Stars and Stripes photo: Pvt. Abdulaziz Alqahtani, who serves with the special security force from Bahrain, is among 125 troops from the Muslim nation deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Take your eyes away for a few days and look what happens:
From the AP:
KABUL — NATO forces in Afghanistan are preparing to limit night raids on private homes, even if it means losing some tactical advantage, to curb rising public anger....
Nighttime raids on private homes have emerged as the Afghans’ No. 1 complaint after Gen. Stanley McChrystal limited the use of airstrikes and other weaponry last year.
What will be next?
The U.S. and allied nations have made protecting the population a priority over the use of massive firepower as they seek to undermine support for the Taliban.
Only don't protect them at night.
“It addresses the issue that’s probably the most socially irritating thing that we do — and that is entering people’s homes at night,” Smith said Wednesday at his office in Kabul. He would not elaborate pending a formal announcement.
The U.S.-led force has become increasingly sensitive to complaints by Afghan civilians as part of a renewed effort to win support among the public and lure people away from the Taliban.
Night operations risk offending Afghan sensitivity about men entering homes where women are sleeping.
The way this comes across implies that the Afghan concerns here are that mean old Amewwicans might disturb snooky-ookums' dreams or something. Read former Green Beret and journalist Paul Avallone on the subject of how men treat women in Afghanistan here in his vivid essay "Flirting with Afghanistan" (essentially, women don't exist and worse). A US nighttime raid to search for head-chopping jihadis pales next to these ladies' daily grind.
Rafiullah Khiel, a Finance Ministry employee whose uncle was detained by NATO forces during a night raid last fall, said the distraught women and children in the compound were rounded up and locked in a watchtower for several hours while soldiers searched the dwellings. Khiel said the soldiers told the family that they had information that the uncle, a pharmacist, was treating Taliban fighters.
“This is just unacceptable to us, to our traditions,” Khiel said, holding back tears as he recounted the ordeal during an interview in a home on the outskirts of Kabul.
What, that the women and children were locked in a watchtower for several hours (?), or that Uncle treated Taliban?
“These kinds of actions, these wrong decisions, just make people turn against them.”
News flash: Five hundred thousand dozen eggs are being airlifted into Helmand Provice so the US military can walk on them.
The inability of the Afghan government to stop what many of its constituents consider abuse in turn generates support for the militants.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 6,456,789 times shame on ....
Smith said complaints about civilian deaths from airstrikes had dropped sharply after McChrystal’s order last year, but Afghans are “not seeing enough difference in our nighttime operations.”
Ok. So we've called in the Marines. How about calling in Dirty Harry's dialogue coach?
He acknowledged the possible tactical issues in limiting nighttime action, which gives troops with sophisticated night vision equipment an upper hand and provides an element of surprise. But he said the problem needed to be addressed in the effort to win the confidence of Afghan civilians and keep them from supporting the Taliban....
Translation: Nighttime raids were netting too much information and jihadis, so McChrystal's precious Afghan "people" ginned up the whining to make the US stop. And it did.
WASHINGTON — A $300 million power plant in Afghanistan paid for with U.S. tax dollars was an ill-conceived and mismanaged project that the Afghan government can't afford to switch on now that it's almost finished, a watchdog agency has found.
The project in Kabul has ballooned $40 million over budget and is a year behind schedule because of missteps by the American contractors and the U.S. government, according to an audit released Wednesday by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
If the plant ever runs to full capacity, it could provide tens of thousands of Afghans in the Kabul region with electricity, which would be an achievement in a country in which only 10 percent of the population has it.
Even when the plant is completed in March, however, the Afghan government is unlikely to be able to pay the millions of dollars for diesel fuel that is needed to power the plant and maintain it, the auditors concluded. The U.S. Agency for International Development has agreed to pay for the fuel temporarily.
"USAID may face the difficult decision of whether to continue funding the plant's operations or terminating U.S. involvement with the project and placing the plant's future operation at risk," the report says.
$300 million down the drain ....
The special inspector general's office questioned the wisdom of building a diesel and heavy fuel plant that has a "technically sophisticated fueling operation that they (the Afghans) may not have the capacity to sustain."
How about next the special inspector general looks over the plans ahead of time.
The audit is the latest to find fault with the USAID's oversight of projects by two U.S.-based contractors, Louis Berger and Black & Veatch.
Last week, the special inspector general's office found while the U.S. has spent more than $732 million to improve Afghanistan's electrical grid since 2002, delays and rising costs have plagued many of the two companies' projects, in part because of a lack of scrutiny by the American government.
In November, another watchdog, the USAID's inspector general, found similar problems with the Kabul project and a plant in Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan.
The two projects are part of a five-year, $1.4 billion contract to build many of the roads and energy projects that now are under way in Afghanistan. The USAID awarded it jointly to Louis Berger and Black & Veatch in 2006.
The series of audits confirms McClatchy's earlier reporting that delays and cost overruns had plagued projects built by Louis Berger and Black & Veatch.
Carl Petz, a spokesman for Black & Veatch, said his company had completed most of the Kabul project and the power plant could be turned on now. The plant is expected to be used as backup during the winter months.
When Petz was asked whether the company now questions the wisdom of building a diesel-powered plant, he said the USAID had made the decision and "diesel was determined to be the best option."
The special inspector general's report Wednesday says that a number of factors drove the USAID's decision to build the Kabul plant, including U.S. bureaucrats' worry that a lack of power in Afghanistan's capital "could affect national election results" in the country.
The plant in Helmand province so far generates enough electricity to meet only about 20 percent of the demand in the region. The Chinese subcontractor deserted the project in November 2008 because of security threats.
Auditors for the special inspector general, however, gave the USAID and the two companies credit for working to solve the problems and reduce cost overruns in the Kabul project since they heard the criticism.
However, critics say the projects reveal that the U.S. government continues to ignore the hard lessons of Iraq, where contractors received billions of dollars with little oversight and inspectors have found rampant waste, fraud and abuse.
And finally,from Stars and Stripes:
...125 guards from Bahrain are helping secure the headquarters for U.S. military operations in volatile Helmand province, where more than 10,000 Marines are stationed and more are on the way.
Bahrain deployed members from its special security force to Afghanistan in December. It joins several predominantly Muslim countries that have contributed troops to the war, including the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and Jordan.
“The Bahrainis are the first line of defense to get into Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck. They are on the front line, making that happen,” said Marine Lt. Col. Chris Naler, commander of brigade headquarters at Camp Leatherneck. ...
Have a good weekend?