July 23, 2010

From the Front: 07/23/2010

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


A.L.L.: Afghanistan Education - In 1969 Afghanistan tried its hand at compulsory public education for children between the ages of 7 and 15, but the initiative never had a chance to grow roots. When the Soviets invaded 10 years later, many programs, including compulsory public education, were terminated. Prior to 1969, education was purely at the discretion of the family. Even then, much of the education offered concentrated on rote memory of the Quran, and was reserved for males only. Families that elected not to send their children to school often did so out of a need for extra hands to maintain the household and field duties. Dari is the language of the educated in Afghanistan. Regardless of their ethnicity, if a family could pool the resources to send their children through an extensive education, they would become fluent in the Dari language. But after the Soviet withdrawal, any semblance of public education disappeared. Even Kabul University closed its doors. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: term extended for Pakistani army chief - As expected, last night Pakistani Prime Minister Raza Yousuf Gilani extended the term of the popular chief of Pakistan's army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, for another three years, a decision backed by the United States. Gen. Kayani, widely perceived as the most powerful man in Pakistan, has received praise for the military's actions against the Pakistani Taliban, though U.S. officials are said to be disappointed at his "failure to disown the Afghan Taliban". A 40 minute video released yesterday shows the fugitive leader of the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley, Maulana Fazlullah, looking healthy and declaring that his group, which the Pakistani Army said it has defeated, is still "active," and encouraging his followers to attack the Pakistani state. And a 17 second video has emerged of failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad shaking hands with and hugging Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. When and where both videos were shot is unknown. (READ MORE)

Amil Khan: Engaging Pakistan's moderate majority - Only a few miles away from the modern concrete villas and wide roads of Islamabad, lies the shrine of Golra Sherif. Muslims from all over Pakistan visit this spot to ask the buried saints to plead their case in front of God. Poor farmers ask for their Murree Whiskey-flavoured indiscretions to be overlooked. Young female graduates pray for a job. A handful of senior civil servants read the Quran by a graveside hoping God will understand why they keep a mistress. You might even find a feudal landlord or two proving his piety with a high-profile visit. Political leaders mean little in the everyday lives of 180 million people who, for the most part, live in rural areas and have little to no contact with the government. What counts past the city limits of the large towns are the whims of feudal lords and the spiritual sanctuary provided by Pakistan's traditional religious infrastructure of shrines, soup kitchens and religious schools. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Webinar Aims to Help With Reintegration - The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is hosting an important webinar for military families TODAY (Thursday, July 22) at 1 p.m. on “Adjusting to Life at Home After Deployment.” Many servicemembers look forward to life after deployment, often being back home among family and friends but sometimes, adjusting back to “normal” life again can bring countless challenges. Successful reintegration is essential to the overall health and well-being of servicemembers and their families. The webinar will feature personal accounts of deployment to Afghanistan and adjusting to life at home. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Honor Them - Three years ago today, the charismatic, guitar playing medic PFC Juan Restrepo was killed in combat in the Korengal Valley. He was one of many who lost their lives in Afghanistan. The road forward for family and friends has not been easy, their loved ones are held in their hearts forever. Undeniable and long lasting sorrow is an outcome of war. One of the groups I reached out to as part of the PR team for the war documentary Restrepo was the American Gold Star Mothers. These women have lost sons and daughters in Iraq, Afghanistan and other wars. After a quiet conversation, I left it up to them to decide whether or not to attend. Many did. It could not have been easy to watch, but they were able to witness the love and brotherhood that grows as the result of combat. When I talk about sacrifice, I keep in mind the many ways they are being honored in Afghanistan today. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: The Message to Lt. Col. Garcia - This happened a few months ago, while the brigade headquarters was temporarily operating out of Camp Dodge, Iowa ...One of my TOC buddies called. I had made the mistake of taken a late lunch--said I'd be back at 1430 hours. Apparently, the brigade's deputy commander (D.C.O.) had walked into the Tactical Operations Center 5 minutes after I'd left at 1330, and requested that all battalion commanders report to him immediately. Face-to-face. It was now 1425 hours. When I got back, I asked what was up. "The DCO needs the cell phone numbers for all the battalion commanders," was the answer. My radio-telephone operator training kicked in. "OK, but what does he want to DO with those numbers?" I asked. "He wants all the battalion commanders to report to him as soon as possible." "Is that 'drop everything right now' ASAP, or 'as soon as you've completed whatever mission you're on' ASAP?" "'Drop everything' ASAP." (READ MORE)

MaintToad1: There's "See ya later" and then there's "Good Bye" - How many times have we given those bear hugs to our friends and neighbors as their moving van pulled away, habitually saying "good bye" only to be reprimanded with, "it's never good bye", it's "I'll see you later." ? We learned the error of our ways, and also learned for the most part in the early part of our military careers that it was so true-- we would see them later. Our friends are different then those made by our mil-member spouse. Our paths around town and around our posts and bases, bring us into contact with many different people, all of whom make our tour unique--unique to us. I hate it when someone from my support network of friends leaves, either due to a PCS or a retirement. Lately, in a period of 4 weeks, I've had two dear friends leave ... me. You hug them, you tear up, you say, See you later, and you hope in your gut, that for once ... it will actually come true. (READ MORE)

Terry Galvin: Even The Crackpots Are Noticing. - For the very first time, something approaching a point of agreement: The Taliban have denounced this week's international conference on Afghanistan's future, saying the "vague and terrible agenda" shows that the U.S. and its allies intend to abandon the country and blame their ultimate defeat on the Afghan government. To wit: I. Barack Obama, apparently frustrated at the way the war is going, has reminded his national security advisers that while he was on the election campaign trail in 2008, he had advocated talking to America's enemies. II. The US Treasury Department has added three top Haqqani Network and Taliban leaders to the list of designated terrorists for their support of terror groups in Afghanistan. III. The move comes as Karzai has apparently persuaded Washington to push for de-listing certain Taliban leaders from a United Nations sanctions list first established in 1999. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Never get complacent - This is an interesting story on a topic I have talked about several times. The shooting of Americans by Afghan soldiers and police is rare in the grand scheme of things, but it still happens and happens much more than it should. The reality is that if they don’t have US ARMY on their chest then they need to be watched and suspect. I really hope our warriors deployed to Afghanistan keep that in the back of their mind while deployed. Never let your guard down, never get complacent. “The second shooting of Western troops by one of their Afghan counterparts this month has highlighted the potential hazards of a push to speedily expand Afghanistan’s army and police forces in the next few years. On Tuesday, an Afghan army sergeant opened fire at an army base in northern Afghanistan, killing two American civilian trainers before being shot dead. That followed an attack in the south on July 13, when a soldier killed three British troopers, including the company commander, with gunfire and a rocket-propelled grenade in the dead of night.” (READ MORE)

Chickenhawk Express: A Haditha Marine Speaks Out - Those of you that have followed my blog over the past few years, know about my passion for the Haditha Marines. From the moment John Murtha accused them of "cold-blooded murder", I knew, in my heart, that these brave young men were not guilty. It's hard to believe that it has been 4+ years since this all started. Now Retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Jeffrey Chessani has finally spoken out to Nat Helms over at Defend Our Marines. The entire article is a must read but here are a few snips... "After more than four years of legal wrangling, Chessani was forced to retire last week after Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus accepted a December 2009 ruling by a Camp Pendleton military board of inquiry that found Chessani was not guilty of misconduct after more than 23 years of exemplary service. The BOI ruled Chessani must retire anyway because he displayed “substandard performance” by failing to conduct a more detailed investigation of the civilians killed…” (READ MORE)

This Ain't Hell: Astore: The troops aren’t heroes - Ben sent us this link yesterday to an opinion piece by William Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel published in the LA Times. Astore is tired of our troops being called heroes; "since the events of 9/11, there’s been an almost religious veneration of U.S. service members as “Our American Heroes” (as a well-intentioned sign puts it at my local post office). But a snappy uniform — or even dented body armor — is not a magical shortcut to hero status. By making our military a league of heroes, we ensure that the brutalizing aspects and effects of war will be played down. In celebrating isolated heroic feats, we often forget that war is guaranteed to degrade humanity as well. So, next time you talk to our soldiers, Marines, sailors or airmen, do them (and your country) a small favor. Thank them for their service. Let them know you appreciate them. Just don’t call them heroes." Well, while I might agree on some tiny aspect that everyone who puts on the uniform is not a hero, I’m wondering what prompted this veteran to write such drivel. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
DoD, VA Committed to Wounded Warrior Care - Caring for wounded and injured service members is among the highest priorities within the Defense Department, the acting deputy assistant defense secretary for clinical and program policy told Congress July 22. (READ MORE)

Army, Air Guard Adjust Recruiting Goals - Both the Army and Air National Guard missed their recruiting goals for June, however, recruiting activities were adjusted and those goals were intentionally missed as a way to keep end-strength numbers within congressionally mandated limits, said Guard officials. (READ MORE)

Army Works to Expand Combat Stress Detection - Since 2003, the Army medical community has worked feverishly to establish processes that will improve the speed at which post-traumatic stress among military members is diagnosed, the Army's surgeon general said here, July 22. (READ MORE)

Pentagon Faces Growing Pressures to Trim Budget - After nearly a decade of rapid increases in military spending, the Pentagon is facing intensifying political and economic pressures to restrain its budget, setting up the first serious debate since the terrorist attacks of 2001 about the size and cost of the armed services. (READ MORE)

The War Away From the Battlefields - Suicide stalks the United States military as much as enemies do on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the latest grim data. Last year, 347 military personnel were killed in the two wars, while at least 381 warriors took their own lives. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Troops See Return on Investment in Iraq, General Says - U.S. forces deployed in Iraq are seeing a return on their investments as they prepare to drawdown from seven years of military operations there, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Iraq said today. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Minister Says 4 al-Qaida Inmates Escape Jail - Four al-Qaida-linked detainees have escaped from a Baghdad area prison that was handed over by the U.S. to Iraqi authorities a week ago, Iraq's justice minister said Thursday... (READ MORE)

Three U.S. Embassy guards killed in rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone - A rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone Thursday afternoon killed three guards employed by the U.S. Embassy and wounded 15 people, including two Americans, the embassy said. (READ MORE)

In Rare Deadly Attack, Rocket Hits Iraq’s Green Zone - A rocket attack on Thursday on the Green Zone, the heavily barricaded section of this city that contains the main government buildings and the United States Embassy, killed three foreign contractors who work for the embassy, and wounded 15, including two American citizens. (READ MORE)

Obama Presses Iraqi Leaders to End Deadlock - President Barack Obama pressed Iraqi leaders on Thursday to end a post-election deadlock and form a new government without further delay as the top U.S. commander in Iraq told him a troop drawdown was running ahead of schedule. (READ MORE)

Obama: Time to Form Iraqi Govt. 'Without Delay' - U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday urged Iraqi leaders to form a government "without delay" to end the political deadlock in Baghdad following March parliamentary elections. (READ MORE)

Australia defends drop in Afghan refugees - Australia has defended a sharp drop in the number of Afghan asylum-seekers it has approved as refugees, after the UN demanded an explanation. (READ MORE)

Taliban not real US enemy, says former hostage - After 45 days as a hostage of the Taliban, Jere Van Dyk drew a surprising conclusion: the diehard Islamist insurgency might not be the real enemy. (READ MORE)

US slaps sanctions against Taliban, Haqqani network - In a move against the Haqqani network, the US has slapped financial sanctions against three top Taliban leaders, including Nasiruddin Haqqani, a brother of key Taliban leader Sirajudin Haqqani. (READ MORE)

US crackdown on Haqqani network to make Karzai's reconciliation task tougher - Taking a step closer towards declaring the dreaded Haqqani network a 'foreign terrorist organisation, the US Treasury Department has frozen the assets of one of its representative Nasiruddin Haqqani along with two other Taliban commanders. (READ MORE)

Afghan military and anti-corruption timelines unrealistic, say experts - The Afghan government’s goal of leading military operations throughout the country by the end of 2014 is “an aspiration,” not a pledge, and it is unlikely to be achieved, say two Canadian analysts. (READ MORE)

US money wasted on Afghanistan projects, auditor finds - A federal watchdog criticized U.S. agencies on Thursday for squandering taxpayer money on facilities in Afghanistan that are too complex and costly for the Afghan government to maintain. (READ MORE)

2 Americans killed in helicopter crash in Afghanistan - A helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing two U.S. service members, NATO forces said. The Taliban claimed it shot down the craft, but NATO said it was still investigating. (READ MORE)

Afghan shootings cast doubt on 2014 goal for Western troops - The second shooting of Western troops by one of their Afghan counterparts this month has highlighted the potential hazards of a push to speedily expand Afghanistan's army and police forces in the next few years. (READ MORE)

U.S. Relieves 100 Percent of Afghanistan’s $108 Million Debt - The United States and Afghanistan signed an agreement to relieve 100 percent of Afghanistan’s debt to the United States, which is part of a broader poverty-reduction program to improve the lives and livelihoods of the Afghan people, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said July 22 at a ceremony in Kabul. (READ MORE)

Friction among Afghans looms as challenge in south - Lt. Col. Abdul Hadi, a police commander in Kandahar city, is a burly, bearded man who speaks quickly and bluntly. And he didn't mince words during a meeting with a young U.S. Army officer overseeing an infusion of elite Afghan security forces in his district. (READ MORE)

U.S. Checks Afghan Cash Flow - U.S. and Afghan authorities are setting up a joint task force to monitor the billions of dollars in cash flown out of Afghanistan every year, officials said, as the U.S. announced debt-relief for the war-ravaged country. (READ MORE)

Minority leaders leaving Karzai's side over leader's overtures to insurgents - The man who served as President Hamid Karzai's top intelligence official for six years has launched an urgent campaign to warn Afghans that their leader has lost conviction in the fight against the Taliban and is recklessly pursuing a political deal with insurgents. (READ MORE)

Militants will not be paid to quit Afghan Taliban - The programme of Taliban reintegration – a crucial step in Afghanistan's peace strategy – will require officials in Hamid Karzai's government to be punished if they are found guilty of corruption or human rights abuses. (READ MORE)

Afghan Forces Discover Large Quantity of IED-making Material - An Afghan National Directorate of Security force discovered a large quantity of improvised explosive device making material in a rock quarry in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province last night. (READ MORE)

Taliban Facilitator Captured by Afghan and Coalition Force in Nangarhar - Afghan and coalition forces captured a Taliban improvised explosive device facilitator in the Behsud district of Nangarhar province last night. (READ MORE)

Senior Taliban Commander Captured in Kandahar by Afghan and Coalition Force - Afghan and coalition security forces struck at the Taliban leadership again in Kandahar overnight capturing a senior Taliban commander and member of the district Military Commission in Nad 'Ali, Helmand province who commands the movement of fighters and equipment through the Nad 'Ali District. (READ MORE)

Villagers Lead Commando and Coalition Troops to Weapons Cache - The 4th Kandak of Afghan commando troops, working with coalition special operations forces, acted on information from local villagers in Assis Abad village in the Shindand district of Herat province and discovered a large cache of insurgent weapons in the area. (READ MORE)

Admiral Mullen: Afghanistan Can 'Turn' by Obama Deadline - The top U.S. military officer says critics who claim it will take years to even have a chance to defeat the Afghan insurgency ignore the fact that a similar counterinsurgency strategy turned around a similarly difficult situation in Iraq in 2007. (READ MORE)

McChrystal's Rules Helped Reduce Attacks, Study Says - Having taken over command of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus is thinking of easing restrictions imposed by his predecessor on when and how American troops can attack suspected enemy fighters. (READ MORE)

France Says Too Soon to Talk Of Afghan Pullout - French Defence Minister Herve Morin was quoted on Thursday as saying it was counterproductive to talk of withdrawing the 3,500 French troops serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Liaison Officer Connects Afghan Police With Communities - NATO Training Mission Afghanistan’s new liaison officer is finding ways to bring together local organizations and protect and serve the Afghan people. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Extends Army Chief Kayani’s Term Amid Taliban Fight - Pakistan re-appointed its military chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, for three years as it fights a growing war against Taliban factions near its border with Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

New video footage shows Swat Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah alive and in action - The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) Swat chapter chief Mullah Fazlullah is alive, a new video footage has revealed. (READ MORE)

Pakistan army chief to remain in post - Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who is popular at home and has won praise from U.S. officials for his leadership in the fight against Taliban militants, will serve three more years as army chief of staff. (READ MORE)

Pakistan extends powerful army chief's term for 3 years - The Pakistani government on Thursday gave the country's top military official, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, another three years in his post, a move that analysts said would bolster Pakistan's anti-terrorism fight and cement its role in neighboring Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Army Chief to Serve 3 More Years in Pakistan - The government extended the term of Pakistan’s army chief by three years on Thursday, a move backed by the United States as it seeks to encourage Pakistan as a more reliable ally against Taliban and Qaeda militants. (READ MORE)

Pakistan extends term of army chief for 3 years - Pakistan's prime minister extended the term of army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for three more years Thursday, saying continuity was needed to ensure the success of the country's fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban. (READ MORE)

New video shows meeting between Faisal Shahzad and leader of Pakistani Taliban - Shortly after he was arrested, Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, told investigators he had met with the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud. (READ MORE)

U.S. to oppose Chinese reactor sale to Pakistan - The Obama administration's point man for countering arms proliferation said Thursday that the administration will vote against China's sale of nuclear reactors to Pakistan in the international Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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