Troops Stay Extended Contrary To What Secretary Gates Said

July 3, 2008

The Pentagon has extended the tour of 2,200 Marines in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Afghanistan, after insisting for months the unit would come home on time. The Unit is doing combat operations in the volatile south and will stay an extra 30 days and come home in early November rather than October, according to Marine Col. David Lapan.

Military leaders as recently as Wednesday stressed the need for additional troops in Afghanistan, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, has repeatedly said he did not intend to extend or replace the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, calling their deployment there an extraordinary, one-time effort to help tamp down the increasing violence in the south. Asked about the possibility of an extension in early May, Gates said he would “be loath to do that.” He added that “no one has suggested even the possibility of extending that rotation”; nonetheless, Lapan said Thursday that commanders in Afghanistan asked that the Marines stay longer.

The Pentagon announced in January that the MEU was being ordered to Afghanistan, mostly as a result of failed efforts to press other NATO nations to increase their troop levels at the time had failed. Commanders faced with increasing violence have said they need at least 7,500 more troops in Afghanistan. President Bush and defense officials have said they hope to identify additional units by the end of the year that could go to Afghanistan early next year.

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Perhaps the Largest Drug Bust Ever

June 11, 2008


Afghan police seized a massive stockpile of hashish this week. The stash weighed as much as “30 double-decker London buses”, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said on Wednesday.
An Interior Ministry police unit received a tip on Monday about a drug stockpile in the Spin Buldak area of Kandahar province, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Pakistani border, and found the 261 tons of hash hidden in some trenches.

The hash has an estimated regional wholesale value of $400 million. Officials believe the Taliban, originally a Tribe known for its hash production going back decades, finances its operations in part by illegal drug trade, would have made about $14 million from the sale of the hashish. The Interior Ministry also said police grabbed about 5.6 tons of opium, which has an estimated value of $30 million. 13 suspected drug dealers were also detained in the Helmand province.

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Laura Bush In Afghanistan To See Progress

June 8, 2008

First lady Laura Bush arrived in Afghanistan Sunday for a half-day visit meant to highlight the progress the nation has made since the fall of the Taliban.

The first lady was scheduled to visit Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and American troops. She also visited Bamiyan province, where two giant statues of Buddha, carved into sandstone cliffs centuries ago, were demolished by the ruling Taliban regime in March 2001.

At Bamiyan, the first lady met with female trainees of a police training center and toured the construction site for an orphanage that is being funded by the Afghan-U.S. Women’s Council of which Bush is an honorary co-chair.

Bush has been a long-time advocate of spotlighting education of women who were denied access to it during the Taliban rule. She was accompanied by Habiba Surabi, the first woman to be appointed a provincial governor in Afghanistan

Bamiyan, the first lady told reporters, is “one of those parts of Afghanistan that I think everyone has watched and looked at over the years since we first heard about the Buddhas.”

The two colossal 6th-century statues of Buddhas stood at the mouth of the caves in Bamiyan, about 80 miles (130 km) northwest of Kabul. At heights of 175 feet (53 meters) and 120 feet (36 meters), the statues were the tallest-standing Buddhas in the world.

In March 2001, the Taliban used explosives to blow up the statues on the grounds that they were un-Islamic. The action drew international condemnation.

Later that year, U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Now, the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, is trying to restore the bigger of the two statues, a task that could take years.

Bush said that going to Bamiyan will highlight the progress Afghanistan has made since the Taliban’s ouster. She recounted to reporters what Afghan women have told her.

“‘We’re really afraid, we think this our chance right now and if we don’t get this chance, and if Afghanistan backslides back into the Taliban then we’ll never get it,'” she said she was told. “And it’s more important than ever for the international community to support Afghanistan, certainly for the United States to support Afghanistan … because we don’t want it to be the way it was when the Buddhas were destroyed.”

It is the first lady’s third visit to Afghanistan. The last time the first lady visited the country was March 2006 with President Bush.
On Thursday, the first lady is scheduled to address a donors conference in Paris. The host country, France, has set a goal of raising between $12 billion and $15 billion to help Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts.

Originally found @ CNN.com

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Taliban is Worse Than Heroin

May 6, 2008

The Marines of Bravo Company’s 1st Platoon have been sleeping next to a field of poppies, while the troops in the 2nd Platoon hiit the heavy opium bulbs as they walk through the fields. Ironically, the Afghan laborers continue to scrape the plant’s resin smile and wave.
Last week, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit moved into southern Helmand province, the world’s largest opium poppy-growing region, sfilled with green fields of the illegal plants that produce the main ingredient of heroin. The Taliban derives up to $100 million a year from the harvest by taxing and charging farmers safety fees. That money will be used to go buy weapons for use against U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.

Contrary to what one might thing, the Marines are not destroying the plants at all, but rather they are reassuring the local farmers and villagers that the poppies won’t be harmed or eradicated. Commanding officers and strategists say the troops would alienate people and drive them to arm themselves if they eliminated the impoverished Afghans’ only source of income.

Many Marines in the field are confused by the policy, having come from a country whose policies are to hate drugs like Christians hate the Devil.

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