June 15, 2010

From the Front: 06/15/2010

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

A Handful of Dust:
ISI: Friend And Foe? - The big report released over the weekend, and picked up by dozens of news outlets, was the report issued by Matt Waldman of the London School of Economics Development Studies Institute titled “The Sun in the Sky.” The report’s main contention was that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, was double dealing with respect to NATO and the Taliban. While publicly supporting NATO efforts to undermine the Afghan Taliban, Waldman contends that the ISI’s official policy is to maintain ties with the Afghan Taliban to hedge their bets with regard to the future Afghan government. He makes several startling claims. One, that the ISI observes and/or even participates in Taliban shuras in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Another, that Pakistani President Zardari visited high-ranking Taliban prisoners at a secret prison and promised some their release and support for their operations. There are other bombshells within the report, certainly making it worth a read. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: They're Back - Advon came back last night. Jonny would have been advon. I should be sitting on my porch with him this very moment. Or doing other activities, but either way with him. But I'm not. I took it pretty hard. Luckily last night I had friends here with me to occupy me and keep me company. But this morning when everyone had gone home, I was left with myself, my thoughts, and that sinking feeling in my stomach. I could barely function. When the baby napped I just laid there. More and more reality. Reality, frankly, fucking blows. Excuse my language but there's no other description, and that doesn't even begin to touch on it. I see people's happy "He's homes!" and post-deployment pictures, and while I know I should feel happy for them, I just can't. I want my "He's home!" I want a happy picture of me and my two babies. I want my family whole. I want my heart whole. Want, want, want. Can't, can't, can't. So what do I do now? (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Training a Kandak - A few days ago I tagged along on a media "engagement" to catch some of a Kandak Validation/Assessment. What the hell am I talking about, you ask? Good question. A kandak, as loyal readers of Afghanidan may recall, is an Afghan battalion-sized unit...and a validation/assessment is a necessary step each one must pass, prior to being deployed in operations. So the kandak is evaluated on its performance in the areas of command & control, training, sustenance, equipment, and personnel...whether it even has soldiers in key positions, for example. To draw back the lens a bit, this critical series of tests lets the Afghan National Army (ANA) leadership and the Coalition know whether a not a kandak is 'fit for duty', something NATO Training Mission Afghanistan is called upon to do. The teams conducting evaluations are often U.S.-based, but can be Canadian, German, Spanish, French, Romanian, Hungarian, or -- coming soon -- Slovenian. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lebovich: Daily brief: experts raise doubts about Afghan minerals - Afghan and American officials remained optimistic about the potential for Afghanistan's newly-publicized mineral wealth to turn the country's fortunes around, with a Pentagon official saying that the estimated $1 trillion in untapped resources could give Afghanistan "economically sovereign capability to finance its own human and security needs". Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai alluded to the value of minerals and other materials in Afghanistan ranging between $1 and $3 trillion. Other experts sounded more cautionary notes about Afghanistan's potential as a mining hotspot, pointing out an active insurgency, corruption, untested resource laws, lack of infrastructure or mining culture, and the fact that much of the minerals, including potentially massive stores of lithium, are in Taliban-dominated areas of the country. (READ MORE)

AfPak Channel: AfPak Behind the Lines: Taliban reconciliation - President Karzai's reconciliation plan has not been spelled out in detail yet. A draft of what had been called "Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program" had been presented to the donor countries at the London conference in January this year -- but not to the peace jirga delegates -- and got the green light. Interestingly, the word "reconciliation" -- which is a code for "talks with the Taliban" -- already had been dropped there. This indirectly reflects that there is incongruence between Karzai and the U.S. government about how to deal with the Taliban. Karzai probably wants to talk to the Taliban leadership, directly and rather soon -- at least, this is what some of his Afghan critics believe. They fear that major achievements of the post-Taliban period, mainly rights and freedoms, might be thrown overboard if a hasty deal is made between the two sides. (READ MORE)

Army Household6: Moving on … - There have been some changes in the Munson household lately — of course SGT Daddy coming home has been the most important. We are all doing very well. It has been a very easy transition for us , thank goodness. I’ve alluded to the BIG announcement on Facebook and Twitter so if you follow me over there you know what I’m about to say. Several months ago, SGT Daddy decided to NOT re-enlist to continue his career in the Army. Today, he officially started with ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program) as part of our transition out of the army. Yes by the end of the year, we will no longer be an Army family. The BIG Announcement is that as of today I will not be continuing with my ArmyHousehold6 blog. (boy this was hard to write ) It is with a heavy heart that I no longer will be blogging here at ArmyHousehold6.com. This blog has been a MAJOR part of my life for the last 5.5 years. (READ MORE)

Army Live: The Oath of Enlistment - Today in the Pentagon Courtyard, I watched as a group of 20 Soldiers raised their right hands and repeated those memorable words they once said years ago as a young private. “I (name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States…..” As the Army celebrated its 235th birthday today, not only was there a band and a cake the size of Texas , there was also a group of dedicated Soldiers who shared this historical day by taking their Army Oath of Re-enlistment. These Soldiers – many who have experienced multiple deployments – chose to give another four years of service to the world’s greatest Army. “This day is something I can tell my kids about – that I got to re-enlist at the Pentagon on the Army’s 235th birthday,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rodney T. Rieger, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 88th Brigade Support Battalion of Fort Polk, La. “It’s history – it’s a truly memorable event.” (READ MORE)

Chandler's Watch: Catch & Release: A Different Point of View - To the thousands of Michael Behenna supporters: The New York Times recently reported (see link below) that the US military has initiated a policy to “reintegrate” imprisoned Taliban fighters to their Afghan communities. These Taliban fighters were caught with evidence that they had killed our soldiers, but are released to their families in an active war zone with merely a ‘pledge’ that they will not return to the Taliban. This appears to be the latest attempt to win the hearts and minds of our enemies and taking the ‘catch and release policy’ to a whole new level. This brings us to Michael’s case. Michael has been incarcerated by the Army for over a year now. We have asked at every level that Michael’s constitutional right to a fair trial be granted so that all the evidence is disclosed to the jury. Doesn’t seem too much to ask for an American citizen who fought for his country does it? Yet Michael’s request for a new trial has been stranded. (READ MORE)

UK Forces Media Team: CAPTAIN JO GORDON – APACHE ATTACK HELICOPTER PILOT IN AFGHANISTAN - Twenty one years ago, Jo Gordon joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps as a Private. After training to be a Chef, Jo transferred to the Army Catering Corps and travelled the world. As part of her duties, Jo (then a Corporal) was posted to be a chef with the Army Air Corps in Germany and it was during a deployment to the Balkans that she realised that she wanted to fly helicopters herself. Despite her humble beginnings as a chef, Jo has recently turned thirty nine and she has just completed her second four month tour in Afghanistan flying the potent Apache AH Mk 1 helicopter. Jo is very keen to highlight the opportunities available to females in the Army Air Corps and the wider Armed Forces. In particular, Jo singles out the uniqueness of the diverse rank range flying Army helicopters, starting at Sergeant through to commissioned junior officer. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Survivor Shares Story to Help Others - I spoke with an amazing woman the other day who lived through a tragic event, yet found the strength to move on to help others. Kim Ruocco’s husband, Marine Corps Maj. John Ruocco, an accomplished AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot and father of two, committed suicide five years ago after a long battle with depression. Yearning to give her husband’s death some meaning, Kim eventually immersed herself in efforts to combat suicide within the military. She’s now the director of suicide education and support for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families with a fallen military loved one. Kim has shared her story with thousands of troops across the nation, working to fight the stigma that kept her husband from seeking help. “I’ve talked to thousands and thousands of troops and I really get the sense [military] leaders want to find out how to fix this,” she said. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Parliament Opens - There is good news and bad news today. The parliament opened today with its new lawmakers. The bad news is they did nothing. The politicians paraded into the hall in their best clothes. They came in western style suits and in traditional Kurdish sherwals. The women came in Arab abayas and sparkling Kurdish dresses. There were religious men in turbans and women in western clothes. There were smiles and handshakes and even hugs. The atmosphere was festive and unusally calm. The elder statesman Fuad Masoum opened the parliamentary session. The lawmakers stood and took their oath promising to work for the country. And they left without scheduling the next session. The word here is the politicians have no shame. "They're a bunch of thieves," one guy said. "What do you expect?" Another co-worker said, "They have no honour." The people have almost no electricity and no water and no jobs. All they can do is wait and hope the politicians they voted for will actually earn their salaries. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: records office - Late in her life, in addition to hiking the Great Smokey Mountains and the Grand Canyon, my grandmother wrote a book of our family’s history so that we might know ourselves. She sent her youngest son to hot, humid, earthquake and typhoon-prone Taiwan to find and copy decades old documents from when she and her husband fled from the mainland with some of their young children and ultimately set up a school. The details are fuzzy to me because I was quite young, but I recall at some family dinner my uncle recounting how he found the records office and as he turned pages they would crumble into dust in his hand. His heart was in his throat because he was destroying someone else’s history, irreversibly and leaving no trail. When he came on the document he was searching for, he was overcome by the realization that those words were written by his father’s own hand, now dead for a decade. (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: Reasons why Afstan is still a good war - First, from Adrian: These Are The Barbarians We’re Losing The War Against. Now video: Terry Glavin, of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee and just returned from another trip to Afstan, on CTV News Channel yesterday: Violence against children in Afghanistan - More from Mr Glavin about his visit at his blog: 1) The Kind And Splendid Country You Never Got To Know. BALKH, AFGHANISTAN – Sher Khan, 7, is the serious-looking fellow, second from the left. In the crumbling remains of what was a grand school long ago, Sher Khan took me into his care and served as my guide, with instructions and gestures I couldn’t comprehend. The other kids were tending a flock of goats nearby and joined in. Nowadays, Balkh is a sleepy village of farmers, shepherds and orchardists. Merchants move their wares by donkey cart down lanes that wind through groves of pistachio and apple and cherry orchards. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: GPS for Your Wrist — Garmin Foretrex - Got a note from a reader on our Kit Up! tip linesuggesting we discuss the benefits of the Garmin Foretrex wrist-mounted GPS. I will say that I saw these things on the wrists of several small unit commanders and NCOs over in Afghanistan and I can surely understand their utility. As our reader says: Got turned on to the [Foretrex] GPS last year (by a couple JTACs) before I deployed to Iraq…took the wrist clip connector off of it and put it in a standard MIL ID card holder…fits perfect… wear it on my arm… and the GPS is easy to use and takes up little to no space. Our JTAC in Paktika, ‘Square,’ wore one and I’ve seen other platoon and company-level leaders wearing them as well. I’ve never actually used one myself, so I have no first hand knowledge of their ins and outs, but I will say the system makes sense to me. Other, more sophisticated models have internal maps and other whistles and bells. But seems to me the Foretrex has the KISS method down pat. (READ MORE)

Neptunus Lex: KABOOM - Wordsworth wrote that poetry was “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Since he left the army, Gallagher has had the opportunity to develop an mellowing emotional distance from the events that he witnessed in Saba al-Bor and elsewhere in Iraq, while preserving the gritty reality of the “the suck.” Kaboom opens with a bit of slash poetry, as Gallagher’s Gravedigger platoon find themselves attending to the mess left behind when a local sheik’s car blew up with him inside it, a targeted assassination in the ethnically divided town his troops labeled “Paradise.” In February 2008, in Gallagher’s Iraq, the war was chiefly a nasty little campaign between fiercely divided parties, with coalition forces attempting to implement a cease fire between Sunni and Shia, Sons of Iraq and Iraqi Police, Baathist nationalists and Jaish al-Mahdi end timers, street thugs and mafiosi, the battle lines constantly blurring. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Keep the 5.56mm Round! Go Back to 7.62mm Round! - An interesting and compelling debate is sparking back up as the Army is intensively looking at a replacement for the M4 and the other services eyeball what America’s biggest military branch is going to do. A robust argument was made at the Small Arms Symposium last month from European experts who debated whether NATO and the US should make a clean break from the 5.56 or adopt a whole new caliber/stick with 7.62. According to briefing Per Arvidsson, chairman of the NATO Weapons and Sensors Working Group, the 5.56 is the best solution when balanced against weight, accuracy, stopping power and range of other calibers. Arvidsson argues (as the Army has) that true lethality is a function of marksmanship more than it is caliber. He explained that new weapon sights and training that emphasizes targeting from the head down the center-mass to the groin will kill every time… (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: $1 trillion USD of.......oh, screw it. - ISAF military operations, corruption in the government, strategic planning by the Obama administration, the weaknesses of current counter-insurgency theory, and all sorts of other Afghanistan-centered topics generate a predictable response in the blogosphere. Often the commentary is juvenile, hyperbolic or just plain wrong, but generally it barely rises beyond the level of nitpicking among COIN specialists or partisan hackery. There's often an undertone of negativity and defeatism, as the old saying about "bad news selling more papers" applies just as accurately to blog traffic, but no single article usually creates quite the firestorm that seems to have ignited over this article in the NY Times. Maybe it's the overwhelming eminence of The Grey Lady, or perhaps their oft-perceived liberal bias or maybe simply the fact that the headline seemed custom-made to demand investigation and counter-point. (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: Four Lions - We all know that the Taliban, even the rank-and-file gun bunnies, can be tough, resourceful, and wicked hard to stop. And this is generally thought to be the case for Islamic jihadists in general, at least as far as the Western security organizations and international media are concerned. However, it is worth remembering that most of the malcontents and scumbags drawn to that self-destructive and self-defeating lifestyle are, well, just that.......malcontents and scumbags. And usually not very bright ones at that. Evidence for that can be found in many of the laughably inept attempts to deliver "Islamic justice" to the so-called Western oppressors. Sure, there have been successful attacks like 9-11, the London and Madrid bombings and the attack on the USS Cole. But there have also been some abject failures, distinguished only by their pathetic planning and bungled execution. Just think of the original shoe bomber, his spiritual successor or the-carbomb-that-wasn't in Times Square. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US, Afghan forces kill Haqqani Network commander during raid in Khost - Coalition and Afghan forces killed a Haqqani Network commander who is known to help al Qaeda fighters enter Afghanistan and carry out attacks in the region. The commander, Fazil Subhan, was killed along with an undisclosed number of Haqqani Network fighters last week during a two-day-long military operation in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release. Subhan was "known to facilitate foreign fighters" in eastern Afghanistan. ISAF often uses the term "foreign fighters" to describe al Qaeda operatives. Subhan and his fighters were holed up "in fortified fighting positions in an area known for ambush attacks against international troops, southwest of Kowte Kheyl in the Shamul district" when the battle took place. An ammunition and weapons depot was also destroyed during the clearing operation. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: At Home on the Ranges - It was the perfect day for little target practice: Overcast skies, somewhat cool, gnats but no mosquitoes. My unit hit the firing ranges early to conduct our annual individual weapons qualification (I.W.Q.). We're now firing brand-spanking new M-4 carbines, shorter cousins of the long-familiar M-16. They're so new--less than 500 rounds fired in each--that you're not supposed to bore-brush them when cleaning. We joke that they should come with round-counters or rifle-odometers, so that we can keep track of our mileage. When I was a younger soldier, we had rifle slings that were good only for carrying our weapons on our shoulders. (We weren't allowed to use them much, if ever.) Now, we have "combat slings," which carry our weapons to the side and the front. They're quite the contraptions, but they work. We carry our weapons everywhere, even on the Forward Operating Bases ("FOBs"), back in the rear. A good sling frees up a couple of hands. (READ MORE)

The Sandbox: ONE DAY AT A TIME - I walked into the chow hall and could not help but notice that it was festooned with American flags, streamers (red, white, and blue), and other pieces of celebration. I asked one of my colleagues, with whom I was eating, what the occasion was. He informed me, with some surprise, that it was Memorial Day. Three days before, there'd been a massive TIC (Troops in Contact, a firefight) that consumed the Battalion. Elements from almost every Company were involved. It lasted 18 hours. None of our guys got scratched, somehow, though a couple vehicles got shot up. Sometime around two in the morning, the Battle Captain, 1LT F, walked in to my room and said: "Sir, I'm at tracer burnout." He looked it, too. I knew how he felt. I felt the same way. The next day, sometime in the evening, I walked into the Battalion TOC at the same time as 1LT F. I asked him how things were going, and he said, "Better than yesterday. You know?" (READ MORE)

Robert Spencer: Pakistan Continues Support for the Taliban - “Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude in Afghanistan” – so says a new report from the London School of Economics, which documents how Pakistani military intelligence is not only aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, but is actually represented in the Taliban’s governing apparatus. This is the same Pakistani government that receives billions from the United States in order to fight against the Taliban. The Senate voted last fall to triple the amount of non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion annually -- money that was supposed to go to build democracy and aid anti-terror efforts. “We should make clear to the people of Pakistan,” said a na├»ve and befuddled Sen. Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.), “that our interests are focused on democracy, pluralism, stability, and the fight against terrorism.” The people of Pakistan undoubtedly know that, but it is not so clear that they’re actually on our side. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: A higher place - For the proud men and women of the United States Air Force, June 9, 2010, will be remembered as a day of indescribable tragedy. Four airmen died when their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed during a medical evacuation operation in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Shortly after the attack, which also injured three airmen, the Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting down the chopper. By firing on a rescue team focused on caring for the wounded, the enemy has continued its track record of wanton brutality and battlefield cowardice. After the deadliest day of battle for the Air Force in more than five years, the four fallen airmen returned home on Friday in flag-draped caskets at Delaware's Dover Air Force base. The departed heroes leave behind loving families in four different states. Staff Sgt. Michael Flores, 31, San Antonio, Texas - 1st Lt. Joel Gentz, 25, Grass Lake, Michigan - Staff Sgt. David Smith, 26, Eight Mile, Alabama - Senior Airman Benjamin White, 24, Erwin, Tennessee. (READ MORE)

Katie Drummond: No, the U.S. Didn’t Just ‘Discover’ a $1T Afghan Motherlode (Updated) - Despite what you may read this morning, the U.S. military did not just “discover” a trillion dollars’ worth of precious minerals in Afghanistan. The New York Times today proclaimed that Afghanistan is apparently poised to become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” — a metal used to produce gadgets like iPods and laptops. The discovery will also, according to Pentagon documents quoted by the Times, fundamentally transform the country’s opium-reliant economy. But the military (and observers of the military) have known about Afghanistan’s mineral riches for years. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Navy concluded in a 2007 report that “Afghanistan has significant amounts of undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources,” including ”large quantities of accessible iron and copper [and] abundant deposits of colored stones and gemstones, including emerald, ruby [and] sapphire.” (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Gobar Gas II - Among the more interesting coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan are the legendary Nepalese Gurkhas. Trained and fielded by the British, as they have been since colonial days, Gurkhas are a fascinating admixture: today many are British soldiers used to traveling the world. Many of them grew up barefoot and poor in remote and primitive mountain villages in the high Himalayas: places that closely resemble parts of Afghanistan, geographically and culturally. They understand impoverished life in a harsh environment personally, though Nepal has enjoyed some material progress in the last few decades. That combination of background and experience makes Gurkhas helpful at generating useful approaches to Afghan development. They know what is possible, and they’ve seen experiments succeed or fail. A Gurkha veteran named Lalit whom I met, deep in the jungles of Borneo, at a British Army man-tracking school, came with good ideas. (READ MORE)

Neptunus Lex: On the Wisdom of Timelines - Back when Afghanistan was seen as “the good war,” George W. Bush was much excoriated in the press and by his political adversaries because he failed to draft a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, the former president preferred to double down on the Surge and then await the positive alignment of facts on the ground. His theory was that a date certain only bolstered the worst forces in Iraq, who knew exactly how long they would have to withstand coalition pressure, while demoralizing those who might be counted upon to team with us for a just peace. After Iraq’s bloodlust had largely abated, his successor learned half the lesson and surged forces to Afghanistan. But he attached a date certain for the withdrawal of those forces, and now the military is living – and dying – with the consequences, according to Jackson Diehl from the Washington Post: In Kandahar, the U.S. command may be suffering from a failure of nerve. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: Michael Yon - The end game - There was a time when Yon was a respected voice writing about the war, but he has long since let his ego and his inability to play well with others destroy that. He has a long track record of getting into beefs and then writing scathing "dispatches" about the folks who are screwing up his war. This record is longer than many know and the first time I heard about Yon, it wasn't by name it was by bad reputation. When you graduate the Special Forces course there is a dinner where you are given your Girl Scout hat and sing the Ballad of the Green Berets. Before that dinner our Sr. Instructor pulled all the brand new weapons sergeants aside and told us not to get big heads and start acting like cowboys because back a few years when they still let you join SF right off the street some young punk got his beret and went off and got in a bar fight and punched some guy who hit his head on the ground and died. (READ MORE)

Bill: Apropos of Not Much - ...it occurred to me that I’ve been remiss in minimally-addressing one subject pretty much any other Person of Deployment has yakked about to the collective ooohs-and-aaahs of the folks back home. Critters. [UPDATE: at Jtg's behest, the poikilothermic ectotherms. You know -- critters.] I mentioned the little, bitty desert foxes back in 2008 -- they still dance around after dark, and *someone* dug a den under my hootch last winter. FYI, fox kits squeak like mice until they’re about three weeks old. And there’s a pair of jackals that commute between the FOB and the suburbs outside the gate -- they first introduced themselves by ghosting past me at o’-dark-thirty and startling the bedoodlewhoopies out of me while I was enjoying a dust-free breeze. Now, I could follow the lead of some of the more sensationalist milbloggers and expound on the size, speed, and ferocity of the ubiquitous and iniquitous camel spider, but I’d be lying. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Air Force MIAS from Vietnam War are Identified - The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of four U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors. (READ MORE)

2 in Custody at Florida Air Force Base - A man and a woman were taken into custody Monday evening after they tried to gain unauthorized access to MacDill Air Force Base outside Tampa, Fla., and weapons were found in their vehicle, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Judge releases Hutchins while Navy appeals - A Camp Pendleton Marine convicted in a major Iraqi war crimes case was released Monday and will remain free while his case is being reviewed after a military appeals court ruled he had an unfair trial. (READ MORE)

Petraeus, dehydrated, leaves hearing briefly - Gen. David Petraeus slumped over Tuesday morning during a Senate hearing, but revived after a few seconds and left the room under his own power. After about 20 minutes he returned to the hearing room. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi Forces Capture Suspect, Find Weapons Cache - Soldiers of the 40th Iraqi Army Brigade and 5th Tactical Swat Unit from Nasiriyah conducted a successful operation to capture a warranted suspect recently, underscoring the increased planning and operational capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

3rd BSTB Soldiers Support Umm Qasr Hospital - The 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Soldiers and Iraqi Advisor Task Force conducted their bi-monthly visit to the Umm Qasr Hospital recently. (READ MORE)

America leaves Iraq a toxic legacy of dumped hazardous materials - American troops going home from Iraq after seven painful years are leaving behind a legacy that is literally toxic. (READ MORE)

Iraq's new parliament convenes but defers on appointing leaders - As Iraq's new parliament convened more than three months after the national elections, the falafel vendor just outside the towering walls of the Green Zone remained resolutely unimpressed. (READ MORE)

Iraq's New Parliament Convenes - Iraq's parliament convened on Monday for the first time since a March election, cloaked by heavy security a day after gunmen and suicide bombers raided the central bank in a sign of continued lawlessness and instability. (READ MORE)

Iraqi parliament convenes, but no sign of a government - A new parliament has convened in Iraq, more than three months after inconclusive elections. But there is no sign yet of a new government being formed. (READ MORE)

Anger With Political Class Grows Among Iraqi Public - Even as Iraq’s Parliament convened Monday, three long months of court challenges, recounts and disqualifications after it was elected, Saif Ali, a shopkeeper, was venting his anger at Iraqi politicians. (READ MORE)

Afghan Media Criticize Security Officials’ Resignations - The recent resignations of Afghanistan’s interior minister and intelligence chief have been covered extensively in the Afghan papers. (READ MORE)

Canada to leave Kandahar city - The influx of thousands of fresh U.S. troops into Kandahar is prompting a major reorganization of NATO’s southern command in Afghanistan this summer, The Canadian Press has learned. (READ MORE)

Afghan-led Combat Engineer Course Begins in Northern Afghanistan - Afghan national army soldiers began an eight-week Afghan-led combat engineer training course at Camp Shaheen in northern Afghanistan recently. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, June 15 - An Afghan-international force killed several armed insurgents in Kapisa province while pursuing a Taliban commander last night. (READ MORE)

ANA Receives More Than $3 Million Donation - The Turkish armed forces donated more than $3 million (U.S.) in weapons and equipment to the Afghan National Army during a ceremony at Camp Dogan yesterday. (READ MORE)

Afghan District Official Among 3 Killed in South - A district official, his son and a guard have been killed by a remote-controlled car bomb in a dangerous district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province. (READ MORE)

New Regional Command Stands Up in Afghanistan - A new regional command took charge of international forces in southwestern Afghanistan today, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Rural Outreach to Afghans Snags on Technology And Fear - Mortally wounded after setting off an improvised bomb, the boy might have survived. But rather than use the hotline provided them by Canadian troops, fellow villagers carried him out for treatment. (READ MORE)

NATO Struggles to Train Afghan Army, But Officials Cite Progress - The sound of gunfire and yelling punctures the air as Afghan soldiers run through a recent exercise at the Kabul military training center. Firing blanks from their rifles, they advance on an identified enemy position as their NATO trainers watch. (READ MORE)

Can Afghanistan tap its $1-trillion mineral wealth? - A new Pentagon assessment released Monday says Afghanistan may hold a trillion dollars in mineral wealth, but the report ran into skepticism from miners and even other U.S. government officials. (READ MORE)

Concern on Capitol Hill about Afghanistan war grows - A series of political and military setbacks in Afghanistan has fed anxiety over the war effort in the past few weeks, shaking supporters of President Obama's counterinsurgency strategy and confirming the pessimism of those who had doubts about it from the start. (READ MORE)

Setbacks Cloud U.S. Plans to Get Out of Afghanistan - Six months after President Obama decided to send more forces to Afghanistan, the halting progress in the war has crystallized longstanding tensions within the government over the viability of his plan to turn around the country and begin pulling out by July 2011. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Denies Allegations Of Afghanistan Meddling - Pakistan's military and political establishment on Monday angrily denied a report that alleges enduring ties to the Afghan Taliban and that America's ally was playing a double-game. (READ MORE)

Twelve Afghan Police Killed In Insurgent Attacks - Twelve Afghan police officers have been reported killed in attacks by suspected Taliban militants in the south and east of the country. (READ MORE)

Afghan housing project without water supply - The Immigration Department says it is working to fix a number of problems with a Government-funded housing development in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban strike Nato convoy near Islamabad, kill 8 - In a brazen assault, suspected Taliban gunmen attacked trucks carrying supplies for Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan and killed eight people near Islamabad, police said on Wednesday. (READ MORE)

10 Taliban insurgents killed as Pak jets bombard Orakzai - At least 10 Taliban insurgents were killed and six other injured when Pakistani fighter jets bombarded militant hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)'s Orakzai Agency. (READ MORE)

Britain must prepare for casualty spike in Afghanistan, Cameron warns - David Cameron warned yesterday that there would be more British deaths in Afghanistan this summer but said that the threat to Britain of an al-Qaeda attack from the region had dropped. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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