May 22, 2008

From the Front: 05/22/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
IraqPundit: Spinning Mookie - Imagine how positive events must be in Sadr City when both WaPo and the NYT say so, however reluctantly. "Iraqi soldiers moved unhindered through Baghdad's vast Sadr City district on Wednesday," says WaPo, "as Shiite militiamen who have long controlled the area faded from view and schools and businesses began to reopen after weeks of strife." WaPo thinks the hero of the events is not the Iraqi army, but Mookie himself: "Sadrist officials negotiated the entry of Iraqi troops, apparently winning agreement that U.S. forces would stay out."Come on. Isn't it everyone's goal that Iraqi troops take responsibility for security? (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (22 May) - The Good: 11 militia thugs tried to take on U.S. forces near Sadr City...and they got dead. The temporary head of CENTCOM, LTG Dempsey, said Al-Qaeda in Iraq is at it's weakest due to the counter-insurgency strategy, the rise of the Sahwa councils, and improved Iraqi Security Forces. This comes at a time when attacks in Mosul are down a stunning 85% due to the recent Iraqi-led offensive. Also, Sadr City remains calm during the Iraqi-led Operation Salam. General Petraeus has called for diplomacy with Iran and utilizing the military as a "last resort" against the Islamic nation. This is certain to throw a monkey wrench into the McCain-Obama foreign policy square-off. The NY Times has a great write-up about the one and only Iraqi metal band, Acrassicauda. Is headbanging the best path towards reconciliation and an end to the bloodshed? I think so! The Prime Minister is meeting with the tremendously influential Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf today. (READ MORE)

Alexandra Zavi: Should the man responsible for an archbishop's death hang? - The sentencing of a fugitive Al Qaeda in Iraq leader to hang for the slaying of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho has drawn mixed responses in Iraq. The U.S. Embassy and U.S.-led military force praised Iraqi authorities Sunday for bringing to justice the person responsible for the kidnapping and death of the archbishop in the northern city of Mosul more than two months ago. But today, Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk protested the sentence, saying, "Christianity is the religion of tolerance." Sako was troubled by the government's failure to release details of the investigation that led to the conviction of Ahmed Ali Ahmed, also known as Abu Omar. (READ MORE)

False Motivation: Peek-A-Boo - Yea, me being online, or making phone calls has been like a big game of "peek-a-boo" as we near the end of this deployment. Let's just say I have less than a week to go here, and there's nothing left to we're switching back to garrison mode. I hate this. Sure, I'm not a big fan of Iraq; this country sucks, and deployments suck too. Even though neither are fun, there's a bit of freedom in them from Garrison life. Now they're wanting our personal ao's dress right dress, and we're having tent inspections and gear inspections every day (or every other day). It's almost enough to make me want to put my kit back on and head back out into sector. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: This is cordon and knock in Tikrit - This is a cordon-and-knock in Tikrit, Sadaam’s old hometown and ironically the same kind of technique that led to his capture some miles away. Also known as cordon-and-search, soldiers enter houses in urban areas to search for weapon caches or high-value targets. But the typical cordon-and-knock operation seems to have adapted as the violence here has lulled. It's a far cry from the bang-down, drag-out it was even a few months ago, even though raids still happen. But tonight it's more like the Army’s version of meet and greet. Alpha Company STB of the 1/101st are old hands at this. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani government inks peace deal with Swat Taliban - The Pakistani government has signed another peace agreement with the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier province. After striking a deal with a banned radical Taliban outfit in the Bajaur region, a peace agreement has been signed with Mullah Fazlullah's Taliban faction in the settled districts of Swat and Malakand. The peace deal in Swat and Malakand comes after several rounds of negotiations. A fifteen-point agreement was signed with representatives of the Northwest Frontier Province and representatives of Fazlullah’s Taliban. The major points of the agreement are as follows: (READ MORE)

David Wood: Marine Sergeant Bee takes a bow - The other day I posted a dramatic photo of a Marine from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, ducking away from a round fired by insurgents in Garmsir, southern Afghanistan. Neither I nor the Reuters photographer, Goran Tomasevic, could identify the Marine. He is Sgt. Willliam Bee, "Billy" to his wife, Bobbie, with whom I spoke by phone a few minutes ago. The photo was shot Saturday. I posted it on the blog Monday morning and when Bobbie checked it as she does religiously, "There was my husband's mug!'' Her first reaction? "I thought I was going to go into labor," says Bobbie, who expects to deliver baby boy Ethan, their first, in July. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
Damien Cave: Fitting In After Iraq - Miami is as green as Baghdad is beige, and the differences do not end with colors. Only a few days earlier, my wife and I were riding in an armored car to Baghdad International Airport, watching the blast walls go by from the back seat, praying for nothing to happen. Then, almost too quickly, we’re here in America, alone again, in Miami, hearing Spanish, not Arabic — and I’m actually driving. It scares me. It’s been more than a year since I’ve been behind the wheel and as I merge onto the highway in a rented convertible, I suddenly feel vulnerable. Where are my guards? My drivers? My translators? Is it really safe to be driving with the top down? (READ MORE)

Heading out:
Big Tobacco: The Hard Eight - I smoked a Fincks Maravilloso while composing this. “We should go to Atlantic City,” my brother says as he sits on my porch while I finish painting. It’s 11AM and I’ve only finished painting one shutter. I have to get this painting project done before my deployment. I’ve already put off painting the house shutters for a year and if I return form Iraq without any hands, that will be another excuse not to paint. “I don’t know, Bitchzilla [OPSEC] will kill me,” I say, referring to my wife. “You two already hate each other,” my brother says in his impeccable 29 year old bachelor logic. “What is she going to do, hate you more? Let’s go to Atlantic City and play craps.” Superman had his kryptonite. I have the pass line. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

IA Soldiers find weapons cache, munitions in Sadr City - BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers found a substantial weapons cache and other munitions in Sadr City as Operation Peace continued May 21. At approximately 9:30 a.m., IA Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 49th Brigade, 9th IA Division, seized four Katusha rockets. IA Soldiers from the 3rd Bn., 49th Bde., while conducting a dismounted patrol near the Al Sadr Hospital, discovered a sizable cache, which consisted of more than 50 various mortar rounds, 49 rocket-propelled grenades, 66 hand grenades, seven RPG launchers, a machine gun, four Katusha rocket sleds, various mortar tubes, an 82 mm mortar base, a recoilless rocket launching tube, four explosively-formed projectile plates, hundreds of small-arms rounds, two detonators, a kilogram of TNT, various lengths of metal tubing and assorted fuzes, flares and mines. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers take deadly weapons off streets of Baghdad - BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers discovered weapons caches and prevented a potential deadly attack May 21 in Baghdad. Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, found a weapons cache at approximately 12:05 p.m. in the Kamaliya area of New Baghdad. Soldiers discovered 16 mortar charges; 26 shotgun shells; a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher scope; an RPG round and 35, 5.56mm rounds. (READ MORE)

Air assault mission disrupts terrorist activity, establishes relationships with Iraqi citizens - Kirkuk, Iraq – Soldiers with the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, conducted an air assault mission May 11-13 designed to disrupt terrorist activity and establish relationships with local citizens. Working alongside members of the Iraqi Army, the 1st Bde., 10th Mtn. Div. Soldiers cordoned the village of Garhaf Gharzan, located in the Kirkuk Province of northeastern Iraq, and began thorough searches for weapons and terrorist activity while consulting with the local citizens for any information they were willing to give. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture two wanted men in northern Iraq - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces targeted al-Qaeda terrorists in northern Iraq during operations Thursday, detaining eight suspected terrorists. Coalition forces captured a suspected foreign terrorist facilitator near Sinjar, about 115 kilometers west of Mosul. It was believed the suspect housed foreign terrorists and worked with suicide bombers, once captured he admitted to associating with an alleged senior terrorist facilitator. One additional suspected terrorist was detained during the operation. (READ MORE)

Security improves in Ninawa - TIKRIT, Iraq – Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of Task Force Iron and Multi-National Division-North, spoke at a press conference about the positive outcomes of the Iraqi-led and Coalition-supported operations focused on al-Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist threats in the Ninawa province May 21. The operations in Ninawa are focused on eliminating terrorists who attack and inhibit improved security. The goals of the operations are to return normalcy to the citizens of Iraq and reestablish a safe environment for them. (READ MORE)

Basra is now new city of hope - BASRA, Iraq – A sense of calm prevails in Basra as Iraqi forces continue to walk the streets. Since the beginning of Operation Charge of the Knights March 25, citizens have embraced the Iraqi Army presence as humanitarian assistance continues along side its clean-up and reconstruction efforts. Since the initial push to rid the region of criminal elements, searches have resulted in the discovery of more than 2,700 mortar rounds, 650 rockets, ten surface to air missiles, 130 rocket propelled grenade rounds, and 160 rocket propelled grenade launchers. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces pressure al-Qaeda detaining 2 wanted men, 28 other terrorist suspects - BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces killed six terrorists, detained two wanted individuals and detained 28 other suspected terrorists during operations conducted throughout Iraq Wednesday. Two civilians were also killed during the operations. Reports indicate while targeting members of a bombing network that operates in the Tigris River Valley, Coalition forces detained 13 suspected terrorists Wednesday. In a related operation near Bayji, located approximately 160 km south of Mosul, Coalition forces observed two individuals hiding weapons in a mud hut. The individuals drove away but were detained by Coalition forces. After detaining the individuals, Coalition forces returned to the mud hut to retrieve the weapons cache and were attacked by two terrorists throwing grenades. Coalition forces returned fire and the terrorists killed themselves by detonating suicide vests. (READ MORE)

Baqubah Special Weapons and Tactics team captures 15 terrorists, detains 14 - BALAD, Iraq – An Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics team captured 15 suspected terrorists and detained 14 others in the al-Naghar village of Baqubah, approximately 50 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, May 20. Baquba ISWAT conducted the operation to capture cell leaders and members of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq. A leader of an AQI intelligence cell and four cell members were among those captured. Numerous other fighters and support personnel were detained including an ISI leader from the Mullah Eid area. (READ MORE)

Sayafiyah celebrates change - FOB KALSU – After nearly three months of reconstruction, Sayafiyah residents celebrated the simultaneous openings of the Sayafiyah Governance Center, Veterinary Clinic and Health Clinic May 20. “This is their day,” said Capt. Joe Johnson, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. All three of the projects were a result of teamwork between Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and the civilian population. (READ MORE)

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