August 28, 2009

From the Front: 08/28/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

Bouhammer: Firefights can happen in Medical Clinics too - A US Soldier was killed in the last day during a TIC (firefight) in the southeastern Paktika town of Sar Hawza clinic. There were 12 Taliban killed also during the fight. “One US soldier and 12 Taliban militants were killed in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan after Afghan and US forces attacked a clinic where a wounded Taliban commander was seeking medical treatment, officials said Thursday. Afghan security forces got information that the militants had taken one of their wounded commanders to a clinic in Sar Hawza, a district in the south-eastern province of Paktika Wednesday, Hamidullah Zewak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said.” It was interesting for me to hear that this TIC happened in a medical clinic because that is exactly what happened once with me in 2007. In fact it was one of the last missions I was ever on. I write about it HERE on April 1st, 2007. (READ MORE)

Rich Oppel - At War: Drinking From Socks - KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan– If the amount of water troops consume daily is one good indicator of the rigors of summer combat duty, then this isolated outpost in southern Helmand Province is surely one of the most arduous postings in the entire U.S. military. The marines here are allotted three cases of water per day – that’s three-dozen ½-liter bottles, or more than four gallons. Marines on long patrols often drink more than that, grabbing extras from supplies allocated to men who stay on base. That may seem extreme, but it is necessary for marines who carry out foot patrols wearing body armor, a helmet, ammunition clips and carrying a rifle in some of the hottest temperatures on earth. “There are guys who might think drinking two cases a day is enough, but in 120-degree heat and wearing a flak jacket, that is not enough,” said Navy Lt. Scott Fell, D.O., medical officer for the marines’ Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. (READ MORE)

Tyler Hicks - At War: Civilians Flee - PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan– Afghan civilians flee as an American helicopter fires on a building where Taliban fighters have taken refuge. The Taliban fighters had earlier stormed a building in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar Province, killing a guard who tried to stop them. The Afghan National Army and American military intervened, and the Taliban used the high vantage point to attack the Afghan National Police headquarters and the provincial governor’s office. Witnesses said that two policemen were killed and several shopkeepers injured during the battle, in mid-August. (READ MORE)

Pir Zubair Shah - At War: Community Policing, With a Vengeance - MINGORA, Pakistan–We visited a police station in Mingora, where we met some of the local people being recruited into Swat’s new community police force. We saw a huge line, all of them young men. Most seemed to be from a poor background, judging from their shabby clothes and untrimmed beards. The officer in charge told us they were planning to introduce a new system of community policing and recruit more than 3,000 people from all across Swat to serve in their own villages. Most of the applicants were from Mingora and its outskirts, because the displaced people from only these areas had been asked to return to Swat. Military operations to clear out the Taliban were still going on in other hills, valleys and villages. The authorities will pay the community policemen $120 per month, which is better pay than what the police had before. This is a good idea, because previously the police in Swat were not from the area. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: The Price Of Deserting Afghanistan Now - The best piece in the Canadian media that I've seen on the election comes from Conservative Senator Hugh Segal in the National Post. Hugh gets it. “The poverty, lawlessness, religious extremism, oppression and factionalism of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions took decades to develop. They will not dissipate quickly. In the meantime, we Canadians cannot desert U. S., British, French, Danes, Dutch and other allies who, despite controversy at home, are still finding a way to stay the course. The intensity of the violent intimidation used by the Taliban to attempt to destroy Afghan democracy, and the courage of the millions who did vote and work in the recent election, speak volumes about what the real price would be of deserting the Afghan people now. That was the real message democratic allies within NATO and elsewhere were being offered by the new Secretary General.” I couldn't have said it better myself. (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Range is Hot - It seems that I hear a lot about the range from our loudspeaker system on Camp. It is either "hot' and people are shooting on it or it is 'cold' and firing has now ceased. The announcements can come day or night at any hour. With all of the Afghan and Coalition forces training it gets used a good bit. Well today I got to make the range hot. Today was our day on the range. It was a little bit of a hassle to arrange everything, but I finally got out to zero my sights again. The wind and dust made it a little challenging. I found that the scope on my M-4 was off, but the old iron sights were right on target. I spent a lot of time monitoring the safety of the range, but it was still fun. There were so few of us that we were able to fire a lot of rounds in many different positions. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills 22 border guards at Torkham crossing in Pakistan - A Taliban suicide bomber killed 22 Pakistani border guards at the main crossing to Afghanistan in the first attack since Hakeemullah Mehsud took command of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The new leader of the Pakistani Taliban made good on yesterday’s threat to retaliate for the death of the group’s former leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US airstrike on Aug. 5. A teenaged suicide bomber directly targeted border security forces as they gathered for the Iftar meal at their barracks at the Torkham crossing in the Khyber tribal agency. "The guards were about to break their fast when a teenaged boy carrying a bottle of Pepsi walked toward them and blew himself up," a witness to the attack told Reuters. While no group has claimed credit for the attack, Taliban forces under the command of Hakeemullah are the prime suspect. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strikes Taliban compound in South Waziristan, 8 killed - Unmanned US strike aircraft fired missiles at a Taliban compound in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal area of South Waziristan. Three Hellfire missiles struck in the town of Kanigoram near Wana, a known stronghold of the Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Nazir. Eight Taliban fighters and possibly some Uzbek fighters were reported killed, but no high value Taliban or al Qaeda targets have been reported killed at this time. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan, was the target of the strike, a US intelligence source told The Long War Journal. Kanigoram is a known Taliban stronghold. The US conducted an airstrike there on April 29, 2009. Ten Taliban fighters were killed in missile strikes on a Taliban safe house and a vehicle. (READ MORE)

Omar @ Iraq the Model: After his death, who succeeds Hakim as ISCI, NIA leader? - There is uncertainty about who is going to succeed the late Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim as the news leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the new National Iraqi Alliance (NIA). Sources in ISCI told Azzaman that Humam Hammoudi, a senior ISCI member would be the new leader of the NIA. This claim is contested by Ali al-Adeeb of the Da'awa Party. Although the Da'awa is not yet part of the NIA, Adeeb is no. 2 in the hierarchy of the UIA (the predecessor of the NIA) and had served as Hakim's deputy in leading the parliamentary bloc. However, ISCI's senior members argue that the leadership of the UIA (and now the NIA) belongs to ISCI. It is worth mentioning here that the Da'awa Party has not totally ruled out the possibility of joining the NIA, according to MP Hassan al-Sinaid, of the Da'awa Party. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 27 Aug 09 - Today was our second day of CLS (Combat Life Saver) course—it’s a 4 day thing … yesterday we learned all about opening airways, tourniquets, suppressing enemy fire, care under fire, tactical field care, and all that good stuff – lots of gory pictures, videos of explosions, stories about the medics teaching the class….a couple of these guys have some serious combat experience and battle scars to show…one guy was blown up in an IED attack and has metal rods and pins everywhere, another guy got stabbed in the back and side 4-5 times while doing a “meet n greet” in Iraq—that means kickin the door down and going in to look for bad guys, the 2 female instructors have field experience caring for many battle wounded while taking fire—and returning fire…these guys are all hard core, badass, hero medics…and every single one of them says they don’t give a shit if they hurt you or break a bone, but no matter what, they WILL get you out of the kill zone and you will live if there is any way possible… (READ MORE)

Photography, Software, and Sand: Time to go home - My year is up... its time to go home. I flew from Balad back to Baghdad on Wednesday and I am spending today on Camp Victory waiting for my flight out of the country. Its been a very long and rewarding year. I'm happy with my decision to come here -- I've learned a lot professionaly, I've had my eyes opened to many things in life, and the financial reward cannot be overlooked either. I'm finally out of debt and I'm hoping to stay that way for many, many years. The photo above was taken during my blackhawk flight back from Balad on Wednesday. Signing off, -- Joe (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Case for Afghanistan: Strategic Considerations - This is part 2 of a series I’m doing to discuss the case for why Afghanistan remains a war worth fighting. The disengagement argument I am addressing is: The war has no strategic focus or objectives. If we can’t articulate what we’re fighting for, why are we fighting? This is actually, in my view, the most cogent and devastating argument against the Obama administration’s plans for Afghanistan. It is also the growing theme I’ve been covering in how the war is being prosecuted, namely that it seems much more concerned with American personalities than with articulating and advocating a strategy for victory. To wit: I cannot find in any public statements by President Obama or his war advisers an articulation of the strategic case for the war. President Obama wants to destroy al Qaeda and deny them a safe haven; that’s all well and good, but that’s not a strategy or rationale—it is a preferred outcome. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: “Blooms” Probably Doesn’t Mean What She Thinks It Does - Remember around this time last year? Ann Marlowe, my super BF Foreva-eva had declared Khost province a blazing success because a single Lieutenant-Colonel told her so. And blaze it did: since last August, the province has seen an unprecedented rise in complex, deadly assaults on the province (and violence in general is vastly worse than it was in 2007). There was another angle to Marlowe’s coverage of Khost last year: she declared it an economic success as well. Her proof? “The biggest economic news is that a new commercial airport is being built–Khost’s former airport having been taken over by the U.S. military. With the 200,000 Khostis living just a couple of hours away by air in the Gulf States, an airport is a natural for attracting investment. An industrial park is in the works as well, though this, like the airport, depends on an electrical grid being put up. This is also on the development schedule for 2008, along with a water system for Khost City.” (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: More Work in Process! - Here is another painting, in process, oil on linen mounted on MDF panel. The subject is a Marine patrol from Golf Company 2/8 departing Patrol Base Hassan Abad in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The scene is rather exotic, given the Hesco Barrier walls, the guard tower, and the comparably fertile landscape of the area. I also was drawn to the narrative, telling the story of a patrol heading out into the unknown. I started with a sketch, laying out the basic composition: Then, a wash of faint tones is applied: I begin adding details with broad, simple strokes: Beginning to refine some of the details, still aware of overall layout and color relationships: (READ MORE)

Marine Wife @ SpouseBUZZ: I don't mean to be a problem child - ...really, I don't! But I think I may be in HOA, um, H-E-double hockey sticks, I may have mentioned that we currently live in Civilian Land. Even worse, we live in a gated community. It has an HOA, of course. We had to renew our lease at the beginning of the summer which also meant renewing our transponders that get us in the gate without having to go through the guard. Now, it seems that we have to re-register everything again next month because everyone has to do it then. Apparently, they do this every two years. This wouldn't be so bad, except I had to go and ask what we needed to do. As I looked at the overly long list of required documents we have to bring to get this done, one requirement caught my eye. We need to have valid driver's licenses with our current address. As often as we've moved, my driver's license has rarely had my current address on it. To make matters worse, I had just gotten a license in our previous state less than a year before moving here last year. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: The Army and Security Force Assistance - Why does the Army need to get Security Force Assistance right? The greatest terror threats (meaning a combination of most likely and most devastating) to U.S. citizens and their interests in the near future are: the proliferation of weapons of mass effect/destruction which would end up in terrorists' hands and used against us, and socially debilitating effects of natural and manmade (such as genocide, human rights violations and terrorist attacks) disasters. The anti-terrorist and counterterrorist action/reaction to the aforementioned threats are going to require a well trained, adaptable, thinking U.S. military and allies that are proficient and capable. Most of the attacks against U.S. citizens and interests do not occur on U.S. soil, but happen abroad. The most likely proliferation of a WME/WMD to fall into a terrorist’s hands will occur abroad. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: A Close Fight, and a Couple of Miracles - MIANPOSHTEH, Afghanistan — For seven hours, the Marine sniper team waited, crouching behind a concrete block in a dusty courtyard, at the edge of an adobe compound. They were pretty sure that a group of local Taliban militants was on the other side of the compound wall. But the snipers couldn’t strike until they had some proof. So they stayed there, in silence. They downed energy drinks to stay awake. They urinated in bottles and defecated in bags, so they wouldn’t leave evidence of their presence behind. Team leader Sgt. Erik Rue kept himself sharp by running scenarios in his head of what could happen next: What if the Taliban burst in, guns blazing? What if they enter unarmed? What if there are children in the way? What if the courtyard is overrun by the militants? Where do we go then? U.S. Marines and Taliban guerrillas have battled in the villages and compounds of this farming community nearly every day for eight weeks. (READ MORE)

Victor Davis Hanson: War — What War? - The anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan headed to Martha's Vineyard this week, where President Barack Obama is vacationing. Once again she is protesting our two wars abroad. But Sheehan is a media has-been. ABC's Charlie Gibson used to cover her anti-Bush rallies in Crawford, Texas. Now he says, with a sigh, of her recent anti-Obama efforts, "Enough already." The war in Iraq is scarcely in the news any longer, despite the fact that 141,000 American soldiers are still protecting the fragile Iraqi democracy, and 114, as of this writing, have been lost this year in that effort. But after the success of the surge, there are far fewer American fatalities each month —eight in July, five in August. Former anti-war candidate Obama is also now President and Commander in Chief Obama — with Democratic majorities in the Congress. Public opinion and media attention about Iraq were always based largely on two factors that transcended whether Americans felt the removal of Saddam Hussein was wise and necessary — or misguided and wrong. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: More bad press - No one wants bad publicity, but when do efforts to minimize that go "too far"? Did I mention before how bad this idea was? “Contrary to the insistence of Pentagon officials this week that they are not rating the work of reporters covering U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes has obtained documents that prove that reporters' coverage is being graded as ‘positive,’ ‘neutral’ or ‘negative.’ Moreover, the documents -- recent confidential profiles of the work of individual reporters prepared by a Pentagon contractor -- indicate that the ratings are intended to help Pentagon image-makers manipulate the types of stories that reporters produce while they are embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.” Yes, I did. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraq Says Syria Must Give Up Terror Suspects - Iraq said on Thursday relations with Syria will not improve until its neighbour gives up terrorists it says plotted a devastating bombing in Baghdad and are being harboured by Damascus. "Our relations with Syria have reached a crossroads of whether they choose to have good relations with Iraq, or whether they choose to protect persons who attack Iraq," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP. (READ MORE)

Security developments in Iraq, Aug 28 - Aug 28 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq at 1245 GMT on Friday. *denoted a new or update item. * KIRKUK - U.S. troops killed one man and wounded other who they said were planting a roadside bomb southwest of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers in east Baghdad, the U.S. military said. (READ MORE)

Iraq leaders mourn death of key Shi'ite figure - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi leaders gathered at Baghdad airport Friday to receive the body of a leading Shi'ite figure whose death could heighten political instability before national polls many fear may be marred by violence. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who headed one of Iraq's main Shi'ite Muslim parties, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), died in Tehran Wednesday where he was being treated for cancer. (READ MORE)

LAR puts a sniper’s eye to counter smuggling - SAHL SINJAR, Iraq – Marine snipers, and designated marksmen, have been operating across the vast Iraqi deserts since the outbreak of hostilities in 2003. As with all units operating in Iraq, past and present, they have found themselves evolving to meet the changing needs of the Iraqi military and political landscape. Small teams of snipers are finding reasons to venture into the constantly shifting environment that exists in a place simply referred to as “outside the wire.” (READ MORE)

Tikrit ERB arrests suspected terrorist - TIKRIT, Iraq – Soldiers with the 4th Emergency Response Battalion, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist on Aug. 22, during an operation in the Salah ad-Din province. The suspected terrorist was arrested with a warrant issued by the Salah ad-Din Court of Appeals for suspicion of directly facilitating kidnappings and murders in the province. (READ MORE)

Human rights paramount to Iraqi forces - BAGHDAD — "The inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." These words, ratified by the United Nations in 1948, echoed through a hallway filled with Iraqi Special Operation Force Soldiers, Aug. 13. The commanding officer of the 1st Brigade, Maj. Gen. Fadhel Al-Barwari, sat attentively in the front row flanked by men under his command. (READ MORE)

Iraqis learn basic computer, sewing skills - BAGHDAD — The relationship among citizens of the Jamiya neighborhood and their local leaders took a step forward at the Jamiya Tribal Support Council Hall in northwest Baghdad, Aug 25, when Iraqis were invited to the hall to begin basic computer and sewing classes. The council worked with Soldiers from 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion to open up the council hall for training. (READ MORE)

U.S. Soldiers Deliver Dog Food to Iraqi Police K-9 Unit - FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, MOSUL, Iraq – A group of Soldiers from Command Post-North, Task Force Lighting, 25th Infantry Division; the 2/69th Military Police Company of the Tennessee National Guard and the Ninewa Provincial Police Prevention Team, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, delivered more than 225 pounds of dog food that was donated by the boys from Cub Scout Pack 5 of Goldthwaite, Texas, to an Iraqi police K-9 unit in Mosul, Iraq, Aug. 24. (READ MORE)

Customs Class Helps Speed Up Redeployment Process - BAGHDAD – Soldiers from all over Iraq gathered at Hope Chapel on Camp Victory to attend a two-day class to certify as custom border clearance agents. The class is intended to help streamline the transition of units out of country, according to Sgt. 1st Class Travis Huggard, from Kodiak Island, Alaska, assigned to Company A, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Div. (READ MORE)

Guard Troops Move Detainees in Southern Iraq - CAMP BUCCA, Iraq, Aug. 27, 2009 – Moving several hundred detainees across Iraq is a daunting task, but for two Wisconsin Army National Guard companies, it's just another day on the job. The two companies -- Company A, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, from Janesville, and Company C, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, from Fond du Lac, -- are responsible for transferring detainees from the camp here in southern Iraq to theater internment facilities farther north. These movements are part of the consolidation of internment facilities in Iraq and the eventual turnover of operations to the Iraqi government. (READ MORE)

‘Sons of Iraq’ Gain Iraqi Government Jobs - WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2009 – Several years ago, tens of thousands of Sunni fighters considered themselves enemies of the Iraqi government and its U.S. conspirators, but after switching allegiances, these former insurgents now are filling the ranks of Iraq’s ministries and armed forces. Thousands of these “Sons of Iraq” -- the moniker given to those Sunni combatants who defected from insurgent groups to fight alongside U.S. and Iraqi security forces -- recently gained employment as government workers in Baghdad. Another 13,000 have jobs as Iraqi policemen or soldiers. (READ MORE)

Afghan Civilian Deaths Decline Under New US Tactics - Western troops have killed far fewer Afghan civilians since the top US general imposed strict new rules of engagement aimed at addressing one of the most contentious issues of the conflict, according to newly declassified US military figures. However, the data cover a relatively short period of eight weeks, and make it clear that civilians are still dying in large numbers, a pattern blamed in part on the Taliban's campaign of violence surrounding last week's national elections. (READ MORE)

Accusations Of Vote Fraud Multiply in Afghanistan - One week after Afghanistan's presidential election, with the winner still undeclared, increasing accusations of fraud and voter coercion threaten to undermine the validity of the results, deepen dangerous regional divisions and hamper the Obama administration's goals in this volatile country. With US popular support for the war in Afghanistan wavering, an election viewed as illegitimate by many Afghans would be a major setback for President Obama… (READ MORE)

Afghan Taliban Commander Is Captured in Raid - Afghan security forces raided a medical clinic in eastern Afghanistan late Wednesday, capturing a Taliban commander who had been wounded in attacks during last week’s presidential election, Afghan officials said Thursday. During the operation, which took place in the Sar Hawza district of Paktika Province, Afghan forces came under fire and called for assistance from American air and ground forces, said Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a NATO spokeswoman. (READ MORE)

Afghan Youths Seek a New Life in Europe - Thousands of lone Afghan boys are making their way across Europe, a trend that has accelerated in the past two years as conditions for Afghan refugees become more difficult in countries like Iran and Pakistan. Although some are as young as 12, most are teenagers seeking an education and a future that is not possible in their own country, which is still struggling with poverty and violence eight years after the end of Taliban rule. (READ MORE)

Attack Kills 18 Pakistani Officers - A suicide bombing at the main border crossing for NATO convoys traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan killed at least 18 Pakistani security officers Thursday, according to witnesses and officials. The bomber detonated his explosives amid the government offices and barracks of the Torkham checkpoint in northern Pakistan as guards were preparing to break their daily fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with an evening meal. (READ MORE)

ADF launches inquiry into Afghan police shooting - The Australian Defence Force has launched a comprehensive inquiry into the killing of an Afghani police officer by Australian troops. The soldiers shot the man and seriously injured another, when they failed to stop at a check point in Afghanistan earlier this month. (READ MORE)

Australia mulls changes after 2 Afghan police shot - CANBERRA, Australia -- The Defense Department will consider changing check point procedures in Afghanistan after Australian soldiers shot two Afghan police officers, one fatally, an army general said Friday. An internal inquiry into the shootings on Aug. 11 found that the Australian soldiers had acted according to their rules of engagement when they fired at the two Afghanis, who failed to obey instructions to stop their motorbike, Lt. Gen. Mark Evans said. (READ MORE)

Hakimullah Mehsud: The New Head of Pakistan's Taliban - The Taliban has ravaged Pakistan, but its leadership is in tatters. After weeks of denials, two Pakistani Taliban commanders admitted on Aug. 25 that the group's chief, Baitullah Mehsud, had been killed in an Aug. 5 U.S. missile strike. The commanders also confirmed reports that Hakimullah Mehsud, a regional chieftain close to Baitullah and one of the organization's rising stars, had been tapped to take the top job. (READ MORE)

Enemy in Pakistan is far from defeated, says US - Washington, Aug.28 : The Pakistan Army may have been claiming that it has forced the Taliban and other extremist groups to retreat in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), but the United States believes that the enemy in Pakistan is far from defeated. Speaking at the 91st Annual American Legion Convention, ouisville, Kentucky, US Central Command chief General David etraeus noted that the military operation in the Swat and Malakand Divisions has forced the extremists to move back, but highlighted they are not rooted out from the region. (READ MORE)

German town cast as Afghanistan in army training - GERMANY: The Afghan village elder's home is actually a German town hall, the mosque is a ramshackle farmhouse and the devout woman in the all-covering burka is really a German soldier. Welcome to Lengefeld, a remote mountain town in ex-communist East Germany that has been transformed into a training ground for soldiers who will join the around 4,000-strong German force in increasingly violent northern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

19 Pakistanis killed in suicide bombing at Afghanistan crossing - Peshawar, Pakistan - A suicide bomber attacked the main border crossing for convoys ferrying supplies to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least 19 security officers, officials said. The assailant walked up to a group of border guards outside their barracks at the Torkham checkpoint in the Khyber region and detonated his explosives, police officer Sadiq Khan said. The border had closed for the day a few hours earlier. (READ MORE)

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