May 14, 2010

From the Front: 05/14/2010

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

Kandahar Diary: Canadian Parking Drills, Eh... - Ever wondered why it is that some things that make some people fume, make others laugh? If you have seen KAF you will know it is like driving in Bangkok – traffic chaos and the parking is worse – so you’ll appreciate that when one sees a free car space one would be nuts not to take it. Right? A couple of my Force Protection lads were in KAF today, safe-handing some documents to COMKAF and the client. Arriving in vicinity of COMKAF they noticed a neat, and empty, car space and promptly pulled the armoured into it, jumped out, locked the doors and headed in to make their delivery. Delivery done, they walked out to discover that someone had parked a Surf at right angles across the rear of the armoured, thus sealing it in. Being observant men, they noticed the Maple-leaf sticker on the window of the Surf and, being fairly quick on the uptake, decided to check if the parking space actually had a ‘Reserved for ...” sign stuck to the T-wall. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Penguins of Afghanistan - There are no birth certificates in these villages. No death certificates. No driver’s licenses or addresses or phonebooks, and if there were, few people would be able to read them. In this mostly illiterate country, there are no paperwork hassles. Corruption is a problem but bureaucracy and identity theft surely aren’t. Most Afghans have never been entered into any system. Like penguins on the ice, they are born, they live and they die, and that’s all. Whereas most Westerners have been thorougly inventoried by their governments (readers probably have many sorts of IDs ranging from birth certificates to fishing licenses), Afghans are still in the Penguin stage. They’re just out there doing laps around the sun. Most don’t know how many laps because they don’t know how old they are, and it’s not because they are orphans but because it doesn’t matter one iota. A kid can drive when he can drive and shoot when he can shoot. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: It's The Little Things - A lot of times it's the big things in life that catch our attention. But, sometimes, it's something small and seamingly insignificant that really drives home a point. I was driving thru Kabul today and for the first time I noticed something. They are painting lines on their roads and putting up traffic lights. I've driven all over Iraq and Afghanistan and this is the first time I have seen this. It may seem like a very little thing, but you see, as I drove down the street, obeying the new lines and lights, I realized something. With everyday that passes Afghanistan takes another step forward. With everyday that goes by, the Taliban lose more and more ground. With everyday that goes by, the People and the Government take back more and more of their Country. Its a very good thing to see and to be helping happen. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Does General McChrystal read - I talked about One of the Worst Ideas Ever! the other day on this blog when it was recommended to have a medal or award an existing medal to troops for NOT SHOOTING. In fact in that blog post I pleaded with GEN McChrystal to shoot that idea down. "I have a lot of respect for Gen McChrystal and know he is trying hard to avoid civilian casualties but there is no zero tolerance when you talk about the fluidness of combat. Gen McChrysal I plead to you to shoot down this dumb idea. You, as a warfighter yourself, know damn well that the troops on the battlefield don’t give a crap about an award. They need training, leadership and if applicable, the right technologies to try and avoid as many civilian casulties as possible." I am not sure if he reads the blog here at (Lord knows I would be honored and flattered beyond all belief if he did), or if he is as smart as I though he is and employs common sense with all his decision. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: The DADT controversy split amongst milbloggers - Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is about as controversial in the military as the black beret as a universal headgear. For the past two weeks a group of us milbloggers have been discussing the issuance of a formal letter on the support of the repealing of it, if the Service Chiefs determine it should be. Many big named milbloggers from websites like Blackfive, The Military Observer, This Ain’t Hell, Outside the Wire, Boston Maggie, USNI, and others have all penned their name to a letter originally drafted by Uncle Jimbo of both Blackfive and In the Crosshairs. Many supported this letter calling for the repeal, but there are some who don’t want it repealed and hope that Congress doesn’t repeal it even if the Service Chiefs call for it. My good friend, CJ whom I partner with on the You Served Blog and Radio show and who writes at A Soldier’s Perspective drafted a letter on the other said of the aisle that calls for the the maintaining of the DADT policy. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: You know a deployment is looming when.... - He returns home with two bags of gear that the Army decides he NEEDS. Never mind that he has another 20,000 pounds of TA50 downstairs, and many of these items are duplicates. --He has a date for the CONEX to be packed and it is too soon. --They repaint the bottom of their bags. --They get issued the new FRACU. --Mountain boots have joined the pile of required gear and are being worn around the company in order to break them in. --Block leave plans have been made, cemented, and are set in stone until the Army changes their mind. --He drags out his hair clippers to pack so that he can keep his head shaved. (His first deployment to Bosnia, half the guys got mange, so he goes bald every deployment) --He makes an appointment to get new POA's. --I refuse to let him feed mac and cheese to the kids, so I know they will eat it while he is gone. --He refuses to buy new clothes. (READ MORE)

Gretchen Peters: Afghanistan’s poppy crop threatened by a tiny foe - A mysterious blight is devouring Afghanistan's southern poppy crop, with the United Nations predicting that the 2010 opium yield may be down by as much as one-third. At first glance, this might seem like good news. An enormous drop in the opium yield means drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and the Taliban, who tax and protect the poppy trade, make less money … right? Wrong. When supply goes down, prices go up. Farm-gate values for raw opium, which had been dropping after years of overproduction, have shot up more than 60 percent, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which tracks yield and values across Afghanistan. And that's good news for everyone holding large stockpiles of opium or processed narcotics -- the Taliban, drug traffickers, and other power brokers who smuggle narcotics. The UNODC has estimated that more than 11,000 metric tons are stockpiled around Afghanistan and the region. (READ MORE)

Capt. Henry Brewster: Personal Identity in a War Zone - During the last nine months of my year in Iraq, I served as a scout platoon leader commanding 30 cavalry scouts and nine snipers. Our daily missions involved protecting the populace and helping to secure those working to build the struggling economy and government. The missions were tiresome, but they created opportunities for interactions with the Iraqi people, both military and civilian. Behind closed doors and away from our soldiers, my fellow officers and I often criticized the Iraqis. Initially, it was a way to blow off steam, but I came to realize that my religious identity fueled my complaints. Of more than 900 men in my battalion, I was one of only two Jewish soldiers. While serving in this predominately Muslim country, Lieutenant Schwartz had opted to translate his last name from the German and go instead by Lieutenant Black. My last name, Brewster, did not pose the same problem, but I had my own difficult choice to make. (READ MORE)

Fire and Ice: Something Old, Somethings New - I'm pretty close to having all my gear for the upcoming trip to Afghanistan bought and put together. Today UPS delivered the last of my required protective gear, a tan ballistic Kevlar helmet. On my feet for this trip will be a pair of well broken in desert boots and around the neck a shmeagh from my last jaunt. The ergonomic single strap bag for my art supplies and cameras is also a veteran of several campaigns. A friend of mine, a retired Defense Intelligence Agency civilian, was kind enough to offer me his personal set of Dragon Skin body armor! I can't tell you how thrilling, and reassuring this is. Dragon Skin is the ultimate in protection from multiple threats. Over the past month I've been going to the gym around the corner and spending a couple hours on a stair climber with my body armor on. You can imagine the questions, and looks I get. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Blogger Continues Parenting Challenge - A few months ago, I wrote a blog about my son’s propensity for snack foods and aversion to exercise. These habits led the doctor to warn me about his unhealthy body mass index during an annual exam. I realized that day that I bore much of the responsibility for his weighty dilemma and immediately vowed to take action. Since that day, my son has parted from his couch potato ways, thanks to some encouragement (and shameless bribery). My husband and I signed him up for soccer, bought a basketball hoop and ensure he plays outside for at least 30 minutes a day. Some days even go by where he seems to forget about his former best buddy, the TV set. But I definitely could use some improvement on the food front. I’ve found it tough to resist grabbing snack cakes and ice-cream on my grocery runs. And while I’ve started stocking the fruit bowl on a weekly basis, I realize now that my son will always gravitate toward a sugary temptation rather than opt for an orange. (READ MORE)

Lance Corporal Ashley Jones: The worrying wait - I was initially meant to be on an op going into Sangin, but then the day before we were to be deployed, I was told I was going to be staying behind. This was because I am a rifleman and they needed other assets for this particular situation. I was quite disappointed at first but then I came to terms with it and decided I needed to just contribute as much as I could and become proactive. Not everyone can go every time and sometimes you just have to be patient and throw your weight behind the others. Besides, there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done back at Bastion before the op began. We’d also been warned off for the next job which was coming up and which we needed to prepare for. Being the vehicle mechanic, I went around all the vehicles just to make sure they were all prepped, ready and working. We assisted with the re-supply, getting everything together, making sure the Quartermasters’ staff didn’t have any difficulties picking up the kit... (READ MORE)

Lance Corporal Richard Savage: Frustrations of the stag - As a force, we pride ourselves on our ability to win the hearts and minds of the local population. It is one of our main tactics in the attempt to defeat the insurgency. But having completed our first op, it is clear we are not the only ones trying that approach. We had been tasked to go into the Sangin Valley and patrol around an area where ISAF troops hadn't been seen since the Rifles were there right at the beginning of Herrick 11. We went in to see what the locals felt about ISAF, to see if we could help them with any projects and see if there were insurgents operating in the area. There was. At first it looked as though I would be staying at Bastion whilst the rest went out on the op. But then our Colour Sergeant came in and asked if anyone else wanted to go up to Sangin. Everyone put their hands up because they wanted to be with the lads. My hand went up as well and I was picked. Only then did they tell us it was to go and stag on in squadron headquarters (SHQ). (READ MORE)

Bruce R: A couple notes in passing - *With so many people lining up to discredit every last aspect of the testimony of interpreter Ahmadshah Malgarai, people are going to start wondering if he might have been at a different war altogether. *On a completely unrelated note, I for one am happy to live in a time when this could have been viewed 3.8 million times and still be going strong. *Great, I'm going to have that tune in my head every time I think of the Commons Afghanistan committee now. *On a serious Afghan note, this was thought-provoking. Yglesias has already made the (trite) communism parallel. What I thought was more interesting was this bit: "We must also contend with the effects of the media, and a world population that cringes when it is witness to overt aggression and the marginalization of people. In this response, the leaders of this campaign have taken too many precautions to ensure that everyone is content with the tact taken." (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Coldstream Guards and Afghan Security Forces patrol together in Helmand - A joint patrol involving soldiers from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, from Aldershot, and Afghan Security Forces has been speaking to villagers in the region of Malgir in Helmand Province. As ISAF forces continue to work more closely with their Afghan colleagues, the patrol represents the partnering approach to security, reconstruction and development now being adopted by General McCrystal. The patrol, as with many others, was conducted with members of both the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA who act as the face of the joint Afghan government and ISAF led mission in Afghanistan. They provide the first point of contact for the local population, allowing relationships to be built with Afghan villagers and the security forces. Although security is the main concern for many villagers, at the same time, representatives from the Military Stabilisation and Support Team (MSST) work closely with our Afghan colleagues... (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Don't Ask, Don't Tell - A group of Military Bloggers has published a statement in support of repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the military. Like Admiral Mullen, the bloggers take the repeal of DADT as inevitable and say that the military can handle it and should get ready to comply. David Marron at Thunder Run posted the statement and I am sure will cover the on-going controversy if you are interested. I admit to being of two opinions on the issue. I served with gay soldiers back in the 70s and now. There will always be gays in the military, but in the tight confines of Army life, no one currently has to deal with gay behavior. So on the one hand, DADT is like the porn policy. All through the tour last year, pretty much everyone admitted or bragged about watching porn. But, no one was subjected to other people's porn because the rule was Zero Tolerance for porn. So when I walked in a room, the person who was watching porn was careful to turn the screen toward himself and have earphones in. (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Medals and Changes of Command - This weekend there will be changes of command ceremonies at several companies and formations for medals and awards. For me the weekend will be about logistics. Will all of the change of command ceremonies be at the same time? If so, I'll have to figure out how to shoot as many as possible. They should all be at the armory, but if someone gets creative and uses an alternate location, I hope they use an alternate time. Same with the medals. There could be hundreds of individuals receiving medals. If four companies hand out medals at the same time, I won't be able to get many pictures. And since the Army is socialist and all about getting fair treatment, which ceremony do I go to if they are simultaneous? Then the real big logistic issue comes later. If I would by creative scheduling get pictures of each change of command and every ribbon and medal, how do I get those pictures to the soldiers in the photo? (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Confusion Continues - It's still confusing. Some reports say Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Allawi are meeting today. Other reports deny any such get together. The story is that Maliki is totally opposed to letting the Sadr gang have a say in the new government. Allawi says they should be a part of any government. Maliki still wants to be prime minister; and Allawi still asserts his constitutional right to set up the new government. Whatever happens, they will ultimately have to share power. The new government is likely to have the top four winners in it. That is, the Iraqi List of Allawi; the State of Law of Maliki; the INA of Hakim; and the Kurdish coalition. But who will help set it up? The Allawi list wants outsiders to get involved. Maliki says no outsiders. The papers here still say VP Biden is on his way to Baghdad to help settle the mess. Nobody knows what's really happening here. Can Biden really help? (READ MORE)

Kerplunk: In Defense of Stream of Consciousness - Well, my tome Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War has been out for about six weeks now, and it continues to exceed all expectations. The wild ride aspect of it is stabilizing a bit, or maybe I've just gotten used to it all. Anyways, there's been enough time and reviews by now for a sort of consistent feedback pattern to develop. The most polarizing aspect of Kaboom, by far, has been the stream of consciousness pieces scattered intermittently through the book. Some have described these pieces as "poetic" and "brutally honest." Others have found them "distracting," "melodramatic," and "rambling." Clearly, I'm far too biased (and like most writers, hypersensitive) to be able to objectively comment on what my stream of consciousness selections did or did not to for Kaboom. So I'll simply explain why I included them. But first, as usual, a few caveats: (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: The Hardcore Insurgent Kit - We were fortunate enough to sit in on a brief today with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team staff and other government agencies who gave a “one over the world” of the battle space we’re covering here in this section of RC-East. They call it P2K — which stands for Paktia, Paktika and Khost. One of the interesting bits of intel is how the command here is able to distinguish the difference between local insurgents, known here as “anti-Afghan Forces,” or AAF, based on their equipment. The harcore fighters, who come primarily from the training camps and madraasas controlled by Jalaluddin Haqqani’s son Saraj just over the border in Pakistan, are moving across the border in well organized, platoon-sized groups of 20-40 men and sporting brand new equipment. A high-level BCT source said these guys are wearing new tennis shoes, as opposed to the cheapo rubber sandals of locals, donning full-on chest rigs, packs, newer weapons and sporting high-end, military-style field jackets. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: SITREP: Kit Up! Embed (Bagram) - After five hours at Camp Kaia (the military side of the Kabul airport) Christian and I boarded a DeHavilland Dash-8 for Bagram Air Base 30 miles to the north. The Dash 8 was run by Presidential Airlines, a company that until very recently was owned by Xe (formerly known as Blackwater). Following a short flight we landed at BAF and waited in the terminal (watching the Detroit Tigers play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on ESPN) for somebody from the public affairs shop to come pick us up. And we waited . . . and waited. It turns out that Bagram has a traffic jam problem at certain times during the day along Route Disney, the main drag across the base. It took our public affairs contact 45 minutes to travel a mile or so. (Good to see that we’re bringing the full range of the American experience to the theater.) The public affairs team (reservists out of Georgia) gave us a place to crash for the night – the “San Francisco” room in “Hotel California.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: 41 Taliban killed in heavy fighting in Afghan north - Afghan security forces backed by US special operations teams killed 41 Taliban fighters during two raids last night in enemy strongholds in the northern province of Kunduz. Fighting broke out in the Afghan north after Afghan and US forces targeted Taliban commanders in the districts of Chahara Dara and Kunduz. The US military claimed that "more than two dozen insurgents" were killed during the raid in the village of Kharid-e Olya, just outside the provincial capital of Kunduz City. "The combined force went to a compound in the village of Kharid-e Olya, Kunduz District, after intelligence information confirmed the Taliban were staging for a large attack," according to a press release at the International Security Assistance Force's website. "As the Afghan-led element moved into the target area they immediately began receiving fire from a mosque and surrounding woods, and then returned defensive fires." (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: The Long War and Long Good-byes - With the possible exception of unit homecomings, there are few Army traditions that seem to drag on as long as send-off ceremonies. There are always plenty of prayers, and speeches by military and political leaders of every stripe. Everybody wants to say good-bye, good luck, and godspeed. Note to speech-makers: I can remember the words of exactly one person during my unit's formal homecoming. It was an area mayor, probably the third or fourth person to stand behind the podium. We soldiers were trying to stay focused and in formation, while distractedly searching out our loved ones in the stadium crowd. The mayor got up and said, "You don't want to hear me. You want to be with your families. Welcome home!" Given the cheers, I'm certain he won re-election that year. Like I was saying, send-off ceremonies can also drag along like a southbound river barge. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Another Deployment, Another Year of Fun - On 26 April another deployment to Afghanistan began. We were supposed to leave on 20Apr, but due to weather, and over things out of our control, we played the game of showing up every morning thinking we were about to leave, until the day arrived that we finally did leave. Before that wonderful trip to Manas to start the trip, I had to enjoy life to the fullest. A few weeks before departing, I took some leave to lay my grandmother to rest in Akron, OH. She had been sick for quite some time, and it was a matter of time. I went to OH to say my goodbyes in December and then again in Apr for the final goodbye. After spending my time in OH with family, some that I had not seen in years, I decided I needed a real vacation, something I had not had in several years. Sonya, my roommate, invited me to Destin, FL with her family for a week, and I took her up on the offer. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Witness to sacrifice - America's most hallowed ground had an important visitor on Thursday: Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Over 1,000 U.S. servicemembers have died in Afghanistan since our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, and Karzai got a first-hand look at the high price America has paid to rid the world of terrorism and give his country a chance at freedom. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen joined Karzai on the tour. Walking through Section 60, where many heroes from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are buried, is an essential American experience that I wrote about back in January. From the seemingly endless lines of white headstones to the exhaustive efforts to keep the sacred stretch dignified, touring Arlington National Cemetery is an overwhelming endeavor that will fill almost anyone with both sadness and pride. One American hero who recently lost his life in Afghanistan is Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz of Ramsey, New Jersey. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Sergeant in charge - As a proud father of four, Sgt. Keith Coe was accustomed to caring for others. Perhaps that is why his protective instincts kicked in so quickly while on an April 27 mission with a group of younger soldiers in Khalis, Iraq. "All the others in the truck were just kids, just out of high school. It was his duty to get out of that truck first because he was the sergeant in charge," [grandmother Dawn] Jones said. As Sgt. Coe stepped out of a military vehicle, fellow troops heard and felt the crushing blow of an explosive device detonated by terrorists. According to a Pentagon news release, the 30-year-old soldier died from wounds suffered in the attack. Coe was assigned to 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, which has notched many victories since the 9/11 attacks, but also suffered a high number of casualties. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Unlimited Talk, Only $679 Million: Inside the No-Bid Deal for Afghan Interpreters - Three years ago, Mission Essential Personnel was a miniscule military contractor, banking less than $6 million annually to find a handful of linguists for the American government. Earlier this week, the U.S. Army handed the Columbus, Ohio, company a one-year, no-bid $679 million extension of its current contract to field a small city’s worth of translators to help out American forces in Afghanistan. Not bad for a company that’s been accused of everything from abandoning wounded employees to sending out-of-shape interpreters to the front lines. MEP vigorously rejects the charges. The U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan relies on gaining the trust of the local population. But those relationships can’t be established without people who can speak Afghanistan’s array of languages. So the American military turns to Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) to recruit, screen and bring more than 5,000 of those interpreters to the battlefield. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Counterinsurgency: Can it be something other than Population-Centric? - Regular readers know about my advocacy of the idea of lines of effort versus the idea of a strict, unchanging center of gravity (usually taken to be the population in counterinsurgency). Recall also the corruption in Afghanistan we have recently discussed in the context of Wali Karzai, Hamid Karzai’s gangster brother in Kandahar. Someone else is thinking outside the box and questioning religiously-dictated COIN dogma, the impetus being the corruption in Afghanistan. Spencer Ackerman (h/t SWJ) gives us the observations of an unnamed CIA operative. Ask a person in Afghanistan, “Who are you?” and they will tell you about their tribe, ethnicity or sect –but not nationality. Deployed to Afghanistan and Pakistan as an operator for a CIA CT codeword program, I remember asking a local about himself whether he considered himself “Afghan.” He laughed and said, “Afghanistan is a line on a map — drawn by the British..." (READ MORE)

CJ: DADT Statement From Other Milbloggers - Yesterday, milbloggers released a joint statement on the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. The administration and senior members of the military are investigating the possibility of overturning the DADT policy on banning homosexuals from openly serving in the military. You will notice that our signatures are nowhere to be found on the document. You can read the original statement by clicking on any of these links: Matt Burden- Warrior Legacy Foundation & BLACKFIVE, Jim Hanson- Warrior Legacy Foundation & BLACKFIVE, Blake Powers- BLACKFIVE, Fred Schoenman- BLACKFIVE, David Bellavia- House to House, Bruce McQuain- Q&O, JD Johannes- Outside the Wire, Diane Frances McInnis Miller- Boston Maggie, Mark Seavey- This Ain't Hell, Michael St. Jacques- The Sniper (strangely forbidden on my military computer), Mary Ripley- US Naval Institute Blog, John Donovan- Castle Argghhh!, Andrew J. Lubin- The Military Observer, Marc Danziger- Winds of Change, Greta Perry- Hooah Wife. (READ MORE)

Cassandra: "Milbloggers" Not United on DADT Repeal - Yesterday, fifteen Milbloggers signed an open letter acknowledging that Sec. Gates and Admiral Mullen have directed an inquiry into how the services will comply with the anticipated repeal of DADT. The letter urged Congress to listen to what the services recommend as a result of this inquiry. Somehow, this nuanced message morphed into a simple (and misleading) meme: Milbloggers Call for Repeal of DADT. Some of the signatories to the letter do indeed favor lifting the ban. But as Simon Owens and John Donovan both point out, not all of them did: In February I interviewed several LGBT bloggers who had banded together to create a “blog swam” that pressured human rights groups into taking a more firm position on repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The idea, I gathered, was that by speaking as a unified voice the group could exert more influence than any individual blogger." (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
70 area National Guard troops set to leave for training, then deployment to Afghanistan - Some 70 members of a local Washington Army National Guard unit are headed for training at Fort Hood, Texas, in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Army Releases April Suicide Data - The Army released suicide data today for the month of April. Among active-duty soldiers, there were ten potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide, and nine remain under investigation. (READ MORE)

DOD Announces Release of Net Generation Guide - The Department of Defense (DoD) announced today the release of the Net Generation guide, a 128-page report by the Federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council that focuses on preparing for change in the Federal Information Technology (IT) workforce. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraq's New Qaeda "War Minister" Vows Attacks - An al Qaeda-linked militant group named a new "war minister" in Iraq and threatened majority Shi'ites with "dark days coloured in blood," after two of its commanders were killed by U.S. and Iraqi forces. (READ MORE)

New al-Qaida in Iraq Chief Vows Blood-Soaked Days - Al-Qaida in Iraq's new leader warned Shiites on Friday that ''dark days soaked with blood'' lie ahead and that a new campaign of attacks was under way. (READ MORE)

Attacks Kill 10 In Baghdad - Iraqi officials say eight people were killed when a car bomb exploded outside a cafe in eastern Baghdad. Officials say the bombing occurred Wednesday evening in Sadr City, a mainly Shi'ite area which is a stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (READ MORE)

Despite political uncertainties in Iraq, U.S. sticking with drawdown plan - The U.S. military is on track to draw down to 50,000 troops in Iraq by the end of the summer, but it now faces the long-dreaded prospect that its exit could coincide with a power vacuum similar to the one that drove the country to civil war in 2006. (READ MORE)

New Security Team Arrives at Kirkuk - More than 280 Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions security contractors arrived at Kirkuk Regional Air Base to aid in the U.S. Air Force drawdown in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Taliban Find Safe Haven In Pakistan's Karachi - Hundreds of Taliban fleeing from Pakistan's restive northwest have taken refuge in the teeming commercial hub of Karachi, where a growing nexus with banned militant organisations is a headache for law enforcement. (READ MORE)

Can Obama save his Afghanistan surge? - The countless red carpets rolled out for Hamid Karzai in Washington this week could not disguise an ugly emerging reality: So far, Barack Obama's surge in Afghanistan isn't working. (READ MORE)

Combined Force Kills Dozens of Insurgents - An Afghan-international security force killed more than two dozen insurgents and captured several others while pursuing a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province last night, military officials reported. (READ MORE)

Protesters Say NATO Attack Killed Afghan Civilians - Hundreds of protesters brandished sticks, threw stones and burned an American flag Friday in eastern Afghanistan as they accused NATO forces of killing civilians in an overnight raid, but the alliance said eight insurgents were killed in the attack. (READ MORE)

Afghans Protest Deadly U.S. Raid - Eleven civilians were killed in a night raid by American troops in the eastern province of Nangarhar, sparking protests on Friday morning that turned violent, resulting in at least one and possibly two more deaths, according to accounts from witnesses and protesters. (READ MORE)

Karzai Ends US Visit With Tribute to Fallen Soldiers - Afghan President Hamid Karzai is concluding his visit to Washington by paying tribute to American soldiers who have lost their lives in the fight against terrorism. (READ MORE)

In speech, Karzai, expresses satisfaction with outcome of Washington visit - If the Obama administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai did not settle all of their differences during Karzai's four-day visit here this week, they made a good show Thursday of acting as if they had. (READ MORE)

Troops likely to see spike in fighting - U.S. and allied forces will see increased fighting in Afghanistan as their offensive in the southern part of the country unfolds in coming weeks, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said Thursday. (READ MORE)

Leaders Put Different Face on Afghan Drive - In an unusual public conversation about Afghanistan on Thursday, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went to some lengths to depict a looming coalition offensive around Kandahar as not a full-fledged military assault, but, in Mr. Karzai’s words, “a process.” (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, May 14 - A Taliban sub-commander and other insurgents were killed, and two insurgents were captured, by an Afghan-international security force in Nangarhar last night. (READ MORE)

Crackdown warning for Afghan security firms - Private security companies operating in Afghanistan's violent Kandahar Province are facing a crackdown, a senior Nato commander has said. (READ MORE)

Taliban to cash in as blight boosts price of Afghan heroin - The Taliban is likely to receive a boost to its coffers from a sharp increase in the price of heroin caused by a blight that is expected to wipe out almost a quarter of Afghanistan's annual opium poppy crop. (READ MORE)

Mysterious ‘White Taleban’ strike fear in village hearts - As they got to the crest of the hill the US patrol stopped in their tracks, astonished at the scene below. In the river was a group of men, one soldier said, “just kinda frolicking about”. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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