November 10, 2009

From the Front: 11/10/2009

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

P.J. Tobia: UN Afghan Evacuation and Relocation Creates Real-Estate Woes For Staffers - After this deadly attack on a UN guest house here in Kabul, the UN has announced that they are evacuating about 600 of their 1,100 workers here and relocating the remaining staff to the UN International Community Association (UNICA) compound. The remaining UN staffers that I’ve spoken with are irritated because many of them rent decent private homes here in Kabul where they feel safe. But UNICA is a dingy, dorm-like experience with some pretty grim shared bathrooms and a big sign out front that says “UN.” In addition, The UNICA guest house–run by a private company–is charging 60 USD a night to the UN staffers who are forced to live there, while I know journalists who have stayed for closer to 25. “It’s not like UNICA is any safer,” one UN staffer told me. “Everybody will know we’re in there. My house now is really comfortable and low-profile.” (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: US Should Clean Up Own Corruption Before Pointing Fingers At Karzai - I recovered from a bronchial haze this weekend, read headlines like these, and got sick all over again. The word here is that the US and Europe are pressuring newly re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai to clean up the corruption riddled government during his second term in office. Actually, scratch that. According to one European diplomat, the coalition isn’t so much interested in actual fighting of corruption, but rather wants “A couple of high-profile heads on a platter.” The heads in question belong to people like Gen. Rashid Dostum, a brutal warlord from northern Afghanistan who Karzai welcomed back into government over the summer. (See the Afghan Desk profile on Dostum here.) US President Obama has called for an anti-corruption commission to perform the proverbial decapitations. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier… - Well today is the it, my very last day in the Army. I can’t believe this day is here. Over 22 1/2 years in the Army ends today. In reality it is really 40+ years in the Army. I was born at Ft. Bragg, NC and have been holding either a dependent or active duty ID card ever since. I mean I will have a retired ID card later this week, which looks like the dependent ones today, but the time of serving as a soldier is ending. My time of being a leader of men, a caregiver to the soul of the young and confused, a motivator to those that are un-motivated is ending. It probably ended back in July when I turned over my last company and took off the diamond for the first time since getting it put on me over seven years ago. That was a painful day to remove the one rank that I always sought, but I can’t be greedy. I mean I was a diamond-wearing First Sergeant for over seven years and was a Detachment First Sergeant for 3 years prior to that as an E7 (Sergeant First Class). (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Visit to a gravesite - April 28, 1978, Afghanistan President Mohammad Daoud Khan and 17 family members were assassinated in the presidential palace by Afghan communist officers. His body along with 17 relatives including his wife and six children were buried in an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Kabul near a firing range in Pule-e-charhki (my former ANA camp). The site of their burial was kept a secret for 30 years until recently. Earlier this year, a former army officer who was on duty that night of the massacre came forward with information on where the bodies were buried. The bodies were exhumed and a state funeral was held in March. Since then the remains have been buried on a hill overlooking the capital city. Today’s mission was to visit some remote guard towers and while there, we had a unique opportunity to visit the new presidential grave site. (READ MORE)

Gretchen Peters: It's not about the number of troops - There has been too much focus on troop numbers. Debating whether to send 20,000 troops to Afghanistan, or 40,000, or to bring some home, misses the point entirely: The key is deciding the strategy and then determining what resources will be needed to support that strategy. The U.S. could deploy five million soldiers to Afghanistan, but they will fail if the end goal is not clearly defined, if they are not trained to support the strategy necessary to reach that goal, and if the numerous government agencies taking part in the mission are not unified in how to reach it. That, unfortunately, is the current state of affairs. The two main strategies being bandied about now -- counterinsurgency and counterterrorism -- are quite distinct, both in terms of the end goal, and how you go about reaching it. One is about state building, the other about containing a problem. What won't work is trying to split the two strategies down the middle. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Critical Progress in Iraq - Wanted to highlight one positive thing that occurred over the weekend. Lawmakers in Iraq were able to break a long-standing stalemate and pass a law that will allow for national elections to occur sometime in Jan 2010. This is a huge step in the process to bring greater legitimacy to the Iraqi national government. According to the NY Times (see full article here), representatives from the US and the UN were able to broker an agreement on the sensitive topic of how votes would be allocated in Kirkuk (there was disagreement between Arabs and Kurds over whether to use census data from 2004 or 2009). Once a compromise was reached on this aspect of the bill, lawmakers were able to include another key provision: the decision to use an "open list" format where Iraqis can vote for individual candidates rather than a party/bloc. (READ MORE)

Doc H: A Wild Ride on a Stallion - All I can say is that today's ride made this entire Afghanistan trip worth the price of admission. The day started slowly, with cold rain, mud, and a still uneasy queasy feeling after battling a persistent case of moderate GI illness. Blah. Yes, the cold weather and precipitation had draped the surrounding hills and mountains in picturesque clouds and misty blankets of snow. Yes, it was very different than familiar Camp Spann. But being sick, cold and away from my 'home away from home' was starting to wear thin on me. We dutifully packed and assembled much as we had done yesterday. The German Air Officer put it best "The Runway is under water". After having our luggage checked, we assembled three different times throughout the day. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): The Amish Have It Backwards - No, I don't mean the buggies. The Amish are reputed to avoid getting pictures taken of them because they fear losing their soul. I think they are talking about the wrong end of the camera. Thirty years ago in Germany, I got paid to take news photos for the Army just like now. I had a lot of success. One of my pictures landed on the cover of Stars and Stripes. Hundred got published. Then I quit taking pictures. In fact, I don't actually own a camera. I have a camera in my cell phone and that has been enough. Everyone around me seems to have cameras so I let them take pictures. Over the last week I started to remember one of the reasons why I stopped. The camera hurts the soul of the photographer. It doesn't steal your soul--that might be better. But the more pictures I take and the better they are, the more I am "the guy with the camera." Now when people have events they want me to take the picture. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: More Fun With Conspiracies - Have you heard? This new election law is part of the plan to destroy the Middle East. It's typical divide-and-conquer. The point is to take big countries and turn them into lots of little countries. Especially to ensure that Arabs don't become too powerful. Few would disagree that the new election law in Iraq is basically a win for the Kurds. It means they get to take Kirkuk and make it their own. It means that the Kurds can secede from Iraq and declare independence. But what non-Middle Easterners don't know is that it's all part of the greater plan. What plan? The wicked one, of course. The Kurdish state would leave a smaller Iraq to limp along with its neighbours. The conspiracy is designed to eventually divide Lebanon into little countries; same with Syria. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: motivation - I came to the MIT Media Lab as a defense engineer, devoted since childhood to putting the best technologies in the hands of our nation’s servicemen in their pursuit of security for American citizens. I believed, and still do, that American soldiers should carry with them tools that are easy to use, don’t break, on which they can entrust their lives, and are better than everyone else’s. These systems can always be made a little better, improvements measured in ever ­smaller time or weight units, so that defense research lives on the bleeding edge of science and manufacturing capabilities. When I began to share with others the joy of a career in making things and solving problems, I found that many people (especially students) lacked basic understanding of fundamental engineering principles. Once introduced to these ideas, students would rocket into frenzied design­-build­-evaluate-­redesign cycles as they experimentally discovered the world. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: A SAT dish of the wrong proportions, swarms of flies and dust - Since the beginning of October, The Hubs and the FST have been trying to move into a different building. Progress was hindered by several things. Lack of a sink, an electrical generator blow up, and no Satellite for either TV or internet. This caused a delay, which resulted in a pissing contest with the arrival of another unit who had expected to move into the old buildings. Finally, after getting things somewhat squared away, they are in. "We are completely moved. It is big and,roomy, but we have swarms of flies due to the presence of goats and cows. We are going to get double outside screen doors and miles of flypaper. Also, we are engulfed in clouds of Afghan moon dust every few minutes when the winds or swirls of planes pass by. We still have only the most rudimentary and occasional internet. Our new satellite dish has been missing for the past few weeks. It can't seem to make the trip out here on its own." (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Words May Hurt, But The Will Has To Be Stronger - Every person I know of has faced discrimination of some kind for one reason or another. Often, it's been the most pernicious --officially sanctioned by a system of antiquated rules. Many have been without resources to fight it. The tragedy this past week wasn't a case of a person whose life or livelihood was ruined by systematic discrimination. Rather, he was someone who made a conscious decision to play for the other team. The real question is why he was retained after a series of poor reviews during his internship. The Army should have called it a wash, stopped their losses and like any other medical internship and residency in the United States, let him go right then. For the media --who keeps harping on discrimination, you besmirch generations of those who came before him, rose above it and served with honor and distinction. You tarnish the reputations of others who have worked hard to guard against it. (READ MORE)

The Life of the Wife: Here's what's going on - We still have a 6 week window for deployment. That window starts in 4 weeks. I find this whole situation to be SUPER cute as I am still unable to plan for the holidays. Howie was constipated and dehydrated this weekend which constituted us staying home with him all day Saturday and playing WiiSportsResort. He has repaid us for this favor by taking 2 dumps in the house and peeing by the front door. Hugs, little buddy. We went to a brew pub (brauhaus) this weekend in Heidelberg. We stopped for lunch, I wanted something light, so I got the cheese platter with a small salad. This is what arrived in front of me: We're going to Paris! Finally. We are running out of time before we're not allowed to leave the immediate area and I'm glad we (I) were able to make this happen. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Afghan, Coalition forces strike the Taliban in Kunduz - Afghan forces, backed by Coalition troops, have killed more than 130 Taliban fighters during an operation in the northern province of Kunduz. Eight Taliban commanders were among those killed while the operation "disrupted the insurgent shadow governor in Kunduz province." The operation took place in the district of Chahara Dara, one of several districts contested by or under the control of the Taliban. More than 700 Afghan security forces backed by 50 NATO soldiers carried out the five-day-long operation that cleared the Taliban from a number of villages, the US military reported in a press release. The provincial governor said 133 Taliban fighters were killed during the operation. Over the past two years, the situation in Kunduz province has rapidly deteriorated, and Kunduz has become a Taliban hot spot in the once-quiet Afghan North. (READ MORE)

Mike Francis, The Oregonian: Coos Bay's Bravo Co., 1/186 - Task Force Guardian, commanded by LTC Gregory Day, sits way off at the edge of Camp Adder, making it one of the quickest element out the gate. The unit, like Task Force Volunteer and Task Force Atlas, has a primary mission of providing security for convoys traveling on Iraq's roads. (Task Force Stetson runs convoys and provides base defense at Camp Victory.) When the soldiers aren't on the road, they're preparing to go out, as in the shots below. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Just Stuff - I finally hit the gym last night. Between going home on R&R, and then having a cold, it's been a month since I last pushed some weights around. So I eased off some on both the weights and the reps. Good thing, too, because I'm sore today. Thighs are sore, abs are sore, chest is sore, arms are sore. Must've been a good workout! Work is going pretty well. As I mentioned, I've got six big projects that I'm in charge of. Two of them have recently been started and the people we're doing them for are hounding me every day, asking about what's going on, and what's going to go on, and when, and why we aren't further along than we are, and they're going to sic their generals on us if they don't like what we're doing. And I'm thinking, dude, I've only had this job for two weeks, what the hell do you want? The other four projects are still being developed so that I can get them onto a contract. I've never put a package together for a contract before, so I'm still on the steep side of the learning curve. (READ MORE)

Dafydd: UK doubts - In the UK, the popularity of the Afghan campaign has slumped yet further. While not the sort of country where public support is absolutely necessary for war, there are real problems in the way. While the elite (national newspapers, politicians & the military) seem pretty solid in their support, as many as 75% of the public want troops out within a year. Around two thirds think the war cannot be won. On Sunday, one national newspaper broke ranks. Still this sort of opinion prevails. Basically the idea is if only the public could understand, they would support. While that article (in the FT) recognises the basic problem (the public “turning a deaf ear”), it doesn’t suggest any remedy other than “explain better”, which I read as “shout louder”. Senior Officers seem to be in much the same position. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: The Way We Get By, Nov. 11 on PBS - We’re almost home and I can guarantee you that when I step off the plane in Dallas or Atlanta, I’ll be greeted by old war veterans, offering a handshake and a thank you. They’re always there, rain or shine, and they put a big smile on my face. This Veteran’s Day, PBS will air “The Way We Get By” - On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting nearly 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Way We Get By is an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reason for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet find the strength to overcome their personal battles and transform their lives through service. This inspirational and surprising story shatters the stereotypes of today’s senior citizens as the greeters redefine the meaning of community. (READ MORE)

Axeghanistan ‘09: Battle Wagons - Improvised bombs took the U.S. military by surprise in the early years of the Iraq war. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Pentagon pledged an initial $15 billion for vehicles designed to resist the bombs. These so-called Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected trucks, or MRAPs, are now a common sight in U.S. wars. On October 21, an MRAP built by International Truck protected its crew from a 200-pound buried bomb in Logar province, Afghanistan. The blast tore the front axle off the vehicle, but the crew was unhurt. For all their effectiveness, there are some Army folks — top brass, especially — who don’t really like MRAPs. Not from a force-planning perspective, at least. They’re tailor-made for Iraq, and to a lesser extent the more road-poor Afghanistan, so what do you do with them after those wars have ended? By now, the military has invested more than $20 billion in the vehicles, if you count the latest All-Terrain Vehicle version. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Pentagon Actually Learning Lessons? - Sustainment contracts for the Pentagon’s fleet of tactical wheeled vehicles probably isn't the sexiest topic out there, but when it comes to the brand-new M-ATVs currently making their way to the Afghanistan theater, they're worth talking about. The contracts being awarded to M-ATV manufacturer Oshkosh reflect some critical lessons learned in the Pentagon’s rush to ship 16,000 MRAPs to Iraq and Afghanistan. After spending $26 billion on various MRAP contracts—a number that doesn’t include sustainment and repair bills—the Pentagon is getting of jump on future sustainment contracts when the M-ATVs need repairs. The MRAP repair and upgrade contracts are a huge—and escalating—cost that hasn’t received a lot of attention. Navistar recently received a contract totaling $78 million to be paid over the next four years for new hardware and vehicle enhancements on its fleet of MaxxPro MRAPs. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Afghan Counter-Drug Ops: Back to the Future - Back in the late 1980s, the U.S. military became substantially involved in counter-narcotics operations in Latin America. And Drug Enforcement Administration had a particularly close partnership with the U.S. special operations community, which provided training and equipment to DEA agents. Writing at the newly launched Sphere, Sharon Weinberger (my wife) takes a look at the DEA’s revived paramilitary role in Afghanistan. Michael Braun, the DEA’s former chief of operations, says the counter-drug war in Afghanistan is in many ways a reprise of Operation Snowcap, which involved a collaboration between DEA agents and Army Special Forces to battle cocaine traffickers in Andean nations. These high-speed counter-drug ops are often hidden from public view. It was not until a recent deadly helicopter crash in Afghanistan — which claimed the lives of seven American troops and three DEA agents — that we began to learn more about the scale of the drug war in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Protecting the “bullet magnet” and improving life in southern Afghanistan - The new head of Helmand’s Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT), tasked with helping to develop one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and conservative provinces, says that the 300-strong group’s greatest achievement to date is the fact that the governor has managed to visit all 13 districts. It might sound a strangely slight claim to success for a body that will this year spend £190 million on efforts to rebuild the province and help provide basic services such as justice and education, but for PRT head Lindy Cameron, success is about somebody else doing the work. The PRTs are joint foreign military and civilian teams trying to rebuild the war-torn nation. “My job is making the government good,” said Cameron. “The point of us being here is to get district government and services up and running and to support the government to be effective enough that people will see it as credible. (READ MORE)

Cassandra: Happy Birthday, Jason - It's hard for a mother to teach her son to be a man. We don't have the right tools, the right experiences. After years of having our parenting expertise go virtually unchallenged, there comes a time when we must stand aside and let them learn to be men from those who have experience in that undiscovered country. It has been 5 years since I read this story. And today it will be 28 years - to the day - since another tiny bundle was laid in someone else's loving arms. I remember, back in 2004, reading about the last few hours of Jason's life. I found myself, inexplicably, thinking of the first few hours of my own son's life and what passed through my mind as I held him in my arms for the very first time: "At the base in al Qa'im, Second Lt. Robinson, 24, of Kenosha, Wis., gathered the men of Cpl. Dunham's platoon in the sleeping area, a spread of cots, backpacks, CD players and rifles, its plywood walls papered with magazine shots of scantily clad women. The lieutenant says he told the Marines of the Dunhams' decision to remove their son's life support in two hours' time." (READ MORE)




News from the Front:
Iraq:

Iraqi Arabs and Kurds Pursue a Common Ground - Arab and Kurdish military commanders here are making efforts at cooperation despite their bitter political differences - a surprising development that offers some hope that one of Iraq's most difficult ethnic divides may be narrowing. Kurdish and Arab politicians in Iraq have clashed over contested land, petroleum legislation and a draft constitution that the Kurdish semiautonomous enclave is pushing. (READ MORE)

Iraq Electoral Official Says Vote Will Happen On Time - Election officials in Iraq say the next general election will take place January 21. The announcement one day after a last-minute deal on the nation's electoral law, means the vote will be held within the time limits set by the constitution. Holding the vote will clear the way for the scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of US troops in Iraq next year. (READ MORE)

Prominent Member of Awakening Movement Arrested in Iraq - A Sunni paramilitary leader and budding politician who had been trying to avoid arrest on murder charges since the summer has been jailed by Iraqi security forces, authorities said Monday. Brig. Gen. Mustafa Kamal Shibeeb was taken into custody last week in connection with the deaths of five known members of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq who were killed in 2007 in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood... (READ MORE)

Women Ascend to Iraq’s Elite Police Officer Corps - As one, the stony faces broke into a free-for-all of kisses, hugs and tears on Monday as the 50 women who called themselves the Lioness group became the first female graduates of Iraq’s police officer training academy. On a vast concrete parade ground, the women joined 1,050 male classmates in what American military officers, who provided advice on the training, called a step forward for the country and its women. (READ MORE)

In Iraq, Tensions Bubble Inside and Outside an Iranian Exile Camp - There seems, as with many problems in Iraq, no good answer for Camp Ashraf, as tensions here rise and American soldiers get closer to leaving: what to do with the few thousand Iranian dissidents here trained in explosives and proficient with tanks and machine guns who have sworn to overthrow the government in Tehran? (READ MORE)

Democracy and Iraq - As spectacles of democracy go these days, we'll take Iraq over Congress. They're both messy, but at least Iraqis are making progress. On Sunday night, Baghdad's various sectarian and political factions came together and passed a compromise election bill, backed by 141 of the 195 legislators present. The law clears the way for a January 21 vote, the first national poll since 2005. (READ MORE)

Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects in Iraq - Iraqi forces, partnered with U.S. advisors, have arrested numerous terrorism suspects in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported. Credible intelligence led team Iraqi soldiers and their U.S. advisors to a northeastern Baghdad neighborhood to serve an arrest warrant on a Kataib Hezbollah terrorist group member suspected of planning and conducting attacks against security forces in Iraq. (READ MORE)

AQI and ISI members pursued by Iraqi Police, 5 suspects arrested - Iraqi Police arrested five suspected members of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) terrorist organizations today during two joint security operations conducted in Diyala and Salah ad Din Provinces. In Saytiyah, located approximately 110 km northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi Police and U.S. advisors searched for an alleged member of ISI, who is known to be directly linked to AQI. (READ MORE)

Gulf Region District engineers tackle Adhamiyah sewer issues - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is tackling age old problems in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Baghdad. Engineers from the Gulf Region District are managing a pair of projects in the Adhamiyah District to provide a new storm sewer system and a sanitary sewer network to residents in this northwestern suburb. (READ MORE)

44th Iraqi Army arrest Kata’ib Hezbollah member - The 44th Iraqi Army arrested an alleged member of Kata’ib Hezbollah today during a joint security operation in northeastern Baghdad. Credible intelligence led the 44th IA and U.S. advisors to a neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad today in search of a warranted Kata’ib Hezbollah member suspected of planning and conducting attacks against security forces in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Salah ad Din Police arrest suspected AQI associate - The 3rd General Directorate Salah ad Din Police Unit arrested an alleged al-Qaeda in Iraq associate today during a joint security operation in central Tikrit. The Salah ad Din Police Unit and U.S. advisors searched two residential buildings while in pursuit of a warranted individual who is a member of AQI with alleged ties to the organization’s leadership operating in Salah ad Din. (READ MORE)

Largest Iraqi Correctional Officer class graduates at FOB Future - More than 600 Iraqi Correctional Officers (ICOs) graduated training this week at Forward Operating Base Future. This class was a three-week pre-service refresher course for already certified Iraqi Correctional Officers, who will eventually completely take the reins when detainee operations transition to the Government of Iraq. Currently, ICOs work side by side with U.S. Military Police. (READ MORE)

Detainees released in Ramadi - Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 23 detainees from U.S. custody Nov. 8, 2009, in Ramadi. MNF-W followed a detailed release process to ensure the security of the people of Anbar and the safety of the detainees were not in jeopardy following the release. Prior to release near their place of residence, detainees participated in a public release ceremony where an oath of good citizenship and renouncement of violence was administered. (READ MORE)

‘Greywolf’ Brigade packing for Fort Hood - Soldiers of the 3rd "Greywolf" Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have begun packing for their return to Fort Hood, Texas, which will officially end their year-long deployment here. "Everyone is excited," said Cpl. Jennifer Nicholson, the supply non-commissioned officer for Forward Support Company G, 2nd Bn., 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd HBCT. "Everyone wants to pack to go home because it means it's getting closer to us leaving." (READ MORE)

Soldiers help preserve Iraq's ancient history - What may look like large, weathered mounds of dirt on rural farmland near Mahmudiyah are actually artifact-filled ruins of an ancient civilization. Soldiers of the North Carolina National Guard's 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team here surveyed the sites recently with officials from the Government of Iraq's Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism to examine ways to preserve and protect two ancient Sumerian sites from looters. (READ MORE)

Sadr City water plant operating as planned - A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ commander visited the Sadr City R3 Water Treatment Plant and its workers recently to check up on how the plant is operating. The USACE’s Gulf Region District (GRD) collaborates with Multi-National Corps – Iraq to provide engineering and construction management expertise to assist the government here with its infrastructure. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Operational Update, Nov. 10 - Afghan national police and ISAF forces seized 500,000 lbs. of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, 5,000 IED components and detained 15 people after a raid in Kandahar, Nov. 8. Based on reliable information, the patrol discovered 1,000 100-lb. bags of fertilizer, which is often used by insurgents to make explosives, and detained 15 people in a warehouse. After the initial find another 4,000 100-lb. bags of fertilizer were found in a nearby compound. (READ MORE)

White House Leans Toward Sending More Than 30,000 Troops to Afghanistan - Officials said President Obama will not announce his decision until after he returns from his upcoming trip to Asia and stressed that no final decision has been made, even in private. But the plan under consideration would represent a middle ground between different requests made from the top commander in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Obama's Afghan Plan: About 40K More Troops - Tonight, after months of conferences with top advisors, President Obama has settled on a new strategy for Afghanistan. CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that the president will send a lot more troops and plans to keep a large force there, long term. (READ MORE)

Afghans React To Possible US Troop Surge - As US President Barack Obama debates with his advisers on whether to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan, Afghans have their own opinions. This year has been the deadliest for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban government eight years ago. (READ MORE)

Envoy: Europe Relies on US Shield - NATO members' reluctance to assume a larger role in Afghanistan is partly the legacy of US military protection, which allowed Europeans to stress social programs over defense for decades, the Greek ambassador to the United States said. "For 40 years, you have a system [of] not bothering about military, security and stability expenses," Vassilis Kaskarelis said. (READ MORE)

US, Germany Press Afghan President on Reform - The United States and Germany say the new Afghan government being formed by President Hamid Karzai needs to embrace reforms and curb corruption if it is to enjoy broader international support. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed Afghanistan with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the sidelines of observances marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. (READ MORE)

Japan Pledges $5 Billion in New Afghan Aid - Japan said Tuesday it will dramatically increase its non-military aid to Afghanistan, pledging $5 billion for a range of projects that includes building schools and highways, training police officers, clearing land mines and rehabilitating former Taliban fighters. (READ MORE)

For Taliban Fighters, a Fading Memorial - The locals call the place “The Taliban Cemetery,” a weed-clotted memorial to the men who died for the movement during its fiercest campaigns in the years before 9/11. The graveyard, next to this tiny village north of Kabul, sits a few miles from what was once the front line against the rebels who fought the Taliban after the group captured Kabul in 1996. (READ MORE)

Suicide Bomber Kills 3 in Northwestern Pakistan - Pakistani police say a suicide bomber in a rickshaw has killed three people in Peshawar, a day after another suicide bomber killed 13 people in a crowded market outside the northwestern city. Police say the suicide bomber detonated his explosives Monday at a checkpoint on a frequently traveled road that runs around Peshawar. (READ MORE)

UN, foreign criticism of Hamid Karzai rejected - Afghanistan Saturday rejected criticism of President Hamid Karzai by foreign leaders and the senior UN official in the country, accusing them of disrespecting the country's sovereignty. Kai Eide, the UN's special representative to Afghanistan, was among those who this week warned Karzai that he could lose international support unless his new government tackled endemic official corruption. (READ MORE)

Afghan students waiting for reopening of schools - It's 1p.m. and squeals of delight reverberate off the apartment complex walls. A half dozen children are kicking an old soccer ball back and forth in a three-car parking lot. They are not supposed to be here. They are supposed to be in school. "I am a student in a school but the schools are off because of brain influenza," second grade student Ahmad Mujtaba Habibi said. (READ MORE)

Ban rejects reports of UN withdrawal - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has rejected reports that the United Nations is pulling out of Afghanistan, saying its work in the war-torn country will continue. Speculation about the UN’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was touched off by Thursday's announcement that it will temporarily relocate some of its staff owing to security concerns. "Let me be crystal clear: we are not evacuating." (READ MORE)

25 wounded in hunt for missing soldiers - More than 25 Afghan and NATO troops have been wounded during an operation to find two US paratroopers missing for two days, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said on Friday. Afghan police have said that the two died by drowning while doing logistics work in the northwestern province of Badghis. (READ MORE)

200 girls complete training courses in Kandahar - As many as 200 girls completed training courses in different skills and were awarded course completion certificates during a ceremony in this southern city. The training programme, organised by the Afghan-Canadian Social Centre in collaboration with Canada's leading polytechnic institute, SAIT, included online courses in management sciences, business, English language, and Information & Communication Technology (ICT). (READ MORE)

Canada’s pull out plan - Canada's Armed Forces have been instructed by their political masters to begin drawing up plans for a withdrawal of our 2,700 troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2011. By then they will have spent nearly a decade fighting the Taliban in a battle that is projected to cost $18 billion and countless lives. (READ MORE)

Tough message for Karzai - Sending a tough message to Karzai as he readies for the second phase of his presidency, the Obama administration has said it would now hold the Afghan government accountable for the foreign assistance in providing security to the people. (READ MORE)

Teachers, education officials honoured - Education department of central Parwan province honoured hundreds of schools teachers and some education officials for their outstanding performance during the current academic year. A ceremony in this regard was organized in the provincial capital Charikar. (READ MORE)

Mourners gather to say goodbye to soldier killed in Afghanistan - The flag-draped coffin holding the body of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan arrived at a funeral service in Saskatoon on Saturday, carried by his fellow soldiers. The coffin of Lt. Justin Boyes was hoisted on to the shoulders of eight soldiers who carried it into a large, modern church for a service using slow, half-steps. (READ MORE)

NATO Airstrike Said to Kill 7 Afghan Soldiers - The Afghan Defense Ministry and local officials in Badghis Province said on Saturday that seven members of the Afghan security forces had been killed in a NATO airstrike the day before that was part of an effort to aid a beleaguered Afghan and NATO operation against the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Taliban attack kills three Pakistani soldiers - TALIBAN militants killed three Pakistani soldiers in an assault on a check post in the northwest as the military pressed its ground and air offensive, officials said. The militants launched a rocket and gun attack on a paramilitary post in Torawari area of Hangu district late Friday, a security official said. Three soldiers were killed in the raid, he said. (READ MORE)

Obama may favour sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan - Even though President Barack Obama is not expected to make any announcement on sending more troops to Afghanistan before returning from his Asian trip, the White House is leaning towards a request made by the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, officials sources said. The Obama administration is considering a middle ground option made by General McChrystal. (READ MORE)

Laden is alive, says Afghan warlord Hekmatyar - Wanted Afghan warlord and Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbudin Hekmatyar has said that Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden is still alive. A private television channel quoted Hekmatyar as saying that the US would be give a 'safe exit' if it decides to pull out from Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Obama to grant request for more troops in Afghanistan: Report - US President Barack Obama is set to approve sending thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan to bolster the fight against the Taliban, CBS News reported Monday. CBS News, citing 'informed sources,' said Obama will approve most of the 40,000 additional soldiers requested by General Stanley McChrystal. Obama for weeks has been holding high level meetings with his top advisors to plot a new strategy for Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Czech soldiers face probe after wearing Nazi symbols in Afghanistan - A scandal hit the Czech Army Monday after its two commanders were found wearing Nazi symbols on their helmets during their mission in Afghanistan, media reports said. Lieutenant Jan Cermak wore the SS Dirlewanger brigade symbol and sergeant Hynek Matonoha wore the symbol of the 9th SS panzer division Hohenstaufen. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Taliban stronghold could be abandoned - A radical shift in policy is being considered by the commanders of NATO forces in the northern part of Helmand in Afghanistan to pull British and U.S. troops out of the towns of Musa Qala and Nawzad to focus on more populated central areas in the province. Western military commanders in Afghanistan have said they might withdraw if reinforcements do not arrive. (READ MORE)

NATO hopes to boost training teams in Afghanistan - NATO leaders expect member states to commit more troops to train Afghanistan's expanding security forces at a meeting of alliance military representatives this month, officials said Tuesday. The one-day conference by military officials fits into a plan by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, to expand the Afghan National Army from its present strength of 94,000 troops to its authorized level of 134,000. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Taliban vow tough guerrilla war - Pakistani Taliban militants vowed to fight a tough, protracted guerrilla war against the army on Tuesday as a suicide car-bomber killed up to 20 people in a northwestern town, police said. The army went on the offensive in South Waziristan, a lawless ethnic Pashtun region on the Afghan border, on October 17, aiming to root out Pakistani Taliban militants behind a wave of violence in urban areas. (READ MORE)

An Uncomfortable Truth - I got a lesson on a recent reporting trip in northern Afghanistan in what not to say to a mullah. I will admit my guard was down. I had been talking to extremely reasonable Afghans at a school in an impossibly beautiful landscape, above a blue river with mountains on all sides. I was not expecting a lecture on jihad and the sins of the West. (READ MORE)

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