April 8, 2010

From the Front: 04/08/2010

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

Dispatches:
A Major's Perspective: Bake Me A Wish Birthday Cakes - I don't have that long to write but I had to give a huge thank you to the wonderful people at Bake Me A Wish! led by Mr. Josh Kaye. Along with and in conjunction with Soldier's Angels they bake Birthday Cakes for deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard, and I have to tell you they are incredibly delicious and decadent! We received a special package from them this past weekend, just in time for Easter, and a number of our personnel's birthdays. I can not even begin to tell you how special it made the day. A huge thank you to all of you, and a huge thank you to Mr. Josh Kaye and Soldier's Angels. I cannot say enough about you. Thank You! (MORE)

A.L.L.: Afghanistan Politics - Here is another blog post that is part of the Afghanistan Lessons Learned series. With the recent postings about Karzai's statements and the arguing back and forth between our country's government I figured it would be good to provide some background on how the Afghanistan Government works. Afghanistan’s 34 Provinces are divided into districts. The number of districts has changed with the division or merging into other districts. The 325 districts that existed prior to 1979 changed with a reorganization in 2004 to an even larger number of 397. Currently, the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) recognizes 398 districts. As Afghanistan continues to organize itself, this number may change over time. Political Structure: • Executive — President is head of both state and government • Provincial governors for each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces appointed by the president (READ MORE)

Teflon Don: End of Innocence - Staff Sergeant George Nickel is in court again today. Hopefully, this will be the last time. Hopefully, we’ll see him go somewhere where he can get the help he needs. He’s pleaded guilty to a felony, discharging a weapon into a building, in exchange for having all other charges dropped. He’s still looking at up to 15 years in prison. We want to see him put into secure care. Most of all, we want to see him get better. Very few have given as much as George and survived. He deserves better than we’ve given him. Before I joined the Army, before we invaded Iraq- when I first went to college… One of my friends was a Marine reservist. His brigade was on alert to deploy for the invasion. I remember him coming to the dorm with all of his gear and sorting it, packing each piece of equipment away. He didn’t go, then, but he went twice later. The second time, he got to Ramadi just days after I left. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Bouhammer Mailing Lists - I have received a lot of emails in the last day from people wanting to help out a few Special Forces ODA teams in Afghanistan, and this has not been the first time that many readers of this blog have stepped up to help out teams of Americans in combat. Rather than have people each email me separately to get the mailing address I am going to set up a email distribution list just for the purpose of letting readers of this blog know when Americans are in need overseas. In addition I am also going to setup another mailing list to alert fans of this blog of HOT or URGENT blog posts that I think are very important. If you would like to be on the troop supporting mail list and get emails from me only when I have US Service-members reach out to me for support from home, do the following: (READ MORE)

Afghani Kush: I am done - Hey everyone. I'm finished with my deployment, we made it home safe and after 14 months and some weeks in country, I am happy to say that it's over. Bittersweet because of those that didn't make it back, but I made some really good friends along the way too. I know that I'll be headed back there at some point in the future so I'm going to keep this blog active. Thanks for reading. Roger, out. (MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Case of a Mistaken Village - Now that our mission is over, I will reveal what I couldn’t yesterday about the potential of being the biggest blunder of my deployment. It took some real finesse and some sheer luck to resolve the situation. Some 173rd teammates and I joined forces with G Company, 186 BSB and our mission was to perform a reconnaissance mission on a village. I have been working on this project for several weeks and now it was coming to fruition. Previously I had targeted a village school to deliver school supplies to. It sounds simple, but it’s a very tedious process and involves a lot of coordination, logistics, analysis, and planning. After all the atmospherics are completed and layers of bureaucracy of approval are granted, the next step is to meet with the appropriate village personnel and establish a date for delivery. We drove down a bumpy road to get to the quaint village which was nestled in the foothills of the towering mountains seen off in the distance. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Two Missions and a Surprise - The past few days has been nonstop planning, coordinating, analyzing, and preparing for these missions. The first leg of the mission had the potential to be the greatest blunder of my deployment. For OPSEC reasons, I can’t provide any more detail or pictures until later on this week. I even penned a catchy headline entitled “Case of Mistaken Village.” So let me move onto the 2nd leg of the mission. I teamed up with the garrison personnel and requested their support. This mission called for the use of up-armored Humvees and since we turned ours in, I had to locate someone who still had them. I didn’t have to look far because one of my b-hut mates happens to be a First Sergeant and is in charge of garrison support. He and his team are from the Massachusetts Army National Guard, G Company, 186th BSB out of Quincy, Massachusetts. Normally, they are responsible for repairing vehicles, camp security, mail runs, etc. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Welcoming our nation’s hero’s home - My New Year’s Eve in 2005 was a little different from any of my other New Year Eves’ in the past. It was a New Year’s Eve that would forever change the way I looked at events or people. I spent New Year’s Eve that year with a few of my Army comrades. When I told my wife Michelle I was spending it with some of my fellow Army comrades and not with her and the family, she didn’t quite know what to make of it. After all, aren’t you supposed to bring in the New Year with family and friends? But my evening spent with fellow Army comrades in 2005 in fact, was a rather very quiet one. There were no big celebrations and hardly any fanfare, which is usually associated with anything on New Year’s Eve. There was no loud music, no Dick Clark countdown in Time’s Square, no fireworks to see, or even the traditional champagne toasts to bring in the New Year. In fact, my Army comrades didn’t say a word at all. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghan election officials resign - Reactions to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent anti-Western comments are still developing: the U.S. hinted yesterday that the Afghan leader's planned May 12 visit to Washington could be in jeopardy, and former deputy U.N. envoy to Kabul Peter Galbraith suggested Karzai has a drug problem. Karzai's spokesman said he was shocked to see such reports, and they don't "make sense". A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban rejected Karzai's reported threat to join the insurgent movement if the U.S. doesn't stop pressuring him to reform, scoffing, "If he really wants to join the Taliban, first he should face justice...for bringing foreign troops to Afghanistan...for all the crime which has happened during his rule in Afghanistan, and for the corruption and for what is going on now. Then we'll decide whether we will join with him or not. (READ MORE)

Awful, Beautiful Life: Emotion overload - A dear friend of mine told me that the very end of the deployment is more emotional than the whole rest of it combined. She is very correct. It is almost over and I am having emotion overload. I range from wanting to throw up to crying my eyes out to wanting to punch someone. I am frustrated, distracted, and freaked out all at the same time. I got a tentative date today but again, I have had five of those in the last week. So all I can do is hope and pray that they are actually on time this go round. And until he gets home, I need to keep myself busy and actually do some of that homework that has been piling up on me the past few weeks. The end of a deployment is crazy and it is making me go crazy, too. (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: WikiLeaks’ Credibility on US Killing Civilians in Iraq on Par with Baghdad Bob - I have sat on this for over a day. These WikiLeak guys are so ignorant of anything outside of their little nerf-world it is laughable. If you don’t have the 39 minutes to check out the youtube footage, I understand. You can easily fast forward to the important parts. The video in all its glory shows two Apaches patrolling an area of Baghdad. They observe, identify and eliminate targets that ARE carrying weapons. An RPG and rifles. Some have bandoleers on their chest. Let’s set some records straight here. We have four primary issues that WikiLeak is losing sleep over: 1. Civilians died in the attack 2. More important than civilians, journalists from Reuters died in the attack 3. soldiers talked disrespectfully about killing 4. Soldiers drove over a dead insurgent with their vehicle... (READ MORE)

the semi-normal, day-to-day life of a femal marine: The Female MSG Shirt - Cairo was my last post and it was the only post where I was assigned to be the detachment's MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) NCO. The MWR NCOs are the Marine Security Guards who run the infamous Marine House bars, order and sell souvenirs like coins and t-shirts, and plan the annual birthday balls. Not long after I took over it was time to think about replenishing the detachment's t-shirt supply so I emailed the company who did the last batch. They offered to do a free design update and after 25 seconds of pondering I knew what the update needed to be: A FEMALE MARINE! As you can see, the old design had only a male Marine and the Egyptian god Anubis and judging by many other MSG detachment t-shirts I'd seen, you would think that MSGs were all beefy white men who ate steroids for breakfast. Every detachment I'd been posted at had more than one female Marine and it's silly for the shirt designs to to be stuck in the 1970s and 80s. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Operation Moshtarak - Operation Moshtarak which was the taking of the Taliban infested area around Marjah by the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade has proven to be much more difficult than previous operations in the Helmand Province. The clearing phase was successful despite problems with the new rules regarding artillery and air delivered ordnance. It is the holding phase which is proving to be a problem. The Taliban still control most of the village hamlets and are exacting a heavy toll on local people who cooperate with the Marines of Afghan Government. The New York Times has a pretty good article on the problem here. The Marines have a limited number of options with which to deal with entrenched guerrillas. They did a good job of driving the Taliban underground. Their campaign against known Taliban leaders and fixers which was conducted by the varsity SF guys was also very effective netting every named target on the Joint Prioritized Effects List (J-PEL) except one: (READ MORE)

Bruce R: On the Iraqi guncam footage - Before anyone gets too excited over the Wikileaked gun camera footage from a 2007 Baghdad engagement, it might be worth their time to read the fairly thorough official report of the U.S. army investigation of the incident, in which two Reuters staffers died. The picture above, reproduced from the report, was taken from the vantage point of one of the Reuters cameramen, where they were crouching seconds before the Apache helicopters attacked the group of armed men he was amongst, one of whom was clearly carrying an RPG (you really don't need to be an imagery analyst to see it, but the report provides closeups in case you missed it, too). Note how it shows a US HMMWV less than 100 metres away down the street, well within that RPG's range. The report also confirms that U.S. ground forces in the neighborhood remained under fire throughout the day, and that multiple weapons, including the RPG, were later found among the bodies. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Site Offers After-deployment Support - I wanted to share information about a great online resource that’s designed to help servicemembers, their families and veterans deal with life after deployment. I read about the site, afterdeployment.org, in a blog written by Dr. Robert Ciulla and posted on the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s Web site. Afterdeployment.org provides the military community with self-care tools to tackle a range of adjustment concerns, Ciulla wrote. The Web site focuses on common readjustment issues including sleep difficulties, adjusting to physical injuries, dealing with spiritual doubts, managing the general stress of everyday life and getting back to being productive at work. The site also provides information about post-traumatic stress, alcohol and drugs, anxiety, families and friendships, health and wellness and resilience. There’s also a “geolocator” that can help you find a local provider to help with these issues. (READ MORE)

Trooper Pete Sheppard: tears and tributes to a 'good guy' - They say a watched kettle never boils. You could also say that time never moves slower than when you are in Camp Bastion just waiting to go home. The BRF came back into Bastion on 26 March having completed their final op. I wish I could say there was a real end of term atmosphere, that there were big smiles all round. Instead, there was just the awful realisation that whether you are on your first day, or your last – the last day as it turns out – your luck can still run out. We were in the area north of Five Ways Junction, a major meeting of roads that lead to Marjah, Lashkar Gar and places like that. We had sent a recce party forward to liaise with the Americans because we were passing through their area. We pushed through and set ourselves up in a leaguer – long lines of vehicles – in the middle of open ground but surrounded by poppy fields and mud compounds. (READ MORE)

TankerBabe: HE'S HOME FROM AFGHANISTAN - Safe and Sound. Answered Prayers - No day during a deployment is an easy or happy one. But Christmas Day 2009 my niece received an email declaring that her husband, Jared, and his unit were being EXTENDED in Afghanistan. Merry (well you know) Christmas. But God answers prayers. Jared's plane landed a few minutes ago. He's home! Nothing more to say except I am SO proud of both of you and I love you thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much. See you in about a month and cannot wait! Welcome Home Corpsman! (MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Chocolat The Army Hero - The old market place was deserted. The soldiers knew that something was wrong because the local Afghan traders had abandoned it to set up another small bazaar further down the road. Last month, as part of Operation Moshtarak, a full search team was sent in to clear and make the area safe. Known only as Yellow 2 in the Nad e Ali region of Helmand it looked more like a scene from a spaghetti western, minus the tumbleweed, when the troops walked in. Enter stage right: Chocolat, a beautiful Belgian Shepherd, and his handler Private Steve Purdy (20) from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Chocolat is a new type of search dog referred to as High Assurance Search (HAS) and his role is to find lethal Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) buried under the ground. He works exclusively with the brave specialists of the Counter IED Task Force based in Camp Bastion. At Yellow 2 he was searching through the deserted bazaar when he suddenly darted into an open shop front. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Killers Return - Cowards went after civilians again when they bombed seven residential buildings and a restaurant. They killed at least 35 people and injured several more. The apartment buildings were in the poorest neighbourhoods of Baghdad. In other words, the murdered had neither political influence nor economic influence. All they did was exist, which apparently was enough to motivate the killers. Media reports say the killers struck because the government has yet to be formed. The delay is the current prime minister doesn't want to admit that he lost to Ayad Allawi, who won the most seats in parliament. Now the political groups are forming coalitions to see who can set up a government. From what I understand, the prime minister is feeling isolated. The Shiite Alliance doesn't want Nouri Al Maliki to be prime minister again, partly because Moktada Al Sadr is still angry from Maliki's crackdown on Sadr's thugs. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Up - "You and I all know individuals who do much quiet good," said Neal Maxwell, "by following the scriptural injunction about lifting up the hands that hang down. Some of those hands which hang down once grasped the iron rod and then let go, having simply given up." Friends, family, and complete strangers started lifting me up just a few hours after my last post. Sam recommended the Eels. "This nagging malaise is more than a phase," the song goes. "It feels like a job, but no boss ever pays you to lay there and think how you’ll die while the tears start to well in your eyes. Somebody loves you. And you’re gonna make it through." For the last 96 hours since, I’ve been bombarded with Christlike tweets, blog comments, and Facebook messages. These expressions of love, support, and candid advice (Dad wants me to lay off the heavy metal) have done what even a well-meaning squad leader or platoon sergeant couldn’t. Thank you! (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: 35 killed in attacks against civilians in Baghdad - The Baghdad area was hit with the third major attack in four days as bombs were detonated in residential areas of the capital, killing 35 Iraqis and wounding scores more. Terrorists planted bombs inside homes and apartment complexes in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Al Shula, Jakook, Allawi, Al Shurta Al Khamisa, and Al Aamel, Voices of Iraq reported. Most of the blasts took place in predominately Shia neighborhoods, although Allawi is a mixed Sunni and Shia neighborhood. At least seven blasts were reported, while bomb disposal teams defused two devices. Thirty-five Iraqis have been killed and more than 140 have been wounded, an anonymous Interior Ministry official told Voices of Iraq. The toll may rise, as more casualties are feared to be trapped in the rubble. Today’s attacks follow the coordinated attacks on embassies in Baghdad on April 4 and a raid on a village in Baghdad province on April 3. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Seven Dwarfs of Deployment - I know most of you have seen Snow White, so you are familiar with Sneezy, Happy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Sleepy and Grumpy, the seven dwarfs. Little did you know there are seven dwarfs of deployment. Doc - Once your husband leaves you not only are mother and father, but plumber, electrician, counselor, and doctor. You have to be it all and do it all to pick up the slack from missing an entire adult from the family. Cold and flu season is finally at an end, I was feeling like a doctor or a nurse, more like an orderly as I have touched way more human by-products than I care to talk about. Sleepy - This one is easy, I honestly can count on one hand the number of nights I have actually slept more than six hours straight through. Children, pets, and faulty alarm system wiring have kept me very sleepy. Sneezy - I know that stress and lack of sleep lower the immune system, but seriously, could we have had a few more illnesses in the house? (READ MORE)

Married To The Military: When I grow up... - When you’re little adults love to ask you what you want to be when you grow up. In my earliest memories I recall wanting to be “a bride” and “a mommy”. Whenever I answered that way I'd receive a pat on the head, perhaps an eye roll, and then I'd hear, "Aww, that's nice! But what do you really want to be when you grow up"? It was clear to me by first grade that "stay-at-home mom" was not an acceptable aspiration for any "smart" little girl in the mid 1980s. I was part of a growing latch key generation and strong women were expected to have it all! So, by the time I was 8 I learned to say I that wanted to be a ballerina and, despite never having attended a dance class in my life, that seemed to appease everyone for awhile. When I was 10 I discovered and fell in love with Les Misérables, West Side Story and Phantom of the Opera. I told everyone I imagined myself singing on Broadway someday. The adults around me just ate that up. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Poppy fields in AFG - The poppy field crops are coming into harvest about now. In 2007, 93% of the opium in the world market came from Afghanistan. This comes to be about $64 billion with less than a quarter going to farmers, and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers. Go figure that! You’re a farmer, work yer butt off only to have some armed thugs come take your years work and pay you pennies. With the integration of new crops (wheat) etc, we are changing the above. The opium is transported to laboratories where it is purified into morphine. Ten pounds of raw opium yields one pound of morphine. The morphine is converted to heroin, which is several times stronger and more addictive than morphine. The heroin is smuggled into the United States where it is diluted down to between 5% and 20% purity and sold on the street. Five hundred dollars worth of raw opium is required to make a little less than one pound of heroin. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 6 April 10 - OK, so my friend is a little retarded or something …normally if you give a time–example: 0245 Local–then you mean the next time the clock hits that particular minute…well, my friend told me when they were taking off, but he neglected to mention that it wasn’t last night, it’s tonight… so, I went out to the passenger terminal with some other AF people waiting on their replacements, and we stood around for an hour or two…no AF personnel getting off any planes…mind you, the terminal is the only place people come in when they get off a plane–one small building, so the place is packed with people coming and going and there are constantly different military flights landing here from all over the world …it’s kind of difficult to get to any counter and ask what flights have arrived and what flights are coming in…there is one customer service counter and it’s always packed with people trying to get space-available seating on all these thousands of military birds flying around the AOR… (READ MORE)

this is our life: Welcome Home Soldier - Ben flew in late last Wednesday night. Apparently it was too late for little Abi. We tried everything to wake her up to no avail. Aiden, on the other hand, was in hyperactive mode. On the way to the airport he was talking non-stop. He stopped only to yawn and I asked him if he was getting tired he said, "No, just my mouth is." He was very excited and waited right by the door for a good 10 minutes. When Ben asked him for a hug Aiden ran away as fast as he could (he hates hugs). Payson didn't know what to think. He recognized his dad, but wasn't quite sure what was going on. His dad wasn't in a computer anymore. :) It is so great to have him back. It's hard to describe what its like to someone who has never experienced what we've been through. I feel kinda like I can breathe again after holding my breath for a really long time. Like I can relax. It's so good to just know that he's here with us. We have barely been able to let him out of our sight. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: Comments about the Military - A lot of times I see stories in the news and comments made about them and just do the virtual “walk-by” because the comments are so ludicrous. This one I could not though. What you’ll find is a story about an Afghan man claiming that his family was murdered by NATO forces. I'm not going to say anything else about that part of the story since it is my understanding that an investigation is ongoing and honestly it’s not my place. What I do want to discuss is the comments made by readers. The derogatory comments made, focus around the general thought that all Soldiers are a bunch of murdering, rapist, thugs. One person even goes so far as to say that as long as the Military is comprised of the bottom 10% of society, what do you expect. This is the area of the article I want to rebuke. First off, bottom 10% of society. Thanks for your elitist attitude. Just because we didn’t go to some Ivy League school? Just because maybe we grew up on the wrong side of the tracks? (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: War is UGLY, that is why so few of us are willing to do it - I was originally going to write this for the YouServed.com blog, but decided against it as I didn’t want to bring any controversy over there. I am sure I will get some military-hating, unpatriotic and ignorant about combat people to comment on this. So to those people, feel free to comment. If you have seen the video that WikiLeaks that came out in the press the other day, then I am sure you have an opinion about it. I personally watched the entire the entire 39 minutes, and 14 seconds. I have embedded the video below in case you have not seen it. However let me caution you that for those that are easily disturbed and upset, this video could be uncomfortable for you to watch. Also, let me caution you to please ignore the liberal-leaning spun comments by wiki-leaks at the start and the end. Yesterday I was invited to be on BBC’s World Have Your Say. A show that I am regularly on as a guest. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Organized Chaos - Now that we had a solution, it was time to implement an action plan. The next day, my teammates and G-Company, 186 BSB combined forces and loaded a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) with the boxes packed full of school supplies. Before loading them, we stacked them in the parking lot by type of item contained in the postal flat rate boxes. Then I divided the inventory in half. We formed an assembly line and half of the boxes were loaded on to the truck and the remainder was placed back into the metal conex. The boxes were then covered with a tarp and parked at the Motor Pool in preparation for tomorrow’s mission. In the morning the convoy commander set up a sand table diagram (without the sand) and we walked through today’s mission. He wanted to be sure everyone knew their security position and we discussed possible contingencies and egress strategies. We weren’t taking any chances even though this appeared to be a safe village. (READ MORE)

Army Live: New Health Care Reform Won’t Effect MHS - Many of you may be wondering how the recent health care legislation will affect your military healthcare benefits. The Military Health System (MHS) is not affected by the health care reform legislation. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reiterated earlier this week, the health and well-being of America’s men and women in uniform is his highest priority. Secretary Gates also stated that, “Our troops and their Families can be re-assured that the health care reform legislation being passed by the Congress will not negatively impact the TRICARE medical insurance program, as it already meets the bill’s quality and minimum benefit standards. This was clarified by a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be re-affirmed by the Senate. The President and I are committed to seeing that our troops, retirees and their Families will continue to receive the best quality health care.” (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqis Brace for More Attacks - Today Iraqis buried their dead from the horrific bomb attacks. The explosions that brought down some seven residential buildings signal al-Qaeda is focused on killing Iraqis. People everywhere were horrified and angry. People cried even if they don't know the deceased personally. Everyone is disgusted. I heard people shouting why kill innocent civilians? They blame the government for failing to protect them and their homes from terrorists. If outsiders think ordinary Iraqis are about to kill each other, they really have to rethink their logic. Nobody is saying the dead deserved to die. Rather, people are sad for the loss of life. Nobody is saying "yeah rah go al-Qaeda go ahead and liberate Iraq." And nobody is screaming support for Shiite militias either. There is no support whatsoever for these bombings. The Sadr movement announced that they support Ibrahim Al Jaafari for prime minister. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: When Context is Collateral Damage - Many people wonder if the future of journalism is represented by small independent bloggers and advocacy groups… and some might be tempted to point to a recent posting by the WikiLeaks Web site as an example. The website released a cockpit video Monday from a 2007 engagement in Iraq, in which an Apache helicopter crew fires on a group of unidentified men, and then a passer-by driving a van who attempts to rescue the wounded. From all the available evidence this appears to be a tragic mistake. The cockpit conversation makes clear the Apache pilots convince themselves the groups is armed with AK-47s and RPGs before opening fire with their 30 mm cannons. The resulting carnage is devastating, especially because after-the-fact, it appears the crew mistook the telephoto lens of a Reuters cameraman for a rocket-launcher, and that many, if not all, of the victims may have been noncombatants. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: Upon Further Review: Collateral Murder? - Yesterday I reviewed the gun camera video from the July 12 2007 engagement in which a Reuters cameraman and his driver were killed in Iraq after a U.S. Apache helicopter opened fire on a group of men. This was posted by the WikiLeaks website under the title Collateral Murder. I gave my analysis, based on what I could see on the tape, including my conclusion that the crew failed to ascertain the group of men was in fact comprised of enemy fighters. Since then I have obtained and read the Army’s 15–6 investigation, which concludes the Reuters cameraman and the driver “were in the company of armed insurgents who had been firing on Bravo company…”. The investigation, which you can read here in its entirety, says two RPGs and one AK-47 assault rifle were found at the scene. The report includes still frames from the same video released by WikiLeaks Monday and highlights where one man can be seen carrying a gun, and another an RPG round. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Gordon's Downrange Journal - A group of us on Facebook are supporting two soldiers who have deployed downrange for the first time. I met Gordon at the home of Armed Liberal a few months ago. Here is Gordon's account, written shortly after arriving. He wrote it for this blog. You can even leave a comment for him below. My journey to Afghanistan was interesting. I was dropped off by my uncle and his family on the 28th of March at Joint Base Lewis McChord. There we waited for hours and hours just to draw weapons. Of course, after that we waited some more! We took a commercial flights that sent us through the US, to Europe, and then to Kuwait. We were in Beuhring for 1 night. I was actually scared that I would be stuck in Kuwait for 3 weeks because I heard the last group in 5/2 that went to afghanistan before us was stuck there for 3 weeks because of admin problems. And when I mean admin problems I mean PVTs being retarded and missing the manifest! (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban release video of captive US soldier - The Taliban have released a videotape of a US soldier captured in eastern Afghanistan during the summer of 2009. The soldier, Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, is seen pleading for his release while a Taliban spokesman says the US must free selected captive Taliban officials to secure his Bergdahl's release. The 7:56 long video shows Bergdahl providing information to prove his identity, pleading for his release, and demonstrating that he is physically fit. At times Bergdahl is emotional. He is seen with a full bear, and is wearing combat ACU pants, an Army PT warm-up jacket, and a patrol cap. The tape begins with Bergdahl attempting to prove his identity. An inordinate amount of time is spent on this. For nearly four minutes, almost half the videotape, Bergdahl provides information on his background, including names of family members, his past addresses, details about his career in the Army, and hobbies. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Video of a Baghdad Attack - This is a rare event: two blog posts in a single day. Since posting my comments earlier, I found some discussions about the now-infamous Wikileaks video of an aerial attack in Baghdad in 2007 that killed a number of Iraqi men, among them a photographer and driver for Reuters. The video, entitled Collateral Murder, is on virtually every news site and probably has been shown on most TV news shows as well by now. I'm not going to post it as everybody else already has. I watched the video yesterday. It's very disturbing, in and of itself. You see and hear aircrews discussing the men on the ground, getting cleared to fire, shooting at the group, and then discussing the results afterward. You see living men get killed. And the discussion sounds cold and heartless. But there is much more to the story than the Wikileaks video provides. It seems to me that Wikileaks is pursuing a sensationalist approach, or at least has an agenda to pursue. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Winding Down - Three weeks from today, I'll be in Kuwait, on my way home for the final time. I've started the transition here in the office by transferring responsibilities for my projects over to my replacement, Joyce. She is taking the lead on all of them and I'm providing her with the history, backstory, files, and guidance. Sometimes it's a bit difficult for me. Something will come in, a question or action item, and I want to just jump in and do it. And I have, a few times, but that's not fair to Joyce. So I keep telling myself "take a deep breath ... step away from the projects ... let them go ...." There has been a discussion raging at the next desk for the past half hour, arguing over where some responsibilities should reside. This discussion has really been going on since last summer. Our high honchos back in the states have been trying to slash my organization's expenses, but they haven't really understood what we were required to do. (READ MORE)

Anthony Martinez: WikiLeaks – “Collateral Murder” - Several commenters on Twitter and YouTube have expressed a great deal of anger towards the United States and members of its military. Many of them, unsurprisingly, have wished death on us all. Part of the problem, which is far more complex than I have the time or desire to fully discuss, lies in the presentation of above video. What could have been the case is identified for the viewer quite readily. What certainly is true, in several key moments, is not. When presenting source media as the core of your argument, it is grossly irresponsible to fail to make known variables not shown within that media. If you are going to take the time to highlight certain things in said media, you should make certain all key elements are brought to the attention of your viewer. WikiLeaks failed to do these things in this video, happily highlighting the positions and movements of the slain reporter and photographer while ignoring those of their company. (READ MORE)

Sarah Kendzior: Let the Revolution Be Archived - Like many readers of Registan following the events in Kyrgyzstan, I have spent the last few hours watching a revolution online. I watched militsiya forces fire into a city street and protesters tip over a police car on YouTube; I saw a devastating photo collection of the violence and its victims on LiveJournal; and I have read constant updates from witnesses of and participants in the events on Twitter — to say nothing of the blog posts and articles from RFE, EurasiaNet, Ferghana.ru, BBC and other media sources. I have little doubt that the Kyrgyz protests, like those in Iran last summer, are going to be described as a “Twitter Revolution” — a hyperbolic term coined to describe the role of social media in battling authoritarian regimes. While I am skeptical of this take — the internet, I would argue, aggravates suspicion and distrust among opposition forces just as much as it brings them together: (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: Green Zebra - Despite the shadow the Iraq and Afghanistan wars cast over the greater American society, veterans of these conflicts are scarce amongst the populace. Trust me, I know. Having left the active duty Army last June, I’ve spent the past nine-odd months walking around in this land, attempting to adjust to civilian ways while simultaneously rediscovering my own civilian skin. Some days are smoother than others. The separation between American and American-Veteran is wide, but it seems like only the latter group really grasps the fact – although I may be slightly biased in that interpretation. It's an unforeseen consequence of the all-volunteer force that members of our warrior caste often skeptically question why the other 99% of the nation’s population couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t fight next to them. Such isn’t fair of course, but self-righteousness is a sin many soldiers must grapple with after they return home. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: Winning Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan: Assessing the Effectiveness of Development Aid in COIN - In early March, I participated in a superb conference hosted by Wilton Park in Sussex, England on “Winning Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan: Assessing the Effectiveness of Development Aid in COIN.” This event focused on challenges associated with assessing the effectiveness of developmental aid in supporting COIN objectives in Afghanistan. The final Conference Report was released on 1 April. I recommend you review it for its many insights relevant to the counterinsurgency and stability operations communities of interest. Participating were senior NATO civilian and ISAF military officials, COIN Training Center-Afghanistan, US Institute for Peace, serving PRT leaders, academia, NGOs, and many ISAF nation military and developmental experts. This diverse group surfaced insights on a number of the challenges confronting policymakers and counterinsurgency practitioners including: (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Hopefully, the last post on the Apache video - This Apache video is quickly spiraling out of control. Some final thoughts. For the Army, this is a public relations nightmare. We have a cliche in the military which says that "unlike fine wine, bad news does not get better over time". Such is the case here. In retrospect, it would have been best that the military been first with the video an at least offered an explanation. That would have at least played better than a "leaked" video, with a decidedly anti-war group editing the video to point out the civilians in the frame and not the insurgents. A few of my regular blog buddies have been leading the discussion at the Small Wars Council. Not too surprisingly, I tend to fall in line with the users "Schmedlap" and "Cavguy"--the screen name of Major Niel Smith. There's a general consensus that the first engagement--namely, the mistaking of the camera lens for an RPG--was regrettable, but just another tragic instance of the "fog of war". (READ MORE)




News from the Home Front:
Iraq War veteran George Nickel won't go to prison for armed standoff with police last summer - George Nickel will have weeks of residential treatment in the Boise veterans hospital to sort out the personal demons that led to his arrest by Boise police last summer. (READ MORE)

Wikileaks Defends Release of Video Showing Killing of Journalists in Iraq - As my colleague Elisabeth Bumiller reported, a senior American military official confirmed on Monday that a graphic video released by the Web site WikiLeaks.org, which shows an American helicopter shooting and killing a Reuters photographer and driver during a July 2007 attack in Baghdad, is authentic. (READ MORE)

ROTC May Return to Stanford - Being a student at an elite university like Stanford is challenging enough. But imagine the difficulty for undergrads who've chosen to serve our country after they graduate. (READ MORE)

Gates Stresses Need for Special Operations Funding - Getting special operations forces a seat at the defense budget table has been a priority since he took office, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy here tonight. (READ MORE)

Attorneys ready for Gitmo detainee's trial in 2011 - A military judge at Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday said lawyers in the case of a Sudanese detainee don't expect to be ready for trial until early 2011, according to a military commissions spokesman. (READ MORE)




News from the Front:
Iraq:

See No Evil - Iraq’s elections were a photographer’s dream. Millions of people turning out to vote, long lines at the ballot boxes, and everywhere photogenically purple fingers being held aloft for camera and television lenses. (READ MORE)

In a Tour for Visitors, Baghdad’s Past Is Present - A group of foreign visitors went on a tour of Baghdad recently. Such an event, almost anywhere else, would have passed unnoticed. But this is Baghdad... (READ MORE)

Army Beating Estimate on Equipment Drawdown from Iraq - The Army is now 35 percent complete in its effort to move equipment and materiel out of Iraq as part of the U.S. withdrawal from that country. (READ MORE)

Who succeeds top Iraqi cleric not just about piety - Behind the scenes in this holy city, Shiite clerics are quietly intriguing over who will succeed the sect's most revered and politically influential leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in a tussle that circles around money and foreign meddling as much as knowledge and piety. (READ MORE)

Al-Sadr's movement backs neither Iraq front-runner - The two front-runners vying to become Iraq's next prime minister failed to get the support of an influential Shiite movement in results from a poll released Wednesday, further muddying the political situation following inconclusive March elections. (READ MORE)

Allawi says Iraq impasse drags on - A secular Shiite vying to become Iraq's next prime minister said Tuesday the country's feuding politicians have not even started discussing how to form a government a month after elections failed to produce a clear winner. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
Man loses 5 family members in disputed NATO raid - A celebration of life turned to tears and blood on a cold February night when a NATO raid now under investigation robbed Mohammed Sabir of five family members. (READ MORE)

Afghan-ISAF Forces Distribute School Supplies in Helmand Province - Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) and troops from the Afghan National Army (ANA) have distributed school books to children in the Wishtan area of Helmand Province. (READ MORE)

Afghan Helicopter Force Takes Off - The beginnings of a robust and dedicated Afghan helicopter force is beginning to take shape, thanks in part to the contribution of British military experience and expertise. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, April 8 - An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban improvised explosive device expert and several other militants in Kandahar province this morning. (READ MORE)

Obama Clash With Karzai Raises Concerns Ahead of Kandahar Offensive - Timing is everything. And for the out-in-the-open feud between President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the timing is very, very bad. (READ MORE)

Bombing of NATO tanker in Pakistan kills boy - A bomb attached to a tanker carrying fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan exploded in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, destroying the vehicle and killing a boy who was riding in a van behind it. (READ MORE)

Why Hamid Karzai makes a bad partner for the U.S. - President Obama will soon have 100,000 troops fighting a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan. Their success depends on having a credible Afghan partner. Unfortunately, Obama's partner is Hamid Karzai. (READ MORE)

Afghan, NATO Troops Kill Dozens in Battle - Afghan and NATO troops were involved in a 12-hour battle yesterday with insurgents in western Afghanistan’s Badghis province, killing dozens of enemy fighters, military officials reported. (READ MORE)

Afghan election chief and deputy resign - The head of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) and his deputy have resigned, officials say. (READ MORE)

Hamid Karzai ousts 2 Afghan officials linked to vote fraud - In an apparent capitulation to international pressure, the government of President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday announced the removal of two top election officials who were implicated in widespread fraud in last summer's balloting for president. (READ MORE)

5 suicide bombers arrested in Kabul - Afghan police said Thursday they thwarted a major attack in Kabul, arresting five would-be suicide bombers, the largest such group apprehended in the capital. (READ MORE)

U.S. Tries to Mend Rift With Karzai - Seeking to quell an increasingly vitriolic and public dispute, the Obama administration said Wednesday that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was “a figure that we respect,” and it sharply countered claims by a former United Nations official that the president might be a drug user. (READ MORE)

U.S. now focused on getting rid of Taliban instead of opium crops in Afghanistan - Thousands of Afghan migrant workers expected here in the next few weeks for the spring opium harvest will find at least as much work as last year. (READ MORE)



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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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