June 4, 2010

From the Front: 06/04/2010

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

A Handful of Dust: Droning On - Just a short addendum to yesterday’s post. The Times ran an article yesterday about the extent of militancy within Pakistani society. It is definitely wort a read and goes to illustrate the anti-drone crowd’s concern that the drone campaign currently being conducted along Pakistan’s border regions has the potential to feed anti-Western sentiment in an already receptive population. At the same time however, it calls into question the extent to which drone attacks actually play a part in radicalizing the population. As the article makes clear, the Pakistani state has been nurturing many of these groups for decades and the network of madrasas and radical mullahs undoubtedly play a larger part in growing these movements than the drone campaign. This is an equation with a lot of complex variables. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Corruption is creating our enemies - I have talked about corruption and the ANP many times on this blog. You can click HERE and see some of those postings where I talked about corruption and the ANP. The story below really addresses how corruption turns neutral locals against and and motivates them to help our enemies. "Corruption and the abuse of power among Afghan police have alienated local people and driven some to join the Taliban, British commanders returning from Helmand have warned. Senior officers stressed that the police force was being urgently reformed and that new members were winning the trust of residents in areas recently recaptured from the insurgents. But Brigadier James Cowan, the last head of UK troops in Helmand, said some police had caused severe damage in the past. He added: ‘The police in many ways were the cause of the problem as well as the solution… We have had cases so often when captured Taliban mention the police for them joining the insurgency in the first place.’” (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Kabul to meet you - Continuing my theme of posting pics from weeks ago, I'll fill this post with scenes of my first morning in Kabul, a couple of weeks ago... That would be the flag of the United States Marine Corps high over the multinational camp at Kabul's airport...naturally, among the flags of other nations with contingents here. Yep, that's jes' how we roll. Here's more from my first day in the capital... My look at the airport area and parts of the city itself was during a pretty glorious daybreak, ushering in a day that swung between bouts of dark clouds & sprinkles and bursts of muggy sunshine & blue skies. While my fellow Marine and I were focused on arranging our transportation to our camp, we walked around quite a bit. The above photos are of a monument in front of the military terminal, the welcoming sign, and dawn over some ISAF vehicles. Hours later, we learned that a Coalition convoy in the capital had been attacked by a vehicle-borne IED... (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Deployment Question #24--We have a date - We finally got an "official" date. After 4 previous deployments, I know this will change a day or two, but it always makes it a little more real to me. Of course we are in Texas and Gunner is in Colorado. Our time is limited, but we have a lot of 100% together 24/7 time coming up. (I'm thinking with no showers available for a week of that time, we may not want to be close together!) Even though I knew it was coming, just seeing the orders, hearing the date, kind of gives me a sick feeling. I knew it was coming, but now I know it is here. We'll be okay, but don't you have that little "I can't believe this is happening to me again" feeling once they cut orders? (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghan jirga backs Taliban talks - The some 1,600 delegates at Afghanistan's jirga -- including 300 women -- reportedly strongly back negotiations with Taliban insurgents as part of a path to peace, as the conference ends its third and final day in Kabul. Delegates, who split into 28 small groups that report back to the jirga's chairman, observed that "sustained support" from Islamabad and Tehran is crucial to stability in Afghanistan; that young Afghans have a role to play in achieving peace; and that removing Taliban leaders from U.N. blacklists could pave the way for face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and those insurgents who renounce ties to al-Qaeda. The jirga has recommended that the Afghan government form a commission to lead efforts to negotiate with the Taliban, and as expected endorsed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's peace plan. (READ MORE)

Thomas Barfield: Is Afghanistan 'Medieval'? - In July 1973, Afghanistan's King Mohammed Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin Daud, who then abolished the monarchy and declared himself the president of a republic. The New York Times sarcastically editorialized that Afghanistan had just "leaped into the sixteenth century." Radio reports soon brought news of this slight even to provincial northern Afghanistan, where I was working at the time. Daud's government in Kabul expressed its displeasure, but an Afghan friend familiar with the region's complex history saw it differently. "We may have acted hastily," he joked. "The 15th century was pretty good around here!" Indeed, the Timurid dynasty that had its capital in Herat during that period was internationally renowned for its fine arts, monumental architecture, classical poetry -- and effective governance. (READ MORE)

Army Live: What’s your social strategy? - Today our post is focused primarily on communications professionals or those interested in using social media in the Army. It’s a niche topic, but not necessarily a small one – we’ve seen thousands of Soldiers at all levels of the military use social media in both a personal and professional capacity. And with all of that use happening, the question invariably comes about – so what’s the point of it all? Now, if you’re Sgt. Joe, and you use Facebook to communicate with your family during a deployment, you DON’T need a strategy (but you probably should check out our social media considerations for Soldiers, available at our slideshare site, or this blog post). But if you’re using social media in an official capacity – like public affairs officers, generals, and leaders across our military are doing, then you need to have a strategy for what you’re doing. And that’s what I want to talk about today. Specifically, I’m going to go over five key considerations when thinking about social media strategy. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: An artist in Afghanistan - This morning, I was escorted to this British base, which connects to Camp Leatherneck and serves as the home for nearly all things related to aviation on both sides of the base. I went to talk Ospreys with members of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 for a forthcoming story in Marine Corps Times. While I was there, however, I also met someone who appears to be an unofficial artist for I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). Cpl. John Coble, an aviation support mechanic with 3rd Marine Air Aircraft Wing (Fwd), was hard at work on a colorful sign for the base’s new Very Important Person helicopter pad. He was tasked with the job in part because his reputation as an artist is starting to get around the base. In the last few months, Coble also has painted a welcome sign for Camp Leatherneck as a whole and he will soon paint a sign for 3rd MAW’s headquarters. (READ MORE)

better when we're together: 1 year ago - June 3, 2009 - I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that was the best day of my life up to this point. I think the only thing that could stand a chance of surpassing it would be the birth of my child(ren). On this day, one year ago, I was a ball of nerves, anxiety, complete and utter joy, and relief. It is impossible to explain to somone who has never been in the situation, but I seriously experienced the full range of emotions a human is capable of in the last hours before Scott returned. Scott was originally set to get out of the Army August 1st 2008. Instead, he was told he had to deploy with his unit, just a couple of months shy of his ETS date. He deployed June 17, 2008. Just a little over 2 months after we got married. Of those 2 months, we spent maybe 3 weeks (non-consecutive) together. And then he was sent to Iraq. We were told he would be gone for 455 days (or 15 months). Thankfully his tour was cut down to 12 months. Never in my life did I imagine I'd be rejoicing that he would only be gone 365 days. (READ MORE)

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq: Book Review: WAR by Sebastian Junger - In his new book, WAR, Sebastian Junger repeatedly informs the reader he is a journalist, an invited guest, under the protection and care of the men he is observing. They are the soldiers of Battle Company, in the 173rd Airborne, based in Vincenza, and deployed to the Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan for 15 months from 2007 into 2008. Junger openly explains that it was impossible to remain an objective observer. How fortunate for us that he ceased to be a dispassionate journalist and connected to these men on a deeper level. What has emerged in WAR is an intensely honest and raw portrayal of the acts and thoughts of young men fighting the deadly battles and emotional onslaught of prolonged combat. Although the characters populating the bases in the Korengal are distinctly American, there is a universal and timeless aspect to their loves and behaviors. Junger recognizes this in his analysis of these warriors who bear striking similarity to soldiers through history. (READ MORE)

Ssg B: He Gave His Life For Them…..They Are Hesitant to Give up a Few Coach Seats - His name was Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson – although I did not know it when his life brushed mine on March 25 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Lance Cpl. Wilson was not there in the terminal that afternoon; at age 24 and newly married, he had been killed in Afghanistan on March 22 by a roadside bomb. A coincidence of overbooked flights led our lives to intersect for perhaps an hour, one I will never forget. I did not meet his family that day at the airport, either, although we were there together that evening at the gate, among the crowd hoping to board the oversold flight. I did not know that I had a boarding pass and they did not. I did not know they were trying to get home to hold his funeral, having journeyed to Dover, Del., to meet his casket upon its arrival from Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

The day-to-day, semi-normal life of a female marine: First British Soldiers pass Female Engagement Course in Helmand - Two British female soldiers serving in Helmand have become the first to complete the United States Marine Corps' Female Engagement Team course. The British soldiers were fully embedded; working, living and eating with 50 female Marines from across Helmand province. Lance Corporal Garraway, a Combat HR Administrator from the Adjutant General's Corps, and Lance Corporal Murray, a Combat Medical Technician from the Royal Army Medical Corps, joined only 28 female Marines at the graduation ceremony as not all students made it through the gruelling nine-day course. Both soldiers will now form a FET within a newly-formed infantry rifle company from 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland in a ground-holding role in Combined Force Nad 'Ali in Helmand over the next four months. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Engineers and logisticians busy building in Helmand - Over the last couple of weeks Royal Engineers have been busy supporting infantry operations and building new bases in Helmand province, while logisticians have been delivering essential building supplies. Engineers from 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment, recently supported a 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment operation to push south from their bases in the Nad 'Ali region of Helmand province. The major development operation was designed to clear routes to allow checkpoints and patrol bases to be located further south. The engineers followed the infantry into the new compounds in order to build temporary, defendable patrol bases so that ISAF can provide greater security in the area which will ultimately increase freedom of movement for the local people. Two patrol bases have been built so far which will increase the ISAF coverage by a further kilometre. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Truth Hurts - The politicians say they will get their act together within days. We've heard this before, but we hope they mean it this time. Nouri Al Maliki still says he will not step down from the prime minister's chair. He looks pathetic because the high court certified the March 7 election results and declared Ayad Allawi the man with the most seats in parliament. Maliki says he formed a union with the INA, but he and the Shiite alliance have yet to come to an agreement on a nominee for prime minister. And of course that's because Maliki says he is the only candidate. Allawi has kept himself busy meeting with Kurds, Sistani, and even the Sadr gang. Haider Al Mullah, a member of the Allawi list, said today that they might nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi for prime minister. If that story is true, it would mean that Allawi pulled the rug out from under Maliki's feet. Of course this is Iraq, and anything can happen. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: No MultiCam for the Rakkasans - One of the most frustrating aspects of the Army’s switch to MultiCam, aka the OEF FR-ACU, or “OhFracYou,” is the fact that PEO Soldier has prioritized the fielding of said-patterned gear to troops about to deploy, then will field the MC duds to troops in theater based on the logistics capability of each of the regional commands. PEO has also established a cutoff date for units in Afghanistan who’ll get the MC suites to those units with more than 120 days left on their deployment as of November 2010. This is disappointing news to Joes caught in the middle of this arbitrary fielding policy, forcing units to fight for nearly a year with uniforms in camo schemes the Army’s top experts have admitted aren’t as effective in the varied environments of Afghanistan as the replacement MultiCam. That conundrum has been compounded by commanders who refuse to allow their troops — who are in firefights with enemy insurgents every day — to wear any piece of MultiCam at all until the official fielding by the Army of the entire ensemble of PEO-supplied gear. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Film Review: "Restrepo" - The movie ended, but I couldn't move. Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington had just taken the mantle from Ken Burns as documentary makers extraordinaire with Restrepo. This war documentary is a gripping chronicle of the lives of a platoon through some of the heaviest fighting in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. "You can't tame the beast," shouts the late PFC Juan Restrepo, the late Army medic for the 2/503 Battle Company, 173rd Airborne. He says this with the bravado one would expect of a twenty year old, early on in the filming. It's the beast within, which binds this platoon as they set to deploy to place described by CPT Dan Kearney as "where the road ends and the Taliban begins." The viewer is taken, just as the soldiers were, to a steep, rugged, practically inaccessible mountainous valley. What they find themselves in is gun battles --some days as many as seven, almost daily. Seventy percent of all bombs were dropped in the Korengal. (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: Tough Choices - A pair of interesting articles recently by C.J. Chivers of the NY Times. Despite what one thinks in general of the Times, some of their reporters are the best in the field in Afghanistan, including Chivers, Dexter Filkins, Alissa Rubins and Carlotta Gall. Chivers' latest pieces concern the difficult choices that U.S. Army Medevac crews make on a daily basis when confronted with wounded or injured Afghans. Officially, the U.S. Army position is that non-combat injuries are not their responsibility. As they correctly point out, there simply aren't enough airlift and medical facilities in-country to serve as the first point of treatment for routine injuries. What assets are in place are focused (rightly) on providing the best care they can to wounded soldiers and Marines, and there just isn't enough to go around. No TOC officer wants to be the one to deny a Medevac request to a Marine because the chopper is busy transporting an Afghan with a farming injury. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda operative killed in South Waziristan strike - A senior al Qaeda operative was killed along with a Taliban commander in last week's airstrike in Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan. The Al Fajr Media Center, a jihadist propaganda outlet, announced the death of Osama bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Damjan al Dawsari in a statement released today on jihadist forums. The Al Fajr Media Center "is the official online logistical network responsible for disseminating messages from various al Qaeda military factions, including the 'Islamic State of Iraq' and Osama bin Laden himself," according to the NEFA Foundation. Daswari was killed in the May 28 airstrike in the Nezai Narai area in South Waziristan, the first in the tribal agency this year. Ten other people were reported killed in the strike, which took place in a region run by 'good Taliban' leader Mullah Nazir. Nazir is the leader of the Taliban forces in the western Waziri tribal areas of the agency. (READ MORE)

Loving a Soldier Blog: Am I the only one who sizes up potential Army wife friends? - During my coffee time I like to hop on and browse what is up with my fellow Army wives. It is sorta like browsing the personal ads at times Oooh she looks nice, Oh she is funny, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I tear up, sometimes I can relate and sometimes I think OMG what were they thinking. So I send out a friend request or screen ones I receive.. Lately I have seen a lot of negative posts (not on here) about the state of peoples marriages being unhappy, cheating, considering cheating I just sit back and think where are all the happily married people. No marriage is perfect and I think any one who says they have one should write a book because I would love to see some tips on how to have one. When my husband got orders to Germany I started browsing as many online sites as I could find to get information on everything from what you need to do to get command sponsorship to the neighboring towns I love research. (READ MORE)

Andi: Our Emotional Relationship With Food - I was talking with some people yesterday about the emotional relationship milspouses have with food, particularly during a separation from their spouse. The conversation prompted me to think back on recent separations and I could clearly see how my consumption of food, and what types of food I consumed, ebbed and flowed depending on the circumstances in my life. I don't have children, so when my husband is away, I only have myself to feed. I tend to eat the same things over and over again. I must have consumed a zillion cans of Progresso Minestrone soup during my husband's last two deployments. In addition to that, I stay up late when my husband is away. This means that I have more hours in the day to become hungry and reach for a "snack," which usually involves something chocolate. If my husband were home, I would have been asleep and only dreaming of chocolate, not consuming it... (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Standing beside us - When Staff Sgt. Richard Tieman left for his third deployment to a post-9/11 war zone, his best friend was nervous. Concerned about his buddy's state of mind while he was overseas, Staff Sgt. Tieman did his best to comfort him. "He was a really dedicated soldier and stood behind his men and always told me that....he always told me nothing was going to happen," [Toby] Ditch said. "And I believed him." WHTM-TV reports that Tieman fell in love with a woman he met in the Army. The soldiers recently got married. He was excited to celebrate with friends and relatives when he got home, and hoped to start a family of his own in the years ahead. Instead, a tragedy that has shattered the lives of many U.S. troops, military families, and Afghan civilians derailed his plans. According to the Pentagon, Staff Sgt. Tieman was one of the five American soldiers killed by a terrorist attack in Kabul on May 18. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Columbia City Paper: With Friends Like These - The U.S. Army’s maps of Kunar province are marked with a line the color of blood. Inside the red border, the Army and other NATO forces can operate freely. Outside the line, patrols must be bigger. And they require air escort. “Indian country,” one soldier calls these zones. In mountainous eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan, many valleys lie beyond the red line. Each is its own little country, with unique customs and tribal laws, all but sealed off from surrounding communities by sharp peaks. “The mountains jut out … they force people to be separate from their neighbors,” says Tech Sergeant Phoebus Lazaridis, an Air Force forward air controller assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, deployed to a series of outposts dotting the main Kunar Valley. The battalion’s Task Force Rock — roughly a thousand American soldiers scattered across a dozen walled compounds: (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Army Plans $100 Million Special Ops HQ in Afghanistan - The Army is looking to spend as much as $100 million to expand its Special Operations headquarters in northern Afghanistan. All around Afghanistan, from Kandahar Airfield to the Bagram jail, the U.S. military is on a building spree, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on wartime encampments. By one count, America and its allies now have 700 bases in Afghanistan. But most of the construction — and most of the extra troops “surging” into the country — are going to the violent south and the dangerous east. Until recently, northern Afghanistan was considered quiet. Regional hub Mazar-e-Sharif was the first major city in Afghanistan to be taken from the Taliban. But, especially in nearby Kunduz province, violence is bubbling up once again. The Amy expects its expanded Special Operations HQ in Mazar-e-Sharif to occupy 70,000 square meters. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Campaign for Kandahar Won’t Look Like War - "In the make-or-break struggle for Kandahar, birthplace of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency, U.S. commanders will try to pull off the military equivalent of brain surgery: defeating the militants with minimal use of force. The goal of U.S.-led NATO forces will be to avoid inspiring support for the Taliban even as the coalition tries to root them out when the Kandahar operation begins in earnest next month." First of all, this won’t work in six months, which is the stated milestone for at least signs of success in Kandahar. But we have covered this notion of public trust in thugs and criminals, and concluded that it’s not likely to happen. Joshua Foust wrote “ISAF faces a number of political challenges as well. A majority of Afghan watchers point to Ahmed Wali Karzai as one of the biggest barriers to smooth operations in the city—he demands a cut of most commerce that takes place in the area, and the DEA alleges he has ties to the illegal narcotics industry. (READ MORE)

Kings of War: Cohesion in coin - Fascinating session at Wolfson College yesterday on the relationship between the military and medicine. Especially interesting was Simon Wesseley on war and mental health – particularly his mention of two classics I’d been reading; SLA Marshall’s book Men Against Fire, and Edward Shils and Morris Janowitz on ‘Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht’. The thrust of both pieces is that the small group loyalties of the platoon and section bolster commitment and fighting power. Here’s Marshall: Man is a gregarious animal. He wants company. In his hour of greatest danger, his herd instinct drives him toward his fellows. [...] During combat the soldier may become so gripped by fear that most of his thought is directed toward escape. But if he is serving among men whom he has known for a long period or whose judgment of him counts for any reason, he will strive to hide his terror from them. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Seeing a fallen soldier home - His name was Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson - although I did not know it when his life brushed mine on March 25 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (READ MORE)

Transportation Unit Works to Remain Anonymous - A busy night of verifying containers and tracking personnel movements is routine at Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq. (READ MORE)

Drawdown Triples Theater Logistics Mission - As the upcoming responsible drawdown of U.S. forces looms, the "Warrior Pride" company has answered the call to duty of embracing a mission that has tripled in size since July 2009, when they arrived in theater. (READ MORE)

Vietnam Veteran Mentors Soldiers in Iraq - As a point man during the Vietnam War, Marine Pfc. Willie Yarbrough guided his platoon through rugged jungles and fierce guerilla warfare near the Ben Hai river. (READ MORE)

DOD Announces Ohio and Washington National Guard HRFs - The National Guard Bureau, on behalf of Department of Defense (DoD) and in collaboration with the states, has selected Ohio and Washington as the first two states to host a homeland response force (HRF), which will be comprised of National Guard soldiers and airmen and established no later than the end of fiscal 2011. (READ MORE)

Self-Inflicted Defeat - The highest levels of government enforce a policy on the military which effectively prevents consideration of the enemy doctrine of jihad. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Drawdown in Iraq: The Lights Are Going Out - There’s an eerie silence settling over our Forward Operating Base. The generators are shutting down one by one, and every night there are fewer lights. (READ MORE)

Remembering Iraq - Reports from Baghdad after a coordinated attack by Al Qaeda on May 10 were grim. The bombing was the latest in a series of large-scale attacks by Sunni extremists that began last August... (READ MORE)

White House seeks cash back for Iraqi forces - The Obama administration is quietly lobbying Congress to restore $1 billion needed for funding U.S. military training of Iraqi security forces that was cut by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin during a closed-door hearing last week. (READ MORE)

U.S. military's castoffs become sought-after items at yard sales across Iraq - The remnants of the U.S. occupation of Iraq are being sold to the highest bidders in yard sales across the country. (READ MORE)

U.S. Withdrawal on Schedule, General Says - Gen. Ray Odierno met President Obama this week, delivering what a White House spokesman described as a “positive assessment” of the situation in Iraq and the prospects for American withdrawal. (READ MORE)

Afghan jirga proposes peace commission to end war - Delegates at a landmark conference aimed at bringing an end to Afghanistan's long war Friday proposed steps for the Afghan government to take in order to draw the Taliban to the negotiating table. (READ MORE)

Afghan delegates continue peace talks - Delegates reconvened today for the planned final day of a national peace conference, hashing out details of a communique likely to endorse negotiations with the Taliban to try to end Afghanistan’s years of war. (READ MORE)

Afghan police corruption is fuelling insurgency - Widespread corruption in the Afghanistan police is driving people to join the Taliban and fuelling the insurgency, a NATO commanding officer has said. (READ MORE)

US, India commit to creating a stable, pluralistic Afghanistan - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna on Thursday reiterated their countries shared interest and commitment towards creating a stable, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan jirga to call for peace with Taliban - Hundreds of Afghan tribal elders and notables were set to make a formal call for peace with the Taliban on Friday, the final day of a traditional assembly that they said was a last chance to end a nine-year war. (READ MORE)

Rocket attack on NATO hub in southern Afghanistan - Militants fired rockets at NATO's main base in southern Afghanistan for the second time in less than two weeks and caused minor injuries, a U.S. military official said Friday. (READ MORE)

Karzai set to win jirga support over Taliban moves - Afghanistan’s peace jirga ends today with President Hamid Karzai expected to win support for his plan to persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms. (READ MORE)

Eight civilians killed in fighting, bombing - A clash between Afghan forces and Taliban militants left four civilians dead in a southern district where a major NATO operation early this year was meant to reassert government control, a provincial official said Thursday. (READ MORE)

3 policemen injured in clashes - Three police were wounded during two separate clashes with Taliban today (June 03) in Paktia province, police said Thursday. (READ MORE)

Cop, ANA soldiers killed in Maidan - Two security personnel were killed and eight wounded during separate incidents of violence in Maidan Wardak province, an official said Thursday. (READ MORE)

Afghan women's invisible struggle for rights - Afghan women will be represented as tribal elders, religious leaders and members of parliament meet in Kabul for a three-day grand conference known as a loya jirga. (READ MORE)

Canada could fill training role in Afghanistan post-2011, MPs say - Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae has provided the strongest indication yet that a deal may be possible between his party and the minority Harper government to keep some Canadian troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission in Kandahar ends next summer. (READ MORE)

U.S. 'secret war' expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role - Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials. (READ MORE)

Pakistan to crack down on banned militant groups - Interior Minister Rehman Malik says law enforcement agencies throughout Pakistan have been told to crack down on banned militant groups. (READ MORE)

NATO Commands at ‘Critical Moment’ - As some 1,500 Afghan leaders participate in President Hamid Karzai’s peace council to discuss how to reconcile with insurgents, the commander of NATO’s Regional Command East said today he has seen increasing evidence that former fighters want to put down their arms and rejoin Afghan society. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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