August 26, 2008

From the Front: 08/26/2008

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

In their own words:
Rocinante's Burdens: Day 67 - There are no new messages on the server. No mail in two weeks. No email in a week. Darn few comments on the blog. I'm just say'in. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: Analysis of the Day's Events 25 August 2008 - There was a lot of the same today, but also some very interesting developments. Pakistan is continuing to destabilize. The coalition that they had put in place continues to lose strength and splinter at the seams. There has also been a combination of appeasement and offensive against the Taliban elements within Pakistan. I'm not quite sure if this is a concerted effort by the government or if this is tied more to individual commanders taking initiative or trying to destroy competitors. Either way Pakistan has become a major wait and see area. Right now, Ill be very honest, I'm not sure which way they are going to go. Russia's lawmakers also decided they wanted the President to bring South Ossetia and Abkhazia into the Russian Federation. The last time I checked this was not Russia's choice. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda-linked Shabab in control of southern Somalia - Just one and a half years after Ethiopian forces ejected the Islamic Courts Union from power in the failed state of Somalia, the country is poised for a takeover by a radical al Qaeda regional group. Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked terror group, has taken control of most of southern Somalia and portions of the central region, according to press reports from the troubled nation. Late last week, Shabab fighters overran the strategic southern port city of Kismayo, Somalia's second largest city. The capture of Kismayo capped a yearlong campaign by Shabab to retake territory lost to the Ethiopians in late 2006 and early 2007. Shabab, the radical Islamist youth movement formed from the leadership and fighters of the ousted Islamic Courts, has teamed up with the powerful Hawiye clan to attack Ethiopian and Somali security forces. These attacks soon spread north, south, and west of Mogadishu. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: 60 Minutes - I understand the 60 Minutes episode I saw today about Hadithah originally aired in March 2007 and I suppose it reflected the situation at the time. But it is amazing how much things have changed and some mention of that in the follow up segment might have been nice. The 60 Minutes segment shows the bad old days in Hadithah. They said that most people in Hadithah are hostile to coalition forces. Back then maybe; today things are different. I walk through Hadithah a lot. If people are hostile, they don’t show it. People smile and wave at us. I frequently stop to talk to shopkeepers and pedestrians. Not only have I encountered no hostility, but many people thank us for the security we have brought to the place. I have featured pictures of my walks through Hadithah on many occasions. Sometimes dumpy; no longer scary. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Eat ‘em and Smile - I wrote this while smoking a CAO Brazilia. I page through the convoy manifest. Private Applesauce's squad leader placed her as the gunner in Vic Six: the last truck in the convoy. "Ok, listen, guys,” I say to Specialist Fishbowl and Private Applesauce’s team leader. ”I was looking at the manifest and I don't think Applesauce is ready for the gun. We can swap out Applesauce and Invisible Boy, but then it will be her first time driving. So are you sure, are you damn sure, that you want her on the gun?" "I believe she can do the job," Specialist Fishbowl says. "I do too," Applesauce's team leader says. I’m reluctant to concede to this. The last truck in the convoy has the important job of warning off oncoming vehicles and acting as the liaison truck with other convoys at the halt. A reliable, experienced person has to be on that gun. But my platoon is fresh out of experienced people and we have to settle for just reliable, or even unreliable and only marginally motivated. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveler: The Ugly Duckling - The Iraqi military has come a long way. It's soliders have picked up a lot of American-isms though. I was watching some British news coverage this morning showing a 16-year old female suicide bomber that for one reason or another did not detonate herself. The footage was riveting and depicted two lightly armored Iraqi police officers striping the vest and clothes off the girl as she was still standing in the street. What caught my eye was the other 4-5 Iraqi police standing within 2-3 meters of the girl apparently watching and trying to act useful. What's to say that, as in many cases, she is not remotely detonated, killing the lot of them? The Iraq police force is supposed to have undergone extensive training by the Coalition but instances like this make me wonder just how effective that training has been. I see Iraqi Police on a daily basis and I've yet to be impressed by anything that they've done. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveler: Driving Through Baghdad - We did a "windshield tour" of Baghdad this morning, visiting areas that we haven't been to lately and confirming routes and accessibility. The traffic was outrageous which is par for the course in the city. The white lines on the road are meaningless, and it's just an absolute food-fight on four wheels, everyone is trying to get ahead of the next guy. There are plenty of people on the streets and all of the stores are open for business. The one thing that I noticed was that the Iraqi Police did not have as large a presence on the streets as it has in the past, when you would see dozens of blue and white SUVs bullying their way through traffic, automatic weapons hanging menacingly out open windows. Today I saw only pieces of that. The same is true for the American Army, it's presence was almost non-existant when compared to that of the Iraqi Army. I take all of that as a good sign. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Unfiltered: Sacrifices at home appreciated - The past couple of days have been pretty hard mentally. My mind is finally starting to grasp the severity of my situation. I am realizing exactly how long a year can seem when you are gone from your home. I have spent a lot of time filtering through the memories that my wife and I have shared together. It seems like she has been the one monopolizing my thoughts. We met when we were in high school. She was a junior, and I was a senior when we started dating, but we had known each other for a while before that. If I had not been so awed by her, we probably would have started dating much earlier. It took me quite awhile to build up enough courage to ask out a girl so far out of my league. I fell in love with her, though, the day I met her. (READ MORE)

Another Adventure: Birds Eye View - Here are a few pictures from the Med Evac. I took them in June. I had forgotten I had them. I don't know the names of any of the villages we flew over. Isn't it amazing how green it is? This is their dry season. We are the lead helicopter. The crumpled up baggy on the right of the picture is what we wrap patients in for transport. It's called a burrito wrap. Nothing like Taco Bell... I wish I could tell you more about the villages. I never leave the wire. this is as close as I'll ever get. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
Greyhawk: A History of Violence - Last year: “...John Kerry was wrong when claiming (in an effort to undermine homefront morale in another war) that no one wants to be the last man to die for a mistake. In fact, al Qaeda will always have someone eager to prove him wrong.” But what if I was wrong - and they do run out of willing men? This is what we've been fighting in Iraq...not teenage girls with explosives strapped to them - but the people who would strap explosives to teenage girls. According to Reuters: “Under interrogation in a police station later, she said an older woman had strapped the vest to her and told her to go near the entrance of a local school and await instructions from someone who would meet her there, police said.” (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Deal or no deal? - The ongoing saga of U.S. and Iraqi attempts to hammer out a deal on the future of American forces in Iraq has taken a new twist with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's declaration Monday that he won't accept any plan that does not include a withdrawal date for U.S. soldiers. Maliki made his comments to a gathering of tribal leaders, and while some of it may have been grandstanding aimed at bolstering support, it was the first time the prime minister had publicly demanded a withdrawal deadline. As for the deadline, Maliki said U.S. and Iraqi negotiators had agreed on the end of 2011. (READ MORE)

Two Kata’ib Hezbollah suspects captured in Rusafa (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured two suspected Kata’ib Hezbollah associates during operations Tuesday morning in Baghdad. Acting on intelligence tips, Coalition forces targeted a propaganda facilitator for Kata’ib Hezbollah. It is believed his involvement in the Kata’ib Hezbollah media operations involved editing and posting of attack videos against Coalition and Iraqi forces. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda bombing cells, foreign terrorist network disrupted (Mosul, Sharqat) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured several wanted men during operations that rounded up eight suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists in central and northern Iraq Monday and Tuesday. Coalition forces detained a wanted man during a raid Monday west of Sharqat, about 90 km south of Mosul. The man is believed to help foreign terrorists move into and around Iraq to conduct attacks for AQI. A Tuesday operation farther south in Bayji targeting the same network netted two suspects. (READ MORE)

Raiders detain 3 suspected criminals (Baghdad) - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained three suspected criminals Aug. 25 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 1:45 a.m. in the Jihad neighborhood, Soldiers from Company E, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, arrested the three suspects during a point-specific target operation. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, 41st FB doctors improve health care in al-Kut - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Iraqi and U.S. Army doctors treated more than 230 patients at the Theeba Clinic in al-Kut during a combined medical engagement organized by the 41st Fires Brigade. Aug. 21. “It’s all about teamwork, working hand-in-hand, a partnership to learn each other’s medical culture and to better facilitate and train the Iraqis,” said 2nd Lt. Sebastien Goillandeau, 589th Brigade Support Battalion Medical Operations, planner with the Special Projects Office. (READ MORE)

Officials Reopen Refurbished Jadriya Lake Park in Karadah - FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH — An estimated 2,250 Iraqi citizens witnessed a step toward a return to normalcy as local officials reopened Jadriya Lake Park in the Karadah District of eastern Baghdad, Aug. 22. Government officials, security force leaders, contractors, and Soldiers who all worked together to restore the lake and surrounding grounds joined the people in celebrating the successful lake reopening. (READ MORE)

Medical Clinic Nears Completion in Araifiya - COMBAT OUTPOST CASHE SOUTH — Khalaf Assad, a local Iraqi contractor, spent more than one month building a new primary care medical clinic in the small area of Araifiya. The work began on little more than a piece of property, but Assad's vision drove him to continue. This clinic, with its prime location within the local village, will provide an immense boost to the health care system of the area. (READ MORE)

Reintegration Facility Contributes to Iraq’s Security, Economy - BAGHDAD — “The Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center in Taji has been constructed to integrate detention with reintegration programs,” said Lt. Col. Ronald Pieri, Task Force 134 Engineer. “The overall goal of the TIFRC is to reintegrate detainees with basic education and trade skills such that they can contribute to a peaceful and secure Iraq.” TF-134 is the organization in charge of detainee operations in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Afghan government obliges NATO to get clearance for air strikes Kabul, August 26, IRNA - The Afghan government on Monday obliged foreign troops including NATO and the United States not to bomb suspected areas without getting clearance from respective officials to avoid civilian casualties. The government ministers demanded a status of forces agreement, which would stipulate that the authority and responsibilities of international forces be negotiated, and they said that aerial bombing, illegal detentions and house raids by international forces must be stopped. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan demands review of foreign troops - KABUL: President Hamid Karzai's government has demanded a review of US and NATO troops in the country and their use of airstrikes in civilian areas, following allegations that many civilians died in raids and airstrikes by foreign forces in recent weeks. In a harshly worded statement, the government ordered its ministries of foreign affairs and defense to review the presence of foreign troops... (READ MORE)

Afghans clash with abductors of Japanese aid worker - Learn to Trade with a FREE Guide.JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan police clashed with the kidnappers of a male Japanese aid worker in eastern Nangarhar province on Tuesday, freeing the man's local driver, a police spokesman said. The Japanese aid worker was seized earlier on Tuesday while he worked on a construction project in the Daraye Noor area of Nangarhar, provincial police spokesman Ghafour Khan said. (READ MORE)

Dozens Dead In Afghan Violence - U.S.-led coalition troops battled a group of militants in eastern Afghanistan, killing over 30 insurgents, while three NATO soldiers were killed in a roadside blast, officials said Thursday. The coalition troops used small arms and airstrikes while attacking the militants in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, the coalition said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Taliban declare truce in SWA - WANA: Local Taliban led by pro-government militant commander Maulvi Nazir on Monday announced a unilateral ceasefire after fierce clashes with security forces in South Waziristan Agency (SWA). Militant sources said a Jirga of Ahmadzai Wazir tribal elders held an emergency meeting with Political Agent Syed Shahab Ali Shah and informed him of the frequent violation of Pakistan's airspace by the US spy planes and carrying out air strikes in the Agency, killing innocent tribesmen in the name of al-Qaeda. (READ MORE)

Taliban Outlawed in Pakistan - A fresh escalation in an already serious security situation in Pakistan has prompted the government to ban the Taliban. The step goes beyond those taken by former President Pervez Musharraf during his almost nine years in power. On Tuesday, gunmen opened fire on an American consular vehicle in Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), although police said no one was hurt. (READ MORE)

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