February 24, 2010

From the Front: 02/24/2010

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: ANA Mullah’s Perspective - It was another one of those unpredictable days, not knowing what was in store for me as I ventured over to ANA land. We held our typical morning meetings, shook hands with our ANA counterparts and practiced greetings in our best Dari enunciation. I briefly met up with the PBO officer who was being hurried off to conduct an equipment inventory. My ANA Sgt Major was boarding a helicopter and flying to a conference. So with mentoring, this only left the Religious Officer Assistant (ROA). My interpreter Omid called him on his cell phone and he was in and wanted to chat. As we were walking up the hill, I noticed a large grader was smoothing out the piles of gravel that was dumped there a few days ago. Somehow the grader was miraculously fixed and the mounds of gravel were being leveled out. I had to take a picture and inquire how this Caterpillar grader was magically repaired. Through my interpreter, I learned the grader had a bad battery and it was simply replaced. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghan provincial official gunned down in Kandahar - Pakistani media reports on a series of security incidents across the country yesterday: in the southern port city of Karachi, a Taliban commander was arrested with half-completed suicide vests, jihadist literature, arms, and ammunition; a woman and her three children were killed in Peshawar by rocket fire; four suspected militants died when their explosives detonated prematurely in Kurram agency; and authorities captured six fighters in Dara Adam Khel and bulldozed Pakistani Taliban hideouts there. The Wall Street Journal analyzes whether the recent captures of high-level Afghan Taliban commanders could signal a shift in Pakistan's security stance. A Pakistani official commented, "America has an advantage in technical intelligence: eyes in the sky. We have people on ground. If you can match those in a timely manner, you get better results." (READ MORE)

Asma Nemati: Kabul dispatch: Operation Moshtarak - Although the international media's focus on the Marjah offensive in Helmand province is pervasive, some Afghans I've spoken with are wondering why Operation Moshtarak has been talked about so much -- and those are the ones who have heard of the offensive at all. Some Afghans in Kabul, where I'm currently based, are clueless about what is going on in a province 400 miles from where they live. Some Afghans, like other observers, are also wondering what the strategic importance of Marjah is to Afghanistan overall, and criticize the operations. Some believe the hype around Operation Moshtarak is all part of an elaborate American publicity stunt to bolster support for the Obama administration's 30,000-troop surge, announced in late December. This might be possible, but the offensive is also part of top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's approach of bringing security to Afghanistan, one district at a time. (READ MORE)

Erica Gaston: No more night terrors - An airstrike in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, yesterday is estimated to have killed as many as 27 civilians. The news of this airstrike has yet again stoked questions of whether a counterinsurgency strategy can be effectively carried out in Afghanistan, and if not, what the overall prospects of success in Afghanistan really are. Reducing airstrikes is key: these are the most visible and publicly inflammatory tactics that international forces use. But airstrikes, or the conduct of the coalition forces operating in Marjah, are only part of the picture; other practices that are equally important in terms of rebuilding Afghan trust and moving toward stability in Afghanistan have been routinely ignored and not seriously addressed. The most serious outstanding example of this is the continued reliance on night raids, which my organization, the Open Society Institute, explores in a recently released report. (READ MORE)

Maj Tim Harris, Officer Commanding A Coy 3 RIFLES: Reflections on Op Ghartse Ghadmahe, Sangin, Northern Helmand - As I look out across the Sangin Green Zone from Forward Operating Base Nolay, I see green shoots. Perhaps it is too soon to describe them as the ‘green shoots of recovery’ but the seasons are changing and the wheat and poppy crops are beginning to appear; they represent a sign of hope. Most of the fields near me are wheat: the Afghan government’s wheatseed distribution last October was widely seized upon, although hopes of any altruism behind the local farmers’ choice of crop are wide of the mark. They grow wheat because it is profitable, nothing more. The fields are busy – farming here is labour intensive and involves these hardy people stooping for hour after hour, nursing their precious crops by hand. This makes it doubly difficult for a soldier to identify who is a farmer and who might be laying an improvised explosive device. (READ MORE)

Sgt Colin Pentith RLC - Fire Support Company 1 Royal Welsh: Royal Logistics Corps Chef - We had been on the ground for 3 days and, so far, everything was going very smoothly. The boys were into a good routine and the locals had started to actively engage with us throughout the area. The challenge for me now was to lead a Shurah at a check point established by the Afghan Army and Fire Support Company, 1 R Welsh East of Garbay Noray. This was to be my first Shurah. A far cry from my usual job as a Royal Logistics Corps Chef! The transition from hotplate to hot stabilization really began last year when I got selected to work with 1 Royal Welsh as part of it’s non-combat role in what we call ‘influence’. Effectively it is working with other non military organizations and the locals to make progress through communication, information and initiating local projects. The elders I met treated me with respect and what struck me from the meeting we held was that the concerns of the locals are just what you would expect anywhere. (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Another Moral Lecture - OK. I know I keep coming back to this topic, but today I was coaching one of the historians where I work about a public presentation she is giving in a couple of weeks. I used the following talk as an example of why it is so important to know your audience. So in Oklahoma the married people got an extra moral lecture on adultery after we already had several general lectures on no sex, no drugs, no booze. The lecturer was a 25-year-old lieutenant who was not married himself, but did have a steady girlfriend. He let us know he was loyal to his girlfriend and planned to continue to be loyal throughout the upcoming deployment. He was not engaged. He had made no public commitment we knew of and was free to end this relationship at a whim if he chose. He was an officer. His audience was married enlisted men and women. Among his audience were at least a half-dozen soldiers with very strong, orthodox religious beliefs. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Bail Outs Help Zap Spouse Tuition - Every milspouse faces the uneasy prospect of one day being the sole breadwinner for the family. Part of the covenant that the military formed with families was to set aside educational monies to milspouses to help them obtain further their careers. But today, as reported in The Army Times, the program was shut down. Thousands of men and women who have signed up for courses will not be able to pay for them. They will have to drop out, delaying the enrichment of their education and the development of their careers. I've spent many years dealing with publicly funded programs. As usual, the benefits were taken away without warning and the reasons for doing so were vague. Programs like this are always at the mercy of funding. I've learned (one example) that if the government will not hesitate to take away mental health funding from kids, programs for milspouse tuition could easily follow. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: 2 years..and I Still Miss You Pokey - It’s been two years since we lost our Pokey. I don’t care what anyone says about time healing or it gets better in time, fact is it doesn’t. If anything it gets harder. As I watch his friends get married and start families I am happy for them but I mourn one more thing my son will never get to do. As life goes on in our family and we all live this new normal I want him here to share moments. Moments like his sister going to winter formal. His brother winning College track championships. And seeing that his youngest brother is starting to read. All the Big moments and milestones, but also the little ones, like when I try a new recipe and wonder if he would like it. I can’t help but go back to the conversations we had in the days before he was killed. Mostly I remember how tired he was. I remember him telling me about a father and son who had been hit by and EFP by the “soulless bastards”. He was so upset by that. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Cowboy sings about 'What Heroes Do' - He values faith, freedom and open spaces, says the eco-friendly, Prius-driving, singing cowboy, Bryan Ragsdale. This former Navy gunner’s mate who spent 5 years chasing down narcotics smugglers is following his heart to sing about the most precious things in his life. At his wife’s urging he quit his job, packed up his life, and went to Nashville. There, he found some industry folks who liked his music, but wanted him to write and sing more like others in the business—not an option for the man who says he wouldn’t play anything his grandmother wouldn’t like. Now based out of his home in Wyoming, Ragsdale tours the country playing gigs large and small; from concerts to fairs to small-town schools. One of his loves is teaching songwriting to children from a curriculum of his own devising. “I’ve written songs with kids about Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, and ‘hangin’ with the homies.’ It’s exhilarating to be able to have this interaction with 5 year olds—they have the ability to express themselves and believe that anything is attainable.” (READ MORE)

Asher Kohn: Back to Central Asia to Start - I had the opportunity to have a long talk (or to be technical, listen to three different talks) with a woman who does Law and Central Asia stuff for the US Government. I’m not going to get into specifics because I haven’t asked her if I can get into specifics on an internet forum, and I’m going to defer to being circumspect. If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, well, you can figure out how to find me. However, some of the more general issues are things worth talking about, and worth a whole lot of blog posts in the future to discuss these things in more detail. The most important thing, that I think we all on the academic (instead of practice) side of things forget sometimes is…this stuff is COMPLICATED. I mean, obviously, there are no simple solutions. But it’s not like Nazarbayev doesn’t know how the Zhovtis Case looks on the outside, or that the Tajiks don’t realize how daunting Roghun would be. But personalities get in the way of decision making. (READ MORE)

She of the Sea: No! Don't Come! - (This is actually old, but I couldn't quite finish it when it was current. I'm sure you'll understand.) Today's the day! My husband is coming home! Of course, I hopped out of bed as soon as the alarm went off. I made the day's to do list, and started packing, and doing chores, and trying to get ready. At first, I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that I wasn't ready. But as the morning progressed, and the time to leave came closer, it got harder to ignore. This house is a mess! I'm a mess! His half of the closet is still full of my stuff! Then came the bad thought: "Maybe their flight will be delayed." A bad thought, because that isn't supposed to make you feel good. But for a moment, it did. Imagine what I could do with another 24 hours. (Just ignore the fact that I've had 12 months.) Of course, I don't want him to be delayed - I want him to be home. (READ MORE)

Wifeunit: So we are not accompanying, now what? - As it happens, the needs of the Navy do not include a sea tour this time around. I won't lie. I am relieved. I have a bit more time to acclimate myself to the idea now. For a few reasons, Seadaddy's best move was an overseas tour. We were lucky enough the location has recently been reclassified so we did have the option to go accompanied for two years or unaccompanied for one. While we did weigh this decision heavily and I imagine we will both feel some regret about our choice along the way, the boys and I are staying stateside. Seadaddy and I have done pretty well through our deployments and we are hoping his internet connection will be even better in a non war zone. So long as the boys get to see and hear their dad on a regular basis, I think we will do alright. But it is the pre-game strategizing that has me flustered. (READ MORE)

Sarah: Confessions of a Milspouse #820 - When my husband returns from deployment, one of the first things I do is look in his toiletry kit. There is usually dirt in there. There's dirt caked into the cap of the toothpaste and sometimes in the crevices of the handle of his toothbrush. I immediately toss the toothbrush and try to clean out his toothpaste. And sometimes when I start to feel like I'm a bad housewife, that our baseboards are dirty and there's a spot on the kitchen floor that's a clear indicator that I need to get the mop out, I like to remind myself that no matter how infrequently I dust or vacuum, our house will never be dirty enough to find caked-in dirt on our toothbrushes. It makes me feel better about my housekeeping that our house will always be the cleanest place my husband lives. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: A Day In The Countryside - Roaring up into the mouth of the Salang Pass in a beat-up old Toyota with Lauryn, Shuja and Parwani, we stopped at the river to take in a bit of the scenery and to get some air. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the some of the ubiquitous Soviet flotsam. We came upon this fierce looking bearded guy in a turban, carrying a long-barrelled shotgun. He was out hunting birds. He walked up to me bold as a bullock and kissed me on both cheeks and introduced himself as Assan Ullah. And a pleasant Salaam Aleikum to yourself as well, bubba, says I tae him. We doubled back and turned up the Panjshir Valley road. There's fish in the Panjshir River. I expect they will take a fly. We headed deeper into the mountains, the more sublime the further north we drove. Ancient mud-adobe flat roofed villages, goats and chickens, wrecked Soviet tanks at the side of the road, the wildflowers coming up among them all. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Lawyers in the Battle Space - Two and a half years ago, I wrote God in the Battle Space. I cited the example of Lt. Col. Jason Bohm as exemplary of the kind of interaction with the population that engenders trust. There is another presence in the battle space – that of lawyers. To be sure, no one intends for there to be any deleterious affects from the presence of law school graduates in the battle space. But equally as sure, their presence has complicated things. “MARJAH, Afghanistan—As Capt. Anthony Zinni monitored a live video feed from a Predator drone circling overhead, he spotted four men planting a booby trap in the middle of the road here. For Capt. Zinni, one of the officers responsible for approving airstrikes in the nine-day-old battle for Marjah, it seemed like an easy call: The men were digging a hole alongside a road where a Marine supply convoy was scheduled to pass within hours. But just as he was about to give the order to strike, Capt. Zinni spotted even-smaller white figures on the video running along the path south of the canal.” (READ MORE)

Uber Pig: John Yoo: Stallion - John Yoo. What a stallion. DOJ bureaucrats in general and the Obama administration in particular threw him as hard as they could, as often as they could, under that 1962 Volkswagen bus otherwise known as the anti-American and self-loathing Left. And he dodged and he dodged and he dodged, Eric Holder grinding the gears until the transmission slipped and the axle bent, and he could be pursued no more. Yoo won't get a medal for his service, not ever, but if you care about defending this country, do him the honor of at least reading his big, thick f!@# you, entitled "My Gift to the Obama Presidency", a choice selection of which follows: “…This is no idle worry. In 2005, a Navy Seal team dropped into Afghanistan encountered goat herders who clearly intended to inform the Taliban of their whereabouts. The team leader ordered them released, against his better military judgment, because of his worries about the media and political attacks that would follow.” (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: In the Crosshairs- Afghanistan Rules of Engagement - We are seeing the results of the tightened Rules of Engagement now in place in Afghanistan and they need a bit of work. The concept is valid, but the implementation is not correct yet. This story of Gen. Zinni's son calling a lawyer for permission to call in an air strike is ridiculous. “When Capt. Zinni spotted the four men planting the booby trap on the afternoon of Feb. 17, the first thing he did was call his lawyer. ‘Judge!’ he yelled. Capt. Matthew Andrew, judge advocate for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, advises the battalion about when it is legal to order the airstrikes. He examined the figures on the video feed closely. ‘I think you got it,’ Capt. Andrew said, giving the OK for the strike.” The onus is on Gen. McChrystal to ensure that all his officers understand his intent and do not overly restrict their troops from taking necessary steps. We want to win hearts and minds, but we are still at war. (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: In the garden of bad and evil - The New York Times quotes a Brookings scholar who believes that the sudden increase in the number of Taliban captured indicates that the Pakistani authorities have decided to move against them. The arrest of Mullah Kabir, a member of the Quetta Shura and associate of Mullah Omar, in an all-Pakistani operation, follows closely on the capture of “Mullah Mohammed Yunis, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Zabul Province”. Bruce Riedel of Brookings was moved to say that “this indicates Baradar was not a one off or an accident but a turning point in Pakistan’s policy toward the Taliban. We still need to see how far it goes, but for Obama and NATO this is the best possible news. If the safe haven is closing then the Taliban are in trouble.” NATO is in need of good news. Defense Update says that the collapse of the Dutch government over the issue of continuing the Afghan mission could lead to a “domino effect” in which the departure of one puts an intolerable stress on all the rest. (READ MORE)

TF Boggs: ETS - Eight years ago today I officially joined the United States Army. I did so as a 19-year-old sophomore in college. Perhaps a bit naive, as I assume most are at 19, I joined after 9/11 spurred me on to do what I had been thinking about for several years. I suppose I figured I would be deployed since our nation was at war when I went to Basic Training but I don’t think it ever really crossed my mind just what exactly all that entailed. Not even a year into my enlistment though I was deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom 1. Upon serving from March 2003-March 2004 in Iraq I returned home to resume my collegiate studies only to be deployed exactly a year later on the same date that I learned my fate for my first deployment. The second deployment played out a bit differently than the first did as I had six months to sit around in the states waiting for the plane ride as opposed to the eight hours I had for the first one. (READ MORE)

Loving a Soldier Blog: It's the Little Things - As I sat listening to briefings this morning, I noticed my BlackBerry flashing. Worried it may be an issue with the girls' school, I checked the message. What I discovered was a quick note from my husband - many time zones away. This particular meeting is one we both attend on a monthly basis - strange that my volunteer position coordinates with his job on occasion. He knew right where I was at that moment and sent me a silly message that actually required me to stifle a giggle as I read it (must present a professional appearance)! The fact that he noticed the meeting on the official calendar and took a minute out of his day to send me that message really had a huge impact. A moment to know he was thinking about me, a smile on my face from a tender, silly message. I have reflected on it over the course of the day and it reminds me that we are a great team. (READ MORE)

CJ: Casey Speaks Up About DADT - Ok, I'm going to give my OPINION about the so-called "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. It's actually a law, not a military policy as the media would have you believe. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the military's policy on homosexuals in the military. I explained at least what the Army's policy on it is, which states: A person’s sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter and is not a bar to entry or continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. I then explained the LAW behind why that policy exists. I want to print that law AGAIN because there are still some knuckleheads that seem to think that the DADT policy is a military policy. Now, I feel like I can express my opinion on this law since senior leaders are allowed to express theirs. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen has mentioned that he thinks the law should be overturned. (READ MORE)

WO2 Sean Semple: Back from the front - Camp Bastion - ALONG with 15,000 NATO troops WO2 Sean Semple has been on Operation Moshtarak and kindly agreed to file frontline diaries for us whilst there. This is the last of his reports as he is probably heading to other tasks and the Royal Engineers, to whom he was attached, are moving on. Here's what the married father-of-two from Edinburgh had to say about his final hours on Moshtarak - the biggest ever joint operation in Afghanistan since 2001: There is the slightest chance that we might complete all our tasks today and head back into Camp Bastion tonight, morale is on the up. Our task today is to clear a route in order for the Royal Engineers to build a bridge over a large river, so the Trojan tank leads the way to the bridge build site.The bridge is not only going to provide an essential crossing point for the resupply of the forward patrol bases, but it will also enhance the quality of life for the local nationals. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: The Gitmo Dilemma - There an old saw in the intel game, “Tell me what you know, tell me what you know, and make damn clear which is which.“ Intelligence gathering and analysis is by nature an imperfect process. It’s weighted toward believing the worst’s about everyone, on the theory no on wants to be the one who missed the clues that might have averted disaster. It’s often based on information from dubious informants, who have myriad motives that could shade the truth. Which brings us to the problematic, but vitally necessary process, of figuring out which terror suspects in Guantanamo have been properly designated “unlawful enemy combatants” and therefore not entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions, and subject to indefinite incarceration at the U.S. run prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: How to Measure Success(es) in Afghanistan - The Army is big on delivering measurable results. No personal performance review, no unit training activity, no combat exercise or operation can go without some sort of documentable evaluation of what we did, what we meant to do, and how we can do it better next time.In a "traditional" war--not exactly the right word, but I'll try to define my terms for purposes of this conversation--the metrics of success are pretty straight-forward. You can measure how many bad guys you capture or kill, for example, and how many beans, bullets, and bandages you have left. In a counterinsurgency (the Army abbreviates this "COIN," and pronounces it "coy-en.") or low-intensity conflict (LIC) scenario, the metrics are harder to come by. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Redmond Marine dies in Afghanistan - A Marine from Redmond died Sunday amid the largest offensive operation of the Afghanistan war. Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, 19, was killed in Helmand province, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. He had been serving with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.. (READ MORE)

Teela Finishes 29th in Olympic Biathlon Event - Army World Class Athlete Program biathlete Sgt. Jeremy Teela of the Vermont National Guard battled illness to finish 29th in the Olympic men’s 15-kilometer mass start Feb. 21 at Whistler Olympic Park here. (READ MORE)

Soldiers, Families Top Army Priorities, Leaders Say - Funding programs to support soldiers and their families is the Army’s top priority in the new fiscal year, the service’s secretary and chief of staff told a Senate panel today. (READ MORE)

Air Force Seeks to Balance Current, Future Needs - The Air Force’s budget request for fiscal 2011 provides the right balance between supporting the war efforts and other current-day commitments while posturing for future challenges, the top Air Force civilian and military leaders told Congress today. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
In Iraq, Campaigning 101 - With Iraq’s short election campaign already under way, eight candidates met in a hotel conference room the other day for a late primer on something that is still a novelty here: getting themselves elected. “Even if you’re well known, you have to campaign,” the instructor began in an introductory course intended to teach what many Americans begin to learn as schoolchildren in their first vote for class president. (READ MORE)

Extending Our Stay in Iraq - IRAQ’S March 7 national election, and the formation of a new government that will follow, carry huge implications for both Iraqis and American policy. It appears now that the results are unlikely to resolve key political struggles that could return the country to sectarianism and violence. (READ MORE)

A Model of Harmony Is Found in a Flashpoint City for Iraqi Sectarian Fighting - Busloads of Iranian pilgrims arrive every day at this city’s Askari Shrine, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest places, which was badly damaged by a bombing four years ago that prompted reprisal killings and pushed the country to the brink of civil war. (READ MORE)

Passion of an NCO - When he tried to get up, he quickly realized he could not move his left arm. The heavy crew hatch door had him pinned to the ground in a ditch as he was partially on the ground and partially still in the M113. (READ MORE)

Female Officer Has Wings - Patricia Sellers has wings now. On Feb. 3, Lt. Col Patricia Sellers, the battalion commander of Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was added to the honorable ranks of the U.S. Army's full-bird colonels. (READ MORE)

Charlie Wilson Performs in Midst of Iraqi Sandstorm - He went from rags to riches – to homeless. However, in his testimonial to troops and civilians on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, he said his faith brought him back to the stage and back to the top of the music charts. (READ MORE)

Government Administrator Arrives in Marjah - The new Afghan government administrator of Marjah moved into town Tuesday, the most overt sign so far that the fierce military campaign to oust the Taliban is beginning to give way to the civilian campaign to win over the locals with economic aid and public services. (READ MORE)

Battle starts to win over Helmand locals and wean them off poppy growing - Afghan civilians will today begin to pour into the district cleared by British troops in a pivotal phase of the operation to banish the Taleban. Teachers and civil servants, together with foreign engineers, will begin to try to cement the military gains of Operation Moshtarak by winning the trust of locals. (READ MORE)

Taliban Capture Raises Hopes of Pakistan Shift - The capture of a second high-level leader of the Afghan Taliban by Pakistani authorities has raised the prospect that Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, long accused by the U.S. of ties with Islamist extremists, has begun to turn on an organization it once cultivated. (READ MORE)

Death toll in Afghan war nears 1,000 - More than eight years after the Taliban was toppled from power, the number of U.S. military fatalities in the war in Afghanistan is nearing 1,000, a grim milestone in a resurgent conflict that is claiming the lives of an increasing number of troops who had survived previous combat tours in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Afghan president takes over election watchdog appointments - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has taken control of a formerly independent body that monitors election fraud, raising concerns that he is reneging on promises to clean up corruption and cronyism -- a pillar of the Obama administration's plan to erode support for the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Afghan Leader Asserts Control Over Election Body - To the dismay of his political opponents and many of his international backers, President Hamid Karzai has moved to ensure that he can handpick members of an electoral monitoring commission, removing significant United Nations oversight of future elections. (READ MORE)

Karzai Takes Over Election Agency - President Hamid Karzai took control of Afghanistan's independent election-watchdog agency, a move that drew scorn from opposition politicians and appeared to consolidate his hold on power ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year. (READ MORE)

More Satellites Will Act as Eyes for Troops - Across the unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan, American combat forces have come to rely on satellites as well as their rifles and body armor to carry out missions effectively, and to stay alive. (READ MORE)

US Commander Makes Televised Apology for Afghan Deaths in NATO Strike - The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has appeared on Afghan national television to apologize for last week's deadly NATO airstrike that officials say killed 21 people. In a video address that was translated into Dari and Pashto, General Stanley McChrystal said NATO and Afghan forces targeted what they thought were insurgents in Uruzgan province last week. (READ MORE)

NATO to Add to Police and Army Trainers in Afghanistan - NATO members and allies are meeting in the Belgium town of Mons to try to boost the number of police and army trainers in Afghanistan. The meeting in Mons, Belgium is being held as NATO forces are involved in a key operation in the southern Afghanistan Taliban stronghold of Marjah. (READ MORE)

Power Grab - After his brazen bid to steal his re-election, Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, swore that he would do better — and the Obama administration swore it would ensure that he did. He hasn’t. It didn’t. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Feb. 24 - An Afghan-international security force searched a vehicle yesterday just outside Marjah in Helmand's Nad Ali District after intelligence information indicated militant activity. A search of the vehicle indicated a Taliban commander was possibly in a nearby village, which the joint force searched with the assistance of local elders. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Capture Taliban Leader - Afghan soldiers, assisted by coalition forces, captured a Taliban leader and known weapons facilitator in the Bala Balouk district of Afghanistan’s Farah province Feb. 21, military officials reported today. (READ MORE)

Officials Note Operation Moshtarak Progress - Signs of steady progress in development and governance are evident in the central part of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials said today. (READ MORE)

Afghan Provincial Official Killed in Drive-By Shooting - Afghan police say gunmen on a motorbike have shot and killed a senior official in Kandahar province. The province's deputy police chief Mohammad Shah Farooqi said the head of Kandahar's culture and information department, Abdul Majid Babai was attacked Wednesday on his way to work. (READ MORE)

A Third of All U.S. Casualties in Eight -Year Afghan War Have Occurred Since Obama Ordered Escalation - More than 300 U.S. soldiers have died in the war in Afghanistan since May 15, 2009, the day when the first major wave of new troops ordered by President Barack Obama arrived in the country. (READ MORE)

Taliban kill 2 alleged U.S. spies in NW Pakistan - The bullet-riddled bodies of two alleged U.S. spies were found Wednesday in a Taliban stronghold in northwest Pakistan, the latest victims of an intelligence war that a top American general indicated is tilting in Washington and Islamabad's favor. (READ MORE)

US drones target Haqqani's stronghold in N.Waziristan, three killed - Unmanned US drones continue to pound ungoverned tribal areas along Pakistan Afghanistan border as three more extremists were killed and two others injured in a missile hit on Wednesday in North Waziristan's Dargah Mandi area. (READ MORE)

Afghan: US bomb squad on the frontlines - Staff. Sgt. Joshua Rickert hasn't just seen "The Hurt Locker," the award-winning film about an American bomb disposal squad in Iraq. He's living it — in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Diplomats angry at Karzai election move - Moves by the Afghan president to take control of a key election watchdog have dismayed diplomats and analysts who said today there is now even less chance that future polls will be free and fair. (READ MORE)

Rights Groups Renew Condemnation Of Afghan Amnesty Bill - Rights groups have condemned an Afghan amnesty bill that would allow suspected war criminals who pledge to work with the government to avoid prosecution. (READ MORE)

Crossposted at Castle Argghhh!

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