April 16, 2010

From the Front: 04/16/2010

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

Dispatches:
Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Quetta hospital blast kills 12 - As many as 12 people, including a cameraman for Pakistan's Samaa TV and two senior police officials, were killed earlier today in a suspected sectarian suicide attack on the Quetta Civil Hospital in the Baluchi. More than 30 pounds of explosives were detonated in the hospital's emergency room, reportedly where Shia Muslims were mourning a bank manager who had been shot and killed earlier in the day. In a much-anticipated, withering report, the U.N. commission investigating the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto concluded that Pakistani authorities, particularly police in Rawalpindi, deliberately failed to investigate her death effectively; that the country's powerful intelligence services "severely hampered" the investigations; that Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government "did little more than pass on" known threats to Bhutto; and ultimately judges that her assassination "could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken". (READ MORE)

Awful, Beautiful Life: You know the saying... - You know the saying "if you can't say anything nice you shouldn't say anything at all?" This is the reason I have been avoiding blogging. The last week and a half has been an emotional roller coaster for me and I didn't really want to put something out there that I would regret. Let's just say that my donut of misery is counting backwards now and my husband still ins't home. It is incredibly frustrating and several break-downs and freak outs later, I decided that I wasn't going to put any of that on the internet. So now I am just biding my time and trying to finish up the last of my homework before the semester is over. I hope everyone else is having a much more enjoyable time than I am right now. (READ MORE)

TIM HSIA: On Military Awards and Perceptions of Them - It seemed an unlikely issue for a presidential race, perhaps especially when the nation was fighting two wars, but Senator John Kerry’s campaign in 2004 got bogged down over the long contentious question of military awards. Several former veterans of the Vietnam War questioned whether his actions in combat merited the awards he received. Although three decades had passed since the Vietnam War ended, the acrimony of the debate was evidence of the controversy that can surround the topic of military awards. The military today is no stranger to this debate, and some have even criticized the military leadership for having political motives in awarding medals to Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Recent battles in Afghanistan have underscored the difficulty associated with military awards, as one captain received both a Silver Star and a letter of reprimand for his actions in the Battle of Wanat. (READ MORE)

Charlie Simpson's War: Back in Kabul - So I was right: internet access in Helmand was nearly as bad as it was in February, meaning I disappeared again. But now, I’m back in Kabul. More on that later. But first, before I forget, an ode to Camp Leatherneck. Here’s what I won’t miss: dust. Fine grained, everpresent dust. In your eyes, in your hair, everywhere. (And why does dust in your hair make it so tangled? As if the helo-wash isn’t bad enough.) Also less than fun: shower shoes. I didn’t have a communal bathroom in college, and I’m no less spoiled now than I was then. The shower tents are actually surprisingly nice, but walking through the aforementioned dusty en route to and from the shower leaves something to be desired. All that said, I love being with the Marines. And eating Baskin Robbins ice cream. And watching people do impersonations of Gen Mattis. I think Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Troubling Picture - It's still up in the air. It's hard to know who will be Iraq's new prime minister. While the alliances are forming and the politicians are busy talking, a toubling picture is emerging. Ayad Allawi talked to WaPo and made some interesting points. He told the reporter, who by the way described him as, "Allawi, a secular Shiite who attracted the votes of millions of Sunnis and some Shiites, said in an interview in his Baghdad office." "Millions of Sunnis and some Shiites" voted for Allawi? I am so disgusted that I won't comment on her writing skills. Back to the interview. Allawi says if his list is shut out of the new government, people will feel cheated, and anger and violence could return to the streets. He urged the United States to help prevent such a scenario from emerging. I do hope Allawi is not holding his breath. The Obama Administration has made it clear that they can only see withdrawal. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Effectiveness of US strikes in Pakistan "decreased 90 percent" since suicide strike on CIA - The leader of the Haqqani Network claimed that the US air campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda has been seriously impacted after a suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan at the close of 2009. Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan, claimed that "the accurate drone-strike operations against the mujahideen decreased 90 percent" during an interview with Abu Dujanah al Sanaani for the newly established Al Balagh Media Center. A translation of Siraj's interview was provided by Flashpoint Partners. Siraj described the Jordanian al Qaeda operative and double agent who killed seven CIA personnel and his Jordanian intelligence handler at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan's Khost province on Dec. 30 as a "big hero." (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 16 April 10 - well, I am finally out of Afghanistan …now in Kuwait .. of course I got delayed on going home because of a freakin volcano — I didn’t even know there were volcanoes in Iceland … so after earth quakes, rioting and volcanoes– it just seems like the gods don’t want me to get home …well, I’ll write all about my travel adventures once I get home and have time to write it all … but, at least I am out of the war zone… life here is great … I’ll be working on my tan at the swimming pool all day tomorrow …love you and miss you all …talk to you soon.. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Bachibas - Despite our differing national interests, there are several things that remain consistent among all young soldiers around the world. Whether in the American, Afghan, Iraqi, British, Iranian, Japanese, or French Army, at the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of hormonal twenty year-olds running around the world tasked with doing our respective nation’s dirty work. Beyond our calling as soldiers, we are all human; we cope with our dangerous lifestyles in similar manners. Soldiers around the world will always overindulge in beer and liquor. They will each have terabytes of pornography tucked away for lonely nights in warzones. And whenever a soldier enters a new country, after learning the traditional greetings, the first foreign phases they memorize are usually curse words and insults. Ah, it’s great to surround myself with perpetual youth. I suppose it’s no surprise then that the first Pashtu words that my men all learned were “kuni” and “bachibas”, both derogatory Pashtu words for “gay”. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Putting the Seat Down - The 6th Kandak Battalion Commander, LTC Abdul, has always been a mild-mannered and pleasant individual to deal with. He rarely panics or becomes rude. He’s always treated me with the same respect that he’d show any of his direct coalition counterparts, even as a Lieutenant. So last week, when a winded ANA private came beating down the door of our Company CP yelling, “Commandan mekwahat ke bah shemah bebenat…The Commander needs to speak with you!” I felt a sense of urgency. I strode out of the CP, praying that nothing too serious was going on. IEDs? Small Arms? Another fuel tanker on fire? At this point, there are very few chaotic emergencies the ANA can instigate that would surprise me. I wondered what was going to be on my plate that day. I entered the LTC’s office. He had two of his minions (soldiers that should be on the ground fighting) standing by with tea and sweets. He sat cross legged at his desk with an expression of grave seriousness on his face. (READ MORE)

She Who Waits: Blah. - I am SO sick of going to bed alone. That's one of the things I hate the most about deployment. I miss human contact so very much. I don't have much else to say, I'm just kind of hitting a blah point in the deployment. I'm rather numb right now and I'm not sure whether to be grateful for the numbness or bothered by the lack of emotion when I'm normally an (overly) emotional person. No deep, insightful thoughts from me (not that there's been much of that going on here over the past 8 months anyway). (READ MORE)

Joan D'Arc: The Big Bad Wolf - Lately I have felt like one of the Three Little Pigs whose house got blown in by The Big Bad Wolf. We had to buy a house at our last duty station and we put it on the market when we moved last summer (but couldn't sell it, thanks to the economy). We now have tenants who are renting the house and the house seems to keep falling apart. In January the tenants called us because of a leak in the basement. Fortunately the guy living there is handy and was able to fix the problem (we paid for the supplies he needed to fix it). Then in late February the heater went out. Got another call from the tenants and we were able to get them a new furnace in less than 24 hours. Note the fact that we had to buy a NEW FURNACE!!! Apparently the old furnace was much older than we realized and the part that broke could not be replaced. And this week I got another call that a pipe had burst in the ceiling in the basement and all of their possessions in that part of the basement have been ruined. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Second verse, same as the first - Is it Groundhog Day and nobody told me? Here we are yet again, dealing in sensational and uncorroborated second-hand allegations that Canadian Forces personnel have engaged in war crimes. Yet again, Amir Attaran is involved. And yet again, the real beef is the detainee transfer policy. “Malgarai Ahmadshah alleged to MPs in Ottawa that the Canadian military ‘panicked’ and rounded up a half a dozen Afghans between the age of 10 and 90 after the shooting of a man sleeping on the roof of a compound in southern Afghanistan. Ahmadshah, a Canadian citizen born in Afghanistan, admitted inside the committee room that he did not witness the alleged shooting, but said he was present for the interrogation of detained men afterward. He said the soldier who allegedly shot the man in the back of the head mistakenly thought he had a pistol.” (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: The Forgotten Heroes From A Forgotten War - "The worst is when we have someone who has lost his legs and his eyes. We have a young man right now who has this." Makay Siawash stops talking for a moment. Then she carries on with all the reasons why up to 8,000 Afghans a year turn for help to the Kabul Orthopaedic Organization. This is the agency she runs from a Soviet-era building within the Afghan National Army hospital compound in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul. "A lot are from mines, rockets, bombs. But there are also traffic accidents, children who have been blinded, or they are deformed from malnutrition or from some trauma, or malformation during pregnancy. And women, sometimes it is from hard physical activity, or they have been hit by their husbands. We have a lot of children and women. But a lot are from mines." (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Remembering laughter - Earlier this afternoon, I drove down to Tyrone, Georgia, to learn more about the life of 1st Lt. Robert Collins. As hundreds lined the streets of Tyrone and Peachtree City to honor the hometown hero, I was struck by how many different people told me the same thing, without hesitation. He was the funniest person they'd ever met. "He always had a smile on his face," said Jason Swain, who knew 1st Lt. Collins through school and church. "When we'd play softball together and I was already on base, he'd run up right behind me after getting a hit, telling me to get moving." While Collins didn't mind a private chuckle, he usually wasn't having fun unless he could entertain the people around him. "I've never seen someone so focused on making people laugh," Justin Galimore, who spent a decade in various classrooms with Collins, explained. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: On Clarity - Most military officers are familiar with the operations order. The "OPORD", as it's known, is an outline-style document consisting of five paragraphs which contain the plans for an entire operation. In current usage, the modern OPORD might contain anything from detailed plans for a raid on a village, to the diabolical master plan for executing a hamburger-grilling fundraiser for the family readiness group. Few realize, though, that the OPORD we use so often today harkens back to the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus, from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Says the British historian Sir B.H. Liddel-Hart, in his book Great Captains Unveiled: Gustavus' orders are a model of which a modern staff officer might be proud, the paragrahps numbered, each short, crisp, and embodying one specific point; the whole in a logical sequence that is reminiscent of modern practice--information as to the enemy, intention of the commander, and method of execution first, then administrative arrangements and finally intercommunication. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: On the latest allegations - No point in ignoring it. The current story does highlight the importance to our operations of those few Afghan-Canadians who work as LCAs (language and cultural advisors). Because you had to be a Canadian to get a security clearance, and you had to have a security clearance to be allowed into Canadian military facilities overseas, our commanders and the like couldn't do what my group did and hire local interpreters, and often had to rely on a very small group of expatriates with the freedom from other gainful employment or obligations here in Canada. All the LCAs I worked with were nice guys, don't get me wrong. I wish we could have used them more to help with our desperate need for written translation. But among the ANA, where I worked, local guys had their advantages, too. Afghan soldiers were often skeptical of the LCAs, who unlike local terps wore Canadian uniforms on duty at the time. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Withdrawal from Korengal - The last U.S. Soldiers have been pulled out of the Korengal Valley. “It was as if the five years of almost ceaseless firefights and ambushes had been a misunderstanding — a tragic, bloody misunderstanding. More than 40 U.S. troops have been killed, and scores more wounded, in helicopter crashes, machine-gun attacks and grenade blasts in the Korengal Valley, a jagged sliver just six miles long and a half-mile wide. The Afghan death toll has been far higher, making the Korengal some of the bloodiest ground in all of Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials. In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, the U.S. presence here came to an abrupt end.” There’s more than a little hyperbole in this report. There was and is no surprise in the difficulty of the Korengal Valley. This is where the Battle of Wanat occurred, but in spite of the level of difficulty, Bing West points out that: (READ MORE)

MAJ JF Sucher, MD: A Whisper - A singular sentence in reply to a common, simple question. A whisper from Afghanistan has returned a loud echo from Laconia, New Hampshire, a small town of 12,000 (40,000 in the summer) nestled amongst the glacial lakes in the center of the state. Dr. Sam Aldridge has practiced peripheral vascular surgery in Laconia, NH for the past 15 years based solely on a gentlemen’s handshake with Tom Clairmont, CEO of Lakes Region General Hospital, who has been a stalwart supporter of Aldridge’s military commitment. On January 15th, 2010 LTC Aldridge left for his third active duty deployment since joining the Army Reserves Medical Corps. Before leaving, Danielle Mostoller, the hospital’s PR representative, had LTC Aldridge promise to write regular updates that would be placed in the hospital’s email newsletter, which reaches 1600 people. By February, 2010 LTC Aldridge was settled in with the 909th Forward Surgical Team (FST) in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank located in Logar Province, Afghanistan. (READ MORE)


News from the Home Front:
IRS Grants Military Spouses Six-Month Extension to Pay 2009 Tax - On April 15, the IRS issued Notice 2010-30, which gives certain civilian spouses of service members on active duty an extension of time through Oct. 15, 2010, to pay their 2009 federal income taxes. (READ MORE)

Pentagon to adopt uniform rules on guns - The Pentagon will adopt a broad policy governing how privately owned guns can be carried or stored at military installations following the shooting deaths of 13 people last year at Fort Hood, Texas. (READ MORE)

Gates orders security fixes after Fort Hood case - Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a partial overhaul of Defense Department safeguards against terror-like attacks after a scathing report found that the department's policies were "unclear" or "inadequate" to prevent the mass shooting that killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in November. (READ MORE)

VA claims backlog scrutinized - In early April, American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Director Barry Searle and Ian DePlanque, assistant director for Claims Service, attended a joint veterans service organization meeting with Department of Veterans Affairs' officials to address the claims backlog and ways to improve the overall claims process. (READ MORE)

Attacks on Military Computers Cited - Computer networks essential to the Pentagon and military are attacked by individual hackers, criminal groups and nations hundreds of thousands of times every day, according to the officer nominated to lead a cyberwarfare command. (READ MORE)

Marine Says He'll Continue to Post on Tea Party Facebook Page - A Camp Pendleton Marine whose Facebook posts ignited a debate about whether active duty troops are allowed to criticize the president of the United States says he intends to keep posting his views on the Web. (READ MORE)

AG: US to shut Guantanamo prison ‘as quickly as we can’ - US Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel that the United States will close the Guantanamo Bay prison, "as quickly as we can," after having encountered delays and logistical challenges. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Guardsmen Perform Civic Duties in Iraq - Even here, citizen Soldiers still emphasize responsibilities to the state of California thousands of miles away. As the 49th Military Police Brigade continues its Operation Iraqi Freedom focus, Soldiers found room to fit in training related to traditional National Guard duties. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
IJC Operational Update, April 16 - An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Helmand province this morning. The combined security force went to a farm area in northeast Marjah based on intelligence information and detained the suspected militants for further questioning. (READ MORE)

ANP, Coalition Medics Complete Phase I CLS Program - Coalition medics from the Regional Command-West Joint Medical Operations Center guided members of the Afghanistan National Police through Phase I of a Combat Life Saver course in Herat province, Sunday. (READ MORE)

Up to six dead in attack targeting foreigners in Afghanistan - As many as six people including foreigners were killed in a suicide car bombing targeting a foreign security company in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, officials said. (READ MORE)

Afghan troops and foreigners killed in blast - A suicide car bomber in Afghanistan has killed three Afghan soldiers and three foreign security guards in the south of the country. The attack on Thursday in Kandahar resulted in injuries for nine other people. (READ MORE)

Brits Feared Dead After Afghan Bomb Blast - A number of British nationals may have been killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, according to reports. The explosion happened on Thursday at a compound, in the southern city of Kandahar, which is shared by a number of foreign companies. (READ MORE)

3 foreigners, 3 Afghan soldiers killed in Kandahar bombings - Two powerful bombings rocked the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Thursday, killing three foreigners and three Afghan soldiers, President Hamid Karzai's half brother said. (READ MORE)

US targets Pakistanis for funding Al Qaeda, Taliban - The United States has targeted the financial and support networks of Al Qaeda and the Taliban by designating two Karachi-based Pakistani nationals, one of them born in India, for allegedly running charities funding their terrorist activities. (READ MORE)

Hidden lair of the Taliban - The Pakistani army has fought successfully to control mountainous frontier areas once ruled by the Pakistani Taliban, but it remains reluctant to attack the cross-border safe havens of the Afghan Taliban despite American pressure. (READ MORE)

Afghan officials accused of illegally detaining Italians over murder plot - Italian aid workers have accused Afghan officials of illegally detaining nine medical staff on spurious charges of plotting to kill the Helmand governor, as four German soldiers were killed in an explosion in the north of the country. (READ MORE)

Petraeus says raids on Afghan Taliban leaders on rise - The U.S. is deploying more counterterrorism teams in Afghanistan designed to kill Taliban leaders as the Afghan government works to lure away their supporters, Gen. David Petraeus, the war commander, said Thursday. (READ MORE)

20,000 US troops moved through Russia - Some 20,000 US troops headed for Afghanistan have traveled through Russia using cost-saving transit routes since a US-Russian aerial transit agreement was inked last year, US officials said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Western countries ‘eyeing permanent bases’ - Western countries are seeking to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan, aimed at dominating the Middle East and Caucasus region, Iranian news agency Irna reported, citing a Germany-based Afghan expert, as saying. (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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