War In Afghanistan

10 things you need to know today: December 28, 2014

An AirAsia plane is inspected before takeoff

An AirAsia plane is inspected before takeoff |Oscar Siagian / Getty Images

The Week

An AirAsia plane goes missing, thousands turn out for an NYPD officer’s funeral, and more.

1. Indonesia suspends search for missing AirAsia plane

Darkness and poor weather forced Indonesian search crews to postpone their hunt for an AirAsia plane that went missing Sunday morning en route to Singapore. Flight QZ8501, which was carrying 162 people, lost contact with air traffic controllers over the Java Sea after its pilots requested a change of course to avoid stormy weather. Ships will keep scouring the water overnight, but the air search will not resume until Monday morning. [The Associated Press]

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2. Mourners gather for NYPD officer’s funeral

Thousands of police and politicians from around the country turned out Saturday in New York for the funeral of NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, one of two officers ambushed and killed last weekend. Mourners packed several city blocks in Queens and some officers, reflecting a raw rift with City Hall, turned their backs on a videoscreen when it showed Mayor Bill de Blasio delivering his eulogy. The city has been roiled for weeks by protests over recent police killings of unarmed civilians. Alluding to that strife, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Saturday the only way for the city to heal and move forward was for civilians and the the police to “learn to see each other.” [The New York Times]

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3. U.S. ceremonially ends combat mission in Afghanistan

The United States and NATO on Sunday formally marked the end of the 13-year war in Afghanistan with a ceremony at their military base in Kabul. Though the official mission will end at the close of the year, some 13,500 soldiers will remain behind as a peacekeeping and training force. All American troops were originally scheduled to leave at the start of 2015, but with Afghanistan’s security situation as tenuous as ever, the country in October signed a deal to allow a residual foreign force to remain into next year. [The New York Times]

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4. North Korea blames U.S. for mass internet outage

North Korea on Saturday faulted the United States for allegedly cutting its internet access in retaliation for the Sony cyberattack. “Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest,” an unnamed government spokesperson said in a statement. The U.S. claims North Korea is behind the massive cyberattack that led Sony to initially scuttle the release ofThe Interview, a buddy comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. [The Washington Post]

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5. Study finds marijuana use increasing in Colorado

Marijuana use is on the rise in Colorado now that the drug is legal there, according to a new federal study. Based on data collected in 2012 and 2013 and published in the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the study found that about one in eight Colorado residents used marijuana in the past month. Only Rhode Island posted a higher usage rate. [The Denver Post]

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6. Flooding forces 200,000 evacuations in Malaysia

Widespread flooding and the threat of landslides forced Malaysia to evacuate more than 200,000 people over the weekend. At last 10 Malaysians have died in severe flooding caused by annual monsoon rains. Harsh rains and flooding have killed roughly 30 more people in Sri Lanka and Thailand. [Bloomberg, CNN]

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7. Hundreds evacuated from burning Greek ferry

Rescue crews raced on Sunday to pull hundreds of passengers from a ferry that caught fire while en route from Greece to Italy. The ship, the Norman Atlantic, was carrying more than 450 passengers when a fire broke out on its lower deck. Boats and helicopters participating in the rescue mission evacuated more than 150 people within a few hours, though rough seas and bad weather hindered the operation. [The Guardian, BBC]

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8. Hamas scuttles children’s peace visit to Israel

Hamas on Sunday barred three dozen children from making a scheduled trip from Gaza to Israel that was intended to foster goodwill following the summer’s brutal war. The children, most of whom lost family members in the war, were supposed to spend the week visiting Jewish and Arab communities. A Hamas spokesperson said the cancelation was intended “to protect the culture of our children and our people.” [The Jerusalem Post]

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9. Sony Playstation back online after hack

Sony’s Playstation Network went back online Saturday night after being down for three days due to a cyberattack. The company blamed hackers for disrupting online play beginning on Christmas, saying they flooded the network with traffic until it collapsed. Microsoft’s Xbox Live network also went down Thursday, though the company has not fingered a culprit. [The Wall Street Journal]

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10. Jim Harbaugh expected to take Michigan coaching job

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will reportedly agree to a lucrative contract to return to the collegiate level and coach for his alma mater, the Michigan Wolverines. Harbaugh parlayed a quick turnaround of the Stanford Cardinal into a successful NFL coaching gig in which he led the 49ers to three NFC Championship games in four years. But tension between Harbaugh and San Francisco brass led to yearlong rumors the coach was on his way out, and the speculation only intensified when Michigan, coming off another disappointing season, fired coach Brady Hoke earlier this month. [Sports Illustrated, Detroit Free Press]

Bowe Bergdahl’s Fellow Soldiers Are Calling Him a ‘Deserter’

I suspect when all is said and done, like Pat Tillman, Bowe Bergdahl was disillusioned about the war in Afghanistan.

We don’t know his psychological state when he wandered off base.  We don’t know much of anything except what the hysterical GOP is telling us and some soldiers who knew Bergdahl.

The investigations into this entire episode will do one of two things find the truth or find no proof of the gossip that is frantically being put out there.  I choose to reserve judgment at this time.

Mediaite

A growing chorus of Bowe Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers are calling the Army sergeant, who wasreleased by the Taliban this weekend in a prisoner swap with the United States, a “deserter,” saying he was captured after walking away from his base, and that soldiers died in attempts to locate him.

There have been rumblings about Bergdahl’s disappearance since it happened in June of 2009. But according to Nathan Bradley Bethea, his fellow soldiers have been under order not to speak about incident. “He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth,” Bethea wrote in the Daily Beast Monday morning. “And that the truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”

RELEASED: Bergdahl’s Parents in Teary Conference: ‘Proud of How Far You Went to Help Afghan People’

Bethea is not alone in this opinion. “He walked off,” Former Pfc. Jose Baggett said to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “He left his guard post. Nobody knows if he defected or he’s a traitor or he was kidnapped. What I do know is he was there to protect us and instead he decided to defer from America and go and do his own thing. I don’t know why he decided to do that, but we spend so much of our resources and some of those resources were soldiers’ lives.”

According to other soldiers, Bergdahl had spoken of walking off from Afghanistan, and per emails obtained by the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, he had written his parents expressing his dissatisfaction with the U.S. war effort in the country.

They also allege that precious resources — everything from drones to water — were redirected to the hunt for Bergdahl, which ended up claiming the lives of six servicemen. “It was unbelievable,” one soldier said. “All because of the selfish act of one person. The amount of animosity (toward him) is nothing like you’ve ever seen before.”

It is unclear whether Bergdahl will be the subject of a military investigation following his recuperation in a military hospital.

 

Romney On Omitting U.S. Troops From RNC Speech: ‘You Talk About Things You Think Are Important’

 

Oh no he didn’t!

I can see and hear the blow-back coming down the pike  from that statement…

Think Progress

In an interview with Fox News this afternoon, Mitt Romney shot back at critics who complained that he didn’t mention Afghanistan or praise U.S. troops in his convention speech last week, arguing that he focused on issues that are “important.”

Fox News’s Brett Baier told Romney that “several speakers” at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week criticized the GOP presidential nominee for the omissions (actually it was right-wing foreign policy leader Bill Kristol who started the attacks) and asked him if he had any regrets. “I only regret you’re repeating it day in and day out,” Romney said, adding that his speech focused on things that are important:

BAIER: To hear several speakers in Charlotte … they were essentially saying that you don’t care about the U.S. military because you didn’t mention U.S. troops and the war in Afghanistan in your nomination acceptance speech. … Do you regret opening up this line of attack, now a recurring attack, by leaving out that issue in the speech.

ROMNEY: I only regret you’re repeating it day in and day out. When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important and I described in my speech, my commitment to a strong military unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. And I didn’t use the word troops, I used the word military. I think they refer to the same thing.

Watch the clip:

The war in Afghanistan and the sacrifices made by U.S. troops weren’t important enough for Romney to talk about them in his speech? His speech did mention the military, but only to say that he wants to “preserve” a strong military (incidentally so does Obama). But Kristol’s criticism was not that Romney didn’t mention the military but that he did not pay tribute to U.S. troops who fought or are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what is Romney’s “commitment to a strong military”? He plans to increase military spending by $2.1 trillion over the next ten years (which the military does not needwithout offering a plan to pay for it. That doesn’t sound too much like a strong commitment to the economy.

 

Taliban Writes Letter to Congress

Daily Beast

A spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan has written a 2,300-word letter to Congress, calling upon American lawmakers to get “a true picture of the ground realities” of the war in Afghanistan.

In what appears to be the first letter that the group has written to Congress, specifically, its spokesperson, Qari Mohammad Yousaf Ahmadi, claims that U.S. troop commanders give their legislators “distorted information about a losing war, trying to conceal from you their failures.”

The letter—addressed to “Messers American Congressmen” and written in poor English—also denies any Taliban links to the September 11th attacks and insists that the Taliban is still in control of their stronghold, Kandahar, despite an aggressive recent push by U.S. forces there. Unlike many government offices in Afghanistan, the Taliban are known to run a savvy media operation.