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IJC: Change of Command

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Looking around this room, it’s amazing that the United States and Pakistan don’t get along.  We have close relations with all the countries represented in the IJC, and at least another hundred countries that were not present.  Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden lived for years just a short airplane flight to the east in Pakistan.  After the raid that killed bin Laden on the very doorstep of the Pakistani military, we’ve tried to spackle up our relationship with the dysfunctional “country” by sharing intelligence, which apparently was fed directly to the targets, who then disappeared.

New challenge for U.S.-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Twice in recent weeks, the United States provided Pakistan with the specific locations of insurgent bomb-making factories, only to see the militants learn their cover had been blown and vacate the sites before military action could be taken, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Subsequent the above article, it happened again with reports of two more tip-offs.

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The Big Boss of the IJC is Lieutenant General David Rodriguez.   “Rod” is widely respected by those who know him and it’s also about time for him to go home.  And so, unfortunately, we will be losing General Petraeus and LTG Rodriguez at nearly the same time.  LTG Rodriguez reminds me of CSM Jeff Mellinger in Iraq: constantly “Walking the Line.”  You never knew where they would show up.  This man, LTG Rodriguez, has worked very hard in Iraq and in Afghanistan.  When I look LTG Rodriguez in the eyes, it’s difficult to imagine what he has seen in these nearly ten years of constant war.  The only certainty is that he has seen it all.  Many people don’t know it, but LTG Rodriguez and his crew are largely responsible for the terrible beating now being issued to the Taliban and various other enemies.  This is our man.  Thank you LTG Rodriguez.

Today, 11 July 2011, there will be a change of command as LTG Rodriguez hands off to LTG Curtis Scaparrotti.  One gentleman finally gets to go home, while the other comes back to war.  Godspeed to both.

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Last month, LTG Rodriguez shook hands and said goodbye to Secretary Gates, who then boarded the special 747-like airplane, and flew to Europe for more work, and finally home on his final big trip as Secretary of Defense.

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More often than not in the wars, these dispatches are about younger troopers and what they suffer and accomplish, and more often than not, it’s not glamorous or pretty.  It’s gritty, ugly and lonely.  But many people at home make a difference.  I was going to a meeting a couple weeks back and saw this box of “Operation Write Home” cards, and so I stopped to make a photo because the people at home need to know how important their acts of kindness can be.  Those acts of kindness have a cumulative effect and it’s amazing that despite nearly a decade of war, so many people at home are still so supportive.

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The war in Afghanistan is turning around in our favor.  After nearly five years of yelling at the top of my lungs that we are losing, it’s a relief to write these words with confidence.  That doesn’t mean Afghanistan is suddenly a nice place or that we are out of danger.  There could well be a civil war in Afghanistan’s future and, in any case, this is a very long process requiring probably a century of work.  And though President Obama facilitated the current progress by sending more troops, he is making a serious mistake not to heed the advice of experienced commanders.  President Obama is a smart man.  A wise man would listen to the counsel of his very experienced generals.  The President is gambling with the gains made by the Coalition.

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