February 9, 2009

From the Front: 02/09/2009

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

Afghanistan Shrugged: The Land that War Forgot - DISCLAIMER: No Fobbits were harmed during the writing or creation of this post. I would have liked to but they took away my weapons prior to departing. Thus, much to my not so subtle dismay no Fobbits were injured physically; notice I did not mention emotionally. I’ve been looking forward to going on leave for quite some time, in fact since the time I was notified of my leave date; I’ve been counting down the days. The part I’ve been dreading has been the trip between Bermel and arrival at home. My dread stems from the sometimes horrific and often epic nature of the stories guys tell upon their return. The Iliad pales in comparison to some leave stories. Sorry Homer. Weeks are the time measure for the actual travel, you can be gone for a month plus. There are several stages to any leave journey: (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: Bakwa District, Farah Province - February 6, 2009 - After not making as many as ten flights out of Kabul, I was finally able to find space on an Australian C-130 that would make a quick stop in Tarin Kowt and then continue on to Kandahar. While I wasn’t able to get off the plane and take a look around, I was able to see the joint Danish/Australian base from the air and it had changed immensely since the last time I was in Oruzgan. No big surprise there considering when I spent almost a month here in 2004, I was with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) when they first opened the area up to coalition forces. Since then, the base has changed hands a few times and has grown into a fairly large base. But Tarin Kowt is not my destination, so we quickly dropped of a handful of Aussies, picked up a few doze others and thirty minutes later we were landing at Kandahar Air Field (KAF)… finally. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Good lord - The roommate came stomping back in out of the darkness. Something had gone terribly wrong, it seemed, on her trip to the porta-jon. The first pooper? she said (yes, she actually uses the term "pooper"), there's poop all over the seat! I blinked. I was getting this information because I had announced my intention to visit the Green Closet after she returned. Does this mean, I asked, that the Mad Pooper has struck again? The Mad Pooper Incident was recorded photographically but, because I respect basic human concepts of decency, I have not shared those photos with you. You can imagine, if you try, what exactly the Mad Pooper Incident involved. No, Roommate answered. It's just a little poop. But then the second pooper? There's pee all over the seat. I didn't have enough paper to wipe it up, so I sort of had to hover. I'd recommend you use the second pooper, but take lots of paper. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Tribal Militias; Listen To The Local Voices - Abbas Daiyar, a member of the Editorial Board at Daily Outlook Afghanistan has written a good piece about arming tribal militias in Afghanistan. I maintain that listening to the Afghans on this issue is very important. As Mr. Daiyar points out, what worked in Iraq is not necessarily the solution in Afghanistan. “The change of tactic vision was also under discussion among circles. Seeing the success story in Iraq, the US decided to try the Anbar Module in Afghanistan. Which in my previous articles, I have been articulating that it would result vice versa. Afghanistan is not Iraq therefore; similarities of insurgency should not be a justification for a similar military strategy. Iraqi society is merely divided on sectarian bases while Afghanistan’s is ethnic and clannish. Here tribalism plays vital. After political circles and media strongly opposed the idea of arming local militias against Taliban, the stakeholders in Afghanistan decided to launch the militia idea under another label maybe ‘pilot program.’” (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: Aminal Crackers In My Soup… - As far back as I can remember, Mom used to buy me Barnum’s Animal Crackers every time she went to the commissary. I would wait until we got back to the house, and then I would be allowed to hunt through the forest of brown paper bags until I found that little box with the circus motif and the little white string to carry it by. At the same time, my “sister” (one each German Shepherd dog named “Nikki”, would be searching for her treat, a box of large Milk Bone Biscuits… That was many, many years ago, but every now and again, she’ll buy me a box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers, just to let me know that she’s thinking of me… So I get a box in the mail a few days ago, and among the zip-locked baggies of homemade cookies, I find two familiar boxes… Yep, you guessed it… Barnum's Animal Crackers But there’s more… (READ MORE)

SGT Emily Anderson – Blogs Over Baghdad: HATE, HATE, HATE…Such a strong word but the truth!! - By reading my title, you’re probably thinking I’m going to complain. You would be right. However, I’m not going to complain about people. Since, I’ve been here I’ve realized two more things: I hate sand and I hate rocks. When I was in Kuwait, I thought…sand is everywhere!! I don’t know if I can deal with this, but I figured I would have to. Now that I’m actually in Baghdad, there’s not much sand here but there are a ton of rocks. While walking to my CHU, while walking to the bathrooms, while walking to the dinner facility, and while walking to visit my battle buddies, all I see are rocks. I trip over them. They get caught in my boots. I’m already tired of them, but I have to learn to deal with them. I have months to go and I know these annoying little rocks are not going anywhere. (READ MORE)

The Intrepid Reporter: Iraq and Evolution to Revolution - Greetings and Salutations from Iraq, the country that time, common sense and anything Decent forgot!!! I’m live (for now) here at the Baghdad Kit Kat Klub, formerly known as the Saddam-A-Go-Go and hanging pretty regularly in the Sinbad Bar and Grill at the BIAP Hotel and Convention Center. I’m regular enough to know all of the wait-staff, and am now pretty familiar with the “movers and shakers” here in country. The Sinbad is the magnet for “People of Power” who wish to chill, among which are NSA, CIA and State Department types… Me? I get by ‘cause I know the owner of the place. Yeah, it’s all about who you know, or if female, who you blow. To a point, I spent one night getting boozed up with a member of the Iraqi Parliament, Mr. Nabeel Musawi, who is listed as the “Leader of the Loyal Opposition” in many theaters, but is also a member of the Iraqi National Congress. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraq's War Deaths - The story of the deaths of Iraqis is back in the news. Though the subject made it into the presidential campaigns, it did so for the worst reasons. Barack Obama made it clear that prevention of civilian deaths would not justify continued U.S. involvement in Iraq. Frankly, I don't know why the president wouldn't want to help prevent civilian deaths. First, there is the moral issue. Wouldn't helping civilians be the right thing to do? And second, there is the image of the United State. Wasn't that one of the reasons Obama's supporters said he should be president? There was a study by a British medical journal that estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion. That figure sullied further the image of the United States -- especially in Arab and Muslim countries. Last week, the study sneaked back into the news. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army' - Al Qaeda has reorganized its notorious paramilitary formations that were devastated during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. Al Qaeda has reestablished the predominantly Arab and Asian paramilitary formation that was formerly known as Brigade 055 into a larger, more effective fighting unit known as the Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The Shadow Army is active primarily in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province, and in eastern and southern Afghanistan, several US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 06FEB09--Tigeris Fishing - Today, Sergeant 'KC' Connaughton and I visited the Iraqi Army's new boat ramp to the Tigeris River. Looking out onto the river, I could not help but imagine having a fishing rod in hand. Down on the water, KC and I sat in one of the Iraqi boats and talked about fishing trips of years past, particularly of him with his family. All the while I was thinking that, if it was my job to overwatch the ramp and I was a younger Soldier, I would surely bring a pole. We walked back up the ramp to investigate. As it turns out, they had had a fishing pole earlier in the day. Sergeant Brian Parker of Norfolk, Virginia saw them using it. However, they were spotted by an Iraqi officer, who stormed over and took their pole away. (READ MORE)

Registan.net: Dispatches from FOBistan: Kapisa, in Pictures - BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN — BABEAA kindly gave me the shoutout. Another friend of mine told me that my posts about Afghanistan have become uncharacteristically sentimental. I think that is a natural consequence of this place—to me, it makes perfect sense that all Afghan men are romantics, and all poets are beloved. There’s almost no other way to talk about it. Talking is actually the problem. Not talking with locals—every single person I have met has been at the very least friendly, if not warm (there is a complexity to how greetings, hospitality, and conversation unfold that can never be learned from books). Rather, I cannot talk about what it is I’ve been doing, and that is a real shame. I’m learning a tremendous amount of the depth of the challenges we still face, but, as BABEAA noted, there is remarkable progress being made, and even many reasons for hope. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: I'm Sorry Joe - I wrote this while smoking a La Gloria Cubana. I don’t know Joe, but I’ve known him all his life. Joe can hack it. Joe can take anything. Joe digs the holes. Joe empties the trash. Joe polices up the cigarette butts even though Joe doesn’t smoke. You give Joe an inch and Joe takes a mile, but he has to take that mile, you see, because he may never get an opportunity like that again. At some point, Joe thought that joining the Army was a good idea. What was Joe thinking? He was probably thinking that money for college would be nice. Or he was thinking that the Army would be a good way to spend four years while he figured out his life. Or maybe he was thinking that he wanted to do something with his life. Maybe he thought that driving a tank or shooting a machine gun would be way more fun than anything he could do in college. Maybe he is right? Maybe not. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: 3rd Heard - Hello to everyone back home from Taji, Iraq. We are one small step away from beginning the mission we set out to accomplish over 5years ago. The command and headquarters elements have been real busy setting up our logistical and administrative support on Taji. We are very fortunate to be replacing a very squared-away Battalion. They have been eager, as you can imagine, to hand everything over to us. With that being said, there are two types of units you can deal with during a RIP (relief in place). There is the unit who just wants to dump everything on you and get out of Dodge. Then there is the unit that wants to make sure we are set up for success. These are the units that take too much pride in their work to just give it over to another unit that won’t keep the success growing in their AO (area of operations). Fortunately our situation falls under the latter. I have met with my replacement and the Company Commander who is being replaced by 1LT Smith. (READ MORE)

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