September 5, 2008

From the Front: 09/05/2008

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

In their own words:
3rd MAW: A Lioness on the Prowl - When I arrived at Camp Habaniyah to become a “lioness,” I felt like I was enrolling at a women’s college in a foreign country, not knowing exactly what I was going to major in. Female Marines of all different ages, races, religions, hometowns and job specialties are tapped for this assignment. All the soon-to-be lionesses quickly bonded, as we collectively wondered what was ahead of us. We'd heard what it's like being a lioness, but everyone had different stories and no one was really sure. The training has been a mix of classes with Power Point demonstrations and a series of practical applications of the classroom concepts. We’ve gotten a lot of information in a short period of time. We had just seven days of training before we would officially be lionesses and sent off to different units. Every minute of these seven days of training has been jam-packed to get us completely ready. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Anbar Story - While it's fashionable to mock President Bush, some in Washington are smart enough to speak the truth. WaPo's editorial writer says today that Bush's surge decision, in opposition to the counsel of most of Congress and some in his own administration, will stand as one of the best and most courageous acts of his presidency. The writer talks about Anbar in Iraq that though there is, as ever, reason for concern about the future of the Sunni province, it is a significant success. Typically those who were opposed to the surge, including Obama and Biden, say that things are better because the Sunni tribes turned against al-Qaeda before the surge. In other words, they argue U.S. troops didn't have much to do with the victory in Anbar. But there is information that says otherwise. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Influential Coalition Represenative Meets in Khalidyah - KHALIDYAH, Iraq (August 24, 2008) – Iraq is steadily progressing forward with stronger and more stable provincial and local governments. These governments provide the essential services, which serve as the bedrock of peace and stability throughout Iraq. The city’s Director Generals and the mayor of Khalidyah, Iraq, met with influential Coalition representatives to discuss progress in governance and future projects to improve essential services and foster economic development, Aug. 24. Khalidyah’s Director Generals were able to voice their concerns to Travis Pruitt, a city management advisor with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT) from Ramadi. This was their opportunity to disclose their respective field’s needs for fiscal year 2009’s budget. The Iraqi government is in the process of writing a new budget plan and Pruitt says it is crucial that every community’s requests are included in the proposal. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: City Council Takes Action, Completes Tri-City Medical Engagement - JIKO, Iraq (August 30, 2008) – Local City Council leaders successfully planned and executed a combined medical engagement (CME) at the Jiko medical clinic to provide medical care to the people of Jiko, Mukalan and Sattack, Aug. 30. Almost 400 Iraqi citizens received care from Capt. Kadhim Ali Kadhim, the battalion surgeon with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraq Army Division, and doctors and corpsmen with Mobile Assault Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and an Iraqi Women’s Engagement Team from Marine Wing Support Squadron 374. Iraqi women were searched by female Marines, and seen by female corpsman and doctors in order to respect the cultural integrity of the community. City council members were pleased with the event’s success. “This has been the largest Iraqi-lead event in the area,” said Mohammed Hussein, Jiko’s medical nurse and member of the Tri-Cities City Council. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: An Act of Defiance - KARMAH, Iraq – In an act of defiance toward al Qaeda in Iraq, Karmah sheikhs and Marines with Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, recently held their first meeting since a suicide vest attack killed 20 local leaders and key tribal figures and three Marines June 26. Lt. Col. Andrew R. Milburn, commanding officer, Task Force 1/3, and key staff of the battalion attended the meeting Aug. 20 to offer assistance to the Iraqis and build on the accomplishments of the unit they replaced. Task Force 1/3 replaced Task Force 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, in late July, beginning a seven-month deployment to the greater Karmah area. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US airstrike kills five al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan - The US has conducted yet another cross-border strike in the badlands of Pakistan's tribal agencies. In the fifth cross-border strike in six days, unmanned aircraft operating from Afghanistan struck an al Qaeda safe house in the village of Gurwak in Taliban-controlled North Waziristan. Between five and seven people have been reported killed in the strike. AFP reported five "foreign militants" - a term used to describe al Qaeda operatives, were killed. The identity of those killed has not been disclosed as Pakistani security forces are attempting to reach the scene of the attack. Geo TV reported that four children and three women were killed in the strike. The village of Gurwak is in territory run by the powerful Haqqani family. The Haqqanis are closely allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Haqqanis run a parallel government in North Waziristan and conduct military and suicide operations in eastern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Western Anbar Progress Report - Sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees and it might be that I am too close to the situation. My information comes from talking to people and walking in Anbar. I report what I see and what I believe to be true. The caveat to my information is that it is raw material. The people with the big brains can check and aggregate all the information they get from me and others to draw the big picture. Below is my assessment of progress in Western Anbar in September 2008. Governance - Governance has continued to improve. City councils are in place in all our major areas and all have received training from USG funded trainers. There are still significant differences among jurisdictions. In order of effectiveness, they are Al Qaim, Anah, Hadithah, Rutbah, Rawah and Hit. Rutbah has made the most impressive strides over the past period, but they started from a very low base. An unmistakably positive trend has been the flow of Iraqi money to projects. (READ MORE)

Major John: Some Parting Thoughts from Major Thomas Sadiq - Major Sadiq was a terrific help to me when I moved up to Baghdad and started my new position. Always hard working and friendly, he made time to help every time I asked. Now he has finished his 12 months here and is leaving us. But he left us with a parting message I thought was worth sharing: Hello, I am about to leave MNSTC-I. I have worked closely with you during our time together as we helped the Nation of Iraq develop. I thank you all for the time and effort you expended on my behalf. I volunteered for the deployment, and it’s been a long road. Let me tell you what has changed since I arrived. I’ve been through the days when we were told we had lost. The Senate voted on a resolution to divide Iraq into three parts. Foreign Affairs ran an article asking not if Iraq had been lost, but attempting to place blame on who lost it. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Day 76. Small mysteries - I call this picture, "How not to find a good parking spot". It did take a little effort to get it back on the hard road. The driver must have found the only spot of ground in Iraq that hasn't been hard baked by the sun. They DO love these trucks. Ford F-350 Super Duty. Crew cab PLUS 7.62mm Machine Gun mount on the back. Wish I could get one of these in the States. A minor mystery. This picture shows a small bit of pound cake from an MRE (pre-packaged field ration). It was originally offered to the starving dog shown in the previous post. After 2 days, it is still uneaten. Ants have been swarming all over this area but have not touched this "cake". Hmmmm... Another minor mystery. This is a picture of dates that have fallen to the ground. I had my first date last week and it was very sweet. Sugar cane sweet. Again, no ants. (READ MORE)

Something on the staff: Ramadan - Ramadan! Once a year Muslims around the world spend a month fasting, reading the Koran and acting in a more pious manner. The first time I encountered Ramadan was during my first Iraq tour, back in 2003. My chain of command put out a little pamphlet explaining Ramadan to all us infidels. The only thing that stood out was the section on killing. This isn’t verbatim, but it went something like this: “During Ramadan, Muslims are prohibited from killing other people. Now, were always supposed to avoid killing people, but during Ramadan we really mean it.” That was an early Iraq …what? moment. For Ramadan, Muslims won’t eat, drink, smoke or partake in nookie during daylight hours. In an effort to respect Ramadan, Coalition Forces won’t do any of the above in front of practicing Muslims. It isn’t so much about respect, as it is an effort to not make them angry. Iraqis are rather high strung after five years of murder, VBIEDs, random explosions, etc. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveller: Paging Mr. Trump - Driving through the "heavily fortified Green Zone", aka International Zone, today you can see where the Government of Iraq has begun clearing a massive lot near the British Embassy. The wooden sign at the entrance to the bulldozed lot depicts a picture of a palatial building, ostensibly the one to be constructed, and words stating that this is the future home of the Prime Minister's Guest House. Aren't there enough palaces here already? Why is anyone wasting money, (American tax payers' money?) on yet another palace?! What Iraq needs is commercial not government infrastructure. Why an international hotel chain doesn't come in and build a Hyatt or Radisson within the Green Zone or the airport facility is beyond me. Even with the SOFA people are going to be coming in and out of Iraq for decades to come, and right now there's no place to house them aside from a handful of double-wides on a dusty lot near the airport. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
The Angry American: Legacy - It was a very hot September day, and our attitudes towards our next task were piss poor to say the least. We are fighters, we are America's Warrior class, we are killers, we are Infantrymen. That day we were playing chauffeur to escort someone to a meeting, when in the scheme of things was small to us but to the rebuilding of the sector in which we patrolled would play a large part in rebuilding that area. Our mission was two-fold we also had to take an Engineer to do a sight eval at a gas station were 2 of our 2/16 brethren had been shot by a sniper. We would take him there and he would determine what we could do to make the gas station safer for our guys inside. On the way to a meeting my gunner noticed some suspect wires in the road and I called to the lead vehicle to watch them on the way back. The lead truck commander called back to me and said he got it. We dropped off the people for their meeting and began phase 2 of the mission. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Sadr City students return to schools with new look, feel (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – When bells ring for a return to schools throughout the Sadr City district of Baghdad later this month, students at 38 schools throughout the area are in for a big surprise. Following the end of hostilities in Baghdad’s most densely populated district, nearly all the 38 schools located in Task Force Gold’s operational environment were selected for repair and refurbishment by the Soldiers of the 926th Engineer Brigade. (READ MORE)

New sewer system opens in Kamaliyah (Baghdad) - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – More than 130,000 residents of Kamaliyah have a more sanitary way to remove sewage from their homes and streets with the official opening of an extensive sewer system, Sept. 3. Local leaders, Iraqi contractors, National Police officers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, currently attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, combined their efforts to bring the sewer system to the people. (READ MORE)

Assistance center moves to facility in heart of northeastern Baghdad district - BAGHDAD – An Iraqi Assistance Center opened Sept. 1 in Baghdad’s Sadr City district. The center, near the Sadr City District Advisory Council building, is where Iraqi citizens go to file damage and condolence claims for losses suffered due to combat between Coalition forces and Special Groups elements in the northeastern Baghdad district.(READ MORE)

IA, NP, local citizens combine efforts to seize munitions in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Police continue seizing weapons caches in Baghdad Sept. 3 and 4. At approximately 5:30 p.m. Sept 3, police serving with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division, discovered a cache buried in a garden in the al-Aamel neighborhood in the West Rashid district of Baghdad. The munitions included 256 pounds of manufactured explosives, three mortar rounds, an 82 mm mortar round and a 60 mm high explosive mortar round. (READ MORE)

Al-Baraka Operative Farmers Association opens (Baghdad) - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Farmers in Baghdad Province’s Lutifiyah area came together Aug. 30 to celebrate the opening of the al-Baraka Operative Farmers Association. “Lutifiyah is a big part of Iraq … it connects the Tigris with the Euphrates rivers, and we are very proud of it,” said Ali, a retired Iraqi Army lieutenant colonel and a member of the new association. “We will work together for the sake of the people, and we thank everybody who contributed to making Lutifiyah a safer place.” (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda networks in Mosul set back - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 14 suspected terrorists, including three wanted men, during operations culminating Friday in and around Mosul targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders. One of the wanted men, detained Friday with two associates, is assessed to be a senior advisor to AQI operations in northern Mosul. Intelligence reports indicate he oversees all attacks and provides advice for targeting.(READ MORE)

IA soldiers learn route-clearing operations from 10th Mtn. Soldiers - Kirkuk, Iraq – Thirty-two Iraqi Army soldiers from the 15th Brigade, 4th Division completed the “Iron Claw Academy” at Forward Operating Base Gaines-Mills near Kirkuk City Sept. 2. The IA soldiers, taught by Soldiers with Company A, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 10th Mountain Division’s Sapper Platoon, learned how to conduct route clearance operations to help ensure local roads are secure for travel in a series of ‘left seat-right seat’ exercises during the two-week course. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces identify Taliban leaders killed in recent strikes - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (September 4, 2008) – Coalition forces have positively identified five Taliban subcommanders killed during operations over the past month in Kapisa province. Qari Nejat, along with four additional anti-afghan forces, was killed during a Coalition forces’ operation in Nijrab District on Aug. 5. Nejat was a Taliban commander in the Tag Ab valley region, with ties to senior insurgent figures. He was implicated in the July 21 suicide bombing in the Tag Ab bazaar that injured six afghan nationals, as well as the July 16 kidnapping of three Afghan National Policemen in Jalokhel. (READ MORE)

US raid in western Afghanistan kills eight militants, two civilians - Kabul - A US military raid in western Afghanistan left two civilians and eight militants dead, while coalition forces killed several militants and detained 11 others elsewhere in the country, officials said Friday. Afghan and US military forces raided a house in Bakwa district of the western province of Farah on Thursday night, sparking a four-hour gunbattle that killed eight Taliban militants and two civilians, Gholam Farouq Nahimi, an army commander in western region, said. (READ MORE)

Slain Afghan judge had received death threats - Afghanistan's top anti-drug judge had received phone calls and text messages before he was murdered warning him to acquit a suspected drug dealer or face death, a spokesman for the anti-drugs tribunal said on Friday. Judge Alim Hanif, chief judge of the Central Narcotics Tribunal appeals court, was leading a campaign to bring influential drug traffickers to justice when he was shot dead on Thursday on his way to work in Kabul. (READ MORE)

Furor over pics of Taliban in dead soldiers' kit - (CNN) -- A magazine photo spread of Taliban fighters posing in the uniforms of 10 French soldiers killed last month has sparked an angry response. The latest edition of Paris Match includes photos of the Taliban fighters and their commander, "Farouki," wearing French uniforms, helmets and using French assault rifles and walkie-talkies. (READ MORE)

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