• Getty

    Desert Winds

    Watching Iraq Burn From Afghanistan

    The recent Afghan elections should have been the big news, but even troops deployed to Afghanistan are distracted by the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

    Last week, as the world’s gaze shifted toward Iraq, we stayed focused on supporting the presidential runoff election here in Afghanistan.

    On Election Day we were prepared for trouble, but as the hours wore on things remained strangely quiet, at least in my small part of the war. The “120 Days of Wind” are now blowing here in Afghanistan. As the hot, dusty, and dry season invades, the Afghan runoff vote was an apparent success, though not without bloodshed.

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  • An Iraqi woman passes U.S. troops and Iraqi police officers as they stand guard in the Bab al-Jadeed area of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 23, 2009. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

    Iraq

    Mosul's Civilization and Its Discontents

    An Army veteran looks at the fall of Mosul and recalls his own time there trying to civilize the land with guns and money.

    Mosul is in the news today.  

    Not many people in the United States know where Mosul is.

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  • Goran Tomasevic/Reuters Photo

    Afghanistan

    How I’ll End the War

    An officer in Afghanistan volunteers to help teach English to Afghan students and ends up making art with them.

    In a clean, well-lit classroom within a modern building on NATO’s largest base in Afghanistan, young Afghans learn trades and hone their English skills.

    “For next time, bring pictures you can put together to say something about your hopes for the future,” said an American English teacher to 20 Afghan students. “We’re making collages.”

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  • Damon Winter/The New York Times

    Dying War

    My First Week Back in Afghanistan

    A military officer chronicles his first week back in Afghanistan readjusting to the strange rhythm of life on an overseas military base.

    The ramp opened to a spring breeze and a view of snowcapped mountains. I ignored the engine noise and the dull ache for what I’d left back home, and took in the view. I stepped off the plane, caught that first groggy whiff of jet fuel and my body instantly registered where I was. I was back in Afghanistan.

    We all grabbed our gear, lined up, and walked across the tarmac. Personnel specialists divided us up by service and unit, collected orders and identification cards, and led us to a bare-walled room with airport seats. We watched a welcome video, sort of like a corporate video for new hires but this one spoke of the mission, rules of warfare, and what to do during attacks.

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  • 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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