March 24, 2009

From the Front: 03/24/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Bad Dogs and Such: 9,000 standardized tests worth of pencils - Roughly two weeks ago, the Bossman put together a little "request for support" to Higher. "Could we get," he asked, "some CR123A batteries, some writable CDs, and perhaps some school supply type of stuff for the kiddies?" Higher sat quietly, mulling the issue over. Many requests are, of course, best handled by simply ignoring them. Some requests should be directly disputed in regards to their scope or format, then subsequently rejected. But this request...ahh...this request offered opportunities to Get Rid Of Stuff. I received an email - "Stand by to received Stuff. Coming on convoy soon. In box. Marked for you." The time came for delivery. Said box was coming on a convoy that was due in, of course, at 0130. Because this is the Army, it was also raining. SGT B and I stood outside in the mud, arms crossed, scowls n place, striking the traditional pose of the Cranky NCO. The convoy rolled in. We spied a white box of the type described. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Listening To Voices Who Know - There are many voices out there who speak a lot of hypothesis, who get visits from the Good Idea Fairy and, while well-intentioned (for the most part,) there is a lot of wandering around in circles. Some, driven by a deeply rooted defeatism or some sense of purpose leading to withdrawal, literally preach the "impossibility" of the task of succeeding in building a free Afghanistan. Many even espouse the idea that Muslims are incapable of developing and living under a representative form of government. There is little understanding of what it's like on the ground in Afghanistan. There are a million voices out there, some influential, some inconsequential, all asking to be heard. I read many who just don't get it. Some are deeply affected, educated men like Andrew Bacevich, who while an honorable man who can argue his points very well, in my opinion have lost any real concern for the outcome: (READ MORE)

Richard A. Oppel Jr.: Counterterrorism, Afghan-Style - KABUL — Pashtunistan Square should be one of the safest places in Afghanistan, abutting the high walls of the presidential palace and its watchtowers. But on Feb. 11 gunmen seized control of the Ministry of Justice, in a day which 28 people were killed across the capital. It was not the largest daily death toll in recent times. More than 50 people died last July when the Indian embassy was car bombed. But that was a single, momentary attack. The ministry building was under Taliban control for more than an hour before Afghan security forces started a serious counterattack, which was watched by three of us from The New York Times bureau in Kabul. That morning I had been out in the city with Lynsey Addario, a New York Times photographer, when she got a call from Waheed, our Afghan colleague: There was a bombing at the ministry of justice. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Un-Qualified Cole - Experts on Iraq are everywhere -- though very few know much about the subject. The mainstream media likes expertise to be delivered by people who fit a certain pattern. And that pattern excludes the Iraqi people. A media favorite is Juan Cole, who brags about his credentials today. He says he wrote his "dissertation on trans-national Shiite Islam in the modern period and had two chapters in the dissertation set among Iraqi Shiites." Two whole chapters? Wonder whether he included in those chapters Cole's absurd claim that Shiites blame Sunnis for the death of Hussein, like the Christians blame Jews for the death of Jesus. Cole boasts that he "lived in the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, which informed my researches. There are different ways of knowing. Mine is an academic way, and it has its virtues, and it is not strange that this expertise was respected by PBS." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Coalition strike kills senior Taliban leader in Helmand - Coalition forces killed a senior Taliban commander in northern Helmand along with nine of his associates during a targeted airstrike in this southern Afghan province. Maulawi Hassan and nine other Taliban fighters were killed after Coalition aircraft pounded his compound in the district of Kajaki. Hassan was "a senior insurgent figure in northern Helmand, and his influence extended into western Uruzgan," the International Security Assistance Force reported in a press release on the attack. He rose to prominence in the fall of 2008 and was "heavily involved" in the execution of suicide attacks and roadside bomb attacks. Hassan "answered to senior Taliban Mullah Rahmatullah who directs insurgent activity from outside Afghanistan," ISAF reported. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 23MAR09--Shenena - Members of my team tried an unfamiliar Arab food today called shenena (she-knee-na), which is not a food that we will be forgetting anytime soon. Shenena is made by boiling milk mixed with some 'old yogurt' (or 'lebin') on the stove for about an hour. I assume that it could be new yogurt as well. Transfer the concoction into a new container and place it in the shade for about five or six hours. Before serving, add water. The result smells like bread dough. Two members of the team (KC and Parker) expressed that the taste most closely reminds them of spoiled milk. I have to be honest, when the interpreter warns you not to drink it, you might want to listen. The Iraqi Soldier that shared the treat seemed to take the dissatisfaction with the mixture's taste well enough. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Provinces like Khost need more than just troops - Recall if you will around this time last year, when I was somewhat ruthlessly mocking Ann Marlowe for going to Khost and seeing success. She tried to play like the U.S. Army unit there knew everything it needed to, and was doing everything it needed to, to best secure some kind of peace in the area (and this was after she had expended many column inches claiming they didn’t need any help from cultural experts to do it). Having seen a tiny slice of Khost for myself, the folly of what she and other parachute columnists do and say about Afghanistan seems more obvious than ever. World Politics Review was kind enough to let me write a little bit about this: “The restrictions on movement in Khost Province make it difficult to grasp what is happening in the area. Khost Province is one of the only places in Afghanistan where there are strong enough tribal identities for a recently announced security solution — tribal militias called Arbakai — to actually work.” (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Just Another Day In Baghdad - I was finishing up briefing the Iraqi NP Major what the plan for our joint patrol would be. Nothing fancy, just getting out amongst the people to get a feel for what was going on in the area. As the interpreter was translating my concluding sentences the unmistakable rat- tat-tat of automatic gun fire shattered the pleasant afternoon air. First a three round burst, then several sustained bursts. We hop in our trucks, get a quick report over the radio and speed out the gate. After three and a half long months were finally going to get to do what we came to Iraq to do, go toe to toe with some terrorists. We sped towards where the gunfire sounded like it had come from. Maybe two hundred and fifty meters to our east tops. We didn’t see anyone initially, so we headed round a cluster of buildings looking for anything suspicious. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

Baghdad University Gets Spring Cleaning - BAGHDAD, Iraq – On the first day of spring, Baghdad University College of Agriculture in Abu Ghraib needed some cleaning. Instead of brooms and dustpans, Iraqi police and U.S. Soldiers used detection dogs, shovels and mine detectors to sweep for unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices and weapons caches March 21. In preparation for University Day, April 5, troops from 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, received reports that the area needed to be cleared before it could open its doors to the public for Baghdad University’s annual event. (READ MORE)

U.S. Government Seeks Justice in Iraqi Court - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, March 23, 2009 – U.S. Army officials filed a formal complaint March 11 in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in an effort to bring 12 suspects to justice for their roles in an ambush near Yusifiyah, Iraq. The May 12, 2007, ambush resulted in the deaths of seven American soldiers. Army Lt. Col. Richard Ruffcorn, director of intelligence and officer in charge of the 10th Mountain Division’s missing and captured operations cell, filed the complaint at the criminal court. (READ MORE)

An Enduring Partnership to Sustain the Iraqi Army - TAJI, Iraq – Partnership and sustainment are the essential elements in the Iraqi Army’s transition to a 21st century level maintenance program. “We are partners, it is in both our Nation’s best interest to ensure we train a generation of trainers to sustain the equipment,” The Deputy Commander of the Joint Headquarters Army Advisory Team Multi-National Security Transition Team-Iraq, U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven Salazar, assessed the maintenance depots in Taji, Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi leaders support their community - TUNIS, Iraq – Several Iraqi government officials participated in dedication ceremonies celebrating the expansion of Al-Taif Primary School and renovation of the Tunis Tech Water Treatment Facility in Tunis March 19. Shuail Al-Reda Hamid, a Hilla Provincial Council member, Brigadier Gen. Hamed Abbas, Chief of the Mahawil Iraqi Police station and Maj. Ahmed Kadhum, Chief of the Tunis IP station, helped to organize and distribute donated school supplies for the children of the newly renovated and expanded school following the dedication ceremony. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Sergeant Major Council Formed at Taji - TAJI, Iraq – The Taji Sergeant Major Council held their inaugural meeting at the Camp Taji Military Base on March 16, 2009. The event was hosted by the Taji Sergeants Major and included speeches by Location Command Staff Brig. Gen. Sabah, and Command Sgt. Maj. of the Iraqi Army Adel. The council’s constitution was read and signed by the members and Sabah. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police, U.S. Soldiers Sweep University for Unexploded Ordnance - BAGHDAD — On the first day of spring, Baghdad University College of Agriculture in Abu Ghraib needed some cleaning. Instead of brooms and dustpans, Iraqi Police and U.S. Soldiers used detection dogs, shovels and mine detectors to sweep for unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices and weapons caches March 21. In preparation for University Day, April 5, troops from 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, received reports that the area needed to be cleared before it could open its doors to the public for Baghdad University’s annual event. (READ MORE)

Marine Sees Ultrasound via Video Feed - AL ASAD AIR BASE — On the monitor is a smiling woman, happy to see her husband in such clarity and to hear his voice without the fear of losing the phone signal. The doctor’s office she is in is full of people with the occasional glimpse of family members and a local news agency’s cameraman in the background. Watching the excitement live, thousands of miles away, is a Marine, her husband, currently deployed to Iraq and waiting to hear the word … boy or girl. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
U.S., French Team Up to Offer Artillery Training to Afghan Soldiers - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 23, 2009 – Artillerymen from France and the United States teamed up to teach their Afghan counterparts how to operate American artillery weapons March 14 at Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan. Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, and French soldiers from the 35th Airborne Artillery taught the course. (READ MORE)

Afghans Must Be ‘Center of Gravity’ in U.S. Strategy for Afghanistan, Mullen Says - WASHINGTON, March 23, 2009 – The U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan must “put the Afghan people at the center,” as the United States and coalition provide them the support they need to build their country, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during a Pentagon Channel podcast interview he applauds the comprehensive strategy review under way and expects it to wrap up “in the next week or two at most.” (READ MORE)

Coalition, Afghan Forces Kill Six, Detain 14 in Afghanistan Operations - WASHINGTON, March 23, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces have killed six enemy fighters and detained 14 others in operations in Afghanistan in recent days, military officials reported. This morning, combined forces detained three suspects during an operation to disrupt a bomb-making network in eastern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

NATO: Taliban commander among 10 killed in strike - KABUL (Map, News) - NATO troops killed a senior Taliban commander and nine other militants in southern Afghanistan, officials said Monday, striking a blow in the group's heartland where the U.S. plans to send thousands of additional troops to stem the growing violence. Over a dozen Afghan and coalition forces have been killed in the south in recent days, including eight Afghan police who were killed by Taliban fighters Monday in the Kandahar province. (READ MORE)

UNSC extends Afghan mission for another year - The United Nations Security Council Monday renewed the mandate of its mission in Afghanistan for another year, emphasising its 'central and impartial role' in building peace and stability in the troubled nation. The mission, with 115 international and more than 300 local staff, will lead international efforts to assist the government in Kabul, including the organization of general elections in August. (READ MORE)

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