Category : War in Afghanistan

(WSJ) Michael Phillips–Why U.S. Troops Want to Stay in Afghanistan

U.S. and Afghan politicians are in the middle of a heated debate over whether a small American and NATO force will remain in Afghanistan at the end of next year.

But what’s a political and strategic question at the negotiating table is an emotional question at bases around Afghanistan, where soldiers watch the discussions with one eye on their sacrifices over the past 12 years and the other on the American withdrawal from Vietnam four decades ago.

In short, they don’t want to go home without the win.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Pakistan, Politics in General, Terrorism, The U.S. Government, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(LA Times) One man's defiance inspires a region to stand up to the Taliban

The uprising began in early February with a Taliban commander’s knock on the door of Hajji Abdul Wudood.

The militant leader demanded that Wudood, a stout, weathered man of 60, surrender one of his eight sons, who was accused of spying on the Taliban for the Afghan government.

What Wudood did next triggered a revolt against the Taliban that has spread to a dozen villages in a region that has been among the nation’s most formidable Taliban strongholds.

Fed up with beheadings and homemade bombs that killed 60 people in two villages the previous year, Wudood refused to hand over 25-year-old Abdul Hanan.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(NY Times) Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues the U.S. Military

Of the crises facing American troops today, suicide ranks among the most emotionally wrenching ”” and baffling. Over the course of nearly 12 years and two wars, suicide among active-duty troops has risen steadily, hitting a record of 350 in 2012. That total was twice as many as a decade before and surpassed not only the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan but also the number who died in transportation accidents last year.

Even with the withdrawal from Iraq and the pullback in Afghanistan, the rate of suicide within the military has continued to rise significantly faster than within the general population, where it is also rising. In 2002, the military’s suicide rate was 10.3 per 100,000 troops, well below the comparable civilian rate. But today the rates are nearly the same, above 18 per 100,000 people.

And according to some experts, the military may be undercounting the problem because of the way it calculates its suicide rate.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Health & Medicine, Iraq War, Psychology, Suicide, War in Afghanistan

U.S. Special Operations Step Up in Afghanistan

One day this month, a pair of Russian Mi-17 assault helicopters delivered two teams of Afghan commandos, their faces obscured by black masks, in a touch-and-go landing at this camp in a lush valley encircled by frosty peaks about 50 miles from Kabul.

A training squadron drawn from the most secretive counterterrorism units fielded by the United States and its NATO allies watched as the Afghan commandos stormed and cleared a three-story office building that was left conspicuously unfinished ”” the kind of structure favored by insurgents.

This is the combination of Afghan and allied troops that the Obama administration and the government in Kabul say will assume an increasing share of the combat burden in Afghanistan as the NATO alliance gradually hands over responsibility for security operations to Afghan troops.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(LA Times) Sarah Chayes–CIA buys trouble in Afghanistan

In a time when the whetted and arbitrary deficit-reduction knife is cutting bone out of critical U.S. government programs, the image of shopping bags stuffed with CIA cash handed off on a monthly basis to Afghan President Hamid Karzai ”” who reigns over one of the most corrupt governments on the planet ”” has outraged many Americans.

The New York Times, which revealed the years of payoffs this week, noted that “there is little evidence the payments bought the influence the CIA sought.”

In fact, regular cash handouts of this type may do the opposite. They may well have enabled Karzai’s frequent and theatrical outbursts against U.S. officials and policies, not to mention his collusion with some of his country’s most corrupt and abusive officials. Such payoffs signal to Karzai ”” or other leaders like him ”” that he enjoys the unwavering support of the CIA, no matter what he does or says, and embolden him to thumb his nose at the United States whenever he feels like it.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, The U.S. Government, War in Afghanistan

Remarkable Pictures–We Are Not The Dead: soldiers' faces before, during and after Afghanistan

Photographer Lalage Snow photographed and interviewed members of 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland before they were sent to Afghanistan, after three months’ service, and days after they returned home. Their faces show the toll that fighting in Afghanistan takes on our troops.

Read it all and look at all thirteen images.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, Violence, War in Afghanistan

Richard Sia–Audit casts doubt on number of Afghan troops U.S. has trained

….as the Obama administration prepares to pull 34,000 U.S. troops out of the country by next February and most of the remaining troops by the end of 2014, estimates of the size of the Afghan force trained to take over this lead security role suddenly have grown fuzzy and possibly unreliable.

A new report made public this week by the government’s top watchdog over U.S. spending in Afghanistan casts doubt on whether the U.S.-led coalition and the Afghan government met a goal set in 2011 of enlisting and training a total of 352,000 Afghan security personnel by October 2012. Pentagon officials have said that target was meant to strike a balance between what was needed and what America and its allies could deliver in concert with the Afghan government. Earlier this year, in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, the White House declared that the goal had been met.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, The U.S. Government, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(The Hill) Afghanistan hints at conditional immunity for US troops after 2014

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday suggested he might be ready to grant American troops conditional immunity after 2014, a key U.S. demand that proved a deal breaker in Iraq.

Karzai said U.S. troops could remain immune from local prosecution after Afghan forces take over their country’s security if they respect the “sovereignty, laws and lives of Afghan people” and help equip Afghan forces, the Agence France-Presse reports. President Obama is considering leaving a 10,000-troop force in the country after the end of the NATO mission.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, War in Afghanistan

(AP) Troops celebrate Thanksgiving in Afghanistan

It was Army Sgt. Keith Wells’ first Thanksgiving Day away from his family and despite a cornucopia of food provided for the troops, his taste buds were craving his wife’s macaroni and cheese back home.

“My wife’s a foodie ”” you know, the Food Network, cooking shows. Everything she makes is golden,” Wells of Charlotte, N.C., said Thursday at a large international military base in the Afghan capital.

The dining hall served up mac-and-cheese along with traditional Thanksgiving Day fixings. Wells was thankful for the good food, but he still missed his wife’s home-cooking.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Marriage & Family, War in Afghanistan

(Video ITN report via NBC) British army dog awarded medal

Watch it all. Not a dry eye in the house here after this one–KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Animals, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, War in Afghanistan

(NPR) Afghanistan Deadline Awaits Next U.S. President

How does a president bring the war in Afghanistan to an end? There are 68,000 American troops serving in the country as the war enters its 12th year.

The war hasn’t been a major issue in the presidential campaign, and polls show American voters are tiring of the war. But the next commander in chief will find the Afghan war among the most difficult of many foreign policy challenges.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Office of the President, Pakistan, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(Local paper) VA Reaches out to veterans behind bars

A decade after his military service, McLean faces 15 years to life in prison if he’s convicted of first-degree burglary. He makes no excuses for the addict he’s become.

Six months in jail awaiting a court date have provided him some quality detox time. Abusing alcohol and crack cocaine, McLean was homeless when he was arrested.

“I’ve never gotten into trouble except when drugs and alcohol were involved,” he says.

He admits he needs help.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Alcoholism, Defense, National Security, Military, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Iraq War, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Poverty, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(WSJ Front Page) A Marine's Death Brings Together His Dad and His Battlefield Buddy

Two years ago, Matthew Proctor dropped to his knees in the Afghan dirt and watched his best friend bleed to death.

These days, when dreams get disturbing or guilt eats at his gut, there is one person the former Marine corporal is likely to call: Thomas Rivers Sr., his dead friend’s father.

When Mr. Rivers, 60 years old and a pharmaceutical executive, feels himself sinking into black depression or misses the pleasures of raising a son, it is the 24-year-old Cpl. Proctor he confides in or invites over for a boat ride. “He lost a best friend, and in a sense I lost a best friend as well as my son,” says Mr. Rivers. “That is a bond we share.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, War in Afghanistan

Warren Peper–May we remember to Honor our hardworking heroes today

We celebrate our workers in this country today. Maybe we should also take a moment to remember those who work for us in uniform in other parts of the world.

Not too long ago, one of those people was Cliff Hartley. He joined the Air Force at the age of 19, and one year ago today, he spent Labor Day walking a dusty road in Afghanistan with his dog, Cir, looking for bombs. They were attached to a SEAL team and their primary duties were to sniff out trouble.

Cir retired from duty last October and now lives with Hartley, who has 10 years in the Air Force and plans to do 10 more. Right now, he’s stateside. His retired military working dog now sleeps at his feet in their North Charleston house, just like he once did in a tent in Afghanistan. There’s one big difference. They both sleep much better now.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Animals, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, War in Afghanistan

(VOA) US Special Forces Suspend Training of Afghans

The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it has temporarily halted the training of Afghan Local Police in order to redo the vetting of current members after a string of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their international allies.

Forty-five international troops have been killed in a wave of insider attacks in Afghanistan this year, throwing doubt on the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to live and work together during a key time in the transition to Afghan control of security. International forces are set to hand over responsibility for the country’s security to Afghans by the end of 2014.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

In Toll of 2,000, New Portrait of Afghan War

Nearly nine years passed before American forces reached their first 1,000 dead in the war. The second 1,000 came just 27 months later, a testament to the intensity of fighting prompted by President Obama’s decision to send 33,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2010, a policy known as the surge.

In more ways than his family might have imagined, Lance Corporal Buckley, who had just turned 21 when he died, typified the troops in that second wave of 1,000. According to the Times analysis, three out of four were white, 9 out of 10 were enlisted service members, and one out of two died in either Kandahar Province or Helmand Province in Taliban-dominated southern Afghanistan. Their average age was 26.

The dead were also disproportionately Marines like Lance Corporal Buckley. Though the Army over all has suffered more dead in the war, the Marine Corps, with fewer troops, has had a higher casualty rate: At the height of fighting in late 2010, 2 out of every 1,000 Marines in Afghanistan were dying, twice the rate of the Army. Marine units accounted for three of the five units hardest hit during the surge.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, War in Afghanistan

(USA Today) Army suicide rate in July hits highest one-month tally

Soldiers killed themselves at a rate faster than one per day in July, the Army announced Thursday. There were 38 deaths either confirmed or suspected as suicides, the highest one-month tally in recent Army history, the service said.

The Army suicide pace this year is surpassing last year, particularly among active-duty soldiers where there is a 22% increase ”” 116 deaths so far this year vs. 95 during the same seven months last year, according to Army data.

The current Army suicide rate seven months into this year is 29 deaths-per-100,000, far surpassing last year’s rate of about 23 deaths-per-100,000, says Bruce Shahbaz, an Army analyst. Those rates compare with a 2009 civilian rate ”” the latest available data ”” of 18.5 for a demographically similar population.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Health & Medicine, Iraq War, Psychology, Suicide, War in Afghanistan

(LA Times) Afghan worker kills three U.S. troops on Helmand base

An Afghan worker on a military base in southern Afghanistan opened fire and killed three U.S. troops, military officials said Saturday, bringing the toll to six American military fatalities in 24 hours at the hands of allies.

The NATO force said the attack took place late Friday in Helmand province, the Taliban movement’s heartland, where a turncoat shooting hours earlier claimed the lives of three elite special-operations U.S. Marines.

Compounding the carnage, a rogue Afghan police officer in Nimruz province turned his weapon on fellow Afghan officers Saturday, killing 10 of them, Afghan officials said. The assailant was believed to be a Taliban infiltrator, provincial spokesman Fazel Omer Baloch said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Violence, War in Afghanistan

Afghans Fear U.S. Pullout Will Unplug Key Projects

Here in the cradle of the Taliban movement, Faizulhaq Mushkani sold his land for $600,000 last year to buy equipment to open a packaging factory in a booming industrial park.

The industrial park””powered by military-run electrical generators””is a pillar of the U.S. strategy against the Afghan insurgency. The arrival of reliable electricity in late 2010 revitalized Kandahar. More than 100 new factories have sprouted.

These days, however, Mr. Mushkani and fellow entrepreneurs are grappling with a fatal flaw in their business plans: They expected the Americans to stick around longer. But, now, with U.S. forces preparing to depart Kandahar next year, the American electricity will disappear, too.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(Wash. Post) Rajiv Chandrasekaran on the Staggering Cost of the Afghanistan War at Home

As he left the meeting, [Richard] Holbrooke pulled out his trump card ”” a call to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was traveling in Saudi Arabia. The following week, Clinton went to see Obama armed with a list of Holbrooke’s accomplishments. “Mr. President,” she said, “you can fire Richard Holbrooke ”” over the objection of your secretary of state.” But Jim Jones, Clinton said, could not.

Obama backed down, but Jones didn’t, nor did others at the White House. Instead of capitalizing on Holbrooke’s experience and supporting his push for reconciliation with the Taliban, White House officials dwelled on his shortcomings ”” his disorganization, his manic intensity, his thirst for the spotlight, his dislike of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his tendency to badger fellow senior officials. At every turn, they sought to marginalize him and diminish his influence.

The infighting exacted a staggering cost: The Obama White House failed to aggressively explore negotiations to end the war when it had the most boots on the battlefield.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, War in Afghanistan

(CSM) Why Pakistan still hasn't reopened NATO supply lines

On April 12 the Pakistani parliament passed a 14-point resolution in response to the Salala checkpoint attacks. The resolution condemns the attacks, and includes demands for an unconditional apology from the US, an immediate cessation of drone attacks, and a stop to all transport of arms and ammunition through Pakistan.

The foreign policy review process was an attempt by the parliament to regain control over the country’s foreign policy, which has historically been set by the country’s military. It was passed after several months debate, and under a broad coalition of parties across the political spectrum.

“We need to make sure that we follow the recommendations of the parliament in our negotiations with the US. I am hopeful that we can come to a mutually satisfying agreement,” says Mr. Chaudhury.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Pakistan, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(CSM) Second Afghan peace broker assassinated

In yet another blow to the Afghan peace process, gunmen assassinated a senior member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council on Sunday morning. The attackers reportedly pulled up next to Maulvi Arsala Rahmani while he was stuck in Kabul’s rush hour traffic and opened fire killing the peace broker.

The murder of Mr. Rahmani comes less than a year after insurgents managed to kill the then head of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in his own home using a suicide bomber disguised as a Taliban messenger.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(SMH) Patrick Porter–Where lies the real enemy in Afghanistan?

For 10 years we have tried to combat poverty, corruption and state failure by birthing a strong Afghan government. Not an easy task in a country hard to govern from the centre, and where our favoured regime is an unloved kleptocracy.

As Canberra looks to extricate Australia from this long hard slog, it declares victory of sorts, presenting its phased withdrawal as a successful handover to indigenous security forces.

But Afghanistan is not the centre of this war. This is primarily a war over – and against – Pakistan.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

NATO airstrikes said to kill civilians in two Afghan provinces

NATO airstrikes killed Afghan civilians in two provinces, local officials reported Monday, and at least two dozen others died when floods swept through villages in a third province.

The extent of the alleged civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes in recent days in Badghis and Helmand provinces was not immediately clear. A spokesman for NATO-led troops in Kabul said the coalition was aware of the allegations of civilian casualties in the provinces but had no immediate comment.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(USA Today) After Afghan deal is struck, Taliban issues a deadly strike

Taliban attackers Wednesday targeted a heavily fortified, private compound in eastern Afghanistan that is mostly occupied by international workers with a car bomb about two hours after Obama delivered a speech at Bagram Air Base about the pact. Three bystanders were killed besides the four terrorists.

“With this attack, we want to send a message to Obama that the Afghans will welcome you with attacks. You don’t need to sign agreements, you need to focus on how to get out of this country,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

U.S. soldier’s gift to Afghan workers at her base underscores divide

In a big war, Army Spec. Cherry Maurice believed that one small gesture could make a difference.

Temperatures at her mountain base plunged to 20 degrees below zero in January, and snow covered the ground. Maurice noticed that the eight Afghan workers on the outpost were coming to work in rubber flip-flops. The 35-year-old soldier labored with the men in the outpost’s kitchen, which is not much bigger than a walk-in closet. She dug into her personal savings and spent $135 to buy them eight pairs of boots.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Stewardship, War in Afghanistan

With Pact, U.S. Agrees to Help Afghans for Years to Come

After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.

The agreement, whose text was not released, builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the thorny issues of detainees and special operations raids to broadly redefine the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States.

“The document finalized today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world, and is a document for the development of the region,” said Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the Afghan national security adviser, in a statement released by President Hamid Karzai’s office.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(NY Times) Images of G.I.’s and Remains Fuel Fears of Ebbing Discipline

A new revelation of young American soldiers caught on camera while defiling insurgents’ remains in Afghanistan has intensified questions within the military community about whether fundamental discipline is breaking down given the nature and length of the war.
The photographs, published by The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, show more than a dozen soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Fourth Brigade Combat Team, along with some Afghan security forces, posing with the severed hands and legs of Taliban attackers in Zabul Province in 2010. They seemed likely to further bruise an American-Afghan relationship that has been battered by crisis after crisis over the past year, even as the two governments are in the midst of negotiations over a long-term strategic agreement.

The images also add to a troubling list of cases ”” including Marines videotaped urinating on Taliban bodies, the burning of Korans, and the massacre of villagers attributed to a lone Army sergeant ”” that have cast American soldiers in the harshest possible light before the Afghan public.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Pakistan, Politics in General, Psychology, The U.S. Government, War in Afghanistan

Iran’s Efforts to Stir Afghan Violence Worry U.S.

Just hours after it was revealed that American soldiers had burned Korans seized at an Afghan detention center in late February, Iran secretly ordered its agents operating inside Afghanistan to exploit the anticipated public outrage by trying to instigate violent protests in the capital, Kabul, and across the western part of the country, according to American officials.

For the most part, the efforts by Iranian agents and local surrogates failed to provoke widespread or lasting unrest, the officials said. Yet with NATO governments preparing for the possibility of retaliation by Iran in the event of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, the issue of Iran’s willingness and ability to foment violence in Afghanistan and elsewhere has taken on added urgency.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(NPR) A Rest Stop On The Road From Soldier To Civilian

For many soldiers, the main objective here isn’t getting help. It’s getting home.

“You get excited about being in the United States, but then you realize you’ve got be here for, like, five days, and that’s even more depressing,” says Spc. Jonathan Remkus just outside his barracks. “I’m basically checked out right now. I’m already considered a civilian, trapped in a military uniform.”

But leaving Camp Atterbury requires checking a lot of boxes on a lot of forms. Members of the 182nd work their way through a maze of assessments, filling out stacks of paperwork as they go.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Stress, War in Afghanistan