June 17, 2009

From the Front: 06/17/2009

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

Jeremiah Ridgeway: Lightstalkers - Jeremiah Ridgeway - Some amazing photos of Afghanistan from a Cav Scout. (VIEW GALLERIES)

A Year in The Sandbox: Misc Videos - Here are the rest of the videos that don’t really fit in any one theme. (VIEW MORE)

1st Marine Logistics Group: Train as you fight: 7th ESB enhances combat skills - MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines receive realistic training for Afghanistan by conducting exercises in a similar environment. Marines with Company B, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, participated in the Basic Enhanced Combat Skills course to better prepare them for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan at Camp De Luz's Combat Skills Training Center here June 8 – 12. “We’re here to prepare the Marines before they deploy to Afghanistan,” said Sgt. David M. Scott, a CST instructor with CST School, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st MLG. “The course gives the Marines a basic idea of what to expect in country.” Approximately 100 Marines with 7th ESB conducted the BCS course that’s required training for all non-infantry units prior to deploying. The course trains Marines in a variety of skills that prepare them to perform in hostile countries. They learned how to protect forward operation bases through routine patrols. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: Afghanistan and the Lessons of History - I don’t know why, but I’ve never fully written about my extreme annoyance at those writers and commentators who always bring up Afghanistan’s history (and the history of the land on which the contemporary state is located). First, there’s the Euro-centric perspective that always bring up defeats of European forces. This includes the Soviet-Afghan war, the Anglo-Afghan Wars and, for the historically challenged, Alexander the Great (there is a little history in between these events worth reading). And then there is the perspective that claims Afghanistan is, and has throughout history, been “backwards.” And then there are people from all other parts of the political spectrum who have read a couple of books (probably “popular” histories) and then decided they should expound on Afghan history to bolster their arguments. To emphasize, one is missing massive chunks of history if confined to the narrow perspectives above. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Analysis: Waziristan operation to focus on Baitullah Mehsud - As the Pakistani military gears up for what appears to be a major operation into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, the government and military are signaling that the operation is limited to taking out Baitullah Mehsud. The three other powerful Taliban groups based in North and South Waziristan do not appear to be on the Pakistan Army’s target list. The South Waziristan operation, called Rah-e-Nijat, or the Way of Salvation, is already underway, according to the Pakistani military’s top spokesman. The military has been positioning troops and armor in the neighboring district of Tank while conducting artillery and airstrikes into regions run by Baitullah Mehsud, the overall commander of the Pakistani Taliban. The main roads in the region are also being blocked to cut off supplies to Baitullah's forces. Further north the military is battling the Taliban in the Jani Khel and Baka Khel regions in Bannu, which borders North Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda commanders reported killed, wounded in Pakistan - Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate that a senior al Qaeda military commander was killed and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was wounded during clashes in the tribal areas. Qari Zia Rahman, a senior al Qaeda military commander who operates along the Afghan-Pakistani border, was reported to have been killed during fighting in the Bajaur tribal agency, while Tahir Yuldashev was reported to have been wounded during an airstrike in South Waziristan. US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal the reports that Yuldashev was wounded are credible, but would not comment on the reports that Rahman was killed. (READ MORE)

Fightin' 6th Marines: RCT-6 engineers demilitarize Coalition outposts in Ramadi - RAMADI, Iraq – Combat engineers from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, gathered their vehicles to take part in an ongoing mission to remove barriers from the city streets and outlying areas of Ramadi, Iraq, June 09, 2009. Affectionately known as “Operation Jackhammer,” the mission focused on ridding residential areas in and around Ramadi of the security paraphernalia that was once a necessity during more dangerous times in Iraq’s Al Anbar province. The removal of blast barriers and concertina wire not only helps remove the most visible face of war from communities, it simultaneously allows Coalition Forces to improve force protection at Iraqi Security Force outposts. Following in the footsteps of previous units that began this process, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines is seeing this operation through to the finish. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Donation Overload - I want to talk about all the donations received so far that are going to the kids and thank everyone for their support. I’ve received more then I ever thought. My room is so overrun, that I began having issues on space. After all the floor and locker space was taken, I was forced to start consuming my bed space. Haha. I eventually had to put up a large shelf because I’m still expecting more boxes to show up. Many friends and family have started sending me donations following my Children of Iraq post. I know I was originally saying get everything in before June but now it looks like you’re clear to continue sending me stuff up until the end of July. I’ve received shoes, books, notepads, candy, food, stuffed animals, games and much more. Thank you all! My platoon sergeant got his church, Beaver Lutheran, to send candy for us to throw to the kids. To his and everyone’s great surprise….they sent 100lbs worth! (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Catching Up with a Lot of Friends - If you think driving and talking on a cell phone is an indication that the end of the world is at hand, stop reading here. I drive and talk on the phone. I have been doing this awful thing since 1993 when I had a five-watt cell phone powered by a lead-acid battery that was as big as a lunch box. When I talk on the the phone on a highway, I drive slower and keep right. When I am not talking, I drive faster. Anyway, I drove to the Wake for my friend's baby girl and talked to friends nearly all the way there and back--3 1/2 hours each way. I thought it would be good to be distracted rather than think too hard about how terrible it is to lose a child. The gathering at the funeral home was sad for everyone. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
Base Transfer Ceremony honors fallen warrior, recognizes bright future - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq – U.S. Soldiers lowered the American flag and Iraqi Soldiers raised the Iraqi flag to signify the change of Forward Operating Base Paliwoda into the Iraqi-led Balad Joint Coordination Center during a ceremony near Balad, Iraq June 15. The Balad JCC combines Iraqi Army and Police coordination elements, along with civilian emergency response functions, together in one location. (READ MORE)

Tal Afar SWAT arrests suspected terrorists - TIKRIT, Iraq – The Tal Afar Special Weapons and Tactics team, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested three suspected terrorists June 15, with warrants issued by the Central Investigative Court of Iraq-Kharkh. “The success of this mission is indicative of the commitment of Iraqi Security Forces in capturing terrorists and demonstrates the capability of the Tal Afar SWAT to conduct intelligence driven missions,” said Maj. April Olsen, a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula spokesperson. (READ MORE)

ISF, Vanguard Soldiers arrest suspected criminal in Kadamiyah - BAGHDAD – At approximately 2:30 a.m., Iraqi Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and Soldiers from the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, MND-B arrested the individual, who is linked to explosively formed penetrator attacks. (READ MORE)

U.S. Soldiers Train Iraqi Female Security Volunteers for Police Assistance Work - BAGHDAD — Loud chatter filled the room as ten women from the Daughters of Iraq (DoI) gathered at an old high school in Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad, to train new-hires, update information in the U.S. forces database and discuss present conditions with U.S. Army officers, June 12. The DoI female security program, an unarmed spin-off of the Sons of Iraq, started in October 2008. (READ MORE)

New Roads to Connect Iraqi Village - KIRKUK — In the small but growing Iraqi village of Kardaara here, residents have to move along dusty trails by foot to get around town. Thanks to the Iraqi Roads and Bridges Directorate, with help from 490th Civil Affairs Battalion (CAB), who recognized the problem, residents will soon be able to travel much easier due to an ongoing project aimed at building a network of roads within the village. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan:
Troops in Afghanistan would get new uniforms - Congress is about to order new combat uniforms for troops in Afghanistan after hearing complaints that camouflage that was fine in Iraq doesn’t work so well in a mountainous and often muddy environment. “Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan have serious concerns about the current combat uniform which they indicated provides ineffective camouflage given the environment in Afghanistan,” lawmakers say in the report accompanying HR 2346, the 2009 supplemental appropriations act. (READ MORE)

8 Distt under govt control - HELMAND (NNI): The governor of Helmand has said the government now only controls eight of its thirteen districts. He said the government has lost control in three Helmand districts on the northern end of the province and two in the south. Helmand is the world’s largest opium-poppy growing region with drug lords and Taliban militants controlling their own patches. It is hoped thousands of US Marines, sent to Helmand last month will be able to extend the government’s control. (READ MORE)

Militants burn down school - KABUL (Agencies): Anti-government militants set on fire a primary school in the relatively peaceful Baghlan province, north of Afghanistan, a local official said on Monday. “The armed rebels attacked and burned down the primary school of Abdul Wadoud Shahid in Khost-o-Faring district Sunday night,” police chief of the district Abdul Ahad told Xinhua. The militias moreover pasted night letters on the walls of the school, threatening parents not to send their girls to school. (READ MORE)

In Afghan Heat, Marines Prepare For The Storm - The Marines known as "America's Battalion" are in Afghanistan as part of the 21,000 additional forces President Obama is deploying in the administration's strategy to counter the Taliban insurgency. NPR is following the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment over the months of their deployment, focusing on the efforts of these Marines in Afghanistan and the burden shared by their families back home. In hairdryer-in-the-face heat, talcum-like dust swirls around Camp Leatherneck, a U.S. Marine base in the desert of southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand province. In the early afternoon, the dust rolls in like a brown fog and seeps into a massive tent. (READ MORE)

Campaigning kicks off in Afghan vote - KABUL (AFP) - Campaigning for Afghanistan's second-ever presidential elections kicked off Tuesday with hundreds of posters hoisted in the capital and candidates setting out to win over voters new to democracy. By contrast, the southern city of Kandahar -- in the heartland of a Taliban insurgency that has reached record levels and threatens the August 20 poll -- remained bare of posters and election spirit, an AFP reporter said. (READ MORE)

Secret Canadian mission maps volatile Afghan landscape - Canada wrapped up a secret mission this week that provides the country's military a greater intelligence role in Afghanistan — literally from a Canadian perspective. Two Canadian Aurora long-range patrol planes have spent the last month flying over southern Afghanistan on highly precise grid-like routes, snapping quick-fire pictures of the land below. The idea is to produce the most accurate, up-to-date maps yet of volatile southern Afghanistan — where Canadian soldiers are based — to share with coalition partners. (READ MORE)

Taliban allied tribe shifts loyalties to government - Islamabad: An important ally tribe of Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in Bannu has transferred loyalties to the government as security forces are squeezing in from two different directions to attack the Taliban bastion, south Waziristan. The tribe has however demanded the government hold a temporary ceasefire in their areas so that they can persuade militants in hiding to surrender themselves. (READ MORE)

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