June 3, 2009

From the Front: 06/03/2009

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

A Year In The Sandbox: Vehicle Recovery Videos - I finally got all the videos uploaded, so here’s the first post. Some of the videos are more interesting than others, but they’re all kind of cool to watch. This one happened pretty soon after we got here. We were checking out a water tank that was being built just outside of Jalalabad and the driver got the truck stuck in some mud. The commander was standing next to me and I asked him what he thought the poop content of the mud was. This one and the next one happened in the Bati Kot district. We drove through an old graveyard that didn’t have any headstones or markers. The old graves collapsed under the truck tires and got the trucks stuck. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Teaching M-16 rifles and lunch with my ANA SGM - Lying on a bed of jagged rocks, the ANA soldiers take careful aim at the stone wall in front of them. Their M-16 rifles do not contain any bullets, yet. This is the first stage in teaching the ANA the fundamentals how to properly hold and aim their weapons. In the next stage they will be provided a weapon magazine to practice loading and unloading before being transported to the live firing range. After this they will receive additional instructor training so they can train their soldiers how to properly use this weapons. A US contractor with the aid of a translator exercises patience while providing aiming instructions. Note: The thumbs-up gesture is no longer considered vulgar here and is widely accepted. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: In the news - We don't have much to say (that we really ought to say) about this piece of shit who shot a couple of Soldiers in Arkansas. “Police think the shooter acted alone ‘with the specific purpose of targeting military personnel,’ Thomas said...He [the shooter]’stated that he was a practicing Muslim, that he was mad at the U.S. military because of what it had done to Muslims in the past,’ homicide detective Tommy Hudson said in a police report.” Whatever the military has "done to Muslims in the past" pales in comparison, I would say, to what a lot of members of the military would like to do to one, paritcular Muslim right now for killing one young private right out of Basic and wounding another. A crying shame. Bad Dog hearts go out to the family of Private Conway and we wish a swift return to duty for Private Ezeagwula. In better news, we note with approval that Princess Leia made it to the States, albeit without her person. MAJ Huchinson sounds he was a helluva guy, and the sort of character that gives the Army a lot of its soul. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: Karzai Gets Two More Key Endorsements, Commences Victory Lap - A month ago I tongue-in-cheek announced Karzai’s election victory. But I did really believe it to be over by then. Recent events have just put the nail in the anti-Karzai electoral coffin. Karzai has clearly moved away from the speculated-upon Pashtun-centric electoral strategy with the fresh endorsements from Mohaqeq [Hazara] and Dostum (caveat below) [Uzbek] adding to the Fahim [Tajik]/Khalili [Hazara] VP and deputy VP picks. BBC Farsi with the gory details and the “imaginative” pic: Hazaristan Times has a few details in English. But is Dostum really involved? The Globe & Mail mentions that the deal was worked out not by Dostum, but by the acting head of Junbesh (cynics may insert their arguments about his actual authority here): (READ MORE)

Housefly: Bail Out - Today marks exactly a year in Not-worth-it-stan, and that is plenty. I will be wheels up and out of here in less than 36 hours, probably never to return. As bad as this place is, working for a floundering startup is what has finally worn me down, but I will skip the boring business details. I meet many expats who have spent years here and in other war zones or have renewed long-term contracts, and seem quite comfortable. I meet others who self-medicate, get way out of balance, and come unglued. I have watched them age in dog-years. Some people deal with it better than others, but I might be a little too tightly wound to handle all of this downtime and isolation. Ninety-nine percent of the people I have ever known would not even choose to fly over this country. I am out, at least until my employer stabilizes, improves our security, and finally taps into this $65,000,000,000 war effort. I have had enough, and that reveals the truth in what the Taliban say: “The Americans have the watches, but we have the time.” (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): The Chapel Menu is as Long as the Chow Hall Menu - Pro Deo et Patria is the Chaplain's motto - The Chapel here at Tallil can't cover every spiritual practice, no organization can, but they try. The first service on the Sunday morning schedule is Orthodox, I have not been to the service, but I believe the Romanian unit provides the priest. Next in rapid succession are traditional Protestant, Catholic, contemporary Protestant, Latter Day Saints, and then repeat services are held in the evening. On Friday Muslim and Jewish services are available, followed by LDS and Jewish services on Saturday. Every day of the week there is Mass, intercessory prayer, choir practice, praise and worship service, Christianity 101, and other beginner Bible studies. The schedule is changing because a new unit is running the base. I am hoping to get one of the chaplains to start a mid-week Bible study for soldiers who are familiar with the Scriptures. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani court orders release of Lashkar-e-Taiba leader - A three-judge panel of the Lahore High Court has ordered the release of Lashkar-e-Taiba / Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed. Saeed was placed under a loose house arrest in mid-December 2008 after the United Nations Security Council declared the Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist entity and front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba just weeks after the deadly terror assault on Mumbai in late November that killed more than 170 people and locked down the city for more than 60 hours. Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Haji Mohammad Ashraf, and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed were identified as Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders. Today Saeed was ordered released by the Lahore court, despite the government’s presentation of evidence that linked him to al Qaeda. The evidence was presented in a closed session, as the information was deemed a national security secret. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Finally Attacked - I knew it was only a matter of time before we got attacked. It’s been so quiet, too quiet for Iraq. So there we were, driving home from dinner at Echo’s (the restaurant on post, run by a Dutch Christian organization). There were about 8 of us in the Tahoe and we were headed back to the tent. We were jamming out and singing – I can’t remember what song but if I had to guess I’d say it was “Stay” by Lisa Loeb; that’s been the popular one lately. We passed a car on the side of the road and pulled up to the gate. The Brit on guard ran up to the vehicle to check IDs. He was working on getting his armor on and told us the alarms were going off. We hadn’t heard anything, due to the American idol competition taking place in the car. I said we needed to get to a bunker and we pulled over and crowded in the cement boxes. I squatted down, listening for an explosion but didn’t hear anything except the alarm telling us to take cover. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Our New Home - The 343rd MPAD has their very own tent. A tent to call home; at least until they kick us out in a few weeks. We’ve taken over one of the British tents. It’s a vintage model with the “coffins” – beds on the floor with cinderblocks built around them and steel plates and sandbags overhead. It’s pretty cozy, actually – better than I imagined. The tent is divided into “pods” – rooms sectioned off by plywood that ends about 5 feet before the ceiling, 5 beds and sliding doors. Since there are just two females, I enlisted the help of the commander and TyTy to move one of the coffins and double my space. The move consisted of me throwing about 30 sandbags over the other side of the cinderblock wall (towards the end, the sandbags were rotted and left a trail of dirt on the steel coffin cover.) One the bags were moved and the dirt swept, we discovered not one but two plates had to move. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Forces Capture 45 Suspected Militants in Kirkuk - WASHINGTON, June 2, 2009 – Iraqi and coalition forces captured 45 suspected militants and killed one during operations May 31 in Kirkuk, Iraq, military officials said. Combined forces killed the suspected terrorist and wounded another while attempting to arrest them during an operation in Kirkuk. (READ MORE)

Multiple contingency operating locations in Anbar turned over to Iraqi control - AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – During the month of May, Multi National Force - West returned four contingency operating locations to Iraqi control in Al Anbar province. In accordance with the Security Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, upon U.S. withdrawal from a base or facility, they are returned to the control of the appropriate Iraqi entity. (READ MORE)

Building the Iraqi Air Force: Learning from Tragedy - BAGHDAD – Five years ago, the Iraqi Air Force consisted of 35 officers and warrant officers and no planes. The process of growing an Air Force has been filled with accomplishments and setbacks. One setback occurred May 30, 2005, when an Iraqi Air Force Comp Air 7SL aircraft crashed in eastern Diyala province during an operational mission, killing all five airmen (four USAF and one Iraqi Air Force) onboard. (READ MORE)

42nd Military Police Brigade ends 15-month tour at Camp Bucca - CAMP BUCCA, Iraq—Col. David P. Glaser, commander, 42nd Military Police Brigade, transferred authority of Task Force Bucca to Lt. Col. Jesse D. Galvan, commander, 89th Military Police Brigade Tactical Actions Center (TAC) during a ceremony June 2 at Camp Bucca, Iraq. March 16, 2008, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 42nd MP Bde. began their second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to conduct theater-wide internment facility and reconciliation center operations, as well as manage an Iraqi Correctional Officer Training Academy. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Civil Project Workers Help Remove Sadr City Trash, Weapons, Criminals - BAGHDAD — At an Iraqi Army base in the Sadr City district here, 302 civil project workers put on fresh clothes for their monthly payday, May 28. Their project, funded by the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, paid out about $100,000 to workers from the district’s Jamilla neighborhood, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Blankenship, an infantryman and operations noncommissioned officer assigned to the battalion’s joint operations cell. (READ MORE)

Troops in Afghanistan Combat Militants - WASHINGTON, June 2, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces conducted operations against militants and defeated them today in Afghanistan, military officials said. Combined forces killed several militants in a firefight in Paktika province during a mission to capture a Taliban commander operating in the northern region of the province. (READ MORE)

Taliban Increasingly Target Civilians in Eastern Afghanistan, Commander Says - WASHINGTON, June 2, 2009 – Conditions in eastern Afghanistan have been challenging, but coalition efforts have paid off with improved security and development, the commander of Regional Command – East said today. One major challenge that remains is the Taliban targeting innocent civilians, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser said during a videoconference with reporters at the Pentagon. While there is a growing realization among the Afghan people that the Taliban deliberately target civilians, it still doesn’t elicit the outrage as when coalition forces accidentally kill civilians, he noted. (READ MORE)

Locals Wary Of U.S.-Afghan Patrol Program - Afghanistan's Nerkh district, an hour's drive west of Kabul, looks like a tranquil paradise, with snowcapped mountains, lush orchards and humble homes enclosed inside mud walls. But looks can be deceiving in this district in Wardak province. Gunbattles are common in the area, and on Monday, four U.S. soldiers were killed and five others wounded by roadside bombs. (READ MORE)

US looks for Saudi help in Afghanistan, Pakistan - KABUL -- The United States, grappling with how to counter the spread of Taliban militants on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, is turning to Saudi Arabia for help. But so far the kingdom seems wary of diving into the thorny conflict. Pakistan will be on the agenda when President Barack Obama meets with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on Wednesday, according to Mark Lippert, deputy national security adviser. (READ MORE)

NATO soldier killed by planted bumb in Afghanistan - A bomb planted by insurgents has killed a foreign soldier serving with NATO in southern Afghanistan, the deadliest battlefield in the war against Taliban militants, the alliance said Wednesday. The International Security Assistance Force released a brief statement that did not give the nationality of the soldier killed on Tuesday. Most of the troops in the south are Americans, British or Canadians. (READ MORE)

Pak Sikhs give in to Taliban pressure, decide to pay jazia instead of leaving Kyber - Landikotal (Pakistan), June 3 : The Sikh community living in Pakistan's Khyber Agency has succumbed to Taliban pressure, and have agreed to pay Jazia tax to the ensure safety of their families. On Monday, the Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) had warned non-Muslim communities in Bara, Chora, Karamna, Bazaar Zakhakhel and Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency to pay jazia or leave the agency, The News reports. (READ MORE)

Helicopter attack kills Taleban's feared chief - ONE of the most dangerous Taleban leaders in Afghanistan – who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of two British servicemen – was killed by UK forces in a helicopter attack, the Ministry of Defence has said. Mullah Mansur is believed to be responsible for two of the four deaths of British servicemen on one of the bloodiest days for UK forces in Afghanistan last month. (READ MORE)

Taliban suicide bomber chief killed - British troops have killed a Taliban chief believed to be responsible for the deaths of two British servicemen in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said. Mullah Mansur is believed to be behind suicide bomber attacks against British and Afghan forces in and around Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. (READ MORE)

20 Taliban hideouts busted in Haripur - ISLAMABAD: People in the Haripur district of Hazara are actively helping the police and intelligence agencies to tackle the Taliban, pinpointing their hideouts, 15 to 20 of which have already been busted. A large number of militants running away from Swat have come to the Hazara Division, especially the Haripur district, but they are not finding sympathisers among the local population. (READ MORE)

50 students and two teachers still being held captive by Taliban - ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s sense of relief that the military managed to rescue the schoolchildren who were abducted by militants in the tribal area bordering Afghanistan could prove short-lived as reports were coming in late on Tuesday that as many as 50 students and two teachers were still being held captive. Dawn News Television said 52 people were being held captive by Taliban militants, while other reports said 46 students and two teachers were still missing. (READ MORE)

Linked at: H&I Fires for 3 June 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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