August 25, 2008

From the Front: 08/25/2008

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

In their own words:
Armed & Curious: Black and white in a grey land - I am often amazed at how we like to see the world in black and white here in the United States. There is good and evil, sweet and sour, right and wrong. We tend to too easily categorize people and we do it in short sighted ways. You see much of the world is grey and Iraq is a place of many shades of grey. Often the bad guys are really bad and the good guys aren’t perfectly good. We have figure out those distinctions to do business the right way but often those distinctions are much blurrier than our American minds can see. I started seeing this distinction early in my first tour. After 35 years or so of various forms of dictatorial rule Iraq has become a place where simple answers don’t exist. I learned this while trying to field contracts to build small schools in the little farming villages surrounding our air base in southern Ninewa province in 2003. (READ MORE)

Collabman's Thoughts: Rejection... - Afternoon - The info hounds were busy overnight providing a couple of interesting articles making headlines and related to the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment operating in the Diyala province. Oh, for those wondering we haven't had a call from Chris for about nine days. However, we understand the pace of operations are keeping him busy and we are thankful for any time we get with him on the phone. He will check in when he can...please continue to pray for him and his teammates. The first article is from current operations and once again shows the threat of the Black Widow in Diyala... (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Bridge re-opens over Thar Thar Canal - FALLUJAH, Iraq – Iraqi Army soldiers operating in an area shared by Regimental Combat Team 1, escorted local sheiks and tribal leaders across a newly constructed bridge in the Bagharra region of Iraq, Aug. 19. The passage marked the re-opening of the Salem Bridge, an important link in connecting local citizens with cities on the other side of the Thar Thar Canal. Insurgents had demolished the original bridge with improvised explosive devices more than a year ago, forcing locals to travel nearly five hours to cross the canal. “Before this bridge opened, the people were suffering,” said 2nd Lt. Nasser Kazzoy, scout platoon commander with the Iraqi Army. “Now that the bridge is open, people can cross the bridge and get to the other side in five minutes.” (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama's Questionable VP Pick - So much for all the talk about the beacons of light and returning respect to the United States. Barack Obama's choice for vice president can only drag the country into ugly territory. His pick simply confirms his total disregard for the Iraqi people. All along, Biden has made it clear that he sees Iraqis as nothing more than savages bent on killing one another. His solution is to divide the country to stop the beasts from murdering the other beasts. He can argue all he wants that President Bush and John McCain are not nearly as smart as Biden is, but at least they will not abandon the Iraqis. It's not just Iraqis who wonder about Obama's pick. One interesting analysis comes from the AP's Ron Fournier who says that by picking the experienced Biden, Barack Obama is showing a "lack of confidence." So Obama acknowledges that he is not ready to be president, and he picks a guy who can make up for the gaps. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Oil windfall, so why can't Iraq shoulder its own reconstruction burden? - Sunni tribesmen are being paid to not blow up critical northern pipelines. The Basrah oil fields in the south aren't being siphoned nearly as often. So now that Iraq is flush in oil profits, why can't it cover the full costs of its own reconstruction? An opinion piece in the LA Times, by Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz, said: “Iraq sits atop the world's third-biggest known oil reserves, and the Iraqi government keeps a mounting pile of petrodollars firmly tucked away in American banks. A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that Iraqi oil revenues will reach up to $85 billion this year, resulting in a budget surplus of as much as $50 billion. But despite all the money that is pouring in, Iraq is not taking responsibility for its own reconstruction.” (READ MORE)

Mohammed: America Should Pick Georgia Over Russia - The war between Russia and Georgia -- and particularly what Russia aspires to gain from this showdown -- may have future consequences for the situation in the Middle East. It may also have the potential to alter the existing world order and restore a condition somewhat similar to what we had in the Cold War era. A recent statement by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov caught my attention: "We understand that this current Georgian leadership is a special project of the United States, but one day the United States will have to choose between defending its prestige over a virtual project or real partnership which requires joint action." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Three senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders captured in Baghdad - Coalition and Iraq forces captured three senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders behind some of the deadliest violence over the past several years. Two of the men were detained during the past two weeks in raids by Task Force 88, the hunter-killer special operations teams assigned to dismantle al Qaeda's networks in Iraq. The special operations teams captured Salim 'Abdallah Ashur al Shujayri during an operation on Aug. 11. Six days later, Ali Rash Nasir Jiyad al Shammari was captured. The locations of the raids were not disclosed by Multinational Forces-Iraq. Today, Iraqi forces announced the capture of Mahdi Mosleh al Djeheishi. Shujayri and Shammari are senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders and have been "assessed to be longtime members" of the group. Both men are Iraqi citizens, a senior US military intelligence official who wishes to remain anonymous told The Long War Journal. (READ MORE)

Jake’s Life: August Update on Jake - I was able to talk to Jake again (8/21). He had just returned from a lengthy mission. He was in good spirits especially since when he got back to base they had received mail in a supply convoy and there were several packages from friends and family. He again asked me to pass on his gratitude and apologize for not being able to do it personally. The region is a hornets nest of taliban activity and they are being engaged regularly. As has been already mentioned in the media, the 2/7 Marines have been extended 30 days and seemed ok with that. Please include in your prayers Jake's comrades Cpl. Anthony G. Mihalo, 23, of Naperville, Ill. and Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez-Castaneda, 19, of Mesa, Ariz. who were KIA last week. We spent a lot of time talking about the Olympics and world news. He is totally removed from any kind of outside news sources. His sister told him about Brett Favre and he was stunned. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Foreigners Loving America ... or Not - We were canc'd for our trip to Al Qaim by bad weather, so I am stuck at Al Asad w/o any new Iraqi stories to tell. But I still can produce blog entries. After Iraq I will go back to my job in public diplomacy. I have been thinking about that in my spare time and when I think I write. These are just my thoughts about some of the big trends. We will soon be in a new administration and some people expect a big change in our image overseas. I don’t. Not in the long term. We will get a bounce in January as everybody welcomes the new president, but it will be ephemeral. I worked for Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush. The only thing I have noticed about opinions of our presidents is that people always seem to like the last president better than the current one. I have seen more continuity than change in both our policies and our image. Many of the trends are long term. (READ MORE)

Navy Gal off to Iraq: WTF??? - I've never been one to dime anyone out in my blog, but perhaps it's time I start. Nah, just kidding!!! There is some crazy crap going on at my work and people that I work with. We have this crazy thing called Fraternization (I'm sure you all remember my posts from my training days how this was DRILLED into our heads not to do it) and it's rearing it's ugly head up here in not a nice way. I really could care less who you are screwing on this deployment, but when it starts to involve the work place and preferential treatment of others, then I have an issue. That is exactly what is going on up here. NOT by me....I just had to throw that out there. And, me being the nice person I am, will not even go into anymore detail so as to not bring these people into the light anymore than they already are. They will show their asses soon enough. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: I'M HOME - After a long trip I’m home. Beginning on the 8th, we departed our company out post and headed south. Traveling from northern Iraq, to Baghdad, to Kuwait, then to Ireland, then to Maine in the US then to California and finally back across to the east coast. It was a long trip but it doesn’t really matter when you are headed home though. My frequent flyer miles should be off the charts!! Its awesome to be home and the things that I see the most is green trees, the smell of green fresh cut grass,clouds (since we never saw any) and the several other things I immediately see we have as Americans that we so easily take for granted. That will be another post. This weekend, look for the guy with no hair enjoying a nice non- boiled steak, cold beer and several cigars, that’s me. (READ MORE)

Playing in the Sandbox: Ironic - Whenever we do foot patrols around towns and I attract my usual entourage of Iraqi kids, the most common question they ask is whether or not I'm married and if I have a baby. Their method of inquiry transcends any possible language barrier - they point at my ring finger (or theirs) and say, "Madame? You, madame? Baby?" and then smile upwards at me with an irrational sense of hope and wonder in their eyes. At first I thought maybe they had picked up a few other English words besides "Give me" and "MisTAR!" and were able to get a reaction out of many soldiers who in fact do have wives and children and are likely more than happy to show off pictures of their families back home. But this happens everywhere I go. Everywhere. And when people ask you the same question about yourself over and over and are so saddened and disappointed by your answer ("No." - "No baby??" - "No, no goddamn baby."), you begin to wonder if it's really you and not them that has the problem. (READ MORE)

Soldier's Mom: No News is Good News - No news lately - which to me is good news as I am sure it is to everyone else. Things are quiet as they are nearing the end of their deployment - it appears that they have made great strides in Diyala Province - something to be so proud of. It has been a long, long year for all of us at home, waiting, worrying and a lot of praying. I can't even begin to fathom how hard it has been on our soldiers and others to be so far from home and their loved ones. I do believe I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel though the prayers and the worrying will not stop until they all come home safely. (READ MORE)

Somethign on the Staff: ...what? - Every so often I have these “…what?” moments with the Iraqi Army. Case in point, I went to find an Iraqi officer who was supposed to meet me for dinner. I sat down in his office and used my rudimentary Arabic on one of his brother officers. Then an Iraqi lieutenant colonel walks in and they talk amongst themselves. The first officer proceeds to whip out a tazer, and turn it on for his boss. It sparked and made a series of unfriendly cracking noises. I’ve never had a normal conversation that ended with someone whipping out a tazer. So there’s my first “…what?” moment of the day. I don’t speak that much Arabic, but I’m pretty sure the LTC said “Dude, that totally reeks of awesomeness, let me try.” The LTC grabs the tazer, turns it on and jokingly jabs the active tazer at his buddy. Ha ha! What fun. (READ MORE)

Up Country Iraq: Muntheria - Hello everyone, I trust that everyone has been getting their fair share of the Olympics, and more importantly, pre-season football. I haven't had the opportunity to see much of either. I didn't even get to watch the 9 year-old Chinese girl lip-synching during the opening ceremonies, so I guess I am missing out on some good stuff. I did read an Op-ed where the writer blames that incident on the US because of the emphasis on beauty in the States. The "Hate America First" crowd doesn't let up. As part of my ongoing collection effort, I spent some time out east on the Iraq-Iran border gathering information on Port of Entry Transition Teams (POETT). Closely related, but not quite the same, is the Border Transition Team (BTT). The BTT works with the Iraqi version of our Border Patrol, and the POETT works with the customs, passport, and immigration people at the (legal) border crossings (as my wife asked, "Do they really have people immigrating to Iraq?). (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
Army of Dude: The Last Patrol - It had to end, someday. We had been at Combat Outpost Battle II for a few weeks, trying to leave it in the best shape possible for our beautiful, wonderful relief unit, our sister brigade from the other side of Ft. Lewis. Operation Arrowhead Ripper was the cherry on top of a grueling five month adventure in Baqubah, a place we didn't know of in 2006 but one we'd get to know all-too well toward the end of 2007. After that big offensive, there was one last hurrah: the clearing and holding of the neighborhood of Old Baqubah. It proved to be the most dangerous of neighborhoods, one left relatively untouched during the massive clearing operation in June and July. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Sadr weighs in on U.S.-Iraq deal - Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr has remained out of Iraq's political fray since spring, but the debate over a deal that would determine the future of American troops in Iraq has revived his fiery rhetoric and that of some of his more militant followers. A pro-Sadr song making the rounds in Baghdad and sold at local markets includes the lyrics: "We'll be back after this break ... the revolt will return and the lions will go again. It's an advertising break, then we'll strike back again." (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda in Iraq takes more hits (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained nine suspected terrorists, including five wanted men, during operations around the country targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq on Sunday and Monday. Using information from an operation Jul. 9, Coalition forces on Monday captured a man assessed to be a senior terrorist liaison in Abu Ghraib, about 20 km west of Baghdad. The man is suspected of facilitating the movement of senior terrorist leaders in Baghdad and was detained with one additional suspect. (READ MORE)

Officials reopen refurbished Jadriya Lake Park in Karadah - FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH, Iraq – An estimated 2,250 Iraqi citizens witnessed a step toward normalcy as local officials reopened Jadriya Lake Park in the Karadah district of eastern Baghdad Aug. 22. Joining those citizens at the reopening were the government officials, security force leaders, contractors and Soldiers who worked together to restore the lake and surrounding grounds. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-B Soldiers continue to take weapons off streets - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers confiscated and seized munitions throughout Baghdad Aug. 24. Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division confiscated 11 AK-47s, and a Berno Rifle at 6 a.m. in the Kadamiyah district of northwest Baghdad. (READ MORE)

SF conduct riot control training - Kirkuk, Iraq – As Iraq continues to emerge as a free and democratic country, its security forces must be prepared to maintain stability and keep the land in order. Under the guidance of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division’s Emergency Services Unit of northeastern Iraq’s Kirkuk Province recently conducted training on how to effectively control and eventually dissolve citizen riots and protests, Aug. 20. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers, SoI seize weapons cache, munitions - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, working with Iraqi Security Forces, discovered unexploded ordnance and a weapons cache Aug. 23 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 9:30 a.m., Soldiers from Company E, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, called a Coalition forces explosives ordnance disposal team to remove an 82 mm mortar round found in the Hayy Jihad community of Rashid. The EOD team disposed of the round. (READ MORE)

Female suicide bomber detained in Baqubah - BAQUBAH, Iraq – An unwilling female suicide bomber was detained in Baqubah Aug. 24 by Iraqi Police. The unwilling suicide bomber surrendered to the IPs rather than detonating herself and potentially killing or wounding bystanders. After identifying the suicide vest on the 13-year-old female, IPs requested Iraqi and Coalition force Explosive Ordnance Disposal units to remove the vest. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture two key al-Qaeda leaders in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured two suspected senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in Baghdad during recent operations, dealing AQI a hefty blow by removing experienced terrorists from the top of the extremist network. Salim ‘Abdallah Ashur al-Shujayri, also known as Abu Uthman, was captured during an operation Aug. 11. He is reportedly the AQI emir of the Rusafa district of Baghdad. Ali Rash Nasir Jiyad al-Shammari, also known as Abu Tiba, was captured Aug. 17. Both men are assessed to be longtime members of AQI. (READ MORE)

Multiple IED attacks kill 2 Iraqi citizens in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Two Iraqi citizens were killed and 13 were wounded, to include seven Ministry of Interior personnel, when two improvised explosive devices were detonated in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad at approximately 10 a.m. Aug. 24. The first IED struck a MoI patrol stopped at a curbside. The second explosion hit as a MoI Quick Reaction Force responded to the incident. Both MoI trucks were damaged in the blasts. (READ MORE)

Suicide bomber kills 5 in Kirkuk city - KIRKUK, Iraq – A suicide vest attack killed four local citizens and one Sons of Iraq member on Aug. 23 in Kirkuk city. Seven civilians were also injured in the attack, which exploded in the vicinity of a car dealership. Iraqi emergency teams and coalition forces medical personnel responded to the incident. The event is currently under investigation. (READ MORE)

101st Soldiers unearth weapons caches in Salah ad Din - SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, Iraq – Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), along with Iraqi Security Forces, discovered a series of major weapons caches in Salah ad Din province over the past several days. Acting on tips from local citizens, soldiers found a bevy of serviceable weapons Northeast of Balad and Southwest of Samarra, which ranged from sniper’s rifles to highexplosive ordnance. (READ MORE)

Two suspected Kata’ib Hezbollah associates nabbed in New Baghdad - BAGHDAD – In their continued degradation of the Kata’ib Hezbollah criminal network, Coalition forces picked up two suspected associates during operations Friday morning in New Baghdad. Acting on intelligence tips, Coalition forces raided the home of a suspected Katai’b Hezbollah propaganda expert, believed to have uploaded more than 30 attack videos to the criminal ring’s now-defunct web site. (READ MORE)

10 Taliban killed in Afghan clashes, officers sacked after civilians die - KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S.-led coalition troops clashed with a group of Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan, killing six militants, while four militants were killed in a battle in the south, officials said. (READ MORE)

Govt rejects Taliban truce offer in Bajaur - KHAR/PESHAWAR: The government on Sunday rejected the offer of the Bajaur chapter of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to unilaterally cease fire in the agency where fierce fighting between the security forces and militants has been raging for over two weeks, claiming scores of lives. (READ MORE)

France to take long look at Afghan mission - PARIS: The death of 10 French soldiers in an ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan has stoked a cry at home for France to rethink its commitment to the seven-year mission led by the United States. Most French voters want out, and the opposition is ratcheting up the pressure on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government – though analysts say France and other allies will dig in for the fight even as they insist upon a new look at Nato’s strategy against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. (READ MORE)

Pak Army kills 50 Taliban militants in Swat - Peshawar, Aug 24 : Seventy-eight people were killed and several others injured as fierce clashes continued in different parts of the Swat Valley today. The security forces launched their offensive late night on the alleged headquarters of Taliban militants. They used artillery and gunship helicopters to hit positions of the militants. (READ MORE)

Multiple militants killed in Kapisa province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 24, 2008) – Multiple militants were killed by Coalition forces during an operation to disrupt militant activities in Kapisa province, Saturday. The force searched a remote area in Tag Ab District targeting a senior Taliban commander smuggling weapons and foreign fighters into Afghanistan, as well as organizing rocket, IED and suicide attacks against Coalition and ISAF forces. (READ MORE)

Native Panjshir family donates land for girls school - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 21, 2008) – A small group of people were on hand for a ground-breaking ceremony for the $130,000 Haish Saidqi eight-room schoolhouse, Aug. 20, on a hillside overlooking the picturesque stepped farmlands of Rokha District, Panjshir province, Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Creating a $table Afghan future to bank on - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 19, 2008) — U.S. forces here will now utilize commercial Afghan banking services, which will bolster Afghanistan’s economy by putting approximately $100 million worth of monthly-business transactions into private banks’ hands. (READ MORE)

Taliban commander killed in clash with ANSF and Coalition forces - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 22, 2008) – Afghan National Army Commandos and Coalition forces on patrol were ambushed by insurgents in the Shindand District of Herat province today. The combined patrol was en route to a Taliban commander’s compound in an effort to detain him and other known insurgents in the area. Insurgents engaged the soldiers from multiple points within the compound using small-arms and RPG fire. The combined force responded with integrated small-arms fire and an airstrike. (READ MORE)

Militants operations disrupted in eastern Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 21, 2008) – Multiple militants were killed and one was detained by Coalition forces during an operation to disrupt militant activities in Kapisa province, Thursday. The force searched a compound in Tag Ab District targeting a Taliban commander smuggling weapons and foreign fighters into Afghanistan, as well as organizing suicide attacks against Coalition and ISAF forces. (READ MORE)

Bagram school receives fresh renovations for new semester - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 20, 2008) – For the children of Bagram Village Girl’s High School, August 19 was the start of a new semester. Students filtered through the gate the same as any other school day, but were surprised to see their school had changed since the end of the last semester. (READ MORE)

Small Rewards Program reduces munitions - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 18, 2008) — Colorful flyers are passed out to the Afghanistan population to give them tips such as staying hydrated, warnings to avoid touching landmines and what to do if one might happen to come across munitions that could be used against Coalition forces. Approximately 24,000 of these flyers, which have a combination of pictures and images, tell about the Small Rewards Program. The idea behind the Small Rewards Program is that if anyone finds munitions, they can turn them into the Coalition in exchange for money. (READ MORE)

Force protection increased at district center - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 18, 2008) —The Quargehay District Center has come under two attacks since April, and recently a Criminal Investigative Division police officer was killed while searching the culverts surrounding the center for improvised explosive devices. However, work is being done to strengthen the area around the district center from these attacks, such as Hesco Barriers and the construction of a guard tower. (READ MORE)

Refugees find safe haven in Konar province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 17, 2008) — According to United Nations statistics, at its highest point since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the number of Afghan refugees that crossed the border into Pakistan surpassed three million. The 1.2 million displaced Afghans living in Pakistan make up the largest refugee group in the world today, stated the UN report. (READ MORE)

ANSF assumes control of Bak District Center - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 17, 2008) — The Afghanistan National Security Forces assumed control of the Bak District Center during a transfer-of-authority ceremony Saturday. After five months of mentoring from a Task Force Currahee Military Police platoon, the Afghanistan National Army soldiers have shown they are ready to assume full responsibility of the area, said Capt. Jim Raines, company commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment. (READ MORE)

10 killed in attack on lawmaker's home, Pak Govt bans Taliban - ISLAMABAD: Ten people were killed when militants attacked the home of a provincial legislator's brother in Pakistan's restive northwestern Swat valley even as the government banned the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. (READ MORE)

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