September 24, 2008

From the Front: 09/24/2008

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

In their own words:
A Battlefield Tourist: All Eyes on Bajour - The analysis coming out of media outlets in the US and Pakistan say the ongoing, all-out battle in Bajour Agency, Pakistan, could very well be the crux of the Pakistani army’s fight against that country’s Islamic militantcy. The fight is so important to all parties involved that the Taliban are moving forces from Afghanistan to reinforce fighters in Bajour, particularly from Kunar Province. To the Pakistani government, and the Americans closely watching, the fight for Bajour may be the tipping point where either the Pakistani Army or the militants will gain strength, or lose clout, across Pakistan’s entire tribal agency. In recent days, Pakistani forces, backed by tanks and artillery, have slowly started pushing toward Lowi Sam, just northwest of Khar. The troops are fending off hit and run attacks and roadside bombs as they go. (READ MORE)

Back on the Homefront: Hi Daddy, Hi Daddy - No, I didn't make a mistake. I meant to repeat myself in the title. You see, that's all I've been hearing for the past few days. When Micah was traveling back to Kuwait the last time, he stopped at the USO area in the airport. While there, they let him videotape himself reading a new book to the boys and then shipped that book, another book and two Beanie Babies to the boys. We received it a couple weeks ago and since then, Camden has been watching the video non-stop. Evan enjoys it too, but Cam has been stuck on watching it EVERY day. The minute we walk into the house in the afternoon, he's pointing to the TV and saying "Hi Daddy". I turn on the video and he continues to tell daddy hi while playing, eating, etc. Last night, he sat in his highchair saying "hi daddy" for about 15 minutes straight. I love my husband, but wow, that was crazy! (READ MORE)

Collabman's Thoughts: Black Widow...Update - Evening - It remains very quiet on the news front for the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. No photos or articles that I nor the info hounds could find. On the 25th, Chris will celebrate his 2nd birthday on the ground in Iraq - he will turn 21. We are hoping for a phone call from him on his 21st birthday but we are not sure. Given that we haven't heard from him for almost two weeks his ops tempo may just not allow it. We shall see...For those who are planning on sending an email wishing him a happy 21st birthday - thanks! Last year I celebrated his birthday virtually with this blog: 20th Birthday...On the Streets of Baghdad... As I stated in that blog...the pictures were his mother's idea ;-) (Really, they were...) (READ MORE)

John - MySpace Blog: Ft. Bragg and back again - Before I arrived in Afghanistan and started this blog, I spent three months at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, going through the Army's Combat Skills Training course. It was not a pleasant experience. We spent three months in the woods at an underdeveloped FOB with no showers, no latrines, and no buildings but tents. Also, there was no heat. Also, it was January. No one enjoyed the CST experience. What it did, though, was provide us with the basic combat skills we needed to survive in Afghanistan. As Airmen, we didn't have the marksmanship or tactical skills needed to run a convoy or react to contact. What CST did was give us those skills, albeit in an uncomfortable and unnecessarily drawn out process designed for the lowest common denominator. So it was with some trepidation that I went back to Ft. Bragg this weekend, to help conduct some training for the new PRT rotation preparing for their own Afghan adventure. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Tough talk after the Marriott bombing, but can Pakistan deliver? - The devastating bombing at the Marriott Hotel in the heart of Islamabad on Sept. 20 has prompted the Pakistani government to talk tough on taking on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas. The latest attack, which killed more than 50 Pakistanis and foreigners and wounded more than 270, is being described as "Pakistan's 9-11." But US military officers and intelligence officials interviewed by The Long War Journal are concerned Pakistan does not have the capacity to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda in their safe havens in the northwest. Over the past three days, senior Pakistani leaders said military operations in the tribal areas would intensify. Anonymous sources told the Pakistan press that major operations would be launched today. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Why the Surge Worked - I read a great article today about why the surge worked. Many of the opinions I read are from those who don’t know. This is different. Please follow the link to the original. It is based on an interview with General Jack Keane. Below is my block quote summary. It is mostly from the article. I put my own comments in italics. Talking about the first phase of the war, just after the invasion. Gen. Keane. "It didn't work. And why didn't it work? Because the enemy voted and they took advantage. The fact that we did not adjust to what the enemy was doing to us and the Iraqis were not capable of standing by themselves -- that was our major failure. . . . It took us all a while to understand the war and [that] we had the wrong strategy to fight it. Where I parted from those leaders [at the Pentagon] is when we knew the facts -- and the facts were pretty evident in 2005 and compelling in 2006: (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Almost Out - I am in Baghdad completing my check-out and getting ready to fly back to America. I don’t expect ever to be in Iraq again. I actually do have some fond memories of the place and I expect that they will improve over time, as the hardships fade and the good times are enhanced. The mind works that way. I made lots of friends in Iraq and I will miss them. Already I am thinking how fast the year went. I remember not thinking that at the time, but that is also the way the mind works. It is quieter in Baghdad now, or maybe that is just my impression. It may be because whenever I have been here before it has been part of some kind of conference, so there were always other transients around. I have the luxury of a “wet” trailer (i.e. one with a bathroom) but I sort of miss Al Asad. With its Marines and its austerity, Al Asad is like Sparta. Baghdad is more like Babylon. (READ MORE)

Sgt Trevor Skeggs: Hello, and welcome - Well hello to all the Herald readers, allow me to introduce myself I am Sergeant (Sgt) Trevor Skeggs, a 32 year old married father of 3. I am currently serving with 8 (Alma) Commando Battery (Bty) of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. My role within in the Bty is that of the Signals Sgt. I am tasked to maintain and provide communications for the Bty not only during training but also whilst on operations. Based at the Royal Citadel, I’ve served with this unit since leaving training and passing the All Arms Commando course in 1993. After arriving in Plymouth I have met and married my wife Sandra, and had 3 lovely children; Sophie who is 11, Emily 7 and Amy who is 2. (READ MORE)

Notes from Tommie: Way overdue… - So this is pobably the longest that I’ve gone without posting and would love to sit here and say that there was an excellent excuse; however, that wouldn’t be the truth. Sure, in the start the internet was down for a bit and I didn’t have access but that hasn’t been the case this entire time. But I suppose the old saying is true of ”no news is good news.” At this point I am extremely irritated for the lack of morality in our military. From the things that I have seen and the things I’ve hear, or even been told personally, it is expected of all soldiers to have two faces. Being raised in a family that promotes honesty and good moral values (and the fabled ‘army values’) puts me at odds with the situation. Although I suppose I can’t really say that it’s just the military but the entire human race as a whole; probably one of the biggest reasons why I am always finding myself dissapointed in our race. (READ MORE)

Playing in the Sandbox: Escape - During my long bouts with insomnia at night I like to relive moments of my life as a means of temporary relief from acknowledging where I actually am. For whatever reason I have very sharp images of seemingly insignificant events over the last (almost) 24 years on this planet. Maybe insignificant isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind. I was about to go into detail about these images and memories, but then I realized memories never translate well into words. So scratch that. Sometimes I relive moments that haven't happened yet, or maybe they did but I tweak them to my own personal taste. After awhile it becomes difficult to tell the difference between what actually happened and what I feel like imagining. Not that it really matters, since an alternate reality is the goal anyway. (READ MORE)

Army Poet: Tired - Feel sort of achy today. But the morning is bright and only touched with a faint film of dust. The breeze even has a cooling tinge to it. The small sparrows are bouncing around, dashing about, tilting their small heads like they've never seen people before. Like they are at some zoo, and we are the ones to be observed and pondered at...They are probably wondering if we fly. I can't seem to find the effort to make it to a computer to write recently, but there is a short verse of poetry I wanted to add here. It is from TE Lawrence, and was in the opening to his book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". I read it a long while ago, and came across the poem again recently. "I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars..." (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: I want to see you... - Hello all!! I want to thank all of those who are supporting my brother and I over here. If you're new, my brother is in Afghanistan and I am in Iraq...somewhere in Iraq.... I open every post thanking each and every one of you for your support and kindness you show us. I don't do that just to be repetitive, I do it because I mean it. With that in mind, I am REALLY looking forward to experience the power of the American people as we work to fill the request I posted yesterday. Please help us, and thank you!! I want to see you....I was talking to a very very dear friend of mine yesterday and they asked me, "why don't you put more pictures of yourself up?" I tried to explain that a lot of the pictures I take don't include me...AND I've been doing some secret squirrel stuff so I can't post the pictures I do have....BUT I would try to find some or take some and post up on here. SO, that's what I'm doing. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Back to my tent - Well R&R is over and I spent the last 3 days bed-ridden, so no sunglasses, sorry Kate. As with every Army Program on the planet, before we could sign out in Qatar we had to fill out an AAR sheet. For those not in the know, AAR means After-Action Review which is a summary of the day/mission/whatever just happened's events. They are usually done in a 3 up/3 down formation meaning 3 sustains (what went well) and 3 improves (what went wrong). These are usually worthless because people say the same thing; we talked good on that there radio, we got dah mission done, and some fatass always says "the chow is really good at FOB N." For the R&R AAR, where it said cell phone number I wrote "I live in a tent in the desert" and then under sustains I wrote that it was great to shower everyday and to shit in a toilet like normal people. For improves I wrote that they need to serve whiskey instead of wine in a box and coors light for the 3 drinks a day. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Female bomber cartoon stirs anger - The weekly newspaper that calls itself Al Esbuyia, or Iraq Weekly, offers a regular diet of sports, culture, features and sarcasm to readers, and one of its key features is the cartoon that accompanies each new issue. Most of the cartoons poke fun at the hardships endured by regular Iraqis, but some Iraqi lawmakers found the one published Sept. 14 to be not very amusing. It shows a Muslim woman clad in a burka holding a burning bomb fuse in her raised left hand, a la the Statue of Liberty, who stands beside her. The drawing reflects the growing number of female suicide bombers in Iraq, but members of Iraq's parliament denounced it as an insult to Iraqi Muslim women and voted Sunday to sue the newspaper for defamation. (READ MORE)

Sgt. Rafael Peralta to be remembered for bravery, not awards - If history is any guide, the odds are against the idea that President Bush, or his successor, will overrule the Pentagon and award the Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta as several lawmakers and a Latino veterans group have suggested. It would not be unprecedented, however. President Carter overruled his secretary of defense to bestow the medal on a Marine who fought at Guadalcanal. But in most cases, the original decision stands: (READ MORE)

Has Oil Been Good for Iraq? - BAGHDAD — Even half a century ago Iraq’s oil pipeline from Kirkuk to the Mediterranean coastline was called the country’s “Third River,” so important was it to the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The disclosure that Royal Dutch Shell has established an office in Baghdad — the first foreign petroleum giant to do so since Iraq nationalized its oil industry more than three decades ago – is the latest twist in decades of foreign involvement in the most lucrative of the nation’s natural resources. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt al-Qaeda foreign terrorist, leadership networks - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained one wanted man and four additional suspects during operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq’s foreign terrorist facilitator and leadership networks Tuesday. Forces working alongside the Iraqi army in Kirkuk captured a wanted man during an operation targeting AQI’s foreign terrorist facilitation network. Intelligence reporting suggests the man has connections to senior facilitators in neighboring countries. (READ MORE)

MND-C Soldiers secure weapons cache near Salman Pak - FORWARD OPERATING BASE Hammer – Soldiers from Multi-National Division – Center’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, secured a weapon cache near the town of Salman Pak, Iraq, Sept. 18. An Iraqi citizen reported that he knew the whereabouts of a weapons cache to Soldiers at Combat Operating Post Carver. The Soldiers found a weapons cache containing 60 25 mm high explosive rounds, 23 82 mm mortars, 12 60 mm mortars, and a 60 mm mortar tube. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces apprehend alleged weapons smuggler - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces struck a blow to the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq criminal network by apprehending a suspected criminal Wednesday morning during an operation in Amarah, in the Maysan Province. Acting on intelligence information, Coalition forces targeted a suspected senior weapons smuggler responsible for militant operations against Coalition and Iraqi security forces. (READ MORE)

Over 3,000 Iraqis graduate into the Kirkuk province’s Police Force - KIRKUK, Iraq — Over three thousand Iraqis including 58 females joined the ranks of the Kirkuk province’s police force during a graduation ceremony held at the Kirkuk Police Academy, Sept. 23. “This is a historic event for the people of the Kirkuk province,” said Maj. Gen. Jamal Thaker Baker, Kirkuk provincial police chief, referring to the unprecedented number of male and female recruits graduating. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, MND-B leaders to speak on Baghdad water issues - WHO: Brig. Gen. Robin P. Swan, deputy commanding general, and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Dave Ristedt, Multi-National Division – Baghdad and the 4th Infantry Division will attend this event. Also attending will be Iraqi leaders involved in disease prevention and water infrastructure: Hayder Mohamed Hayder, Deputy Director of the Baghdad Water Authority, Dr. Ihsan, Public Director General. (READ MORE)

Rustimayah logistics effort gains momentum - RUSTIMAYAH, Iraq – There is no lack of activity inside the Level III Maintenance facility in Rustimayah. Iraqi Army maintenance technicians are busy changing tires, repairing carburetors, fixing fuel pumps, doing body repairs, and even welding, a big turnaround compared to a year ago. “I think the biggest impact that we have had is just to be able to teach them certain maintenance procedures, such as balancing tires, repairing alternators, checking engines, and testing them,” stated Chief Warrant Officer Norman May: (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Taking Care of Business - QUDS — One… two… three—the signal is given; with a fierce kick, the door crashes open. Before the door makes contact with the adjacent wall, the Emergency Response Battalion 4 flood into the living room of a house in a small village in the eastern region of Mosul, Iraq. The ER 4 is one of several special tactics units within the Iraqi National Police. (READ MORE)

Rashid’s Displaced Citizens Returning - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON — An Iraqi family stands in the doorjamb of the empty house, where once they lived before the specter of sectarian violence overwhelmed their lives. The residence once used by insurgents as part of a network of anti-Iraqi forces’ safe houses now stands empty in a suburban muhallah of closely-knit houses characteristic of the Rashid District’s Hadar community — but not for long. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Soldiers Train to Become Leaders - QAYYARAH — With the new Iraqi Army in place, many within the military are finding themselves in leadership roles. To better help lead their subordinates, and peers in some cases, many Soldiers in the 2nd Division Iraqi Army are showing up at Forward Operating Base Q-West to partake in the Iraqi Warrior Leader’s Course. (READ MORE)

Ghazaliyah’s Sons of Iraq to Fall Under Government Authority - BAGHDAD — Soon, hundreds of Ghazaliyah’s Sons of Iraq, or Abna’a al Iraq, will come under new management. In an effort to reorganize and integrate these concerned citizens, known locally as the Ghazaliyah guardians, they will fall solely under the control of the Government of Iraq. (READ MORE)

Read Trevor's blog from the war zone - DODGING bullets and winning hearts and minds may be all in a day's work for Sergeant Trevor Skeggs in Afghanistan – but now he has another role. The Command Post Firing Sergeant with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery is soon to become a Herald blogger. In doing so, the 32-year-old from Widewell will make history by becoming the first Army commando to blog direct from the front line of a war zone. (READ MORE)

Kidnapping, Pakistani Taliban-style - Analysts are buzzing about yesterday's kidnapping by the Taliban of some 140 Afghans working on construction of a new Afghan army base in the western province of Farah. The operation bears the earmarks of the Pakistani Taliban, according to former Joint Staff intelligence analyst John McCreary. They have "regularly abducted hundreds of Pakistani paramilitary soldiers at a time in the tribal agencies in the past year,'' McCreary reports. (READ MORE)

Attacks kill 5 police in Afghan capital Kabul - KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) - A police official says a bomb blast in the capital has wounded Kabul's chief criminal investigator. Zemerai Bashary says Wednesday's bomb blast appears to have targeted Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, the head of criminal investigations for the Kabul police. (READ MORE)

Afghan prisoners meet with relatives - KABUL, Afghanistan — Five detainees in a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan met with their families Tuesday in the first face-to-face visits allowed since the U.S. set up the detention center six years ago, officials said. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces arrest Haqqani commanders in E Afghanistan - The U.S.-led Coalition forces detained three suspected Haqqani militants including two commanders, during operations in eastern Afghan province of Khost on Tuesday, said a Coalition statement released here on Wednesday. (READ MORE)

US set to deploy 15,000 troops marking biggest military reinforcement in Afghanistan - London, Sep 24 : The US said today that an additional 14,000 troops could soon be deployed in Afghanistan, signaling the biggest military reinforcement in the country since the war began. (READ MORE)

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