March 5, 2010

From the Front: 03/05/2010

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

Dispatches:
Uncle Jimbo:
Down the Foreign Policy garbage chute - A couple of the smarty pantses at Foreign Policy are wicked pissed that the military has actually managed the information war in a positive way. So they set out to fix that and manage to write one of the dumbest things I have ever read in my life, and remember that includes a very painful interlude w/ Al Gore's "Earth in the Balance". They reveal their bad attitude immediately with the title "Down the AfPak rabbit hole" and a bunch of Alice in Wonderland references. Nothing like a little fantasy to show your seriousness fellas. “The release of Tim Burton's new blockbuster movie, Alice in Wonderland, is days away. The timing could not be more appropriate. Lewis Carroll's ironically opium-inspired tale of a rational person caught up inside a mad world with its own bizarre but consistent internal (il)logic has now surpassed Vietnam as the best paradigm to understand the war in Afghanistan.” Wow Alice surpasses Vietnam as the proper paradigm to understand A-Stan. That is just brilliant, but you failed to throw quagmire in there or graveyard of empires or any of the other tired cliches people invested in slagging our efforts like to use. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Need More Ink Cartridges - Yesterday I spent the day inside the Joint Tactical Command Post and was unable to mentor or do much of anything. It was deathly quiet and I used this opportunity to finish reading Doug Stanton’s book, “Horse Soldiers.” This book details the riveting account of a small group of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11. To travel around the countryside, they painstakingly rode horses through some perilous mountains. Seldom will you ever find testimonials about the “Quiet Professionals”, but this one was very revealing. For me, it filled in some of the historical void about the competing Afghan warlords and provided more insight to the atrocities committed by the Taliban even as they retreated. It also gave a detailed account about CIA agent Mike Spann’s tragic death and more about US Muslim terrorist John Walker Lindh’s capture at the Qala-i-Janghi Fortress. Due to some of the adult language used in the book, I don’t recommend this to young readers. (READ MORE)

Imtiaz Gul: Is North Waziristan next? - A day after the Pakistani Army showed off the newly militant-free mountainous Bajaur to journalists, a regiment of tanks rumbled into Miram Shah, the administrative headquarters of North Waziristan. The movement of tanks triggered fears of a military campaign in this region, home to the Haqqani insurgent network. The United States has long been pressing Pakistan to take conclusive action against the network, currently led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the eldest son of the ailing Afghan jihad veteran Jalaluddin Haqqani. Most recently, a U.S. military intelligence official said he believes the Haqqanis were involved in the recent deadly attacks in Kabul. Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said that militants in Bajaur, where the Army had moved in the fall of 2008, were no longer able to cross over into Afghanistan to join the fight against U.S. and NATO forces and would find it more difficult to stage attacks inside Pakistan. (READ MORE)

ALI AL-SAFFAR: Iraq's Elected Criminals - Three years ago, after a day of work at the Ministry of Health, my father, Ammar al-Saffar, was kidnapped from his childhood home in Iraq. Armed militiamen took him in front of my 89-year-old grandmother -- who, to this day, lives in hope of his return. At the time of his kidnapping, my father was the deputy minister of health and a highly regarded advisor to members of the political elite, including current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But unlike many of Baghdad's political class, he refused to hole up in the Green Zone, arguing that doing so would disconnect him from the plight of ordinary Iraqis. Instead, he chose to live in his mother's house in Adhamiya, one of the most hostile districts of Baghdad -- without a security detail, blast barriers, or any of the other protections favored by Iraqi politicians. He lived that way until the day he was kidnapped. (READ MORE)

Trooper Pete Sheppard: Waiting to go out on bomb patrol - Been another quiet day today, a couple of patrols went out but on the whole a chilled day. The lads are getting restless, they cannot wait to get back to camp. I have been told that I am going out with one of the patrols tomorrow to conduct Barma (checking that there are no IEDs on the tracks that we are walking on). It should be interesting. A few of us played a little game of touch rugby earlier. It was good fun however really tiring! A couple of guys from the ATF (Afghan Task Force) joined in and it was amusing watching them trying to gather the concept of the rules. Tonight is just prepping my kit so I am good to go tomorrow morning, making sure I have enough water, fresh batteries, spare batteries and something quick to eat if needed to. My fingers are crossed everything goes well tomorrow. (READ MORE)

Home from Iraq: Courtship on the Ben Franklin Bridge - Yesterday on the drive from the Harrisburg airport, I stopped at home and brought one of my bikes to Philadelphia. At sunset yesterday I rode over the the big, blue Ben Franklin Bridge, a 1.5-mile suspension bridge that rise 150 feet in a graceful arc crossing the Delaware River to Camden, New Jersey. Yesterday I did three back and forth laps on the 10-foot-wide walkway that is up to 20 feet above the roadway and directly over the New Jersey Transit tracks on the outside of the span. Today I planned to ride five laps, but ended at 4 1/2. As I was riding back and forth across the bridge, a couple ambled across walking as if they both had north pole magnets in their hips. They would sway together then sway apart when they got too close. For bikes and runners and pedestrians to share the walkway, everybody has to stay right and straight. Every time I approached this couple I had to yell "On Your Left" or "On Your Right" and every time they were surprised. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Al Sadr and the Press - Yesterday I thought I had heard the worst of it all. I thought when the WaPo reporters called terror leader Qais Al Khazaali "cerebral," that was as bad as it could get. But I was wrong. WaPo was topped today by the NYT, which attributes the finest qualities imaginable to none other than Moktada Al Sadr. "Since 2005, when Iraqis elected a national assembly to draft a constitution, Mr. Sadr has proved maddeningly Delphic in his pronouncements." Delphic?!! Mookie?!!?? The NYT writer explains why he chose the word: "He refused to support that election, as long as American troops occupied the country, but stopped short of calling for a boycott. Last year, his loyalists declared that they would not participate officially in the vote, but offered their support to independents." What's with these reporters who get dazzled by the odd politician? (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: lights down below - The rain has started. When it began it was just the slightest pricks of moisture, more a sense of coolness on your skin, welcome after a day of tropical sun. The (full?) moon had risen and could barely be seen through layering clouds. I was outside talking with a medic enjoying the cooling evening breeze and little by little the rain became more and more insistent. We watched a water truck arrive and fill a tank, by the time it left the first pregnant drops were falling. And then the tropical rain let loose. Down below stretches a sea of lights. On my first night here I was surprised at how many lights there are in the city – I didn’t expect the electrical infrastructure to have been so intact. Doc and I stood looking and imagining the increasing misery of those below who have tarps for wall, ceiling, and floor. There’s not much to say to each other, and after some silence Doc said “this pisses me off. I can’t fix this.” and flicked his cigarette over the wall into the long darkness below. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan detains senior Afghan Taliban leader: Report - Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has detained another top Afghan Taliban leader. Agha Jan Mohtasim, the former Finance Minister during the Taliban regime and the son-in-law of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is said to have been arrested along with three associates, according to The Daily Mail and The Associated Press. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on reports of Mohtasim's arrest. Pakistani intelligence officials are said to be interrogating Mohtasim, who was detained in a raid in Karachi. The date of his capture was not disclosed. Mohtasim is thought to be one of several candidates to take over the Quetta Shura after Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was detained by Pakistani security forces sometime in January of Febuary of this year. Mohtasim is said to be a close confidant to Mullah Omar. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide attacks pick up as Iraqis begin voting - Suicide bombers have struck in central Iraq for the second day straight as Iraqis prepare to go to the polls to choose their representatives in the March 7 parliamentary election. Two suicide bombers killed 14 Iraqis in Baghdad today, and 31 were killed in suicide bombings yesterday in the city of Baqubah. The attacks are the first indication of a major push by al Qaeda in Iraq since late January and early February, when the group's suicide bombers carried out a series of strikes against Shia pilgrims in Baghdad in regions south of the capital that killed 178 Iraqis and wounded hundreds more. Today's attacks were carried out at two polling sites in Baghdad. Seven soldiers were killed after a suicide bomber detonated his vest at a polling station that was opened to allow the soldiers to vote early. Another seven civilians were killed at a separate polling station that had yet to be opened. (READ MORE)

Barry Rubin: When It's Necessary and Desirable to Assassinate Terrorists - There has been a huge international controversy about the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leading Hamas terrorist, in Dubai on January 19. I have no idea who did it but have some points to make on the subject. 1. Generally speaking, media coverage almost never (in Europe) or only minimally (in the United States) talks about what Mabhouh actually did to merit his end. The New York Times had the following paragraph at the very end of its story: "Mr. Mabhouh had a role in the 1989 abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, and was also involved in smuggling weapons into Gaza, Israel and Hamas have said. Israel officials say the weapons came from Iran." It would seem that there would be more discussion of the deeds of such people so they are not portrayed, at least implicitly, as innocent victims. Readers could weigh the assassination against their crimes, which would otherwise go unhindered and unpunished..." (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Brickbatting Helmand - “Long before Marjah was dragged from sleepy anonymity into one of NATO’s biggest offensives in its nine-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Julius Cavendish reports, “Western governance experts had begun drawing up the town’s future.” What a great idea—I just wrote about that! So what’s this blueprint? “‘They were horrified. There was nothing there, absolutely nothing,’ recalls Peter Hawkins, a British official who accompanied [Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asef] Rahimi’s delegation. ‘There was a good governor, but he was sitting there on his own in a little building built by us. They went back to Kabul with the message, “We’ve got to do something, we can’t not do something with this void down there.”’ …A map drawn up by the provincial governor and dotted with colored blocks shows what the restoration of sovereignty means in tangible terms: there are bright red schools, yellow agriculture directorates, and courts festooned with the scales of justice.” (READ MORE)

Sic Semper Tyrannis: The Iraqi election - "Kamran Bokhari, chief Middle East analyst for the private intelligence firm Stratfor, says ethnic and sectarian identity is still a key determinant in Iraqi political calculations. "This is a situation in flux. Sure, people want better governance and we see every party sort of moving towards that. But at the end of the day there are concerns among the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Kurds regarding ethnicity," said Bokhari. "For the Sunnis, they have not seen themselves getting a fair share of the political pie in Baghdad. That means that they cannot just drop the sectarian card and say, 'Well, we are just going to look for good governance. Who is going to provide us good governance?' And, 'We are not going to look at the sectarian thing." Sectarian and ethnic tensions were reinforced when a Shiite-dominated parliamentary committee disqualified 511 Sunni candidates for alleged connections to Sadaam Hussein's outlawed Baath party." (READ MORE)

Marine Wife: Not Avon, but Special Agent lady calling... - The phone rang. It was the guard from one of the gates of our gated community here in Civilian Land. I wasn't expecting a visitor so I was only half listening, waiting for the pause so I could say that I wasn't expecting anyone. Suddenly, he had my attention with, "Special Agent Lisa* is here about your husband's background check." (*not her real name) I managed to mumble something resembling, "Oh, okay," while frantically thinking of what a disaster the house was. That's what I get for procrastinating! Thanks a lot, Murphy! Then I looked at the clock and realized I had to leave in 5 minutes to get my kids from school. I'm outside by my car when I see her pull up. Before she has a chance to get out of the car, I'm explaining about the school pick-up. Instead, she takes down my phone numbers and agrees to call me later to get the information she needs. Whew! (READ MORE)

DAVID AXE: Axeghanistan ‘10: “Now You Know More than You Did Five Minutes Ago” - Staff Sergeant Adam Scripture’s instructions were simple. Don’t sleep on top of the cargo. Don’t sleep on the rear ramp. If the pressurization fails and the alarm goes off, you have five seconds to put on your oxygen mask before you go unconscious. “I don’t want to have to come back there and grab you by the scruff of the neck” if I don’t put my mask on in time, he said. “Now you know more than you did five minutes ago,” said Scripture, a 17th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. We were bound from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., to Pope Air Force Base, N.C., then on to Ramstein, Germany — and eventually Bagram, Afghanistan. It would be a long series of flights. We had 30 Army soldiers and a cargo hold full of generators and other equipment coming along, too. The soldiers know this game: no sooner had aircraft commander Major Brian Mortiz “turned off the seatbelt sign,” than the soldiers all staked out spots on the floor and unrolled their sleeping bags. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Drip, Drip, Drip - Earlier this week, mega-contractor KBR was awarded a task order by the U.S. Army Contracting Command under its current Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) IV contract, which is valued at up to $2.8 billion for one year for work to be done in Iraq. One person not happy about the deal is Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Edolphus Towns (D-NY), who sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates that brought up KBR’s “deficient maintenance of electrical systems at U.S. facilities in Iraq” that caused several soldier deaths, as well as “the Defense Department’s failure to provide adequate oversight over KBR and ensure that American troops were not endangered by faulty electrical systems. Despite this, it seems that the Defense Department continues to reward KBR for deficient contract performance that has endangered the lives of our service men and women.” (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Training the Afghan National Army? - In keeping with our running coverage and commentary on the ANA, from AFP. “For Lieutenant Ed Maloney, the most difficult part of leading a four-day mission in eastern Afghanistan was persuading Afghan soldiers to leave their base in the first place. It took three hours of negotiations on the night before departure to convince the Afghans the expedition to Sherzad district in Nangarhar province was worthwhile. ‘Their predecessors had a tough time in this district, and these soldiers thought it was unnecessary and too risky,’ Maloney said.” Let’s leave behind the issue of tactical capabilities, corruption, drug use, officer entitlement and all of the other bad traits we have seen in the ANA. Force projection and assessment of atmospherics are the most important aspects of counterinsurgency. In the absence of U.S. forces to persuade them to work at the right things, with the ANA sitting on their FOBs afraid to go on patrol, the Taliban have nothing to fear. (READ MORE)

Michael Jacobson: Closing Loopholes: Another Vital Aspect of Sanctions on Iran - In the coming weeks, the United States and its allies will attempt to push additional Iran sanctions through the UN Security Council. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has indicated that "the United States and like-minded countries" could also impose at least some additional sanctions on their own. Although stronger sanctions are certainly needed to deter Iran on the nuclear issue, they alone are unlikely to pressure Tehran into changing its behavior. Just as important are efforts to plug the gaps and loopholes in the current sanctions regime. Iranian Evasion - A number of overlapping sanctions are already in place against Iran, imposed by the UN, European Union, Britain, and the United States. One of the primary means of evading these regimes is through re-exports. Generally, export-control laws distinguish between different countries in determining the legality of a specific transaction. (READ MORE)

Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee: Michael Yon: Shameful Allegations - Harboring resentment because the Canadian gov't will not extend it's commitment in Afghanistan beyond 2011, resentful that four US Battalions are under Canadian command and apparently angry that were watching the Canada/USA Gold Medal Game, iconic mil-blogger Michael Yon published a series of false accusations soley blaming Canadian troops and BG Menard for an important bridge that was destroyed by a suicide bomber. With out one fact to support him, Yon purposefully took aim at Canadian troops and a Canadian Brig.General, who have sacrificed so much for so many years in the war on terror in Afghanistan, accusing the troops and the General of "wasting time": “While some troops were wasting time fixated on the Olympics, 10 minutes away a major target was left vulnerable. If we can persuade the Taliban to play Hockey, or if we can learn to play their sport -- Guerrilla Warfare -- maybe we can score some points.” (READ MORE)

Outlaw 13: An Extended Absence - ...makes the heart grow fonder? Not in my experience, they just usually move on and think you’re a douce for not staying in touch. Sorry for the absence, this has been my third tour in Iraq and to be honest there hasn't been a great deal that I've felt like posting. Are there things I could or would like to comment on? You bet, and maybe some day I will feel comfortable talking about all the things that went on here during OIF 09-10. None of it is earth shattering or of the war crime variety, but I can tell you what masquerades as leadership sometimes in today's Army is a shocking and disturbing thing. We're in the home stretch now, so within the next few months we'll back back in the good ole' US of A. Can't wait to see everyone! (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: The Born Insanity - "How many times has this happened to you..." I once asked back in 2004: “You're flying into Baghdad on a C130 along with a lot of other GIs and some members of the Iraq Survey Group whose report will soon be released and while waiting for the plane engines to fire up (after which point conversation becomes impossible) you say: ‘So what's the bottom line?’” I knew the answers to both questions before I asked them. The response to the second question- the one I asked of the ISG guy - was "he didn't have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, but he could have reconstituted his programs in a matter of months." The response to the first question - the one posed to the reader - was "none." I knew that little vignette was a unique experience. It was a very real one, but in a way it was also surreal to begin my first Iraq tour having gained certain knowledge that the widely accepted reason for the invasion was a mistake. Had I believed that was the actual reason for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, or had I expected a different answer, I might have been pissed. As it was, I went on into Iraq and didn't say anything about that conversation until after the report was officially released. I had quite a blog scoop there, but I didn't reveal it. OPSEC, etc. (READ MORE)

Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid: Oh my… - The REMFS are gonna be pissed: ”American fast food joints are being shut down at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, where Gen. McChrystal’s ordered the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to shutter the Taco Bells, Burger Kings and other amenities.” I’m of two minds about this. I’m somewhat appalled by the luxuries that Fobbits have access to, so seeing them suffer warms my cold little heart. The Air Force folks on those bases are gonna go nuts. But, on the other hand, on the rare occasions that a grunt from the front line gets back to a major base, now he’s screwed and can’t even get a decent burger. (MORE)

Bill T:
Trees, Forest. Forest, Trees. - Mea culpa. For reasons I’ll explain in a bit… The segment of my normal walk-to-work route through the Iraqi compound is now a scale model of the Sea of Japan, courtesy of a week’s worth of continuous rain, so I took the Long Way ‘Round along what used to be a taxiway for MiG-21s. As I turned the corner, I spotted a convoy forming up about fifty meters ahead, with a couple of cammied, Up-Armored Hummers in the lead. From the green-brown-sand splotch-‘n’-blotch paint scheme, I knew they were Iraqi Army (for those of you who *might* be curious, I posted some pix in this post last year), so I walked a bit faster to see what was gonna happen. Because I *knew* what was gonna happen. Sure enough, a couple of school buses appeared, escorted by two Iraqi “technicals” – King Cab, stretched-bed F-150s with pintle-mounted RPKs on the roof and double bench-seats running lengthwise in the bed. The RPKs are for the gunners – the seats are for the QRF. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Gunman killed after shooting 2 Pentagon police - The gunman who shot two Pentagon police officers was heavily armed and spent weeks driving to the Capital area from the West Coast, authorities said Friday. Resentment of the U.S. government and suspicions over the 9/11 attacks have surfaced in writings by the Californian identified as the man fatally wounded in a hail of return fire. (READ MORE)

Experts confident in new USAMRIID lab, procedures - The Army failed to adequately characterize the risk its new Fort Detrick lab will pose on the surrounding community, the National Research Council reported Thursday. (READ MORE)

Murray 'deeply disturbed' at veteran suicides - Sen. Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat and long-time critic of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, took aim at the agency Wednesday for its counseling programs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues. (READ MORE)

Transportation companies return - About 170 Washington National Guard soldiers arrived home Tuesday from a yearlong mobilization, during which they hauled cargo to American military bases across Iraq. The soldiers from the 1161st Transportation Company and the 1041st Transportation Company arrived at Sea-Tac and Spokane airports, where they were met friends and family. (READ MORE)

PTSD as a murder defense again - Pardun's lawyer says the 29-year-old Army veteran will rely on the insanity defense in the killing of 59-year-old Stephen Thurston. He was, they say, being treated for PTSD. (READ MORE)

Pentagon Statement on Metro Entrance Shooting - A shooting incident has occurred at the Pentagon Metro Entrance this evening at approximately 6:40 p.m. EST. Two Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) officers were injured when an unknown suspect fired at them. (READ MORE)

Troops in Europe still waiting for access to social sites - More than a week after the Defense Department lifted its three-year ban on social media Web sites, U.S. troops in Europe are still waiting to gain access to sites such as Twitter and Facebook. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
Perks of Being in the Iraqi Parliament - With only two days left until Sunday’s parliamentary election, one might reasonably ask why anyone would be willing to endure public contempt and risk assassination to hold a seat on a body that even its own members say has done little to improve the country during the past few years. (READ MORE)

2010 Iraqi Elections: Early Voting - In early voting for Iraq's parliamentary elections, Iraqi security forces turned out to vote. But attacks near polling stations left the guardians themselves vulnerable as they cast their ballots... (READ MORE)

Ahead of the Vote, Views From Voters - In the holy city of Kufa, the streets were also festooned with campaign signs of every shape and size. Many of the candidates here are male clerics, but there are also a number of signs for female candidates, piously staring out at from beneath hijabs. (READ MORE)

UK's Brown faces questions over Iraq war - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday defended the decision to invade Iraq, testifying before an inquiry on the war that deposing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. (READ MORE)

Clean water for Ajael - Ever since I visited the tiny town of Ajael with soldiers of the Oregon National Guard in November, I have been haunted by the memory of the gray, bacterial-ridden sample pulled from the drainage ditch where villagers must get their drinking water. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraq Leaders Join Together to Provide Fresh Water to Aqur Quf - Civil affairs Soldiers and leaders from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, joined with the Iraqi Ministry of Water, Feb. 28, to celebrate the opening of a refurbished water filtration plant near the village of Aqur Quf. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces Is Ready: 4-9 'Manchus' Check Polling Sites in Election Preparation - A week before Iraqi elections, March 7, Soldiers from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted a presence patrol along the Kandahri marketplace near Abu Ghraib. (READ MORE)

Shaky Start for Iraq Vote - An Iraqi election to choose the country's next leader and help shape the U.S. role here for the next four years opened Thursday to deadly violence and fraud claims. (READ MORE)

Early Voting in Iraq Marred by Suicide Attacks - Suicide bombers have attacked two polling stations in Baghdad, killing at least seven soldiers, while an explosion near another voting place not yet in use took the lives of seven civilians. (READ MORE)

Suspicious and Angry, a Shiite Cleric’s Followers Await the Iraqi Vote - Sentiments seethed like the weather Thursday near the Kufa Mosque, terra sancta for the followers of Moktada al-Sadr. (READ MORE)

As Iraq election election begins, Sunnis decry signs of possible fraud - Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi security forces voted in early elections throughout Iraq today, as bombing attacks near polling stations killed at least 12 people and wounded 45. (READ MORE)

Clashes in Iraq's north underscore fierce political rivalry among Kurds - Anywhere else in Iraq, a shootout between political rivals that injured three people would have been unremarkable. (READ MORE)

Iraqi election violence may sway U.S. stay - Iraq faces the prospect of a protracted battle to form a new government after Sunday elections, including possible violence, that could complicate President Obama's plans to pull out nearly half the U.S. troops there by the end of August, diplomats and analysts say. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
Afghanistan war: NATO unfolds blueprint to rebuild Marjah - Long before Marjah was dragged from sleepy anonymity into one of NATO’s biggest offensives in its nine-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Western governance experts had begun drawing up the town’s future. (READ MORE)

Departing U.N. Envoy Urges Political Solution in Afghanistan - The departing head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, warned Thursday that if negative trends were not reversed, there would be little that could restore peace in the country, and he called for balancing the military strategy with political efforts. (READ MORE)

Departing U.N. envoy has strong words for Afghan government - The departing U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said Thursday that the nation's leaders must "clean up their own house" and warned that U.S.-led military operations must not jeopardize political efforts toward reconciliation with the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Marines face skepticism after taking Afghan town - U.S. forces who pushed the Taliban out of their main stronghold in Marjah, southern Afghanistan, have found residents there deeply skeptical of the Afghan government's promises to rebuild, a top U.S. commander said on Thursday. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Forces Kill 30 Militants in NW Tribal Region - Pakistani officials say security forces have killed at least 30 militants after more than 100 insurgents attacked a security checkpoint in a tribal region near the Afghan border. (READ MORE)

Pakistan: Another Taliban leader captured - Pakistani intelligence officials say have arrested another Afghan Taliban leader. The arrest of Agha Jan Mohtasim is the latest step in an apparent crackdown against a movement that has long enjoyed relative safe haven in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban Seen Using Infants As Human Shields - ISAF and Afghan forces have recently observed militants using infants as human shields during hostile acts against Afghan and international forces operating throughout Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

ISAF Issues Guidance on Night Raids in Afghanistan - Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force, today issued a new Tactical Directive providing guidance and intent for the conduct of night raids by all Coalition Forces operating in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, March 5 -An Afghan-international security force searched a compound south of the village of Chalghowi, in the Panjwa'I district of Kandahar province last night after intelligence information indicated militant activity. (READ MORE)

Troops kill 30 militants in Pakistan - At least 30 Taliban militants were killed by security forces Friday in Pakistan's restive tribal region near the Afghan border, a security official said. The authorities were trying to confirm reports that the deputy head of the Pakistani Taliban, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, was among those killed. (READ MORE)

Pakistan reveals the Taliban’s secret underground cave network - Pakistan's army on Tuesday revealed a vast Taliban and al-Qaeda hideout dug into mountains near the Afghan border. Commanders gave journalists a guided tour of the bastion... (READ MORE)

Holbrooke 'agnostic' over Pak's sudden change of policy against Taliban - Notwithstanding the recent surge in action against extremist commanders in Pakistan, President Obama's Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke has said he is "agnostic" about whether Islamabad has actually turned decisively against the Afghan Taliban. (READ MORE)

NATO chief pleads with Czechs to boost Afghan mission - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Prague on Friday to urge Czech politicians to send more troops to the alliance's training mission in Afghanistan, seen as key to ending NATO's presence in the war-torn country. (READ MORE)

US military questions Karzai’s steps on corruption - Afghan President Hamid Karzai must take “significant steps” to fight corruption, the US military’s top officer said on Wednesday, suggesting Washington was concerned inaction could undercut the campaign against the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Former Taliban finance minister arrested - Pakistan's intelligence agents have arrested a senior Afghan Taliban commander, officials said Thursday, the latest move in a crackdown against the insurgent network in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan town is reassured - One by one, the men of Marjah tentatively approached the high-ranking Afghan official with their complaints. One man accused U.S. Marines of insulting Afghan men by conducting intrusive searches. (READ MORE)

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