March 22, 2010

From the Front: 03/22/2010

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

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Final Details - PLEASE NOTE - The time Jonny is arriving to MacDill has been changed (from 1400 to 1316), please note below. The details are now set in stone. For those of you who would like to pay your respects, here they are: Cpl Jonathan D. Porto arrives home to St. Petersburg, FL on Monday 22 March 2010 @ 1316 ** He will be flying in to MacDill AFB and from there a processional will be held to Anderson-McQueen Family Life Tribute Center 2201 Dr. M. L. King Street North St. Petersburg FL 33704 A visitation period (wake) will be held Tuesday from 1700-2000 at Anderson-McQueen. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday 24 March at Bay Pines National Cemetery St. Petersburg, FL @ 1100. Processional will be held from Anderson-McQueen to Bay Pines, Anyone riding in processional should be ready to leave Anderson-McQueen at 1000. Thank you again for all of your continuing love, support, and prayers. (READ MORE)

The Gunner’s World: Anniversary - It has been 1 year since I have retired and stepped away from the Marine Corps but the memories remain. Today 19 March is the 7th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. I also did not think I would make another entry to this blog as the journey was complete. Although lately I have been reading a former member of my old unit’s blog on his experiences in Iraq. CWO2 Mike Fay is writing a book about his experiences and what it all meant to him. In reading his stories I can not help but relive my own odyssey of what is and was Iraq in full blown war. Having the luxury of time and now almost 2 and half years since I flew out of Fallujah in the ink black night of the Iraq experience I know now what impact it has left on me. Reading Gunner Fay's stories has me traveling back to my experiences of Iraq, although I always tried to keep this blog free of graphic details of a war time experience some remain with me. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Blessings from Deployment - Rex is safely back from his latest mission but too tired to write until tomorrow. So I am using the space to say thanks to some very special people. They are Keri-Anne Kolodiej and Christine Merry, students at the University of Tampa and leaders at UT’s Peace Center. In the last few weeks they have really rallied the students at UT to help with Rex’s school supplies drive and we can’t thank them enough. Keri-Anne has organized and recruited volunteers for our “packing parties” and Christine has recruited volunteers and collected donations; both have worked non-stop to get the UT drive up and running at full speed and it’s been very exciting to watch it all happen. Also, I have special thanks for Dr. David J. Bechtold, Assistant Professor at UT’s business program who specializes in leadership, corporate responsibility, and strategic planning. (READ MORE)

Army household 6: On his way… - Yep R&R is over and SGT Daddy is on his way back to “the Stan“. We really had a great time together.. did some shopping, ate out A LOT and just loved all being together. So now we are officially in the last phase of this deployment … Can I get an AMEN?? It’s hard to believe that 10 months ago we started this process, not knowing how the process would change us. It did change us — that’s for sure. We learned a lot about ourselves and what we want in our marriage and our life. I think even the girls learned a good lesson or too .. mostly not to take things for granted. To our friends that are just starting this deployment journey (you know who you are ) – My advice to you is simply take it day by day. Try not to think about how long it will be until you are physically together again. I know its hard but each of you can do it. Set milestones and when you reach them … reward yourself. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Karzai meets envoys of Taliban-linked insurgency - Pakistan's Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited CENTCOM in Tampa this weekend and heads to Washington this week for meetings with U.S. officials, causing some analysts to worry that Pakistan's military is gathering more power over its civilian government. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that Pakistan is preparing to unveil a set of "sweeping" reforms designed to remove powers from the presidency that had once been seized by military dictators. Under the new system, the prime minister, not the president, would be the most powerful figure in the government. On Saturday, a rare meeting of more than 700 tribal leaders met in Peshawar and demanded that the Pakistani Army do more to fight the Taliban in the troubled northwest. One tribal elder called for the Army to conduct a "genuine military operation like the Sri Lankans did against the Tamil Tigers." (READ MORE)

Army Live: When in Doubt, Go Up - Imagine climbing Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Now imagine doing it while recovering from wounds sustained from a roadside bomb in Iraq. This is exactly what Army Lt. Col. Marc Hoffmeister did and by overcoming his injuries and encouraging others to do the same, he was awarded National Geographic’s Reader’s Choice Adventurer of the Year Award. Hoffmeister organized “Operation Denali” and trained with a mountaineering team, which was comprised of three other Soldiers who were injured in Iraq: Army Spc. David Shebib, Marine Capt. Jon Kuniholm and retired Army Sgt. 1stClass Matthew Nyman. Hoffmeister was injured during his second deployment to Iraq in 2007. The Humvee he was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device and Hoffmeister lost significant use of his left arm. After receiving medical care at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash., Hoffmeister returned home to Fort Richardson, Alaska. (READ MORE)

C.J. CHIVERS: Marja Embed: Six Weeks in Helmand Province - After spending more than six weeks with the Marines and Afghan National Army in Helmand Province, Tyler Hicks and I left Afghanistan in early March. We plan to return a few times this year. Meanwhile, our colleagues will follow developments there, as Rod Nordland just did. But even as the conversation pitches forward, there are items from the opening of the Marja offensive that merit more attention. The limits of space in the newspaper, as well the shortages of electricity and time while on the ground, meant that material worth sharing at the outset never found an outlet. For these reasons, At War will offer a series of blog posts and at least two video segments made from footage of the offensive’s first days. The posts will examine the Taliban’s often-poor marksmanship, notwithstanding the unusual use of snipers in the recent fighting. (READ MORE)

SemperPapa: Iran Helping Taliban Kill Troops - It may come as a surprise, but the West now is realizing that Iran is helping the Taliban in its terrorist efforts against American troops in Afghanistan. The startling revelation was outlined in an interview that the Times Online conducted with two Taliban commanders who the reporters convinced to travel to Kabul to tell their story. According to the article, the Taliban terrorists traveled into Iran at the beginning of winter and there they were trained by Iranian plain clothes instructors in the art of ambushing NATO troops, the construction of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), planting of IEDs in series so to kill rescuers of victims of IEDs, and attacking checkpoints and bases. After the “news” became known, it is said that Western officials found the revelations “disturbing”, including the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Out Come the Long Knives - I have been waiting for this; At Afghan outpost, Marines gone rogue or leading the fight against counterinsurgency. It was a matter of time before the losers in Washington DC and Kabul took their bureaucratic infighting public by leaking to the press. You send in the Marines, ask them to do a job nobody else has been successful doing, and what do they get? A shank in the back. My contempt for FOB-bound bureaucrats knows no limit, but at least the reporter presented a fair, easily understood accounting of the debate. Not so for my boy Dexter “call it in” Filkins of the New York Times, which I will get to in a minute. Check out this quote from the WaPo article on the Marines: “‘We have better operational coherence with virtually all of our NATO allies than we have with the U.S. Marine Corps,’ said a senior Obama administration official involved in Afghanistan policy.” Are you kidding me? (READ MORE)

Corporal Dave Morrison, Information Coordinator, Royal Air Force Police: Medical Clinic - I am asked from time to time to attend local events in villages around Camp Bastion to help out with security and find out what concerns the locals may have. We have got a large event on, with a good crowd gathered to visit a medical clinic. I have to get to work straight away because some of the locals have arrived early. It’s a really good sign that so many people have showed up even before the security forces from the Afghan National Army and ISAF have pitched up; guess the radio works for local Afghan stations as well as BFBS does for us. Anyway it’s a case of setting up our cam netting and making a shady area to chat to locals in. Who wants to be talking outside in 33 degree if it can be helped? Since my Pashtun is pretty poor to say the least, I have Mohammad Ali the interpreter to help translate my conversations. Well he says his name is Mohammad Ali... (READ MORE)

Hellcat Betty: Guarding The Nation? - I'm not just any Army wife, I'm an Army National Guard wife. In the "old days" that would've meant that my husband wasn't as "badass" as active duty husbands, and that life wouldn't really be much different for me than for a civilian spouse. But my husband joined after 9-11, and since then, the Guard has become much more than "Weekend Warriors." My husband is currently on his 3rd year-long (the first two were more than a year) deployment to the Middle East. He has seen quite a bit of combat over those 3 years in the sandbox, and has more than earned his badass-ness. And quite frankly, so have I. It's interesting to think that Guard wives used to only deal with one drill weekend a month and 3 weeks of Annual Training a year. And maybe if they were unlucky, their husband had to go help with a national emergency for a couple months on the other side of the country. Well not any more. We ship our husbands off to war just like any active duty wife, and we fear the worst for our families too. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Mother thought hero soldier son worked in office - The mother of a soldier decorated for bravery in Afghanistan had thought he was working in an office until she found out he had won an honour second only to the Victoria Cross. This weekend it was announced that Lance Bombardier Gary Prout had been awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. He was one of more than 150 servicemen and women who were honoured. Prout risked his life three times in quick succession when his patrol was caught in a vicious firefight with the Taliban. Heather, his mother, said: “He kept it from me that he was actually on the front line ... He had already done one tour. I thought he worked in an office.” Prout, 27, from Lisburn, Co Antrim, won his medal for what the citation described as “the most incredible courage”. It added: “It was a miracle he was not killed.” A 30-man patrol had gone into an area known to be occupied by the Taliban south of Musa Qala in Helmand province on March 14 last year, with Prout taking up a position on top of a house. (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: Sunday is over :( - Another day in the fish bowl. Only had to work 8 hours today. The morning went as scheduled: wake up at 0830, gym from 0900-1000, nap, picked up lunch, at work by 1245. Work felt like a artificial field of manufactured panic. In spite of it all, I was productive and felt like I got some details for the coming week ironed out. Things constantly change and the next day or two are the only truly reliable days on a calendar. Tomorrow I get to escape work again for some more gym time. This seems to be working out pretty well. We have even identified two days a week where we can run in the morning. This is a good place to work on losing the jiggly! And as long as I don't bring food into my room then I just might succeed. Had a fun online chat with Kris tonight with Yahoo IM but with Skype webcam. Seems to be a good combo. My internet connection isn't that great for actually talking, but the webcam picture is pretty clear. It is so wonderful to see his cute face. It's hard to be apart from him. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Is Allawi Unqualified? - After counting 95 percent of the ballots, reports are that Ayad Allawi is ahead of Maliki by 11 thousand votes. This doesn't sit well with the State of Law team of Nouri Al Maliki. The prime minister and his team have called for a recount. The election commission and its international observers say there is no need for a recount. They also said they would announce the results this Friday. Naturally Maliki is unhappy. He is charging illegal activity took place during the count. The anti-Allawi people are so desperate that they've even suggested that he is not qualified to be prime minister. This story [Arabic] says Allawi is not fit to rule, based on the constitution, because his mother is Lebanese. Imagine bringing that up at this state in the game! You've got to admit that seems strange that nobody thought of it until now. I have not read the constitution and don't know whether it requires that a prime minister's parents both be Iraqi. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: NYT Really Has No Clue - Perhaps it's true. I do go on and on about how badly the media misread or misunderstand Iraq. Maybe I should stop. I'll stop as soon as the reporters stop misrepresenting Iraq. Until then, it's hard not to react. Look at today's NYT. Writer Anthony Shadid devotes an entire piece to the savage culture of Iraq. He calls the Iraqis who defied the terrorists to turn out to vote "cliche." Probably because they don't fit into his idea of Iraqis. He can't tie it up in a bow and present it to his readers. But what he says next is what? Not cliche? Not stereotype? Read this: "The roots of political violence run deep in Iraq, long a turbulent frontier between Romans and Persians, Ottomans and Safavids and, now, Americans and Iranians." I just love these reporters who show off after reading a couple of pamphlets. Suddenly they're experts. Get it, violence is in Iraqi blood. We don't know how to be anything but violent. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan - The US launched another airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban controlled-tribal agency of North Waziristan, the fourth in the region in six days. Unmanned US Predators and Reapers struck in the village of Inzar. Initial reports indicated that four terrorists were killed. “The targeted compound belongs to a relative of a militant commander,” a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. The commander was not identified, and no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed. The Taliban only began to recover bodies from the attack site after the circling Predators dispersed, indicating that a senior leader was not present. US strike aircraft have been circling over the attack site. In two of the last four strikes, US Predators targeted the Taliban during recovery operations. The Taliban have responded to the US attacks by liquidating anyone suspected of spying for the US and Pakistan. Four suspected "US spies" were slaughtered in Mir Ali in North Waziristan today. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Green Zone - My husband and I just went to see Green Zone. We hadn't heard much about it,and I am not much of a movie reviewer, but my advice is to stay away from this one! All through it I wondered what people of another generation would have thought, if anyone would have come out with a traitorous movie like this when our country was at war during WWII. They would have been shocked that anyone would cast our military and our nation in that light. Our military is made of professionals. This movie makes the special forces look like the bad guys, that soldiers would go off on their own tangents, and that the Iraqis are completely misunderstood. No matter you're politics this is a ridiculous and completely bogus movie. I heard they did not make enough to cover their costs. I hope they don't make another dime, and I'm sorry they got mine. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Military news? Just a tiny taste... - What’s going on in the military while everyone’s caught up in the healthcare bill watch? Well… The Marines are reactivating the former “Blue Devils,” a Joint Strike Fighter training squadron in April. The squadron will be keeping the skies friendly once again, after a retirement of 13 years with the new F35 Lightning II. And… The Army is attempting to help soldiers get mentally fit with a new resilience school at Fort Jackson. "We'll have Soldiers and civilians and family members who will be able to better deal with adversity, will be able to communicate better with their loved ones, will be able to instill resiliency in the folks they're charged with and will just be better. We will be a better fighting force by being a more resilient Army," said Col. Darryl Williams, deputy director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. Also… The Navy welcomed home the USS Comfort, which has been doling out aid and life-saving medical care to victims of the Haitian earthquake. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Memorial Service - We had a very moving memorial service today for one of our security force people. Robbie was a young Brit who spent 15 years in the Royal Marines. He was an accomplished triathlete, very sharp, a "by the book" team leader. He was also a husband and a father to three young children, one of whom he helped bring into the world just a few weeks ago. Robbie was killed last week by a roadside bomb while on a mission to a project site. Unfortunately, his is not the only hit that our security forces have taken recently while at, or en route to, project sites. A week prior to Robbie's death, a member of a different team to the north was killed by a sniper. A few days ago, two security guys lost their legs to another roadside bomb. That spate of incidents is extremely unusual. It's not uncommon now for us to go for weeks with little activity, and there have been surprisingly few injuries or deaths over the past year or so. It's easy to forget that we're still in a war zone. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Maybe a Rational CN Policy, At Last - Last week, I worried that the Marines in Helmand were going to get so obsessed with destroying the local opium crop that they’d wind up destroying any hope they have of securing victory. In at least one story, the Marines seemed determined to “stamp out” the opium trade in Marjeh, and were portrayed as reactive unsympathetically to farmers who complained they couldn’t make any money this year. Now the New York Times hints that they just might have their heads on straight. Even though they write it off as “turning a blind eye,” this is actually a very good thing: “From Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on down, the military’s position is clear: ‘U.S. forces no longer eradicate,’ as one NATO official put it. Opium is the main livelihood of 60 to 70 percent of the farmers in Marja, which was seized from Taliban rebels in a major offensive last month. American Marines occupying the area are under orders to leave the farmers’ fields alone.” (READ MORE)

Sarah: A Choice? - An update on my family: everything worked out swimmingly. My husband made it home from Afghanistan and ten days later I gave birth to a darling little girl. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect turn of events. But when we took her to her 48 hour well baby appointment, I heard words I've never before heard in the Army. The doctor asked us who our pediatrician is. We just stared at her blankly. I finally answered, "Um, whoever you assign us to?" She said our community has too many babies and is having open enrollment so that we could choose to go to any of the clinics on post or even off post. I was stunned. We had to choose something? We don't just get assigned? Am I through the looking glass? So then it became a rush, because our daughter needed a two week appointment. She needed to be enrolled in DEERS and Tricare and I needed to find a pediatrician in two weeks. The first two hectic and sleep-deprived weeks of having a new baby in the house! (READ MORE)

MaintToad1: Are you focused? - I had the opportunity to meet and chat with a very dear friend that has weathered the changes of being a milspouse with me -- as we're both guys married to active duty women. I asked -- if you could, what would you say to those in the blogosphere about -- milspouse life? Being the articulate, succinct, and totally understated kind of guy (unlike the Toad) he simply said: "Focus on controlling what you can. Don't try or spend the effort trying to change or work those issues beyond your control. Wastes time, wastes energy ... that could be spent on those things like family, friends and what many of us forget ... taking a bit of time to spend on ourselves." So while many of us are saddened that we couldn't be at Ft Hood for SpouseBUZZ Live this weekend, I know that I'm focused on what I CAN control and will plan on being at SBL in May '10. (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: Is The Afghan Detainee Scandal Dead In The Water? - The Globe is speculating that the detainee outrage is stalled, mainly because the special Parliamentary committee to Afghanistan has nothing new to report, other than testimony from Paul Champ that it’s taking too long for the documents pertaining to Canada’s involvement in former prisoner transfer to be reviewed by Justice Iacobucci. As John Ibbitson writes, starved of any new information, the opposition may be forced to either give up on it for now, or force the issue with a vote in Parliament. Neither opportunity is particularly appetizing, since neither plays into the political plans of the Liberals or NDP. The simple fact is that no matter how long it takes to review these documents, it doesn’t change the matter that this is about ancient history, and has nothing to do with the current arrangement in Afghanistan. Did Canadian Forces hand Afghan detainees over to local authorities in 2006 knowing they might be tortured? (READ MORE)

LTC Eric Holmes: Source Causes Revisited: Social Conditions vs Totalitarianism - I once met a gentleman who had recently lost his son in a car accident. At the time his son was playing football for a large university. Everywhere the man turned he saw his son’s number: on license plates, billboards, embedded in account numbers, in phone numbers , and in myriad other places. The man was convinced that seeing his son’s number was a divine message. Mathematically there is no difference in seeing "44" embedded in a string of numbers as there is in seeing "33," "53" or any other number. The number "44" was not appearing more often -- it was just that the man was seeing it because he was thinking about it. This same phenomenon happens elsewhere. As one studies root causes of conflict and instability indicators, one will find in recent literature searches several lists which all examine social issue grievances such as poor education, lack of jobs, shortage of food, inadequate electrical services, and lack of clean water. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: What is happening to my Afghanistan? - You know when I was in Afghanistan in 2006-2007, it was a war zone. People went there to go to war, expecting to be shot at and blown up, but hoping they got the other guy first. There were a lot of civilian contractors there and they performed very well from what I saw. Granted there were some that didn’t put as much skin in the game as others, but for the most part they were a combat multiplier or at least freed up military personnel to do other duties. Today Bagram is filled to capacity as the surge is still happening and forces are flooding into country, along with equipment to support them and equipment being pulled from Iraq and pushed into Afghanistan. All of these changes and logistics require contractors to assist and do things. It is just a necessary part of war in today’s time of a shrunken military. Well it appears that at least two civilian contractors have violated the military’s sacred trust, according to my sources. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Battlespace Control and Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan - In Reigning in SOF in Afghanistan I addressed the issue of General McChrystal having brought Special Operations Forces under his direct control in Afghanistan, or in other words, putting into place a structure that would ensure unity of command over all U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The ostensible reason given for this was continuing noncombatant casualties and the need to reduce them by making SOF accountable to someone directly inside Afghanistan. I demurred, rehearsing the idea once again that the attempt completely to end noncombatant casualties had contributed to the unnecessary deaths of U.S. servicemen. Pristine, riskless war is a preening moralists dream and a warrior’s nightmare. But I did support the idea of organizing all troops under a singular command structure. But this isn’t the end of the story, and it appears that the reason given for the reorganization is mere cover. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Lewis-McChord Ranger killed in Afghanistan - Sgt. Joel D. Clarkson, a 23-year-old Alaska native, died Wednesday after being injured by small-arms fire during a mission in Helmand province March 12. Clarkson was a member of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and was on his fifth overseas tour. (READ MORE)

Mustard gas exposure in eastern Oregon? - The U.S. Army's Umatilla Chemical Depot is investigating whether a worker was exposed to a mustard gas leak earlier this week, a spokesman said this morning. (READ MORE)

Under Panetta, a more aggressive CIA - The plan was a standard one in the CIA's war against extremists in Pakistan: The agency was using a Predator drone to monitor a residential compound; a Taliban leader was expected to arrive shortly; a CIA missile would kill him. (READ MORE)

Iraq and Afghanistan: America's invisible wars - Standing in Continental Square in this southern Pennsylvania town in the early 1940s, it wouldn't have taken long to divine the subject foremost in the minds of the citizenry. (READ MORE)

Social Media: Friend or Foe? - Over the years, servicemembers have found different ways to communicate with loved ones while deployed. From writing letters home, to telegraphing messages, communication remains vital to the morale and welfare of the warfighter. (READ MORE)

Protesters call for end to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan - Thousands of protesters — many directing their anger squarely at President Barack Obama — marched through the nation’s capital to urge immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
River Ritual in Baghdad - Hundreds of Sabean Mandaeans, who revere John the Baptist as a great prophet and teacher, celebrated the final day of their annual Festival of Creation on the banks of the River Tigris in Baghdad on Sunday. (READ MORE)

Jacoby saw progress during deployment - Iraq has made great progress in the past year with American combat troops withdrawing from cities and holding a successful election, but its gains could be derailed by both internal and external threats, the I Corps commander who served as the American military's second-in-command in Iraq until this month said. (READ MORE)

In Iraq, Even a Vote Hints at Violence - Near a sturdy hedge of pomegranate trees, interspersed with saplings of a citrus grove, a tribal sheik in the once-cauterized landscape of Anbar Province embraced the new in Iraq’s elections this month, with a vigilant, perhaps essential eye to the old. (READ MORE)

Iraq election front-runners court possible allies - With the complete results in Iraq's election just days away, there were signs Monday the two front runners were reaching out to other political parties, signaling the start of the jockeying to form the next ruling coalition. (READ MORE)

Prime minister warns of violence, but election board rejects call for recount - As new results from this month's election continued to show a neck-and-neck race, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday issued a strongly worded warning that without a nationwide recount, the country could descend into violence. (READ MORE)

Iraq’s Premier Endorses a Recount of the Vote - Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki endorsed the mounting calls for a recount of Iraq’s parliamentary election, as the latest results on Sunday showed his main competitor with a slight lead. (READ MORE)

Karzai Holds Talks with Taliban-Allied Insurgent Faction - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has held talks with one of the main insurgent groups fighting against his government and foreign troops. (READ MORE)

A Day at an Iraqi Iraqi Police Station - Many Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment Soldiers are getting an early education in law enforcement on a daily basis, Iraqi style. (READ MORE)

'It was like Zulu' - It became known as “the battle of Crossing Point One”. In a series of suicidal attacks late last year, hard-core Taliban fighters tried to over-run an isolated British base on the northern tip of Nad e’Ali. (READ MORE)

Afghan Commandos Reach Out in Parwan Province - The scene was a spectacle for the children: Afghan commandos – the same ones in their comics and coloring books – came to their village, Lagmani Kuna in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, in Afghan helicopters in a precise and organized fashion, March 18. (READ MORE)

A New Day for Afghanistan: ISAF, Afghanistan Celebrate Nowruz - Spring is here. The snow is melting, the trees are blooming and days are getting longer. And here in Afghanistan, spring marks the beginning of the Afghan New Year, Nowruz. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Airstrikes Kill 15, US Drones Kill 4 - Pakistani intelligence officials say airstrikes against Taliban positions in the northwest tribal regions have killed at least 19 militants. (READ MORE)

Bagram prison in Afghanistan may become the new Guantánamo - The American detention centre at Bagram in Afghanistan could be expanded into a Guantánamo-style prison for terrorist suspects detained around the world. (READ MORE)

Army Chief Driving Pakistan’s Agenda for Talks - In a sign of the mounting power of the army over the civilian government in Pakistan, the head of the military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, will be the dominant Pakistani participant in important meetings in Washington this week. (READ MORE)

U.S. may expand use of its prison in Afghanistan - The White House is considering whether to detain international terrorism suspects at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said, an option that would lead to another prison with the same purpose as Guantanamo Bay, which it has promised to close. (READ MORE)

Afghan poppy harvest is next challenge for U.S. Marines - U.S. Marine Sgt. Brad Vandehei stood on the edge of the small opium poppy field that serves as a central helicopter landing zone for the new military compound that's rising nearby. (READ MORE)

U.S. Turns a Blind Eye to Opium in Afghan Town - The effort to win over Afghans on former Taliban turf in Marja has put American and NATO commanders in the unusual position of arguing against opium eradication, pitting them against some Afghan officials who are pushing to destroy the harvest. (READ MORE)

13 die in Afghanistan amid calls for peace talks with insurgents - Thirteen Afghan civilians died in violence on Sunday as the nation's hard-line vice president expressed hopes for a peace deal with insurgents, and as representatives of a militant group with ties to the Taliban brought their own draft of a deal to the capital. (READ MORE)

Two Afghan Blasts Kill 12 - Afghan officials say a suicide bomber has killed ten people and wounded seven in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Karzai meets envoys of Taliban-linked group - President Hamid Karzai has met with representatives of a major Taliban-linked insurgent group in a step toward national reconciliation, presidential spokesmen said Monday. (READ MORE)

Taliban adjust, wage bomb attacks in Afghan town - Explosions rumble through this former Taliban stronghold three or four times a day _ an ominous sign that the insurgents have not given up despite losing control of this town to U.S. and Afghan forces about two weeks ago. (READ MORE)

Iranians train Taliban to use roadside bombs - TALIBAN commanders have revealed that hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill Nato forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, March 22 - An ISAF patrol found three 82mm mortar rounds in the Garm Ser District of Helmand province today. The mortars were destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team. (READ MORE)

Pak jockeying for influence in Afghanistan post US withdrawal dangerous for region - The exit of US troops from Afghanistan without a functioning democratic set-up in place, and Pakistan constantly vying for influence in the war-torn country, has all the ingredients of a recipe for disaster, the Daily Times opines. (READ MORE)

Karzai eyes Chinese investments to rebuild Afghanistan - In order to rebuild his war-torn country, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is set to seek Beijing's assistance in the form of Chinese investments during his visit to the communist nation this week. (READ MORE)

New Danish foreign minister on first visit to Afghanistan - Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, who took office a month ago after a cabinet reshuffle, arrived Monday in Afghanistan for talks with President Hamid Karzai and other officials. (READ MORE)

In Pakistan's Swat, Taliban instill fear after defeat - Kishwar Begum studied nursing until she apparently decided to take lives, not help save them. Her photograph appears on the front-page of a newspaper identifying her as a would-be suicide bomber... (READ MORE)

Iran's militant training camps "a drop in ocean" compared to Pak ones - Amidst reports that Iranian security officials are training Afghan militants to carry out terror attacks, it is being claimed there were only modest training camps in that country, which were "a drop in the ocean compared to what was going on in Pakistan". (READ MORE)

~~~Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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