November 30, 2009

From the Front: 11/30/2009

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

Sour Swinger: Photos From Mission Part 3 - You’ll probably wondering why its been one month since my last posting. Well, my computer took a pretty hard crash while I was on the road. I was in a slight state of panic as the remaining photos to post were not backed up. For my computer to get in the shop, repaired, and return to this blog….took a month. So for a second time, lets see if I can wrap everything up over the next week or two. This is the third set of pictures from my platoon conducting missions. I picked 3 to show below. Click here to see the entire set. There’s about 60 pics total. (MORE)

3rd Time, New Country: Happy Thanksgiving from Kabul - First, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving from Kabul Afghanistan. Our team took the day off from mentoring. Actually, we are taking a long weekend off from mentoring at NMH. Not only did we have an American Holiday, the Afghans are having one too. This weekend is another EID. The EID will end on Sunday, so it will be back to mentoring on Monday. Of course, we have lots of admin to catch up on over the weekend. So, let me recap the past week. Last Thursday, was the President Karzi’s inauguration. We didn’t mentor on that day. In fact, our security posture was increased, so we spent the day on NKC. Everytime we were outside a hardened structure, we had to be in full battle rattle. That makes for a long day. There are many people here who don’t leave our little FOB. I don’t know how they do it. I get off the FOB at least 6 days a week for mentoring. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Another example that Afghanistan is not Iraq - I have said those worlds on this blog more times than I can remember. Anyone that I know who has been to both has said the same exact thing and told me I was dead on with that statement. Now it seems yet another soldier with experience in both reinforces the idea yet again. “Before deploying here we were given training on language, culture, everything. I thought that since I was an Iraq combat veteran, I didn’t need any of that stuff. I was wrong. Both countries may be Muslim but this is a totally different place,” says Sgt. Michael McCann, returning from a patrol in the east-central province of Logar. Another example is the terrain: “The sheer terrain of Afghanistan is much more challenging: the mountains, the altitudes, severity of weather, the distances. That wears on an army,” says Maj. Joseph Matthews, a battalion operations officer in the 10th Mountain Division. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Move over Pony Express - I’m not sure when Benjamin Franklin created the US Postal Service, he envisioned US mail being transported by armored HMMVWs and protected by machine guns. But that is one of the methods used to transport mail to the awaiting soldiers in remote combat outposts and camps throughout Afghanistan. Today’s mission was to retrieve the mail and take care of some additional administrative business. For me, it was an optimal opportunity to get my chipped tooth filled. Before we departed on our mission, the Captain wanted to present SSgt Richard Brown a certificate of appreciation for his hard work and mentoring these past 6 months. SSgt Brown is returning home to the United States and if his flights go as planned, he will be home in time to comfort his wife while she gives birth to their baby. (Hold on a few days Mrs. Brown, your husband will be there shortly). (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief - On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks that left more than 160 dead in Mumbai last November, Pakistani prosecutors have indicted seven men, including the alleged mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, in criminal court with plotting and helping carry out the. The men -- accused members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba extremist group purportedly behind the attacks, which targeted hotels, a train station, and an Orthodox Jewish center -- have all pleaded not guilty. Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, remains vulnerable a year after the 26/11 attacks, though some improvements have been made, with inadequate training and resources for Indian police topping the list of concerns. No senior members of the police force were reprimanded or fired in the wake of the attacks, and nearly all the political officials who quit in the aftermath are back on the job or have been promoted. And the infrastructure of Laskhar-e-Taiba is still more or less intact. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Lashkar e Tayyiba: Mumbai and Global Ambitions? - As usual, this month’s edition of the West Point CTC Sentinel is packed full of excellent and timely articles. In particular, their headline piece detailing the background and recent activities of the Pakistan-based Lashkar e Tayyiba (LeT) is well worth a read. Also, the WSJ has a great summary of the group here. This Thanksgiving (Nov 26th) marked the one-year anniversary of LeT’s horrific attack against multiple targets across Mumbai – significant not only because of the attack’s high casualty rate but also because it was LeT’s first attempt to propel themselves onto the global stage by focusing on a “Western” target set. For a riveting account of the attacks, check out HBO’s recent documentary “Terror in Mumbai,” which overlays video of the attacks at multiple sites with real-time voice intercepts gathered by Indian intelligence. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Torture - Sorry folks. Tough time of year for me, with the end of term only a week away. Light blogging for now. Of course, the tough time of year had to come during a period where I wake up every day to see that Afghanistan is the lead story of every Canadian media outlet: there used to be TORTURE in Afghan prisons! One Globe and Mail editorial bemoaned the fact that Afghan jails weren't up to "Western professional corrections standards". As Chris Selley noted, are you serious? Western standards?! Are you aware of what's gone on in that country over the past thirty years? If I was an Afghan criminal in 2006, I'd rather ship off to a jail in sub-Saharan Africa. Torture in Afghan jails shouldn't be excused, but to be surprised that it still occurs in prison cells unobserved by international monitors is to be embarrassingly naive and ignorant. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Rolling Thunder - The MRAP is an awesome vehicle for getting around the battlespace. It can protect you from almost anything the enemy can use against you. But it is first and foremost a weapon. Like any weapon or inantimate object, it makes no distinction who or what incurs its wrath. Most MRAPs are very heavy, weighing between 12 and 20 tons. When the the driver looses control it can be a disaster. The MRAP pictured above had a rollover about 2 weeks ago. From secondhand reports the vehicle was going fast and the dust from the road obscured visiblity. The vehicle hit an uneven spot and rolled completely over (They are top heavy). Thankfully and only due to Divine intervention, there were no serious injuries. The passengers dutifully strapped themselves in as instructed. Luckily the gunner was thrown clear since the crushed turret as seen above would not have been a healthy place to be situated. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: The Cost of Risk Aversion - Just in time to put a damper on your holiday spending comes this helpful article from the White House I mean McClatchy news service designed to prepare Americans for the impending raid on our hard earned money. Questions arise over how to pay for Afghanistan war is the name of the article and as one would suspects it helpfully points out that many of our previous Presidents raised taxes to pay for sending our Armed Forces onto the field of battle. My first thought upon reading this garbage was it reminded me of the main stream media’s attempt to provide us “depth and context” to former President Clinton’ life long history of predatory sexual abuse by dragging Thomas Jefferson and JFK through the mud. The second thing I thought was that our current efforts in Afghanistan are not remotely on the scale of our Civil War or World War II. The third thing I thought was that LBJ was an abject failure as was his short lived 10% surtax for Vietnam. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Life Here Seems to be on Hold, but Life Goes on Back Home - Last month the last of the six Gussman brothers died. My father, George, was the fourth of six sons born to two Jewish emigres from Odessa, Russia. My grandfather died in 1932 just over 20 years before I was born. I have very few memories of seeing my father's three older brothers: Abraham, Emmanuel and Ralph, but I occasionally saw the youngest of the six, my uncle Harold, and most often saw the fifth brother, Lewis. In our family, everyone referred to him as Uncle Louie. He was the most successful of the five brothers, following Grandpa into the produce business and building a highly regarded business of his own. Louie always drove Cadillacs and often drove too fast. My father liked to tell the story of Louie being one of the first to get a new Cadillac after the auto plants started making cars again after World War 2. Louie wrecked the car not too long after. (READ MORE)

Hope Radio: And people ask me why I do this - This blog post was written over the last two days...first I was waiting to hear back, then I actually was able to have an interview with SSgt Jon from 1st Cav, a Bradley commander, and now I am waiting again. For what I will leave until the end of the post. Tuesday 9ish pm - I'm online now, waiting on an IM from my contact in Al Istiqlal. He will give me sizes and address(es) and any other information for this latest campaign. He spent some time getting to know me and I think, as most in a leadership position there. he just wants to make sure he can trust who he is working with and so as not to let his troops down with unexecuted promises. I have to laugh a little at this because actually this SSgt is pretty friendly. I remember in 2007, it took Burke a month to step up and trust me with an address. It was prefaced with a very strong admonishment, still burned in my head. "DON'T MAKE A LIAR OUT OF ME!" (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Fulfilling Our Obligations - In just a few short months, life in Afghanistan has provided me with some astounding experiences. It’s not a path that I would have volunteered for.* If it were up to me, I’d still be at home delivering pizzas, finishing college, and raising my family. But last night, on my knees, I thanked God for taking me on a path that I wouldn’t have chosen. The United States Army is an "All-Volunteer Force." None of us were conscripted in; we all chose to enlist. But, along with almost everyone here, I was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan. As soldiers, we don’t choose our wars, we fulfill our obligations. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Ups and Downs - Last week I mentioned that I have been sending friend messages to my high school classmates on Facebook. After 38 years away from Stoneham, I am missing my childhood home in a way I never thought I would. I suppose getting homesick in Iraq is about as surprising as getting thirsty in a desert. Today I got a brief message from one of my high school classmates thanking me for getting in touch and asking me to Google his son. His son was killed in action in Baghdad in 2006. I read the many messages from his friends and family on the memorial web site. Seems clear from the messages he was a good soldier and a good man also. He was 22. Before I went through the pre-deployment processing and training for this trip, I made three visits to Brooke Army Medical Center, which everyone refers to as BAMC--pronounced BAM-See. BAMC is the treatment and rehabilitation center for those who lose limbs. I was in San Antonio for four days, had some free time and thought I ought to go and see what this war really costs. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: Rough Week - I had been asleep for about an hour last Thursday when one of my guys woke me up and said he heard a rumor that one of our vehicles was in an accident. While I assumed it was minor, I got in uniform and went into work to see what was going on. The office was eerily empty. The only person in the office, our dispatcher, sat in silence. He didn't have to say anything, I knew it wasn't good. I told him if any calls came for this base, Camp Buehring, I would handle them until everyone got back from the accident, so they could concentrate on what was going on there. I then called my supervisor to let him know I was holding things down here. He then gave me the news I was denying. While traveling to Camp Virginia for a routine patrol, a car passing a convoy on the wrong side of the road, came through a blind hill and struck their vehicle head on. MA2 Brian Patton had been killed and MA2 Dave Morgan was in the fight of his life. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Dismal Holidays - According to the NYT, Iraq is a dismal place. To mark the religious holiday, the newspaper ran a story about the misery of some residents of Baghdad and how proud they are because their dead were mujadeheen. Get it? The fight isn't over; Iraqis are still killing each other and will continue to do so because that's what they do best. To the NYT, there is nothing good about Iraq. Nobody was happy during the holiday. Nothing good has happened. It has always been bad here, and it will continue to be bad. Actually, a senior administration official said Washington was hopeful a tentative deal on Iraq's election law would allow a national vote to be held and for a new parliament to be elected and seated by March 15, when the term of the current assembly expires. But why report on that when misery is so much more effective when your argument is to write off an entire country of 25 million people. (READ MORE)

IRONBDE: 1BSTB Thanksgiving Day - I’m PFC Shawnte Lonnette. Today was a really exciting day for the DFAC. It’s Thanksgiving for the soldiers here in Korea and all I can say is that it is a blessing. Everyone was coming up to us thanking us for our service and telling us how great the meal was. I felt really honored to be cooking today just as any day but it felt extra special today. A lot of my battle buddies came in and were down and out because they’d rather be home with their family but I had to remind them that they were with their new extended family and to be thankful for that. Just knowing that there were once soldiers that fought in Iraq or Afghanistan on several holidays and some never made it back to their families made me appreciate being here in Korea with all my newfound friends. Well we’re still on standby to know if we won the DFAC competition, hopefully we did. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Update: Halt The Packages and a Thank You - To all our supporters: So many people have accessed the wellspring of their hearts to send good wishes, prayers and packages to the men and women of the 759th Forward Surgical Team. Together, they've worked with heart to save the lives of troops, and also the local citizens. From soldiers wounded in battle, to children critically burned, the world is blessed to have the professionals of the FST. On a personal note: Yes, this is a very weird way of jumping into middle age. But anyone who has known either The Hubs or Myself, accepts that we've always shoved convention into the scrap heap. When a lot of others are buying time shares or fancy cars, we've shucked it all for combat boots and used cars. Being that this was not only our first deployment, but our first year in the US Army, I quickly ascertained what an important role their families play. It's no secret --they serve too. (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: Thanksgiving in Tikrit, Iraq (Photo Essay) - Over the Tigris river, through the desert and through a rough neighborhood where people occasionally throw RKG-3 anti-tank grenades at US military vehicles......we drove. Not to Grandma's house--but one of Saddam's old palaces for Thanksgiving Dinner at the old FOB Dagger. A Soldier from the 4th BDE, 1st Infantry Div. walks down Bridge Street in Tikrit, Iraq on Thanksgiving day. Soldiers occasionally dismount and walk along the rode to prevent an RKG-3 attack. Throwing an RKG-3 when Soldiers are dismounted would be really stupid. No one did, another reason to give thanks. US and Iraqi Soldiers ate Thanksgiving dinner together. The food was Army rations heated up and served from plastic tubs. (READ MORE)

The Life: Thankful in Iraq - This Thanksgiving, there is so much to be thankful for. I would like to begin by thanking each of you that read this for your interest in our cause. We are also blessed by the support of family, friends, and the American people as we struggle to bring the tenets of democracy to a nation of people so long oppressed. Sectarianism and political violence, though still present, are losing popular support. The leadership in today's military does an outstanding job in supporting the common soldier's welfare and well-being. Even halfway across the world, most soldiers have some opportunity today to celebrate Thanksgiving in some way. Thanksgiving falls this year at the same time as the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or "Festival of Sacrifice," which commemorates Ibrahim's (Abraham of the Old Testament) willingness to sacrifice Ismael. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US airstrikes kill 26 Haqqani Network fighters in eastern Afghanistan - US attack aircraft helped Afghan border police repel an attack last night on their outpost in the east. The Haqqani Network and attached al Qaeda forces from the Shadow Army Army, or Lashkar al Zil, targeted the Afghan Border Police during a night raid. "A group of armed rebels stormed a center of Border Police in Tanai district Saturday night and police with the support of international forces' aircrafts retaliated killing 26 insurgents," Shir Ahmad Kuchi, the commander of the Afghan Border Police in Khost, told Xinhua. The airstrike killed 26 Haqqani Network and allied fighters, including a Chechen, according to a local Afghan television station. The International Security Assistance Force confirmed the strike but did not provide information on enemy deaths. (READ MORE)

Lt Nixon: Another Day, Another Crummy Iraq/A-stan Movie - Not sure what it is about Hollywood, but when it comes to war movies about Iraq and Afghanistan, they seem to crank out more duds than a Chinese fireworks factory. This latest installment is called "Brothers" and is a remake of a Danish film from 2005 about the stereotypical Marine that comes back home and goes bonkers. Pretty dull and contrived stuff. Here's what Blackfive has to say: “More likely, I think, is the possibility that this is just another Big Hollywood movie that stereotypes soldiers or Marines as angry (because the military is where people go when they can't get into prison!), humorless men (which is why they don't go to college!) who scream a lot, beat up on family members, hate hippies (because they hate their own latent homosexuality!), throw dishes for no good reason at all, and beat up on women and little brothers.” It's not that all of the good coming home movies were "pro-war", but rather the characters in them seemed a lot less phony in movies like The Best Years of Our Lives and Born on the 4th of July. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 30 Nov 09 - a giant BOOM woke me up around 0400-0500 this morning … scared the shit outta me…all I know is it was some kind of weapon sent our way… it must have been pretty close to our camp because it was very loud and it even shook the cans I live in…as far as I know, no injuries, no damage…work today was just another day…worked on three different things–a generator…separated the engine/generator part from the trailer it was attached to…we are gonna turn in the trailer as junk, and send the generator/engine section to the big rebuild garage on the other side of the base…then we went over to the chow hall and got thier forklift (Bobcat) running … there seems to be an air leak in the fuel system so it sucks up air every once in a while and causes it to run really bad, or shut down all together…just gotta open the filter bleed port and pump the fuel line up, and she starts right back up, runs good as new… (READ MORE)

LTC John: Thankful doesn't begin to describe it - This time of the year is (hopefully) spent giving thanks for all that we have, all that we owe to those that came before us in this most marvelous and unique nation of the Earth. I am no exception! I am grateful that I was able to provide some small service to the land my fathers (literally, in my father's case) protected and made sure I enjoyed the same liberties they had. And I came home pretty much unscathed, from war...twice. I have a family that I was able to come home to - a wife and children that make everything worth while. My home is definitely where my heart is. I have a good job providing an important service to those who build, design, invent, create, and distribute all the marvels of modern life in this still prosperous land. My coworkers and supervisors are intelligent and interesting people who are easy to work with. "Thankful" isn't strong enough a term, for me. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Thanksgiving AAR - Hope everyone had a zesty Thanksgiving, at home or far way. Here are a few thoughts on the Giving of Thanks, from the sublime to the ridiculous. On a serious note, I can't say that I've ever been more grateful for what I have, and for what I've been given. The day after Thanksgiving, I went out on the force protection det to man the cordon around a refugee camp where volunteers from Eggers pass out blankets and clothes and little things for the kids. Lots of folks have it rough at home, I know, but we live like kings compared to these poor folks. We did what we could for them (and we made damn sure that the fuckos didn't interfere), but they need so much more. Our economy will recover (if it's allowed to by the professional tinkerers); theirs has a ways to go. If you can, dig deep and give a little, because a little goes a long way here. (READ MORE)

Sarah: My Deployment Husband - Every year, I have to say goodbye to both my husbands. My husband made friends with a single soldier in his language class when we first moved to this duty station. Originally he was just my husband's friend, but over the years I've come to see him as my friend too. While my husband is deployed, I call him my "deployment husband." He does all the things for me that my husband would normally do: lug boxes up and down the stairs when I'm pregnant, check the air in my tires, mow the grass, etc. And in return I would cook or bake for him and try to give him dating advice, though I haven't been on a date in ten years and things have changed A LOT since I was lookin' for love. But every few weeks we'd get together and have dinner or see a movie. My husband called them our Mia Wallace dates, after the platonic date John Travolta and Uma Thurman go on in Pulp Fiction. (And no, I didn't get any foot rubs, though my pregnant legs would've appreciated it!) (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: Greener Grass and All That Jazz - Why is it that even when you are sure of your decisions and that you chose wisely, that the grass STILL looks greener in someone else's yard? The latest example of this for us? Our decision that my husband not come home for R & R. It was something we talked about and something that I left open ended for him. If he needed to come home or wanted to come home, it was not like I would not be excited. However, I told my husband before he deployed that he should not feel like he must come home for me. I would be okay. And, so would the kids. To me, goodbye is entirely more gut wrenching than the waiting. Add in that we are in the final stages of an international adoption and it was wholly possible that he would come home and I would be in Africa or that he would meet his new daughter and then leave in 15 days. Neither of those options seemed attractive, so we deferred. (READ MORE)

There's sand in my: Home Sweet Home - Home sweet home, well almost! It took a total of 43 hours of travel from Kandahar to Lemoore, CA. Three days after arriving in Lemoore, I picked up the new Explorer and drove 34 hours to Wisconsin to see my honey! The picture on the top left is the first meal we had at the Sundara spa in the Wisconsin Dells, fantastic, even though we really had no idea what we were eating! haha. The menu was written in "fancy words" and I'm from Kentucky! The picture on the top right is of me and Shayna having a glass of red wine, I had my Hugh Heffner robe on. The bottom left picture is of me and Shayna visiting some of her family, it is our official first picture of us after me seeing her for the first time in 8 months, great day! Shayna is doing fantastic with her external fixation devices off of her legs, she is now swimming around 2.5 miles 4 times a week, awesome. (READ MORE)

BRYAN WILLIAM JONES: Train like You Fight: “Experts in the Application of Violence” - The 3rd Special Forces Group was at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, preparing for a deployment to an undisclosed location. With its fine dust, low- and high-altitude desert, unrestricted airspace and relative isolation, NTC can simulate both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Center was founded back in 1980, with the goal of providing opposing force training initially consisting of troops emulating armored Soviet-style forces. In recent years the “enemy” has evolved to focus the training on low-intensity and counter-insurgency operations. One major described his Special Operations Forces soldiers as “experts in the application of violence.” But he also noted that “the role of the SOF soldier is to train, engage and carry out operations that do not fall under the normal guise of military operations.” (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: More Troops to Afghanistan, But What Will They Do? - So the President has apparently made his decision about Afghanistan: He’ll send another 34,000 troops there, according to multiple reports. The White House is preparing for Obama’s first-ever prime-time address to formally announce the move. But for the moment, it’s not at all clear what those troops will be doing. When top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal laid out his gloomy Afghan war report in August, he cautioned that “additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.” Right now, there’s no word of any big strategy shift — just news of an influx of more forces. According to McClatchy, “the plan calls for the deployment over a nine-month period beginning in March of three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.; (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Iraq’s Enduring Image - A lot of you may wonder why I haven’t given a few more insights into what is going on in Iraq. I purposely don’t give out a whole lot of information or opinions due to the fact that I am in the military. Typically I fill the screen with funny anecdotes that give you a glimpse into the life of a modern soldier. However l will now try to provide you with a little glimpse of Iraq from my perspective. I don’t have a lot of expertise into what is going on in Iraq as a whole, just a glimpse into who they are as a people, what is going on in a little corner of northeastern Baghdad and where that little area is going. The security situation in Iraq has undoubtedly improved remarkably over the past few years. The Iraq I heard stories about before my deployment is not at all the Iraq I saw. Most people did not want to kill us, most people were not afraid of the American soldier. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: More Over Tora Bora - Carl Levin is all over Tora Bora: A new Senate Foreign Relations Committee report about the failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region in December 2001 underscores the Bush administration's mistake of concentrating more on Iraq than Afghanistan, Levin added. "We took our eye off the ball," Levin said. Senator Kerry's new report concludes that Senator Kerry was right in 2004 when he said President Bush had lost the opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden when he "outsourced" the job to Afghan forces. But that's all in the past, and Senator Levin has a vision for the future of what Democrats used to call "the real central front in the war on terror" - he wants to turn it over to Afghan forces: "The key here is an Afghan surge, not an American surge," said Levin, D-Mich. "We cannot, by ourselves, win (the) war." And he wants it done fast: (READ MORE)

Burn Pit: Losing our will to win? - Maybe citizens have, but our military hasn’t. Over the last several weeks I have contemplated putting pen to paper, or more ccurately, keyboard to computer, and jot down some thoughts. I have been observing a dangerous trend happening all around us. It appears that our nation is losing it’s will to win. Sme may ask; win what? That can be answered by looking to the past. During WWII; would a prisoner getting a fat lip be considered an offense worthy of NJP or courts-martial? Would it be a case of taking the word of said prisoner as to how it happened over our own warriors, when such action, as lying, is part of the MO of our enemies? An enemy known for treating their prisoners to such wonderful treatment as be-heading, dis-embowelment, rape, etc.? We have watched as these things have occurred in many videos that have been seen around the world; and yet we sacrifice our own to political correctness. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
A January election is now impossible, but talks on a new law make progress - Election officials said today that it is already too late to hold crucial national elections in January even if a tentative deal on a new interpretation of Iraq's long-stalled election law pans out. U.S. commanders have pegged the timetable for the withdrawal of American combat troops to a January election, and any delay in the elections could jeopardize the pullout. (READ MORE)

Benchmarks in Wartime: As Reliable as Promises - Watching Iraq’s Parliament debate an election law last week, inside a conference center still decorated with mosaics of Saddam Hussein’s wartime delusions, ought to have been reassuring to those who wish the country’s nascent democracy well. It wasn’t. The impasse over the election - which is now almost certain to slip past a constitutional deadline set for January - has laid bare more than Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian fissures: (READ MORE)

Lord Goldsmith Warned Tony Blair Over Legality of the Iraq War - Tony Blair was warned by his chief legal adviser that plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein would be illegal eight months before ordering the invasion of Iraq. Lord Goldsmith, the then Attorney General, sent a previously undisclosed letter to the Prime Minister warning that invading Iraqi without United Nations’ approval would be a breach of international law. (READ MORE)

Afghan police are weak link in security force - Underpaid, under-equipped and under-trained, Afghanistan's 93,000-member police force is the weak link in an ambitious security strategy to hand over defense of the country to Afghans so American and other foreign troops can go home. A strong, unified national police force has long eluded Afghanistan, a country torn by occupation and warfare for hundreds of years. (READ MORE)

Minister rejects charges of corruption - An Afghan government official has rejected suggestions in “The Washington Post” that he accepted millions of dollars from Beijing in exchange for awarding a Chinese company a lucrative copper-mining contract, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Mining Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Adel denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the tender that gave the multibillion-dollar project to the state-run China Metallurgical Group in 2007 was transparent and approved by many different people. (READ MORE)

Ex-Gov turned 3,000 men over to Taliban - Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, the former Governor of Afghanistan's Helmand province, has revealed he turned thousands of his followers over to the Taliban after he was sacked from the job under pressure from British officials. He was accused of being linked to the opium trade and lost his position in 2005 to pave the way for UK soldiers to be deployed to the region. (READ MORE)

Why we should leave Afghanistan - At first, Matthew Hoh didn’t think he was doing anything that consequential — maybe he’d attract some attention for the first day or two before becoming, as he puts it, a “footnote.” But since news broke, a little less than a month ago, of his resignation from the State Department over the US war in Afghanistan — he is the first US official to publicly quit in protest — Hoh has swiftly become an influential voice, both within and outside the government. The timing of his resignation, dated Sept. 10, 2009, was fortuitous, he says: “People want to understand this.” (READ MORE)

Obama Prepares for Afghan Speech, Senators Offer Advice - As US President Barack Obama prepares to announce his new Afghan strategy, members of Congress are offering last-minute advice. Mr. Obama will spell out his plan Tuesday in a speech to the nation from the US Military Academy at West Point, as lawmakers get back to work after a holiday recess. Congressional support will be crucial to President Obama's plan, since lawmakers must approve the funding. (READ MORE)

Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan to Envision Exit - President Obama plans to lay out a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war in Afghanistan when he announces his decision this week to send more forces, senior administration officials said Sunday. Although the speech was still in draft form, the officials said the president wanted to use the address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night not only to announce the immediate order to deploy roughly 30,000 more troops...(READ MORE)

Obama’s West Point Speech Must Explain Why Afganistan is Not His Vietnam - Seldom can a speech be called historic before it is delivered, but the one that President Obama will make tomorrow night already qualifies. In one address at the West Point military academy, the Commander-in-Chief of US Armed Forces must convince Afghanistan, Pakistan and his own generals that his commitment to prevailing against al-Qaeda and the Taleban is unwavering. (READ MORE)

Obama Faces Hard Sell on Afghan Decision - President Obama will attempt to persuade the American public this week that more time, troops and money will accomplish what eight years of effort and every outside power in history have failed to achieve - a measure of military success in Afghanistan. The details and justification for Mr. Obama's new war policy will be the focus of a major address at the US Military Academy at West Point, NY, on Tuesday. (READ MORE)

White House Emphasizes the Positive in Afghanistan - As they prepare to roll out a new Afghanistan policy to a skeptical US audience, Obama administration officials are starting to replace their grim public assessments of the battered country with praise for the skills and idealism of its officials and its progress in important areas. The message is aimed in part, officials say, at trying to build domestic support for a troop increase that President Obama is expected to announce Tuesday. (READ MORE)

US Offers New Role for Pakistan - President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals "cannot continue." The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari... (READ MORE)

Britain Presses Pakistan and Afghanistan on Militants - Highlighting themes likely to be taken up by President Obama in his military policy speech on Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain has demanded that Afghanistan and Pakistan match plans for increased allied troop levels in Afghanistan by taking tough actions of their own, including, in Pakistan, a stepped-up effort to capture Osama bin Laden. In two hard-edged statements over the weekend, Mr. Brown signaled a renewed sense of impatience in the approach that Britain and the United States plan to take toward the governments in Kabul and Islamabad: (READ MORE)

Newly Deployed Marines to Target Taliban Bastion - Days after President Obama outlines his new war strategy in a speech Tuesday, as many as 9,000 Marines will begin final preparations to deploy to southern Afghanistan and renew an assault on a Taliban stronghold that slowed this year amid a troop shortage and political pressure from the Afghan government, senior US officials said. The extra Marines will be the first to move into the country as part of Obama's escalation of the eight-year-old war. (READ MORE)

Marines Plow Ahead with Anti-poppy Campaign in Afghan District - Under an awning set up at a tiny outpost guarded by US Marines, the district governor of Nawa is pleading with three dozen solemn-looking farmers and village elders not to plant the crop that feeds the world heroin market. Haji Abdul Manaf, a farmer and onetime leader in the fight against Russian occupiers, has several parts to his passionate anti-poppy pitch. (READ MORE)

To Prepare for War, GI’s Get a Dress Rehearsal - A firefight with heavily armed insurgents near a gold-domed mosque. A helicopter evacuation of bloody car bomb victims. A meeting with tribal elders upset about security. Just another day in Afghanistan? More like the dress rehearsal for war, played out on 100,000 acres of snake-infested pine forest on an Army post near the Texas border. (READ MORE)

NATO Tempts Taliban in From Cold - When American commandos killed a Taliban commander in his mountain lair in western Afghanistan last month, they celebrated the end of the operations he had masterminded: rocket attacks on their base, suicide bombings and the kidnappings of businessmen. They also worried that the death of Ghulam Yahya Akbari, a former mayor of Herat, might trigger revenge strikes from his heavily armed followers. (READ MORE)

Cuts Ground Special Forces’ Helicopters - Helicopters used by British special forces to mentor their Afghan counterparts on anti-drugs operations have been grounded to save just £2m a year. The funding for the helicopters - used by the Special Boat Service (SBS) and Afghan special forces for raids on drugs barons and Taliban insurgents - was cut by the Foreign Office two months ago. The decision came despite Gordon Brown’s announcement that Britain’s “exit strategy” rests on training Afghan forces to take over its role. (READ MORE)

Afghan Officials: 26 Militants Killed Near Pakistan Border - Officials in eastern Afghanistan say border guards backed by coalition air strikes have killed at least 26 militants near the Pakistani border. No security guards were reported killed during the hours-long battle in Khost province. On Tuesday this week, President Barack Obama is scheduled to announce his decision on US strategy for Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

The Afghan Decision - President Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday a substantial escalation of the US mission in Afghanistan: more training for the Afghan army, more support for Afghan governance and tens of thousands more American troops. It is a difficult choice but also the right one. While there is no guarantee that the new measures will reverse what is now a losing effort, the alternatives under consideration: (READ MORE)

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