April 2, 2010

From the Front: 04/02/2010

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

better when we're together: Help, please! - Ok milspouses, I have a question for you. I think I might finally be buckling down and getting a procedure done that I have been told I need to have done sooner rather than later. But, we want to make sure it is covered by Tricare first, since we really can't take on anymore bills at the moment. Do any of you know who we need to talk to in order to make sure it is covered? (MORE)

New Girl on Post: Short and Sweet - This post is going to be just what the title says. I have a million things running through my head today. Mainly because I'm leaving for the States on Saturday and Sean is in-transit as well. I'm really hoping he doesn't get bumped from this flight tonight, but we'll see. He's pretty lucky so he just might make it. I'm sure I won't be on here that much while I'm back in the States. Never fear... (MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: All the way up the pole! - When you hear of a good thing, you'll go a long way to get it. When I saw this, my first question was naturally, how do you aim it once it's already up there? The answer is move the pole. This one was aimed by tilting and rotating the pole until the signal was peaked and then tied down in the right spot. (MORE)

Army Household 6: April 2, 1998 - 12 years ago today , SGT Daddy and I were married. Of course, SGT Daddy and I won’t be together today for the first time in 12 years. Well we’re not happy about it … it is what it is. We’ll be together very soon and we’ll celebrate then. The last 12 years have been a long road filled with some awesome times and some not-so-good times too! There have been fights, tears of sadness and joy and lots of laughs! All in all … I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Happy Anniversary Honey… I love you ! (MORE)

270 Days in Afghanistan: Promotion Ceremony - Of all the things we do in the Army, promotions are possibly the most enjoyable. The soldier getting promoted is brought up to the front of the formation, the orders are read, the commander gives his words of wisdom about the great job they have done and how deserving the troops are of the honor. It is a wonderful occasion for just about everyone involved. Especially for the commander. It is always a great feeling to promote one of your guys. You take as much pride in their accomplishment as they do. Today, a couple of our soldiers made the transition from soldier to non-commissioned officer. They became Sergeants, and as such, they joined a much historied and professional fraternity which traces it's lineage back to the Minutemen of the 13 colonies. It is a big deal when a soldier makes sergeant. They are now leaders, and junior soldiers will now look to them for guidance and direction. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: An Interview With Female ANA soldiers - No Tom Foolery here! It was one more thing I could cross off “My Things to Do” list. Today I had a unique opportunity to interview two female ANA officers. Judging by their attire they were wearing, you would easily mistake them for a housewife or local citizen and never know they were proud officers serving in the Afghan National Army. After our morning meeting, I loaded up several boxes of humanitarian assistance to include hygiene items, clothing, candy, stationary, and Beanie Babies. I borrowed an interpreter and we drove to ANA land with the supplies. My plan was to restock the family support center with these items. They give these items to ANA widows and wounded soldier families. I did this on a previous occasion and since have depleted their stock. The ANA Garrison Religious officer invited me into his office and the Assistant Religious Officer was preparing breakfast. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: A Good Offense is a Good Defense: We Need a Counter Narrative Conference - Wow, I have not been posting! Actually, I think what is to follow cannot even be considered a full post, but more of a thought. As I shared on Twitter, we need a conference to discuss a viable Counter Narrative, one that involves professionals of varying but interconnecting education and experience; military, academic, intelligence community, law enforcement, public affairs, media relations, investigative journalists, health practitioners, economists, security administration, international business specialists. The American-born quantum physicist, David Bohm, who worked closely with Albert Einstein (I encourage you to please put aside his Communist tendencies and focus solely on his professional brilliance), stated in his major work entitled, Thought as a System (London, 2000, 2002); "...thought actively participates in forming our perceptions, our sense of meaning and our daily actions." (READ MORE)

C.J. CHIVERS: The Weakness of Taliban Marksmanship - Last week, At War opened a conversation about Afghan marksmanship by publishing rough data from several dozen recent firefights between the Taliban and three Marine rifle companies in and near Marja, the location of the recent offensive in Helmand Province. The data showed that while the Taliban can be canny and brave in combat their rifle fire is often remarkably ineffective. We plan more posts about the nature of the fighting in Afghanistan, and how this influences the experience of the war. Today this blog discusses visible factors that, individually and together, predict poor shooting results when Taliban gunmen get behind their rifles. It’s worth noting that many survivors of multiple small-arms engagements in Afghanistan have had experiences similar to those described last week. After emerging unscathed from ambushes, including ambushes within ranges at which the Taliban’s AK-47 knock-offs should have been effective, they wonder: how did so much Taliban fire miss? (READ MORE)

ALISSA J. RUBIN: An Airborne Afghan Folktale - It was pretty much a normal day in Afghanistan on Monday. A couple of civilian casualties caused by insurgents. More investigations into corrupt former ministers. The opening of six new projects in Herat Province by the Italians and the Spaniards, which are the NATO countries in the lead in western Afghanistan. All right, not six, projects, but two or three, and the Spanish announced a pistachio tree-growing program to replace poppies. Pistachios, poppies… maybe pine nuts will be next. And, there was also a NATO helicopter crash in Zabol Province, injuring several NATO servicemen and three members of the Afghan security forces. That was the third helicopter down in a week. At about the same time that the American military released a statement saying the crash was due to technical problems, the Taliban spokesmen were claiming responsibility. In the last week they had claimed responsibility for two other helicopter mishaps, the downing of one in Maidan Wardak and another in Kunduz. (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: Prayer for A Seriously Wounded Hero and His Family - For those of you who do not know about Soldier’s Angels, you should be ashamed of yourselves. This is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful, Christ-like charity for veterans I have come across. Soldier’s Angels is run by one of the most selfless people in the veteran community in Patti Patton Bader. She is that rare breed of compassionate American whotruly cares about doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. I watch from a far while other people and other organizations routinely steal her group’s hard work and credit. I mean this happens at least once a week. Another group will get a headline for doing something that Soldier’s Angels has been doing for two years. Happens all the time. Patti never is bothered by any of it. It drives the rest of us crazy, but not her. Soldier’s Angels truly represents our grateful nation. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Guard Daughters Hold ‘Sisterhood’ Conference - I wanted to share with you the story of two daughters of National Guard members reported in the article “Guard Daughters Hold First ‘Sisterhood’ Conference” written by Maj. Kimberly Holman of the California National Guard. These teens bonded over their common military challenges, then decided to share that spirit of support with other girls from military families. With help from the California National Guard, 17-year-olds Kaylei Deakin and Moranda Hern formed the support group “Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs,” and organized a conference, held last month, for daughters of military members in California. “The Guard provided the Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs with the structure, and the girls provided all the innovation, imagination and creativity,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Mary J. Kight, the adjutant general of the California Guard. “I am so proud of them for seeing this through, and what a wonderful program they have founded.” (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: 1 SCOTS soldiers arrive in Afghanistan - Around 400 Soldiers from Edinburgh have recently taken up front line posts, in Afghanistan, training and mentoring Afghan Army troops. Soldiers from 1 SCOTS, based at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh, arrived three weeks ago. They have now deployed as Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT), working closely with Afghan troops to advise them on their military skills. It is a role the battalion has been rehearsing for since early last year. Meanwhile, around 100 troops from 1 SCOTS’ ‘B (Bravo)’ Company are returning home to Scotland, after spending six months in the Sangin area of Helmand as part of 3 RIFLES Battlegroup; their near neighbours from Redford Barracks in Edinburgh. 1 SCOTS OMLT teams are working from a number of locations throughout Helmand - sharing patrol bases and partnering with Afghan troops to conduct training and security patrols. It is a demanding role which is held in high regard by British troops. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Killers Circulate Unnoticed - WaPo offers us an excellent example of how it is easy for the public to completely misunderstand what's going on in Iraq. A story today tells readers that Sunnis are being harassed by the Maliki government. If a reader knows just a little about Iraq, he will be persuaded that the winning list of Ayad Allawi, who according to the media might as well be Sunni, is being harassed by the wicked losing prime minister Al Maliki. Sure there are politicians being harassed. Sure there are politcians being threatened. But how the WaPo reporter can know how they worship God mystifies the average Iraqi. As always, the reporter gets a hint of a rumour and runs with it. There is a fascinating, scary story going on in Baghdad. Residents here have observed that there have been a series of murders of government officials going on for a while. Every so often we hear of an assassination of an official in one ministry or another. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Grandbabies… - For the past few days I have been crocheting a baby blanket for a friend of my son David’s soon to be here son. I love making baby blankets and such. But today for some reason working on it has opened the anger and hurt. I wonder what Micheal’s children would have looked like. What they would have smelled like. I want to hear their cries and laughter. I want to hold them and love them. Two years after his death, it is a new thought to me that I not only lost my son but my grandchildren from him. I suppose because so many of his friends are getting married and starting families is why I am thinking of it now. I’m jealous of other Gold Star moms who have grandchildren to stay connected to their sons and daughters through their grandchildren. But at the same time I am so happy for them that they have that connection. It feels like all I have is memories and things. Oh I have his brothers and sister and his dad. I have his friends who still come around but it’s not a part of him…. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US sanctions two Europe-based al Qaeda operatives - Two al Qaeda operatives living in Europe have been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department. Ahmad Khalaf Shabib al Dulaymi, British citizen living in London, and Atilla Selek, a German national currently in prison, have been designated as terrorists under Executive Order 13224 "providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism." The designation allows the US to freeze their assets, prevent them from using financial institutions, and prosecute them for terrorist activities. Dulaymi "provides services" Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership circles, according to the US Treasury press release. He is also known to have served as an courier betweem al Qaeda's top leader and its leader in Iraq. In late 2007, Dulaymi delivered a letter from Osama bin Laden and Abu Ayyub al Masri. He also "acted as an intermediary between AQI and al Qaeda members surrounding bin Laden." (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Blessings of a Military Life - Hello All! My name is Laura and I am a fellow seasoned Army Wife. I have long been a fan and supporter of AWN and LAS and feel honored to be a part of this encouraging atmosphere. I want to inspire you, as I inspire myself, to look out for and be grateful for all of the Blessings in our Military lives. And to not only recognize and be thankful for our blessings, but to actively seek out ways to be a blessing to others. Let’s remember to speak only kind and respectful words to one another. Look for ways to show kindness to fellow Military Wives. Pick up a few items at the Commissary for your neighbor. While you are out mowing your lawn, run it across theirs as well. Especially if her Husband is deployed. Hold the door open, be polite, cook a meal or take a gift for a new baby. The kindness you show to others in their time of need will come back to you in more blessings than you can hold. (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: Canadians Want To Help Afghanistan. And They Don’t. - An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has shown that Canadians overwhelmingly favour ending our combat mission in Afghanistan after 2011. 79% of respondents oppose Canadian troops taking part in a combat mission [in Afghanistan] after our current mandate is completed. But, and here’s the tricky part, a whole 54% would like to have Canadian soldiers stay and train the Afghan military after 2011. More still, 64%, would like Canadian soldiers participating in “activities related to development and governance work.” I think this poll really identifies and highlights the cognitive dissonance of Canadians on the Afghan file. Clearly a majority of people want us to be in Afghanistan in some capacity. It’s just that they’re uncomfortable with the idea of having soldiers come back in coffins. They want a military. They just don’t want that military to do any of that warfare stuff. (READ MORE)

David Axe: Checkpoint Showdown - It was a confrontation a long time in the making. On March 18 at Bagram, Afghanistan, the U.S. Army’s Task Force Gladius linked up with elements of the Emirates army, the U.S. Army’s 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade and the Afghan army and air corps for a complex air-assault exercise. Two Afghan and two American helicopters would swoop into nearby fields to disgorge Afghan commandos. There would be two iterations: one in the morning and another after lunch. Gladius rolled out to secure the landing zone before the choppers’ arrival. At the Bagram gate, pictured, a junior Air Force security guard complained that the convoy’s electronic systems were interfering with her electronic systems. The airmen held the convoy for several minutes while she protested the interference. An impatient Army sergeant told the airman to perform an unlikely physical act upon her own person. It was, sources said, not the first time the Army and Air Force had butted heads at the gate. (READ MORE)

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Kelley and Lieutenant Colonel Scott Sweetser: The Spaces in Between - Henty’s formulation, captured here from the Boys’ Own Adventure genre of fiction popular among empires past, may be cliché and contradictory; but clichés and contradictions can be found in abundance around the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak. Along a jagged, ominous spine of rock in the center of town, a centuries-old fortress looms above the modern blue-roofed, pre-fabricated structures which house private contractors hired to train the border police manning the crumbling fortifications. Narrow, dust-blown alleys and acres of scrap-metal shops are punctuated by walled compounds stuffed to overflowing with gleaming, modern vehicles shipped duty free across the border from Pakistan, before ultimately returning – again duty free – to Pakistani markets in a kind of massive, international game of three-card Monte. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Bishop: Few regrets on going AWOL - Pvt. Travis Bishop left his jail cell at Joint Base Lewis-McChord last week with no job, a criminal conviction and just one regret. "I wish I had known about applying for a conscientious objector status a lot sooner," said Bishop, a 26-year-old Louisville native. (READ MORE)

Madigan welcomes home its soldiers - Madigan Army Medical Center held a welcome-home ceremony Wednesday for its soldiers who recently returned from overseas deployments. The quarterly event was dubbed the Warrior Recognition Ceremony. (READ MORE)

Oregon soldiers will return from Iraq and Afghanistan with 'lifelong burden of war' - Nearly 2,700 Oregon National Guard soldiers will reach Washington state by mid-April, the final stop in their Iraq tour. Troops will spend six days finishing health exams and paperwork before boarding buses to Oregon. (READ MORE)

Pentagon to increase security measures - Pentagon officials announced new security measures on Thursday that include more random screening of visitors and Defense Department workers, a wider security perimeter and more lighting around the building's main entrance... (READ MORE)

U.S. files civil suit against defense contractor KBR - The Justice Department on Thursday filed a civil suit against defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., alleging that the firm provided false statements in charging the government for the unauthorized use of private security guards in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Statement by Army Secretary John McHugh - “Yesterday, in response to a series of questions from reporters regarding “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, I made several statements that require further comment. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Special Forces in Iraq to Remain through Drawdown - U.S. special operations forces in Iraq will remain at current levels even as the number of American troops there is nearly halved over the next five months, the top special operations commander said today. (READ MORE)

Leader of Iraqi Shiite party gives boost to Allawi - The head of a leading Shiite party has thrown his support behind a secular candidate for prime minister - a major blow to the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki. (READ MORE)

In Iraq, newly elected lawmaker target of arrest warrant - A recently elected parliament member was in hiding Thursday after the Iraqi security forces raided his home this week on a warrant connected with a bombing case that had been settled in 2008 through a tribal mediation process. (READ MORE)

Iraqi government is harassing winning candidates, Sunnis say - In a sign of hardening sectarian divisions, the secular, largely Sunni-backed bloc that won the most seats in Iraq's recent parliamentary elections says its victorious candidates are being subjected to a campaign of detention and intimidation by the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (READ MORE)

Iran Plays Host to Delegations After Iraq Elections - Iran may seem an unlikely place to turn for guidance when it comes to putting together a democratic government, but that is exactly what most of Iraq’s political class did immediately after last month’s parliamentary elections. (READ MORE)

Al Kut Welcomes Fish and Meat Market - Since March 2008, the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, along with U.S. forces and Iraqi Security Forces at Contingency Operating Base Delta near al-Kut, has been working to establish economic stability in the region by giving local merchants sanitary places to sell their meat and fish. (READ MORE)

Women of Hawijah Meet to Express Concerns -Women of all ages gathered downstairs in the Hawijah Government Building, to hold a meeting they had been looking forward to for weeks. (READ MORE)

Personal Security Is Detachment's Business - As the U.S. Army assumes a larger advise-and-assist role in Iraq, Iraqi and American commanders meet frequently to coordinate operations and cultivate relationships. (READ MORE)

Afghan rival says Karzai undermines war on Taliban - A main political rival accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday of undermining the war against the Taliban by blaming the international community for the controversy over last year's disputed election. (READ MORE)

Karzai rails against foreign presence, accuses West of engineering voter fraud - President Hamid Karzai on Thursday delivered one of his most stinging criticisms to date of the foreign presence in Afghanistan, accusing the West and the United Nations of wanting a "puppet government" and of orchestrating fraud in last year's election. (READ MORE)

Afghan President Rebukes West and U.N. - Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, delivered extraordinarily harsh criticism on Thursday of the Western governments fighting in his country, the United Nations, and the British and American news media, accusing them of perpetrating the fraud that denied him an outright victory in last summer’s presidential elections. (READ MORE)

Enduring army role in Swat spurs questions about Pakistan's civilian government - Officially, the military operation to purge the Taliban from Pakistan's Swat Valley ended last summer. But even as life in the lush region returns to normal, the army's footprint is everywhere. (READ MORE)

Pakistan's President Zardari closer to losing powers - A Pakistani parliamentary committee on Wednesday approved a set of constitutional amendments that will, among other things, shift the balance of power from unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari to the prime minister. (READ MORE)

Taliban to be flushed from N. Waziristan in two months, says Pakistan general - The Pakistani Army has launched a military operation to clear insurgents from North Waziristan — long a haven for Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban — and hopes to wind up offensive actions in all its tribal areas by June, according to the Pakistani general who's in charge of the special paramilitary force for the area. (READ MORE)

Afghan Police Graduates Pledge to Serve - Afghan Uniform (Civilian) Police finished eight weeks of training led by AUP and U.S. Marine instructors at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. (READ MORE)

ISAF Forces Make Gains in Helmand Province - There is a strong sense of continued progress on the ground in Helmand Province although there are signs that the Taliban are increasingly turning to tactics of intimidation of the local population. (READ MORE)

Operation Leader Zalaah II Proves Successful - Soldiers with the Afghan national army, partnered with Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, and Soldiers with the Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team, conducted Operation Leader Zalaah II March 23-28. (READ MORE)

IED; Craig Joint Theater Hospital; 455th AEW Afghanistan; U.S. Air Force; Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force went to an area north of Chenar Tu in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province yesterday when intelligence information indicated militant activity. (READ MORE)

Pak Army's 'omnipresence' in Swat casts shadow on civilian government's efficacy - The Pakistan Army's offensive against the Taliban and other extremist groups in the scenic Swat Valley had ended months ago with the security forces claiming to have flushed the militants out, but its continued presence there has raised questions of the role of the civilian government in running the affairs of the country. (READ MORE)

US aid going to Afghanistan partners - The Pentagon is pouring millions of dollars into equipment and training for its smaller partner nations in the Afghanistan war, a new effort that could encourage some countries not to abandon the increasingly unpopular conflict. (READ MORE)

U.S. Rejects Karzai Election Fraud Allegations - The United States has rejected accusations from Afghan President Hamid Karzai that foreigners engaged in fraud in last year's Afghan elections in a bid to weaken his authority and ensure an ineffective Afghan parliament. (READ MORE)

Afghan Ambassador To U.S. Says 'Human Capital' Is Key - On March 25, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went before a congressional committee to request additional funding for the State Department's operations in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Japanese journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan - A Japanese journalist who has gone missing in Afghanistan has been kidnapped, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Friday, but declined to elaborate on the circumstances, citing humanitarian reasons. (READ MORE)

Cheap and deadly, homemade bombs plague Afghan roads - The signature weapon of the Iraq war has established itself as the Taliban's weapon of choice in Afghanistan as well, where roadside bombs have proven to be rudimentary and cheap -- but deadly as ever. (READ MORE)

War crimes amnesty adds to women’s grief - On a makeshift stage on a small verandah of a ramshackle house in Kabul, four women stand together in front of an audience of more than 50 women who are gathered in the courtyard of the house. (READ MORE)

Cop killed, two Taliban injured in firefight - A policeman was killed and two Taliban wounded during a clash in Khashrod district of Nimroz, governor said Thursday. The clash erupted after Taliban attacked policemen fetching water in Raken area of Kashrod district... (READ MORE)

Karzai slammed after attack on 'foreigners' - Afghan President Hamid Karzai came in for stinging criticism Friday after accusing foreign powers of orchestrating enormous fraud in elections that returned him to power last year. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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