January 13, 2010

From the Front: 01/13/2010

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


Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: six international soldiers die in Afghanistan attacks - Pakistan suffered more than 3,000 military and civilian deaths in 2009 as a result of militant violence in the country, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad think tank, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous. Additionally, there were 87 suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2009, up from 63 in 2008; the executive summary of the annual report is available here. A London-based think tank just released a report stating that Pakistan is likely to become more anti-American and pro-Islamist over the next several years, though rules out the likelihood of a Taliban takeover of the country. Thousands of protesters took to the streets yesterday in Pakistan's financial capital Karachi to object to the recent targeted killings that have swept the city and left as many as 48 political party workers dead. (READ MORE)

C.J. CHIVERS: The Making of the Military’s Standard Arms, Part II - The M-4 carbine, one of the primary rifles used by the United States military, appears destined for a change. After concerns surfaced about rifles overheating in a sustained firefight in 2008 in Afghanistan, the manufacturer and the United States Army are close to agreeing on a modification to the weapon’s barrel that makes the carbine more resistant to the stresses of extended firing. The pair of videos shown below, taken at Colt Defense’s testing range, capture the thinking. The first video shows an M-4 being subjected to an intensive sustained-firing test. The rifle used is the standard M-4 with a standard barrel. The weapon is secured on a bench and fed one full 30-round magazine after another without rest beyond the time it takes to replace empty magazines with full magazines. Watch the video closely. After several magazines, the barrel smolders. Then it becomes red hot. (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: Iraq Army Securing the Faith of their People - Iraqi Forces shut down parts of Baghdad today in the wake of intelligence reports that a car bomb was set to explode. From The Financial: "BAGHDAD. Iraqi security forces locked down Baghdad on January 12 after a tipoff on planned car bombings in the city, according to RIA Novosti. 'Terrorist groups intended to detonate car bombs in Baghdad on January 12 morning,' the city’s military command said. Police and the army sealed off many neighborhoods, largely in western Baghdad, cordoned off streets and roads into the Iraqi capital and closed the bridges across the Tigris River linking the capital’s western and eastern parts in search for suspicious cars. Military helicopters are hovering over the city." This action, which would have been 100% conducted by American forces just 8 months ago, is now under the complete control of the Iraqi Security Forces. Important to note two things: (READ MORE)

Doc H: Coalition Cuisine - I still have a little more time on my hands here. Time to reflect on many things I experienced here in Afghanistan. Today's post is dedicated to food. Let's take a look at food around the Area of Operations (AO). I am limiting this entry to Coalition food and may comment on Afghan food another time. The food of Camp Spann is provided by Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR). The food is served in a line cafeteria style. Generally it is American style heavy on the fried foods. The service at Spann was always friendly and courteous. KBR also runs the chow halls down here at Bagram and all other US run bases. The food is always plentiful and has ice cream. Next is the contractor Supreme. Supreme is found in most large Coalition base chow halls including those on German and Italian bases. The food is decidedly European in flavor and offerings. Breakfast is usually very sparse. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Ten miles from the Taliban, one of the world’s best hospitals - It may be in the middle of the Afghan desert but it is one of the best hospitals in the world. With British soldiers in active combat against Taliban insurgents barely 10 miles away, and the threat of hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs) yards from the perimeter fence, that is exactly what Camp Bastion field hospital needs to be. Two days ago, all 10 of its surgical beds were occupied when simultaneous IED attacks resulted in serious injuries to American and Danish soldiers. It is a place where lives are saved seemingly against all odds. Yesterday, its operating theatre again saw a sudden but intensely disciplined burst of activity when a US Black Hawk touched down on the landing pad outside —appropriately named Nightingale — with another seriously injured soldier. The hospital is run by 70 US Navy medics and 135 experts from the UK, 75 of them the cream of the NHS who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? Military Intelligence Sergeant - During late summer this year, Staff Sgt. Timothy Opinaldo was part of a joint operation of intelligence analysts from Task Force Diablo and 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division to train and integrate Iraqi analysts. Together, they provided intelligence support for a joint operation pursuing and detaining insurgents. For Opinaldo and the other members of Task Force Diablo, this joint operation trained their Iraqi counterparts in the American method of intelligence work, which is very different from the Iraqi model. The analysts and their counterpart unit, the 10th Iraqi Infantry Division, are trained for nine weeks. American analysts are trained for 18 weeks. “Their army is officer-centric. An individual Iraqi analyst works on just one piece of a large intelligence project,” Opinaldo said. “The officer in charge controls the flow of information. He creates the picture from the pieces the individual analysts provide..." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Talk of Coup Continues - It's not easy to figure out what happened yesterday in Baghdad. There were all sorts of rumours circulating around town. And though the official statement is that authorities blocked certain neighbourhoods for a while to search for bomb materials, Iraqis still believe there was a coup attempt against Nouri Al Maliki. There is no way to determine where these stories start, but one that has more believers than others is that there was an assassination attempt on Al Maliki's life. A guy quietly told me ysterday: "The Baathists tried to kill Abou Israa'," He used the local way to refer to the prime minister. The whispers and the fears show how people still attribute special powers to the Baathists. They are not yet gone for good, and nobody believes they will ever leave completely. The government said they were acting on a tip when they raided Sunni residents. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: The Day Hell Froze Over - 2 years ago today my son called from Iraq...About 2 am my phone rang. I looked an saw it was Iraq.. my son. I answered with ” What’s wrong?” A very excited almost child like in excitement voice answered ” Mommy Mommy Mommy it’s snowing in Iraq” I could almost see him bouncing up and down as he spoke. ” It doesn’t snow in Iraq” “First time in 100 years.” A few months later when we recieved my son’s belongings we would find videos of him playing in the Iraq snow. And one of his CO stating. ” gentlemen.. Hell has officially frozen over” He grew up for years in Green Bay so snow was not something new to him. But I know now looking back that snow was a touch of home to him. Seems a funny event to remember but the excitement in his voice during that call is a memory I cherish. I miss that when he was excited he would do the whole Mommy mommy mommy thing. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Jordanian al Qaeda operative killed in US airstrike in Pakistan - An al Qaeda operative from Jordan was killed during a recent US airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, Mansur al Shami, a longtime jihadi whose real name is Mahmud Mahdi Zeidan, was confirmed to have been killed in a statement released on the Al Faloja and Shamukh al Islam jihadist web forums, according to the SITE Institute. "The martyrdom of Mahmud Mahdi Zeidan... on the soil of Pakistan, the land of the diligent and of the mujahedeen is confirmed," the statement read. Shami's family was also contacted by a member of al Qaeda who was present during the strike. "A man called me on Sunday and said my brother died in the US attack," Shami's brother Omar told AFP. "He spoke bad Arabic and said he escaped the attack. I think he is a Pakistani." Shami served as an ideologue and as a bodyguard for senior al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Yazid, the group's commander in Afghanistan and chief financier. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Support the home team! - Hey folks, it’s always a good time to show your support of the local troops, and there’s a perfect opportunity coming up. Linda Craig of Manasota’s Operation Troop Support sent out this notice with the details: “With 60 troops deployed from our area, this month MOTS needs to restock the pantry for the monthly mailing of snack packs. Sam’s Club of Bradenton, at 5300 30th Street East, is hosting a Manasota Operation Troop Support Snack Pack Food Drive on Friday, January 29th from noon until 6:00 PM. MOTS volunteers will be at the entrance to pass out ‘Shop for Our Troops’ shopping lists to Sam’s Club customers. The list shows what the Troops are asking for in the way of snacks, drink mixes and personal items. With bins right outside the door to drop the goodies, and the assurance that MOTS will personally pack and mail these items to our local troops, we will give our friends and neighbors an easy way to make a big difference…” (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Road Trip: Talil - I just took a road trip down south. I visited a command down in Talil to discuss one of my projects. Talil is a former Iraqi Army air base that's been taken over by US forces for the duration. It's about a 5-hour trip by road, which is how I went. The trip started on Sunday. We left in the morning and headed south. This is a typical farm that's close to the base. We stopped for lunch at Scania, which is a small base that's really a convoy truck stop, then pushed on again. About an hour later, one of the vehicles in our convoy (not mine) had a bit of trouble. Specifically, its transmission literally exploded, blowing a huge hole in the side of the case, and debris knocked one of the tires off its rim. We tried to tow it, but the transmission was seized up solid, so we had to wait for a very long time for KBR to come out with a wrecker and a security team to haul us off. Fortunately, we were out in the middle of nowhere. (READ MORE)

Registan.net: Afghan Optimism - Guess you might have heard of the BBC/ABC/ARD survey which reports 71% of Afghans think their country is on the right track. This is a high number, and the details just seem to get better and better. 62% approve of the NATO presence and a massive 68% of the US presence. The respondents seem pretty evenly split between “send the foreign armies home in 18 months or sooner” and “stay longer than 18 months, or just as long as it takes”. Karzai’s approval rating was also pretty high. I expect the respondents were pretty heavily biased to urban centres, but given the low election turnout and pretty credible questions over the whole process can so many people be so happy with Karzai? While this can remind us westerners that things have often been worse over there, I am cautious before taking the numbers at face value. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: Afghan Detainee Abuse: On Their Watch, The Liberals Knew - Just saying is all. This should not to be taken as a disinclination to Iggy's Liberals or a political preference for any of the Liberals' adversaries or their recent antics about this "scandal." Just saying, is all. The Liberals knew. The link to the article in La Presse, which was accessible on the website of the Centre d'études des politiques étrangères a only a few hours ago, is now redirecting to a "403 Forbidden" page. But it's still obtainable in Google's cache. One can only wonder whether Canada's English language newspapers have this article in their morgues. Did no Anglo journalist even bother trying to match this scoop? With due acknowledgment to the diligent work undertaken by the Torchists, who first noticed something amiss a month ago, here's the English translation: April 28, 2007: "Canadian diplomats stationed in Kabul warned the former Liberal government in 2003, 2004 and 2005 that torture was commonplace in Afghan prisons." (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: Cold Comfort — Heat, hot water woes at Walter Reed - The Walter Reed facility dubbed “Hotel Aftermath” in an award-winning exposé in The Washington Postthree years ago, suffered from a dearth of hot water during the frigid first days of the year, an inside source tips “Line of Departure.” And at least two other buildings on the Walter Reed complex had heating problems, forcing some wounded warriors to move to other rooms, or in at least one case being given an space heater, a spokesman for Walter Reed confirms. In the case of the heating problems at Abrams Hall and Building 11, the fix to the heating system was pretty quick, according to spokesman Chuck Dasey. The the plumber called to repair the hot water outage at Mologne house at first tried a temporary repair to a faulty valve, but it didn’t work, Dasey said. The fully-booked 280-room hotel for military personnel and their families was without hot water for nearly five days, while a replacement valve was ordered, and installed. (READ MORE)

Laughing Wolf: Cooking with the Wounded Fundraiser Has Begun! - The official kickoff of the 2010 fundraising campaign for Cooking with the Wounded is now underway! The ladies of the Yellow Bowl Bakery in Lafayette, Indiana -- seen here at their "practice" event last November at Walter Reed -- will be the first team of chefs to travel to Landstuhl for the program. I can also say that other chefs have stepped forward with interest, including some you may know... While those discussions are underway, more can't be said, but there is interest and appreciation for the effort. Now, we need to raise some money to help make it happen. To help that effort, I have an offer for you. The individual donor who makes the largest donation by close-of-business next Tuesday (19 January 2010) will get one of the autographed photos from Phyllis Diller. The company that makes the largest donation by then will get one as well. One lucky person will be chosen to get a Christmas card sent to me by Ted Nugent in response to the Cooking with the Wounded program. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
For soldiers returning home, more challenges await - Spc. Codey Johnson said strangers notice his short hair, ask if he’s a veteran and sometimes buy him a drink. It’s a nice, friendly gesture, Johnson said, but it usually reawakens a jarring sense of how strange it is to be back home in Eau Claire after 10 months of being rocked by roadside bombs in Afghanistan as part of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 951st Engineering Company. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Coup rumors paralyze Baghdad - When Baghdadis awoke this morning to find their streets sealed off and the city under virtual lockdown, the rumors began to fly. Army officers had staged a coup in the Green Zone, one version said. No, it was Baathists loyal to the former regime who had taken over, according to another. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Jan. 13 - An Afghan-international security force searched a compound south of the village of Nowabad, in the Mohammad Agha District last night and captured a Taliban facilitator responsible for the movement of explosives, weapons and IEDs. One insurgent was killed in the assault. The security force recovered a shotgun and automatic rifles. (READ MORE)

Large Improvised Explosive Device Cache Found - Afghan national army and ISAF forces conducting a combined patrol in Helmand province have discovered a significant IED cache in Helmand province. The patrol found nine jugs of homemade explosives totaling 250 pounds, 12 low- metal signature pressure plates, 17 radio-controlled IED initiators, five pounds of aluminum powder, 35 pounds of ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer, and 15 pounds of sugar. (READ MORE)

Qureshi says war on terror could spill over to Pakistan - Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the war on terror being fought in the neighbouring Afghanistan could spill over into Pakistan. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan held in Abu Dhabi, Qureshi said the challenges faced by Pakistan are direct consequences of terrorist activities across the border in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Two US soldiers, Afghan police officer killed in explosions - Two US soldiers were killed Wednesday in a roadside bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan while an Afghan police officer died in a similar attack in the country's south, officials said. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced the deaths of the soldiers without providing details. Their killings took to 12 the number of US soldiers who have died so far in attacks in January. (READ MORE)

GOP Senate Leader Say U.S. Commanders in Afghanistan ‘Confused’ about How To Handle Captured Terrorists Now That Some Are Tried as Civilians – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), just back from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said he and other senators found operational "confusion” among U.S. military officials on how to handle detained enemy combatants. (READ MORE)

Pte. Garrett Chidley, killed in Afghanistan, gets tearful goodbye in Surrey - A mother sobbed goodbye to her son yesterday as Canadian Forces Pte. Garrett Chidley was laid to rest near a quiet forest in Surrey. Sian Jones LeSueur told several hundred mourners at the Victory Memorial Funeral chapel she would always love her "precious boy." "We called you Gar-Gar, Big Mr., Buddy, Chiddles and just my little baby," she said. "I love you. I am so proud of what you did for our country." (READ MORE)

139,000 arms licences issued in Pakistan in 21 months - Even as Pakistan is engaged in battling the Taliban in the restive northwest, it emerges that a staggering 139,000 arms licences have been issued in the country in the 21 months since the present government came to power, generating a whopping Rs.20 billion for arms merchants. Of these, 39,000 licences were issued for prohibited bore weapons such as Kalashnikovs, MP5s, G3s and Uzis, mostly on direct orders of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Minister of State for Interior Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi, The News said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

UN: Taliban cause Afghan civilian deaths to soar - The number of Afghan civilians who died in war-related violence last year soared to the highest annual level since the conflict began in 2001, the U.N. said Wednesday, while deaths attributed to allied forces dropped 30 percent - a key U.S. goal for winning over the Afghan people. Unrelenting violence, which has defied a usual lull in the winter, has highlighted concern that casualties will rise as the U.S. and NATO send 37,000 more troops to try to stabilize the country. (READ MORE)

Afghan officials: 6 killed in Quran protest - Kabul Protesters claiming that international troops destroyed copies of the Quran clashed with Afghan and foreign security forces, leaving six people dead, Afghan officials said. Also in the south, 13 insurgents were killed by a missile that international forces fired from an unmanned drone, NATO said. (READ MORE)

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