June 11, 2010

From the Front: 06/11/2010

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

Tales From the Homefront: Digging in - 353 days until we start to see how we've changed. It's another day here. I made some big decisions yesterday. After talking with my boss, I am giving up some of my caseload. I have been working a full time caseload, and the strain of all the pressure and demands on me has been showing. I'm sad to be giving up the cases, but having made a decision on this, I feel a great burden has been lifted. I am also getting more help with administrative work. Again, another burden lifted off of my shoulders. My boss made a very good point while we were talking: A lot of families find that they can't have both parents working full time, that one works full time and the other part. My husband is working more than full time. Now that I no longer am shouldering the burden of being the bread winner, I have the freedom to let some of the work go. I don't have to work these cases because I need to so that we can meet our needs. (READ MORE)

Tales From the Homefront: For my readers from USAISC - 352 days to wonder what on earth USAISC finds so interesting on my blog that they stay here for HOURS every day. No, I never was naive enough to think that my blog would not be noticed. When I started this blog, CJ's experience was part of my risk assessment for writing this. This blog is being mirrored on the Des Moines Register site, where the PAO hosts her blog, pretty much so the 103 ESC would find out about my blog. Just the same, I am amazed at how much time the USAISC folks spend here every day. I hope I'm enlightening to your mission, and think it's funny that I am now part of the chatter that they monitor, since they have nothing better to do. Where is Osama Bin Laden again? I hope someday my blog makes the Blogosphere and Social Media weekly report. That would be such a special gift from my Big Brother. I am a private citizen. I am not a member of the service. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Things I Miss - This probably won't be the only time I post something like this, but it'll be the first so... Today I was just thinking about things I miss. I miss everything about my babe. I miss him more and more each day. People assume it gets easier, but I think that's to the contrary. Actually, talking to fellow widsters, we all feel the same, at least at a point - that it gets worse. Eventually, the guys come home, minus yours. Eventually, reality sinks in (even more) and loneliness hits... 90mph brick wall. The shitty part about reality is it's always there to continue to smack you in the face. Just when you think you're doing "ok," more stuff comes home, or the guys come home, or a song comes on the radio, or you want to tell him something... you get it. Anyway, as I was saying, I was thinking of the things I miss. And as it is everything, I started constructing a list as different things... To You: (READ MORE)

Army Live: The “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan - With much attention shifting to Afghanistan, our blog entry today comes from COL John Ferrari, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan/Combined Security Assistance Command Afghanistan. In his entry, COL Ferrari talks about building capacity and changing the Afghan society for the better. He compares what the Marshall Plan did to change Europe to what they are doing to education and build in Afghanistan. “63 years ago this week, George Marshall gave a speech that altered the course of the 20th Century. His post-WW II vision for aiding a war-torn Europe set the conditions of growth, prosperity, and democracy which in the immediate aftermath of the war, was not a foregone conclusion. Many look back to this vision and ask why we don’t have a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, a country that has been in a constant state of war for over thirty years. Having been in Afghanistan now for several months, I realize that we do have an equivalent program — it is the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan/Combined Security Assistance Command Afghanistan.” (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: "A Broad, Multi-Partisan, National Interest Debate" - A very nice catch by Tony at the milnews blog; Hugh Segal, who has long been one of the adult voices on Canada's commitment to Afghanistan, gave this as his Senator Statement on Tuesday: Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I am rising to express my profound appreciation to the members of the House of Commons' Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, who visited Afghanistan recently and returned late last week. They did so to make their own assessment of the situation on the ground and to see first-hand the remarkable work being done by Canadian Forces and humanitarian, development and diplomatic personnel. Members of Parliament Kevin Sorenson, Byron Wilfert, Jim Abbott, Claude Bachand, Bob Dechert, Jack Harris, Laurie Hawn, Deepak Obhrai, Bob Rae and Pascal-Pierre Paillé, who made the trip, deserve our appreciation and gratitude, as do those who facilitated their movements on both the military and civilian sides. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: 2 drones strike NW Pakistan - A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's northwest tribal region of North Waziristan has killed as many as 18 in the last day, the first such reported attacks since the U.N.'s report last week criticizing the drones program. There have been at least 41 reported strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions this year, compared with 53 in 2009. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have now claimed Tuesday's attack on a convoy of NATO supply trucks outside Islamabad, after reports yesterday that the 'Punjabi Taliban' had taken credit. TTP spokesman Azam Tariq told BBC Urdu, "We will attack all traffic on these roads which we suspect of carrying supplies to" NATO forces in Afghanistan. Yesterday in Bajaur, 64 militants including five commanders laid down their arms during a jirga of local elders and pledged support to the Pakistani government. (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): 09 JUN 2010 "Fortress" - Logar, Afghanistan - Afghanistan is a landscape of fortresses - also known as Qalats (or Kalats .. you will see different spellings of most everything in Afghanistan based on if it is Pashto or Dari or whatever). Qalat is a Persian word for fortress. Certainly, that is exactly what they are - fortresses. These structures around here are made of a stone foundation or adobe bricks with mud mortar. The vast majority of the walls are over 9 feet tall or more. For all intents and purposes, you can relate them to fences that surround suburban housing in the United States. These walls form multigenerational compounds that can span a few to hundreds of acres. If you click the photo (not the link) above, you will get a larger image with more detail. In the foreground you will notice piles of stones. These are used to mark out a boundary for a qalat to be built. High on the hill in the background is a cemetery. (READ MORE)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace: Feeding Camels is Tiresome, Yet Important Task - When my 3-year-old asked me why I was going to the desert in 2004, I said, “Daddy has to go feed the camels,” and that was enough to sustain his curiosity. My 7- and 8-year-olds didn’t buy it. Despite their doubt and his bewilderment, I went forth and tried my best to help by supporting ground and air operations in Iraq in an expeditionary maintenance squadron. This was my first deployment, and though it seemed difficult at the time, it was perhaps the easiest mission I’ll ever endure. After a mere 100 days in the theater, I returned to my assignment in Okinawa, Japan, as a changed man. While others went about their daily grinds, I had gone to a foreign land to serve something greater than myself. After a few years, and a forced retrain, I found myself working in the public affairs office at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: THE FREAKIN HEAT - Yeah, yeah, I hear you Houston, “It’s a dry heat!” But lets get real. I’ll take a muggy, humid day over this 115-120 DRY HEAT everyday and twice on Sunday. After 110 it really doesn’t matter. Then the weather briefer is just bragging. I love the weather guys here. It’s actually a fairly easy job in the summer: “Well guys for your mission…. Let me see… It’s gonna be FREAKIN HOT!” (End of brief.) The only good thing I can say about the heat is that it makes a 100 degree day feel like autumn. With the heat comes other things. Since everybody is hot as hell, all the air conditioners are turned to “MAX COOL”. Well that’s great, except that it causes increased demand on the power grid, which leads to rolling blackouts. That in turn means rolling air conditioner outages. Picture this. You’re in the middle of your sleep cycle. Off to dreamland, with your air conditioner keeping your room like an ice cave. Awesome. Then it happens. The Silence. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Sunk-cost fallacy watch - Canada's signature project in Afghanistan, not going well: Foremost among the setbacks, insiders say, was a dramatic confrontation on Feb. 20, when rising tensions between Canadian security officials hired to oversee the project and members of Watan Risk Management, a group of Afghan mercenaries with close ties to the Karzai family, culminated in a “Mexican standoff” — the guns hired to protect the project actually turned on each other in a hair-trigger confrontation...“Ever since, the project has been basically held hostage by the Karzai mafia, who are using ‘security concerns’ to stall the work. They are able to put fear in the heart of the Canadian contractors, telling them ‘There is evil outside the gates that will eat you.’ The longer they delay, the more money the Afghan security teams make. The Canadians have good intentions but that is the reality.” (READ MORE)

From Cow Pastures To Kosovo: RESTREPO Screening at the Little Rock Film Festival with SGT Misha Pemble-Belkin & COL Bill Ostlund - When I got an email from my friend Kanani telling me that Restrepo was going to be screened at the Little Rock Film Festival I knew it was my best opportunity to see the film. So I made plans to drive to Little Rock for the screening. Kanani had access to a small block of complimentary tickets thanks to Laura and National Geographic's film/documentary division and was kind enough to give me one. Also attending the screening were COL Bill Ostlund, his wife, mom, brother, sister in law and a handful of family friends. Prior to the screening it was announced that "a Soldier" was present in the audience and would be available for Q and A immediately following the presentation. SGT Misha Pemble-Belkin and his wife, Amanda, had traveled to Little Rock for the Friday afternoon screening and SGT Pemble-Belkin had participated in the Q and A after that showing. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Prime Minister pledges extra £67m to counter IEDs - Prime Minister David Cameron has announced extra resources for British troops in Afghanistan to deal with roadside bombs during his first visit to Afghanistan since the formation of the Coalition Government. During a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital Kabul today, Mr Cameron said an additional £67m will be provided to help troops counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He also announced additional funding for policing, education, jobs and governance reform in Afghanistan. Mr Cameron said: "My biggest duty as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is to our Armed Forces and to make sure that they have all the equipment and all of the protection that they need to do the absolutely vital job that they are doing here in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

HERMANEUTICS: AFGHANISTAN: SSG Wise - This has been perhaps the toughest week of the deployment yet emotionally for my company. We've had a slew of Red Cross messages lately, most of which are for grandparents passing away or with serious medical issues. Unfortunately, the Army doesn't consider them immediate family, so I'm usually the one to break the bad news to the Soldier that they can't go home to see them one last time or even for the funeral. Today we got news that one of our former mechanics had passed away unexpectedly. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer a few months prior to this deployment so was not allowed to go. Apparently the treatment was progressing and he kept a positive attitude throughout, always thinking he was getting better and would be joining us soon. As of last night he was on life support and unresponsive and early this morning he breathed his last in the presence of his wife and parents. The funeral will likely be in Savannah in a few days, but again none of his close friends will likely be there due to the rules. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqi Voters Were Clear - The head of Iraqiya list, which won the most seats in the March 7 elecction, has a piece in WaPo today. Ayad Allawi's opinion piece says some fine things, but he, too, appears to have overlooked an important point just as the journalists do. Allawi says: "Millions of Iraqis risked their lives in March to exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote. Turnout was high -- exceeding 60 percent -- across the regions, ethnicities and sects that form our diverse nation. Iraqis are eager to put violence and strife behind them. Yet three months later, Iraq has no functional or stable government. This uncertainty threatens not just Iraqi society and democracy but also the region." Of course Allawi is exactly right when he talks about the fragile democracy here. The delay in forming a new government has frustrated the Iraqi people who want the violence to be in the past. But Allawi forgot to mention one important point: The Iraqi people played a role in this delay -- albeit unwittingly. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: yes, yes I’m alive and in Jalalabad - I’m back from a self-imposed moratorium on Fab activities to prepare for a key milestone in my PhD pursuits, the public critique which I’ve since passed, and now leaves me open to do the experimental work, analysis, and writing all finishing in December 2010. The defense is going to be around Jan or Feb 2011. A lot happened in those few months I went net-silent. Sherry’s now a full fledged hoity-toity Harvard Master, Amon’s engaged, Aisha’s married, and Joe’s preggers. The dates for the next Fab Conference in Amsterdam have been set (week of Aug 16, 2010). FabFi was covered in the Boston Herald and I was on NPR talking about FabFi! There have been a whole pile of new labs all over the world – Lass can barely keep up with the lists! Closer to home, the DC lab is moving forward along with several other new lab prospects including “our fair city” Somerville. And in the first week of May, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed a memo/contract to build 5 labs in KSA, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: Accountability at Arlington - The Army’s Inspector General has wrapped up an investigation into slipshod management practices at Arlington National Cemetery and will release its findings as soon as tomorrow. Sources tell me the review will address a wide range of problems at Arlington including burial mix-ups and poor recordkeeping AND that that heads may roll. Arlington Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler suddenly announced this week that he is stepping down, retiring next month after 19 years as Super. But Army officials say that would not preclude administrative action against him if the facts warrant that. Metzler’s Deputy Thurman Higginbotham could also face punitive action, sources say. You may recall that last November Army Secretary John McHugh widened the investigation of cemetery operations after an initial probe by the Military District of Washington unearthed several irregularities including the inadvertent burying of two sets of remains in the same gravesite. (READ MORE)

Kerplunk: Perma Soldier Skillz - No sleep till (guitar riff) ... Brooklyn! A couple months ago, I got off the subway in a not-so-nice part of Brooklyn, and gunshots rang out from down the street. Gang violence, I later learned, but I didn’t know that at the time. I rather calmly sought cover, and took a knee behind a parked car. Mentally, I estimated both the distance and direction of the shots and determined them to be handguns of some sort. Then I grew frustrated that my old radioman in Iraq, Private First Class Das Boot, wasn’t right there to relay my contact report to headquarters. Meanwhile, most of the people around me ran around, pointlessly flailing their arms and screaming, looking for neither cover nor concealment. As the shots ended, I quickly regained my bearings, remembered I didn’t need to send up contact reports in New York, and chuckled at myself. I rose up from my crouched position to find a middle-aged man in the street staring at me like I was mad, probably because I had been looking around only seconds earlier for PFC Das Boot. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: UK Royal Marines Get First Sharpshooter Rifles - We reported on our sister site Defense Tech back in January (which was a tipoff from our other sister site across the pond) that the UK was set to field a new designated marksman rifle to its troops in Afghanistan that fires a 7.62mm round. Well, the British MOD announced recently that the first unit to receive the Law Enforcement International-made (a US company, by the way) guns will be the Royal Marines’ 40 Commando deployed to Afghanistan’s volatile south. (Correction: the contract is with Law Enforcement International who will sub out to Lewis Machine and Tool to make the 440 rifles) The British government will purchase about 440 of the AR-style rifle — dubbed the “Sharpshooter rifle” – which is intended to give UK troops more “reach out and touch you” capability than their 5.56 SA-80A2 assault rifles. As Royal Marine Sergeant Baz Evans of 40 Commando put it in a UK MOD release: (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: New Army Carbine Specs Revealed - I know I was in Afghanistan during the NDIA Small Arms Symposium back in May, but I got my hands on some of the briefing materials and I saw something of not that I thought Kit Up! readers would be into. Maybe some of you have already seen this, but here’s our take. During the brief delivered by Col. Doug Tamilio, the Army’s top gun buyer, he mentioned some requirements for what the Army is now calling the “individual carbine” (as opposed to the “improved carbine” of last year). This would be a potential replacement of the M4, which, if you’d asked me a year ago I’d have told you would never happen but now is looking exceedingly likely. Buried in his brief, Tamilio reveals that the IC will have ambidextrous controls and be capable of providing semi-auto and full-auto fire. Those are two big changes from the current system, particularly with the full-auto fire capability. (READ MORE)

Knight of Afghanistan: Defenestrations - Big news out of the Presidential Palace a couple of days ago. President Hamid Karzai forced two of his top three security officials to resign Sunday over their failure to prevent attacks on last week’s peace council in the capital, Afghan and American officials said, creating shock and concern among Western officials about such serious changes in crucial ministries even as the American war effort here reaches a critical phase. As a consequence of the attack last week on the "peace jirga" here in Kabul, both the Minister of Interior Hanif Atmar and the chief of the National Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh have been forced from their posts. Official reports say that after several hours of discussion with President Karzai, during which they were unable to offer "satisfactory" explanations about the failure to stop the attack, both men submitted their resignations which were immediately accepted. (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: Ice Cream Music - During the summer months in Kabul, street food is available in large quantities on many major roads. In addition to the fixed stalls and shops, wandering vendors push carts of fruit, vegetables and nuts through every neighborhood. Some of the more ubiquitous vendors are the ice cream men. Although it's not technically ice cream in the sense that most Westerners understand it. It's more like really cold yogurt. Tasty, especially the pistachio flavored, but not entirely safe from a hygeine point of view. Most of the ice cream vendors advertise their wares by means of a small bullhorn taped to the push-bar of the cart. Situated right next to the mouthpiece is a tape recorder which plays a simple tune over and over again, much like ice cream trucks in the States.* The intent is the same, to bring crowds of children scurrying from homes on every street, waving handfuls of change or the occasional bill. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US Predator strike kills 3 in North Waziristan - The US killed three suspected terrorists in the first airstrike in Pakistan's lawless tribal agencies this month. The strike, which was carried out by unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers, targeted "a sprawling compound" in the village of Norak in North Waziristan, according to Reuters. It is unclear if the strike targeted al Qaeda, the Taliban, or allied Central Asian terror groups known to operate in the tribal agency. The compound is known to be used by the Taliban. The Taliban have reportedly cordoned off the scene of the attack and are preventing outsiders from observing recovery operations. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed at this time. The town of Norak is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. The Haqqanis are closely allied to al Qaeda and to the Taliban, led by Mullah Omar. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills 40 at wedding in Kandahar - A Taliban suicide bomber struck at a wedding in a strategic district in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. The bomber, wearing a vest packed with explosives and ball bearings to maximize casualties, entered a tent and detonated. "Right now I can say that dozens of people were killed and injured in the blast," a senior police official in Kandahar told The Hindu. "It was a suicide bomber that targeted the wedding party." The suicide bomber killed 40 people and wounded 74, according to Xinhua. The groom and several children were among those wounded. The target of the attack is not yet known. According to AFP, the families in attendance support neither the Taliban or the government. But a Reuters report indicated many of the guests had links to local police. Taliban suicide bombers are often recruited and trained in Taliban and al Qaeda camps in Pakistan's lawless tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. (READ MORE)

C.J. Chivers: What Marja Tells Us of Battles Yet to Come - Each day, American foot patrols move through farmers’ fields and irrigated villages. And each day some are ambushed or encounter hidden bombs. The patrols turn into gunfights in withering heat, or efforts to dismantle the bombs or treat the wounded. Casualties accumulate with the passing weeks, for Americans and Afghans alike. A few months ago, Marja was the focus of a highly publicized assault to push the Taliban from a stronghold and bring Afghanistan’s densest area of opium production under government control. The fighting remains raw. What does it mean? Is the violence a predictable summer fight for an area the Taliban and those who profit from the drug economy do not want to lose; in other words, an unsurprising flare-up that can be turned around? Or will Marja remain bloody for a long time, allowing insurgents to inflict sustained losses on American units and win merely by keeping the fight alive? (READ MORE)

Christian Bleuer: US Military’s Black Mountain Facility in Tajikistan - I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with the US Department of Defense’s chosen location for a new training facility in Tajikistan. Here’s the contract info: …National Training Center located in Karatog, Tajikistan. Work includes but is not limited to construction of a garrison compound and training ranges. The garrison compound includes administrative facilities, officer quarters and enlisted barracks, dining facility, and other supporting facilities to provide a secure, fully operational compound. The range facilities include weapons firing and qualification (rifle, pistol, crew-served weapons and explosive/unexploded ordinance), Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) facilities, vehicle operator training range, sniper/observer training and operations, repelling and fast rope towers, and support facilities (for example: control towers, outdoor classrooms, sanitary facilities). There are so many locations with endless potential for irony, or something like that. (READ MORE)

She Who Waits: Instant Heart Attack - I just got home from the post office and as I came around the corner, I noticed that there was a strange car parked in front of my house. Instantly I couldn't breathe and considered driving right on by. Thankfully logic kicked in shortly after. I still had to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that I just got an email from my husband a couple of hours ago, there's no way they would notify me this quickly. It sure as heck stopped my heart for a minute, though. I'm trying really hard not to go yell at the neighbor's friend for scaring the heck out of me - you don't do that to the spouse of a deployed Marine! (READ MORE)

Air Force Wife: Today My Heart is Heavy - I've had a lot of sit-down work to do today, so I've seen more news than I usually get in real time. I am horrified. And sick. Literally sick, my stomach is clenching and burning and my eyes have been prickling. And I'm angry. Because apparently when it comes to burying our military dead, nothing is sacred. For the last year, my family and I have been attending church services at the Ft. Myer Chapel, right on the edge of Arlington National Cemetery. The windows in the church are interesting, they reach from the upper part of the walls to the roof, and through them (if you're in the right pew) you can see the stretching green of our most hallowed ground. There's something sacred about worshiping in that shadow. Arlington features prominently to military families. It's the ultimate resting place, where those who have given their lives to the service of their country spend eternity with their brothers (and sisters). (READ MORE)

Texas Music: Vacay - Yeah, I haven't posted in awhile. Just been busy. We travel with the Boss typically four to six days a week. Every day sort of blends into the day before it, and I just haven't felt like posting the same old stuff, to be honest. Right now I'm on my mid-tour leave in Italy with my totally amazing girlfriend. She said that sounded sarcastic but I mean it. She is spectacularly amazing. So far we have spent a few wonderful days in Rome and Florence, with side trips to Pisa and Sienna. Tonight we are in the Cinque Terre, a series of tiny old villages built along the western coast of Italy. The whole trip has been amazing so far, apart from some issues with my debit card and my podunk bank which seem to be worked out now. That's a pic of me and my princess at the Vatican City museum. I'll post some more pictures later on, if I can be bothered to get back online. Right now I'm gonna spend some more quality time with my significant other. Ciao! (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: These Are The Barbarians We’re Losing The War Against - Although we may ultimately fail in Afghanistan, let’s not mince words about who we’re failing. We’re failing seven-year-old boys like the one murdered by the Taliban in an act of retribution against his family. He was seized and killed and hung from a tree in Heratiyan, Helmand province, after the boy’s grandfather spoke out against the Taliban. We’re failing the innocent people who will be butchered by the Taliban after our exodus, like the 39 who were murdered at a wedding party in cold blood by an explosion. The groom, Abdullah Aka, had just joined an anti-Taliban militia, and then a suicide bomber was sent as a sign of retribution. The tactics of the Taliban are classic guerrilla terrorism. They don’t merely target foreign forces, the police, or the government. They murder women, children, babies, the elderly, and they do so at will and without apparent remorse. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: 'He always looked out for everyone' - When Spc. Brendan Neenan decided to join the military in 2007, he was following in the proud footsteps of his father and grandfather. While the 21-year-old soldier loved the blue Alabama skies and probably would have been content enjoying life as an outdoorsman, he knew people needed his help overseas. "He just always looked out for everyone," said [father] Hugh Neenan, from his home in Enterprise. "There wasn't a mean bone in his body." The Fayetteville Observer, in an article confirmed by a Pentagon news release Tuesday evening, reports that Spc. Neenan was one of the seven U.S. soldiers killed on Monday in Afghanistan. Officials said he lost his life in a Jelawar, Afghanistan, improvised explosive device attack. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Too many tears - When an American helicopter ascended into the Afghan skies earlier today, four U.S. troops did not know their final moments were at hand. Tragically, Voice Of America reports the helicopter was shot down by terrorists in southern Helmand province, making recent solemn news from the front even more difficult to bear. An Associated Press report confirms that four brave Americans perished in the attack. According to unofficial counts by numerous organizations, 17 Americans have died in Afghanistan so far in the second week of June. The Pentagon, while expressing confidence in the overall post-9/11 mission to defeat terrorism, is acknowledging the tragic nature of this week's events, and the impact it will have on so many military families. "While we conduct our operations carefully and try to mitigate the risk in all of our operations, the fact of the matter is that we have taken some casualties. We've taken quite a few this week. It's been a tough week," [Pentagon] spokesman [Bryan Whitman] added. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: 'He wanted to die for something' - Even the immortal poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson does not do justice to the extraordinary story of Cpl. Jacob Leicht. Since his birth on July 4, 1985, the Marine's unbreakable patriotism stood out like a bald eagle gliding through America's skies. To many, his name represents the 1,000th U.S. combat death of the war in Afghanistan. Yet Cpl. Leicht stood for much more than any statistic could ever represent. During two post-9/11 combat tours in the lonely lands of Afghanistan and Iraq, the 24-year-old Marine saw the horrors perpetrated by insurgents and terrorists against U.S. troops and innocent civilians. Jonathan Leicht said standing on the sidelines as America battles fanatics seeking to destroy freedom was simply not an option for his little brother. "As a Christian, he was acutely aware of the evil forces in the world, and as a Marine he was willing to stand up against them," he said. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: America’s Kandahar Conundrum - As the U.S. and Afghan armies gear up for the offensive in Kandahar (or not — in rumor-rich Kabul, various sources have it beginning anytime from tomorrow through the winter) the U.S. is increasingly in a political conundrum. On one hand, there’s no good to come from allowing the Taliban a free hand in Kandahar, and that whatever happens has to work, or else. While few suggest the Taliban can take the city over completely, they currently do enough to keep the population from conclusively siding with the national government. On the other hand, it is increasingly apparent that the U.S. may not possess the necessary political resources to win the population. Chief among these resources, of course, is an agreeable Afghan government that can demonstrate good governance and political cohesion, which the current national government largely fails to do. The U.S. has not been particularly successful in staying on the same page as the Afghan government. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Parts Problems with the M249 SAW? - Are there parts problems with the M249 SAW? "A former employee of an Indiana defense contractor has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the company ordered him to approve parts for machine guns used by U.S. troops that didn’t meet quality standards, and that he was fired for complaining about it." There are two issues here. First off, if substandard parts are being manufactured and accepted as meeting specification, then this is both an ethical and legal problem. Any industry that accepts failure to meet specifications for parts deserves to go out of business. This allegation should be run to ground, so to speak, and either the company or the employee punished, depending upon who is telling the truth. But there is the second issue of reports of the M249 failing to operate in combat, apparently up to 30%. All I can do is report what I know from a certain Marine. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Peace Protest, London-Style - Above the engine noise of red tourist buses and black taxicabs grinding through Parliament Square, the thud-thud-thud of rotors sometimes drifts down from above the clock tower that houses Big Ben. (READ MORE)

Three cheers: To Roger Staubach - To Roger Staubach, still Captain America -- Recently, my brother was sitting in first class on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Colorado Springs when a couple boarded and sat in front of him. He immediately recognized the man as Roger Staubach. (READ MORE)

McHugh Strengthens Arlington National Cemetery Management, Oversight - Secretary of the Army John McHugh today announced sweeping changes in the management and oversight of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) following completion of a months-long probe by the Army’s Inspector General. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

US to Close Base Near Camp Housing Iranian Exiles - The U.S. military says it will turn over a base near a compound housing an Iranian opposition group to Iraqi forces next month. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Arrest Suspected al-Qaida Chief - Iraqi security forces yesterday arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq leader during a combined operation in Mosul, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Iraq Car Bomb Kills Two Americans, Three Iraqis - A car bomb struck a joint U.S.-Iraqi military convoy north of Baghdad on Friday, killing at least five people, including two American troops. (READ MORE)

900,000 Iraqis Receiving Clean Water in Dhi Qar - Representatives from the United States Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction visited Dhi Qar to inspect the U.S. funded Dhi Qar Water Treatment Plant in Ash Shatrah 20 May. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, June 11 - An Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Logar province last night. (READ MORE)

Finances Improve for Developing Afghan Forces - A multinational team in Afghanistan is working to manage and execute the funding and development of Afghanistan’s national security forces. (READ MORE)

NATO Secretary General Calls for Increased Training for Afghan Troops - NATO's secretary general has called for more trainers to beef up Afghan troops and police during a defense ministers meeting that also addresses missile defense and spending. (READ MORE)

Taleban hang 7-year-old boy to punish family - A seven-year-old boy was murdered by the Taleban in an apparent act of retribution this week. Afghan officials said that the child was accused of spying for US and Nato forces and hanged from a tree in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Young Afghan suicide bomber approached wedding guests - The boy, dressed in white and thought to be no older than 13, appeared amid the din of a wedding party in a small southern Afghan village and walked up to within 15 feet of a cluster of tables where everyone was eating. (READ MORE)

Afghan Bombing Targets U.S.-Allied Militia - A deadly suicide bombing of an Afghan wedding celebration late Wednesday targeted an anti-Taliban village where U.S. Special Forces had built up a local militia that kept insurgents at bay. (READ MORE)

Afghan Taliban hone hit-and-run tactics, assassination campaign - The high-velocity snap of a bullet passing the lanky sentry from South Carolina was the first sign combat outpost Fitzpatrick was under attack. (READ MORE)

U.K. Effort Critical in Afghanistan, Petraeus Tells Britons - Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, emphasized yesterday in London the critical role the United Kingdom has played in Iraq – and the importance of its continued support for the coalition to succeed in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

U.S. Offensive Stalls in Key Afghan City - The commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan said the offensive in Kandahar is going more slowly than expected, in part because it still lacks the wholehearted support of the local population. (READ MORE)

As Afghan Violence Escalates, U.S. Presses Allies - Violence is expected to escalate in Afghanistan this summer as U.S.-led forces ramp up their operations in the southern province of Kandahar. On Thursday, a suicide bomber attacked a wedding party in Kandahar, killing at least 40 people. (READ MORE)

Green Mountain Boys Make a Difference in Afghanistan - The soldiers of the Vermont Army National Guard’s 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been working hard to make a difference during their deployment to Afghanistan, the brigade’s commander told reporters recently. (READ MORE)

Cameron visits Afghanistan, rules out more troops - British prime minister David Cameron hailed 2010 as vital in efforts to fight the Taliban but ruled out the prospect of sending extra UK troops to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Why some Afghanistan opium farmers turn from poppies to saffron - Eight years after getting out of the poppy business, Hajji Ibrahim says he doesn’t miss it. The farmer here in western Afghanistan used to employ 10 guards to protect his land from roving addicts and warlords. (READ MORE)

Afghans stone German base over proselytising allegations - At least four people were injured in northern Afghanistan Thursday when protesters threw stones at a German military camp over claims that two aid organisations had preached Christianity in the country. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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