Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our ongoing roundup of information on war and other topics - from the MilBlogs and various sources around the world.
Updating - Refresh for updates.
Catching up with ... Big Ern -- [Matt Gallagher/Kerplunk]
In both Kaboom the blog and Kaboom the book, the soldier Big Ern made his presence known for all the right reasons. From his nonstop bantering with hetero-lifemate Van Wilder, to his all too routine ten-hour sessions in the gunner's hatch, to his perpetual rocking of the Hate Fist, this Southern family man still supports Rip It energy drinks and extreme analogies.
Currently in Afghanistan as a dismounted team leader with a Cavalry squadron in the 101st Airborne Division, now Sergeant Promotable Big Ern was kind enough to answer a few questions via email. (For you non-camo inclined folk, Sergeant Promotable means he'll pin on Staff Sergeant rank shortly).
1) Big Ern! I miss your musk. How does Afghanistan compare with Iraq? What's similar, and what's different?
"So When's The Movie Coming Out?" -- [Lt Wompum/A Handful of Dust - in Afghanistan]
Of course all this discussion got me to thinking about how movies about Afghanistan will be portrayed. Yes, there already has been one movie, Lions for Lambs, Robert Redford's preachy liberal soapbox that rung false in every possible way, but it's hardly worth mentioning. Iraq already has had several movies made about it, of which only two are good; the first being The Hurt Locker and the second being HBO's Generation Kill miniseries. The latter is probably the truest portrayal of how Marines and infantrymen actually speak.
As much as I'd like my own experience in Afghanistan to be something akin to Rambo III, I suspect Catch-22 would be more appropriate, though frankly there would be even more bureaucracy in my version...
Reconciling with Irreconcilables -- [Sosostris/A Handful of Dust - in Afghanistan]
...A recent book by a former senior member of the Taliban, now 'reconciled' with the Afghan government after spending time at Guantanamo, makes this all to clear. In 'My Life with the Taliban'Abdul Salam Zaeef still professes to holding a world view filtered through the lens of fundamentalist Islam. Despite all he has gone through (and perhaps because of it), he is entirely convinced of the righteous of the Taliban cause. These ideological convictions are very deeply rooted in the men who have fought on behalf of the Taliban for decades. The idea that they would be willing to give up these convictions for land and a seat in the Afghan parliament is, to my mind, extremely optimistic...
The Bad Guys Step It Up -- [Kandahar Diary - in Afghanistan]
It has been fairly quiet these past few days. I have the disquieting sense that it is just the calm before the storm.
Taliban attacks have been stepping up in complexity and audaciousness...
Bagram Attack Update -- [The Sniper]
Okay, this is what I've gotten from my source on Bagram about the attack the other day and it was confirmed as good poop by another guy I know on Bagram. From the eyes on the ground...
"I personally was woken up at around 0345 by the sound of close AK fire..."
U.S. troops, Afghan police sweep through Taliban stronghold -- [David Zucchino/LA Times]
U.S. soldiers and Afghan police early Saturday swarmed a dense Taliban stronghold of mud-brick homes on the western shoulder of Kandahar, conducting searches and promising aid in a preview of a planned summer campaign to control the insurgent movement's spiritual home.
Operation Kokaran was named for the neighborhood where the Taliban have assassinated government officials and built infiltration routes. The U.S. goal is to clear out insurgents, build up local governance and bring in reconstruction projects.
Only a few shots were fired during the most comprehensive military-civilian operation in Kandahar since President Obama in December ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan...
Hours later, insurgents launched a rocket, mortar and ground attack on the main base used by foreign troops, at Kandahar's air field a few miles east of Kokaran...
Taliban birthplace major focus of Afghan offensive -- [Sebastian Abbot/AP]
The Taliban use Zhari district as one of their main command and control centers to stage attacks against Kandahar City, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) to the east.
Securing Kandahar, with its half million people, is a key U.S. goal for the summer. To do that, the U.S.-led forces have to control Zhari and other communities north and west of the city.
"This is the battleground for Kandahar," said Lt. Col. Dave Abrahams, deputy commander of the Stryker battalion responsible for operations in western Zhari. "The Taliban have freedom of movement and operational control in the area."
Into Kandahar, Yesterday and Tomorrow -- [John Burns/AP]
...The images of that dismal time came rushing back last week when the Taliban, legatees of the mujahedeen, sent a suicide bomber in a vehicle loaded with nearly a ton of high explosives to attack a NATO convoy in western Kabul, killing at least 18 people, among them five NATO soldiers, four of them officers. In the grisly calculus of the current conflict, the attack was a Taliban triumph, and photographs from the scene pressed the message home. Behind the carnage, like a forbidding sentinel, stood the artillery-blasted ruins of the old royal palace at Darulaman, another monument to the Soviet disaster.
When I walked through the Kandahar rubble in the spring of 1989, the Soviet Union's collapse, hastened by the imperial overreach in Afghanistan, was barely three years away. Now, like others with experience of that time, I find recollections of the Soviet debacle sounding like a tocsin in the mind, warning of the miseries that await America if the war's trajectory remains as it is...
Sources: U.S. soldiers focus of criminal investigation -- [CNN/Afghanistan Crossroads]
At least 10 U.S. Army soldiers from an already-troubled unit of the 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan are now the focus of a criminal investigation into allegations they deliberately killed three Afghan civilians, used illegal drugs and conducted other illicit activities, several military sources told CNN.
The soldiers are part of the 5th Stryker Brigade of the 2ID, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington, said the sources, who declined to be identified because the military has not named those under investigation...
Command and Control Changes in Southern Afghanistan -- [ISAF]
The North Atlantic Council, in consultation with non-NATO ISAF Troop Contributing Nations, has given final authorisation for the reorganisation of ISAF's Regional Command South and the establishment of an additional Regional Command South-West.
A new Regional Command (South West), based in Helmand, will oversee Helmand and Nimruz provinces; while the existing Regional Command (South), headquartered in Kandahar, will continue to control ISAF forces in Kandahar, Daykundi, Uruzgan and Zabul Provinces...
Looking to the future, Regional Command (South West) will operate under a rotational command, agreed in principle to be shared between US and UK forces. The first commander will be Major General Richard Mills of the US Marine Corps (USMC).
As part of the new arrangements, command and control boundaries will change within Helmand Province.
Following the split, Task Force Helmand (TFH) will come under the command of the US Marine Corps' 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1 MEF), under Major General Mills. TFH will retain responsibility for central Helmand.
Major General Richard Mills, Commanding General of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), said...
Top Shiite cleric in Iraq calls for unity -- [AP/Washington Post]
The leader of the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats in Iraq's March election said the country's most influential Shiite cleric assured him in a meeting Sunday that no group would be excluded from the new government...
Allawi met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf, where the cleric lives. He said al-Sistani said the next government should serve without "excluding and marginalizing any group," an apparent reference to minority Sunnis...
Odierno Selected to Lead U.S. Joint Forces Command -- [American Forces Press Service]
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2010 - President Barack Obama has nominated Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the present commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, to head U.S. Joint Forces Command, Pentagon officials announced today.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced that Obama has nominated Odierno for reappointment to the rank of four-star general and assignment as commander of Jfcom, based at Norfolk, Va.
Before assuming command of U.S. Forces Iraq in September 2008, Odierno was commanding general of U.S. Army III Corps, at which time he served a 15-month deployment as commanding general of Multinational Corps Iraq. At that time Odierno was the operational architect of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq that led to a dramatic decrease in violence there.
Odierno, a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., is known as one of the few Army generals ever to command a division, corps and an entire theater-of-operations in the same conflict.
Obama Tells Military: Prepare for N. Korea 'Aggression' -- [AP/Fox news]
"U.S. support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," the White House said.
The South Korean president said Monday that his nation would no longer tolerate the North's "brutality" and said the repressive communist regime would pay for the surprise March 26 torpedo attack.
In devastated Bangkok, residents join city workers in cleanup efforts -- [Washington Post]
Armed with brooms, rubber gloves and a torrent of detergent, middle-class Thais took to the streets of central Bangkok on Sunday to remove the detritus of protests, reclaiming the city from their now-banished and despised "red shirt" country cousins...
Heartland of Thailand, Still Angry and Divided -- [NY Times]
"Hello, Abhisit!" shouted a young man, holding an imaginary telephone with an imaginary connection to the prime minister. "Thank you for giving us stupid buffaloes this train! Too bad you killed us!"
As the sun rose over the familiar rice fields of home after an overnight train ride paid for by the government, another man banged a plastic jug against the back of a seat and chanted...
Cooking with the Troops Inc. -- [Maj C - in Afghanistan]
Passing this on! Great charity started by a great team that have done so much for us!!
God Bless America
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Not many new charities start life with experience and a proven track record and no logo, but Cooking with the Troops Inc. has done just that. Today sees the launch of a nationwide logo contest for a charity that has grown out of a program at Soldiers' Angels, Cooking with the Wounded, and out of barbecues done for the last several years at Walter Reed by "Concrete" Bob Miller...
600 Museums let military families in for free -- [Blackfive]
Well that is just plain very cool.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 600 museums nationwide are offering free admission to military families all summer in a new partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.
The list includes some of the nation's premier art museums, including New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as science centers, children's museums and other sites in all 50 states.
The program, called Blue Star Museums, is being announced Monday in San Diego...
The Qualitative Point Average: Rebuttal to Bruce Fleming -- [Rajiv Srinivasan - in Afghanistan]
Bruce Fleming recently published an OpEd piece in the New York Times which provoked a rather emotional response from me as he referred to the Service Academies as "mediocre". He cited a football star receiving preferential treatment for drug use at Navy. He complains that we only produce 20% of our respective officer corps, and are obsolete compared to ROTC and OCS programs. He insists that Academy officers are burnt-out leaders, incapable of maximizing tax-payer investment...
What Every Soldier's Family Should Know About Facebook -- [Red Bull Rising]
Even Facebook's own vice president for public policy has said, "If you're not comfortable sharing, don't." That's good advice, even if you do opt to use Facebook. Just be vigilant to the idea that seemingly innocent information can be twisted and used against you.
Don't believe me? Read on ...
AFN viewers might be in the dark during World Cup -- [Stars and Stripes]
"It's a real challenge to get rights for the World Cup, because we have to negotiate with the rights holders of every country where AFN is seen, and some rights holders are reluctant to give it up," said Gene Fredrickson, affiliate relations specialist with AFN's broadcast center in California.
According to FIFA, which is soccer's international governing body, more than 715 million people watched the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France. By comparison, last year's Super Bowl was viewed by about 106 million people.
...In 2006, News Corp., which is run by Rupert Murdoch, brokered a deal that allowed AFN to show some World Cup matches.
Fredrickson said it is unclear whether they will have the same luck this time around.
US appoints first cyber warfare general -- [The Guardian]
The newly promoted four-star general, Keith Alexander, takes charge of the Pentagon's ambitious and controversial new Cyber Command, designed to conduct virtual combat across the world's computer networks. He was appointed on Friday afternoon in a low-key ceremony at Fort Meade, in Maryland.
The creation of America's most senior cyber warrior comes just days after the US air force disclosed that some 30,000 of its troops had been re-assigned from technical support "to the frontlines of cyber warfare".
In the absence of debate, Iraq and Afghanistan go unnoticed -- [Washington Post]
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, forced into a runoff in Arkansas's Democratic primary, lists 10 categories of issues, none of which are defense or national security. Under "Veterans and National Guard," she does mention the war in Iraq but not the war in Afghanistan. For her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, "National Security, Veterans and the Military" comes eighth on a list of nine issues and begins, "Arkansas is home to military bases that are critical to our nation's security." "Ensuring success in Iraq and Afghanistan" is the entirety of his platform on those conflicts.
In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak, who rode a wave of opposition toward the Iraq war into Congress in 2006, includes defense (fifth out of five topics) on his site but writes mostly about properly equipping and caring for the force and accountability in weapons purchasing. For his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey, "National Security" comes 10th out of 10 (just after "Second Amendment") with no mention, as far as I could see, of Iraq or Afghanistan.
...maybe, in a time of toxic partisanship, we should be grateful for this inattention to the wars, taking the absence of debate as a sign of rare bipartisan consensus. Certainly few would miss the vitriol of the Iraq debate of a few years back.
Yet there's something disquieting about the quiet...
Blumenthal: "I have made mistakes and I am sorry." -- [Hartford Courant]
After nearly a week of criticism following revelations that he misrepresented his military record and five days after a press conference in which he expressed regret for his misstatements, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal apologized.
"At times when I have sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps Reserves,'' Blumenthal said in a statement emailed to the Courant late Sunday by his spokeswoman, Maura Downes. "I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words..."
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