October 9, 2008

From the Front: 10/09/2008

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

In their own words:
Scott Kesterson: Afghanistan redux, Part 1 - It has been nearly three weeks since I left the United States, and this is my first entry. My head has been full of story threads, but the cohesion to tell it only settled in during the past few days. My previous year in Afghanistan from May 2006 to May 2007 has given both insight and burden. The war that I seemed to understand so well when I left has been showing a different face of what one soldier referred to as an “occupation.” What it is, what it has become is now what I am seeking to find. With Afghanistan now back on our political map, woven into the two campaigns as the war we have neglected, understanding where we began and where we have arrived has become the theme of this embed. It is a journey that will take me three months this time, a focus not on the whole of the country but in a more specific geographical area. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: How do you say “Qatar”? - Tuesday 7 October 2008 2130 - I always used to pronounce the name of this country as “Ka-TAR”, with the emphasis on the second syllable (like “guitar”). Then, when I was stationed in Kuwait, I heard everybody pronouncing it as “Cutter”. I went on saying “Ka-TAR”, because I thought they were just being ignorant. As it turns out, I was the ignorant one. Once I got assigned here, I wanted to pronounce it correctly so I looked it up. Sure enough, the dictionary said that the emphasis is on the first syllable, so it’s “KA-tar” (which, when you say it quickly, sounds a lot like “Cutter”). So I trained myself to pronounce it “KA-tar”, even though it seemed unnatural. I just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as “Ka-TAR”. When I went home on leave, many people commented on how I said it and I took the opportunity to explain it and “correct” them on the pronunciation. (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: back in the groove - After all the shakeups and everything else, I think we've finally caught a rhythm again. Our 3-day tower rotation at one of the local bases initially sucked pretty hard, but we've figured out how to manage it much better. Another guy and I pull the two tower shifts all night long so everyone else gets to sleep for at least 8 hours and they don't have to change up their schedule so much. Now this isn't selfless of me, because I then get the entire day off. The only downside is that it throws my sleep schedule for a serious loop when I get back to Phoenix. This base resides inside an Afghan Army base, so I didn't feel bad about listening to my audiobook of House to House through one earbud for one of my night shifts. Definitely made the time go by quickly. It's probably the best book that I've been exposed to in a long time. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Has Obama Changed On Iraq? - If Barack Obama heard himself talk last night, he must realize now that he agrees with President Bush regarding U.S. involvement in Iraq. During the second presidential debate, moderator Tom Brokaw asked Obama about his doctrine regarding sending U.S. troops into a situation for humanitarian reasons. This is what Obama said: "Well, we may not always have national security issues at stake, but we have moral issues at stake." Good point Barack! "If we could've stopped Rwanda, surely, if we had the ability, that would be something that we would have to strongly consider and act." Actually President Bill Clinton could have intervened in Rwanda but chose not to, but that's a different matter. Good to know that Obama has decided to bring morality and honor to his position. (READ MORE)

Jake's Life: Message From Jake - I just talked to Jake and he is well as well as the other Marines in his outfit. He suggested I give everyone the heads up NOT TO SEND ANY MORE PACKAGES. Anything on the way is fine. This of course is good news since it is an indication that the end of the tour is near. The cynic in me also thinks it is an indictment of the mail service to the troops, but Jake's AO is so remote, ammo and food are more important. Personally, I want to thank all of you who have sent Badgermom and me emails of support. Don't be surprised if the Jarhead from Bettendorf is able do some of his own updates on this blog in the near future. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Beautiful Children - Back from another mission to the south. This trip reinforced my secret opinion that I am a wasted resource being deployed to these far-flung outposts. I spent three days doing absolutely nothing, apart from walking around making small-talk, advertising that I was there and available. It was a small outpost and the medics had a few Soldiers in mind when they thought of who might benefit from seeing me, but no one sought me out for consultation. On the fourth day of doing nothing productive I hitched a ride on a convoy that was headed back to my home FOB. As usual for this country, it was painfully slow and bumpy, banging along at 10mph over terrible roads. Driving slowly through villages I am astounded by the beautiful children here. Most of them are dark haired and dark eyed, but some are light or red haired and blue-eyed. The little girls are clothed in brightly colored gauzy clothing, the boys in plain white, tan, or brown loose fitting shirts and pants. (READ MORE)

Thomas Joscelyn: Evaluating the Uighur Threat - On Tuesday, a federal court ruled that 17 Uighurs (pronounced wee-ghurs) detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba should be released into the US. The decision undoubtedly reflects the belief that the Uighurs pose no serious threat to America or her interests. Their enemy is China, advocates argue, and they have no hostile intentions towards the US. It is true that the Uighurs’ principal enemy is China, which has long fought a low grade war with the Uighur population. And the Chinese government, which has a miserable human rights record, has undoubtedly committed atrocities. So, it is natural that the Uighur cause would gain at least some popular support in Western countries. But as deplorable as China’s human rights record is, the US courts should not view the Uighurs at Gitmo as a non-threat. And even if the Uighur detainees were focused solely on attacking China, the US would be wrong to condone their cause. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Army rejects Waziristan operation - With military operations underway in Swat and the tribal agency of Bajaur, the Pakistani Army moved to quell rumors of a pending operation in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, according to reports from Pakistan. In South Waziristan, the Waziri tribes are calling for the government to abide by a peace deal. Brigadier General Khushnood Iqbal Kiyani, the commander of the garrison in Mirali, sought to reassure the "Utmanzai tribal militants" after rumors spread that an operation would be launched in North Waziristan on Oct. 10. "He made it clear that the government would abide by its peace agreement, which it had signed with Utmanzai tribesmen on February 17," The News reported. The rumored target of the operation was Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Bahadar was one of the signatories of the Feb. 17 peace agreement that ended clashes in the region. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: War of Atonment - It's Yom Kippur. The Holiest Day of the year for Jews. I will not smoke today. She stands in front of me in the chow line. I see a tattoo on the back of her neck. I lean closer and notice that the tattoo is of a placard written in English and Arabic that sits on the back of the last gun truck in every convoy. Stay Back 100 Meters Or You Will Be Shot I wonder how she is ever going to get a job in the real world with a tattoo like that. I’m judgmental. I’m in my barracks room. One of my roommates is a Christian and he spends at least twenty minutes a day in silent prayer. I lie in my bed and look at porn on my laptop while he kneels by his bed to pray. Strangely, I don’t see anything wrong with this arrangement. I’m disrespectful. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveller: Early Morning Baghdad - Baghdad is having a bad morning today. As I sit here watching the sun rise in the eastern sky working on my first cup of coffee there have been several near-by explosions, punctuating the post-dawn stillness. Smoke rises in the distance somewhere between the buildings, marking the location of the carnage. Out there amid the cityscape someone has lost a husband or a daughter, a young girl walking to school or a man heading out to work. They will not be coming home tonight; all that knew them, their lives have been violently changed forever. I continue to work on my coffee pretending to be stoic, part of me trying in vain to empathize, another part thankful that I cannot. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
Matel: Iraq: After the Dust Washes Off - It is always like this when I come back from an overseas post. One day you are in the midst of a place, its events, culture and environment. It seems like the whole world. Then you are not. Iraq is like that, only more so, because being in Iraq is so unusual and so intense. You work long hours every day of the week, and you are immersed in it always. It gives you a special feeling of uniqueness, insulation and security. When I think back on the experience, it almost seems like I am remembering the events and details of somebody else’s life. But I know it was me, because I still have Iraqi dust on my boots. For a year I was surrounded by Marines and team members who knew me or at least knew about me. We were all members of one team, working together to accomplish a worthy goal. We thought about HOW to overcome obstacles and achieve our purposes. It never occurred to anybody to ask if we COULD do it. I miss the sense of purpose... (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
U.S. soldiers save a dying Iraqi policeman - This is the story of a high-ranking Iraqi police officer who was recently shot seven times outside his home in the Hurriya neighborhood of Baghdad. He was saved by American soldiers and doctors. Because of danger to his family, the officer asked to be identified only as Sajad. These are his words: (READ MORE)

Concerned citizen, IA, MND-B Soldiers combine efforts, seize munitions in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons cache in Baghdad Oct. 8. At approximately 10 a.m., Soldiers with Company A, 4th Battalion, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), seized a machine gun, eight AK-47s, a rocket-propelled grenade, an 81mm mortar tube and eight grenades with fuses and detonation cord while conducting a cordon and knock in the Mansour area of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Industrial Zone asphalt plant opens in Balad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi government and business leaders joined coalition officials in an Iraqi-Based Industry Zone opening ceremony hosted by Akeel Najy Marhoon, owner of the Balad Alkema Factory, Oct. 7. Marhoon recently signed a land agreement with Joint Base Balad to construct and operate an asphalt factory on the installation. Marhoon spoke to members of local and national media and told them the facility employs more than fifty local Iraqis and he plans to expand the facility. (READ MORE)

Two suspected terrorist detained in Mosul - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained two suspected terrorist during operations Thursday, further dismantling al-Qaeda in Iraq’s network in and around Mosul. South of Mosul, Coalition forces captured a wanted man believed to facilitate the movement of foreign terrorists into the area. Reports also suggest that he has connections with local AQI leaders. (READ MORE)

Ninewa Province ready to spend over $6.6 million for infrastructure improvements (Mosul) - The original Commander’s Emergency Response Program was established by the coalition commander in 2003 with seized regime cash. Brigade combatant commanders were entrusted with CERP funds to respond to immediate humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people in their areas of responsibility. CERP coffers couldn’t be used in conjunction with appropriated funds and were governed by strict parameters and control. (READ MORE)

NP detains two suspects for alleged criminal activity - BAQUBAH, Iraq – Iraqi National Police detained two suspects in Abu Gharma which is between Baqubah and Muqdadiyah within the Diyala province Oct.8. The NP were acting on an arrest warrant issued by the Diyala government and arrested two teachers alleged to have conducted criminal activity. (READ MORE)

CF donate $8.5 million to MND-N provinces for relief - TIKRIT, Iraq - Coalition forces announced an $8.5 million drought relief package as a gift for Eid to the people of Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa Provinces to provide emergency relief to these drought-affected areas Oct. 8. The ongoing drought is the worst in 100 years. The emergency funds provide farmers with agriculture technologies and seed to prevent the complete loss of another growing season. (READ MORE)

IA, Soldiers participate in logistics conference - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army logisticians and their Coalition partners gathered Oct. 8 in the first 5th Iraqi Army logistics conference here in Kirkush, Iraq. The conference helped standardize procedures and training for vehicle repair and class IX for the Iraqi Army’s supply system, including repair parts and components. (READ MORE)

Female suicide bomber kills seven, wounds 21 - DIYALA, Iraq – Five Iraqi Army Soldiers and two Iraqi citizens were killed when a female suicide bomber detonated her vest in Baqubah, located in the Diyala Province of northern Iraq. The attack occurred at approximately 11:20 a.m. outside the Diyala Governance Center and wounded an additional 21 civilians. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Take Over More Security Roles - BAGHDAD — Security improvements in Baghdad continue to progress as Iraqi security forces conducted a transfer of authority in more than 10 Muhallas (neighborhoods) yesterday in the Karkh Directorate of Baghdad. In the Kindi and Qadasiyah Muhallas of Baghdad, Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers handed over security responsibilities to the Iraqi Police (IP). “In the past months, the improvement in the security situation and the Iraqi Police capability gains have provided the IP the opportunity to take on independent responsibilities for security in their neighborhoods,” (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Making Waves - HADITHA DAM — The Euphrates River fulfills many of the economic needs for the people of Iraq. For all of its advantages though, it does create a challenge for the Iraqi Police (IP) who are in charge of security for the area. To remedy this situation, Sailors with Riverine Squadron 3, Riverine Detachment 2, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 have been holding classes for the IP on basic seamanship. (READ MORE)

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