September 8, 2008

From the Front: 09/08/2008

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

In their own words:
A Battlefield Tourist: Marines Tranfer Authority of Garmser - Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) handed control of northern Garmser district, Helmand Province, over to Afghan forces and their British embedded trainers September 8. 4th Kandak, 3rd Brigade of Afghanistan’s 205th Corps officially took over security duty from the Marines who were the primary force responsible for liberating the area earlier this year. The Afghan infantry unit has been moving into position since late July. The move allows 24 MEU, already extended a month, to begin assembling at Kandahar Airfield where they are making preparations to return to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina by the end of November. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Donkey IEDs, Flat Tires and Ramadan - So I haven't posted lately because there has been no power in our tent in Kuwait. No one seems to care. Now I am not going to say that I do not enjoy air condtioning, but living in an insulated tent in the Kuwati desert during summer is not the best place to be with no AC. It is hotter inside than outside. Also, there is now a $320 fine if you are witnessed eating food in the daylight on the FOB or in your guntruck. And to this I say, fuck Kuwait. These shitheads wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for us. It would be the southern Iraqi province of An-Kuwait or some shit. Not a single person in Iraq gives a shit if we eat during Ramadan; we're not Muslims and most of them are secular as hell. We spent yesterday sitting on the MSR for about 10 hours waiting for EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) to come and clear an IED out of a dead donkey's asshole that a southbound convoy called up. I immediately volunteered to go kick it and was denyed. (READ MORE)

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning: Running to remember - More than 50 U.S. and coalition service members conducted a commemorative 5-kilometer run at Camp Blackhorse in Kabul province to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks which was the opening moment of the Global War on Terror. Participants included members of the New York Army National Guard’s Fighting 69th Infantry, which responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan and are serving in Afghanistan as part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix. The run at Camp Blackhorse takes place on the same day as an annual Commemorative Run back on Long Island. The 9-11 Commemorative Run in New York has grown in popularity since it was organized three years ago by a local chapter of the Marine Corps League and includes service members and family members of 9-11 victims. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: A Chink in the U.S. Armour - A useful way to prove victimhood is to paint your enemy as one who has superpowers of all sorts. Your opponent must be so amazing that he can outsmart you at all times. He can ruin your economy, spread disease, read your mind, and raise your Body Mass Index. Reader Diane alerted me to the LAT story that indicates the United States has such fabulous powers. The paper today implies the wicked Bush Administration has been using that power to elevate the BMI of its Iraqi victims. The poor Iraqis just can't win. Had the Bush White House not ordered the invasion of Iraq, which unleashed sectarian violence, the Iraqi people would still be stick thin. Apparently the Baathists and the UN sanctions were better for health of the civilians. Now the United States has endangered Iraqi lives in yet another way by trapping people indoors, turning them into 500 pounders. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Toll of multiple concussions on soldiers serving in Iraq still a serious problem - The Indiana sergeant was sitting in the passenger seat of the lead truck when it was hit by an IED. The blast jumped us out of our seats six vehicles back, I imagine the impact he had felt. But as soon as he could comprehend the reality and he'd seen that his driver and gunner were ok, he ran out into the searing heat to check on the others in the convoy and help load the disabled vehicle onto a flat bed while keeping his rifle ready. When he finally climbed into the back seat of our Humvee, I saw his hand was shaking so hard he could barely lift the bottle of water to his lips. He was diagnosed with a concussion and spent the night in the base hospital for evaluation and was released the next day. (I haven't named him because I don't have his permission to discuss the incident.) (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Getting Up Close - Sometimes it's easy to forget that I am in Afghanistan. I can lose myself in talk about my children, plans for the future, favorite pizza places… You do that to disassociate and feel a little normal. Inevitably the reverie is broken up by the dull thud of an explosion, near or far, or cracking sounds of gunfire. Mostly those sounds are not immediately meaningful—it means that violence is taking place somewhere else: an Afghan checkpoint is being attacked, the Taliban are randomly and inaccurately lobbing ordnance at Afghan or US posts, someone is test-firing or engaging in target practice, so on and so forth. I have developed the standard hyperawareness of those sounds. I hear something and suddenly focus all my attention on identifying the source. Was that a mortar? Was that the coffee maker? Was that the next door neighbor slamming his door? I get mildly anxious and I have this strong desire to classify the sound as benign or otherwise. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan - The US has conducted another attack inside Pakistan's tribal areas. More than twenty people have been reported killed after the US fired multiple missiles at a home and madrassa, or religious school, owned by the Haqqani family in a village in North Waziristan. Today's attack inside Pakistan is the seventh reported strike in nine days, and the fourteenth such such this year. Pakistani sources said a swarm of Predator unmanned aircraft fired ten missiles at a Haqqani compound in the village of Danday Darpakhel near Miranshah. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the notorious Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, is said to have run the madrassa. Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters, along with some women and children, were reported killed in the strike, Pakistani sources told Reuters. But Siraj and Jalaluddin were not present at the time of the attack, according to Badruddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin's son. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Husaybah - After meeting with the troops and giving out some coins, General Petraeus flew off to his next appointment. We went into the city of Husaybah for a market walk. The Mayor wanted to go along. I am not sure if he adds value or subtracts. The mayor is apparently popular. He spoke easily with his constituents and they spoke to him about their problems and hopes. While I enjoyed watching a good Iraqi politician in action, I tried to get away a bit and talk to citizens outside the glow of the leading local politician. Husaybah is obviously doing okay. In addition to good produce in the shops, we saw lots of small appliances, clothing, rugs and even gold. They said the much of the gold is 21-24 carat, which makes the jewelry more expensive and, IMO, less attractive because it is more of an orange color rather than the shiny gold you get with more alloyed metal. This quality of gold is evidently the “gold standard” in the Arab world. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Day 78. Shift Change - At about 1800 tonight I noticed something that I had not noticed before... The night shift coming on duty. As the sun was setting, brigades of birds were returning from the river and landing in their favorite trees. At the same time battalions of bats were taking their place, on patrol for deadly insurgent mosquitoes. They were accompanied by companies of camouflaged lizards. The last of these, hiding like commandos to pick off the unwary ones who get too close to the ground, walls or ceilings. I also noticed the strategic high altitude forces of cranes (or something that looked like them a few thousand feet up) flying in formation heading back to base. I have been meaning to write about my food for weeks but to tell you the truth, it's nothing to write home about. (READ MORE)

Sgt Hook: Twelfth Night Month, Or What You Will - It’s been a long, hard, hot and dusty year and we’re all looking forward to going home in about three months. Much has changed over the past twelve months and we’re seeing a lot of promising signs around here. The Marines just recently handed over control of Anbar Provence to the Iraqis, a feat thought impossible just two years ago. Today the streets of Bagdhad are not recognizeable if compared to eighteen months ago. I recently went out with my Soldiers on a CLP supporting Iraqi Security Forces near Tikrit where we had to pick up a dozen 20 foot Sea/Land containers from the Iraqi compound and convoy them to a new location. While security was tight and everyone performed their duties as trained, the greatest enemy we faced that day was the brutally scorching 120 plus degree heat. As we loaded the last of the containters onto the flat beds of our uparmored transport trucks, strapping them down and readying them for the convoy phase of the operation... (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Split Personality - I wrote this while smoking a CAO Brazilia I was you once. “Release your attachments. Learn to suffer. You are not special.” I got up every day and worked in a prison of my own making. I wrote software that helped people buy stuff they didn’t need and trade commodities that they never intended to own. I drove home from work and listened to Fresh Air on NPR while I smoked a five dollar cigar. I hated my life. I hated every line of code. I hated every release review. I hated every other Friday afternoon where we would end our meeting with the next version’s objectives. “I open my CLS bag.” I put on dress shirts from Jos. A. Bank. I wore Haggar Cool 18 space-age plastic dress pants because the elastic was forgiving to my lovehandles. I schmoosed Kurt from sales because it was the best way to get intel on new projects that were coming down the pike. (READ MORE)

Hilla's Histories: Visit to Hashimiyah and Cholera Outbreak - Notwithstanding the above AFP report on the cholera outbreak in Babil Province, the Ministry of Health has not officially confirmed the outbreak, which apparently has struck Hashimiyah in the south and perhaps a town in the north. Cholera outbreaks are not unusual in Iraq at this time of year. I am sure that there is no cause and affect, but I visited Hashimiyah yesterday, as well as another town in that district called Shomali, which boasts the youngest judge in Iraq. We have formed a working group on the PRT to monitor the cholera situation and coordinate with relevant entities, like the Health Ministry, local officials, Coalition units and the Embassy. This morning we visited the largest radio station in the region, where I did a live interview for 45 minutes on the work of the Babil PRT. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
Armed and Curious: A question of gratefulness - Well, I have enjoyed my leave immensely. I have managed to be lazy yet productive on the home front while even squeezing in some running again to whip my broken old body into some kind of shape other than that of a pear. I can say with no reservations that it is very good to be home. I will let you know how if I feel the same way after I start commuting back up to DC Monday. One thing I have noticed lately is that my 10-year-old son is quickly becoming something of an expert in Iraq and foreign policy…whether he wants to or not. He has been trapped in more of my dissertations in the last five years than any kid should have to endure. It just seems every time we go somewhere and folks find out I am a three time veteran the questions start and he has to endure another of my long winded answers. Last week his annual pediatrician school check up was the latest opportunity for a little lesson in my perspective on life in the cradle of civilization. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: The French Scoop US MSM Again - The latest post, below and made only early this morning, is significant news. It is news from a small valley in Afghanistan which is both a microcosm of the Global War on Terror and a crucial battle in establishing a secure, democratic, and independent Afghanistan. The Tag Ab Valley is relatively close to Kabul. It follows a generally north-south axis starting near the town of Surobi (sometimes spelled "Sarobi,") and runs north to Nijrab. The districts of Kapisa Province north of the Nijrab District are peaceful and contrast strongly with the southern districts of Nijrab, Tag Ab, and Ala Say (sometimes spelled "Ala Sai" or Alah Say.") In the spring of 2007, the Tag Ab Valley was an area that experienced occasional encroachments by American Special Forces and Afghan National Army troops. The major operations that had been conducted in the valley to that point had been clearing operations followed by an absence of any stay-behind forces... (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Al Kut’s downtown business area to get modern fish, meat market complexes - AL KUT, Iraq – Al Kut’s downtown business area will soon feature two modern complexes for fresh meat and fish. A new $2.7-million 1,500-square-meter fish market will include space for 24 fish shops with cold storage, a cafeteria, coffee shop, central courtyard, exterior sidewalks and parking lot. Located nearby will be a new $2.4-million 2,000-square-meter meat market housing 25 butcher shops with cold storage, coffee shops, central courtyard with two fountains, exterior sidewalks and parking lot. (READ MORE)

NP, IA, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Police, Iraqi Army soldiers and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized several weapons as they continue to conduct operations to increase security in the West Rashid district of Baghdad Sept. 8. After receiving a tip from a local sheik, Soldiers serving with Company B, 153rd Infantry Battalion, Slayer Area Defense Operations Center, Base Defense Operations Center, MND-B, seized six 125 mm rounds at approximately 4:45 p.m. (READ MORE)

New Imam Ali Bridge unites sister cities (Najaf, Kufa, Baghdad) - KUFA, Iraq –During the August 28 opening ceremony of a new bridge south of Baghdad, Iraq’s vice president said the $6.5 million project shows the Iraqi government’s commitment to improving people’s lives in poorer areas that were ignored by the former regime. “Projects such as the new Imam Ali Bridge will help generate economic improvement,” Adil Abdal-Mahdi said. Included in the project are sidewalks, railings, approach lighting systems, along with a paved area on each side of the bridge for fire truck access to the river. (READ MORE)

Basra neighborhood very pleased with newly opened Primary Healthcare Clinic - BASRA, Iraq—Thousands of residents in the al-Risala neighborhood in Basra no longer have to walk or drive up to 20 kilometers to get medical care for their families. The Iraqi Ministry of Health opened a new primary healthcare center there in July. Dr. Alia Al-Hassan, the clinic administrator said, “We’re providing healthcare to about 300 patients daily, newborns to the elderly. This community, which has been neglected for a long time, is thrilled to have this new, modern medical facility.” (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda not safe in Baghdad, Mosul - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 15 suspected terrorists, including two wanted men, during operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq in two of the country’s largest cities Monday. Coalition forces captured a wanted man with alleged historic ties to AQI during an operation in Baghdad and detained two additional suspects. (READ MORE)

MND-B enforces security of Iraqi population during Ramadan - BAGHDAD –Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers and National Policemen conducted an information distribution operation Sept. 5. Soldiers from 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B and NPs from the 1st Battalion, 6th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division conducted the operation aimed at keeping criminals out of the Abu T’shir neighborhood of the Rashid district in southern Baghdad. (READ MORE)

VBIED detonates near school (Ninewah province) - QAYYARAH, Iraq – An Iraqi Army officer and three local citizens, including a child, were injured during a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack in Qayyarah, Ninewah Province Sept. 7. The VBIED was a pickup truck that was parked at the end of the Qayyarah market, which is near the Qayyarah Secondary School for Boys. (READ MORE)

VBIED detonates prematurely in Mosul - MOSUL, Iraq – Three suspected terrorists were killed and a house was destroyed when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated in Mosul Sept. 6. The individuals were constructing the VBIED when it detonated prematurely. The blast also damaged four local civilian homes. (READ MORE)

A new sewer network for Kamaliya paves the way to progress - BAGHDAD, Iraq – “After all the suffering of deprived people in this neglected area by the hands of the former regime, Insha’Allah, those sufferings are going away as a result of the efforts performed by our Coalition friends and our bothers in the government,” said Sheikh Kemal Yoda, east Baghdad’s Nisan 9 Chairman of Civil Services, at the opening ceremony this week for the completed Kamaliya Sewer Network. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda bombing cells weakened - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 10 suspects – including three men wanted for equipping terrorists with weapons and explosives – while disrupting al-Qaeda in Iraq’s bombing networks Sunday in central and northern Iraq. An alleged weapons facilitator in the Tigris River Valley is in Coalition custody after forces captured him and another suspect in Tikrit. (READ MORE)

Iraqi tip leads to large cache discovery - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Coalition forces, acting on a tip from local Iraqi citizens, discovered a cache containing more than 2,500 components Sep. 6 southeast of Samrah Village in the Babil province. It is believed this discovery will significantly disrupt explosively formed projectiles attacks within central Iraq. Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, found the cache after a group of local Iraqi citizens informed them of a suspected cache location that had recently received more munitions. (READ MORE)

20 militants killed in Zabul province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (September 5, 2008) – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed 20 militants September 2 during a patrol in Naw Bahar District, Zabul province. ANSF and Coalition forces were conducting a combat security patrol when they were attacked by militants with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Troops responded with small-arms, heavy-weapons and close air support, killing 20 militants. (READ MORE)

ANSF bridges gap in local community - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (September 5, 2008) - Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces assisted local villagers with the construction of a new bridge in Shaheed Hasas District, Oruzgan province September 1. The old footbridge provided limited access to a nearby village for only 60 isolated households. The new bridge is wider and capable of supporting more weight. It is expected to boost the local economy by granting local merchants easier access to more of the community. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces target militant leaders in Kapisa - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (September 5, 2008) – Coalition forces killed several militants, and detained two, during operations targeting an IED network in Kapisa province, Friday. The force searched a compound in the Tag Ab District targeting a Taliban commander responsible for smuggling foreign fighters into Afghanistan, as well as conducting IED attacks against Coalition and ISAF forces. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces detain four militants in Khowst - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (September 5, 2008) – Four militants were detained as Coalition forces conducted operations to disrupt the terrorist networks in Khowst province, Friday. The force searched a compound in the Spera District targeting a militant known to conduct attacks against GIRoA, Coalition and ISAF forces in the region. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces target IED network in Paktika - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (September 5, 2008) – Coalition forces killed several militants and detained five during an operation to disrupt an IED network in Paktika province, Friday. Coalition forces searched a compound in the Bermel District targeting a militant known to coordinate and direct IED attacks against Afghan and Coalition Forces. The targeted militant is also known to be associated with Taliban commanders, both locally and abroad, who coordinate and facilitate the flow of foreign fighters into Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

US re-examines Afghan civilian deaths from attack - The U.S. military said Sunday it has new evidence about civilian casualties from an American attack that Afghanistan says killed scores of women and children and it is sending a senior officer to the country to review its initial finding that no more than seven civilians died. The military did not say what new information had emerged. But Afghan and Western officials say Afghanistan's intelligence agency and the U.N. both have video of the aftermath of the Aug. 22 airstrikes on Azizabad village showing dozens of dead women and children. (READ MORE)

Buddha statue find at Afghan site - A giant statue of a Buddha has been discovered in central Afghanistan, near to the ruins of the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas. Archaeologists say the 19m (62ft) statue is in a sleeping position and dates back to the Third Century. Other relics such as coins and ceramics were also found. The Taleban blew up two giant standing Buddhas carved into the mountainside at Bamiyan - once a thriving centre of Buddhism - in 2001. (READ MORE)

Karzai blames Britain for loss of control over Taliban - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has blamed Britain for the resurgence of the Taliban and its growing activity in large tracts of his country. Interacting with a group of Afghan MPs, Karzai said that he and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had argued over warlords and drug barons. According to The Times, Karzai said Brown threatened to withdraw British troops from southern Helmand province if Karzai took the step of reappointing two provincial governors sacked for alleged dealings in the heroin trade. (READ MORE)

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