Afghanistan: U.S. Strategy Hit with Two Setbacks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP) Date not available.

KABUL, Afghanistan – The American campaign in Afghanistan suffered a double blow Thursday: The Taliban broke off talks with the U.S., and President Hamid Karzai said NATO should pull out of rural areas and speed up the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces nationwide in the wake of the killing of 16 civilians according to Associated Press reporters Deb Riechmann and Amir Shah.

The moves represent new challenges to America’s strategy for ending the 10-year-old war at a time when support for the conflict is plummeting. Part of the U.S. exit strategy is to transfer authority gradually to Afghan forces. Another tack is to pull the Taliban into political discussions with the Afghan government, though it’s unclear that there has been any progress since January.

Although Karzai has previously said that he wanted international troops to transition out of rural areas, the apparent call for an immediate exit is new. Karzai also said he now wants Afghan forces take the lead for countrywide security in 2013, in what appeared to be a move to push the U.S. toward an earlier drawdown.

You can read the full article HERE.

Afghanistan Killing Supsect Was Reluctant to Deploy

In this March 11, 2012 photo, men stand next to blood stains and charred remains inside a home where witnesses say Afghans were killed by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)

The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians last weekend had twice been injured during tours in Iraq and was reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment, a Seattle lawyer said Thursday, reports the Associated Press.

“He wasn’t thrilled about going on another deployment,” said the lawyer, John Henry Browne. “He was told he wasn’t going back, and then he was told he was going.”

Browne, a well-known Seattle defense attorney who recently represented a youthful thief known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” said he has been asked to represent the soldier, a 38-year-old staff sergeant from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.

The soldier is from the Seattle area and asked to be represented by Browne when he was taken into custody, the lawyer said. Browne said he has met with the staff sergeant’s family, and unless the soldier is returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the next few days, he will travel to meet the soldier wherever he is in custody.

You can read the full AP article HERE.

Veterans’ Court Authorized by Florida Lawmakers

Veterans Treatment Court. Photo courtesy of the VA.

Florida is home to more than 1.6 million veterans. So, it’s no surprise that Florida lawmakers passed several bills this session that benefit military veterans and active duty service members.

Among the bills agreed upon was the “T. Patt Maney Veterans Treatment Intervention Act.”

Named in honor of Okaloosa County Judge Maney, the bill authorizes each judicial circuit to set up a Veterans’ Court or program to handle the cases of veterans with psychological problems like substance abuse and PTSD or traumatic brain injury as a result of their military service.

“Under the program a judge may sentence these veterans and service members in a way that addresses the severity of the condition through services targeted to the individuals’ needs,” said Steve Murray, spokesman for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “It adds both misdemeanor and felony pretrial intervention programs as eligible treatment programs.”

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