Conversion

http://joellewisart.com/?p=15

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Romans, Chapter 13, St. Paul

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Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God.  So anyone who disobeys an authority is rebelling against God’s ordinance; and rebels must expect to receive the condemnation they deserve.  Magistrates bring fear not to those who do good, but to those who do evil.  So if you want to live with no fear of authority, live honestly and you will have its approval; it is there to serve God for you and for your good.  But if you do wrong, then you may well be afraid; because it is not for nothing that the symbol of authority is the sword: it is there to serve God, too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to wrongdoers.  You must be obedient, therefore, not only because of this retribution, but also for conscience’s sake.  And this is why you should pay taxes, too, because the authorities are all serving God as his agents, even while they are busily occupied with that particular task.  Pay to each one what is due to each: taxes to the one to whom tax is due, tolls to the one to whom tolls are due, respect to the one to whom respect is due, honor to the one to whom honor is due…

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http://joellewisart.com/?page_id=424

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The only thing you should owe to anyone is love for one another, for to love the other person is to fulfill the law.  All these:  You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and all the other commandments that there are, are summed up in this single phrase:  You must love your neighbor as yourself.  Love can cause no harm to your neighbor, and so love is the fulfillment of the Law…

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http://joellewisart.com

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Besides, you know the time has come;  the moment is here for you to stop sleeping and wake up, because by now our salvation is nearer than when we first began to believe.  The night is nearly over, daylight is on the way; so let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light.  Let us live decently, as in the light of day;  with no orgies or drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy.  Let your armor be the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop worrying about how your disordered natural inclinations may be fulfilled…

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New Jerusalem Bible

standard edition

1999

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Art courtesy of Joel Lewis

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Editor: Rawclyde!

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Biggest Challenges To Come

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by Drew Brooks

Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer

Aug 25, 2014

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U.S. troops have accomplished much in Afghanistan over the past year, but the biggest challenges may be yet to come.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson said the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will begin in earnest in the coming weeks, as preparations are made to reduce the American footprint to 9,800 troops by the end of the year.

Anderson, who spoke with The Fayetteville Observer from Afghanistan, is commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commanding general of U.S. Forces — Afghanistan.

He’s also the commanding general of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, which makes up the cores of several key coalition commands in the country.

Anderson said about 35,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Those numbers will begin dropping quickly as forces continue to consolidate onto fewer and fewer bases.

At the same time, the coalition mission in Afghanistan will shift from advise and assist to more advising than assisting.

But what worries Anderson is the time his soldiers are losing with their Afghan counterparts.

The Afghan government continues to recount ballots from a runoff election held earlier this year. They reached the halfway point in counting last week.

Anderson said coalition forces have no interest in the outcome of the election, but he hoped for a quick resolution.

“The political piece of it is none of our business,” the general said. “It’s the time we’re losing. Time is ticking.”

While the recount takes place, Afghanistan is at a stalemate, Anderson said. Even the average Afghan is frustrated by the stagnation, he said.

And coalition leaders are no different.

They are working on short timetables with a lengthy “to-do” list of improvements.

“There’s plenty to do,” he said. “We’re working as best as we can.”

Anderson said there’s limited time to enhance medical care, artillery, managing aircraft, logistics, maintenance, engineering and counter improvised explosive device efforts.

“I remain very confident in their tactical abilities,” Anderson said of the Afghan security forces.

But, he said, the frustrations in the higher levels of the military can affect readiness, and coalition forces are “losing ground” on addressing those frustrations.

“We are still very committed to being the best we can,” Anderson said of the Afghan forces.

U.S. troops helped secure and move the more than 22,000 ballot boxes involved in the recount, Anderson said. And they continue to provide security for those ballots, using cameras and nighttime shifts of soldiers.

So far, the ballots have been kept safe from significant attacks, but he said a few fist fights have broken out among officials inside the recount.

Anderson estimates it will take another three weeks “give or take” before the process is finished, and said the government would likely transition in mid September.

That transition will mark the latest turnover in what Anderson has dubbed the “Year of Change,” the challenging and dynamic buildup to the end of Operation Enduring Freedom and the beginning of Operation Resolute Support, the code name for the continued efforts in Afghanistan.

Over the past eight months — the 18th Airborne Corps deployed in January — coalition forces have consolidated from 85 bases throughout Afghanistan to 42, Anderson said.

By the start of November, fewer than two dozen coalition bases will remain open, with many of those housing special operations forces.

As the “collapse and consolidation” speeds up, forces will start to redeploy, Anderson said.

In the south, once bustling Forward Operating Bases Apache and Pasab have closed, Anderson said, consolidating the entire 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Kandahar Airfield. Those soldiers, from Fort Carson, Colorado, will start heading home next month.

In the east, units from Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, also will soon head home, Anderson said.

Some 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, who have been spread across the country, have already begun their return home.

At the same time, U.S. forces continue to move equipment and vehicles out of the country. Anderson said those retrograde efforts are ahead of schedule.

Forces have moved 17,600 pieces of rolling stock, including vehicles, from Afghanistan and will move another 4,500 pieces by year’s end.

The equivalent of 4,300 20-foot containers also have been removed from the country, with another 1,300 20-foot equivalents set to move by year’s end.

“We’re getting a little close,” Anderson said of the mission.

But, he said, soldiers haven’t lost sight of the mission.

“We miss Fort Bragg and we miss North Carolina,” Anderson said. “. But we have a job to do.”

The 18th Airborne Corps will be the last three-star unit to serve as ISAF Joint Command.

That command will cease to exist once the corps leaves later this year.

Regional commands across Afghanistan, once led by two-star generals, also are transitioning. Those commands will become Train and Assist Commands and will be led by one-star generals.

Anderson said regional commands North, West and Capital have already transitioned to the new structure. The South and East commands will transition in October.

Thousands of Fort Bragg soldiers are serving in Afghanistan.

The 44th Medical Brigade has nearly 175 soldiers deployed, and the 1st Theater Sustainment Command continues to oversee logistical efforts there.

Local soldiers also serve as part of the special operations forces contingent in the country, which includes parts of the 3rd Special Forces Group and other Army Special Operations units from Fort Bragg.

Local soldiers continue to play important roles in Afghanistan, but even those will change as the year draws to a close.

Elements of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division serve as theater response forces, supporting Afghan National Security Force operations.

Parts of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams also are in security force roles, facilitating movement between bases and protecting key leaders.

But those missions will be passed on to other units by the end of the year, Anderson said.

Meanwhile, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is in the process of deploying and will provide helicopter support for the entire country, replacing two aviation brigades in theater.

Anderson said Fort Bragg will have a smaller role in the country after the new year, but its presence will continue to be felt.

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http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/08/25/general-biggest-challenge-in-afghanistan-to-come.html

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Taliban Inroads

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by Azam Ahmed

New York Times

One month ago…

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MAHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, according to Afghan officials and local elders.

The Taliban have found success beyond their traditional strongholds in the rural south and are now dominating territory near crucial highways and cities that surround Kabul, the capital, in strategic provinces like Kapisa and Nangarhar.

Their advance has gone unreported because most American forces have left the field and officials in Kabul have largely refused to talk about it. The Afghan ministries have not released casualty statistics since an alarming rise in army and police deaths last year.

At a time when an election crisis is threatening the stability of the government, the Taliban’s increasingly aggressive campaign is threatening another crucial facet of the American withdrawal plan, full security by Afghan forces this year.

“They are running a series of tests right now at the military level, seeing how people respond,” one Western official said, describing a Taliban effort to gauge how quickly they could advance. “They are trying to figure out: Can they do it now, or will it have to wait” until after the American withdrawal, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the coalition has officially ceded security control.

Interviews with local officials and residents in several strategic areas around the country suggest that, given the success of their attacks, the Taliban are growing bolder just two months into the fighting season, at great cost to Afghan military and police forces.

In Kapisa, a verdant province just north of Kabul that includes a vital highway to northern Afghanistan, insurgents are openly challenging and even driving away the security forces in several districts. Security forces in Tagab District take fire daily from the Taliban, who control everything but the district center. Insurgents in Alasay District, northeast of Kabul, recently laid siege to an entire valley for more than a week, forcing hundreds of residents and 45 police officers to flee. At least some of the local police in a neighboring district have cut deals with the Taliban to save themselves.

In the past month, a once-safe district beside the major city of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, has fallen under Taliban control, and a district along a crucial highway nearby is under constant threat from the Taliban. South of Kabul, police forces in significant parts of Logar and Wardak provinces have been under frequent attack, to deadly effect.

But there are only anecdotal reports to help gauge just how deadly the offensive has been. The Afghan defense and interior ministries stopped releasing casualty data after a shocking surge of military and police deaths in 2013 began raising questions about the country’s ability to sustain the losses. By September, with more than 100 soldiers and police officers dying every week, even the commander of the International Security Assistance Force suggested the losses could not be sustained.

Asked for figures on the latest security force casualties this year, both ministries refused to provide data or confirm accounts from local officials. But there are signs that the casualty rate is already likely to be at least as bad as it was last year.

In one important indicator, the United Nations reported a 24 percent rise in civilian casualties for the first half of this year compared with a similar period from 2013, hitting a new peak since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began tracking the data in 2009. More significantly, for the first time, the highest number of those casualties came from ground fighting between the Afghan forces and insurgents rather than from roadside bombs.

The United Nations found that more fighting was taking place near populous areas, closer to the district centers that serve as the government seats. Ground violence also seemed to increase in areas where coalition bases had been closed, as the Taliban felt more emboldened to launch attacks without fear of reprisal.

One important effect of those gains, particularly where police forces are being driven away, is that the Taliban are establishing larger sections of lawless territory where they can intimidate local populations. They become safe havens, and staging grounds for more ambitious attacks against Kabul and other major cities, like the militant assault on Kabul’s airport on July 17.

In the immediate vicinity of the country’s main cities, the Afghan military was still holding up well, according to American and Afghan commanders. But as more marginal districts have come under unexpectedly heavy attack, the military planners’ expectations have been tested.

One widely accepted prediction was that soon after 2014, the Taliban would gain in rural areas and traditional strongholds, as the government made tough decisions about what to fight for and what to let go. Places of no strategic value in remote areas of the south and east, some officials said, could afford to be forgotten.

But heavy attacks, and some territorial losses, are already happening in those places, earlier than predicted.

On July 9, the Taliban overran a district center in Ghor Province, a rugged and violent area close to the center of the country, which left Afghan forces scrambling to reclaim it and smarting from the embarrassment. On Saturday, militants stormed Registan District in Kandahar, killing five police officers, including the district police chief, in a battle that continued into the evening.

The heavy fighting earlier this summer in northern Helmand Province, long a Taliban stronghold and a center of opium poppy production, was mostly expected. But the breadth of the Taliban assault, which is now said by locals to extend to four districts, has surprised many, and foreshadowed a more ambitious reach for the insurgents.

The efforts of this fighting season have not been solely in the countryside, or traditional strongholds like those in Helmand. The Taliban have made strides in Nangarhar Province, home to one of the most economically vibrant cities in the country and a strategically important region. Surkh Rod, a district that borders the provincial capital Jalalabad and was safe to visit just three months ago, has become dangerous to enter.

“The difference is that five months ago there were more government forces here; now it is the Taliban,” said Nawab, a resident of Shamshapor village.

Bati Kot District, too, has become more dangerous. Outside the district center, residents say, the Taliban dominate a crucial swath of territory that straddles the main highway leading from Kabul to the eastern border with Pakistan. Villagers living in the district say the Taliban force them to feed and house insurgents, and threaten to kill them if they refuse.

Much like Nangarhar, Kapisa is connected directly to Kabul, presenting a troubling threat for the government as it struggles to safeguard the security corridor around the capital. Trouble in three districts has been the focus of a concerted American Special Forces campaign to ferret out the insurgents, who many say appear more trained and disciplined than the average Taliban.

“The command and control is incredible,” said one American Special Forces officer who has fought with his men in insurgent-controlled valleys in Kapisa. “They have found an awesome safe haven.”

The biggest fear for the province stems from Tagab and Alasay districts. Though there is an entire battalion of Afghan soldiers in the area, the vast majority of the fighting and dying are done by the police forces.

Two weeks ago, in the Askin Valley area of Alasay, insurgents surrounded a village where the local and national police had only recently taken root. Tribal and interpersonal rivalries fueled the animosity toward the police, but the consequence was clear: The government was not welcome.

An estimated 60 insurgents surrounded Askin Valley and engaged in a gunfight with about 35 local and 10 national police officers in the area, according to police officials. The two sides fought for more than a week, with coalition aircraft entering the area to offer support for the beleaguered security forces. Eventually, the police were forced to retreat, along with hundreds of villagers.

Two police officials in the area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, relayed the account. One, a local police officer, said the Taliban’s reach permeated the entire district, and the security forces were consigned to their bases, trying to stay alive.

“The Afghan security forces are controlling the bazaar for one in every 24 hours,” the commander said. “From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., the police, army and local police come out of their outposts and buy what they need, then they go back to their bases.”

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/world/asia/taliban-making-military-gains-in-afghanistan.html?_r=0

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Change Of Command

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Stars And Stripes

August 26, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Army Gen. John F. Campbell became the final commander of the NATO-led military coalition in Afghanistan during a ceremony Tuesday.

The former infantry officer and Special Forces commander takes over from Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who will become Commandant of the Marine Corps. The ceremony, at a military base in Kabul, was attended by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Campbell assumes control of the International Security Assistance Force as it finishes withdrawing from bases across the country in preparation for the end of its combat mission later this year. Close to 44,000 troops from 48 countries serve in the coalition, nearly 30,000 of them American. More than 100,000 troops were stationed in the country at the height of the coalition’s surge in 2010.

The challenges facing the general include planning for a post-2014 NATO and U.S. training and advisory role in the country. That task is complicated by the lack of formal agreements with the Afghan government and political uncertainty due a presidential election that is still undecided.

An entrenched insurgency, meanwhile, threatens stability in some parts of the country, testing the abilities of Afghan security forces, who were developed, trained and equipped by the coalition at great cost. Those forces lack many of the tools that gave ISAF the upper hand against insurgents, such as air support, medical evacuation and surveillance capabilities.

Managing dwindling troop numbers to continue to provide that assistance in the most critical areas of the country will be another test. Plans call for U.S. troop numbers to fall to 9,800 by year’s end.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged those challenges while expressing confidence in Campbell.

”John’s leadership comes at a defining moment, as Afghanistan undertakes a historic political transition, and the United States and our coalition partners transition from combat to training and support for Afghan forces,” Hagel said in a statement.

The continuing election crisis could add further complications, with some parties threatening civil unrest. On the same day Campbell assumed command, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah threatened to withdraw from the election review process unless officials meet several technical demands that could change the process.

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http://www.stripes.com/news/campbell-becomes-final-isaf-commander-1.300015

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