May 12, 2009

From the Front: 05/12/2009

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

A.L.L.: Chapter 5 A: The Beasts in the Northeast; RC Central (ANA 201st Corps Area) - The RC Central, oftentimes referred to as the 201st Corps area, contains Parwan, Panjshir, Kapisa, Kabul, Logar, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar and Nuristan Provinces. Mostly mountainous, most valleys consist of barren mountains surrounding a relatively flat valley floor which is cultivated and irrigated. Terraced fields often climb the mountainsides in the more narrow valleys. Kabul and Kabul Province form the hub for this area. To the north, Parwan and Panjshir are relatively peaceful, as is northern Kapisa Province. Southern Kapisa Province is a hotbed of activity as the Taliban and HiG, often in concert, seek to maintain/regain control of the Tag Ab Valley, traditionally an insurgent stronghold and their gateway to Kabul. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Tent living – watch for scorpions, cobras and Kraits - Our team was informed we would have to stay in tents for the next 3 days for inprocessing before moving on forward to the FOB. We arrived at our tent and off-loaded our bags from the trailer. Tent #4 would become our home for the next days. Inside the tent there are two rows of bunk beds and the floor is made of warped plywood covered in a thick layer of dust. Most of the lighting is intact and are systematically linked to each other like extension cords. They are supported by binder twine affixed to the tent ceiling. The grey metal bunk beds were probably constructed locally and are crude in nature and poorly welded. We were all exhausted and dumped our bags on empty beds and on the floor. I draped my poncho liner on one side of the bed and attached the liner on the other to create some personal privacy. While lying down on the bed, it made a screeching noise every time I moved. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: A New Accountability? - SECDEF Gates spoke this afternoon on the replacement of GEN David McKiernan as the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. McKiernan was on the job for less than a year, having been appointed the task under the Bush administration. LTG Stanley McChrystal will replace him. McChrystal was a Special Forces officer, and former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. The whole thing was quite civilized; GEN McKiernan's service was duly praised... perhaps eulogized. It is the first major sacking of a commander in this war. Could it be that senior officers will be held accountable for the success or failure of their mission, or is this just a political move to replace a Bush assignee? Based on Gates' announcement, it appears that it is a signal that field commanders will be held accountable for the lack of progress in their areas. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani claims of high Taliban casualties 'wildly exaggerated' - US officials - US military and intelligence officials are expressing skepticism about Pakistani claims of high Taliban casualties as the fighting spreads in the volatile northwest. The Pakistani military's daily reports of hundreds of Taliban fighters killed in the districts of Swat, Shangla, Dir, and Buner are "wildly exaggerated," a senior US intelligence official who is closely watching the operations in Pakistan told The Long War Journal. Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, claimed that more than 700 Taliban fighters were killed in the last four days in Swat alone, Dawn reported. But a US intelligence official described Malik's claim as "fantastic." (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: The Future of Iraq, Part I - During my last trip to Baghdad I tried to figure out if the worst in Iraq is over or if the dramatic reduction in violence is just a long lull. Half the Iraqis and half the Americans I spoke to were optimistic. The other half think Iraq is probably doomed. I have no idea who's right, and neither does anyone else. This is the first in a four-part series where I'll present both cases and let you decide what to think for yourself. We'll start with the good news. - Captain Todd Allison slipped off his helmet and tucked it under his arm as he and I walked on a dusty residential street in a Shia quarter of Baghdad. “This is the safest place in the city,” he said. He no longer needed his helmet or body armor, and neither did I. “This street is protected by JAM.” JAM is short for Jaysh al Mahdi, Moqtada al Sadr's radical Mahdi Army militia. Not much of that militia remains since the Iraqi Army purged Basra and Sadr City of Shia insurgents last spring, but Sadr and his men still have clout in some areas. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

First Iraq Vendor Fair a Huge Success - BAGHDAD – The Multi-National Security Transition Command- Iraq along with Joint Contracting Command- Iraq held the first Iraqi Vendor Fair at the Al-Rasheed hotel May 10. The vendor fair was attended by over 80 different Iraqi owned businesses. The purpose of this vendor fair was to educate the Iraqi business owners on the process involved in doing business with the Multi-National Security Transition Command- Iraq. The larger than expected turnout, proved to be a tremendous success and will result in more vendor fairs in the near future. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Commandos take ten suspected terrorists out of the fight - TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested ten suspected terrorist cell members during a combined operation in Diyala Province May 5 pursuant to warrants issued by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Within two hours time, the 8th Regional Commando Battalion successfully conducted their mission against a violent terrorist cell operating in the Hamrin Dam area, leading to the capture of the suspected terrorist cell leader and nine of his associates. (READ MORE)

All in a day’s work: Soldiers make the rounds - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Kirkuk, Iraq—Soldiers gather near their mine-resistant armor-protected vehicles in the early morning to receive a pre-mission briefing, which includes threat assessments, Rules of Engagement, what to do if encountering an improvised explosive device, procedures for medical evacuation, and what actions to take during a vehicle rollover. These briefings are routine to a Soldier serving in Iraq, but they are necessary for every mission and are exactly how Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, begin their morning at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces making strong progress in major Diyala operation - DIYALA, Iraq – Significant progress has been made throughout the Diyala Province one week into a major operation called “Glad Tidings of Benevolence II,” being conducted by Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga and Coalition forces. “What’s particularly significant about this operation is the high degree of cooperation that Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga units have shown in completing various patrols and clearing operations together,” said Maj. Chris Hyde, spokesman, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (READ MORE)

Courthouse Undergoes Security Upgrades - MOSUL — Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the instability of the law enforcement and justice system here created a vacuum allowing insurgent groups to gain a foothold in the region. The recent renovation of the old Mosul Courthouse is helping to return to the Rule of Law to the Mosul justice system. The nine-month, $511,000 project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, provides a number of security upgrades designed to protect both citizens and Iraqi Justice Department employees. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraqi Explosive Ordnance Teams Discover, Detonate Hidden Weapons - BASRAH — U.S. Soldiers took the opportunity to train their Iraqi counterparts in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) after hidden weapons were found here recently. Before the two teams could perform a joint controlled detonation, they had the daunting task of identifying and inventorying every round. The EOD teams cataloged more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition; the majority being high explosive, armor-piercing rounds, said Navy Lt. Joe Morgan, EOD Mobile Unit 5. (READ MORE)

Eye in the Sky Watches Oil Operations - BAGHDAD — The U.S. Navy and Air Force recently teamed up to support and train the newly-formed Iraqi Navy with maritime mission support along the northern area of the Arabian Gulf, where a large percentage of Iraq's oil is exported. The first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) flight took place in April as pilots from the Navy teamed up with ISR operators from the Air Force to provide Iraq's Navy with a watchful eye over the waters of the Arabian Gulf. (READ MORE)

Gates Recommends McChrystal as New U.S. Commander in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 11, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today recommended Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to replace Army Gen. David D. McKiernan as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, citing the need for fresh leadership as the U.S. takes a new approach to the region. Gates recommended that McChrystal, currently the director of the Joint Staff, replace McKiernan as commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Forces Kill One Militant, Detain Seven in Afghanistan - KABUL, May 11, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed one militant and detained seven suspects in operations yesterday to disrupt Taliban networks in eastern Afghanistan, military officials said. Afghan national police and coalition forces at a compound in the Sharan district of Paktika province killed one man with links to a Taliban network and detained two suspected militants. Combined forces also discovered grenades, armor-piercing rounds, explosive materials and other military equipment, which troops later destroyed. (READ MORE)

Coalition Team Gives Temporary Shelter to Afghan Students - KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 11, 2009 – More than 1,000 students at a decrepit school in eastern Afghanistan won’t have to wait more than a year for their new school to be built to learn in better conditions, thanks to a coalition team here. Members of Task Force Warrior’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams joined forces recently with the local government here to provide temporary shelter for local students whose school is in disrepair. (READ MORE)

U.S. Denies Using White Phosphorous in Afghanistan, Gates Pledges More Investigation - WASHINGTON, May 11, 2009 – The U.S. military denies using white phosphorous during recent fighting with Taliban militants, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said American and Afghan officials will further investigate the recent Western Afghanistan battle. The Taliban alleges that U.S. forces employing the chemical during fighting with insurgents wounded Afghan civilians in the May 4 battle in Farah province, a claim the U.S. military refutes. (READ MORE)

Special Operations Forces Save Lives After Bomb Attack - KABUL, Afghanistan, May 11, 2009 – As soon as they heard the news of the suicide bombers yesterday, a coalition Special Operations team in southern Afghanistan sprang into action. The team rescued, treated and medically evacuated 19 civilians after two suicide bombers detonated themselves in the Gereshk bazaar in Helmand province, injuring 20 and killing nine. Six of the victims killed by the suicide bombers were Afghan National Policemen and Afghan soldiers. (READ MORE)

Taleban using white phosphorus, some of it made in Britain - Taleban fighters have been using deadly white phosphorus munitions, some of them manufactured in Britain, to attack Western forces in Afghanistan, according to previously classified United States documents released yesterday. White phosphorus, which can burn its victims down to the bone, has been found in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in regions across Afghanistan including in the south, where British troops are based. It has also been used in mortar and rocket attacks on American forces. (READ MORE)

Probe reveals 140 Afghan civilians killed in strikes - HERAT: An investigation appointed by President Hamid Karzai concluded on Monday that 140 civilians, including children, were killed in the US air strikes in Afghanistan last week, a police chief said. A team, appointed by Karzai and headed by Chief of Army Staff General Bismillah Khan, told authorities in Farah that they had concluded their investigation on Monday, provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Watandar said. (READ MORE)

German prosecutors may review conduct of Afghan gunbattle - Berlin - Germany's Defence Ministry said Monday that German soldiers shot at least two out of seven Afghan rebels killed in a gunbattle in northern Afghanistan last week and civil prosecutors might possibly review what happened. A 29-man patrol was ambushed Thursday near Kunduz. Together with Afghan government forces, they fought off Taliban attackers for several hours. A first account in Berlin said it was the Afghans who killed four, wounded four and captured four Taliban members. (READ MORE)

White Phosphorus Used in Afghan Battle? Not Us, Says U.S. Military - Kabul (AP) - Doctors voiced concern about "unusual" burns on Afghan villagers wounded in an already controversial U.S.-Taliban battle, and the country's top human rights groups said Sunday it is investigating the possibility that white phosphorus was used. The American military denied using the incendiary in the battle in Farah province -- which President Hamid Karzai has said killed 125 to 130 civilians -- but left open the possibility that Taliban militants did. The U.S. says Taliban fighters have used white phosphorus, a spontaneously flammable material that leaves severe chemical burns on flesh, at least four times the last two years. (READ MORE)

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