March 1, 2010

From the Front: 03/01/2010

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

Dispatches:
P.J. Tobia:
Why Kabul Was Attacked Yesterday - Since the shooting ended yesterday morning, I’ve done a series of radio reports for the BBC and others, explaining the situation on the ground here. The question that presenters keep asking me is “Was this attack a response to Operation Mushtarak, currently underway in Helmand?” My answer is (and was) no. In my view there are a few reasons why insurgents attacked the capital yesterday and none of them have to do with Helmand. The Taliban want to show that they can get inside the capital and strike at will. They want Afghans to know that the government can’t keep them safe and even one of the most heavily guarded areas of the country–Kabul’s City Center–is vulnerable. The fact that this area is a short drive from the Presidential Palace was also intended as a message to President Karzai. Namely, that insurgents can get as close to him as they like and his security apparatus can do little about it. Then there is Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: My Personal Perspective - Judging by the influx of comments lately, my blog entries have caused some academic debate and flow of ideas. Due to lack of time, seldom do I ever get a chance to respond to reader’s comments or questions. But tonight I am going to make time and provide some feedback and opinion. My opinions are solely mine and based on what I see, hear, read, and experience. I take a chance in doing this, because certain people will cherry-pick my comments or take them out of context and publish them. But since I started this blog almost a year ago, I stand by everything I have written. First, we are here to seek out the Al Qaeda. They are not nearly as numerous as the Taliban, but they are present and active in this country. They just keep a much lower profile than the Taliban and allow them to do all the dirty work. I am convinced if the Taliban wins this war, the Al Qaeda would have a sanctuary to plot attacks against the United States and other European countries. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Rainy Days and Armyisms - Lately it has been rather dreary due to the sporadic cold rain showers we are receiving. Today is the third day in a row we have received intermittent rain. The farmers are not complaining as this has been an extremely mild winter and Afghanistan is still experiencing another drought season. For the city dwellers it’s a double-edged sword. The rainfall helps quell the choking dust, but at the same time due to poor drainage, large puddles form and the layers of dust form a muddy paste where it flows. I also find it interesting that even when it rains, not many Afghans use umbrellas to stay dry. For us, a little bit of rain doesn’t deter the mission. Our timing coincided between light showers and allowed us to inspect our up-armored vehicles and fill them with fuel. We were preparing them for our next mission for which I would be convoy commander again. We planned to visit Kabul International Airport (KAIA) first and then travel to Camp Phoenix next. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: New DoD Policy Embraces Social Media - Last week was pretty huge for me for two reasons. First, author Jim Butcher personally provided some tremendously helpful advice, and second, my manuscript made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I was working on this week's post, a look at the Fort Hood Esquire article, but late in the week, the Department of Defense issued Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) 09-026 - The DoD's policy for Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities. For the last few years, the Army and other services faced a conundrum: How do you maintain operational security during a period of protracted conflict while dealing with the rapidly increasing popularity of social media. The policies that evolved from the problem were as inconsistent as they were perceived by the field to be unfair towards a young generation of service members who grew up with the expectation of free speech through social media. (READ MORE)

Combat Boots for Artemis: Duty Calls - So, here I sit at home. The night before I leave for my new duty station. It is probably the last time I will see my black lab Worf. He is 14 this summer and I cannot take him with me. He and our other dog, a medium size terrier mix named Fozzie, will have to go to a foster home until my two year assignment is done. I also have a lovebird, Jiggy, who will be staying with friends until we get back. The only pet we will get to take is our kitty Remy. Thank goodness we can at least take her. I look around and see years of "collecting." I cannot even begin to sort through it all. There are things we need to get rid of, sell or give to charity. Things that will have to go into storage and then of course the things I want to take with me (which is really everything since I really want my home over there, not here...) I want my husband and all his ecoutrements. I am not sure how long it will take to get him over there, but I am hoping that things will go smoothly... (READ MORE)

Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain: An update on MRS MSG McG - I received an email note from MRS MSG McG, who had her bad knee replaced on Wednesday of this past week. She finally is home from the hospital. Thank you for your prayer support of her, my friends! As many of you know, she's the wife of MSG McG, who was my Chaplain Assistant when we were in Iraq last year (my first time; his third -- how's that for selfless service on his part?). A grateful nation thanks you, MSG McG! Oh wait. Maybe not so much. Did I mention that MSG McG's medical benefits from the Army ran out today? Without a job that provides medical coverage, he and his wife have no more health insurance. And she now has a "preexisting condition." À propos of this turn of events, here's a snippet of the message MRS MSG McG sent me: "It is really painful right now. I have to give myself shots in the stomach daily to keep my blood thinned, so I don't end up with blood clots. I know with God's help I will make it..." (READ MORE)

Semper Papa: Need To Reset - Earlier today, I was spending some time cleaning my yard (those are the kind random moments when my mind leaves my mortal shape and wonders away) and my thoughts started to drift toward my preoccupations for the future of my family, my country. Suddenly my memories took me back in time and the resetting process begun. Mostly it has to do with the immense fortune I feel I have been blessed with since the day, 30 years ago, I stepped off that aircraft and set foot on American soil, beginning the most incredible journey. I had been blessed with the opportunity to come and live and prosper in America, the country where my only limitation was my willingness to work hard. That one step was probably the most important as it was followed by eventually meeting the person that would become my wife and the mother of my two incredible children. My understanding, at the time, of the actual greatness of America was very limited, although I really look forward to the day when the law would allow me to become a citizen. (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: The Legacy of Valor - Buffing the floors one night with a spare brown t shirt taped to the circular pad spinning at my feet, I got to thinking. My shift was at 0330 hours All night I buffed floors and watched moths circle the over-sized Fort Benning lights. In basic traning every night the new recruits would get the living areas up to impeccable standards as our peers slept off the day of verbal abuse and physical exertion. All of which are outlawed at Gitmo by the way. Our Drill Instructor Overlords turned us into Shoemaker’s Elves. Buffing, mopping and toilet scrubbing all night long on one hour shifts. Good training. Normally the shifts would move down the list in the same alphabetical order as our bunks were numbered. This was so everyone could get a taste of the shared burden of discomfort and fatigue. I liked my alone time, so I always kept my slot. 0330 every night. I got used to it. After a week of staring at the moths, I started reading these giant oak tag posters that were hung around our common area. (READ MORE)

the semi-normal, day-to-day life of a female marine: If you support the troops you will....(fill in the blank) - Why must The Post label it 'Obama's War'? As the mother of a U.S. Marine serving in Afghanistan, may I tell you how offensive it is to open The Post and find a news story with the series heading "Obama's War"? To call this Obama's War (or any president's war) is to trivialize it. Ask any Marine crossing a mine-filled poppy field: Republican or Democrat, soldiers fight for the United States. No individual president is the reason men and women put their lives at risk for America. If you truly support "the troops," be respectful of their sacrifice and call it the war in Afghanistan. A war is more important than its effect on any president's opinion polls. Robin Uncapher, Bethesda, MD - I agree with what this woman is saying, sort of. Calling the war "Obama's War" is ridiculous, as if he started it or it belongs to him and no one else. But what makes me angry about this letter is the phrase, "if you truly support the troops". (READ MORE)

Lance Corporal Jeevan Rai, Queens Own Gurkha Logisitics Regiment: Resupply Convoy - It was 0400 and there were people everywhere preparing vehicles and checking routes. Whilst noisy and busy, each vehicle knew exactly where it fitted into the convoy to resupply A Company, 1 Royal Welsh at Showal. We were not only taking re-supplies but bringing in building equipment to build a new Patrol Base at Showal. This was no mean feat as there were 59 vehicles and 188 people involved in the move, known as Op Clay 5. We were one of the vehicles at the front of the convoy and were there to provide Force Protection. I was in charge of Whiskey 3, a mastiff with Counter-IED rollers, a formidable beast of a vehicle. My team and I have lots of experience of clearing routes and making convoys safe. It makes me really proud to be able to do this and it also feels quite a big responsibility knowing that other people’s safety is in my hands. (READ MORE)

WO2 Greg Reece RA: Military Stabilisation and Support Team - Op Moshtarak - “It will be a success if it is a total anti-climax.” That was what we were told. In reality we planned for a big fight, platoon size, out of area fighters willing to stand their ground. All roads IED’d. Possibly IED’d helicopter landing sites. First light on a cold morning on the outskirts of Naquilabad Kalay and the insertion had gone better than expected. No IEDs, no firing, a slightly longer walk than expected (thanks RAF!) and we were looking down the main street of the town ..... from a safe distance. “Suppose we better go and meet the locals”, a small group of curious local Nationals were stood at the edge of town wondering what all the fuss was about. After talking with them for a very short time we realised these weren’t the ‘out of area’ fighters we were expecting and they invited us to walk with them down high street. They really wanted to show off their town. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Open for Business in Showal - By the end of February over half the bazaar in Showal is open for business, with more shops opening on a daily basis. This is a complete change of fortune. Prior to Operation Moshtarak the bazaar had been closed entirely, primarily due to the threat of IEDs. Local Afghan people are being sent the message through shuras and the local radio station that stalls are stocked and that coalition forces are constantly patrolling the area. And word is getting out. However, at a recent shura local people are still worried about the threat of IEDs along the village roads leading into Showal. The Afghan National Civil Order Police Commander at Showal, Colonel Abdul Mohammed said ““We are here to provide reassurance of security”. Security patrols are 'de rigeur' in Showal, and for A Company, 1 Royal Welsh Regiment there is a keenness to ensure routes are clear and encourage people to use the market. The ANA play no small part in these patrols, with their numbers weighted at 60% of the patrol. (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Meeting in the Airport - In the security line this morning at Harrisburg Intl. Airport, I saw Spc. Jared Arthur, one of the Echo Company fuelers I served with in Iraq. He is still officially on leave. He had accumulated a lot of leave by working full time in the Guard before we left. He said he and Sgt. Matt Kauffman might be getting fueling jobs full time at Fort Indiantown Gap. It was good to see somebody I served with and better to hear that two more returning soldiers have jobs. Another soldier who went right back to work is the commander of Task Force Diablo, Lt. Col. Scott Perry. He is the representative for the 92nd District in the Pennsylvania Legislature. He is already on a state government reform panel. He went back to work February 1. I am in Orlando for a conference on analytical instrumentation. We hand out an award at the event. But the really important part of the event for me is riding in warm weather and my Uncle Jack lives nearby, so we will have coffee tomorrow before my work starts. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraq Hopes for Change - The NYT has a story on how the March 7 vote is a test for both Iraq's prime minister and the country itself. The election certainly is a test for both Nouri Al Maliki and the people of Iraq. The reporter says: "How he wins — or perhaps more significantly, how he loses — will more than anything else determine the country’s course in the coming years as President Obama carries out his promise to withdraw all American troops." I'm not sure the story focused on how sectarian Maliki has turned out to be. He originally presented himself as a middle of the road guy who cracked down on both Sunni and Shiite militias. But he has shown his true colours now. "Even his own supporters acknowledge that Mr. Maliki now appears isolated, imperious and impetuous, his re-election prospects hurt by events out of his control and by others of his own making." (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Afghanistan here I come… - Looks like a quick trip for the second half of March is on. Logan’s gonna meet me there late March and I’m relieved that he can stay through the first half of the beginner’s photojournalism course that will kick off in April. A ton of stuff to do for that — I gotta vet the Afghan who will run the course and settle on the camera model, and check on the number of working computers. And oh, actually find professional or skilled amateurs willing to mentor the students from afar (do you take photos for a living or hobby? Are you willing to trade email with an Afghan to review their photos and offer advice on improving their skills? Email me!) Also got the Amazon wish list for the Jalalabad Public Library going. The fab labbers are making custom book cases and study areas on the shopbot. They’ve been practicing with stools, cabinets, and shoe racks. The library is going to start off modestly in a small room next to the fab lab at the sharwali. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: CIA agents killed in suicide attack 'a gift from Allah' - In a videotape produced just before his death, an al Qaeda operative thought to have been turned by Jordanian intelligence to spy on the terror group said the CIA officers targeted and killed in a Dec. 30, 2009 suicide attack were "a gift from Allah." As Sahab released a posthumous videotape of Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, a longtime internet jihadi who was recruited by Jordanian intelligence to provide targeting information for the US' covert air campaign against al Qaeda's leaders and operations in Pakistan's tribal areas. Khurasani, who is also known as Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, carried out the suicide attack against the CIA at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. Khurasani enticed the CIA with promises of being able to produce Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command. The videotape, produced by As Sahab, al Qaeda's propaganda outlet, shows Khurasani being questioned by an interviewer. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: "Hey Mom, I'm home." - I plopped down on the side of the road, crossed my legs to get comfortable, and ignored the puzzled look of the subject I had been photographing for my assignment that day. Holding up my ringing phone for the man to see, I told him, “My son is a Marine and he’s coming home today!” For the first time since September, “Daniel” lit up the little window in my cell phone. I took a deep breath and flipped it open. Weary from a 20 hour flight which had stopped in various random places to pick up, drop off or fuel up; Daniel was wandering around a small airport in Illinois, waiting for someone to tell them to climb aboard for the last leg of the trip to Miramar, California. “Hey, Mom. I’m home.” Those words warm the hearts of military families like nothing else can; they are the verbal affirmation that we can draw a deep breath and relax those invisible bands of stress that have been burrowing in our hearts for months. Whew. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 1 Mar 10 - well, it’s the first of March and I got names and emails for our replacements — that’s an awesome sign …we are leaving SSOOOONNN!!! right now I am hearing the training completion date is 30 March, so hopefully they fly straight here from training…anyhoo… for the past coulple days things have been kinda chill around here … did go out on a mission, but me and another guy sat with the trucks in a semi-safe area and the team went out on a foot patrol thru some crazy village…they walked about 9km just checkin things out, seeing how the local Army and Police guys handle business…they said in some sections they litlerally had to walk thru raw sewage…the toilets in these houses around here basically have a little hole, or gutter type thing that drains to a hole or pipe going out the back of the house …all waste just flows out the back of the houses on to the ground …well, there were areas where the only path for them to walk thru was thru this sewage…glad I wasn’t walking with them … (READ MORE)

C. J. CHIVERS: After Push in Marja, Marines Try to Win Trust - After the declaration this weekend that the battle for the Taliban enclave of Marja had been won, for the Marines standing behind sandbags and walking patrols, the more complicated work has begun. With it will be a test of the strategy selected by President Obama and the generals now running the Afghan war. After months of preparation for the largest offensive in Afghanistan since 2001, and two weeks of fighting and moving forces around a sprawling desert battlefield, the last pieces of the campaign’s opening push into a Taliban enclave had come together by the weekend. Marine units were finishing sweeps of contested ground, clearing the last stretches of roads of hidden bombs, and reinforcing hastily erected patrol bases and outposts. More Afghan government forces were arriving, increasing the manpower to counter the Taliban fighters engaged in the guerrillas’ routine of emplacing booby traps and challenging Marine patrols with hit-and-run fights. (READ MORE)

Richard S. Lowry: New Dawn: the Battles for Fallujah - As goes Fallujah, so goes Anbar Province; as goes Anbar, so goes Iraq. Fallujah has long been a Sunni Wahabi tribal hotbed and vital commercial crossroad. Islamic fundamentalism was brought to Fallujah hundreds of years ago via an ancient trade route, linking societies in the Arabian Peninsula with the people of Iraq. This austere, blue-collar city on the banks of the Euphrates River has been regarded as a notorious home of malcontents: even Saddam had problems controlling Fallujah’s religious zealots. American forces easily deposed Saddam’s regime in 2003, but the fight never ended in Fallujah. The first Americans to arrive were immediately besieged and forced to hunker down in fortified outposts. The situation in Fallujah was a harbinger of events to come throughout Iraq. As in Baghdad, the enemy in Fallujah proved time and time again that America was not prepared to fight a counter-insurgent war. (READ MORE)

Mike Francis, The Oregonian: Soldiers look homeward, in search of jobs - On a drizzly day in Portland last spring, Ted Kulongoski, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, Earl Blumenauer, David Wu, Peter Courtney and Sam Adams joined two top officers in the Oregon National Guard during a ceremony for the mobilization of soldiers in the 41st Brigade Combat Team, which was shortly to leave for Iraq. As the elected leaders took their turns at the microphone, they told the soldiers that the state of Oregon appreciates their sacrifices and would work to make it easier for them and their families to deal with the effects of the deployment. "We won't tolerate soldiers going from the front lines to the unemployment lines," said Sen. Wyden. "We wanted you to know we've got your back," added Courtney, president of the Oregon Senate. Now it's 10 months later and 2,500 soldiers are about to come home. At least 800 of them, likely more, don't have jobs. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Red Line - Across the Longfellow Bridge, spanning from Boston’s Beacon Hill, is the Kendall-MIT “T” station. At night, the lights on the Red Line cars coming over the bridge give the illusion that the train is flying over the river into Cambridge. It’s one of the few sights that bring a smile to my face after a long time away. A clear sign…I’m home. My parents’ apartment is 13 blocks away from the station, and I usually make the stroll in about 10-15 minutes. On this particular day, I walked a little slower. I felt out of place in the in the blue jeans and hoodie sweatshirt hugging my body. The soft fabric and earth tone colors estranged my skin from its typical cage of digital camouflage and fire retardant cloth. The station was empty, but surely not void of fun. Inspired by students at MIT, it’s the only train station I know with wonders of mechanical engineering hanging from the ceiling, fully operable by stranded MBTA passengers on the platform. (READ MORE)

Julia Mahlejd: Reintegration: hype or hope? - If the last eight years of international military engagement in Afghanistan had been successful there would be no need to suddenly push for fighters to stop fighting and live peaceful and productive lives. They would already be doing so in droves because the insurgency would be weakened to the point of no longer being worthwhile and/or because there would be sufficient governance and economic development to present a more attractive alternative. But does that mean this new buzzword ‘reintegration’ is too little too late? In his inauguration speech in November 2009 Karzai called out to his ‘disgruntled brothers’ in the Taliban to ‘return home’ and thus formally ushered in a new era of talks (‘negotiation’ is a dirty word in Afghanistan, it implies weakness) with insurgents. The international community, including the once-wary Americans, have gotten very excited about this. Could reintegration neatly represent the long-hoped-for exit strategy? (READ MORE)

The Torch: Travers' isn't entitled to make up his own facts - I don't know if there's any personal history there, if maybe there was a face-to-face conflict at one point, or perhaps some he-said-she-said gossip that soured things between them. But whatever caused it, Jim Travers seems to have a serious hate-on for Rick Hillier. Today's column in the Toronto Star is hardly an isolated example. That's OK, I guess. A bit unprofessional for Travers to carry such a vendetta, but Rick Hillier's a big boy, and his hide has grown relatively impervious to such sniping over the years, I'm sure. No, I only have so much of a problem with Travers' obvious dislike of the best military leader this country has enjoyed in my lifetime. Everyone's got an opinion, and they can't all be like mine. I have a big problem, however, with how Travers continues to mislead unsuspecting readers of the Toronto Star on substantive matters related to Hillier. (READ MORE)

Una Moore: Presidential Decree De-Fangs Afghanistan’s Election Watchdog - Eleven days ago, I heard a rumor that the office of President Hamid Karzai had re-written Afghanistan’s Election Law in ways that would deal a blow to the country’s beleaguered democrats. The changes had gone into force through a presidential decree, I was told. While the international press was still quiet, ripples of alarm were already spreading through Kabul-based civil society. The story is out now, and the worst has been confirmed. Among other changes, the decree gives the president the power to appoint all five members of the country’s election watchdog, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), the formerly U.N.-backed body that uncovered massive fraud during last year’s presidential election. Before, three of the commissioners were appointed by the U.N., one by the Supreme Court, and one by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a body accused of favoring the incumbent president last August. (READ MORE)

Army Household6: Getting Ready - The girls and I have been busy getting ready for SGT Daddy’s arrival which is will be anytime now. We are all ready for him to be home .. and I’m sure SGT Daddy is too! (considering he’s been traveling for a few DAYS now )So thanks to the Army’s Hurry Up and Wait Policy – I’m in a place where I haven’t been in a LONG time . No its not the waiting on when he will get here … it’s my to-do list. I’m officially on vacation now . Until I get that “come get me ” phone call, there is NOTHING on my to-do list . No client work , no household tasks to do, NOTHING. This seems very strange and foreign to me … I keep wondering did I miss something?? So now to enjoy my lazy days until SGT Daddy gets home .. then I’ll enjoy spending them with him! (MORE)

The Captain's Journal: The Media, the New Media and U.S. Intelligence - The DoD policy on the new media has been released. There are positive steps – computers are to be configured to access such sites within the constraints of operational security. But the policy is subject to local application and enforcement. Milblogging.com likes it, but I’ll wait to see the affects of the policy before weighing in on it. My experience with blogging is that even as a parent of a member of the military, my words got significant attention to both me and my son, some of it unwanted and unwarranted. There were daily site visits from PAOs, and usually within minutes of making posts. If I mentioned water survival training while donning body armor, it got my son a visit to the First Sergeant’s office and a call from the Colonel, or better yet, a comment about how “we don’t do that sort of thing.” Absurd. Nothing false, nothing OPSEC about it, just a desire to control the narrative. (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:
Military Announces New Social Media Policy - Many months behind schedule, the Department of Defense on Friday issued a new policy that, on the surface, seems likely to expand access to popular social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter by troops using military computers. (READ MORE)

DOD Releases Policy for Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-Based Capabilities - Today the Department of Defense released a policy memorandum regarding the safe and effective use of Internet-based capabilities, including social networking services (SNS) and other interactive Web 2.0 applications. (READ MORE)




News from the Front:
Iraq:

Lampooning Candidates in Iraq - In the rough and tumble world of Iraqi politics, where assassinations are an ever-present threat, it is the old-fashioned art of the satirical political cartoon that still has the ability to cut deeply. Across Iraq, residents have been receiving scores of cartoons lampooning both leading national candidates and local politicians. (READ MORE)

March elections are another step toward normality in Iraq - This city with many faces jostling to define its future is my new home. From my desk at the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq, it is striking how unreservedly foreign politicians, diplomats, think tanks and journalists offer their opinions or prescriptions on the future of this country. (READ MORE)

Iraqi politician's star rising again - Ahmad Chalabi, the onetime Pentagon darling who helped the Bush administration make the case for invading Iraq, is in a good mood as he settles into the back seat of his armored SUV to head out on the campaign trail. He ought to be. (READ MORE)

Iraq Kurds again likely to be kingmakers post-poll - Tensions between Iraq's Kurds and Arabs may one day lead to armed conflict but, after an election in March, Arab parties will be vying with each other to court Kurdish allies expected to emerge as powerful kingmakers. (READ MORE)

Iraqi PM calls pre-vote candidate ban legitimate - Iraq's prime minister Sunday defended a ban of candidates with alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's former regime, calling it a legitimate decision that would not affect Sunni turnout at the polls. (READ MORE)

In Iraq, Americans Struggle to Relinquish Control - At 3 a.m. on Feb. 19, U.S. and Iraqi special forces burst into the home of Sheikh Turki Talal, leader of the powerful Ghartani tribe, and hauled the 71-year-old to jail on a terrorism-related arrest warrant. (READ MORE)

Vote Seen as Pivotal Test for Both Iraq and Maliki - A few months ago, building on genuine if not universal popularity, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared poised to win a second term as Iraq’s prime minister. Now, as Iraqis prepare to vote in parliamentary elections on March 7, his path to another four years in office has become increasingly uncertain, his campaign erratic and, to some, deeply troubling. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces Capture Suspected Assassin - Iraqi security forces arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member believed to be responsible for numerous assassinations during a joint security operation conducted southwest of the Iraqi capital yesterday. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
U.S. Marines, Afghan troops to stay in Marja for months - More than 2,000 U.S. Marines and about 1,000 Afghan troops who stormed the town of Marja as part of a major NATO offensive against a resurgent Taliban will stay several months to ensure that insurgents do not return, Marine commanders said Sunday. (READ MORE)

Normalcy takes root in Marja after allied offensive - Just a few dozen yards from the bullet-riddled government building, Marine Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson found more proof Saturday that the battle for Marja was over. (READ MORE)

Marines, Afghans to stay months in Marjah - More than 2,000 U.S. Marines and about 1,000 Afghan troops who stormed the Taliban town of Marjah as part of a major NATO offensive against a resurgent Taliban will stay several months to ensure insurgents don't return, Marine commanders said Sunday. (READ MORE)

Afghan soldiers show improvement in Marja assault - The Afghan troops who supported the U.S. Marines in the battle to end Taliban control of this town in Helmand province showed marked improvement over last summer's performance in a similar fight but still need much more training, Marine commanders say. (READ MORE)

‘Invincible’ Taleban routed in raids on border camps - Significant leaders of the Pakistani Taleban have been killed or captured in an onslaught of frontier ground and air attacks, a Pakistani general has told The Times. (READ MORE)

In new video, CIA bomber says he lured targets with doctored intelligence - The suicide bomber behind the Dec. 30 attack on a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan claims in a posthumously released recording that he lured U.S. and Jordanian intelligence officers into a trap by sending them misleading information about terrorist targets as well as videotapes he made of senior al-Qaeda leaders. (READ MORE)

Bomber Called C.I.A. Target Gift From God - In a posthumously released video message, the suicide bomber who killed seven C.I.A. employees on Dec. 30 said that his original target had been his handler from Jordanian intelligence, and that an invitation to meet C.I.A. officers at a remote base in Afghanistan had been an unexpected boon. (READ MORE)

Roadside Bomb Kills 11 Afghan Civilians - Local officials in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province say a roadside bomb has killed 11 civilians. A provincial government spokesman in the traditional Taliban stronghold said all the victims were traveling together in a vehicle on a road frequently used by international forces. (READ MORE)

Blast Kills 11 Afghans in Mine-Clearance Showcase Area - Eleven Afghan civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan Sunday in a hotly contested district where the U.S. is trying to showcase the benefits of mine-clearing efforts. (READ MORE)

Getting close to the Afghans - During a recent trip to Afghanistan, I met with senior American and Afghan leaders to discuss the challenges of the present war. I found top coalition commanders are, for the first time, in agreement that the outcome will be decided primarily by local leaders, not by equipment or money or enlightened methods. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Find Drugs, Weapons - Afghan and international patrols found three weapons caches in Afghanistan’s Helmand province yesterday. One cache, found in the Reg-e Khan Neshin district, contained eight rifle rounds, eight assault rifles, ammunition and an ammunition-filled vest. (READ MORE)

Roadside bomb kills Afghan civilians - A roadside bomb has killed 11 civilians in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province. The victims, all travelling together in a vehicle, were bombed on a road often used by NATO forces. (READ MORE)

17 Taliban militants found dead in north-west Pakistan - Villagers have found the bodies of 17 suspected Taliban fighters in Pakistan's troubled north-western region, a security official said Sunday. (READ MORE)

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