May 6, 2010

From the Front: 05/06/2010

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

AW1 Tim:
An American Soldier - Private First Class Andrew R. Small, B Co, 1/32 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division. Andrew was a friend of my son, and lived up the road in Wiscasset, Maine. He was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2006, and his death was mourned through the area. Almost every store, business, church, school, had a message on their fronts, and hundreds lined the streets to view his funeral procession. His was a life of laughter, mischief, and love, not only with his family, but with his friends. They have started a memorial page on FaceBook, which you can see here. 19 years old. A small town kid. Many in this nation wonder where we are headed, and despair of our future when they read of the problems facing our youth. If Andrew was any sort of representation of America’s youth, then I’d say the nation will be in good hands. My son joined the Army in part as a tribute to his friend, to help finish the work that Andrew was a part of. I think that that is as good a reason as any for serving. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: evidence for Taliban role in Times Square plot growing - Reversing initial statements, U.S. officials said yesterday that the possibility is growing that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant group played a role in Faisal Shahzad's failed attempt to bomb Times Square on Saturday night, though one cautioned "there are no smoking guns yet". Pakistani officials said Shahzad received explosives training at a camp run by Qari Hussain and was taken to South Waziristan by a "lead member" of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Punjabi militant organization whose first focus was India but in recent years has dissolved into smaller cells, many of which are now aligned with the TTP. Another Pakistani official said Shahzad had traveled to North Waziristan. CNN reports that Shahzad allegedly carried out a dry run of his plan on Friday, but on the day of the attack, accidentally left the keys to his getaway car in the Nissan Pathfinder that he believed was about to explode in Times Square on Saturday evening. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Deployment Question #18--How do you answer your children's questions? - My little sister called today to ask me why we celebrate Cinco De Mayo. I googled it. Her son seemed satisfied with the response, and we learned something. Then my nephew has questions about his Uncle Gunner and war. "What happens if a bad guy shoots at the good guys and they aren't looking over there?" "What happens if a bad guy shoots a rock?" Simple answers were given to the first question--they have Soldiers that look all over the place for bad guys, in order to stay safe. To the second, it's not a good idea to shoot at rocks. My kids have asked me some hard questions over the last three deployments to Iraq, and harder questions of their dad. There are the easy ones such as why are we over there? How long will Daddy be gone? Why does he have to take so much stuff? Then there are the hard ones that they ask of their dad. (READ MORE)

Army Live: The Army Move - Is this your first PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move and you have no clue where to start? If so, this post is for you. Did you PCS to your current location over a year ago and still have boxes in your garage that you haven’t opened? If so, this post is for you. Look around your house. Can you still find those little stickers that the packers managed to even put on a single sock? If so, this post is for you. While unpacking boxes did you find a bag of trash that somehow managed to get packed? If so, this post is for you. Finally, have you been forced to sleep on an air mattress in an empty house with only a 13-inch television and a coffee pot? If so, this post is for you. Our household goods have traveled across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and have survived (for the most part anyway) a total of seven PCS moves. My mom’s grandfather clock is still in one piece, and I’m sure it’s because of her uncanny ability to be in two rooms at the same time. (READ MORE)

Fire and Ice: Getting Even Closer - 4 Months into Retirement - I''ve cleared the final hurdle for going to Afghanistan as a free-lance correspondent. . .picked up my 6 month visa from the Afghan Consulate in DC last Thursday. My plan is to fly to Kuwait on or about May 23rd and then catch a military hop from Ali Al Salem Air Base into Kandahar. In Kandahar I'll check in with the NATO/ISAF Region South Public Affairs Embed Team and then, hopefully, out to Marine units in the field. I'll be in Afghanistan for the entire month of June. Word has it that June should be a very active month in and around Kandahar City as coalition forces begin the process of "pacification". (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh back from Afghanistan - Over 120 soldiers of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh returned home from Afghanistan to Chester, for an emotional reunion with family and friends. Elements of D and A Companies arrived at Dale Barracks yesterday, with the entire battalion of over 500 men scheduled to be back in the UK by the end of the week. The battle group deployed in mid-December 2009 as an aviation assault battle group. For the first six weeks the battle group conducted aviation assault operations into the insurgent-held areas of northern Nad 'Ali district, known locally as Area 31. These operations, which lasted from 12 to 72 hours, were known as shaping operations as they allowed the soldiers to talk to the local nationals and degrade the insurgents' capability in the area the battle group would later secure during Operation MOSHTARAK. These operations often found the soldiers in prolonged engagements with insurgent groupings. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: What Merger? - Iraqi greeted the news of the merger with apathy. The INA and the State of Law joined together to form one large bloc that is still not big enough for an official majority. And the new coalition still has not clarified the prime minister nominee issue. The INA still doesn't want Maliki, but Maliki still wants to keep his job. People here were more interested in the news of State of Law's trade minister Sudani's beating the corruption charges against him. The guy was arrested a year ago, but he just got cleared of all charges. The average Iraqi blames him for the rations problem. The rations arrangement was set up by the United Nations during the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990. The embargo made Saddam richer and the Iraqi suffer. The UN set up a monthly basket of basics for the Iraqi family. The basket contained flour, sugar, rice, cooking oil, tea, laundry soap, soap, lentils or beans, and salt. When it was managed by the UN, people got their rations. (READ MORE)

LTC John: Our Man in Al-Asad Sends... - Chief (ISC) Francis, our man in Al-Asad, Iraq sends the following: An Iraqi Tale - The police commander sat behind his large desk, stained a dark mahogany and covered with the symbols of office – a small Iraqi flag, a large brass nameplate, a telephone, memo tray and a lifelike statue of a pouncing cougar. A small, thin man, he held himself with the air of a man with responsibilities, a man expected to lead his men and a man comfortable in his skin. He wore his beret with the elan of a French paratrooper, and I mean that in a smart, dapper way. In his determination to fight terrorism and crime, and in the way he held his cigarette, he reminded me of Inspector Vimes. Speaking through a translator produces a fluid two-stage form of conversation, with each side speaking in paragraphs, not individual comments. I look at the police officer and speak normally, yet I pause at the end of every sentence to await the translator who repeats it in Arabic. (READ MORE)

She Who Waits: Rather down lately - Often, I feel like I'm becoming 'that wife.' You know her, the one who just follows her husband around so he can pursue his career, allows him to support her, doesn't have a real contribution to the world or financially to the relationship (partly because she is stuck in some hole-in-the-wall military town), and bases her identity on her marriage and/or husband. We don't have children and my husband has been deployed for nine months. I started a fledgling photography business shortly before he left but in case you hadn't noticed, everyone is a photographer these days, whether they know what they're doing or not. Most people don't understand why I can't charge $100 and give them a CD of images when I've taken over a year to learn the craft and invested a lot of time and money to provide a quality product. There are a few who do and they've been decent clients, but they're not really plentiful enough to do anything except to allow my business to (mostly) pay for itself. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldier: A life of fulfillment - Staff Sgt. Christopher Worrell didn't have to join the Army and repeatedly re-enlist. He served his country because he wanted to help others and give his life a sense of purpose. "He just decided that’s what he wanted to do," [brother] Patrick Worrell said. "He talked about wanting to do it, talked to a recruiter, and joined up." According to The Virginian-Pilot, Staff Sgt. Worrell became a soldier about two years after he graduated from his Virginia Beach area high school in 1995. During his 13 years of service, the highly-decorated automated logistical specialist deployed once to Korea and three times to Iraq. A Defense Department news release said Worrell, 35, died on April 22 in Baghdad in an incident that is being classified as non-combat related. The soldier was assigned to the 702nd Combat Support Battalion, 4th Stryker Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
CIA drones have broader list of targets - The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan's border region, according to current and former counter-terrorism officials. (READ MORE)

GAO reports casts new doubt on Afghanistan policy - An independent government report on Wednesday raises new questions about the likelihood of success for President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy, which nearly doubles the number of U.S. troops there before a planned drawdown begins in July 2011. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

String of assassinations raises spectre of renewed violence - Has it started again? On Thursday morning, authorities in Baghdad found the bullet-riddled corpse of an Iraqi security official in eastern Baghdad. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraqi Firefighters Help Educate Scouts on Fire Safety - In the United States, firefighters are generally held in high regard, considered heroes and protectors. In Iraq, firefighters do not have the same image as their U.S. counterparts. (READ MORE)

Moving Toward a New Government, Instability - The good news is that Iraq's fractious politicians may be finally moving to break the deadlock over the formation of a new government eight weeks after the March 7 election. (READ MORE)

Shiite agreement gives Iraq's clerics greater say - An agreement to form an alliance between Iranian-backed Shiite blocs gives the final say on political disputes to Iraq's top clerics, solidifying a role for the Shiite religious leadership in the country's likely new government. (READ MORE)

Two Shi’ite coalitions join forces in new Iraq government - An agreement signed by the two main Iranian-backed Shi’ite blocs seeking to govern Iraq gives the final decision on all their political disputes to top Shi’ite clerics, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press yesterday. (READ MORE)

Frying Pan to the Fire - Iraq's murky post-election mess was awfully disturbing—a recent war zone at the center of the world's most strategically important region was still without a government, two months after a national election. (READ MORE)

Accord places Shia coalitions in pole position to form government - The two leading Shia coalitions that contested Iraq's elections , including that led by Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, have agreed to an alliance that makes them frontrunners to form the nation's next government. (READ MORE)

After Iraq election, Shiite parties announce alliance to form next government - Iraq’s two main Shiite parties brought the country a step toward a new religious-based government by forming an alliance just four seats short of a parliamentary majority. (READ MORE)

Taliban order night phone blackout in Afghan north - The Taliban have ordered mobile phone operators to shut down their networks during the night in a northern Afghan province, officials said on Thursday, a sign of the militants' increasing influence in a once peaceful area. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, May 6 - A Taliban commander and a few other insurgents were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Kandahar last night. (READ MORE)

India and Pakistan's proxy war puts Afghanistan exit at risk - Intent on filling a power vacuum after the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan are engaged in what analysts warn is a dangerously escalating "proxy war". (READ MORE)

US, Karzai seek common view on Taliban talks - “Does talking to the Taliban or other extremist groups lead to peace?” is the topic on the US Embassy in Kabul’s Facebook discussion page this week. (READ MORE)

In Afghanistan, the clock is ticking - The ticking clock does not disturb the preternatural serenity that Gen. David H. Petraeus maintains regarding Afghanistan. Officially, the U.S. Central Command is located here; actually, it is wherever he is, which is never in one place for very long. (READ MORE)

AfPak Hands’ Begin Immersion Training - The first class of U.S. military servicemembers and civilians in the new “AfPak Hands” program arrived here last week to continue its training at the Counterinsurgency Training Academy Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Policy Chief ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Afghanistan - The Pentagon’s top policy official told Congress today she’s “cautiously optimistic” about progress in Afghanistan as the new strategy there begins to show signs of success. (READ MORE)

U.S., Karzai Seek Common View on Taliban Talks - "Does talking to the Taliban or other extremist groups lead to peace?" is the topic on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul's Facebook discussion page this week. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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