• Sandy Huffaker/Getty

    Afghanistan

    Telling My Kids I'm Going to War

    Before he leaves on another deployment to Afghanistan, a military officer has to break the news to his family.

    Editor’s Note: Nick Willard is the pen name of a service member heading to Afghanistan on one of the final deployments in the closing days of America’s longest war. He will write what he sees in an ongoing feature for The Daily Beast that will appear as regularly as his schedule allows. Biographical details have been changed to protect his identity. 

    I’d known about the deployment to Afghanistan for three months, but made a deal with my wife to not tell the kids until after the holidays. No reason to burden our daughter, the oldest, and boys any sooner than necessary. So we shielded our kids from the impending separation.

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  • Ishtiaq Mahsud/AP

    Shady

    The Taliban’s Shadow Invasion

    On March 1, the Islamabad government cut a deal with the Taliban. And since then, all hell has been breaking loose in neighboring Afghanistan.

    In the last month, the Taliban has killed dozens of people in a string of attacks timed to destabilize Afghanistan ahead of the presidential elections on Saturday.

    Most recently, a suicide bomber breached the heavy security at the Interior Ministry building and blew himself up, killing six police officers. And that may be just a preview, if local Taliban commanders are to be believed.

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  • Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

    Afghanistan

    How I’ll End Our Longest War

    An American military officer leaving on one of the last deployments to Afghanistan before the war ends, writes about his experiences in a new feature for The Daily Beast.

    Editor’s Note:

    Here is an American military officer’s first hand account of war, how it’s fought and how it ends.

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  • Steve Lewis/Reuters

    Boom

    Six Taliban Killed With One Bullet

    The British military said it believes a lance corporal surpassed all previous records with one pull of the trigger.

    A British sniper killed six Taliban fighters with a single bullet in a shot that has been hailed as the greatest since the invention of the gun.

    At a range of more than half a mile, the 20-year-old struck a terrorist who was rigged with explosives. The would-be suicide bomber’s vest detonated, killing five fellow fighters. Britain’s Ministry of Defense believes the shot has surpassed all previous records of its kind. “I’m sure there are tales of heroics from the Second World War which would rival it but certainly in recent memory no one has achieved such a thing,” a military official told The Daily Beast.

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  • U.S. Army PFC Lawrence S. Gordon was killed in Normandy on Aug. 13, 1944 in Normandy. He was mistakenly buried as a German unknown soldier in a cemetery in France. His family produced exhaustive research that pointed to Gordon’s whereabouts, but the U.S. military didn’t act on the case. Instead the French and German governments moved forward to exhume Gordon and identify him with DNA. (Courtesy of Gordon family)

    Finally Home

    The WWII Hero America Abandoned

    For more than 50 years, Army PFC Lawrence S. Gordon was mistakenly interred as a German soldier in a cemetery in France. The U.S. never corrected the mistake.

    U.S. Army Private First Class Lawrence S. Gordon—killed in Normandy in 1944, then mistakenly buried as a German soldier—will soon be going home to his family.

    But don’t thank the American military for this belated return. The Pentagon declined to act on his case, despite exhaustive research by civilian investigators that pointed to the location of his remains.

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  • Reuters

    A History of Military Ultimatums

    We run through some important modern ultimatums to show why governments make them, and what—if anything—they accomplish.

    What’s an ultimatum? It’s a thousand different things, depending on who’s making it—but it’s generally something like a threat attached to a set of demands.

    “There will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” President Obama said in a speech on Friday, though he did not specify what the costs to the Russians would be, or how they would be exacted.

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  • Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

    Strategy

    Obama’s Afghan Zero Option

    As the White House negotiates to keep military forces in Afghanistan after 2014, it's time to address what the small force being considered can actually accomplish.

    On 25 February the White House issued a public statement on the status of the negotiations between the United States and Afghanistan over keeping troops in the country after 2014. In unusually stark language, the press release noted that the President had “asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.” The release was likely intended to pressure the Karzai government, or the next Afghan president to be chosen in April’s election, to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), authorizing military forces to remain in Afghanistan. Many pundits in the US argue that a failure to leave troops in Afghanistan after 2014 would be a major error. A comprehensive assessment of the situation, however, indicates that leaving troops may be worse than a complete withdrawal.

    The White House release indicated that if the BSA is signed, the forces left in Afghanistan would be given “a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda.” Many reports suggest senior military and diplomatic officials believe that a force 10,000 US troops is the right size to accomplish those missions. One senior officer said the future in Afghanistan would be “grim” if no US troops remain after 2014.

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  • A C-27A transport aircraft, which was given by the U.S. military, is seen at an airbase in Kabul November 15, 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

    Afghan Money Pit

    $100 Million Paperweights

    After being given to the Afghan military as part of a $500 million U.S.-funded program, 16 planes were deemed unusable and parked on a runway. Now they’re scheduled to be destroyed.

    While the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan winds down the price tag for waste in the funding for the Afghan Security Forces continues to rise.

    The most recent evidence of mismanagement emerged during Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko’s recent visit when he found 16 C27A aircrafts waiting to be destroyed at the Kabul International Airport.

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  • Afghan locals watch a U.S. Army soldier patrol the streets in the Khagyani Disrict of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan on April 8, 2013. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty)

    FOREVER WAR

    What the Afghan Plan Really Means

    If the new security agreement between Washington and Kabul is signed it will mark a major change from a broad counter-insurgency war to a limited counter-terrorist operation.

    One way or the other most American troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and the war as we know it will end. The question now being decided in fraught negotiations between Washington and Kabul is whether the U.S. can purchase the right to keep a military presence in Afghanistan after the main war effort is over that can protect national interests and launch targeted operations against terrorists. If the Afghan government agrees to the plan currently being discussed what remains after 2014 will be a much smaller more specialized force refocused from fighting the Taliban and maintaining security to hunting hardcore al Qaeda affiliates across the region.

    Echoes of Iraq and the failed negotiations to keep a military force in that country have carried over into the debate about Afghanistan and obscured what is really at stake there. Here is what is really at stake: betting that a small footprint rented at extortionist costs from a corrupt and failing state can be used by U.S. special operations forces to fight jihadist networks and project power over neighboring Iran and Pakistan. It will take years or decades to know how the bet pays off but the immediate costs of an agreement will be another decade of low intensity conflict in south Asia for America’s military and billions more dollars in aid from American taxpayers. 

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  • AFP/Getty

    FINAL

    U.S.-Led Afghan Raids to Continue

    Post-2014.

    Raids on Afghan homes will continue after the bulk of U.S. soldiers leave in 2014, according to an agreement reached Tuesday between American and Afghan officials. The raids on Afghan homes had been a key sticking point in negotiations for post-2014 Afghanistan, and Afghan president Hamid Karzai conceded to the raids under “extraordinary circumstances” only. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected to admit “mistakes” by U.S. military forces and promise that these mistakes will not be repeated, a spokesman for Karzai told The New York Times.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Team Rubicon and Mammoth Medical Missions volunteers carry a woman on a makeshift stretcher to a Filipino military helicopter to be evacuated. (Photo courtesy Kirk Jackson)

    Philippines

    Team Rubicon Brings Aid to Philippines

    Team Rubicon, the veteran led disaster relief group, has its first team on the ground in the Philippines assisting in aid operations. Find out how you can help.

    Last Veterans Day, former soldier Matt Pelak led hundreds of other veteran volunteers from disaster response group Team Rubicon in a day of service in the Rockaways, helping rebuild the devastated New York neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy. A world away, Kristen Rouse was finishing up a tour in Afghanistan as an Army officer. A year changed much for both soldiers, but the compulsion to serve remained steady.

    On Monday, Pelak, Rouse, and 13 other veteran volunteers from Team Rubicon touched down in Manila to rendezvous with a Philippine Air Force C-130 cargo plane en route to Tacloban City, the scene of unprecedented destruction from last week’s Typhoon Haiyan. The death toll continues to rise, but Team Rubicon’s first wave of volunteers are pressing forward to apply their military experience to bring aid to areas devastated by the historic typhoon.

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  • Dondi Tawatao/Getty

    Devastating Typhoon

    The Marines’ Humanitarian Mission

    As a new storm barreled toward the Philippines, a Third Marine Expeditionary Brigade contingent arrived Monday to aid in search and rescue operations and other relief efforts.

    A group of 90 U.S. Marines and sailors is joining the search for survivors in the Philippines in the wake of the massive typhoon that tore through the nation of islands over the weekend. Their arrival comes amid alerts of a new storm heading for the Philippines, while rescue operations are still under way from the last one.

    Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy is leading the Marines, from the Third Expeditionary Brigade stationed in Japan. They arrived in Tacloban on Monday afternoon bearing relief supplies aboard U.S. military transport planes. The troops will be aiding in search and rescue operations both on the ground and in the air, in addition to providing logistical support to other relief efforts in progress in the Philippines.

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  • Police officers and other Afghans gather outside a mosque to offer Eid al-Adha prayers in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2013. (Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times, via Redux)

    Disappearing Dollars

    The Afghan Money Pit

    Hundreds of millions in U.S. aid money provided to supply Afghan security forces has been lost—and now oversight is about to get even worse.

    The war in Afghanistan is transitioning to its endgame. But the drawdown hasn’t stopped the billions in U.S. aid flowing into the country, and after 12 years of spending on this scale, we’re still losing money—hundreds of millions unaccounted for—almost as fast as we can write the next check. The spotty oversight of U.S. aid to Afghan forces is now set to get even worse as the main auditing group is in the country is about to have its presence dramatically reduced.

    The majority of the Department of Defense money spent in Afghanistan that doesn’t pay for U.S troops goes into projects for infrastructure and funding the Afghan security forces. The U.S. legacy in Afghanistan will be defined in large part by the success of those institutions, the Afghan army most of all, where we have focused our funding and resources.

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