July 2, 2008

From the Front: 07/02/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

In their own words:
A Battlefield Tourist: Italians Moving 500 Troops to Farah - Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa says 500 Italian troops, presently stationed in Herat, will move to the turbulent southwestern Afghan Province of Farah. The move will coincide with the French take over of command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Italy in July. The Italians currently have 160 troops already in Farah supporting the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and allied forces at FOB Delaram, which sits on the vital “Ring Road” near the border with Helmand Province. Altogether, approximately 2,700 Italian troops are in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of which are in Herat, where the Italians currently hold command of ISAF. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: US Special Forces Take a Hit in Afghanistan - Three American Green Berets patrolling near Khosrow-E, Arghandab district, Kandahar Province, are killed when their vehicle rolls into a riverbed. Sgt. James Treber, MSgt. Shawn Simmons and SFC. Jefferey Radamorales died June 27th while on patrol in an area that saw heavy fighting in mid-June. To the north and west, Green Beret SSgt. Travis Hunsberger was killed in Lamay, Oruzgan Province, when he stepped on a pressure plate IED while on a reconnaissance patrol June 29th. (READ MORE)

From the 'Stan: Parent network - There has been a lot of discussion here about how people are notified when things happen within the unit, and I wanted to let you know about the parent network. The command element of the MEU has a parent network that works similarly to the Key Volunteer network for the spouses. When a Marine or sailor is injured or killed, the next of kin will be notified by the military, regardless of what network they are or are not a part of. However, members of the parent network and the KV network also get calls if anyone else in the unit (i.e. not their son/daughter/spouse) is hurt or killed. (READ MORE)

Paul Fanning: Pressing ahead with the mission - The tragic loss of five members of the New York National Guard during a one week period (incidents on 21 and 26 June) has properly drawn the attention of news organizations across New York State. Our deceased came from communities that span the state, including Niagara Falls, the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. It's also good to know that people back home have taken note of our memorial ceremonies and that we are mourning the loss of comrades. I too receive email messages from friends and coworkers back home, individuals I have been communicating with and news professionals that I have come to know and work with over the years. (READ MORE)

Cajun Tiger's Rants and Raves: Constantly Raising the Bar - A year ago, 8 of the 18 Iraqi governmental benchmarks were at the satisfactory level after only one month of the full surge in place. A year later, 15 of the 18 are at satisfactory level according to the latest Iraqi progress report. Of course this can't be praised as great progress by the Dems. No, now the bar has been raised that it took too long. And they are placing blame on not removing troops from Iraq. They don't give a single ounce of credit to the surge and in fact place blame on it. Mind you that the only reason the government had the ability to make the improvements is due to the new increased security thanks to the surge. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Mookie Gang on Holiday - The Mahdi gang announced that it hasn't been beaten up and defeated. Mookie's thugs insist they just took a break. They now claim their elite units will be back to attack U.S. trooops. That would sound like a good joke if it were not for the reports [Arabic] that Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah are in southern Iraq to train various Mahdi movements. Indications that Hezbollah was playing a role in Iraq first surfaced last July when the U.S. military announced the arrest of Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese-born Hezbollah operative allegedly training Iraqi Shiite militiamen.Though the AP says the Hezbollah thugs have fled to Iran, the Lebanese gang has not stopped meddling in Iraq. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani criticized Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah for his call for resistance in Iraq. “I hope the Lebanese try to solve their problems instead of giving advice to others,” Talabani said. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US repels Taliban attack on the Pakistani border - The US military and Afghan National Army fought yet another major engagement in eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan. An estimated 33 Taliban were killed in a battle in the Spera district in Khost province. The battle began after the Taliban launched a complex attack on a US outpost in the Spera district, right along the Pakistani border. The Taliban followed up a rocket attack with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. US forces beat back the attack with "mortar, artillery fire and close air support," the International Security Assistance Force reported in a press release. The Taliban fighters "crossed into Pakistan." The US military said the Pakistani border guards launched an artillery strike at the Taliban forces, and estimated 33 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting. No US or Afghan forces were killed in the engagements. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: M*O*A*D*S - We are experiencing the mother of all dust storms. The dust is more red than usual. Satellite maps indicate that the storms are starting in Syria. I wonder if that qualifies as a Syrian incursion into Iraq. I went out to stand in the dust as you can see in the picture (or almost not see). You have to be in on the experience after all, the bad ones too. The dust stings your nose and eyes. I can only imagine how it would be to be exposed to it all day w/o shelter. It quickly dries out you mouth. We are not suffering too much, however. Our new headquarters is fairly well sealed since it was renovated. This is a big change from the old building and a quantum leap from the tents. During previous dust storms, it just rained dirt inside our building. Today I can observe it out the window with some measure of detachment. (READ MORE)

Bob Krumm: On the Iraqi Oil Deal - BAGHDAD – I’m bewildered by the criticism I’ve been hearing about a recent agreement between the Iraqi government and four multi-national oil companies. What I find especially surprising is the suggestion by some members of Congress that the United States demand that the deal be scrapped-particularly as the criticism has been levied by some who have complained the loudest that it is time for Iraq’s government to take control of its own political process. Taking control includes, presumably, making decisions that we might disagree with. Not that this a decision that I find particularly disagreeable. Let’s face it, even the most transparent and efficient government—which Iraq’s certainly isn’t yet—is ill-suited to the task of running a business like, well, a business. (READ MORE)

Notes In The Eye of The Storm: Nominal Degrees and Rising - Most nights are uneventful. There have been very few mortar attacks on the base except for last night. Since one of my supervisors is on vacation I’ve been asked to fill in and provide tech support for a couple hours a night at a trailer compound that we provide internet service to. The incoming alarm went off while struggled to figure out how to get some guy’s PC laptop to recognize the signal, so we casually made our way to the bunker outside trailer. I can’t help feeling like a teenager at his first school dance huddled with strangers in a bunker. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: It's HOT!! - Tuesday 1 July 2008 1930 - Well, yesterday was a record, at least for me. It’s been consistently hot here (115 -117 degrees F) since I came back from R&R, with only rare brief periods of respite (anything below 110 F feels relatively mild). But yesterday’s weather map in the Stars & Stripes showed the hottest local temperature I can remember seeing since I’ve been here. And it sure felt it! I went out around 3 PM and measured the temperature at ground level on the concrete outside our office door – it was 135 degrees F by my boots. The wind feels like a blast furnace, and when there isn’t any wind, you just bake. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Ramadi Municipal Building a Sign of Continued Peace - RAMADI, Iraq (June 22, 2008) - Mahmoud Yassin Marre, a middle-aged Iraqi contractor from Ramadi, stands proudly on the third floor of the newly-constructed 17th Street Municipal Building in the heart of the thriving city. Looking out on the city below, he sees a region undergoing a rebirth. The streets are jammed with cars and horns are sounding by the second, similar to New York City during the hectic five o’clock rush hour. In the park adjacent to the building a businessman decked out in a vogue black suit gives an affable wave to an Iraqi policeman nearby. The city and its citizens show no signs of fear or fret. Ramadi is no longer defined as a city torn apart by bombs and violence. Instead, the city is being redefined by peace and a booming reconstruction effort by the locals and both Iraqi and Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Bill Murray: Water distribution site opens in northeast Baghdad, offers free water for poorest families - BAGHDAD, IRAQ: The first of three water distribution sites sending purified water into some of Baghdad’s poorest areas opened on June 30 in northeast Baghdad, supplying purified water to 3,000 families living in the Shawra Wa Um Jidir neighbourhood. During the hottest times of the year, about 5,000 families in the area are without potable water and must buy water off vendors at extortionist rates, said Wady Salman al Shamary, assistant commissioner for the Iraqi Health Department in charge of eastern Baghdad. "This project covers 60 percent of the need in the area," al Shamary said. "Each family can receive 100 square meters of water a day for free." Two other sites under construction will supply the remaining 40 percent, he said. Construction cost $400,000 and was paid from Iraqi government funds. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
LT Nixon: Iraq News (2 July) - The Good: The Benchmarks are a bit dated of a way to measure progress in Iraq, since everything changes so fast for the young democracy, but the U.S. Embassy cites Iraq meeting 15 of 18 benchmarks in a response to a Congressional request. Foreign Minister Zebari is urging Iraqi Parliament to accept the Status of Forces Agreement to allow U.S. troops to stay beyond the U.N. mandate, which expires at the end of this year. The largest Sunni political bloc, Tawafuq, may be set to rejoin the Iraqi government and provide ministers (we've heard this one before, don't get excited yet). Hezbollah trainers in southern Iraq have fled to Iran reports the AP. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Burnishing Baghdad - Since the 2003 invasion, piles of rubble and filth have become the new icons of Baghdad. Broken sidewalks, gaping potholes, hulking neighborhood ramparts, concertina wire and other impediments have made movement through the city, either by car or on foot, slow, hazardous and demoralizing. At last there are signs of change. This year, the Baghdad Municipality received $1 billion through the national budget for public works. Half of it is going to sidewalk and street repairs. The city has hired thousands of independent contractors to complete small-scale projects that are beginning to dot the shattered cityscape. With the level of violence down, pallets of paving stones lined up on some of Baghdad’s major streets have become more a more common sight than burned-out cars. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture suspected SG criminals in Adhamiyah - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured two suspected Special Groups criminals during operations Wednesday in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. Based on intelligence information, Coalition forces targeted the home of a suspected weapons facilitator and trainer wanted in connection with high-profile attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Coalition forces entered the targeted individual’s residence, where they detained him and one associate without incident. Coalition forces also discovered numerous weapons and ammunition at the suspect’s house. (READ MORE)

One killed, 40 wounded in blast south of Mosul - MOSUL, Iraq – One citizen was killed and 40 were wounded, including a Sheik, during a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack 100 kilometers south of Mosul, in al Hawd Village, July 1. Fifteen homes were also destroyed during the attack. Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition force Soldiers responded to the attack, and ISF took the lead in controlling the situation. The wounded were transported to a local medical facility for treatment. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-B Soldiers find weapons caches in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army and MND-B Soldiers continued to uncover weapons caches July 1 in order to secure the area and increase local safety. Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, seized a weapons cache in the Sadr City district of Baghdad containing 13 full AK-47 magazines, two grenades, three fuses, 30 AK-47 rounds and a body armor vest at approximately 5 a.m. Soldiers with the same unit seized two AK-47s and a sniper rifle at approximately 7 a.m. in a separate operation. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, Coalition forces find 5 roadside bombs in Ninewa - TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi and Coalition forces found five roadside bombs across the Ninewa province July 1. Two of the roadside bombs were destroyed before they could detonate. The other three detonated but were ineffective. Two suspects were detained in Mosul in connection with one of the roadside bomb attacks. “Finding these bombs shows the commitment and dedication of the Iraqi Security Forces of Mosul and the strong partnership with Coalition forces to secure the citizens of Ninewa,” said Lt. Col. Nathan E. Hines III, a spokesperson for Multi-National Division - North. (READ MORE)

Alleged al-Qaeda operatives targeted, captured - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces conducted precision operations in Baghdad and Mosul Monday and Tuesday, detaining two suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists. In Mosul, Coalition forces captured a wanted man who is assessed to be a liaison for senior-level al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in the city. Coalition forces in Baghdad continued targeting car bombing networks and detained one suspected terrorist for his alleged ties to a cell that operates in the Northern Belt around the city. (READ MORE)

MND-B combat patrols net two detainees, munitions cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad soldiers discovered a munitions cache and detained two known criminals in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad June 30. At approximately 8:30 a.m., soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, reported an Iraqi citizen handing over a 120 mm illumination mortar round, two bags of homemade explosives, a bag of TNT, and a smoke grenade in the Karb De Gla community. An explosives ordnance disposal unit responded and handled the munitions. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-C Soldiers detain four suspected criminals in village of Mushada - CAMP STRYKER, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers successfully led a joint ground and air assault mission, detaining four suspected criminals in the village of Mushada, June 27. The operation’s intent was to disrupt enemy operations and detain suspected criminals in the area. “Today was very successful,” said Capt. Geoffrey Earnhart, a company commander from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The Iraqi Army soldiers are taking four detainees with them, so I definitely count it as a success.” (READ MORE)

IP Training Helps Build Trust in the Community - CAMP TAJI — Getting the Iraqi Police on their feet and operating as the main effort of law enforcement in the country has been a priority of the U.S. Army. Since the force began to rebuild after the U.S. led invasion in 2003, they have been the center of controversy, often accused of rogue tactics, corruption and working for powerful political forces instead of the people. Citizens deeply distrusted those commissioned to protect them. (READ MORE)

Greenhouses Open As New Model for Agriculture - FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAHMUDIYAH — A series of four greenhouses in Mahmudiyah officially opened in a ribbon cutting ceremony, June 28. “The greenhouses are definitely a dominant feature in the area; there is nothing else around them, and they can be seen well into the distance,” said Capt. Benjamin Neusse, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Civil Military Operations officer. “Hopefully it gives people the impression that progress is being made along agricultural lines.” (READ MORE)

Scouts Make Friends, Help Keep Community Safe - BAGHDAD — As the sun baked the urban Iraqi streets to a soul-melting 120 degrees, Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers continued a mission that has occupied much of the past four months for them. Members of the Scout/Sniper Platoon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, walk and drive the streets of the Sha’ab neighborhood in the Adhamiyah district of northern Baghdad to meet the people and to help deter extremists from conducting attacks there. (READ MORE)

Combined forces killed several militants in Oruzgan province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 1, 2008) -- Coalition and Afghan National Army forces killed several militants in Khas Oruzgan District, Oruzgan province Friday. The combined forces received small-arms fire from militants while on a routine reconnaissance patrol. Combined forces returned fire and called in air support, killing several militants. After the attack, combined forces entered the militants’ compound and found a dead, young girl. (READ MORE)

33 Militants killed in Khost province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 1, 2008) – Coalition forces killed 33 militants Monday in southern Khost province. A Coalition aerial recon team located the militants, who were armed with heavy machine-guns and RPGs. After positive identification, Coalition forces engaged and killed them with attack helicopters and a close air support bomber. (READ MORE)

Militant killed, four detained in Nimroz province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 1, 2008) -- A militant was killed and four were detained Monday during a Coalition forces operation to disrupt Taliban activities in Nimroz province. Coalition forces searched compounds in the Khash Rod District targeting a Taliban leader known to smuggle weapons, facilitate IED attacks and coordinate foreign fighter movement in the area. Coalition forces indentified an armed militant who attempted to engage them and responded with small-arms fire, killing the militant. (READ MORE)

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