November 5, 2009

From the Front: 11/05/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: BAF-f-l-e-d – Part One - It’s 3 am and I am startled from a deep REM sleep. I struggle and rise from my bed as if in a drunken stupor. My alarm clock is chirping incessantly. The off switch is hidden strategically behind the clock and is the size of a pin head. Somehow my stumbling fingers find the little off button and all is quiet for a few seconds. As I regain my senses, I am quickly reminded this is not an alarm clock malfunction and it’s time to wake up for our mission. It’s rather chilly outside but I walk or perhaps stumble 47 paces to the latrine to shave and brush my teeth. The cold air is nipping at my toes which are thinly protected by a pair of flip-flops. Today’s mission is to visit Bagram Air Field (BAF), turn in 5 older model HMMVWs and pick up 6 refurbished MRAPs for the Marines. Say goodbye to Marine Master Guns and drop him off at the air terminal for his flight home. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t. (READ MORE)

Austin Long: You can get there from here - In an earlier post, I discussed what a counterterrorism footprint in Afghanistan might look like in terms of forces. This raises the question of how the U.S. could transition to this sort of posture from where we are today, holding aside for the moment whether this force would be effective. It would not do so overnight -- in fact it would take about three years -- and the way it goes about it will have consequences. First, the Obama administration should embrace the expansion of Afghan security forces, especially the Afghan National Army, called for in the McChrystal Report. It will cost the United States billions of dollars, but even in the current financial climate a few billion is essentially loose change in the U.S. budget (at its peak the Iraq war was costing $10-12 billion per month, compared to some $2 billion per month in Afghanistan). Over the next year, U.S. force levels should stay where they are currently, or perhaps even increase slightly to demonstrate resolve. (READ MORE)

Mark Schneider: FATA 101: When the shooting stops - The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is Pakistan's impoverished, wild west region, bordering Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al Qaeda have established a stronghold to plan their attacks on Kabul, Islamabad, and New York City. If the Pakistani government's current operation in South Waziristan is planning to dislodge the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban and their al Qaeda allies in the FATA successfully, Pakistan's leaders should pay attention to law and history as well as military tactics. For starters, any military operation should be targeted and should avoid yet another humanitarian crisis. More than two million Pakistanis were internally displaced persons as a result of this year's battles in the Swat Valley. More than a million FATA residents already have been displaced at one point or another over the past seven years, and many more are fleeing the conflict zone. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: 'Rogue' Afghan policeman kills five British soldiers in Helmand - Tragedy in Helmand - Five British soldiers were killed and half a dozen wounded yesterday afternoon in Afghanistan's troubled southern Helmand province after a "rogue" Afghan policeman opened fired, raising concerns about discipline within Afghan security forces and possible insurgent infiltration; a local official said the shooter was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban (New York Times, AP, Guardian, Times of London, BBC, CNN, Pajhwok). The attack makes 2009 the deadliest year for British troops since the Falklands War in 1982, and comes at a politically delicate time in the U.K.: Prime Minister Gordon Brown's intelligence and security committee chairman Kim Howells, a former foreign affairs minister, just called for the phased withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan (AFP, Telegraph, Guardian, BBC). (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Looking at the Taliban through Darwin's eyes - CTC Sentinel has an interesting article about Hakimullah Mehsud. I don't want to rehash the entire article, but there is one fact that was not covered due to the scope of the article that I would like to point out and maybe spur dialog amongst the awake. Early on in the piece the Sentinel states that Hakimullah is different from his predecessors because he was too young to fight the Soviets. This is a point that I would bet most of us haven't thought about. As this war progresses I believe there will be a shift from the "Old Guard" to the new kids on the block that may have drastic implications. It's speculation but most people believe that Uday and Qusay were going to be more ruthless than daddy. I think we should start to categorize the Taliban leadership between the former CIA supported Mujahdeen and the current CIA targeted Taliban. (READ MORE)

Tim Hsia: The Digital Fog of War - Smartphones such as the iPhone have changed the way civilians operate in the United States. They combine Global Positioning Satellite systems, social networking, data storage, picture taking and instant communication. Many of these functions could also be used by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq while tackling insurgents. But unfortunately the military’s digital capabilities for soldiers on the ground are severely limited. Instead of something akin to a smartphone, soldiers lug around several disparate pieces of equipment: GPS devices, iris and fingerprint scanners, charts for calculating collateral damage estimates related to artillery or airstrikes, hand-held radios, cameras, notepad and pen. Hopefully this situation will be remedied one day, and soldiers will be able to request information tools such as an app for radio frequencies in the area they are traveling into. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: A Year of Combat MEDEVAC - So I finished up my last scheduled duty cycle this morning. No more flying MEDEVAC in Iraq for this tour. We are almost done for this round. The new replacement unit is on the ground, they are almost ready to stand up and take over the mission, and I am off to another country in a few days to watch over all our stuff until its headed home. This tour somehow seemed longer than the last, although it was 3 months shorter. I guess I feel it more - the time away, the long days, the exhausting work and optempo. This tour aged me and I feel it, unlike last time. I now there are new challenges, a family to reunite with, and a year old daughter to get to know. I hope to be sitting on my own couch using my “free” PDMRA leave within a few weeks. I also plan on developing some stories and adding pictures once I get time to rest, process the year, and get out from under the operational restrictions here. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: A Hybrid Rumsfeld/Soviet Strategy for Afghanistan - Two failed strategies from the past, combined into one new strategy? Is this negative × negative = positive? Or negative + negative = negative? And have past failures (i.e., in the title of this blog entry) been ignored? First a brief survey of what may be coming. If you already know this stuff pretty well and would like to skip the re-read, scroll down to the picture of the underpants gnome diagram below (blatantly stolen from Registan). I’ll start with the NYT, from October 28th: “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. [...] At the moment, the administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to Kandahar [...]” (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: WO1 Darren Chant, Sgt Matthew Telford, Guardsman James Major, Cpl Steven Boote and Cpl Nicholas Webster-Smith killed in Afghanistan - Tributes to the five soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday have been made by their families and colleagues. Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, Sergeant Matthew Telford and Guardsman James Major, all of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, as well as Corporal Steven Boote and Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith, both of the Royal Military Police, were killed on Tuesday 3 November 2009. The soldiers were all killed as a result of gunshot wounds sustained in an attack at a police checkpoint in the Nad e-Ali district of Helmand province. Paying tribute to the five men, Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said: "I was so very sorry to hear of the deaths of these five brave soldiers, killed in the course of their duties in Afghanistan. That they were killed by one of those they were working alongside is a particular tragedy." (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): DUST!!!!! and Good Friends - My big idea about a 1,000-mile month might be dead already. We had a HUGE dust storm today. When I rode to the south side of the base in the morning the sky was clear and it looked really nice outside. Then at 10am the visibility went from miles to feet. I let the bike sit all day then rode back to the North side for the Aeneid book group. The whole four-mile trip the sand was hitting me like rain, I could hear it on my helmet and shoulders. It was accumulating in the creases I my uniform like some kind of foul snow. Last night we discussed Eros in the CS Lewis book group. The discussion went on for all but two hours. So we were talking about Romantic love and going back to define friendship (philia) again to be sure the contrast is clear. In the course of discussing Eros, I became very aware that I was part of a group of friends. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: Same old - My apologies for not updating this as of late. Really hasn't been much excitement going on to report. Still trying to get back into a groove after my time spent on R&R I guess. The base has been fairly quiet and we haven't been getting many calls (knock on wood). I started taking a few online college classes this week. I'm taking them with the American Military University. My major is in Homeland Security. It seemed like a great idea when I signed up for them, but now that they have started, I'm realizing I forgot how much work is involved. I assumed online classes were easier and required less time, but so far I have been getting a healthy amount of assignments. I'm taking two classes, one is just an introduction to online learning, which I thought was going to be the least work, but is the most, and the other is entitled "Weapons of Mass Destruction Incident Command". Overall, they seem to be interesting classes. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Nosy Neighbours - Ayatollah Hussein Al Sadr conmplained to the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat that help for Iraq from the Arab countries has been absent. While he is right to an extent -- generally Arabs have not shown support for Iraq -- he's also wrong. Actually, Iraq's neighbours have been busy meddling in its politics, and that messing is increasing with the upcoming election. Iran has been supporting the Supreme Council, or Hakim's group, Mookie still lives in Qom, and there are plenty of others in Iran's camp. Syria has played host for some major Baathists, and it makes it easy for murderers to cross into Iraq, and this article in the same paper says the meddling includes the elections. The story says Saudi Arabia has an agenda to destroy Nouri Al Maliki in favour of Ayad Allawi. Syria is on board because it hopes Allawi, who is still with Saleh Al Mutlak, will let the Baathists in with him. (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: Free Speech on the Cheap - This line from a Washington Post story jumped out at me: "The arrival of war dead at Dover has long pitted free speech advocates against the government, which had been accused of using the ban to hide the horror of war from the public--especially as casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan began to climb." The article is by Christian Davenport. I'm at a little outpost in northern Iraq, fresh back from a patrol where we met with a local Sheik. The previous day I had rode with US Soldiers to a logistics base on a resupply run and while there picked up a few back issues of Stars and Stripes where I read the story. In the story, a previous graph has a quote from University of Delaware Journalism Professor Ralph Begleiter one of the above mentioned free speech advocates. Begeleiter said, "Taking pictures of the returning casualties to Dover is a measure of the human cost of war. Do you want the government ultimately to have control over what we see or not see? (READ MORE)

Last-of-Iraqis: Countless, useless checkpoints - Yesterday I had an interview with a French TV channel , the subject was about the checkpoints and it’s effectiveness specially after the two bloody days with the “quality explosions” as the media say…well, I though it’s a good subject to discuss specially that many of people who haven’t been in Iraq doesn’t really know much about this subject. Checkpoints are everywhere, and I mean literally everywhere, if you want to drive for let’s say a Kilometer you’ll probably pass through a checkpoint if not two! You can’t go anywhere without passing through a bunch of checkpoints…few days ago I had some work in Karkh (which is the other side of Baghdad) while I live in Risafa…the distance according to google earth is about 9 Km, and I passed through 28 checkpoints!!! And it took me 4 hours!! Can you believe that traveling 9Km will take 4 hours despite that it wasn’t in the rush hours. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani troops enter another Taliban-held town - Pakistani troops have entered another Taliban center in the war-torn tribal agency of South Waziristan. The Army said it has encountered "heavy clashes and street to street fighting" as its troops have entered the town of Ladha, which it described as a "stronghold of terrorists." The military reported that 10 Taliban fighters were killed in the town. Ladha is one of five major Taliban towns in South Waziristan. The military has already taken control of Kotkai and Kanigoram, is currently clearing Sararogha, and has surrounded Makeen. The military also reported that 16 Taliban fighters were killed during fighting in Sararogha. The Pakistani military said 30 Taliban fighters have been killed during operations over the past 24 hours. No soldiers were reported killed, but eight were reported wounded. The military now claims that nearly 380 Taliban fighters and 35 soldiers have been killed since the operation to defeat the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was launched on Oct. 15. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Military moms, serving with love - A flag fluttered in the breeze where there hadn’t been one the day before; it was planted solidly next to a “Welcome Home” banner on the lawn of a house I drive past every day. Circling around, I drove on auto-pilot back to the little house and was out of my car and knocking on the door before I could have a second thought. “It’s my son-in-law. He’s coming home from Iraq,” said a smiling woman who invited me inside without hesitation. A child a few months old smiled serenely from his seat in a stroller; the child who had only seen his father once at his birth was about to be reunited. Boxes filled the entranceway; clearly, preparations of some sort were taking place. “I’m moving out. My daughter and her husband need time to spend together, they need to be alone.” This is what it is to be a military mom. You do what’s necessary to help your family through the tough times of deployment — then you get out of the way and facilitate a swift return to normalcy. (READ MORE)

Mike Francis, The Oregonian: Greetings from CSC Scania - Because I'm on a shared computer, I can't post photos tonight, but this comes to you from a truck stop with blast walls called Scania. It's roughly halfway between Camp Adder and Camp Victory, on the I-5 of Iraq that runs from Kuwait to the northern reaches of the country. For all the trucks that roll through, it's a pretty pleasant place. Alpha Company of Oregon's 2/162 is here, and soldiers say it's good duty. Unlike all the other bases I've been on, this one has many Iraqis working inside, including the landowner to whom the U.S. military is making lease payments. It's nice to brush up against the people whose country the United States has been occupying for six years now. Also, this is a relatively small, self-contained base, which means that Alpha Co. gets the run of the place, without a lot of day-to-day, hands-on oversight from higher command. (READ MORE)

Joe Harlan: Daylight between the Demons - Eight years after the routing of the Taliban and the real pursuit of al Qaeda, but with both still alive and dangerous, is a distinction between the two groups operationally relevant? Coupled with the the debate on whether to commit more forces to a full-on counterinsurgency, there has been a side discussion as of late over a basic assumption: whether there is any longer any substantial difference between the Taliban and al Qaeda. The significance should be obvious: as ISAF and the U.S. prosecute the war against one, can the other be handled separately? And if so, can we just pick them off from 15,000 feet, like we do in Pakistan? On the one hand, it is easy to see that they are, to some extent, quite distinct. Al Qaeda serves as a symbolic figurehead for several extreme fundamentalist organizations, from the Caucuses through Central Asia and the Middle East and to the Horn of Africa. (READ MORE)

David Axe: In Afghanistan’s Logar, Filling the Deadly “Bowl” - Fifty miles south of Kabul, in the Kherwar district of Logar province, lies a low valley ringed by sharp peaks. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gukeisen, commander of coalition forces in the province, calls it “basically a bowl.” To the roughly 1,500 American, Czech and Afghan soldiers in Logar, the Kherwar bowl is legendary in its deadliness. It’s a Taliban stronghold. The bowl, home to tens of thousands of Pashtun farmers, has only a handful of practical entrances through the mountains — on unimproved roads — making it perfect terrain for ambushes. “An entire Soviet divison was defeated here by the mujahideen” in the 1980s, Gukeisen recalls. In the current war, an American helicopter was shot down there. That taught the U.S.-led coalition that “you don’t go in unarmored.” Until January, there were just 100 coalition troops in all of Logar. (READ MORE)

Axeghanistan ‘09: Parachute Day-Laborers - 3rd Squadron’s got a PR problem. In Baraki Barak district, the locals are cooperating with U.S. forces and the district government. Reconstruction money is flowing in. State Department and U.S. AID reps are arriving to boost agriculture and governance. People who had fled the district during the bad years are coming back by the thousands. How does the Army know this? It’s been monitoring traffic at the public toilets. Point is, Baraki Barak is benefiting from its cooperation with coalition forces. So how do you spread that news to the districts that, so far, aren’t cooperating? How do you create what squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gukeisen calls “dislocated envy”? Parachute day-laborers, is one way. Able Troop, in Baraki Barak, invites locals to apply for jobs working on U.S. outposts in (uncooperative) neighboring districts. They’re flown by helicopter to the outlying bases for brief stints doing menial tasks. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Who's with me? - I've noticed that the reflector belt has been worn by members of the armed forces of the various NATO countries (plus Australia) on bases all over the Middle East. I also heard a testimonial from a soldier from Switzerland, who expanded upon the reflector belt dilemma: I am familiar with this problem: “I had to paint my face, silence all possible noise sources in my luggage, tape all bright/metallic spots, wear a dark scarf and gloves… And then put on a reflector-thing…" So this reflector belt thing has spread throughout the US, NATO, Australia, the Sons of Iraq, and now to the neutral countries as well. You know, I think the only people not wearing reflector belts Qaeda and the Taliban. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: UAVs vs.Ground Pounders - While the “civilian surge” of governmentand humanitarian workers promised for the fight in Afghanistan has been slow to materialize, the Dept. of Defense is working on a more tech-oriented surge that should start to pay dividends some time next year. As it stands now, the U.S. Army is fielding about 1,400 RQ-11 Raven UAVs in the field, using the small, four pound platform to conduct surveillance at the tactical level. As of right now, the raven uses an analog link to communicate back to the ground, but come December, the Army plans to start fielding Ravens that have digital data link capabilities. This means that up to sixteen Ravens will be able to share a single frequency, as opposed to only four, as is currently the case with analog. The Army Times reports that by the end of this year, “the first of more than 780 Ravens will be put to use, likely benefiting the current push in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: U.N. evacuates more than half of international workers from Afghanistan - The United Nations announced today that it is relocating more than half of its international staff in Afghanistan after last week's militant attack on a U.N. guest house in Kabul killed five staffers (New York Times, Reuters, AP, BBC, Al Jazeera, Pajhwok). The move, affecting about 600 of the U.N.'s roughly 1,100 international workers in the country, shows the organization's growing concern about security threats and underlines the difficulty of Western efforts to stabilize the country. Afghan villagers claim an air strike in Helmand last night by international forces killed nine civilians, including three children, though Afghan officials say they had no reports about civilian casualties (AP, Reuters, Pajhwok). The incident, highlighting the confusion that regularly results from night time raids and air strikes, sparked some 300 Afghans to take to the streets of Lashkar Gah in protest. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: A great way to end our deployment - Yes, our days here in Iraq are numbered, but that does not mean the 314th PAOC has slowed down. In fact, things have sped up — especially for a handful of Soldiers that took a fitness test very early things morning. The test started at 0530 in the gym inside the Salaam Palace on FOB Prosperity, but if you want to see the real beginnings of today’s event, you need to go back about a month. In early October, SPC James Clifton, SPC Justin Wright, SGT Emily Anderson and SGT Brad Richardson began an intensive physical training program under the watchful eye of own SGT Autumn Hope. She volunteered to help these four Soldiers as they prepared for their upcoming Warrior Leader Course at Fort Dix in early December. The course requires that Soldiers pass a fitness test on the first day. Hope also included PFC Christine Bernat as one of her students. Bernat had only one final hurdle to qualify for advancement to the rank of specialist: to pass today’s fitness test. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: ANP always considered the enemy - I will never forget the meeting in my Team Chief’s room when he told me the word had come down that we must embed with and train/mentor the Afghan National Police (ANP). It was February 2007, and I sat there shocked. I could not believe what I was hearing and initially I thought he was messing with me. As far as we were concerned, the ANP were an extension of the enemy. Many of the issues we had were with ANP. The attacks that many times put us in harms way, had something to do with the ANP. They were extremely corrupt, and very unprofessional. I cannot count the number of SHURAs (meetings with the village elders and leaders) that I participated in where the first thing the local villagers complained about was the ANP. They would complain about the ANP beating them, searching their homes and taking anything worth any value, etc., etc. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Extremists Win a Round - There's good news and bad news and worse news today. The bad news is the loser parliamentarians did not vote on an election law today, which was the deadline, because they did not have enough people for a quorum. The good news is, they say they did reach an agreement and will vote on it on Saturday. The reaction of most Iraqis is the equivalent of "yeah, right." The worse news is that “The lawmakers agreed to hold election in Kirkuk according to the voter register of 2009 and to give a seat for Arabs and Turkmen from the national seats,” Bahaa al-Aaraji told reporters. This means the extremist Kurds won this battle, and the moderate Kurds lost. And, sadly, the Turkoman, the Assyrians, the Armenians, the Arabs, and other people of Kirkuk lost, too. I had tea with two gentlemen who have good positions in Baghdad. They told me to keep believing in Iraq because of its good people. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: The Clothes You Sent to Afghanistan - Don't most families have an Aunt Bee? She's the one who works tirelessly to ensure the comfort of those around her. Each Christmas, your Aunt Bee --like ours, sends in seasonal delectables through the mail. They never fail to call to see how things are going, and most have warm memories of going to her house and standing around the kitchen. Well, this summer, The Hubs's Aunt Bee way up in little town in the northern climes received word that he didn't have any clothes to give to the children once they had come into his clinic to be treated for wounds. (As with most ER's, when the kids come in with life threatening wounds their clothes are cut off). So being that she loves a project, she and her friends got to work to send not one, but several boxes of clothes. She was so excited and told me she had a lot to send. Her friends had even raised $96 to help pay for postage. They arrived in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US kills 4 in North Waziristan airstrike - The US has killed four Taliban and al Qaeda in its first strike in Pakistan's tribal areas in two weeks. Unmanned aircraft, likely remotely piloted Predator or Reaper aircraft, struck in Norak near the main town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. The aircraft struck the home of Musharraf Gul, a local tribesman who shelters the Taliban. Four people were reported killed and another four were reported wounded in the strike, but no senior commanders have been identified as being the targets. The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash. He has close links to the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar also have influence in the Mir Ali region. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Perfume, Soap, Fillings and Platinum, but Not Guns - The ‘magic wand’ bomb detector has become a familiar, if controversial, sight on the streets of Iraq, as Rod Nordland writes. Earlier this year The New York Times’s Anwar J. Ali wrote about her experiences, reproduced here. Now, two other Iraqi employees of The Times deliver their own feelings about the sensor. (READ MORE)

M-16 vs. AK-47: Iraqi Viewpoints - To get another perspective on the debate about the reliability of the American military’s M-16 assault rifle, we asked some Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad. They have recently been issued M-16s to replace their old AK-47s. Adnan, an Iraqi Army soldier standing at Baghdad’s al-Rubai’i checkpoint, said: “The M-16 is much better than the AK-47 because the M-16 is very accurate and good quality. (READ MORE)

US Keeps a Low Profile Ahead of Iraq Elections - As Iraqi lawmakers repeatedly miss deadlines for writing the new law urgently needed for elections to go ahead in January - and for US troops to go home - America's diminishing role in the political process is very much in evidence. Back in 2005, when Iraq's democracy was being formed, it was common for legislators to meet into the small hours of the morning in the presence of US officials, who shuttled between the feuding camps, mediating disputes and pressuring them to stick to the timetable for a new constitution and for elections to be held. (READ MORE)

Brigade Tests New Concept in Iraq - The first new “advise and assist” brigades already in Iraq and others slated to arrive soon have a big leg up on their new mission, thanks to the groundwork laid by the “Highlander” brigade, which provided a test bed for the new concept. The 1st Armored Division’s 4th Brigade has been on the ground in Iraq since April, conducting the initial advise and assist operations to pass on to the first officially designated AAB, explained Army Col. Peter Newell, the brigade commander. (READ MORE)

USACE project to improve quality of life and environment in Nasiriyah and neighboring villages - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) is taking advantage of a unique opportunity to improve quality of life and the environment near Nasiriyah and the neighboring villages. The U.S. Department of State’s Dhi Qar Provincial Reconstruction Team and USACE are working together to renovate the Nasiriyah Meat Processing Plant. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest 21 in Baghdad, Bayji on suspicion of AQI VBIED activity - Iraqi Security Forces arrested 21 individuals during two joint security operations today targeting vehicle-borne improvised explosive device network members in Baghdad and Bayji. Iraqi Security Forces operating in western Baghdad arrested 17 suspects while serving a warrant for an individual allegedly involved in VBIED attacks. (READ MORE)

3 arrested, 1 killed during search for foreign fighter cell leader - Iraqi Security Forces arrested three suspected foreign fighter cell members today while conducting a warranted joint security operation in a rural area located approximately 106 km northwest of Mosul. A fourth suspect was shot and killed during the operation. (READ MORE)

Pioneering Iraqi Women Graduate Basic Combat Training - Forty-Two Iraqi women became the first all-female graduating class from the Iraqi army’s enlisted basic combat training course here, Oct. 29. Iraqi army Staff Brig. Gen. Mohammed Abdul Razq, deputy director of the Tactical Training Directorate and Iraqi army Staff Col. Mohammed Abdul Rahman Essa, deputy commander of the Regional Training Center, delivered congratulatory remarks to the pioneering female graduates. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army out patrolling Baghdad streets - As Sgt. Kegan Cline observes a group of girls walking near Iraqi Army Soldiers on patrol here, Nov. 3, he knows his and the IA Soldiers' presence allows the girls to walk around safely. "It feels great that we're here serving a purpose," said Cline, a Worcester, Mass. native, assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. (READ MORE)

Airman resuscitates Iraqi helo life support - One U.S. Airman deployed here advises four Iraqi life support Airmen, making sure they maintain survival vests, body armor, crash helmets and night vision goggles for more than 200 helicopter air crew members. In addition to advising, Tech. Sgt. Kyle Richardson, 721st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron air crew flight equipment advisor, maintains the crucial equipment for Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Marines End Wing-level Operations in Iraq - On Nov. 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wings (Forward) ended MAW-level operations in Al Anbar by relinquishing the role as the Aviation Combat Element for Multi-National Force - West to Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced) in a ceremony aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Aviation operations have played an integral part of Marine Corps participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (READ MORE)

U.S. Forces in Northern Iraq Host 'Back to School' Drive in Qayyarah District, Iraq - As Iraqi children returned to school in October, U.S. forces in northern Iraq sponsored a "Back to School" humanitarian assistance drive to help support ongoing educational efforts in the district of Qayyarah. On Oct. 31, Soldiers handed out 1,400 packets full school supplies that included rulers, scissors, crayons, notebook paper, pens and pencils to children at two local primary schools selected by Saleh Ali, the mayor of Qayyarah. (READ MORE)

Awards Mark End of Successful Deployment for Greywolf Brigade - 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division recognized its Soldiers with Army Commendation Medals and Bronze Star Medals near the close of its 2009 deployment to Ninewah province, Iraq. As troops packed and inventoried equipment, manifested flights and planned family reunions, the brigade ensured that Soldiers received their end-of-tour awards before redeploying to Fort Hood, Texas. (READ MORE)

Going Tribal in Afghanistan - In Washington, the debate over Afghanistan seems to center around two broad ideas: counterinsurgency versus counterterrorism. Should the United States add troops for a more population-centric strategy, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal advocates? Or should it use a less ground-heavy approach, disrupting Al Qaeda with Special Operation Forces and unmanned drones, as Vice President Joseph Biden argues? (READ MORE)

Mullen Urges Afghan President to Stop Corruption - Newly re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai must take significant measures to cut government corruption and establish its legitimacy, the top US military officer said today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed concern about the government under Karzai, who was re-elected following a national election fraught with allegations of fraud. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Abdullah Says Karzai Re-election Lacks Legitimacy - Afghan President Hamid Karzai's election rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, told reporters Wednesday that he believes the country's current government lacks legitimacy and will not be able to combat corruption. Abdullah Abdullah says the country's election commission did not have the legal authority or the credibility to declare Mr. Karzai the default winner of Afghanistan's presidential race. (READ MORE)

Karzai’s Top Rival Denounces Afghanistan’s New Government - The erstwhile rival to President Hamid Karzai in the presidential election’s second round held a news conference on Wednesday in which he denounced Mr. Karzai’s newly anointed administration as illegal and said that the government would be unable to cope with the problems facing Afghanistan, including security and corruption. “Eight years of golden opportunity we have missed,” said the former presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, referring to the money and lives spent by international forces. (READ MORE)

5 British Soldiers Slain by Afghan Policeman - Five British soldiers were shot and killed Tuesday by an Afghan policeman while they were working together in southern Afghanistan, British officials said. The shooting occurred in the Nad e-Ali district of Helmand province, one of the most violent areas of the country. The British soldiers were working with Afghan National Police at a checkpoint when one policeman opened fire, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Troop Deaths in Afghanistan Stir Outcry in Britain - The deaths of five British soldiers at the hands of an Afghan policeman with whom they were working have unleashed an outcry in Britain and highlighted the vulnerability of Western troops as they carry out a key part of the counterinsurgency strategy to train more members of the Afghan Army and the police. The attack occurred at midday on Tuesday in Helmand Province as the soldiers relaxed in the still-warm autumn sun on the roof of the joint checkpoint overlooking a shared British-Afghan compound. (READ MORE)

Bloody Betrayal Raises Fresh Doubts About Britain's Campaign in Afghanistan - The killing of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman raised fresh doubts yesterday about Britain’s mission in Helmand. Senior political, diplomatic and military figures warned that public support for the British presence was in danger of collapse without a clear and freshly defined strategy. The deaths of the soldiers, three from the Grenadier Guards and two from the Royal Military Police, came when a policeman trained by British forces opened fire at Shin Kalay base in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

British Leader Vows Afghan Mission Unchanged - While calling the deaths of five British soldiers gunned down in Afghanistan a tragic loss, Prime Minister Gordon Brown underlined Wednesday that British forces remain committed to their difficult mission there. The British leader was speaking during his weekly parliamentary question session. The killing of the British personnel by a lone Afghan policeman at a military compound in Helmand province has raised more questions in Britain about the deployment. (READ MORE)

Armored Troop Carriers Unsafe for Afghan Duty - Staff Sgt. Daniel Paul Rabidou nervously rubbed the sweat from his palms onto his Army fatigues. The tall, well-built 24-year-old from San Bernardino, Calif., had already survived two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on convoys in the past six weeks, including one on the same road he was getting ready to traverse again from Forward Operating Base Ramrod near Kandahar to a small outpost in the heart of Taliban territory. (READ MORE)

Hundreds of UN Staffers Temporarily Leaving Afghanistan - The United Nations is temporarily pulling hundreds of staff members out of Afghanistan while it reviews security arrangements in the wake of an attack by militants on a Kabul guesthouse last week that killed five UN employees, officials said today. UN officials said staff members, scattered in dozens of dwellings in Kabul and around the country, were in many cases protected only by a few Afghan security guards. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Army: Troops Reach Key Taliban Strongholds - Pakistan's army says its forces have reached key Taliban strongholds in the region of South Waziristan, as its offensive moves deeper into militant-held territory. The military says troops captured a "major part" of Sararogha and have also entered Ladha. It says "intense fighting" is taking place in the streets of Ladha for control of the town. A military statement says 30 militants have been killed in South Waziristan in the last day. (READ MORE)

Forces Detain Militants, Seize Weapons in Afghanistan - Combined Afghan and international security forces killed or detained several militants and recovered multiple weapons and explosives in operations in Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported. A combined security force detained a group of suspects in Khowst province, including a Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin militant group commander believed to be responsible for managing a homemade-bomb network and working with Haqqani terrorist network elements in the area. (READ MORE)

Troops Find Common Ground With Afghan Soldiers - Many U.S. servicemembers working and living alongside Afghan soldiers here find they have much in common with their Afghan counterparts. Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team live on the same bases with their Afghan counterparts and work side by side with them during combat operations. The U.S. soldiers advise and mentor Afghan forces to become self-sufficient in fighting, and eventually defeating, the Taliban. (READ MORE)

ISAF Investigating Civilian Casualty Claim in Helmand Province - ISAF can confirm that shortly before 7:30 p.m., Nov. 4, a single surface-to-surface rocket strike took place near Babaji village in Lashkar Gah against a group of nine individuals whom were believed to be involved in emplacing an IED. ISAF forces were not aware of any civilians in the vicinity at the time of the strike. Only those involved in the IED emplacement were targeted. (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Nov. 5: Afghan-International Security Forces Kill, Detain Taliban Militants in Wardak, Khost; ISAF Casualty - An Afghan-international security force killed several enemy militants and detained a group of suspected militants in Wardak province while pursuing a Taliban facilitator linked to local senior Taliban leadership and responsible for managing the supply of IED components into the area Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Karzai opponent: Govt 'cannot fight corruption' - Afghan President Hamid Karzai's challenger in the recent presidential election said Wednesday that the current government will not be able to rein in corruption and has wasted the resources and lives of its international allies. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah spoke a day after five British soldiers were killed in a shooting in southern Helmand province. Afghan authorities said the attack was carried out by an Afghan policeman who opened fire on the British troops. (READ MORE)

India Denies Pakistan Charge Of Assisting Taliban - India has denied charges levelled against it by the Pakistan foreign office that it is assisting Taliban militants in Islamabad's fight with the Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Foreign Minister S M Krishna said India had nothing to do with whatever was happening in Balochistan or elsewhere in Pakistan, and developments in that country were of "their own making." He felt there was "total confusion" in Pakistan and that there was no effective government functioning there. (READ MORE)

'No factual basis to Pak allegations of India funding Taliban' - New Delhi Rubbishing Pakistan's allegations that India is providing arms to the Taliban in South Waziristan, New Delhi has said that there is no truth in these accusations. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar, she said, "There is no factual basis for such accusations ". (READ MORE)

Japan considers sending SDF officers to Afghan int'l security mission - Tokyo is considering sending Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel to the headquarters of the international security mission in Afghanistan as a way of aiding the war-torn country, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Wednesday. “The possibility is not zero, but the SDF dispatch is not decided yet,” Kitazawa said about the plan to send SDF liaison officers to join the International Security Assistance Force. “The Defense Ministry has floated the idea as Japan’s possible contribution.” (READ MORE)

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