May 11, 2009

From the Front: 05/11/2009

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

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: The Taliban And Civilian Casualties - Civilian casualties caused by American/NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan have been one of the most politically destructive aspects of our mission there (to say nothing of the human destruction). Few things create more problems for us, both in Afghanistan and at home, than dead Afghan civilians from Western bombs dropped from the sky. As soon as an airstrike is carried out, the information battle begins. We are very bad at this, and part of that is inherent and unavoidable: proper investigations take time. In the meantime, media outlets are often contacted within an hour of an airstrike by certain "informers", letting them know how many civilians died. In most cases, the numbers are impossible to verify and seem abnormally high: (READ MORE)

111 Infantry Recon: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! - To all of our mothers, we would like to wish them a big, heartfelt HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! It’s hard for you to understand why your sons and husbands and brothers and friends are away from you for all this time. Many times it’s hard for us to explain it as well. We have a great group of guys here, and we owe it in large part to all the strong mothers, wives, and girlfriends that we left at home to take care of things on the homefront. You are essentially acting as single mothers right now, which is no easy task. You have to take care of all the bills, everything with the house, broken garage doors, cut the grass, broken water heaters, fix the car, get the kids to where they are going after a hard day at work, sometimes with little or no help. As much as we should say it and don’t, we appreciate everything you do for us. I hope all the mothers at home took some time today to do something for themselves and had an enjoyable day. (READ MORE)

A.L.L.: Maps - Afghanistan - With the renewed focus on the first battleground in the War On Terror, Afghanistan, a reader has correctly suggested that some readers may be less familiar with some of the terrain and locations that often come up in discussions on this site. Other readers will be intimately aware of these areas in question and perhaps even recall the fine talcum dust so prevalent there. In the fine tradition of military style traditions, I'll begin with the one over the world. Clearly, it is on "the other side of the world," but as we look closer, we can see some of the challenges: One of the first things to notice is that it is landlocked. Another important point to make are the turmultuous neighbors: Iran, Pakistan, and China. Less obvious in this 2003 map is the old neighbor that was the Soviet Union, now emerging young Nations such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Riding the Rhino – Part 2 - While riding in the Rhino, I attempted to capture the sights with my camera. This was a challenge in itself because I was constantly being bounced up and down, sideways, etc. So it made it difficult to steady my camera and capture these images. However, I did manage to take about 30 photographs. By now an hour had passed and my spinal cord felt like it was compressed by an inch. My sensory receptacles were in overdrive. We drove past several hundred if not thousands of acres of houses embedded into the hill side. They appeared to be constructed by rudimentary standards and made of brick and mud or perhaps a cement mixture. I’m uncertain, but I didn’t observe any electricity being fed to these primitive structures. Air flow was accomplished by opening the windows and many of the homes only had open ports where a window might be installed some day. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Riding the Rhino – Part 1 - My team and I sat outside Kabul International Airport (KAIA) and patiently waited for transportation to convoy us to Camp Phoenix for inprocessing. We were informed that our ride would be there in the next hour or two. As we had not eaten since departing Manas, we opted to try out the coalition chow hall. It was still too early for a hot meal, so we settled for a European style of continental breakfast. This consisted of fresh Kaiser Rolls, bread, salami, Swiss cheese and some fresh fruit. Eating these sandwiches reminded me of my last trip to Finland with Liisa. We had sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. The only thing missing this time was the reindeer meat which I love. Our convoy finally arrived and we packed our bags into a trailer and boarded the Rhino Bus. The Rhino is a heavy armored bus for transporting passengers. As we departed the base with our heavily armed escorts, nothing could have prepared me for the ride I was about to take and the sights I was about to take in. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Sad Mother's Day in Iraq - In a sad coincidence of time zones, I was in Church in late morning yesterday listening to a Mothers Day sermon at about the same hour in which my mother-in-law Carol Jo Crannell passed away in her sleep in a hospice in Maryland. She had been ill for a long time, suffering from rapidly advancing Alzheimer's and some related complications. My wife had written me the day before about her care, but no one knew she was so close to the end of her life. And that life was very impressive. My wife Annalisa is the oldest of three daughters of Carol Jo who, like their mom, have advanced degrees in science and math. Carol was a solar physicist at NASA Goddard, so I could truthfully say my mother-in-law is a rocket scientist. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Riding in Tallil - Today I rode the perimeter of Tallil Air Base, a total distance 13 miles. Not very far and I stopped for an hour at the aid station to get a Cortisone shot in my right heel. Aaaahhhh!!! Felt better five minutes after the shot. Tomorrow we are running at 0600 so I will take my ankle for a test drive. It turns out I have a "rather large" bone spur according to the doc. Fifteen years ago, I got three cortisone shots then an operation on my heel. The operation would be my preference, but it may have to wait until I am a civilian again. Back to ride. My single-speed bike arrived Friday afternoon. I have ridden several places already, but I must take my weapon everywhere--an M16A4 rifle. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Dogs And Cats Sleeping Together - From the time following the election, there was an increasing pace of articles, papers and interviews geared towards "informing the President's decision" about the way forward in Afghanistan. Since the plan was announced just over a month ago, there has been a swelling cry amongst those who did not find their opinions well-represented in the new plan. These people knew, with the appointments of a number of those who champion opposite views to influential positions in the Pentagon and elsewhere, that their chosen paths were probably not going to carry a lot of weight. The reaction has been to raise a hue and cry in an attempt to catch hold of any lack of commitment or loss of enthusiasm due to difficulty. This has resulted in some strange actions, such as calling Andrew Bacevich during Senate hearings dedicated to hearing from Afghanistan veterans. It has also made for some strange bedfellows. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Going Green Part II - Well, in a nutshell, it works! Eat less, and eat smart, and you lose weight. What a concept. As I wrote earlier, in early March a nutritionist visited us from the USARCENT Surgeon’s Office, and gave a lecture on proper nutrition. For some reason I paid attention, even though I’ve heard it all before. Since then I’ve been very careful to eat only the “green” (i.e. low fat) foods in the DFAC, albeit with occasional exceptions for yellow (medium fat) and very occasional exceptions for red (high fat) foods. This past week we had our semi-annual APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test), or “PT Test” as it’s usually called. This is a standardized test that involves pushups, situps, and a two mile run. I never have a problem with this test, although my strength isn’t what it used to be when I was younger. I excercise regularly and work my way up to the test, so even though I hate to run and do it as little as possible, I pass the test every time and then go back to my own exercise routine until the next one is due. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: World’s Finest in Action - "Each day they organize and walk Afghan Army patrols in the valley below, some of the most dangerous acreage in the world. Each night they participate in radio meetings with the American posts along the ridges, exchanging plans and intelligence, and plotting the counterinsurgency effort in the ancient villages below." By C. J. CHIVERS Afghanistan New York Times, May 1, 2009 - Today’s offering is an article about one of my gunslingers who deployed with Kilo Company last year. He extended to participate with the Embedded Training Teams in Afghanistan. Cpl Conroy was part of a squad I was on patrol with in Kharmah, Iraq when a sniper took a shot at us (a story for another day). Since then he has probably seen more action than I ever will. "Each day Corporal Conroy and his assistant, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Murray, of Fort Myers, Fla., organize and walk Afghan Army patrols in the Korengal Valley, some of the most dangerous acreage in the world. Each night they participate in radio meetings with the American posts along the ridges, exchanging plans and intelligence, and plotting the counterinsurgency effort in the ancient villages below." (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: Range Day, Machine Guns - Day and Night - A day at the range is most definitely better than a day in the office. Yesterday was the first of only two days at the firing ranges during our training here. The course of fire was both to familiarize and if possible qualify on the M2 .50 caliber machinegun, and the M240G machinegun both in day and night settings. We also did familiarization fire with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) during the day. All firing was performed from a stationary HMMWV. Daytime with iron sights, nightime with thermal imaging scopes. Each individual fired about 900 rounds of various types throughout the day and night. Our Navy teams, Blackbeard and Neptune, are still in the early stages of mastering mounted combat patrols and convoy operations. We did make it to the range all together and in one piece. The first order of business of course was the safety and range briefs. Then I was off with a small group to zero the M240. After we accomplished this we rejoined our group in line for daytime firing of the M2 50 cal. (READ MORE)

1SG Martinez: Ali, The Birdman of Baghdad - I recently made a trip to the International Zone (IZ) in downtown Baghdad. While I was there, SGM Troy Falardeau, a fellow public affairs puke like me, took me on the nickel tour of Camp Prosperity there. As we walked, talked and toured the joint we happened upon a carpet salesman there who was holding a little fledgling sparrow in his hand. I couldn't pass it up, I just had to meet the little Iraqi with a little bird. Turns out he had more than just one bird, he has several. He kept a number of pigeons in a little cage across the street from his rug shop and apparently he kept his little bird in his pocket, when he wasn't perched on his finger. Oh, and one more thing. He said the little bird in his pocket wasn't actually a bird, but his son. It must be an Iraqi thing. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Collateral Damage - It is time to turn the ole gimlet eye onto the news, cut through the clutter, provide a little ground truth, and introduce another obscure military concept to the FRI family and their informed friends. The start point is this article concerning the killing of a little girl by the Italian army ISAF contingent in Herat which I want to compare to the current civilian casualty flap in Farah Province where over 100 people are reported to have been killed in ISAF air strikes. In my opinion one these incidents should result in a murder charge and the other is the way things have to be – but we are not managing that message well at all. The facts as reported about the Italian shooting seem very clear. They overtook a civilian vehicle but reported it to be “driving at high speed” they claim to have fired warning shots but TV footage of the car shows it was hit repeatedly in the left rear quarter panel area indicating the shooter was behind the vehicle. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Playing with Cerberus - So, I have re-entered Hades, having passed the gates for a short reprieve. I am back in Iraq and enjoying the lovely red-tinged, sand engulfed, hot weather. Its still only a balmy 42C though. Not a lot has gone on since I got back, but I haven’t been back all that long either. I do have a new CHU and a new FOB. My body is busy rejecting all the DFAC food after having gotten used to real food again, and I am having to spend more time than I like in Port-A-Johns that have been heated by the Iraqi sun all day. Other than that, however, its pretty much business as usual. I am considering taking this blog “official.” Yes, that means letting the bosses look it over and editorialize if necessary. However, the Army seems to have taken a more enlightened approach to blogging. I don’t know if its more of an ”if you can’t beat’em, join’em” approach or not, but recently they have been encouraging soldiers to blog, twitter, etc. (READ MORE)

Intrepid Reporter: Dr. Dad.....May19, 1942 to May 6th 2009 - With great sadness I announce the passing of my father, Dr. Dad. at 1055am on Wednesday May 6th, 2009. He died peacefully and slipped away while I was on the phone with the family... he waited until we were all together. I’m staying on here, per his wishes, and Mom is being supported by #2 Son , His wife and Household Six. There will be a Celebration of his Life in New Hampshire at a time to be determined. I'm staying on here in Baghdad. Dad, when I saw him last on R&R pretty much said that we're not going to let anything like his death stop me from completeing the Mission. Charlie Mike. F.I.D.O. Fuck it. Drive on. Hard as hell, but necessary, as I'm STILL cleaning up the mess here from my R&R. Cancer ate him up. I'm actually happy for him, if thats the correct term, nay, relieved as well that his suffering is over. I guess it was really bad at the end. Now, as Middle Country said, "He walks with the Angels." (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: An Overwhelming Dependence - Two of the great spiritual times of my life were my LDS mission and Basic Combat Training. They may seem worlds apart: preaching the gospel and learning to kill, knocking on doors and knocking out pushups, singing Christian hymns and calling vulgar cadence. But there is one great common denominator that trumps everything else: an overwhelming dependence on the Lord. Both times, I leaned heavily on Christ to carry me through. This deployment is shaping up to be something similar. These first few weeks have hit me with a level of temptation that I’m not used to. Things that have never before been an issue for me have, all of a sudden, become enticing. Serious thoughts about buying a Playboy at the PX, trying a beer, having a coffee at an early PowerPoint briefing, even getting a tattoo with a friend.*** My covenants (and, with them, my family) are all that have kept me from indulging. But I believe the adversary has overplayed his hand. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Mother's Day - This is the second Mother's day I will face without Micheal. I was warned by a very kind and loving woman last year how hard it would be. She too had lost her son but to a drunk driver. So last year I was prepared. I suppose I am again this year. Last year, a few days before Mother's Day a delivery truck pulled up and I received a bouquet of Lilies. The card "From Your Boys in Company B" My son's brothers who I had not yet met had remembered me. It made the day easier. It is one of my most cherished mother's day gifts. Not the flowers... but that these men in a combat zone had taken the time to remember me. This year my phone is all ready buzzing with text messages. And pans for visits in a couple of weeks. I have every homemade card and gift my kids ever made put away. I remember the text message from my son David last year (He was in his bedroom and I was in the kitchen) telling me he loved me and he would wash my car. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strike targets Baitullah Mehsud territory in South Waziristan - The US launched a covert airstrike against a Taliban safe house in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan. The US targeted a Taliban compound with an airstrike in the lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan, killing between five to ten terrorists. A swarm of unmanned Predator attack aircraft fired four missiles at a compound run by Taliban forces loyal to Baituallah Mehsud in the town of Sararogha, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The official would not disclose the name of the Taliban or al Qaeda operatives targeted in the operation. The number killed is unclear, according to initial reports from Pakistan. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Of Fish and Men (and turtles, too) - Three times a day we make the long trek to the dining facility (DFAC) for our meals. It's not too bad right now, but I can imagine in a few weeks when the heat is unbearable that 3/4 mile walk one way won't be so pleasant. At least there's Gatorade in the DFAC. Near the front door of the facility is a footbridge that crosses a canal. These canals run all through Camp Liberty and are the main source of green that we see: green reeds that grow on the edge and are almost as tall as we are; and water that is a shade of green that has yet to be assigned a color by Crayola. We even have one of these canals right in front of our building (seriously...I keep waiting for someone to drive our truck into it). A favorite pasttime of Soldiers (and civilians) is to stand on the bridge and throw bread, Cheerios, even fruit, to the fish and turtles that live in the canal. I've done this a few times myself. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Tune In and Get the Message - I'm a big-time TV show and movie buff. Ask anyone who knows me really well, and they'll tell you...yep, Burke spends time at night watching shows and spends money watching good movies. One of my prime time TV favs is Grey's Anatomy. I've watched that show since day 1. Sometimes I've missed a show or two...especially since I've been here in Baghdad. When I was home on leave I was able to catch the latest two episodes. I thought about that show today and remembered SGT Logue using the internet to get on ABC and watch the latest show. So, we're having a slow day...I jumped online and was able to catch up with the latest.... The writers of Grey's Anatomy are exceptional. Why? They show you how the little nuances in life mean so much. They remind you and/or teach you about life's struggles and its importance. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: Iraqi Army-Wide Personnel Inspection - Recently, the Iraqi Army began a thorough inspection of all Soldiers including personnel records, literacy and physical condition. The goals of the inspection are to complete records, bring discrepancies up to standards, and, in some cases, separate those not meeting standards from the service. In May 2003, the United States dissolved the Iraqi Army as a means of marking the end of the old power. In August of the same year, the new Iraqi army began training its new recruits at a rapid rate with the purpose of combating extremism. The fast pace of recruiting resulted in lenient standards and less than complete records. The first step in the personnel inspection was comparing a national photo ID card called a jensia to the Soldiers' own face. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Problem of Commenting on Civilian Casualties - As I said the other day, we should expect between 30 and 50 non-combattant deaths from the latest mass civilian casualty incident in western Afghanistan. Today comes news that at least the first round of investigation indicates 50 total dead, with 30 civilians in the mix. Not bad on my part, though obviously something remains off if we’re still repeating Azizabad (where about 30 civilians died to get 20 Taliban—what should be an unacceptable ratio). But look at this: “The investigators have also found evidence that Taliban fighters prevented some families from evacuating their houses during the nearly 12-hour firefight, effectively assuring civilian casualties, the officials said.” This is important news to broadcast, as loudly as possible. Especially because some commentators—including those like Tim Lynch, who like and respect—continue to blame the civilians themselves for being caught in the middle. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: My New Job Title - It’s been a long week and today is the first of 3 Sundays that I’ll be working. I’m trying to look on the bright side – when my Sunday off does roll around, it’ll be 3 weeks closer to coming home. I’m the new Assignments Editor so I have the task of telling people what stories they have to do whenever something comes up. I feel like people don’t really take me seriously and think they can put stuff off until the last minute. I don’t want to be a “b****” but I feel like that’s the only thing some of these guys will respond to so I’ll do what I have to do to get this job done. I did three VOSOTs (voice over sound on tape) this week, including one today about the Bataan Road March. The 12th Annual Bataan Memorial March is in Minnesota this month and since our new division comes from Minnesota, they organized a march here. The 20 mile started early this morning, so I was there at 0545 to set up. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Army Travel - I don’t know if I’m a good enough writer to describe the frustrating nature of army travel. We’re always dealing with windows of time. It’s not like one can buy a ticket for a certain day and time like Delta or American Airlines. I’d give Sassypants left pinky for the on-time performance of Delta in Iraq. He’ll, I’d like the ability to just know that when I get to the terminal, I’ll have a seat on a plane or helicopter. If a solder wants to fly, they have to make a request apx. 3-4 days in advance. That doesn’t guarantee a seat, it just makes it more likely that solder will get on a bird. If a mission comes up right away, or the soldier isn’t manifested due to extenuating circumstances like being a low priority or those putting together the manifest claim they don’t get the email, they get to fly on standby. BTW-a soldier only finds out if they are manifested the day prior to their scheduled departure, if they aren’t on the manifest they can fly standby or wait another three days. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Subtle Sense of Pride - Being an Infantryman in Baghdad when there are really no major battles going on can often be a thankless job. If you aren’t performing the mission of the infantry (closing with and destroying the enemy) it often feels as though you are accomplishing nothing. Our job, when not actually shooting at the enemy, is roughly equivalent to being the lid on a pot that is trying to boil over. Thus for as long as we keep the lid on, and it doesn’t boil over, it feels like we are doing nothing. This minimal sense of accomplishment is coupled with spending countless hours out on patrol. Hot, sweaty, hours spent wearing at least 50 – 60 lbs of kit trudging through some of the worst slums known to man kind. Slums so bad that the pools of water are anti-freeze green, pink, or purple and smell utterly putrid. Livestock in the area literally graze trash. I pity the plight of the children and the horses, they truly have nothing in life to look forward to. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Happy Mother's Day - Today I went back to Osceola to visit my parents. As I always do, I went up to the cemetary to visit Rob alone. As I was sitting there next to him, I couldn't help but think: "This is so messed up that I'm visiting my husband in a cemetary." I see this dirt mound with 10 American flags sticking out all over it and have a hard time picturing my Rob laying there. This is the continuing ride on the emotional roller coaster. I'll be having a good day and then something will trigger my sadness and I'll breakdown--if only for a few moments. The other day I was going through Julia's school bag. In it I found a card she had written and drawn. It said "To daddy. From Julia." On it she drew a picture of the four of us. She then wrote "I miss you. I love you." I found another picture she had drawn. In the middle was a big cross. On the cross she wrote "We love God!" Then she drew pictures of birds and grass. On the top there were 2 people. One was labeled "God" and the other "Daddy". (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

U.S. Hands Over Warehouses to Iraqi Ministry of Defense - BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Joint Headquarters Army Advisor Training Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command- Iraq on behalf of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, hands over facilities to Iraq Ministry of Defense April 29. This project was managed for JHAATT, the MNSTC-I J7 and constructed by a civilian construction company, through the Air Force Center for Engineering and Environment. This project creates a new capability by allowing the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to conduct efficient supply and ordnance operations in the Baghdad area. (READ MORE)

Weapons cache discovered in Adhamiyah - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces discovered a weapons cache in the Adhamiyah district of northern Baghdad May 7. At approximately 7:30 a.m., Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, partnered with 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st National Police Division, discovered 18 82 mm mortars, eight 60 mm mortars, two mortar tubes with base plates, and 16 fuses while conducting operations in the Sha’ab community of Adhamiyah. (READ MORE)

Pilots and Trainers Graduate from CAFTT Program - KIRKUK, Iraq – A group of Iraqi pilots graduated from the Coalition Air Force Training Team, Air Force Training Squadron on May 5. This most recent group of graduates was the third pilot training group to graduate since the new Iraqi Air Force was stood up according to U.S. Air Force Maj. James Booth of the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron. Four students completed the program and became the Iraqi Air Force’s newest pilots and four students completed the pilot instructor program. (READ MORE)

Suspected criminal detained in Mansour - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division—Baghdad Soldiers detained a suspected criminal on a warrant May 7 in northwest Baghdad’s Mansour district. At approximately 2 a.m., Iraqi Police officers from the Jamiyah Police Station and Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division arrested an individual suspected in the downing of a Coalition forces helicopter in 2007 and supporting al-Qaeda in Iraq activities in Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Ceremony marks Qudas Power Plant Expansion milestone, 200 megawatts added to Iraqi grid - Baghdad – The new U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher R. Hill participated in his first ribbon cutting ceremony May 7 at al-Qudas Power Plant, located northeast of Baghdad. The U.S. government has been funding a $176 million expansion project at the existing power plant, which plays a key role in power generation for the Iraqi national power grid. A site tour and ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Iraq’s Minister of Electricity, Dr. Karim W. Hasan, marked the completion of the successful, joint venture between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. (READ MORE)

Iraqi military doctors meet for conference - BAGHDAD – Iraq’s military physicians gathered for a two day conference sponsored by the Ministry of Defense. Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Samir, Ministry of Defense surgeon general, hosted the conference at the MoD Headquarters in Baghdad on May 4. The theme of the two-day gathering was, “Working together for advanced military medical services.” The conference covered the achievements of the past year and looked forward to the future of Iraq’s military medical professionals. (READ MORE)

Progress – One class at a time - BAGHDAD – How is progress measured? How can you tell if your hard work has actually made a difference? For two U.S. Air Force sergeants, progress can be measured in the number of skilled and qualified Iraqi firefighters. “When I first arrived, we were training Iraqi Air Force firefighters in Taji with very little equipment,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Partido, Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Coalition Air Force Training Team advisor. (READ MORE)
U.S., Iraqi Police Donate Backpacks - FOB DELTA — Iraqi (IP) and U.S. Military Police (MP) partnered for "Operation Backpack," delivering more than 250 backpacks filled with school supplies to the Sukaina School for Girls, May 6. IP from the Old Izza police station in Kut led the humanitarian aid mission while U.S. MPs helped by delivering the backpacks to the IP who then handed them out at the school. "This is very beneficial to the students because they are getting supplies to help them with school," said Suhad Naeen Hethel, school manager. "It is also good because it shows the cooperation between the Iraqi Police and Coalition forces." (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. Soldiers Secure Busy Marketplace in Taji - TAJI — Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. Soldiers have been hitting the streets, working together to maintain security in Taji Market, one of the busiest sectors of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s area of operations north of Baghdad. The market is a lynchpin in the security effort because it’s where the lives of locals intertwine. (READ MORE)

Taliban Forced Civilians to Remain in Targeted Buildings, Petraeus Says - WASHINGTON, May 10, 2009 – Taliban operatives shaking down villages for money appear to have forced civilians to remain in buildings that were bombed in the course of a long May 4 firefight, the commander of U.S. Central Command said today. Gen. David H. Petraeus said on “Fox News Sunday” that a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation team looking into the incident addressed the events leading up to the aerial attack targeting Taliban fighters in which an undetermined number of Afghan civilians were killed. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Leaders Unite Against Taliban, al-Qaida - WASHINGTON, May 10, 2009 – Pakistani leadership is united in opposing the Taliban occupation of the Swat Valley, and the leaders also understand a “whole-of-government” counterinsurgency strategy is necessary in the country, the chief of U.S. Central Command said today. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said on “Fox News Sunday” that the Taliban operations in the valley – about 60 miles north of the capital of Islamabad – “seem to have galvanized all of Pakistan.” (READ MORE)

Afghan Forces Seize 600 Pounds of Opium, Kill Seven Militants - WASHINGTON, May 8, 2009 – Afghan forces, advised by coalition forces, confiscated 600 pounds of opium and killed seven armed militants last night during operations in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Prompted by local reports of Taliban activities in the area, the Afghan forces launched a search of compounds in a known insurgent safe haven and narcotics hub. The Afghan-led force found the opium, an AK-47 assault rifle with 1,000 rounds and remote-controlled bomb-making components during the search. (READ MORE)

Afghan Commandos Maintain Vigilant Presence in Eastern Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 8, 2009 – Elite soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 1st Commando Kandak, 201st Corps, recently spent 48 hours conducting operations alongside their Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan brothers-in-arms in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. The combined elements often spend days at a time patrolling villages and bazaars and disrupting insurgent hideouts throughout Nangarhar, a volatile province running along the Pakistan border. (READ MORE)

Doctor Confronts Maternal Mortality in Afghanistan - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, May 8, 2009 – The young Dari interpreter standing by the desk translates the words of the American doctor to the young woman, as she sits quietly. An examining table stands against one yellow wall in the small room. Various tools and medical equipment are positioned around the room. Thickly lined with black eyeliner, the young woman's brown eyes light up. Her soft smile widens, and she leans forward in her seat. Her husband will not take another wife. After three barren years, she is finally pregnant. (READ MORE)

Gates Visits Troops in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province - KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 8, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited the only battalion-sized U.S. unit operating in this southern Afghanistan province yesterday. Gates spent about an hour at Forward Operating Base Ramrod, about 80 miles west of Kandahar City, and he awarded six valorous medals to soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division’s Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. (READ MORE)

Swat civilians flee as Pakistani army battles Taliban - An exodus of thousands of civilians resumed in Pakistan's Swat valley Sunday as a curfew was temporarily lifted to allow people to flee the intensifying conflict between the army and the Taliban fighters. Authorities announced a break in the curfew until the afternoon and asked the residents of at least four areas near Swat's main town of Mingora to leave for safer places outside the mountain district. (READ MORE)

Roadside blasts kill 11 civilian workers in Afghanistan - Kabul - Eight civilians working with a road construction company were killed on Sunday in a roadside bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan, while three others were killed in a similar attack in southern region, officials said. The workers were on way to a construction site near the border with Pakistan on Sunday morning when their vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb in Haskamina district of eastern Nangarhar province, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for the provincial governor said. (READ MORE)

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