Thursday, September 30, 2010

Max Boot Reviews "Obama's Wars" Book by Bob Woodward

Max Boot is not too kind to Bob Woodward's book - Obama's Wars.  Read his comments in "Backstage Drama", Council on Foreign Relations, September 30, 2010.  You can buy the book at Amazon.com at the link below:

Obama's Wars

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are Drone Attacks in Afghanistan Effective?

A columnist, Micah Zenko writing for The New York Daily News, asks if the use of drones to attack Taliban and al Qaeda leaders is overrated.  Read more in "Why drones are overrated: They kill terrorist leaders - - but leave terrorist networks intact", The New York Daily News, September 29, 2010.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review of "Obama's Wars" by Gelb

Bob Woodward's book "Obama's Wars" has caused the administration some sleepless nights as they repair some of the damage.  Leslie Gelb reviews the book and provides insight on some of the juicy parts.  See "Bob Woodward's 'Obama's Wars': Les Gelb on Who Got Burned", The Daily Beast, September 23, 2010.  The book can be purchased at the link below:

Obama's Wars

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two Afghan Journalists Held by Coalition Forces

President Karzai has called for the release of two Afghan journalists held by coalition forces suspected of ties with Taliban.  See "Afghan President Calls for Release of Journalists", ABC News, September 23, 2010.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

War Contractor Deaths Outnumber Military Deaths

"More private military contractors than uniformed service members were killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan between January and June of this year, marking the first time that corporations have lost more personnel on America’s battlefields than the United States military, according to ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative reporting group. More than 250 civilians working under American contractors were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the first six months of 2010, while 235 soldiers died in that same period, according to the latest report in ProPublica’s Disposable Army series."
Read more in "Contractor Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan Outnumber Service Member Deaths", At War Blog - The New York Times, September 23, 2010.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bob Woodward's Book to Cause Major Headaches for White House Afghanistan Policy

Bob Woodward's book is predicted to cause major headaches for the Obama administration.  The book reveals a lot about the interpersonal relationships with major players in the Afghanistan policy debate.  Read more in "Barack Obama's bitter divisions with generals revealed in new book", The Guardian, September 22, 2010.

The book can be purchased at the link below:

Obama's Wars

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Afghanistan Counterterrorist Pursuit Team (CPU)

The CIA has funded, trained, and employed a private paramilitary force in Afghanistan called the Afghanistan Counterterrorist Pursuit Team or CPU.  The unit was formed in the early days just after the invasion of Afghanistan by U.S. forces.  The CPU reportedly numbers about 3,000 and is used primarily in the border regions but is also employed throughout the country.  The CPU works in conjunction with U.S. Army Special Forces at times.  Read more in "US official: CIA runs elite Afghan fighting force", Stars and Stripes, September 22, 2010.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Afghan Election Investigators Confront Threats and Bribes

Afghanistan's flawed elections are now in the hands of a governmental system most often associated with fraud and corruption.  At each Afghan province the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has boards determining the election results.  Read more in "Afghanistan election investigators face threats, bribes", The Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 2010.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Update from Wardak Province, Afghanistan

Coalition forces provided a press conference by the governor of Wardak Province, a Jordanian Colonel, and an American Colonel.  They made brief statements and then answered questions on the progress being made by the Afghan government in the province.  Read the transcript of the teleconference at the link below:

"DoD News Briefing with Col. Johnson, Gov. Fidai and Col. Aref via Teleconference from Afghanistan", DoD News Transcript, September 15, 2010.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

$35 Million Requested for Afghan Local Police

"KABUL—U.S. and NATO military commanders across Afghanistan are preparing plans for village-based defense forces that will receive arms and funds in a bid to beat back Taliban insurgents in rural towns where President Hamid Karzai's government has scant control.

The Pentagon has requested congressional approval to divert an initial $35 million from the budget for the Afghan security forces to form the new local police groups. Critics say local militias could pose a security threat without careful monitoring."
Read the rest of the article in "U.S., NATO Look to Use Local Police in Afghanistan", by Julian Barnes and Adam Entous of The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2010.  Read more about local defense initiatives in Afghanistan.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Dismissal of Counterinsurgency Critics

A writer refutes the critics of the current popularity of counterinsurgency strategy (or methodology) in Afghanistan.  Read more in "A false dichotomy", Armed Forces Journal, September 2010.  Read more articles and publications in counterinsurgency at the link below.

http://www.securityinfonet.com/military/counterinsurgency-COIN.htm

Thursday, September 16, 2010

U.S. Special Forces Working Discreetly in Yemen

WASHINGTON - American commandos are working discreetly in Yemen's mountains to train that country's military to fight al-Qaeda-linked extremists in a signature Obama administration effort to fight terrorism without inflaming anti-U.S. sentiment.

The scope and amount of the military training in Yemen have grown slowly, reflecting the Pentagon's intention to tackle the terror threat while being mindful that a large American footprint in the conservative, Muslim country could actually fuel the insurgency, while also being financially unaffordable.

"Over the last year, the number of U.S. trainers moving in and out of Yemen has doubled, from 25 to about 50 now. The numbers fluctuate depending on the training schedule, but they are providing a complex level of instruction that combines tactical ground and air operations." 
 Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/world_us/102512754.html#ixzz0zKWkQ2rN

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Birthplace of Taliban to be Targeted this Fall in Afghanistan

"The next focus for coalition forces in Afghanistan looks set to be Zhari district, the birthplace of the Taliban and a major southern nest of the insurgency.  Canadian Forces tried for years to pacify Zhari, in Kandahar province. However, for much of that time, the Canadian military had only a fraction of the forces the Americans now have to secure the 300-square-kilometre district.

Three fighting battalions from the 101st Airborne Division, comprising about 2,400 soldiers, having been assembled in Zhari. Canadian troops are in the adjacent district of Panjwai.  Securing Zhari is a key part of Operation Hamkari, a belated coalition decision to throw firepower at Kandahar to beat back the insurgency in the province, the spiritual home of the Taliban and the region that is believed to be their top target." 
 Read the rest of the news article in "Coalition forces target Taliban birthplace", The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2010.  Read more news about the fight for Kandahar at the link below.

http://www.securityinfonet.com/afghanistan/fight-for-kandahar.htm

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aid Workers in Afghanistan Say Security is Worse

"KABUL, Afghanistan — Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations and humanitarian groups."
Read the article in "Security in Afghanistan is Deteriorating, Aid Groups Say", The New York Times, September 11, 2010.

http://www.afganwarnews.info/

Monday, September 13, 2010

U.S. Marines Rescue Ship from Pirates

"MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept. 9, 2010 – A 24-member maritime raid force from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit today boarded and seized control of an Antigua-Barbuda-flagged, German–owned vessel from pirates who attacked and boarded it yesterday.

The Marines serve aboard USS Dubuque, operating under Combined Task Force 151.  The mission secured the safety of the M/V Magellan Star’s crew and returned control of the ship to the civilian mariners. 
Nine pirates are under the task force’s control, pending further disposition, officials said, and the ship’s crew has not reported any injuries or casualties. No injuries to the maritime raid force were reported."
Information from "Marines Seize Control of Ship from Pirates", American Forces Press Service, September 9, 2010.  Learn more about maritime security.

Map of Afghanistan Affected by Floods (August 2010)

The recent flooding in Pakistan that has caused so much trouble has also affected areas of Afghanistan.  ReliefWeb.int has posted a map depicting these flooded areas (dated August 30, 2010).  Click on the link below to access the map.

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/LYLN-88VNBN?OpenDocument

Other maps of Afghanistan can be found here:

http://www.securityinfonet.com/afghanistan/Maps-of-Afghanistan.htm

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Operation Dark Heart - Reviews of New Book on Covert Activities in Afghanistan

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has blocked the publishing of a new book by a retired Army intelligence officer. The book is called "Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan - and The Path to Victory".  The book was wrote by LTC Anthony Shaffer - an officer in the Army Reserves and DIA intelligence officer.  Read some reviews of the book at the links below:

"Spies and Contractors", by David Isenberg, Cato Institute, September 10, 2010.

"Pentagon Fighting Release of New War Memoir, 'Operation Dark Heart'", Daily Finance, September 10, 2010.

"Pentagon Plan: Buying Books to Keep Secrets", The New York Times, September 9, 2010.

The book - once cleared for publication - will be available on Amazon.com at the following link:  Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan -- and The Path to Victory

Kandahar Boardwalk in Afghanistan

It seems lots of journalists want to write about "the Kandahar Boardwalk".  I haven't seen it but it must be pretty amazing to get all this print.  Here is another story about the place where Soldiers can relax with a burger and fries.  See "In Kandahar, you can get burgers and fries at U.S. "boardwalk", The Washington Post, September 12, 2010.

For more Afghan war news visit:

http://www.afghanwarnews.info/

http://www.securityinfonet.com/afghanistan/The_War_In_Afghanistan.htm

Saturday, September 11, 2010

National Guard Special Forces Seeking Members

The U.S. Army National Guard Special Forces has played an important role in the defense of our country since September 11, 2001.  The 19th and 20th Special Forces Groups of the Army National Guard are two of the seven U.S. Army Special Forces Groups that belong to the United States Army Special Forces Command.  Each of these National Guard groups has deployed numerous times over the past several years to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations around the world.

The National Guard Special Forces is constantly recruiting new members for its operational detachments and support units that are located around the country. The units will accept former Green Berets who are already trained, prior service members from other units (all job specialties), or individuals who have never served. There are training programs for all individuals who wish to join a Special Forces unit.  The website link found below provides information on Special Forces training, locations of National Guard Special Forces units, and who to contact if interested in joining a National Guard Special Forces unit.

http://www.nationalguardspecialforces.com/

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Ghost in Kandahar

Sometimes some strange stuff happens in a war.  Here is one story with an unusual ending.  See "A Ghost in Kandahar", The New York Times, September 8, 2010.

Karzai Hedging His Bets - Seeks Accommadation with Taliban

Much to the dismay of the minority ethnic population of Afghanistan Karzai is seeking an agreement with the Taliban - who are mostly Pushtun from the east and south of the country.  Aides close to Karzai say he has lost confidence in the ability of his Afghan Army and the coalition forces to defeat the Taliban and he sees a political agreement as the only possible way to end the conflict.  Read more in "Karzai Divides Afghanistan in Reaching Out to Taliban", The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2010.  Read more news about the war in www.afghanwarnews.info/.

Petraeus Sees Challenges and Progress in Afghanistan

Genereal Petraeus provides some insight as to the direction of the conflict in Afghanistan in an interview.  This is reported in a recent news report.  See "Petraeus Expects Sustained Violence", The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2010.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

COMISAF COIN Guidance - Petraeus Issues Counterinsurgency Guidance for Afghanistan (August 1, 2010)

The Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - General Petraeus - has issued his commander's counterinsurgency guidance.  The document is available on the ISAF website where you can read it online or download it as a PDF file.  It is dated August 1, 2010.  See the link below:

http://www.isaf.nato.int/the-afghan-hands-blog/commanders-blog/comisaf-guidance-01-aug-2010.html

4th BCT of 101st Now Deployed to Afghanistan: Completes Deployment of Surge Forces

The 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division - stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky - has now deployed to eastern Afghanistan.  This completes the movement of 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan that is known as "The Surge".  Read more of the deployment of the 4th BCT in "Surge Is Fully Deployed to Afghanistan", by Julian Barnes, The Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2010.

Yemen: Fighting the al-Qaida Network with a Small Special Forces Footprint

The United States has slowly built up its Special Operations presence in Yemen - with about 50 operators in the country training elite Yemen counter-terrorist units.  The enemy is an insurgent force linked to al-Qaida who seem to be growing stronger as time goes on.  This group is also showing indications of attempting to target U.S. and other Western interests.  Read more about the Special Forces training effort in Yemen - see a news article on this topic in "US terror training in Yemen reflects wider program", Google AP Hosted News, September 8, 2010.

Biometric Database of Iraqi Citizens: Do We Hand it Over?

The United States has a huge database of biometric information on Iraqi citizens.  The biometric data contains fingerprints, iris scans, photographs and other personal information to include names, occupation, home of record, etc.  Some of the individuals in the database are suspects or known insurgents.  Others were employees of the U.S. military who worked on the many large military bases scattered across the Iraq countryside.  Still more are just average citizens who had their biometric data collected randomly.

The question remains - as the Iraq war concludes - about what to do with this database.  At least 7% of the Iraqi population has their biometric information collected.  Given the history of Arab countries and the lack of democratic processes found in that part of the world this is a scary situation - especially for those who are in the database.  The use of this large biometric database will likely lead to wide scale abuse by the Iraqi government.  Read a recent news article on this topic - "Worries about US data on Iraqis", The Boston Globe, August 31, 2010.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Afghan National Police - Moving Forward

A cheerleader's view of the Afghan National Police (ANP).  Read "Improving the Afghan National Police is One Path Forward", NTM-A CSTC-A 'Shoulder to Shoulder' Blog, September 6, 2010.

Afghanistan Strategy Explained by Petraeus

"Kabul, Afghanistan – Progress in Afghanistan has been faster than expected in some respects, and not as far along in others, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said here September 3rd.  The progress achieved so far in Afghanistan is “about standard for any one of these kinds of deliberate campaigns,” Petraeus said.

The current Afghanistan strategy has been in the making since 2008, the general said, when a U.S. Central Command assessment and subsequent policy reviews revealed that factors he called “the inputs” of the Afghanistan mission weren’t right. New organizational structures and some new leaders were necessary, he explained, and concepts and approaches needed refinement. And, he added, insufficient resources had been applied to the effort at that time."
The author of the article - in part provided above - is John Banusiewicz with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs. Read the rest of the article in "Petraeus Explains Afghanistan Strategy", Clarksville Online, September 4, 2010.  Click here to read more news on the Afghan War.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Surviving the Cut: Special Forces Combat Diver, Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel will air a special presentation on the Army's Combat Diver School that is located in Key West, Florida.  The special is called "Surviving the Cut: Special Forces Combat Diver".  See some previews at the link below:

September 8, 2010 - Wednesday Night - 10:00 pm
http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/special-forces-combat-diver

Special Forces Lacking Aircraft in Afghanistan

The Special Forces units operating in Afghanistan, according to a recent news article, are operating without the necessary airlift capability they need.  The problem has existed for years with no solution in sight.
"The shortage of organic lift aircraft in CJSOTF-A is no secret. It has been the subject of news articles and congressional hearings. But in the nine years that Special Forces have been operating in Afghanistan, little has been done to remedy the situation.

Col. Don Bolduc, the current CJSOTF-A boss, controls three UH-60 Black Hawks on loan from the 82nd Airborne Division and three MH-47 Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) to support a force of about 3,000 stretched across Afghanistan. For any missions that requiring helicopter support beyond what that small force can accomplish, he must ask other units for help.

Efforts to fix the problem have failed due to a combination of Pentagon bureaucracy and senior military officials’ opposition."
Read the rest of the article in "Special ops forces lack lift aircraft in theater", by Sean Naylor, Army Times, September 5, 2010.

Iraq: Future Operations?

With the declared "end of combat operations" in Iraq a number of analysts and commentators have been expressing their thoughts on the road ahead.  They are looking at the Obama administrations strategic plans and the planned actions on the ground in Iraq by the less than 50,000 troops who will remain over the next year.  It appears the State Department will take an increased role in further developing the Iraq government and its processes as we transition from a military-led effort to a civilian-led effort. The remaining troops will perform in an "advise and assist" role, provide "enablers" such as UAVs and logistic support, and be a source for intelligence analysis and dissemination.  The military has stated that we are transitioning from combat operations to stability operations.  Of course, there will be special forces teams doing what they do with the occasional CIA agent in the mix!   A number of news articles below provide differing perspectives on what the current situation looks like, what the future holds, with suggested plans of action that should be considered.

"This Week at War: The Iraq Gamble", by Robert Haddick, Foreign Policy Magazine, September 3, 2010. Robert Haddick is the managing editor of Small Wars Journal.

"Breaking Dawn: building a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq", by Colin H. Kahl, Foreign Policy Magazine, August 31, 2010.  Colin H. Kahl is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East.  His article describes the overall tranisition strategy, provides a brief on the current security environment in Iraq, and discusses the political drivers of instability, the critical transitions that must take place, and how we must enter into a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq.

"Analysis: Iraq's Military Needs After 2011", by Stephen Farrell, The New York Times At War Blog, September 2, 2010.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reporter in Afghanistan Details Morale and Views of Troops on the Ground

A war correspondent from the New York Daily News tours Special Forces camps in Afghanistan and reports back on the conduct of the war and the thoughts of the troops on the ground.  He asks the SF guys what they think of the new strategy.  They remind the reporter that SF has been doing this type of mission for decades (and in the early days of the Afghan War) - it just has taken "big Army" to relearn the COIN lessons that others never forgot.

"After spending nearly three weeks in Afghanistan traveling constantly between Kabul, Bagram Airfield, Kandahar Airfield and several remote U.S. bases, I've been pressed by friends and colleagues to explain the state of the nine-year war amid President Obama's surge to 100,000 American troops."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/09/05/2010-09-05_through_the_eyes_of_grunts_daily_news_reporter_relays_ontheground_wisdom_of_troo.html#ixzz0yevCFvlO

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Punked in Iraq

Here is something different.  A reality show in Iraq is scheduling interviews for personalities and celebrities.  Enroute to the interview fake bombs are placed in the cars of the celebrities. They then travel through a military checkpoint where the bombs are discovered.  Hmmmmmmm.  See "Punk'd, Iraqi-Style, at a Checkpoint", The New York Times At War blog, September 3, 2010.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Iraq Needs a Slower Clock and U.S. Engagement

The former ambassador to Iraq during 2005-2007 states that Iraq needs persistent U.S. assistance in the political sphere - especially when forming up their government and settling internal disputes over oil, money, and the three large groups within Iraq society - Shia, Sunni, and the Kurds.  See "Iraq needs U.S. engagement, and a slower clock", The Washington Post, August 31, 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Iraq War: Win or Lose?

An online article explores the results of the Iraq War.  He states that we didn't win but we didn't lose.  See "The Iraq war leaves a fog of ambiguity", The Washington Post, August 31, 2010.