July 2, 2010

From the Front: 07/02/2010

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

Just Because It's Not A Tin Roof - ...doesn't mean it's not just as hot. Yes, it's perfectly acceptable for a Lady Warrior to opt for uniform uniformity with her commo (and camo) Battle Buddy when the temp pops above 105F. These folks are our two newest Best Friends, and we're gonna be seeing them a lot in the next few weeks if things go according to schedule. Of course, this kind of work isn't as hot as *this* kind of work -- Rockets, airfields, and dry grass don't mix, even when the rockets *don't* go "bampf!" on impact. A couple minutes after the first one hit, a Force Protection Hummer drove up to our ramp, and a young Captain who looked like she should have still been in high school hollered, "Where did the rocket hit?" *ka-THUD!* *ka-THUD!* "Well, if you meant the first one, drive about a quarter-mile up the road. If you meant those last two, my guess is they're about fifty meters over there, where the smoke is just starting." (READ MORE)

JP: Michael Yon: Get Over Yourself - I know a lot of people read Michael Yon. I used to read Michael Yon when he wrote stories about what the troops were doing, instead of trying to grab attention by his accusations of the military and more recently military bloggers – who helped to get his stories heard early on. Enough is enough. I don’t know anything about Michael Yon. He didn’t respond to my emails early on when I started Milblogging.com, or even when I deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq and blogged from the frontlines as an Infantryman. If you’ve been following Michael’s Facebook page, you know that Michael has had a lot to say about the Military and milbloggers –-- this coming from a guy who served in the 1980s (not in today’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, that he claims to know everything about). Nothing personal against Michael – but you can just as easily read a story written by an AP reporter. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Deadly blasts hit Lahore shrine - More than 40 people were killed and 175 injured late last night in Lahore when at least two young suicide bombers attacked the Sufi shrine, Data Darbar, targeting worshipers of Lahore's patron saint, Data Ganj Bukhsh. The attacks occurred at the shrine's busiest time, after a Sufi ceremony of singing and prayers. There have been no claims of responsibility yet, though several Pakistanis interviewed by the AP blamed the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and the minority Ahmadi sect; the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has denied involvement. TTP spokesman Azam Tariq claimed, "You know we do not attack public places... We only attack police, army and other security personnel." Thousands of Pakistanis protested in the streets of Lahore today, calling for Punjabi government action against militancy and the resignation of some Punjabi officials. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Iraq continues transformation - Iraq today is far different from the Iraq of 2003. This sovereign nation has transformed rapidly into one that is able to provide for its own security as a stable, secure, and increasingly democratic state. Improved security is the cornerstone of this remarkable progress and a fact supported by recent Iraqi Security Force success against the senior leadership of Al Qaida in Iraq and Ansar al Islam. This success is meaningful – not only because it significantly weakened dangerous terror networks– but also because its shows the growing capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces. In 2004, the Iraqi Security Forces began rebuilding from the ground up. In the past six years they have improved their skills through constant training and have become a capable force, recognized and trusted by the vast majority of the citizens of Iraq. The seamless security provided at approximately 11,000 nationwide polling sites on Election Day in March was a powerful example of how far the security forces have come. (READ MORE)

Brian Fishman: Counting al-Qaeda - David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti report in the New York Times this morning that al-Qaeda has "fewer than 500 members" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is almost certainly true, but the numbers alone do not demonstrate that al-Qaeda is in decline. Al-Qaeda has never had more than "several hundred" formal members according to a 2005 Century Foundation report authored by Richard Clarke and others in position to assess the organization prior to 9/11. (Clarke's numbers certainly exclude al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was much larger.) Formal membership is not a particularly useful measure of al-Qaeda's strength because the group operates largely via other organizations or by opportunistically utilizing individuals that arrive in the border region and are willing to attack abroad. We need to get more creative about how to understand al-Qaeda's power. Both the Century Foundation Report and Sanger and Mazzetti do some good work on that front. (READ MORE)

Corinne Graff and Rebecca Winthrop: Busting Pakistan's madrassa myth - Madrassas still attract the lion's share of attention in the media when it comes to explaining the root causes of militancy in Pakistan, but this near exclusive emphasis on Pakistan's religious seminaries is misguided. Recent evidence on schooling in Pakistan all points to the conclusion that while madrassas do have a role, they are less important than is often assumed. The madrassa focus is unfortunate because it overshadows the much broader challenge and potential security implications of Pakistan's failing schools. Under the 2009 Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, the U.S. committed to tripling economic assistance to Pakistan. For FY2010, a total of $334.7 million has been set aside for Pakistani education, $264.7 million of which is allocated to basic education. U.S. policymakers are poised to start spending these taxpayer dollars, and should look closely at why and how Pakistan's schools are failing -- and the security implications of these shortcomings. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: Time for Marines to hunt in Sistani? - As moments in Afghanistan went, they were some of the eeriest ones I experienced. On May 10 and 11, I went out on back-to-back evening patrols with members of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines from Combat Outpost Yazzie in northwest Marjah. The material gathered those nights formed a large part of the basis for this magazine story in Marine Corps Times, showing the dangers Marine faces in the former Taliban stronghold, where ambushes with sniper rifles and 7.62mm machine guns are common. With the sun setting on the horizon, the Marines climbed to a ridge overlooking Marjah from the west both nights. It’s a picturesque place, but one near an Afghan graveyard used repeatedly by insurgents this spring to ambush Marines in the valley below. Commonly, a group of two to four gunmen on motorcycles would zoom in from the Sistani Desert and Sistani Penninsula to Marjah’s west, then open fire. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Commandos clear busy street of explosive devices in Sangin - Royal Marines from Charlie Company, 40 Commando Group have carried out an operation to clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from a busy market street in the village of Pylae in the Sangin valley. Working in conjunction with colleagues from the Counter-IED Task Force, the marines put in place a cordon around the suspect street to prevent locals from endangering themselves during the clearance and to limit interference from insurgents. “Today, we’re conducting an IED clearance operation. My call sign is taking arcs out to the south. We’ve just occupied a roof top that has good arcs, and will remain here while the IED clearance team carry out their business,” said Lieutenant Doug Spencer, Charlie Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines. The village of Pylae and its patrol base is on the front line of enemy troops, with patrols from 40 Commando identifying several IEDs in the village and surrounding area over recent weeks. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Online Tool Eases Overseas Voting Process - When I was in the Air Force and stationed in Turkey, it was evident when it was coming up on the time to vote. Voting awareness booths would spring up throughout the base to educate us on how to vote by absentee ballot. It seemed complicated then to decipher my state requirements, including where and when I should send in my application. But I was happy to do it anyway. Homesick for the states, voting offered me a valuable connection to my home, as well as an opportunity to make a difference. I’m glad the Defense Department is working to make this important process easier for our servicemembers and their families living overseas. My colleague, Lisa Daniel, wrote about a new, online voting assistant that will help military families vote more easily in November’s elections in her American Forces Press Service article, “Online Program Helps Military Families Vote Absentee.” (READ MORE)

Amy Sun: Jalalabad fab lab Findings - In May 2008 we unpacked a Fab Lab at the edge of a bustling, growing city set in a wide fertile wet valley. Jalalabad, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, was a far cry from the vast dry deserts or foreboding mountainous terrain with small hamlets of traditional living which compose popular images of Afghanistan. The inhabitants of this ancient trade route city are a mix of ethnicities, tribes, and nationalities and there is a long tradition of education and commerce. However, today insecurity plagues the region. Corruption, and the difficulty of making and upholding contracts discourages significant foreign investment which could provide much needed jobs and infrastructure. In this context we sought the effects of providing ordinary people access to the means of technology development. More than 4,000 users have used the lab facilities since May 2008, not including peripheral beneficiaries such as users on the FabFi network. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Guest Blog: Get a (Better) Grip on Your Carbine - In a discussion recently about the current issued M16 and M4, amidst the usual issues of maintenance and caliber size, a trooper blew my mind by remarking upon an issue that gets little to no spotlight: The grip. The pistol grip is an integral part of the M16/m4 weapons system. Proper usage and hold can make or break your shot. Not only is accuracy an issue, but you also have to take into account fatigue and plain old fire control. The standard A2 pistol grip was originally part of the M16A2 design adopted by the Marines in the mid-80’s and hasn’t changed much since. Thousands of troops have carried the rifle and used this design for years and fought successfully with it. So why change what works? Recently the renewed interest in Ar-15s in the civilian market has created an explosion of aftermarket parts for the AR-15/M16/M4 and its variants. A lot of these parts are “Tacticool” and serve no functional purpose other than giving Mall Ninja’s something to drool over. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: FN Fires Back on Mk-16 Death - Nearly a week after we ran our story on the cancellation of the Mk-16 Socom Combat Assault Rifle, manufacturer FN Herstal sent us an on-the-record response to the unfortunate development. Before we get into the release, a little background. First of all, my dealings with FNH-USA in my decade as a defense reporter have been nothing but friendly and professional. The folks I’ve dealt with there have always been helpful and responsive to story queries and have on several occasions helped me in other areas of small arms and weaponry that had nothing to do with their systems. I asked FNH-USA to comment on the Mk-16 story the day I was running it and I got a very detailed response from them on a variety of issues regarding the Mk-16 and 17 and Mk-13 – but all of it was provided “off the record” so, of course, I couldn’t use any of it in a story. The statement they sent me last night was respectful and detailed, and it did not impugn my story or the command which cancelled a huge chunk of the SCAR program. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: 41 killed in triple suicide attack at Sufi shrine in Lahore - Suicide bombers have again struck a religious site in the capital of Pakistan's eastern province of Punjab. Today three suicide bombers detonated vests at the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine in Lahore, killing 41 people and wounding more than 170. Of those wounded, 24 are said to be in critical condition. The three bombers entered the compound undetected and detonated their vests at the Sufi shrine just minutes apart. The suicide vests were packed with ball bearings to maximize casualties. One of the suicide bombers threw hand grenades at worshipers before detonating his vest. The attack took place on a Thursday, when the number of visitors at the shrine is highest. Today's attack is the first major terrorist strike outside of Pakistani's tribal areas since the May 28 armed assaults on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. On that day, two squads of heavily armed Taliban fighters from the so-called Punjabi Taliban entered the two mosques: (READ MORE)

Helmand blog - Afghanistan: Operation LION'S GAP helps villagers intimidated by insurgents - British and Afghan soldiers recently deployed on an operation to the south of Nad 'Ali after they heard that local villagers were being terrorised by insurgents. Operation ZAMARAY CHASM, which means 'Lion's Gap', was carried out to reassure the local people and to search a compound previously used as a firing point by the insurgents. The operation was co-ordinated with other ISAF troops and the Afghan security forces. The soldiers of C Squadron of the Royal Dragoon Guards and Corunna Company of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment pushed south into the village, or kalay, as Fondouk Squadron from the Queen's Royal Lancers pushed west. Apache helicopters and fast jets were in support. This was a joint operation from beginning to end - jointly planned, co-ordinated and carried out with the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). This was the first operation for the ANCOP, recently arrived in Helmand from Kabul. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Best. Army Training. Ever. - I don't know what exactly trainer Timothy Baigent did to get where he got, traveling the country and teaching people a practical mix of cultural awareness and interpersonal communications skills. And I don't know how he can do it with such high energy, hour after hour, day after day. I can honestly say, however, that in about three hours at Camp Ripley, Minn., he gave us Red Bull soldiers some of the most useful and most memorable Army training that I can personally remember in my more-than-20-years in uniform. Bottom-line up front, with a little hint of the A-Team: If you are in an organization that needs cultural awareness or interpersonal communications skills, and if you can find him, hire Timothy Baigent. Taking notes was a little like being a court stenographer at a Robin Williams concert. I'm really not going to be able to do it justice, but here are some snippets to give you an idea of the topics and tips discussed: (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: Who cares about the Afghan government? And strong horses? - Our government does not appear to care about either. A plea from the Afghan government: Afghanistan asks Canada to extend its military mission Afghans will die if Canada does not play a part in the Afghanistan recovery after the planned military withdrawal in July 2011, Kabul’s man in Ottawa said Wednesday. But the commander of all Canadian troops overseas said the government has provided no indication of any such intentions beyond next summer’s deadline. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada, Jawed Ludin, said even with Canadian troops in the country for the past eight years, there is still an enormous challenge to uproot Taliban militants from the country. “The challenge is still there, but the guarantee for the success is also there,” he said, urging Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan to forge a stronger partnership." (READ MORE)

CounterInsurgency Center: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO UNITY OF EFFORT! - Unless you have been under a rock for the last couple of weeks you probably know that the much vaunted commander of ISAF Gen Stanley McChrystal has been removed from his post as commander of Coalition forces in Afghanistan, for comments he and his staff made in the now famous Rolling Stone Article and that just yesterday, General David Petraeus was given the nod to take over the mission. It is not often that such a juicy news item hits the COIN world or an active military operation. The events of the last two weeks will be grist for the mill for endless case studies at staff colleges with regard to leadership and civil military relations. It may replace the example of General MacArthur and President Truman although I don’t think that the two incidents carry the same gravitas. Certainly, there are a lot of learning points on leadership that we can glean from this incident and that we can pass on to our leaders: (READ MORE)

War is Boring: War Blogger Michael Yon Speaks Out - Michael Yon is considered by many to be the Ernie Pyle of the 21st century. Though Yon is not a household name, his voice and opinions have a great deal of power. His writing and photography have been praised by such diverse figures as NBC’s Brian Williams, General David Petraeus, legendary war reporter Joe Galloway and reporter Tom Ricks. He has clocked more time embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other writer, spending time with American, British, and other coalition troops. He is credited with taking what many consider the most iconic photo of the Iraq war, of then-Major Mark Bieger cradling a mortally wounded Iraqi girl named Farah. This in addition to finding time to go on his own, un-embedded, to Afghanistan. Most recently, he was present for clashes between the Thai government and Red Shirt protesters, which he documented on his Facebook page. (READ MORE)

Spencer Ackerman: Job One: Petraeus Squashes Beef Over Kandahar’s Grid - The top job for General David Petraeus, now the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, before the Senate on Tuesday was to show unity within the Obama administration on the war. After the self-immolation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who exhibited disrespect for his civilian counterparts in the State Department — and their superiors — Petraeus can’t allow any daylight to shine between himself and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry or special representative Richard Holbrooke. With Petraeus arriving in Kabul today, there’s already an early opportunity to unite: a controversial plan for delivering more kilowatt hours to the electricity-starved city of Kandahar. The approximately 850,000 Afghans who live in the country’s major southern city receive something like six hours of electricity a day. There’s a major series of military and (allegedly) governance operations scheduled all through the baking-hot summer. (READ MORE)

Spencer Ackerman: Watch Out, Condé Nast: Al-Qaida Launches English-Language Lifestyle Mag - Just in time for a wave of (mostly thwarted) homegrown U.S. terrorism: Al-Qaida has apparently launched a new magazine to move politically frustrated Muslim youth in the West down the road of violent extremism. Think of Inspire as a lifestyle rag for the conspiracy-minded takfiri, filling the inexplicably vacant media space between O: The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics and the al-Qaida book Knights Under The Prophet’s Banner. The magazine itself has a hefty feature well, reports The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, consistent with what any ambitious editor would want to see in a roll-out issue. Osama bin Laden himself offers his thoughts on “How to Save the World”: Blow stuff up when people disagree with you about what’s Islamic! His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, shares his insights on what’s going down in Yemen. (READ MORE)

America's North Shore Journal: Sal Giunta survived Afghanistan - SSG Sal Giunta has not been officially confirmed as the latest soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Multiple reports seem to indicate that he is that person. Giunta deserves the honor, as you will see in the following. But, most of all, he and his fellow soldiers deserve our thanks and our heartfelt apologies. It was lousy strategy and poor planning by senior officers and civilians that put him in a situation where his bravery would earn him that medal. "The next day I climbed up to the KOP and found Specialist Giunta, a quiet Iowan lofted into a heroism he didn’t want. His officers were putting him up for a medal of honor. Giunta told me the story of that night, how they’d barely moved 300 yards before they were blasted. Giunta was fourth in the file when it happened, and he jumped into a ditch. He couldn’t figure out why they were getting hit from where Joshua Brennan and baby-faced Franklin Eckrode should have been leading up ahead." (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: First living Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam - I have a piece that just went up announcing that SSG Sal Giunta of Battle Co. 2nd BN (ABN) 503rd INF will likely be the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. I say likely since the official announcement has not been made, but we have multiple confirmations. We also waited to put this out in order to make sure we wouldn't affect the process in any way. The Washington Post has a piece today that says the decision is still pending and so they didn't publish his name. We heard otherwise and so the decision to publish was made. This is a tremendous piece of news and truly over due. SSG Giunta is receiving the award for his actions during an ambush where he charged some Taliban who were attempting to drag away a wounded soldier named Josh Brennan. I know his dad Mike who is a police officer in Madison. He attended the screening of Restrepo in Chicago along w/ Matty O and the Tanker Babe. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Afghanistan Policy in Disarray - The first living Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam is soon to be named, which is good news. The disturbing part of the Washington Post article is at the end. “We should be stationing our troops in places where they won’t be earning the Medal of Honor because the population and terrain favor us and we have quick access to air support,” said John Nagl, one of the authors of the Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine and president of the Center for a New American Security, a defense think tank. Leaving behind the issue of allowing the insurgents safe haven for recruiting, raising of funds, training and rest, and leaving behind the issue of protection of lines of logistics and all of the other objections that could be raised to this incredibly stolid statement, Nagl’s quote betrays an Afghanistan policy and strategy that is in complete disarray. He wants retreat in the face of enemy fires, allowing air power to accomplish the engagement. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Guest Blogger, Andrew Lubin; Patrol Base McElhinney # 3 - The debate on blowing a bridge continues. One patrol reported after meeting with the locals that they told him that while a lot of good people use this bridge daily, so do a lot of bad guys. But as 1st Lieutenant Carl Quist said ‘if we blow the bridge, we’ve put the good people to a lot of inconvenience. And if we blow one or two of the bridges, the bad guys can still use the other, and I don’t have nearly enough Marines to permanently guard a bridge and still complete my missions. So we’re still trying to figure it out. I think it is worth taking one out.” PB McElhinney is supplied both by helicopter and by foot. At 0300 the resupply helo from Camp Hanson dropped off a sling-load of supplies that the entire post – both Marine and ANA – hustled inside from where it was dropped in a local field. Plywood sheets – concertina wire – smoke and frag grenades – cases of water were carried inside, inventoried, and stacked by 0400... (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Military Did Not Propose Obama’s July 2011 Drawdown Date for Troops in Afghanistan - Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that President Barack Obama’s July 2011 drawdown date for U.S troops in Afghanistan was not proposed by military officials. (READ MORE)

Tories 'chasing headlines' over Afghan pull-out - Shadow foreign secretary David Miliband today accused the Government of sending out "mixed messages" over the UK's military mission in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Documentary film maker: Fighting in Afghanistan like being 'on Mars'- Best-selling author and director Sebastian Junger says experiencing the existence of U.S. troops' experience in Afghanistan was like being "on Mars." (READ MORE)

Petraeus rules out drastic changes in Afghan war policy - NATO's newly appointed Afghan war commander General David Petraeus has ruled out any drastic changes in the counterinsurgency policies which were implemented by his sacked predecessor General Stanley McChrystal. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan troop 'surge' approved - A day after General David Petraeus won Senate confirmation as commander of the NATO and US campaign by a 99-0 margin, the House approved a bill to put another $37bn into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

US House approves money for Afghan surge - The House approved funds Thursday to pay for President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan troop increase but also voted to signal growing unhappiness with the war among his fellow Democrats. (READ MORE)

US officials: Al-Qaida operative tied to NY plot - U.S. counterterrorism officials have linked one of the nation's most wanted terrorists to last year's thwarted plot to bomb the New York City subway system, authorities said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

War Commanders Need Better Logistics Picture, General Says - Commanders fighting the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq need a better “common operating picture” for their supplies, contracts and other logistical requirements, the Joint Staff’s logistics director said here this week. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Paragliding Over Mosul – Because Iraq Just Isn’t Dangerous Enough Already - The risk-averse will tell you that it takes a special sort of foolishness to jump from a mountain with just a paraglider strapped to your back. (READ MORE)

1-1 CAB Aircraft Help Iraqi Air Force Expand Mission Capabilities - The transition of U.S. forces out of Iraq still requires hands-on guidance for the Iraqi security forces. Working with the Iraqi air force is just one of the ongoing missions that have Task Force 12 doing just that. (READ MORE)

RFS Renovates Mosque for Iraqi Army - Daily calls to prayer from the public address systems of mosques in Mosul, Iraq, surrounding Contingency Operating Site Diamondback, Iraq, echo in through the air. (READ MORE)

Recovery Team Set to Aid Convoys - An asset recovery team with the 632nd Maintenance Company, 110th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 224th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is assigned to run convoy recovery missions in southern Iraq to support the responsible drawdown of U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces Arrest 3 Terrorism Suspects - Iraqi security forces working with U.S. advisors arrested three terrorism suspects in recent operations in Iraq, military officials reported. (READ MORE)

Turkish Jets Bomb Kurdish Rebels in Northern Iraq - Turkish warplanes have bombed Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq over the past two days, Turkey's military said Friday, a day after violent clashes between the troops and rebels claimed 17 lives. (READ MORE)

Risk-tolerant China investing heavily in Iraq as U.S. companies hold back - China didn't take part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq or the bloody military battles that followed. It hasn't invested in reconstruction projects or efforts by the West to fortify the struggling democracy in the heart of the Middle East. (READ MORE)

ISAF Says Insurgents Seek to Reintegrate - A growing number of insurgents are seeking to come off the battlefield and reintegrate in their communities, British Army Maj. Gen. Phillip Jones, director of the ISAF Force Reintegration Cell, said today. (READ MORE)

Two foreigners die in Afghan attack - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Friday that three international aid workers were killed in a Taliban attack on a US aid organisation in northern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Five dead as Taliban attack aid compound in Afghanistan - Three foreigners and two Afghan security personnel were killed Friday in northern Afghanistan when Taliban suicide bombers attacked a US aid contractor, NATO and Afghan officials said. (READ MORE)

Taliban bombers storm aid group in Kunduz, killing three - THE Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide and gun attack on a US aid organisation in Afghanistan today that left at least three people dead. (READ MORE)

Afghan governor: Suicide attackers strike Kunduz - A provincial governor says insurgents have stormed a building used by a firm working for USAID in northern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban attack US troops in Afghanistan - Taliban militants attacked a guest house of US troops in Kunduz city, capital of Afghanistan's Kunduz province, Friday morning, a top official said. (READ MORE)

NGOs want stronger UN humanitarian coordination - A consortium of 31 NGOs working in Afghanistan have expressed their "deep concern" over the ability of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to carry out its mission in the country because of low staffing levels. (READ MORE)

Senior U.S. commander restricts Humvee use in Afghanistan - The once-ubiquitous Humvee may become a rare sight in some parts of Afghanistan following a decision by the senior U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan to restrict the use of the vehicles in the field. (READ MORE)

Aid Group Attacked in Afghanistan - Six suicide bombers stormed a USAID compound in northern Afghanistan before dawn Friday, killing at least four people and wounding several others, officials said. At least two of the dead were foreigners. (READ MORE)

Attack On USAID Compound In Afghanistan Kills 4 - Multiple suicide bombers stormed a USAID compound in northern Afghanistan before dawn Friday, killing at least four people and wounding several others, officials said. (READ MORE)

Four dead in Afghanistan aid attack - Suicide bombers have attacked a US international development compound in northern Afghanistan, killing at least four people and wounding several others. (READ MORE)

'Casablanca Rick's Bar of Kabul' serves up its last drink - The nearly naked swimmers and the pounding disco music might have left the impression that Wednesday night's crowd at the storied U.N. guesthouse bar was a routine gathering of expats blowing off steam in this war-weary town. (READ MORE)

1st Recon launches new operation near Marjah - Reconnaissance Marines in Afghanistan have launched a new operation near the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah aimed at pushing insurgents out of nearby areas they have used to launch repeated attacks on Marine patrols. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan asks Canada to extend its military mission - Afghans will die if Canada does not play a part in the Afghanistan recovery after the planned military withdrawal in July 2011, Kabul's man in Ottawa said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

The final countdown to end of Afghan mission - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, once considered a hawk in the mould of George W. Bush, appears more and more like a dove as Canada enters what could be its last summer of war in southwest Asia. (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)

President Obama's 2011 Deadline in Afghanistan Stirs Controversy - The change in the US military command in Afghanistan has brought to the forefront yet again the controversy over President Obama's July 2011 deadline in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

After McChrystal, French General now scolded for Afghanistan comments - A French General drew fire from his top brass on Friday for criticising the US strategy in Afghanistan, after the American commander there was sacked for a similar reason. (READ MORE)

Karzai Approves Plan for Taliban Reintegration - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved a plan intended to win over Taliban foot soldiers and low-level commanders, according to NATO officials and an aide to the Afghan official overseeing the effort at Taliban reintegration. (READ MORE)

Afghan Hindus And Sikhs Grapple With Uncertain Future - They thrived long before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century and for a long time dominated the country's economy, but Sikh and Hindu Afghans now find themselves struggling for survival. (READ MORE)

Pakistan backing Afghan attacks, says UK officer - Bomb attacks on US and Nato forces in Afghanistan are being funded and planned from Iran and Pakistan, a senior British officer has said. (READ MORE)

Pak Army claims 'sanitising' South Waziristan - The Pakistan Army has claimed that it has sanitized South Waziristan, and that the Taliban has been flushed out of the troubled tribal region. (READ MORE)

Pakistanis blame US after shrine attack kills 42 - Pakistanis lashed out Friday at the U.S., blaming its alliance with their government and its presence in Afghanistan for spurring two suicide bombers to kill 42 people at the country's most important Sufi shrine. (READ MORE)

Pakistan under pressure to act after Lahore violence - Pakistanis staged protests on Friday calling for a tougher government crackdown on militants after suicide bombers killed dozens in the country's most economically important province and traditional seat of power. (READ MORE)

At least 41 dead in suicide bombings in Pakistan - Three suicide bombers struck a Sufi shrine in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore on Thursday, killing at least 41 people and wounding more than 120, officials said, the second major attack in the city in a month. (READ MORE)

Vengeful militant group rises in Pakistan - Pakistani authorities now believe a dangerous new militant group, out to avenge a deadly army assault on a mosque in Islamabad three years ago, has carried out several major bombings in the capital previously blamed on the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Proposal Stirs Fears of Pakistani Media Censorship - A government-backed proposal to limit Pakistani broadcasters' terrorism coverage and criticism of the state is causing concern among journalists who fear it will stifle the country's feisty, flourishing media. (READ MORE)

Pakistan's dual policy on Taliban - Pakistani authorities have reacted angrily to a study released this month by the London School of Economics, which concludes that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence has been systematically funding and maintaining top-level ties with the Taliban, and on a larger scale than generally believed. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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