July 1, 2010

From the Front: 07/01/2010

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

Jeffrey Dressler: (PDF) The Irreconcilables: The Haqqani Network - As the Karzai administration continues to press ahead with preliminary outreach to insurgents, Pakistan has quietly stepped in to offer their assistance. The Pakistanis have reportedly offered to help reach out to the murderous Haqqani organization in the hopes of bringing the movement’s leader, Siraj Haqqani, to the negotiating table; however, any proposed deal with the Haqqanis is directly at odds with President Obama’s reaffirmed commitment to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Haqqanis rely on Al Qaeda for mass appeal, funding, resources and training, and in return provide Al Qaeda with shelter, protection and a means to strike foreign forces in Afghanistan and beyond. Any negotiated settlement with the Haqqanis threatens to undermine the raison d’etre for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan over the past decade. (READ MORE)

Kat: General Commentary on Things General - Yesterday, a headline read, "Petraeus Plays Down Afghan Expectations". No shocker there and an extremely wise move. One of his first when taking control of the Iraq war plan. Back in the day, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfield seemed to be constantly assuring all that the end of the hostilities was just around the corner with the brief caveat that it would still require long, hard work. Petraeus had the hard job of telling them it was more like it was going to require long, hard work before we would see the end of hostilities. A hair's difference, but a sight more realistic. Then he tells the Democrat laden Congress the thing that must make them shudder in this season before November elections: things in Afghanistan are going to become a lot more bloodier before they become a lot more peaceful. It's all couched in terms that many a democrat can claim they did not understand or sign off on by Petraeus indicating who would re-examine the ROE's for force protection and use of aircraft... (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: Sanity fights back - I am in a state of shock. The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, has said something sensible! The Court has ruled that British troops are not protected by human rights law on the battlefield. The Court had been asked to decide if British military personnel, who are already covered by the Human Rights Act while on bases abroad, were also protected when they set foot outside the camp gates. Two lower courts had decided they were thus protected, a mad decision which would have all but paralysed the conduct of warfare. But now by a six to three majority the highest levels of the judiciary, which hitherto have wielded ‘human rights’ as a judicial battering ram against western civilisation, have for once upheld the latter against the former. Is this a mirage? Maybe not, since there have been other recent signs that the judges may be emerging from their civilisational trance. (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: Could Use A Reset Button - Or an Easy Button or any number of other handy gadgets that would allow me to either find myself anywhere but here and now or effectively clone myself so that the original me could take a breather. My husband's 11:00 eye appointment on Tuesday did not come with welcome news. More bleeding behind the eye and his pressure had crept up again. We decided to head to the academic hospital in our state capital and see if the gurus could figure out what his major malfunction is. We've been here since and I am pretty sure by 9 a.m. this morning I will have officially lost it. I spent Tuesday night in a hotel and couldn't sleep because I was wound from the day, worried about money, worried about the money I had just spent on a hotel room, wondering what my kids were doing, contemplating how I will make up having M2 and M3 to my mother, worried I wouldn't hear the alarm, worried I wouldn't hear my phone if it rang in the night, worried there would be a fire in the hotel and everyone else would learn that I'd forgotten pajamas. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: Back to the Long War - "I had the ironic fortune to meet Michael Hastings, the author, on the military side of Kabul International Airport last week on my way to Helmand," writes Bill Ardolino. We were both cooling our heels waiting for MilAir flights to other parts of the country, and had a couple of hours to chat. Nice guy, and interestingly, he told me about a story he'd just researched on McChrystal and his staff, mentioning that he was "surprised at some of the things they said" to him. He soon caught his flight to Kandahar, and I hopped on mine hours later. After a few days of travel during which I had almost no Internet access, I discovered the story had been published and blown up, and in retrospect I marveled at his understatement. Bill's just embedded in Afghanistan for Long War Journal, and along with some comments about/from Hastings he reports a bit of the reaction from the troops re: McChrystal's departure at that link. He gets down to business in another post: (READ MORE)

From My Position: Where are they now? - Have you ever clicked on a link on a news site and expected just another story, only to find out that you just connected a bunch of dots and got the rest of a story that only had a "happily ever after" ending a few minutes earlier? I was on The Arizona Republic's website reading the editorials and saw a letter about a dog that was rescued out of Baghdad. It referred to an article from last Thursday I hadn't seen. I went digging for that article because stories about dogs finding good forever homes makes me happy. Dogs rescued out of Iraq and finding good forever homes with soldiers... well, that's even cooler. When I clicked on the link for last Thursday's article, Arizona GI's Iraqi dog adjusts to U.S. life, I recognized the dog. A little older and with a few more pounds on him, but it's Charlie! Yeah, this Charlie: It's been more than two years since Charlie made headlines by becoming the first dog to get a one-way ticket out of Iraq under a program by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Counterinsurgency and the Enervation of the Warrior Spirit - I find much with which to agree when Bing West weighs in, and he has done so on counterinsurgency in an odd context: he is reviewing three books. I will focus on his review of Kilcullen’s book, Counterinsurgency, by copying the parts relevant to my observations. According to Kilcullen, the theory that nation building is synonymous with counterinsurgency began in 2006 with a “group of intelligent and combat-experienced junior officers working quietly to change the way that military organizations thought and operated.” At that time, too many U.S. battalions were charging around Iraq in search of an ephemeral enemy, rousting civilians whose retaliation was aiding the insurgents. Kilcullen’s “intelligent junior officers” wanted to revise doctrine so that U.S. soldiers would protect rather than harass the population. Their efforts were codified in Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 (FM 3-24)... (READ MORE)

Blonde Sagacity: Bowe Bergdahl: One Year in Captivity - "PFC Bergdahl went missing on June 30, 2009. Since then, the Taliban has released three videos showing him in captivity. The Taliban are demanding the release of 21 Afghan prisoners and Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for Bergdahl's release. They have threatened to execute Bergdahl if Siddiqui is not released. Most of the Afghan prisoners are being held in the Guantanamo prison..." What I'm wondering is why no one is talking about this anymore? When Specialist Shoshana Johnson (along with PFC Jessica Lynch, SPC Edgar Hernandez, SPC Joseph Hudson and PFC Patrick Miller) were being held we heard about it...and worried collectively as a country. They were held prisoner for 22 days. But one year in captivity, and nothing is said but on an anniversary of capture? Why? has there been confirmation that he intentionally left the Army that I don't know about? --His family and girlfriend don't seem to think so... (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: Petraeus still countering insurgency - There will be some adjustments and some reinforcement of exactly how the Rules of Engagement should be employed, but there will be no major changes to our strategy in Afghanistan. Nor should there be if we want to actually win. I have only one question for everyone who thinks we should loosen the ROE, what happens after we start killing more Talibs and civilians? How do we actually get to a place where the Afghan people trust us and can handle their own business? I don't see it and that is why I support the COIN strategy and the ROE to make it successful. That doesn't mean we can't kill plenty of bad guys. We killed or captured 121 Taliban leaders in just the past 90 days. We got many of them because the people have started to trust us and feed us info about who the bad guys are. This also ends up saving more of our troops lives by getting the civilians invested in helping us. The more we get them in the game, the better chance we can get out. (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Happenings... - Big news here: (No, not all those little changes concerning the new Commanding General of ISAF, the new Minister of the Interior, the new Chief of General Staff of the Afghan Army...those moves are small potatoes compared to this...) I finally got this blog un-blocked from my network! The wireless I was using went down for good, so there was no way to update for awhile. Now I can type what you're reading right now...I just can't post any photos. Which won't work for us either, really, because visual stimulation is the only way I can reel you good people into my web of blarney. So we'll try some descriptive writing here on the next go 'round, with a link or two thrown in for flavor. Tell me how it turns out! Please don't be shy, people...sure I'm thin-skinned, but feedback really does validate the painstaking loss-of-precious-sleep effort your beleaguered author puts in. (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: Spoils - The amount of stuff a soldier brings home from war can be limitless. Books, bootleg DVDs, letters, pictures, memories, post traumatic stress, TBI - without fail, everyone comes home with more than what they left with. The worth of some of those things can be easily determined, but others carry a more intrinsic value. Go on a backpacking trip through Europe and you might collect train tickets or pub coasters for mementos, but grabbing a keepsake from the battlefield earns an entirely different description: war trophies. Look in a thousand houses or rummage through a hundred caches and you might find something worth stuffing into your pocket. There are strict guidelines that describe what can be taken and what should be left alone. Nothing can ever be taken from a civilian, but enemy equipment (limited to non-firearms) is mostly fair game. I kept my bayonets but had to get rid of a zip gun and an insurgent ammo bearing vest punctured by bullet holes and stained with blood. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Taliban district commander captured - Afghan and international forces reportedly captured the Taliban district commander for Naw Zad in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province last night, after a four hour gunfight in the northern part of the province. Some 30 Taliban fighters were also reportedly killed. U.S. Marines have reportedly launched Operation Cobra in Helmand's Marjah, site of a coalition offensive earlier this year whose slow progress has worried many observers, to "drive insurgents sheltering in rural areas to the east and west of Marjah into even more sparsely inhabited areas". In Sangin, another area of Helmand, the Taliban are reportedly using children as young as five to plant roadside bombs; of the 44 IEDs in Sangin in the last few months, a fifth were carried out by kids, according to the Telegraph. The Journal has today's must-read describing how new legislation in Afghanistan would put local village defense forces, which initially caused concern that the anti-Taliban militias could spin out of control… (READ MORE)

RONALD E. NEUMANN: Fix the Police - It doesn't grab headlines the way a public spat between a commanding general and the White House, or reports that contractors are paying off Taliban insurgents, can. But the unglamorous business of reforming Afghanistan's police may be among the most important challenges for the U.S. mission right now. There are, of course, other urgent tasks that will confront Gen. David Petraeus when he takes charge in Kabul. Foreign forces must push back the insurgency to buy time. The Afghan Army must grow in size and proficiency, and the Afghan government must improve. But it is the police who must secure the population. Without effective police, the U.S. Marines in Marjah will continue to be stuck in a small area, unable to deploy elsewhere in force without risking the security they have fought for. New plans for securing Kandahar likewise must include effective contributions from Afghan police. (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Picture Of The Day - 01 JUN 2010 "Army Blood Bank" - How do you run a blood bank when you're "far forward" in the middle of the Afghanistan war without the American Red Cross Blood Bank system? You go straight to the cow.... err.. soldier. In the U.S. we are fortunate to have an elaborate blood bank system that ensures we have access to blood and blood products to such a point that most people have little to worry about (The American Red Cross and its volunteers toil 24/7, doing the worrying for us). A Forward Surgical Team (FST) has access to a only finite supply of stored blood and blood products. However, we also have access to young healthy soldiers who are more than willing to donate at a moments notice. Through the hard work of the 909th FST and the 173d Charlie Med Co., hundreds of soldiers are pre-screened for donation. Those that are pre-screened can donate their blood within minutes of notice. Doing this has saved lives. (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Got a 297 on the PT Test Today!!! - This morning I took the first APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) since I returned home. I thought I was slipping a little bit lately, but I got the best score in my life: 297!!! I was two pushups short of scoring the max of 300. Maybe next time!!! I had a little help from the calendar because age 57-61 is the second to last scoring category. I had to do 53 pushups and 64 situps to max. I did 66 situps in just over a minute 40 seconds, so that was fine, but 51 was all the pushups I could do in two minutes. To max the run, I would have to do two miles in 15:13, except over age 55 you can either run and be scored the usual way, walk 2.5 miles or ride a bike 6.2 miles (10k) in 28 minutes. I rode the bike. The bike has to be single speed or have its gears locked. I have a single speed, so I rode the required distance in just under 20 minutes. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Today's essential Afghan reading: the SIGAR report - The SIGAR report on the problems with the ANSF Capability Milestone (CM) system is out, and worth a read. The clear implication is that prior to the arrival of Gen McChrystal and his team, ANSF mentoring had really been spinning its wheels. The fact that this report was coming has been known by ISAF for some time: so long that the current official response that it's now so out-of-date as to be unnecessary seems a little disingenuous. Indeed, the prospect of the report itself would seem the most likely impetus for that change. From the press release linked above: "SIGAR auditors briefed International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commanders on March 12, 2010 on the initial findings as the audit work progressed. On April 23, 2010 ISAF Joint Command (IJC) scrapped the CM rating system and replaced it with an entirely new system for assessing ANSF capabilities. The new system is called Command Unit Assessment Tools (CUAT)." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Chalabi Reacts - The strongest reaction to the Maliki-Allawi meeting has come from Ahmad Chalabi. He says there is a conspiracy from the USA designed to dismantle the union of the State of Law with the Shiite alliance. You know, because they had such a strong bond that only the U.S. can put it asunder. Chalabi's spokesthug Entifadh Qanbar went on TV to say that there is evidence of this conspiracy. They have proof, he says, that the US is trying hard to join us Allawi's Iraqiya list with Maliki's State of Law. Why? Well, Qanbar says, to impose Allawi on the Iraqi people. He says he doesn't believe it will succeed. Both Iraqiya and State of Law deny any such thing. Chalabi and his gang rode in on U.S. tanks with the idea of supporting democracy for the Iraqi people. Chalabi spoke eloquently of the need for democracy and how the people want and understand freedom. If he really believes what he said, he should accept that the people voted for Allawi and gave him the greater number of seats in parliament. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: Lara Logan’s Friendly Misfire - CBS Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan certainly did herself and her fellow war correspondent no favors with her inept defense of war zone ground rules, even as she may have been right about a few things. Logan’s appearance on CNN’s media criticism program “Reliable Sources,” followed Michael Hastings’, author of the now infamous Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General,” which summarily ended the Army career of Afghanistan Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal. In defending herself and her compatriots in the press corps, against charges they are too chummy with the military, Logan wounded them grievously with misaimed friendly fire. She unfortunately reinforced the worst stereotype of reporters who “embed” with senior military officers but are actually “in bed” with them. Perhaps the most clueless and unhelpful comment Lara Logan made in the interview with Howard Kurtz was this: (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: The Commander and the Zombie Killers - Just back inside some more civilized wire. I haven't seen much war out there, but that doesn't surprise me. The wars always seem worse on CNN than they are in real life because CNN and the rest of the media don't report on things that do not go boom. For the past few days I've been with the Afghan Army and a couple teams of Americans that have a unique role in the fielding of the Afghan National Army. There is a lot to report and even more for me to study and research, for now I'll hit some of the high-lights. Ultimate victory over the Taliban will be won by Afghans, not US Soldiers and Marines. US/NATO/ISAF military forces can contain the Taliban, but ultimate destruction of the Taliban will be done by Afghans, which is why I've been so interested into digging into the Afghan National Army. My tour guides were the Validation Transition Team Kabul and VTT 201. The latter going by the nickname 'Zombie Killers:' (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Low Profile Ear Pro - A good looking alternative to the bulky radio headphones used by troops in the field today might be the Quietpro+ Intelligent Hearing System. Developed by Norway-based Nacre, the Quietpro features an Ear Bud-like earphone set that uses wiz-bang technology to cancel out loud noises like explosions and gunfire, while still allowing voice to go through. The system also includes a radio interface and wireless receiver, so you can attach all the comm units you need to keep in touch with the FOB or air. The earplug shuts out the noise but allows speech to pass, thanks to the electronics built into a microchip. In quiet surroundings the sounds that we wish to hear are allowed past, but in a noisy environment, the system shuts out the noise, allowing only speech to pass. The electronics are built into a tiny chip. In combination with a radio, the system is a complete communications terminal for use in noisy environments. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: The Waters Of War, and Things That Make Us Whole Again - My tousled life. A little bit of this, a smattering of that. Today, Restrepo. Tomorrow, hot sweaty weather in Savannah. I pack my bags hoping not to take too much. The weather in Georgia is like stepping into a permanent sauna. Last year, I wished for a knife so I could cut a square into the air for a gulp of coolness. "Surely there's a trade wind in the afternoon," I said, to a local I'd met. "Surely not," she said, laughing as she walked away. Stop griping you say. Okay, I will. This just in from a famous fashion designer: "Do you want to cover British Virgin Islands Fashion Week?" It doesn't take me long to think about this. Do I want to make the jump from war back into fashion? Yes. Yes I do. I love that scene. Besides, it's so far away from this: "KABUL, Afghanistan – Militants set off a car bomb and stormed the entrance to a major NATO air base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, authorities said. Eight insurgents died in the failed assault." (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Independence - I’m not sure about you, but here in the “free states” of America I like being the bad ass country we use to be. Sure it’s great to go to the aide of weaker countries when no one else will help or cant. Sure, it’s awesome to allow anyone to come to this country (legally) as this is what makes America special. But tell me if I’m wrong here but back when we told the British monarchy to shove it and began our own country, that’s when America was cut to the point a great country and began the road to bad ass avenue. Fast forwarding to WWI & WWII, (no knucklehead snot nose puke maggot, that’s not the Wi game station) when you kicked America in the shin you best get ready for an ass beating cause we were coming. Other countries looked up to us back then as “where the money is”…home of the free and the brave. Role models were fighter pilots, and cowboys that wore white hats…the “Good Guys”. Now it’s punk ass singers and drug popping sports players….sad. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Zombie Ice Cream Tastes Like Brainz! - As a member of the unit's Knowledge Management ("K.M.") team--and there are precious few of us right now, but that's OK, because there's precious little knowledge to go around right now--I've been tasked to learn SharePoint. SharePoint is a MicroSoft product that allegedly helps to structure, find, and archive organizational information. In designing our unit's SharePoint environment, the objective is that anyone in the organization can find any information they require within three clicks of a computer mouse. I've used the computer application before, on small teams doing small tasks, but I've never before been responsible for administering user-access permissions, and website design, and information architecture. I know what needs to be done conceptually, but I am stumbling around on implementation. SharePoint is not intuitive. SharePoint is not user-friendly. SharePoint is a dangerous and fickle mistress. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: 'I love doing what I do' - When Cpl. Kevin Cueto first decided to enlist in the Marines, he knew his job would be full of challenges and risks. Even while excelling in the classroom and playing high school sports, he always had a singular goal in mind. "We tried to tell him about the dangers. But he didn't care. He said that if he was going to go, he wanted to go out for his country and for his family," aunt Maria Cueto told The San Jose Mercury News. Lisa Fernandez's article said Cpl. Cueto joined the military in 2005. His first deployment did not come until 2009, when he served in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Marine Expeditionary Force. About three months ago, the Marine left for his second combat tour, this time in Afghanistan. Even while overseas, Cueto kept up a Facebook message, which said he loved to kick back and relax, especially at the beach. Yet he also said "I love doing what I do," which fits the portrait being painted by his family and friends. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Gen. Petraeus' "Dream Team" assembling in Afghanistan? - The news from Spencer Ackerman isn't all bad, though. Writing from his new post at Wired.com's Danger Room, Ackerman reports that Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster has been selected to serve as Gen. Petraeus' J-5, the lead plans officer for Afghanistan. You might remember Brig. Gen. McMaster as a veteran of 73 Eastings during the First Gulf War, and Tal'Afar during the Second Gulf War. Holding a PhD in History from the UNC-Chapel Hill, he's the author of a scathing criticism of US military leadership during the Vietnam War. McMaster is also responsible for creating the new Army Capstone Concept, a guide to military leadership in the 21st Century. Most recently, he's been quite the avowed PowerPoint basher, even going so far as to ban the software in his organization. Finally, we're sending the brightest minds to Afghanistan, after years upon years of neglect. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Gen. H.R. McMaster Tapped to go to Kabul - On Tuesday, our pals at Danger Room broke the news that Gen. H.R. McMaster, who served as part of Gen Petraeus’ “brain trust” in Baghdad during the “surge” years, has been tapped to head to Kabul with Petraeus to take over the war in Afghanistan. I had the opportunity to sit down with McMaster back in February just after the release of the Army Capstone Concept planning document was released, which McMaster spearheaded. Titled Operational Adaptability: Operating Under Conditions of Uncertainty and Complexity in an Era of Persistent Conflict—2016-2028, the document’s premise is that combatant commanders will fight for information as tenaciously as for ground, while “integrating their efforts with a broad range of partners in complex environments and among diverse populations.” Sounds a bit like the battlespace in Afghanistan, no? (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Judges quash UK troops human rights ruling - The Supreme Court has ruled that British troops are not protected by human rights laws on the battlefield…Commanders said it was impractical to allow troops in combat zones to be protected by human rights law. (READ MORE)

VA hospital may have infected 1,800 veterans with HIV - A Missouri VA hospital is under fire because it may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. (READ MORE)

House panel denies aid to Afghanistan - A key House panel voted Wednesday to cut off almost $4 billion in aid to the government of Afghanistan pending an investigation into charges that Afghan officials are blocking corruption probes and huge amounts of foreign aid is being stolen. (READ MORE)

Army Works to Right Wrongs at Arlington, Secretary Says - The Army is taking every measure possible to fix the problems at Arlington National Cemetery, and it should continue to manage the nation's "most hallowed ground," Army Secretary John M. McHugh told a congressional committee June 30. (READ MORE)

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of June 29, 2010 - This week the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard announced a decrease in activated reservists, while the Navy announced an increase. The net collective result is 1,725 fewer reservists activated than last week. (READ MORE)

Marine accused in Iraqi war crimes is back on duty - Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III put on his uniform and reported for duty Tuesday despite lingering accusations that he killed an unarmed Iraqi man in what became a major war crime case. (READ MORE)

Pentagon recommends Medal of Honor for a living soldier - The Pentagon has recommended that the White House consider awarding the Medal of Honor to a living soldier for the first time since the Vietnam War, according to U.S. officials. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

2 Police Officers Killed in Iraq Shootout - Iraqi officials say gunmen have killed two police officers in western Iraq. The intelligence officer and his bodyguard were ambushed Wednesday by three gunmen at the entrance to a clinic in the town of Hit in Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar province. (READ MORE)

Iraqis buying tons of U.S. military surplus items - On the outskirts of this former insurgent stronghold, Munir Ibrahim Ismail and his family have taken up residence in an American military latrine. (READ MORE)

Killers Stalk Politicians as Iraq Seeks Government - Since Iraq’s parliamentary elections in March, killers in this violent northern city have stalked members of the Iraqiya Party, which won the most seats, part of a nationwide outbreak of violence directed at officials and other civic leaders. (READ MORE)

NATO retools in a key mission: Building an Afghan police force - When Gen. David H. Petraeus begins his new job as top military commander in Afghanistan, his success will hinge in part on a group of green-uniformed Afghan recruits who recently practiced a mock ambush at the country's main police academy in Kabul. (READ MORE)

NATO's deadliest month in Afghan war - The loss of more than 100 foreign troops in the Afghan war in June serves as a grim reminder to the international community of why Afghanistan is known as the "graveyard of empires". (READ MORE)

After Afghan Shift, Top U.S. Civilians Face Tricky Future - As General David H. Petraeus takes command in Afghanistan, the two top American civilian officials in the war face an uncertain and tricky future, working with a newly empowered military leader, under the gaze of an impatient president who has put them on notice that his fractious war council needs to pull together. (READ MORE)

Petraeus steps in as Afghan war casualty rate steps up - As the Afghan war’s bloodiest month for Western forces drew to a close Wednesday, the widening scope and relentless tempo of battlefield casualties pointed to a formidable challenge for U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the incoming commander. (READ MORE)

New Zealand won't join Australian Afghan operation - New Zealand has rejected an Australian proposal for a joint force to train Afghanistan's army because the risk would be unacceptable, Prime Minister John Key has said. (READ MORE)

Defense chief warns British troops may be last to leave Afghanistan - British Defense Secretary Liam Fox warned on Wednesday that British troops may be the last to leave Afghanistan as their mission in the country is one of the most difficult ones. (READ MORE)

Hollywood star visits Afghanistan to shine light on UN de-mining campaign - The actor Jeremy Renner, who shot to fame playing a bomb disposal expert in the Academy Award-winning film The Hurt Locker, has wrapped up a five-day visit to Afghanistan to highlight the real-life efforts of the United Nations to remove landmines from the war-scarred country. (READ MORE)

No electioneering due to insecurity - No political activities were being observed in southern Ghazni province as the electioneering campaign for the upcoming parliamentary elections entered its seventh day on Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Children of five used by Taliban to lay bombs - Children as young as five are being used by the Taliban to lay bombs and carry weapons in a deadly new tactic in Afghanistan. In the past five months, the number of child insurgents has increased almost five-fold to a band of 40 in the town of Sangin, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. (READ MORE)

'Winning' Taliban 'contemptuously' rule out negotiations with NATO - The Afghan Taliban has denied the prospect of entering into any negotiations with the NATO forces. It comes after British Army Chief Gen David Richards and US commanders suggested that it might be useful to talk to the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Nato: Afghan Taliban chief arrested - Afghan and international troops captured a Taliban district chief in a four-hour gunfight in the southern province of Helmand, Nato said today. (READ MORE)

U.S. Enlists New Afghan Village Forces - The men of this remote village, dressed in crisp beige uniforms and armed with Kalashnikovs, are defending their land against the Taliban, in a U.S. Special Forces-driven experiment that is set to spread nationwide. (READ MORE)

Military restricts use of vehicles vulnerable to IEDs - Top commanders in Afghanistan have further tightened restrictions on the use of vulnerable vehicles after roadside bomb attacks that have killed eight U.S. soldiers since late May. (READ MORE)

Afghan Militants Fail in Attack on NATO Air Base - Eight Taliban insurgents were killed Wednesday after they attacked the NATO air base in the eastern Afghanistan border city of Jalalabad using a suicide car bomb and rocket-propelled grenades in a failed attempt to breach the gate, NATO said. (READ MORE)

UN: Afghan Election Preparations Proceeding - The United Nation's top diplomat in Afghanistan says the unstable security environment has not stopped work to prepare for September's legislative elections and next month's Kabul conference. (READ MORE)

Along Came the Spiders... - Under a blanket of darkness, two UH-60 Black Hawks maneuver low to the ground as they advance vigilantly toward an enemy safe haven, poised to insert lethal ground forces. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, July 1 - An Afghan and international security force captured a senior Taliban weapons facilitator and a number of suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night. (READ MORE)

Drones, Not So Much. F-16s? Yes, Please. - Pakistanis widely welcomed the news that their nation had received three F-16 fighter aircraft from the United States over the weekend. (READ MORE)

Some Afghan military officers to get training in Pakistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to send a group of military officers to Pakistan for training, a significant policy shift that Afghan and Pakistani officials said signals deepening relations between the long-wary neighbors. (READ MORE)

U.S. wary of Beijing's nuclear sale to Pakistan - The Obama administration wants China to obtain an exemption from an international nonproliferation group before lifting its opposition to Beijing's proposed sale of nuclear power reactors to Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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