December 11, 2009

From the Front: 12/11/2009

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

3rd Time, New Country: More Boondoggles and let the turnover begin… - Shortly after I last posted, the OT staff had a small luncheon. This was on last Thursday. Dr. Ayobi treated us all to lunch. I don’t know the exact Dari word for what we ate, but the called it “hamburger”. I would call it an Afghan wrap. On Saturday, we went to the depot for a going away luncheon for the Air Force Logistics (“Log-E”) mentors. It was a big gathering of almost 40 people. On Monday, we took our normal trip to NDS, but I was a passenger this time. After our mentoring, the team dropped of DJ, Tim and I at the airport (KAIA) for a trip to Bagram. The US Air Force Hospital (Craig Hospital) has a 2-week training program for the Afghans. I took the Chief OT nurse, DJ took one of his anesthesia residents, and Tim took a pharmacy tech. Flying in theater is always a chore. Once we got to KAIA, we checked on our flight. We found out we were booked on a non-existent flight. That made us happy. (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: Realities- When your buddy gets hit - Just so we remember, as 30,000 or so troops deploy into the Eastern and Southern regions of Afghanistan, where almost all the fighting takes place, the real risks to all soldiers: The following is a correspondence I came across through a colleague. The names and places have been blanked out to protect the individuals' privacy and to prevent any repercussion from his/her command for posting the correspondence. But I believe it's valuable as it really gets at the trauma of being in the war zone and what perseverance means- to continue doing dangerous a job after seeing your buddy get hurt really badly. "I must make known that the last 36 hours here have been absolute hell. I was on mission for the last week in a very bad part of ______ . I'll leave further specifics at that, but where I was is not a good area, nor do I hope to return there in the near future..." (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: ‘Good’ and ‘New’ News on missing soldier Bowe Bergdahl - I threw up a tweet this morning questioning if anyone else was wondering what had happened to this missing soldier that walked off his base at Sharana PRT Afghanistan back on June 30th. Well within minutes I was sent some links with very recent updates. So here is the latest on PFC Bergdahl that came out on December 5th. A series of e-mails to a medical office in New Jersey may contain credible news that U.S. Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl is “alive and doing well” following his capture by Taliban militants in Afghanistan in July. The e-mails, which apparently came from village leaders and local doctors in Afghanistan, have been forwarded to the U.S. State Department. However, case liaison Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard, said he has received no official response to the messages. (READ MORE)

Hasan Khan: To talk or not to talk: the Taliban’s internal divide - Before recently reportedly rejecting an offer to engage in talks with the Afghan government, a group of Taliban senior leaders were considering conditioning the talks on the release of all Taliban prisoners from Afghan and U.S. jails in Afghanistan. The demand for the release of Taliban prisoners, though not yet publicized, is a positive sign; previously, the withdrawal of all international forces from Afghan soil was the Taliban's precondition to talks, so this represents a step back from the previous demand (of total withdrawal). The Taliban have ample reason to reject talks with the Afghan government: they don't trust the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, or his American allies, and if talks didn't end in their favor, it would damage the militants' credibility and image. Plus, once opened, the process of talks could create suspicion and mistrust within the Taliban's own leadership... (READ MORE)

Marc Lynch: Al Qaeda in the AfPak strategy - The heavy focus on al Qaeda in the new AfPak strategy could complicate America's broader strategy of strategic public engagement with the Muslim world. The politics of the focus make perfect domestic sense, as Obama -- quite effectively, in a disappointingly Bush-like way -- tried to recapture the mantle of the "good war" and to focus American public attention on 9/11. And to the extent that this represents a limiting of American objectives, then I'm all for it. But the heavy focus on al Qaeda risks rescuing it from the position of marginality in Arab and Muslim politics to which it has largely been relegated over the last year --- and could end up strengthening the strategic threat of violent extremism even if it weakens al Qaeda Central. I am not talking here about the much-discussed point that al Qaeda does not seem to actually be present in any significant way in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Scandalous - Ah...this is just killing me. It's killing me. At the very moment when the Americans have, for the first time ever, committed themselves to a fully-resourced mission to build a functioning state in Afghanistan, and when our country needs to be debating what our commitment after 2011 will look like, we are going to be talking for MONTHS ON END about whether Afghan detainees were abused three years ago. Our soldiers are engaged in a fight, on behalf of the United Nations and the first democratic government in the history of Afghanistan, against an enemy which sows the roads with landmines, openly uses women and children as human shields, hides under burqas to sneak up on our soldiers, burns down schools, threatens to murder teachers with female students, chops off the fingers of Afghans who vote in elections, kidnaps for ransom reporters, engineers, and peace missionaries, and routinely strings up teenagers by their necks from trees as an example to any other "American spies". (READ MORE)

Doc H: Shebergan Mission - Yesterday was an altogether wholesome and satisfying day. It always feels good to give or provide services to those with so little. At the end of a day it is a very good feeling when I can say that Afghanistan is better off because of what we did today. We went to an Afghan prison about 2 hours west of here in the town of Shebergan. The American civilian mentors who work with the staff there invited us to give immunizations to the inmates and staff. This is one of the three prisons who benefited from the literally thousands of vitamins my parents sent a few months ago( thanks folks, they were well utilised). Although health care is free in Afghanistan according to their constitution, access is sometimes a problem. Our trip there was uneventful and actually comfortable(IE not in an MRAP). The staff were very gracious in welcoming us to their site. I learned some things after our last escapade doing this type of volunteer mission in downtown Mazar. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Sitting At Home - I finally made it home! I have been a home a little over a week and its amazing how fast “real life” comes crashing back in. I spent the first few days just getting in-processed back into the states. Since I ended up an an individual re-deployer, I managed to skirt out of most of those long boring speeches and classes, but I did have to run all over the post trying to find individuals and departments to clear my paperwork and become “officially back.” So, I am now on my block leave and figuring out how to re-integrate myself into the “normal life.” I have been introducing myself to the daughter I left behind when she was a week old, spending time with my wife and older daughter, and getting ready for Christmas. Its been nice to sleep in a little and be able to get up without worrying about being somewhere. I managed to fix my car , do some major clean-ups, and go shopping for presents. (READ MORE)

Major Richard Streatfeild, OC A Company 4 RIFLES: DONKEY ATTACK - There is no such thing as a normal day in Afghanistan. One of my platoons has begun to partner a Platoon from the Afghan National Army. The Afghans have already got a small team of UK mentors in their camp, but this move is part of the renewed effort to help the Afghan National Army take on the insurgency with more vigour. All the planning and conduct of patrols is done jointly. The platoon has worked extremely hard in the last forty eight hours to give their new home enough protection. The insurgents have responded in a number of ways but today they out did themselves. The Afghan Army Platoon had received some information that the insurgents were going to try to strap an IED to a donkey and send it towards the camp. Donkeys do not have the reputation of being the most compliant animal, so it was treated with some scepticism at first. (READ MORE)

Major Richard Streatfeild, OC A Company 4 RIFLES: FOOD - For all soldiers in Afghanistan, the basics of living assume much greater importance. Food, drink, sleep, cigarettes for some, press-ups for others, or a visit to the deep trench latrine, are all important rituals in the day. Food is by far the most important element of this. There is an army joke that the chef's course is the hardest in the Services because no chef seems to have passed it. Whilst variety and taste has improved immeasurably in recent years, the staples are still there - bacon grill, sausages, tinned tomatoes, powdered egg and beans for breakfast. Generally with porridge. Noodles and soup for lunch with a couple of rice or pasta choices for supper. Military efficiency being what it is, the food is chosen for its nutritional value and ease of preparation. In this base we are particularly lucky that the chefs are doing an outstanding job. Given limited ingredients the four chefs from of the Royal Logistic Corps have done us proud. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: We fight for their freedom and so that we may continue to enjoy ours - Personnel from RAF Benson have been deployed on operations for the last decade. This year, following the deployment of Merlin helicopters to Afghanistan, over 130 RAF Benson personnel will be deployed worldwide over Christmas; the majority of whom will be on Operation Herrick. Our personnel will be deployed this Christmas supporting UK ground troops who are essential to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists who would threaten the UK. It is helicopters from the UK and Coalition Forces that assist NATO Land Forces in this mission, be it transporting troops to forward operating bases, re-supplying troops away from main operating bases, or airlifting casualties to medical facilities in the quickest time possible. Service personnel give their utmost when performing the tasks they have been asked to undertake by the Queen and Country they signed up to serve. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Emotional Roller Coaster - Tomorrow is the goodbye ceremony for most of our Brigade. We will be the last battalion to go home in Pennsylvania's biggest deployment since World War 2. Not the distinction I wanted. Many of the soldiers who are going home very much wanted to stay. They came here because they wanted to earn tax free money and would rather stay longer than leave early. A good indicator that I am over tired or in emotional disarray or both is my iPod. When I am healthy, happy and well rested, I listen to New Yorker podcasts, "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" from NPR, Books on Tape, Mars Hill Audio or Teaching Company courses. I am currently listening to a course on "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville. But not tonight. Everyone at home is happy, ending the semester, getting ready for the holidays. I had to tell my wife to tell everyone not to send anything because they will be sending our mail back home beginning some unspecified date before we leave. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Killers Take Credit - Iraqis reacted to today's news with anger. News reports today say that al-Qaeda took credit for Tuesday's attacks. The AP says, "[T]he group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, said in a statement posted on the Internet that the attacks in the Iraqi capital targeted the 'bastions of evil and dens of apostates'." The bastion of evil dens of apostates? The technology school, the fine arts school, the popular market? Who are these killers? The prime minister quickly tried to deal with the situation by forcing his top military to resign [Arabic]. General Abboud Qanbar was asked to leave because he failed to prevent the car bombers. The prime minister had to do something because the people demanded that someone be held accountable. The word here is what Al Maliki did was "not good enough." A man said if the interior minister had honour, he would resign. "But none of these politicians have honour," he said. "Why would they give up their comfortable jobs?" (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: A Little Boy Burned: Winter's Work at The FST - Afghanistan. The Hubs has written a note, sent along a few photos. He's still there with his team, and while the snow has blocked the main passage for insurgents coming over from Pakistan, there are still flurries of patients that come in. Winter has hit in the Hindu Kush. It's dark, wet and cold. The region so aptly described in the classic travel book "A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush" by Eric Newby has been marked by wars, this much is probably the same. "where the mountains seemed like the bones of the world breaking through, I had the sensation of emerging from a country that would continue to exist more or less unchanged whatever disasters overtook the rest of mankind." Though the days are short, work is always at hand. A young boy is accompanied by a medical team and his father. The boy has suffered serious burns and will be initially treated here, then flown to a bigger air base with a hospital that has more facilities. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strike kills 4 al Qaeda, 2 Taliban in South Waziristan - The US has conducted the first unmanned airstrike in the lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan since the Pakistani Army launched an offensive there in mid-October. The strike, carried out by unmanned Predator or Reaper attack aircraft, hit a Taliban "hideout" in Tanga in the Ladha region in South Waziristan. Ladha is one of several Taliban strongholds that were the target of the Pakistani Army's offensive against the Mehsud branch of the Taliban in South Waziristan. Four al Qaeda operatives and two Taliban fighters were killed in the attack, according to reports from the region. "Eyewitnesses said the toll could be mount," Geo News reported. It is not known if senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders were killed in the attack. The Pakistani military denied that the US carried out an airstrike in Pakistan today, but US officials contacted by The Long War Journal confirmed the strike. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi troops capture Mahdi Army military leader - Iraqi troops, backed by US advisers, captured a senior leader in a Mahdi Army offshoot group with links to Iran during a raid in Baghdad. The senior leader of the Promised Day Brigade was detained in northern Baghdad, with the help of intelligence gathered from both US and Iraq security forces. The Promised Day Brigade commander, who was not identified, was "believed to be facilitating the distribution of weapons and funding to PDB [Promised Day Brigade] attack groups throughout Baghdad," the US military said in a press release. "Attack groups then use the weapons and funding to conduct deadly acts of violence against civilians and security forces in Iraq." The US military said the commander "is allegedly tied to PDB [Promised Day Brigade] leaders operating from safe havens in Iran." The Promised Day Brigade was formed by anti-American Shia leader Muqtada al Sadr during the summer of 2008... (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 9 Dec 09 - and now, the rest of the trip…after our two hour ride thru “death valley”–as I later found out that what it’s called, because of all the IEDs on that area–we arrived at the FOB and met up with two other AF guys that were here for about a week in the beginning of our deployment…one vehicle maintenance guy and one generator guy…we dropped our gear and headed to chow …their chow hall is outside the camp on the main base area …it kinda sucked for such a big base–well, area-wise it’s not all that big, but there are a LOT of people there … tents packed together like a puzzle with just enough room to walk in between each of them…after we filled our bellies we walked back down to the guys’ room and hung out for a bit…we were told all the flights had been cancelled for the next few days due to incoming weather…great, we thought we were gonna be stuck there for a week or so…I was really in a hurry to get back because I had a tattoo appointment set up–otherwise I wouldn’t care and wouldn’t mind staying for a while… (READ MORE)

The Torch: On detainees...yet again...all the time - My god, we've spent a lot of time and energy on this. I'm with Platt. Is this really the most important aspect of the Afghan file to be dealing with right now? Regardless of whether we should be fixating on detainees and who knew what when, we are. And the conversation is spinning in so many different directions, I don't have enough arms to play whack-a-mole with all the poor arguments, thinly veiled attacks, and downright misinformation. But here, in no particular order, are my thoughts on a few of them. "This just proves that we're not doing any good over there and should pull out immediately." Well, so much for your crocodile tears on the plight of Afghan detainees. Do you honestly think Afghans will be more humanely treated by their jailors if we pull out? No, you're just looking for another excuse to abandon the Afghans because you're against the mission. Whether or not Afghans were abused in jails by other Afghans is immaterial to your position. So give it a rest. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: Body Armor and COIN - The modern day US Soldier and Marine wields lethal weapons and daunting body armor reminiscent of a fierce crusader in full battle dress. Bulky plate carriers bearing large ceramic plates in addition to the elbow pads, knee pads, and the advanced combat helmet give a larger than life presence to a formidable warrior who wears ballistic safety glasses which hide the eyes. From a distance or when passing by, our Troops might strike awe in the minds of the people we work to protect and advise, but when confronted face to face, we likely intimidate those with whom we wish to assist. The seemingly impenetrable armor worn by our Troops, although necessary, can effectively shield our intensions and foster the wrong perceptions in the minds of the population when perception carries a very high value. Twelve months of advising the 2nd Iraqi Infantry Division in Mosul, Iraq, confirmed to me that relationship building between the population and the counterinsurgent remains the most important aspect of our COIN operations. (READ MORE)

War Is Boring: Artificial Intelligence Could Help Spot Hidden Bombs - “Let’s go get blown up,” said Staff Sergeant Ashley Hess, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Able Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry. Hess, pictured at center, climbed into the cab of his Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored truck with his driver and two cavalry troopers. It was October 16 in Baraki Barak, a district of Afghanistan south of Kabul. Hess and his platoon would be driving down a dirt road codenamed “Route New York,” on a mission to survey some local farmers. Route New York is notoriously dangerous. Trees on both sides hide insurgent activity. Deep culverts make perfect hiding places for roadside bombs. The dirt road itself is soft enough that insurgents can bury bombs directly in the paths of American vehicles. For Able Troop, it’s not a matter of whether they will be blown up on Route New York — it’s a matter of exactly when and where. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Regarding Analogies and Metaphors - I need to extend a bit of an apology to Mr. Patrick Porter of Kings of War for some snide mockery this past weekend. One of the things that I find amusing about the milblog community is that there's usually quite civil debate when it comes to the principles of war and counterinsurgency. But when we come to actually discussing analogies and metaphors, therein lies the fiercest debate. While most US Army officers agree that modern warfare requires us to have a broad set of skills ranging from conventional warfighting to supporting civil authorities during natural disasters--we're not certain what sports analogy to use to describe the myriad of attributes required of our leaders. Should we call them "pentathletes", "triathletes", or "Judoka Fighters". Similarly, while Jason Sigger and I are pretty much in agreement on the policy set forth in President Obama's latest Afghanistan speech, we can't describe if the policy is more of a "sacrifice fly" or a "double" in terms of baseball analogies. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Battle-weary soldiers heading home - More than 100 British soldiers serving in Afghanistan - who witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting the conflict has seen - are due to return home after a gruelling six-month tour. The battle-hardened men of Egypt Squadron, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, have spent their last remaining days unwinding in transit accommodation in Camp Bastion, Helmand province. Since landing in the battered middle-eastern country in June, the Tidworth, Wiltshire-based squadron has lost three soldiers and seen numerous men injured. They also fought in the now-notoriously fierce Operation Panther's Claw, clashing with the Taliban on a daily basis. They will board an RAF Hercules and fly away from Camp Bastion and later onwards out of Afghanistan - unlikely to return for at least 18 months. Captain Marc Bannister, 40, from Monkleigh, Devon, said the tour had thrown up both "moments of chaos and moments of clarity". (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
U.S. Role in Iraq Remains Critical, Gates Says - The U.S. military role remains critical to preserving gains made in Iraq and helping to prevent sectarian violence in the roll-up to Iraq’s national elections, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told about 300 soldiers and airmen at a town hall session today at Forward Operating Base Warrior. (READ MORE)

Gates to Discuss Progress, Drawdown in Baghdad - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here today to meet with Iraqi and U.S. military leaders about continuing progress toward building Iraqi security forces and drawing down the U.S. force presence here to 50,000 by late August. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Arrest Suspected Terrorists - Iraqi security forces arrested two terrorism suspects in operations over the last two days, military officials reported. In western Baghdad, Iraqi forces arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member believed to be a recruiter for foreign fighters and to have ties to high-level members of the terror organization who stage vehicle-bomb attacks across central Iraq. (READ MORE)

Drawdown Tracks With Iraqi Progress, General Says - Three weeks before Multinational Corps Iraq cases its colors and rolls into the new U.S. Forces Iraq organization, its commander said plenty of operational activity still is under way in partnership with Iraqi security forces and on track with the U.S. drawdown timetable. (READ MORE)

Terror Attacks Dominate Gates’ Meetings in Baghdad - The recent spate of violence that has rocked the Iraqi capital dominated Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ talks here today with President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s Presidency Council, all pledging to continue working cooperatively to combat it. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Arrest 8, Including Terrorist Leader - A senior leader of the Promised Day Brigade terrorist group was among eight people Iraqi security forces arrested in three operations today, military officials reported. Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched homes in northern Baghdad for the senior leader, a suspect in weapons distribution and funding to Promised Day Brigade groups for attacks on civilians and security forces throughout the Iraqi capital. (READ MORE)

‘I Have No Living Friends in Iraq Now’ - In most parts of the world, the end of the year is a time to reminisce about the best of the past and look to the future with a hopeful eye. Iraq is not like the rest of the world. For me, it is a time to update my death list. The latest entry is my ex-girlfriend. (READ MORE)

‘Why Do You Want to Leave Iraq?’ - When I asked that question of my partner at work, she said with anger in her voice, “It’s not that I want to leave, but I don’t feel safe enough to send my daughter to school.” A few minutes later I received a telephone call telling me that there had been an explosion at a primary school that killed 7 children and wounded more than 40 others. (READ MORE)

New Bombings, Same Questions - After every major attack, the question is the same: Who is responsible? But as the American role here fades, as the regional power struggle intensifies and as the political campaign ahead of national elections scheduled for March gains momentum, the answer to that question is more complicated than it has ever been. (READ MORE)

Iraqis donate tools to Taji theater internment facility vocational programs - Detainees will soon begin using brand new tools donated Dec. 7 for the carpentry class at the Taji Theater Internment Facility here. The tools, donated by the Sunni Endowment, an organization focusing on Sunni mosques and religious issues, will be used by detainees participating in the vocational education program at the facility. (READ MORE)

New center to improve ISF coordination - To better the coordination between Iraqi Security Force elements, a new center opened in Dibbis, Dec. 6, allowing Iraqi Police and Soldiers to work side-by-side. "As their experience and ability to counteract terrorism and crime increases, the [Iraqi] Police and Army have developed new and better methods of coordination, planning, and operation," said Lt. Col. David Lesperance... (READ MORE)

Iraqi Lawmakers Question Maliki about Security - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is facing tough questions from lawmakers about security lapses in the capital, two days after an attack killed 127 people and wounded 400 in Baghdad. Parliament convened a special session Thursday to find out how bombers have been able to stage three massive attacks in the capital since August. (READ MORE)

Maliki, Lawmakers Trade Accusations - Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday chastised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his government's failure to prevent the massive bombings that rocked the capital this week, even as Maliki accused parliament of impeding his ability to improve security. (READ MORE)

Beleaguered Iraqi Leader Puts Off Gates Meeting - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, but the prime minister said he was too busy to see Mr. Gates because he had to defend himself before a Parliament outraged by a recent series of bombings. (READ MORE)

Drawdown Tracks With Iraqi Progress, General Says - Three weeks before Multinational Corps Iraq cases its colors and rolls into the new US Forces Iraq organization, its commander said plenty of operational activity still is under way in partnership with Iraqi security forces and on track with the US drawdown timetable. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
UN envoy at centre of Afghan election row to leave post - Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan who was criticised for his handling of allegations of fraud in the country's presidential election, will not be renewing his contract, he said today. Eide, a career diplomat with the Norwegian foreign office, was appointed as the UN special representative to Afghanistan and head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan in March last year. (READ MORE)

EU urges Afghanistan's Karzai to act against corruption - European Union leaders Friday urged the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai to clamp down on rampant corruption that threatens the country's development. At a summit in Brussels, EU leaders said an international conference due to take place in London on January 28 should call for "clear commitments from the Afghan government ... in the fields of governance", "action against corruption" and the fight against drug traffickers. (READ MORE)

UN Afghan head to quit post in March - The top United Nations official in Afghanistan has asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to start looking for his replacement. A UN spokesman said Friday said Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide never intended to stay longer than his two-year term as head of the UN mission in Afghanistan. Eide's mission is scheduled to wrap up in March. (READ MORE)

At least 12 wounded after blast at Afghan wedding - Afghan police say a blast has killed a child and wounded at least a dozen other civilians at a wedding in a province east of Kabul. Officials gave differing accounts of the explosion Thursday night in Nangarhar province. The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, says a child was killed and 12 other people were wounded when someone threw a grenade. (READ MORE)

U.S. Marines Face Big Challenge in Training Illiterate Afghan Farmers to Be Police - The U.S. Marines were tense looking for bombs buried near a mud compound in this remote farming town in southern Afghanistan. Their new Afghan police colleagues were little help, joking around and sucking on lollipops meant for local kids. The government had sent the new group of 13 police to live and train with the Marines just a few days earlier. Most were illiterate young farmers with no formal training who had been plucked off the streets only weeks before. (READ MORE)

Blackwater directly participated in secret CIA raids in Iraq, Afghanistan - Agents from America's private security firm, Blackwater Worldwide, directly collaborated with CIA to carry out secret raids on suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the transporting of detainees, former company employees and intelligence officials have revealed. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Dec. 11 - An Afghan-international security force detained a couple of militants in Khowst province today, one of whom was a sought after Haqqani facilitator. The facilitator is responsible for the shipment and distribution of weapons to other militant elements in the area. (READ MORE)

Pay Hike Brings Surge In Afghan Army Recruits - The Afghan National Army says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of recruits since it began a program that increases soldiers' pay and benefits, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports. During the first week of December some 2,659 recruits joined the Afghan Army, compared to just 831 in all of September. (READ MORE)

Mullen: Afghanistan debate is over, it's time to move out - The nation's top military officer said the debate on Afghanistan is now over and the time has come to execute President Obama's mission to "reverse the momentum" of the Taliban insurgency. In short, its time to move out, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon Thursday. (READ MORE)

U.S. and International Community Will Have to Help Finance Afghan Security ‘Until Their Economy Grows,’ McChrystal Says - The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told CNSNews.com on Thursday that the United States and the international community will have to finance Afghan security until the Afghan economy grows enough to support that expense. (READ MORE)

Arrested US men were en route to Pak based Taliban sanctuary for 'jihad' training - Five of the 'missing' young US Muslim men, who were apprehended in Pakistan's Sargodha on Wednesday, were on their way to the Taliban sanctuary being operated in the country's lawless tribal areas to receive training to fight American troops in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials have said. (READ MORE)

Why Pakistan's old jihadis pose new threat – at home and in Afghanistan - Saeen Dilawar hadn't killed an infidel in years. Like many of his friends from Pakistan's Punjab Province, in the 1990s he rushed east to help the Army fight the Indians in Kashmir. When government support dried up in 2002, he returned home to his quiet farming town of Hafizabad. (READ MORE)

Nobel prize winner Obama will face Afghan war opponents in Oslo - When President Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Thursday, he will do so knowing that he is not the only one doubting his worthiness. According to a Quinnipiac University poll published yesterday, 2 out of 3 Americans do not think he deserves the prize. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent believe he does. (READ MORE)

Gates, Clinton to be questioned on Afghan strategy - U.S. Defense and State Secretaries Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton will be questioned by lawmakers next week on U.S. President Barack Obama's recently-announced new strategy for Afghanistan. They will face lawmakers from two House subcommittees that control the budgets of Defense and State Departments, the Washington Post quoted congressional source as saying on Thursday. (READ MORE)

Obama will not rush Afghan troop drawdown - There will be no "precipitous drawdown" of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and U.S. troops could still be in the country for years to come, President Barack Obama said on Thursday. Obama told Americans in a televised speech last week U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan on July 2011 as they transferred control to newly trained Afghan security forces. (READ MORE)

Government pushed to release Afghan torture reports - A brewing political controversy could turn into a parliamentary one after the Liberals introduced a motion Thursday to force the government into releasing secret documents in the Afghan detainee affair. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the government has censored documents with "Soviet zeal," and should immediately release any records relating to an incident of torture which was documented by Canadian troops. (READ MORE)

Berlin counts the cost of civilian dead in Afghan war - Somewhere in the depths of the Defence Ministry in Berlin, lawyers and officials are engaged in the uncomfortable business of putting a value on human lives. On December 7, the German government said it would compensate the civilian victims of the September 4 airstrike in Kunduz, in which according to NATO up to 142 people were killed or injured. (READ MORE)

Top Brass Plea For Halt To Afghan Xmas Gifts - Dog biscuits, baby wipes and a box of conkers - just some of the unwanted Christmas gifts clogging up British military post offices in southern Afghanistan. Public concern for the troops as casualties increase has led to an unprecedented upsurge of generosity. Thousands of parcels - some just addressed to "a British soldier, Afghanistan" have poured in. (READ MORE)

New revelations on German role in Afghan air strike - GERMANY’S ROLE in the Nato mission to Afghanistan continues to unravel amid controversial new revelations about an air strike in September that killed up to 74 civilians. Four months on, it has emerged that an elite German commando unit was involved in the September 4th bombing of two petrol tankers hijacked by the Taliban near Kunduz – an air strike that left about 140 people dead. (READ MORE)

Troops, Government Team Up to Rebuild Bridge - Task Force Mountain Warrior servicemembers and Afghan contractors are working to replace a bridge across the Saracha River here. After flash flooding destroyed the bridge along Highway 1 Aug. 31, Afghan contractors immediately built dirt bypasses and moved concrete to support the footers and piers of the bridge. (READ MORE)

Most Surge Troops Identified, Official Says - The military component that coordinates the forces that fight America’s wars has allocated almost all of the troops that will take part in the Afghanistan surge. U.S. Joint Forces Command, a support beam in the Defense Department’s policymaking structure, is formulating plans to carry out the influx of 30,000 U.S. forces that President Barack Obama has ordered into Afghanistan over roughly the next six months. (READ MORE)

Afghan Security Leaders Thank Gates for Support - Senior Afghan military and national police leaders gathered today at Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ departure to thank him for his support for President Barack Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and a strong military team to support it. (READ MORE)

Afghan Government Must Be Credible, McChrystal Says - Among the many factors White House and Pentagon officials say will drive success in Afghanistan, developing a credible government there may be the most challenging, the commander of U.S. and international forces there said yesterday. (READ MORE)

Army, Marines Adjust ‘Reset’ for Afghan Buildup - As the U.S. military answers President Barack Obama’s order to reinforce efforts in Afghanistan, the Army and Marine Corps are adjusting their plans to redeploy working and serviceable equipment, top military officers told Congress today. (READ MORE)

US Military: Afghan Surge Begins Next Week - US Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the military's focus now is the rapid deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and the initial elements of the surge will begin arriving next week. (READ MORE)

Obama Promises Conditions-based Afghanistan Transition - Any changes in US troop strength in Afghanistan when security responsibility starts to transfer to the Afghans in July 2011 will be considered in light of the situation on the ground at that time, President Barack Obama said today in Oslo, Norway. (READ MORE)

West Urges Afghanistan to Delay Election - Afghanistan's Western backers increasingly favor postponing the nation's parliamentary election, scheduled for May, fearing that another traumatic - and potentially fraud-marred - campaign will undermine the coalition's counterinsurgency strategy and create a new round of political turmoil. (READ MORE)

Afghan Women Lead Protest Against Government Corruption - Several hundred women, many holding aloft pictures of relatives killed by drug lords or Taliban militants, held a loud but nonviolent street protest today, demanding that President Hamid Karzai purge from his government anyone connected to corruption, war crimes or the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Police in Pakistan Link 5 US Nationals to al-Qaida - Police in Pakistan say five American nationals they arrested this week in an eastern town have told interrogators they arrived in the country to join "jihad" or a holy war. US and Pakistani officials are interrogating the detainees who are said to be in their 20s and come from northern Virginia. (READ MORE)

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