Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs and various sources around the world.
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Hardening Up -- [Kandahar Diary - in Afghanistan]
Since the attack we've been busy hardening our defences and today was no different....
When I first arrived here I was staggered at the lack of preparedness of the place... I'd lie awake at night wondering how I was going to convince the client to shell out the hard-earned for what I needed to make this place truly defendable - and the answers never came in any form I figured the client would accept. That all changed overnight (literally) a few nights ago. It's a blank cheque now and I'm spending it wisely.
Dear 'Pissed Off' in Kandahar... -- [Kandahar Diary - in Afghanistan]
Reading this, I realise how precious I am sounding and I know I'll probably regret posting this but this blog is the only 'person' I feel I can 'talk' to (and I don't want to burden L and the kids with my whining). It sure is lonely in command sometimes. I'm really not happy right now and could easily get on the next plane out. Hopefully it will pass...
Happy al-Faath Day -- [Free Range International - in Afghanistan]
The fighting season is rapidly ramping up to make this the bloodiest yet which makes it the perfect time for President Karzai to go to Washington for a little face time with the Commander in Chief. What is to be accomplished during this meeting is easy to predict: Not one damn thing. This article in the Washington Post explains why - here is a quote from it: "We don't have a plan yet," worries the senior military official." With the operation to clear Kandahar on hold that's a huge problem. I'm worried too.
As often happens when the good President leaves to conduct important affairs of state the Taliban have declared that they will ramp up a major offensive targeting ISAF, the Afghan government and all internationals. This offensive even has a name; al Faath (victory) and it is scheduled to start tomorrow...
Taliban to launch major offensive in Afghanistan -- [Reuters]
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents announced on Saturday an offensive against NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to travel to Washington.
In a statement from an email usually used by Taliban militants, it said the new offensive will begin from Monday and would target foreign troops, Afghan government officials, and foreign diplomats with suicide and roadside bombings...
Karzai arrives in Washington as Taleban threaten fresh assault -- [Times (UK) Online]
The four-day visit by Mr Karzai comes at a critical moment in his strained relationship with the Obama Administration and in the eight-year Afghan war.
With a US-led military operation aimed at routing the Taleban in their heartland of Kandahar to be launched within weeks, the insurgent group warned last night that a counter-offensive -- called "Operation Victory", in opposition to Nato's "Operation Hope" -- would begin today.
US, Afghan officials shrug off Afghanistan Taliban's threat of new offensive -- [Christian Science Monitor]
The Taliban's announcement that it would begin an offensive on Monday appeared an attempt overshadow or harm Karzai's trip.
...the Associated Press reports that Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, who is traveling to the US with Karzai, dismissed the Taliban's threat as propaganda, saying that the group did not have the ability to carry out such a campaign, and that intelligence shows many of its leaders are actually across the border in Pakistan.
Coalition leaders also said they doubted the Taliban had the ability to live up to their threat, according to The Wall Street Journal.
...Coalition troops are preparing to launch an offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, after ousting the Taliban from control in neighboring Helmand Province. The 30,000 additional US troops Obama ordered to Afghanistan to help turn the tide against the Taliban have already begun to arrive.
Whether propaganda or real threat, the Taliban's announcement illustrates the militant group's continuing presence as Karzai heads to Washington...
Afghanistan appreciates its partnership with the U.S. -- [Hamid Karzai/The Washington Post]
The many sacrifices of both Afghans and Americans have led to tremendous achievements. We are grateful for America's contributions and will always remember your resolve in standing by us. Now and during my visit to Washington this week, I hope to convey my deepest condolences to families of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan...
Our common success in fighting terrorism and improving security rests on building institutions of the state to enable Afghanistan to deliver all the necessary services and protection to its people. We have, in abundance, courage and the desire to take responsibility for our own security and governance. To that end, it is vital that Afghan security forces be institutionalized and equipped with necessary and sustainable tools...
While we continue to battle terrorism, to help end violence in our country and ensure the safe return of your sons and daughters, my government is convening a Consultative Peace Jirga -- a historic forum of the Afghan people -- to chart a way forward for engaging those who fight against us. Fifteen hundred representatives of the Afghan people will deliberate and advise us on reconciliation and reintegration...
Obama makes personal diplomacy part of Afghan strategy -- [The Washington Post]
President Obama has bluntly instructed his national security team to treat Afghan President Hamid Karzai with more public respect, after a recent round of heavy-handed statements by U.S. officials and other setbacks infuriated the Afghan leader and called into question his relationship with Washington...
Peace proposal would grant exile to Taliban leaders -- [Reuters]
Taliban leaders may be offered exile overseas in third countries as part of a draft peace proposal by the Afghan government in an effort to persuade insurgents to end a 9-year-old U.S.-led war.
The draft, distributed to some diplomats and seen by Reuters, also envisages the Taliban cutting ties with Al-Qa'ida and joining the political mainstream as part of any peace accord.
The draft plan comes weeks before a grand council of Afghans, known as a "jirga," that will meet in Kabul from May 29 to discuss how to make peace with the insurgents.
Peace talks with the insurgents will be a key issue that President Hamid Karzai will discuss with U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Washington next week.
Bruised by war, many Afghans mull reconciliation -- [Reuters]
Sayed Arabshah Arabshahi is a Kabul university professor whose 26-year-old brother was lashed to death with a wire cable by the Taliban.
"Essentially I'm not against talking with the Taliban if it will mean peace," Arabshahi said on the sidelines of a "Victim's Jirga" organized by civil society groups in Afghanistan, as an alternative to the one planned by the government.
It is a course that is already underscoring differences between Kabul and Washington. The United States has been cautious about any peace overtures as it prepares an offensive against the Taliban stronghold in Kandahar. The White House opposes efforts to contact Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
But many Afghans feel the United States may already be preparing to leave after Obama announced a July 2011 start for a troop withdrawal.
"The U.S. has said it will withdraw, and the Afghans have realized that if we have to deal with each other, we might as well as start talking about it now," said Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, an Afghan analyst and politician.
...One person who is resolute in her belief that no insurgent faction should be engaged is 18-year-old Sediqa from Kabul.
When she was a little girl, shrapnel from a Hizb-e-Islami rocket that hit her home entered her back. After surgery in Germany she returned to Kabul only for her home to be destroyed in another rocket attack.
In the second attack her mother, two brothers and her great aunt were killed.
"I don't want them to anytime talk with (insurgents)," Sediqa, who walks with a limp, said. "I used to have hopes and wishes, to help my country and work for my country, but those hopes have turned to dust."
Afghan Violence Victims Want Voice in Peace Talks -- [AP/NY Times]
Ahmad Shah knows more than most Afghans about the nation's 30 years of bloodshed, repression and war: He lost his hands in a mine blast. His father died in an anti-government uprising. His brother was shot 30 times and killed by a rival. And Taliban thugs once beat him up even though he had no hands to punch back.
Shah, 46, was among scores of Afghans who spoke at a ''victim's jirga,'' recounting their suffering at the hands of the Taliban and Soviet regimes. The gathering was billed as one of the first of its kind for victims to voice their concerns about the possibility of making peace with those who have perpetrated the violence throughout the years...
Some in the crowd, whose trips to the capital were paid by advocacy groups, dabbed their eyes while hearing accounts of atrocities that their fellow Afghans endured...
But others were less willing to forgive.
A woman named Sharifa, 37, from the northern Takhar province, said that shrapnel from a bomb that landed in her backyard in 1999 killed her 13-year-old son, Fazel Ahmad.
''We will not forgive those who committed these atrocities,'' she said. ''We want justice to be served.''
...U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was visiting Afghanistan with a Congressional delegation, said Sunday that security will be a main issue on Karzai's U.S. visit.
Fatal Fighting Pits Villagers and Taliban in Afghanistan -- [New York Times]
A group of Taliban came into the Zerkoh Valley area and were plotting an attack on a nearby base of American and Afghan forces in the Shindand district, Maj. Zainudin Sharifi, the commander of an Afghan battalion there, said in a telephone interview.
"Five of these local militiamen were captured by Taliban," he said. "Later we found out that four of them were beheaded, and one of them is still missing." He had not seen the bodies, he said, but had been told by villagers of the deaths.
American and Afghan forces responded with a fierce counterattack against Taliban fighters that lasted for hours on Saturday, the officer said...
Victims of violence speak out in Afghanistan -- [Jamey Keaton/Associated Press]
Legal advocates who organized the gathering in the capital want to make sure the voices of the Afghan people who have suffered at the hands of insurgents, warlords and under the former Taliban and Soviet regimes are heard at the government's peace assembly...
Despite talk of peace and hopes for justice, the violence continues across the country as an insurgency led by Taliban militants works to destabilize the Karzai government and its international supporters.
NATO reported a service member died Sunday following an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan. No other details were disclosed.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was visiting Afghanistan with a congressional delegation, said Sunday that security will be a main issue as Karzai begins meetings in Washington on Monday.
"We all know Afghanistan has a long way to go and it can't all be done militarily," Pelosi told reporters in Kabul, adding that the country needs security, good governance and accountability.
Karzai's trip comes after months of rocky relations with the Obama administration. On Sunday, Pelosi played down the strains and said Karzai will be received in Washington with "great dignity, great friendship and great candor."
Taliban gears up for Western offensive in Kandahar -- [LA Times]
His nom de guerre is Mullawi Mohammadi, and he coolly declares that he and the Taliban fighters under his command have nothing to fear here in Kandahar, which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has vowed to clear of insurgents this summer....
Mohammadi granted a rare interview in a bid to dispel what he said were misconceptions about the insurgents' aims...
"We are safe and comfortable in our many hidden places," Mohammadi said, adjusting his bulky gray-striped turban and yellow-tinted sunglasses. "We are not scared of NATO, or of the Americans. Whoever comes, we will kill them."
Afghanistan's last Jew vows to stay put -- [CNN]
Zablon Simintov is always guaranteed the best seat in his local synagogue here, but the privilege comes with a downside: he's the last Jew in Afghanistan...
Afghanistan's Jewish population reached 40,000 in the mid-19th century, the group says, and began declining around 1870 with the passage of anti-Jewish measures.
Israel's creation in 1948 drew most of Afghanistan's remaining Jews.
...But Simintov says he is hardly in hiding. "They're all like my brothers here," he said of his fellow Afghans. "It doesn't make a difference whether I'm here or in Israel."
That wasn't the case under Taliban rule, which ended with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, though Taliban forces have been resurgent in parts of the country.
Simintov says he was arrested four times under Taliban rule and that he was beaten while in custody.
"The Taliban was a problem," he says. "They interfered in everyone's business, but now they're gone, they're finished."
Report details depravity of SEALs' accuser -- [Washington Times]
Ahmed Hashim Abed initially was described as the insurgent who planned the killings of four Blackwater security guards in Fallujah in 2004...
Abed is thought to have committed a series of killings, including beheadings, in western Anbar province as a leading al Qaeda operative. He remains in an Iraqi prison awaiting trial in that country's criminal court system. A SEAL team captured Abed in Iraq in September. The team's post-capture report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times...
Coordinated Attacks Strike Baghdad -- [NY Times]
Gunmen attacked at least six checkpoints across Baghdad on Monday and two car bombs rocked the city of Hilla, south of the capital, in what appeared to be a combination of attacks on civilians and coordinated assaults against Iraqi police and army units.
Insurgents deployed suicide bombers, car bombs and gunmen using silencers...
Where Iraq Meets Iran, Guards See Shifting Lines -- [Ny Times]
SHULHA AL-ALGHWAT BORDER FORT, Iraq -- In a barren stretch of desert in southeast Iraq, an American soldier recently waved to his Iranian counterpart pulling guard duty at a fort on the opposite side of the border...
Iran Welcomes Turkish Proposal for Nuclear Talks With E.U. -- [Voice of America]
Turkey and Brazil oppose new sanctions against Iran and recently have stepped up their efforts try to resolve the dispute between Iran and Western powers diplomatically.
Both Turkey and Brazil are non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
Syrian President Bashar Assad expressed support Saturday for Turkey's efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute. Mr. Assad was in Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul.
U.S. Urges Action in Pakistan After Failed Bombing -- [NY Times]
The Obama administration has delivered new and stiff warnings to Pakistan after the failed Times Square car bombing that it must urgently move against the nexus of Islamic militancy in the country's lawless tribal regions, American and Pakistani officials said. The American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, met with the Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, at his headquarters here on Friday...
PTSD diagnosis could appear on Georgia driver's licenses -- [Stars and Stripes]
Under a law recently pushed through the state legislature, post-traumatic stress disorder would be noted on the license in the same way that a person's license might indicate corrective lenses are required for vision, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adding the information would be voluntary and require a sworn statement from a doctor. If signed by the governor, the bill would become law on July 1.
Sen. Ron Ramsey, the bill's sponsor, told the paper that the bill came at the suggestion of a former servicemember with post-traumatic stress disorder, who told him he feared a violent encounter with police officers.
"He said, 'God forbid anybody put handcuffs on me. I'd go berserk'," the senator said.
PTSD diagnosis could appear on driver's licenses -- [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
"Why would I want to put out there on my license - hey, I'm a nut job," said Marvin Myers, president of the Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance Inc.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, like military combat, natural disaster or a physical or sexual assault.
Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Decatur), the bill's sponsor, said he sees the potential benefits and no downside.
"It is totally voluntary," he said.
WARNING - PTSD VET: APPROACH WITH EXTREME CAUTION -- [Greyhawk]
I'm not sure exactly what "different treatment" an identified PTSD case would be given. In fact, I really have no idea exactly what problem this idea solves. The AJC offers this quote from Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police executive director Frank Rotondo: "It probably benefits for law enforcement to know that a person believes that, under stress, they can melt down" - but that still doesn't answer the question...
Gates: Cuts in Pentagon bureaucracy needed to help maintain military force -- [Washington Post]
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates vowed Saturday to lead an effort to cut as much as $15 billion in overhead costs from the Pentagon's $550 billion budget and warned that without the savings, the military will not be able to afford its current force.
Pentagon asking Congress to hold back on generous increases in troop pay -- [Washington Post]
Congress has been so determined to take care of troops and their families that for several years running it has overruled the Pentagon and mandated more-generous pay raises than requested by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. It has also rejected attempts by the Pentagon to slow soaring health-care costs -- which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said are "eating us alive" -- by raising co-pays or premiums.
Now, Pentagon officials see fiscal calamity.
In the midst of two long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials are increasingly worried that the government's generosity is unsustainable and that it will leave them with less money to buy weapons and take care of equipment.
It is time to discard the military's 20-year retirement system -- [Best Defense]
...retirement at 20 years of service, for instance, strikes me as a relic of an age when twenty years in the Army left a veteran a broken man, with blown joints, no hearing, and a limited ability to work in an agricultural or industrial economy. Advances in medicine, lengthening lifespan, and the shift to a service economy in this country (albeit with large swaths of agricultural and industrial employment across the workforce) make me wonder -- as a taxpayer -- why we're paying 38-year-olds as they embark on their second full career...
3 Rifles troops welcomed home by crowds in Edinburgh -- [BBC]
Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of Edinburgh to welcome home troops from the 3 Rifles battlegroup following their gruelling tour of Afghanistan.
As the men of the 3 Rifles marched smartly along the Royal Mile, still tanned by six months under a harsh Afghan sun, crowds stood six deep to welcome them back.
And it was a heartfelt welcome...
At Holyrood Palace, a more sombre atmosphere reigned as the families of at least 20 of the 30 men who died in this battlegroup's unimaginably tough tour of Helmand waited to take the salute from the men who did come home.
..Some 80 men suffered battle injuries in Helmand; 17 of them with life-changing injuries, ranging from lost limbs to young spines shattered by enemy bullets.
A huge cheer went up from family and friends as those too badly-injured to march on to the parade ground came forward slowly, some on crutches and others in wheelchairs, to receive their campaign medal alongside their comrades...
A well-deserved salute to Mr. Doug Sterner -- [Jonn Lilyea/This Ain't Hell]
Just A Grunt sent us a link to a Washington Post story about Mr. Doug Sterner... While we've never met, Mr. Sterner and I have shared some email communications. Like the good folks at POW Net, Mr. Sterner has been in the shadows of some of our phony soldiers stories. I'm sure he's a bit embarrassed by the Washington Post article, humble guy that he is, but he's probably one of the most important people in the battle against fakes and phonies. Mr. Sterner practically wrote the Stolen Valor Act and created the Home of Heroes database.
Finally Found -- [Michael Fay/Fire and Ice]
Back in November of 2005 I took a photo of a Marine fire team leader with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. I had just joined this platoon for Operation Steel Curtain. I always try my best to get all the information possible from each of my portrait subjects. Many of the photos I took would be turned into drawings. There was one drawing where I failed to find out who the Marine was. Thanks, in large part to Facebook, I finally know who the subject of this drawing is...
Tensions between Eikenberry, McChrystal will be focus of their Washington visit -- [The Washington Post]
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, and the top U.S. military commander there, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, assumed their posts amid lofty expectations that they could re-create the hand-in-glove partnership that Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker had while leading the war effort in Iraq.
But the Eikenberry-and-McChrystal team that returns to Washington this week, alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has a much different dynamic.
U.S. military runs into Afghan tribal politics after deal with Pashtuns -- [The Washington Post]
The struggling U.S. military effort to give the Shinwari tribe more voice in its affairs shows the massive challenges the United States will face this summer in Kandahar province, as it prepares to launch what is being touted as one of the largest and most important military campaigns of the nine-year-old war...
The plan involving the 400,000-strong Shinwari tribe developed earlier this year when elders told Col. Randy George, a senior commander in eastern Afghanistan, that they wanted to unite to oppose the Taliban and stamp out opium cultivation. As a reward, George offered the Shinwari elders the power to decide how to spend $1 million in U.S.-funded development projects.
It ended after the local power broker, Gov. Gul Agha Shirzai, a towering and controversial figure in Afghan politics, complained to President Hamid Karzai, who lambasted U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry in a February meeting for meddling in tribal politics...
Soon, the State Department ordered its employees to cease working on the deal...
Eikenberry: Ups and downs in Karzai partnership -- [Military Times]
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan danced away from questions Monday about his earlier reported concern that the war-torn nation's president was not an "adequate strategic partner," saying only that "President Obama has expressed his confidence in President [Hamid] Karzai and our work together."
U-2 Dragon Lady: Airmen discuss their continued push for operational success -- [380th Air Expeditionary Wing]
In the first three months of 2010, Airmen supporting the U-2 Dragon Lady deployed operations with the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing flew nearly 200 combat sorties in support of operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. When averaged out in flight time, that means a U-2 is flying in the AOR 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In those 200 missions, U-2 Airmen supported more than 70 "troops in contact" events where deployed ground forces were supported by the U-2's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities...
Nearer the Holodeck -- [Richard Boyd/Armed Forces Journal]
It is April 2009. Not far from Los Angeles International Airport, I am in the giant Hughes Aircraft hangar, which once housed the Spruce Goose and is now home to the crew and heavy-breathing computing power of James Cameron's virtual movie set. Holding a large flat-panel computer screen in front of me, I step forward into a virtual world imagined by Cameron more than a decade ago and now brought to life by Peter Jackson's Weta Digital, Glenn Derry, Vince Pace and the rest of the crew of the movie "Avatar."
As I walk through the football-field-sized space that Cameron calls "the volume," my point of view on the screen moves with me, as if I were carrying a window through which I view this fantastic world...
The concept of the holodeck, the holographic virtual environment used for education and recreation in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" television series, has actually been part of the human imagination for decades... I predict that we will be able to afford our ground units this capability within the next five years.
Navy show gives sneak peek at new planes, helos -- [Navy Times]
...Nevertheless, the Navy is pressing ahead with the lengthy acquisition process for an unmanned fighter by issuing a call for private-sector industry to submit information about a possible "unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike" aircraft.
That request calls for "limited fleet operational use" by 2018...
Fun With the Army's Most High-Tech Weapons (With Video!) -- [Popular Mechanics]
The military organization that produces and tests Army gear, PEO Soldier, hosted media at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Training Center in Maryland this week and handed over a slew of personal weapons for reporters to try. Like any other tool, infantry weapons are meant for professionals. It's hard not to smirk when they are in the hands of amateurs like me. Here's what it is like to shoot some of the Army's most sophisticated handheld weaponry.
Pelosi, Congressional Delegation Meet with Troops and Visit Wounded Warriors in Germany -- [Press Release]
"Over the weekend, the delegation visited with troops in Afghanistan, including meeting with female troops who are mothers, on Mother's Day, and meeting with Afghan women and with female Marines who engage with Afghan civilians in the field...
In addition to Speaker Pelosi, other members of the Congressional Delegation are: Susan Davis of California, Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel; Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Member of the Armed Services Committee; Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, Member of the Armed Services Committee; and Donna Edwards of Maryland, Member of the Science and Technology Committee."
Gates discusses the peril of the 'Death Hour' -- [SecDef Robert Gates, quoted in Small Wars Journal]
"In fact, the first President Bush created an award to honor the American official who most ostentatiously fell asleep in a meeting with the president. This was not frivolous. He evaluated candidates on three criteria - first, duration - how long did they sleep? Second, the depth of the sleep; snoring always got you extra points. And third, the quality of recovery - did one just quietly open one's eyes and return to the meeting, or did you jolt awake - and maybe spill something hot in the process? Well, you will appreciate that the award was named for Air Force Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, who was the national security adviser at the time. He was, as you might suspect, the first awardee, and, I might add, won many oak leaf clusters..."
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