May 24, 2010

From the Front: 05/24/2010

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

Kandahar Diary: The Bad Guys Step It Up - It has been fairly quiet these past few days. I have the disquieting sense that it is just the calm before the storm. Taliban attacks have been stepping up in complexity and audaciousness. In a well planned and bold ground attack on the largest military base in the country, Bagram was hit with a ground assault at about 0500hrs 19 May that took hours to counter with a number of casualties. At approximately 1950hrs 22 May, KAF took over ten rounds of well aimed indirect fire and a ground assault from the north, fortunately with no casualties. We could hear the crumps of the incoming rounds, the crackle of small arms fire and the heavy thumping of HMG as KAF reacted to the assault. Air assets were soon up and giving the attackers the good news, while I stood my QRF to, with SH and MK on stag all night to make sure the Neps on the wall were alert. Since then, we have upped our readiness and, without giving the game away, it is safe to say we are ready. (READ MORE)

Joint Media Ops: Command and control changes in southern Afghanistan - Changes to the command and control of ISAF forces in southern Afghanistan, that will see the current Regional Command (South) split in two to better reflect the significant changes on the ground in recent months, have been announced today. The announcement from ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, confirms that the present Regional Command (South) will be split into two new headquarters. A new Regional Command (South West), based in Helmand, will oversee Helmand and Nimruz provinces; while the existing Regional Command (South), headquartered in Kandahar, will continue to control ISAF forces in Kandahar, Daykundi, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces. This change, which is based on the military advice of ISAF commanders on the ground, reflects a number of significant changes over recent months and was welcomed today by the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox. (READ MORE)

A Handful of Dust: “So When’s The Movie Coming Out?” - As anyone who has deployed since 9/11 can tell you, movies are crucial. The ubiquity of laptops amongst today’s soldiers and the abundance of downtime while deployed, regardless of mission, leads to a lot of time being spent watching movies. Since movies are so critical to a soldier’s routine they become passionate about their favorites and spirited discussion often ensues. I had one such discussion with one of my company’s NCOs about the quality of war movies over the past 15 years or so. Black Hawk Down was naturally at the top of the list, as was Saving Private Ryan; both accurate and excellent movies. There was some intense disagreement though over We Were Soldiers and this year’s Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. He thought The Hurt Locker was garbage because they are glaring inaccuracies with regards to tactics and procedures, as well as small things like uniform inconsistencies. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink on a World of Camo: New Ink - I don't really have much to say tonight. Shocker for one of the most wordy people on the planet, yes? I've been pretty MIA because my mom and dad came down to NC for the week. They rented a condo on Emerald Isle and we enjoyed time together. I probably already told you all this... Anyway, there was barely any internet connection and crap cell service out there so I was even out of facebook and email world for a while - WOAH. You'd think after all this time, I'd have a lot to say but I just don't. At least not right this minute. I probably will when I get to thinking about it and will do a "real" post but right now, deal with what ya get, mmk?? Haha. Anyway, I finally got my "Jonny tattoo." You may be thinking, well Mrs. P, wasn't that your ribbon?? Well yes, in essence, but I wanted a more of a remembrance one as well. Hold on a sec, it dropped below 70 degrees tonight and I am FREEZING, let me run in and get a sweater. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Ready America, We see the Worst summer has started - You know it was just the other day when I wrote the posting, Obama sees heavy fighting ahead in Afghanistan, like DUUHHH! and then now over the last few days we have major, coordinated attacks against the two largest bases in Afghanistan. Both Baghram and Kandahar have been attacked in complex attacks with minimal injuries against Coalition Forces. So tactically they were complete failures on the enemy’s part, but in the Information Operations campaign these were huge victories for the enemy. They showed to the people of Afghanistan that they can attack at their whim against the most “secure” places in the entire country. Too bad for the guys that took part in the fighting, as they were pure cannon fodder with no chance of surviving it. They must have been at the bottom of the terrorist graduating class, and easily expendable. So I hope you are ready America, and Coalition partners. We are about to see the worst of combat we have ever seen. (READ MORE)

Army Live: “Neck Up, Check Up” - As part of a month-long campaign in support of Mental Health Month, the Defense Center of Excellence is spreading their message of “Neck Up, Check Up.” But what does this really mean? By DCoE’s definition, the slogan seeks to have Soldiers pay more attention to their psychological health and work to keep strong and mentally resilient minds during combat. We need your help to spread the message around the social networking world to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for psychological health concerns and to educate and increase awareness about all the resources available. Help combat any stigma that may prevent our warriors, veterans and their loved ones from seeking help for the invisible wounds of war. How can you get involved? Post “Neck up, Check up” in your Facebook or Twitter status sometime during the month of May to get the conversation started! Once there’s a buzz, direct your friends and followers to to learn more. (READ MORE)

MAJ ADAM WOJACK: The Impact of Another Soldier’s Death - I always believed the wounds of war, whether physical or emotional, belonged only to those who suffered serious injury or unforgettable trauma. I had always been lucky. It seemed I was always just far enough ahead of or behind the bad stuff, and too heavy a sleeper to remember my own dreams. I never thought someone else’s wounds could impact my life, or that of my family, until it happened. After coming home from the longest of three consecutive deployments from 2002 to 2007, the last two to Iraq, I was told by my wife that she no longer wished to live with me, and that she and the kids would not accompany me to my next assignment, an hour and a half away to another post in Germany. Needless to say, this was not the homecoming I wanted or even expected. Sure, we had problems, but they weren’t anything I thought required a separation as a fix — if that was a fix at all. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: A Memorial - A couple weeks back, our Battalion lost a Soldier. Private First Class Barry Smith left this world far too soon. Only a month in the unit, Barry impacted everyone around him. He was talented, ambitious, creative, and gregarious, possessing a monster work ethic that would have seen him rise to the top of the profession. God decided he was too good for us, and brought him home. This week my battalion did some platoon-level training and live fire. It was a tiring week. We ran each of our 6 platoons through a thirty-six hours training 'lane' consisting of events that would test their ability to perform basic, required tasks. No room for error. Because of the tragedy, we compressed what my Brigade Commander called a 'tight timeline' to an insane point where if any of the platoons were hung up, it would adversely affect the training of the entire battalion. Transparent to each of the platoons, was the tireless work of my Officers and NCOs. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: On Professionalism... - The following is an abject lesson loosely based on events that may or may not have happened. Probably. Or not. The inevitable side effect of having rules, regulations, and standard operating procedures is that somewhere, someone will feel these things do not apply to them. Take for example the sad tale of Lieutenant Navel Lint. This Navy O-3 was a fireball of scholarly and gentlemanly pursuits with a job to do. Unfortunately Lt Navel Lint failed to follow proper procedure and was not listed on any access roster given to FAST Company Marines charged with port security in support of various goings on in the AO. Thus the fine Lt and his vehicles were vigorously searched by intrepid young Marines intent on executing their duties because if they didn't their 1stSgt would have flayed the living flesh from their bodies. These laborious activities always occur in ideal weather. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Tribal Militias - A few days ago I was invited back to The Alyona Show to talk about tribal militias. You can see Alyona now during these interviews, but I still ended up looking all over the place like Stevie Wonder. No idea why I do that… it sure is distracting. Alyona and I ended up talking about two different aspects of the militia issue. She was more concerned about the abuse angle – that we may be creating armed groups who abuse the population and ignore the rule of law. I remain more concerned about the economy of force angle – using tribal militias to control key areas, thus sparing our limited manpower for heavily populated areas currently infested with Taliban. It is hard to get into sync when doing such a short interview but I was able to address a common misconception and that is the use of tribal militia forces to spearhead Special Forces raids. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Single Moms Deal With Tough Demands - As a former single mom, the single parenting challenge is a favorite topic of mine. So I was thrilled to get the opportunity to interview some military single moms recently for a story about how they balance their duty and home demands. Times certainly have changed since I was an active-duty airman and single mom of two. It was pre-war, and the deployment rate and operations tempo weren’t nearly the same as today. Still, I struggled to take care of two babies while attempting to excel at work. I have the utmost admiration for our current single parents who are facing a much different military, with multiple deployments and increasing work demands. One of the single moms I spoke with is deployed to Iraq and the other, who recently married, will deploy to Afghanistan within the next year. Air Force Maj. Spring Myers, a single mother of two, is deployed to Iraq. (READ MORE)

Lieutenant David Duffus: Speaking their language: Working with the ANA - My two months in Afghanistan so far been hugely satisfying, exhausting and nerve-wracking – not in any particular order. One of the biggest satisfactions has been getting to put into practice all the Dari I learned during a 40-week course back in Edinburgh before we left. I was the only one from my company who had the opportunity to learn the language so thoroughly and now I am using it every day. I am learning more words all the time and it is great to be able to speak to the Afghan National Army (ANA) Officers we work with without an interpreter, and to the Afghan people when we are out on patrol. Not everyone speaks Dari here. A lot of the soldiers and the locals speak Pashtu. But I am picking that up too. Our days at the moment are filled with one or two patrols, to reassure the locals that we are there to protect them from the insurgents, and spending time passing on a whole range of skills to the ANA soldiers who live in the same base as us. (READ MORE)

Private Daryn Liddle: Cricket woes: Afghans beat us at our own game - I am spending my last few months as a private soldier in Afghanistan. No, I am not giving up the Army. I am going home from here to Sandhurst to train to become an officer. I always wanted to join the ranks first, just like my Dad did. And I am glad I did. But now I am ready for a new challenge. Being in Afghanistan is hard but amazing. I am South African so I am used to the heat. But it can even get to me when I have thirty to forty kilos on my back. We trained all over the world to get here and it was invaluable. But you never know how you are going to handle it until you do it for real. I live in a patrol base in the Sangin valley with 7 other 1 Scots soldiers, about four dozen ANA soldiers, or “warriors” as they prefer to be called, and the only girl amongst us, our female medic, Michelle. It is pretty basic but we have tried to make it home. We work, cook, eat and sleep in one huge room which is a bit like a mechanics depot. (READ MORE)

Corporal Caroline Storm: Round Two in Afghanistan - Hello. Let me introduce myself formally as Corporal Caroline Storm. Everyone knows me as Storm or Stormy (like the weather). I’m here in Afghanistan for round two, as I deployed here back in 2006 on Operation HERRICK 4. Things have altered significantly since then! The Role 3 Hospital has been transformed from a tented camp to a fully-functioning medical treatment facility, providing assessment, stabilisation and aeromedical evacuation back to the UK. As a registered nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps I am very proud to contribute to this multinational mission in support of the Afghan government and the people in order to facilitate a stable and peaceful country. Back in the UK I am part of 3 Medical Regiment, where we are tasked to provide medical support to military exercises and on deployed operations. I am currently working in the Emergency Department (ED) in the Bastion Hospital and it is certainly a dynamic and rewarding working environment. (READ MORE)

Captain Jeremy Hahn: Heat and dust: First impressions of Afghanistan - County Durham, Oxfordshire, the Gulf Region, Helmand and finally Kandahar constituted my rather circuitous route to what is to be my home for the best part of the next seven months. (I know, I know, carbon footprint and all that! But I simply had far too much luggage to cycle with.) And so, having feigned sleep in order to avoid the airline meals, I arrived in Afghanistan as hungry as an Ox, but far too excited to be able to eat, and tired, but my head too full to sleep. The first few days have passed in a whirlwind of disorientation; new faces, names (most of which instantly were forgotten) and heat. The pre-tour training in North Yorkshire, Norfolk, Wales and Wiltshire, whilst very good in most respects, has not attuned my sweat-glands to the continuous hard graft they are going to have to put in over the upcoming weeks. The mercury is bouncing around in the mid-thirties and whilst a touch too warm for some tastes: (READ MORE)

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert: The Challenges of working with an embryonic Afghan National Army - 1 SCOTS has now been in Helmand for 8 weeks. The Battalion provides the core of the 3/215 Brigade Advisor Group; a bespoke organization whose role is to institutionally develop our partners in the Afghan National Army (ANA). It is an unusual role, but one we are well suited to, having lived and fought alongside the Iraqi Army during an intense period of operations in 2008. Although formed around 1 SCOTS, the 3/215 Advisor Group is drawn from 18 different units across the Army, reflecting the diverse and specialist nature of this role. At one end of the spectrum we provide two man infantry advisor teams embedded into every ANA company. These bold and determined men live, eat, train, support, patrol and fight alongside their Afghan colleagues every day. At the levels above this we have six man teams, headed up by a Major with every Infantry Battalion Headquarters, and a larger team embedded in the Brigade Headquarters. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog – Afghanistan: First British Female Soldiers Complete the United States Marine Corps Female Engagement Team Course - Two British female soldiers in Helmand have completed the United States Marine Corps’ Female Engagement Team Course in Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. Army administrator, Lance Corporal Jennifer Garraway (22), from Peasedown St John in Somerset and Army medic, Lance Corporal Nicola Murray (27), from Stretford, Manchester, both serving with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland in Helmand Province, have become the first British soldiers to have attended the 9-day Female Engagement Team (FET) Course which was held at the United States Marine Corps (USMC) base, Camp Leatherneck near Camp Bastion. The all-female course focuses on interaction with the local Afghan female population, fostering relationships and gaining the trust and support of Afghans whilst patrolling with infantry soldiers. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Does Obama Understand? - Some Iraqi papers caught a sentence from an Obama speech, and they ran with it. The U.S. President said, "the U.S. remains 'poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer' as more responsibility is taken by Iraq security forces." Certainly after U.S. combat forces leave, Obama said, a strong civilian presence will remain, but it doesn't make Iraqis any more comfortable. And it doesn't make the terrorists any less happy. President Talabani told an Arabic newspaper that pressure from both the clerics in Najaf and from Iran is on the Iraqi Shiite politcians to form a united front. They have not really succeeded because there is no official deal between the State of Law and INA. And sure WaPo reports that the Sadr gang will okay a Maliki nomination for prime minister, the Sadrists themselves still insist that they want somebody else. In other words, no deal is expected in the near future. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Maliki Skips Lunch - Nouri Al Maliki was a no show at Ibrahim Jaafari's house today. Allawi and Maliki were to meet and discuss setting up a new government. It's possible that Maliki didn't want to be there because he knew that Allawi got more seats in parliament than Maliki. And Jaafari is the candidate nominated by the Sadr gang to be prime minister. The Sadr gang are vehemently opposed to Maliki. So who could blame Maliki? There are all kinds of reports about the new government -- though none of them real. The real story is there are no agreements at all so far. The State of Law and Shiite Alliance (INA) link is veyr shaky. The Allawi list has only the endorsement of Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Alliance. Barzani has said that Allawi should set up the new government because he won the most seats in the March 7 election. The results of the election are supposed to be validated this coming week by a court. (READ MORE)

Kerplunk: Catching up with ... Big Ern - In both Kaboom the blog and Kaboom the book, the soldier Big Ern made his presence known for all the right reasons. From his nonstop bantering with hetero-lifemate Van Wilder, to his all too routine ten-hour sessions in the gunner's hatch, to his perpetual rocking of the Hate Fist, this Southern family man still supports Rip It energy drinks and extreme analogies. Currently in Afghanistan as a dismounted team leader with a Cavalry squadron in the 101st Airborne Division, now Sergeant Promotable Big Ern was kind enough to answer a few questions via email. (For you non-camo inclined folk, Sergeant Promotable means he'll pin on Staff Sergeant rank shortly). 1) Big Ern! I miss your musk. How does Afghanistan compare with Iraq? What's similar, and what's different? I would say the school system is similar, there are some poor ones here like we found in Iraq. What's different - the ASG (Asia Security Group) here seems to grasp the concept of security better than the IA... (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: The Gear behind the Afghan War Embed - We’re back at Bagram Airfield, waiting for our flight to Kandahar and then Bastion where we plan on covering some V-22 Osprey ops for a few days. As we cool our heels here and enjoy hot showers and flush toilets we also have time to answer a few emails we’ve received from Kit Up! readers. A handful of you have asked about how we’re rigged out for this embed, so let me give you an in-depth look at what we’re wearing, carrying, and using to bring content to you across the network. Let’s go from the ground up. Around the FOBs I’ve been wearing the BLACKHAWK! Tanto Hikers – super comfy and good for walking on the rocky walkways and other semi-prepared surfaces inside the wire. On mission I’ve worn the BLACKHAWK! Warrior Wear Desert Ops boot, which were comfortable right out of the box and have remained so through a number of punishing tests including numerous patrols through the villages of Paktika province... (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Afghan Muzzle Discipline — Or Not - Partnering with 3rd World security forces that have poor training and undisciplined leadership is hard enough when it’s just a peacetime training stint or dog-and-pony show. But it becomes downright dangerous when its the real thing. We had the chance to participate in a helicopter air assault May 19 with 2nd Platoon, Angel Co., 3-187 on a small village commanders believed was being used as an insurgent layover during their infil from Pakistan. The bad guys ditched their clandestine weapons cache and beat feet so not a shot was fired — except one from an Afghan uniformed policeman who was downright nervous as we began our assault into the village. Muzzle pointed at his foot, one hand on the grip, finger on the trigger and the safety off. Boom, right through his foot. He was patched up and taken out during our ‘false extraction,’ but suffice it to say, the ND posed a tactical dilemma to a young platoon leader on his first combat air assault…he handled it with poise and a little diplomacy. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: EOD Gets Their MultiCam on in Afghanistan - ADMIN NOTE: Due to internet weirdness here at Bagram, this post somehow was erased…I’m doing my best to repost now… I had the chance to accompany some technicians from the 1st Platoon of the 707th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company based out of Fort Lewis, Wash., on an IED site exploitation mission on May 21. Aside from the cool footage I shot, which I’ll edit together in a package soon, it was an interesting contrast in the types of cammo the team was wearing. One technician, as you can see, is wearing mostly MultiCam. The other is wearing some accessories in MultiCam but not the main uniform in said pattern. While the EOF FR-ACU is made in heavier material than the ACU and is therefore a bit hotter in these climates than the standard Army uniform, Soldiers say its much more durable. From the picture below, you can clearly see that at least in this environment, the UCP really stands out against the MultiCam. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Restrepo: Little Rock Film Festival - FOUR films that will no doubt interest military supporters will be showing at the Little Rock Film Festival, June 2 - 6 in Little Rock Arkansas. Each offers a different perspective, made by individuals with different points of view. There's bound to be revelations plenty to touch viewers on a broad range of emotional levels, from intellectual to humor. Restrepo, a documentary by Sebastian (A Perfect Storm) Junger and Tim Hetherington documents the year long deployment of the 2/503, 173rd Airborne at COP Restrepo in the Korengal Valley. It is the story of brotherhood, and its elements. It will have two screenings. Camp Victory, Afghanistan, a film by Carol Dysinger. "Camp Victory, Afghanistan is a verite documentary that tells the story of several U.S. National Guardsmen stationed in Herat, Afghanistan and the Afghan officers assigned as their mentees. Together they've been tasked with building the 207th Corps of the nascent Afghan National Army into an institution capable of providing stability, peace and justice to a volatile nation." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan hits Taliban in Arakzai - The Pakistani military pounded Taliban positions during the latest round of fighting in the lawless tribal agency of Arakzai. Pakistani Air Force attack aircraft and Army helicopter gunships hit Taliban training camps and safe houses in the Dabori, Mamozai, and Khadizai regions in Arakzai, killing 70 fighters, including three commanders, and wounding 50 more, Daily Times reported. Dabori has been the scene of major fighting over the past several months. The Taliban overran a Frontier Corps base in Dabori for a short period of time on May 10, killing nine Pakistani troops, before abandoning the base during a counterattack. Two other Taliban attempts to overrun the outpost have since been defeated. The Pakistani military has claimed that more than 910 Taliban fighters have been killed in Arakzai since March 21, while in fact, only 23 soldiers have been killed, according to Pakistani press reports compiled by The Long War Journal. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Mail the kids to Daddy! (or Mom) - I know this is not an earth shattering thing to pass along, but I am doing it anyway. Today we drew around the kids and let them decorate themselves to send to Daddy. They seem to enjoy the idea that they will get to travel all folded up in an envelope to Germany! All you need is a roll of craft paper, markers or crayons, some tape to keep it from sliding around while little ones are creating. Not only is it a fun idea to send yourself to one who may be missing you, but also gives that parent an idea of any growing that may be taking place while they are away. I imagine that all over the walls in foreign places, kids will be hanging out. I hope that if you try this easy and inexpensive way of surprising a deployed parent, you enjoy it as much as we did! (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Kandahar Takes Center Stage - As we have been told for several months now (not that it was hard to figure out), the Kandahar offensive will not be long in coming. The stakes are high: "The Obama administration's campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan's second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed. "The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration's Afghanistan strategy. "There is no Plan B." Oh, my-- the artistic license this reporterette has taken with the facts. Allow me to rewrite those lines for her, and then we'll discuss it further. Ahhem! The Obama administration's move to drive the Taliban out of its stronghold in Afghanistan's second-largest city is the main effort of a well planned, concerted campaign by coalition forces that has been under way for months: (READ MORE)

C.J. Chivers: In Afghan Fields, a Challenge to Opium’s Luster - The annual Afghan opium harvest finished this month with production sharply down from last year, Afghan farmers and American military officers say. Now, growers and smugglers who had long been unchallenged here face tough choices created by the poor crop and new government and military pressure. They describe an industry approaching a crossroads. As farmers around Marja, the heart of Afghanistan’s opium industry, confront harsh environmental conditions and new interdiction efforts, they are also receiving offers of aid in exchange for growing different crops. Both they and the military said that the start of a shift to other sources of income could be possible by the end of this year, when poppy planting would resume. That result is a major aim of the American effort. It is also far from sure. The possibilities for crop transition are uncertain and are undermined by persistent fighting and the limited Afghan government presence. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: The Qualitative Point Average: Rebuttal to Bruce Fleming - Bruce Fleming recently published an OpEd piece in the New York Times which provoked a rather emotional response from me as he referred to the Service Academies as “mediocre”. He cited a football star receiving preferential treatment for drug use at Navy. He complains that we only produce 20% of our respective officer corps, and are obsolete compared to ROTC and OCS programs. He insists that Academy officers are burnt-out leaders, incapable of maximizing tax-payer investment. Now, I’ll be the first to affirm that the Academies do waste extravagant amounts of time and money for senseless efforts; they need work. But to pin the word mediocre upon these institutions, and thus its graduates who’ve done so much for our country, is absolutely ludicrous. First, allow me to be the first in Fleming’s supposed vast Academy exposure to argue that YES, an Academy graduate is indeed different than an ROTC or OCS counterpart: (READ MORE) Kazakhstan: What Al Missed - The article in question today can be found at the Huffington Post, via this handy link. I’m not carving out a new identity for myself as the editor-at-large for all Central Asian themed journalism, but once again Josh pointed out an article I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. I tend to avoid Huffington Post for the same reasons I avoid The Slate, Fox News, and other self-congratulatory partisan journalists. Between the BBC and The Daily Show, and Google for all the non-English reading, I don’t really notice the lack. Anyway, about the article. It’s not so bad, really, considering that at no point does the author pretend to be more than a novice in things Central Asian. It’s more heartening than disconcerting, considering someone with no obvious ties to the region and no admitted knowledge of Russian or other regional languages decided to go to Kazakhstan and then write at least two stories (the other is here) about his short stay there. (READ MORE)

Sic Semper Tyrannis: Afghan News - Some group of "Taliban" have now claimed yesterday's attack on the airfield at Kandahar. Mortar fire, rockets and ground action around the perimeter marked the event. Evidently this went on for some hours. A dozen or so people were wounded within the airfield defense line. Damage evidently was minimal. OK. How many insurgents were killed, wounded or captured? How many? Considering the amount of ground and aerial firepower that should be available on the base and the putative existence of counter-mortar radar, it should have been difficult for the attackers to withdraw. Was it or were there more restrictions on how much coalition forces can shoot at the enemy? This follows on a recent Taliban declaration of their intention to conduct a Spring offensive. In that context, there have been attacks in Kabul, and ambitious and successful ambushes of vehicular convoys. So far, the opposition is not "fixed" in the military sense of "finding, fixing and finishing" the enemy. (READ MORE)

Terry Galvin: Wazhma Frogh: No Reward For Bullies, No Impunity For Strongmen. - A majority of analysts believe that the negotiation and granting of amnesty to insurgents is the key to creating peace in Afghanistan. But critics of this view rightly point out that the provision of justice is an essential prerequisite for peace and the rule of law. Afghanistan’s recent history has shown that the co-option of self-appointed strongmen and commanders in the government has backfired. The strongmen who were offered impunity and positions in the government failed to deliver services and their failure has directly led to increase in support for the insurgency. In addition, the impunity granted to them has allowed them to feel a sense of entitlement to power. As a consequence, they continue to pose a threat to security if faced with losing out on opportunities. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: The future is now - 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Betterbed will never forget May 22, 2010. On this day, the Rhodes Scholar graduated as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's top cadet and was personally congratulated by her commander-in-chief. After years of training and studying for this moment, 2nd Lt. Betterbed is ready to lead. About six months ago, the Army women's soccer star was asked about how she would handle what will likely happen down the road: a deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq. "There is a risk," she said. Anywhere we go to there’s going to be a risk. I don’t think there is a need to be terrified. "It’s good to be a little bit afraid. It’s a new situation for anyone going over. I’ve been preparing for this since June 2006. Good preparation and good training will reduce the risk." Michael Lewis' article said Betterbed studied engineering, learning new skills that will be able to help the Afghan or Iraqi people rebuild their war-ravaged countries. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Finding Comfort - As soon as the tragic news of Capt. Kyle Comfort's death reached Jacksonville, Alabama, the patriotic community sprung into action. "My daughters came back from school and they heard this news, they came and asked me, what can we do dad. I said I will do whatever it takes," Jacksonville resident Muddu Revanna says. WIAT-TV reports that the Revanna sisters wrote a letter to the fallen hero and sent it into the sky with balloons. Shanisty Myers' article said the family's efforts, which includes establishing a memorial fund, means the world to the soldier's grieving widow. "Words will never be able to express what everyone in this community has done it's been amazing," Brook Comfort says. Capt. Comfort was an elite Army Ranger who completed rigorous training at Georgia's Fort Benning. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that he deployed to Iraq from October 2007 to November 2008, before he was recently ordered to Afghanistan as a platoon leader and fire support officer. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Revisiting Kamdesh: The Sellout of COP Keating and What it Can Teach Us - Greg Jaffe at The Washington Post penned an article on the buildup to the disaster at COP Keating that got little attention. The entire history is worth study, but several quotes are lifted out (and certainly out of context) in order to make important observations that aren’t dissimilar to those I have made for four years. Just before 6 a.m., more than 300 insurgents launched a massive attack on Bundermann’s remote outpost in the Kamdesh district of northeastern Afghanistan. By 6:30 three of Bundermann’s soldiers were dead, and the Apache attack helicopters he desperately wanted weren’t going to arrive for another half hour...The outpost, surrounded by soaring mountains on all sides, was isolated and hard to defend. “It felt like we were living in the bottom of a Dixie cup,” one of Brown’s soldiers said...The importance of terrain has been an ongoing theme in our coverage of Kamdesh and Wanat: (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: The New International Order - On May 22nd President Obama’s West Point speech described the new “international order” he was trying to build; one founded on multilateral action in contrast to the unilateralism of the past. He described security in unusually broad terms. No longer did it simply consist of the mere prevention of war. It now included managing nature, feeding the sick and helping the distressed. Obama set forth the goals of “countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing wounds” as the objects of security. To achieve these goals he would use cooperation and diplomacy. In the days immediately succeeding the West Point speech those soaring principles got a practical workout on the Korean peninsula. (READ MORE)

The Torch: KAF attack, or, the enemy within (notably Globeites): Matthew Fisher explains/At Upperdate: "It wasn’t an attack; it was a media buy" - An recent post by Adrian MacNair: "Taliban Attack Repulsed, Media Make Hay" Now, front page, top of the fold, relentless Globeite spin: "Bold base strike shows Taliban's rising resolve" issile attack on Kandahar Air Field reflects insurgents’ determined battle for hearts and minds of Afghans - Paul Koring Washington... Wrong subhead, wrong. It's Western "hearts and minds" they're after. This interview with our best war corresponedent is an absolute must-listen, latter part the most telling: ... Monday, May 24, 2010 - Deadly Weekend Attacks in Kandahar and Kabul Madely in the Morning - 7.50am -- Canwest's Middle East and South Asia bureau chief, Matthew Fisher, is on the line with Mark Sutcliffe with the latest on this weekend's deadly attacks in Kabul and Kandahar. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
In blindness, soldiers find new niche in military - Since a car bomb blinded Capt. Scott Smiley in Iraq, he has skied Vail, climbed Mount Rainier, earned his MBA, won an Espy award and pulled himself up from faith-shaking depths. (READ MORE)

22nd Military Police Battalion soldiers return home from Iraq tonight - About 100 soldiers assigned to the 22nd Military Police Battalion (Criminal Investigation Division) will be welcomed home by friends and families at a ceremony to take place tonight at 11:30 p.m. in the Soldiers Field House on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. (READ MORE)

A death at Lewis-McChord's Madigan - The Tacoma News-Tribune has reported the death of the top enlisted soldier at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His body was found a day after he was reported missing. (READ MORE)

Boredom as damaging as combat? - If you spend a year away from home in a war zone, but engaged in no conflict, are you more or less likely to come home in good psychological shape? A new study highlighted in the Los Angeles Times says boredom is more likely to lead to problems later. (READ MORE)

Court: No habeas rights for prisoners in Afghanistan - The Obama administration has won the legal right to hold its terrorism suspects indefinitely and without oversight by judges — not at Guantanamo or in Illinois, but rather at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi prime minister Maliki warns against rushing to form new government - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned Saturday that rushing the formation of the new government could reignite sectarian violence. (READ MORE)

Yemeni cleric calls for killing US civilians - A U.S.-born cleric who has encouraged Muslims to kill American soldiers called for the killing of U.S. civilians in his first video released by a Yemeni offshoot of al-Qaida, providing the most overt link yet between the radical preacher and the terror group. (READ MORE)

Baghdad's tepid nightlife - Cops stormed in and shut the place down. Up the stairs and out into the warm spring night the tipsy customers stumbled, along with a gaggle of ladies of the night, various shady characters, the singer and his band. (READ MORE)

Top Shiite cleric in Iraq calls for unity - The leader of the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats in Iraq's March election said the country's most influential Shiite cleric assured him in a meeting Sunday that no group would be excluded from the new government. (READ MORE)

Fresh Appeals Lodged In Iraqi Election Impasse - Election officials in Iraq said Sunday they had received new appeals stemming from March's parliamentary election but did not expect more than a brief delay in ratification of the results. (READ MORE)

Iraqi prime minister Maliki warns against rushing to form new government - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned Saturday that rushing the formation of the new government could reignite sectarian violence. (READ MORE)

Aussie troops build presence in Kandahar ahead of NATO push - AUSTRALIAN special forces have begun ramping up their presence in Kandahar ahead of a major NATO-led push to oust Taliban insurgents from the key southern province. (READ MORE)

Army’s bomb disposal chief Bob Seddon resigns with protest - The officer in charge of the Army’s bomb disposal teams has resigned after voicing concern over the pressure his unit faces on the frontline and stressing the need for reinforcements. (READ MORE)

Afghanstan war: Convoy security deal to benefit Karzai's brother? - Afghan President Hamid Karzai is weighing approval of an expansive new business deal that could give his controversial half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, increased influence over the lucrative security business that protects supply convoys for U.S.-led forces in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Russia Gives U.S. Afghan Drugs Data, Criticises NATO - Russia's top drugs official gave a list of Afghan and Central Asian drug barons to U.S. anti-drugs tsar Gil Kerlikowske Sunday, but criticised U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan for failing to stem opium output. (READ MORE)

Insurgents Attack NATO's Southern Afghan Base - The Taliban claimed responsibility Sunday for a nighttime assault on Kandahar Air Base that wounded a number of coalition soldiers and civilian employees at the biggest NATO base in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Rebels Attack Base in Afghanistan - Insurgents assaulted Kandahar Air Base, the main military base in southern Afghanistan, on Saturday night, military officials said, in the second attack on a major base in a week. (READ MORE)

Afghans accuse Defence Secretary Liam Fox of racism and disrespect - Liam Fox was under attack last night for damaging Britain’s relations with Kabul after he described Afghanistan as a “broken 13th-century country”. (READ MORE)

Britain Says Not Setting Timetable on Afghan Pullout - Britain's new coalition government will not set a deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan's nine-year-war or lessen its commitment to aid, a team of ministers said after talks with Afghan leaders on Saturday. (READ MORE)

U.S. night raid in Afghanistan elicits outrage, satisfaction - The father's eyes reddened with tears as he hefted an English textbook that had belonged to his ninth-grade son, Habibuddin. (READ MORE)

Taliban win £1,600 bounty for each Nato soldier killed - TALIBAN rebels are earning a bounty of up to 200,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,660) for each Nato soldier they kill, according to insurgent commanders. (READ MORE)

Afghan Government and Taliban Deny Formal Talks - The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban denied on Saturday any connection to reported peace talks on a Maldives island and said the gathering would not lead to anything substantive. (READ MORE)

Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves - The Obama administration's campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan's second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed. (READ MORE)

Into Kandahar, Yesterday and Tomorrow - In the postcards of the mind, it is the starkest of all the images of Kandahar, dating back more than 20 years to the period immediately after Soviet troops withdrew from the city, and standing ever since as a grim warning of the folly of foreign military adventures in Afghanistan: (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, May 24 - An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban commander and several insurgents in Kandahar last night. (READ MORE)

Taliban defiance on show with attacks on Afghan NATO bases - The Taliban said Sunday they were behind an attack on NATO's main base in southern Afghanistan, the third on international forces in a week, showing their determination to meet fire with fire. (READ MORE)

Fox vows to fully equip troops in Afghanistan - Defence Secretary Liam Fox has promised British troops in Afghanistan that the new coalition Government would ensure they have everything they needed to do the job. (READ MORE)

U.S. troops, Afghan police launch operation to patrol Taliban stronghold - U.S. military and Afghan national police commanders have sort out a plan called 'Operation Kokaran' to patrol Kandahar's Taliban stronghold. (READ MORE)

'Pak efforts have eliminated Taliban strongholds in Swat, Waziristan' - Taliban strongholds in Swat and South Waziristan have been eliminated by the Pakistani military's action, US Counter Terrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin has said. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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