April 20, 2010

From the Front: 04/20/2010

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

270 Days in Afghanistan: 5.3 Earthquake in Samangan - So...we're here in Afghanistan, working with the Afghan National Army to get rid of the Taliban and other insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda (bet you didn't know they were here huh?). In the midst of all this, Mother Nature decides that she is going to weigh in and let us all know who's really the boss of things. As luck would have it, I was just getting up for a guard shift in Aybak at 0100 when it happened. Let me tell you...when you are looking up at a mud thatch reinforced roof during a 5.3 Scale earthquake in the middle of the night, it is NOT fun. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Kandahar deputy mayor killed - Taliban militants shot and killed the vice mayor of Kandahar city, Azizullah Yarmal, last night as he prayed during services at a mosque in the southern Afghan province, the latest in a string of Afghan officials to be targeted in Kandahar. Yarmal was one of the city's respected public officials, and a Taliban spokesman said he was killed because he "was working for this puppet government." Also yesterday in Kandahar city, a donkey carrying explosives blew up at a police checkpoint outside the home of the former governor of Spin Boldak district, a key ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 11 foreigners were killed; however, the three people reported killed in the blast were Haji Fazluddin Agha's teenage grandchildren. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Pseudo-Operations - Maj Seth Wheeler penned an interesting study on "Pseudo-Operations" as an additional, plausible option for our Nation's CT strategy. You can read his full submission to the Small Wars Journal, here. The bottom line, Maj Wheeler highlights several historical case studies where nations used Pseudo-Operations to affect Insurgent/Terror groups and offers these examples as a possible future means for America to conduct counter terror operations in non-permissive environments. I have believed for a long time that the United States needs a low visibility option that can degrade terrorist organizations' capabilities in areas where our Foreign Policy is not conducive to direct US involvement. This is one more facet needed in our CT/IW kit bag. I think the CIA's involvement with Ahmed Shah Massoud during the late 90's is a great example of how a possible Pseudo-Operation could be implemented. To be clear, the US involvement with Massoud was not a Pseudo-Operation... (READ MORE)

Army Live: Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills - In 2003, the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills (WTBD) were introduced and defined as “the skills needed by all Soldiers for combat.” The list of tasks and drills were extensive, and sub-task numbered in the hundreds. Additionally, many in operational units believed these skills were to be trained only in the initial training units, and only certain ones needed polish prior to deployment. After 8 years of combat and related battlefield “lessons learned,” a revised list of WTBD and sub-tasks were created. These revised Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills were the result of a review by a committee of Soldiers of all ranks who serve in both the training base and in operational units. The revised WTBD and sub-task list is shorter and it is based on the philosophy that all Soldiers – regardless of rank or military occupational specialty (MOS) – need specific skills on which to gain proficiency…and on which to build. This list serves as a “base” for commanders. (READ MORE)

C.J. CHIVERS: A Firsthand Look at Firefights in Marja - During the initial American-led assault earlier this year into Marja, the last large Taliban-dominated population center in Helmand Province, Marines in several companies encountered something unusual in the American experience of the Afghan war – insurgent snipers. For several days, and in several places, competent and deliberate marksmen fired on Marine patrols. A video today presents one such event, a firefight between the Marines of Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, and Taliban fighters, including at least one Taliban gunman the Marines considered to be a sniper. The footage shows the effects of incoming gunfire that is much different from the normal experience of Afghan shooting. The Ineffectiveness of Taliban Riflery - Now and then over the years, there have been reports of well-trained Taliban marksmen in different parts of the country. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: 40 Commando Royal Marines take over authority of Sangin from 3rd Battalion The Rifles - At 14:00 local time yesterday afternoon, 3rd Battalion The Rifles officially transferred responsibility and command of the Sangin area of operations to 40 Commando Royal Marines. Over the last few weeks, Royal Marine Commandos and attached Ranks have been arriving in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Jackson, in the Sangin region of Helmand province. They have been receiving comprehensive handovers from their counterparts in the 3 RIFLES. The Area of Operations was formally handed by the 3 RIFLES Commanding Officer, Lt Col Nick Kitson, to Lt Col Paul James, Commanding Officer of 40 Commando Royal Marines. Lt Col James said: “It’s great to be here. It’s an honor to take up the reins and having the opportunity to help the Afghans improve the lives of their people in Sangin and Kajaki.” (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Celebrity in MY House--Janelle Stelson - WGAL TV, Channel 8, in Lancaster PA is interviewing soldiers who recently returned from deployment in Iraq. Today Janelle Stelson went to Philadelphia with me on the train and interviewed me about life in Iraq and about coming home. At the end of the day, she and the cameraman were back talking to my wife and my son Nigel. The story is supposed to air in May. Janelle Stelson co-anchors "News 8 at 5:30" and "News 8 at 11" each weeknight. The recipient of several Associated Press awards for reporting, Janelle joined WGAL-TV in 1997. Her 17 years of broadcasting experience include covering stories both nationally and internationally. Janelle's first job was writing speeches at the Embassy of Egypt in Washington, D.C.Her journalism career began at WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, as a general assignment reporter and weather anchor. In 1989 she moved to Miami to work for WPLG-TV, where she covered hurricanes, Haitian riots and one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Maliki Clings - It's hard to remain positive in the midst of what's happening. Supreme Islamic Council leader Ammar Al Hakim said today the two top vote getters are having a difficult time forming a coaltion. But he added that we might expect an announcement of a coalition by the end of the week. Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is insisting on a recount of Baghdad ballots; he just might get his wish. Maliki is trying desperately to look competent. Today he said they found the corpse of AQI leader Abou Omar Baghdadi or Abou Hamza al Masri. They say they're both dead. It's hard for people to know how to react because Maliki has announced several times that they had caught him. Still, Maliki hopes to revive his image as bad-guy fighter. He will not let go of the prime minister's seat. He tried to get a coalition to gather the largest number of seats in parliament to argue that he should win instead of Allawi. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills 23 in Peshawar - Terrorists have carried out their fourth major suicide attack in Pakistan's northwest in four days. A Taliban suicide bomber killed 23 people in an attack today at a crowded bazaar in the city of Peshawar. The suicide bomber conducted the attack to maximize casualties. The bomber detonated in the midst of a protest by the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party that advocates the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, and has supported the Taliban in the past. His vest was "packed with six to eight kilogrammes (13 to 17 pounds) of explosives and pellets and ball-bearings," AFP reported. Three police officers, including a deputy superintendent, and a district leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami were among those killed in the attack, according to Geo News. The suicide attack was preceded by another bombing today at a school in Peshawar that killed a young boy and wounded 15 others. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US and Iraqi forces kill Al Masri and Baghdadi, al Qaeda in Iraq's top two leaders - Iraq's Prime Minister and the US military confirmed that al Qaeda in Iraq's top two leaders have been killed during a raid in a remote region in the western province of Anbar. "Abu Ayyub al Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al Muhajir, Abu Omar al Baghdadi and a number of al Qaeda leaders in Iraq were killed during a security operation in al Thar Thar region in Anbar," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad, according to Voices of Iraq. US Forces Iraq, the US military command in Baghdad, confirmed the report in a press release. "A series of Iraqi led joint operations conducted over the last week resulted in the Iraqi Forces with US support executing a nighttime raid on the AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] leaders’ safehouse," the press release stated. "The joint security team identified both AQI members, and the terrorists were killed after engaging the security team. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban demand prisoner exchange for two ex-ISI officers - The Pakistani Taliban are demanding the government release two top Afghan Taliban commanders in exchange for two former ISI officers who are known supporters of jihadist groups. The Taliban released a videotape today of former Inter-Services Intelligence officers Colonel Imam and Khalid Khawaja, both of whom went missing along with two journalists while visiting the town of Miramshah in North Waziristan last month. In early April it was reported that Imam, Khawaja, and the two journalists had disappeared while trying to link up with top Taliban leaders, including top South Waziristan commander Waliur Rehman Mehsud. In the tape, Imam and Khawaja both stated they were directed to visit the Taliban by two top former ISI officers, former Chief of of Army Staff General Aslam Beg and former Director General of the ISI Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, Dawn reported. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: A Bit of This 'n' That - You've been reading that we're drawing down in Iraq. I've been saying it, too. Let me give you a visual. Here is the group I worked with last summer, when we were still in the International Zone. This gaggle of folks oversaw Army Corps of Engineers construction and capacity development projects all around the country. I'm somewhere in the middle. And if some of the faces look a little loopy, it's because I deliberately made them unrecognizable. Here's what was left of that group as of two weeks ago. Since then, three of these people have left and two more of us (me included) will leave in the next week. Yesterday, I mailed my "keeper" junk home. Now my room is cluttered with the "take with me" pile, the "throwaway" pile, and the "giveaway" pile. Stuff keeps migrating back and forth between all three. My goal is to have a very small "take with me" pile ... but since I'm a bit of a packrat, the damn thing keeps growing. (READ MORE)

She of the Sea: Boxes and Tubs - Okay, so we're less than two months out from our next PCS, and I'm up to my ears. I'm sure many of you understand my feeling that we have too much stuff, and I am determined to go through every last thing in this house before we leave. That isn't intended to be sarcastic, though it certainly sounds that way when I say it out loud. I am definitely a "make a mess first" sort of organizer, and my ADD is in high gear, so I've got half-sorted piles everywhere, and unsorted piles everywhere else. I've been pulling boxes out left and right, trying to get rid of stuff. It is enough to make a person crazy. Crazier yet is that our house is on the market. I've watched enough HGTV to know that houses don't sell (or rent) when they look cluttered, but I don't see a solution to this problem. There are six people in this house, and at least five of them are pack rats. (Including me.) Every time someone comes to see the house, my family throws my sorting into boxes and tubs to make it look less disorganized. (READ MORE)

Andi: In This Case, I Think the Bad Outweighs the Good.... - Moving, under any circumstance, is no fun, but I've found there are elements of good and bad in a DITY move. Which, by the way, I do not recommend.... Packing and moving myself meant that I saw more of my stuff than I normally would see. And more than I ever wanted to. I'd like to say the good outweighed the bad, but the evidence is clear: Good - I found over $300 in gift cards we've never used. This will come in handy. Bad - I found a wedding gift I never mailed to a military spouse. Very Bad - I found the sweatshirt that airforcekid left in my hotel room months and months ago. Washed and put up in my husband's closet. Horribly, Humiliatingly Bad - I found thank you notes I wrote after SpouseBUZZ LIVE Camp Pendleton that were addressed and never mailed. Maybe I should mail the gift cards I've found to everyone I stiffed over the past few months. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Afghan detainees: Attaran vs. MacKenzie video/UK Update - The professor and the general (ret'd) have at it on CTV's Power Play; Lew MacKenzie is mad as hell and almost can't take it anymore. You be the ref. Mr Attaran amongst other things accuses the Canadian Forces--not the government as a whole--of acting illegally in not releasing documents as ordered by the Commons (not "Parliament", pace the prof.). For more on that matter: Afghan detainee docs: Crown privilege rules - Otherwise: Afghan detainees: The lawyer couldn't produce the documents so he dug up a witness/Update: CDS' letter on alleged murder - By the way, Mr Attaran in the clip, er, presents supercilious smarm superbly. Plus a piece on Mr Malgarai himself: Translator stands by testimony on Afghan teen's death... (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: Afghan Detainees Not On The Radar Of Afghans - I wrote an article for the National Post that appeared in the Friday edition about Afghan detainees. Due to constraints of space, they obviously could not print the full version. Here is that version now, for those who have wondered how the detainee issue plays in the minds of Afghans. Thanks to Terry Glavin for his assistance in this article. The Canadian media has switched its focus on Afghanistan in recent months from what is happening overseas to what is happening right here at home involving government documents on Canada’s mission in Kandahar. The buzz word has been the alleged “torture” of suspected insurgents captured by Canadian Forces, precipitating the so-called “Afghan detainee abuse scandal.” An EKOS poll released last week, however, indicates that Canadians haven’t been paying very close attention to the details of the scandal. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: 'For him, there was no other choice' - Moments after Spc. Joseph Caron was born, he had a permanent link to the U.S. military. He was named after his grandfather, who served honorably in Vietnam. The Army would also be a part of the future soldier's childhood, as his father served as well. The Olympian reports that Spc. Caron never had any doubt about the path he would take in life. "For him, there was no other choice," [wrestling coach Jason] Wiklund said. "What he wanted to do in life was to serve his country." While Caron served with dignity, his deployment to Afghanistan ended in tragedy. According to the Pentagon, Caron, 21, was killed on April 11 by an improvised explosive device planted by terrorists in Char Bagh, Afghanistan. The paratrooper was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: On Callsigns - Hollywood lied to me. As I was growing up, I would watch the movie Top Gun, believing it was an accurate depiction of the everyday lives of military aviators. Upon arrival at Fort Rucker, I fully expected to buzz the tower in my TH-67 (don't even ask to do this over the radio) and sport a really cool one-piece flight suit (all Army aviators wear two-piece uniforms, much like the infantry). But most important of all, I looked forward to getting an awesome callsign. Then I realized that the Army really doesn't participate in the same traditions as our Navy, Marine, and Air Force brethren. Army aviators don't get "callsigns", aside from the ones assigned from the Air Tasking Order. Such callsigns typically include a code word denoting the aircraft unit, followed by a number, such as "Reach 364". Which, no offense to my favorite blogger, but that's just not as cool as "Wolfman", "Hollywood", "Cougar", and the like. (READ MORE)

Kings of War: “Politics will bring it to an end”: The Confusion of Miliband’s liberal vision for an end to the war in Afghanistan - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has outlined his vision for ending the war in Afghanistan. It is not a surprising vision, but it is clearly enough articulated as to be worthy of some analysis. To Miliband, writing as he is on the cusp of both a national election and some kind of dignified exit from Afghanistan after eight costly years of Western–but particularly, British–military involvement, the Afghan conundrum can be summed up rather simply: Violence of the most murderous, indiscriminate, and terrible kind started this Afghan war; politics will bring it to an end. Fair enough. Violence, bad; politics, good. Go fetch Squealer: it is certainly worthy of being written on the Wall of the Barn. But hang on a tick. Miliband’s classic liberal interpretation of events may be too simplistic to be effective. It is enthymemic. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: In Defense of Michael Yon: An Open Letter to Milbloggers - My friend Michael Yon has had some difficulties of late. From his Facebook page, an embed has been halted. He has also expressed deep reservations about the senior leadership in Afghanistan, weighing in with some fairly hard hitting prose (pieced together from Facebook and NRO): Today, I do not trust McChrystal anymore than some people trust the New York Times, Obama or Bush. If McChrystal could be trusted, I would go back to my better life. McChrystal is a great killer but this war is above his head. He must be watched … Crazy Monkeys: Senior Public Affairs people often make me think of crazy monkeys. (Like some monkeys I’ve seen in India.) They break into the cockpit and start flipping switches with no idea what the switches do. They keep doing it until something breaks or you beat them back. And just when you think you’ve beaten …them all back, another monkey slips in. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: A liberal says the right thing about the military - I don't agree w/ Peter Beinart much on policy, but he is w/o a doubt one of the better people on the left. He is often paired w/ Jonah Goldberg for debate and it is consistently high quality. He has a piece today at the Daily Beast that says some things it would be nice to hear more liberals say. He is discussing a potential Obama Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan and her sorry decision to ban military recruiters from Harvard while she was Dean. "If Solicitor General Elana Kagan gets the nod, conservatives will beat the hell out of her for opposing military recruitment on campus when she was dean of Harvard Law School. And liberals should concede the point; the conservatives will be right...The United States military is not Procter and Gamble. It is not just another employer. It is the institution whose members risk their lives to protect the country. You can disagree with the policies of the American military; you can even hate them, but..." (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Two senators subpoena Obama administration for information on Fort Hood shootings - Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) issued the first congressional subpoenas of the Obama administration Monday after accusing the White House of stonewalling their requests for information about the Fort Hood shootings. (READ MORE)

US businessman gets 10 years in jail for funding terror - An American businessman has been sentenced to ten years in prison for trying to send money to an Afghan militant training camp. Abdul Alishtari had admitted charges of financing terrorism at an earlier hearing in a New York court. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi Security Forces Keep U.S. Drawdown on Track - Iraqi forces are doing a good job in maintaining security in the country, and the American withdrawal can proceed as planned, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said yesterday. (READ MORE)

Combined Operation Kills Top al-Qaida in Iraq Leaders - Iraqi security forces, supported by U.S. troops, killed the two most-senior leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq early yesterday in the culmination of a series of combined operations southwest of Tikrit, Iraq. (READ MORE)

Two top leaders of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq are killed in raid - The two top leaders of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq were slain in a U.S. airstrike over the weekend, a decisive tactical victory for American and Iraqi forces and one that provides Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with additional political leverage at a crucial time. (READ MORE)

Top two Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders are dead, officials say - U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed the top two leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq and detained a large number of their followers, officials said Monday, in what appears to be a major strike against the persistent extremist group blamed for a string of recent bombings that have destabilized the nation. (READ MORE)

Iraq al-Qaeda commanders killed in missile strike on ‘safe house’, says US - The US said that security forces had dealt al-Qaeda a devastating blow after the terror network’s two leaders in Iraq were killed in a night raid. (READ MORE)

Biden Calls Leaders’ Deaths ‘Devastating’ to al-Qaida - Vice President Joe Biden today praised Iraqi and U.S. security forces for killing two top leaders of the al-Qaida in Iraq terror organization. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Election Panel Orders Baghdad Recount - An Iraqi election panel has ordered a manual recount of votes cast in Baghdad during last month's parliamentary election, following an appeal from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Court Sets Partial Recount in Tight Election - An Iraqi court on Monday ordered a partial recount of votes in last month’s national election, deepening the political turmoil that many here feared could turn violent when the United States begins to withdraw most of its combat troops this summer. (READ MORE)

Iraq judicial panel orders recount - An Iraqi judicial panel on Monday ordered a manual recount of about 2.5 million ballots cast in Baghdad in last month's national elections, an action requested by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's alliance, which had filed allegations of vote fraud. (READ MORE)

Afghan Deputy Mayor Slain as He Prays in Mosque - Insurgents killed the vice mayor of the southern city of Kandahar as he prayed at a mosque, an official said Tuesday, the latest brazen attack on government officials in the volatile region where troops are preparing for an assault on Taliban forces. (READ MORE)

Combined Forces Make Gains in Afghanistan - Afghan and international forces killed several insurgents and captured at least one other, according to initial reports of a firefight in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province this morning, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Obama administration says conflict with Karzai is resolved - The Obama administration declared its problems with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to be a thing of the past on Monday, announcing that Karzai will visit Washington on May 10-14 for meetings at the White House and with the administration's top national security officials. (READ MORE)

Taleban put hostages on show as market bomb death toll rises - The Taleban stepped up their campaign of violence in Pakistan yesterday, staging a suicide bomb attack in a busy market and claiming the capture of two former intelligence officers and a British national of Pakistani origin. (READ MORE)

Terrorist Bombs Kill 23 in Pakistan - Police in northwestern Pakistan say two separate bomb explosions in the city of Peshawar have killed at least 23 people and wounded many others. The violence-hit city is the gateway to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Pakistan: Islamist Blames US for Suicide Bombing - An Islamist politician whose party lost several members in a suicide attack blamed Pakistan's alliance with the U.S. for the violence and urged Islamabad on Tuesday to break ranks in the war on terror. (READ MORE)

Two Insurgents, Associates Killed After Failing to Stop for Convoy - An ISAF convoy was returning to base camp after clearing a roadside improvised explosive device in Khowst province, eastern Afghanistan, yesterday evening when a vehicle travelling from the opposite direction approached the lead truck in the convoy. (READ MORE)

Donkey bomb kills 3 children in Kandahar - A bomb strapped to the back of a donkey blew up in the centre of Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar on Monday, killing three children and wounding five people, officials said. (READ MORE)

Jirga team meets Karizai on proposed electoral law - A team of Wolesi Jirga led by its speaker Muhammad Younus Qanooni held in-camera meeting with President Hamid Karzai today on proposed controversial electoral law. (READ MORE)

Taliban seek release of leaders in exchange for ex-ISI officials - Taliban have demanded the release of their three key leaders, detained by Pakistani security forces, in exchange for two former officials of Pakistan’s spy agency captured by them, a private TV channel reported Monday. (READ MORE)

Police arrest 9 in plot for Kabul attacks - Afghan security forces arrested nine members of a terrorist cell and seized nearly a quarter-ton of explosives, foiling a plot to stage suicide bombings and other attacks in Kabul, the country's intelligence service said Monday. (READ MORE)

US loses aircraft, four dead - A U.S. Air Force Osprey went down in southeastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said, killing three service members and one civilian contractor in the first crash of the costly tilt-rotor aircraft in a combat zone. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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