July 10, 2008

From the Front: 07/10/2008

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

In their own words:
Jon @ Bouhammer: Crossing over to the other side - During the past week I have been attending Focused District Development Classes in Kabul Afghanistan. The classes were at the Ministry of Interior, about 150 meters from the Indian Embassy. The day started like any other normal day. We were dropped off at MOI in the morning and stood around waiting for class to start. We were told class wasn’t going to start for at least another 30 minutes and it was already about 8:30 am (local). So, I went to the bathroom which is located in the back of the auditorium. When I finished my business, I tried the water faucets like I always do and of course they didn’t have any running water. So I walked out of the bathroom and walked over to the deep freezer in the corner. I opened it and noticed that the ANP have been stealing our water that we have been bringing to class. I then closed the freezer and a big BBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMM went off and shook all the walls and exploded all the windows in the place. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: Australian Special Operator Killed in Oruzgan - An IED strike on an Austrailian Special Operations patrol killed one digger, wounding two others July 8th. An Afghan soldier was also killed. 25-year old Sean McCarthy, of Perth, was a signaller assigned to Special Operations Task Group, which includes members of Australia’s 4th Battalion Commandos and the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). McCarthy was SASR. In early May, the Australians launched an offensive to take long term control of the Baluchi Pass in southern Oruzgan Province. In doing so, the Australians hoped to cut the major, known supply route used by the Taliban shuttling weapons, supplies and fighters north from Helmand Province. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqi gossip about the timetable - From what I understand, the Iraq's request for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal is not without conditions. The Iraqi government's spokesman said any timetable would depend on security conditions on the ground. That means after Iraqi troops can demonstrate that they can control the situation, the U.S. is welcome to withdraw. The word from the Iraqi community is that the reason behind this demand is Iran, which doesn't want a U.S. presence next door. The Iraqis fear that the next president will be Barack Obama, who will withdraw the U.S. forces, leaving the country at the mercy of Iran. Because Iran and Iraq are forced to live side by side, a weak Iraq has no choice but face the wrath of its stronger neighbour. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan signs peace agreement with extremists in Khyber - Just 10 days after the Pakistani government launched an offensive against extremist groups threatening Peshawar, the government signed a peace accord with the Lashkar-e-Islam, one of the purported targets of the operation. The peace agreement comes the same day that five members of the Frontier Corps were killed and three were wounded in an attack in Khyber. The agreement, according to Geo TV states Lashkar-e-Islam would recognize the writ of the Pakistani government. "All religious groups would remain peaceful and the display of weapons in the region's main town of Bara would be banned," Geo TV reported. "A 13-member peace committee of tribal elders and Khyber administration officials has been formed to ensure the implementation of the pact which was signed in Peshawar." The peace jirga "mostly comprises activists and sympathizers of Lashkar-i-Islam," Dawn reported on July 7. (READ MORE)

Mahammed: Why Iraq Is Changing Its Tune on Withdrawal - In a surprising development, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his national security advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie made a dramatic shift in their positions in the SOFA negotiations with the US. By referring to the negotiated deal as a “memorandum of understanding” instead of using its official name, they are signaling that they are doing more than just taking a tougher stand: they are scrapping all that has been negotiated since February and starting new negotiations for a whole new deal. In other words, Maliki is saying that he wants to negotiate the withdrawal of US forces, not their presence, after the UN mandate expires. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: The Big Idea - I found the team leader conference in Baghdad very interesting and am trying to take some inspiration from it for my remaining time in Iraq. I was especially attracted to what General Petraeus said about the big idea and how working toward them attracts talent as people want to accomplish these sorts of goals. Below is a "gas station" in Hadithah. Not much to look at, but there was no fuel to buy not long ago. It is easy to get discouraged around here if we look at the things that are still lacking. But when I think about how much has been accomplished, the mood changes. Places like Hadithah, which were wastelands of rubble less than a year ago, are now enjoying growing prosperity and stability, with full markets and lots of economic activity. (READ MORE)

David Wood: Update: Marines in southern Afghanistan - Marines have been fighting in southern Afghanistan since late March, and the region is "secure but not yet stable,'' according to wire service accounts of a news conference in Kabul this morning by Col. Peter Petronzio, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Petronzio said his 2,500 Marines, who deployed to Afghanistan from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in March, had killed more than 400 insurgents in Helmand Province. He said that estimate came from the provincial governor. "The number which is most important to me is the civilian casualties, and we believe and are confident that that number is zero," Petreonzio said, according to a Reuters account. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: By the end of the day.... - It’s not bad when its 113 degrees. Its hot, ya and the salt from the pores of your skin stain your clothes as you continue to become dehydrated. But that’s one of the acceptable factors here. Just like sharing a head (toilet) with a couple hundred Marines, except it and get over it. You have an issue with toilet paper being on the ground of a port-a-john and not so clean, you don’t like sharing the “shower” almost as fast as a revolving door, you have never had to burn poop? You put those “discomforts” on the side because whining about them here will only get you an ass chewing. (READ MORE)

Capt. Judy Izard: The other side of Afghanistan - It is the "Pharmacist in Boots" just touching base with you with an "update from Afghanistan." I am working late as usual and am trying to catch up on e-mail that is always behind. I realize that the general media gives you information on major events that occur here. I am hoping that you receive a balance of positive and negative. Terroristic activities are horrible and devastating, but there are just as many stories about the good of the people and altruistic activities. I rarely get to see the optimistic reports, but some media like the Buffalo News allow this positive message to be heard, too. For that I am grateful. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Al-Qaeda being pressured at all levels as Coalition forces target bombing networks and foreign terrorist facilitation networks - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 30 suspected terrorists during three days of operations targeting al-Qaeda leaders, subordinates and facilitators in central and northern Iraq. Coalition forces captured the alleged leader of an al-Qaeda in Iraq bombing network in the Tigris River Valley on Thursday and detained nine additional suspected terrorists. The alleged leader had moved into his position after his predecessor was killed in an operation June 4. (READ MORE)

ISF detain five suspected Special Groups criminals in separate operations - BALAD, Iraq – The Baghdad National Emergency Response Unit, Iraqi Special Operations Forces and the Kut Company Special Weapons and Tactics team detained five suspected Special Groups criminals in three separate operations around central Iraq July 7-8. The CSWAT detained a Special Groups criminal suspected of being an improvised explosive device cell leader in Kut July 7. During his transition to a holding facility, the criminal admitted to attacking Americans. (READ MORE)

ISOF captures suspected ISI leader, nine cell members - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Special Operations Forces detained a suspected cell leader and nine other members of the Islamic State of Iraq, a front organization for al-Qaeda in Iraq, in Mosul July 9. ISOF conducted the operation to detain the leader of this terrorist cell who is suspected of killings, kidnapping, and attacking Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army disrupts criminal activity in northern Iraq - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers detained five suspected criminals and four others in operations to disrupt criminal activity in northern Iraq July 6-8. The IA Soldiers conducted an operation July 8-9, in Taji Shores to detain three individuals believed to be the leaders of a local al-Qaeda in Iraq cell. The cell is believed to be recruiting civilians from nearby mosques and conducting training locally. They are also accused of making and supplying improvised explosives devices to other cells in Baghdad and Tarmiyan. (READ MORE)

Mosul car bomb kills 8 Iraqi citizens - MOSUL, Iraq – Eight Iraqi citizens were killed as a result of a car bomb in Mosul July 9 when criminals targeted Gen. Riyadh’s convoy. Initial reports indicate 33 Iraqi citizens and four Iraqi Army soldiers were wounded in the attack. Gen. Riyadh was unharmed in the attack. The initial car bomb was a black-and-white taxi with about 1,500 pounds of explosives in the parking lot of a Kurdish Democratic Party compound. (READ MORE)

Last ‘Surge’ Brigade redeploys - BAGHDAD – Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, are redeploying back to Fort Stewart, Ga., this month. The 2nd BCT deployed in May 2007 as the fifth surge brigade. Its mission was to block accelerants from entering Baghdad, protect the local population, defeat sectarian violence, continue to increase the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, foster local governance and economic systems, and to set the conditions for long-term self-reliance. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture two suspected criminals in Al Shula - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured two suspected Special Groups criminals Wednesday during operations in the Al Shula district of Baghdad. Based on intelligence information, Coalition forces targeted the home of a senior member of Iranian-trained Special Groups leadership in the Baghdad area. According to Special Groups criminals already in custody, the suspect has received weapons and intelligence training in Iran, and acts as an agent of Iran. (READ MORE)

Coalition releases more detainees by July 2008 than were released for all of 2007 - BAGHDAD – Task Force 134 Detainee Operations has released more detainees in the first seven months of 2008 than were released in all of 2007. As of July 7, Task Force 134 had returned 9,047 persons to Iraqi society, compared with the 8,956 who left detention in calendar year 2007. “We are committed to transitioning the security detainees back into society once they have been determined not to be a threat to Coalition forces or the people of Iraq,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Hipwell, commander of the 300th Military Police Brigade, the unit responsible for oversight of detainee releases in Iraq. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain key criminal suspected of kidnapping, murder and more - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained a key suspected criminal in the Karadah security district of eastern Baghdad July 8. Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light) detained the suspected criminal while conducting operations specifically targeting him. He is a suspected high-ranking Special Groups officer in Zafaraniyah who is believed to be a member of a Special Groups cell’s death squad. (READ MORE)

Clinics, Schools and Communication Help Rural Iraqis Reconstruct - FALLUJAH — Albu Hawa, a small sub-tribe south of Fallujah resides in a farmland district that lines the Euphrates River. Only a year ago, it was a rural battlespace with daily violence that harbored al-Qaida terrorists. Known as one of the last strongholds for al-Qaida, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines performed operations during last year’s deployment to rid Albu Hawa of terrorist activity. This year, the battalion has returned to the area and witnessed the progress of this farmland community from when it was plagued with everyday violence. (READ MORE)

Success Builds on Success in Iraq - BAGHDAD — Success is building on success in Iraq, a senior military official said July 7 at a news conference in Baghdad. Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said the total number of security incidents in Iraq now sits at 2004 levels. “As the [Iraqi security force] enforces the rule of law and improves security in places like Basra, Mosul, Amarah and Sadr City, the people are finding new confidence in those that lead and protect them,” Driscoll said. “Iraqis see security forces in their neighborhoods providing protection, and they are increasingly providing the army and police with valuable information that enhances safety.” (READ MORE)

Top Guns Patrol Iraqi Family Village, Attend Council Meetings Weekly - BAGHDAD — Daily, Soldiers from the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, patrol the streets of the Iraqi family village. The area, near the Victory Base Complex, is relatively safe, and is home to citizens from all throughout Iraq. Once the war kicked off in 2003, many families fled their homes to come to this once abandoned orphanage on the outskirts of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force Increases Training Capabilities with Newly Acquired Aircraft - BAGHDAD — U.S. forces transferred ownership of 11 aircraft to the Iraqi Air Force July 9, during a ceremony at New Al Muthana Air Base. Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, signed over eight Cessna 172s and three Cessna Caravan 208s worth more than $9 million to Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir al-Mufriji. (READ MORE)

Coasties augment Army, help ship gear home - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 8, 2008) — Long known to protect the waters surrounding the United States, the question asked each time someone sees them is, “What is the U.S. Coast Guard doing here?” Chief Petty Officer Daniel Kinville, damage controlman (watertight integrity specialist), and Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Kowalewski, yeoman (administrative or human-resource specialist), are part of an eight-person unit from the 1179th Deployment Support Brigade of the U.S. Coast Guard, and are currently the only two Coast Guard personnel in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Bagram dedicates DFAC to fallen Airman - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 8, 2008) — In a sea of digital camouflage, he definitely stood out amongst the crowd of mostly-Army service members, and those who knew him best often tried to top one another in stories. ‘He’ was Senior Airman Jonathan A.V. Yelner – a Coalition warrior, an Airman and a friend, and he was killed instantly, April 29, when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath his vehicle after conducting a battle damage assessment with local Afghan tribal leaders outside the village of Bedreau in Tag Ab Valley, Kapisa province, Afghanistan. Now, his name will be honored for years to come here. (READ MORE)

Czech soldiers train 36 ANP cadets - FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHANK, Afghanistan (July 8, 2008) — Czech soldiers mentored and trained Logar Police Academy cadets at an Afghan National Police compound, here, recently. The Czech soldiers have an ongoing mission of training 36 cadets, who will become Afghanistan Afghan National Police officers upon graduation from the academy, July 17. (READ MORE)

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