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Afghanistan War Weekly: January 2, 2011

Though winter has slowed the war fighting in Afghanistan, year-end assessments of the war and especially of the recent four-stage “surge” around Kandahar continue to report little in the way of real progress. The increasing level of violence in Afghanistan made 2010 the bloodiest year of the war yet, with 500 US killed and 5,000 US wounded, a record number of air strikes in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan, and unknown numbers of Afghanistan killed and wounded. Sketchy reports of last fall’s fighting also indicate massive destruction to many villages, especially the result of air strikes, artillery, and surface-to-surface missiles. Two articles linked below describe the spread of the war to the north, to the province of Kunduz, and a good package of articles linked below describes Afghanistan’s entrenched corruption, a problem the US cannot hope to solve without destroying the façade of an Afghanistan government. The war is very different than it was a year ago.

Scarcely visible in the US media, Pakistan’s US-friendly government teeters on the edge of collapse, as two small parties have now left the governing coalition, raising the likelihood of elections and further destabilization. An interesting packet of articles linked below describes some of the problems in sealing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where the war managers are contemplating a “solution” based on US incursions into Pakistan territory. A second set of articles reviews the damage done by the drone attacks, now vigorously opposed by all Pakistan political parties and by great majorities on public opinion polls. An election under these circumstances would make the US war a front-burner issue, with unpredictable consequences.

Week Five of the WikiLeaks saga did not produce any major developments, except that the major media in possession of the State Department cables have more or less ceased publishing stories about them. With less than 2,000 of the 251,000 cables now in the public domain, it is likely that WikiLeaks will begin publishing the cables themselves. (Until now, they have posted only those cables that have been previously published by the major media.) Linked below are many good articles about the significance of the Leak, the problems the US will have prosecuting Assange, and a few stories about what the cables tell us about Empire Management.

Also below are links to several good articles about the impact of the war on soldiers, vets, and their families. The most recent public opinion poll finds that US opposition to war now stands at 63 percent, an all-time high, with opposition from self-identified Democrats at over 70 percent.

If you find this newsletter useful, I would appreciate your help in expanding circulation. I would also appreciate suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice ( and War is a Crime (

----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)


2011 seen as make-or-break year for Afghan mission

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times [January 1, 2011]

---- A U.S. troop buildup in 2010 was meant to blunt the momentum of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Now it is 2011 that has become the make-or-break year. U.S. and NATO officials have sought to put a positive face on the last 12 months of fighting here, citing significant military gains in the Taliban's southern heartland, a concerted campaign of strikes targeting the insurgents' midlevel field command and the growth of the NATO force to levels at last deemed adequate for the task at hand. But some ominous developments, both on and off the battlefield, bode ill for the new year. The Taliban made deep inroads in swaths of the country previously regarded as relatively safe — the north, northwest and center — eroding confidence in the West's ability to protect the Afghan populace and hampering aid and reconstruction efforts. Parliamentary elections in September intended as a democratic showpiece devolved into fraud and chaos. Corruption tightened its grip on the government of President Hamid Karzai. By midsummer, combat casualties among U.S. troops and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force as a whole had already reached their highest annual levels of the war.

(Video) Afghanistan: A Look Back at 2010

By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times [December 31, 2010]

US Casualties

---- 711 Coalition soldiers have been killed in 2010, including 498 US soldiers. Fighting has begun to taper off due to the onset of winter; 53 US soldiers were killed in November, and 30 were killed in December. In total, 2,284 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,445 soldiers from the United States. The number of US soldiers wounded in November 2010 was 501; 143 were wounded through December 13. This brings the total US wounded during 2010 to 4,996, and the number wounded since the war began to 9,771. To learn more go to and to

Afghanistan Casualties
---- “Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report,” by Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 21, 2010] states that “Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks. In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.” See also Susan G. Chesser, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians,” Congressional Research Service [August 11, 2010]

Pakistan Casualties
[See below, under “Pakistan Drones.”]

The Cost of the War

---- According to the website, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $381 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.130 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at

Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan

---- “63 Percent of Americans Oppose War In Afghanistan.” Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, with 63 percent of the public now opposed to U.S. involvement there, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Just 35 percent of survey respondents say they still support U.S. involvement. The increase in opposition to U.S. involvement comes as pessimism about how the war is going is rising. According to a poll done Dec. 17-19, 56 percent of the public believes that "things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan."

---- “ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Record Six in 10 Say it's 'Not Worth Fighting' “ - A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a grim assessment -- and a politically hazardous one -- in advance of the Obama administration's one-year review of its revised strategy. Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation's longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll [December 16, 2010] say the war's been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin.

---- Americans continue to be divided over the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, with 45% supporting and 45% opposing it. The plurality 49% of Americans say the U.S. government has been providing them too little information about the war in Afghanistan, and more than half, 54%, say they do not know what their country's war in Afghanistan is all about. The plurality 38% of Americans expect the war to eventually come to a negotiated settlement that gives the Taliban a role in the Afghan government, while only 16% still expect a clear military victory by the U.S.-led foreign military forces. The Angus Reid poll was conducted December 3-5, 2010.

US military investigates 'death squad' accused of murdering Afghans

By Chris McGrea, The Guardian [UK] [December 29, 2010]

---- The US military is investigating the leadership of an army brigade whose soldiers are accused of running a "kill team" that murdered Afghan civilians, as further evidence emerges of widespread complicity in the deaths. A brigadier general is conducting a "top to bottom" review of the 5th Stryker brigade after five of its soldiers were committed for trial early next year charged with involvement in the murders of three Afghans and other alleged crimes including mutilating their bodies, and collecting fingers and skulls from corpses as trophies. Among the issues under investigation is the failure of commanders to intervene when the alleged crimes were apparently widely spoken about among soldiers.

Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains

By James Dao and Catrin Einhorn, New York Times [December 30, 2010]

---- The work of war is very much a family affair. Nearly 6 in 10 of the troops deployed today are married, and nearly half have children. Those families — more than a million of them since 2001 — have borne the brunt of the psychological and emotional strain of deployments. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in January found that wives of deployed soldiers sought mental health services more often than other Army wives. They were also more likely to report mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and sleep disorder, the longer the deployments lasted. And a paper published in the journal Pediatrics in late 2009 found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in civilian families. The longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the researchers found, the more likely the children were to have had difficulties in school and at home. But those studies do not describe the myriad ways, often imperceptible to outsiders, in which families cope with deployments every day.

Veterans of recent wars confront grim employment landscape

By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post [December 30, 2010]

---- While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value. The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans was 10 percent in November, compared with 9.1 percent for non-veterans, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates for combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been higher than the overall rate since at least 2005, according to the bureau.


Afghan Supreme Court to examine elections

By Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press [December 27, 2010]

---- Afghanistan's Supreme Court has set up a special tribunal to review complaints of fraud stemming from the September parliamentary elections - a decision that could bring new uncertainty to a poll already marred by massive irregularities. The development comes less than a month before the 249-seat parliament convenes on Jan. 20 and it remains unclear if the tribunal can make any decisions that could alter the final result, which has been accepted by the international community. But it is sure to complicate the tainted election process and bring more doubt about Afghanistan's ability to govern itself as the U.S.-led coalition makes plans to gradually hand over responsibility for the country to its own security forces by 2014.

Afghanistan’s Web of Corruption

U.S. and Afghan Allies Describe Web of Corruption but Say Prosecution Stalls

By Matthew Rosenbert, Wall Street Journal [December 29, 2010]

---- U.S. officials in Afghanistan have spent thousands of hours over the past few years charting what they call "Malign Actor Networks"—webs of connections between members of President Hamid Karzai's family, businessmen, corrupt officials, drug traffickers and Taliban commanders. Using intelligence drawn in part from informants and a powerful wiretapping system, these officials say they have found an economic and political order—underwritten by billions of dollars in aid, reconstruction and logistics funds from the West—that is undermining the Afghan government from within and aiding a Taliban insurgency that is trying to topple it from without. The officials and their Afghan allies have had less success, however, breaking these bonds.

Karzai Releasing Scores Of Drug Traffickers In Afghanistan, WikiLeaks Cables Show

By Ryan Grim, Huffington Post [December 27, 2010]

---- President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly released well-connected officials convicted of or charged with drug trafficking in Afghanistan, frustrating efforts to combat corruption and providing additional evidence that the United States' top ally in the country is himself corrupt. "On numerous occasions we have emphasized with Attorney General Aloko the need to end interventions by him and President Karzai, who both authorize the release of detainees pre-trial and allow dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court," reads a diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to The New York Times.

U.S. Stepping Up Fight on Afghan Smuggling

By Michael Kamber, New York Times [January 1, 2011]

---- Janet Napolitano, the United States homeland security secretary, said Saturday that her department planned to triple the number of agents in Afghanistan to train border and customs workers — an effort that is partly aimed at curbing the smuggling of cash out of the country. The department is sending 52 former agents, who will work on contract, to reinforce the 25 agents currently in Afghanistan. The United States Embassy estimates that $10 million a day leaves Afghanistan by plane bound for Dubai, United Arab Emirates — some of it the proceeds from illegal activities. According to a secret cable released by WikiLeaks, Ahmed Zia Massoud, a former Afghan vice president, visited the United Arab Emirates last year carrying $52 million in cash. Mr. Massoud has denied the report. Beyond the flow of money to Dubai, millions of dollars more are believed to be smuggled through border crossings, and American officials fear at least some of the money is being funneled to Afghan insurgents taking shelter in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

Karzai rejects US request to replace minister

By Brett J. Blackledge and Richard Lardner, Associated Press [January 1, 2011]

---- Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to remove a former warlord from atop the energy and water ministry despite U.S. pressure to oust the minister because Washington considered him corrupt and ineffective. Secret diplomatic records showed the minister — privately termed "the worst" by U.S. officials — kept his perch at an agency that controls $2 billion in U.S. and allied projects. The refusal to remove the official despite threats to end U.S. aid highlights how little influence the U.S. has over the Afghan leader on pressing issues such as corruption.


Taliban Seeks ‘Office’ in Neutral Country for Peace Talks

By Jason Ditz, [December 31, 2010]

---- According to a former ambassador for the Taliban government, the leaders of the insurgent faction are seeking permission to set up an “office” in a neutral country as a precondition to new reconciliation talks. The ambassador, Mullah Zaeef, insisted that it was impossible for the Taliban to negotiate from inside Pakistan and Afghanistan, both because they could not ensure the safety of their negotiators and because Pakistan would insist on setting the agenda. As violence continues to rise in 2011 it seems more efforts at reconciliation will be called for, however, so it is unlikely the question of how and where the Taliban can negotiate from is going to vanish.

Most Dangerous Year Ever: The Afghanistan War Gets Ultraviolent

By Noah Shachtman, Wired [December 31, 2010]

---- For the first half of this year, the American strategy in Afghanistan was to try to kill as few people as possible. Then Gen. Stanley McChrystal's team ran their mouths in front of a Rolling Stone reporter, and everything changed. Gen. David Petraeus took over. He dispatched special operations forces to take out thousands of militants. Petraeus' generals relied on massive surface-to-surface missiles to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar, and ordered tanks to help crush opponents in Helmand province. Air strikes — once a tool of last resort — hit their highest levels since the American invasion: 1,000 air attacks in one month alone.

Afghanistan war: how a model province tumbled into violence

By Anna Mulrine, Christian Science Monitor [December 30, 2010]

---- It wasn’t long ago that Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan was a counterinsurgency success story for the US military. Journalists were encouraged to arrange reporting trips to the relatively calm showpiece region, but generally eschewed it in favor of areas where there was more fighting. In the past two years of the Afghanistan war, however, violence in Khost has been on the rise as incidents of attacks and roadside bombings have crept upward. Just what happened is something military analysts have been wrestling with for some time. This week, Col. Viet Luong, the US Army commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat team of the 101st Airborne Division, suggested that corrupt or inept local leadership combined with an influx of insurgents fleeing east from new NATO offensives in the south contributed to Khost's decline.

See also: Michael Kamber, “Taliban Leader Was Killed, Afghans Say,” New York Times [December 31, 3010] (“Kunduz City is now nearly cut off by violence, with all roads leading out controlled by the Taliban and other armed groups.”)

Army edits its history of the deadly battle of Wanat

By Greg Jaffe, Washington Post [December 29, 2010]

---- The Army's official history of the battle of Wanat - one of the most intensely scrutinized engagements of the Afghan war - largely absolves top commanders of the deaths of nine U.S. soldiers and instead blames the confusing and unpredictable nature of war. The battle of Wanat, which took place in a remote mountain village near the Pakistan border, produced four investigations and sidetracked the careers of several Army officers, whose promotions were either put on hold or canceled. The 230-page Army history is likely to be the military's last word on the episode, and reflects a growing consensus within the ranks that the Army should be cautious in blaming battlefield commanders for failures in demanding wars such as the conflict in Afghanistan.

Aid groups in Afghanistan question U.S. claim of Taliban setbacks

Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers Dec. 28, 2010

---- Citing evidence that Taliban insurgents have expanded their reach across Afghanistan, aid groups and security analysts in the country are challenging as misleading the Obama administration's recent claim that insurgents now control less territory than they did a year ago. Insurgent attacks have jumped at least 66 percent this year, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. Security analysts say that Taliban shadow governors still exert control in all but one of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

Taliban Recede: Coalition or Winter's Advance?

By Jason Motlagh and Muhib Habibi, Times [December. 27, 2010]

---- For U.S.-led forces, breaking the Taliban's grip on the insurgents' home province of Kandahar has been a costly slog. The year 2010 was the deadliest yet in the Afghan war, with one-third more coalition casualties than in the previous year, most of them Americans in combat operations in the Taliban stronghold in the south. U.S. military officials insist the coalition has made major inroads, as attested to in part by the losses. For many area residents, however, the tactical gains touted by the White House in the latest war review had another cost: thousands of Afghans who fled the hostilities have returned to find their property damaged or destroyed, with reports of a number of hamlets entirely leveled.,8599,2039748,00.html#ixzz19VNd369n

Fighting on the Af/Pak Border
US: No way to seal Afghan-Pakistan border

Anne Flaherty, Associated Press [December 28, 2010]

---- There's no practical way for U.S. troops to seal Afghanistan's vast border with Pakistan and stop all Taliban fighters from slipping through, so they are focusing on defending vulnerable towns and fighting insurgents on Afghan soil, a U.S. military commander said Tuesday. Luong said he has seen "subtle signs of hope" for Khost after the U.S. and Afghanistan stepped up operations against the Haqqani network. The number of operations and patrols increased four-fold, up to 12,000 in the past year, while the effectiveness of enemy fire has been cut in half, he estimated.

Insurgents Set Aside Rivalries on Afghan Border

By Thom Shanker, New York Times [December 28, 2010]

----Rival militant organizations on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have increasingly been teaming up in deadly raids, in what military and intelligence officials say is the insurgents’ latest attempt to regain the initiative after months of withering attacks from American and allied forces. New intelligence assessments from the region assert that insurgent factions now are setting aside their historic rivalries to behave like “a syndicate,” joining forces in ways not seen before. After one recent attack on a remote base in eastern Afghanistan, a check of the dead insurgents found evidence that the fighters were from three different factions, military officials said.

Militias stem Pakistani Taliban, but at what cost?

By Chris Brummitt, The Associated Press [December 27, 2010]

---- Tribal militias allied with the government helped block a Taliban advance in this corner of northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border, but their success has come at a price: the empowerment of untrained, unaccountable private armies that could yet emerge as a threat of their own. Tensions are emerging between authorities and the dozens of militias that they helped to create predominantly in and near the northwest tribal regions. Operating from fortress-like compounds with anti-aircraft guns on the roofs, the militiamen have made it clear that the state now owes them for their sacrifices.

Sources for Cables and Media Coverage

---- WikiLeaks has a new home at, courtesy of the Swiss Pirate Party. As of today, 1,992 cables have been released. They can be searched (e.g., for “Afghanistan” or “corruption”) at Another useful site is WikiLeaks Central: “An unofficial WikiLeaks information resource”: The Wikipedia entry on WikiLeaks is comprehensive and up-to-date:

Though the news media that were given the complete WikiLeaks State Department files have largely stopped publishing stories and cables, several of them have archives that are still useful. The best ones are at The Guardian [UK] and Aljazeera The New York Times’ site is at At the daily publication, Jason Ditz provides short commentaries on many of the documents as they become available. Of the several blogs about the cables and the controversy surrounding them, the best one imo is by Greg Mitchell at The Nation -

Some Comments and Analysis

From Democracy Now! (Video) Julian Assange on WikiLeaks, War and Resisting Government Crackdown [December 31, 2010]; also an inteview with Daniel Ellsberg.

Francis Shor, WikiLeaks, Ideological Legitimacy and the Crisis of Empire,” Truthout [January 2, 2011]

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd and Tana Ganeva, “8 Smears and Misconceptions About WikiLeaks Spread By the Media,” AlterNet [December 31, 2010]

Prosecuting WikiLeaks
Robert Meeropol, “Julian Assange, the Rosenberg Case and the Espionage Act of 1917

Rosenberg Fund for Children” [December 29, 2010]

Jennifer Van Bergen, “Invoking the Espionage Act Against Assange,” Counterpunch [December 28, 2010]

Some WikiLeaks Revelations

Joshua Norman, “How WikiLeaks Enlightened Us in 2010,” CBS News [December 31, 2010]

Jason Ditz, “Assange: Many Top Arab Officials Are CIA Spies,” [December 30, 2010]

Jason Ditz,, “2006 State Dept Cable: Cartoon Riots a Good Way to Keep Denmark in Wars,” [December 28, 2010]


U.S. efforts fail to convince Pakistan's top general to target Taliban

By Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post [December 31, 2010]

---- Countless U.S. officials in recent years have lectured and listened to Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the man many view as the most powerful in Pakistan. They have drunk tea and played golf with him, feted him and flown with him in helicopters. But they have yet to persuade him to undertake what the Obama administration's recent strategy review concluded is a key to success in the Afghan war - the elimination of havens inside Pakistan where the Taliban plots and stages attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Turmoil in Pakistan as party quits Cabinet

By Nahal Toosi, Associated Press [December 28, 2010]

---- Pakistan's U.S.-allied ruling party suffered a fresh blow to its fragile hold on power Tuesday when a coalition partner said it will quit the cabinet, deepening the nation's political turmoil and potentially distracting Islamabad from helping American forces target militants. New elections could lead to the emergence of a government not as friendly to U.S. interests and less vocal in opposing the Taliban. The MQM, a secular party with its powerbase in the southern port city of Karachi, said it will pull its two ministers, though it insisted it was not yet joining the opposition. The move came days after the Jamiat Ulema Islam announced it was leaving to join the opposition. Analysts said the two parties are aware of the PPP's unpopularity and are positioning themselves for potential early elections.

Pakistanis, Indians want peace and friendship: poll

From The Gulf Times [Qatar] [December 31, 2010]

---- Despite a history of conflicts, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations, a survey conducted on both sides of the border has revealed. The survey - conducted by independent research agencies and sponsored by the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India on the first anniversary of their joint peace initiative ‘Aman Ki Asha’ - showed that 70% of Pakistanis and 74% of Indians want peaceful relations….The optimism at the people’s level appears in a stark contrast to the current bitter official positions.

Drone strikes lead to disaster in Pakistan

By Misbah Saba Malik, Xinhua [China] [December 31, 2010]

---- In the year 2010, the United States has launched the greatest number of air strikes from unmanned aerial drones into the inaccessible tribal regions of northwest Pakistan, killing many people including suspected militants and innocent civilians. During the year, a total of 995 people had been killed in 122 drone strikes launched in northwestern tribal agencies of Pakistan, as compared to 53 drone strikes in 2009, which killed almost 500 people. The number of air strikes doubled this year than the previous one, and the figure of people killed in these strikes also raised to double, which shows the growing U.S. influences in Pakistan's territory. A total of 218 strikes have been launched within the territory of Pakistan from 2004 to 2010, and approximately 1,378 to 2,109 individuals have been killed in these unprecedented attacks. People killed in drone strikes are usually identified as militants or suspected militants by U.S. officials and Pakistani security forces. But the real fact always remains distant and far behind. There are never any details of the names of people killed in such aerial strikes on media, nor are their identities confirmed or faces shown. Their exact account always remains vague.

See also: Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat, “Why Pakistanis oppose US drone attacks,” The News [Pakistan] [December 28, 2010]; and Ahmad Noorani, “All parties demand end to drone attacks,” The News [Pakistan] [December 28, 2010]

With Air Force's new drone, 'we can see everything'

By Ellen Nakashima and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post [January 2, 2011]

---- This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town. The system, made up of nine video cameras mounted on a remotely piloted aircraft, can transmit live images to soldiers on the ground or to analysts tracking enemy movements. It can send up to 65 different images to different users; by contrast, Air Force drones today shoot video from a single camera over a "soda straw" area the size of a building or two. With the new tool, analysts will no longer have to guess where to point the camera, said Maj. Gen. James O. Poss, the Air Force's assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we're looking at, and we can see everything."


One year later: The full story of one of Canada's deadliest days in Afghanistan

By Colin Perkel, Globe and Mail [Canada] [December 29, 2010]

----Reluctantly, silently, Sergeant Jimmy Collins lifts his sleeve. There, tattooed on the inside of his wrist along with images of a palm tree and a maple leaf, are the initials of five fellow Canadians – victims of one wrenching instant of violence on a muddy road in Afghanistan one year ago today. Kandahar Always remember GC-GM-ZM-KT-ML - Garrett Chidley. George Miok. Zachery McCormack. Kirk Taylor. Michelle Lang. On Dec. 30, 2009, as Canadians at home basked in the glow of the festive season, two light armoured vehicles – Alpha and Charlie – rumbled out of camp at about 2 p.m., each carrying 10 people. Their story – largely untold before now – still keeps Sgt. Collins awake at night. “It’s the first thing I think about in the morning,” he says. “It’s the last thing I think about before I go to bed.”


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