March 18, 2010

From the Front: 03/18/2010

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

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: food and water distribution - I’m not saying that everything’s fine. I’m just happily noting that in a week of looking, we didn’t find mad crowds frantically pushing and clawing in desperation or snatching boxes and sacks from old women as they walked away. I even saw people standing “more or less” in a single line at distribution sites. Note how the big yellow bladder full of water is both full of water and does not have a million people trying to get water. So like I said, it’s not that everything is honkey dorey, but it seems the initial frantic responders can take a breath. (MORE)

al Sahwa: Is It the Tribes? Someone Just Tell Me Already. - Another interesting article pertaining to the relative strength of Afghan tribes is up at SWJ titled, “The Tea Fallacy”. The author, Michael Miklaucic highlights a couple of points that definitely have some validity. 1. Locals know sooner or later we're leaving Afghanistan. That has to weigh heavily on a person sitting on the proverbial fence. Looking back at historic references, it would be interesting to determine what counterinsurgent nation political entities were telling their constituencies. Were they telling their populace the same thing Americans are being told, out in 2 years? Did the folks at home during the many COIN conflicts over the last two centuries even care or truly understand (by and large) what was going on? Would it have been different if communications and media were the same as they are now? (READ MORE)

TIM ARANGO: ‘The Hurt Locker’ Through a Baghdad Lens - It was Election Day in Iraq and Oscar night in America. It was my sixth day in Baghdad, and like many of the soldiers I was with, it was my first hitch here. In my kinetic anxiety to understand the place before I came — an impossible task, I now know — I read many books and watched one movie. Several weeks before I came I saw “The Hurt Locker” at an artsy cinema in Greenwich Village, assured by the buzz surrounding the film that it was as accurate as one could get in a celluloid portrayal of America’s war in Iraq. And it delivered — with its cinematic style it created an aura of documentary and the illusion of realism. It took one day embedded with a unit of soldiers from Delta Company, of the Third Infantry Division’s First Brigade, for my impression of the film to pivot 180 degrees. Beyond the brash, cowboy persona of the main character — if a soldier embodied that he would likely get everyone killed his first day, or if not, severely reprimanded and ostracized — it was the many little things the movie got wrong that struck me. (READ MORE)

Headhunter: Understanding Your US Military - It’s past time to explain some things. I give the following general over view to most of my family and friends, to try and help them get a grasp on the big picture of the military, amidst the often confusing and disconnected bits and pieces, thrown around the public sphere. Part of the problem is that there is no required course in high school or college that familiarizes the general public with their armed forces. Most people are left to fend for themselves when trying to make any sense of the military news or popular conversations. So you might find yourself FUBAR (F’d up Beyond All Recognition) when trying to explain, understand, or argue about anything GI (Government Issue). He’s my attempt to help folks understand the big picture in broad strokes. Feel free to print this out and pass it around as widely as you can or want. The first and primary duty of government is to provide for the common defense. Read that sentence over again….slowly, I’ll wait. (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: Army Officer takes control of life through high quality bedding - Another day - unremarkable like the day before it. More flailing about and trying to catch up and keep up. The more people around me get flustered, speak in half sentences, curse at a phone that has been ringing steadily because the person at the other end isn't there to answer it, I merely feel the urge to sit very still. I like to think that if remain calm, make no movements, and hunker down in computer defilade, that the panic won't spill over onto me. This chaotic environment is born out of a genuine desire, of at least 20 high ranking officers with Type A personality disorder, to do their job perfectly. Problem is, no one, even those at or near the top, are quite sure what the right answer is. What they ARE sure about is what they don't want. It's common during the first couple months of assuming a new mission from another unit. It's "settling in", and everyone is working like crazy to create a reality that works well for this specific organization. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraq Will Not Fall Apart - Throughout the past seven years, Iraqis have suprised both westerners and easterners with their resilience. The Iraqi people also have defied the terrorists who tried to scare the population away from democracy. And Iraqis have proven all the so-called experts wrong on pretty much everything regarding Iraq. The outsider view of Iraq is that it is crumbling. There is a deep sectarian divide that is difficult to heal, according to outsiders. Experts for hire declare: "It could get really nasty," says Joost Hilterman of ICG. "I'm utterly unconvinced that the Iraqi institutions are strong enough to withstand that kind of conflict." Of course he would say something negative, he has been arguing against Iraq all along. He can't believe Iraqis can get along because he would not longer have an act. He and others have built entire careers on the idea that Iraq is a failure. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Key al Qaeda operative killed in US strike in North Waziristan - The US killed a key al Qaeda operative involved in the network's external operations during an airstrike last week in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, who is also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni, was killed during the March 10 airstrike in the town of Miramshah, according to a statement released on a jihadist forum. The March 10 airstrike was carried out by unmanned US attack aircraft and targeted two terrorist compounds in the middle of a bazaar in the town. Six Haqqani Network and al Qaeda operatives were reported killed. Three other al Qaeda operatives, identified as Abu Jameelah al Kuwaiti Hamed al Aazimi, who served with slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi; Abu Zahra al Maghrebi; and Akramah al Bunjabi al Pakistani, were killed with Hussami, according to a translation of the martyrdom statement released on March 12 by Abu Abdulrahman al Qahtani, who is said to be based in Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 18 Mar 10 - went out on an early morning mission today … headed out to a drop zone so we could pick up some pallets that were dropped out of the back of a C-130…got up about 0400 to get cleaned up and get some chow…got all my gear loaded up in the truck, and checked everything out…made sure the truck was running fine, commo checks, weapons checks, etc…had some coffee and hung around for a bit till it was time to roll out …as we were loading up the Capt. says “hey, this is all flat desert, so you can’t flip the truck this trip”… hahhaaa, very funny–I replied “oh, I bet I can if I try” …no, I didn’t flip the truck or get stuck in a ditch or anything …altho when we got to the area we pulled off the main path to set up a secure perimeter and the sand was super soft…had to put her in all-wheel-drive…we picked out spot and positioned the truck so we could see everything around us and the gunner had good 360 coverage…then we sat, and sat, and sat some more…we saw some stray dogs running around... (READ MORE)

Strategy Page: Iraq: Now, It's All About Revenge - March 18, 2010: With about 80 percent of the votes counted, president Maliki's coalition and the pro-Iranian Sadr group both got about 18 percent of the vote. The Kurds and Sunni Arabs both got a similar percentage. The only change from last election is that the Sunni Arabs turned out in force this time, and that Sadr got more votes (bought and paid for by Iran, and Iraqis disgusted by the corruption in the government.) But the Sadr voters were also those who hated the Sunni Arabs the most. Thus it appears Maliki has a good chance of rebuilding his current governing coalition. The vote also showed the Shia Arab majority split between secular and religious blocks. Most Shia are secular, but some of them vote religious because of the promises to fight the corruption. But most Iraqis Shia note that three decades of religious rule in neighboring Iran has not done much for diminishing corruption over there. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Handling Marjeh’s Poppy & Other Concerns - Two weeks ago, I wrote in the New York Times: “Good government will matter little, though, if the local economy is in a shambles. Marja’s agricultural base relies primarily on opium, and any new counternarcotics policies will wreak havoc; arresting or killing the drug traffickers will ultimately be the same as attacking local farmers. The timing of the offensive could not be more damaging: opium is planted in the winter and harvested in the spring, which means those who planted last year cannot recoup their investment.” Behold: “The swift American-led military offensive that drove the Taliban from power in this southern Afghan farm belt came at an inopportune time for the area’s poppy farmers. That’s created a quandary for Marjah’s new, U.S.-backed leaders and for the American military as they try to transform this sweltering river valley, whose biggest cash crop is opium poppy, into a tranquil breadbasket.” Unfortunately, the Marines are refusing to compensate farmers for any damage they cause to their poppy fields. (READ MORE)

Anand Gopal: The Battle for Marjah - It was late November, 2001, and the Taliban were on the run everywhere in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance had captured Kabul and much of the rest of the country; only parts of the southwest—including the province of Helmand, remained in the Taliban's hands. In Marjah, a quiet market town near the Helmand desert, the dying Taliban were making a last stand against a local tribal commander named Abdur Rahman Jan. The battle lasted for nearly two days, and many reinforcements came from the surrounding areas. But the Taliban, beleaguered around the country and bereft of public support, soon succumbed; Jan's force overran Marjah and the Taliban fled in disgrace. Jan went on to become Helmand's police chief under the new government of Hamid Karzai. His close friend Sher Muhammad Akhundzada, a strongman with deep pockets and roots in the area, became the governor. The two quickly populated the seats of local government with their friends, family members and those from their tribe. (READ MORE)

Andi: The (Not-So) Incredible Shrinking Woman - Want to know how to shrink more than five feet in a mere instant? Get upset with your deployed husband for not getting back to you on an urgent matter only to find out a week later that your blasted email server hid some email from you. That's how! When my husband is deployed, I leave him alone when it comes to certain decisions that need to be made, administrative issues, etc. Unless someone is dying or the house burned to the ground, I just don't see the need to bother him with things he can't do anything about, or hasn't got the time to focus on. I realize we're all different and some couples share everything during a deployment, but this method works well for us. Last week, an urgent matter arose. I emailed my husband that nobody was dying, I didn't want to alarm him, but I needed to talk with him as soon as possible when he had the time. If my husband calls, it's generally late at night, so I was basically asking him to call earlier if he could. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: In Tyee: If It's An Afghanistan Scandal You Want... - As you might imagine by its name, the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan is supposed to provide advice to the House of Commons on Canada's role in Afghanistan. But there is a problem. The MPs who dominate the committee say the committee's job is actually not to provide advice to the House of Commons on the pressing matter of Canada's role in Afghanistan. I am not trying to be funny. The committee has 12 members drawn equally from government and opposition benches, which is one reason why it's gotten nowhere since it was established in March 2008. The committee was handed a specific mandate to travel to Afghanistan and to neighbouring countries and to issue frequent recommendations on how Canada is doing and what Canada could do better. The committee has done none of these things. Think about that for a moment. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: A River Ran through It - Well, not a river exactly. But 30 years ago, the valley surrounding the city of Bagram was lush from east to west, Afghans say. Today, you can stand at the NATO airbase adjacent to Bagram, look west and see green fields, look east and see nothing but parched, red earth. Afghans say the air base, built by the Russians decades ago, is to blame. The facility’s acres of concrete and steel have disrupted the natural flow of water across the valley. What was once rich grape country is now nearly lifeless. In the town of Usbashi, just outside the airbase gate, one farmer said two-thirds of his 1,500 grape trees died. On March 11, members of the new Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team, composed of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians, visited Usbashi to put the finishing touches on a plan for a 1.8-million-gallon-a-day irrigation project. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: AKO Rehab - Yesterday’s tirade against Army Knowledge Online’s (AKO) personal security questions briefly touches upon a much larger issue concerning the US military’s information technology systems. Time and time again, I find myself turning to commercial applications instead of military-designed programs for productivity. In 2005, I took part in the massive relief effort in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. When I couldn’t get detailed maps of New Orleans with the US military’s Falcon View program, I turned to Google Earth, which offered 3-D imagery of New Orleans taken just hours after the hurricane struck. Google Earth has been so popular among aviators that a C-17 pilot, “Reach 364”, created an application which linked the military’s flight planning software with Google Earth. More recently, I’ve turned to Facebook to keep my friends and family abreast of my escapades. In doing so, I’ve forgone the Army’s official “Virtual Family Readiness Groups”, which require families to jump through so many authentication hurdles that many simply give up on registering. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Outsourced Intel in Afghanistan - When is intelligence really intelligence, and when is it merely “atmospherics”? It may sound abstract, but it goes to the heart of a New York Times scoop about a defense official who apparently set up an off-the-books intelligence operation in Afghanistan. On Monday, the Times ran a story about Michael Furlong, the Defense Department official being investigated over an ad hoc spy ring. The piece raised more questions than it answered, and Washington Post intelligence columnist David Ignatius is now filling in some of the blanks. In a column today, Ignatius distills the story. “Under the heading of ‘information operations’ or ‘force protection,’ he writes, “the military has launched intelligence activities that, were they conducted by the CIA, might require a presidential finding and notification of Congress. And by using contractors who operate ‘outside the wire’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the military has gotten information that is sometimes better than what the CIA is offering.” (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Army's new 'Husky' - a support vehicle with bite - The first batch of the Army’s ‘go anywhere’ armoured support vehicles has been rolled out to front line troops in Afghanistan. The seven tonne, £600k, ‘Husky’ uses the latest technology and smart design to protect troops from roadside bombs, rockets and small arms fire. It is equipped with a a machine gun. Bought from US firm Navistar Defence, as part of a £120m contract; the first 123 vehicles have been fitted with specialist technology and pushed out to front line units for immediate use. The Husky is designed to undertake a range of tasks including acting as a command vehicle, using its one tonne payload to transport essential supplies, and a variant will be used as a highly protected ambulance. It will replace the Pinzergauer and Vector vehicles which are being phased out. WO1 Colin Goodrich, who is responsible for introducing all new vehicles into Afghanistan said: “This is going to make a huge impact on the guys on the ground. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: drone said to kill Qaeda figure involved in CIA bombing - A U.S. drone strike last week in Miram Shah, the administrative center of the restive northwestern Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan, reportedly killed a top 20 al-Qaeda commander involved in providing explosives for the December 30, 2009 suicide bombing at a CIA base in Khost. Hussein al-Yemeni was described as a "rising star" in al-Qaeda, and reportedly acted as a liaison with a host of other militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Haqqani network, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. According to New America research, al-Yemeni is the seventh key militant figure to be killed this year in drone strikes in Pakistan. Joby Warrick and Peter Finn have today's must-read about al-Yemeni's death and the effects of the CIA's program of drone strikes, writing that CIA director Leon Panetta said a recently intercepted message from one of al-Qaeda's lieutenants was pleading with Osama bin Laden to "come to the group's rescue and provide some leadership". (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Wanat Officers Issued Career-Ending Reprimands - Regarding the Battle of Wanat that has received so much attention here at TCJ, it appears as if the field grade officers involved in the planning and decision-making for the outpost have been issued career-ending reprimands. “Myer, along with two of his superior officers who were not at the battle, have received career-ending letters of reprimand for failing to prepare adequate defenses in the days leading up to the attack. Forty-nine Americans and 24 Afghan soldiers had been ordered to set up the outpost deep in enemy territory. It was July of 2008, and according to Sgt. David Dzwick, they were short of not just troops, but basic necessities.” I am no fan of witch hunts, and in general I think such things are destructive of any organization which implements such tactics. Furthermore, we must allow our military to be a learning institution, and if errors cannot be silently addressed, then intransigence will win the day. Yet … the failures at Wanat are severe. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: The Lost City of Marjah - "For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War," writes Gareth Porter of the recent Marjah campaign in Afghanistan. That statement has some truth to it, but as far as followings go, Olympic Women's Curling probably drew a bigger crowd. And while much of the coverage of the Marjah campaign was outstanding, with many embedded reporters providing details from on-scene, much more of it (no doubt produced with TV ratings in mind) was just awful. For Porter all that meant maybe, just maybe, he could write a story like this one, and people would believe it. "It turns out, however, that the picture of Marja presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict." It's a great conspiracy theory... (READ MORE)

Bill T: AAR, Part Three: Odyssey and Oddity. B'gorrah. - Since I once promised not to relate any Irish jokes here because it wouldn’t be fair (John can only retaliate with “old” jokes, and I already have the lock on those), and I have to contribute *something* to keep from gaining the reputation as a slacker. Now, for those – okay, both – of you who have been on tenterhooks wondering if I got back in one piece from my Winter Vacation – I did. For those of you who have been waiting to find out how I managed to do it, pull up a cuppa and relax... Getting *out* of Iraq was interesting, but not really worth mentioning, since the UH-60s didn’t drop us off at a FOB 10 miles from where we were *supposed* to be, like the CH-47s did to the *first* group that left (no, they weren’t HF6’s boys). Getting back *in* was an adventure. We couldn’t ingress through the same route we used to egress because the insurance underwriter had a nervous breakdown at the thought of eight of us trekking south from Kurdistan via Iraqi taxicab. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Friends remember fallen soldier, family man - Sgt. Anthony A. Paci was a dedicated soldier, a veteran of two wars and a lover of fast cars. But, friends said, above all things Paci was proud to be the father of three children and shared his dreams of a big family. (READ MORE)

More Dwell Time Coming in 2011, Army Vice Chief Says - Soldiers should find themselves spending twice as much time at home station as they do deployed by 2011, the Army's vice chief of staff said on Capitol Hill yesterday. (READ MORE)

National Guard (In Federal Status) And Reserve Activated as of March 16, 2010 - This week the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force announced a decrease in activated reservists, while the Coast Guard announced an increase. The Army had no change. The net collective result is 51 fewer reservists activated than last week. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Nearing deployment's end - Part of the 41st Brigade peeled off Sunday to Kuwait to begin training its replacements. Three convoy escort teams from Task Force Volunteer will train the arriving soldiers on convoy security tactics and procedures. One step closer to Oregon for these units. (READ MORE)

Tehran aiding al Qaeda links, Petraeus says - Iran is assisting al Qaeda by facilitating links between senior terrorist leaders and affiliate groups, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East told Congress on Tuesday. (READ MORE)

Iraq's Slow Vote Count Leads to Disputes - A new frontrunner has emerged in the ongoing vote tally from Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections. But as the cross-sectarian coalition of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi pulls slightly ahead of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bloc, complaints about vote-counting irregularities increase. (READ MORE)

Iraqi leader al-Maliki reclaims vote lead - The man who has led Iraq for the past four years is battling for his political survival just as U.S. troops are getting ready to pack up and go home. (READ MORE)

Iraq's election adds to sectarian divide - With more than 80% of the votes tallied in Iraq's parliamentary elections and the race still neck and neck, hopes that the country might move beyond its deep Shiite-Sunni divide appear to be fading in a stew of sectarian politics. (READ MORE)

Iraqi election accentuates country's deep divides - The emerging results from last week's parliamentary elections have made clear that Iraq remains a dangerously polarized nation, with deep regional and sectarian schisms that could widen as the U.S. military draws down. (READ MORE)

Spartan Soldier Creates CHU Fit for a King - If a man's home is his castle, then a Soldier's containerized housing unit, must be his sanctuary, his personal oasis, within the hustle and bustle of military life in Iraq. (READ MORE)

When the CIA's intelligence-gathering isn't enough - The headline read like something you might see in the conspiracy-minded Pakistani press: "Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants." (READ MORE)

A Small Victory in Afghanistan - Last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the district of Now Zad in Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand Province. To many, it probably didn’t seem like significant news. (READ MORE)

Drone Strikes Kill 10 in Pakistan - Pakistani security officials say U.S. drone strikes have killed at least 10 militants in North Waziristan -- the second such round of attacks in two days. (READ MORE)

Militant linked to attack on CIA killed - A senior Al Qaeda operative being hunted in the December bombing of a U.S. base used by the CIA in Afghanistan was among those killed in a missile strike in Pakistan's tribal area, U.S. officials said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Drone Strike Said to Kill a Leader of Al Qaeda - A strike by an unmanned drone last week killed a senior commander of Al Qaeda who had played a significant role in planning the killing of Central Intelligence Agency operatives in late December at a base in Afghanistan, according to American officials. (READ MORE)

NATO Seeks More Trainers for Afghan Forces - The NATO training mission in Afghanistan needs more trainers to build a high-quality Afghan military institution, the deputy commander of the training effort said yesterday. (READ MORE)

Tehran accused of arming Taleban with weapons and explosives - The Iranian Government has been accused by Afghan and Western officials of delivering tonnes of weaponry to the Taleban, including plastic explosives, mortars, grenades and technical manuals. (READ MORE)

Soaring IED attacks in Afghanistan stymie U.S. counteroffensive - Taliban fighters more than doubled the number of homemade bombs they used against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan last year, relying on explosives that are often far more primitive than the ones used in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Taliban retaliates to counter U.S. in Afghanistan - A month after losing control of its southern base in Marjah, the Taliban has begun to fight back, launching a campaign of assassination and intimidation to frighten people from supporting the U.S. and its Afghan allies. (READ MORE)

Taliban Hit Back in Marja With a Campaign of Intimidation - The Taliban have begun waging a campaign of intimidation in Marja that some local Afghan leaders worry has jeopardized the success of an American-led offensive there meant as an early test of a revised military approach in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

McChrystal Reports on Progress in Afghanistan - The commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan said today he is pleased with the progress in the country so far while acknowledging that much more needs to be done. (READ MORE)

McChrystal: Kandahar Operation Has Begun - The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, says efforts to reassert Afghan government control in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar have already begun, and will continue for many months with both military and political activities. (READ MORE)

CIA director says secret attacks in Pakistan have hobbled al-Qaeda - Aggressive attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal region have driven Osama bin Laden and his top deputies deeper into hiding and disrupted their ability to plan sophisticated operations, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

U.S. commander says bringing bin Laden to justice remains goal - Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Wednesday that the military would "certainly" try to capture Osama bin Laden alive and "bring him to justice" -- contradicting remarks by a top Obama administration official. (READ MORE)

5 Americans Held in Pakistan Plead Not Guilty to Terrorism Charges - Five young American Muslims detained in Pakistan in December on suspicion of seeking to join jihadists in Afghanistan were formally charged Wednesday, in a case that added to fears that Westerners might increasingly be turning to Islamist-inspired terrorism. (READ MORE)

Course Trains Afghan National Army Soldiers, Develops Leaders - After four days of classes, discussions and training, Afghan national army troops from the 2nd and 6th Kandak, ANA 201st Corps, graduated from the senior leaders course that was conducted by 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, at Forward Operating Base Airborne in Afghanistan's Logar province, March 4. (READ MORE)

Gen. McChrystal Reports on Progress in Afghanistan - The commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan said today, March 17, he is pleased with the progress in the country so far while acknowledging that much more needs to be done. (READ MORE)

ISAF Forces Help Refurbish Schools in Musa Qal'ah - As Musa Qal'ah begins to stabilise, local children are getting the chance of an education thanks to the British forces' Military Stabilisation Support Team (MSST) who have been helping refurbish schools in and around the town. (READ MORE)

Afghan Law Students Graduate in Kabul - More than 80 Stage program students graduated March 17 during the first annual Stage ceremony held at Kabul University. Stage, which began in May 2009, is a 9-month program conducted at the Independent National Legal Training Center. (READ MORE)

Bazaar Flourishes After Nine Months of Closure - Just outside of Combat Outpost Sharp, in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, there sits the Zan Zier bazaar. What was just months ago completely abandoned, is now home to 66 different shops that provide the Mian Poshteh area with goods. (READ MORE)

New Hospital Opens in Herat - The Herat Department of Health along with the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team opened a new hospital in the Gazar Gah District yesterday. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, March 18 - An Afghan-international security force searched a compound in the village of Pasab, in the Zharay District of Kandahar province, last night after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the joint force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning. (READ MORE)

US troops leave Afghan border to "crook" - One of the most important trade routes in Asia was closed last week while a boyish-looking man everyone calls "the general" showed around the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Militancy, conflicts claim over 100 lives last week in Afghanistan - Continued militancy and conflicts have claimed more than 100 people's lives with overwhelming of them non-combatants over the past week in the insurgency-plagued Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Aid agency pans NATO Afghanistan plan - An international aid agency is rejecting the NATO secretary-general's call for non-government organisations (NGOs) to work alongside military forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Australia 'playing its part' in Afghan surge - Defence Minister John Faulkner says Australian troops will be involved in the next phase of a major operation against the Taliban in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Diggers face Afghan 'challenge' as Dutch withdraw - AUSTRALIAN forces in Afghanistan are facing a major challenge in Afghanistan as Dutch forces withdraw, taking with them their hospital and other key support elements. (READ MORE)

Clumsy Afghan suicide bomber blows himself up - A suicide-bomber in southern Afghanistan blew himself up while putting on a vest of explosives, an official said. The explosion occurred in a house in Gereshk town in Helmand province Wednesday night. (READ MORE)

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

Afghan troops discover huge weapon cache - Afghan forces pursuing Taliban militants discovered a huge weapon cache in western Herat province, a press release of the Defense Ministry said Thursday. (READ MORE)

Cross posted to Castle Argghhh!

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