March 17, 2010

From the Front: 03/17/2010

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

Home From Iraq:
Video from Iraq - The first half of this video and a few of the shots at the end are pictures I took in Iraq. My photos go from the beginning to where you see a video cameraman in a red shirt. (VIEW VIDEO)

270 Days in Afghanistan: Recce Patrol - Recently we had an opportunity to accompany the Recce Company on a combat patrol in the area around the camp. The Kandak (or Battalion) that we are assigned to mentor is a Combat Support Kandak. What this means is that we have the Field Artillery, Engineer, and Reconnaisance soldiers. Our role is to support the other Kandaks within the Brigade (which are mostly infantry or foot soldiers). Our Recce (Reconnaisance) Company is charged with conducting reconnaisance patrols within the area of operations in order to flush out any potential bad guys who might be hiding in the local villages. Their actual mission statement is a little more detailed than that, but for the obvious reasons I won't get into that here. Suffice it to say that these guys are probably some of the best Afghan troops we have on camp. What was special about this particular patrol was that it was the first time we were able to go out with the Recce guys since our mission started back in October of 2009. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: The littlest American Patriot - The other day I wrote a posting titled Ignorance is Bliss which has got a lot of attention. I have received several emails and comments on that posting. One of the emails I got was one of a American Patriot who sent me this picture of his grandson who is only six years old. This little guy has helped his grandpa send over 1000 boxes to troops overseas. Not only is he spending quality time with his Grandpa, he is also doing something productive with that time. He has more patriotism in that little pinky of his than many Americans I meet and interact with every day. This little man has my vote for The littlest American Patriot. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Post Office Doesn’t Like Me - Imagine it’s your first day on the job and you are responsible for picking up the mail and incoming packages for the camp. You visit the main post office and in a wooden bin they have a stack a mail of that hasn’t been picked up in awhile. Then you ask the question “Is there any other mail?” The clerk has this sheepish grin and leads you out back to a metal storage container. Inside the container, there are hundreds of boxes marked with your camp’s address. As you examine the boxes closer, you notice most of these boxes are marked for a SMSgt Rex Temple at your camp. You have never met this person and your vehicles don’t have enough spare room to haul all of these packages. This is what transpired recently with our new mail clerks. The old unit pulled out and a new unit replaced them. Their first phone call was back to the garrison commander or First Sergeant because they were shocked to see the massive amount of boxes waiting for pick-up and delivery to the camp. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: three drones in two days hit North Waziristan - The Telegraph has more details about the alleged talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and the captured second-in-command Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, writing that the meeting occurred in Spin Boldak in Kandahar province with at least one of Karzai's brothers. Yesterday in a video conference, Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama, who has not yet visited Afghanistan since his election, discussed reconciliation with militants in the country. Two burqa-clad would-be suicide bombers were shot dead by the security guards of a charity they were attempting to attack in the provincial capital of Helmand, Lashkar Gah, earlier this morning. Helmand is at the heart of Afghanistan's lucrative poppy belt, troubling the recent coalition offensive in Marjah, which came at an inopportune time for Afghan poppy farmers. (READ MORE)

Headhunter: Swift, Silent, and Deadly - If you see or hear us before doom comes on you we are either giving you a chance to surrender or screwing up. Just because you don’t see or hear anything DOES NOT mean that nothing is happening. With this news media the best news you can hear is deafening silence. That means that the job is getting done without friendly or civilian casualties. They won’t tell you about the dead bad guys or successful operations like the LIONESS PROGRAM where WOMEN MARINES contribute to the overall success. That program has gotten little or no press because it empowers Muslim women giving them a voice through AMERICAN Woman WARRIORS. In Iraq this resulted in the taming of Al Anbar and crazy sounding things like the Cows for Widows program and cooperation of Wisconson Dairy Companies in Iraq. Never heard of any of that? Imagine that. Turn off March madness and maybe you’ll get a clue. (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: Army Gets Rid of Worthless Bayonet Training - I realized that I complain far too much about the Army that I love. I hate those kind of guys. So when the Army gets it right, I want to get out front and applaud. This is one of those times. If we were issuing bayonets to soldiers on patrol today in the Army, it would be different. We got them in Iraq and they went right back into carrier in which they came. Therefore the training is worthless at the Basic Training level, especially in an era where young men are soon deploying into combat. Time is precious in Infantry school and most bayonet work can be covered in one day of Sergeant’s Time, hip pocket training. The knives that most soldiers carry are much more adaptive to the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh I always hear about the Ka-Bar. Look, the Ka-Bar is great. I know how most Marines swear by it. The reality is that if you get close enough to use a Tanto blade, the size of it makes it cumbersome as it can be potentially deadly. (READ MORE)

the semi-normal, day-to-day life of a female marine: Pregnancies in War - A Number - Finally, some numbers! Not complete, but something. From Stars and Stripes: Only 19 percent of medical evacuations in Mideast battle-related. These numbers cover the time between October 2001 to September 2009. There were a total of 52,283 medical evacuations from combat zones and only 248 of them were for "pregnancy and childbirth". In other words, of all the medical evacuations since 2001, only .474% of them were for pregnant women. POINT 4. Less than half of one percent. That is unbelievably small. Now, yes, they said that not all pregnancies were considered medical evacuations so clearly there were more than 248. But still. Even if there were two or three times that, it's STILL a miniscule number. It's not the epidemic some people would lead you to believe. And it's basically the least of your worries when it comes to soldiers being sent home early from a war zone. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Family Care Plan to Expand - I wanted to share some of the changes to the family care plan policy that defense officials plan to release soon. Some of these changes may affect you. I spoke with Army Col. Shawn Shumake, director of the Pentagon’s office of legal policy, last week to get the latest information. Family care plans are used to ensure dependents are cared for while the servicemember is away for an extended period of time, whether it’s for training, a deployment or a remote assignment, Shumake told me. The document includes everything from designation of temporary guardianship to arrangements for financial and logistical support, including relocation and medical care. The new policy will require military parents with custody of children from a previous relationship to file a family care plan, he said. The requirement already is in place for dual-military couples and single parents with custody. (READ MORE)

Corporal Simon Smith, D Company, 1 Royal Welsh: Good Start to Operation Moshtarak - I am a multiple commander with 10 platoon, D company. My working pattern currently finds me located in the main company Patrol Base (PB) doing two days guard followed by two days patrolling. Our patrols have ranged from a company sized operation of 70 Afghan National Army plus 40 ISAF soldiers to multiple sized patrols (a multiple is 12) for security. For the first 14 days I had a platoon that was composed of 15 ISAF and 15 ANA living in a single, small compound. This was a huge learning experience as we were two different cultures in a very small compound and there was just the one interpreter enabling us to talk to each other. We used that compound to mount joint patrols in the area. Whilst on patrol we look to reassure the locals that we are here to provide security. We seek out projects that will improve the area and yesterday we took books to a mosque that teaches 100 children. Today we will focus on route clearance. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: British forces train Afghan Police in finer points of policing - Every day the police of Musa Qal'ah lead combined patrols with British soldiers through the town's bazaar and out to the remote patrol bases manned by their colleagues in the desert and the Green Zone. The Afghan National Police (ANP) rely on their local knowledge of the area, their relationship with the community, and their keen sense to notice what is abnormal. While British soldiers patrolling with them carry equipment to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the ANP can often give an indication of potential sites so that the British troops can set to work confirming the deadly presence of an IED. But this is not all the ANP do. Now, in an atmosphere of growing stability in Musa Qal'ah, the ANP are adopting more conventional policing skills. (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: While the memory foam relaxes... - I got home at a much MORE reasonable hour tonight. Today was better - perhaps I got it out of my system last night. Laughed at the Aide de Camp (AdC) for most of the day. He had reached the point of complete silliness and had me rolling. Something about an interview with someone who may or may not have an Irish accent. Got a letter from hubby... :) So, so sweet. I took a moment right then and there to read it. The calendar can wait. It was such a pleasant surprise. I'm all in favor emails and online writing (can you tell?) but there's nothing like having a physical piece of paper from the one you love. He had to take the time to write it and mail it. I love and appreciate the meaning in this! Went home and had full intentions of making my bed up to be really cozy and comfy. I opened up the box that Kris sent me which had memory foam and the instructions said it takes 24 hours for the stuff to "relax"! I should have known better. Even the foam gets to relax for a whole day. Not me... (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Mookie Triumphs? - Many times in recent years journalists have blurred the lines between covering the news entertaining readers. I noticed this especially with the mainstream newspapers' coverage of Iraq. One example comes to mind. A woman working for WaPo I think called Ellen Knickmeyer reported that more and more people are converting to Shiite path of Islam. The story was based on nothing and has proved to be nonsense. Today, an NYT reporter has an equally entertaining story about how well Moktada Al Sadr has done in the March 7 elections. The writer says Moktada's followers are emerging as the most powerful. And that their success "underscores a striking trend in Iraqi politics: a collapse in support for many former exiles who collaborated with the United States after the 2003 invasion." Honestly people, what collapse? If everyone else is reporting that the tight race is between Maliki and Allawi, both of whom lived in exile for ages during the Baathist era, what collapse in support for former exiles is he talking about? (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: How Nonsense Becomes Truth - Today the NYT gives us a good example of how a bit of nonsense becomes a fact or a truth when it has absolutely nothing to do with reality. Despite the fairly decent turnout of Iraqi voters, perhaps half of whom voted for Maliki and the other half for Allawi, the NYT reporter has declared that Iraqis voted along sectarian lines. He put is this way: "people still voted along the lines of identity." What? Well, he decided that Shiites voted for Maliki and Sunnis voted for Allawi. That's how he sees it. Iraqis, however, see it differently. One province, in the south voted for the Shiite Alliance. So we can agree that the Shiites in Misan voted along sectarian lines. Also the northern regions voted for the Kurdish alliance. But what about Allawi? The man is a secular Shiite. Does the NYT mean to tell us that all the secular Shiites voted for Allawi? All the pious Shiites voted for the Shiite Alliance, and all the pious Sunnis voted for the head-dress wearing Harith Al Dhari? (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Memorial Watching On Facebook - I think the memorials for fallen soldiers posted on Facebook and YouTube or sent to me via email are done with so much love and dignity. I try to look at most of them, but some do slip by. I think anyone who works in health care can relate to what I'm going to say next. Part of having a surgical practice is to see all aspects of human life --from making someone healthy, ushering them into treatment for cancer or other chronic conditions, and lastly, dealing with the prospect of death. You never get used to it, and you try not to think about the prospect. You hope every lab report is negative, and when they're not, you lose a little part of yourself that day. The patient will be coming in, and the news will be grim. There's going to be some kind of long journey they'll have to take, and everyone hopes for a cure. We didn't lose many, but those that passed were ones we'd gotten to know for awhile. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US kills eight terrorists in two new airstrikes in North Waziristan - The US launched two new airstrikes in Pakistan's Taliban controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, just one day after killing 11 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in a strike in the same region. Unmanned US Predators and Reapers struck in the villages of Hamzoni and Datta Khel today, killing eight Taliban fighters. In the first strike, the US aircraft fired five missiles at two vehicles transporting "militants" in the village of Hamzoni, Gen News reported. Five fighters were reported killed in the attack. In the second strike, US aircraft fired two missiles at a compound in Datta Khel. Three terrorists were killed in the attack. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in either attack at this time. Both strikes took place in regions administered by North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: So, Its been a crazy two months without my love - I've been learning how everything will break as soon as he leaves the country. Luckily, we live in an apartment that's really awesome and understanding so i can get maintenance to come and help me out. This whole experience, although only two months in, has been so different than what I thought it would be. I'm so busy that time is going by so fast. My friends and family have stepped up to help much more than I thought. They've been awesome ! When I'm not working or doing school, I am either on the phone with family or out with friends. They don't give me a moment to sit and think, which is nice because thinking does me no good anymore. Thank God for skype, magicjack, and facebook ! Without them, I would lose all my hair. I am able to actually see him (whenever he's on base that is) and know that he's okay. Its incredible. I've become a regular at the post office, so they know what I'm there for and help a poor girl fill out the stupid customs form when i can't remember where to put random parts of his address. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Three years later: they still 'do' - The house was filled to overflowing with buckets of sweetly-scented flowers as one newly dubbed ‘mother-of-the-groom’ checked boxes of tulle, hanging dress clothes and a lengthy to-do list for the umpteenth time. That was three years ago. That period of time was quite daunting; Daniel had sprung joining the Marines, going to boot camp, moving away, getting engaged, planning a wedding--on his completely unprepared mother. Luckily, he was prepared. How young couples navigate their way through the ups and downs of military life is quite beyond me. Training, separation, deployments, moving locations would test the bonds of any union. As they exchanged vows on the windy beach, tourists snapped photos and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade wound past the wedding party as my son and his new bride began their life together. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 17 Mar 10 - HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY to everyone .. if anyone goes out to party tonight they better have a drink for me …anyhoo… FOB life is getting kinda boring can only ride 4-wheelers and shoot weapons so much before it gets to be same ol same ol…don’t get me wrong I still like it here way better than BAF, but I think I am just over the whole thing… ready to get back to civilization…and that is coming up…told out air guy to schedule me for a flight back to BAF…I’ll still be there a couple weeks or so, but it’s one step closer and I can start mailing things home and start packing up…also, the new guys should be getting herearound the first of April, so I’ll be running them around getting them gear they need, training they need, and try to get them on flights to where ever they need to go…Kandahar or FOBs or whatever.. plus, I’ll be getting all my guys back from the FOBs and trying to work flights out of here…I’m really really excited to be leaving… (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Hurry Up and Wait - “Our job is to sit on our thumbs,” said Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ahrens, from the 56th Rescue Squadron, deployed to Bagram from Lakenheath, England with their HH-60G helicopters. While some missions, especially transferring patients, are pre-planned, most are on call. When someone gets hurt anywhere in eastern Afghanistan, the choppers fly out and retrieve them. Rescue pilots work in 12-hour shifts. For much of any shift, everyone just kills time with paperwork, movies, video games or radio-controlled toys, pictured. Then the call comes in, someone blows an air horn and everyone leaps to work. On March 16, the horn blew. An Afghan man had lost a hand in an accident — perhaps building an Improvised Explosive Device, ironically enough. Enemy or not, he needed medical attention, fast. We raced to the choppers. Their twin engines whined as they spun up. I strapped on my armor, jammed my helmet on my head and lifted my arms to let the gunner hook a huge nylon strap around my chest. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Why I'm switching to Gmail for all my work needs... - It’s no understatement to say that the military’s public information technology systems are atrocious, sacrificing utility in the name of security. Take, for example, “Virtual Family Readiness Group” (vFRGs)—an Army-sponsored network designed to connect families of deployed service members with their Soldiers. The sign-up process for vFRGs requires so many forms of authentication—to include the last four digits of a service member’s social security number and a follow-up phone call—that many families don’t even bother to sign up. Those who actually do sign up for these sites are limited to a small number of close family members, normally in close contact with a Soldier to begin with. As a result, many units have forgone the official vFRGs and create sites on Facebook, which offers easy access to pictures, video, and upcoming events. Facebook also reaches a larger audience, including extended family members, friends, local media, and community leaders. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Mission Accomplished: Astroturfing Baghdad - Lots of strange press releases land in my inbox, but the first line of this one stood out: “The world leader in artificial turf is proud to announce that the first artificial turf sports field in Iraq for the U.S. Government has been installed at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” That’s right, FieldTurf, which makes artificial turf for sports fields, has added the famous “Crusader Castle” on the Tigris to its long list of projects completed for the U.S. government. The massive embassy complex — also known as “Fortress America“ – is home to the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world. It’s supposed to house around 1,200 diplomats and staff: more than enough for a kickball league. While many details of the $736 million embassy’s design are secret — it’s supposed to be self-sustaining, and hardened to withstand indirect fire attacks — we now have at least a few more details about their sporting facilities. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Reigning in SOF in Afghanistan - Spencer Ackerman seems to support McChrystal’s consolidation of forces into one chain of command because of the need to protect the population as the center of gravity of the campaign. I do not. To be clear, I do not support the consolidation of forces into one chain of command for the reason that the population is the center of gravity (see Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in COIN). I do indeed support the consolidation of forces. Ending the silly high value target campaign (capturing mid-level Taliban commanders, only to release them 96 hours later) won’t end unintended noncombatant casualties. The attempt to completely end noncombatant casualties has already contributed to unnecessary deaths of U.S. troops. I support the consolidation of forces because SOF shouldn’t be operating out of the chain of command. If there is a direct action raid and a father or a son is killed in the middle of the night... (READ MORE)

Blog Them Out of the Stone Age: Losing Sergeant X - A long time ago, when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell became a law, I supported the idea. I was a new infantry company commander at that time, and generally speaking I was opposed to openly serving gays in the military, but not for the reasons one might stereotypically expect. I thought it would cost too much, in time and money. I would need to spend time teaching my men not to be bigots, and I would need to spend time and the Army would need to spend money on prosecuting idiots who acted on their bigotry, and since time is finite, that was time, and money, I could not therefore spend training for war. It was also moderately conceivable that we would need modifications to our barracks in order to accommodate different gender perspectives. I considered all of this distraction from my main mission: preparing men to fight and win our nation’s wars. Then I lost Sergeant X. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Pentagon confirms Lewis-McChord soldier's death - The latest Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier killed overseas overcame drug addiction during her teenage years and later served in the Air Force and Army before dying from mortar fire on her first deployment. (READ MORE)

Army Suicides Grow, but This Soldier Was Saved - On a dusty afternoon in a squalid U.S. Army base in eastern Baghdad, the world seemed to cave in on Spec. Joe Sanders. On daily patrols, soldiers around him were being killed and grievously wounded by improvised roadside bombs. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Secular Candidate Takes Lead in Iraqi Election - A secular Iraqi coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has pulled ahead of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in partial results from March 7 parliamentary elections. (READ MORE)

Followers of Sadr Emerge Stronger After Iraq Elections - The followers of Moktada al-Sadr, a radical cleric who led the Shiite insurgency against the American occupation, have emerged as Iraq’s equivalent of Lazarus in elections last week, defying ritual predictions of their demise and now threatening to realign the nation’s balance of power. (READ MORE)

Ayad Allawi takes a narrow lead over Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq election - Ayad Allawi, the former Iraqi Prime Minister, took a narrow lead last night in parliamentary elections that seem set to herald months of political deadlock. (READ MORE)

With most Iraq election votes counted, Iyad Allawi closer to Prime Minister Maliki - Iraq’s embattled election commission announced Tuesday that 79 percent of the votes from parliamentary elections have been counted, a breakthrough for a process so slow that it’s raised suspicions of fraud. The close race got even closer as secular rival, Iyad Allawi, edged nearer to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s coalition. (READ MORE)

Iraq PM and main rival in tight election battle - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his main rival Iyad Allawi were locked in a tight election battle Wednesday, with updated results showing their blocs neck-and-neck in the race for parliament. (READ MORE)

Nouri al-Maliki accuses Iraqi election panel of manipulating results - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki saw his political coalition's lead in Iraq's parliamentary elections slip Tuesday. He charged that the national electoral commission was manipulating results and demanded a recount in Baghdad, home to the nation's largest group of voters. (READ MORE)

Iraq bomb attacks kill at least eight people - Eight people have been killed and 11 injured by two bombs in the central Iraqi town of Musayyab, police say. The bombs were detonated within five minutes of each other on the main road in the town in Babil province, 60km (40 miles) south of the capital, Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Under Fire, Reporters Befriend Afghan Frog - Stuart Webb, a cameraman for Britain’s Channel 4 News embedded with British troops in Afghanistan, filed a video blog post on Tuesday that showed how he and a colleague, Alex Thomson, attempted to keep their cool while pinned down in a stream during a firefight – by making friends with a frog. (READ MORE)

Dicks' take on Afghanistan - I’m working on a story about the future (and past and present) of the Stryker program. So yesterday I talked to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks the Belfair Democrat now presiding over the House defense appropriations subcommittee. (The subcommittee oversees the Pentagon's $600 billion annual budget.) (READ MORE)

Joint Patrols Discover Large Quantities of Drugs in Farah Province - Joint Afghan-ISAF patrols discovered two significant drug caches in the Bakwah District of Farah province yesterday. The first cache contained 17 kilograms (37 lbs.) of morphine, 500kg (1,102 lbs.) of opium, 100kg (220 lbs.) of soda ash, 300 litres (66 gallons) of ammonium hydroxide... (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, March 17 - An Afghan-international security force conducted a search and detained one insurgent near Sar Banader in the Garmsir District of Helmand province today after intelligence information indicated militant activity. (READ MORE)

New Building Number System Benefits Nawa Citizens, Afghan Government - Usually tagging a wall with spray paint is grounds for punishment, but for Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, it's all in a day's work in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Says It Enacted Law to Pardon War Crimes - Afghanistan confirmed for the first time publicly on Tuesday that it had enacted into law a blanket pardon for war crimes and human rights abuses that took place before 2001. (READ MORE)

General Stanley McChrystal reins in special forces after raids kill civilians - The commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan has issued new rules to rein in special forces after a spate of botched operations left scores of civilians dead. (READ MORE)

U.S. fights trainer shortage, illiteracy in Afghanistan - Roughly 2,000 contractors are working to train the Afghan army, about the same as the number of military personnel doing the job, according to a senior U.S. military official, who cited a shortage of available service members. (READ MORE)

Success in Afghanistan Achievable, Petraeus Says - Though considerable challenges remain in Afghanistan, success there is achievable and important, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here today. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus also noted progress in Iraq during testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. (READ MORE)

Karzai and Obama discuss Taliban peace talks - Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President Barack Obama have spoken via a video conferencing line over future prospects of peace with the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Karzai a powerless president, says Mulla Salam - The Afghan Taliban commander whose defection to the government three years ago was hailed as a major development in Taliban-dominated Helmand province has now regretted his decision and termed Hamid Karzai as a powerless president. (READ MORE)

Congress Questions Blackwater's Service in Afghanistan - Hundreds of pages of documents demanded months ago from the defense corporation formerly known as Blackwater were still flowing into Senate Armed Services Committee offices on the eve of a hearing on private military contractors, according to committee investigators. (READ MORE)

Afghan reconciliation process must respect constitutional order, Ban says - Cautioning against a militarization of the overall effort towards greater peace and democracy in Afghanistan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says there is growing consensus for a political process to end the conflict, as well as for the establishment of a programme to reintegrate low- and mid-level insurgents who wish to give up fighting. (READ MORE)

Centcom Looks Beyond Iraq, Afghanistan, Petraeus Says - While the United States draws down in Iraq and builds up in Afghanistan, “we must not lose sight of our other challenges” in the Middle East, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here today. (READ MORE)

Success in Afghanistan Achievable, Petraeus Says - Though considerable challenges remain in Afghanistan, success there is achievable and important, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here today. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus also noted progress in Iraq during testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. (READ MORE)

NATO to oversee most troops in Afghanistan - A major reorganization of allied forces in Afghanistan will centralize both American and other foreign troops under the direct command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. and NATO commander in the theater. (READ MORE)

Deadly gas tank explosion hits Afghan passengers - At least 32 Afghan passengers were killed when several gas tanks in a small truck exploded in a mountain pass in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a provincial official said. (READ MORE)

Two Afghan suicide attackers shot dead - Two suicide attackers dressed in burkas were shot dead today as they attempted to enter the compound of a US-linked aid organisation in a southern Afghan town, officials said. (READ MORE)

Dozens killed in bus accident in Afghan mountains - A bus plunged off a mountain road in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountains Wednesday, catching fire and leaving as many as 35 people dead, though authorities were still pulling burned bodies from the wreckage. (READ MORE)

Militants gun down gov't official in S Afghanistan - Militants fighting Afghan government, in the latest violent attack shot dead a local official in southern Ghazni province, police said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

U.S. to end 96-hour rule for Afghan detainees - A controversial policy that gives U.S. forces in Afghanistan four days to question detainees is being changed to give soldiers more time to interrogate the captives, Gen. David Petraeus said Tuesday. (READ MORE)

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