June 12, 2009

From the Front: 06/12/2009

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

In Iraq Now (at 56): The Journey Home Begins - It's getting close to 9pm so the temperature here in Kuwait is just dipping below 100 degrees. It was only 113 today when we arrived at 1pm, but the body armor and helmet we are required to wear for the flight from Iraq to Kuwait make it feel even warmer. An hour after we arrived we were allowed to turn the body armor in at a storage warehouse so we don't have to wear it here. In fact, I turned in my weapon yesterday so I am feeling like a very successful dieter!!! Those pounds just melted away (for a couple of weeks anyway). The entire trip from Iraq to Lancaster should take three days, four at the worst. It will take more than a day and maybe two days just to get from the front door of the passenger terminal at Tallil Ali Air Base to taking off in Kuwait--I will spend more than a day and maybe two traveling the first 200 miles from Iraq to Kuwait, then hopefully cover the remaining 6000-odd miles from Kuwait to Lancaster PA. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Rose Garden - Someone once said “A rose is a rose is a rose”. I wonder if they were referring to the roses grown in Afghanistan. More specifically I wonder if they were referring to the roses grown on an ANA compound. In their attempt to beautify the landscape, my Kandak has found the soil fertile enough to plant roses. This morning I went to see MSG Abdullah and he was busy digging in his garden. He was planting trees, tomato plants and rosebushes. One of his officers questioned why he wasn’t working in the warehouse. MSG Abdullah explained that when there is no work in the warehouse, he and his soldiers work on beautification projects. This answer seemed to pacify the ANA officer. In fact he suggested that MSG Abdullah conduct similar projects throughout the compound. MSG Abdullah is a very unique ANA soldier. Prior to joining the ANA he actively fought against the Taliban. Then he decided to join the ANA to make a difference for his country. He is a proud soldier and truly believes in taking care of the soldiers. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Family Lore: More on Loot! - My old man never liked to let his mother worry about him. Writing home he would always assure her that he was fine and never in any real danger, when in fact he was up to his neck in violence. I asked him once how close he had ever gotten to the enemy in battle. He replied that he had been close enough to see the stitching in their uniforms. During one period of the war my cousin, Johnny was in the Army stationed in Viet Nam. Young Johnny lived in relative comfort by comparison to his Uncle Bob (my dad) whose red handed exploits are still the focus of much of our family lore. Now Johnny was recipient of all the good loot from home. He was a REMF after all and had plenty of luxury compared to his Uncle Bob who lived out of a pack swatting at humming bird-sized mosquitoes while simultaneously imposing his will on godless communist heathens. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Chaplains: Then and Now - During my first enlistment, the chaplains I met were mostly from mainline Protestant denominations including the kind of Baptists who go to seminaries as well as Catholic priests. A chaplain in the 1970s was, in my experience, a well-educated mid-30s and older guy who was well-read, but not scholarly, not very fit, and liked the company of soldiers. One of our chaplains is exactly that, mainline denomination, pastor of a large church in a small town back home, struggles to stay fit and watch his weight, is affable and friendly. His sermons tend to exhortation and have no hard edges. He went to a denominational seminary, but did no post-graduate academic work. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Contractors experiencing some of same mental health problems as soldiers in Iraq - Baghdad- The ratio of soldiers to contractors in Iraq is one-to-one. Since the beginning of Iraq war it's been widely reported that the Defense and State Departments have hired contractors, deployed and billed by contracting companies, to do everything from wash soldiers clothes to advising senior level Iraqi ministry officials. It's estimated that 126,000 contractors are now working in Iraq. A new study found that given the approximately 13% soldiers returning from Iraq who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, it's likely that many contractors will also be experiencing combat-related mental health problems. Part of me says, Who cares? Contractors make at least three times as much as soldiers do, and even though many contractors are former soldiers, who've already done their time in Iraq, and have, "wised up" to the game, they still arrive in country by choice and are not putting their life on the line like the average 20-year old soldier is. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Fighting intensifies in Pakistan's Bannu-Waziristan region - The Pakistani military said more than 130 Taliban fighters were killed during a three-day-old offensive in Bannu, while a Taliban assault on two forts in the neighboring tribal agency of South Waziristan has been repelled. In Peshawar, three policemen were killed and 13 more were wounded during a suicide attack in the city's outskirts. The military said 30 Taliban fighters were killed in the opening day of the Bannu offensive, 80 were killed during heavy fighting yesterday, and another 30 were killed today. The army is using helicopters and strike aircraft as well as artillery to pound Taliban positions in the Jani Khel and Baka Khel tribal areas. Between 600 and 800 Taliban fighters from North and South Waziristan are reported to have moved into the region to reinforce the local Taliban fighters. Jani Khel was identified as the headquarters for al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council, back in 2007. Aymn al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, has operated in the Jani Khel region. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iranian-backed Afghan Taliban commander survived airstrike - A Taliban commander thought to have been killed in a US airstrike in western Afghanistan has survived the attack, while fighting in northern and western Afghanistan intensifies. Mullah Mustafa, a Taliban commander in Ghor province, denied reports he was killed in the June 9 airstrike. Mustafa contacted Quqnoos, an Afghan newspaper, and said the US killed civilians after acting on bad intelligence. "Some people went to the US forces and provided them with false information, and then they bombed our area," Mustafa said. "I am not harmed." Mustafa said his six-year-old son and ten year old brother were among those killed. The deputy governor of Ghor province claimed 10 civilians were killed in the strike. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Minor Construction - The past couple of weeks have been hectic. Yeah, I know, I say stuff like that a lot as an excuse for those times when I don't post an entry for a while. But this time it's true. We've been working on getting some modifications done to a building. We're going to move into it before long, and I've been the one in charge of doing the planning for the construction. And how much experience do I have with that sort of thing? Well, umm, none. So I've been, as they say, on the steep side of the learning curve. The kinda situation where you first hear about something at 8 in the morning and you're the resident expert on it by 3 in the afternoon. All of which is bad enough, but with this project, there are a lotta people trying to have their say. They want their rooms arranged like this, or they want that feature added in, or they want me to give them somebody else's spaces. Meanwhile, the guys On High have been issuing guidance that can be, at best, confusing. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Piracy Thrives In Iraq - It seems you can find a movie shop on any Army FOB. In Taji, it was called The Movie Shop. How original. There were 2 that I knew of. Here in Liberty it’s called the Ali Shop and I’m aware of at least 3. This isn’t any normal movie shop and its not because they also sell computer software and games. Almost everything found in these stores is 100% pirated material. Upon first walking in, I was totally flabbergasted. Movies only cost 2 bucks and they have just about every movie you can think of. If not, simply request it and they’ll have it for you within a week or so. They even have movies that just came out in theater. Some, like Wolverine could be bought before the movie even hit the theaters. Of course it was an uncompleted version with many of special effects not digitized yet. The movie shops even have collections that make you wonder why the entertainment industry doesn’t follow suit. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Afghan infowar: US fights back/YouTube and video - Seems as if some real progress is being made; US military are heavily into new media: With unusual speed, officials release a video of a grenade attack to counter accusations against U.S. soldiers. Reporting from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan -- The accusation was damning: U.S. soldiers were said to have tossed a grenade into a crowd of Afghans in the eastern province of Kunar on Tuesday, killing two civilians and wounding five to 50 others. American public affairs officers previously have been slow in responding. U.S. military officials here complain that Taliban leaders are often better and faster at spreading their versions of deadly events. This time, however, public affairs officers mounted a swift and detailed information operation. Within 24 hours, a public affairs team at Bagram air base released a video showing an explosion as U.S. soldiers worked to free an American military vehicle stuck on a median in the town of Asadabad. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Insurgent leader arrested in Kirkuk - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – An alleged terrorist leader was arrested early June 10 by Iraqi police in the Meghdad neighborhood of Kirkuk city. The suspect was wanted by the Government of Iraq for purchasing weapons, improvised explosive devices and other explosives to be used against Iraqi Security and Coalition forces. The individual is also suspected in the murder of at least ten people. (READ MORE)

Weapons, explosives seized near Taji - CAMP TAJI – Iraqi Army and Multi-National Division—Baghdad Soldiers seized a sizable amount of weapons and explosives June 9 while conducting joint operations north of Baghdad. Members of the 36th Iraqi Army Brigade and the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (Independence), uncovered three significant weapon caches in the Taji area that included two rockets, seven RPGs, 44 mortars, 10 fuses, 16 grenades, three rifles, one machine gun, four pounds of military grade explosives and suicide belts. (READ MORE)

U.S. Soldiers to teach air assault to ISF - FORWARD OPERATING BASE GABE, Iraq – In the past, the U.S. military planned and executed air assault missions for Iraqi forces. Now, Iraqi forces are taking the steps needed to plan and execute their own missions with assistance from U.S. Special Forces and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade crews and aircraft. The 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 2nd Battalion partnered with U.S. Special Forces June 1-2 to teach air-assault operations to Iraqi Special Operation Forces. (READ MORE)

A Meeting of Governors - MOSUL, Iraq – Two governors of neighboring regions both working for the continued improvement of the nation of Iraq, met for the first time with the goal of improving relations between their provinces. Athiel Al Nujayfi, governor of the northern Iraq province of Ninewa, and Nawzad Hady, the governor of Irbil and representative of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, met at Forward Operating Base Diamondback, near Mosul, Iraq, Jun. 6 to formally discuss methods of improving cooperative efforts between the geographically close, but sometimes culturally distant neighbors. (READ MORE)

Operation Iraqi Stephen succeeds at Camp Victory - CAMP VICTORY, BAGHDAD – It is official — Stephen Colbert came, saw and conquered Iraq, claiming victory on day three of his six-day adventure to the Middle East. Arriving in a C-17 from Kuwait, Colbert landed at the Baghdad International Airport June 5 and began preparing for his shows at Camp Victory’s Al Faw Palace, as part of his tour “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando.” (READ MORE)

FPS Graduates 1,088 Iraqi Police in Special Training - BAGHDAD – The Facilities Protection Service graduated 1,088 Iraqi Police June 3. The graduation completed the training of all 17,115 FPS police in the Ministry of Interior. The training is a vital step towards ensuring Iraq’s ability to protect its infrastructure and fulfills a key element of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. (READ MORE)

Leaders Meet, Lunch With Al Ghizi Shaykh - DHI QAR PROVINCE — Key leaders from the 287th Sustainment Brigade recently enjoyed a lunch here with Shaykh Ali Mohamed Al Manshed of the Ghizi tribe in Al Manshed village. Conversation ranged from provincial elections to drought concernes. The shaykh’s mudhif, or tribal council hall, was the setting for the luncheon. The air conditioned tent boasted marble floors, seven crystal chandeliers, a collection of Arabian coffee urns and religious artifacts at one end. Shaykh Ali directed the traffic flow as Soldiers entered the tent and workers hurried to hand out tea to the guests. (READ MORE)

Iraq Invests in Youth Education, Future - RAMADI — Dozens of Iraqi schoolchildren, waving brightly colored flowers and chanting patriotic songs, lined the entrance to the Tway Primary School recently during the school's grand opening here. Among the scores of people attending the grand opening were family members, several key Iraqi tribal, governmental, business and military leaders, and representatives from Multi National Force - West, the unit which oversees Coalition efforts in Iraq's Anbar province. (READ MORE)

JSS Hurriyah II Passes to Iraqi Army - BAGHDAD — As the June 30 deadline for U.S. Soldiers to be out of Iraqi cities draws near, U.S. forces under Multi-National Division - Baghdad handed over Joint Security Station (JSS) Hurriyah II to Iraqi Security Forces, June 9. "This is yet another step the sovereign state of Iraq has taken to provide for the security of the people of Baghdad and the progress that has been achieved together with the Iraqi Security Forces," said Col. Joseph Martin, commander, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "Iraq is now enjoying irreversible momentum toward a peaceful and prosperous future." (READ MORE)

Warlord Targeted in Afghan Strike May Have Survived, Officials Say - KABUL, June 11, 2009 – An Afghan warlord and Taliban commander believed yesterday to have been killed in a June 9 air strike may have survived the attack, military officials reported today. Initial Afghan and coalition reports said Mullah Mustafa died in the strike, but credible reports surfaced today that Mustafa survived, U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials said. (READ MORE)

Governor, Coalition Forces Present Attack Evidence to Afghan Elders - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, June 11, 2009 – Coalition forces met with Afghan provincial leaders here yesterday to discuss an explosion that occurred in Asadabad, Afghanistan, June 9. The provincial reconstruction team and the Kunar governor reviewed the coalition’s most recent findings, which included grenade fragments and a video of the attack from an unmanned aerial vehicle. (READ MORE)

12 Afghan militants, 10 civilians reported killed when U.S. airstrikes miss target - AFGHANISTAN — U.S. airstrikes in western Afghanistan missed their target of a militant commander and instead killed 12 other militants and 10 civilians, provincial officials said Thursday. The U.S. military originally said the strike killed a warlord named Mullah Mustafa but now say he apparently survived. In a statement issued Thursday, the U.S. said "credible reports surfaced that Mustafa survived the attack" in Ghor province. The U.S. said it is investigating reports that civilians were killed. (READ MORE)

Pakistani public opinion is turning against Taliban - ISLAMABAD — The footage was chilling — a woman crying out in pain, held facedown on the ground, as a man with a long beard flogged her in front of a crowd. It could be the video that changed Pakistan. That two-minute clip, purportedly shot in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban held sway until a recent military offensive, has come to represent the militants and their extreme form of Islam. (READ MORE)

Qaida says out of food & arms in Afghanistan - ISTANBUL: The leader of al-Qaida in Afghanistan has said the militant group was short of food, weapons and other supplies needed to fight against foreign forces in his country, a website linked to the terrorist organization said. "In Afghanistan, we have a severe supply deficit. The main reason for the weakness in operations is insufficient supplies. Many mujahideen sit and wait and cannot fight for lack of supplies," Mustafa Abu al-Yazid said on a website used by top al-Qaida leaders and other militants to post statements. (READ MORE)

British troops at mercy of Taliban surge - British troops fighting the Taliban are facing three times as many attacks as any other NATO force in Afghanistan amid spiralling violence across the country which has seen insurgent bombings and shootings rise by 73 per cent. Official Nato figures reveal that fatalities among the international force, including British, have risen by 78 per cent while the targeting of officials serving the beleaguered Afghan government has increased by 64 per cent. (READ MORE)

Taliban assault three Pakistani Army posts in South Waziristan - ISLAMABAD: Dozens of insurgents attacked three army posts in a tribal region that serves as the primary base for Pakistan's Taliban chief, triggering shootouts that left 20 insurgents and three soldiers dead early Thursday, intelligence officials told The Associated Press. The clashes in South Waziristan, a rugged, remote region along the Afghan border where Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have long had strongholds, came amid rumblings that the Pakistani military will launch a new offensive there - something that would please US officials who want to eliminate cross-border threats to troops in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

66 Taliban killed in Pakistan - Peshawar, Pakistan - Pakistan's army said on Thursday it had killed 66 Taliban as fighting spilled into a tribal area and known bolthole for the militant group blamed for a deadly bombing at a luxury hotel. At least nine people were killed when three attackers shot their way through a security checkpost and rammed an explosives-laden truck into Peshawar's five-star Pearl Continental late Tuesday. (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES 12 June 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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