Tag Archives: Afghanistan war

White House considering total pullout of Afghanistan after 2014

afghanistan

Stars and Stripes:  Facing stalled negotiations with Afghanistan’s president over a long-running war that’s swiftly falling from public view, U.S. officials have again signaled that President Barack Obama is mulling a complete U.S. pullout from the country.

In recent months, the United States and Afghanistan have been trying to hash out a plan to maintain an unspecified number of U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan for training and counterterrorism missions after the official end of combat operations in 2014. But now, The New York Times reported Tuesday, Obama is “giving serious consideration” to a complete withdrawal because of problems working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The mercurial Karzai’s outbursts have frequently complicated the two nations’ dealings over the years, but the situation came to a head last month. Karzai, angered by U.S. attempts to hold peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, broke off negotiations over a long-term U.S.-Afghan security agreement.

The current flare-up is not the first time the administration has discussed the so-called “zero option.” In January, prior to a Karzai visit to Washington, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that leaving no troops in Afghanistan was one of options under consideration.

But now, officials are saying that a full withdrawal, as the U.S. carried out in Iraq in late 2011, is becoming more likely. “There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option,” the Times quoted an unnamed senior Western official in Kabul as saying. “It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path.”

About 63,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2010. That number is set to drop to 34,000 by February, and continue to decline after Afghan national elections next April.

There are major differences of opinion within the Obama administration that make it hard to tell if the zero option is a real possibility or a negotiating tactic, said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Are you messaging this to try and get (Afghan officials) to move forward with some more effective approach?” he said. “Or is it because you really believe it?”

The troop count is not the only issue, Cordesman said. Post-war commitments of military and civilian aid are also hanging in the balance. With the stakes so high, the threat of a total withdrawal and accompanying cuts in international aid could be healthy motivation for Afghan officials, he said.

“I think it is very helpful for them to signal to the Afghans that the United States will shape its commitment to Afghanistan in direct proportion to the progress the Afghans make” on a range of fronts, he said.

But Lisa Curtis, the senior research fellow at Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, said an actual complete pullout would hamper the global counterterror mission and be a “disaster for U.S. interests.”

And even talking about it is not helpful as a negotiating tactic, because, she said, “The Afghans are already skeptical of the U.S. commitment to the region.”

But the head of a left-leaning veterans group, VoteVets.org, said U.S. servicemembers have done their job in Afghanistan, and it is time to bring them home.

“Ultimately, whether their nation survives is up to them, and keeping our troops there doesn’t change that equation,” said Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and the organization’s chairman. “The only thing that changes, day by day, is the number of American men and women we’ve lost.”

I’m not holding my breath that Obama will do a complete withdrawal as you can’t count on what he says.

But the time has come to exit, IMO. Our troops have been there way too long – they should have gone in, completed the mission, and exited. Course I’m bias as my soldier is serving over there. They were rocketed on the Fourth of July and during the past two evenings.

Bring them home now!

DCG

Remember, we are still at war

During a firefight, AT-4 Rockets and MK-48 machine guns are used to rain fire onto Taliban positions in Charkh Afghanistan.

As you prepare to celebrate Easter, please remember our soldiers in the sandbox who are still fighting a war. Pray for them that they all be safe!

h/t Weasel Zippers

DCG

Boycott Delta Airlines for its treatment of a double amputee veteran

Chris BrownMarine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown

Christopher Whalen, a financial analyst and banker who works for Carrington Holdings, is asking us to boycott Delta Airlines for its shameful treatment of a severely wounded veteran, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown.

Here’s Whalen’s essay for ZeroHedge, “To Honor Our Veterans Please Boycott Delta Airlines,” Dec. 24, 2012:

“On Dec. 13, 2011, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown was leading his squad on a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he stepped on an explosive device that blew off both his legs, one above the knee, the other below his hip,” the Washington Post reported on December 13, 2012.  “He also lost part of his right index finger.”

“Last Sunday, almost exactly a year since those grievous injuries forced him to learn to walk on two successive pairs of prosthetic legs, Brown was ‘humiliated’ to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.”

What is outrageous is that when several passengers on the Delta flight offered to give Brown their seats in first class, the Delta crew refused.  The Washington Post reports that “Flight attendants insisted no one could move through the cabin because the doors were being closed for takeoff.”

Now you are probably wondering why a financial analyst and banker is taking an interest in wounded veterans.  The answer is that my employer, Carrington Holdings, participates in a voluntary network of private companies and individuals known as the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) that donate our Flight Crew and aircraft to move wounded veterans around the country.  The VAC organized and flew over 1500 trips last year and has a growing list of over 1800 planes and pilots that are standing by to help out.

The work of the VAC and its volunteers makes a big difference.  A couple of days before Christmas, our flight department at Carrington had the honor of flying Taylor and Danielle Morris home from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to their home in Iowa.  Like Chris Brown, Taylor was grievously wounded in battle and required months of rehabilitation before being discharged from military service.  You can see their story on YouTube.

Carrington tries to fly 15-20 missions a year and like all the participants in the VAC, supplies flight crew, aircraft, fuel, maintenance and insurance all free of cost to the Veteran and family.  We believe that it is our fundamental obligation to take care of those that have sacrificed so much while protecting our freedom.

Unfortunately while the Department of Defense generally does a good job of rehabilitation of wounded veterans, the last detail – namely getting these heroes home safely and with dignity – somehow is missed.  We were fortunate to be able to help this brave young man and his beautiful wife travel those last miles home in comfort and dignity that they deserve.  Like all veterans, they thank us profusely.  Our answer is simple: “No, thank you.”

The VAC tries to serve as many veterans as possible, but the sheer number of young men and women who return from Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflicts missing arms and legs among other severe injuries is still too great for this volunteer effort.  Hundreds of wounded veterans are still compelled to fly on commercial airlines and endure the same humiliation and disrespect that Chris Brown suffered at the hands of Delta Airlines.

In fact, when the VAC cannot fulfill a mission directly with a volunteer aircraft and crew, they buy and donate airline tickets to the Veteran and his or her family.  You guessed it, even on Delta Airlines in the past – not anymore.

The goal overall though, is to make certain that when commercial airlines have travelers like Chris Brown or the other thousands of severely wounded Veterans, they make generous accommodations available to treat these heroes with the respect and dignity that they deserve.  Or they can refer the veterans to organizations like the VAC for more customized transportation.  Working together, the commercial airlines and private organizations like the VAC can get the job done; take care of America’s Heroes.

Unfortunately when my colleagues at Carrington and many of the other organizations that participate in the VAC contacted Delta Airlines to complain about the treatment of Chris Brown and to ask for a change in policy, they were rebuffed.  They sent us a form letter. But this is a case where we are not going to take no for an answer.

The only reason that the commercial airlines aren’t interested in referring and taking care of the veterans is in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.  Then in further pursuit of the fictitious “On Time Departure,” they treat these brave young soldiers like excess cargo.  Companies like mine won’t stand for that.

Those of us who travel as part of our jobs rightly hate commercial airlines as a business model, but my colleagues and I vehemently resent their treatment of this special group of passengers.  We need your help to get this bad situation fixed.  And until Delta Airlines changes its policies, the 2,500 employees of our company will no longer fly on Delta.

When our CEO, Bruce Rose put the policy out to all of our Associates, he was met with overwhelming support and expressions of pride from all corners of the country where we work.  Our Company “get’s it”.

Will you join us in expressing your outrage?

First, we want you to contact Delta Airlines CEO Richard H. Anderson and his colleagues. You can click here to get the contact information for Delta (NYSE:DAL).  But frankly all of the major airlines need to hear the same message.

If you share our sense of outrage at the way wounded veterans are treated by Delta Airlines and other commercial carriers, then please get involved. Something as simple as forwarding this post to you friends and colleagues is the first step.   And you can tell them, as we have, that you will not fly on Delta until they change their policy towards wounded veterans.

Second and perhaps more important, we need to contact members of Congress to demand that they pressure the White House, the Transportation Safety Administration and related federal agencies to make adjustments in law and regulation to change the way that Veterans are treated when they travel on commercial airlines.  The VAC web site has a number of horror stories about how wounded vets are humiliated by commercial airlines and the TSA.  Perhaps it has been lost on the TSA that these are the same people that are fighting on the front lines for what the TSA is pretending to protect.  This situation is outrageous and completely unnecessary, but it will be rectified when we get enough voices to demand change.

The good news is that thanks to the VAC and other organizations, a growing number of private companies and individuals are making their time and resources available to help address the needs of thousands of wounded soldiers coming home from war.  We don’t yet have enough volunteers and planes to get the job done privately, but the cases where we can take these brave men and women home in comfort and dignity make the effort worthwhile.

Just look at the photo below of Taylor and Danielle Morris  on their way home with our flight crew flying the VAC organized mission last week.  This is about honoring our veterans and doing the right thing.  Carrington and the VAC can’t do it alone – please help us to take care of the true American Heroes that have sacrificed so much protecting our freedom by making their lives just a little bit easier.

Merry Christmas

Christopher Whalen
www.rcwhalen.com

Links

Facebook-Marine-Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Brown in physical therapy

See also “Marine Double Amputee ‘Humiliated’ to Point of Tears on Delta Flight Gets Helping Hand From Fellow Vets,” The Blaze.

H/t my ol’ friend Sol.

~Eowyn

Pray for our soldiers!

pray

Taliban Attack US Military Base, Jalalabad Airport

ToloNews: The Taliban launched an early morning attack on the joint US military base and city airport in the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, killing at least two Afghan civilians and three Afghan soldiers, officials said Sunday.

Two of the insurgents suicide-bombed the main gate of the base – also the entrance to Jalalabad airport – by blowing up their explosive-laden vehicles at around 5:45am local time. This paved the way for seven other armed insurgents to start an hours-long battle with the Afghan and foreign troops stationed there, according to provincial deputy security officer Abdul Jalil Shamal.

Two civilians and at least three Afghan special forces soldiers were killed, while another three civilians and 14 security forces were injured, acting deputy provincial governor Abdullah Wafa told TOLOnews. The force of the explosions is reported to have blown out windows in the area.

The attackers, who were armed with guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, were all killed by 8:00am, officials said. Some local residents in the area told TOLOnews that helicopters had fired on the insurgents, some of whom were wearing Afghan and Nato military uniforms.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement saying that a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance, clearing the way for several others to make their way onto the base.

A spokesperson for Isaf told the AFP news agency that “none of the attackers succeeded breaching the perimetre”. The military base in Jalalabad has been targeted by Taliban militants several times in the past few years.

It comes as Nato-led forces gradually hand full security of the country to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. Around 66,000 US troops and 37,000 troops of other nations are fighting insurgents alongside the Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Please pray for our US soldiers and the NATO soldiers. They are in constant danger in Afghanistan.  If you’d like to support our troops, visit Soldiers’ Angels or anysoldier.com.

Side note: My boyfriend Matthew is not stationed at Jalalabad, where this attack occurred.  I Skyped with him on Saturday night and he is safe and sound!

DCG

Update on Matthew

We love to be at the gun range!

As Dr. Eowyn wrote on November 2nd, my boyfriend Matthew deployed to Afghanistan. He’s been there two weeks now and we finally had the chance to Skype last night!

Sign on post. Silly GI boys…

He’s getting settled into a new routine, albeit a long one.  Twelve hour days, 6.5 days per week.

It’s not dramatically hot there yet, rather it’s cold and dusty. And he said the food at the cafeteria is rather good.  And plenty of snacks to buy at the PX.

He’s sharing a room with just one roomie who has been in Afghanistan for 6 months.  Matthew is the “new guy” at his job as most have been there for some time.

They are in a rather safe area, yet everyone is packing.  And by “safe”, I mean they still have sirens warning of potential incoming threats.

Please continue to pray for him and all our soldiers in harm’s way!

DCG

Obama’s Foreign Policy Doctrine

Every modern U.S. President has a doctrine that articulates his worldview and foreign policy.

As an example, reacting to America’s Vietnam War experience, the Nixon Doctrine was that the United States would no longer be the police for every and all in Asia. Henceforth, the countries of Asia-Pacific would be responsible for their own defense.

George W. Bush’s doctrine was that warfare is fundamentally altered by the Islamic terrorist attacks on the U. S. homeland on Sept. 11, 2001, and by the changed nature of America’s enemies from state actors to include non-government terrorist groups. As a result, America has the right to undertake preemptive attacks when and where we identify a terrorist threat. It is the Bush Doctrine that justifies our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan although neither government nor country had first attacked the United States.

Foreign affairs pundits have noted the peculiar lack of an Obama Doctrine although his first (and last) term is already drawing to a close.

Never fear! Fellowship of the Minds has discovered the secret Obama Doctrine!

The Obama Doctrine of the Irritating Bowing Syndrome

~Eowyn

Romney lays out his foreign policy in speech at Virginia Military Institute

This morning, Governor Mitt Romney delivered a foreign policy address, titled “The Mantle of Leadership,” to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA.

Romney clearly and firmly criticized the POS’s passivity, lack of leadership in the world arena, and disastrous policy in the Middle East. Romney also reminded us the lasting principles for which America has always stood, and clearly and firmly articulated what he will do as President and Commander in Chief.

If this is a preview of what Romney will say in the second presidential debate, he is certain to hit hard against the POS’s lack of foreign policy direction and especially the mishandling of the recent attacks in Libya that left Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans dead.

Below is the full text of Romney’s speech.

~Eowyn

The Mantle of Leadership

Delivered by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
October 8, 2012
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, Virginia

I particularly appreciate the introduction from my good friend and tireless campaign companion, Gov. Bob McDonnell. He is showing what conservative leadership can do to build a stronger economy.  Thank you also Congressman Goodlatte for joining us today. And particular thanks to Gen. Peay. I appreciate your invitation to be with you today at the Virginia Military Institute.  It is a great privilege to be here at an Institution that has done so much for our nation, both in war and in peace.

For more than 170 years, VMI has done more than educate students. It has guided their transformation into citizens, and warriors, and leaders. VMI graduates have served with honor in our nation’s defense, just as many are doing today in Afghanistan and other lands. Since the September 11th attacks, many of VMI’s sons and daughters have defended America, and I mourn with you the 15 brave souls who have been lost. I join you in praying for the many VMI graduates and all Americans who are now serving in harm’s way.  May God bless all who serve, and all who have served.

Of all the VMI graduates, none is more distinguished than George Marshall—the Chief of Staff of the Army who became Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe’s rescue from despair. His commitment to peace was born of his direct knowledge of the awful costs and consequences of war.

General Marshall once said, “The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.” Those words were true in his time—and they still echo in ours.

Last month, our nation was attacked again. A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead—murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Among the dead were three veterans. All of them were fine men, on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that dearly longs for both. President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America. And he is right. We all mourn their loss.

The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting “Death to America.” These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown so much worse, and what this calls on America to do. These are the right questions. And I have come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events—and to share with you, and all Americans, my vision for a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world.

The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East—a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.

The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month—but we also saw something else, something hopeful. After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people. They waved signs that read, “The Ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias.” They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound. Then they burned it to the ground. As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation. It is the struggle of millions and millions of people—men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and non-believers—all of whom have had enough of the darkness. It is a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making. It is a struggle that has unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran, in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and now Syria. In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.

We have seen this struggle before. It would be familiar to George Marshall. In his time, in the ashes of world war, another critical part of the world was torn between democracy and despotism. Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values, and prevent today’s crises from becoming tomorrow’s conflicts.

Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world. We helped our friends to build and sustain free societies and free markets. We defended our friends, and ourselves, from our common enemies. We led. And though the path was long and uncertain, the thought of war in Europe is as inconceivable today as it seemed inevitable in the last century.

This is what makes America exceptional: It is not just the character of our country—it is the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership—a history that has been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best. And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.

I want to be very clear: the blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else. But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.

The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.

Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us. And it has never acted less deterred by America, as was made clear last year when Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in our nation’s capital. And yet, when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, “Are you with us, or are you with them?”—the American President was silent.

Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.

In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.

The President has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months. Violent extremists are flowing into the fight. Our ally Turkey has been attacked. And the conflict threatens stability in the region.

America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. These are real achievements won at a high cost. But Al-Qaeda remains a strong force in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq, and now in Syria. And other extremists have gained ground across the region. Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.

The President is fond of saying that “The tide of war is receding.” And I want to believe him as much as anyone. But when we look at the Middle East today—with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threating to destabilize the region, with violent extremists on the march, and with an American Ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates— it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office.

I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us. Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, “We will not forget that you forgot about us.”

It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them… no enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them… and no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf.

And I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure. The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.

The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.

I will make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, free enterprise, and greater trade, in the Middle East and beyond. I will organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and produce results. I will rally our friends and allies to match our generosity with theirs. And I will make it clear to the recipients of our aid that, in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities… to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary… and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.

I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I will reverse that failure. I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.

I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies.

In Libya, I will support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans.

In Egypt, I will use our influence—including clear conditions on our aid—to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions, and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel. And we must persuade our friends and allies to place similar stipulations on their aid.

In Syria, I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them. We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran—rather than sitting on the sidelines. It is essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.

And in Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.

Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.

There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East—and it is not unique to that region. It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well— in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked:  “Where does America stand?”

I know many Americans are asking a different question: “Why us?” I know many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading.

I believe that if America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us. America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years. I am running for President because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens, and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence—wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively—to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better—not perfect, but better.

Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership. They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies. So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind. So many people still have faith in America. We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves—that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead the course of human events.

Sir Winston Churchill once said of George Marshall: “He … always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion.” That is the role our friends want America to play again. And it is the role we must play.

The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity.

The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It is not America’s torch alone. But it is America’s duty – and honor – to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Abandoned and born in war

“An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.”
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H.” (1849).

Soldiers Discover Abandoned Baby on Side of Road in Afghanistan
Kevin Dolak reports for ABC News, Sept. 24, 2012

A newborn baby girl left abandoned on the side of the road in southern Afghanistan has been discovered by a group of Polish soldiers.

The soldiers came upon the baby, who they have named Pola, after Poland, wrapped in a towel on Wednesday while they were checking a route near their Waghez military base for safety, Defense Ministry spokesman Janusz Walczak told The Associated Press.

The group of soldiers was first suspicious when they discovered the baby, as there is a risk of hidden roadside bombs across Afghanistan.

It is still unclear who left baby Pola on the side of the road. The AP reported that there was no one found in a mile radius of where the baby was discovered.

After the troops found her, she was brought to a medical center at their base. The soldiers then bought the girl baby formula, a bottle and a bib.

H/t FOTM’s beloved Grouchy Fogie

~Eowyn

No sir, we are not “numb”

War-weary U.S. is numbed to drumbeat of troop deaths

KOMO News:  It was another week at war in Afghanistan, another string of American casualties, and another collective shrug by a nation weary of a faraway conflict whose hallmark is its grinding inconclusiveness.

After nearly 11 years, many by now have grown numb to the sting of losing soldiers like Pfc. Shane W. Cantu of Corunna, Mich. He died of shrapnel wounds in the remoteness of eastern Afghanistan, not far from the getaway route that Osama bin Laden took when U.S. forces invaded after Sept. 11, 2001, and began America’s longest war.

Nearly every day the Pentagon posts another formulaic death notice, each one brief and unadorned, revealing the barest of facts – name, age and military unit – but no words that might capture the meaning of the loss.

Cantu, who joined the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade on Sept. 11 last year and went to Afghanistan last month, was among five U.S. deaths announced this past week.

American troops are still dying in Afghanistan at a pace that doesn’t often register beyond their hometowns. So far this year, it’s 31 a month on average, or one per day. National attention is drawn, briefly, to grim and arbitrary milestones such as the 1,000th and 2,000th war deaths. But days, weeks and months pass with little focus by the general public or its political leaders on the individuals behind the statistics.

Each week at war has a certain sameness for those not fighting it, yet every week brings distinct pain and sorrow to the families who learn that their son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother was killed or wounded.

As the war drags on, it remains a faraway puzzle for many Americans. Max Boot, a military historian and defense analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, has called Afghanistan the “Who Cares?” war. “Few, it seems, do, except for service personnel and their families,” he wrote recently. “It is almost as if the war isn’t happening at all.

The war remains at the forefront, naturally, for members of the military such as Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly, whose son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan in November 2010. “America as a whole today is certainly not at war, not as a country, not as a people,” Kelly said in a speech Aug. 28 at the American Legion’s national convention. Kelly is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s senior military assistant.

“Only a tiny fraction of American families fear all day and every day a knock at the door that will shatter their lives,” Kelly said.

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I beg to differ with the author of this article.  We are not “numb” to our soldiers’ deaths.  We read about it everyday.

As Tom wrote, what we want is to withdraw our troops now, bring them home, and stop letting Obama stroke his ego as a wartime president with the blood of our troops.

We are not “numb” and we support our troops. For the past four years I have been serving Soldiers’ Angels, sending letters and care packages to my “adopted” soldiers.  If you would like to support our troops, visit Soldiers’ Angels or anysoldier.com.

DCG

Another Obama War? With Pakistan?

Pakistan stops NATO supplies after deadly raid

By Shams Momand

YAKKAGHUND, Pakistan | Sat Nov 26, 2011 3:45pm EST

(Reuters) – NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations deeper into crisis.

Pakistan retaliated by shutting down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in nearly half of the alliance’s land shipments. It also said it would ask U.S. forces to quit an air base used for CIA drone strikes on militants.

The attack is the worst incident of its kind since Pakistan uneasily allied itself with Washington following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Read rest of story here.

H/t beloved Steve

~Eowyn