Page: Richard's Blog
Sep 27th, 2013 by Richard Lowry
Coming Soon – Code Name Scarlet – a novel by Richard S. Lowry

Would you sacrifice the one you love to save the world?


Code Name Scarlet is a twenty-first century suspense thriller that is pulled from the pages of your newspaper. It begins with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and ends years later in Quetta, Pakistan. As the story progresses, the unrelated lives of men and women from around the world, move closer and closer together, until they all become part of an event that will change the course of history.

Major Ben Rydell, a young Marine infantry officer who lost both of his parents in the World Trade Center tragedy, finds the love of his life, Meredith Wilson, and is forced to leave her to command a strike force in Operation Scarlet. Lindsey Warner, a young, blonde CIA officer meets Lieutenant Commander Rich Graham, a Navy SEAL, at Kandahar Airfield and they too fall in love. Lindsey and Rich also become key players in Operation Scarlet.

Dr. Achmed Ali Bahan, a Pakistani bomb maker, devises an insidious bomb fuse that can be programmed to detonate anywhere in the world. He becomes involved in a grandiose plot to bring fire and destruction to the American infidel. He allies himself with Taliban and al Qaeda leadership and learns that the Pakistani ISI has given them a nuclear weapon.

As Dr. Bahan refines his plan to explode the nuclear weapon in the American homeland, Lindsey begins to hear rumors of a new al Qaeda plot. Meanwhile, the President of the United States asks the military to develop a plan to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and Aymen al Zawahiri. CENTCOM brings the American military’s best and brightest leaders together to define Operation Scarlet. As the story develops, Operation Scarlet morphs into a plan to find and secure the rogue nuclear weapon.

The story climaxes with a large military operation in the southwestern mountains of Pakistan. As history has proven over and over again, no plan ever survives first contact. Lindsey and Rich are forced to improvise and must make life and death choices to complete the mission.

This is a story of love and war; heroism and cowardice; hollow victory and painful loss. It will make you think and it will make you cry.

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Mar 16th, 2012 by Richard Lowry
An open letter to Hamid Karzai

          An Open Letter to Hamid Karzai


I am an ordinary American citizen and I am at the end of my rope too. I have been a longtime supporter of the war on terror and I am appalled at your lack of support for the men and women that have sacrificed so much to put your sorry ass in power.

Few, here in America, realize that your family has benefited financially from America’s support of your government. How many millions of American dollars have you personally placed in your pocket in the last ten years? And, how many tons of heroin have you personally smuggled out of your country and into the US?

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, I am all for pulling all our Soldiers and Marines back into our bases. If I were in charge, I would take it one step farther. I would start bringing all of our troops home – today. I would also stop all American payments to your corrupt cronies. There should not be another drop of American blood spilled nor another penny spent on a country as corrupt, immoral and ungrateful as yours.

Have fun in your talks with the Taliban and ISI after we leave.

Peace out.

Richard S. Lowry

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Aug 14th, 2011 by Richard Lowry
Don’t forget my Dad

Bryan and Braydon Nichols

Last weekend, on August 6th, 2011, our nation lost thirty of its finest Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors in the single largest loss of life for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Thirty fathers, sons, husbands and brothers lost their lives in a horrific Special Operations helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s Tanji Valley. Eight brave Afghan soldiers were also killed in the crash.

It is believed that the helicopter was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade, fired by a Taliban insurgent while it was transporting elite Navy SEALs to the scene of an on-going fire fight. US Army Rangers had been searching for a Taliban leader when they came under fire and a gun battle ensued. The Rangers called for reinforcements and the CH-47 helicopter was shot down while bringing the SEALs in to thefight.

All week, we have heard story after story focusing on America’s most elite Special Operators – the Navy SEALs. But, a ten year old boy, Braydon Nichols, wanted to know why his father’s photo was not included with those we had been seeing all last week. His father was the pilot of the Chinook helicopter. His father was his hero. His father was a member of another elite American unit. His father was a member of the U.S. Army’s 158th Aviation Regiment – a unit which ferried Rangers and SEALs in and out of Harm’s way.

Of the 30 Americans lost, 17 were Navy SEALs and 15 of the 17 belonged to the top-secret unit that conducted the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Five were men with particular specialties who regularly worked with the SEALs. The other eight included three Air Force forward air controllers and five Army helicopter crew members, including the pilot of the aircraft, Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols.

Bryan always wanted to be a solider. He enlisted in the military before he had graduated from high school and worked his way up through the ranks until he eventually had the opportunity to pilot the same type of helicopter his father flew in Vietnam – a Chinook.

Bryan’s son, Braydon, also dreamed of flying alongside his father one day. Let us honor this boy’s remembrance and never forget Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, United States Army – an American hero. And never forget the other twenty-nine brave Americans lost in that crash.

Thank you for your service to our nation –

Lieutenant Commander (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La.

Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.,

Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.,

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers, 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn.,

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Mass.

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W.Va.

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich.

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C.

Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah

Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.

Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa.

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla.

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif.

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minn.

Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colo.

Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan.  He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.

Sergeant Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Neb.

Sergeant Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash.  He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.

Specialist Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan.  He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.

Technical Sergeant John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla.

Staff Sergeant Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif.


Technical Sergeant Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa.

Braydon Nichols posted a photo of his father online, saying; “please don’t forget about my Dad.” Please reach out to the children of these men to let them know how much we all appreciate their dedication to our nation. Please let them know we will never forget their Dads.

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Jan 25th, 2011 by Richard Lowry
General Petraeus provides campaign assessment to troops

Afghanistan PetraeusGeneral David Petraeus has recently provided his assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan to his troops. Please take the time to read the entire document. It is not often that you get the entire story from the media. If you are lucky, they will provide one, or two, sentences:

General Petraeus’ Assessment

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Oct 8th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Afghanistan Update
International Security Assistance Force

International Security Assistance Force

I have been receiving daily press releases from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – Afghanistan and carefully reading news updates from major media outlets. We can always be assured that we will hear of a helicopter crash or civilians being killed by NATO forces, but most of you are missing the daily reports that when viewed as a whole provide the big picture of what is happening.

I can tell you that on almost a daily basis there are reports of another Taliban leader captured or killed. Other reports indicate that their replacements have been killed or captured within days of assuming command. And, these reports are coming from nearly every province. General Petraeus is on the offense. ISAF forces are actively engaging the enemy throughout Afghanistan.

In the southern provinces – home of the Taliban – ISAF is conducting massive operations to clear and hold territory which has long been controlled by the Taliban. Last year’s Marine Corps operation to clear Helmand and deny the enemy access to the largest poppy growing area in the world is proceeding. And, the Marines are making progress. The 101st Airborne, Special Forces, Canadian troops and the Afghan Army have been working for months to quietly drive the Taliban from Kandahar Province, again with good results.

Evidence of our successes can be seen by the Taliban’s recent desire to sit down and talk. If they had the upper hand, they would not be so eager to talk. I personally believe that the Pakistan border closure and the attacks on our logistic tail as the trucks sit parked in Pakistan is another indication of how desperate the enemy is getting.

A Taliban victory is in Pakistan’s interest. The powers in Islamabad have already been told that America will start withdrawing next year so they want a friendly government in power when we leave. There is also an elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge.

Pakistan’s mortal enemy is India and the ISI and the Pakistan military have always had a doomsday strategy in case of a real war with India. It has always been the plan to retreat into southern Afghanistan and continue a guerrilla fight with India from the rugged Afghan mountains. If a stable government prevails in Afghanistan that has American support, the Pakistanis have nowhere to run. So, the border closing is no accident, we should consider Pakistan as part of the problem until they show us with deliberate action that they are working to be part of the solution.

Purchase Richard’s latest book today – New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah

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Aug 31st, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Kandahar is not Fallujah
Sgt Jason Carter - DVIDS

Sgt Jason Carter - DVIDS

While Kandahar and Fallujah are both located at ancient crossroads of civilization, the cities could not be more different. Fallujah lies in the heart of the ancient Assyrian civilization while Kandahar has always skirted two ancient empires. Fallujah is made up of a compact, densely-populated middle-eastern urban center while Kandahar is spread out over many thousands of acres with a central urban center and hundreds of outlying villages, nestled in some of the most rugged terrain on the face of the earth.

If you think it was difficult isolating the Fallujah battlefield, it was easy compared to the challenges of cordoning Kandahar. Clearing Kandahar will be a momentous task. The International Security Assistance Forces and the Afghan Army and Police will have a very difficult time clearing and holding Kandahar.

In the fall of 2004, Coalition Forces isolated Fallujah and evacuated most of the population before sweeping into the city to clear every room of every house. Then, they cordoned the city and only let residents back in. ISAF has no hope of isolating the battlefield of Kandahar, we will have to work to clear the area and we will have to work among the population. The Taliban know this truth. They will continue to use the people as shields and they will try to illicit violence that will cause civilian deaths.

The coming operation to wrest control of Kandahar and its surrounding districts will be tricky. I expect to see a sudden increase in ISAF military presence, followed by an inkwell strategy of expanding the ISAF security zone. There will be no massive sweep through the area like the fight to free Fallujah. Instead, the Taliban will wake up one morning and American, Afghan and Canadian soldiers will be on their doorstep. And, once there – they will stay.

Taliban leaders will be targeted; rounded up or killed. The rank and file Taliban soldiers will be given a choice – fight and die or surrender and re-integrate into the Afghan society. Once the streets of Kandahar City, Zhari, Panjwaii, and Arghandab are secure, the real work will begin.

The people of southern Afghanistan have lived through almost continuing struggles for control of their land for centuries. The only thing that the tribal elders know is struggle and maneuvering for power. They have learned that when their schemes fail, violence rules supreme. It will take more than a generation to change this mindset. Once there is a modicum of security in Kandahar, ISAF will help to set the people on the right track to peace and prosperity. Attempting to impose the Federal government in Kabul on the people of southern Afghanistan will not work. We must build a brand new Afghanistan from the ground up, not from the top-down. Let us all pray that General Petraeus succeeds.


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Aug 28th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
There is a gathering storm in Kandahar

4734787723_bfdab412d2Step one in winning the war in Afghanistan is to protect the population from the Taliban. “Life is terrible,” said Muhammad Nazer, a farmer who calls the Kandahar suburb of Panjwaii home. “The Taliban want everything from us, food, money and help, and we cannot reject them.” He told a reporter from The Vancouver Sun.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been working for months to slowly improve security in, and around, Kandahar City, the traditional home of the Taliban. There has been a rising tide of security over the last several weeks. ISAF has established a cordon around the city and has worked very hard to push the Taliban out of the Arghandab River Valley, northwest of the city.

Now, the coalition is preparing for the third phase of Operation Hamkari, the Dari word for co-operation. American, Canadian and Afghan troops are closing on Kandahar province. They are preparing the battlefield of Zhari and Panjawaii. They are conducting reconnaissance by fire patrols and rounding up suspected Taliban insurgents – 116 have been detained in the last week.

The Taliban know ISAF is coming. Many are fleeing the area, but some are digging in. The diehards are planting more IEDs and building fortifications and waiting for their final confrontation. Local villagers know we are coming too. Many are packing up their belongings and fleeing their homes as Canadian, U.S., and Afghan forces intensify a long-planned campaign against insurgents in the area.

Everyone in the coalition command would like nothing more than for the Taliban to slip away and not fight. For once the Taliban have released their grip on the people of Kandahar, the real job will begin. ISAF will stay in Arghandab, Zhari, Panjwaii and Kandahar City to provide continued security for the people of this vital region. Then, and only then, will they bring hope to the people for a better future.

When everyday Afghans like Muhammad Nazer know that their family is safe and that they can send their children to school and that they will have a better life the Taliban will be defeated. But, this will take years. There is no short-term solution in Afghanistan.


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Aug 13th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
The Screaming Eagles stand ready in Afghanistan

101st Airborne Division

All 20,000 soldiers of the entire 101st Airborne Division have deployed as part of the recent surge of forces to Afghanistan. The Screaming Eagles have had a short but honored history. The Division was one of two formed at the beginning of World War II by forward-thinking military planners who believed soldiers could be brought into battle by aircraft. Major General William C. Lee, the Father of the American Airborne, became the 101st Airborne Division’s first commander on 16 August 1942. Shortly thereafter he inaugurated the Division’s tradition in one of his first written General Orders:

The 101st…” he wrote, “has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush our enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies.”

The 101st’s first rendezvous was in the flooded fields of Normandy on June 6, 1944 when division pathfinders were the first Americans to set foot in occupied France. The Division’s paratroopers and glider soldiers distinguished themselves throughout the remainder of the war in Europe. Over the years, technology has changed their equipment, but not their role.

Today, the 101st Airborne Division is comprised of four Brigade Combat Teams, a Sustainment Brigade, a Special Troops Brigade and a Combat Aviation Brigade. It is arguably the most capable division in America’s army today, with unequaled strategic and tactical mobility, as well as theater- and national-level intelligence support.

Now in place, the Screaming Eagles have responsibility for the security in Eastern Afghanistan and in portions of Kandahar Province. The United States Army’s finest are ready for their next “rendezvous with destiny.”

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Aug 4th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Finally, the truth about the Afghan Rules of Engagement
General David Petraeus

General David Petraeus

Picture a group of convicted murderers holed up in a house in your neighborhood. News helicopters are hovering overhead and your local police department has surrounded the house. The SWAT Team is preparing to enter the building to rescue your neighbors who are being held hostage.

The number one priority is the safety of the hostages. The police are equipped and trained to kill the criminals, but their goal is to rescue the home’s inhabitants. They are prepared to risk their own lives to rescue that family.

The Taliban are a group of murdering thugs and they are attempting to take an entire nation hostage. Think of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as a giant SWAT team. They must protect the Afghan people to win this fight in Afghanistan and they too are risking their own lives to rescue a nation.

Today, ISAF released General Petraeus’ new guidance to his troops. He has reaffirmed that our troops may protect themselves while fighting to bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan. Please take a moment to read his directive.

Once you have read the press release below, please take the time to read General Petraeus’ Guidance in full, he sent me the entire document and it indicates that we are in this fight to win. COMISAF’s COIN Guidance, 1Aug10

The updated directive is classified; unclassified portions of the document are included below.

“This directive applies to all ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) forces operating under operational or tactical control … Subordinate commanders are not authorized to further restrict this guidance without my approval.

Our counterinsurgency strategy is achieving progress in the face of tough enemies and a number of other challenges.  Concentrating our efforts on protecting the population is having a significant effect.  We have increased security in some key areas, and we have reduced the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces.

The Afghan population is, in a number of areas, increasingly supportive of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and of coalition forces.  We have also seen support for the insurgency decrease in various areas as the number of insurgent-caused civilian casualties has risen dramatically.  We must build on this momentum.

This effort is a contest of wills.  Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people.  In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy.  We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners.

We must continue – indeed, redouble – our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum.  Every Afghan civilian death diminishes our cause. If we use excessive force or operate contrary to our counterinsurgency principles, tactical victories may prove to be strategic setbacks.

We must never forget that the center of gravity in this struggle is the Afghan people; it is they who will ultimately determine the future of Afghanistan …

Prior to the use of fires, the commander approving the strike must determine that no civilians are present.  If unable to assess the risk of civilian presence, fires are prohibited, except under of the following two conditions (specific conditions deleted due to operational security; however, they have to do with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces).

(NOTE) This directive, as with the previous version, does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options are available to effectively counter the threat.

… Protecting the Afghan people does require killing, capturing, or turning the insurgents.  Indeed, as I noted earlier, we must pursue the Taliban tenaciously.  But we must fight with great discipline and tactical patience.

We must balance our pursuit of the enemy with our efforts to minimize loss of innocent civilian life, and with our obligation to protect our troops.  Our forces have been striving to do that, and we will continue to do so.

In so doing, however, we must remember that it is a moral imperative both to protect Afghan civilians and to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom we are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder when they are in a tough spot.

We must be consistent throughout the force in our application of this directive and our rules of engagement.  All commanders must reinforce the right and obligation of self-defense of coalition forces, of our Afghan partners, and of others as authorized by the rules of engagement.

We must train our forces to know and understand the rules of engagement and the intent of the tactical directive.  We must give our troopers the confidence to take all necessary actions when it matters most, while understanding the strategic consequences of civilian casualties.  Indeed, I expect our troopers to exert their best judgment according to the situation on the ground.  Beyond that, every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine has my full support as we take the fight to the enemy.

… Partnering is how we operate.  Some civilian casualties result from a misunderstanding or ignorance of local customs and behaviors.  No individuals are more attuned to the Afghan culture than our Afghan partners.  Accordingly, it is essential that all operations be partnered with an ANSF unit and that our Afghan partners be part of the planning and execution phases.  Their presence will ensure greater situational awareness.  It will also serve to alleviate anxiety on the part of the local population and build confidence in Afghan security forces.

I expect every operation and patrol to be partnered.  If there are operational reasons why partnership is not possible for a particular operation, the CONOP approval authority must be informed …

Partnership is an essential aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy.  It is also an indispensible element of the transition of security responsibility to ANSF.

Again, we need to build on the momentum we are achieving.  I expect every trooper and commander to use force judiciously, especially in situations where civilians may be present.  At the same time, we must employ all assets to ensure our troopers’ safety, keeping in mind the importance of protecting the Afghan people as we do.

This is a critical challenge at a critical time; but we must and will succeed.  I expect that everyone under my command, operational and tactical, will not only adhere to the letter of this directive, but – more importantly – to its intent.

Strategic and operational commanders cannot anticipate every engagement.  We have no desire to undermine the judgment of tactical commanders.  However, that judgment should always be guided by my intent.  Take the fight to the enemy.  And protect the Afghan people and help our Afghan partners defeat the insurgency.”

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Jul 6th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Success in Afghanistan requires tough fighting, hard work and attention to detail

Afghan Army Graduation

In this era of 21st Century counterinsurgent warfare, victory will lie in our ability to provide a better future for the everyday Afghan citizen. Most importantly, we need to build a safe environment for Afghan families to build their own future. There are not enough American soldiers, sailors and Marines in our entire armed forces to provide this security.  Even if there were, we do not have the resources, desire, or the support of the Afghan people to stay in Afghanistan forever.

Thus, it is imperative that we help to build an Afghan army and police force so that they can protect their own people and provide a long-lasting, stable environment. Not all of our troops are on the front lines in Afghanistan. Many are working very hard to help the Afghan people in ways that are not reported by the media. We only hear that there are large numbers of deserters and that the Afghan army can not operate on its own.   While true today, what has not been reported is that the Americans and Afghans are working together to build a new Afghan army – a capable and professional organization that will be able to provide stability in its nation.

An army cannot be built overnight. It must be built one leader at a time. It is easy to recruit privates, but very difficult to produce competent sergeants and captains. So, behind the scenes, there is a huge unreported effort to build that capability.

I recently spoke with Brigadier General Gary Patton. He is the deputy commander-Army, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command. We talked about the ongoing work to build the new Afghan army. “…what we do is generate and sustain and develop leaders for the Afghan National Army.” General Patton told the participants of the July 2nd Blogger’s Roundtable:

Since the time NTMA stood up in November 2009, to give you an idea of the amount of forces that have been generated — and by that I mean created from scratch, brand-new units, and then added to the Afghan National Army have been one corps headquarters, five brigade headquarters, 13 infantry battalions, three support battalions for logistics, two commando battalions, 42 infantry companies and four special forces teams. In addition, there have been some MP companies and some various other units, but those are the big units.

He went on to say:

And now, just in the past month …we saw a growth in the Afghan army of 4,191. And that puts them at a total strength of 129,885. That number is significant because it’s more than 6,000 above the milestone…And many of you know that our growth milestone for the end of October is 134,000; so we’re within about 4,000 of meeting the end-of-October milestone, which means we’re ahead of schedule in terms of growing the Afghan army.

Numbers alone will not improve the effectiveness of the Afghan army. General Patton admits that there is a continuing shortfall in commissioned and non-commissioned officers. The Afghan army must have leaders. Developing competent leadership is tough when only 14% of the Afghan population is literate. So, in addition to training soldiers, NTMA is also providing literacy training. All recruits receive basic literacy training and the top ten percent are sent to an additional four weeks of literacy and military training. Graduates of the Team Leader course are promoted to corporal.

If a recruit shows leadership potential and he can pass a literacy test at the third-grade level, he is enrolled in 12 weeks of additional training in the 1-U course. These NCOs graduate as staff sergeants. Patton told us:

Four weeks from now we’ll see about 3,300 new NCOs. And then we’ll repeat that over and over again. And so by doing that, combined with battlefield promotions…we hope to make up that 12,000 NCO deficit, as we grow the army, by about October or November of 2011.

A strong, capable Afghan army will take increasingly more responsibility for the security of the Afghan people.  As that happens, American troops can reduce their combat operations and transition to a supporting role until we are confident that the Afghan army can operate independently and in a professional manner. Then, and only then, can we begin to draw down our force in Afghanistan. If all this sounds familiar, it is exactly what we accomplished in Iraq.

Already, we are seeing combined Coalition/Afghan successes. On July 4th, the IJC Public Affairs Office reported:

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), along with ISAF partners recently completed several operations across Afghanistan. These operations were intended to protect the Afghan population by disrupting insurgents’ ability to fund and conduct operations against civilians, ANSF, and Coalition forces.

On Thursday morning, an ANSF-led patrol came under attack from insurgents as they entered a remote village in southern Helmand.  A large number of insurgents were killed and the patrol discovered 5,700 kilograms of narcotics, large weapons caches complete with ammunition, and IED construction and storage facilities.  The narcotics were destroyed before they could be sold to fund insurgent attacks, along with the weapons, ammunition, IEDs and IED components.  Additionally, a Taliban detention facility was discovered and 14 Afghan civilians were freed and protected by the ANSF-led patrol, while several insurgents were detained.  No women or children were present in the village.

On Friday, an ANSF, ISAF combined force stopped a vehicle at a check point in Ghazni province.  Thirteen 107mm rocket warheads were seized and destroyed before they could be used against Afghan civilians, ANSF, or Coalition forces.

Early Saturday morning, the senior Taliban commander for Nad-e-Ali district was killed in an ANSF and ISAF combined operation.  The insurgent was known to have planned and conducted numerous suicide and roadside bombings against the Afghan people.

“These partnered operations were aimed directly at denying insurgents the funding and material they need to carry out attacks against Afghan civilians, ANSF, and international forces,” said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an ISAF Joint Command spokesman.

No civilians were injured in any of these operations.

We still have a long road ahead in Afghanistan, but if we continue our commitment, we will start seeing more and more successes. And with those successes, we will bring security and hope to the Afghan people. And, hope is the weapon that will win this war.

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