June 19, 2009

From the Front: 06/19/2009

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

The Stone Report: Let’s have a Parade - Now that I’m back in Basra, I can work on putting some news packages together. The 172nd Infantry Brigade Blackhawks got creative with their Army Birthday celebration. They decided to have a parade. Going into cover the event, I thought it was going to be a stupid waste of time. For all you young journalists out there, that’s not the best attitude when trying to get a story. Luckily, I ended up having quite a bit of fun. Here’s my story. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Somali security minister assassinated in suicide attack - An al Qaeda-backed terror group assassinated the security minister of Somalia's struggling government in a suicide attack today that killed more than 20 people in the central part of the country. Securityr Minister Omar Hashi Aden and Abdikarim Lakanyo, the former ambassador to Ethiopia, were killed when a Shabaab suicide bomber targeted them as they left a hotel in the town of Beletwein, the provincial capital of Hiran. The men were heading to the wedding of Hashi's son when the attack took place. Shabaab, the terror group that has direct links to al Qaeda, has taken credit for the suicide strike and claimed the men were meeting with Ethiopian military officials at the hotel. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strikes target Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan - The US conducted two separate airstrikes in Mullah Nazir's territory in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan. The strikes mark the second and third attacks in South Waziristan since Jun. 14 after a one-month hiatus in the Predator campaign. Unmanned Predator strike aircraft hit a madrassa in the Shah Alam region of South Waziristan, and a training camp in the Raghzai region. Nine people have been reported killed in the two strikes. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed or wounded at this time. "Three missiles struck a training camp run by a local militant commander, Malang Wazir, in Raghzai," an intelligence official told Dawn News. Both the camp in Raghzai and the madrassa in the Shah Alam "have been completely destroyed," Geo News reported. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Worst. Duststorm. Ever. - I've written in previous blogs about duststorms here in Baghdad...about how they block the sun and make our lives miserable. Well, we had the worst one yet over the past few days. This one was a whopper. I was up early Wednesday morning...in the office by 0530 to do a live interview with a TV station in Texas. As I was walking to the office I was already choking on dust and couldn't even see the lights on Signal Hill...which is right next to us. I then had to drive a Soldier over to a pickup point so she could go out on a mission. It was like driving in thick fog. As the day progressed it just got worse. I was in the office late that night and walked back to my CHU about 9:30. The dust was so thick that my eyes were burning 50 feet outside the door! I hate to admit it, but I got a little disoriented walking through one of the side parking lots. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Dust Storm Dominates Central Iraq - You know that feeling you get when it's cold outside and the much anticipated weather report had said that it's supposed to snow? You wait and hope. And then, the next morning, there is a blanket of white covering everything. You'd venture outside and marvel at the snow-covered silence and see your breath coming out in plumes... But here, of course, it's the complete opposite. Yesterday was the beginning of one of the worst dust storms since we arrived back in February. At first, it looked like a normal, windswept day...hazy, very hot. But, after lunch, the wind began to pick up and the dust/haze in the atmosphere thickened. You could no longer see the sun, which was a blessing because that haze would keep our temperature at a respectable 105 degrees or so. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 19JUN09--Mole Cricket - Yesterday, I posted a picture of a mysterious insect that I had never seen before. A faithful reader wrote me to inform me that the insects looked like mole crickets. Sure enough, he was right. Seeing the images on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_cricket, I had no doubt. The insect does not really resemble a cricket though. Sort of resembles a cicada, but longer and with claw-like legs. Makes me think of what a desert crayfish might look like. Apparently, mole crickets are common through North Africa, Europe and Central Asia. However, they are nocturnal and spend most of their lives in underground tunnels. The crickets are cooked and eaten in some cultures. I am quite glad that the Iraqis have not offered me such a dish. I would try it, but from the looks of them, I do not imagine that they are tasty. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 18JUN09--Sandfall - Few views are quiet as beautiful as a landscape of fresh, powdery snowfall. Particularly the first of the season can evoke memories of burning fireplaces, hot cocoa and Christmas carols. Waking up to a fresh layer of sand, though amazing, does not have quite the same effect, aside eliciting the memory of dry mouth. Yesterday evening, the skies became orange, as sandstorms of surrounding areas moved into the area. As the sand began to settle, pellets of sand fell, pelting everything. The sand covered trucks, trailers, and Soldiers, particularly those still damp from taking a shower. This morning, my team started the day with a thick, maybe 1/10 inch layer of dust covering everything with more still falling. Similar to delays and closings from snowfall in the States, we had a little extra time for reindeer games. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Don’t Take Life Sitting Down - My friends from 2-4 brought me a breakthrough when it comes to peeing standing up. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. It’s called Go Girl and they’re marketing to military women by wrapping the usually pink tube in cute camo with a brown rubber band (that can also be used for ponytails). It’s like a funnel and the video on their website go-girl.com suggests trying it a few times to avoid leakage… That makes me feel pretty confident about the product.. NOT! I’ve got two tubes of go girl here; Each tube contains the funnel, a baggie for disposal and tissue. However, they say it’s sanitary and can be used over and over. One customer washed in her dishwasher.. my question is “were her dishes in there too?” I’ll have a full update after the experiment. (READ MORE)

Trying to Grok: NEW AFGHAN STRATEGY - Via CaliValleyGirl a few weeks ago when I first started this post: New U.S. Afghan strategy will cost billions, take years - I'm sorry, but I've just never bought into the idea that Afghanistan is the "good war." My husband has actually had someone say to him that at least his upcoming deployment is to Afghanistan, which serves a purpose and has meaning, unlike Iraq. I wholeheartedly reject that idea. I also disagree vehemently with Pres Obama when he said, "Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice..." As Neal Boortz said recently, all wars are a choice. None of the 9/11 hijackers came from Afghanistan, so please explain to me how Afghanistan wasn't a choice that was made. I've been thinking about Afghanistan a lot lately, and I have a hard time feeling good about my husband going there. Frankly, I am not convinced that country deserves his effort. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

British Forces Return Hotel to Iraqi Officials - BASRAH — British forces handed over a former Coalition headquarters to Iraqi officials during a ceremony at the Basrah International Airport Hotel here, June 15. The handover of the hotel is part of the ongoing withdrawal of British forces from Iraq in accordance with the United Kingdom's security agreement with the Iraqi government. (READ MORE)

IA Officers Complete Development Course - BAGHDAD — Soldiers of the 17th Iraqi Army (IA) Division, Motorized Transportation Regiment, recently finished their first Staff Development Course here at Forward Operating Base Falcon, south of Baghdad. A Military Transition Team (MiTT) assigned to the 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, established this course and participated in the graduation ceremony, June 15. (READ MORE)

Joint Operations Center Nears Completion - BAGHDAD — In accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, U.S. engineers are nearly complete with the construction of a Joint Operations Center (JOC) here that will serve as a centralized workspace for both Iraqi and Coalition forces. When Soldiers from Company A, 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), 225th Engineer Brigade complete their work, the center will serve as the headquarters for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment and the 11th Iraqi Army. (READ MORE)

Army Commander Meets With Shaykhs - BASRAH — Col. Butch Kievenaar, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, met with key Basrah province shaykhs at the Basrah Operations Center here, June 16. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the brigade commander to the shaykhs, as well as discuss partnership as it’s related to the U.S.-Iraqi Security Agreement, said Maj. Richard Fierro, fire support officer for the brigade. (READ MORE)

Pentagon Admits Some Responsibility in Afghan Incident, But No Disciplinary Action Planned - The top U.S. military officer says U.S. forces have some responsibility for civilian deaths during a battle in Afghanistan's Farah Province in early May, but he says there is no basis for disciplinary action against any American troops. At a news conference Thursday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, was asked whether U.S. forces were responsible for civilian deaths in the Farah incident. (READ MORE)

US ambassador dedicates first Afghan nat'l park - BAND-E-AMIR, Afghanistan - The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan pedaled a green swan-shaped boat across the deep blue waters of the Band-e-Amir lakes Thursday during a dedication of the country's first national park. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former three-star Army general, told several hundred Afghans gathered for a ceremony that Band-e-Amir reminded him of one of America's national parks - the Grand Canyon. (READ MORE)

U.S. Afghan plan has risks for troops, politicians - WASHINGTON - The United States is nearing the final stage of a major military escalation in Afghanistan that will more than double the U.S. presence there to 68,000 troops by year-end, up from about 32,000 at the end of 2008. The build-up is the leading edge of a more comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that also calls for massive civilian assistance for the Afghan people. (READ MORE)

Afghan President's Alliances With Warlords Raise Concerns - It is a conspicuous show of power and wealth: Afghan strongmen roam the streets of Kabul in model sports utility vehicles surrounded by bands of armed bodyguards. They want to be called "mujahedin" freedom fighters -- those who led the "holy war" against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and then fought the hard-line Taliban during the 1990s. (READ MORE)

AFGHANISTAN: Aid success story in Nangarhar Province - KABUL, 18 June 2009 (IRIN) - A small hydroelectric project in eastern Afghanistan is supplying electricity to nearby houses and creating jobs, and appears to be an example of aid money well spent. The project, financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to the tune of US$274,000, has seen the installation of a hydroelectric turbine in Sherzad District, Nangarhar Province, which produces 175 kilowatts of electricity per hour. (READ MORE)

US airstrikes, Pakistan military kill 43 Taliban - Summary - Islamabad - Missiles believed to have been fired by US Predator drones hit Taliban hideouts in Pakistan's lawless tribal region near Afghanistan Thursday, killing at least nine Taliban, officials said. The attack came as the Pakistan's military claimed it had killed 34 militants and apprehended seven in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) over the last 24 hours. The suspected US airstrikes targeted a militant training facility and a house near Wana, the main town of the South Waziristan tribal district, a security official said on condition of anonymity. (READ MORE)

Violence kills four in Afghanistan - Two policemen and two security guards have been killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan in the latest in an upsurge in Taliban-linked attacks, officials said on Thursday. A bomb fixed to a motorbike exploded on Thursday outside the gates of a private construction company in southern Kandahar city, said Ghulam Mohammad, a police officer at the scene of the blast. (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES 19 June2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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