June 11, 2009

From the Front: 06/11/2009

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

A Major's Pespective: How do you "fix" Afghanistan? - There is an ongoing question amongst military blogs, foreign policy journals, and the administration itself on what should we be doing in Afghanistan? But, that isn't the full question. To assume there is a question such as what should we be doing, it is assuming that we have first answered the question of how do you "fix" Afghanistan. Now I put "fix" in those quotations because that is a very loose word to use. But, probably the easiest to get our minds around. There are probably some fancy big PHD words that could be inserted, but what it all boils down to is; how do we fix the problem(s)? I could list out a laundry list of issues to dive into. But, this is not my thesis I'm writing. (READ MORE)

Afghani Kush: Hey folks - Hey. How's it going people? We had another mission yesterday. An overnighter that ended up lasting... oh about 18 hours, pretty awesome if you ask me. I think in totality I ended up with almost 36 hours of no sleep. I was half past dead when we got back. But whatever. I'm gunning these days, not driving since my gunner hurt his foot. It's a good change, I was getting really tired of just sitting in the drivers seat and having to jump in and of the truck during contact. So, it's a good break. I can't really take any pictures while I'm gunning though, my camera just get's way too dusty up in the turret and I'm usually scanning my sector anyway. So hopefully I can get some for someone else, but the pictures may be lacking for the next few weeks, sorry everyone. I'll see if I can't dig up some old ones. The next month here is going to be pretty interesting, besides the last post, we've got some big things coming up that should be a lot of fun. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Slow Day & Playing Scrabble - Today was a bit of a slow day. My ANA SGM has been MIA for several days now. I think he is purposely avoiding me. Not really, he is a busy man and the colonel has him hopping all over the ANA camp. Unlike our small camp, the ANA side is much larger and requires a vehicle or a good set of boots for walking because their buildings are spaced much further apart. Anyhow, I decided to spend some time with our interpreters. This was a chance for me to learn a little bit more about their personal lives and for me to share mine. Somehow the conversation revolved around divorce in America and divorce in Afghanistan. I was rather surprised that even within the Islamic faith, divorce is permitted. But divorce is very rare and the stigma attached of being divorced is often worse than a bad marriage. They explained that the engagement to an Afghan woman can last for 3 years before they are allowed to get married. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Honoring MAJ Rocco M. Barnes - MAJ Barnes was part of the shura mission I wrote about on 5 June 09. My team leader spoke with him before the shura and then we convoyed to the village meeting. After the humanitarian assistance was off-loaded for the villages, our convoy was the first to leave the shura site and traveled down the mountainous winding curves. MAJ Barnes’ vehicle departed down the mountain sometime after our convoy reached the hardball and was involved in a tragic roll-over. Unfortunately he did not survive his injuries. Subsequently after the memorial service, my team was tasked to provide armed escort and transport the vehicle to another camp for repairs. I can’t recall how many years MAJ Barnes gave to the service and to his country, but he was regarded as a “father” to his troops and had a wealth of knowledge and expertise. He will be sorely missed. May God rest his soul and comfort his unit and his family members. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: The beginning - of the end has, it seems, arrived. We're all up at the Big Base, since we loaded out our big shipping boxes this morning for redeployment. No - we're not actually close to redeploying yet, but it seems as though the boxes will be handcarried by gnomes from Iraq to the US, so it's going to take a while. All the stuff we no longer need and are allowed to be without, we stuff into Contico boxes and duffles, and load into the containers. Before we can load them, of course, we must be subjected to the Customs inspection. We had a very nice MP sergeant first class come out and explain all the things we are not allowed to take back with us (camel saddles, human skulls, and livestock semen were particularly intriguing items on that list). We emptied out our boxes for inspection. Before the oh-so-human and thus oh-so-prone-to-overlooking-things inspector, the contents were perused by...Capka the Customs Dog. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Serving in the military is not a joke - A couple days ago the comedian Stephen Colbert performed at Al Faw Palace here in Baghdad. He came over here as part of a USO-sponsored event to entertain the troops (I was lucky enough to see part of his first show on Sunday night). One of his jokes was about a young Soldier here in Iraq who spent his spare time taking online college classes. Apparently the Soldier just got his degree, and Colbert got big laughs when he mentioned that the Soldier was one of the few 2009 college graduates with a job. I guess most 2009 graduates back home are not doing as well. Colbert’s remark was very well received by the audience, but for those of us over here in Iraq, it is reality. Many of us follow the stock reports, government unemployment statistics and news of our struggling U.S. economy. I know my home has lost about 30-40 percent of its value over the past two years, so having a steady paycheck puts us ahead of more than 10 percent of our U.S. population who are unemployed. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strike kills Iranian-backed Taliban commander in western Afghanistan - The US military killed a senior Taliban commander with links to Iran's Qods Forces during an airstrike in western Afghanistan. Mullah Mustafa and sixteen of his followers were killed in the western province of Ghor after intelligence assets, likely unmanned aerial vehicles, spotted his movement and attacked his convoy. "Coalition forces observed Mustafa moving by vehicle from his compound. When he stopped in a remote area, he was joined by multiple militants," a press release issued by the US military stated. "After determining no civilians would be endangered, forces used precision aerial munitions to strike the group, killing Mustafa and as many as 16 other militants." Mustafa reportedly met with a group of senior Taliban commanders prior to today's airstrike. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: Army Wives, Part 5: 'Can Say' Conclusion - Throughout a deployment, the spouse of a Soldier endures a great sacrifice. A script on how to converse with the spouse of a deployed Soldier does not exist. The right things to say are not lines stored on a pocket-sized notebook, which can be pulled out in the necessary moment. Upon meeting an Army Wife, you should not feel as though it is necessary to try to relate to her. Although you may feel it is socially necessary to comment on the Soldier’s absence, there is really no need to do so at all. Support, encouragement and graciousness are appreciated. However, there is a key to interacting with the spouse: sincerity. Be yourself. Be genuine. If you don’t know what to say, silence is acceptable. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Let’s Compare - Bill Roggio: US strike kills Iranian-backed Taliban commander in western Afghanistan - The Associated Press: US kills militant said linked to Iran’s Quds Force. One version seems to leave the reader with somewhat less certainty about the matter, doesn’t it? It’s interesting to explore the allegations that there might be elements within Iran who might support portions of the insurgency in Afghanistan. As Iran watchers have observed, there is often precious little aside from assertions that the link exists, with nothing concrete any official is willing to say publicly. What a delicious Catch-22: the U.S. government might have all this evidence that Iran is “backing” the Taliban… but won’t actually tell anyone what it is. It’s too sensitive to explain, but not too sensitive to allege. Right. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Critical Bridge Reopens in Al-Anbar - BAGHDAD — 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 Engineers’ (USACE) Gulf Region Central District restored the bridge through a $1.26 million project completed and officially opened, 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)

New Gymnasium Opens in Adhamiyah - BAGHDAD — Iraqi children in northeast Baghdad now have a new place to play, thanks to the efforts of Iraqi and U.S engineers. Both were on hand in the Adhamiyah district here for the opening of the al-Jazeera gymnasium, June 6. "This gym provides the children in the neighborhood a place to enjoy sports without having to play in the streets,” said Inez Bergerson, a civil engineer with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). “Many parents will enjoy seeing their children participate in organized team sports, something the people of Iraq have never had." (READ MORE)

Iraqi Signal School Graduates 70 - CAMP TAJI — Seventy new Iraqi Army (IA) officers completed the Signal Basic Course at the Iraqi Army Signal School here, May 24. The students trained on all forms of tactical radios, and also received a week of basic computer training. This training is a vital step toward ensuring Iraq’s self-sufficiency in fulfillment of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. Since the school’s inception in 2005, it has steadily increased its output of technically proficient, professional Soldiers. (READ MORE)

Precision Strike Kills Warlord, Associates in Afghanistan - KABUL, June 10, 2009 – Coalition forces used a precision air strike in Afghanistan’s Ghowr province yesterday to target a local warlord and Taliban commander responsible for attacks along the main highway in the border areas of Ghowr and Herat provinces, military officials reported. When intelligence sources recently confirmed Mullah Mustafa’s location in a remote, mountainous area of Ghowr’s Shahrak district, forces began planning an operation to remove him. (READ MORE)

Afghan Women Learn Entrepreneurship in Panjshir Valley - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 10, 2009 – The fruit and vegetable bounty of Afghanistan’s Panjshir province may make its way to grocery stores around the world someday, thanks to a provincial reconstruction team program. A food-processing program recently introduced into the Panjshir Valley is bringing economic prosperity, education, leadership and hope to the area’s women. As they learn to process produce into profitable jars of preserves and bottles of juice, their livelihood and social importance in Afghan society is expanding. (READ MORE)

Pakistan targets Taliban in new combat zone - The Pakistani army attacked an area bordering a militant stronghold near the Waziristan tribal region on Thursday, killing scores of Taliban fighters with helicopter gunships and artillery shelling, officials said. Already in the final stages of an operation to clear Islamist fighters from the Swat valley, far to the northwest and closer to Islamabad, the military said it went on the offensive in Bannu district after up to 800 militants infiltrated from Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Gates: NATO allies expect Afghanistan progress - BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says NATO allies agree with him that progress must be shown in Afghanistan over the next year to 18 months. Gates says that after this summer's election in Afghanistan he hopes to see what he calls a shift in momentum. (READ MORE)

AFGHANISTAN: Bumper wheat harvest to reduce food insecurity? - KABUL, 11 June 2009 (IRIN) - An expected bumper wheat harvest should reduce widespread food insecurity and bring down food prices in Afghanistan, according to officials. Over eight million people across the country are believed to be food insecure and in need of food assistance. (READ MORE)

Pakistan army kills 20 Taliban near NW tribal region - PESHAWAR: Pakistan's security forces have killed at least 20 suspected militants as they continue to pound Taliban positions near a lawless northwest tribal belt, officials said on Thursday. The military this week launched operations in Bannu district on the fringes of semi-autonomous North and South Waziristan, where Washington alleges Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels are hiding out plotting attacks on the West. (READ MORE)

Taliban raid three army posts in South Waziristan - London, June 11 : Three military posts have reportedly been attacked by the Taliban in Pakistan's South Waziristan region. At least three army personnel and over 20 extremists have been killed in the attack, which took place is the region supposedly the strong hold of Pakistan Taliban's chief Betullah Mehsud. (READ MORE)

The Daily Life of Some Soldiers in Afghanistan Just Might Surprise You - ABC's Nick Schifrin reports from Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan: You might be surprised to learn what life is like for the thousands of American troops swarming into Afghanistan now. Most of these troops will have to fight the Taliban in the coming weeks but last night, we found young soldiers moving to the rhythms of Marc Anthony at a salsa lesson. Welcome to Kandahar Air base, a hive of activity, buzzing with choppers and plane landings, new tent cities with names like “South Park,” and 19 and 20 year-old troops letting their hair down before they head to hot spots points south. (READ MORE)

Fighting in northern Afghanistan kills 12 insurgents - Kabul: The Afghan government says clashes in the north killed 12 insurgents and one Afghan army soldier. The Defence Ministry says in a statement that Wednesday's fighting spanned three villages in Baghlan province. Provincial Police Chief General Abdul Rahman Sayedkhail says a combined international and Afghan force fought against gunmen over the course of the day, eventually routing Taliban gunmen out of the area. (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES 11 June 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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