January 7, 2010

From the Front: 01/07/2010

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

Sgt Danger:
Nothing. - Don’t have much to write about. We’re off the road for a little while. How about some pictures? (MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Operation Big Wood 2 - This would be our 2nd trip escorting our ANA brothers to pick up lumber. We started our morning by conducting one last inspection on our MRAPs, checked radios, and mounted our crew serve weapons. Today the convoy would be composed of 8 ANA 7-ton trucks in conjunction with our MRAPs. It was a little bit brisk out so we donned a few extra layers to combat the cold. The pollution from burning firewood at night hadn’t settled yet, so we had good visibility. It was a great day for a convoy. Our convoy commander gave us our mission briefing and then we jumped in the trucks and drove off to meet our ANA counterparts. Surprisingly they were lined up and ready to roll out. Timeliness and being punctual is not a great attribute for the ANA. Normally they operate off of “Afghan time” which is 15-30 minutes late. Even though they might arrive late, we still set the example and ensure we are always on time. In time, we hope they replicate our habit because in combat, being late can be deadly. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: On the Rise: Al Shabaab's Transnational Jihadist Efforts - This story line likely will not get much airtime here in the US, but it is absolutely worth highlighting. First reported yesterday by Swedish newspaper The Local, another European cartoonist is in the crosshairs of al Shabaab. According to the newspaper, Lars Vilks received a phone call in which he was threatened with a similar fate of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who late last week was nearly murdered in his own home with an ax. Interestingly, this is the second AQ-affiliated group to threaten Vilks, who had a bounty set by Islamic State of Iraq leader Abu Umar al Baghdadi back in 2007. A couple key points that stuck out: a. The man who called Vilks reportedly spoke Swedish with an accent. This likely indicates the caller previously lived in Sweden for some amount of time, likely a part of the large Somali diaspora across Northern Europe. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Follow-up: Al Shabaab's Transnational Jihadist Efforts - We at Al Sahwa now understand Hasan-types as "francshise terrorists," ones who use the brand of AQ to independently pursue their own narrow jihad. Riad Kahwaji, an analyst in Dubai, is reported on Al Jazeera saying something similar: "What we are seeing is a pattern of franchises for al-Qaeda opening up" that uses a strategy "to engage the US and its allies in Europe and in the region, to open various fronts simultaneously - or one after the other..." This operational construct is also witnessed in Al Shabaab as Josh discussed in such a timely and integrated fashion. It also can be applied, I think, to better understand Al Shabaab's systematic connections to AQAP: they intend to evolve from an independent-minded entity. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that after the escape of Mohammed Ahmed al-Hanq in Arhab, deputy leader Sheik Mokhtar Robow Abu Monsor and group spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage (in Mogadishu) said they are ready to send reinforcements to Yemen should the U.S. strike against Islamist militants there. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Bouhammer responds to Army Social Media Division - In the last month or so I have written several blog posts about my good friend CJ and the issues he had in Alabama with both the local school administration, PTA, and his chain of command. I won’t rehash the entire postings here, but you can find them by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE. Well as a result of all of that, many in and out of the milblog world bonded together in a show of solidarity with CJ and to highlight the fact that many milblogs have been silenced, threatened or just never got off the ground because of a change and attitude towards milbloggers by Army mid-level leadership around the world. This Day of Silence was mentioned HERE and the hundreds of blogs that observed it or just wrote about it can be found HERE. Now to respond to this enormous outpouring of support for not only CJ but all the milbloggers in the world that have faced unnecessary harassment, threats, or shutdowns, the official Army blog responded. (READ MORE)

RAZZAQ AL-SAIEDI: Where Is the Next War Zone? - In the wake of the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight by a young Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Yemen is now in America’s focus. But there is nothing new about Yemen. It has long been a base for Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s family comes from Yemen, the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in Yemen in 2000, many Yemeni fighters were either killed or captured in Iraq, and, during the last decade, the United States has helped the Yemeni government fight. But there are many havens for radical militants who follow the violent tenets of Al Qaeda — from North Africa to Europe to Asia. Today, the front line of the war against terrorism can be anywhere in the world. Mr. Abdulmutallab was radicalized, recruited and trained on three continents before trying to explode the Detroit-bound plane on a fourth. It is very difficult to fight an enemy that has no single home base and attacks at random. Nevertheless, the United States cannot send troops throughout the world in pursuit of Qaeda fighters. Al Qaeda uses mosques, madrasas and the Internet to recruit jihadists. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Jordan In Afghanistan, Continued - The Jordanian intelligence officer who was killed in the Khost bombing along with seven CIA officers may have been responsible for the bombing; the Jordanians apparently recruited an Al Qaeda double agent. "The bomber had been recruited by the Jordanian intelligence service and taken to Afghanistan to infiltrate Al Qaeda by posing as a foreign jihadi, the officials said. But in a deadly turnabout, the supposed informant strapped explosives to his body and blew himself up at a meeting Wednesday at the C.I.A.’s Forward Operating Base Chapman in the southeastern province of Khost. The attack at the C.I.A. base dealt a devastating blow to the spy agency’s operations against militants in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, eliminating an elite team using an informant with strong jihadi credentials. The attack further delayed hope of penetrating Al Qaeda’s upper ranks, and also seemed potent evidence of militants’ ability to strike back against their American pursuers." (READ MORE)

Charlie Simpson's War: MG Flynn fires with both barrels - I promised I wouldn’t talk about anything really substantive on this blog, but I woke up this morning to find that ISAF is now issuing orders via CNAS reports! MG Flynn runs the intel shops across Afghanistan, and he’s none too happy with them. I wish I could say that my (short) experience here led me to disagree with his assessment. Alas, he and his co-authors are spot on. All I want to know is: where do the district governor and the police chief sleep at night? If I needed that information before Nordstrom’s next semi-annual sale would I ask the Fusion Center or the local PRT? I bet the battalion S-2 knows the answer. So why don’t their “bosses” at CJ2? Because 8 years into this war, we still haven’t formally figured out that intel in counter-insurgency campaigns flows from the bottom-up. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Spann Nostalgia - It was on New Year's Day when I truly realized it is time to start heading home. While I am reassured that I have contributed in some small way to the progress of Afghanistan, it is difficult to leave with some projects half done. Luckily the military is a team sport. In this case a relay team sport. I have turned over all my projects and information to the new member of the team. I have passed the baton . There remains much more to be done for medical support of the police in this region, but I know the team will make tremendous progress this next year. I am ready to return home to my family, co-workers and patients. So while I am thrilled with the prospect of going home, I felt a certain amount of nostalgia as I walked around Camp Spann today. Some of these memories are pleasant and will be easily remember. I ate my last dinner in the chow hall. I wrote my last blog entry in the MWR computer room. I made my last stop in the Chapel to say goodbye. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan: Pfinish - "Finish" was one word our ANA knew in English. They'd been around Americans long enough to pick up that one very useful word at least. They pronounce it kind of like "pfinish", but the point is they knew what it meant. The word itself actually became a powerful camaraderie-building tool for us, as it really allowed the ETTs and the ANA to communicate directly with each other without the need for a terp, albeit in a very limited way, though one might be surprised how far that one word can go.... We might hear them say something like "Dooshman (the Pashto word for enemy) pfinish!!" when we were back at the base debriefing after the gunfights. I can recall a Marine saying "House is finish" to a couple of ANA and them returning huge gap-toothed grins after a bomb was dropped on a mud hut. Saying "Finish" after a meal meant the ANA might stop exhorting you to eat and drink more. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: The perfect antidote to Anjem Choudary's Islamist poison - There are few uplifting stories to come out of Afghanistan, but The Daily Telegraph reported one of them yesterday and it was a joy to read. It was also a perfect antidote to the poison being spread by Anjem Choudary, the leader of a radical Islamic group, who this week accused British forces in that country of "war crimes and many atrocities". The story centred on a six-year-old boy, Rahmadullah, who was close to death when he was airlifted to a hospital at the British military base at Camp Bastion. He was suffering from pneumonia, lapsing in and out of consciousness, and deteriorating rapidly. Initially, doctors were baffled by his condition. They told his father Neknazar, a farmer from a remote area of southern Afghanistan, that the boy had only a 10 per cent chance of survival. He was put on a ventilator while tests continued; eventually tetanus was diagnosed and the appropriate treatment begun. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Spouse Notes Hidden Costs of Freedom - The cost of freedom cannot and should not be measured in mere dollars, or even in millions or billions of dollars. Today’s large military budgets are spent on equipment, buildings, airframes, maintenance, personnel and training. These are the items that are most commonly thought of when people consider the cost of the freedoms we enjoy. These costs are also paid by countries that have large military forces, but little or no freedom. The true costs of freedom are not found in a balance sheet or in the pages of a budget document. The hidden costs of freedom include the birth of a child, missed by a deployed father, the birthdays and anniversaries missed by a parent or spouse on temporary duty, and even the simplest things we take for granted, such as missing a child’s first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten or their last day of high school. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Other random Afghan report-based observations - The U.S. high command is apparently disappointed at Gen. Flynn's report on intelligence, referenced in two posts here yesterday. I agree with Blake Hounshell's observation that it's unlikely a serving officer would put out such a critical report under CNAS letterhead unless and until he's entirely dissatisfied with the possibility of working the changes the way he wants within his chain of command... and this is the senior int guy for the whole war we're talking about here. At least the McChrystal and Eikenberry leaks looked like leaks. This is a shot across someone's bow. (Indeed, the report's preface says exactly that: "Some of what is presented here reinforces existing top-level orders that are being acted on too slowly. Other initiatives in this paper are new, requiring a shift in emphasis and a departure from the comfort zone of many in the intelligence community.") See also Judah Grunstein. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? -- Me - During a play in 1639, Cardinal Richelieu uttered the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” He was certainly not the only to have this opinion, joining greats like Euripides, Shakespeare, and Thomas Jefferson. The sentiment has been germane through the ages, and the current era is no different. Although serving in a Task Force consisting of awesome strength, firepower and mobility, it is a camera and computer that Sgt. Neil Gussman aims in order to shape the face of the modern battlefield. While bullets and brute force may subdue the most tenacious enemy, over the course of history, opinions, sentiments and perception have been used to greater affect in influencing kings, dynasties and nations. As an accomplished writer, this is something Neil Gussman knows well. Even so, I had to ask myself, who is this world-influencing neo-gladius whose stories seem to touch the world as easily as he qualifies with his assigned weapon? (READ MORE)

The Life of the Wife: So, I'm sure you guys are wondering what I've been up to. - Am I moping about the house nursing a pint of ice cream all day? Hyperactive super volunteer? No and no. I've scrubbed the house (I scrubbed the floors on my hands and knees...and then it snowed so now the floor is disgusting again), done a lot of online training, started this semester's classes, and bought and built a piece of furniture (Ikea). Howie has finally stopped his whining--victory! Hubble is busy and I am trying to ignore how the other people in his shop are constantly online...! He has also taken to calling his family before he calls me...I'll give him another week before I speak up. By the time he gets around to me, he is too tired, etc. LAME My mom comes in 11 days! Oh and Howie and Bear got their no-pull harnesses. Corkyshell, I highly recommend looking into these! LIFESAVER. I no longer drop f-bombs while we're outside and I'm getting pulled through the snow. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US, Afghan forces target insurgent leaders in the East - In an effort to dismantle the terror networks, Afghan and US forces have killed or detained 23 senior and mid-level Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda leaders in eastern Afghanistan since late last year. The joint forces killed or captured "23 key insurgents ... known for leading the planning and undertaking of deadly attacks directed towards Afghan citizens, Afghan government officials, ANSF and Coalition forces, as well facilitating the trafficking of fighters, weapons, explosives and money to support their terrorist activities," according to information released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO command in Afghanistan. The insurgent leaders were reported to have been killed or captured between Nov. 16, 2009, and Dec. 25, 2009. ISAF has listed 19 of the 23 key insurgent leaders as being killed; the status of the other four is unknown. ISAF rarely releases the names of those in detention. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US kills 17 in latest North Waziristan strike - Eleven terrorists, including two "foreigners," were killed in the latest US airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Unmanned US aircraft struck a Taliban training camp in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan twice today. The second strike hit the Taliban as they attempted to recover bodies from the first strike. "Two foreigners died in the initial attack," a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. "Five militants were killed in the previous attack and six in this attack." Dawn later put the number killed at 17 and said the death toll could go as high as 25. The identity of the foreigners, a term used to describe Arab members of al Qaeda, has not been disclosed. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed. The Taliban were using a mud-brick fort in the village of Sanzali to carry out training. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Marine Corps: round two! - “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” He did it again! According to various sources, a reenlistment for a Marine pretty much says “career Marine.” I’m not surprised, at all. Daniel loves the Marines-- even when he gripes—and believe me, pretty much all Marines and Soldiers gripe, it’s a sub-specialty of theirs. But it completely belies the fact that they love their country and what they do. I got a little lump in my throat when I saw the grainy pictures of Daniel raising his hand in the bowels of his ship, swearing an oath to defend his country. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 6 Jan 2010 - well, today was just another day at the barn …we did have something hit last night … not sure what it was, but it was a pretty loud boom…must have been pretty close to this area of the base …no injuries or casualties reported, so I guess it hit outside the wire…work today consisted of fixing a truck for some of the special forces guys … they brought a truck over and said the steering was really hard, and it the brakes didn’t work quite right …he said it started doing that about 20 miles outside of Bagram on their way in …well, that’s pretty obvious that there was no power steering fluid…both of those systems run off the same pump/reservoir…we looked around underneath but couldn’t find any leaks …apparently it all leaked out and dried up in that 20 miles…when we started filling the system up there was a huge leak at the back side of the truck…we spilled about 2 gallons on the ground… (READ MORE)

Erik Wong: If Yemen Can Handle Al-Qaeda Without Us, Why Haven’t They Yet? - Yemen’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country opposes any direct intervention by U.S. or other foreign troops in the fight against al-Qaida. Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told The Associated Press in an interview that “there is a lot of sensitivity about foreign troops coming to Yemeni territory.” His comments came as Yemeni security forces launched a manhunt for the suspected leader of an al-Qaida cell believed to be behind a threatened attack that forced the closure this week of the U.S. and British embassies in San’a. Security forces swept into several areas where the militant, Mohammed Ahmed al-Hanaq, was believed to be hiding in the mountainous region of Arhab, northeast of the capital, but have not located him, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press. (READ MORE)

The Snooper Report: The Behenna's Go To DC - The Behennas. In DC. We saw the following people. We went to many offices today and didn't see the "real representatives" but saw judicial review people and military liaisons and the representive's representatives. Mary Fallin - Steve King - Duncan Hunter - John Kline - Beanhead, I mean John Boehner - Susan Davis - Tom Cole - Darell Isa - Buck McKeon - Ike Skelton - Joe Wilson - Glenn Thompson - Mike Pence. For audio feeds of the after-action reports, see JPA Live, Halls of Valhalla and Do the Right Thing radio shows. We witnessed today the uppermost and most sincere stories of 1st Lt Michael Behenna today from Mr and Mrs Behenna, Vicki and Scott, and their "other" folks that will not be mentioned here in this article. The passion these people shared with many people today would have broken your hearts. They firmly believe that not one more military member needs for this outrage to be repeated for any other military member. (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: Workin' in the New Year - To all who see these presents...Greetings and Happy New Year! I've been a busy little beaver lately, working on some graphic illustration projects (images to come upon publication) as well as the normal "fine art" things in the studio. Here are two little oil sketches I've been working on, and I think they'll be complete shortly. They are based on photos and sketches I did while in Afghanistan, and depict a couple of artillery Marines in India Battery, 3rd Bn 11th Marines at Fire Base Thunder, now known as "Fiddler's Green". (MORE)

this is our life...: the hardest part - I've rattled my mind the last two weeks trying to figure out what I have missed the most about having Ben home. There are so many things, it's hard to single one thing out. But now that he is gone again I think I've figured out the absolute number one thing I miss while he is gone. . . communication. I know we have it good compared to army wives of old because we can email and skype. But it is sooo much easier to just talk or call on the phone, instead of waiting for him to call me, or waiting for an email. I'm NOT good at waiting. :) A close second is hearing him play with the kids. I LOVE hearing my children laugh, and I love it even more when my husband is the one making them laugh. We ALL laugh more when he's home. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Less a team than a mob, and we're all at least partly to blame - Former journalist Bob Bergen writes a long-overdue article in J-Source - an internal industry publication for Canadian journalism - about how the Canadian Forces are covered by his colleagues still in the business: "...there are serious shortcomings in the way the news media covers the Canadian Forces. More than 130 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan and untold numbers have been wounded. But the vast majority who return to Canada stay in the Forces and systematically train the next groups to be deployed. At the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre at CFB Wainwright, Alberta, they even learn how to deal with embedded journalists like Lang, hostile local Afghan journalists or indifferent international journalists from other countries. Therein lies the difference between the Canadian Forces and Canadian journalists: The playing field is not level. It is not even close..." (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Office Politics Mires Afghanistan Advisory Group - An article in today's New York Times highlights a frustrating, yet inevitable aspect of office politics, particularly in the US military. Let me start with a hypothetical situation. You are a battalion commander and you have roughly a dozen captains serving in your battalion. You are asked to give up one captain for a very important job on a high-level staff. You look across your formation and see your company commanders--four or five of them. Obviously, you need your company commanders, so you don't yank them out of their commands into a division staff job--that would look eerily too much like relieving someone of command. Additionally, you have a few captains on your staff that might be free to go to this job, but you'll probably want a few of them to take command of a company in your battalion in the near future as well. Then, you realize that you have a captain within your ranks who might have gotten a DUI or fraternized with an enlisted girl. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Afghanistan Intel Chief’s Critique = Pentagon Pique - When the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan put out a provocative report on the state of intelligence there, he chose an unusual way to distribute it: Through a D.C. think tank, the Center for a New American Security. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who found that unusual. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Reuters that “it struck everybody as a little bit curious” that Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn published the sweeping critique of Afghan intel through CNAS. “My sense is that this was an anomaly and that we probably won’t see that (in the future),” Whitman added. So did Flynn overstep? Tom Ricks of CNAS offered this pre-emptive explanation: “As I understand it, the paper was released through CNAS because Gen. Flynn wanted to reach beyond his own chain of command and his own community and talk to people such as commanders of deploying infantry units about what kind of intelligence they should be demanding.” (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: blast wounds acting governor of troubled Afghan province - Al Qaeda's chief in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, praised the Jordanian doctor who killed seven CIA agents and contractors at a base in Khost in a suicide attack on December 30, calling it "revenge" for those militant leaders killed by U.S.-operated drone strikes. Details are still leaking out about the blast -- two of those killed were reportedly Blackwater employees and analysts suggest that the Haqqani extremist network was closely involved with the attack, while the bomber's family remains confused. Also in Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, an explosion in his office wounded the acting governor, Tahir Khan Sabri, and several others in a sign of deteriorating security conditions there, while a suicide blast this morning in Gardez left some Afghan security officials dead. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: The end of the warrior witch hunt - When he walked into the operations center during the Nisour Square shootings in Baghdad, the first thing a State Department employee heard was a radio call from the Raven 23 convoy: "Contact, contact, contact! We are taking fire from insurgents and Iraqi police." He wonders why he never hears about that in media reports about the incident. The manslaughter charges against five Blackwater guards were dropped with a stinging rebuke from the judge to the investigators and prosecutors who brought them. But that was for procedural and legal mistakes, not for a recognition that what these men did was not murder. That recognition is long overdue. The shootout at Nisour Square in September 2007 was a horrible tragedy and innocents were killed, but it was not a crime. The U.S. and Iraqi governments conducted investigations that claimed there was no justification for deadly force. (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Empire Burial Unearthed - Kicking off some Afghan news and views, a Pak Army major at Small Wars Journal goes into some quick and dirty detail on the first British blunder in Afghanistan, “Why are Empires Buried in Afghanistan?” Unfortunately he doesn’t fully address that question, limiting his focus to why Lord Auckland’s anti-Russian Afghan gambit ended up rotting on the Kabul-Jalalabad road: Backing the wrong horse; propping up said horse militarily; failure to recruit locally; garrisoning a couple of major cities; failing to co-opt the tribal leaders in the hinterlands; military rather than civil governance. Pak Army Maj. Mehar Omar Khan, currently a student at US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, doesn’t go into much detail on this point, but Lord Elphinstone’s military and political leadership was extraordinarily dithering and inept, with horrible consequences for his army beyond the failure of his mission. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
At Dover, More Comfort for Mourning Families - So many families of the nation’s war dead came here in the last year to witness what the military calls the “dignified transfer” of the remains of their loved ones that sometimes, as on a night this past June, the small waiting area grew crowded and tense. Suzie Schwartz, the wife of Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, was here that evening and recalled Wednesday how three families — one stoic, one sobbing, one angry — collided in the only space available to them. (READ MORE)

Plight of Navy SEALs 3 tangled in politics and non-disclosure - The US Report has tracked the plight of 3 Navy SEALs facing various charges involving the detention of alleged terrorist Ahmed Hashim Abed in Iraq. Early media reports suggested the detainee had either a bruised lip or had taken a blow to the stomach while in detention. One of the only official statements from military brass can be found in a letter from Maj. General Charles T. Cleveland to Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.): (READ MORE)

Prosecutors want first trial delayed in Navy SEAL3 cases paper says - The Virginian-Pilot said government lawyers are asking for a delay in the first trial scheduled for the Navy SEAL3. Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas Jr.’s court-martial is set for Monday, Jan. 11, in Norfolk. Huertas is charged with dereliction of duty because the government alleges he did not keep the detainee safe. He is also charged with giving a false statement to authorities in response to questions about alleged minor injuries to the detainee. (READ MORE)

Prosecutors seek to delay SEAL detainee trials - Navy prosecutors have asked a judge to delay the trials of two SEALs accused in connection with the alleged assault of a reported al-Qaida terrorist — apparently because of evidence issues. Documents were submitted Dec. 30 to the trial judge, Capt. Moira Modzelewski, requesting the government continue the special court-martial of Special Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Julio Antonio Huertas, scheduled to begin Jan. 11, and that of SO2 (SEAL) Matthew Vernon McCabe, scheduled for Jan. 19. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraq in the Future Perfect Tense - Simple word choices can tell a lot about a place. In American public conversation, Iraq is slipping into the future perfect tense — away from what is happening now, to what will have happened in the future. At a news conference this week at the American Embassy, Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, skipped past the upcoming elections in March, which have generated protracted political infighting and possibly been a motivating factor in three massive bomb attacks on government buildings, to discuss the impact that will have emerged from them. (READ MORE)

The Blackwater Lynching - The dismissed case against five American security contractors charged with committing manslaughter in Iraq illustrates the complexities of fighting an enemy that chooses to wage war among civilians. Worse, it exposes the equally dirty battles conducted by government agencies against our own warriors when bureaucrats respond to political pressure. (READ MORE)

Well-trained Soldiers Assures Bright Iraqi Future - The continued successes of the Iraqi army in suppressing the insurgency and asserting Iraqi sovereignty will depend largely on well-trained Iraqi soldiers. Each week "A" Company, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment assists the unit's Iraqi partners in developing and executing a training regimen, helping the Iraqis to wage an effective counterinsurgency. (READ MORE)

Awakening the Laws of Mesopotamia - "The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept." This passage, first uttered in William Shakespeare's play "Measure for Measure," accurately describes the current state of the judicial system in southern Iraq. Yet, this was once the birthplace of the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia and home to Hammurabi's Code, one of the world's earliest written sets of laws. (READ MORE)

U.S. Team Trains Iraqi NCOs to Keep Borders Safe - With the help of a U.S. advisory team, an Iraqi border protection academy graduated its largest noncommissioned officer class yet on Jan. 4 following weeks of training here. With the commands "Parade rest, attention!" and "Double time!" shouted in Arabic, 99 Iraqi border patrolmen stood in formation in the early morning chill of Dec. 29 here, motivated to start the day. (READ MORE)

‘Countries of Interest’ — A Pakistani Perspective - I was 10 when my family left Pakistan. We packed our bags and made the move to Canada on July 4, 1991. It wasn’t by choice that we had taken the flight 26 hours earlier from Lahore to come to a country where we barely knew a single soul. Religious extremists in Pakistan had branded us “non-Muslim,” and our green Pakistani passports indicated our religious status. (READ MORE)

U.N. Envoy Warns Situation in Afghanistan Could Become 'Unmanageable' - The U.N.'s top diplomat in Afghanistan warned Wednesday that if negative trends are not quickly reversed, the situation in that country could become "unmanageable". Kai Eide said a better transition strategy is needed for returning power to Afghans from international military and aid contributors. (READ MORE)

U.N. Envoy Eide Warns U.S., Allies Not to Ignore Civilian Goals in Afghanistan - The top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday delivered a gloomy assessment of the U.S.-led effort to restore stability in the country and warned "we will fail" if the strategy there relies too heavily on military force. (READ MORE)

U.N. Envoy to Afghanistan Warns of Peril of Emphasizing Security Over Social Issues - Kai Eide, the departing United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, warned the Security Council on Wednesday that an emphasis on security matters over social issues would doom international efforts to stabilize the country. (READ MORE)

DoD Official Welcomes Report as ‘Candid Assessment’ - A report this week from a top U.S. military intelligence official criticizing the state of intelligence in Afghanistan is a “candid self-assessment” that enriches debate on U.S. strategy, the Pentagon press secretary said today. (READ MORE)

Jordanian Bomber’s Path Remains a Mystery to His Family - The telephone rang at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, and then the heavily accented voice of a stranger - possibly an Afghan - told the man who answered what had happened to one of his sons who disappeared a year ago. (READ MORE)

Blast Injures Governor of Afghanistan's Khost - A bomb exploded in a garbage container outside the governor's compound in Afghanistan's restive Khost province on Thursday, slightly injuring the governor, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. The midday blast broke windows in the building and Gov. Tahr Khan Sabari was cut by the glass but not seriously injured. (READ MORE)

U.S. Missile Strikes in Pakistan Kill Taliban Militants - Back-to-back missile strikes on a training camp in Pakistan's lawless tribal region killed at least 13 militants Wednesday, the latest in a string of apparent U.S. attacks on Taliban targets in the wake of last week's suicide bombing at a CIA base in Afghanistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. (READ MORE)

In Pakistani Port City of Karachi, a New Resolve to Turn Against Taliban - The bearded clerics who run Jamia Binoria, a large seminary in a shabby industrial zone, might seem to have much in common with the Taliban. They come from the same Deobandi strain of Islam, which rejects Western values and seeks to create a pure Islamic state. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Jan. 7 - An Afghan-international security force searched a compound west of the village of Akram Kaldy last night, in the Nawa district of Helmand after intelligence found insurgent activity in the area. During the search the assault force captured a Taliban facilitator suspected of manufacturing and placing IEDs and detained two other insurgents. One of the insurgents attacked a member of the joint force and was injured during the capture. (READ MORE)

Afghan Soldiers Stand With Marine Counterparts - It's mid-afternoon on New Year's Day, and a sea of men in green, brown and black camouflage uniforms shuffle awkwardly inside the crowded beige tent. Men with thick black beards and hard faces sit next to clean shaven youths with full smiles. Each one wears the uniform of their nation's military, and each one carries a weapon. (READ MORE)

Explosion Kills 2 Afghans, Wounds Others in Nangarhar - Two Afghan civilians were killed and several other Afghan civilians along with four Afghan national policemen and nine International Security Assistance Force service members were wounded in an explosion in the Rodat District of Nangarhar province this morning. (READ MORE)

Countering the Insurgency With Band-aids Instead of Bullets - Recently during Operation Cobra's Anger, a multi-day operation led by Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, to rid the Now Zad area of Taliban control, members of the company's severe trauma platoon extended an invitation to members of the battalion's civil affairs group to take cover from the rain in their mobile severe trauma bay. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Jan. 6 - An Afghan-international security force captured an insurgent commander and other militants in Kandahar last night. A joint security force went to a compound in the town of Adirah, in the Arghandab District after intelligence found militant activity in the area. During a search the joint force captured an insurgent commander involved in IED attacks and suicide bombings and other militants. (READ MORE)

Afghan governor, six others wounded in blast - An acting provincial governor and six others including senior officials were injured in a blast in eastern Afghanistan Thursday while four civilians were wounded in rocket attacks in Kabul city, officials said. Tahir Khan Saberi, the acting governor for the south-eastern province of Khost, was holding a meeting with other provincial officials in his office when a bomb hidden inside the building was detonated, General Mohmmad Nawab said. (READ MORE)

General: U.S. must share more info to defeat Afghan bombers - A reluctance by the U.S. military to share its latest technology and intelligence with allies in Afghanistan is hampering efforts to defeat deadly roadside bombs there, said the outgoing commander charged with defeating improvised explosive devices. "We're very timid and slow at changing our disclosure and information sharing," said Thomas Metz, who retired last week as an Army lieutenant general after leading the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. (READ MORE)

The CIA Double-Cross: How Bad a Blow in Afghanistan? - The reaction to the two terrorist attacks during the last week in December is puzzling. One of the attacks, against a CIA outpost in Afghanistan, succeeded; the other, on an airplane landing in Detroit, failed. The Undiebomber was an amateur who was thwarted, rather neatly, by his fellow passengers on the plane. (READ MORE)

U.S. drone strikes kill 13 suspected Taliban militants in Pakistan - At least 13 militants were killed following back-to-back U.S. missile strikes on a Taliban training camp in Sumzalai, Pakistan on Wednesday. According to reports, two of the three missiles fired hit a house in lawless tribal region, 50 kilometers west of Miranshah, at around 4 pm, killing seven people, while the third missile struck the same house at around 4.50 pm, killing six people. (READ MORE)

Militancy, conflicts harm Afghan civilians - Continued militancy and conflicts in Afghanistan harm non-combatants as at least two civilians have been killed and over three dozen others sustained injuries in the war-torn country over the past 24 hours. In the latest wave of violent incidents, three rockets fired by anti-government militants Thursday morning hit residential areas in the capital city Kabul, wounding three persons including a woman and two children, a statement issued by the interior ministry said. (READ MORE)

Rocket attacks wounds 3 in Afghan capital - Three rockets hit Afghan capital Kabul Thursday morning, injuring three civilians, a press release of Interior Ministry said. "Two of the rockets hit a residential area this morning, injuring two children and a woman, while another landed on a garden and caused no damage," the press release added. (READ MORE)

Karzai Wants Cabinet Ratified Before Key Conference - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told his country's parliament that he wants a complete cabinet in time for the January 28 London conference on Afghanistan. Parliament last week rejected 17 of Karzai's 24 cabinet nominees and awaits a new list of choices. (READ MORE)

Ex-police chief who defected to Taliban arrested in Afghanistan - Afghan security forces have captured a former local police chief who defected to the Taliban and fought for them wearing police uniform and using stolen weapons, an official said yesterday. Violence elsewhere across the country yesterday killed two children, a policeman and four Taliban-linked rebels, authorities said, while the Nato-led force reported multiple injuries in an incident in eastern Nangarhar province. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan will be 'strictly civilian mission' after 2011, PM says - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says virtually all Canadian soldiers will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2011, making some of his most definitive statements yet on his vision of Canada’s future role there in an interview Wednesday with Canwest News Service. Parliament has already decided that the combat mission involving about 2,500 troops in southern Afghanistan centred around Kandahar will end in 2011. (READ MORE)

Britain says international community committed to support "stable and secure" Afghanistan - British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said here on Wednesday that the road for a "stable and secure" Afghanistan will be a "long-term task," but reiterated that the "international community is determined to support the Afghan government in seeing it through." "The international community's goal remains a stable and secure Afghanistan that can exercise sovereignty over all of its territory, offer its people representative government and the conditions for economic prosperity, and play a constructive role in the region." (READ MORE)

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