December 7, 2009

From the Front: 12/07/2009

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

Sour Swinger: Photos From Camp Liberty Part 2 - Here is the second set of pictures from Camp Liberty. All pictures are from within the base. I picked 4 to show below. Click here to see the entire set. There’s about 51 pics total. (MORE)

Old Blue: COIN and Stability Operations - I run around training, mostly the militaries of the various nations present, in counterinsurgency. There is a fair amount of traveling as well. So far it is rare to find a unit actually implementing the most basic of population-centric tools to get to know the people whom they operate amongst. We teach a framework called ASCOPE/PMESII (usually called ASCOPE for short… long “a”). It’s frustrating. ASCOPE is just a framework for gathering information. It helps a unit to organize information across much of the society and the main influencing factors as possible. Many leaders that I’ve met in my travels say, “Oh, yeah! I took the COIN course. Good stuff!” So I suggest that we look at their ASCOPE and see how they’re doing on it, where they are having problems identifying key players, etc. “Oh. Well, we don’t have time for that.” Really? No time for the steppingstone behavior to not only learning about the operational environment… (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Dear Mr. President - Now that I’ve had a few days to ingest, digest, and perform my own mission analysis on your new plan for Afghanistan, I’m a bit concerned. My concerns are based from my experiences of being on one end of the spectrum at the tip of of the spear defending freedom in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, to the opposite end of that spectrum in Kuwait serving in the logistical nerve center for both Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). My good friend Bouhammer has already brought up on his blog many excellent points in the pros and cons to your new plan, and now I’m going to take a few minutes to point out some more. Until last Tuesday, our primary mission in Kuwait has been to meet your timeline for the responsible withdrawl of forces in OIF. The elements on the ground at the nerve center have spent many hours developing different courses of action in order to accomplish this mission that you had outlined earlier this year. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Germany is calling + School supplies drive update - From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex has arrived to Kuwait and is waiting for his next flight to Germany; I am getting on a plane in a few hours. Thanks to our wonderful friends and family for stepping up and house sitting, dog sitting etc while we enjoy this wonderful time together. Rex won’t be able to post today so he asked me to leave a few updates about the latest developments with the school supplies drive for Afghan children. We’ve been busy. I had the chance to host Rex’s wounded friend SPC Kit Lowe here in Tampa a few weeks ago when the USF Bulls football team adopted our school supplies drive for the team’s military appreciation game. As you can see from the photo, our collection was a success and we now have about 100 boxes of supplies stored at SS American Victory at Tampa’s Channelside waiting to be shipped to Afghanistan. Kit was a great ambassador for the school supplies drive. (READ MORE)

Peter Bergen: About those civilian fatalities - Scott Shane has a must-read in today's New York Times about the possible expansion of the CIA's program of drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas to Baluchistan, the large and sparsely populated southern Pakistani province where the Afghan Taliban is headquartered. Having written about the drones a bit ourselves, we read it with great interest and were struck by one of Shane's anonymous sources, a government official who claims that the more than 80 drone strikes in less than two years have killed "more than 400" enemy fighters and "just over 20" civilians. A study we conducted in mid-October, based on a careful analysis of the most accurate media counts of the strikes, found that between some 370 and 540 militants were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since the start of 2008. There have been a few more strikes since the study was released, bringing the total of militants killed to between 384 and 578. So that's close enough to be in the same range as the government official's estimate of more than 400 militants killed. (READ MORE)

Martine van Bijlert: Not just a Canadian problem - Former diplomat to Kabul, Richard Colvin, caused quite a stir in Canadian politics with his testimony to a parliamentary committee on the Afghan mission on 18 November 2009. Colvin described how he repeatedly alerted his superiors to the fact that prisoners handed over to the NDS (National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's domestic intelligence agency) were likely to face torture and abuse. He argued that most of the Afghans detained by Canadian soldiers were not “high-value targets” but “just local people, farmers, truck drivers, tailors, peasants, random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time” and that Canadian troops had “detained and handed over for severe torture a lot of innocent people.” Officials and conservative MPs were quick to undermine Colvin’s credibility, arguing that his testimony was based on hearsay and that he had been fed with Taliban propaganda. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: On the edge of the abyss? - Is the Prime Minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) asking the West to occupy Somalia? In an open letter to The Times on Saturday, Omar Sharmarke argued that President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan is applicable to Somalia as well, and that the Somali situation was not hopeless even after 20 years without a government. This is an interesting comparison, and the two countries certainly have some similarities: failing governments that are propped up by foreign powers (ISAF, AU), illegal sources of income (piracy, opium), and regional instability spreading outward from each nation. Oh, and raging insurgencies, can’t forget about that part. I do agree with Sharmarke that if the TFG is going to succeed, a greater international emphasis must be placed on stabilization efforts in the country, especially enduring economic efforts that sap groups like al Shabaab of potential recruits. (READ MORE)

Dan Cnossen: Goodbye ex-fix, hello nothing-by-mouth - What was supposed to be a very exciting week for Dan turned pretty quickly around - and he's now right in the middle of one of those setback periods that everybody always tells us are sure to come. As always though, Dan will come out of this one stronger and better than ever. We got our week off to a really great start. He had an appointment with his head trauma surgeon at NNMC on Monday, and she was thrilled with how all of his wounds look now. I should say, how the areas where his wounds WERE look now. The skin graft that takes up most of his left inner thigh - took 100% and actually feels like real skin now. The area where the blast took some of his right thigh - healed completely. The tailbone and butt area which used to be just a huge gaping hole - healed completely. It really is amazing. One thing his doctor was definitely not pleased about, however, is his GI tract. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Winter weather - We are really into winter weather here at Camp Spann. Long gone are the sweltering days of summer. Today is the first day in about a week where we could even see a hint of blue sky. The weather has really been more like Washington State in winter for the past week. It was a drizzly, misty rain steadily for several days. The temperatures ranged from 30 to 50 degrees and puddles formed all over camp. The mountains which looked so desolate and forbidding in summer look like a veritable winter wonderland now draped in snow. The camp infrastructure, however has been under assault by mother nature. I saw more than one truck get stuck, even in the gravel. Most concerning was the sight of our B-hut's foundation this morning. Luckily nobody fell into the 1 ft sized hole last night in the dark. It burrows about 3 feet under the b-hut adjacent to ours. I hope there is no such a thing as eviction from a b-hut or condemning a b-hut due to structural instability. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: More essential stuff - The always essential Nir Rosen, on patrol with the Helmand ANP. He ruminates about the biggest difference between Iraq COIN and Afghan COIN: More fundamentally, COIN helped to control violence in Iraq because sectarian bloodshed—which changed the conflict from an anti-occupation struggle to a civil war, displaced millions, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands—was already exhausting itself when the Surge started in 2007... In comparison with al Qaeda in Iraq and Shia gangs, the Americans looked good. They could step into the void without escalating the conflict...In Afghanistan, there is no comparable exhaustion of the population, more than two-thirds of which lives in hard-to-reach rural areas. In addition, population protection—the core of COIN—is more complicated in Afghanistan. The Taliban only attack Afghan civilians who collaborate with the Americans and their puppet government or who are suspected of violating the extremely harsh interpretation of Islamic law that many Afghans accept. (READ MORE)

Tim: Economic Adviser, Afghanistan: Welcome to Helmand - I work in a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand province, Afghanistan – part of the international mission to support the Government of Afghanistan and help Afghans govern their country for themselves. I work in a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand province, Afghanistan – part of the international mission to support the Government of Afghanistan and help Afghans govern their country for themselves. My job title is Economic Adviser. I work with the local government to support economic development in Helmand and help give people the chance to earn a decent living - so they aren’t forced to join the Taliban’s ranks out of desperation. We’re a multinational team, made up of staff from the UK, Afghanistan, Estonia, Denmark and the US, and working closely with the UK and US military, known as Taskforce Helmand and Taskforce Leatherneck respectively. I’m the new kid. (READ MORE)

Annabel Venning: New blackboards, satchels, pencils, books — and hope - Three years ago in Kabul, British soldiers from the support battalion attached to the ARRC, the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, came across a group of tents in one of the city’s mud-walled compounds. The tents were tattered and torn, some of them little more than shreds. But inside were hundreds of Afghan children writing studiously on their laps. The tents were their school, but it was disintegrating all around them, leaving them exposed to the cold. There were no desks or chairs: they had been burnt for fuel in the cold Afghan winter. The school would not last much longer unless something could be done. Caroline Richards, wife of General Sir David Richards, who was then the ARRC commander and is now the head of the Army, saw pictures of the school and at once decided to help. Before the ARRC contingent had departed for Afghanistan, they were given a series of briefings at their headquarters in Rheindahlen, Germany, which several of the wives attended. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War?--The Construction Boss - Staff Sgt. Elisa Long, 27, of Selingsgrove, Pa., builds, repairs, and improves offices, workshops, containers, hangars and other structures wherever the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion has soldiers and facilities. Long is the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) of special projects for the battalion. Anywhere a pile of lumber is becoming a deck or a new CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) is being fitted with electrical wiring and air conditioning to serve as offices, Long is likely to be there with a hammer, saw and drill. "Construction is kind of a hobby for me. A few years ago I helped one of my friends renovate a huge old farm house in Beaver Springs," she said. "When I was in junior high, my Mom and I built a deck on our hunting lodge in Potter County." Long has served for nine years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, serving first as a wheeled vehicle mechanic. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Getting Ready to Go Home - In a week we will turn in a footlocker, a duffel bag and a rucksack (big backpack) to begin the process of loading them in containers for shipping home. On the same day I will be packing the Trek T-1 Single speed. I thought it was going to be a tough decision which bike to keep, but the right crank and chain ring worked loose from the shaft that connects the two cranks through the bottom bracket. I can't tighten it, Larry the bike guy is still on R&R leave, so I will box the bike up and send it back home for the Bike Line guys to fix. The other bike I will probably sell cheap or maybe mail it back. Not sure yet. I would have sold the roadie bike, but I don't want to sell a damaged bike in a place where there are no shops. I filled the footlocker this morning--mostly books and boots. I will fill a duffel bag next week before turn in. I will also mail a box or two home. (READ MORE)

Inside the Wire: Afghanistan Now Obama's War - In the wake of President Obama’s announced increase of 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan I want to share an article forwarded to me by a friend. Out of everything I’ve read and watched over the past two days this was the most insightful analysis of Obama’s decision. I was a bit apprehensive at first due to the writer’s glowing approval of Obama but his praise was tempered within a pragmatic and historical assessment of South Asian, or South Central Asian, security and politics. The only questions this leaves me is understanding whether Pakistan is fighting or supporting the Taliban and if a schism exists between the Pakistani government and the ISI? Obama rings the curtain on Pax Americana: By M K Bhadrakumar - United States President Barack Obama scored a convincing "A" in the tortuous test that he was put to on the structuring of a new Afghan strategy. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqis Are Still Arguing and Partying - There are conflictring reports on the sessions in parliament regarding the election law. It's hard to know which report is accurate because the news media contradict each other. And sometimes they miss the story they are actually covering. If we are to believe Al Jazeera television, then Iraq's elections are looking less likely every day. The TV reports that the politicians at the Council of Representatives, or the parliament, failed once more to reach an agreement about the election law. Naturally, there's a report that says they're getting closer: "Iraqi Parliament Speaker Iyad al-Samarraie has revealed an initial agreement among political blocs on the controversial electoral law, adding the council’s leadership is still waiting for the final stance of some parties." The story says they're debating a version of the law very similar to the intial one that was vetoed. There are also reports that the U.S. ambassador is pressuring the politicians to reach an agreement. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: The Littlest Patients: An Afghan Girl - From The Hubs: "Afghan kids are amazing. These tough little boys and girls suffer overwhelming physical hardships without a thought of pity or complaint. Even a small gift such as crayons and paper or a piece of candy bring a big smile of joyful surprise. They are attentive, intelligent and polite. And sometimes very cute. We sometimes say that we run a pediatric clinic as over 80 % of our patients are under 12, and that includes our major trauma cases." I get angry when I'm asked what we hope to accomplish over in Afghanistan. Although it's a valid question, too often it comes with a veneer of anger and cynicism. All of the medical teams in Afghanistan and elsewhere have made great strides taking care of children. From war wounds, to illnesses and household cooking accidents that result in burns, oftentimes the first contact an Afghan child has is with the caring eye and hands of a Western health professional. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban attack Pakistani Army in 'pro-government' region in South Waziristan - A platoon of Taliban fighters attacked a Pakistani Army checkpoint in South Waziristan in a region where a peace agreement with the Taliban is in effect. Upwards of 40 Taliban fighters opened fire on checkpoint at a bridge in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing one soldier and suffering six of their own in a counterattack. "There were 30 to 40 militants who first fired rocket- propelled grenades at our post and then opened fire with AK-47 rifles which killed one of our soldiers,"a Pakistan security official told Reuters. "But we retaliated and killed six militants." The attack against the Army in Wana is a major violation of an agreement between the military and a Taliban faction that agreed to remain neutral during the Army's offensive in South Waziristan. It is also further proof that Taliban forces are sheltering in areas under the control of Taliban leaders considered to be "pro-government." (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: First December Report From Afghanistan - Local man reports on troop morale in Afghanistan - Sunday, December 6, 2009 - (Bay News 9) -- For the past five years Winter Haven native and former Green Beret Michael Yon has been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an independent journalist. A couple of days ago Bay News 9 spoke with him on a Skype connection to Afghanistan. Yon has been reporting for years that the U.S. risked losing the war there. And until last week's announcement from President Barack Obama, he was concerned the president was ready to give up on the Afghan war. "And frankly I thought he was ready to tap out. I thought he might be ready to quit, and it's clear some of the soldiers thought the same thing. He really just spent some political capital," Yon said. "It took moral courage to do that." Yon says morale among British and U.S. troops had stayed pretty high, and now the troops there are really ready to take the fight to the enemy. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: A Little This 'n' That - I just got back from dinner at Taco Bell. Yeah, I hear some of you out there making gagging sounds, but sometimes you just gotta have something that's NOT FROM THE DFAC. Doesn't matter what it is. It could be old shoe leather wrapped in a Stars and Stripes newspaper and you'd think it was the greatest thing in the world. Hey, it didn't come from the DFAC, it has to be good! Our DFAC recently won some sort of award. None of us can figure out why. It has essentially no variety whatsoever. If it's Tuesday, you know what they're serving: the same thing they served last Tuesday, and the Tuesday before that, and the third Tuesday from now as well. As for quality, well, it's really not bad, but after a while, the same ol' same ol' kinda tastes the same ol'. Right before Thanksgiving, they actually decorated the place a bit. They hung yellow and orange and brown streamers from the ceiling and taped up cardboard cutouts of pilgrims and turkeys on the wall. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: Women Have the Power in COIN: Female Engagement Teams - In 2005, I was sitting under a tree at Shira, in Kapisa Province with Minister Stanakzia who was in charge of the Disarmament of Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG) program. I was struck by the fact that there were no women to be seen anywhere. I mentioned this to the Minister and he explained to me that although there were no women present, in Afghan culture they were quite powerful in the home. He said that the great interest in cell phones and the riots that had taken place because of a lack of phone cards was generated by Afghan wives pushing their husbands to keep up with the Jone’s, or in this case, the Barakzias. Being married, I knew exactly what he was talking about. In spite of the fact that I was a rough, tough army guy, I too seemed to make very few decisions at home. It seems gender dynamics were not that different even in the backwaters of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Hammer and Anvil in Now Zad - From Tony Perry of the L.A. Times: "Hundreds of U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers descended on a nearly empty city in southern Afghanistan on Friday to cut off supply routes for Taliban fighters who have taken refuge in the area. The troops want to starve out the insurgents holed up around Now Zad, which was once a vibrant city of 30,000 but now is a virtual ghost town because years of fighting. The assault in Helmand province, named Cobra’s Anger, may prove to be a warmup for a larger, more complex and more dangerous assault on Marja, a town to which many Taliban fighters and narcotics middlemen fled after Marines descended on nearby villages this summer." In order to place this operation in context, note that I have been covering Now Zad for one year and two months, ever since our friend Major Cliff Gilmore, USMC, sent his first update (published only at TCJ). I have also been demanding more Marines for Now Zad for about that long. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
How Long Is a Day, in Iraqi Politics? - It is easy to lose one’s sense of time in Iraq. The first days of “shock and awe” can seem a lifetime and a world away, even as one drives across this city and looks out on the buildings still ravaged by the bombs that fell on those first nights of war. So it is no surprise that many people use the milestones of the last seven years to keep some perspective — and look to coming milestones as times to assess where things stand. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Lawmakers Reach Deal on Seat Allotment Ahead of Election - In a last-minute compromise reached under heavy US pressure, Iraqi lawmakers on Sunday approved a law on seat distribution for the upcoming parliamentary election. The vote appeared to resolve an impasse that threatened to delay the election beyond the expiration of the current government and force the US military to slow down the withdrawal of US troops. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Reach a Deal on Long-Delayed Election Law - Lawmakers pulled Iraq back from the brink of a constitutional crisis on Sunday night, brokering a last-minute compromise that will allow for the first national elections since 2005. A deal on the election law has fallen apart before, underscoring the deep sectarian divide that remains in Iraq, despite a drop in violence. (READ MORE)

Millions' Worth of Gear Left in Iraq - Even as the US military scrambles to support a troop surge in Afghanistan, it is donating passenger vehicles, generators and other equipment worth tens of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government. Under new authority granted by the Pentagon, US commanders in Iraq may now donate to the Iraqis up to $30 million worth of equipment from each facility they leave, up from the $2 million cap established when the guidelines were first set in 2005. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police search for AQI member, arrest 2 - Iraqi Police arrested two individuals today while conducting a joint security operation to locate and arrest a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) member near Bahiyah, located northeast of Baghdad. Iraqi Police and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for an AQI suspect who is believed to have close criminal ties to AQI leaders in Diyala Province. (READ MORE)

ISF capture Baghdad Jaysh al-Mahdi leader, 3 suspected accomplices - Iraqi Security Forces arrested a Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) leader and three suspected criminal accomplices today in southeastern Baghdad during a joint security operation. Acting upon joint security team intelligence, ISF and U.S. advisors searched a residential building in Sadr City where the suspected JAM leader was located. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest 7 in search of terrorists in northern Iraq - Iraqi Security Forces arrested seven individuals today during two joint security operations conducted in northern Iraq to find and arrest several suspected terrorists. In southwestern Mosul, ISF arrested four suspected criminal associates of an al-Qaeda in Iraq member who allegedly has close ties with senior leaders of the terrorist group. (READ MORE)

Love of soccer connects US, Iraqi kids - Soccer is one of the most enduring and popular sports in Iraq. Children can be seen here kicking the ball around at any given time of the day on fields made of dirt. In support of this national pastime, Soldiers from the Military Transition Team in Kirkuk province began a soccer-ball drive in mid-November. (READ MORE)

McChrystal's Afghanistan Plan Stays Mainly Intact - When he finishes testifying on Capitol Hill this week, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will return to Kabul to implement a war strategy that is largely unchanged after a three-month-long White House review of the conflict. (READ MORE)

No Firm Plans for a US Exit in Afghanistan - The Obama administration sent a forceful public message Sunday that American military forces could remain in Afghanistan for a long time, seeking to blunt criticism that President Obama had sent the wrong signal in his war-strategy speech last week by projecting July 2011 as the start of a withdrawal. (READ MORE)

Afghan Withdrawal to Be Gradual - President Barack Obama's national security adviser said the US wouldn't pull all its military forces out of Afghanistan in 2011, calling the president's timetable for withdrawal from the country "a ramp" and "not a cliff." "We are here to make sure that Afghanistan succeeds. We can't want this any more than the Afghans do," Retired Gen. James Jones said on CNN's "State of the Union." (READ MORE)

Gates Calls July 2011 the Beginning, Not End, of Afghan Withdrawal - Perhaps only a “handful” of American troops will be leaving Afghanistan in July 2011, the date President Obama has set to begin a gradual withdrawal, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday. “We will have 100,000 forces, troops there,” Mr. Gates said on ABC’s “This Week,” “and they are not leaving in July of 2011. (READ MORE)

Robert Gates Says Afghanistan Withdrawal Will be Gradual - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates denied Sunday that President Obama had set an "exit strategy" for Afghanistan, and he forecast that only a "handful" of US troops may leave the country in July 2011, when a withdrawal is due to begin. (READ MORE)

UK Expects Not to Add Troops - The UK's top defense official said in an interview that Britain, having committed 1,200 more troops to the war in Afghanistan, probably won't further increase its troop commitment. Bob Ainsworth, Britain's secretary of state for defense, said he believes President Barack Obama's announcement last week that he is committing at least 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan and his backing for a counterinsurgency strategy favored by Britain represent a major turning point in the war. (READ MORE)

Contractor Hirings in Afghanistan to Emphasize Locals - New contract solicitations by the US military for private guards at forward operating bases in Afghanistan require that at least half of those hired be Afghans who come from nearby towns or villages. "The contractor shall hire a minimum of 50% of its guard force from within a 50 kilometer [30-mile] radius of the location requiring security," reads a solicitation that the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan posted Nov. 30. (READ MORE)

How Obama Came to Plan for ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan - On the afternoon he held the eighth meeting of his Afghanistan review, President Obama arrived in the White House Situation Room ruminating about war. He had come from Arlington National Cemetery, where he had wandered among the chalky white tombstones of those who had fallen in the rugged mountains of Central Asia. (READ MORE)

Obama Pressed for Faster Surge - President Obama, seated at the head of a conference table strewn with papers in the White House Situation Room, stared at charts showing various options for sending additional US troops into Afghanistan. He and his top national security advisers had been debating the way forward for two full months. (READ MORE)

Marine Assault Finds Few Taliban - US Marines and Afghan troops killed at least seven Taliban fighters during the first US-led offensive since President Obama announced a new American war plan last week, Afghan officials said Saturday. American and Afghan troops have met little resistance since Operation Cobra's Anger was launched Friday to disrupt Taliban supply and communications lines in the strategic Now Zad Valley of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan... (READ MORE)

Obama's COIN Toss - It is impolite, but probably true, to say that when President Obama announced in March that he had a "comprehensive, new strategy" for victory in Afghanistan, he had no precise idea what he was talking about. In Washington parlance, the word "strategy" usually means "to-do list" or at best "action plan." As for "comprehensive" and "new," they usually mean merely "better than whatever my predecessors did." (READ MORE)

How to Win in Afghanistan, One Village at a Time - In mid-October and early November 2001, about three dozen Army Special Forces soldiers landed in northern Afghanistan and, with the help of a handful of CIA officers, quickly routed a Taliban army whose estimated size ranged from 25,000 to 50,000 fighters. Allied with Afghan fighters, this incredibly small number of first-in soldiers achieved in about eight weeks what the Pentagon had thought would take two years. (READ MORE)

In Afghan Troop Surge, Shades of Iraq - It's easy to forget, in fact, how many leaders in Washington had concluded that the Iraq war was, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in April 2007, "lost." Today it's common to hear Democrats, including members of the Obama administration, talk about what a piece of cake Iraq was compared with Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Dec. 7: - An international security force conducted an air strike today and destroyed a known Taliban stronghold consisting of bunkers and prepared defensive positions in Konar province. The security force targeted the stronghold near the village of Tsangar Darah in the mountainous Watapur District after intelligence sources indicated militant activity at the location. (READ MORE)

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