June 28, 2010

From the Front: 06/28/2010

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

A Little Pink in a World of Camo:My Heaven - I am sure after last night's post you all will be very glad? relieved? thankful? to hear that I had a pretty good day. Pretty damn good. First, thank you. Thank you all for the support through my rough moment. It's not the first time I've had a moment like that but I think it's the first time (maybe it wasn't, I'm not sure, my memory's shot, but either way...) I really blogged my raw feelings in the heat of the "moment" and instead of being terrified or overwhelmed you all were so supportive and uplifting, I am so very thankful for all the wonderful comments I get from you. Last night, it was like a weight crushing down on me, the weight of reality. And blogging, getting it out, was like physically letting it out, some of it. I also talked to some great friends to help pull through the rough patch. On the norm, I feel sad/angry feelings ebb and flow throughout the day, but then I have what I call my "moments" or "meltdowns"... (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Fable Illustrated - This has been a hellacious week. I suppose it looked pretty bad from the US side of the pond. Well, it sucked here. Losing the General wasn’t cool. Oh, I know that he stuck his foot in it up to his knee. I also see where none of that had to happen. It reminds me a fable I told my ANP mentees (Afghans love a good analogy or fable) once about a man who was getting ready to cross a river when a snake asked him to carry him across the fast-flowing waters. You know how it goes… the dying snake-bit man saying, “You promised you wouldn’t bite me!” You also remember the snake’s reply: “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.” McChrystal should have seen that snake. Okay, got it. Now I’ve got to continue to do my job in this war while some truly insufferable people gloat. A couple of writers are now claiming prescience, bathing in the wonder that they are, the sound of all else around them drowned out by the roar of their own awesomeness. (READ MORE)

Stephen Farrell: Embedistan - Even before a magazine journalist brought down Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the institutionalized practice of journalists moving and living with military units was one of the most controversial legacies of America’s 21st-century wars. “The Runaway General”, Rolling Stone’s profile of the former American commander in Afghanistan, is an example of the insight that reporters can bring to bear upon a military campaign and its leaders if they are granted access. And, crucially, if they are prepared to forgo hagiography and deliver instead a warts-and-everything portrait. “Embedding” is one of the words that emerged from the jargon of soldiers, diplomats, politicians and spin doctors involved with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and entered the public discourse alongside “shock and awe,” “weapons of mass destruction,” “insurgent,” “hajji,” “Green Zone,” “blast wall,” “tipping point,” “contractor,” “Blackwater,” “death blossom,” “Abu Ghraib,” “I.E.D.,” “M.R.A.P.,” “Awakening” and “surge.” (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: The Senate Commitee Witnesses - On Friday, Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese related how "some officers" in the National Defence HQ were unsurprised by a Senate committee's recommendation that Canada consider a future role in Afghanistan for the military: “Why no surprise? Officers suggested a review of the witness list provides a clear indication what direction the report was going to go and indeed went. [...] There was not one witness who did not support the Afghan mission and those who were called as witnesses are among the among the strongest supporters in the country of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. No dissenting views were heard.” I wonder if Pugliese and his anonymice have suggestions for who should have been on that list who wasn't? Pugliese continues: “‘All agree our contribution has been remarkable,’ Senators Pamela Wallin and Romeo Dallaire wrote in an accompanying Globe and Mail opinion piece.” (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: Institutionalized Habits - Life’s routines here are habit forming; the same paths every day. Some guys describe it like we’re in prison. I can’t say, I’ve never been in a prison. City Jail yes, but prison no. These habits are “institutionalized”. Yes, it’s a big word. But we all have SmartPhone dictionaries now. We usually go to sleep at the same time, get up at the same time, shower at the same time, exercise at the same time, and eat at the same time. We eat the same menu that we’ve eaten for the last 4 tours. We bitch about the same stuff and watch the same movies that we’ve watched the last 4 tours. We see the same people from the other units that we’ve seen every year for the last 7 years. Never see each other back in the States, just here. Keep wondering if we’re the only ones participating. We see the same TCNs when we drop off our laundry, and the same TCNs when we get our hair cut. We have the same uniform/ ball-cap/ reflective-belt issues with the same “Uniform Police” that we’ve had for for the last 7 years. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Petraeus Comes East - The coverage of the impending arrival of General Petraeus to take charge of the Afghan Campaign has been intense. Pundits both big and small have been offering anaysis almost non-stop – I’m getting Petraeus fatigue reading all this junk. But for those of you who haven’t reached that point yet here is my contribution on The Aloyna Show: Apparently this move was greeted by the White House press corps as pure genius on the part of the President and on that I am not too sure. Granted this is an inspired choice and a much better one than I feared would be made. I still think General Mattis was the best choice for the job because there needs to be serious reform to how the ground troops are deployed, missioned, and supported with both air and surface delivered fires. It will be difficult for Gen Petraeus to introduce changes in the ROE because McChrystal worked for him and the current operational constraints iritating the troops had to have been approved by Central Command. (READ MORE)

HERMANEUTICS: AFGHANISTAN: Faith - War is often thought of as a time to find God, as in the ‘foxhole’ theory. I cannot speak for those outside the wire every single day/night, but Bagram is more akin to a garrison environment at times and as such people are more prone to forget about God than to make time to attend a service or a study. Thankfully there are many options available through the week for those who want to attend. In addition to seven different Sunday services, I’ve attended a Monday night Love & Respect study and a Friday night men’s Bible study off and on through the year. The general attitude here is that there is no true day off, thus the concept of a Sabbath escapes most senior leaders. Church is treated as a luxury, important insomuch as it does not conflict with your daily duties. The main chapel is called “Enduring Faith”, a clever play on Enduring Freedom. I used to play mandolin at the Sunday night service there, but more recently have been filling in on guitar at the smaller (and closer) Aviation chapel. (READ MORE)

Bill Wilson: Troops' Funding Held Hostage by Public Sector Union Politics - A $33 billion war supplemental to fund ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is being held up by House Democrats who want to attach $10 billion for bankrupt states like New York and California that refuse to cut unsustainable education funding in these troubled economic times. Basically, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations Chairman David Obey are holding back critical resources from our fighting men and women on the front lines so they can swindle another $10 billion from taxpayers for a public teacher union bailout. House Democrats know the bailout is an unpopular measure, which is why they would prefer to attach it to a must-pass war-funding bill. They have even slashed the proposal from an original $23 billion to placate Blue Dog Democrats who do not want to be tied to the measure in what promises to be a brutal election season featuring a debt-weary public. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Political World Cup - Iraq's lawmakers have their own kind of World Cup going on. Many players have been eliminated, and it's as though they're down to the finals. Politicians are still trying to reach an agreement about setting up a government. There is talk that most of the names suggested have been rejected, leaving only the main ones: Allawi and Maliki. The Sadr movement had suggested first Ibrahim Al Jaafari, but that name was dismissed. Next, the Supreme Council suggested Adel Abdul Mahdi, and now we hear the Sadr movment have rejected Abdul Mahdi. Reportedly they've rejected any Dawa candidate. There are news stories that say the Iraqi people want Maliki and Allawi to form a coalition and set up a government together. They are reportedly meeting again within the next two days -- ahead of a visit to Baghdad by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. There is so much disagreement between those two that it's hard to believe they can work together. But this is Iraq, and anything can happen. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Amusing Things - There are a couple of things worth mentioning today. Sorry, I must rush through this. First, it is amusing to note that once again, Mookie's call for a demonstration went unheard. Yesterday was to be a day of protests against the government for lack of services. The Sadr people had hoped to grab hold of the reins of the spontaneous demonstrations all over the country. But after the government increased the electricity delivery from an hour a day to three or four, people went home. Also, the weather is not nearly as bad as it was last week. Still, the Sadr gang wanted people to protest after Friday prayers. Nothing happenend. The second thing is this piece by Tom Ricks in WaPo. The headline is: "In Afghanistan, Petraeus will have difficulty replicating his Iraq success" Success!! This is the same guy who invited us to attend Iraq's funeral several times. So much for experts. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Bagrami school - I found this old minipaper while writing some reports this week. (You can tell I’m writing when I go silent for a while). The information is a little bit old but mostly still right and kind of interesting. And I’ll be able to refer to this when I provide an update from this trip. It was originally formatted PDF which I’ve lazily cut-and-pasted here. BAGRAMI SCHOOL NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN AMY SUN 16 September 2009 1. Bagrami, Afghanistan Bagrami is a suburb of Jalalabad City, though it is considered part of greater Jalalabad by the UN. The most densely populated area of Bagrami has a population of between 5,000 to 6,000 people with a fast growing population due to returning refugees and displaced people as well as those seeking jobs in Jalalabad[1]. Bagrami does not have grid power and residents draw well water from several communal wells with manual pumps. The village has a mix of people who tend to small subsidence farm plots and others who commute 2-4 km for various jobs in Jalalabad City. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: In Defense of “Off-The-Record” - Let me make one thing “McChrystal clear:” My job as a journalist is to uncover truth, not cover-up it up. I have an unambiguous duty to do that to the best of my ability, while acting in an ethical, honest, and impartial way. And at times, agreeing to witness important, even historic events, “off-the-record” can be an invaluable tool in doing that job. When I discussed this subject on NPR’s On the Media this weekend, host Bob Garfield presciently predicted, “I can tell you that there will be comments beneath this interview on our website that say ‘Jamie McIntyre has rationalized the sleazy dynamic between defense reporters and the people they are covering. He’s drunk the Kool-Aid, he’s breathing his own fumes…’” Obligingly, someone named Isaac posted those exact words. My obligation is to my readers, viewers and listeners, not to the government, or even to my employer, for that matter. Access is not an end, it’s a means. For what shall it profit a reporter if he gains access, and loses his journalistic soul? (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: The Times Aren't a Changing - General McChrystal being replaced by his chain of command superior, General Petraeus, may not change much here in Afghanistan because Afghanistan simply does not change. The only way things will change here is if Petraeus and his subordinates turn Afghanistan's resistance to change to their advantage. Last week I rode up to Bamiyan province on a road trip using a guide book from 1962 that proved remarkably accurate. The old books on Afghanistan by Louis Dupree and Olaf Caroe despite being 30-years-old are still spot on. Even Mountstuart Elphinstone's 'History of the Kingdom of Cabul' written in 1814 is holds up more accurately than current works on Afghanistan. The current books are too coloured by the politics of our time to be of any use. For millenia, dynasties have come and gone. Foreign empires have invaded, been bloodied and quickly passed from the scene. The Khyber and Salong passes being a rite of passage for every empire but the Roman. Afghanistan does not change. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: SOCOM Cancels Mk-16 SCAR - In an exclusive report for Military.com we reveal that US Spec Ops Command has abandoned the 5.56 version of the SCAR and will use FY 2011 money to buy more 7.62 Mk-17s to fill a “capability gap” for a 7.62 battle rifle. A couple things to note here, so far SOCOM has purchased 850 Mk-16s and 750 Mk-17s — way below their original requirement. The weird thing to consider here is that the requirement was for a 5.56 and that was what was competed. Now they’re buying a 7.62 that has no written requirement document attached to it. Further, the SEALs are going to be particularly in the hurt locker on this one since the Navy doesn’t buy their guns, SOCOM does. I hear that it was Naval Special Warfare that really pushed this program and that it was the USASOC that basically killed it. More of the Mk-16s were fielded to SEALs than any other unit within SOCOM. Also of note: I hear that the services who have them will have to hand back their Mk-16s when they’re back from deployment and pick up their old SOPMOD M4s or HK-416s. (READ MORE)

OPFOR: Problems at the Top - I have been mulling in my mind for months the question of whether the Army needs to cull the herd, specifically does it need to retire the majority of their Senior Officers and start anew. There is precedence for this, right after the outbreak of World War II, George C. Marshall, asked several retired Generals to evaluate the fitness of serving General Officers and Senior Colonels for the demands of war. Many were found wanting and were asked to retire. Moreover, George C. Marshall ensured that the Army’s promotion system was up to the task for a protracted ground war—so that someone such a James Gavin could command the 82nd Airborne Division at the ripe age of 37. Today, neither Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton or Gavin would be promoted to General Officer as their career paths would not have matched those who were sitting on the boards, who select General Officers who look like them! Two articles in Sunday’s June 27, 2010 Washington-Post, have led me to conclude that the Army faces two crises. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: The Last Patrol - 26 June 2010 never seemed like a benchmark date I’d remember during this emotional year in Kandahar. I can tell you the exact date I arrived in theater. I remember the date I moved to my ANA COP as the senior American on the ground. I remember the date I was promoted to First Lieutenant. I remember the exact dates, and occasionally even the times, of each company casualty, as well as those of friends and classmates in other units. I deliberately seared these events in my memory as threads of the military experience I sought to weave into my mental landscape. 26 June 2010 was never supposed to make the cut… 26 June was my final combat patrol as a platoon leader forward deployed to Afghanistan. The following day, my platoon would regress back to FOB Ramrod. From then on, it’s just inventories, paperwork, and sitting around just waiting for a bird to take me home. After the eventful tour our company has had in Zhari, our replacement brigade decided to relieve our company with a full battalion at our ANA COP. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: The Loudest Quiet Place in the Army - I found myself camping out in the "ALOC" ("Administrative-Logistics Operations Center") the other day, just to hear myself think. Even with the back-and-forth bustle and bicker of the S1 (Personnel), S4 (Logistics), and other "support" sections, it was good to get away from the constrant drone of the generators that light and air-condition the "TOC"--the "Tactical Operations Center." Normally, the S1 and S4 and others would be working out of the TOC tents. Given the requirement for some regular, non-classified computer connections, however, they took over a refurbished-but-still-rustic dining facility. Cinder block walls, with single-pane windows, and no weather strip around the peeling-paint doors. Inside, the ceiling is open to the rafters. It's not difficult to imagine being off "at camp," which, I guess, is what some of us old timers still call Annual Training anyway. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Our Eyes in the Skies - Earlier this Annual Training, I was able to observe a couple of take-offs and landings of our Military Intelligence Company's ("MICO," pronounced "my-koh") Unmanned Arial Vehicle (U.A.V.) platoon. The MICO is part of the 2/34 Brigade Special Troops Battalion (B.S.T.B.), headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The platoon flies the RQ-7B "Shadow," a radio-controlled aircraft with a 14-foot wingspan, capable of flying for up to 6 hours. Not only can it provide observation and radio-relay coverage, but an upgrade will soon allow it to be used to laser-direct artillery. Training with the Shadow requires a mix of luck and good weather. "If it's too windy, too cloudy, or too rainy, we don't fly," says one soldier. It also requires a little organizational flexibility. The aviation section in the brigade's headquarters, for example, has to coordinate with the local airport to de-conflict airspace. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hamm: Lying Satellites and Kyrgyzstan’s Course - In today’s constitutional referendum in Kyrgyzstan, turnout was unexpectedly high and votes were overwhelmingly for accepting the new constitution. At least some — and probably many — voters cast their ballots for peace and stability. The passage of the referendum will hopefully be a first step to settling the enormous list of issues facing the new government. The most difficult issues for Otunbaeva’s government to deal with will surely be those arising out of the terrible spasm of violence that shook Jalalabad and Osh in mid-June. As others have noted, what happened changes everything. The fallout will test an already fragile government and go far to revealing how different its character is from that of its predecessors. With so much on its plate, the only question that the government has even had the opportunity to tackle is the question of “why.” This question has been thoroughly discussed here and just about everywhere else with a passing interest in Central Asia over the last several weeks. (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: Perspective From the Flipside - When my husband deployed to Iraq, it seemed like most people thought my fears and worries would be focused on a worst case scenario that involved my husband not coming home. To me, it seemed like that fear was almost inherent to deployment to a war zone. And, because I treat worrying like a competitive sport, I couldn't just stop there. Nope. I concentrated on the smaller things. Things that wouldn't end his life, but would impact his civilian career. A wrenched back, a twisted knee or something else that would prevent him from putting on the Brown and doing it for you. What would happen to us if that happened? But, it didn't happen. And my husband returned home from Iraq in one glorious piece. Fast forward three months to Father's Day--last Sunday. My husband spent the afternoon in the yard working while I attended our oldest daughter's dance recital with her younger sister. (READ MORE)

Sarah: A Hobby Is Not the Answer For Me Either - My husband did indeed meet with another mental health professional, but he also decided to follow the first counselor's advice to "get a hobby" and joined the unit softball team. Baseball is his favorite sport, so he's enjoyed playing again and getting to know his new officemates in a social setting. But to be very frank, I hate this new hobby. We have a new baby who wakes up after he leaves for work in the morning and goes to bed at 7 PM. As it stands, he only spends about an hour with her each day after he gets home from work. On softball game days, he spends 15 minutes with her. I hate that she doesn't get any time to be with her daddy, and I also hate that I, as a stay-at-home mom, don't get any help taking care of her at the end of the long day. He heads to softball and I am left to put her to bed all alone. I know these are common complaints for all mothers and not just military ones, but I find myself really torn here. (READ MORE)

Texas Music: Poolside - Today was a good day. My roommates, SGT G-beer and SFC Monty and I, along with SGT Graywarz, went to Freedom Rest. It is a recreation facility here at VBC. A pool, day rooms, a place to relax and kick back. You can stay the night if you are in pass status. We borrowed CPT Z's Trailblazer and drove over. We slathered on the SP30 and sat by the pool, watching tattooed Joes play volleyball and grabass. The pool is just across the canal from General Odinaro's chopper pad, and we watched a couple of Blackhawks come in and land, and GEN O and assorted aides get out. He is tall and bald, hook nosed and hawk-eyed; and once you've seen him, you can't mistake him for anyone else. We sat around and bullshitted for awhile. I swam a little, I read my Kindle and listened to my iPod and just took it easy for an afternoon. When we were leaving, we saw two third country nationals (TCNs) raking moss out of the lake. The pool is right on the lake. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Forever young - "Service (to others) is the foundation of life," future 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw wrote as a junior in high school. "Without service, our lives have the same impact and meaning as a stick lying on the ground." One year ago today, America lost a young man who dedicated his life to helping his fellow man, from Washington state all the way to Afghanistan. The idea that 1st Lt. Bradshaw served others is not a cliche, because he backed it up with every bone in his body. "He had many connections to people, and he made everyone around him better," Bradshaw's aunt, Martha Gillis, told The Unknown Soldiers in January. "He has made everyone he touched think more about not wasting opportunities." While being raised by military parents in Steilacoom, Washington, Bradshaw joined the Pierce County Search and Rescue team, which specializes in finding missing hikers and mountain climbers. He later volunteered at two Catholic youth organization camps, where he had once spent many summer days during his childhood. (READ MORE)

What? Mermaids?: two enthusiastic thumbs up! - I realize that most of my posts have lacked serious content lately. I think that it's because pre-deployment and then deployment itself was just easier to handle if I only blogged during meltdowns. If I was having a good day, why spoil it with some introspection that could bring on some anxiety or lonliness? It was easier to just ignore it. But he's home now, and I thought that maybe I'd start blogging with substance again. Maybe. I still have cold feet about it because I know that people I don't want knowing about my life have access to this blog. But I can't live in the shadows because of that. Instead of trying to catch up on everything that happened during the deployment, I thought I'd just write about the "return, reunion, reintegration phase" that we're going through right now. I've got some friends who are about to experience their first deployments, and I'd love to have chronicled the major parts of my first one. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: You realize they're mocking us, right? - One of the biggest shockers to come out of the infamous "Rolling Stan" article was the unofficial nickname of Gen. McChrystal's raucous inner circle: There's a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority. After arriving in Kabul last summer, Team America set about changing the culture of the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO-led mission is known. For those of you who were hiding under a rock, "Team America: World Police" was a satire from the makers of South Park released in 2004. Among its more memorable scenes is the "Team America" theme song: (READ MORE)

Spencer Ackerman: 9 Years In, U.S. Finally Tries to Get a Grip on Warzone Contractors - More good news from Afghanistan: the U.S. military has no idea where the billions it’s spending on warzone contractors is actually ending up. And nine years into the war, the Pentagon has barely started the long, laborious process of figuring it out. Rear Admiral Kathleen Dussault just arrived in Kabul about a week and a half ago as the commander of Task Force 2010, a new unit established to ensure that the military’s dependence on contractors for everything from laundry to armed security doesn’t end up undermining Afghanistan’s stability in the process. That’s no hypothetical concern: a congressional report last week found that Afghan, U.S. and Mideastern trucking companies who have a piece of a $2.16 billion logistics contract with the military pay about $4 million every week in protection money to warlords and Taliban insurgents. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: nearly 100 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan killed in June - Haqqanis in talks? - Al Jazeera reported on Sunday that Karzai has met face-to-face with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani insurgent network, the first report of contacts at such a high level, which was promptly denied by Karzai's office and the Pakistani Army, which allegedly helped broker the talks. Analysts and officials are skeptical of the claim, and of the Pakistani Army's willingness and/or ability to move against the North-Waziristan based militant group. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, and the head of Pakistan's spy agency, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, are visiting Kabul for the day. Wanted - CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC's This Week yesterday during his first foray into the Sunday talk shows that there are "60 to 100, maybe less" al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan, though said the agency has not had good intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden since the "early 2000s"... (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: The Side Effects of the Afghanistan Rules of Engagement - From Strategy Page: Many Afghans are not happy with this policy, with foreign troops increasingly encountering angry Afghan civilians, who demand that NATO act more decisively in pursuing and killing Taliban gunman. Even if it puts Afghan civilians at risk. This is an unexpected side effect to the change in NATO rules of engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan. Unexpected? This was only unexpected among dolts. I said as much ten months ago (“officials” have admitted that the new Afghanistan ROE have opened up new space for the insurgents”), nine months ago (“the Taliban will surround themselves with noncombatants, in the end making it more dangerous for everyone”), eight months ago (“giving the insurgents safe haven amongst the domiciles of villages sends the opposite message than we intend”), seven months ago (“give chase to and kill the enemy as the surest way to win the hearts and minds of the locals, and thus win the campaign”)... (READ MORE)

Gian P. Gentile: Freeing the Army from the Counterinsurgency Straightjacket - It is troubling that the Army today, after nearly 4 years of experience in conducting major COIN campaigns, cannot see fit to revise the doctrine it has now. It is also troubling that some of the leading COIN experts and Army officers seem unwilling to accept the need for serious debate and the possibility of a fundamental revision of current doctrine. It is as if they have become so convinced of the efficacy and rightness of current Army COIN doctrine that they cannot imagine alternatives and revisions based on recent hard experience. In essence, and sadly, the Army seems to have lost the ability to think creatively. FM 3–24 is not perfect, and it is not the Bible on counterinsurgency; its principles and methods are not timeless in warfare, and more importantly, they have not been shown to work in past and current operational practice as promised. (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: All The Rage - Finally knocked out Rage Company: A Marine’s Baptism By Fire the other day on my limited stop-and-start reading schedule. It was well worth the read, all the more so in these Afghan surge days when things seem impossible or at least are routinely portrayed that way. Stop reading here if you don’t want to know, though I’ll keep it brief and try to avoid giving away too much, in this last in a running series of reviews: One surge is not like another, but it is worth remembering that even the bleakest situations can turn around, that there may be things happening or about to happen that we and even the warfighters in the middle of it may not know or fully understand. Rage Company presents a Marine lieutenant’s view of surge operations in Ramadi from late 2006 through mid-2007. As stated previously, it is a deceptively simplistic Spartan grunt’s eye view, which reads a lot like a sitrep and probably isn’t going to win any literary prizes. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Army Announces Conversion of Brigade to Stryker Configuration - The Department of the Army announced today the conversion of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, from a modular heavy brigade combat team to a Stryker brigade combat team. (READ MORE)

A Year at War, Chronicling Soldiers’ Deployment in the Afghan Surge - Parents with young children back home. Twenty-year-olds just months out of boot camp. Seasoned officers on their fourth combat tours. Cooks, mechanics, snipers and infantrymen. Soldiers all. (READ MORE)

One Battalion’s Wrenching Deployment to Afghanistan - Pvt. Johnnie Stevenson spent his final hours at Fort Drum alone, trying to put his game face on. He played some Ludacris on his iPod, then turned it off. He unpacked his 72-hour bag, then repacked it. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Hundreds displaced by Iranian, Turkish bombardments of Kurdish rebels - Hundreds of Kurdish civilians in the far north of Iraq have fled their homes because of the recent bombardments by both Turkey and Iran against Kurdish rebels based in the remote Qandil mountain area. (READ MORE)

Baghdad's Green Zone also to suffer electricity blackouts - Officials living in the Green Zone will have to endure the same electricity shortages as other Iraqis following a decision to ax their special privileges in the wake of violent protests over prolonged power outages. (READ MORE)

4 Shop Owners Die in Iraqi Robberies - An armed gang went on a rampage Saturday, gunning down four jewelry store owners and robbing more than a dozen shops in the western city of Falluja in what may have been an effort to finance insurgent groups, Iraqi authorities said. (READ MORE)

In Iraq, Divvying Up the Spoils of Political War - IN today’s telling, the description is as ageless as the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers: Iraq is a country of Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. To understand its politics is to begin and to end there, guided by its immutable truths. (READ MORE)

Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militiamen slowly resurface - Mohammad and his gang are back. There may not be a Glock semiautomatic strapped to his waist anymore, but the terrifying mystique of the Mahdi Army still shrouds the Shiite Muslim militiaman like the menacing black uniform he once wore. (READ MORE)

Talks with Taliban anger minorities - The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease among Afghanistan's minority groups, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule. (READ MORE)

Karzai nominates key cabinet positions - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has nominated seven people to fill posts in his cabinet including a replacement for the powerful position of interior minister, the parliament said Saturday. (READ MORE)

Miliband for peace deal with Taliban - Former British foreign secretary and Labour leadership candidate David Miliband said a peace deal in Afghanistan “must include the vanquished as well as the victors”. (READ MORE)

Northern Afghan airstrike kills 8 militants - A U.S. airstrike killed eight militants including a local Taliban commander in northern Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan officials said Sunday. (READ MORE)

NATO death toll climbs in Afghan war - NATO has reported another foreign soldier killed fighting in the Afghan war as the death toll for what is already a record month climbs higher. (READ MORE)

15 insurgents killed by their own bombs in Afghan mosque - Eight Arab, five Pakistani and two Afghan militants were killed when bombs they were making exploded prematurely inside a mosque in eastern Afghanistan, the interior ministry said Sunday. (READ MORE)

McChrystal’s Afghan rules of engagement won’t change despite shakeup, U.S. tells Karzai - America's top military officer assured President Hamid Karzai that newly chosen NATO commander General David Petraeus would pursue the policies of his ousted predecessor, whom the Afghan leader warmly praised for reducing civilian casualties. (READ MORE)

Alpha Company Provides Medical Care to Now Zad Residents - As the city of Now Zad grows, so does the need for medical aid, so the Marine medics of Alpha Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, on Combat Outpost Cafferetta, treat overflow patients both day and night. (READ MORE)

Shadow Over Afghanistan - With an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle high in the sky, soldiers in the UAV platoon of the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, provide a preview of the battlefield to coalition forces in Regional Command-North. (READ MORE)

Afghan-international Force Precision Airstrike Targets Insurgents in Kunduz - An Afghan-international security force killed a number of insurgents with a precision airstrike in the Chahar Darah District of Kunduz province yesterday. (READ MORE)

Panetta says Afghan insurgents show no real interest in reconciliation talks - CIA Director Leon Panetta said Sunday that U.S. officials have not seen "any firm intelligence" that insurgent groups in Afghanistan are interested in reconciliation, and he dismissed reports that a top militant leader is open to a Pakistan-brokered agreement. (READ MORE)

Panetta says Afghan progress slower than expected - Days after President Obama installed a new U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta acknowledged Sunday that progress in the war has been "harder" and "slower than I think anyone anticipated." (READ MORE)

U.S. officials say Karzai aides are derailing corruption cases involving elite - Top officials in President Hamid Karzai's government have repeatedly derailed corruption investigations of politically connected Afghans, according to U.S. officials who have provided Afghanistan's authorities with wiretapping technology and other assistance in efforts to crack down on endemic graft. (READ MORE)

Obama Cites 'Obsession' on Afghanistan Timeline - President Barack Obama said Sunday that there's ''a lot of obsession'' about the withdrawal date for U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He said his focus is on making sure the mission there is successful. (READ MORE)

NATO says increased military ops behind death toll - Intensified military operations against the Taliban are behind a surge in troop deaths in Afghanistan, NATO said Sunday, as the alliance announced the 93rd fatality in a record month for casualties. (READ MORE)

Hamid Karzai given timetable by G8 to tackle corruption in Afghanistan - World leaders issued a stark warning yesterday to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, demanding detailed plans of how he will take over responsibility for the country's security and drive out corruption within five years. (READ MORE)

NATO, civilians give 2 accounts of fatal operation - NATO said Monday that a Taliban commander was among several armed people killed during a search operation in Kandahar, but residents claimed the troops killed eight innocent civilians, including two elderly men. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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