May 12, 2010

From the Front: 05/12/2010

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

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: My Mother's Day - One year ago, today (I'm noticing this habit of beginning my stories this way, ahh memories), we found out that there would be a very high possibility of me celebrating mother's day for me the following year. That's right, we found out we were expecting! We were still on our honeymoon, having been married just 9 days before, when I was one (just one!) day late for my "crimson flow." I remember I'd been cooking some steaks and the meat just smelled nasty. I thought it had gone bad and I asked Jonny to smell it, really smell it. "I don't usually smell meat this close babe, it smells fine," I looked at him and I knew.... "I'm pregnant." He obviously didn't think that's what it was, just that I was having a crazy moment. We'd only stopped my birth control 3 weeks before (2 weeks before the wedding) and neither of us thought it could happen 'so quick.' But I, knowing my body, had a strong feeling that's what the cause of this smell-tastrophe was. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Guest Blogger, Albert W; The Problem with ANA NCO Selection - By way of background, I was on the ETT team that preceded Bouhammer and was with the 4-2-203 Kandak (battalion) when it formed in Kabul in the summer of 2005. We had good relations with the French trainers we interacted with, though I can’t say I saw much of their officer training group. The ANA officers were assigned out of the officer holding battalion and had already been through training. Primarily we saw the French EOD team that taught a mine clearing course to the engineers of our kandak’s engineer company. The French EOD seemed quite capable to me and the end of course exam involved clearing an area of mines near the Kabul Military Training Center(KMTC). The course was unpopular with the ANA soldiers of our kandak, who viewed it as excessively dangerous. The ANA did enjoy wearing the Minex (Mine expert) badges once the course was over. To get back to the point, the attitudes of ANA officers towards NCOs appeared to be deeply seated in Afghan military culture. (READ MORE)

Lieutenant General Shir Mohammad Karimi: Why Afghanistan - Mr. Anders Rasmussen recently said, “Leaving Afghanistan behind would once again turn the country into a training ground for Al-Qaida.” He is correct in his assessment, as are other prominent strategists and practitioners, because this fight is much more than Afghanistan itself. This is a fight about ideas; a fight about a way of life. Al-Qaida and its ally the Taliban want to take control of Afghanistan to exercise power and secure a location to develop its capabilities to spread its extreme brand of radicalism throughout the region and eventually the world. It will also signal a major defeat of the great powers fighting this war which will embolden the terrorists and therefore increase their ability to recruit for their cause. We are at a critical point in this struggle. We must take action to contain the fight to Afghanistan and not let it spread to other countries and continents. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: I'm ready for a vacation - without the children. I remember my mom telling me that a kid will learn to not poop in their pants if they have to clean it up themselves, and sit in it till they are ready to clean themselves. Whoever came up with that idea has not met Junior. I took the girls for haircuts Saturday. Abs cut her own hair again tonight with a razor, taking a chunk of skin out of her finger. Her reasoning? Who the heck knows anymore. I was getting my workout in this morning and heard my name over the loudspeaker. Junior apparently was stomping on other children's feet, so he was sent home. My dog still has a pink head. I have a half marathon on Sunday, and I am not prepared. To be honest, that's how I roll. I'd rather get out there and give it my best shot, then not participate because life got in the way and I didn't have time to train. Maybe I am more like Gunner than I thought. I had to bug The Mrs. today to find her recipe for feta spinach mushroom turkey burgers. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Another Sectarian War? - How much worse can it get? The Guardian newspaper reports that "Allawi, who scored a surprise win in the recent general election, warned today that the country risks descending into a new sectarian war, with feuding politicians attempting to sideline his supporters and the international community standing idly by." Allawi says that although the candidates talked of unity during the campaign, they have done everything to derail that idea since the March 7 election. "We don't have a process in Iraq. There is no rule of law, we have been politicising justice, there have been arrests of main candidates and waves of arrests against Iraqiya. The pressure on the judiciary not to take any action is strong. All this and other issues do indicate that we have a long way to go and we are not getting there. It is in worse shape than before." It's perfectly understandable that the international community has its own problems and prefers to stay out of this. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Programs Aim to Help Guard Youth - Guard kids differ from active duty kids in only one way: access — access to support programs and access to peers who understand what they are going through. Everything else is the same: missing their parents terribly when they deploy, counting the days until they come home and trying to keep their promise to “stay strong.” Caylee Deakin was 13 when her father deployed with the Army National Guard. “I had no friends that had anybody in the military,” she said. “I didn’t have a counselor that understood. I had my family, but no one my age. “Of course, I had my best friends, but they didn’t know how to talk to me about it,” she added. Moranda Hearn said she felt isolated when her father, Lt. Col. Rick Hearn, deployed with the Air National Guard in 2007. “My self-esteem dropped,” she said. “I didn’t feel as confident anymore, which was really rare for me … and I didn’t really reach out. I think that was an experience that many of us go through.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer: US air campaign in Pakistan zeros in on North Waziristan, Bahadar - The controversial US air campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas has continued unabated in 2010, and is on track to exceed the number of strikes carried out in 2009. So far this year, the US has carried out 35 strikes, just 18 shy of the 2009 total. With six and a half months left in 2010, the 2009 total should be surpassed sometime in July at the current pace. The strikes continue to target top leaders of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied jihadist groups based in the tribal areas, as well as the jihadist infrastructure and operatives used to carry out attacks against the Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the West. Some interesting trends have developed since the beginning of 2010. North Waziristan, the hub for the Taliban, al Qaeda and allied jihadists, has become the primary focal point of the attacks. (READ MORE)

Last of Iraqis: (VIDEO) Mercy...mercy...mercy God - Just watch the video before it's removed from Youtube....nothing can be said, nothing worth saying, but tears and misery, may God bless their souls and may heaven be their eternal place. This is a VERY strong video, anyone with weak heart and stomach should NEVER watch this...for me I couldn't finish it all, it was to hard to watch...pray for their souls...this video is for today's bombings in Baghdad with a sad Iraqi song. share it please. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Impeccable Timing- A Mil Spouse Day surprise - Recently, in talking with Army Wife Network fans and listeners, we asked them what would make them feel appreciated. (Especially in the light of Mother's Day, National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) and Military Spouse Appreciation (MSA) Day. My answer was something to the effect that it wasn't a grand guessture so much; my desire would be to be recognized outside those days, while in the trenches, and simply because someone SAW what my family and I sacrifice. Well, lo and behold, on Friday--MSA day--I received a card. Cover - It is possible to give away and become richer! / It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. / Generous people shall be rich. / By watering others they water themselves. (C)AGC, INC. - Well, if that doesn't sound like a mil spouse proverb, I don't think I know what would. I thought how nice, a military spouse appreciation card from a dear friend of mine who has no military ties. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Taking a Breather - Friends, Family, and Supporters, Please forgive me as my posts become more infrequent over the next few weeks. We’re coming down to the line, and my focus is oriented solely on the safe return of my men during a most formidable final stretch. Will keep posting soon. But as I take a step back and look at where this simple website is today from where it started almost a year ago, I shake my head in disbelief. What started as a means of sharing stories from the front lines has turned into my haven away from the battlefield. Managing this site has been a therapeutic release for me during a stressful tour. I read messages of phenomenal inspiration and support from well-wishers all over the world. Your love and empathy have been one of the strongest forces pushing me forward through a difficult tour. I am humbled at the loyalty so many of you have offered from so far away. It means more than you could ever know. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Into the Groove At Home - It's been a week and a half since my arrival at home now. I've had a busy time doing nothing much, and there's a lot to be said for doing nothing much. I've chipped away at the honey-do list, and chipped away at my own to-do list, but if something couldn't get done that day (or even that week), well, so be it. There are other things to do. Sleep in late, for one. Take the dogs for walks ... lots of walks. Visit with friends. Play "throw the ball" with the dogs. Make a run to the post office and grocery store. Visit with more friends. That's about it. There are some things that I'm avoiding as much as possible. The news, for one. I've watched one evening news show since coming home and have only lightly skimmed the news sites on the net. In a few weeks, I'll probably start following current events again, but for now, there are many things far more important than the news from Iraq. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: The U.S. to Afghanistan: 'We Will Not Abandon You.' - One of those very rare occasions when the spin on the surface cannot conceal what lies beneath: “Yesterday, Mrs Clinton sought to play down fears of a precipitous exit that could serve as a rationale for unpalatable deals between Kabul and the Taleban, as Mr Karzai has previously threatened. Mrs Clinton told Afghan and American Cabinet officials assembled at the State Department: ‘As we look towards a responsible orderly transition in the international combat mission in Afghanistan, we will not abandon the Afghan people. Our civilian commitment will remain long into the future.’ Polls released yesterday showed a slim majority of Americans think the war is no longer worth fighting, underlining the rationale for military withdrawal. A larger majority, however, still approve of Mr Obama’s handling of the war, from the impending military ‘surge’ in Kandahar to the promise of a gradual withdrawal starting next year.” (READ MORE)

War is Boring: The Justice/Peace Divide - Sidiqua, 18 years old, cries gently as she talks about her life. At the age of three, Hezb-i-Islami rocketed her home while assaulting Kabul; the first rocket put a piece of shrapnel in her back that the local hospital had no capacity to remove. The second killed her mother, brothers and aunt. Her father, bearing permanent mental scars, cannot bear the pain of seeing her; though he has a home in Kabul, she is not allowed inside it and he often sleeps in the streets. Without family, a crucial part of Afghan social life, Sidiqua is adrift. She is unemployed and broke. The government, which gives her 8,000 Afghanis a year — about $160, well below the cost of living — denied her request for land, Sidiqua says, because she is a woman and cannot build a house. To survive, she moves between the houses of her neighbors. “I need my mother,” she weeps, “where is my mother now?” (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Pentagon's IED Chief Comes Out Swinging - Joint Forces Command’s General James Mattis introduced him with the warning that “IEDs are coming to a city near you,” and Lt. Gen Michael Oates, head of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Organization followed up with a sharp-elbowed speech that called much of the coalition’s anti-IED effort into question. Speaking before a packed house at the Joint Warfighting conference in Virginia Beach, Va. On Tuesday morning, Oates bemoaned problems with analyzing and sharing intelligence in a timely manner, both in the U.S. military, and among coalition allies in Afghanistan. “We disable ourselves by an inability to share information,” he said, adding that “I absolutely believe that we’ve got to [find] a way ahead immediately to improve information fusion,” and to develop databases for tactical commanders. “There is no shortage of data, but there is a dearth of analysis..." (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: iPhone in the Zone: Yes We Can! - One of the most ubiquitous pieces of kit we’ve seen here so far — of the personal kind, that is — are cell phones. Everyone’s got them at the bigger FOBs since there’s pretty good cell coverage near the major cities. What a revolution in connectivity when you’re deployed for a year…you can talk to loved ones every day if you want. It’s a long way from the snail mail only comms of just 20 years ago. Sure there are tons of basic cells clasped in the troops’ hands. But there are also some iPhones here and there sprinkled in with the Motorolas and T-Mobiles — including yours truly. The key is to get a sim card linked to the local network so your calls are cheap (free if you receive a call) or to just buy a local cell phone altogether. But how to get around the notoriously draconian rules governing the use of iPhones and its sealed system? (READ MORE)

The Burn Pit: Legislating Fear - The state of Georgia recently pushed a piece of legislation through the state that would establish a designation on drivers’ licenses showing the bearer’s status as a sufferer of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How about that for dropping a live grenade in the middle of the punchbowl? According to an article that appeared in Stars and Stripes on May 10, 2010, current and former service members could add a notation to their drivers’ license similar to the way that the need for corrective lenses is shown. The information would be voluntary and require a sworn statement from a doctor. If it gets signed by the Governor, it would go into effect as a law July 1. The interesting thing, according to the article, is that this apparently comes at the prompting of a veteran who suffers from PTSD: (READ MORE)

Mountain Runner: Wikileaks seeks US Military Email Addresses - After crossing the line from self-purported “whistleblower” to propagandist with the release in April of a video packaged for “the targeted manipulation of public opinion,” Wikileaks is now hunting for US military email addresses in a May 7 tweet. Adrian Chen at Gawker wonders if this was preparation for the long anticipated release of another video Wikileaks may have of a bombing in Afghanistan. According to Chen, Julian Assange, Wikileak’s co-founder and public face, responded “not yet.” The intent of Assange is to affect change. The “real diplomacy and real politics,” Assange said, “is something that is derived from the flow of information itself through the population.” Assange certainly tries to increase the flow of information and has primed his pipeline for his next package in the wake of “Collateral Murder,” the edited April video in which a US Army helicopter killed armed and unarmed men, including two employees of Reuters: (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation Announced - The Department of Defense announced today that the 11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation (QRMC) has begun its review of military compensation. (READ MORE)

US Support for Democracy Key to Improving Muslim Relations - President Barack Obama's widely publicized speech in Cairo one year ago this June raised hopes that U.S. relations with the Muslim world might soon improve. (READ MORE)

U.S. Republican doubts Taliban link to New York plot - The senior Republican on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee cast doubt on Tuesday on the Obama administration's assertions that the Pakistani Taliban orchestrated the attempted car bombing in New York on May 1. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraq Killing Spree Targets Tribal Chiefs, Government Workers - Dozens of Iraqis have died in a campaign of killings by gunmen using silenced guns and sticky bombs, raising fears that insurgents are moving beyond a reliance on largescale bombings to wreak havoc in the political vacuum left by an inconclusive election. (READ MORE)

After Iraq attacks, security forces describe hardships at Baghdad checkpoints - The day after militants in Iraq launched coordinated pre-dawn attacks on Baghdad checkpoints, federal police and Iraqi soldiers who work at some of those checkpoints described their fear of attack and a lack of basic support they believe is weakening security. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Vetting Commission to End Election Work - Iraq's committee charged with vetting officials for ties to Saddam Hussein's regime will not ban any more candidates from the disputed election though the fate of nine others that could change the results appeared unresolved, officials said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Deal to End De-Baathification - Iraqi politicians have reached an agreement to halt a four-month campaign to bar candidates from politics for ties to the Baath Party, American and Iraqi officials said, papering over the sectarian tensions it unleashed, at least for now, and removing an obstacle in the long-delayed process of forming a new government. (READ MORE)

Iraqi security forces say politicians were behind Iraq attacks - Iraqi security forces and citizens were on edge Tuesday after a string of attacks that has raised fears of instability and sparked accusations that the government has become too consumed with forming a coalition to be able to protect its citizens. (READ MORE)

Pakistani officials know where Osama bin Laden hiding - Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has accused Pakistani government officials of knowing where Osama bin Laden and leaders of the Afghan Taliban are hiding. (READ MORE)

Pakistani insurgents' connection to Times Square bomb attempt still not found - U.S. officials investigating the failed car bombing in Times Square are still far from certain about the role Pakistani insurgent groups may have played in orchestrating the attempt, the Senate intelligence committee's top Republican said Tuesday. (READ MORE)

US Missile Strikes Kill 24 in NW Pakistan - Two U.S. missile strikes Tuesday in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region of North Waziristan killed at least 24 suspected militants. (READ MORE)

U.S. lost in Afghan vote - Will we ever learn? In 2009, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will meet with President Obama in Washington this week, ripped off American taxpayers for about $200 million. (READ MORE)

A fence-mending agenda for President Obama and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai - Relations between the United States and Afghanistan have recently verged on crisis. Will this week's visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai return things to a better path? That will depend on four big issues: (READ MORE)

Taliban Claims Killing of Afghan Prison Official - Violence erupted in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday where an American and a Romanian soldier were killed, the Taliban claimed responsibility for assassinating a prisons official and an explosion injured at least three people, officials said. (READ MORE)

Little progress on installing electronic surveillance systems in Afghanistan - Nine months after the Army's U.S. Central Command formally declared that there was an "urgent need" for sophisticated electronic surveillance systems to be installed throughout Afghanistan to protect U.S. forward operating bases, little has happened… (READ MORE)

Rebel Group Rejects Likely Afghan Exile Offer - An Afghan guerrilla group has turned down a draft peace proposal by President Hamid Karzai's government offering insurgent leaders exile in third countries in an effort to end the nine-year-old war. (READ MORE)

US will not abandon Afghan people, Clinton tells Karzai - Hillary Clinton pledged that the United States “will not abandon the Afghan people” as she opened talks with Hamid Karzai amid tensions over next summer’s planned drawdown of the American combat mission in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Obama, Karzai Seek To Improve US-Afghan Ties - U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai at the White House Wednesday. Both leaders are hoping to improve relations between their countries, after a period of tension. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan wants to be designated a significant U.S. ally - Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his advisors are pressing the Obama administration to designate Afghanistan as a significant U.S. ally and to draft a new security agreement, requests that have made this week's White House meetings particularly delicate. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Karzai to urge caution as U.S. pushes to empower local leaders - The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is built around the belief that all good counterinsurgency is local. In recent months, American officials have focused their plans on pushing power and money down to district, tribal and village leaders. (READ MORE)

After 30-year Absence, Jirga Held in Moqur District - District elders held a Grand Jirga Thursday in Moqur, one of the districts most affected by the insurgency in Badghis province. (READ MORE)

Tribal elders asked to expel Pak Taliban living as IDPs - The Pakistani authorities have sought help from elders of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribes to oust the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorists, living with families and posing as internally displaced people (IDP) from South Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Gas used against Afghan schools - In more attacks on girl’s schools in Afghanistan 30 pupils and teachers have been taken to hospital after suspected use of poison gas. (READ MORE)

Afghan secret police chief fired over torture of detainee, top soldier testifies - The firing of the "head honcho" of the Afghan secret police at a prison in Kandahar confirmed the allegations of torture that a Canadian-transferred detainee made on Nov. 5, 2007, to Foreign Affairs monitors, Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche testified Tuesday. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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