August 10, 2009

From the Front: 08/10/2009

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

Michael Yon: No Young Soldiers - Embedded within 1 Platoon was a handful of specialists from 636 (Arcot 1751 Battery), 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, “The Lowland Gunners,” simply called the “Fire Support Team.” Most soldiers just say FST. The primary function of 1 Platoon was to provide security for the raiders, and to deliver the FST, whose primary function also was to provide security for the raiders. The FST controls air assets, mortars, cannons, howitzers, and remote rocket systems known as GMLRS, (which Americans pronounce “Gimmlers” while the British say each letter: G-M-L-R-S). GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) scares the heck out of the enemy; GMLRS can be launched from dozens of miles away and reliably kill a man—or a lot of men—without warning. GMLRS are like the ultimate sniper rifle, only the bullet is a large explosive warhead. The system is so reliable and accurate that during operation Arrowhead Ripper during the summer of 2007 in Iraq, our people were hitting IEDs from dozens of miles away. Whereas the enemy can see or hear most aircraft, they get no warning with GMLRS. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Honoring Capt Freeman, SPC Lowe + other camp business - Our connectivity has been terrible lately but sadly it was also purposely cut off as we had another fatality. Until the proper family notifications were made, we were under an Operational Security (OPSEC) emergency and ordered not to discuss disposition of casualties. The fallen warrior and sister ETT member was Marine Capt Matthew Freeman. His body was flown back to the U.S. and the Department of Defense officially released the news about his death today (some media has already reported on it), so we are allowed Internet access again. I am in the process of gathering information so I can honor this fallen hero. But I also want to honor another hero and friend of mine who was at this engagement. SPC Christopher Santiago Lowe (a Georgia Boy from the Alpha Troop) whose pictures I have previously featured on this blog was wounded in this battle and underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Something Different - We're going to do something a little different for a bit here - I've decided to throw up some (mostly) tongue-in-cheek end-of-tour Top Ten lists. I've got a couple ready to go, and a few more in the thinking stage. So...without further ado, I give you.... Top Ten Things Abby Will Miss About Iraq: 10 – Show up to work, do nothing for a couple hours, nap and go to the gym or go drive around and get shot at. Who cares, it all pays the same! 9 – Free ammo! 8 – No need to put any thought into wardrobe planning. 7 – Cool boxes of stuff from people you know (and some you don’t) show up randomly in the mail. 6 – All the free Gatorade you can drink (as long as it’s the purple kind) 5 – Covering a plastic table with foil and eating steaks off it with knives during team cookouts. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: The Politics Of 2011 - The new NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has made a bunch of (overhyped) headlines after politely expressing his desire to see Canada remain committed to the Afghan mission after 2011. My pal Jonathon Narvey has a good post up on this, highlighting a heartening comment from Rasmussen: “‘I’m not in favor of setting timelines,’ new NATO head and former Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a press conference at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels today. ‘Let no Taliban propagandist try to sell my message as a run for the exits. It is not. We will support the Afghan people for as long as it takes.’” By the way, I find it kind of embarrassing how our newspapers get all worked up every time there's a shadow of a hint that somebody is asking us to stay past 2011. It betrays a Canadian insecurity that's very unbecoming. (READ MORE)

Combat Boots for Artemis: Like Summer Camp - ...Only with lots of screaming. While working at Honda there was a young woman who would come into the office a couple times a week to have lunch with her mom. She always had something Army on. I asked her if she was in the Army - yes, she was. She completed Basic Training and started her job training when they found a tumor in her brain. She has been under treatment ever since with varying degrees of success. She now has ambitious plans - to be married, to have children, to live a full life. I pray she does these things. Mostly she just wants to be back in the Army. I pray she attains her goals. I asked her about basic training once... she said, "It was great fun, like summer camp, only there was a lot of screaming." I was not sure if she meant that the drill sergeants were screaming, or the recruits were screaming... but for some reason I tend to think it was the latter. I am sitting here tonight with my stomach in knots and my chest feels like I am toting around a hundred pound weight. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: In The Graveyard of Fuel Tankers - For the first time in this conflict it appears that Taliban fighters are moving out of the “Southern Triangle” of Nangarhar Province and attempting to interdict the road to Kabul. The latest attack was on 6 August and it occurred much further east than the series of attacks last summer which we think emanated out of Laghman Province and featured the impressive shooting of The RPG Mechanic. The 6 August attack happened in broad daylight at around 0800 in the morning (I just missed it having left that day for Kabul at 0700) and the ambush team stayed on scene to fight with the ANP for around an hour pulling out only after American soldiers arrived on scene. Shem Bot with the able assistance of Canadian John went out to have a look see and he reports the following: 20 or so bad guys moved into a refugee settlement from the ridge line of the Tor Ghar mountains (Black Mountains.) (READ MORE)

Colour Sergeant Mike Saunders, 2 MERCIAN: Part 18: Duty Done - This week I will be short with my letters as we have been struck once again by the loss of one of our Mercian brothers. As you will have seen in the news we are currently engaged with the insurgent forces on many fronts, as we seek to deprive him of his last hiding places in the wider Helmand Province. Be in no doubt that we are in the fight of our generation, the future of this place will be decided in part by what we do now. In such times we live that young men will give all and in doing so sacrifice their precious futures. On the news they will show impressive graphic projections and they will discuss the merits of one vehicle against another until you the supporters of the Regiment are confused or disillusioned. Allow me if I may to make things very simple, the fight we are in is to dominate key ground, this ground has been the home of insurgents, bandits and drug lords for some time and if we are to proceed with our mission of bringing peace we must remove these men and replace them with stability and law. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Helicopter rescue crews to given a special award, by order of the Queen - Award for the unsung stars of rescue missions. Hero helicopter crews who fly through enemy fire to rescue wounded troops are to be given a special award - on the Queen's orders. The award, called The Crest, was created after the Queen was "personally moved" by the bravery of Chinook crews in Afghanistan who are believed to saved more than 1,000 British lives. Now the unsung heroes of what the RAF call "flight 1310" will each receive a special emblem signed by the Queen. Emblazoned on the award is the motto Whatever, Wherever, Whenever written in Latin. The announcement of the award comes at a time of mounting casualties. Twenty-three British troops have died in the last six weeks alone, while 52 have lost limbs since the war on terror in Afghanistan began. However, a military source said: "Without the efforts of these airmen and women the number of those killed fighting the Taliban would have been four times as many. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Instant Messages - I've kept ever single instant message conversation I had with my son while he was in Iraq. I knew when something bad had happened because the first thing he would ask is " What is everyone doing?" Sort of a roll call making sure we all were doing exactly what we were suppose to be and that his foundation was in place. I thought of that question as his life line question. On the days when nothing horrible happened there he would start the conversation with " How much is in my account?" He had become a penny pincher and I was glad of it. Prior to his leaving for Iraq he spent money as if he had an endless supply. Reading back through the conversation I found one we had had on my birthday.. just 12 days before he was killed. He had forgotten of course. He remembered the day before and gave me a bunch of shit about being old and 40. But on my birthday just 24 hours later the days had run together for him once again and he had forgotten. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: The Second Mission - Thursday, SSG R*** told his troops that we had another mission coming down. As soldiers who had done one day of "real work" (our one mission so far) in the last five weeks, it was a welcome warning order. We live on a major (as in really stinking huge) base that is surrounded by smaller ones. These FOBs depend on units like us to get what they need. We were told that we had two days to prepare to escort the delivery of mission essential supplies to an outlying FOB. Then, a little later, we were told that the mission would go off the next morning. That sent everybody into a tizzy. The platoon leader prepared briefings and ran thru checklists. Squad leaders fretted about .50 caliber ammo and getting vehicles up to speed. My fellow soldiers and I moved quickly to pack our bags, set up our body armor and gear, clean weapons, buys snacks and caffeinated drinks, and build iPod playlists. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Analysis: Pakistani claims regarding Baitullah’s death, shura clash, are suspect - After several senior Taliban leaders went on the record to deny reports that Baitullah was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan, the Pakistani government's claim that Baitullah is dead is now in doubt. Similarly, Pakistani government claims of infighting between potential successors to Baitullah also must be viewed with skepticism. Given the Pakistani government's poor track record when claiming senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, the reports of Baitullah's death are now suspect. Taliban leaders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain Mehsud, spokesman Maulvi Omar, and aide Qari Hidayatullah all spoke forcefully today insisting that reports of Baitullah's death were false and that Baitullah would be issuing proof he was indeed alive. Despite the Taliban's denial that Baitullah had been killed, Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, is insisting Baitullah was indeed killed, and Malik upped the ante by claiming that two potential successors subsequently battled over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. (READ MORE)

Misuchan's Milblog: Personal opinions on the Wars - Before I deployed I had a lot of questions and doubts about why we were in some of these countries. I still can’t form a real opinion about Iraq because I’ve never been there. But I can say that I fully believe we should be in Afghanistan. The fear these people live under form the Taliban.. well.. no one should have to endure. A lot of people who have never been here have no clue what it’s like. They ask me “don’t you have a store there?” and “don’t you have normal internet?” One civilian even thought we could wear civilian clothes and go to bars. Not joking. If you are at least a little bit curious about what life is like in Afghanistan, I am happy to point out a very very accurate movie: Osama. No, it’s not about Bin Laden. It’s about a little girl who’s family is broke so she pretends to be a boy to feed her mother and grandmother. She also is recruited by the Taliban… (READ MORE)

More Than An (Army) Wife: A Not So Great Mood - Have I mentioned how I am so over this deployment? I am just so ready for Stonewall to be home. I'm so tired of being a "single" mom, of eating dinners alone, of taking care of the house by myself, of taking out the trash, of answering questions about when Stonewall will be home, of being the only one without a date, of sleeping alone. I'm especially tired of having to be completely together practically all of the time, so it doesn't appear that I can't handle this lifestyle. So after eleven months I am just ready for this deployment to be over and for Stonewall to come home. (READ MORE)

Photography, Software, and Sand: Time at the Zoo coming to an end - I'm all packed. My flight out of Baghdad is scheduled (although I cant say when). By the end of this week I will be settled into Balad in my new office to live out the remaining two weeks of my tour here. Its the end of an era for me. But since it means that I'm that much closer to coming home, its a welcome end. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Bummed - I found out today that I won't be going on R&R in a week. This would've been my first trip home since April. The reason - well, it has to do with this command going through a transition in mission and organization, and a big drawdown in personnel, and the requirement for decisions to be made. Not that I'm the one making the decisions, but I have to provide input on a few key aspects, and I have to do some coordination with other organizations outside my command. The fact that these decisions should've been made three to six months ago is what really pisses me off. And the fact that a certain division in our command, whose title includes the word "PLANS", hasn't done zip. So while the decision-makers and the "plans" division will go home soon, for good, and will probably get awards and praise for the wonderful work they did, some of us will have to stay here and do their work for them. Yes, I'm PISSED. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Radio Shariat Returns. Why? - Pajhwok reports (thanks for all the RTs, guys!) that Radio Shariat, the FM radio station that transmitted Taliban edicts during the 1990s, is online in Ghazni. What’s interesting about their report is that they state the frequency—88 MHz—and note many irregularities with how people are reacting to it. For example, the report indicates that the transmitting tower is in Shah-i Kot, Paktya, just south of the provincial capital of Gardez, but it’s unlikely a low-power FM transmission could reach as far as Giro or Andar districts in Ghazni… especially with all those mountains in the way. Furthermore, the District Sub-Governor of Qarabagh said he’s aware of the radio station, but hasn’t ever listened to it. Does that sound right to you? Lastly, there is the troubling question of why it’s been allowed to become established. In Pakistan, the insurgency is given great fuel by the presence of several illegal FM radio stations broadcasting warnings, threats, and edicts. (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: Slice of Life at an Outpost-- Helo Comin' In - (FOD at a FOB) This video was taken in July at Patrol Base Jaker, near Nawa in the Helmand Province, when we were preparing to take a helo ride back to FOB Leatherneck. A group of soldiers from the Afghan Army had dibs on the first helo, so we had to wait for another one... I post it to show how much dust and debris can be kicked up when a helicopter comes in to an expeditionary LZ. (see retated term FOD...) (Forgive the hand over the lens, but I had to cover it from small flying rocks, which kick up violently when a CH53 comes in to land. Consider it a Surrealistic element in an art film... at the end is the helo beginning to take back off-- I wish I'd kept filming)! (READ MORE)

Short Timers: Dust Can Be Your Friend - Dust kicked up from the leaves of the small green bushes as we trudged across the desert. Walking alongside the Iraqi Army and soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1-25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team was tough. The body armor, weighing in at about 40 pounds, combined with brick oven temperatures was grueling. Somehow it all seemed bearable, but the dust. Breathing it in was almost like the smoke, suffocating and annoying to the sinuses. For a moment, I had a good idea to move to the side of the person in front of me to escape the irritant. Just as I took the step to the side, I remembered my interview with Cpt. Richie Santiago. Me: "Is there anything visually that they're looking for?" Referring to the Iraqi Army sweeping for IEDs and weapon caches. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Almost 50… depressing - It’s my 25th Birthday, and the first birthday I’ve ever spent without friends or family. I really need someone here, because if I had someone here they would have told me that celebrating with 3 donuts and a chai frappe was a bad idea, thus preventing the tummy ache I now have on my 25th birthday. I had to move to a new tent yesterday. When billeting came through at 7:30 am and noticed I was sleeping and the only other girl in the tent was leaving, I was woken up and told I couldn’t sleep if I was the only one in the tent. I must have looked at her like she was stupid (because she is) and she asked, “you disagree?” I said no, no waving my hand in the air and summarily waving her away from me, “I’ll get up.” Then she decides that I should just move tents. “You don’t need to be in here by yourself, someone can come in turn off the lights and steal your cookies and all your belongings.” I tried not to laugh - I definitely don’t want anyone getting near my cookies. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Kick For Nick – Soccer Ball Donations - Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been handing out soccer balls from the organization Kick For Nick. With their help, over 200 balls and 100 some pairs of socks have gone to various teams and kids in my units AO. I received their information from my brother who utilized them in his previous tour here in Iraq. Kick For Nick was started by the family of Private Nicholas Madaras. While Nick was on leave from Iraq in July 2006, he rounded up as many soccer balls as possible to bring back to the children. Being a passionate soccer player, he wanted to give the balls to the children as a gesture of good will. Unfortunately, Nick was killed by an IED on September 3, 2006 and was never able to distribute the balls himself. His family decided to take up the crusade to help fulfill his dream. (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: The Ugly Truth - This post has been riding with me for awhile. I've rolled this around, considered not posting it, considered curbing some of the truths, and then became comfortable enough with the truth that I determined I could handle whatever comments people may want to lob my way. As a military wife of the National Guard variety, I do not have the benefit of an active duty, post centered support network. I have forged, through sheer curiosity and necessity, a core group of military spouses, from various branches of service and numerous States. Our relationship is primarily technology based. We do see each other occasionally, but we mostly communicate through our computers, our telephones and even snail mail. I have a family who, while supportive, cannot possibly understand that chilling effect that hearing the words "deployment" have upon my heart and my mind. How easily it is to become angry and resentful over this overriding, overbearing, inanimate, but very much living entity smack in the middle of our lives known as ARMY. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Toys for Boys - My buddy CW2 Chris Bracken, who I knew in Hawaii when he was SPC Chris Bracken, “the angriest man in the army,” is now an Apache helicopter pilot. He sent me some supplies for my time in the desert. The greatest gift is this remote helicopter he gave me so I can annoy the snot out of the guys in my section. Raley and I broke it out today and are trying to figure out the intricacies of the hover. I didn’t expect it to be this fun. Our big event this week was a pentagon press conference. It didn’t go so well at the end because the General’s microphone came uncliped and fell down his shirt. It was a total rookie move and we’ll at least have another shot next month. I’m now in full swing, editing the newscast without the Sorority Soldier. She’s in Kuwait, bored. Wish her a happy birthday that I thought was on the 11th, but it ends up being on the 9th. That apparently makes me a good friend. Her words, not mine. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Lots of Talk, Few Answers - When counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen remarked yesterday that “the Taliban are kicking our ass at the local level,” he didn’t mean militarily, and he wasn’t saying anything that many people didn’t on some level already know. What he was taking about was something just as important as battlefield success in a counterinsurgency environment—winning the fight for influence over the population. Speaking at the United States Institute of Peace with Tufts University’s Andrew Wilder about counterinsurgency and capacity-building in Afghanistan, the two men sketched a gloomy picture where American and international aid has grown dramatically since 2006, but violence has also spiked some 500 percent in that same time frame, according to Kilcullen. For too long, Kilcullen said, “we’ve been fighting the insurgents rather than the insurgency” while propping up an Afghan government that is comprised of little more than “little fiefdoms” that compete with one another for influence and resources. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan...: Pog-tastic - It’s funny what powerful forces habit and comfort zones are to our behavior. When I was patrolling every day, the thing I dreaded most was being sent somewhere where I’d be cooped up on the base every day. Now that I’ve grown accustomed to being confined to the base, I don’t really relish going out. I don’t dread going out, but I certainly don’t look forward to it the way I used to. The heat may have something to do with it, but I think the change in my preference is mostly due to inertia – people are more comfortable doing what they’ve been doing. The ANA remind me of this fact every day, as any change in their behavior moves at a glacier-like pace at best. It takes a conscious act of will to break a habit, whether it be doing something or not doing something. I’ve never been much of a creature of habit, as I seem to have a high tolerance and even need for change and uncertainty, but even so, breaking out of my comfort zone can meet with some resistance within myself at times. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Afghanistan’s 1-Year-Old Opium Addicts - AP has a really uplifting story this morning (and by uplifting I of course mean soul crushingly sad) about a remote Afghan village populated almost entirely by opium addicts, some as young as 1-years-old. From the story: “It’s just past 8 a.m. and the family of six – including a 1-year-old baby boy – already is curled up at the lip of the opium pipe. Beg, 65, breathes in and exhales a cloud of smoke. He passes the pipe to his wife. She passes it to their daughter. The daughter blows the opium smoke into the baby’s tiny mouth. The baby’s eyes roll back into his head.” I haven’t reported on this kind of thing, but Dexter Filkins of The Times has and it is pretty grim no matter how you slice it. With everything else that is wrong with this place, I have no idea how you even begin to approach a problem of this scope. (READ MORE)

Robert Stokely: Last time I heard his voice - August 8, 2005 at 11:30 a.m. I received a call from Mike and we talked for 30 minutes or so. He was due home September 1 for leave and we talked about that, but then the talked turned to how dangerous it was in the Triangle of Death and the near misses he had, including one that day. Mike was killed by a road side bomb a week later and I never got to talk to him again. Each year on August 8 since, at 11:30 I stop what I am doing and I remember that call and what I shared with Mike in those last 30 minutes of conversation. And I remembered today, August 8 at 11:30 a.m. while I was at the post office mailing one of Mike's best growing up / high school friends, SGT Charles "Chuck" Crowder, a package. When he called a few weeks ago from Afghanistan I asked if there was something I could send him, he said he wanted a white Georgia Bulldog ball cap - he had left his back home. Georgia Bulldog Head Coach Mark Richt autographed two for him. I figured in Afghanistan a white hat doesn't have a great chance of staying white long, so he can keep one put up for a keepsake. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
Report Sees Recipe for Civil War in Iraq - A report to be published this month by the US government's prestigious National Defense University warns that the Iraqi army and police are becoming pawns of sectarian political parties - a trend that it calls "a recipe for civil war." The report by Najim Abed al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi mayor and police chief who helped run the first successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq after the US invasion, also concludes that US forces have failed to use their remaining leverage as trainers to insulate the Iraqi army and police from the influence of powerful Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim and Kurdish parties. (READ MORE)

Iraq's First Deputy Speaker of Council of Representatives Comments on Recent Violence - An increase in Iraqi violence continues to concern analysts who worry that insurgents are increasing their sectarian attacks. The latest was a car bomb Friday in Mosul that killed at least 50 Shi'ite pilgrims. Also on Friday, the first deputy speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives spoke at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, an independent institution set up to promote peaceful resolutions to international conflicts. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Take the Lead, With US Trailing Closely - “Yes, we are in charge now,” said an Iraqi Army soldier, Sgt. Salman Fallah Jassim, as he led a mixed Iraqi and American patrol through the saw grass of a dried up irrigation canal, sweeping the ground in front of him with the long wand of a metal detector. “But we need help all the time.” The United States military, in fact, provided the metal detector, the explosives-sniffing dog and even transportation on a joint mission at the end of July to find a weapons cache in an area of Diyala Province only recently cleared of insurgents. (READ MORE)

Iraq Bombings Kill at Least 42 - A series of early morning bombings near the northern city of Mosul and in Baghdad killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens more, police said today. The worst attack was in the village of Kazna that is home to members of Iraq's tiny Shabak minority, where two large truck bombs exploded at around 5 am, killing 30 people, injuring 130 and destroying 32 houses, according to figures from one hospital. (READ MORE)

41 Killed, 150 Injured in Iraq Bombings - At least 41 people were killed and nearly 150 wounded in a spate of bomb attacks near the restive northern Iraqi city of Mosul and in the capital Baghdad, police said. In the deadliest single attack, two booby-trapped lorries exploded before dawn in the village of Khaznah, east of Mosul, leaving 25 people dead and 70 others wounded. Thirty-five houses were destroyed in the village, which is home to members of the tiny Shabak community, a sect of Kurdish origin. (READ MORE)

Australian Contractor Killed in Iraq - An Australian contractor and a British colleague were allegedly murdered yesterday in Baghdad. Darren Hoare and Briton Paul McGuigan were allegedly shot dead by a fellow contractor in the high-security Green Zone of the Iraqi capital. Iraqi authorities last night charged the alleged shooter, a Briton, with murder. The British contractor, armed with a pistol, killed his Australian and British co-workers and wounded an Iraqi inside the vast area that is sealed off from the rest of the capital, according to Iraqi military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi. (READ MORE)

The Ins and Outs of Kurdistan - To get into Iraqi Kurdistan from Turkey by taxi, as I found out a few years back, requires a lot of patience. I did things the hard way. Getting in and out of Kurdistan officially can be grueling, but crossing the border unofficially is a breeze. You can literally walk through a hole in the wall in a dusty border town in the northeast of Kurdistan and find yourself in Iran. There are no guards, no customs officials barking for your passport and visa. And if you were hiking, say, in the mountains, you could mistakenly cross into Iran without having any idea you'd done so. (READ MORE)

Mullen: Detainee Photos Endanger Troops - The nation's top military official says US troops would be endangered if photos showing poor treatment of terrorism suspects were made public, but House Democrats are making that release more likely. House Democrats are blocking a bill, which even has the support of President Obama, that would give the government the power to stop the photos from being released. (READ MORE)

Project to provide clean water for Iraqi villages - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq — For residents of the villages of Qalata and Khalkhalan, Iraq, access to a cup of clean drinking water is not always as easy as going to the faucet and pouring one. The current water purification plant that supplies both villages no longer produces clean, drinkable water, requiring residents to travel to a nearby city. But soon the nearly 7,000 residents of the villages will only have to travel to their water pumps to get purified water. (READ MORE)

Emergency Response Brigade arrests a suspected terrorist in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – The Emergency Response Brigade, along with U.S. force advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist during an intelligence-driven mission in Baghdad Aug. 3. The elite police force was operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Criminal Investigative Court of Karkh. Court documents indicate the constables arrested the suspected insurgent in accordance with the Republic of Iraq’s terrorism law. (READ MORE)

Tikrit ERB arrests suspected terrorist assassin - TIKRIT, Iraq – The 4th Emergency Response Battalion, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist Aug. 2 during an operation in the Salah ad-Din province, with a warrant issued by the Salah ad-Din Court of Appeals. The arrested individual is suspected of assassinating a member of the 4th ERB in February and participating as a member of a terrorist cell which targets Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

U.S. Forces capture grenade attacker - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – An Iraqi man was wounded and detained after attacking a U.S. convoy with a grenade in the northern town of Hawijah in Kirkuk province Aug. 7. U.S. Soldiers positively identified the thrower and responded with small arms fire after the assailant tossed the grenade at their convoy as the vehicles were returning from a local police station to their base outside the city. (READ MORE)

Salah ad Din prepares for H1N1 - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq – Doctors in Salah ad Din province are taking the threat of H1N1 seriously. They are taking no chances in preparing for pandemic influenza. "They view it as a serious problem,” said Dr. Marcus, an advisor for the Salah ad Din Provincial Reconstruction Team. With the announcement of the global flu pandemic and growing fears of an H1N1 outbreak within the country, the doctors in Salah ad Din province took action. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Export Two Million Barrels of Oil per day in July - BAGHDAD – The Iraqi Oil Ministry recently announced that oil exports for July had reached 2.037 million barrels per day, an increase from 1.925 million barrels per day in June. The export levels are the highest totals since 2003. "The July exports represent a strong showing from the Iraqi oil sector. This demonstrates the amount of success that can be achieved when all parts of Iraq's oil sector are contributing,” said Colonel Gerald Fontenot, Director of Multi-National Force-Iraq’s Energy and Services Division. (READ MORE)

Diyala RCB arrests two suspected terrorists - TIKRIT, Iraq – Commandos with the 8th Regional Commando Battalion, Iraqi Special Operations Force, with U.S. force advisors, arrested two suspected terrorists Aug. 7 during an operation in the Diyala province. The individuals were arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by the Central Investigative Court of al-Khark for allegedly attacking citizens of Diyala and facilitating sectarian violence in the city. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Correctional Officers graduate at first FOB Future ceremony - CAMP CROPPER, Iraq – Forward Operating Base Future’s first class of Iraqi Correctional Officer cadets graduated from their initial pre-service training in a ceremony at the base Aug.6. The Iraqi Correctional Officer course, which is six-weeks long with both a classroom and hands-on portion, allowed the 340 cadets to learn the full spectrum of basic detainee-oriented laws and procedures. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Leader Hosts Feast, Honors Friends - COB Q-WEST — A local Iraqi leader hosted a traditional feast at Katar Restaurant, a Turkish owned and operated eatery here, to say goodbye to two battalions from the Washington Army National Guard, July 30. Dr. Muhammed Ismail Ahmed, known as "Doc Mo" to military leaders here, acts as a liaison to Coalition forces for more than 50 rural villages surrounding Q-West. He said his farewells to Soldiers and leaders from the 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion and the 181st Brigade Support Battalion, and welcomed Soldiers from the 2/198th Combined Arms Battalion, Mississippi Army National Guard, during the meal. (READ MORE)

Project Brings Water to Kirkuk Villages - KIRKUK — For residents of the villages of Qalata and Khalkhalan, access to clean drinking water is not as easy as simply going to the faucet. The current water purification plant that supplied both villages is no longer operational, requiring residents to travel to a nearby city for clean water. But soon the nearly 7,000 residents of these villages will have fresh water flowing from their pumps. (READ MORE)

IP Arrest Suspected Terrorist Commander - BAGHDAD — Iraqi Police (IP) from the Basrah Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, along with U.S. advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist commander during an Iraqi-led operation in southern Iraq, Aug. 5, acting under the authority of a warrant issued by the Basrah Court. During the early-morning mission, court documents indicate the IP arrested the suspected insurgent leader in accordance with the Republic of Iraq’s terrorism laws. (READ MORE)

Restoration Planned for Ancient Arch - SALMAN PAK — In an attempt to restore national pride and tourism to one of the oldest landmarks in Iraq, American Paratroopers and Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers discussed plans for renovating the area here surrounding the famous Arch of Ctesiphon, Aug. 5. The all-brick arch was built nearly 16 centuries ago and is one of the oldest free standing arches in the world. But years of neglect and war in the region have transformed the once popular attraction into an IA outpost surrounded by acres of trash and rubble. (READ MORE)

Captured Weapons Repaired, Used by Iraqi Army, Police, Security Forces - CAMP TAJI — The 2nd Marine Logistics Group (MLG) delivered roughly 900 captured enemy weapons to the Taji National Maintenance Depot here, July 28, under an agreement requiring enemy weapons captured by the U.S. military to be turned over to the Government of Iraqi for future use by the Iraqi Army, Police and other Security Forces. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Analysts Expect Long-Term, Costly US Campaign in Afghanistan - As the Obama administration expands US involvement in Afghanistan, military experts are warning that the United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war. Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on war-related funding for that country, according to the Congressional Research Service. (READ MORE)

Another 45,000 US Troops Needed in Afghanistan, Military Adviser Says - The United States should send up to 45,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, a senior adviser to the American commander in Kabul has told The Times. Anthony Cordesman, an influential American academic who is a member of a team that has been advising General Stanley McChrystal, now in charge of Nato forces in Afghanistan, also said that to deal with the threat from the Taleban the size of the Afghan National Army might have to increase to 240,000. (READ MORE)

Taliban Now Winning - The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the US to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency's spiritual home. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means US casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come. (READ MORE)

Can Afghanistan be Saved? We'll Know in a Year, Jones Says. - National Security Adviser James Jones asserted Sunday that the Pentagon will require a year to determine whether its Afghan strategy is working. The comment, made on NBC's "Meet the Press," is an indication of how little progress Afghanistan has made under international stewardship since 2001- and the enormity of the task ahead. The top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, called past American neglect toward Afghanistan a "culture of poverty" in a recent meeting with reporters and editors at The Washington Times. (READ MORE)

US to Hunt Down Afghan Drug Lords Tied to Taliban - JFifty Afghans believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, reflecting a major shift in American counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan, according to a Congressional study to be released this week. United States military commanders have told Congress that they are convinced that the policy is legal under the military’s rules of engagement and international law. (READ MORE)

Intimidation, Insecurity Remain Concerns Before Afghan Election - With less than two weeks to go before Afghanistan holds its presidential election there is continuing concern about intimidation and insecurity. A report issued by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations mission gives a mixed assessment of the ongoing campaign. Monitors say while political rights of candidates and their supporters "have generally been respected" there has been documented violence. (READ MORE)

UN: Hamid Karzai's Government Using State Resources to Swing Afghan Election - The United Nations said there is growing evidence that Hamid Karzai's government is abusing state resources to help him win this month's presidential election in Afghanistan. An election report released said monitors had received increasing reports officials were biased and were using their resources to campaign for Mr Karzai. Rival candidates were being denied access to national state television and government cars or lorries were being used to ship people to rallies. (READ MORE)

Former Afghanistan Commander Attacks MoD Over Armoured Vehicles - A former commander of British forces in Afghanistan has attacked the Ministry of Defence for keeping hundreds of armoured vehicles "parked up doing nothing" when they are desperately needed by commanders in Afghanistan. Colonel Richard Kemp said it was "extraordinary" that up to 1,000 vehicles should be in the Gloucestershire countryside when military commanders had spoken out about shortages in theatre. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Taliban Preys on Youths to Bolster Forces - The 14-year-old boy with acne dotting his chin yanked down the scarf concealing his face and recounted his 12 days in a Taliban training camp - starting with the day six masked militants kidnapped him as he picked onions on a farm in the Swat Valley. They blindfolded him and brought him to an abandoned girls school, he said, where he and scores of other Pakistani boys ran hills for 2 1/2 hours every day and listened to Taliban trainers extol the glory of waging holy war against the Pakistani army. (READ MORE)

Claims Differ on Pakistani Taliban Struggle - Contested claims continued Sunday over a reported falling out among factions struggling for control of the Pakistani Taliban, a day after Pakistani officials said they had news that the No. 2 figure in the militant group had been shot to death. Pakistani officials said Saturday that Hakimullah Mehsud, a young and aggressive commander, had been shot dead in a fight with another leader, Waliur Rehman, during a meeting in a remote area of South Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Official: Taliban Rivals Involved in Shooting - Pakistan's interior minister says the government has received reports of a shooting between two rivals for leadership of Pakistan's Taliban, and that one of them may have been killed. Rehman Malik told reporters Saturday that fighting reportedly broke out between Taliban commanders Wali-ur-Rehman and Hakimullah Mehsud, during a meeting to decide a successor to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. (READ MORE)

Death of Pakistan Taliban Leader Spawns Infighting - Pakistan's Taliban appear to be in turmoil as a leadership battle following the apparent death of their chief last week escalated into violent clashes between the rival groups that left at least one more senior leader dead, according to the Pakistani government. Last week's apparent slaying of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistan Taliban, by a US missile launched from a pilotless drone prompted a shura, or meeting, of his Taliban faction to decide on a successor, which turned violent, according to government and intelligence officials. (READ MORE)

Feuding Kills a Top Militant, Pakistan Says - Pakistani officials said they had received information on Saturday that a ranking militant commander had been killed in a power struggle over who would take control of the Pakistani Taliban. A Pakistani government official and an intelligence official said Hakimullah Mehsud, a young and aggressive aide to the former Taliban leader, had been shot dead in a fight with Waliur Rehman, another commander who was seeking to become the leader, during a meeting in a remote mountain region near the Afghan border. (READ MORE)

Power Struggle Ensues After Taliban Chief's Apparent Death - In the power vacuum created by the apparent death of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, a gun battle broke out Saturday between Taliban leaders vying to seize his mantle in the tribal borderlands, Pakistani officials said, the first indications of a struggle that could prompt fighters to move across the border into Afghanistan. The effect of the apparent death of Mehsud, who deployed his fighters mainly against Pakistani targets, "could be to free up militants to come into Afghanistan," said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US commander in that country. (READ MORE)

High-profile Victories in the Battle Against Terror - It was around 1am on Wednesday and Pakistan’s most wanted man had taken the risk of spending the night at the house of a close relative. A diabetic, Baitullah Mehsud, commander of Pakistan’s biggest Taliban group, had been feeling poorly in the scorching summer heat of Waziristan and the local doctor called round to give him a glucose drip. As he lay on a couch on the roof tended by his new wife, somewhere high up in the clear starry sky a distant unmanned plane was hovering, invisible to the naked eye. (READ MORE)

US Soldier's Captors Make Demands - A militant commander who is holding a US soldier abducted in Afghanistan said Sunday that Taliban leader Mullah Omar's council is waiting for a response to its demands before deciding the American's fate. It was the first news of Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23 years old, made public since a Taliban video was released July 18. Maulvi Sangin, an insurgent commander for eastern Afghanistan, said the Taliban's governing body was awaiting a response to demands it made to the US for his return. (READ MORE)

More Troops, Fewer Caveats. Let’s Get Serious - In Afghanistan Nato/ISAF faces challenges that go far beyond the normal limits of counter-insurgency and military strategy. It must carry out the equivalent of armed nation building, and simultaneously defeat the Taleban and al-Qaeda. It must change its strategy and tactics after years in which member countries, particularly the United States, failed to react to the seriousness of the emerging insurgency. (READ MORE)

Infantry Patrols Disrupt Insurgents, Aid Afghans - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2009 – Soldiers of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Baylough have one mission: to disrupt the enemy. Baylough lies 7,500 feet above sea level in a valley below the Hindu Kush Mountains in the Deh Chopan district of Afghanistan’s Zabul province. The soldiers conduct most patrols on foot due to the rocky terrain. (READ MORE)

"... the most difficult responsibility and greatest fear ..." - CAMP PHOENIX, KABUL, Afgh. – The falling Afghan sun cast lengthening shadows behind six M4 rifles, stuck bayonet down in a camouflage platform at the center of camp. Six helmets were balanced on top of them. There were six pairs of dog tags and tan desert boots, six matching bronze stars and purple heart medals in display boxes, and photos of six men who had forged friendships, fathered children, and drawn laughter from comrades--all of which evaporated in a few instants during three days in Afghanistan this week. (READ MORE)

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

1 comment:

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