December 28, 2009

From the Front: 12/28/2009

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

Dispatches:
Bouhammer:
Bowe back in the news - So PFC Bowe Bergdahl is back in the news now that another video has been released. Of course the idiot terrorist from Nigeria who tried to blow up the NWA flight in Detroit took over the headlines by late in the day on Christmas. But the bottom line is now that Bowe’s captors released a video of him, his name is back in the news. I know I have asked a few times on this blog an on twitter what has been happening with him, but he has been absent in the news. Of course back in late November when word was passed to some respected American soldier doctors about Bergdahl, there were some small blips in the news about him, but nothing really nationally. The new video is out, but it is not a proof of life as they offer no proof of when the footage was filmed. We have an American citizen and soldier missing in Afghanistan, so why doesn’t that stay at the top of the news. Is it because the American people don’t care? (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Stuck in Kuwait - I got on the plane and hugged my wife goodbye. My R&R leave had come to an end. Now it was time to return to the combat zone. It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to Liisa, but we both are looking on the bright side that I only have 4 ½ months to go. My plane was delayed over an hour before finally boarding and taking off. I landed in Frankfurt where they also delayed the plane. The snowstorms in the Eastern part of the US along with the ones in Europe were causing massive delays and cancellations. My next stop was in Kuwait. It was a smooth flight and I went to the luggage carousel to pick up my military duffel bag. I waited and waited and looked closely at every green military duffel bag and couldn’t locate mine. Then I heard the conveyor belt stop running. This wasn’t good. My military uniforms, combat boots, underwear, T-shirts, etc. were inside this bag. I made a smart decision not to pack my winter coat because the temperatures here were in the low 50’s. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Luggage Located - Last night a flight came in from Frankfurt at 2330 hrs. I couldn’t sleep, so around 2 am. I checked the on line tracing data base and my luggage was still listed in tracing status. I’m starting to give up hope on Lufthansa finding my luggage. I returned to my tent for the night. Around 3:30 am, a group of boisterous Marines came in and settled in the vacant bunks. But by the time they took their showers and got something to eat, it was about 5 am. It was difficult to sleep with all the noise and interruptions. I woke up around 8 am feeling still rather tired. Today a decision would have to be made about releasing me from here and flying back to Afghanistan in my civilian clothes. But before I went to the LNO desk I decided to make one last call to the airlines. Perhaps by a miracle or good luck they might have located my luggage. I dialed the automated number and actually got a live person on the other end. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Trying to leave Kuwait - As you can tell by the title, the saga continues. Yesterday I boarded a shuttle from Camp LSA to the Kuwait International Airport. First we had to stop at the APOD (another location that nobody seems to know what the acronym stands for). Here we waited for another shuttle to take us directly to the airport. We arrived at the airport around 2:30 pm and I decided not to pick up my luggage right away and walk around the airport a little bit. I was still in civilian clothes and did my best to blend in with the local populace. This airport had every popular fast-food restaurant you could think of. But it also had some specialty stores including Rolex and a variety of French specialty stores. There were designer clothes stores, jewelry and the one that really stuck out was Harley Davidson. They even had one on display! (READ MORE)

Army Household6: Goodbye 2009 - I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to welcome in a New Year. Usually I’m dreading the fact that another year has flown by… asking where did the time go? As I said in the beginning of the year, that 2009 would be a year of change and self-discovery. I certainly wasn’t that far off. So much has happened this year… so far we have – moved to a new state and got to know another Army community - got familiar with independence and self-reliance once again - dealt with deployment issues for myself, SGT Daddy and the girls - stood up for myself as a blogger and citizen journalist - advocated for our oldest daughter when the school wasn’t meeting her needs and began homeschooling her - saw our marriage grow stronger right before our very eyes - met some of our personal and professional goals - Now of course this doesn’t portray everything we went through this year… that would be the longest blog post EVER. (READ MORE)

FIRST LT. JESSICA DAWSON: What Is It Like? - What is it like to stand on the airfield at a ramp ceremony? What is it like when there’s a mortar attack? How many casualties did you take this year? I’ve had many first experiences this year, more than one that I won’t blog about, but being asked these questions was a milestone I didn’t want to see breached. I flew on a Blackhawk for the first time, fired an AK-47, and felt an earthquake. I stood in my CHU [containerized housing unit] as indirect fire hit our base. But I didn’t want to talk about what it’s like when someone dies. One of the new lieutenants asked me how many casualties we took this year, I didn’t want to give him a number, I wanted to tell him about the names. The brothers and sisters that we lost. The husbands and wives and sons and daughters. And now I know how others felt when I asked the questions he put to me. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Christmas Day - Christmas was a wonderful but busy day. We had three services within 24 hours, with lots of good singing. I had the opportunity to watch a flock of goats for several hours on guard duty. Finally we had a good ole time at the First Annual 5k Jingle Bell run around Camp Spann. If there was a category I am sure I would have won 'Best hat made out of office supplies'. The meals were very good and ample as well. I had some good calls back to my family to find out how my gifts went over. It was quite a Birthday Celebration. I hope you had a fun and meaningful Christmas too. And a Special Thank you to those who sent boxes, presents, decorations, or greetings. They were all much appreciated. Merry Christmas! (MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Giggling sounds of children playing - Every time a soldier loses his life we gather at our headquarters to remember them, to honour and respect them and to pray for their family and friends. Last week, at the end of one such service, our brigade commander came off the parade and said to me 'listen to that Padre'. I wondered what he was talking about. I listened. I could hear the sound of traffic from the town that surrounds our base, but then I became aware of the laughing and shouting and squealing and the giggling sounds of children playing. The brigadier commented that we wouldn't have heard that three months ago. I went to the garden outside our church and reflected on the sounds of those children. I allowed my mind to travel home to my children. Another Christmas apart. They are adults now but I miss them as, all of our soldiers miss their families. One of my daughters will give birth to my first grandchild in February. I will miss that too. (READ MORE)

Isabel Hodge: Spouse Tackles Holiday Season Alone - I’ve been a military spouse for 21 years. I was an active-duty Marine for four years. A little over a week ago I decided, at my children’s urging, that I would purchase a small 4-foot, pre-lit Christmas tree instead of digging around in the crawl space trying to find where my husband stored our large tree last Christmas. I didn’t have the energy to pull out the large tree, and putting ornaments from past Christmases past would only make this Christmas more difficult. Our little tree is still special. For several days there was only one ornament on it, an ornament that the boys and I agreed on. I was happy with just the one ornament because it warmed my heart to see it on our little tree. Eventually, we put some more ornaments on the tree — a multicolored star that my oldest son picked for the top, an angel with the word “hope” around the base of her gown and a gold cross. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights this War--Coach on the Range - During the two days Echo Company ran the marksmanship qualification range on COB Adder in November, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Guinn, 30, strode back and forth on the dirt mound where the shooters were firing. Guinn adjusted a body position here, made a suggestion there, pushed in an elbow, all to help soldiers to qualify with their M16, M4 or M9 personal weapons. Guinn served for four years on active duty as a Marine before joining the Army National Guard. “We don’t spend enough time on PMI (Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction),” said Guinn, NCOIC of Operations for Task Force Diablo. “In the Marines we moved out to the range for two weeks every year. We would a full week just practicing different firing positions.” Guinn serves full time in the Army National Guard and is planning to work as a Readiness NCO in 28th Combat Aviation Brigade after this deployment. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? And Just Keeps Going - I have mentioned my roommate before. Sgt. Nickey Smith joined Echo Company with a dozen other guys from Connecticut at the beginning of the deployment at Fort Sill. All the other CT guys in our company are fuelers and have mostly been assigned to remote bases to refuel aircraft. Nickey was the only CT guy assigned to the motor pool. And from his first day he was put in the squad with the squad leader who was already showing signs of being overwhelmed at Fort Sill. More and more as training progressed, Nickey found himself in charge of a team and picking up the slack as his squad leader fell apart. Shortly after we arrived in Iraq, Nickey got assigned to as the maintenance sergeant at one of the fueling bases. Life is a lot more Spartan on these bases, but one of Nickey's best friends was there and he was away from the drama of his squad. He was very happy to go and not so happy to be back. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Homefront: Life Goes On and The Dog Sleeps On Your Pillow Now - There's been a lot to catch up on. And I'm not just talking about what went on over there. After all, that's been the topic of most of our emails for the past few months. No, what I'm talking about is what went on here. He marveled at how well protected I kept news from him. As in: "The IRS decided to audit our records after we closed the practice. They've dinged me for more money, which I don't think is right." "The bank called in a business loan seven months after we closed the practice. They wanted the full amount, but then offered some terms --equivalent to a car payment. I negotiated it down, but it's a lot more than what we were paying." "I was spaced out after dropping you off for deployment. When I came home, I crashed the car. It was minor and it still runs." "Aunt June passed away." "I bought a new car because the one I crashed has 175k miles. I'm saving it for just around town. The new one is for trips." (READ MORE)

The Life of the Wife: Merry [belated] Christmas! - I hope all of you got to celebrate with people you love (even if it's not that one person you love the most) and have a day of joy and peace. We started the festivities with a huge Christmas Eve dinner. I made turkey, jalapeno corn, stuffing, bourbon sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy. Plusss, Hubble had bought us some vintage Piper-Heidseck champagne. Vintage champagne=super great excellent yummy, for y'all who aren't bubbly-philes like me. On Christmas morning, I christened my new copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and made Eggs Benedict, complete with homemade hollandaise and eggs poached in only simmering water. It was ah.mah.zing. We spent the rest of the day lazing around and drinking mimosas until we wandered over to a friend's apartment for a fabulous Christmas dinner feast. Our hostess was the mostest. And I got totally schwasted, thus I now have the hangover spinnies. We just have a few hours left but I know this deployment will be easier than those in the past. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban execute Bajaur tribal leader - The Taliban tortured and executed a tribal leader who raised forces to battle the Islamic extremists in Pakistan's contested tribal agency of Bajaur. The body of tribal leader Gul Mohammad was found in the Salarzai region in Bajaur. Mohammed was reportedly tortured and then strangled to death. The Taliban pinned a note to Mohammed's body that said "the man was spying for security forces and anybody found involved in anti-Taliban activities will meet the same fate," Dawn News reported. Mohammed raised a tribal lashkar, or militia, and aligned with the government to fight the Taliban. The Taliban have actively targeted tribal leaders as they attempt to organize lashkars to eject the extremists from their towns. Mohammed is the sixth senior tribal leader killed in Bajaur since Oct. 3. Five of the tribal leaders were killed in the Mamond region in Bajaur. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: The best gift: Christmas connections - Sometimes I embarrass myself. I always leave my cell phone in my car when I shoot an assignment; it’s too distracting and rude to answer calls when I’m working. On Christmas Eve, I jumped into my car to drive back to the paper, flipped open my phone, and saw I had missed seven calls. Seven calls. My heart dropped into my stomach as I listened to the message: “Mom. This is your son. Daniel. They just opened the phones for a couple of hours and I’ve called you seven times. Sorry I missed you, Merry Christmas. I don’t know when I can call you again. Love you…” To say that I cried is an understatement. I sobbed. I walked through the office with tears streaming down my face and said some unknowable nonsensical things to my puzzled co-workers. I’m a tough broad. Really, I am. But when I haven’t talked to my kid on over a month, and he's far away, and it's Christmas, and you hear their voice on your phone, it’s like …wow... (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: MERRY CHRISTMAS 2009 - and so it’s Christams day … nothing too exciting going on around here … got the day off work, and the chow hall is going to have a nice dinner spread …I went to the BX today to pick up a couple needed items–soap and whatnot…work has been pretty slow…turned in a couple generators, worked on a couple trucks, sat around most of the time doing nothing…got me another tattoo the other night …it turned out great …also, set up an appointment to get another…gotta get in as much as I can before Feb–that’s when the tatt guy goes back home …as most of the guys here, he is excited to be leaving soon…most of the guys I work with out at the barn will be gone before the end of Jan…we should see a bunch of new guys showing up here soon…there will be a big change-over in the next few weeks … hopefully the guys coming in are as cool as the guys here now …us AF people are supposed to be kinda like a bridge of continuity between the Army units as they transition in and out… (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: PRT Visits Nurgal Valley - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Dec. 27, 2009) – The Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team visited Nurgal village to assess a newly completed Senzio footbridge and visit the village’s comprehensive clinic, Dec. 26. Traversing narrow roads under the watchful eyes of Nurgal Valley residents, the PRT made its way to the village center to do a final quality assurance and compliance check on the footbridge and to talk to residents about their health clinic. According to U.S. Navy Builder Chief Petty Officer David Zahm, PRT engineer, the foot bridge represents a $54,600 investment in the people of the Nurgal valley by the Afghan government and the PRT. “This visit was to conduct a final QA/QC to determine if the contractor completed the project to specifications,” Zahm said. “The project looks outstanding…the workmanship and quality of materials used appears to be of the highest quality.” (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Christmas in Kabul - Every morning while I'm shaving, there's a ritual sideways glance and a muttered "Good morning" to the other NATO officers shuffling up to the sinks in our latrine. This morning, the guy beside me turned to look me in the eye and boomed, in heavily accented English, "No 'good morning.' Merry Christmas!" Well, yes and no. The military certainly does its best to make holidays away from home special. Dinner last night and lunch today was like a supermarket ad for Christmas: a long table of decoratively arranged fruit, another of assorted breads, carved meats, pies served up with generous dollops of whipped cream. Whitney Houston glissandoed her way through "Do You Hear What I Hear?" from speakers everywhere. The gym hosted an oxymoronic 5K fun run at 8:30 a.m., which featured lots of Santa hats. Smiles and jokes were more frequent, and most of them weren't forced. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: 'Twas The Day After Christmas - This tree kinda sums up how I felt most of the day yesterday: pretty sad. Three of us celebrated Christmas Eve by going over to the clinic and getting our H1N1 innoculations. I had an extra bonus shot with an anthrax vaccination. Yessir, we know how to have fun on Christmas Eve in Baghdad! Christmas was a full day off for us and I finally had an opportunity to sleep in. So, of course, I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. The shoulder that took the anthrax shot felt like Mike Tyson had landed a huge blow to it. No bruise marks, but man, was it sore, and I think my body's reaction to the H1N1 shot left me feeling a bit down, too. And I wound up not getting any coffee in the morning, for no good reason at all. Combine that with my main gripe: this was the second Christmas in a row that I've been deployed to Baghdad and away from my wife and friends and dogs. (READ MORE)

RN Clara Hart: CHRISTMAS WISH - Who would swipe a Christmas tree from a wounded soldier? That was the question we were asking ourselves at work last week. The parents of one of our wounded had placed a small artificial tree in his room. Frequently the only lights to be seen were the glow from the heart monitor and the twinkling lights on the tree. This particular patient lies in a quiet slumber waiting for his brain to wake up and take notice of his surroundings. He has lain that way for weeks. One morning we noticed the little tree was gone, and we began a feverish search. As the other nurses and I stomped around the unit muttering under our breath “Who in the hell would appropriate a Christmas tree from a wounded guy?” his mother sat quietly holding his hand. The next day his parents brought in another tree complete with lights, garland and ornaments. As we expressed our outrage and offered our apologies his mom said, “There is obviously someone who needed it more than we did.” (READ MORE)

Army Wife Toddler Mom: What if? - I am one of the lucky ones this year, my Husband is home at Christmas. The blizzard conditions made it impossible for us to leave home, and frankly we were ok with that. We are used to spending Holidays alone as a family. Far away from our immediate family, and our families are accustomed to it as well. We just will do it later, water off a ducks back. Yesterday, we had five foot drifts all around us, and SNOW lots of snow. I couldn't have been happier really....until throughout the morning my left side of my face hurt, sinus's hurt, neck hurt from swollen glands. (I have been fighting what was an abscessed tooth, disguised as a sinus infection for about 2 weeks or so) I had a temporary crown put on the other day, as well as a root canal. My long freakish caveman roots surprised my dentist, and so did the extra curved roots. It took far longer than we had anticipated. (root canals, not nearly as frightening or painful as I had heard, and I actually got a nap in, during the procedure) (READ MORE)

Lieutenant Mark Munson: Should AF/PAK Hands be South Asia Hands? - Seeking to develop a community of regional experts in local languages and cultures, and with the intent to sustain the deployment of those experts to the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater, the Department of Defense recently announced the creation of the “AF/PAK Hands” program. While this program demonstrates a laudable commitment by DoD towards building the intellectual capacity within the military to win the fight in Afghanistan, the focus of AF/PAK Hands on the languages and culture of Afghanistan and Pakistan (in particular the Pashtun border region) demonstrates a lack of strategic awareness of the decisive role that larger South Asian relationships (particularly that between India and Pakistan) play in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Most importantly, while Pakistani cooperation is necessary for the defeat of al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistani attitudes towards India may prevent that full cooperation in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Lt. Andrew Nuttall: Update from Afghanistan 4 [Ed Note: this is Andrew's last post. He was KIA on Wednesday, Dec 23.] - Hi all! In order to be as open as I can i’m now going to post these updates on my website, although I am going to have to be a bit less specific, but i promise it won’t take away from the story. As well I’m posting some new pictures with this update so it should be a good one! The last I left you was saying I was moving to a new house with no internet. Well many things have changed, yet many things stay the same. The new place was working out excellently for us, and a platoon of ANA (afghan national army) which we started to work with very closely. We spent many long days fixing and improving our compound, as well as the typical patroling around our AO. The situation around this new home was much more tense and fragile than our last, the last time the locals saw any uniformed troops was some americans who ran through the place guns blazing. As such they were quite wary, and so were we because of the high amount of insurgent presense we were expecting. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: America’s Muslims and Arabs in Uniform = Powerful Assets - Last month Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire on American soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 30. Although the investigation is still underway, it’s become fairly clear that Hasan was motivated by his extreme Islamic views. Hasan betrayed his oaths as a doctor and as an Army officer. He betrayed the people he swore to help. While Hasan’s name is now widely known, there’s another Arab Muslim soldier whose name is not — but should be. Four years ago this week, a Green Beret staff sergeant named Ayman Abdelrahman Taha died fighting in Iraq. Taha is just one of many American Muslims to pay the ultimate price while serving his country. When Hasan finally goes on trial, he will face a jury of his fellow serviceman, presided over by a military judge. As this happens, America must be careful not to put the entire Arab and Muslim military communities on trial, as well. (READ MORE)

Neptunus Lex: In It to Win It? - When it comes to Afghanistan, it all depends upon who you ask. “Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Members of Obama’s war cabinet disagree over the meaning of his pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission has been narrowed from a proposal advanced by McChrystal in his August assessment of the war. The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms.” Which to me, is troubling. (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:
Pentagon limits law's pledge to its wounded veterans - Veterans groups hailed the passage last year of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which made it easier for wounded soldiers to have their injuries rated and treated by the federal government. But less than a year after President Bush signed the bill, the Defense Department interpreted the law in a way that reduced its scope and denied many veterans the benefits they thought they had been promised. (READ MORE)

Military helps families find care for special-needs kids - When her husband, a Marine Corps colonel, was transferred last summer from the Pentagon to a base in southern California, Karen Driscoll was forced to confront her autistic child's new school district and the intricacies of federal special education law. The Poway Unified School District near San Diego offered Driscoll's 11-year-old, Paul, the support of an aide for 10 hours a week -- fewer than half the 21 hours Fairfax County had provided and said he deserved under federal law. (READ MORE)

Gays, lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military - SLOWLY BUT SURELY, the groundwork continues to be laid for the overdue demise of "don't ask, don't tell." The latest move came on Dec. 22 when Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and 95 House colleagues sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting statistics on troops discharged for violating the wrong-headed ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. They want everyone to see the effects of the policy on the military and the national defense. This has the added benefit of reminding Americans of the law's absurdity. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

IRAQ: Scenes from Christmas Day - Many people had not attended Christmas Eve Mass because they were afraid of attacks, but more people turned out on Christmas Day. Below are Christmas Day photos from the church by Times photographer Saad Khalaf. (MORE)

Iraq Bombs Kill 6 Pilgrims as Shi'ites Observe Ashura - Iraqi officials say bombs have exploded among Shi'ite pilgrims marking the holy day of Ashura, killing at least six people and wounding more than 30 others. Sunday's deadliest blast was in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khormato, about 180 kilometers north of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

New Violence Hits Iraq During Big Shiite Holiday - Five people were killed in two attacks in Iraq following violence that left more than 40 dead in the four days leading up to the end of the major Shiite Islam holiday of Ashura. The sectarian violence, which has decreased since the peak in 2006 and 2007 and was expected to be even worse on Sunday, is typical during Ashura. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Shiites Protest Maliki's Government - A group of 5,000 Iraqi Shiite demonstrators in the city of Karbala turned the religious observance of Ashura into a political protest against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday, expressing wide-ranging criticisms as the country prepares for a critical national election in early March. (READ MORE)

Insurgent killed, five captured - During routine air-patrol over Kirkuk province on Christmas night, a surveillance crewman onboard a 25th Combat Aviation Brigade surveillance aircraft spotted three men digging and placing an “unknown object” alongside a road north of Kirkuk at 8:24 p.m. The crewman notified nearby U.S. and Iraqi ground forces and continued to observe the suspicious behavior. (READ MORE)

ISF target Kata’ib Hezbollah network, arrest 2 suspects - Iraqi Security Forces arrested two suspects during a joint security operation conducted today targeting a suspected Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) member in northeastern Baghdad. Based on a warrant issued by an Iraqi court, ISF and U.S. advisors searched a residential building for a suspected member of KH believed to be responsible for staging deadly improvised explosive device attacks in the region. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police find large weapons cache near Tikrit, arrest 10 - Iraqi Police arrested a suspected Jaysh al-Islami (JAI) terrorist group explosives-cell leader and nine suspected criminal accomplices, in addition to discovering a large weapons cache, during two joint security operations conducted today near Tikrit. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest 4 in AQI-focused security operations - Iraqi Police arrested four suspected terrorists during two joint security operations conducted Friday and today in northeastern Mosul targeting a suspected member of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) believed to be responsible for suicide vest attacks in Balad and Muqdadiyah. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police target Mosul terrorist group leadership, arrest 2 suspects - The 3rd Emergency Response Unit arrested two suspected terrorists Thursday during a joint security operation conducted in Tikrit, located southwest of Kirkuk. Acting pursuant to a warrant from an Iraqi court, the 3rd ERU and U.S. advisors searched two residential buildings for a suspected leader in a Jaysh al-Islami Mujahadeen (JAM) explosives cell that operates in Bayji. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest 5 suspected Kata’ib Hezbollah members in Baghdad - Iraqi Security Forces arrested five suspected members of the Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) terrorist group Thursday during two joint security operations conducted in northeastern Baghdad. Both security operations were conducted pursuant to a warrant issued by an Iraqi court. (READ MORE)

Iraqis lead humanitarian aid mission - Iraqi Army Soldiers took the lead in planning and conducting a combined humanitarian aid delivery to displaced persons living in the village of Sudoor, Diyala province, Dec. 18. The supplies were delivered by the 20th Brigade, 5th IA Division to Sunni Arabs who were removed from their homes in the predominately Kurdish city of Khanaqin in 2003 and are now living in an abandoned hotel. (READ MORE)

Soldiers help Iraqi boy get new smile - From behind his father, an excited three-year-old boy named Abdullah plays peek-a-boo with Soldiers of the 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. The Soldiers are there to check on the child who is recovering from a recent cleft palette surgery; a surgery that happened thanks in part to the efforts of the Soldiers there to see him. (READ MORE)

Troops bring Christmas to Iraqi orphans - As smiling children filled a room almost to capacity, their faces shining and full of excitement, Col. Charles E. Sexton asked them, "Have you all been good boys and girls or bad boys and girls?" "Good!" screamed the children, with cheer. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Elite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan - Secretive branches of the military’s Special Operations forces have increased counterterrorism missions against some of the most lethal groups in Afghanistan and, because of their success, plan an even bigger expansion next year, according to American commanders. (READ MORE)

U.S. Wants Pakistan to Pursue Taliban-allied Group - As Pakistan forges ahead with its bid to uproot Taliban fighters from tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, its troops are bypassing an enemy that the Obama administration desperately wants confronted. (READ MORE)

Bomb in Pakistani Tribal Region Kills Local Official, 5 Family Members - Pakistani officials say a bomb in a northwest tribal region has killed a local official and five of his family members. Officials say the blast struck Sunday at the home of Sarfaraz Khan, in the town of Sadda, in the Kurram tribal region bordering Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

10 Killed in Pakistan Bombings on Anniversary of Bhutto Assassination - A pair of bombings on Sunday killed at least 10 people, including a government official, and wounded scores more, Pakistani authorities said. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Is Rocked by a Spate of Attacks - A handful of deadly attacks ravaged parts of Pakistan this weekend and highlighted the multiple security challenges confronting the embattled Islamabad government, from violent vendettas by Taliban militants to sectarian violence against minority Shiites. (READ MORE)

Spirit of America in Afghanistan - In 2003, Sgt. First Class Jay Smith and his Army Special Forces team were based in Orgun-e, Afghanistan and were taking regular rocket fire from al Qaeda fighters. But Sgt. Smith and his men were armed with an effective counterweapon - gifts of school supplies and sports gear for children, and clothing, shoes and blankets for nearby families... (READ MORE)

We Have Strategy, Kit and Leadership. Let’s Go - The British soldiers guarding the newly built Friendship Bridge over the fast-flowing irrigation canal in their sector of Helmand province are far too young to remember the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. If they had, they might have thought twice about the name. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Dec. 28, 2009 - An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban facilitator and several other militants in Kandahar last night. A joint force searched a series of buildings in Kandahar City after intelligence assets confirmed militant activities. (READ MORE)

Joint Operation Started to Aid Development in Western Afghanistan - Afghan and ISAF forces began an operation Sunday near Bala Murghab District in Badghis province to secure Afghan national security force outposts as part of a development plan started nearly a month ago. (READ MORE)

Holidays on the Forward Operating Base - Spending the holidays away from home can be tough, but the soldiers at Forward Operating Base Vulcan celebrated Christmas the best way they could – together. There are 85 Georgia National Guard soldiers assigned to the Combined Action Unit on FOB Vulcan. The job of the CAU is to support and train the Afghan national police. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Meet With Leaders in Remote Afghan Province - Over mountainous terrain, a pair of UH-47 Chinook helicopters glided through the cold air to the remote village of Shaykh Ali in Afghanistan’s Parwan province Dec. 19, carrying nearly 45 Task Force Cyclone team members. Their mission: to speak with district leaders, police and villagers about how to better serve and contribute to the local people. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Detain Suspects, Find Weapons - Afghan and international security forces in Afghanistan detained numerous suspected militants and seized weapons stockpiles in various operations today, military officials reported. A combined Afghan-international force detained several suspected militants in Helmand province while searching for a Taliban commander linked to a murder and intimidation campaign. (READ MORE)

'True patriot' Imran Khan turns 'messiah' for Pak Taliban - The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) Swat chapter has said that it is ready to accept the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan as a mediator for talks with the government in order to restore peace in the region. In his taped message, Swat Taliban commander Nooruddin Muhammad alias Abu Akash described Imran as a 'true patriot'. (READ MORE)

Taliban Releases Video Of U.S. Soldier Captured in Afghanistan - The Taliban released a video Friday of an American soldier captured in Afghanistan, showing him apparently healthy but spouting criticism about the U.S. military operation. In Idaho, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl's family pleaded on Christmas Day for his release and urged him to 'stay strong.' (READ MORE)

US contractors paying to Taliban to secure supply lines - As President Obama prepares a massive military buildup in Afghanistan, a House subcommittee has launched an investigation into whether Defense Department contractors are paying off the Taliban to protect American supply lines. The investigation was triggered by a Nation cover story. (READ MORE)

President Karzai’s Inauspicious Start - President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has squandered a chance to shake up his government and chart a new course after eight years of mismanagement and corruption. In the cabinet he announced last week, Mr. Karzai conceded just enough to minimally satisfy competing constituencies: (READ MORE)

Queen's sadness over deaths in Afghanistan - The Queen paid tribute to the Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan in her annual Christmas message yesterday. The monarch spoke of her sadness at the heavy death toll suffered by fighting the Taliban factions and she praised the stoicism showed by bereaved families of servicemen killed on operations. (READ MORE)

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