March 26, 2009

From the Front: 03/26/2009

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

Bouhammer: A Big Mistake by the President - Obama considers reaching out to Taliban ‘moderates? Whomever is advising the President needs to understand the mindset and culture of the Muslim faith and more importantly the radical Muslims like the Taliban. Even more importantly, if the President is not seeking advice and saying these things without guidance, he needs to be quiet until he is told what to say. There is no such thing as a “moderate” Taliban. There is only one type of Taliban. A true Taliban is one that supports the mindset and teachings of Mullah Omar and him only. The Taliban do not necessarily support Osama Bin Laden, as he is a guest of the Taliban. Taliban believe in an extreme version of Islam that mandates no progress for women, extreme punishment, extreme Sharia law, etc. Anything less than that is just an Afghan. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Convoy Training--Age Shows After it's Over - Sometimes I feel good about my ability to keep up with the 20- and 30-year-olds. Then reality shows itself on the smiling face of a 20-year-old who is in shape. On the first day of convoy training, we did not do anything particularly strenuous. Mostly, we stood outside wearing more than 40 pounds of Kevlar vest and helmet, gas mask, weapon, and a Camel Back and walked about a mile. But it was a hot day, we were out in the sun and a 25mph wind in the afternoon. After the first day of convoy training ended, two soldiers went running. Me and the guy who used me to wipe up some of the dirt in the field where we did Combatives (hand-to-hand combat) last May. I was so sore and tired I ran three minutes slower than Saturday for the fast two miles of a three-mile run. The 22-year-old's time was also off. He was 30 seconds slower than his last run, but he thought it might be the course. He ran two miles in just over 12 minutes. He could have run three miles and beat my two-mile time. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Tampering - The latest news about an "initiative" to "install" a Prime Minister in Afghanistan to "counter" Afghan President Hamid Karzai does not bode well, and is not what was expected from this administration. For an administration whose campaign rhetoric seemed to flow against foreign interventionism, it is an astounding thought that it would consider interfering in the internal workings of Afghanistan to this extent. Now, Hamid Karzai has often spoken about ISAF and civilian casualties (of which there were two more yesterday,) even threatening at one point to commit national suicide by asking NATO to leave the country. Between that and completely failing to stem corruption in the Afghan government, there have been many calls to forcibly remove Karzai from power. This would be a tremendous mistake. (READ MORE)

David Chung: An American Tourist in Iraq - My Vacation Pictures: “If It’s Ctuesday, This Must Be Ctesiphon.” - BAGHDAD — What is it like to travel in Iraq? What are the people like? What kind of things would you see or do? I guess I wanted to know answers for myself, and the only way to truly find out is to go see it for myself. I’ve always questioned what is “served up” to me by the media. Ever suspicious about what I see or read, I like to seek the so-called “ground truth.” Well, there’s no better place to do that than Iraq. With improved security in 2008, the Iraqi Tourism Board decided it was ready to receive its first group of Western tourists. Hinterland Travel would pull together the travelers for this inaugural journey. Geoff Hann, the managing director of Hinterland was our tour leader. He’s an expert on Iraq, having visited this country at least 40 times in the last 30 years under different regimes. In early March 2009, our group of eight people of mixed nationalities embarked on a 17 day tour of Iraq. (READ MORE)

SGT Kellena Leech: Guess Who’s coming for Dinner: 2! - THE RESULTS ARE IN!!! Thanks to SPC Hope, Mr. Cat is pleased to announce his new “American” name: Kamar . Kamar, which is Arabic for moon, is a yellow-haired tabby cat who still joins me most evenings for dinner. SPC Hope suggested the name because of Kamar’s “moonlight visits” to my office. But (duh duh duhnnnn,) the saga continues. All my life I’ve always had cats around. My mom, my sisters & I could narrate the never-ending soap opera with them over the years. It all started with my grandmother’s cat Jane, then our adopted tabby Donovan (who died of a heart attack in 95,) then my teenage best friends Yogi & Scari, who dated & produced generations leading to the present man of the house, Bud (who is currently dating a younger woman who just had babies.) (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US places bounty on senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders - The US Department of State has issued multi-million dollar rewards for two senior Taliban leaders and an al Qaeda leader and propagandist. Up to $5 million dollars has been offered "for information leading to the location and/or capture" of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud or Taliban and al Qaeda ally Sirajuddin Haqqani. A $1 million bounty has been offered for information leading to the capture or conviction of al Qaeda propagandist and ideologue Abu Yahya al Libi. Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan's most powerful Taliban commander: Baitullah Mehsud is the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the unified command of scores of local Taliban fighters throughout the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. He has also joined hands with North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and South Waziristan leaders Mullah Nazir and formed the Council of United Mujahideen. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke – My Point of View: VBC Service Members Invest Time, Effort to Bring Back Scout Program - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - After Iraq embraced the scouting movement during the British occupation in 1921, its Boy Scout and Girl Guide program became a member of the World Organization Scouting Movement. Due to war and instability, it has been decertified twice by the World Organization Scouting Movement. Improvements in security have led to a resurgence of scouting thanks to a group of dedicated service members. That group, called the Victory Base Council, is working to get the adults of Iraq to become more involved and, very soon, take over the program they’ve began to build toward recertification. Since the Victory Base Council established a scout camp and community center here in April 2008, up to 150 service members have come together each Saturday to teach valuable scouting lessons and implement new sporting activities to the area’s youth. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Lack of violence over Afghan vote puzzles diplomats - Taliban vows to attack during process have so far gone unfulfilled: Canadian diplomats are surprised and puzzled by the lack of Taliban attacks during the just completed voter registration process in the volatile Kandahar region in the south of Afghanistan. "On the whole it was very successful ... It went far better than we expected," said Ken Lewis, Canada's senior diplomatic representative in this war-ravaged province, which is home to nearly 3,000 Canadian troops. "In the south, there were almost no direct attacks on the process." Asked why the Taliban, which has condemned the elections and vowed to attack them, had not interfered, Lewis said: "I don't know why. It could be that they simply didn't have the horses on the ground to make a direct attack. Then again, the IED fellows have been very active over the winter and there weren't any IED strikes against the registration process. So, it is puzzling." (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Basra, Open for Business - My new home is Basra, Iraq. I’m done with Baghdad and will probably never go back. That’s too bad because I’m sure it’s a beautiful city. All I know of the town is some of Saddam’s crappy little “palaces,” some four-foot lakes and various Army chow halls. It was neither heaven nor Iowa, it was the Victory Base Complex. I got here a couple of days before the Sorority Soldier started her grand adventure to take over Hollywood. I’ve been working on a story, helping set-up some of the new division building and of course working on a satellite dish. Being quasi-tech savvy is not too bad of a trait. It only really comes in handy when the wife can’t get on the internet, my stupid blog site goes down, or when a clock needs to be set. Otherwise, I’m helping people install network printers and figuring out why their streaming audio won’t work. Basra is a little different than the VBC. Currently the British run the base. They have five chow halls and they all serve British food. It’s not all that bad when they don’t overcook it. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi kids receive new wheelchairs - BAGHDAD – Eighty-two Iraqi kids found a new reason to smile, thanks to efforts from Iraqi National Police officers and U.S. Paratroopers in the Rusafa district of Baghdad March 23. Dubbed Operation Enhanced Mobility, officers from 2nd NP Division and Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division presented the new wheelchairs to disabled children during a humanitarian effort in the northeast section of the city. (READ MORE)

IA, MiTT members bring hope to al-Shaab - BAGHDAD – Women draped in traditional Iraqi ‘abaiah dress peered from behind the make-shift, gated entries to their homes, as barefooted children pushed by to offer a smile and high spirited wave to the Soldiers arriving with much needed medical supplies for the populous of the small al-Shaab community in northeastern Baghdad March 19. This joint humanitarian aid mission, held by Soldiers of the 11th Iraqi Army Division and their U.S. Military Transition Team partners, was the first glimpse of government assistance for some residents of this poverty stricken neighborhood in the Adhamiyah district. (READ MORE)

Building education for the future of Iraq - KARBALA, Iraq – The walls look like they might crumble at any second. The classrooms are crowded wall-to-wall with students, some of whom are without a desk. These are the conditions of many schools in Iraq. But projects all over the country are under way to provide a bright future for Iraq’s education system. (READ MORE)

Iraqis clean canals for improved water distribution - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Local Iraqis are cleaning the 250-kilometer Hahwar canal system to improve the distribution of water from the Tigris River to southwest Wasit Province. The canal system provides water to 240,000 donums (59,000 acres) of crop land, roughly 10 percent of the arable land in Wasit, which is home to over 2,000 farmers. (READ MORE)

Joint Iraqi cordon, search operation results in 13 detainees - TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Army and Mosul Special Weapons and Tactics, with Coalition forces advisors, detained 13 suspected terrorists near Ashurah, Iraq, during an Iraqi-planned and led operation in the Ninewah Province, March 19. "This operation put the Iraqi Army in charge of developing an operation in an attempt to disrupt terrorist support near Ashurah,” said a Coalition forces advisor. “The units performed very well.” (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army finds two weapons caches near Karmah - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Iraqi Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, partnered with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, discovered two weapons caches in the Karmah region during a cache sweep March 21. The cache sites yielded more than 50 rockets, 10 gas masks and more than 1,200 rounds of 14.5mm ammunition. (READ MORE)

Iraq Violence Continues to Ebb as Security Improves, General Says - WASHINGTON — The amount of insurgent- and crime-related violence in Iraq continues to drop as security improves, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters at a Baghdad news conference today. "Some significant improvement has taken place across the board" with regard to security operations and levels of violence in Iraq, said Army Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, director for Strategic Effects at Multi-National Force - Iraq. (READ MORE)

Chinook Makes First Overnight U.S. Ship Visit to Iraq - UMM QASR, Iraq, March 25, 2009 – USS Chinook departed here today marking the first overnight port visit to Iraq by a U.S. ship. “The U.S. Navy has operated in the region for more than 60 years, and Chinook’s visit marks the first time a U.S. ship has remained overnight in Iraq; that’s extremely significant,” Navy Rear Adm. Thomas A. Cropper, deputy commander for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said. “Chinook’s visit exemplifies the great confidence we have in our Iraqi partners and reflects the excellent improvements in security that they have achieved. (READ MORE)

Washington Guard NCO Takes Leadership on the Road - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq, March 25, 2009 – For one Washington Army National Guard soldier, the leadership of a noncommissioned officer can be measured in the miles and missions his more than 1,100 citizen-soldiers drive from here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Army Command Sgt. Maj. David Windham is the senior enlisted leader of the 81st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment. The regiment provides convoy security missions in Iraq and has logged more than 500,000 miles since their arrival here last October. (READ MORE)

U.S. Consulting Closely With NATO Allies on Afghan Strategy Review - WASHINGTON, March 25, 2009 – The United States has been in close consultation with NATO allies as it completes an evaluation of the strategy in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said today. After a meeting at the White House with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the president said the United States expects to share its analysis with alliance counterparts. A defense official this month said the review is likely to be distributed among allies ahead of the NATO summit in early April. (READ MORE)

Gates, Australian Prime Minister Focus on Afghan-Pakistan Issues - WASHINGTON, March 25, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates hosted Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the Pentagon today as the two discussed the mission in Afghanistan and the importance of Australia’s support there, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today. Gates and Rudd talked “at length” about the situation in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan, Morrell said. The conversation extended to President Barack Obama’s policy review for both countries, the results of which are expected to be announced within days. (READ MORE)

Police Arrest Taliban Commanders in Southern Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan, March 25, 2009 – Afghan National Police arrested two Taliban commanders and three other militants in southern Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province March 22, military officials reported today. Villagers in Kandahar province notified Afghan National Police on March 21 that Qari Azizullah, Taliban district commander in Khas Oruzgan, and Mullah Hamidullah, a Khas Oruzgan Taliban district sub-commander, were on their way back to Khas Oruzgan following a trip to Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan bomb kills 10 civilians - KABUL (AP) — A roadside bomb killed 10 civilians in a van along a route used by foreign troops in eastern Afghanistan while another wounded three Australian troops — highlighting a tactic increasingly favored by Taliban militants. The roadside bombings Tuesday and Wednesday show the dangers that will be faced by the additional 17,000 U.S. troops that President Barack Obama has pledged to send to Afghanistan this year to battle resurgent Taliban militants in the country's south. (READ MORE)

Number of students in Afghan schools continues to climb - KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Schools have been burned, students threatened and girls doused with acid. But even as learning to read becomes a more dangerous proposition, the number of children attending school in Kandahar is climbing. Hajim Anwar, director of education in this province where Canadian troops are stationed, said the success is a tribute to the resolve of parents who want better lives for their children. (READ MORE)

Ban appoints U.S. negotiations expert as new envoy in Afghanistan - UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has appointed Peter W. Galbraith, a veteran negotiations expert from the United States, as deputy UN special representatives for Afghanistan, Ban's spokesperson announced on Wednesday. Galbraith,59, will be responsible for political issues, including electoral and parliamentary matters, as well as those related to peace and stability, security sector reform and human rights. (READ MORE)

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