November 19, 2009

From the Front: 11/19/2009

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

A World Away: Arrows fly at Camp Bucca - We expected about 20 shooters and we ended up with 33. After 3 rounds Douglas Isbel was in the lead with 110 points, Joshua Corbin was in 2nd with 102 points, Robert Mulvey was in 3rd place with 100 points. Then, Herb Johnson, as the very last serviceman to shoot, blew the completion away with 120 points. We thank camp commander COL Lund for attending and giving us permission to carry out this event. We thank deptuy LTC Moore ( camp deputy Commander and 132nd Battalion Commander) for being there and for shooting the first arrow down range, you did a great job Ma’am. We thank MSG Robert Mulvey for donating the 4 trophies and the 25 medallions. We had an awesome camera man, SPC James Morrow, who did an outstanding job along with our scorers, SPC Carlson and PFC Bryan Schneider. An awesome turn out, no one got hurt and everyone had a great time. We thank everyone for helping us get this together and making this happen. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Did this have to happen? - "In a rare fatal incident, two American troops have drowned in Afghanistan, while trying to recover equipment from a northwestern river, security officials say. The soldiers died on Wednesday, while trawling in the Badghis province’s Bala-Murghab River for lost supply packages, the area’s Deputy Police Chief Mohammed Jabbar told a Press TV correspondent. The supplies were lost as a US aircraft was dropping caissons and food parcels on the troops’ base." It is such a waste and so sad that these two brave Sergeants had to die this way. It either goes to show how important those supplies were that one of them risked his life to retrieve them from a fast-moving river or that he was that dedicated to being a soldier and making sure no supplies were lost. It does show that one soldier cared so much about his “battle-buddy” that he ignored the risks and jumped in after his buddy to save him, but lost his own life. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: What to bring to USF Bulls game on Saturday - From Liisa, SMSgt Rex Temple’s wife: Rex wanted me to post a quick “Thank You” to the USF Bulls and to his home base at Tampa’s MacDill AFB for adopting the “School Supplies for Afghan Children” project at this Saturday’s football game against Louisville. It’s an honor to have this project be part of the team’s military appreciation game. And I’m thrilled to have Rex’s friend SPC Christopher “Kit” Lowe join us at the game; he’ll be enjoying a few days of leave from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C. and his rigorous physical therapy and recovery training after being wounded in Afghanistan in August. If you are in the Tampa area and plan to come to the game, it starts at 12 noon and we have drop-off locations at South and North ends of the stadium. We are looking for new and slightly used school supplies – specifically these items: (READ MORE)

Asma Nemati: Waiting for Karzai's inauguration...to be over - A day before President Hamid Karzai's inauguration on November 19, traffic -- incoming and outgoing -- on all major roads in Kabul was at a standstill. I left my house to get to a clinic via a route that normally takes twenty minutes, but due to the numerous presidents and other VIPs flying in, I had to take a long detour across and around Kabul, so the trip took nearly two and a half hours. Security is tight; at least one fully equipped Afghan National Army soldier could be seen today every 100 meters on major roads out of the airport. From the airport, lines of SUVs with red government license plates filed into the city nearly every hour. On the actual inauguration day, two districts surrounding the presidential palace will be completely closed for security purposes. The pre-inauguration mood in Kabul is tense. Television ads this week have been warning Afghans to stay home and limit movements on November 19. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Clinton in Kabul for Karzai's inauguration - U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly told CNN today that he is "very close" to making a decision about whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and plans to make an announcement "in the next several weeks," after more than two months of deliberations. Obama is reportedly angry about the stream of leaks that has come out about his Afghanistan decision, telling CBS, "For people to be releasing info in the course of deliberations is not appropriate" and said yes when asked if that is a "firing offense". Meanwhile, Afghans are on hold, waiting for Obama to announce a decision and for President Hamid Karzai to be inaugurated tomorrow and appoint his cabinet of ministers. Whether Karzai will appoint reformers or stack his cabinet with political friends remains an open question that worries Afghan and international observers alike. (READ MORE)

User81 @ al Sahwa: Helmand TOA Follow-up - AQ efforts in Britain: AQ-affiliated groups appear to be quite active in their efforts against the UK, but for the most part AQ’s efforts have not replicated the level of Bekay Harrach’s efforts in Germany. The preponderance of open-source reporting revolves around the AQ brand demanding the release of Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza al Masri. While AQ did not carry out any attacks on UK soil this year, they did execute a UK citizen who was kidnapped along the border between Niger and Mali. I was unable to determine whether the June 2009 execution of Edwin Dyer was directly attributed to the April 2009 threat of attacks if Qatada and Hamza were not released. It is, however, extremely plausible. I also came across an Andrew Exum paper from May of last year titled “The Spectacle of War”. In it, Exum writes “A recent study by al-Qaeda expert Jason Burke demonstrated that insurgent propaganda videos on the internet had played a significant role in the radicalization process of young British Muslims...” (READ MORE)

Army Live: Gone but Never Forgotten - Dogs have always been known to be “Man’s Best Friend.” For Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) Clay Rankin, his dog Archie was just that and more. Sadly, Archie passed away last week, much to the surprise of the Rankin’s as well as the entire AW2 family. Read Ms. Stephanie Rankin’s emotional blog entry about Archie and how he will be missed. As many of you now know, Archie, Clay Rankin’s service dog passed away last Thursday night. It was a sudden, heart wrenching reality that life is precious and fragile. Archie died of heart failure, according to our veterinarian’s best diagnosis. He was eight-years-old and in good health — no one saw this coming — but the impact will be felt for years to come. Archie was more than a service dog. He was Clay’s companion, his freedom from a wheelchair, his courage to get up every day and live. Archie was there when the pain got to be overwhelming, when the nightmares visited and when scenes from the past came unexpectedly crowding in. Archie was Clay’s anchor. (READ MORE)

Doc H: A Tribute to the ALO - Almost every time I leave Camp Spann, it is after coordinating with the ALO. ALO stands for Air Liaison Officer; The officer who books flights and schedules the convoys to and from the airport to connect with those flights. It is a fairly thankless job, which our ALO has done very well. I know that as our plans have changed, as they have done very frequently, he has always worked to support us in a thoroughly professional manner. He is a superb example of an officer working way outside his usual field while deployed and doing it very well. He went through the same training class that I did at FT Riley. In fact he was only one bunk over in our 40 man bay. He has let me sit up front during several of the convoys in MRAPs. Finally, however, he is leaving in just a few weeks. It will be quite a loss for the mobility of Camp Spann when he departs. As is only healthy, our ALO has a good sense of humor. He has the below creed posted on the wall of his office. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan: ANSF vetting - It's always disturbing to hear news of Coalition trainers being turned on by their trainees. When you hear of an incident like the one a couple of weeks ago where the five Brits were killed by one of their trainees, it certainly makes you wonder how feasible the end strategy of training more and more Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF...an umbrella term to cover the ANA, ANP, Border Police, and other security agencies within Afghanistan) is. Thankfully, such incidents are rare, but with more and more ANSF out there, we're bound to start seeing more of this. To significantly increase the size of the ANP and ANA they are going to have continue lowering the already low standards for recruits...many are essentially conscripts already. Currently, ANP members need little more than the recommendation of two local elders in order to get accepted into the police academy - and very shortly after that they are police. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Fear Factor - In the war on terror, our greatest enemy is our self. Like the company picnic we have become a community of self licking ice cream cones and have forgotten the mission, or more tragically become so self-absorbed in power point success and vertical movement within dysfunctional organizations that champion mediocrity and the status quo. This risk adverse culture has paralyzed the intelligence world and is metastasizing to the military and other government organizations to the point of a terminal diagnosis or paralysis through analysis. Our current senior management (I cannot use the word leadership as that implies the ability to lead and inspire others which if were the case this post would not be necessary)in the military and intelligence services have become a large group of frighten children who put career advancement and self preservation ahead of the mission. Our congressional management (see above why leadership does not apply) has redefined the carrot-stick philosophy. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Combat chef cooking on gas - Meet 23-year old LCpl Stevie Allan. He's a combat chef with an impressive array of awards to his name, including Scottish Junior Chef of the Year. LCpl Allan has just arrived at the Forward Operating Base at Wishtan, Helmand, where he'll be working in a brand new, winterised cookhouse. The new kitchen has been named 'The Jordan Rossi Cookhouse', after Sapper Jordan Rossi who was tragically killed by an improvised explosive device while on patrol nearby in May. It's a much-needed improvement, offering greater space and better appliances - essential for feeding over a hundred soldiers three times a day. A trained soldier as well as a chef, he spent parts of his pre-deployment training as a member of an Infantry platoon, and is trained to handle the full range of Infantry weapons, from the pistol to the Grenade Machine Gun. He said: "One minute you can be in the kitchen cooking, the next you can be in a Sangar firing at insurgents, or be sent to an isolated Patrol Base. You just never know." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: An Early Xmas Present for the Press - The mainstream media got an early Christmas present today. There are reports that Iraq is collapsing. First, there are stories that the election process has gone off track because one of Iraq's vice presidents vetoed one article in the election law. Next, the Kurds are threatening to not take part in the upcoming election. And finally, Iraq has made the top ten list of most corrupt places. Let's begin with the BBC who says: "Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, revoked Article 1 of the law and called for the representation in parliament of displaced people to increase to 15%." It is thought that most Iraqis who have fled violence since 2003 are Sunni. "Electoral officials say they have suspended preparations for a January vote until an amended law is approved." But wait, there's more. The mainstream media barely had a chance to unwrap that gift when the Kurdish politicians threatened to boycott the January election. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Profile: Abdul the Jingle Truck Driver - JINGLE TRUCKS - On any given day in Afghanistan, an infantry squad will ambush a Taliban column, a platoon of engineers will finish a new road, and a civil affairs team will supply a school with pencils and paper. But to make those things possible, it takes logistics that consumes millions of dollars, requires countless hours, and yields an epic number of truckloads of ’stuff.’ Most of the freight is moved on what we "jingle trucks." Drawing the name from decorative chains that dangle from their bumpers, Afghan truckers are the most plentiful moving parts in this massive logistical machine. But a 1989 Mercedes or MAN with 340,000 miles is a soft meaty target for a hungry Taliban trooper. So we drive each mile with our Afghan counterparts, providing a big gun every few trucks to make sure they don’t get messed with. EXPERIENCES - I’ve been leading a gun crew on these security missions for some five months now, and have a pretty good grasp on the concept. (READ MORE)

Life at Joint Base Balad: A Tribute to the JBB USO - When you arrive in Iraq, you are far from home and in an unfamiliar environment. Most of Joint Base Balad consists of warehouses or working buildings dedicated solely to the Army mission, and it’s not a friendly, welcoming, or comfortable place. As shown in past posts, JBB has many other ways to compensate. I’ve discussed the swimming pools, the rec centers and gyms, the movie theater, the wonderful food at the DFAC’s. One special place on JBB is the USO. USO stands for United Service Organizations. The USO Website says “Since just before World War II, the USO has been the bridge between the American people and our men and women in uniform, conveying the heartfelt appreciation and support of a grateful nation. Whether it is a quiet place to go for rest and relaxation, movies refreshments, or a friendly face, the USO consistently delivers its special brand of service to the military.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US airstrike kills 4 Taliban in North Waziristan - The US has killed four Taliban fighters in just the second airstrike in Pakistan's tribal areas this month. Unmanned aircraft, likely remotely piloted Predator or Reaper drones, hit a Taliban compound in the village of Shanakhora, which lies six miles west of Miramshah in North Waziristan, with two Hellfire missiles. “It was a US drone attack which targeted a militant compound killing four militants and wounding five others,” a senior Pakistani security official in the region told AFP. “The compound was being used by Taliban militants, however it is not clear whether there were any foreign militants or high-value targets,” another Pakistani official told the news service. The region is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani family is led by Jalaluddin and his son Siraj, who serves as the military commander. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Afghan forces battle the Haqqani Network in Paktika - Afghan troops killed 23 Haqqani Network and foreign fighters during a clash in Afghanistan's eastern province of Paktika. The battle took place in Paktika's Barmal district along the border with Pakistan. Arab and Pakistani fighters were among those reported killed during the clash, the Afghan military said. Today's clash followed a raid on Nov. 15, where six Haqqani Network fighters were killed in the Sarobi district. A "group commander" was reported to be among those killed. Also, two suicide bombers were killed during a premature detonation of their explosives in the Yaya Khil district. Both the Barmal and Sarobi districts are Taliban strongholds in Paktika province. Paktika province is run by Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who is the shadow governor. Mullah Sangeen is a senior lieutenant to Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the Haqqani Network. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 19 Nov 09 - this morning I saw chief in the latrine and he assured me that we would be picking up generators today…anyho, it was just another day of sitting around and not doing much at the barn…found out one of the Army guys is going home early…having family problems…that sucks–he won’t be back either…they aren’t supposed to leave until Jan, but I guess this is something big…not really sure what the deal is–I try not to get into other people’s business…anyhoo, one less person at the barn means others have to take up the slack…not that it really affects me in anyway…I just fix trucks nad push parts/supplies out to the other mechanics out at the FOBs…that’s just the new talk of the guys at work..thought I’d share…so as usual I go upstairs, get a cup of coffee, smoke a few cigarettes and wait for lunch… pretty much the same as every other day .. altho, no v-ball today.. the guy hit it over some connexes yesterday and now they can’t find it… (READ MORE)

War is Boring: U.S. Air Force Advisers Struggle with Afghan Cultural Gap - The Afghan helicopter, a brand-new Russian-made Mi-17, wasn’t clearly his, but U.S. Air Force Maj. Darren Brumfield was still determined to keep it. His unit, the 438th Air Expeditionary Training Group, needs four transport helicopters to perform its mission, and in early November, the group had just three. Assembled in Kandahar in April and tasked with mentoring the local Afghan National Army Air Corps wing, the group “shadows” and advises its Afghan counterparts as the Afghans maintain and fly the helicopters on behalf of the Afghan military. But of the three helicopters the unit did have on hand, two were in need of maintenance, with one of them in such bad shape that it essentially needed be replaced. “We’re broke,” is how Master Sgt. John Anderson put it. So Brumfield had arranged with the Afghan military to send fresh choppers from Kabul. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: The Army Game - Fort Dix is boring. We’ve been outprocessing since we got here, which is just a game of hurry up and wait. We’re going through the demob center with a few other units, so there are lots of people backed up at one station which makes for good reading time (my current choice is Chronicles of Narnia). I finished all my paperwork, so now the hold up is reading my TB results which is tomorrow afternoon (takes 48 hours). After that, they’ll book me a flight home. Can’t wait! (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Merry Christmas from Heaven - Last week I went on a much needed "mini vacation" to Texas without the girls. I made a quick trip to Killeen to check on my house (which was in pretty good shape except for some cobwebs and nasty toilets!) then it was off to Dallas for the rest of the weekend. I was able to do some golfing and shopping. I got back last night to a very cranky little girl (I think she had too much fun with her grandpas and grandmas!) and another girl who wanted to start decorating for Christmas NOW. I have always loved Christmas and tend to have a weakness for Christmas decorations. So, as you can imagine, I was a little overwhelmed with my 6 TUBS of Christmas decorations and 3 Christmas trees!!!! Of course no decorating can be done while Eva's awake because that would just be pointless! So, I told Julia that today I would decorate as much as I could while she was at school and Eva was at daycare and have the Christmas tree ready for her to decorate when Eva goes to bed. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Embedded in Afghanistan - While in Afghanistan in September, I spent some time with an Embedded Training Team from A Company of the 1st Battalion, 121st Regiment, 48th Brigade Combat Team, part of the Georgia National Guard, to observe the training and mentoring of the Afghan Army at the operational level out in the field. My longer-form piece about the embed is out in the November issue of DTI, and it features some interviews with Afghan Army officers, a perspective that is missing from too much of our domestic debate about the war. This is an Afghan war—I would even say an Afghan civil war—and it has to be fought by Afghans. In order for the NATO alliance to have a reasoned and well-informed debate about the way forward in Afghanistan, we first have to understand what the Afghans want, and to do that we have to listen to them, as opposed to arguing among ourselves at think tank conferences in the comfortable capital cities of the West. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Pakistan Crumbles - Pakistan’s military offensive against the Taliban in Swat has not produced the desired effect, as commander Maulana Fazlullah and many of his fighters have escaped the region (Fazlullah is in Afghanistan). Much the same thing is happening with the Taliban in Waziristan as a result of the Pakistani offensive there. On Tuesday, the military escorted journalists on a tour of the area, where it closely restricts access, showing piles of things they had seized, including weapons, bombs, photos and even a long, curly wig. “It all started from here,” said Brig. Muhammed Shafiq, the commander here. “This is the most important town in South Waziristan.” But lasting success has been elusive, tempered by an agile enemy that has moved easily from one part of the tribal areas to the next — and even deeper into Pakistan — virtually every time it has been challenged. (READ MORE)

Maj Pain: Keeping the bad guys on the run - Gang- Its been a freaking whirlwind to date. Getting ready to deploy, staying, getting ready to deploy again etc, then finally departing. Flying, no shit, around the world stopping in every third world country then arriving in country and start moving again. Now we are somewhat stationary. Mail has gotten better as has our way of life. We have improved from Wag-bags (burning poop) to port a johns and we get two hot meals a day…pretty damn good chow too. Living conditions are austere, no salsa nights here, just warriors patrolling their butts off and going where the enemy thought they owned terrain. The bad guys don’t like us very much, but on the contrary, the locals love us. Are we making a difference? Bet yer ass. Email is limited as you can tell by the amount of posts produced, been busy supporting Marines. Your Warriors are doing freaking outstanding things! (READ MORE)

Transistions: Official Day # 2 - I begin writing this from my bunk while my other cohorts sleep off a heavy-sitting lunch and as a strong, steady wind blows across the dry, dusty sand causing a layer of haze to form up all around the camp while unlucky people walking about outside are treated to the constant reminder of why they should walk around with their mouths closed lest they want to taste the grit of fine sand amongst their teeth, tongue, and gums. I awoke this morning, after a not-so sleep-filled night, to the rustle of sleeping bags and the creaks of metal bed frames of my fellow bunkmates as they began to pile out of bed to make the trek to the head and shower hut located 30 to 40 yards away. Since my body was still on the Seattle time zone time and not yet ready for the major change it had undergone, I was wide awake at 0430 local time and in serious need of a shower and shave. As a handful of us got up to get ready for the day, a few of the others decide to stay in the 30' x 15' wooden huts that are lined with 8 bunk beds each and play catch-up with the ever-so-crafty sleep fairy eluding us. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

Al Qaeda in Iraq becoming less foreign-U.S. general - Al Qaeda in Iraq is becoming more Iraqi and less dominated by foreigners as the insurgent group increasingly joins forces with Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party, the commander of U.S. forces said on Wednesday. Investigations into massive suicide bombings in Baghdad on Oct. 25, in which more than 150 people died, indicated that explosives or fighters were coming across from Syria, U.S. General Ray Odierno also said. (READ MORE)

Iraq January Election on Hold - Plans to hold Iraqi parliamentary elections in January are once again facing uncertainty, after Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi indicated that he was vetoing part of the electoral law, passed on November 8. As a result, Iraq's electoral commission says it has halted preparations for the general election scheduled for January. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Election Measure Vetoed - Iraq's Sunni vice president on Wednesday vetoed legislation to organize parliamentary elections in January, throwing the measure back to a fractious parliament that spent months haggling over it and threatening to further delay a vote the US military has deemed essential to its plans to withdraw from Iraq. The veto by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi was the latest setback amid growing criticism of the election by the country's biggest minorities - Sunni Arabs and Kurds: (READ MORE)

Veto of Iraq’s Election Law Could Force Vote Delay - Iraq was thrown into a fresh political crisis on Wednesday after a vice president vetoed a newly passed election law, delaying the vote, setting off fresh sectarian wrangling and possibly complicating plans to withdraw American troops. In a move that caught American officials by surprise, one of two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi, said Wednesday that he had vetoed the new election law the night before: (READ MORE)

Iraq Vice President Vetoes New Election Law - One of Iraq's vice presidents vetoed the country's new election law Wednesday, throwing into fresh doubt the feasibility of holding crucial national balloting in January and possibly disrupting the withdrawal next year of US troops. Vice President Tariq Hashimi, a Sunni Arab, carried out his threat to veto the law because, he said, it does not provide for enough seats to represent Iraqi refugees who fled the violence of recent years: (READ MORE)

Iraqi Veto Threatens Parliamentary Vote - Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi vetoed a recently approved election law, throwing a parliamentary vote slated for January into question. The veto is the latest holdup for the legislation, which election officials say they need in place before national polls early next year. The elections have become a factor in US planning for a large-scale military withdrawal scheduled for 2010. (READ MORE)

44th Iraqi Army captures Baghdad Kata’ib Hezbollah member - Soldiers from the 44th Iraqi Army arrested a Kata’ib Hezbollah cell member during a joint security operation conducted in northeastern Baghdad today. Iraqi Army and U.S. advisors searched a building for and found the Kata’ib Hezbollah member, who allegedly leads a sniper and missiles group in addition to being part of a media cell that records attacks against security forces in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Women discuss selling wares on US base - A meeting room inside the library here was filled with lively conversations, Nov. 14, as Iraqi women discussed business opportunities available to them within the Salah ad-Din province. Women from Balad, Samarra, and Dujayl gathered together for a business workshop to exchange ideas about the possibilities of selling hand-made goods on Contingency Operating Base Speicher at the Iraqi Souq Bazaar. (READ MORE)

Iraqis seek out, arrest 11 criminal suspects - Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) arrested 11 terrorism suspects in operations over the last two days, military officials reported. Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched several buildings throughout Baghdad yesterday during a series of operations to search for a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leader believed responsible for multiple vehicle-borne bomb attacks in the region. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
Operational Update, Nov. 19: - An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in northern Kandahar province Wednesday while pursuing a senior Taliban commander. The joint security force targeted two vehicles near the village of Sahabey in Ghorak district after intelligence indicated militant activity. One of the vehicles contained an RPG launcher and several rounds, as well as a PKM machine gun and ammunition. (READ MORE)

Canada's Expeditionary Force Commander Visits ISAF Joint Command - Lt. Gen. Marc Lessard, commander of Canada's Expeditionary Force Command, visited the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (IJC) at the North Kabul International Airport (NKAIA) military compound Nov. 17. Maj. Gen. Jacques Lechevallier, the IJC’s deputy commander hosted Lessard during his visit. (READ MORE)

Karzai Sworn in for Second Term as Afghan President - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been sworn in for a second five-year term following his disputed victory in fraud-marred presidential elections. The inauguration was held Thursday at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul. (READ MORE)

Afghan President Karzai's inauguration speech - In his inauguration address in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has vowed to combat corruption and work with his main rivals. Here are some key excerpts from his speech to the nation. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Military Encounters Little Fight as Militants Flee - This windswept, sand-colored town in the badlands of western Pakistan is empty now, cleared of the militants who once claimed it as their capital. But its main brick buildings, intact and thick with dust, tell not of an epic battle, but of sudden flight. A month after the Pakistani military began its push into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, militants appear to have been dispersed, not eliminated, with most simply fleeing. (READ MORE)

At Least 19 Reported Dead in Pakistan Blast - Pakistani officials say a suicide bomber killed at least 19 people outside a court building in Peshawar Thursday, in the latest attack to strike the northwestern city. The bombing was the sixth in less than two weeks in and around Peshawar. Officials say the attacker blew himself up when guards were trying to search him at the court's gate. They say three policemen were among the dead. Doctors say at least 36 people were wounded. (READ MORE)

Debate Shifts to Afghan Exit Plan - President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have turned the focus of Afghan war planning toward an exit strategy, publicly declaring that the US and its allies can't send additional troops without a plan for getting them out. The shift has unnerved some US and foreign officials, who say that planning a pullout now - with or without a specific timetable - encourages the Taliban to wait out foreign forces and exacerbates fears in the region that the US isn't fully committed to their security. (READ MORE)

Obama: Afghanistan Decision Due in Next Several Weeks - President Barack Obama says he will announce his highly anticipated decision on US strategy in Afghanistan over the next several weeks. The president says the decision will put the United States and its NATO allies on a path toward winning the war. During his visit to Beijing Wednesday, President Obama told NBC television his long-awaited decision on Afghanistan will address every aspect of US strategy in the war. (READ MORE)

Decisions Will Pave Path to End War, Obama Says - A range of decisions still remain for President Barack Obama and his administration to finalize the US strategy in Afghanistan, the president said in Beijing today. In separate interviews with traveling press, Obama said Afghans have to responsible for their own security and Pakistan has to be more effectively involved. “There are a range of things that we know we have to do,” the president told CBS correspondent Chip Reid. (READ MORE)

Karzai Sworn In for Second Term as Afghan President - Tainted by a flawed election and allegations of high-level corruption in his regime, President Hamid Karzai was inaugurated Thursday for a second term, saying the Afghan Army should assume full control of the country’s security within five years. “We will decrease the role of international forces,” Mr. Karzai said at a midday ceremony held at the presidential palace in Kabul. (READ MORE)

Karzai Sworn in as Afghanistan President - Hamid Karzai was sworn in today for a second-five year term as Afghanistan's president, assuming leadership of a war-battered nation and a government that the West is demanding be cleansed of corruption. The ceremony took place in a soaring, white-columned chamber in the fortresslike presidential palace, before an audience of Afghan and foreign dignitaries... (READ MORE)

Karzai Sworn In, Offers Few Specifics on Corruption - President Hamid Karzai was sworn in for a second full term Thursday, promising to fight corruption but offering little in terms of specifics, as hundreds of foreign dignitaries watched for signs of his determination to rid his government of graft and cronyism. In his speech, Mr. Karzai, 51, also set the ambitious goals of having Afghan forces take over security across the country and ending Afghanistan's reliance on private security companies by the end of his new five-year term. (READ MORE)

Hamid Karzai Sworn in for Second Term as Afghanistan President - Hamid Karzai pledged to tackle corruption and said he wanted Afghan forces to take over security of the country within five years as he was sworn in for a second term as president. Mr Karzai also called for a national tribal council to seek peace with Afghanistan’s insurgents. He made his announcement as 800 guests watched him inaugurated amid tight security in his fortified palace in the heart of Kabul. (READ MORE)

Clinton: Afghanistan Faces Critical Moment With Karzai's Second Term - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Afghanistan to join foreign dignitaries and Afghan leaders Thursday for President Hamid Karzai's inauguration ceremony. Secretary Clinton says Afghanistan is at a critical moment in its history on the eve of the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai's second term. Speaking alongside US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry, Clinton addressed a few hundred members of the US Embassy staff. (READ MORE)

US Demands Clear Results From Afghan Reforms - President Obama’s top diplomat privately pressed Afghan President Hamid Karzai to deliver “measurable results” on governance and corruption as the White House prepared specific new demands to accompany an American troop buildup. In an unannounced visit Wednesday to Kabul, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Mr. Karzai that future civilian aid would depend in part on how his government performed in areas like developing an effective army and curbing cronyism... (READ MORE)

$30m Bribe Claim Sours West’s Hope that Karzai Can Show He is Fit to Lead - New claims of corruption will hang over Hamid Karzai today as he tries to use his inauguration to persuade Western allies that he is capable of changing his ways and arresting Afghanistan’s downward spiral. Every word from the Afghan leader, when he speaks to about 300 foreign dignitaries at his inauguration ceremony in Kabul, will be scrutinised in London and Washington... (READ MORE)

Pakistan: Suicide Bomber Kills 30 Outside Peshawar Court - A suicide bomber has killed an estimated 30 people and wounded 36 outside a Pakistan court in the latest attack to strike the northwest city of Peshawar. The bomb exploded at the main gate of the building near the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel, where at least nine people were killed when attackers shot their way through a security checkpost and blew up a truck bomb in June. (READ MORE)

Deadly Blast at Pakistan Courthouse - A suicide blast near the judicial complex in Peshawar on Thursday killed at least 16 people and injured more than two dozen others, a senior police official said. The official, Sahibzada Anis, said in Peshawar that a suicide bomber stepped out of a taxi and attempted to make his way to the main gate of the courthouse complex after his car was stopped for a security check. (READ MORE)

Mr. Obama’s Task - There is no doubt that the prospects for success in Afghanistan are so bleak right now because former President George W. Bush failed for seven long years to invest the necessary troops, resources or attention to the war. But it is now President Obama’s war, and the American people are waiting for him to explain his goals and his strategy. Mr. Obama was right to conduct a sober, systematic review of his options. (READ MORE)

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