April 14, 2010

From the Front: 04/14/2010

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

Dispatches:
Short Timers: Shameless promotion department - Our Iraq project receives cover-story treatment in the spring issue of Aurora, UAF's alumni magazine. The package includes an overview I put together describing how we got there, what happened and lessons the students took away from the experience. It also features one of Tom's best pieces, "Saying Goodbye," a story about the 1-5 Infantry's last training mission with an Iraqi police unit. Staff Sgt. Daniel Blalock's emotional parting with several Iraqis he's been working with says it all. Aurora's designers gave us a beautiful spread. We owe them. Big time. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: Care Packages - A lot of people have written asking me what should they send in care packages to the Troops. And by no means is this a solicitation or the absolute answer. I've always felt kinda silly to be honest saying the typical things that Ive seen a million times before or stating the things that can't be sent. But, today I saw something that I had not seen talked about and I thought would be something useful to pass along. Cards...yup....regular generic greeting cards. I dont mean the expensive kind...but just very simple greeting cards. The ones that I saw today were a box of cards people had made. Trust me..they were gone in about 5 minutes flat. The reason I say this is that most PX's (if your lucky eneough to be on a FOB with a PX) usually dont carry cards. At least in my personal experience. So finding something as simple as a birthday card or Easter card is pretty difficult. This very simple sounding thing, would be hugely appreciated. I know I did today. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Interview with Former Mujahedeen Commander - At 22 years of age he was single and attending school in Kabul. The Soviets were already attempting to establish a Soviet-Marxist government in Afghanistan. Then in December 1979 after executing President Daoud and his family, the Soviet invasion began. The Soviets brutally attacked villages and provinces opposed to their presence. Because of these attacks, Major Shah opted to join the Mujahedeen and fight for his country’s freedom against the Soviet occupation. With his family’s support, he left school and traveled to a Pakistan military training camp. After one year of intensive training, he returned to his home province of Panjshir as part of the Mujahedeen force. In one of his first engagements with the Soviet commandos, he claimed to have destroyed 5 helicopters with artillery using Soviet made mortars. Because of this action, he was promoted to the rank of commander by Ahmad Shah Massoud. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Corruption – My Last Straw - It started off as a perfect morning. I had some extra time for breakfast and enjoyed a fluffy egg omelet, fresh fruit, and washed it down with some mediocre tasting coffee. Omid and I loaded the truck with large bags of clothing, blankets, and first aid kits. In addition, I had some boxes of hygiene items and some other gifts to present to my ANA counterparts as parting gifts. Our first stop was the Kandak Religious Officer (RO) and Mullah’s office. We ran into the ANA Sergeant Major and I asked him to boil some water for chai because we would visit his office next. The Mullah was in the RO’s office and I didn’t have to chase him down. They were both happy to see me and more so when they saw I had some gifts. Previously the Mullah was having trouble with his cell phone and asked if I could find one for him. At my previous camp, the ANA Sergeant Major gave me two cell phones to use, even though I rarely used them. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: U.S. pulls out of perilous Afghan valley - NATO forces have pulled out of the remote Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, as part of top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy to focus on population centers in the. Gen. McChrystal observed that rather than bringing stability to the area, troops had been "an irritant to the people;" more than 40 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Korengal, and far more Afghans -- U.S. and Afghan officials say the narrow valley is some of the bloodiest ground in Afghanistan. Yesterday, survivors of a German-ordered airstrike north of Kunduz's main city last September gathered outside the human rights commission there to demand compensation for those dead and wounded. As many as 99 civilians were killed in the airstrike, which targeted fuel trucks north of Kunduz city that NATO troops believed had been hijacked by Taliban fighters. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called civilian casualties in Afghanistan a strategic challenge to the war effort there. (READ MORE)

Elizabeth Rubin: Mother courage: being pregnant on the frontline - I never thought I'd write a personal story about being a war correspondent. It seemed so beside the point, so much less important than the story I was reporting. Some of my closest friends are photographers and writers who've worked in war zones, and whenever we'd get questions like "What's it like to be a woman and work in Afghanistan or Iraq?" we'd roll our eyes. It was an attitude, for sure, but one we were proud of. When I was asked to write about being pregnant and embedded with soldiers in Afghanistan, I said OK. But I was still reluctant. And so the months passed. Then, not long ago, I got an email from a colonel in the army's media affairs office, saying they were declining my next embed request in part because "you failed to disclose your pregnancy". What troubled me more than the refusal was that the colonel was a woman. Compare the email I got from another colonel, a man: (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Gunners return home from Afghanistan - Soldiers from the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery returned from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, where they were heavily involved in Operation MOSHTARAK, to Wiltshire. Over 200 soldiers from the regiment were welcomed home by friends and families at their UK base of Assaye Barracks, Tidworth Camp. The soldiers had an intense deployment to Afghanistan. Their task was to provide offensive artillery support with 105mm Light Guns for 11 Light Brigade. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jez Bennett, the regiment played a key role in the recent Operation MOSHTARAK as the lead unit for the Joint Fires and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Group throughout Helmand province. Fire Support Teams from the regiment deployed on the ground in every Task Force and Battle Group-level operation that occurred during the tour. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Household Cavalry Regiment receive Afghanistan medals - C Squadron were deployed to Afghanistan from September 2009 to April 2010. During their six-month tour the unit was based in the northern Helmand town of Musa Qal'ah. Their main role was providing a mobile force which helped with general security, such as keeping the Taliban out of safe areas and increasing the area under Afghan security control. They received their Operational Service Medals on Friday from Lieutenant General Barney White-Spunner, a former commander of the regiment, at Combermere Barracks, Windsor. During the ceremony the soldiers also laid a wreath at the Windsor Memorial for Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate, a member of the Household Cavalry Regiment's B Squadron who was killed recently in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Top Wives Applaud Military Children - I’m always pleased to see our leaders take time to acknowledge the sacrifices of our military families, particularly our military children. In honor of Month of the Military Child, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden praised military children and encouraged Americans to support them in a video message posted on the White House’s Web site. “As a grateful nation, it is our sacred responsibility to stand by our military children, just as they and their families stand by us,” Obama said in the video. From improving their schools to strengthening their communities to supporting their parents and guardians, she added, “President Obama is committed to ensuring that this administration does everything it can to support our military children.” Biden encouraged Americans to recognize and support military children, whether it’s reaching out to a new military family in the neighborhood or connecting with an organization dedicated to supporting troops and their families. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Someone Tell Maliki - Where are the prime minister's advisers? If they had any sense, they would suggest to Nouri Al Maliki that it's time for a well-earned vacation. The signs are all there that he should pack it up and go home. How long will it take for him to realize what's going on around him? The parade of Iraqi politicians visiting Saudi Arabia continues without Maliki. Apparently the visitors, who have gone one by one to Riyadh, were invited officially by the Saudi royals. The list includes Jalal Talabani, Masoud Barzani, Ammar Al Hakim. An invitation was extended to Moktada Al Sadr, but not to Nouri Al Maliki. The ordinary Iraqis voted for Allawi, the pro-Iran Iraqis voted for Ammar Al Hakim, the crazy Iraqis (such as Moktada's followers) chose Ibrahim Jaafari. From Iran Mookie gave a lengthy speech in which he spoke ill of Maliki. The Iraqi Alliance, who was rumoured to join up with Maliki, just said today that union is on hold. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Saudis Offer, um, Advice - A friend was telling me of her frustration with the current situation in Iraq. She says many of her colleagues share in her frustration and anger. My friend, a doctor, says each day at work they ask each other how the Americans let this happen. What they want to know, according to my friend, is why the Americans who removed Saddam and the Baathists allowed religious types to take over the country. By that she and her colleagues mean Nouri Al Maliki and his current fight to keep his role as prime minister. I said it was not the Americans, it was democracy. The Iraqi people voted. She said yes, and most voted for the secular Allawi. I said that's right. She said why is Maliki still fighting. I said because of the Iraqi Constitution. She said but the Americans supervised writing that document. I honestly didn't know what to tell her at that point. The politicians had a round table meeting last night. They made some decisions, but none has been announced yet. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: Pentagon Media Strategy– REVEALED! - Satire - While attending the 5th annual milblog conference this weekend a senior defense official slipped me a copy of a highly-unclassified PowerPoint slide outlining the Pentagon’s internal strategy for dealing with the news media. I am publishing the slide EXCLUSIVELY here at lineofdeparture.com to pull the curtain back on the techniques the powerful Pentagon Press Office uses to successfully influence news coverage. The never-secret document, not obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), clearly shows how Pentagon is continuing to attempt to persuade reporters and news organization to present a more sympathetic version of events more in line with official Pentagon pronouncements. The 9-point Media “CONOP” includes several tactics apparently designed to keep journalists off balance, including a devious emphasis on “sticking to the facts, avoiding speculation, and never lying.” (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Steinbeck's Friends and a chance but brief conversation about war - This weekend I had the pleasure of going to the Steinbeck Center in Salinas and meeting Thomas Steinbeck. He's down to earth, funny, well read, and engaging. We were there to find out more about his new book, In The Shadow Of The Cypress,"which is a tale that takes place about the Chinese in Monterey in 1906. I'll comment more when I read it. In the meanwhile, read this terrific article about him written by Marc Cabrera from the Monterey Herald. It was a crowd that I mix easily in, people who have read a lot, write, and are inquisitive by nature. Writers and readers are my favorite people. Not only was it was great fun to listen to and have a few words with Mr. Steinbeck himself, but chat with several of his friends who (like me) had journeyed there for the occasion. His dearest friends were very interested in my husband's role as a surgeon in the US Army. They were curious and asked many questions. Inevitably, opinions came out. They have strong feelings about these wars. (READ MORE)

Wes Bruer: Zazi case sheds light on US plot, Pakistan connections - The continued cooperation of Najibullah Zazi with the investigation into his attempt to carry out terrorist attacks in New York City has led to the arrest of a fourth suspect, a Pakistani citizen, two days ago, and has shed some new light on the details of the case and the specific targets Zazi and his co-conspirators intended to hit. Few developments in the case have come out of Pakistan, where the man, who has not been named, was arrested. Authorities say he will be extradited to the United States soon, but that "he may not ultimately be charged in connection with the plot." More details are expected to emerge after investigators have had time to question the Pakistani suspect and determine if any other conspirators are likely to have been involved. While Zazi was under surveillance by the FBI for months after his trip to Peshawar in Pakistan from August 2008 to January 2009... (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Encouraging New Army Wives with kindness, support and blessings... - Hello RosaMarie! My apologies for not responding sooner. I have been away. I am truly honored and touched that you found my words to be kind and encouraging and that they have helped given you strength during your time of much change. Please know that I (and lots of others) are always here for you as you navigate through this new chapter with your Husband. This new Military Life will be fun, scary, full of hard work, but also full of many blessings. And ya'll will get to navigate through that life together. That is very exciting in itself. After the honor of attending his Graduation, you will receive your first Duty Station Assignment. Both scary and exciting! Our very first duty station as newlyweds was overseas to Germany. I knew no one, I only spoke English, and my Husband was out in the field when I arrived. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 13 April 10 - well, went over to finish out-processing and find out about my flights …looks like I will be heading to Kuwait in a day or two …as a matter of fact, I need to call right now and find out the latest news…just called, they said call back in an hour …so pretty much everyone trying to get out of here is getting screwed into another 5-7 days of being stuck at Bagram…one guy had a fly date of June 6th, then they changed it to May 12th…now they are telling him sometime next week he needs to come back over there to find out what’s going on…this is just ridiculous …I can’t believe they can’t get people out of here because one place is closed…you would think they would have some kind of contingency plan in place for these types of situations…I guess the plan used to be to just postpone flights until the weather cleared or whatever, but now what?? the whole country of Kyrgyzstan is closed indefinitely… (READ MORE)

Registan.net: Close call? - The journalists are unsure of what our-man-in-Jalal-Abad is going to do next. It seems that Bakiev is mulling over the idea of resignation. “ ‘In what case would I resign? First of all, they should guarantee that in Kyrgyzstan there are no more people walking around with weapons, and no seizures or redistribution of property,’ Bakiyev told reporters on Tuesday while sitting at a table outside his house. ‘Also, I need to know that my own security and the security of members of my family and those close to me will be assured.’ Other reports said the interim government was willing to provide security for Bakiyev, who fled amid riots last week that killed 83 people in the capital Bishkek.” Sorry, Maksim Bakiev – you’re out of luck. Probably not a problem, as the rumor is that he’s in NYC, as he was on his way to DC at the time of the crisis. (READ MORE)

Christian Bleuer: What of Kyrgyzstan’s Ethnic Uzbeks? - For those of you new to this whole Kyrgyzstan thing, there was a very unfortunate episode in June 1990 in and around the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan (or rather the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic). Hundreds were killed, several times that were badly injured, women were raped, houses were burned, etc… It was one of those deadly ethnic riots, this one between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. The main issue was land redistribution, among many grievances. So, fast forward past a lot of stuff that is actually quite important (for brevity’s sake) to right now, namely Dmitry Solovyov’s Reuters article today. He writes about an anti-Bakiev rally of mostly Uzbeks being crashed by pro-Bakiev Kyrgyz: "...At an anti-Bakiyev rally in Jalalabad’s central square on Wednesday that had been advertised on national television, several women grabbed the microphone and shouted pro-Bakiyev slogans, denying the local Uzbek leader the chance to speak." (READ MORE)

The Sandbox: UNDERWAY - When I walked off the CH-47 onto FOB nearly two years ago, I was filled with the all the excitement and anxiety one might imagine in a man -- more of a boy, really, in retrospect -- who'd spent most of his formative years reading and re-reading histories of the wars that criss-crossed Europe from Odysseus' time on. This was it! Finally, I was doing what I'd read about for so long. I was come to the place of battle, where the best warriors are put to the trial. The empty sporting contests of high school, the impotent, uselessly channeled savagery of martial arts or boxing, the increasingly hollow aesthetic consideration of professional sports -- all preludes to that one great contest of wills that ends in the death of the enemy, or of yourself. I was full, in other words, of childish nonsense. But times, they change, and I endured a grueling 15-month deployment. Now, on the cusp of another 12 months in Afghanistan with the salient experiences of the last looming prominently in my memory, I recall a passage, one of the most wretched and moving in Shakespeare: (READ MORE)

Andi: Are You Settled? - It seems with military life, we're always "settling." I don't mean settling in the "settling for less" way. I mean settling in the sense that military life is ever-changing. Military families are always moving and settling in a new house and a new community. Settling into new friendships and relationships. Our spouses are often gone for lenghty periods of time so we settle into a routine when they leave. And when they return, we settle into another routine. Settling. We do a lot of that. At our very first SpouseBUZZ LIVE event in Killeen, Texas, we featured a panel which focused on the emotional part of military life; combat deployments, reintegration, etc. There wasn't a dry eye in the house and we had to cut off the line of spouses waiting to take the microphone because we simply ran out of time. The next few events followed much the same course. Spouses yearned to talk about the tough stuff. (READ MORE)

Texas Music: The Villa - The new guys have arrived. The Boss's aide-de-camp, a captain, and PSO, a SSG C, have been doing the left-seat/right-seat deal the past week. Aide Man has already pretty much been replaced by the new aide, and for the moment at least, I am staying on, splitting the PSO duties with SSG C. How much longer until I am back filling sandbags, or, even worse, riding a desk in the TOC is anyone's guess. The other night we took the Boss to a meeting at the Villa. We walked him through the outdoor patio with its marble columns, past the Level 7 Lounge that I am not allowed enter, and then past the sparkling swimming pool to his meeting room. "What a way to fight a war," Aide Man said, and I couldn't agree more. The Villa his home to secret OGA types. OGA means 'Other Government Agency' which might mean CIA. Or so they say. I certainly don't know, and probably couldn't say even if I did. Which I don't. All I know is, there were a bunch of overly buff dudes walking around in tight tee shirts... (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: We remember Aurora - You believe there's something else/To relieve your emptiness/And you dream about yourself/And you bleed and breathe the air/And it's on and on and on and on... Like those lyrics by the Foo Fighters, a popular alternative rock band, Sgt. Sean Durkin had big dreams. His mother told The Denver Post that long before he enlisted in the Army in 2006, he wanted to serve his country. "Whenever he drew or did anything for school when he was a child, it was always about the Army," said Mary Ann Durkin of her late son. "That's just who he was." According to Joey Bunch's article, Sgt. Durkin lived in the Rocky Mountain suburb of Aurora, the title of the song from the aforementioned rock group's Grammy-winning third studio album. While Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, and Taylor Hawkins intended it as a love song using imagery of astrological phenomena, it is clear that Durkin was a bright light in the war-torn skies of the 21st century. (READ MORE)

Zach in Afghanistan: Stuck in Germany - We flew out from Andrews on a KC-135 from New Hampshire. At Andrews were all sorts of interesting planes due to a major summit going on in DC — a 767 from Kazakhstan, an Il-76 bringing Dmitri Medvedev’s cars, an Indian 747, etc. Our airplane, built in 1962, is one of the newest examples of one of the oldest planes in the Air Force. The crew was friendly and cool, but man was that plane cold. Heat blasts from vents in the ceiling, but somebody evidently forgot to tell the aircraft designers that heat rises. Consequently there was a little thermocline layer: sitting up, your head would be toasty warm (and warmer standing up), but right below the neck it was freezing cold. I slept (or tried to sleep) most of the time on some webbing that comes down from the sides of the aircraft, but it was so cold that I woke up every couple of hours to walk up to the toasty cockpit and bug the crew. (READ MORE)

DAVID AXE: Time to “Crowdsource” Weapons Design - “Crowdsourcing” means soliciting the general public to contribute ideas or materials to a project. Typically rooted on the Internet — as this is the most public forum anyone has — crowdsourcing helps match up supply and demand better than most methods. Take War Is Boring. Our funding and equipment is largely crowdsourced. We make a simple, public appeal: we need a camera, for example, or we just need cash. Anyone can contribute. And they usually do. Our crowdsourcing efforts have never failed. Now one Air Force reformer wants to crowd-source small weapons design. Major Dan Ward, an advocate for what he calls “FISTy” weapons procurement — that’s “Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny” — says program managers should solicit ideas from a much larger pool of contributors, if not the general public. It’s all codified in Ward’s new newsletter, “The Innovator.” (READ MORE)

What? Mermaids?: i miss you - I miss you tonight. I miss you getting up early in the mornings, getting ready in your office so you don't wake me up too much. I miss you kissing me goodbye, and patting Annie on the head as you leave (as quietly as possible in those clunky flight boots). I miss you calling me halfway through the day to see how I am, to let me know how your day is going. I miss you getting home before me, letting Annie out, and turning lights on when it gets dark. I miss you being right there when I walk in the door, smiling, every single day. I miss your open arms and your smile that you have ready for me, even though it is not a special occasion, but rather just me coming home from work as usual. I miss your indecisiveness about dinner almost every night. I miss asking you what you want, and I even miss your answer ("steak"). I miss your mock disappointed face when I say no. I miss having you turn off the light for me when I fall asleep at 8PM with a book in my hands. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Deadly Afghan Bus Shooting Spotlights Civilian Harm - Protests have erupted in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar after coalition troops opened fire on a bus, killing several passengers. The event further underscores friction between the U.S.-led coalition and ordinary Afghans — and puts a fresh spotlight on efforts to reduce civilian harm. According to an International Security Assistance Force news release, the incident occurred when the vehicle approached a route-clearance patrol that was sweeping for mines and roadside bombs. “The convoy could not move to the side of the road to allow the vehicle to pass due to the steep embankment,” the release stated. “The ISAF patrol warned off the approaching vehicle once with a flashlight and three times with flares, which were not heeded. Perceiving a threat when the vehicle approached once more at an increased rate of speed, the patrol attempted to warn off the vehicle with hand signals prior to firing upon it. Once engaged, the vehicle then stopped.” (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:
Oregon Guard soldiers lawsuit again war contractor KBR can go forward - An Oregon Army National Guard soldiers' lawsuit against war contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root over exposure to a cancer-causing chemical will go forward, a federal judge ruled Friday in Portland. (READ MORE)

Thomas Rid: The Doctor and the Anthropologist - Many social scientists dislike the military and even the study of war. Now a group of anthropologists is taking action to counter counterinsurgency. The network of “Concerned Anthropologists” has collected signatures to block Congressional funding for the Human Terrain System, the program that recruits social scientists to help understand the human terrain the counterinsurgency forces in Afghanistan and Iraq operate in. The reasons for the concerned anthropolgists’ opposition are outlined in an open letter to Congress (.pdf). They say the HTS doesn’t work, that it’s dangerous, and a waste of money. But the most significant criticism, we hear from Hugh Gusterson, a member of the American Anthropological Aassociation’s executive board, is that the HTS “threatens the ethical integrity of anthropology.” The letter adds that the Human Terrain System is “unethical” for “other social scientists” as well. These are strong words. And they rest on a highly questionable assumption: (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Kurds revisit Anfal massacre - The events of 1988 were once more alive in Chamchamal, an Iraqi city where Kurds were sent to internment camps during Saddam Hussein’s Anfal military campaign against the minority ethnic group. (READ MORE)

Anti-American Demonstration in Najaf - Earlier this week, on the seventh anniversary of the American fall of Baghdad, Shiite demonstrators held a protest in the holy city of Najaf, burning effigies of President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and stamping on the flags of the United States and its allies. (READ MORE)

No, Minister - Sometimes it’s the little things that tell you all you really need to know about the big ones. In this case, the little thing was an attempt at a news conference by the Minister of the Interior, Jawad Bolani, at the German Embassy on Saturday. (READ MORE)

Gates Assails Internet Group Over Attack Video - U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates criticized the Internet group Wikileaks on Tuesday over its release of a video showing a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff. (READ MORE)

Officials Say 9 / 11-Style Plot in Iraq Foiled - Iraqi and U.S. security officials say Iraqi forces have foiled an al-Qaida in Iraq plot for a 9/11-style attack to hijack airlines and fly them into Shiite holy shrines. (READ MORE)

Iraq’s Forces Prove Able, but Loyalty Is Uncertain - Iraq’s security forces, once mocked for deserting firefights and feared as a sanctuary for rogue death squads, crossed a crucial line of competence during the recent parliamentary elections: (READ MORE)

Iraqi Medics Take Flight With MEDEVAC Training - A few hundred meters from the Iran-Iraq border, sentries from the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement conducted medical evacuation training with U.S. Advisors attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. (READ MORE)

Mudhif Houses Capture Spirit of Iraqi Culture - Local architecture plays an important role in the culture of the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and no structure captures the lifestyle and traditions of the region more than the 'mudhif.' (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Mother courage: being pregnant on the frontline - Four months pregnant, a journalist joined US forces in Afghanistan as an embedded correspondent. This is her story... (READ MORE)

18-year-old Afghan women slain in campaign of fear - A gunman lying in wait shot and killed an 18-year-old woman as she left her job at a U.S.-based development company Tuesday, casting a spotlight on a stepped-up campaign of Taliban intimidation against women in this southern city where U.S. troops plan a major operation in the coming weeks. (READ MORE)

British Election Issues: Frugality and Afghanistan - Has a “penny pinching” approach to defense spending by Prime Minister Gordon Brown kept British troops in Afghanistan disastrously short of the helicopters and other equipment their commanders have long demanded, causing unnecessarily heavy combat losses to the Taliban’s most devastating weapon, roadside bombs? (READ MORE)

The Way Ahead for Civilian and Military Efforts in Afghanistan - On April 11 and 12, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command, and the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan co-hosted an intense interagency review of U.S. civilian and military (civ-mil) efforts in Afghanistan for the coming year. (READ MORE)

Marines try unorthodox tactics to disrupt Afghan opium harvest - U.S. Marines are mounting an intensive effort to disrupt the opium harvest in the former Taliban enclave of Marja by confiscating tools from migrant workers, compensating poppy farmers who plow under their fields and collaborating with Drug Enforcement Administration personnel to raid collection sites. (READ MORE)

U.S. and Pakistan adapt their approach on divisive issue of North Waziristan - A few miles from this isolated garrison town, a shallow, east-west gorge marks the administrative border between South and North Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Officials Explain Afghanistan’s Complexity - The hurdles to be overcome in Afghanistan are no simple matter, the director of communications for NATO and U.S. forces there told reporters traveling with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited earlier this month. (READ MORE)

US Commander Says Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Undermine Military Mission - The commander of U.S. military forces in the Middle East and Central Asia says civilian casualties in Afghanistan undermine the American and NATO mission there. (READ MORE)

Gates Cites Importance of Preventing Civilian Casualties - Amid new reports of civilian casualties in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates re-emphasized today the top priority U.S. and NATO forces have put on protecting civilian lives, an effort he called critical to success of the Afghanistan strategy. (READ MORE)

Afghan city fears greater Taliban presence - Her children tell her they see her dead in their dreams. Friends are afraid to come to her home. She shows a visitor chilling text messages in neat Pashto-language script on her cellphone: (READ MORE)

ISAF Commander Patrols With Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team - Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, International Security Assistance Force commander, visited Forward Operating Base Shank to meet with members of the Logar Provincial Reconstruction Team from the Czech Republic, April 9. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, April 13 - An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants while pursuing a Haqqani facilitator in Khowst this morning. (READ MORE)

Afghans, Provincial Reconstruction Teams Work Development Projects in the West - Afghan authorities and ISAF forces inaugurated two projects in western Afghanistan recently. In Herat Saturday, local officials and the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team inaugurated a conference hall. (READ MORE)

Karzai to meet UN commission probing Benazir murder following Zardari's request - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to meet the UN commission probing the death of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto following a request from President Asif Ali Zardari. (READ MORE)

Karzai to appoint IEC, ECC chiefs soon - Presidential spokesman Waheed Umer has said that the president would soon appoint heads of Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC). (READ MORE)

Pentagon resumes full operations on Kyrgyz base - In a move critical to America's supplies in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has resumed its full operations at the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan; a top Obama administration official said. (READ MORE)

MPs ask Karzai to name cabinet in 10 days - The Wolesi Jirga, or Lower House of Parliament gave a 10-day ultimatum to President Hamid Karzai to introduce his remaining cabinet picks to the house for a vote of confidence. (READ MORE)

Taliban claim inflicting casualties on Afghan forces - Taliban on Tuesday claimed that they attacked district headquarters of Kaldar district in Balkh province last night. (READ MORE)

3 children killed in attack - Three children were killed and four others injured when a mortar shell landed on a house in Alasai district of Kapisa province on Monday evening, an official said Tuesday. (READ MORE)

60 m tons of food given to Khosan workers - Mohamed Yacoub, 60 years old, collects a bag full of wheat and peas, a can containing cooking oil, a small portion of salt. (READ MORE)

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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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