March 12, 2009

From the Front: 03/12/2009

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

Michael Yon: The Pathetic Afghan Army & Will Obama Fumble Iraq? - The disconnect between reporting and reality on Iraq was dramatic during 2005. Media stories about the incompetence and hopelessness of the Iraqi army and police were like the soup of the day, every day. Yet month by month, before my eyes, Iraqi security forces were improving. Reporting this truth earned the label of “stooge,” because the soup of the day was Failure. Millions of Americans and Europeans apparently wanted Iraqis to suffer because those same Americans and Europeans seemed to hate George Bush. Today Iraq is succeeding, but as Generals Petraeus or Odierno might say, the situation remains fragile and reversible. Whereas the Bush-war ended in a new if messy democracy, this year we could see an Obama-war begin; the new President has sent a clear signal that we intend to mostly abandon Iraq during this crucial transition period. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Close Gitmo NOW, and here is how - The other day as Scott and I were driving somewhere we got to talking about how the American people are purely ignorant as to what is happening in Gitmo and how awesome it would be to do a story about what really happens down there. See the liberal left would have you believe that we torture and abuse prisoners there, when in fact it is the other way around. These guys are given more opportunities to practice their faith, they eat better, are kept cleaner and overall have a much better view than they do back in their home countries. Instead of white man-jammies they wear orange jumpsuits. Instead of beating and abusing their wives and kids, they abuse American men and women who serve our country. Men and women who are quickly punished and have their careers ruined if they retaliate. How would you like it if you are bringing very nutritional and faith-correct meals to someone every day and they spit at you, try to choke you, punch at you, save up and throw every bodily fluid and substance imaginable on you? (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Finding Jon Stiles - I started this blog to capture, and share, my experiences related to this war. Somewhere, this thing took on a life of its own, and it has become many things. Some have followed this since fairly early on, and back when I first started writing it, it was all about experiences, feelings, perceptions... the stuff that one man feels as he goes through playing his small part. This blog has changed. After returning home, I didn't know what to do with it or even if I should keep writing. Describing this process to a university professor who uses it in her classroom for some of her assignments to journalism students, I had to find my "post-deployment voice." She thought that a very apt phrase, and expressed her disappointment that some never do. I have turned to a very different type of writing. I have been sharing what I see with my changed eyes; the way that I view the war, what is said and written about it, and what I see concerning our successes and, all too often, our challenges to being successful. It has become something different. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: Now Why Don’t He Write..? - It’s funny, if you think about it… Haven’t heard anything from the ol’ Gun Line? That’s because nothing has happened! Think about it. A war zone.. And there’s nothing to report… Yes, yes, I know - I couldn’t report it if there were anything to report. Well, that’s not true. I could say that something happened - I just couldn’t tell you what… But, no, nothing has happened that I can’t tell you about… So, in light of the like of anything exciting happening, let me tell you of the mundane: (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: A new Christmas tradition? - This morning I was talking to some soldiers from another unit here in Baghdad, and the conversation turned to what we would do when we returned home late this year. One of the soldiers mentioned what she wanted to do during Christmas, and immediately my “stream of consciousness” brain threw something at me. I started to laugh, and the soldier asked me what was so funny. I told her this story about Christmas — and I swear it is true. About 10 years ago I was assigned to the 89th Regional Support Command in Wichita, Kansas. I worked as the lone full-time soldier in the 203rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, so I was part of the annual family Christmas party planning committee. Every year, one of the staff sections was responsible for taking the lead for the party, and this year it was the Drug Demand Reduction staff that carried the torch. (READ MORE)

Dum Spiro Spero: The Slain Soldier of Salah Ad-Din - “Also on Saturday, a U.S. soldier was killed during an attack on an American patrol in Salaheddin province in northern Iraq, the U.S. military announced. It was only the third combat fatality suffered by U.S. forces in Iraq this month.” This is an excerpt from a Reuters report dated Sunday March 8. The soldier’s death was the reason why our one + hour flight from Baghdad to Kuwait ended up taking four and one half hours. I had been put on board a C-130 flight ten hours ahead of the one I had been scheduled to take. There was going to be a safety review of C-130s the next day, March 8, and the forecast was for dust storm, which can sometimes even ground a C-130, so the Air Ops office put me on board an 11pm flight ahead of the safety review and dust storm. About one-half hour into the flight to Kuwait, the plane banked, and I suspected that we were being diverted. We found out 20 mins later that we were to land at Camp Spyker in Salah Ad-Din Province to pick up the coffin with the dead soldier mentioned in the article above. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Bomber's Message - Have a look at the media's explanation of yesterday's bomb attack. Few would welcome the news of the murders, but some appear to delight in the news and have managed to put their spin on the attacks. WaPo says it probably signals a return to the worst days of Iraq: "In some ways, the attacks are reminiscent of an earlier stage of the insurgency, before the sectarian war was ignited in 2006, when assailants carried out bombings as spectacles intended to magnify the sense of U.S. failure. Then, as now, the carnage sent a message that no efforts, American or Iraqi, could restore a sense of the ordinary." In other words, Iraqis are determined to kill each other. The NYT suggests that maybe the Sunni tribes, ex-Baathists, and al-Qaeda are uniting. This would mean Thomas Ricks's dream of another Saddam rising to take over Iraq would come true. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: New Bajaur peace deal identical to failed 2007 agreement - The Pakistani government and one of the three major tribes in the Bajaur tribal agency have signed a 28-point peace agreement to end the Taliban insurgency in the tribal area. The agreement mirrors a deal reached in 2007 that failed to quell the Taliban insurgency and helped the group solidify control in Bajaur. The peace agreement was signed by tribal elders from the Mamond and representatives of the provincial governemnt of the Northwest Frontier Province. The agreement was signed just weeks after military claimed the Taliban were defeated in Bajaur. The military said the eight-month-long operation in Bajaur had resulted in the expulsion of the Taliban and forced them to come to terms. The agreement calls for the Taliban to end fighting, lay down weapons, and surrender its senior leaders, including Faqir Mohammed, who would later be pardoned. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: At Home - I was driving down the highway the other day heading into Asheville. Now think about what has gone into this statement. There is, in fact, a road there. It was carefully planned between many national, state, and local agencies. The land was acquired and paid for through procedures worked out over a couple hundred years. A contract was awarded in a competitive bidding process. Funds were identified and spent in an open and transparent manner. The contractors had years of experience in building roads and bridges and built this particular road to modern standards. It is maintained to modern standards as well: patched, repainted, and resurfaced as needed. It's smooth and open, and anybody can drive on it, any time of the day or night. This doesn't happen in Iraq. Local, provincial, and national agencies don't work well together. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: ETT: Mutt Soldiers - mutt (noun)- a dog, especially a mongrel - I’m a mutt soldier. No if, ands or buts about it. I’m definitely a cross of breeds and variety. Before I get to my explanation let me illuminate how I arrived at this conclusion. Which by the way was inevitable. I’ll explain that too. Recently, I spent some time reading through the past posts of two of my favorite blogs. Both of whom happen to be former ETTs, not that I’m biased. Bouhammer and Bill and Bob’s Excellent Afghan Adventure. A normal blogger would insert a hyper link here to those blogs but I will probably screw that up crashing this post and pissing myself off. So check them out on my blogroll, I highly recommend them, you won’t be sorry and you’ll see what I’m talking about. But I digress. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

'Good medicine, bad places' - A memorial service for the 210 U.S. medics, corpsmen, doctors and nurses killed in Iraq and Afghanistan was held Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery. "Their motto was 'good medicine, bad places,' " Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant Defense secretary for health affairs, told a gathering at the first Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel. "When it mattered most, they answered the call." (READ MORE)

Diwaniyah welcomes new Primary Healthcare Center - DIWANIYAH, Iraq – Local townspeople, Iraqi and American officials joined together March 8 to mark the opening of the new Al Jumhoury Primary Healthcare Clinic in Diwaniyah. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dr. Abdulameer al-Obaidy, Diwaniyah’s director general of health, thanked the local Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division (GRD), and the Iraqi contractor for their efforts in building such a quality facility. (READ MORE)

Sons of Iraq transfer nears completion; focus shifts to job creation - BAGHDAD – The Government of Iraq is preparing to take control of the remaining Sons of Iraq members from coalition forces, and efforts to transition the group’s members into new government jobs are accelerating, Coalition authorities say. “Now that we’ve got the transfers nearly complete, we are turning our focus to the transition of SOI into jobs,” said Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, chief of reconciliation, Multi-National Corps – Iraq. (READ MORE)

Saqlawiya Provisional Security Forces find multiple caches - AL ASAD AIRBASE, Iraq – Saqlawiya Provisional Security Forces discovered multiple weapon caches during a two-day, partnered cache sweep northwest of Fallujah with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, March 8 and 9. The eight total cache sites yielded 165 grenades and rockets, nearly 40 mortar rounds, 14 artillery rounds, several hundred rounds of small arms and anti-aircraft ammunition, more than 225 pounds of rocket propellant and explosives, various weapons accessories, and a large stockpile of components normally used to create roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices. (READ MORE)

U.S. military makes last payment to Sons of Iraq - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – More than a thousand Iraqis stand patiently outside of a gated compound. Three neatly aligned tables are set up inside the gates. Each table is manned by both Iraqi Army and U.S. Soldiers. Large stacks of Iraqi money rest on the tables awaiting the hands of the hard-working members of the Sons of Iraq. This was the sight in the city of Sudayra in the province of Kirkuk, Iraq, March 2, where the U.S. military made its last payment to the members of the SoI. (READ MORE)

IA mission finds caches, known bomb maker - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – Iraqi and Coalition forces detained a known bomb maker and discovered hidden weapons in the village of Murbat-Garha March 7. Operation Dark Horse Cossack was executed by Soldiers from the 12th IA Division and the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Another Kirkuk weapons cache discovered - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Iraq – A team of Iraqi and U.S. Army Soldiers discovered a weapons cache near the village of Thalaw, March 6. This was the second cache discovered in Kirkuk in less than a week. The weapons cache included grenades, rockets, 82mm and 60mm mortars, a machine gun, a rocket propelled grenade launcher and various types of small arms ammunition. The cache was safely disposed of by a joint Iraqi and U.S. Army explosive ordinance detachment team. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces Secure Abandoned Village - FATMIYA — An abandoned village once inhabited by Iraqi nationals, young and old alike, this village now stands alone; desolate and empty of life except for Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. troops passing through every so often. “Several weeks back we cleared this village, Fatmiya, which is a suspected al-Qaida cell of snipers and IED [improvised explosive device] emplacements,” said 1st Lt. John Belle, 172nd Infantry Brigade. (READ MORE)

Rusafa Celebrates School Renovation - MUSTANSIRYA — District leaders, school administrators, Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad paratroopers celebrated the completion of a school renovation in the Rusafa District of eastern Baghdad, March 3. Faysal Jasim Mohammad, Rusafa deputy District Council chairman, along with Moutasam Kindergarten officials, commemorated the reopening of their school with a festive party. Mohammad cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially reopen the school. (READ MORE)

Face of Defense: Army Chaplains Help to Build Faith, Chapel in Iraq - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HUNTER, Iraq, March 11, 2009 – Two Army chaplains are building much more than the faith of their soldiers on this remote base near the southeastern border of Iraq. Chaplain (Capt.) Colt Randles and Chaplain (Capt.) Michael Roberts of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team are building a chapel for soldiers here, one board at a time. (READ MORE)

U.S. Supports Afghan-Taliban Reconciliation, With Caveats - WASHINGTON, March 11, 2009 – The United States “is fully supportive” of the Afghan government’s attempts to reconcile with Taliban members, as long as the Taliban accept the will of the people who elected that government, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today. “There has to be a willingness to work with the government, to respect the government, to turn your arms away from Afghan national security forces and [International Security Assistance Force] forces and U.S. forces that are there,” Morrell said. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Detain 19 Bomb Makers - KABUL, Afghanistan, March 11, 2009 – Afghan commandos, aided by coalition forces, detained 19 suspected bomb makers yesterday in eastern Afghanistan, military officials reported. The combined forces conducted an early morning search of a compound suspected of harboring insurgents in Ghazni province’s Andar district. (READ MORE)

Gates: U.S. Won’t Allow Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, March 11, 2009 – As the United States reviews its strategy in Afghanistan, one thing is certain: The United States won’t let the Taliban threaten the Afghan government and re-establish safe havens there, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on National Public Radio yesterday. “I would say that at a minimum, the mission is to prevent the Taliban from retaking power against the democratically elected government in Afghanistan and thus turning Afghanistan potentially again into a haven for alQaida and other extremist groups,” Gates said. (READ MORE)

Resource Center to Provide Training, Education for Afghan Women - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 11, 2009 – The provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province joined provincial leadership March 7 for a groundbreaking to mark the beginning of construction on a women’s resource center in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. "We requested the PRT’s assistance on this project, and now it has been funded,” Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai said at the ceremony. “This is going to be a great place for all the women of Nangarhar.” (READ MORE)

Journalists fear for their lives in Afghanistan - KANDAHAR: President Hamid Karzai led condemnation yesterday of the killing of an Afghan journalist as his colleagues gathered to protest and expressed fear for their own lives. Unknown attackers shot dead Jawed Ahmad late on Tuesday as he drove through the centre of the southern city of Kandahar. Ahmad, who was in his early 20s, worked for international media including Canadian TV and Iran’s Press TV, and hit the headlines when he was arrested by the US military in Kandahar in 2007. (READ MORE)

Tribe agrees to hand over Taliban leaders - KHAR: A tribe in a northwestern Pakistani region where the military has fought insurgents has agreed to stop sheltering foreign fighters and hand over local Taliban leaders, authorities said. A tribal elder said some militants could be pardoned and freed. Meanwhile, security forces claimed to have killed 35 militants on Tuesday in fresh fighting in another part of the northwest, which borders Afghanistan. Pakistan has previously signed such pacts with tribes in its northwest regions, but they tend to unravel and spur Western criticism that they give militants time to regroup or create safe havens for them. (READ MORE)

US feels next Taliban offensive may emanate from FATA - Washington, Mar.12 ; The United States feels the next offensive from the Taliban against it would emanate from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. "The central nervous system for the planning (of an attack on the US soil) would emanate from FATA," the Dawn quoted Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, as asking during a hearing on current and future worldwide threats to the national security of the United States. (READ MORE)

Released Taleban commander targetting UK troops - London/Kabul, Mar.12 : A Taleban commander and a former detainee at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, who was released from prison in Kabul last year, has warned that he will target British troops deployed in Afghanistan. According to The Times, Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, who spent six years inside GITMO, has resurfaced as Mullah Abdullah Zakir, the Taleban's new operations chief in Helmand and the architect of a new offensive against British troops. (READ MORE)

Minister: Germany to fulfill promises on Afghanistan - Germany's Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Wednesday that his country would fulfill all pledges made for the rebuilding of Afghanistan. "Germany remains a reliable partner and a true friend of the Afghan people and will fulfill its promises," he told newsmen at the end of his two-day visit wrapped Wednesday afternoon. (READ MORE)

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