Monday, September 29, 2008

Pictures Of Nuristan And Northern Laghman

The last couple of months of my tour were spent at and around a place called FOB Kalagush in the Nurguram District of Nuristan Province.

Looking North into Nuristan from Kalagush

Are there guerrillas in the mist?

We also worked with the Alingar District, Laghman Province.

Heading down into Laghman, looking back North into Nuristan

Nuristani mountains from Northern Laghman Province

Northern Laghman Province, looking East

Storm clouds over the mountains West of Alingar

Village in Northern Laghman Province

I'll string this together with some more pictures soon. There are a couple of stories to tell here, including the scene of Smokey Jackalacker's encounter with the Hyena Of Doom and the place where I saw Nighttime In Shades Of Green.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

To Prove A Lie; But Why?

Entering Surobi

Much has been written of late about the ambush of the French near Surobi on August 18th, 2008 which cost the French ten dead and eighteen wounded, effectively destroying a thirty man platoon. A Globe and Mail story detailing the facts, but not the conclusions, of a French AAR (After Action Review) has received a good deal of attention. Michael Yon, who read the report, described as secret, referenced the newspaper story in three of his latest posts. Comments on Yon’s site have encouraged him to continue in an investigative vein.

Not to suppress the truth, but I respectfully disagree; with the comments, that is. To his credit, Mr. Yon did not break the news after reading the French AAR, while he did describe the Globe and Mail story as accurate in its depiction of the facts. There is no sense in denying the factuality once it has been leaked.

I have nothing but respect for Michael Yon. His writing is riveting, and he can tell the stories of soldiers in combat like few others I have read. Mr. Yon also rightly pointed to the general situation in Iraq as critical, adding a much-needed voice to the discussion of the state of affairs there pre-surge. While many were simply reporting disjointed stories of attacks and violence, Mr. Yon had the ability to see trends and analyze them into a picture of the overall state of affairs.

It is possible that his voice may have helped to bring about the surge. It certainly did no harm.

In the current situation, Mr. Yon is discussing information that has already been published in a mainstream outlet. There is probably not much further harm to be done, really. I applaud Mr. Yon for not breaking the story himself. Mr. Yon is a warrior himself, so he knew better. He knew what the potential damage was from such a release.

I think that there are several types of reporting that can be done from a theater of war. First and most immediately compelling is tactical reporting; the telling of the small unit story. This is the depiction of the experience of small groups of individual soldiers, their lives, their missions, and the challenges and the range of emotions that they experience. There are far too few reporters who have done this well. Some have done it with such subjectivity as to have nearly destroyed the credibility of combat journalists at the soldier level. In short, we don’t trust them; and we don’t want to be used to forward their particular agenda.

It is at the tactical level that Michael Yon in particular has excelled. Many are making comparisons to Ernie Pyle. It is a well-deserved comparison, in my humble opinion. Another such writer is Scott Kesterson. Both are independent journalists. I’m seeing a trend here. The reporters from larger organizations are largely failures at this. There is not a single one that comes to mind for me as a good example.

Strategic reporting is depicting the overall picture; the larger actions, goals, and strategies that drive the smaller actions. While not nearly as emotionally compelling or interesting at the human level, it is critically important to the people of the United States. Unfortunately, this is another area of failure for our MSM. The average American citizen has not been presented a coherent picture of the theaters of war. Instead, they have been subjected to static noise punctuated by occasional blood spattering and loud alarmist outbursts.

My observation is that this has occurred in both theaters. There is no consistent thread, other than the blood and outbursts, and understandably little comprehension by Joe Sixpack of the extent of the assistance being performed and the overall purpose. There is no capability for cogent criticism of the military, because there is no understandable picture of the overall effort other than disjointed blurbs presented at irregular intervals.

The fog of war is only penetrated by the blogs of war, and a few effective journalists who tend to be more bloggish than mainstream. Michael Yon and Scott Kesterson are among the better known… but not by Joe Sixpack who gets his news from the big news outlets on cable TV. I’d venture to say that ninety out of a hundred adults (perhaps more) have never heard of Michael Yon. For Scott Kesterson the number would be higher. For little guy bloggers like me, it's more like a few in a million who have ever visited.

The blogs, other than the “big picture” blogs like Abu Mukawama, are only effective in the tactical spectrum. Mr. Yon addresses the strategic spectrum as well, tying together his dispersed tactical experiences to form a larger picture. He was painting a strategic picture when he identified the civil war conditions in Iraq and failures in American approach.

The third area, socio-economic reporting, is the least compelling on the American soldier interest level and yet very compelling on the human level; especially the sad stories. There are many sad stories to be told. It’s too easy to find sad stories. It’s the success stories and the stories of quiet and heroic struggle that are harder to find. It’s harder to find the stories of tiny victories won by NGO workers fighting to rebuild shattered human support systems and educational capabilities, address health concerns like infant and maternal mortality, and the spread of hope like the spread of new schools across Afghanistan.

Michael Yon addressed the issue of the lack of journalistic interest in his latest post.

The failure to accurately convey knowledge, observations and experience of these issues and the progress or lack thereof has rendered another incomplete and dismal picture for Joe and Jane and all the little Sixpacks.

Okay, back to the topic; there is a developing microburst over French/NATO denials of the leaked AAR's as an official document. Noises are being made about this issue begging a leak of the document to prove the denial to be a denial in fact.


For those of you who don't know, AAR's contain certain information about the operation it describes; including what went right and what went wrong and how to do it better. We in the military realm, when we get ahold of the other guy's AAR refer to it by another moniker entirely.

We call it intel.

Why would someone want to leak intel to prove themselves correct? The purpose of an AAR is to help solve the issues that the unit ran into. Granted, the French had some issues. Losing 93% of a platoon to death or injury means that something went horribly awry. They have some things to look at and some problems to solve.

And we are all insanely curious about just what that was. Just insanely curious.

Heavy on the insane.

Commenters are screaming that the public has a right to know.

Oh, do they now? Really? To what purpose? What will the public do with this knowledge? How will they help to solve the problem? If there is information of potential intelligence value and the public only wants to know the dirty secrets for the sake of knowing the dirty secrets, then what is the purpose?

To prove that NATO, and the French, are fibbing? That's pretty much the only reason. To prove right the organization that first printed the news that possibly gave the Taliban clues as to potential weaknesses of the French. Here's one: look for the radio man. The French don't have a lot of radios! They possibly have problems with ammo resupply!

Boy, I'm freaking glad that we have no enemies out there who would have any interest in that information. I'm really glad that I know this information now, because I can solve that problem from Ohio. What's really cool is that others can apparently solve that problem from Ottawa, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Why the Globe and Mail would publish this information in the first place is beyond me. NATO's denial is patently silly at this point, but what was the purpose of the revelation?

I have written before about the issue of telling the truth, and I thoroughly agree with Michael Yon in his call for truthfulness from NATO, ISAF, and the U.S. Army. However, one must balance that with a reasonable assessment of the need to disclose certain information. What is the value of revealing intelligence in the name of truth?

I certainly hope that another French soldier doesn't lose his life because of a new tactic developed from the intelligence revealed.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Citizen Soldier; The "Peacetime" Mission

The Guard has two missions; the "Wartime Mission," and the "Peacetime Mission." The citizen-soldiers of the Guard can serve their country and communities in a stateside, non-combat role, and they can serve in combat.

In my case, it could happen all within the same year. I got the call today; be ready to be activated, possibly tomorrow, to support civil authorities due to the horrendous wind storm that caused more damage to Ohio's power grid than has been seen in 30 years.

I belong to a combat-oriented unit. We are not Engineers, we have no heavy equipment, nor do we even have much hand-operated equipment that may be of use in cleanup operations. That didn't prevent us from being useful when deployed in Louisiana due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita a few years ago.

We spent a month in Lafayette, Louisiana running a distribution center and a series of POD's (Points Of Distribution) distributing food, water, and ice to citizens. I've got a few stories... some of them not so nice... about that experience. Stories aside, it gave us experience operating in a completely different role from a combat reconnaissance unit training for combat.

We were there for the citizens of Louisiana, and now we find ourselves being useful to the citizens of Ohio.

My goodness, that sounds noble.

I talked to my kids tonight about how 90+% of Afghan kids grow up without electricity, TV, and have little to no idea what an iPod is. I'm sure that my sixteen year old, in particular, was singularly unimpressed.

Then I told her that a lot of Afghan kids can't read, so curling up with a book when the power is out wouldn't be an option.

Her screams still echo in my ears.

For a great example of a citizen who serves the community in the long haul, please read about Dana White and support Fisher House.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Origins Of A Deployment, Origins Of A Blog

I had tried to deploy to Iraq twice with units from my home state of Ohio, but neither worked out. After my second go-round with the sons of Ohio, a fellow senior NCO, who had also volunteered, called me the day after we had both been told that there was no room for us with the deploying unit and gave me some information.

He told me to go and check out the NGB (National Guard Bureau) website and check the "Deployment Opportunities" page. I did, and found a spreadsheet with the projected needs for soldiers of all levels and many different MOS's listed. He also gave me the phone number of the SGM (Sergeant Major) at the deployment branch.

The spreadsheet didn't show any needs for someone with my rank and skill set, and so I called the SGM and asked him what he had projected. After a brief conversation about my skills and experiences, he told me that I should consider becoming an ETT in Afghanistan.

"ETT. Okay. What's an ETT?" I asked. It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My journey of seven thousand miles began with three letters. I was stumped, and turned to my friend Google.

"Oh, mighty Google," my supplication began, "what in the hell is an ETT in Afghanistan?" Thousands of pages of information were suddenly at hand. I dug in earnestly, seeking. I read a ton of stuff. I began with, "One Valley At A Time," and a progression of white papers, articles and, finally, blogs.

Very few blogs. Two captivated my attention. One was Scott Kesterson's "KGW Afghanistan Blog," a blog sponsored by a Portland, Oregon TV station and written by an independent journalist who volunteered to go with Oregon's 41st BCT (Brigade Combat Team) as they assumed the TF Phoenix mission. Scott's writing is powerful. His videography is stunning. Scott finished an independent film about his experiences, "At War," earlier this year. Trailers for the film are available at the KGW blog link above.

Scott Kesterson touched me deeply with several of his posts, and became one of my heroes for his ability to convey the experience. Having had the experience, my respect for his ability has only grown. I hoped to meet him in Afghanistan; it was not to be.

The second blog was written by a National Guard Senior NCO from New York named Troy Steward. His blog, "Bouhammer's Afghan Blog," gave me more than theoretical information on the nature of the mission. His writing and pictures brought it home for me. Through all of this information, the mission became real, and I began to be a believer. Troy's blog was a huge part of this growth.

The perspective that I gained from Bouhammer gave me a sense of reality and prepared me for the challenges; the frustrations with Phoenix, the need for constant patience with the Afghans, the reality of small teams in remote locations with tremendous shortages and incredible odds to overcome.

I also perceived the sense of accomplishment; the tiny victories of enlightenment, the incremental change that meant so much, the camaraderie and humor. Bouhammer's portrayal of life as an ETT was realistic, straightforward, and unromantic.

Troy's blog gave me the ability to peek inside the mission and get a glimpse of what men were going through seven thousand miles from my home. His blog inspired me and, with my own innate desire to serve, convinced me that the ETT mission was more than worthwhile; it was a calling.

His writing did something else for me. It made me think about writing, too. I had never seriously considered the idea of blogging. I didn't really understand what it was. Scott Kesterson is a writer by trade; Bouhammer is a soldier by trade and a writer by choice. He was sharing, for whatever reason, freely of his experiences, and I was a beneficiary.

It was Troy's blog, more than any other single thing, that gave rise to the impetus in me to write this blog. I never knew where that would take me. I've had a lot of great feedback, and I love it. Many have encouraged me to write a book; it's in the works. I'm a small player in the arena of blogging, but I do what I can, and I've spoken honestly about many things and have lent my small voice to help on a couple of occasions. I'm glad that I've had The Adventure as an outlet and a voice to add to the chorus.

I'm a blogguppy; a very small fish in a big pond, but I've been visited a few times. This blog has been read in every state in the Union, Guam, every province in Canada, every country in Europe (including Lichtenstein,) Norway, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Afghanistan (go figure,) Pakistan, India, China, Hong Kong (still China, but I'm claiming it,) Singapore, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Thailand, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico.

Just to name a few.

Oh, and in the motherland; Ireland. I know that they count as part of Europe, but I wanted to give a shout out.

That's some legacy, huh Troy?

I was humbled to be nominated by some very kind people for a Milbloggie Award; but only the top five in each category get voted on. I was in the top ten... not bad for such a little guy in the big bloggie pool.

Troy is in that top five. I would love to see him win it. There are five very good blogs there. I like all of them. Bouhammer is the only Afghan blog, and Troy's the guy who inspired me to blog. If you've enjoyed my writing, if you've laughed or been touched in any way, go and thank the guy who gave me a clue by voting for him.

The voting ends Sunday night, so please go now and vote. It's free, and I'll take it as a personal sign of appreciation.

Here's how to do it:

Go to and register. They don't send spam, so it's safe. I've done it myself. They are good people.

In the upper right part of the page is a link that says, "Milbloggies." Click on that link and find where it says "Current Standings." Click on "Army" and vote for "Bouhammer's Afghan & Military Blog."

We are all like pebbles tossed into a pond, and our ripples touch and overlap and change all the other ripples. Bouhammer made a splash in my experience. Send a ripple his way.

When you're done there, please make sure that you read the following post if you haven't already. Fisher House helps soldier's families.
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Monday, September 8, 2008

It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint; Fisher House

This story begins in August of 2001. Paul and Dana Anello White were living in Buffalo, New York. Dana was a Physical Therapist, and Paul was finishing his Masters Degree in Secondary Education. They were beginning their family. Paul had gotten a Reserve commission in the Army through ROTC in his undergraduate years.

Educated, focused, fit; the Whites were a poster couple for the new millennium.

As for so many of us, everything changed with the events of 9/11. Like the twin towers, the airliners of that fateful morning brought an end to that chapter of their lives. Like the country, they found their course altered.

Paul found that he could not sit idly by while his country girded itself for the Global War on Terror. He applied for active duty. After undergoing branch schooling as a Quartermaster Branch officer, he was assigned to Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Shortly thereafter Paul was deployed to OIF I.

Paul returned to Ft Campbell and the couple had their first child. Paul, now a Captain, assumed his first command and prepared to take his company downrange. Dana was now a full-time mother and the wife of a commander. As any unit commander's wife can tell you, it's her job, too. She led the Family Readiness Group.

If you've ever seen the movie We Were Soldiers, it depicts what has become known as a Family Readiness Group in a 1960's Hollywood way. Like any movie, it cannot portray the realities of active military duty, family life, or the mixture of pride, fear, responsibility and determination that real men and women... American families... live.

CPT Paul White took his company to Iraq in 2005. Dana led the FRG, no mean feat, and cared for their young son as well as the families of the soldiers Paul led in Iraq. They struggled to make and maintain contact. Technology was a boost and a bane. Dana recalls a site where the families and soldiers would upload pictures, a two-way sharing across a seemingly endless distance that cheered both sides.

The Army blocked the site.

Dana helped to solve problems like these that can mean so much to those on either side of the Atlantic. While she managed these issues and led the life of a mother sans partner, she found an email from Fisher House in her inbox. Fisher House was forming a marathon team to raise money. The Ft Campbell Fisher House was under construction at the time.

Dana felt a call.

Fisher House is an organization which provides no-cost housing for the families of wounded servicemen while the soldier, Marine, sailor or airman undergoes medical treatment for their wounds. As Dana puts it, "Think of it as Ronald McDonald House, Army style!"

There are 33 Fisher Houses at 18 military installation medical centers and Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in the United States and Germany. So far, these houses have eased the lives of over 120,000 American families as their loved ones recovered from wounds suffered in the service of their country.

Fisher House relieves the families of these soldiers from having to worry about one very important thing so that these families can focus their attention on the one most important thing; their loved one. What a tremendous gift.

I mentioned that the Whites were fit. I wasn't kidding. Dana had been a swimmer in college and one of her coaches was a triathlete. Soon after college, Dana was doing triathlons. The email from Fisher House intrigued her.

Why not do a marathon?

Dana discussed this idea with Paul, who decided that he, too, would train for the Marine Corps Marathon. This race is held in October in Washington, DC. As Paul struggled to find time during the deployment to train, Dana struggled to train while caring for their now two year old son.

Paul returned home in September, 2006. A month later, the couple ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Eighty five runners ran for Fisher House in 2006, raising $70,000 for the charity. This year, 285 runners have set a goal of $400,000.

Wow. Noble goal.

One of the runners is, you guessed it; Dana Anello White. She and (now) Major White are stationed at West Point, New York while he teaches at the Military Academy. Scarcely a year after giving birth to their second child, a daughter, last August, Dana is running another marathon for Fisher House.

She decided shortly after the birth that her goal would be to run the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon for Fisher House on October 26th. Running a marathon isn't easy. Running a marathon after giving birth to your second child is less so.

"What was I thinking?" Dana says, laughing. "It must have been a post-partum hormonal moment or something."

Perhaps. I call it the kind of quiet heroism that makes this country great.

While Major Paul White trains our newest generation of officers, he also supports his wife's efforts to train for a marathon. Dana is often running up to 7 miles at 5:00 in the morning. She has arranged her training schedule so that her long runs, some as long as 20 miles, are on the weekends when the Major can take over the kids.

Here's where you come in.

So far, these runners have raised about $200,000. With seven weeks to go before race day, they need to raise some more money for this wonderful organization.

I've said before that this war is a marathon and not a sprint. Perhaps it's time for a little bit of sprinting.

Please follow the link and consider helping Dana to lift the Fisher House team to their goal. There are many places and ways that people can contribute to charitable organizations these days, but I think that this is one that you can definitely be proud to support. Lots of people can say, "I support our troops," but here is an opportunity to demonstrate it.

Please watch this video about Fisher House, and then below that is the link to make a donation supporting Fisher House through Team Fisher House.

Click HERE to go to Dana's page and make a donation.

Then, if you will, go HERE and support this blog. >wink, wink<

You may need to register to do so, but it's free. We like free, don't we? The nomination phase ends at midnight on Wednesday.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

The French Scoop US MSM Again

The latest post, below and made only early this morning, is significant news. It is news from a small valley in Afghanistan which is both a microcosm of the Global War on Terror and a crucial battle in establishing a secure, democratic, and independent Afghanistan.

The Tag Ab Valley is relatively close to Kabul. It follows a generally north-south axis starting near the town of Surobi (sometimes spelled "Sarobi,") and runs north to Nijrab. The districts of Kapisa Province north of the Nijrab District are peaceful and contrast strongly with the southern districts of Nijrab, Tag Ab, and Ala Say (sometimes spelled "Ala Sai" or Alah Say.")

In the spring of 2007, the Tag Ab Valley was an area that experienced occasional encroachments by American Special Forces and Afghan National Army troops. The major operations that had been conducted in the valley to that point had been clearing operations followed by an absence of any stay-behind forces, save for a Special Forces camp at what was known at the time as Firebase Nijrab. An ANA force in approximately company strength could also be found at Firebase Nijrab, now known as Firebase Morales-Frazier.

The Taliban and HiG controlled the southern half of the Nijrab District, nearly all of Tag Ab District and all of Ala Say District. The only island of IRoA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) control in Tag Ag was a tiny area around the District Center. The Taliban would occasionally surround the District Center and besiege the local ANP for an entire day, just to show them who was boss. In May of 2007, the Taliban publicly hung an Afghan official in the town square. He was an official in the Afghan intelligence agency.

The Tag Ab Valley, with its large HiG (larger, in fact, than the Taliban) presence, was full of opium. It is an historic smuggling route, circumventing passage through Kabul by bypassing to the north at Surobi.

Surobi is a lovely little town on the Naghlu Reservoir. Nestled into the rising terrain south of the reservoir and straddling the strategic J-bad Highway which connects Kabul and Jalalabad, Surobi seems almost Mediterranean in its charm. It is also the site of last month's ambush on French forces that left 10 dead and 21 wounded.

It's a beautiful, strategic, dangerous little town anchoring the southern end of this historic smuggling route.

Surobi is also a key link in another kind of smuggling; the smuggling of suicide bombers into Kabul.

Suicide bombers, either wearing explosive vests or driving VBIED's (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices,) are the biggest threat to security in Kabul. Tag Ab has been a traditional staging area for such attacks. It has been a place where attacks on Kabul can be planned, organized, and the forces marshaled.

Tag Ab is a key valley. It is the closest hardcore Taliban stronghold to Kabul, and the terminus for the infiltration of weapons, explosives, foreign fighters and money.

It is not the only key valley in Afghanistan, but it one with which I am personally intimate. To me, right now, it is the symbol of how woefully ignorant our own press is; and by extension, the American people, of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

Confirmation was released by CJTF 101 just a couple of days ago that one of the key Taliban commanders in Tag Ab was killed on August 5th near the town of Tag Ab in this strategic valley. Qari Nejat was a key thorn in our side for the entire time I was in Afghanistan. He was the most effective and active Taliban commander in the valley.

We didn't even know what he looked like. This guy was like Pancho Villa, Geronimo, and Osama bin Ladin all wrapped up into one. He was ethereal; a vicious ghost who glided through the valley and was always a step ahead of us. Evidence of his actions against the coalition, IRoA forces (both ANA and ANP,) and the local populace was as consistent as the tides; from ambushes to burning Police checkpoints to summary beheadings, Qari Nejat was credited with a lot of violence.

He was a key player in a key battle in a key valley; and the only Americans who ever heard his name were either there or read this blog. That is patently ridiculous. I'm sure that this isn't the only instance of this. Beyond sure, I am absolutely positive. This is part of what I wrote about in my post called "Information Operations."

Since my return home, I've been stunned by the lack of knowledge, concern, and investment that many, the greatest perecentage actually, of my fellow citizens have towards the war. Because of its nature, and because the privations of the war are only acutely felt by service members, it is easy for the average Joe and Jane to continue their daily lives as if we weren't in any kind of serious struggle. The delusion of incontrovertible safety, apparently cracked but not shattered by 9/11, has once again settled on the Land of the Free.

The war has become a bother, and it has finally caused pain for the average American, who several years in the past howled for vengeance for 9/11, demanded that the government fulfill its mandate to provide for the common defense, and cried out in near unison for the blood of not just Osama but of Saddam Hussein as well. Revise your personal history if you will, but I lived those days here in the States, surrounded by my fellow citizens, and I heard the cries and received the emails full of belligerent jokes and vitriolic cartoons. I watched in slow motion as the nation whipped itself into a frenzy and the UN agreed that Saddam had a deadline to completely submit or face action.

Now it has hurt the economy. Now it has driven (among such factors as a surging Chinese middle class with a new found ability to operate vehicles with internal combustion engines) the price of oil up. Now it has reversed the trend and piled up a significant debt.

Wars are expensive. The war became tedious on television news and the sensationalization of the American death toll became a daily litany that constantly reminded the American public that we were decisively engaged in a protracted effort. The initial love affair between the press and the military, expressed through embedded reporting, was brief. The reporting, of dubious quality in many cases, trickled off; and there were altercations. Reporters don't like OPSEC.

What was supposed to be, in the minds of the public whose minds had been informed by their press, a brief and surgical beheading of the government of Iraq followed by a joyous resurgence of democratic principles became an insurgency. Roadside bombings fed with the artillery shells we had left laying around in our blitz to Baghdad became daily fair in the news as the soldiers struggled to stay on top of the new gun/armor spiral.

Concurrently, in Afghanistan, we began to train a new Afghan National Army. Afghanistan held their first elections and successfully negotiated the forming of a new Constitution. The Taliban and their ilk, still reeling from the loss, were still making a game of it.

The American press retired to the Green Zone and to Kabul. They hired local stringers and reported only on death and destruction. Of particular interest were the wrongs that inevitably become part of the landscape of war. Abu Ghraib, dead civilians, the overreactions of young soldiers and Marines in stressful situations all grabbed headlines.

If it bleeds, it leads. If it stinks, it's ink.

Americans were hungry to understand what was occurring. As the most clearly articulated reason for the invasion, WMD's, were not discovered America sat shocked and felt lied to. The hugest failure of the American government was in not backing up their reasoning with the stated policy that governments who sponsored terror were subject to being held accountable to the point of regime change; but that policy was not cited until well afterwards and weakly at that.

The efforts in Afghanistan languished in near-obscurity while the national interest was drawn to the spectacle in Iraq, and news of both amounted primarily to journalists citing stringers and editorializing on what was being presented to them.

There were rare instances of journalists who actually did their jobs. Many, like Michael Yon and Scott Kesterson were independents. Some, like Michael, had military backgrounds and reported what they saw fairly and through the glasses of understanding the military from the inside. While not sugar-coating the war or those who were fighting it, neither did he sensationalize the image of a brutal occupation of some "peace-loving country" by a bunch of jack-booted thugs or paint our soldiers as pitiful victims of imperialist desires gone horribly awry.

Some did.

Michael Yon and Scott Kesterson were not published widely in mainstream outlets.

Our media has not done their job in this war. They have not been the "go-to" source for information on what has been happening, on what has been done. While they have learned to spell the word "insurgency," and later to spell "counterinsurgency," they have not educated themselves to any degree in what these actually are. They couldn't recognize a decent counterinsurgent if they sat on his lap. They have had no grip on the flow of fighting nor have they had, on other than a very simplistic level, an idea of what was and was not strategically important.

All the while, they've been informing the average American. It would be more accurate to say that they have been misinforming, disinforming, and uninforming the average American, who has a tendency to trust powerhouses like the major networks, CNN, and the major print outlets to actually do their jobs.

It's been pretty hit or miss. I would contend, and I will cite the example of Tag Ab, that it's been more miss than hit. I would also contend that Americans do not understand the truth about the investment that they have been making in national security, and that perhaps if they had a feeling of sacrifice for something they could understand, the massive resentment that is currently felt would be somewhat ameliorated.

It's not that the information isn't available. It is. The truest picture of what's going on in the two theaters of this war is not available on the US MSM, though. It's not likely to be the person who reads this post who is woefully ill-informed as a citizen of the United States; it's the millions who don't even know it exists.

As much as I celebrate those who surf the blogosphere in search of enlightenment, I don't blame Joe Sixpack for not doing so. Joe's got a life, a job, a family, and concerns. He may only have time for his nightly shot of news on the MSM outlet of his choice.

I shouldn't be a source of news. I should be where some interesting stories are told; some additional information shared. The added touch.

As near as I can tell, there are only four "outlets" in the United States who have reported on the (above detailed as significant) death of Qari Nejat. One is me and the others are The Long War Journal, Battlefield Tourist, and The Thunder Run. Four blogs.

And that, my friends, is ridiculous.

A reporter should know what is significant in the country in which he is stationed; period. For the MSM reporters in Afghanistan to not understand the significance of Tag Ab, and for them to therefore be ignorant of the significance of the death of one such as Nejat is inexcusable. It shouldn't have necessarily been front-page news, but it should have been newsworthy.

It's in a near-vacuum of real information that our nation's citizens are asked to sacrifice economically to follow this effort through to completion. We view ourselves as being an information-driven nation, but Joe is being treated like a mushroom.

He's being kept in the dark and fed shit.

Is it any surprise that the number one concern of Americans is to bring home the troops within one year? Joe doesn't even really know what has been going on over there. What's worse is that he thinks he does. It's not like it doesn't get mention; but that mention paints nothing of the real picture. Tag Ab is a perfect example.

Guess what? The French media may actually be doing their jobs. Dig this:

US-led Coalition forces in Afghanistan have killed five Taliban subcommanders in recent weeks, including a bomb-maker and two behind the August 18 attack that left 10 French soldiers dead, they said.

"Coalition forces have positively identified five Taliban subcommanders killed during operations over the past month in Kapisa province," the Coalition said in a statement from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, and released in Washington.

Among the five were Ahmad Shah and Mullah Rohoullah, killed with six others by airstrikes in Nijrab district on August 30 after coalition forces ran into armed resistance while searching a compound.

Both were heavily involved in helping move weapons and foreign fighters into Afghanistan, the statement said, as well as facilitating Taliban operations, including the August 18 ambush on the French patrol.

Ten French soldiers were killed and another 21 injured in the attack by about 100 Taliban in Sarobi, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Kabul.

It was the deadliest ground battle for international soldiers in the country since they toppled the Taliban regime in 2001.

Coalition forces said that on August 23 they killed subcommanders Khairullah Nezami and Qari Ezmarai in Tag Ab district.

Nezami, they said, helped to arrange the making and planting of bombs and coordinated the movement of suicide bombers in the Taliban network.

A fifth subcommander, Qari Nejat, was killed together with four additional insurgents in an operation in Nijrab district on August 5.

The Coalition linked Nejat with the July 21 suicide bombing in the Tag Ab bazaar that injured six Afghans, the July 16 kidnapping of three Afghan policemen in Jalokhel, and the torture and beheading of an Afghan on June 30.

It's not just about killing Taliban. There is so much more being done than killing. There is a deeper story behind the killing of Nejat that speaks volumes to the efficacy of what we're doing in Afghanistan and by extension in Iraq. I'll address this soon, as it's a topic in its own right.

The worst thing that could possibly happen to the people of Afghanistan would be if we killed Osama bin Laden tomorrow. Joe Sixpack, thinking that this whole effort has been simply to hunt down Osama, will suddenly start wondering what the hell we're doing in Afghanistan and in the information vacuum that is our MSM will come to the conclusion that its not much. He in his millions will demand the immediate cessation of all efforts and return to within our borders.

And the fledgling dream that is Afghanistan will surely die.

On August 5th, 2008, the people of the very strategic Tag Ab Valley in Kapisa Province got a present; their own little Osama personified in Qari Nejat went to meet his maker. On September 4th, the news of positive identification was released to all media by CJTF 101, and on September 5th it was widely reported in the French media and even the Chinese media; and by four blogs in the United States.
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

I'm not usually a cut-and-paster, but this is some really good news. I've written before about Qari Nejat, one of the bad bad guys in the Tag Ab Valley which includes Nijrab, Tab Ab, and Ala Say Districts. While I've read with interest of the demise of some of the other bad guys in the valley, this one is truly special. Qari Nejat was particularly brutal. He's credited with three beheadings that I know of.

The world is a better place without him. Trust me.

There was an added bonus; Khairullah Nezami was almost certainly involved in the IED attack that cost the lives of four of my ANP on September 10th, 2007; one of the worst single days I've had. Just shy of a year later, he's dead. It's a terrible thing to hope that another human being died in abject terror.

So, below is the full report. Tonight Qari Nejat is trading carving tips with Jeffrey Dahmer and taking art lessons from Hitler on how to paint roses on the walls of Hell.

Coalition Identifies Taliban Leaders Killed in Recent Strikes
American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Sept. 4, 2008 – Coalition forces have positively identified five Taliban subcommanders killed during operations over the past month in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province.

Qari Nejat, along with four other enemy fighters, was killed during a coalition forces operation in the province’s Nijrab district Aug. 5. Officials said Nejat was a Taliban commander in the Tag Ab valley region, with ties to senior insurgent figures. He was implicated in the July 21 suicide bombing in the Tag Ab bazaar that injured six Afghan nationals, as well as the July 16 kidnapping of three Afghan National Police officers in Jalokhel. Nejat also was wanted in connection with the torturing and beheading of an Afghan citizen June 30.

Khairullah Nezami and Qari Ezmarai, along with four other Taliban operatives, were killed in the Tag Ab district on Aug. 23. Nezami was a known roadside bomb facilitator and also coordinated the movement of suicide bombers and foreign terrorists within the network. Ezmarai is believed to have helped foreign terrorists move into and around Afghanistan to conduct attacks for the Taliban.

Both militants were local Taliban commanders in the Tag Ab valley region of Kapisa. During the operation, the force also discovered multiple assault rifles and machine guns.

On Aug. 30, Ahmad Shah and Mullah Rohoullah were killed as coalition forces attempted to search a compound in the Nijrab district. As they approached the compound, they were met with small-arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire. Coalition forces responded with precision air strikes, killing both Taliban leaders. Six other militants also were killed in the strikes.

Officials said both leaders were heavily involved in foreign terrorist facilitation and conducting numerous attacks against NATO and coalition forces, including a recent ambush on NATO forces on Aug. 18. They were known to facilitate the movement of weapons and foreign fighters into Afghanistan.

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 101 news release.)

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