April 2, 2009

From the Front: 04/02/2009

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

Michael Yon: Obama plan for Afghanistan, Pakistan short on bold - President Obama's new plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan (AfPak) was eagerly anticipated. I first reported from Afghanistan in early 2006 that the war was being lost, so any new plan to address the problems is at least three years late. This is not Mr. Obama's fault, but it is his problem. During his March 27 announcement, Mr. Obama said that critical assets were diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. That's true, but it's not the only reason why Afghanistan is in trouble. For a variety of reasons - history, geography, people - Iraq is remarkably different than AfPak. Most Americans know that Mr. Obama did not support the invasion of Iraq. But what should also be acknowledged, as long as some are dwelling on the past, is that Mr. Obama did not support the surge. Had we followed his advice, we would have lost the Iraq war. Other members in his current crew wanted to partition Iraq, an idea met with incredulity by the Iraqis. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Hot News- CNN is not your friend - Here is some hot news from the ground in Afghanistan….Apparently CNN now has setup a bureau in Kabul. This is probably the first time since 2002 I am sure. Anyway, the word on the (dirt) street is that CNN does not care to cover any Humanitarian Assistance stories. All they want is direct action (kinetic) operation stories. So I guess now that there is no more real bad news in Iraq, they have decided to go back to Afghanistan and only want to focus on the bad, bloody things there too. Who cares about girls being able to go to school, or children being fed, or farmers being able to grow something besides poppies and provide for their family? Not when there is blood and gore to be splashed across America’s 42″ flat screen plasma TVs every night. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: D+3 NMPS - Another beautiful day in California. It is really hard to believe how much down time there is at NMPS. It actually may be a full work day for Reservists who are mobilizing, but our Active duty IA group is not gainfully employed. For those active duty with the means, I would recommend bringing the family. So far I have spent between 1 and 4 hours a day actually filling out forms or being processed through various stations. The uniform station was actually just a fitting for our Army uniforms, which will be available at my next stop. I did get a gas mask however. On the good side the weather is beautiful, the sushi is good and inexpensive, there is plenty of time for exercise and excellent opportunities to talk with other servicemembers of various rates and occupations. You can certainly learn a lot about the Navy talking to folks outside your community. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Adventures Outside the Wire - This blog post is a bit of a departure from FRI’s normal topics – no embed reporting, no strategies on how to win the Global War on Terror (GWOT), no great empowerment projects (aka the Fablab) to talk of, but I hope you’ll find it interesting none the less. Tim and I go back about 3 or so years beginning with our time together with a company called WSI (a bad experience for both of us) and then as partners in a Private security company - VSSA. For the lion share of my time I was based in Mazar-i-Sharif (Northern Afghanistan) working as a Security Coordinator, while Tim was based in Jalalabad doing identical work. Now that I am back in country (after a much needed hiatus in Australia) I find myself at the Taj catching up with Tim. Whilst I was sitting at the Taj bar Tim asked if he could source some photos for the FRI blog from my time in Northern Afghanistan. After viewing a few shots somehow I volunteered to write an article for him – not sure how that happened! (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: U.S.-Iran Talks - Iraqi Airways just resumed flights to the European Union. But if the transportation minister of Iraq read the newspapers today, he would ground the airlines again because of the expected rise of misery and violence in the country's future. According to the NYT, the insurgents in Iraq have been especially bold, especially now that they know the Americans are leaving. "Among the most powerful now is Nashqabandi, which is believed to have ties to a former Hussein deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. The organization, which gets money from Iraqi exiles in Syria, formed an alliance with religious Sunni extremists, according to American and Iraqi military intelligence." The story says the attacks, though smaller, are just as deadly as they were in pre-surge times. If the ex-Baathists and al-Qaeda grow more powerful, the Iran-backed militias are bound to return in force. And now that Secretary of State Clinton is talking about signs of thaw with Iran, the former Baathists will be more motivated. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban kills 13 in suicide assault on Kandahar government center - Taliban suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers attempted to kill the Kandahar provincial council after entering the compound. The complex attack is the latest in the series of similar assaults that have targeted police and government installations in Afghanistan, as well as in India and Pakistan. The attack took place at the Kandahar provincial council office as a meeting was in progress. One of the attackers detonated a car bomb at the front gate, allowing the three other suicide attackers dressed as Afghan National Army troops and carrying AK-47 assault rifles to penetrate security and enter the compound. Security forces on the scene killed two of the Taliban bombers, while the third was able to detonate his vest. Most of the casualties appear to have been inflicted during the suicide bombing at the front gate of the complex. Seven civilians and six policemen were killed in the attack, The Associated Press reported. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Transfer of Authority - Yesterday I covered the military area of operations transfer of authority Basra Provence. The British have had a presence in this area since the original coalition of the willing in 2003. When Gordon Brown become the UK Prime Minister he pledged to withdraw from Iraq. Yesterday, as the BBC put it, was the beginning of the end for British forces in Iraq. Read the BBC story and watch their 1:30 video, which tells the story better than mine. We had a ton of civilian media at the event, which was really cool. The BBC carried the entire event live, and SKY News took the live Reuters feed. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: New Model (Afghan and Pakistani) Army - I asked the other day how the Afghan government was planning on paying for the 134,000 security forces that the United States is planning on training up, since the 90 percent of the country’s budget comes from foreign aid, and the Kabul government managed to produce less than a billion dollars in revenue last year. There was a slight chance, I figured, that one of the Senators at this morning’s Senate Armed Services Committee would question General David Petraeus and new Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy about this, but while the subject of the Afghan army did come up, funding didn’t. Maybe next time. Still, when pressed by Sen. John McCain why we aren’t bulking the Afghan army up to 200,000 to 250,000 troops, Flournoy said that the United States is taking something of an incremental approach. (READ MORE)

Greg Janney: A Father's Journey To Iraq - What were you doing on April 6, 2004? While most of us went about our daily lives, members of 2/4 Marines Echo Company were fighting and dying in Ar-Ramadi, Iraq, and twelve families’ lives were forever changed. On a day that few of us remember, 11 Marines and a Navy Corpsman were killed during a daylight ambush in a narrow, concrete block-lined alley 8000 miles from home. I know the father of one of these men, and this is the tale of the two long journeys that we made in an attempt to visit the site where his son fell in battle that terrible day in 2004. If successful, this trip would be the first time that any Gold Star parent had visited the actual site where their son or daughter was killed while in Iraq. John Wroblewski, father of Marine 2nd Lt. J.T. Wroblewski, and I first met on January 12, 2007, as we set off with journalist Martha Zoller on our first trip to Iraq. Martha’s plan was to get John to the site in Ramadi where J.T. was mortally wounded. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Two Coalition Divisions in Iraq Combine Into One - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, April 1, 2009 – Multinational Division Center absorbed Multinational Division Southeast into its operating area in a ceremony here yesterday, forming Multinational Division South. Army Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates, who previously commanded Multinational Division Center, accepted responsibility for the new division from British Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, who commanded Multinational Division Southeast. (READ MORE)

Basra Offensive Was ‘Turning Point’ for Iraq, General Says - WASHINGTON, April 1, 2009 – Last spring’s Iraqi-planned and Iraqi-led military campaign that successfully subdued insurgents in and around Iraq’s southern city of Basra was a turning point in the conflict, a senior U.S. officer posted in Iraq said today. When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki decided in March 2008 to attack insurgents and criminals lodged in Basra, Multinational Corps Iraq “had its first opportunity to gain the initiative in the south,” Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. (READ MORE)

XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion hands reins to I Corps troops - BAGHDAD – XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion Soldiers officially transferred control of the Multi-National Corps – Iraq headquarters support mission to their I Corps counter parts at the Joint Visitors Bureau on Camp Victory April 1, marking the end of a productive and fruitful 15-month tour. “Everyday for 15 months, I’ve had the honor and privilege of experiencing something very special as a part of Task Force Dragon,” said Lt. Col. William Wanovich, commander of Task Force Dragon. (READ MORE)

Mosul SWAT seizes Muthana’s voice of authority - TIKRIT, Iraq – Mosul Special Weapons and Tactics, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested the Muthana Battalion Sharia Judge on a Ninewah Operations Investigative Court-issued warrant and detained an additional suspected terrorist cell member March 28 during an operation in eastern Mosul. The arrested individual was suspected of ordering terrorist attacks and serving as a liaison between terrorist security and intelligence sections, stated the tactical commander directly involved in the operation. (READ MORE)

IP dog handlers begin training - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Four Iraqi policemen took their next step to becoming dog handlers March 25 on FOB Delta. The team will be the first in Iraq once their dogs arrive from the United States. Once the Iraqis can master leash control before the dogs arrive, they’ll be several steps ahead of other students when they begin training at a school in Baghdad run by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Oliver, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the FOB Delta military working dog team. (READ MORE)

Iraqi government assumes responsibility for all Sons of Iraq and resolves delays in salary payments - BAGHDAD – The Sons of Iraq – local security volunteers credited with helping reduce violent attacks and terrorist influence across the country – marked two major milestones Wednesday: Coalition forces completed the final transfer of Sons of Iraq members to Iraqi control, and the Government of Iraq secured the funds to pay back wages to Sons of Iraq in four provinces. “These are big wins, and they affirm the Government of Iraq’s commitment to the Sons of Iraq,” said Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Wrestling Divas Visit Troops in Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 1, 2009 – Troops from different service branches and different countries eagerly got into a line that wrapped around the inside of a tent here March 24 to meet four former World Wrestling Entertainment “divas.” For more than two hours, Terry Runnels, Nora “Molly Holly” Greenwald, Christy Hemme and Shelly Martinez signed autographs and posed for photos with servicemembers and civilians at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation gym. (READ MORE)

Petraeus Explains Differences in Strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan - WASHINGTON, April 1, 2009 – Although the U.S. government recognizes the differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan, it makes sense from a strategy standpoint to consider the two countries as one theater, the commander of U.S. Central Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus praised the comprehensive strategy during his testimony before the panel. (READ MORE)

Coalition: 20 insurgents killed in Afghanistan - KABUL — Afghan and U.S. coalition troops battled a large group of militants in southern Afghanistan before calling in an airstrike that killed 20 insurgents, the coalition said in a statement Thursday. Dozens of insurgents attacked the joint foot patrol in Helmand province's Kajaki district Wednesday, the statement said. Following a firefight, the militants were forced into "secondary fighting position" before the combined patrol called in an airstrike that hit the militants, the statement said. (READ MORE)

Taliban take over another emerald mine in Swat valley - Scores of Pakistani Taliban fighters have taken over an emerald mine in the restive northwestern Swat valley and begun mining operations there after building trenches and bunkers. Over 70 armed militants stormed the emerald mine at Gojaro Killay Amnavi area in Shangla district on Wednesday and occupied it. The militants built bunkers around the mine and announced that workers would be given 50 per cent of all income from mining operations. (READ MORE)

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