May 28, 2009

From the Front: 05/28/2009

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

Afghanistan Shrugged: To the Strong and Wonderful Women! - How does one say “Thank You” for such an incredible debt owed? This is a post that I’ve struggled to write many times during my deployment and each time it seems that I’ve failed. At the end I’m always left with the feeling that I didn’t quite describe their hardship, give them their true credit or convey our true gratitude. I’ll try; but am afraid I shall fail them. I’m talking about the women that stand guard at home, support us, encourage us and reinforce that fighting spirit that sustains us. Our wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, volunteers and so many other wonderful and strong women that I can’t even begin to name. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Hi from Iraq! - Forgive my absence but things have been somewhat busy of late. All the battalion's 1stSgts have been on deck for a get together. This is a big deal as we haven't seen each other for a couple of months now. You have no idea how many of the world's problems can be solved by a group of cigar smoking Marine 1stSgts. We also began our Corporal's Course this week. Any time I get to influence the next generation of leaders I leap at the chance. Blogs and other luxuries have taken a back seat in favor of crafting periods of instruction on Marine Corps history, customs, leadership principles and other essentials. Also it seems I will be getting orders to Bahrain after this deployment. That's me; the overseas ninja! Don't worry, Bahrain is a good thing. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Then and Now: Sergeant Sensitive - Echo Company is a maintenance support unit based in Central Pennsylvania and composed to a large extent of soldiers who are also mechanics. For the deployment the Army filled our ranks with other National Guard soldiers literally from across the nation. I could not have written this post before West Coast soldiers joined our unit. First a disclaimer: Sergeant Sensitive is more than one person, but none of those persons are female. The female NCOs in our unit, as you already know, are some of the best soldiers at PT and on the ranges and the ones who stay in know they must be in charge--and they are. As far as I have ever heard, they have no mixed feelings about the job of a soldier. THEN: During my first enlistment, Sergeant Sensitive was inevitable given the times and the draft. Because of the draft there were men in the Army who clearly did not belong there. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Two Friends Gone - On Monday evening, Memorial Day, I learned that two friends of mine from the Embassy had just been killed. They were on a visit to one of our major projects in Fallujah when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. A third individual with them, a Navy officer whom I did not know, was also killed. Two security personnel were badly wounded but survived. Hearing news like this is a punch in the gut. These two men, Maged Hussein and Terry Barnich, weren't just names to me, or faces I knew around campus. We were teammates in the Iraq Transition Assistance Office (ITAO). And these two were the stars of the team. Maged was an American of Egyptian background. He was tall, slender, impeccably dressed, modest, gracious, funny, and brilliant. He was a true gentleman. He never mentioned his PhD and never copped an attitude with anybody. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Stop Thinking Monolithically - The most common complaint in the U.S. about Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban is “the ISI did it.” This is certainly true for a big stretch of the 1990s, when supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and supporting other militant Islamist groups focused on Kashmir (of which the Taliban were a small part) made strategic sense. But after 2001 or so, that relationship became significantly more complicated, first by Pervez Musharraf caving to mis-placed American pressure to “do something,” then by his own government’s unwillingness to turn its back on its clients. The challenges in discussing the ISI’s relationship to the Taliban is that the ISI is not a single, monolithic organization. There are permanent agents who may or may not loyalty issues, but also big chunks of its officers are seconded from the Pakistani Army: (READ MORE)

Sarge: The Heat - Some observations about the heat in the desert: Recently the Second Lieutenant who sits near me, on his first tour, told me, "Man, you know when you're on a bus, and they have the heat blasting and the fan is right on your face and you can't turn it off? That's what it's like all of the time here!" Another interesting thing to hear from a different Minnesotan, "It's pretty nice out today, I don't think it got over 110." Talking to people who ran a recent 12K race that began at 5 a.m. (I was gone travelling, and so I missed it and was asking how it went); 3/4 of them said they couldn't take how hot it was. I took a bottle of water off of a pallet while running in the afternoon a couple days ago and went to take a drink. It was like trying to drink coffee, burning your mouth. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

U.S. Navy commander serving in Iraq with Gulf Region Division killed by IED - Baghdad, Iraq - The Department of Defense announced today that Navy Commander Duane G. Wolfe was killed May 25 when the vehicle he was traveling in near Fallujah was struck by an improvised explosive device. Cmdr. Wolfe was assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division in Iraq where he served as the Officer-in-Charge of the Al-Anbar Area Office, which is part of the division’s Gulf Region Central district. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police investigators train on FOB Warrior - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq—The rule of law is the foundation of any free nation. Artistotle said that "law should govern," and those in power should be "servants of the laws” nearly 2,500 years ago. In the spirit of ensuring a fair application of its laws, Iraqi police officers responsible for investigating crimes travelled to Forward Operating Base Warrior May 23 to hone their unique skills and get new ideas on evidence processing. (READ MORE)

New JHAATT Leadership Observes Iraqi Army Capabilities - BAGHDAD – The outgoing and incoming commanders of the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Joint Headquarters Army Advisory Training Team made a battlefield circulation tour of key sites May 24. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, commanding general, JHAATT, will be leaving Iraq for his next assignment as commanding general, Joint Multi-National Training Command, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany. (READ MORE)

IP Prevent Attack, Receive Army Medal - KIRKUK — A small mosque here was recently the scene of a life and death struggle between four Iraqi Police (IP) and a teenage suicide bomber. The four IP succeeded in stopping and detaining the would-be bomber, potentially saving the lives of hundreds inside the mosque. The four were honored for their actions with U.S. Army Achievement Medals during a ceremony here at the Provincial Joint Control Center, May 19. (READ MORE)

Petraeus: Detainee Reforms Help, But Insurgent Financing, Meddling Problematic - WASHINGTON, May 27, 2009 – Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and abandoning so-called enhanced interrogations helps U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq that continue to be vexed by insurgents, the commander of U.S. Central Command said. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told Radio Free Europe in a wide-ranging interview May 24 that the moves would advance American-led military operations abroad. (READ MORE)

Tournament Showcases Fun, Unity in Baghdad District - BAGHDAD, May 27, 2009 – Cheers, music and fun filled Shaab stadium during a soccer tournament May 22 and 23 here in eastern Baghdad’s Rusafa district. In a month-long effort, the London-based soccer organization FC Unity, in cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi officials, provided the people of Iraq a platform for development and education through a series of soccer programs. (READ MORE)

Brigade to Leave Southern Iraq ‘A Much Better Place’ - WASHINGTON, May 27, 2009 – Southern Iraq is “a much better place to live and raise a family than it was a year ago,” thanks to tremendous strides in security, governance, job opportunity and essential services, the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team said today. Army Col. Philip Battaglia described two major lines of progress he’s seen since his “Long Knife Brigade” arrived at Multinational Division South last year: one focused on security and the other, on local government. (READ MORE)

Combined Forces Kill Five, Detain 10 in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 27, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed five suspects and detained 10 during operations throughout Afghanistan today. Combined forces conducting operations in northern Khost province saw a vehicle turn abruptly toward a security element. Afghan forces used verbal commands and gestures in an attempt to stop the vehicle. When the driver continued approaching, Afghan forces fired warning shots, but the driver was undeterred. (READ MORE)

Engineers Get Route-clearance Vehicle Training in Afghanistan - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, May 27, 2009 – The upgraded Mk3 Husky -- the premier route-clearance vehicle in the Army’s Interim Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection Program -- is being fielded in Afghanistan after protecting soldiers in Iraq since 2003. The vehicles provide protection against roadside bombs. Soldiers of the 4th Engineer Battalion here are fielding the vehicles. Defense Department contractor CSI has been training and supporting combat engineers in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of the war on terrorism. (READ MORE)

Taliban killing Afghan students, burning schools - LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan Taliban and other militant groups are forcing schools to close across Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, assassinating teachers and students and destroying school buildings, educators and government officials say. Helmand's deputy minister of education, Mamoud Mohammed Wali, said extremists have forced 75 of the 228 public schools in the province to close and have burned down at least eight in the past year. (READ MORE)

Middle-class Pakistanis awaken to Taliban threat - LAHORE, Pakistan Khalid Mahmood is a graduate of Northwestern University and runs a flourishing marketing consultancy firm in Karachi. He speaks English fluently, leads a charmed life crammed with parties and globe-trotting, and regularly reads U.S. newspapers on the Internet. At heart, however, Mr. Mahmood, 38, is a man of the Swat Valley: His grandfather was the army commander of the last wali, or ruler, of the region now under the control of Islamist Taliban militants. Mr. Mahmood has vowed to restore the Switzerland of Pakistan to its former glory. (READ MORE)

Taliban claims responsibility for Lahore attack - The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on police and intelligence agency offices that killed about 30 people, saying it was revenge for the army's current offensive against the militants. Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy to Pakistani Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, told the Associated Press in a telephone call that Wednesday's suicide attack in Lahore "was in response to the Swat operation where innocent people have been killed". (READ MORE)

AFGHANISTAN: Farmers face poppy dilemma - FARAH, 28 May 2009 (IRIN) - Taliban insurgents are forcing farmers in Farah Province, southern Afghanistan, to grow opium poppies and are imposing a hefty tax on yields, some farmers and provincial officials told IRIN. “The Taliban told me to grow poppies or I would be punished,” said Abdul Sattar, a farmer in the Poshtroad District, southwestern Farah Province. (READ MORE)

Pak puts bounties on heads of 21 top Taliban militants - Islamabad Pakistan on Thursday put bounties on the heads of 21 top Taliban militants operating in the Swat Valley with radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, the architect of uprising in Swat, heading the list with a reward of five million rupees. The government drew up the 'rogue list' and published it alongwith their mugshots in all leading newspapers in the country, saying these terrorists were wanted "dead or alive" as its military operation gained ground in Swat. (READ MORE)

US military: 29 suspected insurgents killed in eastern Afghanistan - Kabul - US and Afghan troops killed 29 suspected militants, including six wound-be suicide bombers, in a clash and airstrike in south-eastern Afghanistan, the US military said Thursday. The operation in Paktika province's Wor Mamay district began when the joint forces targeted a compound used by a "senior" militant leader identified only as Sangeen, the US military said in a statement. It accused him of operating the compound as a staging area for future attacks in the province. (READ MORE)

ADF clears itself over Afghan civilian deaths - Australian soldiers were not responsible for killing or injuring as many as 20 Afghans during fierce fighting with the Taliban in Uruzgan province, an internal Defence inquiry has found. Today Defence Force Chief Angus Houston released the report of an inquiry into the January 5 incident, in which eight Afghanis claimed to have been injured by mortar fire after Australian Special Forces did battle with Taliban insurgents in the Baluchi Pass. (READ MORE)

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