hobbies if used correctly. For example, on this deployment I use food as a hobby. No, I am not a chef. Far from it. However, I do spend a good deal of effort in eating according to a certain dietary standard. Some of my friends eat similarly, and we discuss it and use it as something to talk about and focus our efforts on. This takes away a little bit of the stress of letting our minds wander and dwell on some of the more demanding aspects of deployment. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 1 Nov 09 - Hope everyone had a happy/festive/rockin Halloween…as for me, nothing exciting …apparently there has been some people doing things that would be considered illegal/immoral/incorrect/etc…our little “club” where Latino Night happens Friday and R&B/Hip-Hop Night happens Saturday has been shut down…there was supposed to be a costume party/contest, something going on, but it was nixed…also, Saturday was the day for a “Health and Wellness” inspection…this is basically an inspection of rooms looking for any type of contraband–alcohol, porn, illegal substances, etc…it was pretty much a random drawing to see which rooms they would go into, although I suspect some rooms weren’t so “random”…I’m sure they have some people under the microscope for actions in the past…that’s usually the way it goes, but they have to make it look like they aren’t singling anyone out so they can’t be accused of unfair treatment without cause.(READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Is that my phone ringing? - Military families can surely relate to the dreadful feeling that sets up shop in the pit of your stomach when you miss a long-awaited phone call. How could you have missed it?! You’ve been carrying around that darn cell phone like it was a hand grenade that could go off at any second if you didn’t check it and look at it and check it again and again and again. Impossible to miss a call! It was in my HAND, I was LOOKING at it. When I heard the noise that alerts you to a new voice mail, I knew, just knew, that I had missed the call. I almost cried when I heard the message; I felt like I got caught sleeping on Mom-Duty. Well, people will just have to understand; I am not putting this phone down until I speak to my son. Then I’ll go back to being a normal person — my normal, of course. (READ MORE)

SPC Alperin - My Point of View: November is here... - Wow, time has really flown by. It's hard to believe that we're in November already. It is a relief, to say the least. Our replacements are scheduled to arrive here soon. But until they arrive, the beat goes on. When the replacements do get here though, we will begin what is called right seat/left seat training to make sure they have a good understanding of the overall mission. My hope is that the transition goes smoothly and everyone gets trained up on their responsibities. Then, Soldiers from our unit will be able to get back to their families and civilian life. The new unit will then carry forth their own legacy of a Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (MPAD) in Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Change 2 to Plan B - OK, if you're looking for ME to explain this, I'm sorry to have to disappoint you. We're scratching heads, too. “KABUL -- The top challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday that he will not take part in a runoff election scheduled for Saturday because he did not think the vote would be fair, but diplomatic gestures by both camps suggested the move would not trigger a new political crisis in the tense and war-torn country.” Or so we all hope. “No matter how a new government is formed, analysts said the withdrawal by candidate Abdullah Abdullah will inevitably lead to Karzai's de facto victory. But without a clear electoral mandate, they said, Karzai would begin his new term with lingering doubts about his credibility and reliability as a partner in the U.S.-led battle against Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents.” (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: Psychological operations team reaches out to aid injured boy - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Oct. 31, 2009) – Ashqmana Gulab is like any other 12-year-old boy. He likes to run and play games with the other boys in his village of Gar Sagi. Unlike the other boys, Ashqmana can’t lift his right arm more than six inches because of a dislocated shoulder he sustained when he fell a couple of years ago that didn’t properly heal. Since the injury, he has seen numerous local doctors who have attempted to fix the damage to allow him to regain movement, but with very little success. The boy and his father even went as far as Jalalabad to try and find a doctor to treat the injury. According to Mohammad Eqbal, Gar Sagi village elder, unless the arm is repaired it will limit Ashqmana’s future. “Without the arm being fixed, he will not be able to work or learn a trade,” Eqbal said. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Back in Baghdad Again - So now I'm back in Baghdad. The trip was a 48-hour marathon. Asheville to Charlotte, Charlotte to Dulles, Dulles to Kuwait on the first day. The flight to Kuwait was twelve hours. It always amazes me that a big honking piece of machinery with over a hundred people inside plus tons of fuel and luggage can get off the ground at all, much less stay in the air for half a day. But they do. So the takeoff roll for me is an exciting time: the noise, the gradual buildup of speed, the vibration and bouncing, then it rotates back and feels like it goes straight up. That's cool! Kuwait wasn't. It was warm and muggy. There aren't any regularly scheduled flights to Baghdad on Wednesdays, but there are plenty of other planes going back and forth. I put my name on the list for anything Baghdad-bound and waited for my name to get called. (READ MORE)

Julia Mahlejd: May the Best Cheater Win Part II: The Farce Must Go On - Just when you thought the Afghan elections saga couldn’t get any more farcical, it does. The second-biggest fraudster of the August 20 polls has pulled out of the November 7 run-off for ‘lack of transparency’. Meanwhile another presidential wannabe, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, had the gall to say “We see that happen in our own country where, for whatever combination of reasons, one of the candidates decides not to go forward…I don’t think it has anything to do with the legitimacy of the election” Clinton’s statement is disingenuous. How can the international community, which is responsible for (prematurely and idealistically) forcing ‘democracy’ onto Afghanistan, now condone a series of behaviours that blatantly undermine it? Regardless of how much fraud there was, a run-off between the top two presidential candidates is mandated by the Afghan constitution. So it had some legitimacy. (READ MORE)

Joe Harlan: The IO of Nation Building: or, How Iran Runs the West - As the U.S. leadership in Washington debates its options in Afghanistan, other actors in the region are actually doing something. And when it comes to influence ops, Iran is Doing It Right. The White House is reluctant to throw another 40,000 troops it may not actually have to spare at a conflict it may not actually have the domestic political support to continue. Yet the insurgency, primarily the Taliban, has no problems dedicating as many fighters as it can recruit. Adding to that, while it may be argued that it does it poorly or without regard to our modern concept of human rights, it certainly “builds civilian capacity” through sharia courts and illegal taxation. On the Coalition side, we write formal proposals for CERP projects, throw money at contracts where the majority of funding is spent on western consultants, and rebuild Kandahar twice over — while leaving much of the rest of the country, especially quiet places like Bamiyan, to pay the “Peace Penalty“, suffering silent neglect. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Short-Timer Syndrome - Short Timer Syndrome is the equivalent of “Senioritis” – defined by Urban Dictionary as “noun. A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as Graduation.” The same dictionary defines short-timer as “After turning in your resignation, you end up not giving a damn about your job during the remaining two weeks notice you gave them.” It’s safe to say the 343rd MPAD has Short-Timer Syndrome. The only cure – a flight back to the states. Despite hearing a motivational speech from our boss about “not taking your foot off the accelerator,” we’re slowing down. (READ MORE)

GRUNTSHIT: The Good Soldiers - I recently got done reading The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel. It brought back memories and stirred up emotions that I had already set aside. I've been reading war stories since I was in the 3rd Grade and it was exciting to read one about my unit and events that I actually took part in. Its a good read and mainly focus's on the troops that we lost in the Battalion. Some information is skewed but I think that is with anyone telling a story you can't always get the facts straight. I'm just as guilty. If you read this blog or read it during the time when we were in Eastern Baghdad, pick up the book and you will probably be able to recognize things in which I talked about in some of my posts. Mr. Finkel talks more so about the injuries that the Soldier's suffered in which I was a little afraid to talk about. Mainly because I didn't know if the families were reading, and I didn't know how what they had been told about how their Soldier was wounded or killed. (READ MORE)

There's sand in my...: Alotta can't waits! - Can’t wait to get home, can’t wait to see my beautiful wife Shayna, can’t wait to get my new Explorer, can’t wait to drive to Wisconsin from California, can’t wait to see my family and friends in Ohio/Kentucky, can’t wait to see Shayna’s family, can’t wait to take a shower without shower shoes and for longer than 3 minutes, can’t wait to walk on carpeting barefoot, can’t wait to play with Mohinder our cat and there are many more “can’t waits” but I don’t think that my computer’s memory would be able to store them! Time is chugging along here, not too busy but not too slow, just perfect. The schedule change that I was complaining about before really isn’t that bad, although it still is a change that didn’t need to be made, but I’m still very happy to be leaving very soon! The pictures of this week are of me in the duty tent. Thank goodness I had my last overnight duty for the tour the other day. (READ MORE)

The Torch: The Third Way: Ending the Illusions in Afghanistan - Part 1 - The debate over the way ahead in Afghanistan rages in Washington and other Western capitols, creating a political and strategic dilemma (and drama) not seen since Vietnam – and eerily echoes that harrowing conflict. For American, Canadian, and European policy makers and advisors, Afghanistan has become a Hell of good intentions, seemingly impervious to lasting solutions or even full understanding. And while the mission in Afghanistan is replete with complex problems – an intractable and cunning enemy, difficult and unforgiving terrain, a collapsed and kleptocentric economy, and a foreign and unfriendly culture – the most invidious issue is the most basic: why are we there? What we do we want to achieve through our continued intervention. It is interesting to note that through all of the rhetoric and discussion on means to victory, there has been scant discussion or agreement on our ends in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

The Torch: The Third Way: Ending the Illusions in Afghanistan - Part 2 - We also need to stop deluding ourselves and the Western public at large about what can reasonably be achieved in Afghanistan. The reality is that Afghanistan is, for a host of reasons, likely to remain an impoverished, fragmented and underdeveloped nation. The threat of the Taliban insurgency is but one issue. Afghanistan’s almost total economic reliance on either foreign aid or the opium economy will not be resolved in the near future, unless opium is legalized, taxed, and begins to contribute to the development of society, as opposed to destroying it. For Afghanistan, opium could and should be an opportunity, and not a curse, and Western leaders may have to finally face the fact that Afghan opium farmers are not responsible for the woes of heroin addicts in Moscow or Tehran or Amsterdam or New York. The opium trade is driven by demand, not by supply. (READ MORE)

Axeghanistan ‘09: Farmers’ Powwow - “Dislocated envy” is the key to security in Logar province, according to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gukeisen, commander of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry. That means finding out which Afghans are pre-disposed to cooperating with the coalition, and giving them a little of what they want. Less friendly neighboring villages see these reconstruction projects and want their own. The Army tells them, turn in any bad guys you’re harboring, and we’ll build stuff for you, too. It’s critical to build to the right things, according to Air Force Brigadier General Steve Kwast. “If we come in with our normal pattern and build a clinic and a school, the reality is, five years later you go back and they have goats in the school. Why? Because what they needed was a place for their goats, not a school — they’re already teaching their children just fine. We as Americans, as the West, we tend to import our idea of what they need on them, instead of asking them.” (READ MORE)

David Axe: Afghan War Demands More Civilians - In March, ordnance exploded on a home in Kapisa province, in northeast Afghanistan. One child died. Another, 6-year-old Razia, was badly burned. When Aziz, her father, took her in his arms, Razia’s scalp came away in his hands. In early interviews, Aziz blamed the explosion on the U.S.-led coalition. U.S. Air Force officers said the ordnance might have been white phosphorous, a specialized incendiary that the Taliban is unlikely to possess. Later, Aziz claimed the Taliban had, in fact, fired rockets on his home. Regardless of who actually caused Razia’s injuries, it was the Americans that evacuated her to the Air Force-run trauma hospital in Bagram, outside Kabul, where she received skin grafts. Today, she is badly scarred but in overall good health. During World Politics Review’s visit to Bagram, Razia walked the hospital hallways, a quiet presence among the bustling nurses she said were her best friends. (READ MORE)

Zach Rosenberg: Afghanistan the Abstraction - Last night I was gathered together with a group of people that grew up in the shadow of Vietnam, people who were just coming of age as that war was coming to an end. One man told how his high school chemistry class was never about chemistry - his teacher preferred long rants about the war. A woman remembered how her school’s headmistress began each Monday in front of a large map of Vietnam, explaining and contextualizing what happened there the previous day. I was in a North Carolina high school on 9/11. I got out of class to find everyone in our tiny school gathered in front of the TV, talking quietly about what happened, worrying about friends and relatives. Even then, before the second tower collapsed, ‘Osama bin Laden’ was the name on everyone’s lips. It quickly became clear — there was never much doubt about it — that the U.S. would invade Afghanistan, a country in which no invader had ever found success. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: No Central Pentagon IED Database, Bomb Chief Says - If you’re looking for a database that collects and tracks all of the Pentagon’s counter-IED programs, don’t look to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to provide it. While the Pentagon’s four year-old attempt to get “left of the boom” on the roadside bombs that have plagued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is tracking its own programs, it is not following those the other services are funding and fielding, leading to a duplication of efforts and a failure to centralize information. That’s the conclusion a harsh new Government Accountability Office report came to when it looked into JIEDDO’s operations. The report says that JIEDDO and the service branches have failed to share information in any meaningful way about IED attacks, citing the “lack a comprehensive database of all existing counter-IED initiatives, limiting their visibility over counter-IED efforts across DOD.” (READ MORE)

Bing West: Afghanistan Trip Report - Having recently returned from Afghanistan – thanks to the hospitality of Generals Petraeus and McChrystal - I’d like to share a few thoughts. By way of context, let me state my frame of reference. As a former assistant secretary of defense for international security, I am familiar with Washington dynamics; but I believe COIN is decided at the small unit level, not in national capitals. I was 18 months in Vietnam, have written five books on COIN and made 20 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. This was my third Afghanistan visit in quick succession (April-May, June-July and October). My observations are based on forty to fifty shuras and patrols – several on extended missions – that included numerous small-arms engagements and fire missions. I talked with about 500 Marines and Afghan security forces of all ranks. The observations here are derived from that sample. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills 34 Pakistanis in Rawalpindi - A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi, killing 34 Pakistanis and wounding scores more. The suicide bomber rode a motorcycle laden with explosives into the middle of a high security district of the city. "Major hotels, including the Pearl Continental, as well as other important government and army installations are located in the area where the blast occurred," Dawn reported. The blast occurred near a bank where people were ining up to cash checks, Geo News reported. Military personnel are among those killed. More than 45 people have been wounded during the attack. The blast is the latest in the Taliban's terror offensive, which began on Oct. 5. The Taliban have launched suicide attacks and terror assaults in Pakistan's major cities and throughout the northwest. (READ MORE)

Ahsan Butt: The most dysfunctional relationship in the world - If you've watched The Sopranos, then you've had the experience of being bemused at the insanity that was the relationship between Christopher and Adriana (culminating in one of the most memorable hits in the entire series, when Silvio shot Adriana in a forest after Christopher ratted her out for talking to the FBI). Well, Pakistan and the U.S. make those two look like Abelard and Heloise. Consider the following facts: 1. Aid from the U.S., and other financial institutions such as the IMF at the behest of the U.S., have helped keep Pakistan's economy afloat at a time of great peril. To that end, the U.S. is promising seven and a half billion more dollars, and yet the reaction to that promised aid -- wrapped up in a maelstrom of nationalistic, ill-founded and uninformed outrage -- would suggest that the U.S. is stealing that amount of money from Pakistan's coffers, or worse. (READ MORE)

C.J. Chivers: How Reliable Is the M-16 Rifle? - First of two parts - Few issues are more personal to a soldier than the question of whether he can trust his rifle. And few rifles in history have generated more controversy over their reliability than the American M-16 assault rifle and its carbine version, the M-4. In recent weeks, a fresh round of complaints about weapon malfunctions in Afghanistan, mentioned in an Army historian’s report that documented small-arms jamming during the fierce battle in Wanat last year, has rekindled the discussion. Are the M-16 and M-4 the best rifles available for American troops? Or are they fussy and punchless and less than ideal for war? Don’t expect a clear answer any time soon. Expect several clear answers at once – many of them contradictory. This is because when talk turns to the M-16 and the M-4, it enters emotionally charged territory. The conversation is burdened by history, cluttered with conflicting anecdotes, and argued over by passionate camps. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Swine Flu Comes To Afghanistan, People Go Nuts - Last Wednesday, Afghanistan had it’s first reported death from H1N1 swine flu. The Ministry of Education announced today that all schools, from Kabul University on down to provincial primary schools will be closed for the next three weeks, due to H1N1 fears. As David Knowles has written, this flu is nothing to take lightly. In fact, for the last few days I’ve had the flu and bronchitis and my first worry was “I’ve got the pig disease.” I went to the doc and I don’t have H1N1, but being sick here made me realize just how hard Afghanistan is on immune systems. There is little clean water, so staying hydrated is very difficult. I can’t overstate how dusty this place is and a UN health official once told me that 80 percent of that dust is comprised of fecal matter. Needless to say everything is dirty, including the glasses and silverware at restaurants, and people–even city dwellers–live in extremely close proximity to live-stock. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: 2010 Free and Fair Elections: Not a Mission -- “the Mission” - "Free and fair elections in Afghanistan is not a mission, it is the mission!" That is the message that I passed on with regards to Election Planning preparation for the recent Presidential Elections in Afghanistan at every meeting that I had with security forces in Afghanistan or Washington when I was the security advisor to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan in 2008. I often felt that my council was falling on deaf ears. In fact, I was once told by a very high ranking ISAF officer that, "we are running a war here and that is the priority, not support to elections." Wrong answer Sir! In a counterinsurgency, political legitimacy is the main effort! Until Afghans are able to choose their political representatives and have faith in their government and its institutions, all fighting is for naught and will spiral into an unending cycle of continuous fruitless violence. (READ MORE)

United Conservatives of Virginia: Words From Iraq - All is going well here in Iraq. The weather has finally cooled with mid 80s for a high and mid 60s for a low and we have not been attacked for a couple of weeks now, Praise God. We had the first thunderstorm of our tour of duty earlier this week and I must say it was kind of odd to see. We haven't seen a storm like that since we left Ft Hood, Texas back in May. Though the storm mixed with a dust storm made it quite a mess to walk in. But all is going well as we continue to prepare for the democratic process to pass its next test with national elections in January. Success is being made everyday and has even been sustained through the horrific attacks like those that occurred on the 25th. A difficult road lies ahead and much work still has yet to be done, but I have never been so convinced of the existence of the good in the human soul till I came here. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Violence is a Way of Life in Iraq - Violence in Iraq has been reduced, as Western generals and politicians are keen to point out, but it has not gone away. If anything, it has become more deeply ingrained. The kidnapping and murder of Muntadher al-Mussewi shows how political violence has spawned criminal gangs capable of the vilest acts. Having learnt their trade from the Mahdi Army, a brutal militia, the kidnappers now carry on without even the veneer of political justification. (READ MORE)

At Least 8 Killed in Iraq Bombings - Iraqi police say four bombs Sunday have killed at least eight people and wounded more than 50 others. Police say a bomb attached to a bicycle exploded in a popular market in the town of Mussayab, about 60 kilometers south of Baghdad. The blast killed at least five people and wounded 37 others. Meanwhile, police in Ramadi, 100 kilometers west of the capital, say two bombs exploded minutes apart, killing two and wounding four others. (READ MORE)

Scattering of Attacks in Iraq - A week after the deadliest attack in Iraq in more than two years, a scattering of smaller bomb attacks around the country on Sunday raised fears of a sustained escalation in violence as American forces withdraw. The bombings, which killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 50, killed both police officers and civilians and struck Sunni as well as Shiite areas. (READ MORE)

Iraqi-U.S. Working Group Addresses Logistics Needs - A joint U.S.-Iraq logistics working group held a conference sponsored by the Ministry of Interior here Oct. 28 to highlight successes and address concerns with future logistics support for the Iraqi Security Forces. The conference, mandated by the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, was the first one of its kind that has been hosted by Iraqis and was the first time the conference was held outside of U.S. bases and forward operating bases. (READ MORE)

British Council partners with Iraqi International Academy - The British Council has agreed to support the design and development phase for the Iraqi International Academy, which will be a home for instruction in advanced English language and cultural training for the government of Iraq. The IIA is being developed by advisors from Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq and the Iraqi Ministerial Training and Development Center. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force Acquires Advanced Radar System - The Iraqi air force advanced its monitoring capabilities for air defense with its acceptance of a digital air surveillance radar, or DASR, Oct. 26 in a ceremony held here. The DASR system, which includes the radar and the radar control facility, gives Iraqi air traffic controllers the capability to monitor aircraft up to 120 nautical miles away. (READ MORE)

Ramadi CTU arrests suspects with links to VBIED cell - The Ramadi Counter Terrorism Unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq operative near Ramadi, Oct. 26. According to the arrest warrant issued by the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation, the individual is accused of insurgent activity. (READ MORE)

Iraqi women receive business admin training - Iraqi business women here are taking advantage of a program instituted by the Ninawa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) to train them on business administration practices. Tony Daza, an economics advisor for the Ninawa PRT, and representatives from eight women's associations held an open dialogue here about the details of the training program, Oct. 27. (READ MORE)

Iraqi judges, lawyers visit modern crime lab - Using high-tech microscopes to inspect bullets fired from a suspect's weapon or testing a soda can for fingerprints are just the basics of what a modern police lab can do to solve crimes. But getting the evidence isn't everything here, as a judge still has to be willing to use it in court. (READ MORE)

Troops reach out to poor residents - Iraqi villagers in Rabi'ah and its surrounding areas have come to welcome and enjoy the U.S. Soldiers that visit them regularly. Troop B, 6th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd "Greywolf" Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division has spent the last three months building relationships with citizens in northern Iraqi through humanitarian assistance missions. (READ MORE)

Troops support school, family in need - Seven members of Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq's procurement section delivered care packages to a school and needy family here, Oct. 22. Children from the Minot Air Force Base Youth Center, N.D., put together the care packages, which were full of new school supplies and hygiene products. (READ MORE)

Airmen Take Steps to Boost Kyrgyz Economy - Airmen at the Transit Center at Manas took more steps to bettering the Kyrgyz economy by purchasing produce from the citizens of Kyrgyzstan, Oct. 27. Airmen of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing received the first delivery from local vendors of goods to be used in the dining facilities at the Transit Center. (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Nov. 2 - A joint Afghan-International Security Assistance Force operation detained one militant in Kandahar province on Sunday while in pursuit of a Taliban District leader and senior commander of a sizable militant element in the area. The joint force targeted a location outside of the village of Daylanur, north of Kandahar City, after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force used escalation of force measures to stop two motorcycles travelling south toward the city. (READ MORE)

Lone Airman at Combat Outpost Keating Recounts Enemy Attack - Being the only Joint Expeditionary Tasked Airman assigned to an Army Combat Outpost on the outskirts of Afghanistan-Pakistan border can be a little intimidating and scary. Being assigned to COP Keating while under attack by hundreds of insurgents armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades is absolutely frightening and exactly where Staff Sgt. Matthew McMurtrey found himself on the morning of Oct. 3. (READ MORE)

Navy Corpsman Promoted Under New, Rare Recognition Program - Petty Officer 3rd Class Darsean M. Sharpe, hospital corpsman, a native of Atlanta, Ga., earned a rare promotion for his outstanding support of the Provincial Reconstruction Team while serving in Afghanistan, often under hostile fire. Sharpe competed with other eligible U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Sailors for a Combat Meritorious Advancement Program promotion to the grade of E-5. (READ MORE)

Transit Center, Kyrgyz Medical Teams Work Together, Share Ideas - A Kyrgyz medical team visited , Oct. 27, to learn the Air Force mission and share ideas with Airmen assigned to the 376th Expeditionary Medical Group. The team consisted of local doctors, dentists and pharmacists and was led by Col. Iskender Abykeeev, head of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Defense's military medical department. (READ MORE)

Women Mourn the Women Who Are Targets - Sarah Hassan, 22, changed her Facebook status to “Why is this happening to us??” hours after the massive car bombing that ripped through a crowded market frequented by female shoppers in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday. Ms. Hassan is one of many Pakistanis asking that question, and the latest spasm of violence in Pakistan cities has prompted new concerns that militants have begun to specifically target women in their terror campaign. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Poll Thrown Into Chaos as Karzai’s Rival Says: I Won’t Stand - President Karzai’s opponent withdrew from Afghanistan’s presidential election yesterday, conceding defeat six days before a planned run-off but threatening to undermine the legitimacy of a new government. Abdullah Abdullah stopped short of calling for his supporters to boycott Saturday’s vote and urged them not to take to the streets in protest, leaving a window open for a power-sharing deal that UN and American officials are trying to broker. (READ MORE)

Karzai Scores a Win as Rival Quits - Afghanistan's presidential challenger said he won't take part in a Nov. 7 runoff election, handing a victory - if not a clear mandate to govern - to incumbent President Hamid Karzai. Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal, which he blamed on bias in the country's election commission, is a double-edged sword for the Obama administration, which is considering whether to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan President Appears to Win by Default; US Pushes to Cancel Runoff Vote - The withdrawal Sunday of President Hamid Karzai's only rival in an election runoff essentially handed him another five-year term, but without the clear mandate US officials had hoped would make Karzai an effective partner in the struggle to stabilize Afghanistan. In an emotional speech before thousands of supporters, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said he had decided not to take part in the Nov. 7 poll…” (READ MORE)

Out of Race, Karzai Rival Is Harsh Critic of Election - Afghanistan’s last presidential challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of the race on Sunday, accusing the government of profound corruption and electoral fraud even as the Obama administration rallied around President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Abdullah, in an emotional speech to thousands of supporters here, did not ask Afghans to take to the streets to protest or boycott the political system. (READ MORE)

Status of Afghan Runoff Unclear as Karzai's Chief Rival Withdraws - The top challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday that he will not take part in a runoff election scheduled for Saturday because he did not think the vote would be fair, but diplomatic gestures by both camps suggested the move would not trigger a new political crisis in the tense and war-torn country. It was not clear whether the government would press ahead with plans for the election. (READ MORE)

White House Ponders Abdullah Withdrawal, Says No Impact on War Strategy - White House officials say Abdullah Abdullah may have quit Afghanistan's presidential run-off for political reasons. They indicate his decision may not have a big impact on US President Barack Obama's ongoing review of Afghan war strategy. In his formal announcement, Abdullah Abdullah cited fraud in the first round of voting, and complained that the head of Afghanistan's election commission was left in place for the run-off by President Hamid Karzai. (READ MORE)

US Troop Levels Not Tied to Afghan Vote, White House Aides Say - The withdrawal by Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief rival from a runoff election shouldn't complicate President Barack Obama's decision on whether to send more troops to that country, senior White House aides said. Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday said he would not participate in Afghanistan's Nov. 7 runoff, after failing to reach an agreement with Mr. Karzai on how to redress problems with fraud that had marred the presidential election in August (READ MORE)

US Looks Past Karzai Rival's Decision to Quit - White House officials downplayed Afghan presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah's decision to pull out of this week's scheduled runoff election and said they would work with President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Abdullah, the country's former foreign minister, withdrew Sunday from the presidential contest against Mr. Karzai, almost certainly handing the incumbent another five-year term in office. (READ MORE)

With Karzai, US Faces Weak Partner in Time of War - With the White House’s reluctant embrace on Sunday of Hamid Karzai as the winner of Afghanistan’s suddenly moot presidential runoff, President Obama now faces a new complication: enabling a badly tarnished partner to regain enough legitimacy to help the United States find the way out of an eight-year-old war. It will not be easy. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Foreign Minister: Offensive 'Very Successful' - Pakistan's foreign minister says his country's military is likely to uproot Taliban militants hiding in the mountains along the Afghan border by late December. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Sunday in Malaysia that Pakistan's offensive in South Waziristan has been "very successful" and has the Taliban fighters "on the run." He spoke on the sidelines of a conference for developing Islamic countries. Pakistan's army says its forces killed nine terrorists and apprehended two others in the last 24 hours of the offensive. (READ MORE)

The Real Afghan Strategy - Hikmatullah, a tall Pashtun farmer dressed in turban and white cloak, looks slightly bewildered as a US Army officer offers him tea and bread and questions him about what he wants from life. A crowd has gathered around them on the steps of the local bakery, young boys and old tribesmen gawking to see what the fuss is about. Hikmatullah says that he's a happy man with five children and that what he wants most is security. (READ MORE)

McChrystal Lite - In its continuing search for an alternative to General Stanley McChrystal's comprehensive counterinsurgency approach to the war in Afghanistan, and with President Obama having eliminated the minimalist counterterrorism plan of Vice President Joe Biden, the White House has lately been floating a split-the-difference trial balloon: "McChrystal Lite" or, to give the veep his due, "McChrystal for the cities, Biden for the countryside." (READ MORE)

Nation-state Nonstarter - A wise veteran Arab intelligence hand said Afghanistan is now tailor-made for deals with the principal tribal chiefs designed to detach them from the Taliban they fear more than US and NATO troops. Tribal maps are more important than provincial demarcations under a despised central government. The deals would cost several hundreds of millions of dollars, he said, not the tens of billions that are being wasted on an unwinnable war. (READ MORE)

1 comment:

MWH said...

Please do not link to the feed from Hermaneutics:Afghanistan any longer. Thank you