June 10, 2009

From the Front: 06/10/2009

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

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Why Do We Need Metrics? - The Center for A New American Security (CNAS) released a new document at the end of last week, and hopefully it will spark a discussion about measuring success or failure in Afghanistan. Even more hopefully, it will spark action following the discussion. The discussion will hopefully refine the recommendations of some of the premier counterinsurgency theorists in the world today into actionable metrics for COIN, a subject that has been a sticking point in our execution of COIN, and potentially a shortcoming of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency. Military officers, like business leaders, are rated on their success or failure in any environment based upon measurements. The question has been, "What can we measure that will tell us if we are doing the right things?" (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Shit - A Canadian soldier was killed by an explosive device while on foot patrol Monday in southern Afghanistan, the military says. Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, commander of Task Force Afghanistan, told reporters at Kandahar Airfield that the soldier has been identified as Pte. Alexandre Péloquin, 20. He is survived by his mother Monique. Péloquin was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment — known as the Van Doos — based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier near Quebec City. He is the 12th Valcartier soldier to die in the mission. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Loot! - Loot, loot, loot. We like getting stuff in the mail. No doubt about it. I know Marines that would rather take a kick to the junk than not get anything at mail call. Our poor mail clerk has been threatened with physical violence and accused of purposely hoarding mail by brownie starved “ahem” by Marines and Sailors who haven’t even received so much as a card from home. Of course, getting cool stuff like baked goodies is always in order and usually the most sought after and shared of items. There are legions of troops whose very diets revolve around chow sent from home. Feel free to read about UGRAs in one of my previous posts for a greater understanding of the foulness that is ingested by service members in more remote climes. In our case at Al Asad, mail is more of a morale issue vice a gastrointestinal one. I know I get pouty when I don’t receive any. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Not Much to Update - So, I haven’t posted in the past couple of weeks, because there hasn’t been anything to post about. Things have been relatively quiet which is a good thing. We have had MEDEVACs, but nothing really exciting to write about. I have basically been living my daily life. To that end, I have been updating the Twitter feed pretty regularly. I have started using it for the little things that might pique interest but aren’t necessarily article worthy. The little bits that make life what it is, like a good meal, a terrible run, etc. Its easy for me to do quickly and its a different insight into what goes on daily here in the Sandbox. I have been studying for the boards like crazy too. I am up for the promotion board at the end of the month, and could use some really concerted prayer around the 30th. I need to pass and make cutoff. We can use the extra cash with the new baby coming. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): SUVs are Status Symbols Here - Most of the thousands of soldiers on Tallil Ali Air Base walk or take buses or ride in the back of 5-ton trucks to get where they are going on a post that stretches across dozens of square miles of sand and rock. A few hundred soldiers and airmen ride bicycles. Senior maintenance soldiers get 'Gators: four-wheel-drive golf carts made by John Deere and other manufacturers. Senior officers, sergeant majors, commanders, and many garrison staff soldiers get SUVs. For Explorers, Chevy Suburbans, GMC Yukons as well as full-size crew-cab pickup trucks by the big three American automakers. The SUVs are the real status symbols around post. SUVs fill the parking lot of the DFAC for each meal near the end of the dining hours when the senior officers eat. The SUVs are either light silver or white--colors that reflect rather than absorb the heat of the Iraq summer. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban suicide team strikes Peshawar hotel in latest complex assault - A Taliban suicide assault team battled their way past security guards at the outer gate of a five-star hotel in Peshawar and detonated a massive car bomb that leveled part of the building and killed at least 11 people. The attack is the latest in a series of complex assaults against high-security targets inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. The complex attack took place at the luxury Pearl Continental Hotel in a high-security zone in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the northwest Frontier Province. At 10:30 PM Pakistan time, two vehicles carrying the assault team opened fire at the security gate and breached the perimeter. Gunmen in one vehicle killed the security guards and opened the gates for the other vehicle, which then pulled up in front of the hotel and detonated the truck bomb that is estimated to have contained more than 1,000 pounds of explosives. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani military launches operation in Bannu - The Pakistani military has launched an operation against two pro-Taliban tribes in the district of Bannu just outside of North Waziristan. The military claimed 20 Taliban fighters have been killed in heavy fighting and artillery strikes on Taliban safe havens. More than 70 tribesmen from the Jani Khel and Baka Khel tribes have been detained, and businesses run by the two tribes have closed down. The actions have been taken under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which allows for collective punishment of the tribes. The two tribes said it would end the peace agreement that has been in effect since last year. Over the weekend, the military and police imposed a curfew and moved hundreds of soldiers into the Jani Khel and Baka Khel tribal areas after negotiations between the government and the tribes failed. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 06JUN09--Terp Retirement and Taawalee - Today, we dropped off Mister Z and picked up his replacement, Chris. Also, I stumbled over an Iraqi past time: taawalee. KC and I explained to Mister Z the night prior how we were returning him to the linguist management company and why. We were rather direct about how it had nothing to do with him as a person but everything to do with his age and resulting mobility. Z responded by telling us a story about how his father used to take him swimming in the Tigris River throughout his childhood in the 1950's. The linguist manager had a replacement interpreter waiting for us. Chris is actually a great guy. Also, I happened to see some Iraqis playing backgammon. An Iraqi explained to me that this is the most popular game throughout Iraq and is called 'taawalee.' "Go in any tea shop across Iraq and you will see men gathered playing this game." (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: FRI on Paktya - Tim Lynch just got back from Gardez, and while I think he undersells the charm of the city a bit, his main point is beautifully spot-on: Gardez is the heart of one of those areas where there has been a U.S. presence for years, yet when an ODA team sets up shop in a nearby district, they are the first real permanent Western presence in that entire area. The Loya Paktya area—consisting of Paktika to the south, Khost in the east, and Paktya in the northwest—is about 12,000 square miles of nastiness, or about 1/4 the size of Virginia. There are over a million people in the three provinces. Yet the total security force is an Army Brigade Combat Team—maybe 4,000 soldiers total. The vast majority of them are tied up in administrative or operational tasks on their respective FOBs: running the TOC, handling construction or base security, managing local Afghan workers, and so on. In comparison, the state of Virginia—which does not have an active insurgency of any sort—has almost 12,000 state and local police officers. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Army Travel - I have returned to my FOB from leave. Army travel is a unique experience. Leave it to military arrogance to assume that they can figure out a better way to load an airplane than the civilian world who does it hundreds of times a day. For example, when boarding a plane all seats are filled from the front to back-makes sense. But, no carry on bags can be placed in the over head compartment until the entire plane is loaded. So everyone sits on the plane with their bags on their laps like idiots until all 200-some-odd people have boarded the plane. Then, an announcement is made and all 200 people leap from their seats and scarmble for overhead compartment space. Complete nonsense. That and for some reason it takes about 5 days to get from the United States back to one’s base in Iraq. I reckon the Santa Maria might have been a faster mode of travel but that’s a logistics issue, way out of my lane. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Cement blast walls go up in another Baghdad neighborhood - Less than a month before U.S. forces leave their bases in Baghdad, the Iraqi security forces are sealing off much of the northwestern Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiya with the towering cement blast walls that the Americans first erected in neighborhoods in 2007 as a way to stop the city’s sectarian fighting. The move comes after the Iraqi government has said it wants to start removing such walls from around neighborhoods as it seeks to promote the idea that life is improving in war-scarred Baghdad. (READ MORE)

JTF-134 Detainee Operations drops to one brigade; decrease of 2,186 personnel since Jan. 1 - BAGHDAD — Joint Task Force-134 Detainee Operations dropped to just one brigade to run all three U.S. theater internment facilities in Iraq following a transition of authority ceremony held June 8 at Camp Cropper. Reducing from two brigades to one continues an overall JTF-134 theme that has seen the operation decrease by 2,186 personnel since Jan. 1. The reduction in personnel demonstrates Multi-National Force-Iraq’s commitment to the Security Agreement, which requires all U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. (READ MORE)

NATO TRAINING MISSION IN IRAQ HOLDS OPEN HOUSE FOR MEDIA - BAGHDAD – NATO Training Mission in Iraq had an open house for the media, Sunday. The purpose of the open house is to share with the Iraqi people the good news about NATO's cooperation with the Government of Iraq. NATO has been in Iraq since 2004 at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. NATO's role is unique and separate from the Coalition Forces and personnel assigned to the NATO Training Mission-Iraq are considered a non-combat multiplier. (READ MORE)

Security Transition Command Makes Progress in Iraq - BAGHDAD – Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq is working toward its mission to assist the Iraqi Interior Ministry in generating a professional and credible police force, one of the command’s deputy commanders said June 8. The command also is helping the ministry develop institutional capacity to acquire, train, develop, manage, sustain and resource those forces, said Army Maj. Gen. James Milano, deputy commander of the MNSTC-I’s interior affairs directorate, in a Pentagon news conference via satellite from the International Zone here. (READ MORE)

Local Community Builds New School - KIRKUK — A fence, a restroom and a study hall are some of the improvements students of the Laylan Roman Primary should see when they attend school this fall here in the village of Laylan. The new construction is part of a combined project established between the Laylan Community Action Group and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Oversees Cooperative Assistance. (READ MORE)

Bearish Oil Market Prompts Shift in Iraqi Security Agenda - WASHINGTON — Falling oil prices and a reduced Iraqi budget have prompted the U.S. command responsible for overseeing Iraqi Security Forces to re-evaluate its priorities, a military official said yesterday. “The reduced Iraqi budget has caused us to address some tough choices with our [Iraqi Interior Ministry] colleagues,” Army Maj. Gen. James Milano, deputy commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq’s interior affairs directorate, said in a Pentagon news conference via satellite from Iraq. (READ MORE)

Joint Medical Expo Brings Needed Healthcare to Iraqi Villagers - TAJI — Thanks to the combined efforts of Pennsylvania National Guardsmen, the Iraqi Army (IA), and concerned citizens, villagers here were recently given access to medical care in an area where local clinics are not accessible. U.S. Soldiers helped support this joint medical expo at the al-Sadir secondary school in the rural area of Hor al-Bosh, June 7, where local citizens were able to see doctors and nurses, and obtain necessary medications. (READ MORE)

Romanian Forces End Mission in Iraq - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, June 9, 2009 – Military operations in Iraq formally ended for Romanian forces June 4, as one of America's coalition allies prepared to ship out some of its remaining troops with an end-of-mission ceremony held by Romania’s 26th Infantry “Red Scorpions” Battalion. The Romanian flag was lowered over the 26th’s compound here, affectionately known as “Camp Dracula,” in a ceremony following a memorial for the Romanian military personnel who died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (READ MORE)

Critical bridge reopens in Al-Anbar province - BAGHDAD, Iraq - Traffic is moving again across Al-Anbar province’s strategic and essential Mujarrah Canal Bridge, 35 kilometers southwest of Fallujah. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Gulf Region Central District restored the bridge with a $1.26 million project completed and officially opened on June 8. The bridge is a critical link in the supply route of sand and gravel trucks transiting the area for building growth in a more secure Fallujah, according to USACE’s Fallujah Resident Office project engineers who managed the construction. (READ MORE)

Grenade thrower wounded, treated by U.S. forces - FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, MOSUL, Iraq – U.S. Soldiers in Mosul provided medical aid to an enemy combatant who had attacked them with an improvised grenade, June 6. “Rendering aid to someone one who just wounded one of your own is a testament to the strong sense of duty and honor displayed everyday by our Soldiers serving their nation in Iraq,” said Col. Thomas Guthrie, Multi-National Division – North chief of staff. “The Soldiers on patrol that day upheld Army values in a difficult, stressful situation, and we are proud of their service.” (READ MORE)

Forces Clash With Enemy Fighters in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, June 9, 2009 – U.S. and Afghan forces killed an undetermined number of enemy fighters and detained 13 suspected militants in three operations in Afghanistan early today, military officials reported. In Helmand province, nine alleged Taliban and al-Qaida members were detained and other enemy fighters were killed in an operation that targeted a senior-level Taliban commander. (READ MORE)

Team Begins Construction on First Area School in Afghan Province - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, June 9, 2009 – Education has become a key focus for the provincial reconstruction team here, which has mapped out a construction plan estimated at $15.9 million to build 58 schools along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "The PRT believes education plays a vital role in rebuilding Afghanistan," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Ross, engineering officer in charge of the team. (READ MORE)

Pakistan hotel blast toll rises to 16, Taliban suspected - PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Pakistani police on Wednesday pulled bodies from the charred rubble of a luxury hotel in northwest Peshawar after a suicide car bomb killed 16 people in the city troubled by Taliban violence. A top provincial official said the massive blast at the Pearl Continental Hotel late Tuesday was likely the latest in a string of revenge attacks by Islamist militants over a six-week offensive against them in the northwest. (READ MORE)

Taliban Commander, 16 Militants Killed - KABUL (AFP)--The U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday that it used a precision air strike to kill a Taliban commander with reported links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and up to 16 militants with him in western Afghanistan. The strike was called in against Mullah Mustafa, who commanded about 100 men, in the western province of Ghor Tuesday, the U.S. military said in a statement. (READ MORE)

60 Taliban killed in a week - KABUL (Agencies): Up to 60 Taliban militants died in Afghanistan during the past week, Afghan security officials said. The militants, including some key commanders, were killed in the heightened anti-insurgency offensive by local and foreign forces in the southern Zabul province, the Voice of America reported quoting the security officials. (READ MORE)

Canadian soldiers cleared of alleged Taliban abuse - OTTAWA -- A military investigation two years in the making has cleared Canadian soldiers of any wrongdoing in the handling of captured Taliban fighters in Kandahar. A board of inquiry report into allegations that troops mistreat and beat prisoners taken during heavy fighting in April 2006 found, instead, they were treated `professionally and humanely.' (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES 10 June 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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