June 21, 2010

From the Front: 06/21/2010

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

Dispatches:
A Handful of Dust:
When Humvees Still Aren’t Big Enough - The Army has come a long way since the jeep. That most venerable of army vehicles has seen many iterations since its humble, rugged origins in WWII, the most recent being the humvee and now the even more monstrous MRAP and its variants. The Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle was born from the need for vehicles that could better survive the growing threat of Improvised Explosive Devices. Here in Afghanistan, we’ve begun receiving our own versions of the MRAP, the M-ATV. Since the MRAP is a hulking monstrosity with a very high center of gravity, it’s not exactly an ideal fit for rugged terrain or the cramped city streets of Afghanistan. The M-ATV is its smaller, slightly less gigantic cousin that is meant to be more geared towards off-road than the MRAP which was designed with flat Iraq in mind. Having worked with the new M-ATVs I can say they have some distinct advantages as well as some drawbacks. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Answer To A Comment On “RC South” - One of the comments on the last post, “RC South,” brought me to realize that the ASCOPE/PMESII crosswalk needs some explanation. Here is the comment: "Not that it matters much, but your Brit Brigadier’s approach, the ASCOPE/PMESII matrix, is based on futures research methods. The model is called Cross-Impact Analysis or Event-Impact Matrix Analysis. It is used to figure out what programs one needs to get from an unfortunate present to a desired future. It does fit the nature of the task in your world, doesnt it?" The ASCOPE/PMESII crosswalk is a combination of two sets of information that are found in the FM 3-24. The manual doesn’t link them per se, but alludes to the linkage. What the Counterinsurgency Training Center – Afghanistan has done is create a crosswalk so that critical elements of information are not ignored when gathering information about the specific area of operations (AO). What this does is spur a commander to learn about the AO in-depth. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lubin: Patrol Base McElhinney # 1 - If the fight in the Marjah AO is to be successful, it will be due to the Marine effort on bases like this one - Patrol Base McElhinney.1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Bn, 6th Marines calls in their personnel report every morning: “44 Marines, 3 Navy corpsmen, 2 ‘terps, 1 journalist, a dog handler, and 31 ANA.” It’s a different fight today than the big kinetic push into Marjah back in February, but the success or failure of the 79 Marines and ANA on little outposts like this one is what will ultimately enable the Marines and the Administration to move into the ‘transition’ phase and declare the war effort to be successful. “We’ve been fortunate,” said 1st Lieutenant Carl Quist, the 1st Platoon commander, “in our four months in-country, we’ve only suffered five Marine wounded plus 1 terp, plus 3 ANA.” The base is named after LCPL Matt McElhinney, wounded in a complex Taliban attack that included machine guns. They were beaten back as McElhinney was evac’d under fire. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lubin: Patrol Base McElhinney # 2 - Bouhammer Note- The following is part of a series of dispatches (blog entries) from my good friend Andrew Lubin. Andrew’s site is http://andrewlubin.com/. Andy is currently embedded in Afghanistan with the Marines and has given Bouhammer.com permission to publish these entries. While superficially 1st Platoon’s mission of patrolling seems to be the same daily grind, 1st Lieutenant Carl Quist and SSGT Chris Whitman are pleased at how their relations with the locals are progressing. Every day builds on the one prior, Whitman explained, “every day of peace and stability makes the locals like us more and more.” The continuous patrols are paying off in a multitude of ways. “We’ve captured a lot of IED’s and IED-making equipment,” Quist said,” from 10 – 30/lb IED’s, plus fuses, plus pressure plates. We’re burning up their supplies and our patrolling makes it more difficult for them to re-supply.” The locals are friendly and getting friendlier, he continued. (READ MORE)

Huma Imtiaz: Illusions in Punjab - On the economic and security fronts, it is safe to say, Pakistan is going through a tough time. To say that the Taliban are a threat to the country's present and future status is oversimplifying the issue. Economically, Pakistan faces a severe deficit as the cost of the war in the country's northwest grows and development funds get slashed. Which is why it was rather startling to read a report that the government of Punjab province was handing over millions of rupees to madrassas run by the infamous Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba's charity wing. India accused JuD of carrying out the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, following which the United Nations added four LeT leaders to its consolidated list and imposed "an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo" on them. The Pakistani government then sealed the JuD offices as part of a series of moves to assure India that it was serious about cooperating with investigation into the Mumbai attacks. (READ MORE)

Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger RM.: Hope in Helmand - Having read Stephen Grey's take on the U.K.'s operation in Helmand, I feel compelled to offer an alternative perspective, one based on many months of both studying Helmand and operating within it, most recently as the Commander of British Forces last year. In short, Helmand is far from the disaster portrayed. I acknowledge its unenviable status as Afghanistan's most violent province, and the scale of challenges NATO troops have faced and continue to face there. But the notion that the British-led force has failed in its prosecution of the campaign since its arrival in 2006 is wrong and misleading. Genuine and lasting progress has been made in Helmand in the last four years; provincial and district governors are delivering on behalf of their people, the licit agricultural economy is developing strongly, and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers are working impressively alongside their Afghan counterparts to deliver the legitimate security that communities desire above all else. (READ MORE)

CAPT. JOSEPH HIMPELMANN: Changing the Rules - Looking every bit like a group of warriors who had been away from home for nearly 11 months, the soldiers at this small outpost in northern Iraq appeared weathered and worn. Their uniforms would never pass a garrison inspection with all their rips and tears, the telltale signs of a long tour. Yet the soldiers still demonstrated professionalism in going about their tasks. NYTBefore a recent patrol, noncommissioned officers lined up their young troopers to make sure they had water in their hydration packs, ammunition in their pouches, and the required safety equipment of eye protection and flame-resistant gloves. They talked about the route they would be driving and who their lieutenant would be meeting with in a small village. Finally, they briefed recent “SIGACTs,” short for “significant activity.” Included were reports of enemy activity in the area (none) and what to be on the lookout for (potential car bombs).Their brigade commander rallied the men to maintain a “laser-like focus.” (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: Back in the office and putting it in perspective - The journey is over. After six weeks in Afghanistan, three of which came in some of the most violent sections of Marjah, I’m back in the office at Military Times headquarters. The main focus today for me is pitching in on an in-depth print story about Gen. James Amos likely becoming the next commandant of the Marine Corps, while combing through notes and anecdotes collected in Afghanistan that I haven’t yet reported. Wearing a shirt and tie for the first time in nearly two months, I’m still struggling to put my trip in perspective, but I’m grateful for the experience. In fact, I’m already considering what my next war zone foray might be, because I’m now convinced that there is no substitute for embedding with military units to accurately capture the moods, hardships and successes that occur at the ground level. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that my reporting team encountered its adventures while out in the field with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. (READ MORE)

Citizen Soldier: I HOPE YOU MISSED ME - It has been a long time since I blogged last and I figured it is about time I did. I have been keeping a journal instead of being on here and I thought it was for safety reasons. Part of it was and part of it was the connection speed and the internet going off and on. I have been doing real well and the mission we were on was the best mission anyone could be on. We are doing a PSD( personal security detail) mission and I cannot say what we were doing or who we were doing it for until after I get home. I will share some of the fun stories without giving all the opsec away. I have been doing real good here and I am really glad that my family is doing well at home without me. It is amazing the support I have from my family and yes they miss me but they are also doing a fine job without me. My wife always wondered how she would be without me around and she did a great job. Let's share some of the things she accomplished so far while I am away. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: For the Sake of Killing - Once again Baghdad was the target for terrorist car bombs. This morning's attacks killed at least 18 and maybe as many as 27 people. The twin bombings injured at least 42 or 55, according to different reports. The first car bomb, which struck near Nisoor Square, was much louder than the second. The Nisoor traffic circle is sadly known as the site where Blackwater thugs killed unarmed Iraqi civilians a few years ago. It's hard to know what exactly the target was. The news reports say it was a trade bank. But other than two policemen who were killed, the rest were civilians. Some were bank customers, some were pedestrians on the sidewalk. Some reported that people were injured inside their own homes, which happened to be near the bombing. Friends and co-workers were worried sick about their families. a busy area, and office workers pass through it on their way to government jobs. There also is a passport office nearby. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Hell or Home? - The media tell me that I live in a miserable, hopeless place where everything is falling apart never to be repaired ever again. Iraqis are determined to kill each other, and those who aren't engaged in murder are in a mental hospital. "Even as a pullback of American troops marks a winding down of the war, more and more Iraqis are seeking medical treatment for trauma-induced mental illnesses, and the medical community is unable to keep up," WaPo reports. "Many people self-medicate, and prescription drug abuse is now the number one substance abuse problem in Iraq." Nobody is going to deny that there is a mental illness problem here. And nobody will defend the mental institutions. But reading the article one gets the impression that Iraqis were in fine shape until the 2003 invasion. Under the Baathists people suffered from mental illness just as they do in any other country. And as for self-medication? Ask anyone who lived under the Baathists, Valium was a staple in every household. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Oshkosh M-ATV Saves Lives - I know it’s a bit big for personal “kit” but I thought I’d pass along some news we got from our friends with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry with whom we spend nearly two weeks embedded in Afghanistan last month. You might have seen a story I filed from the field that ran on Military.com about how Army commanders aren’t letting Joes off the base in vehicles unless they’re in MRAPs or M-ATVs. I got some flack from Oshkosh and the normally silent Marine Corps Systems Command when I wrote that Soldiers think the M-ATV doesn’t give much more protection than an up-armored Humvee. Though I did say most Joes told me they’d prefer to ride in M-ATVs than MRAPs or Humvees. Can’t please everyone all the time...Well, the bottom line is I’m here to report M-ATVs save lives. And the vehicle saved the lives of some of our friends with 3-187. The battalion commander told us that the other day our friends with the battalion scouts (who are totally awesome) and some Joes from C Company got hit in three different IED attacks in one day. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: The Chaplain Picks Up The Letters, Part II - Yesterday, I wrote about the Boys and Girls Teen Center doing more good works by writing letters to soldiers in Afghanistan who never get any mail. Wielding pens, they wrote 20 cards --which to them was a novel experience since it involved neither a keyboard or cell phone! The update is that the staff at the Boys and Girls Club has picked up the email and circulated it around. The next good news comes from Fast Surgeon blogger himself, writing from Afghanistan: "Father Z just got back and is taking the letters to the soldiers that need them the most. He goes out to the smaller COPs that receive very little in the way of communication or any other niceties... I think the soldiers will really like these letters. Father Z will report back on how the letters were received. Thank all the kids. The soldiers really truly love seeing these things. They hang them up on the walls of tents and such." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda commander killed in US strike in North Waziristan - A US airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan killed an al Qaeda commander and a dozen members of the Islamic Jihad Group. Abu Ahmed was among 16 people killed in the US strike earlier today in the town of Inzarabad near Mir Ali, according to Geo News. Ahmed was an al Qaeda military commander who led fighters against NATO and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The majority of the 12 Islamic Jihad Group fighters killed are said to be from Turkey. In the four airstrikes against insurgents in North Waziristan that have taken place since June 10, the US has killed three mid-level al Qaeda military commanders. A June 10 strike in the town of Norak in North Waziristan killed Sheikh Ihsanullah, an "Arab al Qaeda military commander," and Ibrahim, the commander of the Fursan-i-Mohammed Group. A Turkish foreign fighter was also killed in the attack. (READ MORE)

Our Army Life: Deployment 2010: Wolfpack Prepares For Deployment To Afghanistan - Soldiers of Bravo Company, 1-168 Infantry Regiment, based out of Shenandoah, Iowa, have been hard at work at Camp Ripley, MN preparing for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan this fall. Over the past week, their two major training objectives involved training the soldiers of the Wolfpack on proper movement techniques while under direct fire from an enemy element. This critical combat skill prepares soldiers for one of the worst possible scenarios: facing withering fire from an enemy element at close range. But Captain Brandon Gray, of West Des Moines, Commander of the Wolfpack, is confident in his soldiers’ ability to tackle this challenge, saying, “This is a basic building block for our more complex training scenarios and gives our men confidence in their fellow soldiers and individual weapons systems.” (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: A Letter to Lena - Dear Lena: Today is Father's Day. You are 5-and-a-half years old. Rain is 3 years old. You are my best friends in the world. I love you both very much. I am writing from an Army camp. I work in a big tent with other soldiers and airmen. Some are men and some are women. You and Rain would like it here. There are always lots of airplanes and helicopters and trucks. Some airplanes flew over my head last night. It made me think of my dad. I hope you are thinking of me sometimes, too. This week, I saw Elam's dad at an Army store. I told him you said I had to give him a hug. He said that was very sweet. I hope you and Elam are friends for a long time. I will be home soon, but I have some sad news. In a month or two, the Army will send me to another country. The country is called Afghanistan. I am going because my soldier friends need my help. I will talk on a radio, and work on a computer. I will help keep my friends safe. (READ MORE)

Michael Hancock: Unconscionable Story - Ted Rall is really not a person who should be discussed on this blog, but I can’t let this story go unpunished. If you’ve read the tripe he calls Central Asian analysis in Silk Road to Ruin*, you probably already know what’s coming. I’m going to do my best to tear it limb from limb. Bear with me. I’ve already said that it’s probably premature to pull the G-work in regards to the violence in Osh. I think it is premature because I have a set definition of Genocide in my head, which may be incorrect. A Genocide (with or without the big-G) is a planned action by a figure/institution whose aim is the extermination of a population as defined by race/ethnicity/religion. If you want to tell me that Osh was just an exceptionally poorly planned genocide, then we can argue. I view “Ethnic Cleansing” as a troublesome phrase because it mixes what people think of Genocide with the idea of Nationalism and Racial Purity and Miscegenation, especially depending how closely you read the “Cleansing” element of the phrase. (READ MORE)

Christian Bleuer: Formula for Success in Afghanistan - The Washington Post is reporting that the US military and the State Department are all aflutter after the locals in Gizab – no, not that Gizab, the other one – thrashed the Taliban with just a tad of help from the good guys. Actually, I can’t call “us” that because the locals that whacked the Taliban have been dubbed the “Gizab Good Guys.” The G3 leader Lalay said “We had enough of their oppression. So we decided to fight back.” Some military person, who I’m sure would never exaggerate, called the event “perhaps the most important thing that has happened in southern Afghanistan this year.” And an unnamed State official said “We’re looking for the patterns. If we can find it, we’ll be on the verge of a breakthrough.” So… details? The Taliban apparently first moved here in 2007, and at the time the young guys were somewhat enthusiastic, as young men tend to be about various dangerous things. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: "Enlightenment, you know? All that beauty." - Ehsan opened his first school for Afghan refugees when he was 25 years old. He went on to open a network of schools in the Pakistani borderlands, in Helmand, Kunduz, and Chaman. In 2002, he decided to open a school here in Kandahar, the very heart of Taliban despotism, "because I thought there was an opportunity to serve." From that school, the ACCC blossomed. A few months before I met Ehsan, 250 women had graduated from the ACCC with certificates in business, English, computer skills, and other fields. Why does he risk his life for this? "I want to make a change," Ehsan said. "I value freedom. I value civilization. And I would like to have that. But for that I have to work. If I try and if a few more try, then our country, our own country, will be similarly at once free and beautiful and peaceful and modern and as civilized as any nation. (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: Taliban Step Up Attacks On Civilians - The Taliban insurgency has reached its greatest level of violence since the 2001 overthrow of the Islamic government, with the terrorist group averaging an assassination a day and a suicide bombing three times a week. According to a report by the United Nation’s Security Council issued on Saturday, they have become “by far” the biggest killer of civilians in Afghanistan. The argument that ISAF is killing civilians with the same impunity that the Taliban are should go completely out the window now, with direct evidence that the insurgency is not only taking on a strategy of retribution against their own people who cooperate in any way with the Karzai government, but the United Nations has clearly identified that this signals strong links to the international terrorist organization of al-Qaeda. Suddenly, it’s not just some domestic insurgency that has nothing to do with western geopolitical security. That argument, too, goes out the window. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: War: The Lumbering Guest On My Sofa - It's summer, the yard --green, the flowers in bloom. It's not so hot the sun has killed everything yet, nor have Santa Ana winds delivered the additional punch to parch and usher in fires. No, this is early summer --a happy time to be outside. The agapanthus are blooming. The purple puffs of color bouncing in the slight breeze. The draping boughs of the large Chinese elm frame the view of the hill abroad as if it were a sentimental portrait of a time gone by. The kids... they're not kids anymore. One is a teen, the other an adult. They're our loves, our delights, our concern and sometimes our annoyance. The other day they renamed our cat "Phil." I don't think he looks like a Phil, and so I cringe each time they say it. I think it's unfair to rename a cat, however, the feline creature never asked for the name Panda, either. War is still a daily thought. An unsettling thought to most. War is like a large, lumbering, unwanted family member, who comes to take a permanent seat on our sofa. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: U.K. Afghan death toll reaches 300 - As many as 17 people were killed on Saturday in the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali in the 42nd reported U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan this year. A "key militant commander" called Abu Ahmed was reportedly killed in the strike, along with several Arabs and Uzbeks. Across the tribal areas, Taliban commander Abid Afridi was killed when explosives accidentally detonated in Orakzai tribal agency on Sunday morning; fighter jets reportedly killed up to 16 suspected militants in other parts of Orakzai; and fighting continues in Mohmand. Pakistan's Express Tribune reports that Pakistani officials are focusing on breaking down the 'Punjabi Taliban' after receiving intelligence reports that the group is planning a fresh wave of attacks in Punjab, rather than opening new fronts in the tribal areas. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Rules of Engagement too Prohibitive to Achieve Sustained Tactical Success - George Will reports at The Washington Post: "… occasionally there are riveting communications, such as a recent e-mail from a noncommissioned officer (NCO) serving in Afghanistan. He explains why the rules of engagement for U.S. troops are 'too prohibitive for coalition forces to achieve sustained tactical successes.' Receiving mortar fire during an overnight mission, his unit called for a 155mm howitzer illumination round to be fired to reveal the enemy’s location. The request was rejected “on the grounds that it may cause collateral damage.” The NCO says that the only thing that comes down from an illumination round is a canister, and the likelihood of it hitting someone or something was akin to that of being struck by lightning." This letter seems to have been written in the spirit of The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement. (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Ding Dong Ditch - Wikileaks reportedly is preparing to release an Afghan ”massacre” vid that is more shocking than the Iraq gun camera footage they popped a couple of months ago. Now, does that mean it will be even more clueless, distorted and offensively biased than that one was? Hard to say. ABC Blotter post notes that Wikileaks chief Julian Assange is in hiding for fear U.S. imperialist warmongers will detain him. I’d suggest he hide somewhere like out in public in his native Australia.* Or any number of places where the ability of the United States to detain him, if they even had any legal grounds to do so, would be severely limited. The United States might also be a good place to hide, as the Pentagon Papers case established wide latitude for journalists, lefty propagandists, etc., to execute gotchas on the government. That was confirmed by the Bush administration’s tolerance of efforts by the New York Times to aid and abet America’s enemies, though in fairness it remains to be determined whether the Obama administration will maintain the same high free speech standard. (READ MORE)

Neptunus Lex: Tipping Point - We are witnessing history trembling in the balance and, quoting Anthony Cordesman here, we are in a “duel of strategic endurance.” It would be simply mesmerizing to watch the spectacle unfold, if there wasn’t so much hanging on the next 12 months. In Gizab, Helmand Province, Southern Afghanistan, the locals finally cried, “enough” of Taliban oppression and venality: "(The) Taliban began to wear out its welcome over the past year. Its fighters commandeered the health clinic, destroyed the school and started seizing trucks along the road, often to steal cargo or levy taxes. 'They used to be nice to people, but then they changed,' said Abdul Rab, a farmer." Replicating that tactical victory until it permeates as strategic success is the challenge – or I should say, one challenge – for the Afghan government and its coalition allies. Which will only be made harder if the foot soldiers of the coalition lose will, as reported in the Washington Times: (READ MORE)

Some Soldier's Mom: The Grind & the Grindstone - I know I only occasionally blog around here any more... life moves on... the Army veteran attends school, works and is raising his son... the Navy son can't say much about his line of work and what he can say doesn't need to be posted. "My guys" have been deployed twice since Noah was with them and there isn't much to write home about these days (a pretty much "been there done that" from the guys). I'm not really a "diarist" that feels the need to document my daily life -- don't get me wrong -- I LOVE to read some of the diaries around the blogsphere (mostly because it reminds me how grateful I am that I don't have young ones to raise any more! WHEW! It is HARD WORK!) I suppose I could post every time I discovered evidence on what moms, dads and spouses have all known for forever and is now being verified through clinical studies. Which is what leads me to this post. First, let's get clear that FAR MORE soldiers/marines come home from combat WITHOUT POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) than who suffer symptoms. (READ MORE)

Mail Call!: A local Fallen Hero makes his final journey home - The body of Spc. Brian 'Bucky' Anderson arrived back in the Valley today. My husband went down to Broadway at 1:30 pm, as the local news had posted that Bucky's escort would be coming between 2-4 pm, and the community was asked to come out to line the route to show their support for the family. My husband was told when he stopped to buy a soda at a store in Broadway, that Spc. Anderson's body had already been brought to the funeral home. I found nothing yet from the local TV station, but did find this posting on YouTube from someone local. Bucky Anderson escort through Broadway 6/20/2010 We will be standing with the Patriot Guard Riders on Monday evening, to show support for this local Fallen Hero. (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:
WikiLeaks Preparing to Release Video of Alleged U.S. 'Massacre' in Afghanistan - As the founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks remains underground in fear that the U.S. will detain him, the site is preparing to release a leaked video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan that is said to be more shocking than the Iraqi video that sent its controversial leader into hiding. (READ MORE)

25 Saudi Guantanamo Prisoners Return to Militancy - Around 25 former detainees from Guantanamo Bay camp returned to militancy after going through a rehabilitation programme for al Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi security official said on Saturday. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaida Warns of New Attacks Deadlier Than Before - Al-Qaida's U.S.-born spokesman warned President Barack Obama Sunday that the militant group may launch new attacks that would kill more Americans than previous ones. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Journalist who hurled shoes at President Bush says stunt had been carefully planned - When Iraqi journalist Muntather Zaidi stood up from his seat and hurled his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush during a December 2008 news conference in Baghdad, shouting "dog" at him, he was hailed as a hero by many in the Arab world and left many others stunned by what appeared to be a spontaneous act of anger. (READ MORE)

Suicide bombs kill 33 in Iraq, officials say - Suicide bombers in a crowded Baghdad commercial district and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit killed as many as 33 people Sunday as insurgents tried to turn a monthslong deadlock over forming a new Iraqi government to their advantage. (READ MORE)

Twin suicide car bombings in central Baghdad kill 26 - At least 26 people have been killed in a twin suicide car bombing close to a state-owned bank in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, officials have said. (READ MORE)

Top cleric warns Iraq leaders as deal hopes dim - Iraq's two main contenders to head a new government remained at odds Friday, denting US hopes that a top envoy had advanced the prospects of a deal and drawing a warning from the top Shiite cleric. (READ MORE)

Former Iraqi prime minister accuses government figures of plotting to kill him - Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who is vying to once again lead his nation, on Sunday accused unnamed figures in the current government of being involved in a plot to kill him. (READ MORE)

Baghdad Nights Glitter, Behind Shatterproof Glass - However loudly you protest, you still have to check your gun at the restaurant’s door. (Customers take valet tickets in return.) (READ MORE)

Protest in Basra over sporadic electricity, lack of potable water leaves 1 dead - At least one person was killed and three others were injured Saturday in the southern port city of Basra when police fired into a crowd of unruly protesters demanding electricity and potable water to help cope with the blistering summer heat, officials and witnesses said. (READ MORE)

Turkey's PM Erdogan vows to 'annihilate' PKK rebels - PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday's "cowardly" assaults would not end Turkey's determination to fight the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) "to the end". (READ MORE)

Turkey Troops, Kurdish Rebels Clash Near Iraq Border - Turkish military planes have launched air raids against suspected Kurdish rebel positions inside northern Iraq after clashes between soldiers and militants killed at least 20 people. (READ MORE)

Twin suicide blasts outside Baghdad bank kill 27 - A double suicide bombing outside the headquarters of a major government bank Sunday killed 27 people and wounded 57 others, the second attack in a week to target Iraq's financial institutions. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
U.S. eager to replicate Afghan villagers' successful revolt against Taliban - The revolt of the Gizab Good Guys began with a clandestine 2 a.m. meeting. By sunrise, 15 angry villagers had set up checkpoints on the main road and captured their first prisoners. (READ MORE)

US takes gentle approach in Kandahar - In the hub of southern Afghanistan, birthplace and stronghold for the Taliban, US-led NATO forces are using a gentle approach, training police and attempting to restore the authority of a government accused of absenteeism. (READ MORE)

Firm Once Known as Blackwater Gets Afghan Contract - Part of the company once known as Blackwater Worldwide has been awarded a more than $120 million contract to protect new U.S. consulates in the Afghan cities of Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday. (READ MORE)

With US Help, Miners Dig In at Former Taliban Base - Dusty and exhausted, the miners emerge from tunnels, blinking in the sunlight of this formerly Taliban-controlled valley. (READ MORE)

NATO Says 4 Troops Die in Afghan Helicopter Crash - A military helicopter crashed during an early morning operation in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing three Australian commandos and an American service member, officials said. (READ MORE)

2 Blasts Rock S. Afghanistan in Weekend Violence - Two bombs hidden in push carts exploded less than a half hour apart in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces, underscoring the continued security threat despite years of trying to bring peace to the unstable south. (READ MORE)

Afghan Civilians Said to Be Killed in an Airstrike - Ten civilians, including at least five women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Khost Province, the provincial police chief said Saturday. (READ MORE)

Bomb Kills 3 Near a Bank in Southern Afghanistan - A boy, a girl and a woman were killed Sunday when a bomb stashed in a pushcart exploded in front of a bank in the southern city of Lashkar Gah. (READ MORE)

Working to Help a Haven for Afghan Women Blossom - There was in the city an old garden, and in that garden there were trees, and under the trees there were women. (READ MORE)

Soldiers race against political clock in Afghanistan - As the US military dramatically increases its numbers in Afghanistan there are real fears among British and US soldiers that they may have been given an impossible mission. (READ MORE)

U.S. Hopes Afghan Councils Will Weaken Taliban - More than 600 men, most of them farmers with weathered faces and rough hands, sat on the ground under an awning, waiting all day to deposit their ballots in plastic boxes. (READ MORE)

Afghan forces' apathy starts to wear on U.S. platoon in Kandahar - First Lt. James Rathmann was in a hurry. Five 40-foot containers full of U.S. military gear had been ransacked. There could be Taliban fighters sifting through American uniforms, gear and weapons. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan violence is soaring, U.N. says - Afghanistan has become a far more dangerous place for Western troops and Afghan civilians alike, with an increase in suicide attacks, roadside bombings and political assassinations in the first four months of 2010, the United Nations said in a report released Saturday. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan fighting brings on 'weariness' - Within the U.S. military's rank and file, there are growing doubts about winning in Afghanistan, a mood that contradicts upbeat war reports delivered to Congress last week by the top commander and officials. (READ MORE)

Gates touts progress in Afghanistan - Top Obama administration officials Sunday continued their campaign to paint a more positive picture of progress in the Afghanistan conflict, even as they declined to predict how many American troops might begin to leave Afghanistan next year. (READ MORE)

Gates: War in Afghanistan is a 'Tough Pull' - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the war in Afghanistan is a "tough pull" (a hard job) but that momentum is shifting toward the United States and its partners. (READ MORE)

Taliban suspects released after Afghan jirga deal - Fourteen suspected Taliban prisoners have been released in Afghanistan after their cases were reviewed as part of a peace deal that seeks to win over insurgent foot soldiers, an official said on Monday. (READ MORE)

18 militants, two soldiers killed in Pakistan - At least two soldiers and 18 Taliban militants were killed Sunday in various clashes, but also in an accidental blast, across three districts of Pakistan's restive northwest, security officials said. (READ MORE)

Afghan anti-graft body lists asset of Karzai - Afghan president Hamid Karzai earns just $525 a month, has less than $20,000 in the bank and owns no land or property, according to a declaration of his assets on Sunday by an anti-graft body. (READ MORE)

Afghan filmmakers defy Taliban, one bad movie at a time - In real life he's a pharmacist, a polite young man who dispenses antibiotics and advice in a tiny Jalalabad shop barely 40 miles from where Osama bin Laden disappeared into the mountains. (READ MORE)

Roadside bomb targets NATO forces in northern Afghan province - A roadside bomb struck NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) vehicle in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province Sunday morning causing no casualties, a spokesman for NATO-led forces in Kunduz Lieutenant Colonel Webber said. (READ MORE)

US criticized for purchase of Russian copters for Afghan air corps - The U.S. government is snapping up Russian-made helicopters to form the core of Afghanistan's fledgling air force, a strategy that is drawing flak from members of Congress who want to force the Afghans to fly American choppers instead. (READ MORE)

Roadside bombs injure six German soldiers in Afghanistan - Six German soldiers were injured by roadside bombs in relatively peaceful northern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday. (READ MORE)

US hesitant about endorsing LSE report on ISI-Afghan Taliban links - The United States appears to be hesitant about endorsing a London School of Economics (LSE) report, which blames Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for maintaining links with the Afghan Taliban. (READ MORE)

Anti-Taliban tribal militias not paying off for the US as expected - A U.S. effort to get tribes to form militias to fight off the Taliban in return for development aid is not paying off as expected, a Los Angeles Times report has quoted sources, as saying. (READ MORE)

UN pulls foreign staff out of Afghanistan amid rising violence - UN officials say are withdrawing some of their 300 international staff in Afghanistan because of increasing security threats. (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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