September 1, 2010

From the Front: 09/01/2010

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

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Picture Of The Day - 31 AUG 2010 "Children" - I am often asked (now that I am home) what I did in Afghanistan. This question and the ones that follow make it clear that this war is incredibly foreign to so many of us here at home. So much so that even those who know me as a surgeon, still find it necessary to ask if I was deployed to function as a surgeon. The next question is typically, "did I see any wounded soldiers?". The answer is, yes. And now that the "fighting season" is here and the troop build up is at its apogee, the 909th is caring for even more wounded on a greater scale. The final question is, "did I take care of civilians". Yes. We cared for civilians that had life or limb threatening issues. There were other rare instances of providing care for non-emergent problems, but that was not a primary mission for the 909th (In other areas, medical teams do have a mission role designated to provide medical and surgical services for the local population). (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: ANCOP sendoff - Though taken months ago, these photos -- the above and some of the ones below snapped by the irrepressible and supremely talented Pam Smith -- are screaming to be shared. They are from a sendoff ceremony for a kandak of ANCOP about to deploy to the south. What is that again, you ask? Afghan National Civil Order Police is an elite police force created to serve as a national asset, on the model of Italy's Carabinieri or France's Gendarmerie...which makes the numerous trainers from those and other countries which field such a force so necessary. Most countries may have a version of it, in fact...a national police force for restoring or preserving order in emergency situations, akin to the way an individual state in the U.S. might ostensibly use its National Guard troops. ANCOP's mission is to provide civil order presence patrols, prevent violent public incidents, and provide crisis and anti-terror response in urban and metropolitan environments. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Month 1 in Review - Did I really just write that? One month already? That wasn't too hard....sort of.....but 11 more lay ahead of us. We said goodbye to Gunner. We hit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Em returned home from London, and she and Abs headed off to Camp Purple. School started. I had a breakdown and learned to let things slide. I did a 1 mile run/walk for the Fallen. I met the mother of one of the guys who served with Gunner, by chance, and it ended with us both crying. He was KIA along with Gunner's CO in 2008. We celebrated my birthday tonight at Red Robin. I never got around to getting the cupcakes based on carting children to and from. Tomorrow starts my workout frenzy, and my new Garmin 305 is on order and I can't wait to put it to use. I got beautiful flowers from my old roommate, and they couldn't have come at a better time. Now to find my thank you notes so I can get that out in the mail! (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghan bombings kill U.S. soldiers - Seven U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate bombings in southern Afghanistan yesterday, and five today in the south and east, bringing the total of U.S. troops killed since Saturday to 19. The Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group, has reportedly been expanding its operations across southern and eastern Afghanistan, and on the outskirts of Kabul, an unknown gunman opened fired on a bus of employees of the Afghan Supreme Court, killing three. Since 2004, nearly 13,000 wounded U.S. service personnel have reportedly been evacuated to the largest American-run medical facility outside the U.S., Landstuhl, next to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus said earlier today, "I don't think anyone disagrees that the footprint of the Taliban has spread..." (READ MORE)

Luv Puri: Money can’t buy everything - As soon as Pakistan's heartland became catastrophically inundated by flood waters, political elites in Pakistan and the West began drawing on a familiar well of anxieties about Pakistani society -- most of all, that extremist organizations were best positioned to exploit the situation to their advantage. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari joined the chorus, as did U.S. Senator John Kerry, who directly linked Pakistan's humanitarian needs with its -- and America's -- national security. The western world responded to those alarms with massive donations of money, nearly $1 billion in total. But the biggest problem facing Pakistan as it tries to recover from the floods isn't extremist groups, or a lack of money to combat them: It's the lack of effective governance on the local level. Humanitarian assistance that refuses to seriously reckon with local facts won't be of much use to Pakistanis. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Army’s “Edgy” Concept: The Warfighter of the Future - Remember when you could only check your email from your desktop computer? For those of you who are “digital natives,” you probably don’t. Every week, the capabilities on a “Smart phones” increase. You can check your email, download files and send a tweet almost simultaneously. The U.S. Army is beginning to understand today’s technology-savvy Soldier and is making steps towards incorporating those tools into training and combat. The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC for short) is working to advance the Army’s agenda by creating an Edge-Enabled System to leverage commercial hardware, software, and graphical user interface technologies for handheld, military-specific use. Check out an excerpt from the blog post explaining the Edge-Enabled System: “CERDEC defined an edge-enabled system as one that is utilized at the “edges” of the network. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: Operation New Dawn? Where have we heard that name before? - On Wednesday, the name of the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq will change, with the venerable “Operation Iraqi Freedom” moniker turned in for a new one, “Operation New Dawn.” The transition was announced in February, and takes effect as U.S. officials seek to highlight the improvements in Iraq. President Barack Obama is expected to address the nation tonight at 8 p.m., and will no doubt reference the new name as he seeks to reassure Americans that the U.S. has turned a page in the war in Iraq. As Operation New Dawn comes to the forefront, however, there’s a catch: Another Operation New Dawn began unfolding June 15 in southern Afghanistan. It involves Marines, who have sought out the Taliban in regions between violent Marjah district and Nawa, a district of about 89,000 people to Marjah’s east. In news releases, the Marine Corps has said that 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, had an active role in the operation. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Worst Afghan article of the month: Ron Rosenbaum - Ron "Explaining Hitler" Rosenbaum starts off the month early on UAVs. This is going to take a while... more below the fold. After blathering on in a disjointed fashion about his personal distaste for war-by-UAV, Rosenbaum gets to his argument against. It's shockingly weak. ...drone slaughter—whether or not it's a war crime—is counterproductive, creating generations of potential terrorists from the families of the innocent victims of careless carnage... Surely this is at least as true of any weapons system the West could use, now or in the future. So why is it an argument against drones? But here [in AfPak] all the options are infeasible or bad. Ron Rosenbaum has tried nothing and he's all out of ideas. It's hard not to feel less than triumphant knowing that these men, whoever they were, were being cremated before our eyes by men and women who work in air-conditioned bases... (READ MORE)

Julie the Army Wife: Sad Military Week - It breaks my heart to see we have lost 22 troops in the last 4 days in Afghanistan. Such a sad week for the military. A lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are scared. Please pray for the troops, their families, everyone in harms way and those related to them. A lot of people are going through really hard deployments right now :( (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Powers is (and Kit Up!) - Ward has a great post over at Defense Tech today about the company commander for Angel Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment who we spent a good amount of time with over in Afghanistan during our embed. Capt. Josh Powers was roughed up by an insurgent IED a couple days ago and was recently awarded the Purple Heart for his battlefield wounds. Powers is a graduate of VMI, which is near and dear to my heart since I went to UVA and have a bunch of friends who went to VMI as well. He’s so good at what he does, his next assignment will be in the snake eater community (he asked me not to say what it is, but those BTDTs could easily guess). The cool thing about Powers is that despite some reports we got before we met him that he was a bit stiff and serious, he could not have been a more fun and open guy to hang out with while we grifted off him and his men for a few days. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: 19 Taliban fighters killed in raid in Kunar - US and Afghan troops have killed 19 Taliban fighters and detained five more during an air assault on a known Taliban stronghold in a village in Kunar province. The combined force launched "a major air assault" against Taliban fighters operating in the village of Omar in the district of Pech (which is also known as Monogai) in Kunar yesterday. The International Security Assistance Force did not respond to an inquiry on the size of the air assault. US troops, from the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, and Afghan soldiers found "numerous insurgent fighting positions, weapons caches, and stockpiles of ammunition within the village" during the assault. Over the past month, ISAF and Afghan forces have stepped up operations in Kunar, a known haven for al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hizb-i-Islami, and Pakistani Taliban fighters. On Aug. 26, US troops killed four Taliban fighters in an airstrike in the Pech district. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: That Look - That look, the one that soldiers have as they are moving to and from a combat zone. If you have been around this type of environment, then you know what I am talking about. I notice that many of the soldiers and marines walking around in Kuwait seem to have “that look”. It is hard to describe, but it seems to be a cross between weariness and determination. Going to the latrine, walking to the PX or sitting the chow hall, you see it everywhere. You can see that a vast majority of the people here have a lot of time in a combat zone. I mean more than one tour. They have the look like this is #2, 3, or possibly 4 or more. The young pups who may be heading over the first time have that eager “I can’t wait to get there” look. They have more of an excited with anticipation look. I could be wrong and this “look” could have been there for a while and maybe I just never noticed it when I was in uniform. Maybe I see it differently now that I am out of uniform. Maybe it is nothing new at all. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghanistan ousts Kabul Bank managers - Afghanistan's Central Bank has taken control of the politically powerful private Kabul Bank, fearing the Kabul Bank is "dangerously short of cash and could falter," and ordered the bank's chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, to hand over more than $150 million in luxury housing in Dubai that he had allegedly bought with the bank's money for well-connected Afghans, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother. The Central Bank reportedly forced the change in management after "unearthing evidence of a massive portfolio of off-the-books loans by [Farnood] to himself and to other politically connected Afghans," according to Afghan officials. Central Bank chief Abdul Qadir Fitrat said at a press conference earlier today that the Kabul Bank management was not forced out, but resigned because of new regulations forbidding shareholders from having senior positions. The government of Afghanistan, Fitrat said, "will never allow [Kabul Bank] to collapse." (READ MORE)

Andi: Of Pride and Pain - This evening, President Obama will talk about the end of combat operations in Iraq via a prime time address to the nation. A few days ago, as I watched footage of the Strykers leaving Iraq and crossing over into Kuwait, tears welled up in my eyes. Much blood, sweat and tears were spilled over the past several years in order to achieve this goal. In war, there are goals and when goals are achieved, those who fought hard and valiantly to achieve them are entitled to a feeling of accomplishment, and we are proud of their efforts. As you can see, many are heavily invested in the future of Iraq. Many troops, such as Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas Burkeen, 27, of St. Louis, will keep a keen watch on what happens in the still-fractious country. Burkeen is on his third, and almost certainly last, deployment to Iraq. “I’m always going to be looking at this place,” he said. “I’ve got 48 months’ deployment time here — it’s like a second home. That will be my best day, whenever I see … this country unify under one flag.” (READ MORE)

Thomas P. Daly: The End of Combat Operations in Iraq - So, this morning I was on FoxNews discussing what I wanted hear the President say in his speech tonight. Like I said this morning, I really wanted to hear him discuss the surge, the success it achieved in Iraq and what it means for Afghanistan. I have to admit, he gave me more than I thought he would, but, here’s what I liked and didn’t like: Positive, he said something good about President Bush: no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. Hey, it’s not much, but judging by what he’s said before, I think this is a step in the right direction. Negative, I thought this was about Iraq, not the economy: We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: Teaching street kids how to save for future - At least 60,000 street urchins roam the city of Kabul. Straight out of the pages of Oliver Twist, they are beggars, pickpockets, incense burners, shoeshine boys, porters, ragpickers, scrap-metal collectors and trinket hawkers. At first light, you see them carrying heavy jugs up the mountainsides to the growing slum settlements, to sell water for the equivalent of a handful of pennies per jug. At dusk, they're still working, racing through traffic at busy intersections, selling chewing gum, maps, matches and cigarettes. "The main problem for these street children, these working children, it is like they are treated as though they are not human," says 40-year-old Mohammed Yousef, a devoted children's rights crusader. "If there are children who are stealing food, the police will only look at the clothing the children are wearing. The ones in rags, they will beat them." (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: This is not the end - On June 24, with Hawaii's magnificent palm trees and mountains as a backdrop, soldiers from the 2nd 'Warrior' Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, gathered in front of fellow troops and family members at Sills Field. Six subordinate battalions were departing for a year-long deployment to a war zone, which meant trading tropical paradise for sandstorms and brutal desert heat. As an article by Spc. Jesus Aranda helps us visualize, family members flooded the field to hug and kiss their loved ones heading overseas after the ceremony ended. "I am ready for this deployment, but it is going to be hard leaving my three daughters and my wife, even though I know my family will be taken care of while I am away," said Spc. Brandon Cabalar, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Given the intense combat in Afghanistan, where 19 U.S. troops have been killed in the past four days, as well as what you hear from politicians and media pundits... (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Iraq, Obama and The Surge - Obama has now announced the end of combat operations in Iraq. But following plans set in motion even before Obama took office, troop reductions are occurring as fast as the logisticians are allowing. Logistics dictates such things regardless of promises made during election campaigns. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs pretended today that Obama supported the surge – the increase in troop presence – in 2007. But forever cataloged for us is what Obama said about the surge when it really counted. Matthew Burden at Blackfive notes that there has been robust debate over exactly what happened in Iraq. Many deserve credit for today. Among them are many who won’t hear the President’s speech. Today should be Travis Patriquin Day. If you don’t know about Travis, go here to read why there is a town square named after him in one of the most (formerly) dangerous cities in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Neptunus Lex: The Speech He Ought to Give - “My fellow Americans, today marks the end of America’s involvement in combat operations in Iraq. Our operational forces have withdrawn with honor from the field, leaving behind a free, if troubled democracy secure in its own borders, presenting no threat to its neighbors. Some 50,000 trainers and special operations forces remain in Iraq. They will help to sustain the victories we have labored so hard to earn in partnership with the vast majority of the Iraqi people. In nature of things, some of them may end up in combat, and some may yet die. But as a country, we have done what we can do, for better or worse. The destiny of Iraq now lies with the Iraqi people. We will continue to support them in their fight for freedom, but the fight is now theirs. The war in Iraq has cost the United States and its closest allies nearly 5000 lives, and wounded many ten thousand soldiers whose debt we cannot ever fully repay. It has cost our treasury the better part of a trillion dollars." (READ MORE)

Cassandra: A Man in Full - I don't think there's a day that goes by that I don't feel guilty about not writing about the war. For years and years Iraq and Afghanistan were the topics I wrote about most - often 2 or 3 times a day. The thing is, I've gotten to the point where I can't write about it without spending the entire day in tears. I hate myself for being such a wuss when there are people fighting and dying half a world away. On the other hand, I get paid to be on the phone with clients all day and I can't cry on the phone. By the time I got halfway through the WaPo piece I had tears running down my face. Of course, the phone rang just then. It was one of my oldest clients - a wonderful man I've worked with since 1999 (hard to believe). I know that he would have understood, but I couldn't ask him to call back without breaking down completely. Still, I want to thank pond for reminding me of what is important in life. (READ MORE)Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

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