July 27, 2010

From the Front: 07/27/2010

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

A Handful of Dust: They Don’t All Look Alike, Folks: Universal Religion and Tribal Claims - In 2003 it was shockingly easy for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to convince people that Afghanistan and Iraq were connected, that Saddam Hussein had something to do with Al-Qaida and the Taliban. The reason that this was so painfully easy is that for most Westerns “The Muslim World” exists as monolithic entity, a dangerous misconception. That is why over the next few weeks, I will offer this AHOD series entitled They Don’t All Look Alike, Folks. This series will be intended to highlight great diversity that exists amongst the world’s nearly 1.5 billion Muslims, a diversity that we must come to understand. Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism are the largest examples of universal religions; that is to say, religions which emerge with a prophet at a discernible, known point in history and make claims on the whole of humanity. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: blowback from Wikileaks disclosures continues - U.S. officials are reportedly in damage control mode as they seek to limit the impact of the Wikileaks disclosures on the U.S.'s relationship with Pakistan, after Pakistani officials hotly objected to reports that the Pakistani spy service aids the Taliban. One senior ISI official reportedly said that if the CIA does not "denounce the suggestions" of ISI-Taliban complicity, the ISI might need to "reexamine its cooperation". Gen. Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief frequently mentioned in the documents as a link with the Taliban, called the reports "completely baseless". Current and former intelligence and military officials are concerned about the operational repercussions of the Wikileaks, though the disclosures are not expected to affect the passage of a $60 billion war funding bill currently in the House or drastically change public opinion about the war in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Kandahar Diary: Random Thought #476 - Every night, at about the same time just after last light, I sit out on the Hesco wall, smoke and turn over the day in my mind – How did we do? What went wrong? What went right? How can we do better? That sort of thing.... And every night, at the same time, a UAV flies overhead, at about 8000 – 10000’(my best guess), on the same track. Every night I look up and wave at the drone as it putters its way over my compound and out to the east. It’s become a sort of ritual for me and gives me a strange sense of ease and calm. I wonder if, every night, some UAV pilot somewhere spots me with his FLIR – and god-knows what other technical wizardry – says: “There’s that guy again,” and gives me a wave back. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: 1419 Flt - Wizards in Afghanistan's Green Zone - 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron B Flight arrived at Bastion Airfield in late May 2010. Following many detachments in Iraq over the past 5 years, this was their first taste of Afghanistan. They arrived with the bit between their teeth and were raring to get stuck into the new adventure ahead, albeit the crews were a little apprehensive given the environment which they found themselves in. Following the initial mandatory admin procedures and a very long day sitting on a hot rifle range, the aircrew from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire took to the skies and flew towards the green zone for the first time. 45 degree ambient temperatures mean that the cockpit and cabin of the aircraft is around 50 degrees. Add safety equipment, thermal fire protection, gloves and helmet and the result is some very hot and sweaty individuals. A great deal of water is consumed during any shift by the crews. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Insurgents Using .50 cal Sniper Rifle - During a WikiLeaks deep dive, we ran across an interesting AAR that seems to indicate the insurgents are using .50 cal sniper rifles to target coalition troops. "Narang base took approximately 10 single fire shots from the west. they immdiately engaged w/ heavy weapons and 81mm. shortly after, they received a small barage of (probably AK) fire from the east from 2-5 personnel. they engaged w/ heavy weapons and 81mm again. A10 came on station 20-30 minutes later. A10s and a AH64 that was in the area positively identified a cave. [10:28] ground commander confirmed that this cave had perfect line of sight and fire to FOB while having cover and concealment. Cave was engaged w/ 1x500lb bomb in order to kill enemy hiding in cave/close cave to prevent from further use [10:30] Destined_Base bda as follows: cave is 90% collapsed. 1018Z Round recovered indicates that single round SAF appeared to be .50 caliber weapon." (READ MORE)

Naheed Mustafa: Kabul: A Day in the Life - Naheed Mustafa is a Canadian freelance broadcast and print journalist. She’s currently on a reporting trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan and will be posting dispatches from her trip. It’s always nice to get away from work and walk around the city. My time ended up being short on this trip and I didn’t get a chance to leave Kabul except for a quick jaunt just north of the city for a day. I love the fact that people always have stories to tell; that kids – almost every kid – will say salaam when he or she passes you by; and I smile each time I see the giggling crowds of schoolgirls in white headscarves walking past my guesthouse four times a day. This time though, people’s desperation was obvious. On previous trips, my friends would qualify their assessments of the situation in their country with phrases like “let’s see what happens” or “we hope it’ll get better.” There were no such qualifiers this time. For the first time I heard a good friend say he’s thinking about leaving Afghanistan – something he vowed he’d never do. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Putting out fire - After serving as a volunteer firefighter in high school, it was impossible for 1st Lt. Robert Bennedsen to stand by as the world burned. The educated resident of Washington's relatively isolated Vashon Island joined the Army ROTC while attending Seattle University, later graduating with a business degree and training that further enabled him to help others. 1st Lt. Bennedsen brought those skills overseas to Germany, and eventually the battlefields of Afghanistan. "I think he enjoyed his job way too much and I remember him bothering Sgt. Schreck about going to Ranger School all the time," Dave Evans wrote on Facebook. "The best quality about him is that he always put his soldiers first and treated them as the same way he would like to be treated." It's hard to know exactly what happened during a chaotic Sunday in Qalat, Afghanistan. According to an account from the soldier's aunt in The News Tribune, troops in the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment were hit by a roadside bomb planted by terrorists on July 18. (READ MORE)

Spencer Ackerman: Military Disputes Its Own WikiLeaked Missile Report - The U.S. military is disputing one of its own reports, contained in the trove of war accounts uploaded by WikiLeaks. The document, from May 30, 2007, claims that insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter over Helmand Province with a surface-to-air missile, or SAM. But a spokesman for the NATO command in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Shanks, tells Danger Room, ”We have no reports of any aircraft being damaged by SAMs.” It’s possible to find wiggle room in Shanks’ statement: just because his headquarters doesn’t have an account of the downing by a surface-to-air missile doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen. But it’s also possible that initial accounts of missile fire might have been incorrect. Still, a broader look through the documents finds lots of references to SAMs and their cousins, man-portable surface-to-air missiles, or MANPADs. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Wikileaks and the Afghanistan War Diary - By now it isn’t news that Wikileaks has leaked tens of thousands of war records in what they call the Afghanistan War Diary. It consists of a catalog of thousands of daily incident reports (each incident of an IED, contact with the enemy, casualties, etc., is summarized in an incident report). The reports make for a choppy and stilted read, but for those who are willing to endure it, there is information here and there that compromises operational security. Joshua Foust points out that the names of certain collaborators are in these reports, but that likely doesn’t matter to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. All of the information is classified and it should not have been released. But it has been, and having spent some time now examining these reports, there are a few things that can be gleaned from them concerning specific operations and engagements. (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: I Believe the War is Over: Part I - The War in Afghanistan began to end the morning of Monday, July 26th, with the publication of the first, highly sensationalized, stories about the Wikileaks document dump over the weekend; the New York Times did its part: “Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.” If there is nothing new here, how and why would I say the War is Over? There are two primary reasons. The first reason is the natural conclusion derived from an eminently sensible post by Donald Sensing: “Mattis and Petraeus go together like peas and carrots. They jointly wrote the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (though Petraeus usually gets sole credit). There are not two senior commanders anywhere as well versed and expert in counterinsurgency (COIN) as these two. And they will fail. They will fail because COIN is a tactic, not a strategic objective, and the United States has no strategic objectives regarding Afghanistan.” And that leads the second reason I can say the War is Over. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: Heads will Roll - Mother Jones: "The other interesting data are notes from what the military calls KLEs--key leader engagements. Military officers, as well as officials from State, USAID, and other agencies regularly meet with important players in a war zone to get their take on the situation. Often they're dull and tell the interviewers little they didn't already know; sometimes, though, they give insight to "atmospherics"--how Afghan locals feel about US forces or the Taliban. Many of these key leaders take their lives into their hands; from my experience in Iraq, I know that numerous Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds with high standing among their tribes--and among our enemies--took time to brief US officials, often to dish dirt on crooked or violent elements in their vicinity. If they were ever outed as collaborators with American forces, they'd be as good as dead. And Wikileaks has 16 pages of secret military KLEs with individuals and groups in Afghanistan, spanning six years. No names are redacted." I doubt Julian Assange will lose any sleep over a few coolies getting their heads sawed off. (READ MORE)

ROFASix: John Kerry - Aiding & Abetting the Enemy AGAIN! - In 1971 John Kerry admitted to being a war criminal during the "Winter Soldier Investigation." It was good enough for the citizens of Massachusetts to elect him Senator again and again. So far as I know, he is the only self professed war criminal to serve in the US Senate. Perhaps, it is part of the Democratic Party's quest for "diversity?" You know, a member of the KKK, a war criminal, a couple of black racists and you have a "well rounded group of representatives" in Congress. Now the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen Kerry has been working hard against America. This time he has pretended to want to support Pakistan with aid. Had he done any due diligence he would have known that part of every barrel of US tax payer cash that goes for aid to Pakistan gets filtered off to support the Pakistani ISI and ultimately the Taliban. It is not a secret, the ISI and Taliban have been joined at the hip since the days of Jimmy Carter. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Things NOT to Say Before a Deployment - The following is a mix of both proven (don't ask) and hypothetical ways to put one's proverbial spousal combat boot into one's mouth. Whatever you do, do NOT try these at home: "When is our wedding anniversary again?" "I think I'll sell your car while your gone." "Hey, cool---did you know that we're getting the Military Channel free this month?" "I think I'll get a new dog while you're gone." "By the way, there's a rumor that we won't be getting mid-tour leave ..." "I just got volunteered for extra duty the next four weekends before Mobilization-Day. You and the kids won't mind, right?" "Don't bother making travel plans while I'm at Mobilization station--I'll probably just hang out in Vegas with the guys on our 4-day pass." "Just remember, it's going to suck more for me than it will for you and the kids." "You're going to lose some weight while I'm gone, right?" (READ MORE)

The Two Malcontents: Bird Cage Liner of Record Liberates More Secrets - The NYT has never bothered to report that the current Commander in Chief could not qualify for even a low level security clearance. Nobody needs to know that. Nor did they find Obama’s murky past and lifetime of associations with radicals and known communists to be newsworthy. Nope. Nothing consequential about any of that. Just idle gossip, that was. McCarthyism, guilt by association and all that. (For the record, McCarthy was right). Ninety-one thousand pages of classified war documents–that’s the news that’s fit to print at the Treason Times. The NYT has been causing colossal deforestation in its efforts to undermine national security since 9/11. The NYT rules on what the news is today and the rest of the ovine media take their cues. Note the Times’ naked confession of treason: “Information that is marked ’secret’ has been determined to be information or material that the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause ’serious damage’ to the national security." (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
U.S. Hunts For Leaker Of Afghan War Documents - The Pentagon said on Monday it was launching a manhunt to find whoever leaked tens of thousands of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, one of the largest security breaches in U.S. military history. (READ MORE)

Who Is Pvt. Bradley Manning? - In his Army dress greens, Pvt. Bradley Manning looks like most of his fellow soldiers; but beneath the uniform, many suspect, is a man who may be responsible for the leaking of over 90,000 secret military reports to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. (READ MORE)

Best course for dealing with the Taliban: Win, then negotiate - The Wikileaks document download -- illustrating Afghan corruption, Pakistani duplicity and Taliban toughness -- revealed little that is new. But it will intensify a popular kind of desperation. (READ MORE)

U.S. hunts for leaker of Afghan war documents - The Pentagon said on Monday it was launching a manhunt to find whoever leaked tens of thousands of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, one of the largest security breaches in U.S. military history. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Two Bombs Kill 20 Near Iraqi Shi'ite City Of Kerbala - Two car bombs exploded near the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala in southern Iraq on Monday, killing 20 mainly Shi'ite pilgrims and wounding 54, an Iraqi official said. (READ MORE)

Arabic Channel Bombed in Baghdad - On Sunday, a journalist for Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language news channel, sat in the newsroom and explained that his staff had recently returned to the bureau after being forced to leave for weeks by threats from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. (READ MORE)

Allawi calls on Iraqi PM to step aside - The prime minister of Iraq needs to end his bid for a second term in office out of respect for the voice of the Iraqi people, secular leader Iyad Allawi said. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Militants Stealing Blood for the Injured - Members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia have been holding up blood banks and hospitals at gunpoint, stealing blood for their wounded fighters rather than risk having them arrested at medical facilities, according to Iraqi doctors, employees at health centers and the Sunni insurgents themselves. (READ MORE)

Pentagon can't account for how it spent $2.6 billion in Iraqi funds, audit finds - Because of poor record-keeping and lax oversight, the Department of Defense cannot account for how it spent $2.6 billion that belonged to the Iraqi government, according to the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. (READ MORE)

Pentagon can't account for $8.7 billion in Iraqi funds - The Defense Department is unable to properly account for $8.7 billion out of $9.1 billion in Iraqi oil revenue entrusted to it between 2004 and 2007, according to a newly released audit that underscores a pattern of poor record-keeping during the war. (READ MORE)

Iraq Parliament Delayed, No End to Stalemate In Sight - Iraqi lawmakers called off a scheduled session of parliament on Tuesday as squabbling political factions said they needed more time to decide who will hold the nation's highest offices. (READ MORE)

Joint Forces Forge Stronger Bonds While Living, Working Side-by-side - When the Soldiers from A Troop, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, arrived in Baghdad and went out on a joint patrol with a team of Iraqi Federal policemen for the first time, they were a little shocked by the vast cultural differences. (READ MORE)

Civilian Casualty Allegations in Logar, False - On July 26, International Security Assistance Force was made aware of allegations in the media regarding a civilian casualty incident in the vicinity of Charkh District, Logar province. (READ MORE)

Document leak: Afghanistan questions US' 'contradictory' silence over Pak role - Afghanistan on Tuesday charged the United States with pursuing a contradictory policy with regard to the Afghan war. (READ MORE)

Pakistan's 'double game' prompts call for US policy review - Revelations about what the US media called 'Pakistan's Double Game' of providing Afghan militants 'A Sanctuary for Terror' while taking billions in aid from the US has prompted calls on Capitol Hill for a rethink of Washington's policy. (READ MORE)

5 Taliban militants killed, 10 injured in Afghanistan - Afghan security forces backed by NATO-led troops, in efforts to root out militants in the northern Kunduz province, kicked off a three day offensive that concluded on Monday, killing five Taliban militants and injuring 10 others, a statement of Interior Ministry said Tuesday. (READ MORE)

Wikileaks Afghanistan: leak inquiry centres on US intelligence analyst - Bradley Manning, 22, was arrested in Baghdad in May and charged earlier this month with multiple counts of mishandling and leaking classified data, after a computer hacker turned him in. (READ MORE)

WikiLeaks disclosures unlikely to change course of Afghanistan war - In the first 24 hours after the unauthorized release of more than 91,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, a few things became clear to the officials, lawmakers and experts reading them: (READ MORE)

Afghans and NATO Differ on Civilian Deaths - Afghan officials said Monday that 52 people were killed in southern Afghanistan on Friday when a rocket fired by coalition forces slammed into a house where women and children had taken shelter from fighting between NATO troops and militants. But American officials disputed the account. (READ MORE)

Afghans: 52 die in NATO attack; alliance disputes - The Afghan government said Monday that 52 civilians, including women and children, died when a NATO rocket struck a village in southern Afghanistan last week — a report disputed by the international coalition. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Charged With Fuel Theft - U.S. investigators arrested two U.S. soldiers and suspended a pair of Afghan trucking companies on suspicions they helped the soldiers steal $1.6 million in fuel from a military base in eastern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

'War Logs Could Shatter Hopes of Success in Afghanistan' - The uncovering of almost 92,000 United States military war logs by WikiLeaks provides further evidence that the US and its allies are failing to make headway in Afghanistan, write German commentators. (READ MORE)

In Afghanistan, Little Anger At Leaked Documents - In Afghanistan, the release of the Wikileaks documents has elicited a much different response than the angry denunciations coming out of Washington and Islamabad. The Afghan government seems to have no objection at all about the leaking of so much classified information. (READ MORE)

Mass grave cover-ups undermine justice - Three years after President Hamid Karzai appointed a commission to investigate a mass grave site in the Chimtala plains, north of Kabul city, the site, the commission and the truth are missing. (READ MORE)

Missing US sailor's remains found - The remains of one of two US sailors who went missing in Afghanistan last week have been found in the east of the country, the NATO-led force said today, and troops were still searching for the second man. (READ MORE)

NATO says cannot verify Afghan civilian deaths - NATO said Tuesday its investigation into a rocket strike that the Afghan president says killed 52 civilians found no evidence that its forces were involved. (READ MORE)

Ahmadinejad denies aiding Taliban, wants US and NATO forces out of Afghanistan - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied allegations that the nation is aiding the Taliban in its fight against the Afghan Government and the US-led coalition troops. (READ MORE)

'The worst thing to be is an Afghan woman' - When Shabnam was barely more than a child, her father gave her away to pay off a debt. She was about 13 years old, her husband was in his 50s, and from almost the moment she entered his house he beat her mercilessly, she said. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan not surprised by Pak support for Taliban - Afghan leaders and citizens are not surprised by the Taliban-Pakistani connection made in the Afghan war reports released by the web site WikiLeaks.org. (READ MORE)

Insurgents Kill 6 Civilians, Kidnap Government Official - Insurgents killed six Afghan civilians, wounded two more and kidnapped an Afghan government official in the Siahgird District of Parwan province yesterday. (READ MORE)

Afghan-led Force Detains Several Suspected Insurgents in Helmand - An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Helmand last night while in pursuit of a senior Taliban commander and member of the Nawa Military Commission. (READ MORE)

Afghan and Coalition Security Force Conducts Precision Strikes in Paktiya - An Afghan and coalition security force conducted multiple precision strikes in Paktiya province yesterday targeting the senior Haqqani Network commander for Khost-Gardez pass responsible for the overall command and control of all Haqqani and foreign fighter camps in the area. (READ MORE)

Commander Explains Conditions in Regional Command–East - Though the battle in Regional Command-East in Afghanistan is more difficult than expected, U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are making progress there, Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell said here yesterday. (READ MORE)

Insurgent's IEDs Strike Civilians in Badghis Province - Four Afghan civilians were injured by two separate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Badghis province Saturday. ISAF medics responded to the incidents. (READ MORE)

Afghan-Led Force Captures Taliban Commander, Suspected Insurgents Dressed as Women - An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban sub-commander and several additional suspected insurgents in Paktika province last night. The commander, who operates mainly in Mota Khan, conducts improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against coalition force convoys and facilitates explosives for his network. (READ MORE)

Ex-Pakistani spy held by militants demands help - A former Pakistani spy kidnapped by militants four months ago in northwestern Pakistan threatened in a video to expose the government's "weaknesses" unless it frees prisoners to secure his release as demanded by his captors. (READ MORE)

Pakistan slow to break with Taliban, US says - The U.S. military and intelligence agencies believe some elements within Pakistan's intelligence service maintain contact with and may even in some cases support the Taliban and its allies, but assistance for insurgents has been slowly curtailed. (READ MORE)

Suicide Blast Near Pakistan Politician Kills 8 - A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed at least eight people and wounded 20 in a blast near the house of a provincial minister who has repeatedly spoken out against the Taliban, police said on Monday. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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