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Interesting Afghan Statistics


15 February 2009
One must always be careful with statistics, and especially so when dealing with insurgencies.  The numbers tend to lag behind the true current situation.  For instance, in July of 2007, when John Burns and I both were telling millions of Americans that "the Surge" was working, our casualties actually were at nearly the highest during the entire war.  And so, using statistics, someone could have ripped us apart or accused us of carrying the water for the President.  But in fact, though attacks were very high, it was obvious that we were turning the tables in Iraq and the situation was dramatically improving.  Likewise, when I reported from Afghanistan during 2006, saying explicitly, in plain language, that we were losing, some people used statistics to discredit those reports.  In this type of warfare, the statistics can be extremely misleading.  Yet I do pay attention to the statistics.  The difficulty comes in applying proper context.
Please see this interesting report.

Lithuanian Forces and Piotr Stanczak


11 February 2009

This pamphlet came from our Lithuanian friends, who are proud of the hard work they are performing in Afghanistan.  They've earned such an excellent reputation with U.S. forces that I have asked to cover Lithuanian operations in Afghanistan this year.  I met with Lithuanian officials at their Embassy in Washington, and subsequent that meeting, Lithuanian officials have agreed in principle to the coverage.  Now we have only to work out the details and do it.  The Lithuanians are very proud about the good relations with the United States and they want Americans at home in the United States to know that Lithuanians are in the fight, too.

Read more: Lithuanian Forces and Piotr Stanczak

How Much is Afghanistan Really Worth to Us?


10 February 2009

While we prepare to shunt perhaps 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan (which still will not be enough), Russia continues to play the Asian chessboard.  The Russians are picking off pawn after pawn, and steadily eroding our foreign policy influence with them and other Central Asian countries.  The Russians know that we need a land route through their country to Afghanistan, especially as we begin the slow process of increasing our combat presence.  The Pakistan land route is one Achilles' heel to our Afghanistan effort, and Russia is working hard to make sure that Russia is the other Achilles' heel, which will strengthen the Russian position on matters such as missile defense.  Russia, at the present rate, will eventually exercise considerable control over the spigot to Afghanistan.  The Russians are successfully wrestling us into a policy arm-lock.  While Russia takes American money and gains influence over our Afghan efforts, we will continue to spend lives and tens of billions of dollars per year on Afghanistan in an attempt to civilize what amounts to Jurassic Park.

Read more: How Much is Afghanistan Really Worth to Us?

It’s Raining


Published: 06 February 2009

There had been a light, cold drizzle just before the Muslim taxi driver picked me up in Jerusalem.  It should be a 90-minute drive to Sderot, in southern Israel.  Along the wet highway, I asked the driver to stop at a small town so that I could buy a juice, and inside the Muslim store a television was turned to news in English, showing success of the most recent Iraqi elections.

Read more: It’s Raining

Afghanistan: A Dream That Will Not Come True


03 February 2009 

Afghanistan is a gaunt, thorny bush, growing amid rocks and dust on dry windswept plains, sweltering deserts, and man-crushing mountains. Its neighbors are treacherous. The Afghan people are mostly living relics, only more advanced than hidden tribes in the Amazon, but centuries behind the least advanced European nations.

Read more: Afghanistan: A Dream That Will Not Come True

How Can the World Be Blind to Israel’s Existential Threats?

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Published: 01 February 2009

I heard Benjamin Netanyahu, the person who could soon become Israel’s new prime minister, speak this week at the Jerusalem Conference. The most pressing point that he talked about was that under no circumstances should Jerusalem be divided. Many believe that if Jerusalem were to divide, the terrorist group Hamas would set up a headquarters here, which would result in Iranian agents — who also wish to see genocide against the Israelis — setting up shop within the confines of Jerusalem.

Read more: How Can the World Be Blind to Israel’s Existential Threats?



27 January 2009

Recently I was invited to the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington D.C. to receive an award for journalism in Afghanistan.  I was incredibly happy to receive this journalism award from the Lithuanian people, and the Lithuanian government, and would like to thank the Lithuanians for standing their ground in Afghanistan and other troubled places.  Lithuanians stood up against the Soviets, so it's doubtful that they fear al Qaeda or the Taliban.  The Lithuanians are concerned, however, that America will turn its back on Lithuania. We must assure Lithuania that we will stand with them.

Read more: Jerusalem

Tom Ricks discusses CSM Jeff Mellinger


I spent a lot of time in Iraq with CSM Jeff Mellinger.  Truly a soldier's soldier.  CSM Mellinger knows more about the Iraq war than any man I know.  (And that's a lot.)  You think those 15 month tours were long?  CSM Mellinger did nearly 34 months straight, taking only normal leave.   He saw more combat than most soldiers.  He was in the thick of it constantly.  I drove about 4,000 miles around Iraq with his patrols, but he did more than ten times that.  He's been blown up a time or two...  (Well, it was more than a time or two.)  CSM Mellinger has had a few horses shot out from under him, but he's still on active duty.  I just saw in Orlando as he was touring facilities.  He wants to go back to the war, though.  Wants to spend his time with combat soldiers.  Every day when we were on the streets of Iraq, Jeff Mellinger would say at least once about his wife: "Kim.  I love that woman."  And he would disappear from Iraq for a few seconds into his memories, and then he would come back to the battlefields and off we would go.

Read more: Tom Ricks discusses CSM Jeff Mellinger

Attack on U.S. Forces in Kabul

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Kabul Suicide Attack
From an unofficial but credible source:  On Saturday morning, 17 January 2009, a suicide bomber hit a sewage tanker near the German Embassy (Kabul).  2 U.S. soldiers killed, 2 wounded.  4 Afghans killed, 16 wounded.  35 others wounded.  
Reports vary slightly, but the gist of the story holds. 

Read more: Attack on U.S. Forces in Kabul

McCaffrey on Mexico


16 January 2009
General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey is an ex-drug Czar.  He is deeply concerned about Mexico.  Recently, I met with General McCaffrey privately for more than two hours.  I asked for his thoughts on Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yet to my surprise, his concern that Mexico could collapse was immense.  If McCaffrey is concerned, we all should being paying attention.  Something serious must be brewing in Mexico.
Please listen to this short report on National Public Radio.

And see General McCaffrey's Mexico Report.

This is why I listen to General McCaffrey.


Michael Moore Lawsuit Update


Published: 15 January 2009

We have not yet filed in court, but will very soon if Mr. Moore does not settle the matter immediately.  The court paperwork takes time, though my attorney informed me that Mr. Moore’s attorney, after seven months of delay, called us late yesterday.  Michael Moore’s attorney and mine, Mr. John Mason, are playing phone tag today.

Read more: Michael Moore Lawsuit Update

Education and Challenges in Afghanistan


This is a great interview with General David Petraeus:

Gen. David Petraeus: In looking at which lessons learned in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan, it is important to remember a key principle of counterinsurgency operations: Every case is unique. That is certainly true of Afghanistan (just as it was true, of course, in Iraq). While general concepts that proved important in Iraq may be applicable in Afghanistan—concepts such as the importance of securing and serving the population and the necessity of living among the people to secure them—the application of those ‘big ideas’ has to be adapted to Afghanistan.

Please Click here to read the entire interview on Foreign Policy.com


Read more: Education and Challenges in Afghanistan

Michael Moore Lawsuit


Due to many meetings and holiday travel, I am still working on pieces about the incredible U.S. soldiers who took me on some dangerous missions in December.  Also, my trip with Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, harvested important information.  I can say this about Gates, as someone who will spend a lot of time on the battlefields this year, I am very happy that both President Bush and President-Elect Obama tapped Gates on the shoulder.  Gates is a winner who is watching out for our service members as well as the United States.  I also had a long and important meeting with General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey.  His trip reports from Iraq and Afghanistan have been brutally honest.  I have great respect for this American warrior.  I had other important meetings in Washington with thought leaders such as David Kilcullen, Ph.D., and I met with Fred Kagan, Ph.D., in Bahrain.  I saw Fred Kagan on an elevator and immediately asked for a meeting, which proved valuable to me.  Over the past few weeks I’ve also talked with very high-ranking U.S. officers about Iraq and Afghanistan.  My confidence on Iraq continues to grow.  Still, there is much concern about Afghanistan-Pakistan.

During my trip to Washington, D.C., I had a chance to catch up on some matters neglected while I was overseas.  My attorney may have to file a lawsuit against Mr. Michael Moore.  In May we contacted Mr. Moore, through his counsel, about Mr. Moore’s unauthorized use of my work on his website.  He did not respond.  My attorney has written again.  If Mr. Moore and his counsel continue to ignore our correspondence, we will proceed with a lawsuit. 

This lawsuit, though, should not be a distraction from combat reporting; the proceedings should be easy and require almost zero hands-on work from me.  But it will be potentially costly.  I’ve never sued anyone in my life.  Looks like Mr. Moore might be the first.  I told one very important person recently about the possible upcoming lawsuit and he said something like, “Someone should drive a stake through that guy’s heart.”  It won’t be that bad, but copyright cases are interesting and we have to deal with them often.  If you want to help me as I both prepare to return overseas and take on this lawsuit with Mr. Michael Moore, please hit the PayPal button.  This lawsuit could be expensive for Mr. Moore, as well.  My attorney advises that our position is strong.  It is senseless for Mr. Moore to ignore this matter.


Red Flag


A missive arrived to me from a well-placed British officer.  I know this officer well, and respect his abilities.  He has been to both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In part, the missive said:

“Please have a look at the attached from the UK Times.  Regarding the Rachel Sylvester piece, we have not been able to find any such document/memo although it is possible that an e-mail exists somewhere that refers to such a matter – more likely to be a warning not to dick about regarding what extra troops the UK might be able to find for AFG and raise unrealistic US expectations.”

Rachel Sylvester US doubts about UK military effectiveness 6 Jan 09.pdf

The Special Relationship Times leader 7 Jan 09.pdf

Read more: Red Flag

Godspeed to Paula Loyd


Published: 08 January 2009

Word just came to me that Paula Loyd died.  The word came from a close mutual friend who currently is in Afghanistan.  Godspeed to Paula.  Those who knew Paula said many great things.  I was told she was engaged to be married.  Now Paula is with God.

Please click here

[Note from Webmaster: In the original draft Paula's name was mispelled "Lloyd". Corrected 12 January 2009.]

Border Bullies


The Department of Homeland Security in Action
04 January 2009

A Thai friend with whom I have traveled in Europe and Asia took time off from her job to meet me in Florida over the holidays.  This was a good time for me, as it was between reporting stints in the war. My friend, Aew, had volunteered to work with me in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I declined because many people around me get shot or blown up.  So we were looking forward to spending some vacation time together.  She comes from a good family; and one that is wealthier than most American families.  She didn’t come here for a job.  Well-educated, she has a master's degree and works as a bank officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Aew was excited about the prospect of visiting America for the first time, though she had traveled to many other countries and had the passport stamps to prove it.  She had no problem getting a U.S. visa, and she was paying her own way to fly.

Read more: Border Bullies

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