February 13, 2009

From the Front: 02/13/2009

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

Tom the Red Hunter: Supply Lines to Afghanistan - It's hard enough, I am sure, to keep our forces in Iraq supplied with all that they need. Much of the material is offloaded in Kuwait and trucked into the country, but in the end at least Iraq has seaports so worst case scenario we can use Iraqi ports. In most of our foreign wars we have had had direct access to seaports for supplying our troops. In all theatres of WWII, in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War we were able to supply our troops without having to go through a third country. It's been said that "amateurs discuss strategy, pros talk logistics." This may be a bit overstated, but it is true that too many people talk about sending troops here or there without any thought about how to get them there or how to keep them supplied. And as many generals found out during the 20th century, any army of any size requires supply via a land route. Aircraft simply do not have the capability to supply anything but the smallest force. Just ask Friedrich Paulus. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue Part 2 - In NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue, we discussed the U.S. and NATO program (then in the planning stages) to eradicate poppy since it provides a revenue stream to the Taliban. The Taliban also create income from marble quarries in Pakistan, extortion of cell phone providers in Afghanistan, ransom from kidnapping, and “protection” of small businesses. The plans are finalized now and U.S. forces will fire on drug related individuals without proof that they are connected to any military objective. “NATO will remain within international law when it proceeds with new measures to kill drug traffickers in Afghanistan and bomb drug processing laboratories to deprive the Taliban of its main financing, the alliance’s secretary general said Wednesday. The official, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said that ‘a number of buffers and filters’ had been put in place to safeguard the legality of combating what he termed the nexus between the insurgency and narcotics.” Aside from the effeminate hand wringing over whether this program is “legal,” the program is an attempt to avoid conducting counterinsurgency. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: A Walk in the Desert - February 10, 2009 - After sleeping a solid twelve hours following the all day operation that netted two suspected IED facilitators, I punched out from the Combat Outpost (COP) with 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon for an afternoon/evening patrol scheduled to cover 9 km and last at least six hours. Getting to Know the Neighbors These presence patrols are designed o gather information on the surrounding villages that will help the Americans understand what and who they’re dealing with in regards to the locals that live in relative close proximity to the COP. In all, 20 of us, including myself, an interpreter and a combat correspondent left COP Barrow around 1400 straight out of the base toward the first of three objectives, which were small settlements no more than three miles out. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Breakdown of Kabul Attack - Earlier today I wrote this posting, http://blog.bouhammer.com/?p=2857, which discusses the very brazen attack that happened in Kabul today. I have found a good breakdown of exactly how the attack happened. A breakdown of the Taliban assault on government buildings in Afghan capital. Eight Taliban attackers launched a three-pronged assault around 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Afghan capital of Kabul, killing 20 people. Three attackers wore suicide vests, and all died in the assault on three government buildings: AT THE JUSTICE MINISTRY: - Five men with assault rifles and hand grenades storm the Justice Ministry, killing two guards. Guards shoot one attacker dead, but the rest enter the ministry and kill 10 employees and one police officer. Security forces end the siege by storming the building and killing the attackers. (READ MORE)

Fightin' 6th Marines: Final Fallujah check point now in Iraqi hands - FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 5, 2009) – Iraqi’s independent security capabilities continued to grow throughout eastern al Anbar province, as the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, handed command of the battalion’s final entry control point, ECP 1, to the Fallujah District Chief of Police, Feb. 5. Entry control points are manned security positions that screen entrants for weapons, other contraband and a criminal history before allowing them to enter a specific area. They are often used as a security measure around cities to protect the population. Now that Iraqi Security Forces control all entry control points in the Fallujah area, Coalition Forces will be seen less in the cities, according to Lt. Col. Eric C. Hastings, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. ECPs 3, 5, and 7 have already been signed over and are manned by Iraqi Police. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Sand and Grit - So, what happens when you get two days on the ground because you can’t see more than half a mile in any direction? Nothing. No one moves, not even the bad guys. This entire God forsaken country was covered in dust for two days. I guess it was one big sandstorm. I discovered one more thing about our helicopters though, they are not in any way, shape, or form sand proof. Even with all the windows closed and sealed as tight as they will go, my helmet and gear was covered with a layer of dirt. It left an outline in the seat when I moved it. There were sand dunes on the litter pans I had to sweep out while the crew chief swept off the controls and instruments so the pilots could see their stuff. I ended up moving my gear inside to keep it from turning to mud/concrete. I spent a good hour dusting and beating the dirt off all the medical equipment, just to cover it with a blanket and hope for the best. I’ll probably end up tearing everything apart if I get a day off. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama Wobbles on the Mideast - So far, it looks like Barack Obama isn’t doing so well on the Mideast front. This story says Israel’s election results rang the death knell for Obama’s hopes for peace in the Middle East. Vice President Joe Biden’s loose tongue appears to have irritated Iraq’s prime minister. And the Saudis just gave a multi-million dollar contract to the Chinese to build a Mecca railway. There’s always hope, of course, however audacious. Here’s a story that says Iraq’s Nouri Al Maliki used the visit of the French leader to distance himself from Obama. This story says Al Malki’s remarks “were a pointed rebuke to US Vice President Joe Biden, who last week said Washington would have to be ‘more aggressive’ in pushing Baghdad toward faster political reform.”Asked about Biden’s remarks, Maliki told reporters, “The time for putting pressure on Iraq is over.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban feud over murder of Polish hostage - Two senior Pakistani Taliban leaders had a disagreement over the handling of kidnapped Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak. The disagreement led to Stanczak's gruesome beheading, which was videotaped by the Taliban and released to the public. Stanczak was kidnapped in Attock on Sept. 28, 2008, by Taliban fighters under the command of Zakir Mehsud operating from the Arakzai tribal agency. Two of Stanczak's drivers and one of the Taliban fighters were killed during the kidnapping. Attock is a district in Punjab province that borders the districts of Nowshera, Swabi, and Haripur in the Taliban insurgency-ridden Northwest Frontier Province. The disagreement occurred between Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Qari Hussain Mehsud, a key lieutenant of Baitullah's, according to a report from the region. (READ MORE)

Jane Novak: Yemen strikes multifaceted deals with al Qaeda - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh recently struck a deal with Ayman Zawahiri, and Yemen is in the process of emptying its jails of known jihadists. The Yemeni government is recruiting these established jihadists to attack its domestic enemies as it refrains from serious counter-terror measures against the newly formed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The tripartite relationship between the Yemeni regime and al Qaeda enables all participants to further their goals at the expense of national, regional, and global security. Yemen releases 95 jihadists - News reports from Yemen detail a meeting in Sana'a between President Saleh and a number of so-called reformed jihadists late January. The militants demanded freedom for imprisoned associates. A presidential committee identified 170 jihadists eligible for release, and 95 were released Saturday. Other reports indicate that authorities have cleared for release a total of 300 of the 400 total suspected al Qaeda in prison. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Hotel California - Just like the song says..."you can check out any time you like but you can never leave". Life in Baghdad is slowly (and I mean very slowly) falling into place. Patience has never really been a virtue of mine but I am learning the fine art of waiting...for someone else to move on. TOA, or Transfer of Authority, is never an easy time for the incoming or outgoing unit. They have boxes of equipment and gear to move out, we have boxes of equipment and gear to move in. They have missions and tasks to wrap up and we have missions and tasks to begin. They are moving out of their trailers and into transient tents and we are moving out of transient tents into our trailers. With all those moving parts there are the inevitable collisions, despite the (figurately) posting of warning signs here and there. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: On Your Mark... - After our trip to Camp Liberty, moving around 4000 lbs of our equipment, hooking up with the unit that we're replacing, and getting kinda settled in, we're about ready to get to work. It rained last night and the powdery sand that covers just about everything turned into a light layer of muck. Winter is the rainy season here. After breakfast, I had the opportunity to meet many of the members of the 128th MPAD, two of whom were giving me a rundown (not the Mustang Rundown...may that paper rest in peace) on what they've been doing for the past nine months or so. They worked for the 4th Infantry Division who just handed over control of this part of Iraq to the 1st Cavalry Division. We will be working for them during our duration here. Today, during my time at our new office, I was able to go to the al Faw Palace. (READ MORE)

Ross' Blog: Getting Rolling - Now that its begun, the deployment definitely feels much less ominous. It's a lot easier to be optimistic now that I can be counting down the days until I get done instead of counting down the days until I began. On another note, the MN Daily, the school newspaper for the U, wrote an article about our leaving. and had an interesting portion about me (starting para 6) that can be found at http://www.mndaily.com/2009/02/09/red-bulls-receive-sendoff So now I'm just counting the days until I return. One friend from my first deployment, Robby, lived by the idea that 'If you sleep half the day, its like you're only there for half a year.' Maybe I'll try that this time, it's hard to say. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Too Much Carbon Monoxide - In a previous post I told you all about how I ran into JH again. We were in line, waiting to get on the C-130 to go to Kuwait. We were the second and third people in line, respectively. When we got on the C-130 we were all super excited because we were right up front on the left side of the plane. If you've ever been on a C-130, you know these are the seats with the most leg room and since they're up front, you can stow your assault pack at the front of the row of seats instead of between your legs or on your lap, thus giving yourself more room. We were congratulating ourselves at our good fortune in the seating arrangement when a kid comes down from the cockpit. He looks and me and JH and says, "I need both of you to come up here with me." (READ MORE)

Dispatches from FOBistan: Fixing Afghanistan Starts With Fixing Ourselves - BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN — I had dinner tonight with a Lieutenant Colonel, and we were chit chatting about the various institutional barriers the Army faces in fighting this war. He brought up the idea that, indeed, the Army remains what he calls a “Peace Time Army,” that is one still geared toward long deployments home, an obsession with low casualties to the detriment of all else, and an obsessive garrison-like preoccupation with minor rules (like wearing reflector belts at night, oh how I hate that one) rather than accomplishing the larger mission. See, every time a soldier dies, the Army must conduct what’s called a 15-6 investigation (pdf). While AR 15-6 investigations come in a variety of shapes and sizes, when a death is involved a 15-6 is ordered by a general court-marshal authority. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Let’s Think About Kabul - BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN — The events in Kabul yesterday were indeed horrific. I had heard some scattered reports about what was going on but didn’t think much of it until I tried to meet a friend down at ECP1, or Entry Control Point One (a fancy and unnecessary name for “gate”). While I was on my way there in a rumbling Chevy Trail Blazer, he called my Roshan. “Hey, this is XXXX.” “Oh hey, XXXX! We’re on our way to come get you.” “Well, maybe you can get us through, ’cause they’re saying the gate’s locked down.” “What do you mean?” As I said that, we came along a humvee parked diagonally across Disney Road, with a few soldiers and a few ANP providing slung machine guns. “Let me see what’s going on, I’ll call you back.” We pulled around to a side lot, and my colleague and I walked up to the U.S. soldier standing watch. As we got close, he waved to us. “Sirs, you’ll have to step back. The base is on lockdown and no one is getting on or off today.” (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Skype - my new best friend - Today turned out to be an awesome day, but it didn’t start out that way. This morning, with nothing much to do, I pulled guard duty at the headquarters building for about an hour and 40 minutes (Foliente took over the last 20). Not long after, when I was getting ready to shoot a stand up for a story I did, we’re told the Command Sergeant Major wants the sidewalk swept and all the leaves gone. Since it rained last night (a good thunderstorm around 10:00), leaves are everywhere and it’s still pretty windy. Sweeping the sidewalks in Iraq is pretty pointless. It’s like sweeping dirt in a dirt hut. But, we got out there anyway and swept the leaves from the sidewalk and made a good attempt at moving the dirt around. After I shot my standup, we were told it wasn’t good enough and we went at it again. I was more than a little frustrated. Then, I had to pull the second guard shift at the TOC. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Semper Gumby - I have to constantly remind myself to stay flexible. Plans change all the time in the Army, as in my life. It seems to be more frustrating in the Army because many times the change is out of my control. That’s why I try to remember to be Semper Gumby, Always Flexible. I was supposed to leave Camp Victory the other day to head out to an outlying post like the Sorority Soldier. The problem on the day of my flight was high winds, a low ceiling, and a thick cloud of dust hovering in the air. Of course it was only like this for the day I was supposed to fly. Since I was bumped, I lost my place in the Blackhawk line. The only one seeing any real action is the Sorority Soldier and all her stuff is getting canceled. Glad she got to go somewhere else to pull guard duty for two weeks. The photo above is how I can best illustrate the high winds. I do have plans for the next couple of weeks, but Operations Security (OPSEC) and my safety, keep me from posting things until they happen. (READ MORE)

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