August 3, 2010

From the Front: 08/03/2010 - Dispatches

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

Knights of Afghanistan: KAF Attacked - At around 1200 today two rockets impacting in KAF preceded a ground attack from the southwest that involved a tractor packed with explosives and attempt to breach the perimeter wall. The fire fight went on for about an hour, with KAF responding with ground forces and gunships before the bad guys fled – apparently getting clean away (I haven’t heard of any captures or killed). There were no (known) casualties inside KAF as far as I’m aware. As soon as it happened we took certain steps and I spent two hours on the wall watching the choppers buzzing around like maddened hornets, and scanning the desert to my west for any signs of movement. It’s a worry because the bad guys nearly always hit KAF from the north – putting the place squarely between us and them – but today it was from the south, and doubtless launched from easy striking distance from here. The fact that the attack was staged in the middle of the day is also a concerning new development. (READ MORE)

A Handful of Dust: They Don’t All Look Alike, Folks: Islamic Nationalism and Islamists - Reza Aslan has argued, I would say very convincingly, that one of the great problems with the term “War on Terror” is that it irradiated the differences between the various types of Islamic terrorism and that in irradiating those differences has seriously undermined efforts to address what is, doubtlessly, a serious security threat. I accept, for the most part, the framework put forward by Aslan in distinguishing difference types of religiously justified terrorism: there is religious terrorism of the nationalist variety and religious terrorism of the universalist variety. Below I will juxtapose these two positions and offer a few suggestions as to how each variety might be addressed (and I think there are very different ways to address them). Islamic Nationalism- Think Hamas, think Hezbollah. Islamic nationalism is first and foremost nationalism. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Lance Corporal Zachary Smith - I've been selfish. I ragged on the People magazine for not talking about our fallen guys, yet all I do in my blog here is talk about my fallen guy and myself. Ok, ok, I know it is my space for that, but I have decided it's about time I let you all know a little bit about the other guys 1st Battalion 6th Marines lost on this deployment, if People won't I will! So, for you blog friends I will now be showcasing each of our fallen Marines, with the permission of the families of course. I am going to start with the first Marine we lost, LCpl Zachary Smith. I've had the pleasure to get to know Zach's widow, Anne, and I feel we have grown very close since she came and visited with me before the 1/6 memorial. Zach was the first loss, the first Fallen Angel 1/6 faced in this deployment, he was killed by an IED during a foot patrol. But during this post, I am not going to focus on his death, I'm going to focus on his life and his love. So now good friends and loyal readers, I present to you...LCpl Zachary D. Smith. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Media - Love Em or Leave Em? - So more than ever, the media has become a very large part of my life. I am constantly on the lookout for articles about my Jonny (google him, there are quite a few, some good, some not-so-good...), about other widows, or about things that will just apply to me in general. I talked to several reporters from all kinds of forms of media - television, newspaper, and radio - when I began this journey. People have asked why or how I could do it and all I can say is that I believe America needs to know. America outside of the military community doesn't seem to grasp how serious this war is and the heroes we are losing. The big news stations often present the KIAs as just another number, a name scrolling across the bottom, but what they fail to remember is that these guys have stories, lives, pasts, and they were supposed to have futures. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lebovich: Daily brief: violence rips through Karachi after shooting - Unidentified gunmen killed a provincial parliamentarian from the Muttahida Qaumi Party (MQM) in Karachi yesterday, sparking a wave of furious rioting that has killed at least 40 people and torched dozens of shops and cars. Although nearly 300 people have been killed in mostly political fighting in Karachi in the last few years, the MQM MP, Raza Haider, is the most senior and first sitting parliamentarian to be killed. As violence engulfed the city MQM leaders placed the blame for Haider's killing on the Awami National Party (ANP), a rival party representing Pashtuns who nonetheless are part of a governing coalition with the MQM. At this time it is unclear if Haider, a Shi'a Muslim, was killed for political, sectarian, or other reasons. However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik Tuesday said the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the anti-Shi'a Sipah-e-Sihaba were responsible for Haider's killing. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Random Thoughts - There are a number of topics that have peaked my interest within the last week. I currently do not have the proper time to devote entire posts on each topic, of which they all deserve, so I am forced to keep them short and combined. Mullah Omar, leader of the Quetta Shura Taliban, released a new code of conduct that supersedes his July, 2009 release. The LWJ has a quick synopsis of Mullah Omar's latest directive, of which I won't recap; however, I see several opportunities for ISAF and their Afghan counterparts. 1: "Fight Coalition Forces to the death without withdrawing or surrendering." There are numerous instances throughout history where victories in armed conflict sway to one side causing desperation moves on the opposing side to issue the infamous orders, fight until the last man, no retreat, no surrender. The WWII Japanese and Nazi Germans come to mind. This does not mean we (ISAF) are any closer to victory, but it may become a telling metric. 2 & 3: "Capture/Kill any Afghan man or women supporting the coalition." (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Something I Heard - Part of the problem with deployments, is that there is a lot of sitting around and waiting. There's only so many times you can say "I love you" or "I'll miss you", and you spend a lot of time sitting there not having to say a word. At this point, I can rest my head on Gunner's shoulder, he'll put his arm around me, and we both understand. At one point I needed to get out of the stuffy company, so I went outside where I found a Soldier talking to his buddy and his buddy's wife. The Soldier was telling his buddy that he just didn't have any words left to say to his family, and that while they kept calling, he kept blowing them off. Probably hard for his family, but I can understand that. Anyway, after the Soldier's buddy and his wife went back inside the company, the Soldier got on his cell phone and called his mom. I couldn't help but listen into the conversation, okay, so I was eavesdropping on this 21 year old kid that was about to head out. (READ MORE)

Awful, Beautiful Life: A Perfect (Crap) Storm - Life has been a crap storm lately. I can't really talk about it in a public way, but trust me, if you knew what was going on you would completely understand why I am so filled with anger. Everything is really changing my opinion of the Army and regretting my husband's decision to reenlist. I HATE the Army and it's policies. I hate how soldiers are treated and I hate that NCOs abuse their power so much. Stay tuned for updates. We just might be going to the media over this one... (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: Behind the cover: MARSOC needs more ninjas - Critical skill operators are the Corps’ most elite Marines. As members of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, they are tasked with the most sensitive, often riskiest missions that take them in small units far behind enemy lines. Trouble is, MARSOC has had an historically difficult time recruiting guys to fill these very demanding jobs. Today, the command is still about 200 CSOs shy of where it needs to be. This week’s cover story, on newsstands now, explores why this struggle persists, while laying out in detail MARSOC’s new plan to mine the Reserve for qualified applicants. On the surface, this strategy could seem like an act of desperation. (That’s no knock on reservists, but heretofore their role within MARSOC has been largely limited to logistics and communications support.) Yet MARSOC officials insist this is part of a calculated effort to infuse the ninja force with important civilian skills that reflect the command’s evolving mission. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Kandahar City Watch - Chandrasekaran keeps us up to date on what's happening in KC. Amazing how much things change once the Americans move in decisively; one can only imagine what Canadians could have accomplished over the last four years with the resources and numbers now being deployed in the province. In Baghdad, the use of checkpoints, identification cards and walled-off communities helped to reduce violence because there were two feuding factions, riven by sect. Because the city had been carved into a collection of separate Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, U.S. forces were able to place themselves along the borders. Both sides tolerated the tactics to a degree because they came to believe U.S. troops would protect them from their rivals. The conflict in Kandahar is far murkier. There are no differences in religion or ethnicity: Nearly everyone here is a Sunni Pashtun. There are divisions among tribes and clans, but they are not a reliable indicator of support for the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Citizen Soldier: HOME AT LAST. - Today is a very special day and the reason it is special is I am at home. I am sitting here drinking coffee and updating my blog in my own house. Oh what a feeling. I arrived home around noon time on the 2nd of August. It was so nice to see my family in person and not on skype or hearing them on the phone. I guess you can say I will miss the guys I have been hanging out with over the past year but there is some I will not think about again. It was a very special day to get that hug from your family and just feel them in your arms. My daughters were excited and just seeing the change in them was great. One change was when I left they had braces and now they are off. I cannot say it enough but I am so glad to be home. I think one of the good things is I can wear what I want now and not wear that uniform for a while. I get to make the decision on what to wear and not wear. It was really great to see my loving wife and just see her smile at me the way she does and she looked great when when she picked me up too. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Department to Adjust Child Care Fees - When I was in the Air Force, I was always grateful for military child care, particularly when stationed overseas. As a single mother, it not only was affordable, but the best child care around. Defense officials always have strived to keep child care costs low and quality high for our military parents. To keep that quality high, officials have decided to adjust child care fees, mainly to compensate for six years without a fee range increase. The changes follow two years of study that determined the fees weren’t in line with inflation and family income, explained Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department’s Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth. “We understand that these are tough economic times for families, but we did this very deliberately after careful study,” Thompson said in an American Forces Press Service article, “Child Care Fees Change to Maintain Quality Service,” written by Lisa Daniel. (READ MORE)

Matt Misterek: Award-winning war documentary coming to Tacoma - Look for a war documentary with a lot of advance buzz to make its local premiere this weekend at the Grand Cinema in downtown Tacoma. Some have compared it to "The Hurt Locker," but without actors. And it's about Afghanistan, not Iraq. The 94-minute film is called "Restrepo," named for a 15-man U.S. military outpost in the rugged Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan, which in turn was named for an American medic, Pfc. Juan Sebastian "Doc" Restrepo, who was killed in action three summers ago. "Restrepo" won the the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It was made by award-winning journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, who embedded with the soldiers of Second Platoon, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The documentary is based on an article that Junger wrote for the January 2008 issue of Vanity Fair. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda Brigade 313 website goes online - A website connected to al Qaeda's military arm in Pakistan has sprung up on the Internet in the past month. The website, called Al Qaeda Brigade 313, at www.aqbrigade313.com, was registered on June 2, 2010, and became active in early July. The site has 86 registered users and five administrators, according to a report at the Open Source Center that was obtained by The Long War Journal. The website contains a forum and a blog, and posts links to Taliban propaganda, including a statement by failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Several authorities, including US intelligence officials and an expert on terrorist websites, all of whom wish to remain anonymous, said that the Al Qaeda Brigade 313 website appears to be legitimate and may be directly associated with al Qaeda. The Brigade 313 website's landing page has the words "Al Qaeda Brigade 313" in the center, while text describing Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan occupies the four corners of the page. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Traveling Light - On my very first Annual Training with Iowa National Guard, back in 1992, our Army communications battalion drove Humvees for two-and-a-half days--stopping to rest at two "overnight halts"--all the way to Camp Shelby, Miss. As a new soldier, I didn't realize that such a large-scale, long-haul mission was so unique. Subsequent Annual Training missions were more likely to take us only a long-day's-drive away. For example, when I joined a combat Engineer unit that used tracked Armored Personnel Carriers (A.P.C.), we'd either have our APCs hauled by other National Guard units specializing in Transportation--Army semi-truck drivers--or we'd borrow equipment from a motorpool at Fort McCoy, Wis. Think of the latter as an Avis or Budget rental service run by Uncle Sam: "Sir, will you be returning that M113 with a full tank of gas, or will you want us to fuel it for you?" (READ MORE)

Marc A. Thiessen: WikiLeaks must be stopped - Let's be clear: WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible -- including to the United States' enemies. These actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism. The Web site must be shut down and prevented from releasing more documents -- and its leadership brought to justice. WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, proudly claims to have exposed more classified information than all the rest of the world press combined. He recently told the New Yorker he understands that innocent people may be hurt by his disclosures ("collateral damage" he called them) and that WikiLeaks might get "blood on our hands." With his unprecedented release of more than 76,000 secret documents last week, he may have achieved this. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: We're The First Ones To Starve, We're The First Ones To Die. - Negligent, immoral, bizarre: "These Afghans are in extreme danger. I am sure al-Qaida and the Taliban have got people trawling through this stuff too. In light of what Mullah Omar said recently that the Taliban should change tactics and target those who collaborate with Nato forces, this is very serious." Christopher Alexander, from whom we should all hear more, is too kind. Anyone who is unaware of Pakistan's sinister animations of the Taliban "insurgency" simply hasn't been paying attention. All you have to do is ask the Taliban: "Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. In their words, this is 'as clear as the sun in the sky'." (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: After the storm - On March 1, 2007, Enterprise High School was hit by a massive tornado, killing eight students in a tragedy that stunned Alabama and the entire nation. With the help of charities, churches, politicians, and celebrities, citizens of Enterprise picked up the pieces and inspired many around the country. Yet more than three years later, the city is again in need of our thoughts, prayers, and support. On July 24, Enterprise High School lost its second graduate of the summer on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Pfc. Andrew Hand moved to Enterprise in 2001, when his dad became the head coach for the Wildcats high school football team. Despite excelling on the field, The Dothan Eagle reports that he was never convinced about an important special teams concept. "One day in practice he was returning punts. Andrew got lit up and had a concussion. He didn’t learn the fair catch. As a soldier, there was no fair catch, no do-overs, no special make-up. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: GENERAL PETRAEUS ISSUES NEW COMISAF COIN GUIDANCE - As you would expect, shortly after assuming command of ISAF, General Petraeus rapidly assessed the situation on the ground and imparted his unique insights regarding what it will take to succeed. On 1 August 2010, he issued “COMISAF’s Counterinsurgency Guidance” for all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of NATO ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan. For those who have not recently read Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, this guidance is an excellent primer (obviously focused on Afghanistan). His 24 points reinforce a counterinsurgency approach that proactively engages the insurgency on all fronts – by closely monitoring the impact of CERP expenditures, not tolerating corruption or inadequate governance, winning the information war by being first with the truth, and relentlessly pursuing those militants who must be killed or captured. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: This Decade in COIN - Following the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities in June of 2009, Afghanistan, once relegated to the back burner of foreign policy, was suddenly thrust back into the spotlight. Subjected to rigorous strategic analysis for the first time in years (save for a handful of notable, prescient exceptions), it quickly became the focus for defense policy websites and blogs. Andrew Exum, of the Center for a New American Security, took part in a comprehensive Afghanistan strategy review at the request of General Stanley McChrystal. Exum would publish many of his findings and proposals in June, in “Triage: The Next Twelve Months in Afghanistan”. Yet, few could have imagined what the next twelve months would really bring: the fraudulent re-election of Hamid Karzai; the abysmal “government-in-a-box”, which was promptly re-dubbed a “bleeding ulcer”; the relief of Canada’s top military officer over allegations of an affair with an enlisted female: (READ MORE)

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