April 17, 2009

From the Front: 04/17/2009

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

Alex Strick van Linschoten: Video from Kandahar - I've been a bit lax in writing regularly, so I thought I'd upload some video for you. First is fireworks from a wedding ceremony in southern Kandahar City this evening. There've been fireworks for the past 3 days, which has been quite nice in the evenings. Don't think that this is a common occurrence. I've only seen fireworks one other time in the past year or two in Kandahar. And this one which is part of a 45-minute interview I did with the deputy head of the provincial council about the attack on the provincial council just over a week ago. In this very short extract he starts explaining how his bodyguard died while struggling to stop a suicide bomber. [Visit site to view the videos] (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Then and Now: Barracks Rats - I am going to miss Fort Sill, Oklahoma. For those who are thinking, "You lived there 2-1/2 months, of course. . ." you should know that I am quite alone in my affection for our current duty station. In fact, at a meeting last night, several soldiers were delighted to hear about the kinds of video entertainment that is free at our next duty station. But eventually, they won't like the next duty station or the one after that. They are barracks rats, a special sort of rodent who sits in his or her room and complains about Fort Wherever mostly because thy don't leave the room. I know I am a special case because I brought and borrowed bikes and rode almost 1,300 miles since our arrival. But other soldiers have walked, taken buses and seen many sights and enjoyed the mostly warm (and windy) weather since we arrived. I am not sure, but the barracks rats may be worse now than before. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Civilian Death Studies - For those who are unsure who the bad guys and the good guys are in Iraq, there are a couple of a new studies to help you decide. The researchers conclude that terrorists killed women and children less often than U.S. raids in Iraq. The studies show that al-Qaeda is not nearly as bad as everyone says they are. The Independent reports that "Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women." The study reportedly also found that al-Qaeda fights much more humanely: "Twelve per cent of those killed by suicide bombings, mainly the tool of militant Sunni groups, were children and 16 per cent were females. One in five (21 per cent) of those killed by car bombs, used by both Shia and Sunni fighters, was a child; one in four (28 per cent) was a woman." (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: long term fablab.af - Howdy folks, I’ve gotten a bunch of emails in the last couple of months asking what can be done to help with long term fablab.af support. To those who’ve written, thanks for putting up with the delay in email responses, and sorry about the non-personal mass response. I’m down to the final paper deadline (technically overdue now) which I’m hoping to get out the door on Friday. Or Saturday. :) It’s been a horrible 1.5 months but I’ve finished (and passed) my qualifying exams and I’m told that there’s only one more miserable hurdle left, but that’s a year off. I struggle with openness and sharing of all the fabfolk / fab.af activities because many of the people and groups I’ve talked with would not be comfortable with our tentative discussions being blogged or broadcast, but at the same time there are lots and lots of people who want to be more involved or more apprised of what, if anything, is going on. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban moving on Mardan - The Taliban continue their advance in northwestern Pakistan. The district of Mardan in the Northwest Frontier Province may be the next region to fall to the Taliban as the terror group has stepped up its attacks in the area. The Taliban murdered two women in Mardan yesterday, signaling the district is marked for takeover. A female aid worker for the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Program was killed in a bombing at her office. A local Taliban commander named Habibur Rehman claimed credit for the attack. "He accused NGOs of propagating obscenity and vulgarity and threatened further attacks," Dawn reported. The Taliban also gunned down a female councilor for a local union. The murders were the latest in a series of attacks in Mardan that signal the Taliban is setting its sights on the district. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Tal Abtha Road project improves transportation, local economy - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KEY WEST, QAYYARAH, Iraq – Mayor Ra’ed Abed Ali, of Al Hadr, and Engineer Hesham, from Director General Roads and Bridges, are currently working together with Green Dream Ltd. on a project that is training and employing students, while at the same time building the Tal Abtha Road. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held April 5 to mark the end of the first phase of the operation. The project’s main goal is to assist the local economy through a better transportation and export route. (READ MORE)

New sustainable training approach for IPs - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – The 772nd Military Police Company and the Iraqi Police Advisor team are starting a new approach to Iraqi Police training that will provide a sustainable training system for when Coalition forces leave Iraq. “Our overall goal is to start a program in Wasit that can be a model for the rest of the country,” said Staff Sgt. Elton Dean, headquarters squad leader, 772nd MP Co. “What we want to do is give the Minister of Interior a reason to institute a program like this in order to make the entire country of Iraq better, not just the province of Wasit.” (READ MORE)

IA, U.S. Soldiers work to end smuggling - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HUNTER, Iraq – Iraqi and American forces work together to make Iraq a safer place. A joint operation recently was held for that purpose. Supporting 41st Iraqi Army Brigade’s mission to prevent criminal operations in the Maysan Province, Soldiers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division traveled through areas of southern Iraq to deter suspected smuggling of lethal munitions near Forward Operating Base Hunter, Iraq, April 2. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Logistics Operation Command opens doors - BAGHDAD – The Ministry of Defense in partnership with the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq open the Iraqi Logistics Operation Command in a ribbon cutting ceremony April 15. The ILOC facility will provide the Iraqi military with a new level of sophistication in planning and tracking logistical support functions for the armed services. (READ MORE)

Border Guard Makes Waterway Drug Bust - SHATT AL ARAB — The Iraqi Directorate of Border Enforcement, Coastal Border Guard recently made a large drug interdiction here. “This was a significant event,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven Oluic, Ministry of Interior Transitional Team. “An individual was caught smuggling 71kg of hashish via the waterway.” Upon capture the individual was turned over to Iraqi Police. (READ MORE)

U.S. Tankers Mentor Iraqi Counterparts - BAGHDAD — The M1A1 Abrams tank is one of the newest additions to the Iraqi Army's (IA) arsenal. U.S. Army armor Soldiers and contracted civilians are assisting the 9th IA Division with getting their armored crewmen trained on the new equipment at Forward Operating Base Hammer. "We're here basically to help with mentoring the Iraqis with maintenance and with understanding of how a tank platoon is supposed to run on a day-to-day basis," said 1st Lt. Michael Pesano, a platoon leader with the 8th Cavalry Regiment. (READ MORE)

Security Gains Continue in Iraq, Despite Suicide Attacks - WASHINGTON, April 16, 2009 – Though suicide bombings continue to be a threat, the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, a senior Pentagon spokesman said today. “[Insurgent attacks] still remain down, and commanders have certainly indicated that they’ve seen tremendous progress, but that does not mean we will be void of these spectacular suicide-type attacks,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. (READ MORE)

Soldiers in Afghanistan Get Dirty to Stay Connected - KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 16, 2009 – Paratroopers at Forward Operating Base Salerno here are busy running fiber-optic lines to keep critical lines of communication open. The 25th Infantry Division paratroopers of Charlie Company, 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, are working to keep everyone connected through a variety of services so the battle can continue. (READ MORE)

U.S., Afghan Forces Detain Two, Find Weapons - WASHINGTON, April 16, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces detained two suspected insurgents and discovered weapons in recent operations throughout Afghanistan, U.S. military officials reported. In Konar province’s Asmar district today, coalition and Afghan troops detained a man and his accomplice allegedly connected to a bomb-making network. They are believed to be associated with a terrorist network and operations in Konar province and across the border in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan quakes leave at least 22 dead - Two earthquakes have killed at least 22 people and destroyed several hundred homes in eastern Afghanistan. The quakes hit two hours apart in the district of Khogyani in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistan border. Police have intensified the search for more dead and injured under the rubble of collapsed homes. Khogyani district chief Haji Said Rahman said 'Four villages were seriously damaged by the two earthquakes. 22 people have been killed and 30 injured. More than 200 homes have been destroyed.' (READ MORE)

Now, Taliban kill woman NGO employee in NWFP over obscenity and vulgarity charges - Mardan(Pakistan) Apr.17 : Two women were reportedly killed in separate incidents here, The Dawn reported. According to sources, an NGO employee Mumtaz Begum was killed in a bomb blast in the office of the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) in the Hattian village of the region. Local Taliban leader Habibur Rehman while claiming the responsibility for the attack, accused the NGO of propagating obscenity and vulgarity. (READ MORE)

2,000 British troops ready for Afghanistan mission - Two thousand troops designated by army chiefs for possible deployment to Afghanistan to boost Britain’s military presence to 10,000 are on “high readiness for operations”. The troops have just completed an intensive final training programme on Salisbury Plain and army sources warned that there were risks if the men had to wait around for a long period before being given a combat mission. “It’s a perishable set of skills,” one source said. (READ MORE)

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