NATO says two service members died today of non-combat injuries in the southern part of the country. No further information is available.
Afghans welcome heavy snowfall in Kabul. (Although this story doesn't point it out, snow tends to slow down fighting in the country.)
Afghan police say they seized 70 kilos of heroin in Nangarhar although, oddly, the driver of the vehicle escaped. (Hmm.) To put this in perspective, Afghanistan is estimated to have produced 6,400 tons of opium last year.)
A Pakistani parliamentary committee has finalized recommendations for a new partnership agreement with the U.S., which could result in re-opening of the border to NATO supply operations. Presumably, this would be conditional on restoration of $800 million in aid the U.S. withdrew.
Australian newspaper The Age has obtained a secret U.S. army report casting doubt on the readiness of Afghan forces to take over security responsibility in 2014. The report focuses on a Taliban attack in the town of Tarin Kowt last summer. The version released to the newspaper was heavily redacted. Excerpt:
the US report paints a picture of confusion, with Afghan forces failing to respond to a key part of the Taliban assault - an attempt to kill a militia leader who is a close ally of Australian special forces. Afghan forces were either absent or stood by and watched as US troops attacked Taliban fighters who had blasted their way into the government broadcasting station adjoining the compound of militia leader Matiullah Khan. . . .
The Australian Defence Force praised what it said was the prompt, professional and co-ordinated Afghan response to the Taliban attack in Tarin Kowt on July 28 last year. But the US report paints a picture of confusion, with Afghan forces failing to respond to a key part of the Taliban assault - an attempt to kill a militia leader who is a close ally of Australian special forces.
Afghan forces were either absent or stood by and watched as US troops attacked Taliban fighters who had blasted their way into the government broadcasting station adjoining the compound of militia leader Matiullah Khan.
Adding to the confusion was the fact US troops could not distinguish between official Afghan forces and the militia. While Afghan forces repelled a related Taliban assault on the nearby governor's office, US troops were on their own at the broadcasting station. Standard procedure was for Afghan forces to take the lead in clearing a building where the Taliban were holed up. . . .
In their absence, US troops stormed the building, with disastrous consequences. Two Taliban fighters detonated suicide vests, burying seven soldiers, including the battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel David Oeschger, who was seriously wounded.
In what the report says was the ''stress and urgency of the moment'', a US soldier then shot dead Afghan journalist Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, in the mistaken belief he was a suicide bomber. Afghan forces only moved into the building once the Taliban and the journalist were killed, and wounded Americans were dug out of the rubble.
The Governor of Nuristan begs for more security forces. "[Governor] Tamim Nuristani, said he has been able to maintain security in some areas in cooperation with local councils, but some militant groups still threaten government workers travelling between Kunar and Nuristan. "Not only the Taliban militants, but also militants from Hezb-e-Islami and some other groups are behind insecurity in the area," Mr Tamim Nuristani said. Meanwhile, civilians have also complained about security threat on the Nuristan-Kunar routes. . . . The limited number of Afghan security forces in the province is the main reason behind insecurity in many districts, the governor added."
Ten killed, 14 injured, in a series of attacks on government buildings in Ramadi. Three police, 6 insurgents, and 1 civilian are said to be among the dead. Other reports have higher numbers of wounded. Meanwhile, Al Arabiya says 5 are dead, and a mosque is among the targets, while Reuters says 6 are dead. (Hopefully we'll have a clearer picture tomorrow.)
Car bomb in Baiji kills 1 person, injures 12.
In case you didn't know . . . I was intrigued to read last week that a U.S. Coast Guard vessel had rescued Iranian sailors who had an engine room fire. What is a coast guard cutter doing in the Gulf? The Coast Guard does possess pelagic vessels, which they call High Endurance Cutters, which are essentially warships. However, the vessel involved, USCGC Monomoy, is a so-called Island Class cutter, rated for 5 days at sea. It turns out that in 2003, the U.S. established a Coast Guard base in Bahrain to which it transported 6 Island Class cutters, and they've been there ever since. (I'm not sure how they transported them -- whether they somehow loaded them on cargo vessels or towed them -- I'd be interested to know. The unit is called Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, and you get a Global War on Terror expeditionary medal for serving.