Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Fighting words

When President Barack Obama announced the 30,000 U.S. troop surge for Afghanistan in December 2009, he said: “It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”

Obama, president for less than a year, said those words at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was still trying to prove that he had what it took to be commander-in-chief.

A year-and-a-half later, it is now a different setting. Obama will announce his plan to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan at the White House, having proven his mettle when he gave the go-ahead for the daring and risky operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

He is also a declared candidate for re-election facing a public most concerned about the economy and quite tired of war.

Watch to see whether tonight’s speech will take on a campaign tone or frame the decision as a result of victory. It may be neither. We’ll see at 8 p.m.

Training may be the U.S. way out of Afghanistan, but hurdles high

One of the strongest messages that U.S. officials tried to convey during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Afghanistan this week was that the American mission in the war-torn country is changing from combat to training, so that Afghan forces are ready to provide security for their own country after decades of upheaval, invasion and foreign occupation. AFGHANISTAN

Biden made a stop at the Kabul military training center, an expansive site about six miles northeast of the city center, where U.S. forces are teaching members of the Afghan National Army how to be part of a modern military. On 22,000 acres of  bare terrain surrounded by mountains and dotted with cement walls and the ruins of Soviet-era military equipment, Afghan soldiers are learning everything from marksmanship to logistics. The facility has even had two all-women officer training classes, the first in the deeply traditional Muslim country, not for combat but for functions such as finance and logistics.

Biden spoke to trainers, toured the grounds and watched a group of the Afghan trainees storm a building. He spoke to each of the men, who greeted him, in turn, by standing to attention, shouting their names and giving their battalion numbers.

Iraq … It’s not like Charlie Wilson’s war

Ambassador Chris Hill, the retiring U.S. envoy to Baghdad, is confident the Iraq war will not end up like Charlie Wilson’s war.

Wilson, the late Texas congressman, was a driving force behind the U.S. funding of mujahideen rebels who fought a Soviet occupation force in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, U.S. attention shifted elsewhere and Afghanistan slipped into civil war.
IRAQ/
Not a likely scenario in Iraq, Hill told a State Department briefing Tuesday.

“During my 16 months there I never lacked for senior people being, first of all, well-informed, and secondly, engaged and visiting, so I never had that (inattention) problem,” he said.

from Photographers' Blog:

Those left behind: The legacy of Arlington’s Section 60

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  George Orwell

Veteran’s Day is a time to remember “All gave some....Some gave all.”

Before reaching the new gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery’s ‘Section 60’ it’s easy to recognize why a simple, quilted, patch of green grass and white stones buried alongside the quiet banks of the Potomac River troubles the heart.

Bush aircraft carrier landing redux

NEW YORK – President George W. Bush in 2003 landed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on a Navy jet where he delivered a speech saying major combat operations in Iraq had ended with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, which later caused his administration headaches as the war dragged on.

On Tuesday, Bush landed on another aircraft carrier but this time was on much safer political ground. He landed on the Intrepid, a carrier that has been transformed into a museum which Bush helped re-dedicate as part of his last Veteran’s Day speech as commander-in-chief.

“Not only do we honor those who have worn the uniform, those who are wearing the uniform, we honor their families, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts,” Bush said. ”We have a moral obligation to support our families, and we have a moral obligation to support our veterans. It has been my privilege to work with members of the United States Congress to nearly double the funding for those who have worn the uniform.”