July 8, 2008

From the Front: 07/08/2008

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

In their own words:
A Major's Perspective: Al Qaeda - I remember a few years ago reading articles and a couple books that had described what Al Qaeda really wanted. The general premise being that they hoped to drag the west into a conflict in the Middle East that would ignite a feeling of Pan-Arabism and help bring about the 13th Caliphate. A caliphate where their particular extremist view of Islam would rule the day. This new day would see an Islamic Government that would stretch from North Africa, through the Middle East, and all the way to Indonesia. With the destruction of many of Al-Qaeda's operations and personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their power base being widely diminished the logical question becomes where do they go next? In an article in the NY Post last week (Al Qaeda's Plan B) Mr Amir Taheri describes what is entailed in a new book by Sheik Abu-Bakar Naji. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The media's Obama prism - Under pressure from his fellow Iraqis, Nouri Al Maliki hinted at a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Though he gave no date for U.S. departure, the Iraqi prime minister framed the security agreement between the two countries as a memorandum of understanding, possibly including a timetable, analysts told the Washington Post. But the newspaper still gave credit to Barack Obama. Naturally, WaPo reporters presented Al Maliki's move as "a step that the Bush administration has long opposed." They spun it into a win for Obama, suggesting that Al Maliki acted on Obama's criticsim of the Iraqi government for dragging its feet. Of course. That's exactly why Al Maliki mentioned a timetable for withdrawal. (READ MORE)

Omar: Support Freedom of Speech - Our friends and readers remember the Arabic blogging tool that we helped develop nearly 4 years ago. It was a pioneer project in making blogging easy for Arabic speakers in the Middle East. It’s been a story of exceptional success in dangerous times. Only with the strong will of good Iraqis and Americans the idea became solid reality. The project did not wait for or receive any support from the Iraqi or US government; the success was only the fruit of cooperation between enthusiastic supporters of free speech in both countries. It was a long journey to help introduce the idea of dialogue over the internet and activism to the Iraqi people. It’s been a real challenge on a land that witnesses the most brutal attacks of terrorism. However this did not discourage the volunteers who continued to move across the country offering training and promoting the culture of blogging and free speech. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Partnership ensures progress - FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 5, 2008) – Fallujah community members can look outside each morning and see signs of change in their neighborhoods. Small, but significant beacons of hope are brought on by new construction projects appearing all over the city. To aid a city rising from the ashes of war, Marines with Detachment 3, Civil Affairs Group 3, Regimental Combat Team 1, met with Iraqi contractors and construction workers July 5 to continue to help facilitate the laborers’ efforts in building a new school for the children in the Abu Saleh area of Fallujah. The new school will replace the older one that was falling apart due to weather and collateral damage inflicted during battles between insurgents and Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Paul Fanning: Marking the 4th from a combat zone - Despite losing 16 members of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix in June, including 8 Marines, one Navy corpsman and seven soldiers (one active duty, one Michigan National Guard and five New York National Guard) the command was determined that the task force would celebrate the nation's birthday in style. We took advantage of the fact that the holiday fell this year on a Friday, which is usually a "down day" for our Afghan hosts and an opportunity to back down a little on our operational tempo for just a little while. First thing in the morning, a 5-kilometer fun-run was held at the Camp Phoenix track and more than a 130 runners - all services, civilian employees and resident coalition partners - participated. Even at 7 a.m., the heat was oppressive and was over 90 degrees and climbing. As the runners went around the track, they listened to the Beach Boys and other summer tunes. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: String of bombings rock Karachi - One day after a suicide bomber killed 19 Pakistanis, including 15 policemen, in the capital of Islamabad, a string of bombings rocked the southern port city of Karachi. One civilian was killed and more than 50 wounded after a series of seven bombs were detonated throughout the city over the course of 90 minutes. The bombs were said to be relatively small and were designed “to create panic in the city,” the provincial police chief in Sindh told AFP. “There is also a possibility that the people who planted the bombs wanted to fan ethnic tensions in the city,” Sindh Police Inspector General Sallahuddin Babar Khattak said. (READ MORE)

Bill Murray: Battle Over Sadr City Defines Apache Helicopter Regiment’s Tour in Iraq - TAJI, IRAQ: There are few pictures of a US Army Tactical Operations Centers, and once inside you realize why. Everything within the walls of a TOC in Iraq -- and there are dozens at the company, battalion and brigade levels -- is more or less classified. Screen after screen of live Unmanned Aerial Vehicle camera footage, high-definition video from floating balloons tethered high above each forward-operating base, high-powered FM radios connected with ground troops, three tiers of desks with sergeants and captains using internal message and email systems to communicate with UAV operators. It’s a bit Hollywood for the uninitiated. On these screens, the battle for Sadr City in late March and April played out. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: A broken heart mending - Sounds of joy and laughter resonate through a police station's narrow hallways. A young boy slowly enters through a doorway at the end to greet the boisterous group of Marines, but the sounds of excitement quickly diminish as they see him gasping for air after walking just a short distance. The boy, five-year-old Ahmed, is the son of Warrant Officer Othman Mallouki, an Iraqi policeman with Fallujah Headquarters District. Since his birth, Ahmed has suffered from a rare but fatal heart condition that if left untreated, will eventually kill him at an unthinkable, young age. Ahmed's parents first noticed there was something wrong with their son when he was a year old. The medical condition present in Ahmed’s cardiac system keeps needed oxygen from reaching organs like a normal person’s circulatory system would, causing a bluish coloring around the eyes and on the face. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: The Five Stages of Demotion - I wrote this while smoking a Fincks Mexican Fiesta. This can't be happening to me. I'm sitting in the smoking area. It's night time and cool outside. I could see the stars if only I wasn't under a sodium light. I have my camelbak on. I take sips of water when my throat is dry from the cigar. A copy of Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" sits in the sand at my right foot. I can't do this. I can’t let this blog turn into yet another whiny Napoleon Dynamite American soldier complaining about the system and the chain of command. The fact is that nobody did it to me. I did it to myself. "You are not on the promotion list," the first sergeant says. Those words haunt me in the night. Right now I want to be back in Paris with Miller as he searches for another meal, another whore, another place to smoke his cigarettes and work. (READ MORE)

Something on the staff: 4th of July - Ah, the 4th of July. Back in the States everyone can celebrate with BBQ, fireworks and cold tasty beer. We decorated our meager mess hall with a few patriotic plastic tablecloths and set up our own BBQ. If Bobby Flay could see it, his head would explode. Our lone cook started grilling chicken, steak…things and hot dogs early in the morning. The smell of carcinogens and evaporated beef fat teased me throughout the day. In an effort to increase rapport with the Iraqi Army, we invited some of the senior officers over for dinner. It’s very rare that we ever get the Iraqis over to eat. They won’t eat food prepared by the Hindu Indian chefs at the larger mess halls (they’re an impure people according to the Koran) and out at the more austere patrol bases, the food is just terrible. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
LT Nixon: Can You Handle Reality? - This is a picture of today's suicide bombing in Kabul targeting the Indian Embassy which left 41 dead. Some might find the picture offensive to the senses and grotesque. Well, too bad, this is the reality of modern conflict. While the media often gets mired in domestic politics and their traditional adherence to leftist ideology, photojournalism in the combat zone has provided a unique pathway for folks on the outside to comprehend the imagery of war and the brutal nature of the enemy. When murderous thugs like Zawahiri claim that there agents don't target Muslim civilians, photojournalists like Zoriah Miller are there to provide concrete evidence contrary to the propaganda of the enemy. That's why, IMHO, the Marines in Anbar are making a huge mistake by kicking out this embedded photojournalist. From Ventura County Star (h/t Blackfive): (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Talkin' about the 'stan - Those who want to hear more about my time in Afghanistan will have the chance Tuesday, July 8 at 7 a.m. CST. I will be a guest for that hour on "The Rox Report" on Birmingham's WAPI-AM 1070 station. The show is streamed live on the station's Web site here. Feel free to call in with any questions or comments at 944-1070 if you are in the Birmingham area or 866-927-1070 for the toll-free number. I've known Roxanne for a long time and she was gracious enough to ask me to be on her show once I returned home and got settled. I still have a few stories to share here on the blog, so look for a few more postings in the days ahead. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Why They Re-Enlist - BAGHDAD — On July 4th, in a former Saddam-era palace in Baghdad, 1,200 soldiers and marines took part in the largest mass re-enlistment in the history of the United States military. The soldiers we spoke to offered a variety of reasons for signing on for another tour: some love the military, some think the war is going well and want to finish the job, a suprising number said they wanted to stay close to their friends in the service, a few said they were swayed by bonuses. Here are some of their voices. (READ MORE)

Mussayib Generation Plant putting more Electricity on the Grid - MUSSAYIB, Iraq – Iraqis are immersed in another summer of triple digit heat. Electrical demand largely fueled by more consumable purchase and use of electricity loving appliances like air conditioners, washing machines and microwave ovens continue to outstrip supply. Electricity generated from new and refurbished electrical generation facilities like the Mussayib Gas Generation Power Plant help reduce the gap between need and capacity by putting additional mega watts (MW) on the grid. (READ MORE)

Maximum-security prison constructed near Tallil - CONTIGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER BAGHDAD, Iraq – A new, maximum-security prison close to the Tallil Air Base is nearing completion and is now able to receive prisoners from Nasiriyah. Nasiriyah Prison is a self-sustaining penitentiary equipped for managing, guarding and teaching legitimate trades to criminals during their prison terms. “This prison was built to hold more criminals and for a correctional basis to evaluate the behavior of those people,” said Abdaldhker Abbas, the prison’s deputy warden. (READ MORE)

Rashid community digs plans for canal clean-up - BAGHDAD – In the southern Baghdad community of Radwaniyah, fresh water for drinking and irrigation is just a few signatures away. In the farming communities that lie on the outskirts of Baghdad, fresh water is of the utmost importance for the people and the economic stability of the community and has a direct effect on the neighboring areas. For the farmers in the rural community southwest of urbanized Baghdad, two serious problems are irrigation and fresh water, said Capt. Mark Miller, a spokesman for 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (READ MORE)

Baghdad National ERU detains three suspected criminals (Rusafa district) - BALAD, Iraq – The Baghdad National Emergency Response Unit detained three suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq criminals working within the Ministry of Technology and Science in the Rusafa district of Baghdad July 6. The Ministry of Interior issued warrants to detain three government employees suspected of killings, improvised explosive device attacks, mortar attacks, and local intimidation and displacement in the Rashid and Karadah districts of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Multiple IEDs attack local Iraqis throughout northern Iraq - TIKRIT, Iraq – An improvised explosive device attacked a convoy 23 kilometers south of Mosul killing four contractors and wounding eight others at approximately 3:30 p.m. July 7. Also in northern Iraq, another improvised explosive device detonated in a local women’s clothing store in Baqubah at approximately 11 a.m. This attack killed one Iraqi woman and wounded 16 others. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, U.S. Engineers partner for long haul (Diyala province) - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Army engineers across the world face the same challenges each day for soldiers, materials and equipment. Shortages of repair parts, force protection measures, and limited construction equipment are just some of those challenges. These shared challenges provided the opportunity for two engineer units to construct a lasting partnership together. (READ MORE)

53/14 Brigade graduates from Unit Set Fielding - Numaniyah, Iraq – The 53rd Brigade, 14th Infantry Division, graduated from the Unit Set Fielding program at Regional Training Center here, July 2. The Unit Set Fielding process draws Iraqi Soldiers from Basic Combat Training, NCOs and officers from their respective training programs and brings them together to form a new Army command. “Today marks the beginning of a new Brigade in the Iraqi Army,” said Col. Ali Adoon. “A Brigade that came here as a group of Iraqi officers, NCOs, and soldiers and is leaving as a cohesive Infantry Brigade.” (READ MORE)

Al Karkh Maternity Hospital to Open Doors - BAGHDAD — Al Karkh Maternity Hospital, located in the Karkh district of western Baghdad, recently received two large truckloads of much needed medical equipment - deliveries that will speed the opening of the hospital for hundreds of expecting mothers. Nearly $600,000 was dedicated to the U.S.-funded refurbishment project, allowing for sorely needed repairs to a hospital that received no upgrades and little maintenance from the Saddam regime. In fact, no new hospitals had been completed in Iraq since the mid-1980s. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, U.S. Engineers Partner for Long Haul - JOINT BASE BALAD — Army engineers across the world face the same challenges each day for soldiers, materials and equipment. Shortages of repair parts, force protection measures, and limited construction equipment are just some of those challenges. These shared challenges provided the opportunity for two engineer units to construct a lasting partnership together. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Locates Weapons Cache - COB ADDER — Troops assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 38th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army located a weapons cache in the city of Amarah and detained two individuals occupying the building where the cache was found, July 4. The IA located three explosively-formed penetrators, 20 155 mm artillery rounds, three anti-tank mines, 20 rocket-propelled grenades, one anti-personnel RPG, three RPG launchers, 21 grenades, three spools of detonation wire, six voltage meters, three camera flashes and a pair of new assault rifles. (READ MORE)

Soccer Tournament Celebrates Sunni and Shia Unity in Yethrib - YETHRIB — For the people of Yethrib, Iraq, it has been a long five years. For over half a decade, the Balad and Yethrib areas have been plagued with sectarian violence that has pitted rival Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs against one another. The bloodshed between tribes, at times, had turned into all out warfare that was waged in palm groves and fields near the Tigris River. In 2007, the conflict between the Muslim sects had reached a boiling point and many throughout Iraq, described the situation as having elements of civil war. (READ MORE)

Mullen Gets First-Hand Look at Sadr City Improvements - BAGHDAD — The U.S. military’s top-ranking officer encountered one of Iraq’s most dangerous areas July 7 and saw first-hand the improvements Iraqi and U.S. forces have made during recent months. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received a glimpse of the success that has seen attack levels in Iraq fall to their lowest in four years - a 90 percent decline in attacks during the past year alone. The progress in security has allowed Coalition forces to focus more on other issues, military officials in Baghdad said. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces kill, detain militants in Helmand province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 7, 2008) – Several militants were killed and seven were detained during a Coalition forces operation Sunday in Helmand province. Compounds in Req District were searched by Coalition forces targeting a militant leader known to smuggle explosives and weapons including IED and heavy machine guns in the area. During their search of the compounds, Coalition forces identified two armed militants. In both cases the militants threatened the force and were killed with small-arms fire. (READ MORE)

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