April 5, 2010

From the Front: 04/05/2010

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

Dispatches:
270 Days in Afghanistan: Easter - The morning dawned bright on this April day, and as we took stock of our surroundings, we realized that today was Easter. How about that? It seems like just yesterday we were talking about Christmas away from home and how much of a bummer it was that we wouldn't be able to spend it with our families. Well....fast forward to today, and the mood was quite different. It seems as if spring has had an effect on our moods here as we get ready to go down the stretch these last few months. There have been some changes here on Camp Spann, ushered in under the auspices of the 10th Mountain Division. Suffice it to say that while all of the changes were probably necessary due to the number of people who started showing up, they are in some cases quite the pain. Chow lines are longer, we are waiting on cardio machines at the gym now, and the whole place is a flurry of activity these days. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Eating With the Interpreters - Today was another opportunity to cross another item off my “Things To Do List.” Time is running out and the clock is rapidly ticking away, so I am steadily crossing items off this list. Omid, my interpreter, returned from his temporary duty at FOB Shank and I wasted no time putting him to work. Our first stop was a visit the Property Book Officer’s office. As more recruits are being trained and the size of the ANA expands, so does their logistics requirements for vehicles, weapons, and communication equipment. Keeping the accountability of these items is the responsibility of the PBO. While walking to his office, I heard a familiar voice barking out commands to the new recruits. It was my ANA Sergeant Major! He claimed it has been two months since we seen each other. But I know it hasn’t been that long and I apologized and promised to visit him this week. We said goodbye and he resumed bellowing out his commands to the recruits. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Warrant Based Targeting: The Iraq Model - A USF-I press release recently informed the public of a successful round of targeting conducted in Northern Iraq. I want to analyze the overall targeting picture from the beginning of 2010 to the latest press release. At the onset of the new year (January 2009), units deployed in Iraq could no longer capture and detain insurgents without a signed warrant from an Iraqi judge. The transition was a painful but necessary process. Collectively, we put our heads together to develop ways to prolong our pressure on the terror network under this new system. Prior to Jan 2009, if we had actionable intelligence on any insurgent, we simply put together a plan and executed it. The exploitation from the detained individual would usually lead us to our next operation. This targeting model became unsustainable post Jan. 2009. Since the beginning of 2010, there have been three major rounds of successful targeting: (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: blasts rock NW Pakistan - More than 40 people were killed in two separate attacks in northwest Pakistan earlier this morning, as a suicide bomber attacked an open-air rally for the Pashtun political party, the Awami National Party, in Timergara, the district headquarters of Lower Dir, and killed. The ANP, a secular party supportive of the Pakistani government's anti-Taliban offensives, had organized the meeting to celebrate the re-naming of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) to 'Khyber-Pukhtunkwha,' in a bid to represent the province's Pashtun population. A few hours later and 50 miles away in Peshawar, the NWFP's capital, at least seven people -- including four attackers -- were killed when heavily armed militants attempted to storm the heavily fortified U.S. consulate. Four blasts shook a checkpoint some 20 yards from the consulate, and Pakistani police say at least two car bombs were involved. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the consulate attack, calling it revenge for drone. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Karzai attacks the West, U.N. - In the news today is more about Afghan President Hamid Karzai's rambling, harshly critical speech yesterday in which he accused the West of wanting a "puppet government, a servant government" in Afghanistan and of masterminding fraud in last summer's presidential. Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N.'s mission in Afghanistan and one of the Western officials singled out by Karzai, responded, "At first I thought it was an April Fool's joke but I realized I don't have that kind of warm, personal relationship with President Karzai that he would do that," while Karzai's erstwhile presidential rival, Abdullah Abdullah, commented, "This is beyond a normal attitude". Yaroslav Trofimov has today's must-read describing the Taliban's campaign of intimidation and assassination of pro-government religious leaders in Kandahar, where 23 of the 50 members of the province's top religious authority, the Ulema Council, have been killed in recent years. (READ MORE)

Nadir Hassan: Hide and seek in the FATA - Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani may not have hung a "Mission Accomplished" banner as he declared victory against the Taliban in South Waziristan, but he certainly struck a note of triumphalism. What he neglected to mention was that the battle hadn't ended, it merely shifted to a new theater: Orakzai, a tribal agency further north of South Waziristan. When the Pakistani military launched an operation in South Waziristan last October, residents were given a window to clear the area. The military's desire to avoid civilian casualties was understandable and politically necessary, but it gave Taliban leaders an opportunity to walk right out of the war zone and set up camp in Orakzai. The Pakistani Army has belatedly woken up to this reality and ramped up its offensive in Orakzai over the past couple of weeks. The tactics it has employed, however, are questionable. (READ MORE)

YASMINE MOUSA: Easter in Baghdad - At first, I mistakenly thought that the sound was caused by the rattle of two iron rods. This is the Stone Age method still used — ironic, in a land considered one of the wealthiest in resources — to alert residents that the gas cylinder man’s cart is in their neighborhood. Then I recognized the sound as the ringing of church bells, a rhythm I had not heard for so long, since where I lived until recently in Canada I seldom, if ever, heard the ding-dong of church bells. I realized it was Easter in Baghdad. In the former upscale neighborhood of Mansour, which until recently was a hotbed of the insurgency, stands the Mar Yusuf Church, which has escaped looting and destruction without a scratch. “The Lord is its protector” said Ann Sami Matloub, a volunteer at the church. “Those days are gone,” said Father Pios Cacha, who has been serving the church for 27 years. “We want to forget about it.” (READ MORE)

Awful, Beautiful Life: Worst. Neighbors. Ever. - Stuart and I have a record of having the worst neighbors. We always get the crazy ones. My family jokes with us about this and we always say "it just can't get any worse than this." Boy, was I wrong. My current neighbors are assholes. Any past crazies we had do not even compare with the ones that live beside me right now. I had written in the past about how the wife told me her life story within five minutes of me meeting her and how she was leaving her husband. Well, now she is long gone but unfortunately, he is not. About two weeks after she moved out, he moved another family in with him. Thats right, folks, a family of three moved in with him. Another soldiers, his wife (who is now pregnant) and their daughter, who I would guess to be about 5 or 6. They were all fairly quiet for awhile, but still annoying with their parking on the lawn, leaving trash everywhere, changing the oil in the carport I am required to share with them... (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: New DVD Helps Military Children Cope - I wanted to share information about a great new resource for military children. Defense and USO officials have teamed up with the Trevor Romain Co. to create a DVD to help school-age children prepare for and deal with all stages of their parents’ deployment, from pre-deployment to separation to reintegration. The free DVD, called “With You All the Way,” is slated to be distributed through USO centers and Military OneSource in May as part of a children’s deployment kit that also contains a stuffed bear named Cuzzie, postcards, a journal and a set of dog tags inscribed “With You All the Way.” The DVD follows main characters Jack and Skye as they help their friends Darrell, Pablo and Brittany deal with different aspects of deployment. Darrell’s brother is preparing to deploy, Pablo’s mother has deployed again, and Brittany is adjusting to having her father back home. It also includes interviews with military families who discuss how they work to stay connected. (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: Damn you Girl Scout cookies! - It's so nice to come home to a cute doggy. If only he was real... Ben, the stuffed greyhound, is at the very least a reminder of the good things to come. I have wanted a greyhound for a long time. Kris and I often talk about getting doggies when we can be in one place for a while. It's the end of yet another Sunday and I couldn't be more pleased. These Sundays are moving right along at an acceptable rate. Could always be faster of course. There are lot of great blog topics that pop into my head during the week, but I fail to write them down and then I forget. By the time I get home it's pretty late and my tired brain can't conjure the witty epiphany I might have had earlier. I'll try to do better with that. Work is good. We are getting to the point where we are reacting less and less and planning more. There's always a last minute calendar crisis to resolve but very little takes us by surprise now. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Down - I haven’t written much lately because, well, I thought I’d done enough bitching. But I blog, not to entertain you or to make myself look good, but to tell as honest a story as I can about this soldier’s experience. And that story would be entirely incomplete if I didn’t cover this: I’m miserable. Almost every hour of every day I’m angry, homesick, and tired. I’ve pretty much given up and accepted that life will suck for about forty more days before I can get home and start fixing my life. And so I’ve been spending most of my off duty hours I’m in my bunk, coping with a pathetic cocktail of comforts: food, caffeine, heavy metal, and retro video games. But the distractions only last so long. When I’ve finished my cheeseburger, when the Red Bull wears off, when the Megadeth headache sets in, and when I’m finally bored with Super Mario Brothers… again I’m on my back, looking at the pictures of my girls taped above me and wishing their Dad wasn’t so screwed up. Why so gloomy? Change of mission. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Killers Strike Again - Today was a tough day. We barely got over the killing of 25 villagers between Baghdad and Mahmoudiyah when the city was hit by three explosions. The suicide car bombs maybe were not a surprise, but we can't help but be stunned by the attacks. It's not just the loud sounds or the shaking buildings. It's the horrible sight on TV of a child getting carried into an ambulance. It makes one say whatever it takes, just stop these murderers. There were four suicide car bombers according to news reports. This time they attacked embassies and consulates. One killer was shot before he could detonate his bomb. Some reports say he died, others say he survived and is being interrogated now. The reports are at least 30 were killed and at least 150 wounded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had said that they didn't care who won the elections, they planned to continue their attacks. Guess this is proof they keep their word. They are determined to ignite sectarian violence. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Government Behind the Killings? - The local TV stations say they're still waiting for information about the killings in Mahmoudiyah. At least one station charges that the Iraqi government is behind the murders and that the media are covering up for them. I thought that was really something. I never thought that in my lifetime I would hear the TV news make accusations against the ruling government and live. Meanwhile, the NYT has a piece by a reporter called Rod Nordland. This guy was the author of some of the most infuriating writing about Iraq in recent years. But today the dude actually has something positive to say. "And perhaps the biggest was the unexpected sophistication of the Iraqi voter," he writes. Who is surprised? These writers have been painting the Iraqis as savages. No wonder they're surprised! He said this: "the election accomplished something quintessentially democratic: The voters had their say, and what they said was not just “a pox on all their houses,” but also something far more trenchant: (READ MORE)

Life as an Army Duck: I love... - I love the quietness of the morning. The husband is still asleep, the dog hasn't been roused from his kennel, it's just me, the above ceiling fan and the clicking of the keyboard. This is my favourite time of the day. As I've got older I have began to appreciate quiet time more and more. But being the wife of a serving member I've also learnt to appreciate quiet time shared with someone else. Don't you think the house feels so lonely without a loved one? Even when the house is silent just knowing that they are somewhere about makes everything warm inside. The husband and I without exaggeration do practically everything together. We shop together, we walk together, we laugh together, we watch TV together, we travel together, we argue together, we everything together. This is my special alone time that comes around each weekend morning. Today, Easter morning, makes me appreciate my alone time even more. (READ MORE)

The Life of the Wife: The New Rules - I loved reading the comments yesterday. And to those of you who are scared you may hurt yourself, I have a book recommendation for you: "The New Rules of Lifting for Women: How to Lift Like a Man and Look Like a Goddess". And no, it's not related to CF at all. It explains a lot about exercise physiology, like why women need to do the same thing as men in the weight room. It also eschews the idea that long distance running (or "cardio") is the cure-all for fat loss. I know not all exposures to CF are equal, either. At Casey's post (or "base" as they may call it there), there is a CF gym. I've been and didn't enjoy it. The mentality wasn't good and the trainers didn't have that tell-all form that follows function. As for competition, I do compete everyday. Against myself. I want to be the best me I can be. Jenn mentioned she's scared to become obsessed. Well, I can't guarantee that you won't! CrossFit is something I talk to my husband about every time we can talk. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Terror attacks near embassies rock Baghdad, kill 41 - Three suicide bombers targeted foreign diplomatic buildings in Baghdad, just one day after a deadly nighttime raid by terrorists disguised as Iraqi and US troops butchered civilians and security personnel south of the capital. In today's attacks, the suicide bombers detonated their explosive-laden vehicles outside the Egyptian, Iranian, Spanish, and German embassies, killing 41 people and wounding 256 more, according to Reuters. The suicide bomber who targeted the Egyptian embassy hit the outer blast wall and left a 10-foot-wide crater in the street. "The car crashed into the blast wall and the guards of the embassy shot the terrorist but he went and blew himself up," General Qassim al Moussawi, the Baghdad Operations Command spokesman, told Reuters. "The same thing happened with the Iranian embassy." Iranian officials said no Iranian personnel were killed or wounded in the attack, Voices of Iraq reported. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Little dancer...all grown up - I used to tell her, “Pull up! Heel forward! Listen to the music!” But on the Bonhomme Richard’s Facebook page we traded comments for a full month before I realized this mature young woman--married to a sailor deployed on the same ship as Daniel--was my ballet student--a long time ago. “Did you used to take ballet at Allison’s?” I asked Karen one evening--glad she didn’t realize who I was until after we had stuck up a friendship; I was known as a hard taskmaster…though I’m sure the girls had a very different description of me. She ran up to me last week, breathless with excitement and gave me a big hug. She was leaving for San Diego this week, ready for the homecoming of the USS Bonhomme Richard and her husband, Adam Brewer. “Do you want a kitten?” she asked, then she quickly laid out her plans for her husband’s return. I had a distinct feeling of déjà-vu as right at that moment, she reminded me of my daughter-in-law, Ashley. (READ MORE)

Loving a Soldier Blog: Interactive time with kids while deployed - Well, I am always cruising the sites for new ways for kids and parents to connect ,and I found this one. I think I will try and see if my son in Germany can make this work with his two little ones. It is free for Military families and it seems (though I have not tried it yet) to allow a parent and child to either play a game or read a story. I read a post from a Military mom who says her husband reads the kids a bedtime story often while deployed! On the site it says that kids and parents set the time and then can talk in real-time to each other. I am not a computer whiz, so if anyone tries this, will you give some feedback? Thanks! (MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 3 April 10 - first off– Happy Easter weekend to everyone … hope you are all enjoying time with the fam and friends and have some awesome Spring weather for all your activities…me, I’ll be packing up crap to mail home …yes, I am getting the hell outta here soon…the new guys are on their way in and I am out-processing…I have been back here at Bagram for about a week now and I haven’t been working–well, not mechanic work anyway…mainly paperwork, making sure people get their awards and credit for meing here…working flights out of this place for my fellow mechanics…and working out in the gym …it’s been nice and quiet and we’ve had great weather –well, the quiet ended tonight, we had a few rockets fly over us and land somewhere on the other side of the base…I guess the bad guys are attacking in protest of Easter, assholes…anyhoo, that’s just normal life here…so far since I have been back a couple friends have had to fly out on emergency leave… (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Righteous - Remember what today is about. Regardless of your beliefs, remember. Know that although churches will be filled, and services conducted, your Marines continue to hunt the enemy with a relentless accomplishment. There are no colored eggs or (melted) chocolate bunnies. The air is filled with blowing dust and the sounds of local area are still & quiet, for now. Patrols finish up and return to base as others prepare to go out. The continuous hunt for the enemy gains momentum as the holiday arrives. There are no special meals or events planned but perhaps an extra religious service held next to a tent by a visiting chaplain for those that can attend. Not sure what the day will entail as the enemy won’t hold off just because of the content of the day. Throughout my travels I happen to look down and in a sea of rocks this rock caught my eye. Thousands of rocks, walked over time and time again and as timing would have it, I happen to look down and see this single rock. (READ MORE)

C. J. CHIVERS: ERRANT ROCKET KILLS CIVILIANS IN AFGHANISTAN - An errant American rocket strike on Sunday hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians in the last Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, killing at least 10 people, including 5 children, military officials said. Avoiding such civilian deaths, which came on the second day of a major allied offensive around Marja, has been a cornerstone of the war strategy by the top American commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. He apologized to President Hamid Karzai, saying, ''We deeply regret this tragic loss of life.'' The strike came after American Marines and Afghan soldiers had been taking intense small-arms fire from a mud-walled compound in the area, American officers said. The answering artillery barrage instead hit a building a few hundred yards away, striking with a roar and sending a huge cloud of dust and smoke into the air. As the wind pushed the plume away, a group of children rushed outside. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Deep Breaths - One of the quirkier things I miss about home is seeing my own face. Mirrors are few and far between on our joint COP with the ANA. In the United States, every bathroom, every vehicle, and most bedrooms all provide ample opportunities throughout the day to check one’s appearance. I suppose in a way its good. In a world set on professional appearances, we are able to refine our first impressions with the constant ability to appraise our hair and skin. I guess in the same token, it’s unfortunate that continuous exposure to what other people see of us makes the mind self-conscious and perhaps insecure about minor blemishes that are actually quite normal. On our joint COP with the ANA, I see my own face perhaps once every couple days; and even then, it’s usually on accident. There are no mirrors in our port-a-johns. The mirrors on my Stryker are oriented at the driver, and are usually covered in sand anyways. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Marjeh One Month On - Saturday morning, I asked my twitter peers if anyone had seen a story datelined from Marja(h)(eh) the past few weeks. In his inimical way, Alex Strick van Linschoten sent me this story. Check it: “Since their offensive here in February, the Marines have flooded Marja with hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. The tactic aims to win over wary locals by paying them compensation for property damage or putting to work men who would otherwise look to the Taliban for support. The approach helped turn the tide of insurgency in Iraq. But in Marja, where the Taliban seem to know everything — and most of the time it is impossible to even tell who they are — they have already found ways to thwart the strategy in many places, including killing or beating some who take the Marines’ money, or pocketing it themselves.” I mean, it’s almost like no one could have possibly seen this coming. (READ MORE)

LTC Rich Phillips: Happy Easter! - Happy Easter from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan! I'm back. Back in Afghanistan and back on the blog. I hope I can use this to keep in touch with my friends and family and let them know how I am doing, and how all our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are doing here in Afghanistan. My "home" this time is Bagram Air Base, a huge, dusty and crowded base north of Kabul. Here are a few pictures of my new "home". INSERT PICTURE HERE Well, uploading pictures is not going well tonight. I will try again in the middle of the night when there is more bandwidth available (at least that's what my friends in communications tell me. bandwidth must be affected by daylight.) That is one of the frustrating things about being here, good internet is hard to come by. You would think that after 8 years here in Afghanistan we would at least have good internet at all the bases, or at least all the large bases. But no, I pay a high price to an Indian company for mediocre internet. (READ MORE)

She Who Waits: Oh, now I remember - Now I remember why I don't visit family during the holidays while he's deployed. I love them dearly and miss them, all of them, but it seems like all I did today was talk about my husband and what he's doing, where he is, how long he'll be gone ("Oh, that's not that long." "August will be here before you know it." "That's not so bad." - See here.) A whole two or three people asked what I'd been up to. One even asked if I was working, despite that I've been self-employed for nearly a year now. I also got lots of "I don't know how you do it" type statements. Yeah, me neither, please don't expect some big explanation. Oh and I can't forget the "I could never do that" statements. Yes, you could, just like I can. But hey, I'm doing fine, thanks for genuinely asking how I'm doing during the deployment instead of just talking about my husband. (Plenty of hey, how-are-yas but only one or two people genuinely asking.) (READ MORE)

MaintToad1: Let the dance begin ... (Spouse Leadership) - You know, it's PCS Dance Season. Many of those around us are entering Spring with their dance card full of excitement ... and dread. Spring & Summer moves are what we're made of and most if not all of us will know someone moving somewhere in the next 120 days. This year I will be saying "see you later" to many friends this summer as I watch them spin up for their dance. The Boss and I are staying put this summer so I get to watch the dance from under my sombrero and in my lawn chair with a beer. Guess NOT being a part of the dance does have some advantages, eh? As I watch those going to the PCS Dance refocus and start their checklists, I settle back and think about those that they will be replaced with -- folks at other bases doing their own PCS Dance getting ready to move to my installation. I think back on friends about to depart and the effortless coordination of doing our mil-spouse activities gained through familiarity versus the unknown of the new folks in-bound. (READ MORE)

Texas Music: Easter Morning - We roll into the IZ, past the Iraqi Army checkpoint. Three or four Iraqi soldiers stand near the guard shack, AKs one handed by the pistol grips, a tank parked across the street. T-72, I think it is. I remember when they gave us playing cards in AIT with Soviet tanks and aircraft and armored vehicles on the backs. The BMP. The Hind. The Backfire. Down the long dusty road that fronts the Embassy. Suburbans and assorted cars here and there. I hear Velcro sounds from the backseat. "Eltee," I say into the mic at my lips. "Yeah," Aide Man answers from behind the driver of the Humvee. "Is that the Boss, getting out of his gear?" "Uh, roger." "Okay, he knows we're not getting out here, right?" "Don't worry, we won't let him jump out." "Roger that," I say, and we are slowing as we near the pickup point. As we roll to a stop, I peel off the headphones and mic, turn back to the Boss. I tell him that we are picking up passengers and then going on to the MOJ. He nods, and we stop and I jump out. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: The Moral Dimensions - Moral Clarity: On Easter Sunday, 2007, Pte. Kevin Kennedy was killed in Afghanistan. Today in Kandahar, at an Easter ceremony for the families of fallen soldiers, Kevin's father Myles said this: "If you look at our history, we always went in with strong moral causes, and we went in to do a job. Our job will not be complete if (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) pulls out the whole group. We have to maintain some type of military presence for security . . . to let the world know that we haven't really abandoned this mission." Said Theresa Charbonneau, whose son Cpl. Andrew Grenon died in September, 2008: "One hundred forty-one lives have been lost. The journalist has been lost. The diplomat has been lost. I don't want their deaths to be in vain. I don't want to see (Afghanistan) collapse. If by staying longer we can help that not happen . . . I would like to see that." (READ MORE)

The Torch: Afghan detainee docs: Crown privilege rules - On March 31st Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson presented, in lengthy, well-reasoned and well-documented, remarks the government's case in the Commons for its right, indeed duty, not to produce all documents as demanded in a House motion. Our major media outlets, shamefully, disgracefully, typically, totally failed to report the minister's action. The one exception I can find, the Globe and Mail, almost completely ignored the substance of the minister's case. Truly an awful performance all around. Politics and government are more than games; but one would be hard pressed to know that if one relied on those media. Here are excerpts from what Mr Nicholson said, with the guts of the argument (towards the end) first for emphasis and clarity: "...the Crown is as much a constituent part of Parliament as is the House of Commons and the Senate. These parts together can act to define the powers of each through statute but the House alone cannot make law nor extend the scope of its privileges..." (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Sniper Hunt - 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2-503 Infantry got ambushed from both sides in Kunar on March 28. Three rockets slammed into the side of an M-ATV. Another exploded in front of an up-armored Humvee. Bullets struck the windshields of the vehicles, as though someone were aiming for the drivers. Afghanistan is a grab-bag of bad guys, each with their own weapons and tactics. Milled Improvised Explosive Devices from Iran are big down south. In the provinces just south of Kabul, the IEDs are made of local materials like nitrate fertilizer. Farther east, along the Pakistani border, IEDs can be fairly rare, but the enemy fighters are more proficient with their rockets and guns. There are even snipers. 2nd Battalion has lost two soldiers on this deployment: both were shot. Was a sniper targeting the drivers on March 28? There had been rumors of a Dragunov sniper rifle floating around Kunar province. “That shit scares me,” one sergeant said. (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: warTunes - Among many aspects to coming off a combat experience I neglected to mention is rock’n'roll. If reading war memoirs and history and seeking out the company of old combat vets helped provide some context, a lot of loud thrash rock and some milder stuff was the soundtrack. I don’t know what it was like in prior generations with music. I guess pre-rock they turned to barroom ballads, marching songs, that kind of thing. The more intense rock’n'roll cuts to the core of war, is basically about war even when it isn’t,* with its explosive noises, sense of urgency, a lot of yelling, to heart-pounding beats. I found the experience of listening intensified, and often cranked it, the pounding, head-banging variety, when I was accelerating, being pushed back into my seat, and feeling that into-the-void feeling again. It was a release of what was inside, and a bit of a wallowing that allowed me to explore it and express it to myself. (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Iraq election tangle stokes fears of new violence - For the first time since the 2003 overthrow of their patron, Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Sunni Arabs are on the winning side. But the triumph may be short-lived. (READ MORE)

Deadly raid on Sunni village renews fear of sectarian violence in Iraq - Gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms stormed three houses overnight Saturday in a Sunni Muslim village south of Baghdad and killed 24 people, including five women, Iraqi authorities said. (READ MORE)

Retrial postponed for Iraqi in Briton's death - An Iraqi man convicted in the 2004 kidnapping and slaying of a prominent British aid worker will be retried after he claimed he was out of the country at the time of the killing, an attorney for the victim's family said Monday. (READ MORE)

At least 41 killed as triple car bomb hits Baghdad - Three car bombs exploded in Baghdad yesterday in a co-ordinated attack that killed at least 41 people and ended a period of relative calm. (READ MORE)

Car bombs kill at least 30 in Baghdad - Suicide attackers detonated three car bombs near diplomatic missions in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 30 people and wounding scores, security officials said. (READ MORE)

Bombs Hit Hub of Diplomacy in Baghdad - The Iraqi capital echoed with explosions on Sunday as insurgents sought to exploit political uncertainties created by painstakingly slow talks on forming a new government, with three suicide car bombings at diplomatic targets killing dozens of people and other scattered attacks disrupting areas across Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Three Massive Bombs Rock Baghdad, at Least 41 Killed - Iraqi authorities say at least 41 people have been killed in three massive explosions in Baghdad. More than 200 people have been wounded in the blasts, which came as politicians struggle to form a new government. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Australian Troops Build Relationships in Uruzgan Province - Community engagement was the order of the day for soldiers of the First Mentoring Task Force (MTF-1), when they recently patrolled in the Mirabad Valley area with their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jason Blain. (READ MORE)

ANA Commandos First on the Ground in Marjah - Afghan National Army Commandos, patterned after United States Army Rangers, led the assault on Marjah in the early hours of the February operation to take back the Taliban stronghold. (READ MORE)

Afghan-ISAF Forces Bring Free Medical Care to Village in Paktiya - Some villages in Afghanistan have no access to medical facilities. The villagers deal with chronic pain as a part of life. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Troops Kill Militants in NW Pakistan - The Pakistani military says its troops have killed nearly 40 militants in two separate attacks Sunday in the northwest region of the country. (READ MORE)

Drones Batter Al Qaeda and Its Allies Within Pakistan - A stepped-up campaign of American drone strikes over the past three months has battered Al Qaeda and its Pakistani and Afghan brethren in the tribal area of North Waziristan, according to a mid-ranking militant and supporters of the government there. (READ MORE)

The Kandahar gambit - Last week, the nation's top military officer, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, journeyed carefully into Kandahar, the capital of Afghanistan's conservative Pashtun heartland, to talk with community leaders at a shurashura, the Afghan equivalent of a town meeting. (READ MORE)

How to use Afghan culture to devise a political strategy -- and exit - If U.S. military commanders are right, here's how the path out of Afghanistan begins: Several dozen weathered Pashtun farmers are sitting on carpets under a makeshift tent. (READ MORE)

Publicly criticizing the Afghan president hurts the U.S. - Just four days after President Obama's surprise visit to Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave a major speech complaining that heavy-handed international actions tarnished last year's presidential election, diminished his legitimate status as clear winner and risked making the foreign military presence resemble the imperialist invaders of yesteryear. (READ MORE)

Germany apologises over Afghan policemen deaths - Fearing criticism from the US military, the German Government has apologised for mistakenly killing six Afghan policemen. (READ MORE)

10 killed in NATO raid on Afghan militants - NATO forces said they killed 10 militants in a raid on a compound near the Pakistani border early Monday, while gunmen seriously wounded an Afghan provincial councilwoman in a drive-by shooting. (READ MORE)

Karzai to consult tribes before offensive - Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged Sunday that a NATO drive into Taliban territory in Kandahar province would begin only after thorough consultations with local tribal leaders, in a bid to beef up support in the volatile south. (READ MORE)

Taliban lays grim traps in Afghanistan - It is the U.S. Army's most urgent alert and it is now ringing across the Arghandab Valley, from the 82nd Airborne's Battalion Command to the smallest combat outpost: Soldier missing in action. (READ MORE)

US special forces 'tried to cover-up' botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan - US special forces soldiers dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened, Afghan investigators have told The Times. (READ MORE)

U.S. Admits Role in Killing of Afghan Women - After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid. (READ MORE)

Karzai's defiant stance concerns U.S., other Afghans - President Obama's visit to Kabul last week, intended in part to forge a closer working relationship with President Hamid Karzai, has helped produce the opposite: (READ MORE)

Karzai Slams the West Again - President Hamid Karzai lashed out at his Western backers for the second time in three days, accusing the U.S. of interfering in Afghan affairs and saying the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn't stop. (READ MORE)

Afghan-International Force Kills, Detains Militants in Nangarhar - An Afghan-international security force went to a compound north of Khozakheyl, in the Khugyani district of Nangarhar province, after intelligence information verified militant activity last night. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, April 5 - An Afghan-international security force searched a compound east of Marjah, in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province, last night after intelligence information indicated militant activity. (READ MORE)

Girls’ school defies Taliban terror - Two teenage sisters sit huddled in front of an antiquated computer in a chilly classroom, engrossed in an online course on banking and budgeting. (READ MORE)

U.S. Tensions Rise With Afghanistan's Karzai - The U.S. and its allies say Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to stand in the way of political reform. Karzai recently moved against the watchdog committee that accused him of election fraud. (READ MORE)

Missing Japanese journalist locked up in northern Afghanistan - A Japanese journalist who disappeared in northern Afghanistan last week is in a jail in Baghlan Province, a local Afghan reporter said Sunday. (READ MORE)

Fallen soldiers' parents call for troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2011 - After an emotional Easter-weekend ceremony to honour nine Canadian soldiers who have fallen in recent years, parents of dead sons called for Canada's troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2011. (READ MORE)

No reaching out to Taliban, says India - Unfazed by the Feb 25 attacks in Kabul, India is scaling up the security of around 3,500 Indians working in Afghanistan and has made it clear that there is no question of India reaching out to the Taliban. (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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