June 22, 2010

From the Front: 06/22/2010

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

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: So staying in Afstan’s about “the Canadian brand”, eh?/Update: St Steve Staples wants different Canadian brand now - Or, how the government in the Great White North looks at serious matters of national security policy. Some positive movement on the part of that government though put in pathetically puerile “the world needs more Canada” terms (links added–note the good sense from Liberal Sen. Tommy Banks). What about Canada’s national interest? Tories open to Liberal Afghan plan: MacKay - The Conservative government is open to a Liberal pitch to keep troops in Afghanistan post-2011, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Monday. Last week, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Canada should end its combat role as scheduled, but deploy soldiers in a safer region like Kabul training Afghanistan’s police and military [more here from LewMac]. MacKay said there is “great interest” in that proposal – but hinted the ball is in the opposition’s court as the government is bound by an existing motion to pull out next year. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Remembering Army Dads, Past and Present - As families all across America celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend, those of us in Army families paid special tribute to our Army Dads – both past and present. We celebrated the Army dads who currently serve, our veteran dads who have served, and our laid-to-rest dads who gave their lives for this country. Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George W. Casey, attended a Father’s Day celebration at the Vietnam War memorial Sunday at the National Mall, where he spoke to hundreds of Vietnam Gold Star children, their family members, and a new generation of children who lost their fathers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Vietnam Gold Star children are members of Sons and Daughters in Touch (SDIT), a national organization founded in 1990 that helps locate, unite and support anyone who lost their fathers in the Vietnam War. Gen. Casey had a powerful story to tell these people, as his father was also killed in the war on July 7, 1970 when his command helicopter crashed in South Vietnam. (READ MORE)

Thomas Ruttig: A new, new Taliban front? - The Taliban successfully have infiltrated northern and northeastern Afghanistan and destabilized certain areas, mainly in Kunduz province. Now, there are signs that they might attempt to push forward into mainly Hazara-settled areas in the central region. The main road into Jaghori, an important Hazara area, has been blocked, raising fears of a new economic blockade or event an attack. The Taliban might plan an advance into the central region of the Hazarajat, one of the last areas of the country that hitherto have only been marginally affected by insurgent activities. This has been reported by Kabul-based Hasht-e Sobh daily last Thursday (‘Taleban dar pay-e nufuz ba munateq-e markazi / Taliban begin to influence central areas’) on the basis of Taliban nightletters distributed at the border of Qarabagh and Jaghori districts, in southeastern Hazarajat. Both districts belong to Ghazni province but the border between them marks the limit between Pashtun (Qarabagh) and Hazara-settled (Jaghori) areas. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Hooray for inspections!! - "Paper-work will ruin any military force" - Lieutenant-General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller. Our focus of effort most recently has been directed toward an inspection we have been enduring, or more accurately, a Staff Assist Visit (SAV). The purpose of the SAV is to give the commander an idea of how well his functional areas are performing in accordance with Marine Corps standards. Our CO requested the SAV to ensure he was turning over a good product to his successor. In my professional opinion, inspections should be welcomed as an opportunity to make improvements and refine how your unit operates. Personally, I hate being inspected with the very fiber of my being. There are some deep seeded personal issues I have with being inspected in general which I will discuss another time. Mostly, I just loathe paperwork. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Review of Employment Program Continues - Given the ongoing interest, I wanted to pass on the latest information about the popular Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Program, also known as MyCAA. My colleague, Donna Miles, provided an update in her recent American Forces Press Service article “Gates Reviews Military Spouse Career Program.” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is working to determine the best way to reopen MyCAA to new applicants, concerned that the program has shifted from its original intent and cost estimates, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during a recent Pentagon Press briefing. Gates believes the program was intended to provide military spouses the opportunity to learn portable career skills in fields such as real estate or home health care, Morrell said. Instead, in many cases, MyCAA has become the means for military spouses to pursue four-year degrees and other educational opportunities — all of which are now available through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Morrell explained. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Maliki's Mess - Maliki's gang continues to behave as though they have parts in a play written for the theater of the absurd. State of Law's parliamentarian Izzat Shahbandar wants to extend Maliki's prime minsiter's term to eight years. Shahbandar's television must be broken. Guess he hasn't seen the scenes of protest. The Iraqis in the south are yelling anti-Maliki slogans and calling for the resignation of the minister of electricity. I realize that some media reports claim the demonstrations were organized by Moktada Al Sadr. I really believe that's an exaggerations. Of course Moktada's gang is smart enough to ride the anger wave. But it's not Mookie's plan. And if they had organized it, we would have heard pro-Moktada slogans, and we would have seen pro-Moktada banners. This Arabic story and photo say that the slogans are no electricity and no water and no lamps. They say local politicians are pocketing the money instead of fixing the power stations. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban commander detained in Karachi - Pakistani police detained a Taliban commander who has links to terrorists in North Waziristan and Afghanistan. Police detained Asmatullah Mehsud during a recent raid in the southern port city of Karachi. Asmatullah is described as a "key commander" who was plotting to attack police officials in the Criminal Investigation Department. The CID is responsible for investigating terrorism cases. Asmatullah "was involved in providing financial support to the TTP campaign and was providing safe hideouts and medical treatment to injured militants in the city," Dawn reported. Asmatullah played a major role in the Oct. 17, 2007 assassination attempt against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The massive suicide bombing, the largest in Pakistan to date, killed 132 people and wounded hundreds more. Bhutto survived the assassination attempt but was killed two months later in a complex suicide and shooting attack in Rawalpindi. (READ MORE)

Registan.net: Kyrgyzstan and the Media - Here at Registan.net, we tend to give a lot of crap to western media for poor coverage of Central Asia. So, it only seems fair that we at least sometimes give the media credit for a job well done. Perhaps I have low standards, but I’ve seen what seems like a surprising number of stories beginning to report on background and context to the violence in Osh and Jalalabad. For example, in today’s Washington Post was a story on the recent violence in Nariman that contained mention of events in May that help explain why this happened. A month before the deadly ethnic clashes that devastated southern Kyrgyzstan last week, a mob loyal to the recently deposed president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, seized the provincial government building and expelled the local governor. The next day, another crowd, supporting the forces that had toppled Bakiyev, recaptured the building and reinstalled the official. From a distance, the incident hardly seemed significant. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Dispatches from AfPak: How Exciting! - Naheed Mustafa is a Canadian freelance broadcast and print journalist. She’s currently on a reporting trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan and will be posting dispatches from her trip. ISLAMABAD – In 2008, just before my first trip to Afghanistan, I spoke to a fixer who came highly recommended. He promised me all kinds of adventures: “Madame, I will take you on the Kabul-Kandahar highway and you can wear a burqa. Journalists love that!” I thanked him and said I’d grown up around those blue shuttlecock burqas – they weren’t terribly interesting — and what would I learn from driving on the highway? “But, Madame, everyone thinks it’s exciting!” I came to hate that word – exciting. I had spent the previous three months pitching stories to editors – radio shows, magazines, and newspapers – about Afghanistan and Pakistan. They all wanted something exciting. (READ MORE)

Texas Music: Pink Slip - Well, damn. Got called into the Sergeant Major's office this afternoon along with SGT Graywarz and we were both given the boot. Politely, of course. A combination of things: the Boss' full time PSO is here and has been for a couple of months, so they really don't need me. They have a couple of fillers from another unit who can do the driving, and our unit wants us back. We will be leaving Iraq in about six weeks or so, and I guess we are needed back to help with the preparations for pulling out. Sergeant Major was very nice about it all. We have done a good job, sorry to see us go, thanks for the hard work, all of that. Still, a bitter pill. I was so pissed I actually threw my hat on the ground afterwards, which is a somewhat childish thing to do and failed to make me feel better. So I guess it's back to our little camp, where I will probably be stringing concertina wire and filling sandbags, or some equally vital grunt work such as supervising the loading of conexes, or even worse, riding a desk in the TOC. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: 'He was my guardian angel' - Whenever his rescue squadron was called upon in Afghanistan, Tech Sgt. Michael Flores stepped up to lead the mission. On June 9 near Forward Operating Base Jackson, airmen were ordered to save a group of wounded British soldiers. When the HH-60G Pave Hawk ascended into the skies, the experienced group of volunteers undoubtedly knew their day would be dangerous. Yet having Tech Sgt. Flores by their side instilled a sense of calm professionalism as they set out to bring the injured to safety. Master Sgt. Marisa Flores wasn't on the helicopter that day, but knows that protective feeling better than anyone. The San Antonio Express-News reports she was raising two young children with Michael near Arizona's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base when his country called him to serve in Afghanistan for a second time. Master Sgt. Flores said everything her 31-year-old husband did was for the sake of his family and welfare of his nation. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Combat Aircraft: Cleared Hot! Joint Terminal Air Controllers Guide Afghanistan Air Strikes - The Taliban fighters opened up on the Americans from both sides. It was the night of March 28 in the Kunar Valley in eastern Afghanistan, and a patrol from the 2nd battalion of the U.S. Army’s 503rd Infantry Regiment was under attack. Rocket-Propelled Grenades exploded against the thick side armor of one vehicle. Bullets smacked into the windshield of another. Several vehicles had their armor chewed up and pieces of equipment blown off. At NATO Forward Operating Base Joyce, an earthen-walled compound just a few miles away, U.S. Air Force Tech Sergeant Phoebus Lazaridis sat in front of a laptop computer and a bank of radios. Over the course of a couple hours, the 33-year-old Joint Terminal Air Controller coordinated a series of pinpoint air strikes to assist the embattled troops. It was an overcast night. The troops at Joyce could hear the Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, based at Bagram roughly 100 miles away, flying overhead. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Logistics Problems On the Road to Kuwait - By the time Labor Day rolls around, there will be about 50,000 American troops left in Iraq as part of the slow, yet significant, exodus of western troops after seven years of war. And like any other military operation, it is the the lonely legions of military logisticians who are the people responsible for coordinating the perversely complicated task of getting the troops and their gear back home, even if their job doesn’t exactly generate a lot of interest from the public, or the press. Actually, a new report out from the Inspector General of the Department of Defense implies that the units redeploying from Iraq don’t seem to be too interested in what the logisticians have to say, either. Or at least the teams sent to help them pack. You see, the 13th Sustainment Command (ESC) is supposed to be checking and cataloging every piece of equipment that leaves Iraq bound for American depots in Kuwait... (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Gen. McChrystal recalled to Washington - Late last night, the story broke that top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides mocked White House officials in a Rolling Stone profile to hit newsstands Friday. The notable quotes: Gen. McChrystal was reportedly "disappointed" at his "10-minute photo op" with U.S. President Barack Obama last year, according to an aide; the general joked, "Are you asking about Vice President Biden? Who's that?" when preparing to answer a question about the vice president; commented that he found last fall "painful" because he was "trying to sell an unsellable position;" and reportedly felt "betrayed" by Amb. Karl Eikenberry, who Gen. McChrystal accused of "cover[ing] his flank for the history books" in criticizing Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Aides variously called national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones a "clown" who is "stuck in 1985," Amb. Richard Holbrooke a "wounded animal" who is "hearing rumors he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous," and on Vice President Joe Biden, commented, "Biden? Did you say 'bite me'?" (READ MORE)

Blonde Sagacity: Google "Veterans" and Get A Truther's Lefty Site - There has been talk about the pages Google lists on the front page for searches... I believe Rush has talked at length about this. I have been helping out the folks at American Women Veterans by looking for news stories each day that would be of interest to their membership. It struck me a few days ago, that regardless of what search words I use, a site called "Veterans Today" always seems to be first on the list of returns. Specifically a daily feature: Top Ten Veterans Stories in Today's News. This is a FAR left site, run by a FAR left former Marine (This guy was obviously drafted to Vietnam under the same lowered standards that Muhammad Ali was...). He is an Israel hater who claims to have been a "featured commentator" on Al Jezeera and has recently written articles in defense of Helen Thomas and concocting Joe Lieberman conspiracy theories (he controls the internet!) and I'm pretty sure he's a 9/11 truther. (READ MORE)

Laughing Wolf: And Who Thought This Would Be A Good Idea? - The news this morning is that General McChrystal has both issued a preemptory apology for a forthcoming article/interview in Rolling Stone Magazine, and that he has been recalled from Afghanistan -- apparently because of what is being reported may be in that interview. Anyone who has done any reading on the situation in Afghanistan would be understanding of frustration with Eikenberry (see link on recall above), much less frustration with the administration, on the part of McChrystal and staff. That said, it seems a tad bit unwise to let loose on everyone in an interview while still in the middle of the fight. In point of fact, if the interview is even half of what is being belled in advance, then the fecal matter will be hitting the rotary impeller at warp speed. Even if it is not, expect to see this used to savage not just McChrystal but all military efforts. In fact, I will bet right now that his career is over... (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Proliferation of Bad Analysis on Afghanistan - Readers should beware of bad analysis work on Afghanistan. There is an increasing frequency of it, so many analyses that I do not have the time to catalog them all. I will mention only two such examples. First, Rajiv Chandrasekaran writing at The Washington Post outlines a supposedly successful villagers’ revolt against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan. Christian Bleuer writing at Registan is duly sarcastic, and if you want to read about the ZZ Top beards you will have to drop by Registan and read Christian’s prose. Ian comments that the reason this has people salivating is that it resembles the Anbar pattern. Let me state in the clearest possible way I know how. NO . IT . DOES . NOT. The Anbar pattern had to do with force projection at the beginning of the campaign by the Marines, force projection by Marines during the middle phase of the campaign, and force projection by the Marines near the end of the campaign. (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: Crossing the Threshold - FOR YEARS one of the curious features of embedding in Afghanistan was that ISAF/NATO required reporters to fly in to Kabul International Airport and find their own way to the embed embarkation point at Bagram Airfield 60 miles away and then find their own way back to the airport when the embed was over. For frequent embedders with an active press credential, they take it one step further and all but encourage the reporter to make their way from the civillian airport to the location of the unit they are covering on their own. Which was why on the morning of June 16th I found myself drinking tea at the waiting area of parking lot C of Kabul International Airport. I was waiting for H-JD, one of the best interpreter/fixers in Afghanistan to pick me up. Like many interpreters who have worked with expats and the Special Forces, H-JD took a western nick name--JD--the 'H' for 'Hazara' gets added on when I'm around to distinguish between us. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Living the Army Dream - Life in the "hootch" means 10 older guys living in a barracks bay built for 20. The building is cinder block, and doesn't seem to be air-conditioned. Luckily for us, however, we haven't had much reason to complain about the weather this Annual Training. It's been mostly cooler and cloudy, with mist and rain. I'm certain we'll face hotter duty in the next few months. We share latrines with another bay of similarly middle-aged men, meaning we avoid the usual hassles of wrestling matches and speed-metal lullabies. There's also a single washer and dryer for all of us. Earlier this week, I duplicated the mistake of forgetting a small bottle of alcohol-based hand cleanser in a trouser pocket. Coming out of the dryer, my clothes smelled like hot vodka. Living in barracks means less privacy and quiet than in the field (unless, of course, the Field Artillery barrels into the Forward Operating Base--the "FOB"--blaring AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" from their vehicle-mounted loudspeakers). (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Tories open to Liberal Afghan plan: MacKay - The Conservative government is open to a Liberal pitch to keep troops in Afghanistan post-2011, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Monday. (READ MORE)

Gates Recommends Amos for Top Marine Post - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has recommended to President Barack Obama that he nominate Gen. James F. Amos, a career aviator, to serve as the next commandant of the Marine Corps, Pentagon officials announced yesterday. (READ MORE)

Supreme Court upholds ban on 'material support' to foreign terrorist groups - The First Amendment does not protect humanitarian groups or others who advise foreign terrorist organizations, even if the support is aimed at legal activities or peaceful settlement of disputes, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. (READ MORE)

Obama's Vietnam moment - The White House is clinging to President Obama's ill-conceived pledge to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011, regardless of how the war is going at the time. In dogmatically standing by that pledge, Mr. Obama is virtually guaranteeing he will preside over America's second lost war. (READ MORE)

Can troops in Iraq wear old units' combat patches? - The Rumor Doctor heard from a soldier whose unit was told it could not wear combat patches from former units. That sounded strange considering Gen. Ray Odierno still wears the combat patch for the 4th Infantry Division, which he commanded in the early days of the Iraq war. (READ MORE)

An instant to pull the trigger, and a lifetime to live with it - Seth Manzel’s voice was staccato as he described the killing he did during his yearlong deployment in Iraq. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqis Arrest 10 Terrorism Suspects - Iraqi security forces arrested 10 terrorism suspects in recent operations in Iraq with U.S. advisors, military officials reported. (READ MORE)

Electricity minister resigns after violent demonstrations - Kareem Waheed, Iraq’s electricity minister, resigned Monday after a weekend of violent demonstrations in southern Iraq. Waheed weathered four years in his post, picked by the country’s then-unified Shiite political coalition for his job in 2006. (READ MORE)

Anger spreads over power shortages in Iraq - Riot police in southern Iraq used water cannons to disperse protesters pelting them with stones Monday during a demonstration against power cuts as anger spread over the lack of basic utilities to fend off the country's searing summer heat. (READ MORE)

New clashes in Iraq over electricity cuts - Iraqi police fired water cannon Monday to disperse stone-throwing protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya, demonstrating over crippling power cuts that are stoking tensions following a March election. (READ MORE)

One dead in Iraqi protest over power cuts in Basra - Iraqi security forces opened fire to disperse thousands of protestors demonstrating against power cuts in the oil hub of Basra Saturday, and security sources said one person died. (READ MORE)

Bombs Targeting Iraqi Government, Allies Kill 3 - Bombs targeting Iraqi officials and a Sunni militia leader killed at least three people and wounded more than 12 in separate attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital, officials said. (READ MORE)

Eight killed in northern Iraq suicide bombing - Unrest in Iraq has been increasing since the March parliamentary election Eight people have been killed, including six policemen, in a suicide bombing at a market in the northern Iraqi town of Shirqat, police say. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, June 22 - An Afghan-international security force detained the Taliban's recently appointed chief of finance for Baghlan province, along with two other suspected insurgents, in Helmand province last night. (READ MORE)

Afghan, ISAF Forces Rebuild Key Bridge in Farah - Afghan National Army and ISAF service members rebuilt a demolished bridge and cleared the area around it of improvised explosive devices on a road between the cities of Farah and Pusht Rod in Farah province Monday. (READ MORE)

Gen. Stanley McChrystal coming to Washington to explain anti-administration comments - The top U.S. general in Afghanistan was summoned to Washington for a White House meeting after apologizing Tuesday for flippant and dismissive remarks about top Obama administration officials involved in Afghanistan policy. (READ MORE)

Top Afghan commander summoned to Washington - An Obama administration official says the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington to explain his controversial comments about colleagues in a recent interview. (READ MORE)

Aides to U.S. General In Afghanistan Slam Obama - Report - The top U.S. general in Afghanistan apologized on Monday for comments by his aides insulting some of President Barack Obama's closest advisers in an article to be published on Friday in Rolling Stone magazine. (READ MORE)

UK's Afghan envoy on 'long leave' - Britain's most senior diplomat in Afghanistan is temporarily stepping down, it has been disclosed. The Foreign Office said on Monday night that Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles - the UK's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan - was taking "extended leave". (READ MORE)

U.S. General McChrystal Apologizes For Comments In Magazine - The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has apologized for remarks in a new magazine article in which he and his aides appear to be critical of officials in the Obama administration. (READ MORE)

US taxpayers unwittingly funding Afghan warlords to protect NATO convoys - A Congressional investigation has revealed that American taxpayers have unwittingly funded a network of warlords across Afghanistan to ensure the safety of NATO convoys operating outside the control of the Afghan Government and NATO forces. (READ MORE)

26 Taliban inmates released after Afghan jirga deal - Afghan and U.S. officials have said that 26 Taliban inmates have been released from Afghan jails as part of an amnesty deal offered by Hamid Karzai's government. (READ MORE)

How Gizab's Good Guys ran the Taliban out of town - 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)

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees go back home with UN support - An estimated 70,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland so far this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency. (READ MORE)

Hundreds of candidates to be on Afghan ballot - When voters in the Afghan capital elect a new parliament later this year, they'll face a bewildering choice of more than 700 candidates that threatens to turn the election into a lottery. (READ MORE)

U.S. Said to Fund Afghan Warlords to Protect Convoys - American taxpayers have inadvertently created a network of warlords across Afghanistan who are making millions of dollars escorting NATO convoys and operating outside the control of either the Afghan government or the American and NATO militaries, according to the results of a Congressional investigation released Monday. (READ MORE)

Satire Gets a Tough Reception in Pakistan - “Burqavaganza” is a love story in the time of jihad. A young couple struggle to form a relationship as societal forces try to keep them apart. (READ MORE)

Key Taliban commander arrested from Karachi - Police have arrested the key commander of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Asmat Ullah Mehsud during a raid in the SITE area of Karachi. (READ MORE)

Nine NATO troops killed in helicopter crash, spate of attacks in Afghanistan - Nine NATO troops were killed Monday in a helicopter crash and a spate of attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan, putting June on pace to become the deadliest month for the U.S.-led international force in the nearly nine-year war. (READ MORE)

Afghan, International Forces Strike Blow in Helmand - Afghan and coalition forces struck a blow against insurgent operations in Helmand province over the weekend in one of several recent operations around Afghanistan, military officials reported. (READ MORE)

Sangin: Afghanistan's poppy town that became deathtrap for British army - Of the 300 British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since 2001, 96 have been in Sangin, the most dangerous place in the country for Nato soldiers. (READ MORE)

UK death toll in Afghanistan conflict reaches 300 - The number of UK service personnel killed as a result of the Afghanistan conflict since 2001 has hit 300, after a wounded marine died in hospital. (READ MORE)

India likely to get role in Afghan military affairs - The ongoing row between the NATO forces and allied European countries regarding provisions of training for the Afghan National Army is reportedly paving way for 'legalized' Indian presence in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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