May 13, 2009

From the Front: 05/13/2009

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

A Battlefield Tourist: US: “Taliban Responsible For Casualties in Farah” - A US statement just released points the blame at Taliban insurgents for the deaths and maiming of dozens of civilians with white phosphorus (WP) munitions. This is the latest in a PR blitz countering claims that the US military used WP against insurgents and civilians late last week. “KABUL, Afghanistan –An ongoing joint Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces investigation team found evidence Friday of non-combatant casualties caused by Taliban fighters’ actions in Farah province.” Investigators interviewed the Surgeon and staff of the Farah Hospital and the three doctors on duty on Tuesday. They treated 16 patients, five ANP and 11 civilians, for flash burns and small lacerations. Afghan doctors said injuries could have resulted from hand grenades or exploding propane tanks. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Pull out of Afghanistan now - Yes I said it. Not that I think it is the right answer but when the Administration automatically listens to Karzai and the Taliban, what choice do I have. The President and the Sec of State went on the record by speaking in front of foreign leaders and the cameras to apologize for a supposed friendly bombing by US forces before the smell of cordite has even blown off the battlefield. US media is not even trustworthy without doing fact-checking, but now our Government is going to automatically listen to the enemy’s propaganda machine. The President and Secretary Clinton have done to our military in Afghanistan what Murtha did to the Marines in Haditha; condemned the brave warriors trying to fight the enemy long before any investigation has happened to show if they are innocent or guilty. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Rex on convoy to his destination - It’s Liisa, SMSgt. Temple’s wife again. Rex called home for about 5 minutes last night and he’s now on the final leg of his journey to his Forward Operating Base. He likely won’t have connectivity much; the camp he’s headed to has no Wi-Fi but just a couple of phones and computers all the troops have to share. Sounds like the maximum time allotted to each military member for the phone and the Internet access is 10 minutes; Rex will try to write everything on his laptop and then just upload documents and photos when it’s his turn to use the computer. Rex asked me to keep the blog “warm” while he’s on the convoy and I decided to write about what it’s like to be at home without him but still try to support him on a daily basis. Interestingly enough my husband really enjoys getting reminders from home. I was trying to limit how many e-mails and photos I send so that he wouldn’t feel so home sick but he actually likes exactly the opposite. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Riding In Iraq - Here's some photos of me riding with a rifle. We keep 30 rounds of ammo in a magazine with us. Mine is in the green pouch on the butt stock. Slinging it over my back is easier than the pack, but strapping the rifle on the pack keeps it in place better. (READ MORE - Pictures at Site)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Back in Iraq - For those of you who have been following my entries on this blog site (yes, all 8 of you), you will be happy to see that I have returned from whirlwind R&R leave in the United States, and have been “reassimilated into the collective.” The first week back was very difficult. I couldn’t sleep at regular times, my dietary habits was all mixed up, and worst of all, I had been away during the 3 weeks of CPIC movement, so I felt out of the loop (I had been severed from the collective — I know just how Seven of Nine felt during that first episode). It took some time, but I have begun to get back into the groove. I found the best way was just to “thrust myself into the vortex”, or in other words, I forced myself to insert myself into conversations and work teams to let all know that I was back and ready to go. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban launches complex assault in Haqqani country - The Taliban launched a multi-pronged suicide attack against government and security installations in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, a stronghold of the deadly Haqqani Network. Eleven Taliban fighters and nine civilians were killed in the day-long assault. The attack began mid-morning when a suicide bomber dressed in a burka attacked the provincial headquarters and was followed up by a suicide car bomber. No casualties were reported in the opening salvo. A six-man suicide team then assaulted a police station in Khost City but was repelled by the policemen. The attackers entered a nearby municipal center and took 20 people hostage. Three of the suicide bombers apparently detonated their vests as Afghan and US forces cordoned then stormed the building, killed the remaining Taliban fighters, and rescued the hostages. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strikes again in South Waziristan - The US has conducted another airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan. Eight Taliban fighters are said to have been killed in the second strike in South Waziristan in three days. An unmanned Predator strike aircraft hit a Taliban compound about 15 miles west of the town of Wana in the village of Sara Khwara, Dawn reported. "There were no immediate reports that any high-value targets were killed," according to the news outlet. The region is run by Mullah Nazir, one of two senior Taliban commanders in South Waziristan. Nazir is a former rival and now ally of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. On Nov. 7, 2008, the US targeted Nazir and Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in a strike near Wana. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Attacks in Khost Highlight Need for New Strategy - Some sort of coordinated suicide attack on government buildings in Khost City today took between 10 and 20 lives, depending on the source. The remaining fighters then holed up inside the governor’s office and municipal office until being eventually killed by hours of shooting. The BBC has some loud video. Khost is a dangerous place. When I was there in March, a co-worker related what it was like to drive around in MRAPs, knowing at any moment they could be flipped upside down and grievously wounded by an IED. He wasn’t a fan. (One of our colleagues died a year ago when his Humvee got crushed by an IED.) Another friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, just had his own encounter with an IED. Again—it frightened him. These sorts of incidents, and the seeming randomness with which they happen, underscore the severe restrictions on movement. Civilians cannot travel outside of MRAPs, and often the cultural advisers and interpreters cannot meaningfully interact with villagers because of the many rules on force protection. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Arafa district council hears from their people - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Kirkuk, Iraq— Like any place else, residents of the Arafa district in Kirkuk City, Iraq, rely on their city council representatives to get projects accomplished in their district. The opportunity to speak to district representatives, district police and members from public works sections such as water and electricity came May 7, at the Arafa District Police Station. “We are going to work on getting projects going faster that will improve the city’s water and education,” said Brig. Gen. Borhan, the Kirkuk inner-city police chief. “We are working very hard to make this city as great as it once was.” (READ MORE)

Detainees released in Ramadi - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 12 detainees from U.S. custody and transferred two detainees who were wanted pursuant to a valid warrant to Iraqi Police custody on May 11, 2009, in Ramadi. Marines from MNF-W coordinated with the Iraqi Police to transfer the two detainees who were wanted pursuant to a warrant; other detainees were released near their place of residence. Prior to release, detainees participated in a public reintegration ceremony where they took an oath of good citizenship and renounced violence. (READ MORE)

Soldiers receive tip, discover explosive in Mansour - BAGHDAD – After receiving a tip from a concerned Iraqi citizen about a possible improvised explosive device, Multi-National Division—Baghdad Soldiers discovered an IED in the Mansour district of northwest Baghdad, May 11. Troopers from the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment discovered the IED in an intersection at approximately 9:25 p.m. (READ MORE)

Logistics Operations Center Runs Practice Exercise - BAGHDAD – The new Iraqi Logistics Operations Center ran its first practice exercise, “Morning Torch 2009” May 10 and 11. One of the primary goals of the program was to improve the ILOC standard operating procedures with an emphasis on logistical reporting processes. “We are training for the unexpected,” Iraqi Staff Brig. Gen. Nabeel said. “This facility is a great improvement over the way that we used to operate,” Nabeel added. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Pilots Train in Simulators - BAGHDAD - It’s been three years since Iraqi C-130 crew members went to flight simulator training and they are ready to go back! Ever since the Iraqi Air Force Commander stated, “All the pilots, copilots, navigators, engineers, and loadmasters will attend the simulator in the United States,” all levels of command have been vigorously working to make it happen. “We really wanted them to attend the simulator somewhere, we didn’t care where,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Brunworth, the 321 Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander at the time the decision was made. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Commandos Capture Ten Terrorists - TIKRIT — Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with Coalition advisors, arrested ten suspected terrorist cell members during a combined operation in Diyala province recently, based on 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)

Minnesota Guardsmen Remember, Honor Bataan Death March Victims - BASRAH — Eighty-six U.S. Soldiers and civilians stationed here joined efforts with National Guard Soldiers in Minnesota to participate in the 12th Annual Bataan Memorial March, Sunday. The event honors veterans who were victims of the Bataan Death March. More than 78,000 servicemembers were forced to march more than 55 miles from the Bataan Peninsula to be held as prisoners of war at Camp O’Donnell following the surrender of Allied Forces in the Philippines in 1942. (READ MORE)

“Rebuilding home” - a Baghdad maternity hospital’s $2.4 million renovation restores full capacity - BAGHDAD, Iraq - “I feel like I helped rebuild my home. I was born and raised just four kilometers from this hospital, so it is a special place for me,” said engineer Wathiq Abdul Jabbar, at Al-Alwaiya Maternity Hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in Baghdad May 9. In 2004, the hospital had a capacity of only 37 beds. Equipment failures and structural damage caused rooms and buildings to remain unused for many years. (READ MORE)

Coalition, Afghan Forces Detain Five, Seize Opium - WASHINGTON, May 12, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces captured two drug traffickers, seized about a half ton of opium, and captured three other suspects in separate overnight operations in Afghanistan. In the Musa Qaleh district of Helmand province, Afghan forces, advised by coalition forces, detained the drug traffickers and opium early today. The combined forces found nearly 1,000 pounds of black-tar opium during a search of a suspected militant’s home. (READ MORE)

Pakistan, Afghanistan pledge to work for regional peace - Pakistan and Afghanistan Wednesday pledged to create an environment of security and stability in the region and to work for its development and prosperity. 'We will transform our region into one where terrorism and extremism are but a distant memory,' Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said addressing the inaugural session of the third Regional Economic Cooperation (REC) conference on Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Warplanes bomb Taliban as Pakistan appeals for aid - PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistan fighter jets and attack helicopters pounded Taliban targets in the northwest on Wednesday as President Asif Ali Zardari called for global help to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the punishing offensive in the Swat valley, escaping Taliban fighters who have terrorised the population in a bloody campaign to enforce sharia law and expand their control. (READ MORE)

Afghan official: 95 kids died in US-Taliban clash - KABUL (AP) - An Afghan lawmaker says 95 children are among a the 140 people Afghan officials say died in a U.S.-Taliban battle earlier this month. U.S. spokesman Col. Greg Julian says "there is no physical proof that can substantiate that" claim. Julian says the insurgents are responsible for the deaths because they forced villagers to remain in homes during the battle. The U.S. won't say how many people it thinks were killed in the May 4-5 fight in Farah province. (READ MORE)

Taliban: All local leaders must quit - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A Taliban spokesman issued a series of threats and ultimatums against Pakistani officials Wednesday as the country's military continued its offensive against the militant group in the Swat Valley. Speaking on the telephone with CNN, Muslim Khan announced that all national and provincial parliament members from the Malakand Division, the northwestern region where the Swat Valley is located, must resign within three days. (READ MORE)

Troops kill 10 Taliban in northwest Pakistan - At least 10 militants and one soldier were killed Wednesday when troops backed by jets and helicopter gunships fought Taliban insurgents in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley and neighbouring districts. The fresh action came a day after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari appealed to the world to help more than 750,000 people displaced by the conflict. (READ MORE)

UN chief backs action against Taliban - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has backed Pakistan's fight against the Taliban and expressed his 'deep concern' about the plight of half a million people who have been displaced by the ongoing military action against the militants. 'I expressed my deep concern and I expect President Zardari to take all necessary care to protect the civilian population,' Ban told reporters after the two leaders met at the United Nations Tuesday evening. (READ MORE)

Police: Bomb kills 7 people in Afghanistan - KABUL (AP) - Seven people are dead and 21 wounded in a suicide attack outside a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan. It's same area where militants stormed government buildings the day before. The second day of militant attacks in Khost, a city within sight of the tumultuous border with Pakistan, comes as the U.S. makes leadership changes in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban use gas attack to terrorise girls: Report - LONDON: The Taliban has resorted to "gas attack" to target girls as militants take to increasingly vicious methods to terrorise young women out of education, a news report said. Women's education was banned under the Taliban and posters had started appearing warning local people not to let their daughters go to school. (READ MORE)

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