November 13, 2009

From the Front: 11/13/2009

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

The Gun Line MkIII: Ghosts - I’m going through my deployment pictures. I guess it’s time to show what we did on this journey. (MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Dog Returns home after a year in the Afghan wilderness - An Australian Special Forces explosive detection dog has been found alive and well more than a year after she went missing in action in Afghanistan. Black Labrador “Sabi” was recovered by a US Soldier at an isolated patrol base in Oruzgan Province, after going missing in the same September 2008 battle during which Trooper Mark Donaldson, earned his Victoria Cross. Nine Australian soldiers, including Sabi’s handler, were wounded during the fighting. The US soldier who recovered Sabi, who can be identified only by his first name John, was aware that Australian Special Forces were missing one of their explosive detection dogs. He said it was immediately obvious that Sabi was no ordinary canine. “I took the dog and gave it some commands it understood,” John said. John said he thanked the man who was with Sabi and shook his hand. Sabi was then flown to Tarin Kowt to be reunited with one of her Australian Special Forces trainers. (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: Intelligence Games: Fishing in Murky Waters - (The following story and images by Simon Klingert, are reconstructed from interviews and eye-witness accounts during his embed in Diyala, Iraq in 2008) "Do we want to have him killed or not?" The question hung in the air, as the solider followed up with the target's profile: "We know that he recently abducted a 14- year old kid and is training him to be an assassin. He has ties to the insurgency, but he's more of a criminal than anything else. He is also close friends with the local police chief, who wouldn't be too happy to see him killed." Captain Bangura sat in the cramped room that served as home and office to the intelligence cell under his command, and took a moment to process the question his intelligence sergeant had put out in the open. As commander of Cobra Troop, (2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment as part of 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division), it would be up to him to decide if the target, this shady figure with ties to the Iraqi insurgency, would live or die. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Afghanistan’s Teen Soldiers - Niamatullah joined the Afghan National Police (ANP) for the same reasons that many Afghan men do. “I am illiterate,” he says, sitting in the police barracks in Aghandab district, Kandahar, a Kalashnikov machine-gun hanging from a strap on his neck. “I couldn’t find a job, so I was compelled to join the police. There were only two ways. Join the police or beg.” Niamatullah has something else in common with all too many Afghan police and army forces: he’s only 16 years old. On the record, government sources say that there are no underage soldiers or officers in the ANP and Afghan National Army (ANA). But speaking anonymously, many admit that in fact there are soldiers and police officers under the age of 18 serving in both security forces. The reason so many teens enlist is two-fold: Afghan security forces desperately need warm bodies as the war spins further out of control, and young Afghan men desperately need jobs. In some cases the parents of these young men encourage them to enlist. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: “ER” Nursed back to Health - Today’s mission was to travel to Camp Phoenix and retrieve “ER,” one of our MRAPs. Despite being the ambulance model, we do not use it as such, so the boss doesn’t want me to refer to it as ER anymore. Instead, it has been relabeled 5K-1 (5th Kandak, vehicle 1). It was another cool morning and my ETT team readied the vehicles for the mission. Our MRAPs are undergoing maintenance, so we used our fleet of armored HMMVWs for this mission. Meanwhile, I was busy loading lumber on a contractor’s truck so it can be pushed out to another FOB down south. The lumber will be used to build a tent floor for our ANA brothers. Recently an insurgent rocket destroyed one of our sister Kandak b-huts (tragically killed 2 ANA soldiers) and another one accidentally burned down resulting in the death of another ANA comrade. So now they are scrambling for living quarters and have occupied the living quarters we were planning to move our Kandak soldiers into. (READ MORE)

Steve Coll: "Decoding the New Taliban" - Antonio Giustozzi, a fellow at the London School of Economics, is the editor of a new volume of research essays about the Taliban entitled “Decoding the New Taliban,” which is being published here by Columbia University Press. It is an outstanding and important collection -- just the sort of locally specific, openly debatable, scholarly analysis about the diverse structures and leaders of the Taliban that will be required more and more if the international community is ever to understand the insurgents and divine how to prevent a second Taliban revolution. I thought I should mention two selections from among those I have read so far, and also urge the more dedicated Afghan watchers out there to order the book and plunge in. This is not for the general reader, but those who work in the region or have an interest in the granular challenges facing international policymakers in Afghanistan will find much of value here. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Meditate With Me: Hasan to be Charged with Premeditated Murder - The Washington Post is reporting that Major Hasan, who is now conscious and recovering in the hospital, will be charged with "premeditated murder" in a military court for his actions of open firing two handguns and killing 13 people; of whom 4 were officers, 8 were enlisted soldiers, and 1 civilian who is a retired chief warrant officer. (I hold that 14 were actually killed because one woman was pregnant with her first child). Lawyers have indicated that hosting the trial in a military court "because he is a service member" also means that investigators have evidence (to a large enough degree) to prove that Hasan acted alone. Otherwise, if he acted in company/partnership with other parties and players then a civil trial would take place. Moreover, if he were a "suspected terrorist" a military commission might be formed to investigate and prove his specified actions in that light. (READ MORE)

Pat Ryan: Governance in Afghanistan: The Lesser of Two Evils? - As President Obama continues to weigh his options for a way ahead in Afghanistan, most of the media has focused on comparing the various courses of action (COAs) based on the number of US troops that would be committed. While force structure is a key element to any strategy, this largely misses the point. The real question is: What will these troops be doing? What is their desired endstate? Assuming that we follow the guidelines for COIN articulated in FM 3-24, a critical line of operation will be establishing and legitimizing governance – at the local, district, provincial, and national levels. The NY Times reports this morning that LTG(R) Karl Eikenberry, Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan, has expressed his concerns about sending additional troops due to his assessment that Karzai’s government is unable/unwilling to clamp down on corruption and will be unable to produce visible improvements in governance. (READ MORE)

The Caucus: Gates Angry About Defense-Related Leaks - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is normally a mild-mannered man, at least in public, but he unleashed a torrent on his plane on Thursday morning about leaks during the investigation of the Foot Hood shootings and President Obama’s deliberations on sending more American troops to Afghanistan. First, his comments on the president’s meetings regarding Afghanistan. “I have been appalled by the amount of leaking that has been going on in this process,’’ Mr. Gates told reporters en route to a Wisconsin factory that is churning out thousands of armored trucks manufactured specifically for the rough terrain of Afghanistan. “I think a lot of different places are leaking,” he said. “I’m confident that the Department of Defense is one of them. To have details or options that are being considered out there in the middle of the president’s deliberative process I think does not serve the country and it does not serve our military.” (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Iraq in the rear view mirror - After nearly 330 days, all of the 314th PAOC Soldiers are now out of Iraq and on our way home. The last 8 of us, including LTC Perez and me, left Baghdad International Airport right at the end of Veterans Day. Four of our Soldiers are already at Fort Dix doing the work of the advanced party…and the rest of us will join them in a few days. We all slept in yesterday morning, and then started the work day with an awards ceremony. SGTs Autumn Hope, Mary Lee and Kellena Leech all received an Army Achievement Medal for work they did toward the end of our year in Iraq. SSG Jeremy Fowler received a Certificate of Achievement for an incredible end-of-tour magazine he created that spotlighted all our Soldiers. Family members might want to look at the magazine to get some insight into the experiences of their loved ones. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: Biden Plan in Inaction in Nuristan - Uh oh. Syed Saleem Shahzad reports: "The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan, on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles. The US has retained some forces in Nuristan’s capital, Parun, to provide security for the governor and government facilities. The American position concerning the withdrawal is that due to winter conditions, supply arteries are choked, making it difficult to keep forces in remote areas. The US has pulled out from some areas in the past, but never from all four main bases. [...] The province is now under the effective control of the network belonging to Qari Ziaur Rahman, a Taliban commander with strong ties to Bin Laden. This makes Nuristan the first Afghan province to be controlled by a network inspired by al-Qaeda." And can you say “Safe Haven” for insurgents in Pakistan? (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: How to give serving personnel a Merry Christmas - As the season of good will is nearly upon us, the British public are being urged to help the forces as much as possible by refraining from sending Christmas parcels to troops in Afghanistan. Soldiers serving in theatre are literally being overwhelmed by support from the British public who generously post unsolicited parcels, putting a massive strain on the Forces Post Office in Camp Bastion, resulting in packages from friends and family taking longer to reach the intended recipients. Many of the parcels are addressed to chaplains who have long left theatre, but whose legacy continues. The intention is that the current generation of padres will distribute the parcels to troops on the front line. Padre Richard Downes, who is the British chaplain at Camp Bastion, said: The Enduring Families Free Mail Service enables families and close friends of Service personnel to send packages out to theatre. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Building bridges in Afghanistan - Crossing the Nahr e Bughra canal has just been made a whole lot easier thanks to the work of the Joint Force Engineer Group in Helmand Province. The Grenadier Guards, Royal Engineers and soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancasters Regiment, took just a week to build a new bridge on the fringes of Nad e-Ali in Helmand. It's part of a long term plan to improve the economic prosperity of the area. The task was completed by 10 Field Squadron, part of the Joint Force Engineer Group, 11 Light Brigade. Commanding Officer of the Engineer Group, Lt Col Matt Bazeley, said: "The construction of this bridge is of huge significance. I hope it will give the people of Nad E Ali District greater freedom and from this there will be social and economic development. We are extremely proud and honoured to have completed this bridge construction for the people of Afghanistan." (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): 4000 Miles in Iraq, 6000 for the Year, So Far - With just 49 days till my 2009 spreadsheet is closed out, it is time for a mileage update. As of last Sunday, I have more than 4,000 miles in Iraq. Although I ride some miles that are not circuits of the air base, and many interrupted circuits, it is a safe bet at this point that I have made close to 300 laps of this dust bowl. Right now I am 13 miles short of 6,000 miles total for the year. Sometime tomorrow, the odometer should click over to the next 1000-mile interval. While my heel feels better, my running is way down from last year. But my shoulder is recovering well and my back is holding up just fine despite wearing body armor on flights. So far this year I have done 10,547 situps, 8365 pushups and 705 pull ups, but who's counting. We have a PT test sometime this month. Because I am over 55, I do not have to run. For my aerobic test, I can either run, walk, swim (if there was water) OR RIDE THE BIKE!!!! (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: The Training Environment -I have lifted weights more in the first few weeks of this trip to Iraq than I ever have before. The lower operational tempo is a contributing factor. In the "old days" I would go outside the wire for days or weeks at a time sleeping in the dirt and living off the land or living in a Patrol Base or Combat Outpost that was just a rented house with a palate of bottled water stacked up in once corner and boxes of MREs in another. The other contributing factor is that every Company sized installation now has a nice little gym. Because the equipment varies from place to place (I'm on my 4th gym in 3 weeks) and there may not be a soldier around to spot me, I try to stick with dumbbells. The only problem is that on dumbbell incline press I need 100 pounders and most of the smaller gyms only go up to 80 or 90 pounds. But at least there is a gym! (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber targets Pakistani intelligence headquarters in Peshawar - The Taliban have struck again in Peshawar. The latest attack targeted the headquarters of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency in the provincial capital. So far, 10 Pakistanis have been reported killed and more than 35 have been wounded in the massive blast. A suicide bomber rammed his car into the main gate of the ISI headquarters building and detonated the bomb. The explosion is said to have heavily damaged the ISI headquarters and several other buildings in the surrounding high-security area. In the nearby district of Bannu, a Taliban suicide bomber killed three people and wounded 25 more in an attack on a police station. The police station is reported to have been leveled in the attack. The attack took place in the Baka Khel region, one of two areas known to harbor al Qaeda operatives. The neighboring region of Jani Khel is known to have hosted al Qaeda's central treasury and has served as the meeting place for al Qaeda's executive council. (READ MORE)

Major Shawn Keller: An Officer's Outrage Over Fort Hood - As an officer in the United States Army, I'm angry for so many reasons over what happened at Ft. Hood. I'm angry that twelve of my fellow soldiers and a contractor were murdered. I'm angry that over thirty people have suffered life altering injuries from which they will never fully recover. I'm angry that the lives of so many families have been forever ruined. I'm angry that this happened on an Army post on American soil where soldiers should be safe. And I'm angry that the murderer was a terrorist who masqueraded as an Army officer for half a dozen years. But as angry as I am at what happened, I'm even angrier that it was allowed to happen. Apparently, there was no shortage of warning signs that Hasan identified more with Islamic Jihadists than he did with the US Army. From speeches, writings, conversations, affiliations and postings on Jihadist websites, there were more than enough dots to connect... (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: The Cable Guy - In an Afghan version of the chicken-or-egg question, cables by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry leaked today urged President Obama to continue to delay a decision to deploy more troops until Hamid Karzai's government takes a stronger stand against corruption. There are political speculations about the ambassador's motives (Spencer Ackerman, for example, suggests the cables are designed to expand the Embassy's influence in Afghanistan) and a double standard already at work in press coverage (don't expect Eikenberry to suffer the same outrage that greeted General McChrystal regarding the propriety of influencing policy deliberations). But the most interesting aspect of the episode is what it might tell us about the need to triage Afghan troubles in the right priority. Ambassador Eikenberry is correct to argue that more troops supporting Karzai will decrease the pressure on the Afghan president to clean up his government's act. (READ MORE)

Andi: Fuzzy Math - Have you ever noticed how fascinated people are with the moving aspect of military life? Bet you move a lot? How many times have you moved? Do you like moving all the time? Those questions, or some variation of them, are almost always asked. When I get the question, I usually count with my fingers while saying aloud: From Ft. Sill to Ft. Benning (one), From Ft. Benning to Ft. Hood (two), From Ft. Hood to Ft. Benning (three) and on and on. When I arrive at the current duty station, I look to see how many fingers (and toes) I have counted and that's the answer I give. But today I realized that my math skills need some work. Actually, I realized that in second grade, but I digress..... I don't think I've been counting the times we've been at duty stations and moved WHILE stationed there. There are various reasons this could occur: landlord decides to sell the house or move back in, we find something we liked better and the price was right, new housing opened up... (READ MORE)

The Torch: How deal with Afstan, AfPak, Indo/Pak, and al Qaeda/Update on strong horses - Steve Coll is the author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, probably the best contemporary history of those events. Last month he wrote serious think piece in Foreign Policy about the way ahead for US Afghan policy and related issues (thanks to Terry Glavin for bringing it to attention). I think the first part on Afstan itself is very good. The second, on Pakistan (and India) much weaker and over-optimistic. The third, on al Qaeda, hits the mark. The fourth, on setting up a durable Afghan polity, makes a lot of sense. But how to achieve it? Some excerpts: The Case for Humility in Afghanistan - A Taliban victory would have devastating consequences for U.S. interests. But to avoid disaster, America must beware the Soviet Union’s mistakes -- and learn from its own three decades of failure in South Asia. (READ MORE)

Axeghanistan ‘09: World’s Luckiest Vets - In Afghanistan’s Baraki Barak district on October 25, Afghan veterinarians braved Taliban intimidation to partner up with the U.S. Army in providing free vet care to the district’s farmers and herders. But it was the military vets at Bagram air base, outside Kabul, that had the closest brushes with death. Check out the photo. The dent in the side of the pickup truck, belonging to Bagram’s vet team, is from a rocket that some insurgent fired over the Bagram air base wall. The round struck the truck, shattering some windows, ruining the door and injuring the occupants. But it didn’t explode. The incident reminded me of the BBC’s “Basra truck.” The British broadcaster had outfitted a vehicle with satellite transmission gear to support rotating correspondents. One night as the truck was parked at the main British base at the Basra airport, an insurgent rocket or mortar exploded next to it, peppering the vehicle with shrapnel holes. Luckily, no one was inside at the time. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Insomnia - If you have ever spent a night in a barracks or in a military tent with at least ten other men in it you’ll have some idea of what I am talking about. The night is never silent, there is always someone snoring softly or someone rustling about. Last night those soft but ever present sounds was a noisy din, a cacophony conspiring to keep me awake. The calm of the night outside the tents thin canvas walls is perforated by the sharp staccato of machine gun fire at random intervals on some range or test fire pit. Occasionally convoys of MRAPs or other heavy equipment roar down the road their engines sounding like jets. Then there is the actual Air Force cargo jets landing and taking off. A little piece of advice, if you ever have the opportunity to purchase a piece of property for cheap near a military runway pass it up. These things start off sounding like a jet and then right before these behemoth jumbo jets take off or land they kick their jets into high gear and it sounds like a space shuttle is blasting off right outside your tent. (READ MORE)

Robert Haddick @ SWJ: No wonder the Afghan review is taking so long - While on his way today to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed to reporters (in the course of blasting anonymous leakers) a few snippets from the Obama administration’s review of Afghan policy. According to the AFPS article, Gates said “Obama appears to be leaning toward [a policy option] that combines parts of various alternatives presented so far.” Gates went on to say: The question, [Gates] said, comes down to "How do we signal resolve, and at the same time, signal to the Afghans and the American people that this is not open-ended?" If President Obama and his team are waiting until they come up with an answer to that dilemma, it is no longer a mystery why the review is taking so long. Sorry, you can’t commit to both the long road and the exit ramp at the same time – you have to pick one or the other. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: Crazy Conspiracy Theories - There are so many in Afghanistan. My personal favorite is the one that involves trained tigers being dropped from American planes into villages to eat the people: Right. OK. These people are about as nutty as some of the people in my hometown. Every country has village idiots. But how about the rumor that maintains that the US is directly funding and supporting the Taliban? And what crazy people to think this. Seriously? I mean just because the US has given hundreds of millions to a country that supported the Taliban from 1994-2001? And just because the US continued to give money to the country whose military continues to provide support to the Taliban? And just because the US pays the Taliban? Oh, yeah. About that. Um….those payments are, like, totally indirect and stuff. Silly Afghans and your conspiracy theories! Move along…move along…nothing to see here. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: (VIDEO) Marine Embedded Tactical Trainers at COP in Kunar - This video documentary, courtesy of the Unrestricted Warfare Analysis Center, is remarkable for its summary of various themes that can be found at The Captain’s Journal over the past three or four years, from control over roads to logistics, from the need for troops and force projection to the ineptitude of much or the ANA, from the difficulty of raising a coherent and cohesive Army in a culture that is inhospitable to such a concept to allowing the enemy control over the high terrain. Each and every one of these ideas has been rehearsed and documented ad infinitum at TCJ. You might remember Staff Sergeant O’Brien, USMC, from an earlier video documentary showing the problems associated with startup on the ANA. It would appear that progress is halted and the problem quite protracted in nature. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Kurdish leader talks about Turkey and the prospects for peace - The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, has been battling Turkey for an independent Kurdish state since the 1970s. Now Turkey has promised to come up with a plan to give Kurds more political rights in a bid to end the conflict. At the PKK's main camp in the remote Qandil mountains in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region, the PKK leader, Murat Karayilan, spoke to Babylon and Beyond about the PKK's suspicions of the Turkish offer. (READ MORE)

Detainees released near Haditha - Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 13 detainees from U.S. custody and transferred four detainees who were wanted pursuant to a valid warrant to Iraqi Police custody Nov. 12, , near Haditha. 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. (READ MORE)

USF gives aide to 8 Iraqis after deadly car accident - One Iraqi died and eight others were injured after their vehicle crashed near Tuz at approximately 8:30 a.m. today. Several 4th Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division Soldiers, who were on patrol at the time of the accident, immediately stopped their patrol and rendered assistance by evacuating the Iraqis from the car and providing medical treatment. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army delivers wheelchairs, supplies - American troops aren’t the only ones conducting goodwill missions here, as Iraqi troops are out in force to win the hearts and minds of the people. Earlier this month, Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 29th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, entered the town of Rutbah to distribute school supplies and other needed items. (READ MORE)

US MP training Iraqi Police to take the lead - A U.S. Military Police Company here has worked with Iraqi Police in Maysan province for months to improve their ability to govern and provide security. The 57th Military Police Company conducts Key Leadership Engagements (KLE) with Iraqi Police leaders at Iraqi Security Force stations. (READ MORE)

Media questions first Advise, Assist Brigade - U.S. and Iraqi media representatives visited the U.S. Army's first Advise and Assist Brigade here, Nov. 11, to learn about this new mission facing U.S. troops. Journalists with the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Iraqi Al Hurra TV focused their questions to Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza, spokesman for Mutli-National Force – Iraq, and Col. Mark Stammer, commander of 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne (Advise and Assist Brigade), primarily on the growing relationship between Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the AAB. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force Rains Hellfire - As Iraqi Security Forces continue pushing forward in their proficiency, ranging from hand to hand fighting techniques to weapons tactics and training, they advance as skilled defenders of their nation. With all the capabilities they continue to acquire, precision guided aerial firepower is a significant asset for which they recognize a need. The use of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile begins a new age of air-strike capability for the Iraqi air force. (READ MORE)

Among Obama Aides, Debate Intensifies on Troop Levels - The disclosure that the United States ambassador in Kabul has expressed written opposition to deploying more American troops to Afghanistan lays bare the fierce debate within the Obama administration over the direction of the war, even after weeks of deliberations and with the president on the verge of a decision. (READ MORE)

Rift in US War Cabinet as Obama Throws Out All Options in Debate Over Troop Surge - Two leaked classified cables from the US Ambassador in Kabul voicing grave concern about sending more American troops to Afghanistan have exposed open conflict inside President Obama’s national security team over his war strategy. The contents of the cables, passed to The Washington Post and The New York Times yesterday by three officials, also highlighted growing uncertainty inside the White House about how to prosecute the war, amid deep concerns over the corruption of Hamid Karzai’s Government. (READ MORE)

US Mulls Combining War Plans - President Barack Obama wants to blend together elements of the different troop-increase options presented to him Wednesday to formulate a new strategy for the Afghan war, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday. Speaking a day after the eighth cabinet-level meeting of Mr. Obama's war council, Mr. Gates said the president asked his advisers to re-examine the four scenarios to see if elements of each could be mixed. (READ MORE)

Gates Says Afghan Plan Will Mix Various Proposals - President Obama hopes to combine the best elements from among the several proposals he is studying on sending additional troops to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Thursday. “I would say it was more, how can we combine some of the best features of several of the options to maximum good effect?” Mr. Gates told reporters.. “So there is a little more work to do, but I think we’re getting toward the end of the process.” (READ MORE)

White House Talks Up Need for Exit Strategy in Afghanistan - The White House sent its strongest signal yet Thursday that it is searching for an eventual way out of Afghanistan even as it considers sending thousands of additional troops to join the war there. Emphasizing the importance of timetables for US involvement, administration officials stressed that President Obama is concerned about how long American troops will remain in the country and wants to avoid an "open-ended" commitment. (READ MORE)

Obama Wants More Afghan War Options - President Obama has determined that none of the options for Afghanistan prepared by his national security team are viable in their current form and asked for new recommendations, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday. "There is a little more work to do. I do think that we are getting toward the end of this process," Mr. Gates told reporters in comments regarding leaked cables the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, wrote to Mr. Obama in recent days. (READ MORE)

Weak Allies Limit Obama's Options - In the final stages of its deliberations over a new war strategy, the administration's attention has shifted to the two governments whose cooperation and competence are considered essential to success - Afghanistan and Pakistan. National security adviser James L. Jones arrived in Islamabad on Thursday for a personal update on whether Pakistan's government and military are willing and able to play the crucial role envisioned for them in each of the several options President Obama is considering. (READ MORE)

Gates Lashes Out at Leakers - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today condemned a spate of leaks regarding both the Afghanistan strategy deliberations and last week's shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, threatening to fire anyone in the Defense Department he finds is involved. "I am appalled by the amount of leaking that has been going on," Gates told reporters traveling with him today in the wake of media reports following yesterday's national security session on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama's eighth in the past two months. (READ MORE)

Dutch Troops' Method in Afghanistan Gains New Prominence - In recent months, since the appointment of US Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as the top commander here, the new mantra for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has become: more development work, more civilian protection, less overarching focus on fighting. This is nothing new for the Dutch, who are credited with using less of a tough-guy approach here in Oruzgan province. (READ MORE)

Afghan Enclave Offers Model to Rebuild, and Rebuff Taliban - Small grants given directly to villagers have brought about modest but important changes in this corner of Afghanistan, offering a model in a country where official corruption and a Taliban insurgency have frustrated many large-scale development efforts. Since arriving in Afghanistan in 2001, the United States and its Western allies have spent billions of dollars on development projects, but to less effect and popular support than many had hoped for. (READ MORE)

Explosion Hits US Base in Afghan Capital - A suicide bomber struck Friday at a United States military convoy as it passed near Camp Phoenix, the large American installation on the outskirts of Kabul. The head of criminal investigations with the Kabul police department, Gen. Sayed Ghafar Sayedzada, said three Afghan civilians had been wounded. He was not aware of any American casualties, and a NATO spokesman said there were no deaths. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Spy Agency Struck by Militants in Peshawar - A suicide car-bomber destroyed an office of Pakistan's main intelligence agency in the northwestern city of Peshawar earlier today, killing at least eight people and wounding over 30. Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces including a commando-style raid and hostage-taking at the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi last month. (READ MORE)

Bomb Hits Pakistan's Spy Agency in Northwest, Killing 7 - A powerful car bomb exploded in front of the national intelligence agency building in the Pakistani city of Peshawar early Friday morning, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 30, military and intelligence officials said. The bomber penetrated one of the most heavily guarded zones of the North-West Frontier Province capital, which also houses military and government buildings. (READ MORE)

Militants Hit Pakistan Spy Agency in New Escalation - Militants stepped up their fight against the Pakistani government on Friday, striking a building belonging to the country’s main intelligence agency in the northwestern city of Peshawar, Pakistani television reported. The early morning explosion killed at least eight people and wounded more than 30 in what has become a grimly familiar cycle of violence. (READ MORE)

Bypassing the Aid Trap in Pakistan - Congress recently approved $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan for social and economic development. The bill incited controversy by requiring that the US Secretary of State report to lawmakers on whether Pakistan's civilian government keeps effective control over its military, because many observers accuse some in the Pakistani military of having tolerated or even aided Islamic extremists since the 1980s. (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Nov. 13: - The vehicle borne improvised explosive device which detonated on Jalalabad Road in Kabul, Afghanistan, around 8 a.m. today, injured nine ISAF service members, 10 civilian contractors and several Afghans. No ISAF service members were killed. "The insurgents use indiscriminate attacks like this to attempt to intimidate international forces and our Afghan partners, but we will continue our important efforts in support of the Afghan people," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, IJC spokesperson. (READ MORE)

HMLA-367 'Scarface' Introduce Yankees - The sound of four blade rotors echoes across the Helmand sky, as the UH-1Y Huey helicopter made its first combat deployment with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 "Scarface". The squadron arrived in October, with the first UH-1Y helicopters arriving Oct. 23 on the back of a C-17 aircraft. The UH-1Y made its first flight Nov. 4. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Capture Terrorism Suspects - Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan today captured a sought-after Taliban commander following a firefight in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, and also captured a Haqqani terrorist group leader in another area, military officials reported. In the first incident, the combined force killed several enemy militants and detained others in Ghazni’s Zankhan district. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Work to Sway Afghan Youth From Violence - Task Force Lethal civil affairs soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, and members of the U.S. Agency for International Development conducted a meeting Nov. 5 to discuss youth-related issues in the province’s Nangalam, Dari Khar, Manogai and Watapur districts. Officials said the meeting targeted vulnerable youth, especially teenage boys at risk of coming under the influence of anti-Afghan elements, in the hope of giving them alternatives to violence. (READ MORE)

Leaked cables expose Obama War Cabinet rift over Afghanistan troop deployment - The leaking of two classified cables sent by US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry has exposed the rift prevailing within President Barack Obama's national security team over his war strategy, reports The Times. The contents of the cables were passed to The Washington Post and The New York Times on Thursday by three officials. (READ MORE)

UK PM for more nations to share troops burden in Afghanistan - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has has ordered the country's Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth and senior foreign policy adviser Simon McDonald to embark on a round of diplomatic lobbying to try to get agreement from at least 10 different nations to supply the extra forces for the NATO-led offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

UK 'backs Taliban reintegration' - A reconciliation between the Afghan government and some Taliban leaders in the next two years has been proposed by UK officials in a memo seen by the BBC. Reconciliation calls are not new but this would include the so-called Quetta Shura leadership, believed to direct much of the Taliban's activity. (READ MORE)

Kidnapped Norwegian Journalist, Afghan Translator Freed - A Norwegian freelance journalist and an Afghan colleague, kidnapped a week ago in eastern Afghanistan, were released Thursday, the Norwegian foreign ministry said. Paal Refsdal, who was making a documentary for Norwegian production company Novemberfilm, had called his country's embassy in Kabul last Friday to say he and his Afghan translator had been abducted n Kunar province near the border with Pakistan. (READ MORE)

New Zealand to send light armored vehicles to Afghanistan - New Zealand is to send three light armored vehicles and crew to Afghanistan to back up elite troops. The New Zealand government said the army vehicles would provide increased protection for 71 Special Air Service soldiers, especially from roadside bombs, Radio New Zealand reported on Friday. (READ MORE)

How the US army protects its trucks – by paying the Taliban - On 29 October 2001, while the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan was under assault, the regime's ambassador in Islamabad in neighbouring Pakistan gave a chaotic press conference in front of several dozen reporters sitting on the grass. On the Taliban diplomat's right sat his interpreter, Ahmad Rateb Popal, a man with an imposing presence. (READ MORE)

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