May 29, 2009

From the Front: 05/29/2009

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

111 Infantry Recon: RECON RUNS MEMORIAL DAY MARATHON-1/2 MARATHON (Visit Site for Pics)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: On convoy duty to Uzbin - “Roll Out!” was the command as it crackled across the radio network. Our destination would be a remote Combat Operating Post (COP) in the Uzbin valley. We would have to navigate the J-Bad Pass and then maneuver winding switchbacks. At least this portion would be on hardball. We threaded the Pass and drove through several narrow tunnels. A large truck wasn’t so fortunate and his tires and frame kept him from falling to a certain death. While driving, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the same route traversed by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan or Tamerlane with their powerful armies. If my historical bearings are correct, this is also the site where over 4500 British soldiers and 12,000 camp followers were massacred in 1842 while retreating from Kabul. Only a handful of people survived the on-slaughter. (READ MORE)

Armed and Curious: ...and hard truths - Yesterday I wrote of the frustrations associated with those times when a journalist or news organization selectively uses quotes and highlights them for a certain slant. It can be incredibly difficult to try and tell your story to the world sometimes. Then last night I stumbled on to the latest piece from CNN's Arwa Damon and I was reminded why I genuinely like nearly every journalist I know. I have written before of a core group of journalists who truly have tried to get inside the multi-faceted world that is Iraq, beyond the bombings, raids and atrocities. There have been those who have always strive to dig behind the scenes both of what we as soldiers are trying to do there and who the Iraqi people are. I haven't always agreed with what they say...but I always find it fascinating. CNN's Arwa Damon is one of those. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: Urban Ops, Room Clearing - Every one of our instructors started off with "We usually work up to this over several months, but you will do it all today." That should have been a clue. We had a class on room clearing, then we were split into 4 man teams and 12 man squads. We practiced for about 30 min, then went through two small test houses. The final 'test' had us operate as a whole squad- which we had yet to do- to clear a 2 story building. Wax/rubber bullets added realism. The results were sobering. Our 12 man squad took 50% casualties, 2 of which were fratricide. 3 out of 4 leaders became casualties. The actual OPFOR of 2 aggressors and 4 paper targets were subdued. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): The Neighbors Might Be Moving - Right across the street from the Coalition DFAC (Dining Facility) is the Romanian Army barracks and motor pool. This group of our allies has named their facility Camp Dracula more for us and the Brits than themselves. I ride past the sign a couple of times a day (at least) and smile. Camp Dracula is one of many decorated blast walls around Tallil. And the rumors say the Romanians will be going home soon. Too bad. I will miss Camp Dracula. If there are a few dozen decorated blast walls here, there are hundreds and hundreds in Kuwait. Every unit that goes through Kuwait in 2 or 3 weeks tries to paint a blast wall in a "We were here" gesture. I was saving many shots of the best blast walls in Kuwait because I thought I would be writing about the blast wall our unit decorated. The sad story of that is the change in plans and a late start meant our soldiers did not have time to finish the blast wall. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): More on Staying in Touch - In an earlier post I talked about how much easier it is to be in touch with home than it was in the days before email when phone calls were expensive. The mechanics of keeping in touch depend on the base, but here are my preferred methods. 1. SKYPE. Skype is an internet phone service that allows video to video communication with other Skype users as well as direct dial to land line and cell phones. It costs about $100 per year for unlimited Skype to Skype calls whether video or not. I don't use the video very often here because we have limited internet bandwidth and the video eats up all the bandwidth I have--and then some. But the voice to voice is pretty reliable and effectively free. I have called all over America and Europe (from Germany to San Diego) in the three week we have been here for about $10 in phone service charges. Most of the calls are free. The average is a penny or two per minute. I call from my room, so it's convenient and fairly reliable. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban strike in Peshawar - The Taliban followed up yesterday's deadly attack in the eastern city of Lahore with three bombings in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Pakistan's insurgency-racked Northwest Frontier Province, and a suicide attack in Dera Ismail Khan. Police and soldiers were the target of the attacks. In the opening salvo, the Taliban detonated two bombs just minutes apart in a central bazaar in Peshawar. The initial blast killed six civilians and wounded more than 70 people. The Taliban followed up the bombings by ambushing police forces as they responded to the attack. The Taliban placed shooters on the rooftops and fired on police in the streets. Two of the Taliban attackers were killed and two more were captured. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Coalition targets Haqqani Network commander, kills 29 fighters - Afghan and Coalition forces killed 29 fighters from the Haqqani Network during a raid designed to capture a senior leader of the group. A large firefight broke out after the combined forces targeted what the US military described as an enemy encampment in the Wor Mamay district in the eastern province of Paktika near the Pakistani border. The target of the raid was a Haqqani Network commander known as Sangeen, or Fateh, who conducts attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces in Paktika. Sangeen was "operating a staging area for future attacks in Paktika province," the US military said in a press release. Sangeen "planned and coordinated the movement of al Qaeda senior leaders and hundreds of foreign fighters from Pakistan to Afghanistan through the Spreah District." (READ MORE)

Misuchan's Milblog: Winning the Hearts and Minds… continued - All jokes and nationalism aside, the French here with us on our FOB do a pretty damn good job. Well at least this team of them does, and I’ve been through three teams of them. To continue to show the non-military part of the world what exactly we’re trying to do here, I’ve uploaded some pictures of the French military giving out humanitarian aid to the Afghani locals. (READ MORE)

The Torch: End of the road (for a while) for expeditionary Army - Maj.-Gen. (ret'd) Lewis MacKenzie is on the money: "We can't answer the battle cry - Our infantry ranks are so diminished that Canada's combat role in Afghanistan has to end - '...a battle group, as organized for the Afghan mission, is about 1,200 strong and home to a large infantry component supported by tanks, armoured reconnaissance, artillery, combat engineers and signals and logistics support personnel. Although the other approximately 1,600 personnel making up the Canadian military footprint in Afghanistan are at risk and have suffered fatalities while on convoy duty, mentoring Afghan forces or commanding and controlling military operations, it is the battle group that fills the “combat role” and is scheduled to withdraw in 2011. With its departure, many of the military support personnel inside the wire could also be withdrawn.'" (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqi Minister of Defence, MNF-I Commander visit Diyala in the midst of major operation - DIYALA, Iraq – Iraqi and Coalition leadership came together May 23 to discuss current and future operations for the Diyala Province. Iraqi Minister of Defence Abdul-Qadar Mohammad Jassim al-Mifarji along with Multi-National Force – Iraq Commander Gen. Raymond Odierno and Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby received an assessment briefing on the major operation being conducted in Diyala, “Glad Tidings of Benevolence II.” (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police take operations to a whole new level in Mosul - MOSUL, Iraq – Iraqi Police gathered with their counterparts from the Iraqi National Police and Iraqi Army at the 3rd Iraqi Police Division’s new operations center for a situational update briefing on the morning of May 26. The IP realized they could leverage significant operational gains with their own operations center to conduct mission planning and tracking, while working with key personnel from the Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Police. (READ MORE)

Detainees Hone Agricultural, Art Skills - UMM QASR — Mention the words "detention facility" or "detainee," and images of single-room cells, bars and cots may come to mind. But what if these words brought to mind vibrant, colorful images splashed across a canvas; wood carvings; and fresh fields of corn and tomatoes? For detainees at Camp Bucca's Theater Internment Facility (TIF) here, these words may produce images of hope, and help shine a new light on service members in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Commander Says Brigade to Leave Southern Iraq ‘A Much Better Place’ - WASHINGTON — 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 yesterday. Army Col. Philip Battaglia described two major lines of progress he’s seen since his “Long Knife Brigade” arrived at Multi-National Division - South last year: one focused on security and the other, on local government. (READ MORE)

Troops in Afghanistan Kill More Than 30 Insurgents - WASHINGTON, May 28, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed more than 30 militants in two separate operations in Afghanistan today, military officials said. Coalition and Afghan forces killed at least 29 militants during a fierce firefight at a suspected foreign fighter camp in Paktika province, military officials said. In the mountainous region near the Pakistan border, combined forces raided the enemy encampment, where intelligence sources indicated a senior Haqqani network leader was plotting future attacks in the area. (READ MORE)

Petraeus: Video Shows Strike Aimed At Taliban - Army General David Petraeus commands U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. One big challenge is fighting insurgents within a civilian population. Petraeus talks with Steve Inskeep about last month's bombing of a target in Afghanistan. Petraeus says the target was a Taliban facility. Critics say civilians were killed primarily in the bombing. Steve Inskeep: I'd like to ask about an incident in Afghanistan, May fourth, with which I'm sure you are very familiar. I'll repeat it for those who are not. (READ MORE)

Police: Taliban suspects among Pakistani refugees - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - A senior police official says 39 suspected Taliban fighters have been arrested hiding among refugees from fighting in Pakistan's northwest. The police chief of the Mardan district where camps have been set up to house some of the around 2 million people who fled the military offensive in the Swat Valley says alleged Taliban had disguised themselves among the refugees. (READ MORE)

Swat Taliban commander Fazlullah alive, says Pakistan military - ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani military has denied reports that Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah had been killed in operations in the troubled northwest. "High sources in the security forces have denied reports that Maulana Fazlullah had been killed in the ongoing military operations," Geo TV reported. (READ MORE)

US: 35 militants killed, 13 wounded in Afghanistan - The US coalition troops killed 35 militants and wounded another 13 during a clash in southern Afghanistan, the US military said in a statement. A joint Afghan-coalition patrol was ambushed on Thursday in Zabul province's Day Chopan district, before returning fire and calling in airstrikes on the militants, the statement said. (READ MORE)

Security forces kill five Taliban in Lower Dir - Five Taliban militants were killed in a clash with security forces in Lower Dir in Pakistan's troubled northwest as the military operation against the rebels entered its 35th day on Friday. Quoting sources, Geo TV said a clash erupted between security forces and militants in Kambar area of Lower Dir during ongoing operations in the Malakand division of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). (READ MORE)

Taliban keep grip on kidnapped Canadian - KARACHI - For Pakistan, there are still two kinds of Taliban - the good and the bad. Hafiz Gul Bahadur of the North Waziristan tribal area is reckoned as good Taliban. He is Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's rival and has signed a ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani security forces. Being a member of the Shura of Mujahideen, he only fights against foreign forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Blasts kill 14; Taliban vows more attacks - PESHAWAR, Pakistan Militants detonated two bombs in a busy market and attacked two police checkpoints in northern Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 14 people, wounding scores more and testing the resolve of the government as it takes on the Taliban in the Swat Valley. The attacks in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan happened within two hours of each other and a day after an assault on security forces in the eastern city of Lahore killed about 30 people. That strike was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, who warned of further attacks unless the government called off the Swat offensive. (READ MORE)

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