April 10, 2009

From the Front: 04/10/2009

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

Joshua Foust: Handling Civilian Casualties and their Aftermath Is a Critical Failure - While air strikes in Afghanistan—recently lauded as the most accurate ever—are a major problem, they are not the entirety of the problem with regards to American strategy and tactics. Another glaring problem in how the U.S. conducts operations is the continued use of so-called “night raids.” It is no idle concern: the last several rounds of night raids in Eastern Afghanistan—Logar, Khost, and other provinces—have prompted widespread protests by the local population and on rare occasions violence. The problem is so severe, Alex Strick van Linschoten has reported, “The early years of US raids and night abductions in Kandahar are still not forgotten.” He was talking about 2001—things, an entire era of the war, we have forgotten, still matter tremendously in terms of how we conduct ourselves. (READ MORE)

Adventures in Jalalabad: Visiting the Local School - Children attend school in two different rotations. The girls have the morning shift, and the boys go in the afternoon. Yesterday, Kate and I tagged along with Wahida, Raheela, Mariam, and Tawar to visit the girls at the local school to 'recruit' them to visit the FABLAB in the afternoons. We first met with the Principal, who is a very nice man, and believes that girls should receive an education, and was very supportive of Wahida coming to talk to the girls about visiting the FABLAB. The school is a small compound -just an L-shaped wall with some classrooms - and then an open "recess" ground in the middle. The classrooms consist of desks and a chalkboard - i suppose not much is truly needed to teach a class. Some teachers had their classrooms outside as well. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: Guns, Girls, Democracy...SO RANGER UP! - Guns, Girls and Democracy. Those are three things that seem to piss the Taliban off more than anything else. And those three things about sum up the average American ground pounder. Yes, you should probably throw in booze but that would ruin my post, so just ignore that. Guns, we’ve got tons of them in about any caliber you could want. There’s artillery, 2000 lbs bombs, small arms, you name we’ve got it. This is Charlton Heston’s wet dream. A gun for everybody and permission to use it as you see fit. Muggings on the FOB are non-existent and I attribute that to the fact that everyone has a gun. The Taliban hates the fact that we have more and better guns than he does. Sorry, Bro you picked the wrong side! (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: NOT going my way... - Another long day of travel sprinkled liberally with stretches of waiting around and I have arrived at my final destination. We've been very busy the past couple of days here in scenic Al Assad. Once on deck there are a battery of classes we must undergo before we are allowed to go "outside the wire". This serves to remind the Marines of where they are and get them caught up on the AO. We also spend a little time at the range making sure our weapons are properly zeroed ensuring deadly pin point accuracy. Other than that things have been pretty much not been going my way. It isn't always big events that cause stress and/or traumatic brain injury in 1stSgts. (READ MORE)

SGT Brad Richardson: In Response to SLY-Town’s Finest… - Good questions…As far as working in an area that I enjoy: The way I was able to get a job in Public Affairs/Broadcast Journalism is by taking the ASVAB seriously. I believe seniors can still take them in high school (I took mine at the beginning of my senior year so I didn’t take mine at the school). Obviously, the higher your score on the test the better job you can get. Every part of my “job” in the Army I enjoy. I’ve travelled around Iraq with a video camera following different units around to get their stories. I’ve had a four hour radio show, which of course is awesome! Along with the radio show I produced the Freedom Radio News and “spots” which is the AFN equivalent to commercials. Now I am working with reporters from around the world to get them where they need to be to get their stories. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Dedication - A MEDEVAC mission comes down, and Urgent litter. A C-Spine fracture related to a rollover MVC. The weather is bad, but MEDEVAC is still Amber. Thunderstorms and blowing dust are all over the area. Nothing else is flying because of the weather, but we take the patient. We load the patient on my bird and eight people risk their lives to make sure he gets to the best care available. Ten miles outside the wire, the weather socks us in. Visibility is maybe a mile, the cloud cover is low. We are flying fast and just underneath the clouds. 45 minutes to go. I am monitoring the patient and making sure that he doesn’t get worse during the flight as well as scanning my sector for hazards. IV good. Monitor good. No Neuro deficits. Pain level good. He remains conscious and alert, albeit drowsy from the medications. Everything is jumping around from the thermals in the air and the high crosswind against the helicopter. The radio is slient. Nobody is in the air. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Viva Mookiestan? - On the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, most Iraqis around the world are looking back at the last years with mixed emotions. Most are glad to see the Baathists go, sad to see the suffering of Iraqi civilians, and pleased that things are finally improving. And while Iraq's politicians are busy grabbing for power, Moqtada Al Sadr is trying to grab the limelight. And as always the media are ready to help. To mark the anniversary, Moqtada called for a million man [Arabic] march. From the cosy comfort of Iran, he sent word that people should protest the U.S. presence in Iraq. And though the BBC reports say tens of thousands turned out for the demonstration, Iraqi reports say thousands showed up. Whatever the number, it was not a million. The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says Moqtada is still showing that he has some political clout. It's not hard to get people on your side when you call for an end to an occupation. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Swat peace agreement collapses - The Swat Taliban have withdrawn from the two-month-old peace agreement, citing the central government's unwillingness to sign the legislation that will impose sharia courts in the Malakand Division. The peace agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, put an end to military operations in Swat and the surrounding regions and established sharia, or Islamic courts. The Malakand Accord was imposed in Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province. Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the radical pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law], recently called off the peace agreement and ended all peace camps in the region. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker: Freedom Flights - In the months preceding my unit's deployment I had to travel to different cities for conferences and classes. Most of the time my flights were routed through Dallas, which was nice because it's a large airport and has a lot to offer someone waiting for a flight. The USO is top-notch although I only went in there to grab a bottle of water a few times. While wandering around the airport I noticed the "Freedom Flights"...the chartered airplanes that bring troops (and civilians) from Iraq back to the states. There are two stateside gateways for troops on R & R or emergency leave: Dallas and Atlanta. I remember looking at those planes, often parked on the tarmac away from the terminal, and thinking "one day, I will be one of those Soldiers coming back for some rest and relaxation". Well, here I am, sitting at my friend's computer in San Diego, updating my blog. I left Iraq Monday afternoon for a long (and somewhat painful) flight from Kuwait to Dallas with a brief stop in Germany. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Here We Go ... - Our training will finish up today. Most of it has been a review for those of us who've been in Iraq or Afghanistan before. I've got my bags packed, except for couple of loose ends (like my computer and shaving kit). In a few minutes, I'll check out of here and head to class. This afternoon, we'll head off to the airport, and this evening we'll get on the plane and launch downrange. I'm ready to go now. It's been a long road since I made the decision to go with the Corps - that was back in January, four months ago. There have been lots of forms to fill out, online courses to take, medical tests, forms to fill out, vaccinations, phone calls, travel, and more forms to fill out. Finally, all that is (almost) behind me and it's time to go do what I'm supposed to be doing. That feels pretty good. I'm not happy about leaving home again. This departure is more difficult than my last one. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Waging Peace: Canada In Afghanistan - I received an interesting e-mail just before I journeyed to Kandahar earlier this year. It was from a fellow by the name of Brooks Bergreen, wishing me luck. That wasn't the interesting part, though: Bergreen had filmed a documentary entitled Waging Peace: Canada in Afghanistan about the Canadian effort in southern Afghanistan...on his own dime. And he was hoping to have me give it a look when I got back. Bergreen spent four years as a private communications contractor in the country, working for both the coalition forces and for the Afghans, and came to the frustrating conclusion that "we don't have enough independent media there...people are suspicious of getting their news from the same place all the time." That sounded frustratingly familiar to me, and if that was what drove him to sink thousands of his own dollars into a documentary film with his own delicate skin on the line in the back of a LAV, then I figured it was worth giving the piece a look. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

U.S. Forces Continue to Transfer Responsibilities to Iraqis - WASHINGTON, April 9, 2009 – American forces in Iraq continue to transfer more responsibilities to the Iraqi government and their security forces as part of the security agreement that went into effect on Jan. 1, a Multinational Force Iraq general said yesterday. “Our combat forces will be out of the cities by June,” Army Maj. Gen. David Perkins, the command’s director of strategic effects, said during a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable. “That doesn’t mean we won’t operate in those cities, but we will not be basing our combat forces in the cities.” (READ MORE)

Basra hospital gets new wastewater treatment plant - BASRA, Iraq – For more than 15 years a Basra hospital has been discharging its raw sewage straight into the Shatt al-Arab River. With the assistance of Iraqi officials and Coalition Forces that situation changed this month. During a ribbon cutting ceremony April 2, the director of al-Sadr Teaching Hospital officially opened the hospital’s new $1.9 million wastewater treatment plant. (READ MORE)

1,300 Recruits Graduate in Mosul - MOSUL — Iraq’s police force continues to add to their growing numbers after 1,346 basic training recruits graduated from the Mosul Public Service Academy April 8. During the four-week course, the recruits were trained in weapons marksmanship, basic police skills and hand-to-hand tactics. The graduation was hosted by Iraqi Brig. Gen. Fuaz, Dean of the Mosul Public Service Academy, Police Training Center. (READ MORE)

Family of Slain U.S. Soldier Donates Supplies to Iraqi School Children - FOB BRASSFIELD-MORA — Iraqi Police and U.S. Soldiers recently teamed up for a special delivery of more than 300 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to the children in Taraysha. The backpacks, filled not only with school supplies, but also with treats and toys, were sent on behalf of the family of 1st Lt. Daniel Hyde, who was a platoon leader in Company A, and was killed by an insurgent attack in Samarra, March 7. (READ MORE)

Rega School Receives Needed Supplies - COB SPEICHER — Iraqi Security Forces recently teamed with Coalition forces to donate supplies to the students of Al Rega school near Samarra. First Lt. Daniel Flynn, a platoon leader with the 25th Infantry Division, met with Maj. Adil Yusef Khalef, director general of Internal Affairs in the region, to coordinate the delivery of more than 200 backpacks filled with pens, pencils, paper and notepads. (READ MORE)

Families Receive Food, Farming Supplies - COB SPEICHER — Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers delivered dozens of humanitarian aid packages containing several cases of Halal meals to families in the Bara’ia neighborhood near Samarra, March 31. “Bara’ia is an extremely impoverished area of Samarra, and local residents are not used to receiving humanitarian aid from government or Coalition forces,” said 1st. Lt. Daniel Flynn, platoon leader. “The last time most of these folks saw people in uniform, they were kicking down doors and arresting people.” (READ MORE)

South Balad Ruz Villagers Aided by IA - FOB WARHORSE — Soldiers with the 5th Iraqi Army (IA) Division recently conducted a humanitarian aid distribution in Diyala province to four South Balad Ruz area villages to help improve the quality of life for residents there. The villages of Nissan and Shannanah received a humanitarian aid distribution last month of food and supplies from the IA Soldiers. The next day the same Soldiers visited Tawhilla and Turki Village to distribute aid. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Italian General Endorses ‘Comprehensive Approach’ in Afghanistan - GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, April 9, 2009 – A “comprehensive approach” to regional stability and military planning is both historical and prudent to a continued peace, the military leader of Italy’s armed forces said here yesterday. Italian Gen. Vicenzo Camporini, chief of the Italian defense general staff, spoke to about 100 students from various European and Eurasian nations attending the Program in Advanced Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. (READ MORE)

Afghan Girl Gets Help from Soldiers, Americans - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 9, 2009 – A 2-year-old girl from Afghanistan’s Gardez province and her family flew to Cincinnati earlier this month to have reconstructive surgery on the child’s trachea, a procedure made necessary after the girl swallowed a battery last year. Nazia Gardezi had been a permanent resident of the intensive-care wing at Craig Joint Theater Hospital here since October, when she was brought back to the hospital with severe pneumonia due the family’s inability to suction her airway properly. (READ MORE)

Taliban ceasefire at risk as cleric abandons talks - The hardline Muslim cleric who has mediated peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban in the Swat Valley packed up and left the northwestern district yesterday, angrily denouncing the President for failing to sign off on imposing Islamic law in the area. Sufi Muhammad's departure imperils a fragile ceasefire between militants and security forces that brought a tense calm to the valley after months of bloodletting but also alarmed Western leaders who want Pakistan to eradicate al-Qa'ida and Taliban havens. (READ MORE)

Polish president approves Afghan mission increase - Poland's president has approved the government's request to increase the country's military force in Afghanistan by 400 troops. President Lech Kaczynski said in a statement posted on his Web site Thursday that he had signed off on Prime Minister Donald Tusk's request to boost the number of Polish troops stationed in Afghanistan to 2,000. (READ MORE)

Suicide bomber kills 5, wounds 17 in Afghanistan - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber attacked a police drug eradication unit in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing five people and wounding 17, an official said. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The attacker struck the patrol in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, a major drug-producing area, said Kamal Uddin, deputy provincial police chief. The police unit was travelling in a convoy of vehicles headed for nearby districts to eradicate poppies, Uddin said. (READ MORE)

No US request yet for more Afghan troops - Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says the United States did not ask for more troops for Afghanistan during annual talks among the foreign and defence ministers from the two countries. The minister said after the meetings on Thursday that the two sides discussed Afghanistan in detail. "No decisions were made, and no requests made, and no commitments given," he said. (READ MORE)

Taliban Respond Positively to Obama's Offer to Talk - BONN, Germany -- "Mullah Omar has given the green light to talks," Abdullah Anas, a Taliban mediator, explained recently to The Sunday Times. "A big, big step has happened. For the first time, there is a language of peace on both sides." Everything seems to point to the fact that those involved in the secret strategic talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government that have been taking place in Saudi Arabia in recent months have reacted positively to U.S. President Barack Obama's offer. If these reports were to be confirmed, it would put the negotiations, which are supported by the British and tolerated by the U.S. administration, on new footing. (READ MORE)

Now, Taliban, other extremist web sites cropping up in the US - Washington, Apr.9: Of late it has emerged that American-owned firms are playing host to extemist web sites. The latest case involves a Taliban Web site claiming to be the voice of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan". It has boasted of a deadly new attack on coalition forces in that country. The most remarkable about the message is the way it has been delivered. The words were the Taliban's, but they were flashed around the globe by an American-owned firm located in a leafy corner of downtown Houston, the Washington Post reports. (READ MORE)

No comments: