126th Cavalry Regiment, birth by Skype, Connor Howland, Dana Rohrabacher, Eric Lund, Karzai and corruption, Michigan National Guard, SGT Brock Howland, Sun Tzu Art of War, Taliban chief Mullah Omar, Trace Adkins and USO
Regular readers will know that I’ve followed and reported on the challenges thrown at all the members of the 126th Cavalry Regiment of the Michigan National Guard [Motto: “Courage Sans Peur” or Courage Without Fear].
In particular, I have cited the technological miracle that let then-Specialist now Sergeant Brock Howland, a father-to-be deployed in Afghanistan, witness his son Connor’s birth by Skype. The full details are here:From Kabul to Kalamazoo 1st post
If this is all news to you, this utterly delightful photo tells almost all you need to know about wee Connor.
Today I am delighted to report that the 126th is finally out of Afghanistan and back in the USA. They’ve stopped off at Fort Knox, Kentucky for debriefing and before heading north to their homes in Michigan.
The source of my information is 120% reliable: Brock’s Mum and Connor’s Nana, Mrs. Mary Howland, who was very dear to write and let me know.
Indeed, thanks to her, we can now see the whole Brock Howland family assembled as a family. Slightly unfortunately, these photos were taken at night and clearly at a time when young Connor is usually snuggled-up in Dreamland.
Joy, relief, and happy to hold onto to Papa’s Field Cap
If one’s heart does not melt when seeing these pictures, one needs to ring the cardiologists, immediately.
For the 126th, the nightmare is over.
For those soldiers in other units from various Nations they left behind, the madness expands by the day.
California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, has been denied entry into Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai.
Mr. Rohrabacher believes his past scrutiny of the Afghan government and examination of how U.S. funds are spent in the war-torn nation likely played a role in Karzai’s displeasure.
“Afghanistan is failing because Karzai and his corrupt clique are incompetent leaders, not because the U.S. hasn’t pumped enough money or blood to help the brave people of Afghanistan … Right now, I’m more concerned with getting American troops out of that country so they won’t continue to needlessly die than I am getting myself into Afghanistan to meet with officials like Karzai,” Rohrabacher said in a statement.
Astonishingly, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Panetta side with Mr. Karzai and against Mr. Rohrabacher’s travels.
One wonders what Mr. Rohrabacher and his Committee Members would say about Hamid Karzai’s having said that Taliban chief Mullah Omar can run for Afghan presidency, or that Karzi’s Finance Minister, the man who handles all the funds contributed by taxpayers in the US, UK and other NATO Allies, has just been forced to resign.
Apparently, this chap’s been stashing large sums in overseas bank accounts. Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal said the money was consultancy fees earned before he entered office, but the Karzai government’s own corruption watchdog has called for him to be suspended.
For his part, Karzai has admitted regularly taking bags of Dollars from a courier sent from….Iran’s President Admadinejad.
The Pakistan-based English-language newspaper Dawn has just reported that US officials have refused to endorse Afghanistan’s claim that Pakistani spies have infiltrated their security forces and were attacking American and Nato troops, dressed as Afghan soldiers.
“It’s our understanding that these attacks aren’t the work of foreign intelligence services,” a senior US defence official told Wall Street Journal. Citing US investigations of the incidents, the official said: “They’re typically Afghans who themselves decide to conduct them, and some Afghans from insurgent networks might have helped on occasion.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a statement earlier this week, insisting that “foreign spy agencies” had infiltrated Afghan security forces and were now using their uniforms to attack US and Nato troops.
They were responsible for taking the lives of 40 coalition members this year, he said.
Although President Karzai did not name the agency, other Afghan officials told Western journalists he was referring to Pakistan’s ISI which, they said, was responsible for these attacks.
Later, an Afghan presidential spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said that they had conducted an investigation into the attacks and concluded that “foreign spy agencies are growlingly fearful of the empowerment of Afghan security agencies” and that’s why they were masterminding those attacks.
“The countries behind the attacks are from the region,” he claimed.
But America’s top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, asked Kabul to provide evidence to support the claim.
“I’m looking forward to Afghanistan providing us with the intelligence that permits them to come to that conclusion so that we can understand how they’ve drawn that conclusion and we could add that into our analysis,” he told reporters in Washington.
“But we’ll wait to make a definitive statement on that issue until we’ve seen their intelligence in that regard,” said the US general, speaking via satellite link from Kabul.
Various US media outlets carried detailed reports on this issue, pointing out that the US-led coalition in Afghanistan believed only about one of every 10 insider attacks is committed by Taliban infiltrators.
“Overwhelmingly, the so-called green-on-blue attacks are perpetrated by Afghan security members who are culturally offended by or have personal disputes with their international counterparts,” said a report quoting US official sources. The L.A. Times described this as “a potentially serious rift” between the Afghan and US governments, noting that US and Nato officials “have consistently said most of the shootings … stem from personal disputes, stress, cultural differences and battle fatigue”. [Emphasis mine].
This week, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, visited Kabul for talks on the issue and President Karzai’s statement blaming “foreign spy agencies” came a day after his meeting with Gen Dempsey.
“US and other Western military officials have never singled out the ISI as the main culprit in insider attacks,” the newspaper noted.
Insider attacks were symptomatic of deeper challenges the US and its allies face in their effort to withdraw almost all allied combat forces and turn over security to the Afghans by the end of 2014, said the report.
“The hostility (towards foreign troops) is rooted in frustration over perceived American support for what many Afghans consider an ineffective and corrupt Karzai government, raids that have killed innocent civilians, and US military convoys and bases that are frequent reminders of foreign presence on Afghan soil,” noted the Bloomberg news agency.
The New York Times underlined “another sign of vulnerability” for the mission to train Afghan security forces: “even greater numbers of the Afghan police and military forces have killed each other this year.”
So far, Afghan soldiers or police officers have killed 53 of their comrades and wounded at least 22 others in 35 separate attacks this year, according to Nato data provided to The New York Times by officials in Kabul.
By comparison, at least 40 Nato service members were reported killed by Afghan security forces or others working with them.
The newspaper noted that US and Nato officials were also concerned about cultural clashes within the rapidly expanding Afghan forces themselves, “raising questions about their ability to weather the country’s deep factional differences after the Nato troop withdrawal in 2014”.
As some of you know, I am a student of military history. As such, I have, of course, read and re-read all sorts of histories and notions about the Art of War. That said, the more I read, the more frequently I return to Sun Tzu, a Chinese General who lived 2600 years ago and wrote the text he called Art of War.
Reflecting on the men still in Afghanistan, here are two edicts of common sense, really, which Sun Tzu laid down for commanders then and now but which seem to have become ignored by the Obama Pentagon:
The first is: Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
Apparently, neither the US nor the ever-dwindling remaining NATO Allies (New Zealand just announced it is pulling out in 2013) comprehend the meaning and effect of the second injunction by the Wise General:
What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.
In more modern-day, dumbed-down parlance, if you’re not in it to win it, what the Hell are you playing at?
Regrettably, a patriot who has often performed for military personnel, including two tours through the Middle East with the USO and I must share the same conclusion:
[If for some reason this does not play, my apologies. Please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7_0v5zZB94&feature=related]
Say a prayer for peace
For every fallen son
Set our spirits free
Let us lay down our guns
Sweet mother Mary we’re so tired
But we can’t come home ’til
the last shot’s fired
‘Til the last shot’s fired
For two Mothers Howland, both named Mary, their wars are over.
For the rest who are still in Afghanistan , that last shot should have been fired long ago. They deserve both our respect and fervent prayers.
Thank God Connor’s Papa and the 126th are now back in the Heaven of their families’ arms.
Tragically, the use of that phrase just conjured up an entirely different mental picture for one member of SGT Howland’s Squad.
I refer to Specialist Eric Lund, aged 20, of Ludington, Michigan who lost both his arms in the improvised explosive device attack (IED) which injured SGT Howland and others. All of us salute this brave young man and shall support his efforts howsoever one can.
Welcome Home, 126th and well done!
The now fully-assembled Brock and Mary Howland Family and SGT Howland’s Brothers-in-Arms, as well as his Mum, Mrs. Mary Howland and her wonderful grandson, Connor.
The soldier whose arms were destroyed was identified as
Michigan National Guard, Twitter: @MINationalGuard, https://www.mi.ngb.army.mil
Mr. Trace Adkins, Twitter: @TraceAdkins, http://www.traceadkins.com
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Twitter: @DanaRohrabacher, http://rohrabacher.house.gov/
Dawn.com, Twitter: @dawn_com @Dawn_News, http://dawn.com/2012/08/27/us-officials-rule-out-role-of-isi-in-attacks-on-nato-troops/