April 24, 2009

From the Front: 04/24/2009

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

Joshua Foust: Let Us Have Some Perspective, Please - The latest scare du jour from Pakistan is news that the Pakistani Taliban finally followed through on their promise to occupy Buner. While this certainly warrants every ounce of alarm we can muster—they need to be stopped, after all—this does not spell the end of the Pakistani state, as way too many part-time South Asia pundits seem to assume. Let us dig into history (with many sources all pulled at the end for readability’s sake). And not ancient history (though we will, to be sure). In 1994, a man named Sufi Mohammed rose to prominence in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, exerting influence over Dir, Swat, Buner, Malakand, and surrounding areas through his new organization, Tanzim Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi, or “Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law.” (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Under Attack - After reading about the outstanding job of 2nd platoon, Company B, 1/26 INF in the Korangal River Valley it reminded me of some of the experiences I had working on the Afghan-Pakistan border of Paktika Province in 2006-07. I had a joint observation post (OP) comprised from a platoon of my Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and a platoon from the 10th MTN that was assigned to FOB Tillman. In the early morning hours on June 20, 2006 we came under a well coordinated attack of intense enemy machine gun and RPG fire. In the initial few minutes of the attack, the enemy was able to knock out our heavy weapons with well aimed fires. We quickly went through our claymores as we were soon surrounded by approximately 100 bad guys and they were too close to effectively use our artillery and air assets. As the NY Times article discussed critical times in a battle that can lead to getting out of hand, this was that point in this battle. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Flush with Happiness - Here in Kuwait we all have Battle Buddies. Everywhere we go--except stumbling out to the PortaJohns in the middle of the night--we go with our Battle Buddy. The main thing is that we go nowhere alone. So we can travel with just about any other soldier, but most of us have one soldier we travel with more than others. My Battle Buddy is another old guy (48) who, is a conservative Presbyterian and likes quiet. We are hoping to room together if we end up in a place with 2-man rooms. We room together now, of course, along with 76 others. For all of us happiness comes in different small luxuries. My Battle Buddy is fond of saying "It's the small things that matter." For him, the discovery that brightened his life (literally) was the latrines 1/4 mile from our barracks that have indoor plumbing and LIGHT. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Optimism - Say what you will about the Obama administration's domestic policies, which this blog is not about, nor will it ever be. Somehow or other, they have managed to put together the dream team on Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have listened to them in forming the new "AfPak Policy," and when you see such men as David Kilcullen testifying before the House Armed Services Committee and hear the things that they are saying... and being taken mui seriously... there is room for hope. Even though the "new policy" appears to back away from nation-building, it holds more hope for success in and for AfPak than what we've been doing in the past. The "surge" may or may not be a wonderful thing in Afghanistan. It depends on whether the troops are used properly, but if GEN Petraeus pushes his authority and begins to be ruthless with commanders about enforcing a standard of counterinsurgent achievement, it will much more helpful than harmful. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Rangers deployed to secure Islamabad outskirts - Islamabad officials have moved paramilitary forces to block a potential Taliban advance into the nation's capital as US officials question Pakistan’s ability to stop the creeping insurgency. Islamabad's deputy commissioner and its senior police official said they are taking steps to counter the Taliban encroachment from the Northwest Frontier Province, Geo News reported. The Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force under the command of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, have been deployed to the Margala hills on the northern outskirts of Islamabad. The deputy commissioner said the Taliban will not be able to cross through the Margala hills and into Islamabad. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Thursday Thoughts - Since my last post, the weather has warmed up a lot. I can say that my carefully calibrated Skipometer classified the temperature yesterday and today as officially "hot". Yesterday was 99 and today was 102. It's time to start lugging the water bottles around and to make sure we have our hats if we're going to be outside for more than a few minutes. The dust is bad, too - I carry a bottle of Visine around with me for when it starts turning my eyeballs into red-hot sandpaper. Things are going well at work. I like the position I'm in and the people I work with. We're working on some important issues for the Corps of Engineers for the remainder of our time in Iraq. General Odierno has said that the military will be out of here in late 2011 and we're proceeding down that path. The small bases that have been all over the country, and all over Baghdad, are shutting down left and right. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Detainees released in Fallujah and Karmah - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi-National Force - West facilitated the release of 43 detainees from U.S. custody and transferred two detainees who were wanted pursuant to a valid warrant to Iraqi police custody on April 22 in Fallujah and Karmah. MNF-W followed a detailed release process to ensure the security of the people of Anbar and the safety of the detainees were not in jeopardy following the release. (READ MORE)

Hit SWAT nets multiple suspected terrorists - AL ASAD, Iraq – Hit Special Weapons and Tactics worked with U.S. Special Operations Forces on a mission to serve multiple warrants issued by the Hit district court system April 16. The arrests of these two individuals, performed in conjunction with the Hit National Information and Investigations Agency and the Hit Counter-Terrorism Unit, were conducted in order to disrupt criminal and terrorist activities in the area. (READ MORE)

Tikrit Emergency Response Battalion Captures Insurgent Cell Members - TIKRIT — Iraq’s Tikrit Emergency Response Battalion (ERB) recently planned, led and facilitated an operation leading to the arrest of three suspected key members of a Bayji-based insurgent cell. According to Iraqi intelligence, the cell (comprised of members of the former Iraqi Army) led kidnapping raids and coordinated attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces. With Tikrit Major Crimes Court-issued warrants, ERB members entered the residences and detained each of the cell members. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Graduate Medical Training - FOB DELTA — When the Wasit Provincial Director of Police asked the 41st Fires Brigade for some help training his medics, Task Force Gunner Med stepped up to the plate to provide assistance. Based on the Army's Combat Life Saver Course, 10 Iraqi Police (IP) medics were recently trained here in triage, the three echelons of tactical field care, treating shock, abdominal wounds, chest wounds, fractures, burns, clearing airways, and breathing and circulation during the three-week course. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraqi Troops Hear Lion’s Roar - COB ADDER — The 10th Iraqi Army Division sent out its ground troops and air support assets to conduct Operation “Lion’s Roar,” the first large-scale combined-arms live-fire exercise in southern Iraq, April 19. "They did outstanding,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. “The Iraqi Army is here to defend its citizens and protect their borders.” (READ MORE)

Soldiers Help to Keep Sadr City Safe - BAGHDAD, April 23, 2009 – As sunlight faded in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood, 1st Cavalry Division soldiers of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, along with soldiers of the 42nd Iraqi Army Division, moved down streets lined with houses in an effort to keep the city safer. “We’re essentially trying to hit target houses and known bed-down locations of bad guys,” said Greensboro, Ga., native Army 1st Lt. Mark Reinke, a platoon leader with Charlie Company. (READ MORE)

G.I.’s in Remote Afghan Post Have Weary Job, Drawing Fire - COMBAT OUTPOST LOWELL, Afghanistan — The small stone castle, sandbagged and bristling with weapons and American soldiers, rises from a rock spur beside the Landai River. Mountains lean overhead. Once a hunting lodge for Mohammad Zahir Shah, Afghanistan’s last king, the castle is home for a year for an American cavalry troop, an Afghan infantry company, a Navy corpsman and two American marines. In the deadly contest for Afghanistan’s borderlands, it plays what might seem a singularly unattractive role. (READ MORE)

Outpost Gives Hint of Challenges in Afghanistan - COMBAT OUTPOST DEYSIE, Afghanistan, April 23, 2009 – Nothing illustrates the difficulties of combat in Afghanistan’s Regional Command East like this base on the Gardez-Khowst road. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the base yesterday to hear from the soldiers on the ground what life is like in Afghanistan. He flew from Kabul to Forward Operating Base Airborne, and then to this combat outpost. (READ MORE)

Combined Forces Capture Seven, Kill Two in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, April 23, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed two militants and captured seven others in overnight operations in Afghanistan. Afghan National Army commandos disrupted a Taliban network in Helmand province’s Nadi Ali district last night when they detained four armed militants and confiscated a large cache of bomb-making materials. (READ MORE)

New Concerns Over Gains by Taliban in Pakistan - U.S. officials and South Asian analysts are expressing concern over military and political gains being made by the Taliban in Pakistan. They say a recent agreement between the militants and the government in Islamabad is a dangerous policy of appeasement that could undermine efforts to fight terrorism and threaten the nation's stability. (READ MORE)

Pakistani troops under fire in Taliban-held district - Unidentified gunmen have attacked Pakistani paramilitary troops who deployed on Thursday to a district virtually taken over by the Taliban, a day after the US Government said Islamabad had abdicated to militants in the region. Police say around 100 paramilitary troops were sent to Buner district, not far from Islamabad. (READ MORE)

Soldiers pulled from Iraq duty, sent straight to Afghanistan - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The soldiers had barely arrived in Iraq before they got new orders -- get ready for Afghanistan. The 4th Engineer Battalion out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, deployed to Camp Victory near Baghdad in mid-February. Two weeks after the unit began actually going out on operations in Iraq, it was ordered to redeploy to Kandahar in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

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