October 8, 2009

From the Front: 10/08/2009

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

Boss Mongo: Home - Will start posting again soon. Right now, not doing nada. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: A Story From War - 08 October 2009 - Anthony Lloyd: “In April this year it became 2 Rifles’ dubious fortune to be sent to Sangin on a six-month tour. By mid-August their battle group, a composite force from various units built around a core of several hundred riflemen and fusiliers, had the worst casualties of any British brigade sent to Helmand, with just over 100 soldiers killed or wounded: a fifth of their total patrol troops. The trend suggested that by the time the battle group’s tour ends this month as many as one in four of these infantrymen will have been slain or injured, a figure that compares with British infantry casualty ratios in Europe during the later stages of the Second World War.” Anthony Lloyd, the famed British war correspondent and author has seen much in war. Years ago, when I read his book My War Gone By, I Miss It So, the idea of taking up the pen and going to war had never been in the question. (READ MORE)

A World Away: Wisconsin soldiers were first on the scene to help after an explosion killed a Michigan soldier and injured others in Baghdad - When the Associated Press reported that a Michigan soldier was killed by indirect fire in the Baghdad area last week, I asked the PAO for the 32nd IBCT if any Wisconsin soldiers were affected by the blast. Indirect fire is when an enemy propels an explosive device from an unseen location. Lt. Col. Tim Donovan in Baghdad got back to me with this: This indirect fire incident did involve impacts in the vicinity of one of our units. Two soldiers from (the Eau Claire-based) Headquarters and Headquarters Company of 1-128th Infantry were first to respond to provide emergency first aid to the soldiers injured in the attack. Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wise and Sgt. Randy Burns received awards for their actions in response to the indirect fire attack..." (READ MORE)

Troy: Interactions With The Fobbit - During my time in Afghanistan I was assigned the additional duty of being responsible for the FOO (Field Ordering Officer) funds. These funds were a monthly allotment to Embedded Tactical Trainers (ETTs) in order to sustain them in operations in which the Army supply system was unable to support us with. Each month I would have to rotate out of FOB Tillman in order to clear my receipts on the previous months purchases and then draw my next months worth of funds. A FOO officer was handed bricks of Afghani (Term for Afghan money, not an Afghan citizen.) that was equivalent to $25,000 US dollars. Depending on the weather, I would draw my funds from the larger bases at Bagram, Salerno, Phoenix, or Gardez. Total time away from FOB Tillman averaged out to be 7-10 days, just to do approximately 30 minutes worth of work. But then again, I was on Afghan time and everything was much slower, unless you were getting shot at or the ANA wanted to eat. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: College students and public school teachers get involved in school supplies - From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: One of the student journalists at University of Tampa where I teach part-time wrote this article about the school supplies drive. Let’s hope it helps us get more young people involved in the process. Meanwhile, I picked up another carload of school supplies at University of South Florida yesterday from a former student of mine who got a friend involved in Volusia County, Florida. That friend is Judy Cogorno Voisard and in a Facebook message to us she gives all the credit to her co-workers at Pride Elementary saying “Thanks for the recognition, but it is my fellow teachers that are also amazing. We are a low income school so we understand.” THANK YOU, CARMEL, JUDY AND THE TEACHERS AT PRIDE ELEMENTARY! (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Hydie (the new camp puppy) and Shooting Range - This morning three-fourths of my team left early for a mission. The Captain and I stayed behind for a separate mission. After my teammates departed around 0530 hrs, I tried to fall back to asleep but was kept awake by a growling sound outside my window. It sounded like a puppy but I couldn’t be sure. I peeked out my door and there was Hydie playing with a much older dog. The other female dog was rolling on its back and Hydie was growling and trying to bite through the other dog’s thick mane of fur. When I returned from the shower hoping to take a picture, I found Hydie asleep on a door step. After a scrumptious breakfast, we readied our vehicle for our mission. Today we would escort the Air Force Combat Arms Training personnel to the shooting range. (READ MORE)

Army Household6: How did you spend your day? - As usual in Casa de Munson… nothing EVER goes as planned. I had the day planned for homeschooling Kiersten, getting some client work done and working on a volunteer project at Beck’s school. I spoke with SGT Daddy this morning and he is doing well. Although, he scared me a little today while we were talking when he said “Be quiet .. I think I hear a disturbance” I immediately thought WHAT?!?! He then told me it was nothing . (jeez, talk about trying to give me a heart attack) After I got done talking to him, the local news station called and requested an interview with me TODAY! I looked at Kiersten and said guess what — we are taking a field trip to the news station! Yep I was interviewed by Channel 5 again.. even Kiersten was in the video this time! : ) So here is the video: (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: The Defenders Need You - If you've been following the news from Afghanistan, then you no doubt have heard about the Taliban assault on COP Keating that left eight soldiers dead and the outpost destroyed. What the media hasn't told you is that the soldiers stationed at the remote outpost not only lost their comrades but all of the gear inside the base. The American Legion has stepped in and is currently accepting donations for a relief fund: In the battle for Combat Outpost Keating, the men of Bravo Troop 361 Cavalry lost every possession they had, save for the clothes on their backs. Following this blog posting is information on how to donate to the Combat Outpost Keating Relief Fund. These men havelost friends, their outpost, and all their belongings. One soldier who made it out wrote that "most people back home dont even know, no one gives a shit". Well, many of us do. And you can prove it by giving whatever you can..." (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Flying Zombies, the worst kind… - Due to the fact that we are actually turning over most of the security missions to the Iraqis and eventually leaving them on their own program, our battalion has had the opportunity to send a few Marines back home somewhat early. Of course, departing early doesn’t mean vacation/party time as everyone we are sending back is going to a professional school in preparation for the next deployment to Afghanistan. Don’t feel bad; it’s kind of our job. What it does mean is another round of the rigmarole of airline hassles and other foolishness. If you think TSA is bad then you have never tried to move a company or more of Marines through military customs. At least the agents are slimmer. This is what my Marines endured on our latest flight; and here they thought they were getting out of here early: (READ MORE)

the semi-normal, day-to-day life of a female marine: United States Marines (females!) - I originally found this photo here: NYT Lens Blog - Pictures of the Day: Wednesday, Oct. 7 but since I can't link to their photo I had to go digging and found another copy here, along with some other photos taken around the same time. Here is the caption: "US Marines from Fox Company 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines settle into a makeshift patrol base during the launch of Operation Germinate into the restive Bhuji Bhast Pass in Farah Province, southern Afghanistan...The Bhuji Bhast Pass is effectively a Taliban corridor, mined with improvised incendary devices from one end to the other, and lined with villages that are hostile to the Western troop presence. Aboard Marine CH-53 helicopters Fox Company inserted into the pass on the 8th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan in an effort to clear insurgent forces from local villages and improve security for the local Afghan population." (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Clinic to Nowhere - If this is what it feels like to win against bureaucracy I like it. I wrote several weeks ago about a very large Police clinic which was to be constructed in our Region. It will really be a poly-clinic with xray, laboratory, and a small Emergency/Triage area. I am sure my Afghan friends will call it a 'shafa khona', or hospital, instead of a clinic. The site was going to be at a small training camp about 5 miles out of town in the desert. Today I was able to meet with some Engineers who control the building plans and projects from Kabul. With very little persuasion, I was able to plead the case for moving construction closer to the city, where the population to be served is located. While 5 miles doesn't sound like very far to us it might as well be the other side of the moon to most Afghans. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Black Watch troops seize weapons and ton of drugs - British troops seized 1.5 tons of cannabis resin during a three-day assault on an insurgent hotspot in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Black Watch soldiers surged into Lakari in southern Helmand Province under cover of darkness on a mission to clear a bazaar of drugs and ammunition. Two platoons engaged in battles with the insurgents, allowing another group to search the bazaar, where their finds included a block of cannabis the size of a football and components for making bombs. The Scottish soldiers were supported by an Afghan counter-narcotics team and American bomb disposal experts, US Marine Corps Harrier jets, Cobra helicopter gunships and drones controlled by Scots gunners from 40 Regiment Royal Artillery. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, The Black Watch commanding officer, said the operation’s impact would be felt throughout the area. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Army Chief Highlights Future Family Programs - I wrote yesterday about my experiences at the Association of the U.S. Army’s family forum Oct. 5. The session was packed with so much information for Army families that I decided to spend a few more days writing about it. Today, I’d like to share a top Army leader’s vision for the way ahead for Army families. The audience warmly welcomed Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey to the forum. His remarks were punctuated by audience feedback, both approval and otherwise. The audience was a lively bunch that included Army spouses, family readiness group leaders, military leaders and soldiers. Casey began by acknowledging the impact of a heavy operations tempo on soldiers and their families, particularly in relation to the time spent home between deployments. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Blackhawk mechanic becomes facebook phenom - I realized tonight I have not written about PT Belts before, but we have to wear them all the time with our PT (Physical Training) uniform and with our combat uniform after dark. Since I ride a bike, I have to wear the PT Belt whenever I ride. In fact, I use the PT belt to hold my rifle at my side while I am riding. As you will read below, a mechanic in our unit has become a minor Facebook phenom by getting more than 1000 fans for his PT Belt Facebook page. Spc. Jason Guge, who is serving in Iraq as a Black hawk helicopter mechanic in Company D, 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation Regiment, became a minor Internet star recently. On Sept. 5 Guge created a humorous page on the popular social networking site Facebook devoted to the physical training belt, a highly-reflective belt worn by everyone at night at COB Adder, and throughout Iraq, for safety purposes. (READ MORE)

The Intrepid Reporter: Despite being CENSORED... - Greetings from Baghdadland, formerly known as “The Saddamn-A-Go-Go!” Now, to start this particular rant, I need to state that I’ve been advised by Council… namely my mouthpiece(s) (read my Lawyers… no joke) that my intel and such might be ‘tweaking the nipples’ of the FedCorpGov. My reaction to this is twofold: First: Fuck ‘em. If they can’t take a joke, then fuck ‘em. I’m not revealing ANYTHING OPSEC-wise. EVERY single thing I throw out here is generally filed under “been there-done that” and for the most part, the fucking “Dirty Haj” ™ know what they done did. It’s not like I’m going to give anything away that could adversely affect our operations here, and for sure I’m not telling anything until such time as I see it on the AP/Brietfart/Communist News Nutwork. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: An Assyrian View - "The Kurds are worse than Saddam!" The man said. "The prisons in the north are crowded with people," he explained. "There is no freedom at all." The man said his community is fleeing because the Kurdish peshmerga are killing and chasing them out. The man said he had no optimistic thoughts about the elections. He sincerely believes the religious Shiite alliance will win. I said that no Iraqi wants to be ruled by Iran. "We already are!" The Assyrian Christians are an ancient community in the north of Iraq, though many live in Baghdad and other cities as well. And they say they have always made up a third of Kirkuk. "It's nonsense to say Kirkuk is a Kurdish town." He said that one third of Kirkuk was always Turkoman, one third Christian, and one third Kurdish. Sadly, it's easy for the peshmerga bullies to scare the unarmed Christians out of town, I said. (READ MORE)

The Life of the Wife: Block - Goo...so I don't really have much to post about. Howie is doing ok...he's pretty much like a pile of melted butterscotch chips that follows me around and occasionally takes a dump in my kitchen (gross). Right now he's snoozing next to me with his head propped up on a throw cushion. The neck spots are getting worse and I am tired of getting the scabs off. Can't wait for that vet visit. The school thing is getting worked out. I had to play the milspouse card, but honestly I felt what they did was unethical. Sending me a bill a month after they told me I had a zero balance and expecting me to pay it in 8 days and all. Hubble comes home soonish. No news on his deployment, but what else is new?! The whole shutting down Iraq thing is proving to be a more logisitically complicated task than anticipated. Whoda thunk it? (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Army kills most wanted Swat commander - The Pakistani military has killed a Taliban commander who was one of the 21 most-wanted leaders in the northern district of Swat, dealing another setback to the terror group that once controlled the region. Pakistani troops killed Nisar, who is also known as Ghazi Baba, “in an encounter” outside the main town in Swat, AFP reported. Security forces killed Nisar and captured his son during an early morning raid northwest of Mingora. The Taliban have not commented on Nisar’s death, but civilians confirmed that he was indeed killed. “We have seen his dead body,” an anonymous local Pakistani, who feared being named lest the Taliban retaliate, told the news agency. “It was later taken by the security forces.” (READ MORE)

A Soldiers Perspective: Get Your Hands Off My PTSD - You know, this country is in bad shape if the quality of some of our educators is any indicator. As you know, I've been battling my kids' school on their new uniform policy. My issue is simple: parents must be involved in any important decision like this. If parents are going to bear the cost of uniforms, they deserve and have the right to be consulted. What they don't deserve is to be disrespected and their personal lives violated! I have had it with this school administration. Today, they had the audacity to contact someone within military channels telling them that my actions were threatening to them. They claim that they don't feel safe with me around and have demanded security be present any time I'm at the school. They are seeking an injunction against me from the school. And to top it all off, they mentioned the fact that I have PTSD, which makes me unstable! (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Afghanistan: Yes, We "CAN" - While BFQs shout "Quit!", the foolish try to look wise, and the fuck-os set off human bombs, good men wearing Maple Leafs are moving forward: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It's one of the basic tenets of counter-insurgency, and it's being deployed aggressively in the dangerous regions southwest of Kandahar city: drive out the enemy, make the area safe for the locals, and then stay there as long as you can. Creating a base of operations and making it secure is considered one of the first major rules in defeating groups like the Taliban. As part of the Afghan effort, Canadian forces have cleared a handful of villages in the Dand and Panjwaii districts in recent months and simply moved in. The hope is that as that military "footprint" continues to grow, the effect of marginalizing insurgents will grow with it." (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Garmsir, Again (Again) - In July, I noted that this was the fourth year in a row that ISAF troops had swept through Garmsir, Helmand. The fighting had been following a sadly familiar pattern: sweep through, get a few months of success, fail to fundamentally change ground conditions, repeat next year. The Marines seemed convinced that they had it right this time, but I wasn’t sure: "While they made a big flashy show of tossing grenades into stores they believed were fronts for Taliban weapon and drug smuggling, they didn’t have any assets in the air—helicopters, drones, anything—to track the militants as they ran away. What’s worse, they’ve stretched themselves so far they’re not certain they can “hold” the area, or if they should withdraw to their previous position and allow the Taliban to filter in...[T]he Taliban have wised up to it, and they’re effective at melting away when they need to." (READ MORE)

Joan D'Arc: "If..." - Out of the blue, DH asked me the other night, "If I died, would you get remarried?" I sat thoughtfully for a moment, wondering why he was asking me this. Me: "I don't know. It would be the last thing on my mind for a long time." DH: "Well, could you picture yourself getting married again? If I died?" Again, I thought about this (not something I often sit around considering). Me: "I really don't know. What brought this to your mind?" Turns out DH had been listening to Jeff Foxworthy on the radio and he was doing a "bit" about this conversation with his wife. Good old DH - asking serious questions as a result of listening to comedy bits on the radio. This conversation reminded me of the not-so-fun, but definitely necessary, conversation DH and I had before he deployed to Iraq in 2005. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Kicking and Screaming - It could only be described as a tsunami of anger and annoyance. I’m a crazy woman on a roller coaster of emotions. It started this morning when I realized the DVDs I gave to the Chaplain’s office weren’t working and was reminded of that by 3 different people (Thank You, I know). Then I had to sit through the leads that took us forever to shoot yesterday and I wanted to shoot my computer screen. Then I got the graphics that I have to add to a slide show that started as a simple fading of pictures and has since turned into a full blown movie production with a certain order of pictures, graphics and specific music. Then I found out that even if we don’t generate interest from TV stations back home to show live footage of soldiers watching the University of Minnesota Homecoming game, we still have to host 10 alum in our studio so they can watch the game. When did we become the USO? This is an office. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Web 2.0 and Leadership - While reading War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age, I thought of another way that the new media might change the way our military might operate: it might change the way we lead troops--in most cases, for the better. In the past two years or so, I've either witnessed or been a part of a number of incidents in the Web 2.0 world which certainly caused some radical (albeit, in some cases, reluctant) change on the part of military leadership. One case (of many) in point. In 2008, Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division returned from a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan only to find that their barracks were in a gross state of disrepair: sewage was flowing through the bathroom drains, lead-based paint was chipping from the walls, and ceiling tiles were missing. (All of us who have been at Fort Bragg can probably attest to the article's claim that the contractors there must be "the world's slowest contractors"). (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Mad Men vs. IEDs: Army Wants Anti-Bomb Ad Campaign in Afghanistan - Improvised bombs are now the number one threat to western forces in Afghanistan, killing 36 coalition troops last month and five more just in the first week of October. The U.S. Army is looking to battle the improvised explosive device (IED) threat with new armored vehicles, increased surveillance in the sky, and… advertising. Mad Men versus militias, if you will. Late last month, the Information Operations division of the Army’s Combined Joint Task Force 82 sent out a call for proposals for a “comprehensive strategic marketing and information campaign” for eastern Afghanistan. “The over arching objective of this media and advertising campaign is to influence the Afghanistan people at all levels (strategic, operational and tactical) [that] will directly translate in the reduction of the number of IED devices used against the Afghanistan people and Coalitional [sic] forces.” (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Taliban Propagandists Add Their $0.02 To Afghan Troops Debate - Who’s watching the debate over troop levels and strategy in Afghanistan? The Taliban, that’s who. On the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan (pictured here), the Taliban issued a statement on their website, shahamat.org, saying they pose no threat to the West. According to Reuters, the statement reads: “We had and have no plan of harming countries of the world, including those in Europe … our goal is the independence of the country and the building of an Islamic state.” If U.S. and NATO forces want to stay in Afghanistan, the statement adds, “you should know that our patience will only increase and that we are ready for a long war.” To translate from Taliban-speak: Nothing but a little internal war here, please go home. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Happy Birthday Rob - October is a hard month. Today was Rob's birthday. He would have been 32. A year ago I was talking to him on the phone wishing him a happy birthday. I didn't know it would be the last time. I can't help but think what we would have done today for his birthday. Rob wasn't much on getting gifts, so I would probably have gotten him a card while Julia and Eva made him one, then the girls and I would have baked him his favorite cake (German chocolate) and then we probably would have gone out to eat (I'm guessing Outback since that was one of his favorites). Days like this are so hard-harder than you expect them to be. I'm sure all the "firsts" are, I'm just praying they get better each year. Yesterday I told Julia that today was Rob's birthday. She got excited and said "Yay!!" And then she caught herself. I think for a moment, she forgot daddy was gone. Even after almost a year, it is still easy to forget that he is gone. (READ MORE)

Dave Dilegge: Slow Burn - The following quote has been getting under my skin since I first read it. Here at the Washington Post. It really has - It stinks to high heaven - and it is disturbing to say the least- at least to me - tell me why I am wrong on this - why an inside the Beltway puke can spit on a boots on the ground assessment? Ex has commented on it as others have - so sue me if I too can call this unnamed source an ass of the first order - nay - a too-smart-for-his-or-hers-britches-who-does-not-know-shit-from-shineola-of-the-first-order. “But White House officials are resisting McChrystal's call for urgency, which he underscored Thursday during a speech in London, and questioning important elements of his assessment, which calls for a vast expansion of an increasingly unpopular war. One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting, said, ‘A lot of assumptions -- and I don't want to say myths, but a lot of assumptions - were exposed to the light of day.’” (READ MORE)

A World Away: Saddened by loss of Sgt. Adams, but Wisconsin's 951st back on Afghan road - Soldiers of Wisconsin's 951st are back at work clearing roads of IEDs following the death Friday of Sgt. Ryan Adams (Wisconsin National Guard photo at right shows Adams in Afghanistan in May 2009). A rocket-propelled grenade killed Adams and injured seven of his fellow soldiers who were on a route-clearing patrol in Logar Province, Afghanistan. This update comes via Maj. Jackie Guthrie, the state guard PAO in Madison. "'The 951st is a close-knit group of Soldiers,' said Capt. Brian Barth, company commander. 'They understand that this can happen. But we continue with the mission.'" (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Hakimullah Mehsud Lives! - When Pakistan’s insurgent leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed on August 7 by a CIA missile fired from an unmanned drone, it was widely believed that a power struggle would follow within his Taliban group. Hakimullah Mehsud was one of Baitullah’s lieutenants and the next in line for leadership of the 20,000-strong insurgent force, based in Pakistan’s volatile south Waziristan. But Hakimullah was thought to be killed in intra-insurgent fighting immediately preceding Baitullah’s death. Turns out that rumors of Hakimullah’s death have been greatly exaggerated. A few days ago he gave a special audience to a group of reporters, among them a TV crew from Al Jazeera which filed this report. At his side were some of the very insurgent rivals who were thought to have killed him at the end of the summer. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: First, Do No Harm - Earlier this year came the shocking revelation of an Air Force Chaplain at Bagram Air Field (BAF) who received a shipment of Bibles translated into Dari, and who gave a sermon that appeared to exhort troops to proselytize. This is a crime under Afghan law that is punishable by death. That Chaplain directly fed into the propaganda operation by the Taliban, who claim that we are here to destroy Islam. The aftereffects still ripple through Afghan society. His actions, both in receiving the Dari Bibles and in his speech, may actually have tipped the scales in the minds of some to begin supporting or actually participating in operations against the Taliban and the GIRoA. His actions could actually be lethal; but not to the enemy. Today an article was published in The Times (UK) quoting two U.S. Army Chaplains as saying that American troops in their two battalions are losing heart. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: What kind of counterinsurgency for Afghanistan? - Amid robust public debate concerning counterinsurgency and whether it works – and if so, what brand works – two successful counterinsurgency campaigns may be briefly studied to ascertain the common elements. At the recommendation of Professor Gian Gentile I have studied a paper by Karl Hack entitled “The Malayan Emergency as Counter-Insurgency Paradigm,” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 32, No. 3, 383-414, June 2009. Hack argues (quite persuasively) that during the Malayan emergency (1948 – 1960, repeatedly cited for COIN examples) Britain applied distinct elements to different phases of the campaign, with the notion of winning hearts and minds coming after a phase of aggressive patrols, population control, etc. It is naive, argues Hack, to believe that the blend of policies found at the optimization phase will work at the outset of the conflict. (READ MORE)

Maj Pain: It's a bit more than a volunteer force - I was having a formal conversation today with a fellow officer when he was recently injected into a high tempo billet out of his normal command and on short notice, yes our unit. He hadn't been to a deployment yet but that doesn't matter to us. He is young, he is knowledgeable, he will do great things. I quickly diverted the conversation to lighten him up a bit to one of me looking at him and saying, funny, the American people have no idea what we really do and/or sacrifices. Yes, they know we volunteered etc etc. But keep in mind the amount of birthdays, Christmas mornings, anniversaries, first borns we miss. It's a bit more than a volunteer force. My fellow warrior quickly realized what exactly he got into and agreed; yes the American people don't really have the concept of burning human poop, wearing the same clothes for a month, living in total scum on their minds. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Black Jack troops give aid to “Lost City” - In the small, impoverished neighborhood of Huzzeran, near Kirkuk, Iraq, jobs are few and far between. Drinkable water is not readily available, and the school in the area doesn’t have running water. A week after a clearing operation led by an Iraqi emergency service unit and Iraqi Police in the neighborhood, Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment delivered essential supplies, Oct. 3, in this area, which is often referred to by local residents as the “Lost City.” (READ MORE)

Sowing the seeds of hope in Iraq - Iraq, once a fertile land, has been devastated by drought, war and neglect. Farmers in Ninewa province are looking for relief from a government program called Greenhouse Demonstration, some structures called hoop houses, and an American called “Farmer Fred”. Fred Woehl, an agriculture specialist for the Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team, has brought hope to the people of Qaraqosh, Nimrud, and Al Qosh through greenhouses, tractors and seedlings. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police pursue wanted AQI members, arrest 5 - Iraqi Security Forces arrested five suspects today during two warranted security operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq members. North of Jalula in the Hamrin Mountain area, located approximately 135 km northeast of Baghdad, the 3rd General Directorate Salah ad Din Police Unit, with U.S. advisors, arrested one suspect as they searched two buildings for a known AQI member from Diyala Province. The suspect was arrested based on evidence found at the scene linking the suspect to criminal activity. (READ MORE)

Training Center Celebrates Third 81mm Mortar Course - The Tallil Training Center here graduated its third 81mm Mortar Training course Sept. 28, training 68 students from the 10th and 14th Iraqi army Divisions. The 81mm Mortar Training course has three major areas of training emphasis: Forward Observers, Fire Direction Center personnel, and the Mechanical/Gun Line crew. Training in this course consisted of map reading, fire direction center activities, forward observer duties and responsibilities, safety checks, ammunition types and Serbian 81mm mortar characteristics and capabilities. (READ MORE)

An Numaniyah’ MP School Graduates Officers - On Sept. 26, 16 junior officers from the 3rd, 4th, 7th 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, and 17th Iraqi Army Divisions graduated from the Military Police Officer Basic Course here. Military Police training commenced Aug. 8 and included both classroom and practical field exercises. The soldiers were also required to pass a cumulative practical exercise and written exam. The officer’s course emphasized leadership and training on small unit tactics and weapon systems. (READ MORE)

GRD completes middle school in Sadr City - Children in Sadr City now have a better learning environment, thanks to the efforts of the Iraqi Transitional Authority and its construction partner, the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. More than 1,500 middle school boys will be attending Al-Khawarizmy Intermediate School in one of Baghdad’s poorest districts. The 1 million residents of Sadr City have known neglect since the city’s inception in 1959. Originally named Revolution City, its problems are akin to those of public housing projects in the United States. (READ MORE)

Alabama Guard medics train Iraqi military and police in Combat Lifesaving - Training wrapped up Oct. 1 for Alabama Army National Guard medics who taught 18 Iraqi soldiers and police the basics of combat lifesaving medical skills. The students are assigned to Iraqi army units and to personal security details in the Interior Ministry’s directorates of Internal Affairs and Inspector General. The medics are from the 129th Area Support Medical Company, Centreville, Alabama. (READ MORE)

New face of Iraqi justice: Iraqi leaders committed to human rights, fair treatment - Iraqi Defense Minister Mohammed Abdul-Qader Jassim hosted a Human Rights Conference here yesterday to highlight the Government of Iraq's sincere commitment to the human rights and fair treatment of prisoners, no matter what the charge. Senior Iraqi Army officials, civilians, government employees, political leaders and women from Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights were on hand for Iraq's second human rights conference, as well as select members of the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, which is responsible for training and advising the defense ministry on human rights issues. (READ MORE)

Medevac pilot recalls three Iraq tours - Maj. Anthony Meador is near the end of his third tour in Iraq as an Army aviator, and has memories that will last a lifetime. In addition to his current assignment as the commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, he also served in Baghdad in 2004 and at Joint Base Balad in 2007. During his first tour, Meador served as a medevac pilot during some of the most intense fighting of the war. (READ MORE)

Bridging the Gap in Northern Iraq - Army Reserve Soldiers from the 401st Multi-Role Bridge Company of Oklahoma City, Okla., under the 844th Engineer Battalion, 194th Engineer Brigade, traveled 300 miles north to bridge the gap across the Tigris River near Hammam Al Alil. While the Soldiers knew that a bridge was needed, they did not realize the importance of the bridge. Serving as a strategic link between the two shores, coalition patrols can traverse the crossing to save nearly four hours of travel time rather than using the nearest bypass route. (READ MORE)

U.S. Army Medic Saves Young Iraqi Boy's Life - An U.S. Army medic with 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division saved the life of a young Iraqi boy after the child received several gunshot wounds from an unknown assailant, Sept. 20. Spc. Adam O'Krent, Company A, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3/2 SBCT, a native of Littleton, Colo., provided the care which saved the young child's life. (READ MORE)

Basrah's Future on Display at School's Grand Opening - Local community leaders and members of the Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team, 17th Fires Brigade attended the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $2.8 million two-story Basrah Talent School, Oct. 1. "This teaching institution is for boys and girls who have been identified as having particular educational abilities," said Tawded Abd Al-Rida, principal of the Basrah Talent School. "The school will constitute an educational beacon for the city of Basrah and the impact of this educational institution will be felt by generations to come." (READ MORE)

Obama Praises Iraqi President’s Efforts - President Barack Obama yesterday met with Iraq’s president and praised him for his work toward promoting national unity in Iraq, a White House news release said. Obama dropped in on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s meeting with National Security Advisor James L. Jones at the White House to express his support for the Iraqi leader, the release said. (READ MORE)

Taliban Claim to Raise a Flag Over Nuristan - Four days after a deadly attack on two American military bases in the Afghan province of Nuristan left eight American and four Afghan soldiers dead, the propaganda battle over the engagement continues. As my colleague Elisabeth Bumiller reported on Tuesday, NATO posted a statement on its Web site claiming a victory of sorts in the fighting around the mountainous village of Kamdesh, since “a more detailed battlefield assessment following the Oct. 3 attack in Nuristan has determined that enemy forces suffered more than 100 dead during the well-coordinated defense — significantly higher losses than originally thought.” (READ MORE)

Pakistanis View U.S. Aid Warily - As the Obama administration weighs a shift in its military strategy in Afghanistan, it is also stepping up its efforts to increase aid to neighboring Pakistan. The Senate on Sept. 24 approved legislation to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years. However, conditions laid out in the bill, authored by Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, have unleashed street protests and a flood of criticism from Pakistanis who say the bill compromises their country’s sovereignty. (READ MORE)

Afghan-International Security Force Conducts Operation Against Taliban Militants in Logar Province - A joint Afghan and International Security Force killed several militants and accidentally killed an Afghan child during an overnight operation against a Taliban commander and his element in Pul-e Alam district, Logar province. The joint force immediately received hostile fire upon arrival to the compound and returned fire. The joint force issued verbal commands for all residents to exit the building and several women and children complied and exited safely. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Work With Afghan National Security Forces to Secure Zhari District - U.S. and Canadian soldiers partnered with local Afghan national security forces to conduct an operation in the village of Pasab, located in the Zhari District. Operation PASAB was one of the first operations conducted in this area by the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment since they moved from Forward Operating Base Ramrod to Forward Operating Base Wilson. (READ MORE)

Operational Update, Oct. 8: Afghan-International Security Forces Kill, Detain Militants; ISAF Casualty; Kabul Explosion - Afghan and International security forces killed an enemy militant and detained several suspected militants in operations in Zabul and Kandahar provinces today. A joint security force searched a compound in Qalat District, Zabul province known to be used by a Taliban commander and his element responsible for several attacks against Afghan civilians and infrastructure in the region. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan National Army Air Corps Stands Up New Wing at Kandahar - Afghan government officials and religious leaders, along with senior officers from both Afghan and coalition forces stood up the Afghanistan national army air corps second wing here in a dedication ceremony, Oct. 5. The wing, based at Kandahar, hosts rotary wing aircraft and supports multiple detachments around the region. (READ MORE)

Provincial Government Building Afghan Future With Agriculture - Farmers planted seeds of a better tomorrow in eastern Afghanistan's in Kunar province with help from the provincial government, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team, Oct. 1. According to the Kunar provincial agricultural director Mohasal Khan, the provincial government is working hard to improve the quality and quantity of the agricultural production in the province. (READ MORE)

Afghan President Karzai terms Kabul blast a "heinous act of terror" - Strongly condemning the bomb blast outside the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday described it as a "heinous act of terror" planned to target civilians. "This heinous act of terror was an obvious attack on civilians. The perpetrators of this attack and those who planned it are vicious terrorists who kill innocent people for their malicious goals," he said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Pakistan plans ambitious blitz to rout Taliban - Pakistan's foreign minister said a planned new offensive against militants in the lawless badlands on the Afghanistan border will be more ambitious than any other in his nation's history and that security forces intend to take the area, hold it and integrate its impoverished tribal population into mainstream society. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Wednesday that Pakistani forces are poised to move into South Waziristan once they receive military resources promised but not yet delivered by the United States. (READ MORE)

Civilians surge to Afghanistan amid violence - As President Obama debates whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, dozens of civilian aid workers are preparing to deploy to the heart of the Afghan insurgency. By the end of this year, the State Department expects to have sent about 1,000 civilians to Afghanistan. Nearly 350 of them are to go to the localities in the south and east where the fighting has been fiercest. (READ MORE)

Message to Obama on Afghanistan - With Afghanistan backsliding into the grip of Taliban insurgents who remain aligned with Al Qaeda, the war we and our allies have waged in direct response to the attacks of Sept. 11 has reached an important crossroad. In March, the president demonstrated a clear understanding of the war’s centrality to U.S. national security when he unveiled a new approach to help turn the conflict’s tide in our favor. (READ MORE)

Give public a say on Afghanistan - Remember the old commercial where the punch line was, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”? If you’re too young, trust me, that’s what it said. Today, the law of nature in the Obama administration is, “It’s not nice to upstage the president.” Perhaps that was Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s biggest sin. He violated this commander commandment when he spoke out publicly to support his demand for several thousand more troops in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban Attack Targets Indian Embassy In Afghanistan - A suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy in the busy center of Afghanistan's capital on Thursday, killing 17 people and wounding nearly 80 in the second major attack in the city in less than a month. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the early morning assault and said the embassy was the target. (READ MORE)

17 militants killed, drugs seized in Afghanistan - Afghan and US troops during a two-day joint operation in the southern Helmand province of Afghanistan killed over a dozen militants and captured two, a report said Thursday. "A joint commando action by Afghan and the US Special Force was carried out against Taliban in Gandam Zirkajaki village since Tuesday, during which 17 rebels have been eliminated," a defence ministry report added. (READ MORE)

Camera boosts RAF's Afghan crews - The RAF says a new type of camera is giving pilots in Afghanistan a clearer picture of enemy forces. The Raptor (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado) allows pilots to zoom in on ground activity from greater distances than before. The cameras cost £6m each and have been used in Afghanistan since Tornado jets arrived last June. The technology is a copy of an existing system devised by the US-based Goodrich SRS company. (READ MORE)

US, Afghan forces kill Afghan child in raid - The US military says American and Afghan forces accidentally killed a child during a raid on a Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan. Civilian deaths threaten to undermine Afghan support for international forces, and the US commander in Afghanistan has made protecting innocent Afghans a priority. Wednesday night's incident in Logar province is a reminder of how difficult the task can be. (READ MORE)

Troop request on table as Obama weighs Afghan mission - President Barack Obama has moved closer to a crucial decision on the US-led war in Afghanistan after receiving a request from his commander to send in thousands more troops, officials said. With the appeal for reinforcements in hand, Obama and his top advisers could start talking about committing yet more troops to the unpopular war later this week after a wide-ranging strategy review, the White House said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

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