April 8, 2008

From the Front: 04/08/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Matt Dupee: Coalition airstrike targeted Hekmatyar loyalists - A series of airstrikes in northeastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed at least 16 people in what Coalition and Afghan Defense officials said was a deliberate operation against the network of top fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The strike occurred in the volatile mountain province of Nuristan, a rugged area north of Kunar long known to be a hotbed of insurgent activity. US and Afghan forces launched Sunday’s attack after intelligence sources revealed Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was in the Dohabi (Doab) district trying to meet with Kashmir Khan, his top military commander, Nuristan’s governor Tamim Nuristani told The Associated Press. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi government moves to sideline Sadrists, Mahdi Army - Less than two weeks after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched Operation Knights' Assault to clear the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backer militias in Basrah, the Iraqi government is moving to ban Muqtada al Sadr's political movement from participating in the election if it fails to disband the militia. Facing near-unanimous opposition, Sadr said he would seek guidance from senior Shia clerics in Najaf and Qom and disband the Mahdi Army if told to do so, according to one aide. But another Sadr aide denied this. The pressure on Sadr and his Mahdi Army started on Sunday after Maliki announced the plans to pass legislation to prevent political parties with militias from participating in the political process. (READ MORE)

Jane Novak: Violence explodes on multiple fronts in Yemen - Twenty-one people died in political violence across Yemen this weekend, including southern protesters, northern rebels, tribal paramilitary fighters, and Yemeni soldiers. A mortar attack by al Qaeda in the capital heightened tensions. In coordinated attacks on Friday, gunmen attacked two security checkpoints in the southern Hadramout province. One soldier died and seven were injured. An interior ministry official indicated that drug smugglers may have been responsible without ruling out the possibility of an al Qaeda attack. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: Builders of Nations - “This is my hardest deployment,” Marine Sergeant Cooley said as he unfastened his helmet and tossed it onto his bed. “We weren't trained for this kind of thing.” He's been shot at with bullets and mortars, and he's endured IED attacks on his Humvee, but post-war Fallujah is more difficult and more stressful than combat. He isn't unusual for saying so. Many Marines I spoke to in and around the Fallujah area said something similar. “We're trained as infantrymen,” Captain Stewart Glenn said. “But here we are doing civil administration and trying to get the milk factory up and running.” (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Remembering the Iraqis - Today Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus face an "impatient" Congress. Petraeus and Crocker "will face many lawmakers who had expected more by now and who are wondering whether any real change will occur before the clock runs out on the Bush administration." Of course, many will ask exactly when the U.S. troops can come home. They will ask when the U.S. can stop spending so much money in Iraq. Others will argue, based on nothing but their ignorance, that Iraqis have been killing each other for centuries, so why should the U.S. military be stuck in the middle of such a mess? (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Mane event - Afghan National Auxiliary Police students attending the training course here in Ghazni had to make a small sacrifice for their country today. Actually, in some cases it was a large sacrifice. The general in charge of the police here decided he wanted haircuts for all the students. That meant those who showed up with heads full of hair had to kiss their locks goodbye. This guy here was one of those who had a lot to lose. The students are in the three-week course that will qualify them to become full Afghan National Police. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Your Life as Political Capital - Perhaps I'm being morose, but I find being a pawn in a complex game of politics as slightly exhilarating, especially with such a unique front-row seat during the conflict of the decade. Much like knights clashed amongst each other during our feudal days, it seems the Iraq war has become a mere tool of noblemen playing dangerous parlor games with each other. Instead of a brutal conquest for land, the loss of life in Iraq is utilized as a bumper sticker or sound bite to boost poll numbers. I came to this realization by reading this Politico article: “Once Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have returned to Iraq, Democrats may opt to revisit a measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) that would require the type of 12-month-on, 12-month-off deployment schedule that was defeated during several Senate votes last year.” (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (8 April) - The Good: Operations continue in Sadr City to flush out militia thugs by Iraqi Security Forces and US Forces. There is potential for the Mahdi Army being disbanded, but it depends on what the senior Shi'ite religious authorities tell Sadr to do. There has been little coming from Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf, which is most likely due to his poor health, unfortunately. He is arguably the most influential person in Iraq and was responsible for brokering the peace in 2004 between the Mahdi Army and coalition forces. It will be interesting to see what his spokesmen have to say. The Bad: Four US soldiers were killed in action on Monday due to fierce fighting in Baghdad. The anti-occupation protests being called for by Sadr are planned for tomorrow as well. (READ MORE)

JP BORDA: "Flat Stanley" tours Iraq - My first grade son Julian sent me a "Flat Stanley" that he made for a school project. The story behind "Flat Stanley" is he was flattened by a bulletin board that fell on him, but he somehow managed to survive. Now he travels pretty much anywhere he wants because he can be mailed in an envelope. So for school, my son made his own "Flat Stanley" out of paper and sent him to me so "Flat Stanley" could finally see Iraq. (Above is a picture of "Flat Stanley" in southern Iraq). I must admit, this is a pretty neat project for kids, especially because it helps them read and write by keeping a journal. My only complaint is that "Flat Stanley" keeps pulling evil pranks on me after I accidentally took out a pair of scissors and he got upset. Seriously, he cried for 2 hours straight. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Spring in Iraq feels like summer - Editor’s note: In his series “Letters Home,” 1st Lt. Ted Vickers provides periodic updates from Iraq. Well, summer is here ... at least something resembling summer in my mind. Constant sunshine, temperatures rising above 100 degrees on a daily basis, that hot dry summer air baking down on man and beast alike. If I were back in Grand Junction it would be the perfect time for grabbing an inner tube and leisurely floating down the Colorado River, letting the current push me along while relaxing in the tranquility of cool water and warm summer air. Unfortunately, it’s only April here in Fallujah, Iraq, and summer is still a long way off. (READ MORE)

Badger 6: Here Rests in Honored Glory - The Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cometary bears the following inscription "Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God" Thanks to modern science we may never have another Unknown, but still men and women will "rest in that honored glory for the sacrifices they made. Do you know you Sergeant First Class Paul Smith is? Senior Airman Jason Cunningham? Lance Corporal Jason Dunham? Lieutenant Michael Murphy? Petty Officer Michael Monsoor? The news media makes sure you have the latest on the big celebs, but do they tell you about these men? (READ MORE)

IN-Iraq: Sergeant sees realities of war while volunteering - The tragedy of war is that civilians are most often the ones who suffer. Ahad, a 11-year old with a beaming smile was with her family visiting an uncle in prison. On the way back, they were caught in a cross-fire and one of her legs was seriously injured. The shooting happened two weeks ago, and she’s already been operated on twice. These were the kind of faces and stories Staff Sergeant Michael Watt, 27, of Indianapolis, met at the Air Force Theater Hospital yesterday evening. Sgt. Watt joined a volunteer group from the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) who come to visit Iraqi and U.S. wounded at the hospital located on LSA Anaconda every monday. (READ MORE)

Toby Nunn: Destruction - In my years of service I have seen many things. Joe has never ceased to amaze me but sometimes I am at a loss because I have no idea where they get their rational. One thing that has been pretty consistent throughout my carreer is Joe's distructive power, it doesn't matter what they get there is always a ways to detroy or ruin it. As many of you know we have moved tents and now live in older not so nice quarters but its what we got. One good thing about the move has been the abundance of port-o-johns and these newer bathrooms that stand alone hosting a toilet, urinal, sink and mirror. They are portable but I must say they are the executive latrine or VIP treatment when it comes to out door hygiene. For the past couple of days I have taken full advantage of these simply because a toilet is so luxurious in comparison and it smells alot better and no smurf butt. (READ MORE)

Back Stateside but still writing:
LTC Rich Phillips: HOME AT LAST! - Well, the deployment has finally come to an end. After almost 15 months in Afghanistan I made it home to Washington State at 9pm on 4 April 2008. My departure from Afghanistan came earlier than I expected, and the trip home was more exciting than I expected, but in the end everything turned out well. Originally, I expected to depart Afghanistan with the 550th Medical Company on 6 April and, after a short stop at Manas Airbase, arrive at Pope AFB, NC on 8 April. From there I would need to make my own arrangements for traveling home to Fort Lewis, WA. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

UAV destroys rocket rails, mortar and 10 criminals (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – A U.S. Air Force Predator observed four rocket rails in an open field in northeastern Baghdad at approximately noon April 8. The unmanned aerial vehicle fired one Hellfire missile destroying all rocket rails after the UAV controllers determined there were no civilians in the area. (READ MORE)

IED targets IP bus killing 7, wounding 10 - BALAD RUZ, Iraq – Seven civilians were killed and 10 civilians were wounded early this morning when two al-Qaeda in Iraq members detonated an improvised explosive device in the Al Medau Village, Balad Ruz, Iraq, April 8. The attack was directed at an Iraqi Police bus. The wounded civilians were transferred to local hospitals for treatment. (READ MORE)

Port city of UmQasr is open for business - UMQASR, Iraq – UmQasr, a port city southeast of Basra, is filled with daily activities, as Iraqi workers load export and unload imports April 6. “The estimated flow of goods into Iraq is 60,000 tons with 15,000 passing through UmQsar,” said Todd Stratton, Task Force to Support Business and Stability Operations in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army distributes food and water al-Hayyaniyah - BASRA, Iraq – The Iraqi Police and Army took the lead in meeting the needs for the people of al-Hayyaniyah by providing security and relief supplies. Two brigade-sized units of nearly 3,000 IPs and Army troops were moved into the city to re-establish law and order. Within four days, the Iraqi Security Forces was able to restore order that enabled them to deliver water and food to citizens, some of whom had been without fresh water for several days. (READ MORE)

ISF recover weapons cache, kill 10 in separate operations in Basra - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces, recovered a weapons cache and killed 10 criminals in separate operations in Basra April 3 and 4. An Iraqi Emergency Response Unit conducted an operation to locate and eliminate weapon caches used by criminal members in the Mufaqiyah district. (READ MORE)

Detainee Information Leads to Cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Policemen from 3rd Brigade, 1st National Police Division, secured a weapons cache April 4 in Jabr al Ansari after receiving information from a detainee. According to 1st Lt. Jeffrey Ritter, from Waterloo, Iowa, civil military operations officer for 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, the NP split into teams to search for the weapons. (READ MORE)

ISF Find Large EFP Cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — A tip led Iraqi Security Forces to the largest explosively-formed penetrator cache found to date in Multi-National Division – Center’s area of operation, April 2. The munitions were discovered in a 6-ton truck in a garage in al Qasim. The cache contained more than 1000 EFP components, more than 3000 pounds of explosives and 45 Katusha 107 mm rockets and stands. Also included in the cache were more than 10 devices used to detonate improvised explosive devices, 250 PKC rounds, 10 60 mm mortar shells and one 60 mm stand. (READ MORE)

Weapons cache discovered, destroyed in Helmand - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces disrupted Taliban weapons-facilitation operations April 3 during an operation in Helmand province in which a number of weapons and Improvised Explosive Device materials were seized. Coalition forces conducted a search of compounds in the Garmsir District targeting a Taliban insurgent associated with weapons-facilitation operations including the procurement and smuggling of various types of small-arms, munitions, fuses and explosives. (READ MORE)

Suspected IED facilitators, militant sub-commander detained - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Five suspected militants were detained Monday during two separate Coalition forces operations to disrupt extremist networks in Uruzgan and Khowst provinces. During an operation in Tirin Kot District, Uruzgan province, Coalition forces searched compounds targeting a Taliban Improvised Explosive Device facilitator responsible for several attacks in the province. (READ MORE)

Detained opium, arms traffickers identified - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces have identified two extremists who were captured on March 11 during an operation to degrade Taliban weapons-facilitation networks in Helmand province. The extremists, identified as Sadullah and Abdul Khaliq, were apprehended in Garmsir District outside a compound used to produce opium and store heavy weapons and explosives. (READ MORE)

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