June 14, 2010

From the Front: 06/14/2010

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

Dispatches:
A Handful of Dust: Burqa Babes: Soraya Tarzi - The name of only one woman appears on the list of Afghan monarchs: Soraya Tarzi (1899-1968). Soraya Tarzi was actually not an anointed monarch in her own right; she was the consort of King Amanullah Khan, but her contribution to Afghanistan has well earned her a place among its rulers. King Amanullah and Soraya Tarzi were a revolutionary couple in many ways. Tarzi was Amanullah’s only wife, a first in Afghan history. The couple established the first Afghan constitution and campaigned publicly against polygamy and the veil and encouraged the education and employment of women. When during one public appearance King Amanullah declared that Islam did not require the veil, Soraya Tarzi and other female members of the royal family ripped off their veils in front of the crowd. Soraya also served as the country’s education minister and was instrumental in sending 15 Afghan girls to Turkey for higher education. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Micheal Yon has lost his marbles and is an oxygen thief - I have highlighted Michael Yon’s work many times on this blog. Back in the day, he was taking great pictures and telling great stories. I, like many milbloggers and our readers were impressed with his quality of work and his inside track to get the stories told. However he has now morphed into a combination of Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando’s characters from Apocalypse Now. He is so in love with himself that he must embarrass Afghans on a Thursday night. The guy drinks his own kool-aid and believes himself the savior of Afghanistan or any other war or conflict that he finds himself in. I don’t know him personally, but run in the same circles as he used to and I know some that were very close to him the last time he was in Afghanistan before being thrown out of country. The common opinion from all is that he has lost his marbles, has no sense of reality anymore and does nothing but spout the great things he does and how he is the poor little victim. (READ MORE)

Afghani Dan, Part II: Scenes of the city - As burqas and veils flew past in a blur, and old men and children milled around much more slowly during stops, I attempted on a recent drive through Kabul to capture a bit of the city's appearance to fresh (though tired) eyes... It's "Abbey Road", Kabul version 2010!... "My friend, how do you keep from getting tripped up in the shawls and manjammies when you ride this contraption downtown?" ... "Brother, can you spare a -- whoa, is that an Escalade heading this way?" ... I don't know why I liked this one...maybe two cabs actually in the same color scheme, maybe the masked man approaching, maybe the snow-capped mountains beyond...but probably the earthquake effect of one very bumpy ride for taking 'happy snaps.' (READ MORE)

Huma Imtiaz: The Cloud in the Sky - The LSE Development Studies Institute report by Matt Waldman titled "The Sun in the Sky," released on Sunday, details the relationship between Pakistan's notorious spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Afghan Taliban. The report details the ISI's close relationship with the Taliban and its involvement with the Quetta Shura, along with claims from Taliban commanders that the ISI is heavily involved in the planning and execution of attacks on schools and other government targets in Afghanistan. In short, the ISI, an important part of the Pakistani Army, is hoodwinking the United States by still heavily supporting the Taliban movement, in order to ensure they have a permanent voice in deciding the future of Afghanistan. While the report details how ISI trains militants, manipulates the Quetta Shura and more, one of the most astounding accusations is this: (READ MORE)

Brian Fishman: Muddying the 'Taliban' - The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan means more in Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul than in Miram Shah, Khost, or the Tirah Valley. Tribes straddle the border seamlessly, and trading relationships that have existed for millennia shape local cultural and political sensibilities more so than the vagaries of internationally accepted maps. This is one main reason why distinguishing between "Afghan Taliban" and "Pakistani Taliban" is misleading, even if it is useful shorthand. The leaders of the former Taliban government of Afghanistan are now called the Quetta Shura after the Pakistani city where they are based, and Mullah Omar's deputy, Mullah Baradar, was captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi, 350 miles from the Afghan border.[i] Likewise, the Haqqani Network, often considered "Afghan Taliban" because of its tribal roots and operational capacity in Afghanistan, has deep roots in Pakistani territory. (READ MORE)

CI-Roller Dude: Sight Picture, Breathing control... - From the Soldier side: When asked: "CI-Roller dude, how did you get your team and yourself to keep going out over and over whilst in Iraq?" I know some of you reading this are in leadership positions, and others are, but don't yet know it. I used a combination of things to get my team and the teams I took over to keep going. If I didn't tell you this story...when we were going into Falljuah on our first mission, in Dec 2004, I could tell my lads were a little uptight the morning we got up before the mission. I looked at them and could see it on their faces. As we loaded stuff from our tin cans (trailers) to take with us, I told them: "we need to go eat a big breakfast!" "Eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, oatmeal, cereal, apples, oranges, SOS, coffee, tea, milk, orange juice, toast, everything we can eat!" The younger soldier looked at me and had a puzzled face and said: "I'm not sure I can eat anything right now..." (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): 13 JUN 2010 "FOB Karaoke" - Well... I'm not sure what else can be said here. I guess after 4 or 5 months in Afghanistan, you become willing to do anything. No matter how embarrassing. CPT Reese, however, does not possess an embarrassing bone in his body. Funny, it didn't matter if he sang the Beatles, Elton, or Hank Jr... somehow he found it possible to throw in a little Elvis. I wonder if he can do the big Elvis arm swoop while riding his motorcycle? hmmmmmm.. Now that would be talent. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Avoid Financial Pitfalls During Deployment - My father has been urging me for years to create a budget. I’ve always been more of a “wing it” financially kind of gal, which definitely isn’t the best approach to economic stability. But in recent years, I’ve changed my thinking, mostly due to the fact that my husband and I have four children, with college expenses looming for one. So we sat down and created a budget, and talked about our long-term goals. It was a lot like the tooth I had pulled a few months ago. Painful but necessary, and I felt a sense of relief after it was over. Turns out, creating a spending plan is one of the best steps a family can take toward financial stability, according to a defense finance expert I talked to recently. This is particularly true for military families facing a deployment. “A deployment is a very demanding and intense time, and the servicemember and family need to be focused on their specific missions.” (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Dahla Dam - A few days ago an excellent investigative report by Mitch Potter of the Toronto Star was published informing the citizens of Canada that their “signature project” in Afghanistan, the Dahla Dam irrigation project, appears to be failing. It is a story well told and yet another example of the insanity of doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Both the “Big Army” and the “Big Aid Agencies” insist on working large projects as if they have all the time in the world to design and implement the “perfect plan.” Having spent years developing the “perfect plan,” the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and their implementing partner find themselves locked down inside their compounds unable to accomplish anything. Developing a perfect plan is meaningless if you can’t implement it. At exactly the same time and in exactly the same place (plus lots of other worse places)... (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Getting Ready for a Guard Weekend - This weekend I will be taking more pictures. Many soldiers will be getting awards from the Iraq tour. The official change of command ceremony for the battalion will also be tomorrow. In addition we will have a post-deployment health assessment. We will be asked a bunch of questions about our health as well as how much we drink and whether we are angry, depressed or have nightmares. That's all pretty standard. The interesting thing is the logistics. Up until a few weeks ago, we could fill out an assessment form on line. Then the on-line version was closed to National Guard. There is also an 888 number, but that is the plan B. The plan A is that we all load up on buses tomorrow and ride over to the VA Medical Center in Lebanon to fill-out the form with counselors on site. The full time soldiers say that they cut off on line access because the state planned for us to complete the assessment in person. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Explosions in Baghdad - There was a series of bombings today in Baghdad. According to news reports, at least one explosion was near the Central Bank. It left 12 dead and at least 40 injured. There also were reports of an exchange of gunfire between the Iraqi army and unknown gunmen. Each of the TV stations reported a different number of explosions. But the scenes of the damage and the hurt people were equally distressing. Whoever attacked wanted to remind us they're still around. And perhaps they want to force the lawmakers to postpone tomorrow's parliamentary session. The politicians are scheduled to open the parliament for the first time since the March elections. Who the new prime minsiter will be and who will set up the new government remains up in the air. The meeting yesterday between Allawi and Maliki was only about 30 minutes long. They didn't discuss anything in detail. Many reports say it will be Adel Abdul Mahdi. But there is no confirmation on any of this. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: New Group, Same Problems - The INA and State of Law have made their union official. They say they will attend Monday's parliamentary session as one [Arabic] entity. The new grouping, called the Nationalist Alliance, still has the same problems as before. That is, Maliki still insists on being prime minister, but the word on the street here is that he will not be nominated on Monday. The talk here is that Adel Abdul Mahdi will be nominated by the new alliance. And there are reports that a spokesman for the Sadr movement says they will not attend the first session if the U.S. ambassador attends on Monday. The politicians are letting the people down. In this heat, the average home has only 30 minutes of electricity a day. Someone should remind them that July, which is just around the corner, has traditionally been a month that brings political change to Iraq. If the lawmakers don't get to work, who knows how the people will react? The Iraqis have been pushed as far as possible. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: in the heat of the night - In the past few months I settled into a schedule that went something like this: Work Work work work work workkk…zzzzz Ah well, this has given me a chance to be out and about at night. The heat of the day (it’s been getting steadily hotter) means you want to cram as much living as possible in to the pre-dawn hours (dead to me) or after sunset. Jalalabad at night? The famed street lamps of Jalalabad light the surprisingly (relatively) clean main street. Enormous wedding halls with flashing Vegas style neon shapes are in full swing. Tuk tuks, colorful moped-drawn rickshaws, zip about weaving in and out of sedan car traffic. The restaurants, shops, and streets are full of people, right up until about midnight. There are two important things to remember here. 1) Jalalabad is still the kind of place where people can walk around and live their lives, during the day and at night. 2) People are out at night because it’s hot. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Magpul Quad Stack — Saving the IAR - The Firearms Blog has a post on a patent filing from Magpul Industries for a so-called “quad-stack magazine.” Basically, as TFB puts it, the slightly wider magazine accomodates what looks like about 50 rounds using two springs and a divider to weave the 5.56 rounds in. The design is quite straight forward. A central partition separates two dual staggered round stacks. Two springs are used, a lower stronger spring and a weaker top spring, which are joined by spring slicer. The magazine has a constant curve geometry. Interestingly, the transition area is asymmetric in order to stagger rounds correctly. Check out the post for more schematic detail. I raise this because it adds to the Marine Corps Infantry Automatic Weapon debate that’s swirling quietly in the halls of Quantico and the Pentagon. I’ve heard of grumblings from within the Corps that the IAR is a waste of time and money and doesn’t really add to the capability of the fireteam. (READ MORE)

Knight of Afghanistan: Ummm.......WTF? - I've said recently that the Taliban doesn't gain their intelligence from reading The New York Times or any other Western publication. Most of them can't read in their own language, much less in English, and they have robust networks of local informers and agents that provide them all the intel they need. However, that said, this strikes me as a particularly muddle-headed approach to journalism. Filkins writes a blog post about how simply meeting with Afghans puts them in danger, and describes the difficulties that a friendly tribal leader undergoes to meet for a short chat. And then he identifies the Afghan by name, even going so far as to say that he lives "about 30 minutes outside of Tarin Kowt" in Uruzgan Province. Armed with nothing more than that information, even I could probably locate this guy in 24 hours or less just by going to TK and asking around. The Taliban wouldn't even need to do that; they probably recognized the guy right off the bat.* (READ MORE)

Knight of Afghanistan: The Lone Guerilla Paradox - Over at DefenseTech, Greg Grant has a brief piece on a particular difficulty of COIN operations called The Lone Guerilla Paradox. Basically, as Grant puts it: "In a village, a single insurgent fighter represents a “monopoly of force,” controlling that village even if challenged by an entire battalion of government troops doing continuous battalion sweeps. The only time the lone guerrilla doesn’t control the village is the few hours when the counterinsurgents sweep through, once they leave, the guerrilla’s monopoly is re-established." The comments section of the DT post are unsurprisingly alive with a bunch of back-and-forth about current ISAF practice, the pseudo-history of guerilla warfare (complete with bullshit examples) and some partisan hackery. Oh, and a bit of Obama-bashing just for flavor. All of the discussion about whether or not the U.S. Army (or the Marines) can effectively wage counter-insurgency warfare, or whether they have in the past, misses the basic point. (READ MORE)

Learning to Live: milestones and photos - I think the hardest part of raising Colin alone are the milestones of life. You know that first birthday, first steps . . . those things are really emotional for me. I swear these days I cry so easily . . . Colin had his Kindergarten music program the last week of school, but it turned into a 'graduation' to 1st grade. They sang this song and I could just feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. It was yet another milestone that we had made alone . . . just the two of us. It was a challenging year (but rewarding too), and I know there still lies many challenges ahead for me, but I made it . . . we made it and for once I felt proud of myself. As I cried tears of joy and sadness, I did not care because if anyone knew what we have had to overcome the last 6 years . . . a little boy without his daddy they would be crying too. Oh he has been full of questions about Sean lately and it continues to break my heart. (READ MORE)

Learning to Live: going private - I am going to make the blog private for a little bit . . . this one will stay here but be on a hiatus . . . if you want to read what we are up to leave a comment with whatever information I need . . . think it is just your email so I can send you a link to the new location? I don't know but will figure it out in the next few days. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Russians capture, kill 2 top Caucasus Emirate commanders - Russian security forces dealt a double blow to the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate during operations in the southern Russian republics late last week. Emir Magas, the military commander of the Caucasus Emirate, was captured and Yasir Amarat, a wanted terrorist commander from Jordan, was killed during raids by Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB. On June 9, the FSB captured Emir Magas, whose real name is Ali Taziyev, during a raid in the village of Malgobek in the Republic of Ingushetia. Kavkaz Center, a jihadist website that supports the Caucasus Emirate, confirmed Magas' capture and noted his importance. Magas has been transferred to Moscow for interrogation. Magas "was appointed the Military Emir of Caucasian Mujahideen after the martyrdom of Shamil Basayev," Kavkaz Center stated. Basayev is the former leader of the al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the North Caucasus and was killed in 2006. (READ MORE)

ManryMission: I’m Going To See A Guy About A Suit - The days are ticking closer to Dale’s official day when he will hear the following: “The people of the United States express their thanks and gratitude for your faithful service. Your contributions to the defense of the United States of America are greatly appreciated.” He has not been too upbeat about this approaching date. I, being the helpful wife, remind him often that if his orders didn’t say that, they would most likely say this: “You are reassigned and/or deployed as shown below and are to return to your permanent station upon completion of the duties in support of this operation.” The Army has always been consistent in reminding Dale that they can certainly give him orders for something worse. Which is why he often volunteers for assignments he would not prefer. In spite of this knowledge and in mourning for his occupation of the last 27 years, Dale has been dragging his feet in accomplishing tasks that will make his transition to civilian life smoother. (READ MORE)

Notes From Tommie: Sleep Eternal - It has been said and I say it again, “I have a dream…” There is nothing in this world that one could take for granted, that is to except change. I dream of a world where love is the emotion that demonstrates the feelings of all. I dream of a world where faith is absolute regardless or religion or lack thereof. I dream of a world where one can be honest with all those around them without fear of abandonment, suffering, and pain. I dream of a world where I can finally rest. Each day passes and this body deteriorates more and more. At first impression most place my age at near a decade over what I have actually lived. Is this a product of the life I have lived or is this the result of genes? Is my demeanor that of one aged and wise and if so does my spirit retain that sense of youth that I know should still be present somewhere deep within? Death and rebirth. Light and dark. To put it simply, facts of life which some or all of us may or may not go through during this relative short stay on what we call earth. (READ MORE)

C.J.Chivers: As Afghan Fighting Expands, U.S. Medics Plunge In - The Marine had been shot in the skull. He was up ahead, at the edge of a field, where the rest of his patrol was fighting. A Black Hawk medevac helicopter flew above treetops toward him, banked and hovered dangerously before landing nearby. Several Marines carried the man aboard. His head was bandaged, his body limp. Sgt. Ian J. Bugh, the flight medic, began the rhythms of CPR as the helicopter lifted over gunfire and zigzagged away. Could this man be saved? Nearly nine years into the Afghan war, with the number of troops here climbing toward 100,000, the pace for air crews that retrieve the wounded has become pitched. In each month this year, more American troops in Afghanistan have been killed than in any of the same months of any previous year. Many of those fighting on the ground, facing ambushes and powerful hidden bombs, say that as the Obama administration’s military buildup pushes more troops into Taliban strongholds, the losses could soon rival those during the worst periods in Iraq. (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: PSYOP Soldiers: winning the war one friendship at a time - Hajji Wazir Gul, an elder in the village of Kandaroo, located in the heart of the Pech Valley, in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, slowly walked over to the approaching coalition forces. A distinguished, older man sporting a long white beard and bronzed skin reflecting many days spent under the gruelling Afghanistan sun, Gul smiled as he reached out his hand to the men. The American’s he greeted were not strangers, they were friends. Having removed his gloves and sunglasses as a sign up respect, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Artez Briseno, tactical psychological operations team chief, 318th PSYOP Company out of St. Louis, Mo., returned the handshake. The meeting was the culmination of many months in country where the three-man PSYOP team worked diligently to form lasting relations with the Afghan people. Wearing beards and making a continuous effort to show cultural awareness, the team has found success in one of the most daunting regions. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Lost Boys: Father’s Day Post - Explosions are a daily occurrence in the Zhari District. Most blasts are IEDs, some are RPGs or recoilless rifles. Generally, all are followed by machine gun fire or a secondary boom, if not both. The detonations reverberate throughout our combat outpost as we continue our daily grind. Whether I’m out on patrol or within the security of the wire, my eyes roll in exasperation, my pulse hastens, and I thrust my radio hand-mic to my ears, anticipating the call to respond to the emergency. But every now and then, a ray of good fortune shines upon us, and the explosion we hear is not a planned enemy attack but a failed attempt at one. IED emplacement is a dangerous business. Thankfully for us, sometimes the enemy blows himself up, taking both another Talib and another IED off the streets. Last week, three Pakistani men were planting an IED when such an explosion occurred, incidentally on a road I travel frequently. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Getting on the Bus - "Daddy, are you going to a war yet?" I'm getting Lena, 5, and Rain, 3, ready to go out the door to daycare. We haven't yet told the kids about my deployment to Afghanistan. Partly, that's because I didn't want them to get confused during my Annual Training. I wanted to avoid telling them that Daddy would be leaving for a long time, only to have him come back after 3 weeks. Luckily, I suppose, Lena doesn't wait to let me answer her question. "Is it because you're not tall enough? Because, I think you're pretty big." It's another one of those ball-peen hammer moments. I blink a couple of times, not feeling very big at all. I want to prepare the kids, and to avoid confusing or hurting them as much as possible. I just don't know how to break it to them. I've been asking my buddies for tips and techniques. Every story and every kid is a little different. One guy says he's been talking about the deployment to his kids for the past year: (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: Baffled...But Maybe It's Just the Heat? - The only light in this room right now is my Mac. Lighting is too hot! Our AC decided that it needed a break tonight. Never mind that it has been steamy (literally) here today after several thunderstorms that only added to the humidity rather than dispel it. My husband has been trying to connect with a buddy for two months. He's wanted to have that "Hey! I'm home from Iraq with all my pieces and parts" beer with him and tonight is the night! Then, the AC went out and my husband, in all seriousness and sincerity, said, "I'm going to call Jon and tell him I can't make it. I can't have you home alone waiting for some repair guy to come! It's almost eleven!" ::Blink, Blink:: Hello? Have we met? Maybe the sultry heat has gone to your brain, love, but I'm the woman who is home for months at a time with you not up the street at the corner watering hole. I've been home for a year without you even on this continent. (READ MORE)

She of the Seal: The Things We Do For Our Kids - As I type, I am sitting on the floor in a hotel room, watching through the door to the adjoining room as my daughter and seven of her closest friends watch a movie. I have to say, never in my life could I imagine that I would allow such a thing. A two month early birthday party in a hotel? With pizza and expensive fruit and veggie trays from the grocery store and a hotel on-demand movie that cost $13.99? What sort of spoiled child am I raising? But then I look at the bigger picture and just hope that somehow this is going to create a good memory to offset all that she puts up with because her dad is in the Navy. The reason we are in a hotel is because we're mid-PCS. The truck left our house yesterday. I don't think we've ever taken advantage of TLE before, but I am about done with sleeping on the floor, plus our sleeping bags are gone and we certainly weren't going to put them in our suitcases full of clothes that need to last two months. (READ MORE)

SemperFi Wife: While Snapshots of Arlington Run Through My Mind - Air Force Wife wrote an amazing, brutally honest post yesterday that summed up how I feel about what has been happening at Arlington too. I don't think I could add anything to what she said except cuss words, so I won't. While this nightmare unfolds, I go back in my head to the last time I was at Arlington. My husband and I participated in the Christmas wreath laying a couple of years ago. I feel bad that I haven't been back since then but life has really intervened. I hope to get back there this summer and pay my overdue respects. On that cold December day, I remember so many things. I remember the sheer crush of humanity wanting to lay wreaths on the tombs at Arlington. I remember how breathtakingly cold it was that day. I remember how beautiful Arlington was. It always is. Mostly, I remember the people. I remember the mom who lugged a lawn chair and several bags from Michael's to her son's grave. She had a sad kind of smile on her face as she set out the chair in front of his tombstone. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: Amayun The Talib-Killer; Eshak The Lawyer - TUTAMDARA: "I put my foot on his neck and I shot him in the head with my AK47." That is the grisly ending of a long and stirring story 34-year-old Amayun tells about how the Taliban came to his village on the Shomali Plains, how they killed all the cattle, burned the vineyards, drove the people away and enslaved the few that were allowed to remain. Its final chapter recounts the last battle Amayun and his comrades waged against the Taliban here. He reckons 27 Talibs died that day. The AK47 Amayun used to dispatch that last Talib - Amayun killed many Taliban, he is proud to point out - had belonged to his friend and fellow partisan commander, Gullalla. The Taliban had killed Gullalla just as mercilessly and efficiently. "It is how you have to fight them," he said. Amayun said he can't understand why it is that after so many years, tens of thousands of the best-equipped and best-trained American, British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers still haven't been able to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan's southern provinces. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Bombs, Mice and Stupitity OH My! - Well, the bombs I cannot really talk about...I don't think. Lets just say that the other night, it was interesting here in Afghanistan in my area. I was almost asleep and then......and then.....all clear. Now the mice, I can tell you all about, but you better not be too queasy when you read this. Two days ago it was all calm in the office and then a call came in. Some one needed to jump on a helicopter and head to another base to take the Battalion colors and US flag for a Fallen Hero ceremony. Well, the lucky one was me. I ran to my room and started emptying my backpack to take with me when...out of nowhere...well out of my bag...came a freaking mouse. I was pissed seeing that my bag was hanging on the wall on a nail. The guy in the next room said that it had to been there a long time. I know that I completely cleaned out my bag weeks prior so I know that it got in there while it was here. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Inside Dutch Special Forces, Part Two - The Dutch have set a benchmark in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, with the way they have conducted counter-insurgency operations in pursuit of the “ink-spot” strategy. This strategy concentrates military and construction efforts around population centers in a bid to “make the Taliban irrelevant.” This summer the Dutch will be leaving the province as a combat force. The Americans will take over. Until then, however, the battle continues beyond the ink spot’s borders. This is where the Dutch Special Forces come in. I paid a visit to a Korps Commandotroepen facility in The Netherlands to observe their training. After a brief tour of the Special Forces base at Roosendaal, the editor of a German magazine and myself were driven to a facility in the south of The Netherlands, where special operations personnel from the Dutch police and defense force train. Sven, who was driving, is a senior KCT officer and has several tours in Afghanistan with Task Force 55 under his belt. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Family Readiness Groups - In January, military blogs reported that the battalion commander of the 2-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Lt. Col. Frank Jenio, was relieved of command, along with his command sergeant major. (Oddly enough, Ink Spots reported that Lt. Col. Jenio's battalion was temporarily serving under the command of Canadian Brigadier General Daniel Menard in Regional Command South. Name sound familiar?) This sparked quite a bit of controversy and curiosity; after all, it is almost unheard of to simultaneously relieve both a commander and a command sergeant major. While the Ink Spots crew speculated that a failure to adhere to counterinsurgency doctrine might have been the culprit, official sources cited racist pictures in PowerPoint slides as the true cause. Nevertheless, several responses at Tom Ricks' The Best Defense seemed to tell a different story. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: New U.S. Intel Push Risks Taliban ‘Propaganda Bonanza’ - Even before they got to Kabul, the current crop of American military commanders worried that their biggest obstacle could turn out to be Afghanistan’s endemic corruption, not its insurgents. So, in some ways, it’s not all that surprising to read in the New York Times that “the military’s intelligence network in Afghanistan” is “increasingly focused on uncovering corruption” inside Afghanistan’s government, security forces and contractors. There’s a deep logic to the effort. Counterinsurgency is all about getting people to support the local government. That’s hard to do, if the perception is that those officials are on the take. But the approach comes with risks, too. One U.S. special operations officer, for instance, worries that “from an enemy propaganda perspective, this report would seem to be a bonanza.” “First, the U.S. and NATO allies seem to admit that the Afghan government lacks legitimacy since it is ripe with graft. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: Michael Yon- Proudly violating OPSEC - There are few things more dangerous than publicizing our security procedures, but publicizing any lapses in them sure qualifies. That is exactly what Mike Yon is doing and congratulating himself for. He published an email from a troop in Afghanistan complaining about some supposed lapses in security at his base. The email contains numerous violations of Operational Security (OPSEC) and anyone with an ounce of common sense would have emailed the kid back and told him to take it up w/ his chain of command or if they ignore him then the Inspector General. But not Mike, oh no the great speaker of truth to power publishes it and there are plenty of details about which guard towers are unmanned and response times for air support and which base it is to constitute a huge violation. But you see Mike is above petty concerns like that he simply announces our weaknesses to the world. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: An open letter to Mike Yon - Consider this a public email from me, Mike - the guy who introduced you to the blogosphere over five years ago. As a guy who's been there and done that in Iraq, as a guy who served in uniform for a quarter century, and as a guy who's concern for his brothers who are still in uniform or in combat zones is exceeded by no one's, I ask you to stop publishing whatever drops into your email inbox as if it were something more significant than Nigerian spam. Whatever led you to this point doesn't matter. What does matter is you're at a point where your lack of any sort of filter leaves you open to being used by people with an agenda, whose motives you can't possibly understand. And take a look at the comment thread that follows your post linked above. There are people there who trust you without question when you claim to be posting information by the troops, for the troops. (READ MORE)

The Armorer: Just when you thought the milblog intramurals were over - ...and that both sides had declared victory and were heading to the showers. Well, you were wrong. It's about to get worse... Mike just set himself up as the "Bad-Ass-in-Chief." Don't mess with the Yonster, it's... unwise. Michael Yon - Mark -- won't be any OPSEC issues. Within a minute of my posting that will fly all over the place and they will start to address any problems. Michael Yon - One problem is that McChrystal's crew ended my embed, and so I am posting raw information. Unwise for McChrystal to create such situations. There is "un-wisdom" at work here, to be sure. But to me, the un-wisdom is taking a shot at Greyhawk, who had been holding fire through all this. Greyhawk returned fire yesterday. Yon returned fire today. Sigh. I'm reminded of a song. You know Greyhawk would not have waded in if he didn't have the ammunition for a fight. (READ MORE)




News from the Home Front:
More Than 200 Graves Misidentified at Arlington - At least 211 people are buried in unmarked or misidentified graves at Arlington National Cemetery, top Army officials announced on Thursday. (READ MORE)

Rangers at Lewis-McChord have new boss - Lt. Col. David M. Hodne assumed command of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Col. Mark W. Odom during a ceremony Friday. (READ MORE)

Friends say man who shot Hillsboro cop fought mental issues after serving in Iraq - Two men who served in Iraq with Sepp Dietrich Tokanaga, the man accused of shooting a Hillsboro police officer last week, say they saw their friend's mental condition deteriorate after returning from a one-year deployment overseas. (READ MORE)




News from the Front:
Iraq:

In Life as in Soccer – I Hope the Grays Win - I was at the house of an old friend last week. As is often the case in Baghdad these days, we were chatting about the long-delayed formation of a new Iraqi government. Her husband interrupted us. (READ MORE)

Proud, Painful Art on Baghdad’s Blast Walls - Baghdad’s blast walls are a blank canvas. They reflect Iraqis’ shared history — both proud and painful facts of life here in the capital. (READ MORE)

Over Here, Underemployed, Overqualified - With millions of Americans out of work or underemployed themselves, it is no surprise that resettlement organizations in the United States are facing a problem placing Iraqi refugees in jobs. (READ MORE)

Clergy voice frustrations over country's political drift - With parliament to be seated on Monday, clerics demanded a better performance from their politicians, whose records have been checkered at best. (READ MORE)

At least 24 killed as gunmen storm Iraq's Central Bank - Armed men wearing police-commando uniforms briefly overran Iraq's Central Bank on Sunday, killing at least 24 people in a brazen daylight assault and sowing panic and confusion in the heart of Baghdad's busiest commercial district. (READ MORE)

Bank Raid and Battle Paralyze Baghdad - Attackers wearing military uniforms tried to storm the Central Bank of Iraq on Sunday, setting off explosions and engaging in gun battles with the police and soldiers that lasted hours during the afternoon rush and paralyzed parts of the capital. (READ MORE)

Armed men carry out coordinated bombings outside Iraq's Central Bank - The day before Iraq's new parliament was to convene, armed men, some said to be wearing Iraqi army uniforms, carried out coordinated bombings around Iraq's Central Bank in what officials said may have been an attempt to gain access to its vaults. (READ MORE)

At Least 12 Killed in Iraq Central Bank Attack - Gunmen have attacked Iraq's Central Bank in Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding more than 20 others. Government officials say the attackers detonated at least six bombs Sunday during an apparent effort to rob the bank. (READ MORE)

Vital River Is Withering, and Iraq Has No Answer - The Shatt al Arab, the river that flows from the biblical site of the Garden of Eden to the Persian Gulf, has turned into an environmental and economic disaster that Iraq’s newly democratic government is almost powerless to fix. (READ MORE)

New Iraqi Parliament Holds Brief Symbolic Session - Iraq's new parliament convened for just under 20 minutes Monday in what was little more than a symbolic inaugural session because of unresolved differences over key government positions -- a precarious political limbo three months after inconclusive elections. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Regional Command Southwest Stands Up - ISAF's new Regional Command Southwest took command of international forces in southwestern Afghanistan today. (READ MORE)

Afghan, International Force Clears Haqqani Stronghold - ISAF has confirmed a Haqqani network commander, Fazil Subhan, known to facilitate foreign fighters, was killed along with multiple insurgents by Afghan and international forces in a two-day offensive in Khost province last week. (READ MORE)

U.S. 101st Airborne Begins Command in Eastern Afghanistan - The U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division assumed command of ISAF’s Regional Command-East during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Airfield today. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, June 14 - A joint Afghan-international force detained several suspected insurgents in Kunduz province last night while searching for a facilitator responsible for planning and coordinating attacks against Afghan and international forces. (READ MORE)

Afghan Women Take Part in Journalism Workshop in Herat - A one-week workshop entitled “Women and Journalism in Afghanistan” was held in Herat province last week. (READ MORE)

18 Afghan Police Killed In Insurgent Attacks - Taliban insurgents killed 18 policemen in a series of attacks across Afghanistan in recent days, the interior ministry said on Monday. (READ MORE)

United Nations Could Hasten Removal of Taliban Leaders From Terror Blacklist - The United Nations is speeding up efforts that could lead to the removal of Taliban leaders from an international terrorist blacklist, the top United Nations official here said Saturday. (READ MORE)

U.S. Intelligence Puts New Focus on Afghan Graft - The military’s intelligence network in Afghanistan, designed for identifying and tracking terrorists and insurgents, is increasingly focused on uncovering corruption that is rampant across Afghanistan’s government, security forces and contractors, according to senior American officials. (READ MORE)

Ahmed Wali Karzai, an ally and obstacle to the U.S. military in Afghanistan - On March 8, at NATO headquarters in Kabul, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal presided over a classified briefing that some military officials hoped would lead to the ouster of Ahmed Wali Karzai… (READ MORE)

Ramping Up Security Is a 'Go' for Kandahar - President Hamid Karzai gave the go-ahead to a major security crackdown in the Taliban birthplace of Kandahar, assuring residents the operation was aimed at battling corruption and bad government as much as insurgents. (READ MORE)

Afghan President Appeals for Support in Southern Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appealed to hundreds of tribal and religious leaders in Kandahar to support a major military operation in their southern province to bolster security in the Taliban stronghold. (READ MORE)

In Visit to Kandahar, Karzai Outlines Anti-Taliban Plan - President Hamid Karzai flew to this restive city on Sunday and told a gathering of local leaders to prepare themselves for sustained operations to rid the area of Taliban insurgents — and for the pain those operations would exact. (READ MORE)

U.S. adopts reintegration strategy to subdue Afghan insurgency - They had spent up to two years in U.S. detention, and now freedom was theirs for the price of a thumbprint. Seven Afghan men, each accused of ties to insurgents, would be allowed to simply walk away if they would pledge before their village elders -- and on pieces of parchment prepared for the occasion -- that they would stay out of trouble. (READ MORE)

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan - The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. (READ MORE)

Pakistani agents 'fund and train Taleban' - PAKISTANI military intelligence not only funds and trains Taleban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement's leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations, a report says. (READ MORE)

Service medal for ‘lucky’ soldier partially blinded in Afghanistan - Insurgent rockets fired at Canadian soldiers over the walls at Kandahar Airfield are often poorly wired or wildly off target. But there have been casualties. (READ MORE)

British top brass sacked in Afghan strategy rethink - Britain's most senior military officer will leave his post as the new government tries to turn around what it sees as a failed strategy in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Karzai backs NATO plan to control Kandahar - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has come out strongly in favour of the NATO campaign to defeat the Taliban in Kandahar, the city where the militant movement began. (READ MORE)

‘Completely out of the blue’: Canadian commander back in charge in Afghanistan - Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance had just set out from Ottawa heading to Kingston, Ont., two weeks ago to speak with some soldiers who were heading to Afghanistan this fall when his cellphone rang. (READ MORE)

Dark truth behind Afghan conflict - Three slightly bewildered men stood beside a pickup truck loaded down with carpets, a plain white flag protruding from its front fender. One of them reached for a tin of snuff while the others kept their hands in their pockets as the camera panned shakily around the scene. (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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