November 16, 2009

From the Front: 11/16/2009

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

Stephan Pastis: I’m No Rick Steves, but I’m Close - I’ve posted some very brief videos I took while I was traveling in Kuwait and Iraq. (VIEW)

Michael Yon: Hostages - Some months after Mr. Rohde’s kidnapping started leaking, I published a generic blurb about the case, but made sure none of the information was new. I knew more than was included in the vignette, but chose not to release it. I did not share what sources had told me: that Taliban members were being paid large sums of money (and that money was being wasted) and that some of the efforts flowed through Dubai. I have not published any other additional information from sources. Shortly after publication, March 13, 2009, I received an e-mail that included this request from a person close to Rohde: “The NYT has asked for a news blackout while they do what they can for David Rohde's release. All the wires and the big papers are following it. Therefore, while I'm sure you don't mean any harm, I'm not sure your post about him is helpful.” The person who e-mailed was not from the New York Times. I removed the blub I had posted to my site. Though no new information was released, I had offered the kidnappers more coverage. (READ MORE)

Captured - Denver Post: David Guttenfelder in Afghanistan - For the past seven years, David Guttenfelder has witnessed and documented the changing landscape of Afghanistan. Although mostly embedded with coalition troops, he has also covered the presidential elections, bodybuilders in Kabul, the state of Afghan prisons and daily life in the country. Guttenfelder is the chief Asia photographer for The Associated Press and over the past seven years has offered the general public a close-up, intimate look at the lives of troops fighting in the mountains and remote regions of Afghanistan. (VIEW PHOTOS)

Old Blue: Idiots With Weapons - Just as when untrained nimrods in the United States have money for weapons that they have no business possessing, the same is true in Afghanistan. The Afghan version of a drive-by is the 107mm rocket. Another wondrous Russian invention, it, along with the Kalashnikov and the RPG are the cheap, profligate weapons of the world. The 107 is relatively simple, and while not all that easily transportable, it can be moved significant distances by primitive means. They are often hauled by donkeys in Afghanistan. I returned to Tagab (Tag Ab) a few days ago on a mission. FOB Kutschbach has really grown. Those who were here when the FOB was started would scarcely recognize the place. This morning, shortly after our arrival at the District Center where we were going to work with the ANP for the day, there was a report that insurgents were going to target the District Center with rockets. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Swine Flu shots - These past few days we have been extremely busy taking care of mission related items. Today the Capt and I put in about 16 hours. Now that we have MRAPs, we have to do the maintenance on them along with the up-armored Humvees. It’s quite a step up just to get to the MRAP engine compartment. The dipsticks are over 3 feet long too. If you read my entry yesterday, take a close look at some of our MRAPs. Don’t they appear to look the same? Well they are not and because of these subtle differences, the Army is requiring us to attend a certification course so we can drive them. In the interim, they have given us a waiver to drive them until we can attend the class later this month. After lunch our medic lined us up in the office and administers the H1N1 vaccine. According to the local paper, over 750 people in Afghanistan have been infected with the H1N1 virus. Of these 750 people, only 45 Afghans have become infected and 10 people have died. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Are you serious? - Since I have begun this deployment, I have often commented about the challenges of working with our sister services, specifically the US Army. Today’s debacle revolved around proper licensing to drive the MRAP vehicles. Keep in mind; we have been driving these vehicles for several months now. Before I vent about today’s fiasco, I need to prepare the stage so you can laugh with me. Initially at Fort Riley we attended 62 days of deployment training to prepare us for our current mission. We were issued armored Humvees and the requirement was to have a state driver’s license. We were given several hours of instruction and then required to drive the vehicle one lap around a grassy field. Later that night, we were issued night-vision goggles and gathered in a room. We were instructed to adjust our goggles and then got inside the Humvees. We drove up into the hills on a paved road. (READ MORE)

Sahr MuhammedAlly: A victory for the rule of law - The Obama administration's decision to move the trials of the five Guantanamo detainees accused in the 9/11 conspiracy -- including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- from the discredited Guantanamo military commissions and into federal civilian courts to face justice is a victory for the rule of law. Eight years later, the United States is finally bringing justice to the victims of the 9/11 attacks in a forum that is legitimate and credible. But the Justice Department should go further and try all detainees at Guantanamo in federal civilian courts, not military commissions. I have observed several military commission hearings in Guantanamo including the arraignment of the 9/11 defendants in June 2008. What I saw in every hearing was a second-class system of justice that made up rules as it went along, used unfair evidentiary standards for defendants, and subjected some detainees to ill-treatment and abuse. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Brave Women - Malalai Joya is now touring the Vancouver area with her new book, "A Woman Among Warlords". (I'm not going to link to it.) In general, she receives fawning press coverage. You'll often see her quoted as the "bravest woman in Afghanistan", which is apparently what the BBC dubbed her. I went to a presentation of hers on Friday afternoon, and this is her message: Canadians troops need to leave now, the status of women is worse than ever, and the current government under Karzai is just as bad as the Taliban government was. There is no hope for the future until the United Nations and NATO leave Afghanistan alone. I'm not simplifying anything; that's all she says, over and over again. So what is Joya's solution for Afghanistan after international soldiers leave? That's a good question! In fact, at the presentation she was asked what would prevent the Taliban from taking over after a NATO/UN withdrawal. (READ MORE)

Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain: An historic occasion - The Soldiers we're replacing will be going home soon, and they seem generally pretty pumped about that. I can't say as I blame them! Just a few months ago I was in the same place as I counted down the last of my stay in Iraq. Those final days actually had a strange, dreamlike quality to them. I guess I finally believed I was going to get out of there when I was on the plane from Kuwait to Shannon, Ireland. The Chaplaincy for our predecessors here arranged a luncheon recently to which were invited local religious leaders from the Area of Operations (AO) they covered. This was an ambitious undertaking, and from the look of the Soldiers who attended (there were a lot of brass, let me tell you), it was taken very seriously. Nice to see the Chaplaincy taken seriously by them! In any event, we had quite a number of people who showed up for this occasion, and the very fact that they all were together, in the same room at the same time, sharing a meal together was truly an historic occasion. (READ MORE)

Dan Cnossen: Excessive Dan Growth - If we thought the transition from inpatient to outpatient was going to make our lives slow down, we were wrong! This week was a busy one. Apartment life is good though - much, much better for Dan than hospital life. We've turned one of the bedrooms in the apartment into a Dan-friendly environment. All of his medical supplies are stowed way in the dresser, he can get in and out of the bed in a snap, and we even rigged up the bathroom just right so he is able to take showers now! I've never gone 2 days without showering. I can't imagine what 2 months would feel like. Needless to say, shower time is one of the best parts of Dan's day. The other best parts are his PT and OT sessions, of course. We commute back to Walter Reed every day for 2 hours of PT in the morning, and another 2 hours of OT in the afternoon. It's pretty cool to be able to spend so much time in that gym, watching Dan improve every day, and also watching the other guys in their various stages of recovery making such huge strides with their new legs. (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Bug Bite that keeps giving - This photo is of a patient who came up to me about a bug bite problem. He didn't recall any bite, but the red spot had been present for about two months. He had casually inquired at the base clinic early in the process and was told to use some steroid cream on the spot, it should go away. He had done some research on the spot himself by the time he had come up to ask my opinion. I took one look and knew that a lesion like this; non-healing, ulcerated, red with a fresh looking scar was leishmaniasis. This photo was taken the day he went for specialty treatment for this problem. Here in Afghanistan, the bite of the sand fly can carry any of several species of protozoa of the family Leishmania that can cause disease. It occurs in South America, Central America, the Mediterranean Sea, Subsaharan Africa, Southwest Asia(including Afghanistan) and India. I wish I could say the gent who's leg is pictured is the first case I have seen among US forces here. I cannot. (READ MORE)

the semi-normal, day-to-day life of a female marine: MarSOC looks to women for new mission - Just as I finished the previous post about women in combat, I found this article! Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is making women an integral part of spec ops teams in Afghanistan, where they’ll be used to develop a rapport with Afghan women and, it is hoped, build broader support for the frail Afghan government. MarSOC’s first female engagement team — comprising a captain, two corporals and a Navy corpsman — will spend about nine months with 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, which is scheduled to take command of a task force later this year that will oversee U.S. spec ops forces in northern and western Afghanistan. By attaching female troops to spec ops teams, officials hope to better navigate local Afghan customs that often prohibit interaction between women and men who are not members of their families. Just as soon as MarSOC was notified that 1st MSOB would deploy as a task force, officials made preparations for an engagement team. (READ MORE)

1SG Martinez: Happy Birthday Ma'am! - Okay, so we all missed it. She was under the radar, slipped right past us; played like it was no big deal and turned one year older without so much as a peep. I don't know how it could have happened, but somehow, in the confusion of the day we missed that Maj. Daneker said goodbye to 28 and said hello to, what is now ma'am? Oh, that's it, 29! She was a little sneaky about her big day and never said a word about it, though she probably thought at least one of us would remember, we didn't. She usually puts the birthdays for the month up on the calendar for everyone to see. She is, after all, the keeper of the unit calendar. But, mysteriously, hers was not there for all to see and out of ignorance and a lack of the First Sergeants planning, we missed her special day. In spite of our folly though, I just want it to be said that we all wish you a happy birthday with many happy returns. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Troops' morale high on Afghan front line - Troops from 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) (2 Yorks] – who are based at Weeton Barracks – have been deployed in Helmand province where they are teaching soldiers of the Afghan National Army. As well as facing the stress of being on the front line, soldiers have to deal with being away from their creature comforts and their loved-ones. Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel David Colthup said: "Living conditions vary depending on location and the length of time British forces have been operating in a particular area, with the more recently established bases having a more austere feel. "Each team is entirely self-sufficient, cooking their own food from ration packs and in many instances making improvised gym equipment to maintain levels of fitness. "Despite the daily challenges of operating with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and adapting to a prolonged period away from normal comforts, morale among the teams is continually high." (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Wounded Warrior, Wife Overcome Adversity - When I recently walked into the lobby of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., I felt that familiar sense of awe and excitement I always feel when I’m about to be in the presence of wounded warriors. These troops wage war on the battlefield and, when injured, wage a different type of war back home, a battle that requires just as much, if not more, courage and resilience. I must admit I’m a huge fan. I was there to meet with a wounded soldier and his wife to find out how they had weathered the depths of deployment and injury and made it through. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Canine and his wife, Jennifer, an attractive, young couple, greeted me warmly and immediately put me at ease. At first glance, you’d never notice that Robert had been injured. (READ MORE)

Highland Sailor: Outskirts of Town - I just realized I had not posted anything for the last 3 weeks.... So to catch everyone up, I have been sequestered in a room with 20 other officers from various nations, services and specialities with orders to prepare a product for our Commanding General. In other words, no pictures and nothing I can report on in this blog...not very exciting I know, sorry. However, Today I made it outside the wire and visited a make-shift displaced persons (aka refugee) camp on the outskirts of Kabul. This camp was the worst I have seen. We distributed items that you provided/donated to our VHS mission. Please keep sending your donations and thanks for your support. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): A Day on the Range - I qualified with the M16 today. Barely. I hit 20 of the first 20 shots then three of the 2nd 20 shots. The first 20 shots are prone with the rifle supported on a sandbag. The 2nd 20 are unsupported prone and kneeling. I also fired with the battle optic. At Fort Sill I had trouble with the battle optic and they let me fire with the old iron sights. Here I decided I would just see what I could do with the optic. I passed. I need more practice when we get back. Here are some photos from today. (MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Virgil in the Chow Hall - Today I ate lunch with one of the cooks who attends the "Dead Poets Society" meetings here on Tallil. We were talking about how things have changed for us--he is in the group going home before Christmas. He is sad about going home early as are almost everyone I know who is leaving. They all wanted to be here into the next tax year so they would earn more tax-free money and begin next year with combat pay. I, on the other hand, would leave tomorrow with no regret about my tax status. This led us to the trials of faithful Aeneas as recorded in Virgil's epic. All of us wish we could identify with Aeneas, his troops, and even his enemies. They face danger with no regret. When they die they are brave to the final moment. We don't get a lot of chances to face real danger and we hope we will do it well. But the gods in the epic--we know them. The generals and political leaders above them are the gods in our story. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: How KSM Looks from Baghdad - Will KSM beat the Americans at their own game? This is what Iraqis are asking about the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. It's hard to say how many are paying close attention, but some Iraqis are watching the developments. The most common answer I'm hearing is that yes, KSM will win. The first victory for the terrorist is that United States is set to grant KSM a trial in New York city, the site of al-Qaeda's most successful attack. According to various reports, this is what he demanded from the moment he was captured in Pakistan. The NYT says, " He wanted a lawyer, and he wanted to be taken to New York." Sure it took about eight years, but he still has gotten what he requested. There is no doubt that KSM will use the trial to make himself look like a hero to the Muslim world and the developing world in general, by appearing as the little guy who outwitted the super Americans. (READ MORE)

Inside the Wire: No Rain No Rainbows - This morning… I wake to my cell phone beeping. The battery was dieing. Half asleep now, the phone beeped again. This time it’s a text message from one of my coworkers, “No movements today.” That tells me there’s a security threat and we’re staying at home for the day. I fall back asleep. It’s Friday, the High Holy Day and my day off. Ninety minutes later I was woken up by my roommate entering the room, “You missed all the excitement,” he tells me. Come to find out there was a VBIED at Camp Phoenix, the one US installation we typically visit to drop mail off or run to the PX for anything we need to buy. The news drained me, a car bomb at Phoenix when just five days ago I went through that same check point to send a hard drive back to the states. A group of brothas where working the gate, about 4 or 5 that day. I can’t say I knew them but it was very sobering. I went to brunch. Since the news my mood has been a dark blue. I sat by myself. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Judith Broder, M.D: Free help for PTSD - "The most important thing is to get the word out that help is available for troops and their families (though not yet in as many locations as I'd like)" -Dr. Judith Broder, in an email to The Kitchen Dispatch. What separates a good person from a great person is the willingness not just to feel something, but to do something for the betterment of others. What great people have is passion and tenacity. In her later years, Judith Broder M.D. a psychiatrist, could have sat back and watched reality TV or joined the gardening club. But no way! Her commitment to helping humanity is a lifelong passion. And so it was after learning about PTSD and its effects on soldiers that Dr. Broder decided to start The Soldier's Project. The Soldier's Project provides free, unlimited therapy to men and women of the armed forces who suffer from PTSD and stress-related illnesses. (READ MORE)

The Life: Seasons - Now that it's November, the weather in Basra, Iraq has turned. The air has cooled and the dust storms of the summer are a thing of the past. Blackhawk rides have become bearable, not leaving you sapped of energy and sweating through all the layers of your clothing and body armor by the time you land. Waking up at 0330 to go running this morning was actually a bit chilly with the temperature around 60 degrees. The entire 23 mile run while watching the glorious Arabian sunrise coming over the sands and oil-field fires stayed comfortable, with the muscles getting tired before heat injuries occurred. That would have been a rarity during the summer months when it felt as though you could reach out and touch the scorching sun. Now sweat stays on clothes and your shoes stay wet for hours instead of seconds. The skies have cleared up as the dust seems to have cleared out. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban kill Bajaur opposition leader, target Peshawar leader - The Taliban continue their campaign to remove tribal opposition leaders in the Northwest. A leader who agreed to fight the Taliban in Bajaur was killed, while another anti-Taliban leader escaped an assassination attempt in Peshawar. In Bajaur, the Taliban killed Malik Shir Zaman, a tribal leader who signed an agreement with the government. Zaman had agreed to raise a lashkar, or tribal militia, to oppose the Taliban. The Taliban stormed Zaman's home and destroyed part of it. Zaman was killed in a gunfight. Zaman was from the Mamond tribal area, a region that serves as a stronghold for the Taliban and Faqir Mohammed, the chief of the Bajaur Taliban. Although the military has conducted several operations there, it has failed to eject the Taliban. Al Qaeda is also known to shelter in Momand. In January 2006, the US targeted a meeting of senior al Qaeda leaders in the town of Damadola in Momand. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: A final salute for one who served - Have you ever envisioned your funeral? How many people would be there? Would they be sad? Not at all a question of narcissism, really, but a gauge of the imprint left on your community. Right? Wrong. Recently, there was a funeral with no mourners and no family. No one searched their pockets for a tissue, or blinked away a tear except a small group of funeral and cemetery employees, three soldiers, and a solitary man with a flag. This was the funeral of a veteran who fought for our country and died alone…alone! Friend and Patriot Guard Rider Terry Longpre told me about this shameful situation: “This is the second time I have done one of these burials at Sarasota. Next Wednesday they will bury two Vietnam Veterans who were also indigent and, God willing, I will be there." (READ MORE)

Military Consciousness: 15 Nov 09 - OK — here it is … back to the original spot …I will now continue my blog right here from now on … so I guess I’ll start with my past few days …nothing really going on .. same ol stuff…not much work going on, no casualties, damage or anything from the past few attacks…some mortars, or RPGs have been thrown at us a couple times…as far as work goes, I have picked up a couple new forklifts from the flightline area–they were flown in, we have replaced a few batteries in generators for the chow hall, fixed a hydraulic leak, moved some parts around to send out to FOBs…found a tattoo guy on our other camp–I’m gonna try to get some work done…he’s pretty booked up from what I hear …about 2 weeks out at a time…I’m going to try to book him for once a week for the rest of my tour…also, started planning a trip for June–don’t worry Ma, it’s planned for after the family reunion. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: So Close We Can Taste It - So close we can taste it. I just finished reading the blog of one of our sister units, the 314th Public Affairs Operations Center. The writer was SGM Troy Falardeau, a fine senior NCO whom I’ve known and worked with for years. His blog was entitled “Iraq in the rear view mirror”. As of today, 15 November, they have departed Baghdad. The advance party left earlier in the week, the rest around Veteran’s Day. We’ve shadowed the 314th through their training (we did attend the 21 days of RTC at the same time, although on a 1-day difference in our schedules), deployment and eventually, redeployment. They weren’t that far away from us, either…they were in the IZ or International Zone. Close enough to visit a few times and certainly close enough to call. They deployed one month before we did, arriving just after the New Year. And now they are gone. What does that mean for us? Simple…it means that we, too, leave soon. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Stepping Out Smartly - A very good article in the WaPo on the French units operating near Kabul. (Excellent photos as well; and note please that it's Marines and Legionnaires!) “Hundreds of French and Afghan troops on Sunday pushed into a hostile valley in eastern Afghanistan where militants launch quick attacks and then disappear into hillside villages. The mission: Secure the area for a planned bypass road around the Afghan capital to move supplies from neighboring Pakistan. About 700 French troops, joined by 100 Afghan soldiers, moved into the Tagab valley before dawn with more than 100 armored vehicles. U.S. and French attack helicopters roared overhead as insurgent snipers fired from the roofs of houses onto the advancing column of vehicles, according to a reporter for the Associated Press who was traveling with the French troops.” I have not accompanied any French units into combat, but I can say with perfect candor that I have found every French officer here to be absolutely professional, capable, and dedicated to the cause. Bon chasse! (READ MORE)

Mike Francis, The Oregonian: The art of a military post - When the eggheads speak of tribalism in Iraq and Afghanistan, they're usually talking about the loyalties of the locals. But if anything in these countries is tribal, it's the U.S. military, with its array of heraldry and slogans. Some of the art painted on the blast walls here speaks of regional pride, but a lot of it declares, in words and images, that the people who work herein are the baddest dudes (and dudettes) around. Lots of Hellriders, Grim Reapers, Devil Gunners and whatnot. Even the finance and legal companies try to make themselves sound menacing. (MORE)

LTC Rich Phillips: Back to Afghanistan! - Well, it looks like I will finally get my wish. The 62d Medical Brigade is heading to Afghanistan next Spring, so I should be back before my next birthday. :-) Like every other Soldier and family member, I'm anxiously awaiting the President's decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan. Unlike many, I'm okay with him taking his time with this decision. This is one he needs to get right! I can't imagine what I will blog about on this deployment since I will be in a staff job with little or no time "outside the wire". But maybe I will be surprised. Maybe I'll see new things from a different level that will be interesting in their own way. I guess we shall see. No matter what I blog about, and no matter where I work, I know I will spend every day working to ensure our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines receive excellent healthcare. When we ask them to go into harms way we owe them the best care available, both in Theater and back home. (READ MORE)

Sarah @ SpouseBUZZ: When I Want It To Be His Fault - It had been two weeks since the last telephone call with my husband, and I was starting to get antsy. Even though I knew he was fine -- he finally emailed and explained that the phones had been on the fritz -- I just desperately wanted to hear his voice. I traveled to visit his parents for the week, and we were certain he'd call sometime while I was visiting so he could talk to everyone. But no call came. As I was waiting for my plane, I held my phone in my hand. I just wanted it to ring so badly. I boarded the 9:30 flight and finally shut off the phone. When I landed, there was a voicemail from my husband. Left at 9:28. And the stupid thing was that I got mad at him over it. I walked through the airport fuming. How could this have happened? How did I wait two weeks for a call that came the ONE time I couldn't have the phone on? (READ MORE)

Air Force Wife: I Don't Want to Be That Person - I've had a bit of a conundrum this deployment that has me seriously sensitive to my own behavior. What it boils down to is this, "To Tell or Not to Tell?" When it comes to my children's activities, I'm very forthcoming to those in charge. I tell them right off the bat that Dad is deployed and that I'm playing school bus driver in the minivan on my own. I hate doing this. It makes me horrifically uncomfortable, because I get the feeling that when I inform those in charge of the situation, they feel like they're supposed to say or do something to show they understand. I feel like the "aura" of the situation is that I'm asking for some kind of special treatment or sympathy. Ugh. Sympathy. Blech. I don't feel sorry for myself, and the thought that someone might feel sorry for me makes me want to barf. On the other hand, when someone does try to commiserate, they are doing so because they feel like they should do something... (READ MORE)

There's sand in my...: Travel Time - Well I figured that the trip from Kuwait to Lemoore should take a total of 42 hours, we’ll see! I’m writing this from Kuwait International Airport at 2354 local time(1500 EST). So far the whole warrior transition program has been really well organized and a breeze to get through. Although we were staying in tents and had to walk to the showers outside, it was a great experience. If the people who organize and run the WTP ran the Navy, I’d be staying in another 10 years! Have I said that I cannot wait to get home? Well I can’t! haha. I’m pretty tired right now and can’t wait to get on that plane and feel the wheels come off of the ground. I’ve noticed one thing about Kuwait, the roads on the way to the airport were all nicely paved. As soon as we got to the spot to depart the bus, dirt again! I wonder why. I’m sick of dirt by the way. I think that we have a 6 hour flight to Germany and then an 8 hour flight to Baltimore. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: The Washington Times: U.S. Tests “Ink-Spot” Strategy in Afghanistan - U.S. forces are testing a modified strategy dubbed “ink spots” in which coalition forces pick certain districts to flood with reconstruction projects and permanently defend from Taliban insurgents. In Logar province, 50 miles south of Kabul, a newly arrived contingent of U.S. and Czech troops is putting the ink-spot idea into practice. “I don’t have enough troops to cover every square inch,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Gukeisen, commander of roughly 1,000 soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, deployed to Logar early this year alongside a Czech army reconstruction team. The concept, in part, reflects anticipation that the Obama administration is leaning toward deployments of fewer than the 40,000 extra troops reportedly sought by top commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Winning hearts and minds...even canine ones - Thanks to the Swiss UN worker/pilot extrordinaire Claudia-Tatjana (who runs the blog Global Philanthropy), I came across this story regarding US Marine Corps Major Brian Dennis and his dog, Nubs. Major Dennis, a fighter pilot by training, came across Nubs, an abused dog, when he was serving in Anbar province in western Iraq. Major Dennis interacted with Nubs throughout the course of numerous patrols through the local town--which, incidentally, highlights the value of the routine foot patrols through the villages...you get very familiar with all the locals. A turning point in the relationship occurred when Major Dennis gave first aid to Nubs, who had been injured by one of the local Iraqis. One day, as Major Dennis was driving away in his HMMWV column, Nubs tracked the convoy some seventy miles to their combat outpost. With the help of a charity organization, Nubs was transported through the country of Jordan back to the United States, where he was reunited with Major Dennis upon his return to Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: U.S. to Afghan Militias: Don’t Throw Away Your Guns - In Afghanistan’s Wardak Province, the U.S. military has overseen a modest experiment in giving Kalashnikovs, cash, and power to local militias to keep insurgents out of rural communities. Now the Afghan government and the U.S. military are set to try the experiment on a much larger scale. Reporting from Kabul, Jim Michaels of USA Today describes the Community Defense Initiative, a program to create “neighborhood watch”-style militias in more villages throughout Afghanistan. At first glance, it looks like a replay of the “Sons of Iraq” program that helped restore order in Iraq’s Anbar province. But unlike Iraq, where local guards got a $300-a-month paycheck, funds for this program will be channeled through villages. Michaels, quoting a tribal adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said communities that participate in the program will get roads, health care, fuel, and other other incentives. (READ MORE)

ROFASix: Taliban Attack at Wanat, Afghanistan - Normally I tend to not post videos like this. It is from the US media and begins with footage from the Taliban moving to attack a US outpost. But what is compelling about the video is the mission our warriors are being asked to do and how we are having them execute it. Equally, it is compelling to look at the terrain and the physical siting we are placing our soldiers. The first place reminds me of a little place I studied as a young military officer, it was called Dien Bien Phu. The other reminds me of another place called, Khe Sanh. Neither was worth dying for, nor are these holes in the ground places in Afghanistan. As you watch this video you will find your self wondering, where is the "arc light," where is the artillery TOT, the claymores, napalm, the fougasse defenses? Where are the AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky gunships, the tac air? While the Apaches provide wonderful support in this video, they seem too little and too late and their station time is often too limited. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Behind Every Good Soldier... - is a good woman...sometimes it's his Army Wife, sometimes it's his Army Mom. I handed off a copy of Elaine Dumler's I'm Already Home...Again book to my mother-in-law a while ago. She loved it. You know Mothers look for ways to connect with their little Soldier Boys as much as we do. So, she had hilarious stories to share about doing the photo transfers backwards or having the sticky parts stick together and having to redo. But all-in-all, I thought this a valiant effort. The book is the one we give out at our Field Exercises. (Just so happens we have one coming up at Fort Carson; Register Here!) But if you can't come or you can't bring your mother (in-laws) with you, then I think you should click through and get one for awesome ideas to stay connected with your soldier. It'd make a great "Thank-you Mom!" gift or even a great Christmas stocking stuffer! (READ MORE)

What? Mermaids?: 1st day of 1st deployment - Today was a rough day. I am almost too tired to write about it, but I'm not quite tired enough to go to bed yet (I'd like to just drop my head on the pillow and remember nothing else). Last night I helped Matt pack as much of his stuff as would fit in two canvas bags. It was surreal, in a way. It felt almost silly, that we were spending so much time and putting so much effort into something that felt pointless. It still didn't feel real. Well, it does now. I spent most of the day with Erin, whose husband left today also. It was a relief to be with her all day, even though we didn't do a whole lot. The worst part of the day started as soon as I was a block away from Erin's house, on my way home. We live about three or four minutes apart, but those were some long, lonely minutes. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

Iraq VP threatens to veto vote law over refugees - Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president threatened on Sunday to veto a new election law unless seats in parliament are allocated to Iraqi refugees, casting fresh uncertainty over the January election. Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi told parliament the law had to be altered to give a voice to Iraqis abroad. Many of them are members of Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Muslim community who fled after Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003 unleashed a sectarian war. (READ MORE)

Iraq expects strong competition in new oil bidding - Iraq's oil minister said Sunday he expects strong competition among international oil companies in a second round of bidding next month on the country's lucrative oil fields. Forty-five international oil companies -- including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron, BP Group PLC., ConocoPhillips and Total SA -- have been cleared to compete for the rights to develop 15 oil fields on offer in 10 projects. (READ MORE)

Was the Iraq War Worth It? A Divided City Tries to Answer. - The Shiite pilgrims arrive in crowded buses and are dropped off just outside the shrine's gate. They walk down a narrow path patrolled by security guards and lined with tall cement walls to pray at the al-Askari mosque, the resting place of two of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam. (READ MORE)

Liberate Iraq’s Economy - After returning from the second of two tours in Iraq, I can attest to notable progress. Iraqi civilian casualties have dropped sharply, the result of both the United States surge and negotiations with Sunni groups. There has been political progress as well. Provincial elections were held this year and national elections are scheduled for early 2010. (READ MORE)

Security Agreement Advances Emergency Response Brigade Mission - In the 1990s, the Iraqi television screens were plastered with poverty. According to the commander of the Emergency Response Brigade Staff Brig. Gen. No'aman Jewad, children were dying of starvation and, with frequent famines, whole families would go to sleep without food. (READ MORE)

U.S. Soldiers Visit Iraqi School - Oregon National Guard members, deployed in Iraq, partook in a unique mission where they were able to make a positive impact on the hearts and minds of local national children from a small village in southern Iraq. As the Soldiers brought supplies, gifts, and other resources for their school, Oct. 27, loving looks and thankfulness filled the area. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
IJC Operational Update, Nov. 16: - An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Nangarhar province today, one of which was a sought-after Taliban facilitator responsible for numerous weapons shipments to other militant elements in the area. The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Lawangpur in the Chaparhar district where intelligence sources reported the Taliban facilitator was located. (READ MORE)

French troops launch eastern Afghan offensive - Hundreds of French and Afghan troops pushed into a volatile valley east of the Afghan capital Sunday in an attempt to gain control of an area that has long been a haven for militants who launch quick attacks and then fade back into hillside villages. The force of about 700 French and 100 Afghan soldiers launched the offensive into the Tagab valley before dawn, one part from the north and another from the south, according to Col. Francis Chanson, head of the French marine infantry regiment. (READ MORE)

Three Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban rocket attack - Three Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban artillery attack on their base in eastern Afghanistan, whilst six militants were killed by Afghan and NATO forces, officials said Sunday. Two soldiers were injured in the attack that took place in the Qazi Abad district of the eastern province of Kunar, close to the border with Pakistan, the Afghan defence ministry said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Taliban shoots at helicopters carrying German top brass - The Taliban shot with personal firearms at helicopters carrying Germany's military top brass, but hurt no one, defence sources in Berlin said Sunday, confirming a newspaper report. One of the three aircraft in the incident Friday near Kunduz, Afghanistan was carrying Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and the chief of military staff, General Wolfgang Schneiderhan. Both the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and the Bild am Sonntag newspapers said Guttenberg was told during the flight that his helicopter had just been shot at from the ground with assault rifles. (READ MORE)

British troops in Afghanistan to get 100-mn-pound bunker-busting missiles - British troops in Afghanistan will soon be equipped with 1,300 bunker-busting missiles worth 100 million pounds. The Eraser, a shoulder-launched Javelin, is believed to be ideal to use against fortified positions and mortar compounds, The Mirror reports. The missile can be manoeuvred up and down, also during night, to fire straight at a target. (READ MORE)

Taliban make gains in Afghanistan's forgotten north - The insurgents' tactics are familiar. Night letters warn village elders to cooperate or face death. Religious "taxes" must be paid, and fiery sermons in mosques attack the Karzai government and international forces. The locale is startling, however: Afghanistan's northern Balkh province, which in the years after the fall of the Taliban emerged as one of the most stable – and in its urban hub of Mazar-i-Sharif – most prosperous places in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

US Asks More From Pakistan in Terror War - The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on Pakistan to expand and reorient its fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, warning that failing to do so would undercut the new strategy and troop increase for Afghanistan that President Obama is preparing to approve, American officials say. While Afghanistan has dominated the public discussion of Mr. Obama’s strategy, which officials say could be announced as early as this week, Pakistan is returning to center stage in administration planning. (READ MORE)

For Pakistani President, Goodbye to Goodwill - President Asif Ali Zardari, who entered office 14 months ago on a wave of post-dictatorship goodwill and sympathy for his slain wife, Benazir Bhutto, now faces growing public anger and disillusionment over his remote presidency. Some critics are urging him to step down, and others predict he will be forced from office within months. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Taliban Taps Punjab Heartland for Recruits - One by one, recruits from Pakistan's Punjab heartland would make the seven-hour drive to Waziristan, where they would pull up to an office that made no secret of its mission. The signboard above the office door read "Tehrik-e-Taliban." In a largely ungoverned city like Miram Shah, there was no reason to hide its identity. (READ MORE)

Bombing at Police Station in Pakistan Kills 3 - A pickup truck laden with explosives attacked a police station in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing at least 3 people in an area that has become the focal point for militant retaliation against a recent army offensive. Suspected militants have killed more than 300 civilians and security personnel in the last month in an attempt to weaken the country's resolve to continue the military operation in the tribal area of South Waziristan... (READ MORE)

US Troops Battle Taliban, Afghan Rules - Army Capt. Casey Thoreen wiped the last bit of sleep from his eyes before the sun rose over his isolated combat outpost. His soldiers did the same as they checked and double-checked their weapons and communications equipment. Ahead was a dangerous foot patrol into the heart of Taliban territory. "Has anyone seen the [Afghan National Army] guys?" asked Capt. Thoreen, 30, the commander of Blackwatch Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment with the 5th Stryker Brigade. (READ MORE)

Afghan Roadside Bombs a New Priority for US - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is creating a department-wide task force to focus on ways to counter the roadside bombs that have caused 80 percent of US casualties in Afghanistan. The challenges are different from those in Iraq, Gates told reporters Thursday before a visit to a Wisconsin factory that is producing a rugged new armored vehicle for use in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War - While President Obama’s decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan is primarily a military one, it also has substantial budget implications that are adding pressure to limit the commitment, senior administration officials say. The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces... (READ MORE)

US Urges Karzai to Curb Graft - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration was seeking greater accountability from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, suggesting that future civilian aid to the country could be tied to more aggressive action to combat corruption. "President Karzai and his government can do better," Mrs. Clinton told ABC News's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." (READ MORE)

Clinton Ties Future US Aid to Afghanistan Accountability - The United States is limiting its goals in Afghanistan and demanding better accountability from that country's underperforming leader, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday, and she tied additional US civilian help to results from the government in Kabul. (READ MORE)

In Eastern Afghanistan, a Vital Road-building Mission - Hundreds of French and Afghan troops on Sunday pushed into a hostile valley in eastern Afghanistan where militants launch quick attacks and then disappear into hillside villages. The mission: Secure the area for a planned bypass road around the Afghan capital to move supplies from neighboring Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Bombed, Blasted and Shot Yet Still the Taliban Come - Two years ago Corporal Alex Temple fought like a lion to capture the Afghan town of Musa Qala from the Taliban. Last week he was back, once again in a fierce battle just two miles from its centre. “It has changed though,” he said. “It’s more dangerous. The fighting is harder.” (READ MORE)

US Set to Open New Afghan Prison - Officials unveiled a new $60 million detention facility at the main US air base in Afghanistan and promised greater transparency at a prison where Afghans have long suspected hundreds of their countrymen are being held for dubious reasons. The new prison and the pledge to open the inmate review process come as the Department of Defense worries that abuses and militant recruiting within Afghan prisons are helping strengthen the Taliban. (READ MORE)

US Gives Tour of New Afghan Detention Center - By the end of the month, the US military plans to begin moving the first of its approximately 700 detainees at Bagram air field to a new $60 million holding complex in an attempt to provide better living conditions and separate committed fighters from those who are ready to re-enter Afghan society. (READ MORE)

A Blue Line in Afghanistan - As President Obama wrestles with whether to send more troops to Afghanistan despite widespread corruption in the government of Hamid Karzai, little attention is being paid to a promising dimension of our efforts to foster reform - a much better approach to building the Afghan police force. This anticorruption agenda does not reduce the need to battle kleptocratic trends in Kabul, but it is a big reason for hopefulness. (READ MORE)

Enough Afghan Debate - The more President Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose - and he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. (READ MORE)

Obama's Reluctant Choice - Three autumns ago, Washington was paralyzed with indecision about what to do about a losing war - in Iraq. A congressionally mandated commission held hearings and weighed options; none of them seemed good. At the White House, President Bush presided over a review that had extended for months as generals and political aides debated whether to escalate or wind down the US commitment. (READ MORE)

Obama's Quagmire - President Obama is in Asia - instead of at home making a key foreign-policy decision. He has said he will not clarify his strategy in Afghanistan until he returns Thursday, thereby further kicking the Afghan can down the road. This is an astonishing act of cowardice and dithering. Unless the president quickly turns around his political fortunes, his administration will be mired in failure. (READ MORE)

Obama Must Rethink Rethinking Afghanistan - Barack Obama is in danger of giving deliberation a bad name. The decision about whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan was never going to be easy, but events - and a collision of egos in Kabul - have conspired to make it even harder. Obama was right to insist on a full review of whether US interests are better served by expanding the American military footprint in Afghanistan or shrinking it. (READ MORE)

Panjshir PRT - The Panjshir PRT combines resources from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture into one unified effort aimed at the economic, judicial, social, educational and infrastructure development of the Panjshir valley. (READ MORE)

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