March 29, 2010

From the Front: 03/29/2010

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

Knottie's Niche:
Dear Pres. Bush…. - I was not going to post this but decided maybe I should. It is a letter to Former Pres. George W Bush. Dear Pres. Bush, I’ve put off writing this letter for two years but two events this week have made me see that I truly need share my words. One was walking into the middle of an anti-war protest; the other was receiving a beautiful gift that honored my Fallen son. Thank you. Thank you for being a strong Commander and Chief of this nation. My son, Spc Micheal Phillips served under you and respected you a great deal. On 24 Feb 08 he was killed in the line of duty in Iraq. I will not go into the details as they are not necessary nor what I want to share with you. You see I choose to celebrate my son’s life and the man he was and the gifts (his brothers in arms being the most precious of those gifts) he left behind for me. I honor him not by mourning but by taking care of his brothers in arms still serving, their families and those who come home, especially our wounded. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: A Visit to an All-Girls School - Judging by the picture, it appears to be a nondescript worn out tent previously donated by UNICEF several years ago. The tent has holes in its roof and the cloth sides are badly deteriorating held together by dry-rotting rope attached to a metal pipe frame. But upon closer inspection, I witnessed a flurry of activity occurring inside this raggedy structure. This tent was one of several I have seen today. Due to lack of space inside the adjacent concrete structures, they serve as outdoor classrooms for the attending students. What made today’s mission special is that all of these school students are girls! I have waited all year for this unique opportunity and today it finally came to fruition. To be able to deliver my school supplies and defy the Taliban who violently oppose female education was a bitter sweet moment. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Winding Down - Shortly approaching 11 months of deployment, we are starting to wind down. In fact, we received notice our tours may be cut short by a couple of weeks. The mission we had has changed and the Army is implementing the partnership concept. This means they will work much closer with the ANA counterparts and they will be able to shift from non-kinetic to kinetic. But the primary focus will be on kinetic operations and hunting down the insurgents. Except under this concept, coalition forces will be side by side with the ANA counterparts and engaged in operations. For most Air Force personnel, we are not allowed to actively engage in kinetic operations and this is why we were assigned logistical missions and mentoring. Because of this change, our mission will end and soon we will return home to our loved ones. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: View From A Gunner’s Turret - It has been awhile since I have crawled up in the gunner’s turret and took on the responsibility of a gunner. On today’s mission, this was my position. Admittedly, I don’t favor being a gunner because of my height and size (and age) because it’s very demanding and your team relies on your keen sense of sight and hearing to protect the convoy. But our regular gunners were all tasked with mentoring the soldiers on shooting NATO M-16 rifles, leaving three AF qualified crew serve weapon operators for the mission. So I agreed to strap on the binding gunner’s harness and be perched up in the turret for a day. Being in the turret is a much different experience than being completely surrounded by thick bullet-proof glass and bulky armor. It allows the gunner to view into the hidden mud-brick walled compounds and a chance to experience the various sights and scenes of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Escalation of Force - I have written on this topic many times before; most of you have by now seen this article from the New York Times: Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints. Here are the first two paragraphs: “American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, according to military officials in Kabul. ‘We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,’ said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.” As usual the reporting or at least the title is deceptive. There may be Afghans shot at checkpoints but that seems to be a very rare occurrence. Most of these shootings occur in escalation of force incidents involving rear vehicle turret gunners. (READ MORE)

Family Matter's Blog: Blogger Combats ‘Working Mom’s Guilt’ - My 6-year-old son timidly approached me the other night with a very particular look on his face; the one that usually indicates he did something wrong and a confession is forthcoming. “I have to make a teepee by tomorrow,” he told me. Not what I wanted to hear at 8 p.m. on a Monday night. I considered ignoring the fact that he had a project and letting him learn a lesson by going to first grade empty-handed. But the more I thought about it, the more familiar that project sounded. I had a sneaking suspicion it may have been listed on one of the many papers the school sends home that I skim and then relegate to the trash in my after-work haste to get dinner started. In any case, I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and get the project done. It was pieced together with Popsicle sticks and a trash bag, and I felt a bit bad about it, but at least he went to school with teepee in hand. (READ MORE)

Lieutenant Mark Lewis, 10 Platoon Commander, D Company, 1 Royal Welsh: Loy Aderha - I am a platoon commander for D company and am currently based with company headquarters in a compound in Loy Aderha. We have been there since the start of Operation Moshtarak. Our first two weeks here consisted of meeting and greeting the locals we met on patrols and explaining that we are in the area in order to provide enduring security as part of combined force operations. With us in Loy Adehra we have 1 Company from 1/3/201 Kandak of the Afghan National Army (ANA) with their French mentors and 50 Afghan National Police (ANP). We also held shuras at our compound led by the ANA. This work paid off with people gaining the confidence to tend their fields and attend at the twice weekly bazaar; we had over 1,000 people turn up at the last bazaar. However, during this last week insurgent activity has started to pick up. Firstly we had a failed IED strike on one of the main routes through the village. (READ MORE)

Colour Sergeant Johns: Non Kinetic Effects Team - I am part of the D Company Non Kinetic Effects Team, 1 Royal Welsh. I am attached to D company and have been based with their HQ element since Operation Moshtarak started in the western Babaji area. During Operation Moshtarak I have been working alongside WO2 Anthony MacGann who is a member of the Military Stabilisation and Support Team (MSST). Our roles vary from providing support to the local population and aiding with reconstruction to dealing with Psychological Operations (Psy Ops) which makes use of the sound commander (a form of loud speaker). On the ground I may use the sound commander to let the local population know of upcoming shuras, to encourage people to meet their District Community Council representative, to let them know we can provide emergency medical treatment and to advertise for skilled workers in order to employ them in local reconstruction and development projects. (READ MORE)

Colour Sergeant Damo Hudson, Forward Air Controller (FAC), D Company, 1 Royal Welsh: CAS/ISTAR - I have been the FAC for D company, 1 Royal Welsh since the start of their tour. My role is to advise the company commander on the assets available for Close Air Support (CAS). I also direct Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets to where he requires them and interpret the images that are relayed back to me via the downlink. In addition, I guide the helicopters in to helicopter landing sites (HLSs) when the company is being resupplied or we have people leaving or joining us. This morning I woke up and checked what air (ISTAR or CAS assets) I had been allocated. The company commander then gave me my tasks for the day. Today, I am looking for signs or movement that would indicate IED placements on one of the roads going into the village. So I settled at my desk in the ops room, hoping for a quiet day. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqis Look Ahead - It's fun to read what the self-proclaimed experts have to say about the Iraqi elections. One such example, of course, is Juan Cole of the University of Michigan. The professor describes Ayad Allawi's supporters as being Sunni Baathists. Yes, says the man who has never been to Iraq says the "backbone" of Allawi's constituents are the Sunni Baathists. How he imagined this nonsense is not nearly as interesting as the newspapers and the televisions that choose to ask him to comment on Iraq. Why does he call Allawi supporters Baathists? Sure Allawi was a member of the party when he was in his 20s, but he long ago quit the party and was attacked physically by Baathists. They even killed his brother when they mistook the man for Ayad Allawi. Cole writes, "[t]he big question now in Iraqi politics is whether the new government will look like the sectarian Shiite coalition with the Kurds in 2005, or more like the national unity government forged in summer, 2006..." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Day After - The rain continues today with the happiness that people feel about Allawi's win. Everyone had grown tired of Maliki's government. Sure he did good things for a while, but he turned out to be sectarian, which is something Iraqis don't want. When I read the western papers online, I get the impression that war is around the corner. I also love WaPo's description of the situation as "the country's fledgling political system." Why is WaPo afraid to say democracy? We might as well all pack up and leave the Iraq that is about to burst into hellish flames. That's the outsider view. Here people are optimistic. It's true that Maliki is acting like a sore loser. But in all fairness he says he will challenge the results in court. He didn't say he would take up arms. And of course people worry about al-Qaeda who made it clear they don't care who wins, they plan to keep killing Iraqis. And people fear Moktada Al Sadr's Jaish al Mahdi and its offshoot Asa'b ahl al Haq. They are likey to keep up their wicked deeds. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Better reflectors 101 - As the news-media seems to have noticed recently, Fablabbers in Jalalabad have been designing and making their own reflectors out of bits and pieces they can pick up cheap, putting reflectors together for less that $3 US. This week brought two more such reflectors online. As you can see, the design is starting to take on a more clearly defined shape and bill of materials. The hole punching in the reflective surface is both functional and artistic, as the holes reduce the wind load on the installation: Since the Fablabbers are usually reading along, I thought I'd dedicate a post to what makes a good reflector and some nifty ways to make a little bit go a lot farther. I preface this little tutorial with the statement, "I am not an RF engineer" (I am neither a whiz at physics nor a practitioner of voodoo, one of which is usually required for good RF engineers), but I do know a couple of things about making reflectors that are worth sharing. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Westboro Baptist.. You Know the Ones Who Picket Military Funerals - Ok I have despised Westboro Baptist Church for years. anyone who can find glee in the death of a soldier or Marine is just sick in my humble opinion. They have the right to protest and to their opinions but there is a time and a place for everything and funerals are not it. For many years I stated that giving these jerks no coverage is the quickest way to shut them up since to me they are little more than attention whores. But there is a young man by the name of Jason Connell who has come up with a very positive way of striking back at these scums. Please watch this video and then if the Westboro jerks show up near you Implement his plan. If by chance they show up at a funeral then please be respectful of the family but find a way to do as Jason suggest. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi terror group frees US hostage - An Iranian-backed Shia terror group has freed a US hostage who was kidnapped in late January. Issa T. Salomi, a US civilian contractor who was kidnapped in Baghdad, was freed by the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, on March 25. The news of Salomi's release was not disclosed until late on March 27. A spokesman for the League of the Righteous claimed Salomi was freed as part of a prisoner swap with the US military. '[He was freed in return for the] release of several of our leaders who were in US and Iraqi custody," a spokesman told AFP. "Salomi is in good health and he was not hurt during the captivity period." The US military has not commented on Salomi's release, nor would it disclose if any leaders or members of the League of the Righteous have been freed in exchange for Salomi's freedom. The League of the Righteous had previously demanded that the Iraqi government release all members of the League and "bring the proper justice and the proper punishment to those members of Blackwater..." (READ MORE)

Last of Iraqis: Alawi, now's the test, how will you do? - Wow, what's happening? Facebook went crazy! everyone (well almost everyone) is having a status in one way or another congratulating Iraqis for the winning of Alawi, some added "Bye Bye Iran" or something similar, some posted some really funny videos making fun of Maliki and how Alawi won, I can say 80% of my friends on Facebook are so happy for the winning of Alawi, as for me I can say I have hope and feeling sort of victorious. Being so far away from my homeland made me a bit isolated, difficulty in getting the media sources I used to use, big difference in time zones makes it a bit hard to communicate with my friends in Iraq but I try my best to keep us with everything going on there...."there" where I used to live, laugh, cry and suffer. In Adhamiya, the streets were filled with people celebrating the victory of the Iraqi list (333) of Dr.Ayad Alawi till after midnight, the man whom most moderate Iraqis sees hope in him since he's secular, hits with a fist of steel and the security situation in his time was the best since 2003. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Local Marine, Matt Troyer, is making us proud! - “It is the Marine Corps’ policy to officially recognize meritorious achievement and superlative performance… Commensurate with a Marine’s grade and time in service, it is also recommended to periodically single out individual Marines whose performance of duty and standards of proficiency exceed that generally expected of all Marines.” That, from a memo written by the Commanding General of the Marine Corps in 2006, is an outline of the standards for nominating a Marine for the title, “Marine of the Quarter.” Local Marine Mom, Traci Troyer, must be glowing with maternal pride! Her son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Troyer, a combat photographer with a Regimental Combat team, was recently awarded this honor. The Marine who attended Lakewood Ranch High sure is making his family pleased. I’m positive our community is proud and thankful for his service as well. Congratulations, Matthew! (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: To Paint a Picture of a Country - What an experience. While I was thrilled to be back in a country I grew to love when I was a missionary there (1999-2001), I was of course shocked and saddened by the new horrific state of the infrastructure of Haiti. Dilapidation and lack of sanitation were normal part of the nation before the earthquake of 12 January-- but to see whole buildings collapsed on every block of Carrefour and Port-au-Prince, is something hard to describe and emotionally beyond comprehension. Yet the Haitian people are a strong and resolute people, and they were very similarly disposed in attitude as they were when I was there before in their normal devastating poverty...! I mean, on the outside they were almost back to normal a month beyond the quake-- though on the inside I'm sure they all have bigger demons to deal with now. The Marines were there to provide security, and it seemed on the ground that they were very welcome. (READ MORE)

Texas Music: K-Max and Rusafa - Big part of the Boss's job involves the prisons and detention facilities in Iraq. Most, almost all either have been or are being turned over to the Iraqi government, like we did in Taji last week. The U.S. is working it's way out of the detainee business, but it's not an overnight process. We spent a couple of days earlier this week visiting two Iraqi prisons. They both predate the invasion, so I can only imagine the horrific things that have gone on there.I don't like jails or prisons. Depressing places. The first one we went to is called K-Max. It's a maximum security facility in the northern Baghdad suburb called Khadimiya. It's a prison for death penalty convicts and prisoners with life sentences. In fact, it's where they executed Saddam a few years back, and more recently, Chemical Ali and other former regime guys. The second is in a suburb called al Rasufa. It's a prison for both convicted and pretrial detainees. (READ MORE)

this is our life...: God Bless America - When I landed back in America today I felt great pride in the fact that I live in this land that has been so blessed over the years. While we are fighting over the who should pay for health care here, the Afghans are just trying to get to the point where fewer than 50% of their children die during labor. As you look around, you can see power lines, highways, parking lots, and all kinds of other infrastructure that we take for granted every day. This is the result of decades of progress and trillions of dollars, but that does not seem to falter some of us who work in Afghanistan in our attempts to bring them out of the middle ages to the 21st century. I've heard it said that if you really want to appreciate what you have in America, go live in a 3rd world country for a while. Afghanistan is probably the perfect place for this. Not only is the infrastructure decades behind because of war and lack of progress, but the government institutions we take for granted every day are struggling to take hold. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Emirati in Afghanistan - The news came as a surprise to most people. In 2008, the BBC revealed that the United Arab Emirates had maintained a small military presence in Afghanistan for five years. The UAE troops worked alongside U.S. and NATO soldiers and helped bridge the religious divide. “At first I thought these were American soldiers and I wanted them to leave,” an Afghan told BBC reporter Frank Gardner, “but when they said they were Muslims I knew they were our brothers.” Today in Parwan, north of Kabul, UAE operations continue. The Emirates army has partnered with the U.S. Army and the Afghan National Army to build a new provincial “Operational Coordination Center” — a sort of emergency call center for military operations in the area. It doesn’t look like much: a wall, some tents, a few vehicles, but the so-called OCC-P is evidence of a fairly profound partnership, with a “slice of U.S., a slice of ANA and a slice of UAE,” according to Task Force Gladius command Lieutenant Colonel Chris Eubank. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: It's been awhile.... - Sorry it's been awhile since I last wrote! The girls and I have been staying busy and it's hard to believe it's almost April! I started a small house project a few weeks ago that turned into a bigger one. The wood color that was on my stair banisters and fireplace mantel, I did not like. I've never liked it. But, I thought it would be a lot of work to sand them down and restain them. But, I can honestly say it was the easiest home project I have ever done!!! And they look great. But of course, I couldn't stop there! My kitchen cabinets were a very light color-almost like they weren't stained at all. So, they got sanded down and restained too. That was a lot more time consuming!! I couldn't have done it without the help of some awesome people! :) But they look amazing and I think I'm burned out on projects for awhile. However, my kitchen sink could be replaced to go better with my new cabinet color..... lol (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Australian Army Decisions Under Fire - The degree of control over operations with CONOPS is another example of micromanaging the military. It removes the latitude of on-sight commanders to make extemporaneous decisions. So just who is this Brigadier Lyn McDade? She is a former civilian lawyer who has no previous military experience (and certainly no Australian infantry combat action badge), but who was brought into the new military justice system to aid in efficiency and effectiveness. Has she accomplished this? “There has been widespread discontent with the take-no-prisoners approach of the Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade. Military lawyers have told The Australian they believed minor offences that were previously subject to prejudicial conduct hearings had been endlessly moved into the court.” It doesn’t bode well when the very chief of the military justice system is taking what would previously have been between a Non Commissioned Officer and his enlisted men... (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:

News from the Front:

The Heart of Allawi’s Win - The victory by the former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi in the national parliamentary elections was received everywhere as a surprise, which in a way, of course, it was. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Exiles Celebrate in New York - It was 10:30 a.m. on Friday when our political cinema professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at N.Y.U. gave us a five-minute break before watching the movie Battleship Potemkin. (READ MORE)

Kirkuk: Arabs, Baathists, Insurgents and Turkmens United Against the Kurds - “Amazing” and “surprising” were some of the words exchanged Saturday by many jubilant Arab and Turkmen residents of this hotly disputed northern Iraqi city. (READ MORE)

Kidnapped American civilian contractor returned in Iraq - The Department of Defense announced today that an Army civilian employee supporting Operation Iraq Freedom was returned to Military Control on Thursday, March 25th. (READ MORE)

In Iraq's election, a defeat for Iran - Hold the fireworks for Ayad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, who won his country’s election by the proverbial razor-thin margin of just two seats. (READ MORE)

Prominent Iraq politicians fail to win seats - Several prominent Iraqi politicians - long considered untouchable in the political arena - have failed to make it into parliament following the country's March 7 elections. (READ MORE)

In Iraq, 5 die in blasts targeted at Ayad Allawi's political bloc - A series of explosions in a border town in western Iraq killed five people on Sunday, including a member of former prime minister Ayad Allawi's political bloc, which won the most seats in Iraq's parliamentary election, Iraqi officials said. (READ MORE)

At Least Six Killed in Iraq Bombings - Iraqi police say at least five people were killed in a series of bombings Sunday in western Iraq, near the border with Syria. (READ MORE)

Power struggle blights Iraq poll - A POWER struggle between Iyad Allawi, the secular strongman who narrowly won Iraq’s general election, and Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, has threatened to dash hopes of a stable new government. (READ MORE)

Allawi reaches out after Iraq election win - Former prime minister Ayad Allawi began reaching out to other political blocs Saturday for allies he needs to form Iraq's next government, while accusing his main rival, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, of maneuvering to undercut his victory in the March 7 parliamentary elections. (READ MORE)

Maliki Contests the Result of Iraq Vote - Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s party lost the Iraqi election, but a day after the results were announced it became clear that he would fight to hold on to his post — and had taken steps to do so even before the outcome became public. (READ MORE)

Iraq's Allawi Reaches Out to Rivals - Iraq's former prime minister Ayad Allawi reached out to rival parties Saturday and expressed hope that a coalition government can be formed quickly. (READ MORE)

Iraq election results in doubt as winners face disqualification - Iraq’s election results could be called into question today, as a committee that seeks out members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime is set to call for the disqualification of some candidates who won parliamentary seats on March 7. (READ MORE)

Family of SoI Receive Much Needed Medical Attention - The line of widows, wives, children, mothers and sisters of soldiers of the Sons of Iraq reached from their headquarters building in Hawijah, near Kirkuk, Iraq, all the way to the end of the road and each of them had a huge smile on their face. (READ MORE)

Roadside Bomb Hunters Find Subtle Shift in Iraqi Culture - There is a tendency here in Iraq to cast any story in its shadow, to find meaning in not what is but from what was. (READ MORE)

Civil Affairs Soldiers Make Difference in Iraq - Staff Sgt. Michael Clemency, will redeploy to the U.S. this spring. After he returns and in-processes, he'll arrive home just in time to be with his family for the birth of his niece. (READ MORE)

Tomahawks Bring the Heat in the Iraqi Desert - "Hang it," repeated Spc. Nicholas Keim, of Olympia, Wash., and an assistant gunner for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, while holding a 120mm mortar round steady over the massive gun pointed out of the back of a Stryker vehicle. (READ MORE)

British forces to withdraw from Helmand under new US plan for Afghanistan - The proposal, which would have to be approved by a new British government, is facing stiff resistance. Whitehall officials fear that a pull-out from Helmand, where nearly 250 British troops have been killed since 2006, would be portrayed as an admission of defeat. (READ MORE)

Suicide bomber kills 1 in NW Pakistan - Police say a suicide bomber has attacked a meeting of anti-Taliban volunteers in northwestern Pakistan, killing one person and critically wounding two others. (READ MORE)

14 injured in NATO helicopter crash in Afghanistan - A NATO helicopter crashed Monday in southern Afghanistan, injuring 14 people, the international force said. The coalition said no one is reported to have been killed in the helicopter crash and that all personnel on board were evacuated to nearby medical facilities. (READ MORE)

Cautionary tale from CIA prison - More than seven years ago, a suspected Afghan militant was brought to a dimly lit CIA compound northeast of the airport in Kabul. The CIA called it the Salt Pit. Inmates knew it as the dark prison. (READ MORE)

Bombs Kill 6 Civilians in Afghanistan - Afghanistan's Interior Ministry says roadside bomb blasts in southern Helmand province have killed six civilians. (READ MORE)

Diggers sent to Afghan front line - In a significant broadening of the role of Australian troops in Afghanistan, dozens of army instructors who have been fighting with Afghan National Army units are standing by to join a major NATO oftensive in Kandahar province. (READ MORE)

Nato commanders to put Afghan troops in front line for new southern push - Nato commanders are to change their tactics in the battle for Kandahar, putting Afghan forces at the forefront of the operation to drive the Taleban from their spiritual heartland. (READ MORE)

Britain worried over Afghan police standards - Britain's Foreign Office says the U.K. has deep concerns over progress in building an Afghan national police force. (READ MORE)

U.S. forces pin hopes on new Afghan civil police - Maj. Mubarak Shah strode confidently into the U.S. Marine combat center with important intelligence: Three Taliban fighters were preparing to attack a nearby checkpoint. (READ MORE)

Lieutenant-general Lamb to play key role in combatting Afghan insurgency - Britain's former field army commander, lieutenant-general Sir Graeme Lamb, will play a key role in the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, attempting to reproduce his success in Iraq in persuading insurgents to switch sides. (READ MORE)

`'At the end of the day, what really matters is success in Afghanistan'- Some will argue that we have fought, bled and died in Helmand, and should see the job through. They will also point to the waste of effort in terms of contacts made among tribal leaders and local officials. (READ MORE)

Hamid Karzai accused of blocking arrest of official - Sediq Chakari, former minister of Hajj, and who is thought to be in Britain has been under investigation into his alleged involvement in a kickback racket which made hundreds of thousands of pounds from poor pilgrims. (READ MORE)

Afghan corruption: How to follow the money? - Hamed Wardak, the soft-spoken Georgetown University-educated son of an Afghan cabinet minister, has a Defense Department contract worth up to $360 million to transport U.S. military goods through some of the most insecure territory in Afghanistan. But his company has no trucks. (READ MORE)

Barack Obama rallies forces on visit to Afghanistan - Barack Obama has told US forces on his first visit to Afghanistan as US president that they are there to help Afghans to forge a "hard-won peace". (READ MORE)

After week of wins, Obama turns to Afghanistan - After weeks dominated by health care, President Barack Obama's secret trip to Afghanistan turned attention back to another issue whose progress this year could help define the success of his presidency. (READ MORE)

In Kabul, Obama urges President Karzai to step up - President Obama flew to Afghanistan's capital Sunday evening and offered a tough message to President Hamid Karzai, urging that stronger action be taken to crack down on government corruption and to build respect for the rule of law. (READ MORE)

In Afghan Trip, Obama Presses Karzai on Graft - President Obama personally delivered pointed criticism to President Hamid Karzai in a face-to-face meeting on Sunday, flying here for an unannounced visit that reflected growing vexation with Mr. Karzai as America’s military commitment to defeat the Taliban insurgency has deepened. (READ MORE)

Obama presses Karzai for cooperation - In his first visit as commander in chief to the war zone he has remade, President Obama on Sunday pushed for greater cooperation from the government of his Afghan counterpart, a stagnant and corruption-laced administration that poses perhaps the biggest threat to U.S. success against the Taliban insurgency. (READ MORE)

Obama Departs Afghanistan After Brief, Unannounced Visit - U.S. President Barack Obama left Afghanistan early Monday after a brief, unannounced visit, in which he pressed the Afghan government to fight corruption and improve governance. (READ MORE)

Afghan National Security Forces Provide Security in Paktika - Members of the Afghan national security forces and Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, found and detained a suspected bomb placer in Moghul Khel village, Zarghunshader district of Paktika province. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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