A Marine Still Serves + From Sounds of #War to the Sound of Music #SOT @Soldiersangels

By a Very Proud Soldiers’ Angel

Dear Angels,

The week as we celebrate the incredible blessings of freedom and safety here in America, let’s also remember those who have sacrificed so much for us to have those blessings. Some are coming home with wounds on the outside, others with hidden wounds on the inside.

Parties and community gatherings are great opportunities to show others how we can care for those to whom we owe so much. Please share the word about these great activities!

From Sounds of War to the Sound of Music

Instruments for Our Heroes

The music room in the warehouse complex in San Antonio is being prepared this week. When it is ready, combat veterans will be able to take music lessons, play instruments and make music with their brothers and sisters who understand as they acclimate to post-war life . Remember all those clarinets, flutes, guitars, etc., that you stored way and forgot about? Now they can help soothe a hero’s heart! [more*]

A Marine Still Serves

”Standing for the Fallen”

Mark Dolfini is now a “former Marine,” but his heart still beats to the Marine drum. This weekend he won’t get to enjoy the fruits of his service like the rest of us. Instead, he’ll be in uniform once again, standing at attention for 24 hours straight to raise money for his wounded brothers and sisters. All the comfort items and cash donations he raises will go to Soldiers’ Angels Germany. Check out this hero! [more*]

Team of Angels

Blankets of Hope

The Blankets of Hope team creates unique, handmade blankets to send hope, support and gratitude to America’s wounded heroes. Used on hospital beds, wheelchairs, and transport litters on medevac flights, Blankets of Hope bring the message that each service member is loved and not forgotten. They are included in First Response Backpacks and Vet Packs sent to Combat Support Hospitals in the war zones, major medical facilities in Germany and around the world, and selected military hospitals and veterans centers here at home.

One of the oldest Angel teams, it all began when Patti heard about MEDEVAC conditions in early 2004. A request for blankets went out and when current team leader Dee Jerge immediately submitted 4 or 5 made from fabric she had on hand, she was asked to lead the way. Since then, the team has made tens of thousands of handmade blankets that become very meaningful to wounded heroes. As the wife of a wounded soldier said, “He told me later when he got home that the warmth from that blanket and the thoughts of his family are things that got him through.” Right now, the blanket shelves are getting low as the volume of wounded heroes is increasing. To help this important team (no sewing required!), visit http://www.soldiersangels.org/blankets-of-hope.html and make a blanket for a wounded hero!

Please consider how you can inspire others to action during this weekend when we particularly feel our blessings as a safe and free country: A no-s ew tied blanket could be a perfect activity while you wait for the fireworks to start, or maybe your neighbor has a guitar he doesn’t use anymore or would like donate in support of Mark Dolfini. Just spread the word and share your enthusiasm!

Let’s celebrate our freedom this week by putting our gratitude into action!

Wingtip to Wingtip,

Patti Patton-Bader
Soldiers’ Angels Founder and CEO

Facebook – Soldiers’ Angels (official)
Twitter – @soldiersangels

Soldiers’ Angels, 1792 E. Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104 (626) 529-5114

Quest to Neutralize Afghan Militants Is Showing Glimpses of Success, NATO Says #Afghanistan – NY Times

Report Criticizes U.S. System for Evaluating Afghan Forces

By ELISABETH BUMILLER (NYT)

A special inspector general said that even top-rated Afghan units could not operate independently and that the ratings of many security forces overstated their actual capabilities.

WORLD / ASIA PACIFIC

Quest to Neutralize Afghan Militants Is Showing Glimpses of Success, NATO Says

By THOM SHANKER and ALISSA RUBIN (NYT)

About 130 important insurgent figures have been captured or killed in Afghanistan over the past 120 days, according to NATO military statistics.

OPINION

Afghan Lessons, Beyond McChrystal

(NYT)

Readers respond to articles about the removal of General McChrystal and the war in Afghanistan.

OPINION

McChrystal Is No Victim

(NYT)

David Brooks provides an insightful historical summary of American public affairs reporting in his column “The culture of exposure” (Views, June 26).

More Articles On This Topic »

With Command Shift in Afghanistan, Talk Turns to Withdrawal

By PETER BAKER (NYT)

As President Obama tries to maintain flexibility on the withdrawal timeline, many are wondering just what will happen next summer.

U.S.

U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan

(NYT)

The Department of Defense confirmed the death of an American as a part of the Afghan war and related operations.

Return of Refugees to Kyrgyzstan Disrupts Relief Effort

By ANDREW E. KRAMER and MATTHEW SALTMARSH (NYT)

Tens of thousands of people who fled ethnic fighting in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month streamed back into the country over the course of a few days last week.

OPINION

Wrong Track Distress

By BOB HERBERT (NYT)

With no end to the employment crisis in sight, the U.S. desperately needs to enact an aggressive jobs-creation campaign.

More Articles On This Topic »

Abused by the Taliban. Battered by the Pakistani army.

Amnesty International USA: TAKE ACTION NOW!

Dear donnette,

“When I saw people putting the dead bodies of my children, parents, and other relatives in bed I couldn’t bear it anymore and fell on the ground. I lost my sense…as if hell fell on me.”

This shocking testimony comes from a 25-year old Pakistani man who lost nine family members when two shells, fired by Pakistani security forces, hit his house.

Far from an isolated incident, the civilian killings took place in the alarmingly violent and lawless tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.

The residents in these regions are subject to horrific abuses by the Pakistani Taliban and have no legal protection by the Pakistani government. Most disturbing is the fact that they are increasingly attacked on three different fronts – by the Taliban, by the Pakistani army and by U.S. drone strikes.

Yet the suffering of the people of this area has been ignored, sacrificed in the name of geopolitical interests.
Blow off the veil of silence. Sign our petition urging the U.S. government to face the human right crisis in northwest Pakistan.

Remote and mountainous, northwest Pakistan has become a dangerous place to collect research. At one time, little was known about the overall situation in region.

But we’re using our new website, http://www.eyesonpakistan.org, to help both private citizens and policy makers gain access to these previously inaccessible conflict zones. Using state of the art mapping tools and in-depth research, the site provides concrete visual evidence of destruction and human rights abuse.

We also launched a companion report, “As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan,”1 which documents the systemic abuses carried out by the Pakistani Taliban. The report is based on nearly 300 interviews with residents in this region, equally as tragic as the young man’s account shared at the beginning of this message.

And topping off our evidence is a report recently published by the UN which refers to US drone strikes as an “ill-defined license to kill without accountability”.

We’ve got the proof. The pressure is building. Now all we need is for the U.S. government to draw a line and stand on the side of human rights.

Urge the U.S. government to uphold human rights in Pakistan.

In solidarity,

Christoph Koettl
Crisis Campaigner
Amnesty International USA

PS: Would you like to do more for human rights in Pakistan? Participate in our Eyes on Pakistan Writing Contest and win a Flip HD camera!
Face the crisis

Wars Fought and Wars Googled – NY Times

Credit : NY Times
Wars Fought and Wars Googled
By SCOTT SHANE (NYT)

There is Afghanistan, yes, but militants have become adept at exploiting the sentiment of global Muslim brotherhood on the limitless landscape of the Web.

More Articles On This Topic »

Image Coopyright & used with permission and thanks to Michael Yon

Gen. Stanley McChrystal Is Relieved of Command in #Afghanistan

Breaking News Alert

The New York Times

Wed, June 23, 2010 — 1:30 PM ET

Iraq News – In Iraqi Danger Zone, Violence Resists a Timetable

Iraq News – Breaking World Iraq News – The New York Times.

A vendor waiting for customers at his shop in Mosul, Iraq. Whatever the reason, no one has been able to quell Mosul’s violence. By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS

MOSUL, Iraq — Staff Col. Ismail Khalif Jasim, the top intelligence officer in Nineveh Province, was scrutinizing faces last week as he walked through what the police say is the most dangerous neighborhood in Iraq’s most violent city. The place is so risky that some of his colleagues apologetically offered reasons why they would be unable to accompany him there.

One major admitted he was simply too scared. He was forced, though, along with more than 200 other soldiers and police officers, to go to the neighborhood, Amil. Iraqi security forces claim to control it. But in reality Amil is in the throes of another spate of killings, as the American military works to root out Islamist militants from the area before it reduces the number of its troops in Iraq to 50,000 from about 90,000 by the end of August.

Colonel Jasim’s visit there was aimed at persuading groups of stone-faced residents to cooperate with the Iraqi Army — an entity almost universally loathed here for its unapologetically rough treatment of the area’s people. But, he suggested, the authorities were better than the insurgents holed up there.

“They are not just outlaws,” the colonel was saying, suggesting that they were far more dangerous and had none of the romance sometimes associated with criminals. The men regarded him impassively.

“They say you have to slaughter soldiers and police,” he said. “We found information that they want to slaughter more people. Do you want more people killed?”

No luck. The men did not answer. The colonel, his sunglasses hiding his eyes but not the look of contempt that curled around his lips, moved on to the next cluster of men.

Soldiers walked on either side of him, and in front and behind. Armored police and military vehicles were parked on every corner in the neighborhood, its entrance points blocked to traffic. The street had been strung with concertina wire. Only a few people dared to leave their houses.

Amil is a stronghold for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely homegrown group of Sunni insurgents, but that is something the neighborhood does not want to discuss. Questions about the group elicit only nervous, evasive responses in the largely Sunni Arab enclave. No one dares mention its name.

During the past several weeks, United States forces have aggressively begun to try to root out Qaeda operatives in Amil before the last of the American combat troops leaves. This month, the American military said in a statement that it had arrested a man who had committed “assassinations against Iraqi judicial and police officials, and has allegedly coordinated improvised explosive device attacks against” the Iraqi police and army. The man’s identity was not released.

Four days later, gunfire in an adjoining neighborhood killed two Iraqi police officers on patrol. The same day, in central Mosul, the deputy governor survived a bomb blast that demolished his armored car. The next day, a bomb in a public market near Amil killed 2 people and wounded 27.

Several days later, United States forces announced the arrest in Mosul of another senior member of Al Qaeda, along with several other men.

The violence goes on, however, seemingly unabated. There are car bombs every day. Some are defused. Some blow up.

Colonel Jasim’s patrol posed a specific problem for people in Amil: Being seen talking to an Iraqi Army or police officer, regular targets for Al Qaeda, would mean trouble. Talking to an American soldier, even exchanging hellos, could mean torture and death.

“We believe they have many supporters in the neighborhood, so we’re afraid of them,” Majid Riyadh Ahmed, 40, said about a group of men who in broad daylight recently gunned down a politician on a sidewalk.

“It is a hot spot,” he said, using the term that has become synonymous with Amil.

Like many here, Mr. Ahmed differentiated between the types of violence that take place.

“There are some terror actions and there are some jihad actions,” he said. Jihad actions are those aimed at American forces or their Iraqi security force allies. Terror actions are those directed at residents.

Asked if he felt safe, Mr. Ahmed, a father of four, did not hesitate. “I am scared,” he said.

On this warm morning, Amil was swarming with soldiers and police officers. People peered through their windows and expressed amazement. They said there were normally very few security force members around, leaving members of Al Qaeda to roam freely, extorting shop owners and intimidating everyone else.

“I’m wondering why the police, who know this area is dangerous, don’t move on it,” one resident said.

But Atheel al-Nujaifi, the provincial governor, said the issue was more complicated.

“The security forces are deployed everywhere in Mosul, but there are areas we call unsafe because it is easy for Al Qaeda to commit actions, and then to hide among the people in those areas,” he said. “A hot spot doesn’t mean there isn’t any army or police. The neighborhood is under the control of the federal police.”

He said Al Qaeda was able to operate in Amil because “the people are either sympathetic or afraid.”

Whatever the reason, no one has been able to quell Mosul’s violence: It is one of the few urban areas in Iraq where American combat troops patrol the streets. Some 18 Iraqi Army battalions are stationed in the city, and hundreds of Iraqi police officers staff checkpoints.

But in Amil, people say they want nothing to do with the Iraqi Army in particular — which in Mosul is composed primarily of Shiites from southern Iraq. Residents complain the soldiers do not understand their culture, and are rude at best, brutal at worst, suspecting everyone in the neighborhood of being a member of Al Qaeda.

“There’s no trust between the security forces and the people,” said one resident, Hazim Mahmud al-Sahan, whose son was recently killed in Amil, not far from an Iraqi Army checkpoint.

For years, though, the greater scorn was poured on Americans. But in a few months they will be gone, it seems regardless of whether places like Amil descend into worse violence.

“There will be greater problems when the Americans leave,” said Didar Abdulla al-Zibari, a member of the local provincial council. He paused for effect, before saying that America “will be blamed” for leaving.

Zaid Thaker contributed re-
porting.

Britain Mourns 300th Death in #Afghan #War

Britain Mourns 300th Death in Afghan War – NYTimes.com.

Britain marked its 300th military death in the Afghanistan war on Monday, a milestone that Prime Minister David Cameron described as “desperately bad news” and a reminder that Britain was “paying a high price for keeping our country safe.”

The coffin of Andrew Breeze, a British lance corporal killed in Afghanistan, arrived June 17 at Royal Air Force base Lyneham.

Rob Leyland/Ministry of Defense, via Reuters

The coffin of Andrew Breeze, a British lance corporal killed in Afghanistan, arrived June 17 at Royal Air Force base Lyneham.

At War

Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era.

The milestone, gloomily awaited in Britain in recent weeks, was reached with the death on Sunday of a Royal Marine in a hospital in Birmingham. He was flown there after being wounded by a roadside bomb in the southwestern Afghan province of Helmand on June 12. He has not yet been identified.

Among the foreign powers involved in the war, Britain has suffered casualties second only to the 1,126 of the United States. But the British losses are higher proportionally when set against the two nations’ populations, overall military manpower and Afghanistan deployments. Britain, with about 60 million people, has nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. The United States, with five times the population and its commitment still building from the 30,000-troop surge ordered by President Obama last year, has about 94,000 troops there.

In both countries, the governments have come under political pressure from faltering public support for the war. The statement from Mr. Cameron — who visited British troops in Helmand 10 days ago — reflected the growing sense that his government, in office barely six weeks, is resolved not to allow itself to be dragged into an open-ended military commitment.

“Of course, the 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before,” Mr. Cameron said. “But it is a moment, I think, for the whole country to reflect on the incredible service and sacrifice and dedication that our armed services give on our behalf.”

“We are paying a high price for keeping our country safe, for making our world a safer place, and we should keep asking why we are there and how long we must be there,” he added. “The truth is that we are there because the Afghans are not yet ready to keep their own country safe and to keep terrorists and terrorist training camps out of their country. That’s why we have to be there.

“But as soon as they are able to take care of security for their own country, that is when we can leave,” he said.

Also on Monday, officials in the Foreign Office confirmed that Britain’s most senior diplomat dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is leaving his post. Sir Sherard, 55, has been Britain’s counterpart to Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special envoy to the two countries, and has occasionally ruffled feathers in Washington with his outspoken advocacy of a more radical shift from war to talks with the Taliban. The officials who confirmed that he had quit said that he had not been fired, and was seeking appointment to another diplomatic post.

The unnamed Royal Marine who died Sunday, from the 40 Commando Royal Marines, was wounded near the embattled town of Sangin. As in his case, nearly two-thirds of all allied military casualties in recent years have been caused by so-called I.E.D.’s, or improvised explosive devices. Senior government officials, including Mr. Cameron, have joined military chiefs in accusing the former Labour government of not giving British troops enough transport helicopters or updated mine-resistant troop carriers to cope with the threat from the roadside bombs.

In other ways, the new government in London has signaled an impatience with the war, and a readiness, if progress is not evident by the end of the year, to review its commitment and move toward a graduated troop withdrawal beginning next year.

Last week, it announced it was accelerating the retirement of Britain’s top military officer, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, who, officials in the Cameron government said, was judged to have been too pliant in his dealings with the government of Gordon Brown. Also being hastened into retirement is the Defense Ministry’s chief civil servant, Sir Bill Jeffrey, who, these officials said, was judged to have allowed money-wasting “bloat” in the ministry’s civilian staff, and other management blunders.

The mood of the new government has been closely watched by top Pentagon officials who see any potential weakening of British resolve as a setback for their efforts to persuade skeptics in the Obama administration to give the American troop surge time to try to turn the tide of the war. Under Mr. Obama’s plans, a review of progress is set for later this year, before a 2011 deadline for beginning a drawdown of troops.

Last week, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has overall responsibility for the war as chief of the United States Central Command, joined Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in lobbying Mr. Cameron and other top British officials in London, telling them America could not fight the war without Britain, and urging them to defer judgment about the surge’s success.

9 NATO Deaths in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine NATO service members died Monday in southern and eastern Afghanistan, according to a NATO spokesman.

Four were killed in a helicopter crash and two others in separate bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan. A seventh was killed in a firefight. Two others were killed by attacks using improvised explosive devices in eastern Afghanistan.

Six Afghan National Army soldiers were also killed Monday in attacks in four provinces in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and two Afghan national police officers were killed while patrolling in Helmand Province.

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