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May 29, 2008

Three Days in November


I've been promising to hook up this new blogger with a link and today seems like a great day to do it. Plus, you know, he's a major and we are very fond of majors around here.

Most milbloggers know Colby Buzzel out of a Stryker company in Mosul. He wrote the book "My War". Well, I don't know if the Major was in the same Stryker Co, but he was up in Mosul at about the same time as Buzzel and at the time that Yon was up their reporting on Duece-Four - The Punishers in Gates of Fire.

Before Gates of Fire, there were Three Days in November

We had been on the ground in Tall Afar for approximately 48 hours when we received orders to move to the west side of Mosul and station out of Forward Operating Base Marez. Two days after receiving these orders we were on the road heading for Mosul. The company had completed a replacement in place with our outgoing counterparts in just under 72 hours, a feat in itself to be proud of, but we had not heard our first shot fired in anger yet. That was about to change.[snip]

On the morning of November 8th that changed. We had received orders to escort a humanitarian assistance convoy of back packs and school supplies for the local schools to an area that we had just completed a cordon and search the day before. We suspected that it was a hot bed of insurgent activity but hadn't been able to pin anything down. Luckily we brought three platoons with us on this mission. Thirty minutes after departing the FOB we made first contact. The enemy forces had set a detailed complex ambush within Yarmouk Traffic Circle. They had heavy and light machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, car bombs, IED's, and small arms all trained on the kill zone. The company courageously fought through it, and safeguarded the supplies in cargo trucks back to the FOB. No casualties, nothing lost. November 8th had been a draw, November 9th was our turn..

Check out Majors Perspective. He's currently doing time up at the Ft Leavenworth.

My name is Major Bryan Carroll. I'm a United States Army Infantry Major currently attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This is the United States Army's equivalent of going to a Masters Degree program at a civilian university. I have served a tour of duty in Iraq as a Stryker Rifle Company Commander, and a tour in Afghanistan as an advisor to the Afghan National Army.

Lt Nixon said LTG Caldwell gave his blessing on blogging. I think it was more like, "Blog! That's an order!"

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on May 29, 2008 | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2008

Why We Lost the War


Cause I can't resist goading some folks who come to visit and still insist that we should be leaving Iraq due to the disastrous prosecution of the war, NEWS FLASH:

Al Qaeda Discusses Losing Iraq

Al Qaeda web sites are making a lot of noise about "why we lost in Iraq." Western intelligence agencies are fascinated by the statistics being posted in several of these Arab language sites. Not the kind of stuff you read about in the Western media. According to al Qaeda, their collapse in Iraq was steep and catastrophic

Like I've been saying, we aren't going to see a surrender signing moment on the USS Missouri to punctuate the end of war.

Come to think of it, it more closely reflects Doenitz announcing Germany's surrender via radio circa 1945. Of course, he was kind enough to punctuate that announcement a few days later with a formal surrender ceremony.

I don't think we're going to get that. This announcement is the best we're going to get, I think, unless someone can scare up Abu al Masri.

Now, I'll take a few moments to remember those who made it happen, who sacrificed life and limb, American, Allies and Iraqis.

That done, I have to ask if there has ever been a precedent in history where the victors tried to surrender after the enemy had already surrendered?

Mr. Obama? Jason? Anybody?

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on May 28, 2008 | TrackBack (0)

MAD Iran: Who Dies First?


There is a question that keeps being asked that, to me, is asking the wrong questions and getting the wrong answers. The question is, can we live with a nuclear Iran?

The real question that should be asked, isn't whether we can live with it, but who are we going to let die?

We have never learned the right lessons from the Cold War. In fact, calling it the "Cold War" is probably the worst thing we ever did. It wasn't really "cold". Millions of people died as a direct and indirect result of this conflict.

What did Nuclear MAD do during the Cold War? It didn't stop war. It simply kept the US and the USSR from exchanging nuclear ICBMs and, possibly, invading each other's country. That is important, but it didn't keep either country from continuing to reach its stated objectives or from seeking ways to diminish or destroy their opponent. It simply changed the strategies and the venues of actual war.

Iran is a beneficiary of those years. It certainly learned important lessons about how to conduct war without being directly involved or held accountable for their actions. Both the United States and the USSR funded political coups and supported guerrillas or, inversely, supported state governments against guerrillas in order to counter the influence and power of the other within a region. The end objective being to reduce political power of the opponent and gain economic power through those relations.

Iran has been doing that for three decades by funding Hezbollah, Hamas and various terrorist organizations and activities through out the region as well as occasional activities across the globe. Including currently funding Shia insurgents in Iraq, al Qaeda elements, Taliban and various other organizations in the last two decades that have directly attacked US citizens or US forces. Thousands of people have died as a result of their activities.

Now, imagine a nuclear Iran. Today, Iran does have to contend with the question of whether they will suffer military intervention if any of their actions or those of their proxies are deemed too egregious. In fact, one can consider their more recent actions to be a test of how far they can go without reaping the consequences.

Under a nuclear Iran, the type of activities that they could support without seeing direct consequences would increase ten fold and so would the number of people who would die due to these actions. When Iran has a nuclear bomb, who is going to stop them? Their actions would then have to be extremely horrific and direct state to state against the United States and/or one of its allies in order for some sort of action to be considered against it.

They'd have much more room to grow their extra-national activities. A lot of people are going to die.

So, my question to all those who want to consider whether we can live with a nuclear Iran:

Who are we going to let die while we learn to live with it?

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on May 28, 2008 | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2008

Operation Lion's Roar

That's the name of the ongoing combined push against al-Q in Mosul. The Iraqi troops stepped up their OPTEMPO against the terrs and they responded in typical fashion -- they lifted another page from the VC Playbook.

Baghdad/Mosul, 15 May 2008 (Gulf News)

Spokesmen for both the US and Iraqi military have confirmed that a girl strapped with explosives was the cause of a blast that killed an Iraqi captain and injured four soldiers south of Baghdad. Iraqi Army Lt Ahmad Ali said the explosives were detonated yesterday as the girl approached the Iraqi commander in Youssifiyah.

Ali said from the scene that "the bomb was detonated by remote control, killing Capt Wassem Al Maamouri and injuring four soldiers."

He said authorities imposed a curfew and American troops are searching for those responsible.

The girl was eight years old.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki ordered a new assault on Al Qaida in the main northern city of Mosul yesterday, the jihadists' last urban bastion in Iraq according to US commanders.

Al Maliki travelled to Mosul with top aides to take command of the US-backed drive against Al Qaida in the province, defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Abdul Kareem Khalaf said.

"Operation Umm Al Rabiain (Mother of Two Springs) has just started against those threatening the civilian population and attacking Iraqi forces in Mosul," defence ministry spokesman Khalaf told AFP.

"This operation is targeting terrorists and criminals," he said, alluding to Al Qaida, which has been accused of a string of major attacks across Nineveh province of which Mosul is the capital.

Maliki is Boots On The Ground up here -- he just lifted the curfew that's been in effect for the past few weeks. *That* tells me

a. the commanders know where the nests are and

b. they're confident they've got a good handle on terr exfiltration into the civilian population.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on May 15, 2008

COIN: Stop Being the Alien


Apropos Bill's post from yesterday Hussayn's Story

Tom Odom of Small Wars Journal created a paper called Introduction to Evolution of Revolt discussing the original document written by T.E. Lawrence of the same name, "Evolution of Revolt". Lawrence explains how he used his much smaller force against a larger force to win "victories". As he says, he went where they were unable to go and they could not be everywhere. He said their actual activities were only actively supported by 2% of the population, but passively supported by 98% who would give them cover or, at least, not give away their movements. In short, "neutral" or "passive" populations were also "good". Lawrence went on to say that a successful insurgency needs a good enemy:

It must have a sophisticated alien few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.

Lawrence proclaims:

victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain.

But, Odom notes that the term "alien" doesn't necessarily relate to "foreign occupier":

In a larger sense, though, Lawrence was speaking of an enemy that remains alien or alienates itself from the population.

The Turks, by staying in their fortified positions and only coming out to defend their supply lines or take punitive actions against the population, never trying to win them over or take care of their concerns, were the "alien". Not by dent of who they were, but what they did or did not do. It is a problem we had in the first few years of our efforts in Iraq and, probably still do, in Afghanistan to some degree.

But, is it all about, as Lawrence noted, the "algebraical factors"? Those factors that Lawrence alludes to is a basic calculation of the number of soldiers per mile Turkey would have to have to control the actual territory. If these "algebraical factors" exist, can they be changed by changing parts of the formula? Contrary to Lawrence's assertions, not all insurgents win. In recent history, El Salvador would be an example of an insurgency that actually lost. How do we change the equation?

To paraphrase Lawrence, first, we must have a "good enemy". An enemy that abandons its figurative role of "defending" the population and, instead of attacking the forces or materials of the "alien" occupier, attacks the population. An enemy that turns the "98% passive support" among the population into 50% or more actively or even "passively" rejecting it.

Second, we must Stop Being the Alien.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on May 15, 2008

May 14, 2008

MG Lynch, Part III: Growth and Transtions

[Final installment of my interview with Major General Rick Lynch, Commanding General, 3rd Infantry Division (MND-C, Iraq). Part I and Part II.]

In January when I interviewed the 3ID Chief of Staff, he was obviously concerned about getting help with rebuilding the economy and infrastructure. COL McKnight said, "we are very good at security operations, but other enablers can help us with the economy." He expressed the need for private investment and expertise, and help with building infrastructure. However, he said he expected to see more of that soon, as things continued to calm down.

So, last week I asked MG Lynch to what extent COL McKnight's expectations had been met--what was succeeding, and what was falling short in redevelopment? In response, Lynch proudly rattled off a staggering list of rebuilding and reconstruction projects, ranging from the typical schools and hospitals to things such as fish hatcheries/farms, poultry farms and markets. The focus has been on what he calls "sustainable employment," jobs that help build lasting industrial and economic systems.

During the 14 months that 3ID has been deployed, MG Lynch reports that the Iskandariyah Industrial Complex has gone from employing "a couple hundred" to 4,000-5,000 people, with the local Provincial Reconstruction team "facilitating" the contracts that created the increased need for workers. And to fill that need, the Iskandariyah vocational/tech school "has gone from 32 students to 1500. They are each paid a stipend to go to school and will graduate having learned a trade."

Economic development work centers on the local level. MG Lynch referenced community-based projects such as the newly-reopened Yusufiyah wholesale market, which employs 500 people and gives the recovering farmers and artisans a place to sell their goods. There has also been a concurrent effort to make sure that security and infrastructure support economic development, while offering micro-grants to help merchants and farmers with either "seed money" or investments that will improve an important aspect of their businesses. "No one has complained in my area that they can’t get their goods to market…or that they can’t get goods [they want] to sell," said Lynch.

MG Lynch spent a lot of time talking about the fish and poultry farms that have been reborn through micro-grants and the assistance Provincial Reconstruction Teams. He described the 90,000 fertilized eggs that had just arrived from Holland, and the effort to design transport tanks that individual fish farmers could use to get their "fingerlings" (baby fish) to their farms. He then talked about how long it would take for before the fish and poultry would be marketable, and how that market would play out in the region.

At times such as this in the interview, it seemed more that I was talking to a business-minded mayor or the professor of an agricultural college than to the commanding general of a lethal U.S. Army infantry division. I asked MG Lynch if he had envisioned himself being so involved in this kind of work. He pointed out that they had planned for this going in, "We were prepared to do COIN." The division started out with what ended up being about eight months of major combat operations but, "We knew coming in that there was [going to be] the rest of the story--Okay, now you’ve got to meet the needs of the people." They had prepared ahead of time for this eventuality, but MG Lynch admitted he'd gained much more familiarity with raising chickens and fish than he'd ever expected.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by FbL on May 14, 2008

May 13, 2008

MG Lynch, Part II: Security

"We're close to that."
- MG Rick Lynch, Commanding General, 3ID/MND-C

As outlined in Part I, the shift in security in 3ID's Area of Operations since they arrived has been startling. The biggest reason attacks are down to less than two per day is that there are simply fewer hardliners left to cause problems. In the last year, reports MG Lynch, 3ID has killed or captured over 6,000 al Qaeda terrorists and insurgents in the AO. But though attacks are down sharply, Lynch refers to the security situation as "tenuous" because he considers the enemy still capable of isolated spectacular attacks such as lethal bombings.

However, Lynch does not see opposition forces as capable of coordinated and sustained action. "We’re at the point now where we believe there is no more than 100 AQ in our area…in isolated cells of 5 or 10 people," he reports. The situation is similar in regards to what he calls "Shia extremists." Though they number at an estimated 650, they are not connected and coordinated.

Some of the analysis of recent operations in Southern Iraq has described resistance as being comprised of largely criminal elements, despite whatever ideological affiliations such elements may claim. With that in mind, I asked MG Lynch how much of the attacks or unrest in his area was simply criminal activity. He again pointed to the remaining pockets of al Qaeda, but added that "Many Shia [insurgents] are purely motivated to criminal activity," and repeated a line I've heard him use before: "The best way to train for Iraq these days is to watch the 6th season of The Sopranos.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by FbL on May 13, 2008

May 12, 2008

Live from Iraq: MG Rick Lynch

I’m convinced, more than ever, that the people of Iraq want what you and I want.
Last Thursday I spoke by phone with Major General Rick Lynch, Commanding General, 3rd Infantry Division (Multi-National Division - Central), currently in Iraq. He answered questions for about 35 minutes, discussing the current security situation, redevelopment efforts, the strains of long/repeated deployments and his attitude toward media outreach. I did not bring up the issue of Iranian influence in Iraq, as he recently spoke about that in great detail here. 3ID is headquarters for MND-C, with an area of operations beginning on the southern edge of Baghdad province and continuing south through Karbala and Najaf, stretching from Iraq's eastern to western border.

In the last year or so, no commanding general in Iraq--outside General Petraeus himself--has been more visible and accessible to American media of all stripes than MG Lynch. This is not by accident.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by FbL on May 12, 2008

May 10, 2008

Red Legs Up!


Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on May 10, 2008

May 6, 2008

COIN and Social Epidemic: What We Didn't Know, We Already Knew

[Kat - I'm still recovering from the weekend, so pardon any randomness in my comment]

The armorer linked to Crittenden linking to Small Wars Journal article by Canadian CAPT Nils French:

Social Epidemics and the Human Element of Counter-insurgency

Insurgents typically choose to operate from within a population and for this reason it is the human element that has had and will continue to have the most considerable impact on their operations and the operations that counter them. In The Tipping Point, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell combines research from several disciplines to give incredible insight into the unusual and counterintuitive principles of the human element. He does this by exploring social epidemics; occasions where ideas, messages, and behaviors spread like viruses. The principles of social epidemics can be applied to business growth, crime rates, fashion trends, and other social phenomena. Because of the common human element, the concepts are equally applicable in an insurgency setting.

I read Malcolm Gladwell three years ago. After reading CAPT French, I thought his article was good, but a little thin in some areas. For instance, he talked about the three types of people that shape a "social epidemic": connectors, mavens and salesmen. But, his description of these types of people, how to identify them (within a counter-insurgency/potential hostile environment) and how to use them to actually begin a social epidemic in an AO could be a little more explicit.

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by Kat on May 06, 2008

April 30, 2008

To Bring Peace n In Afghanistan, Talk to the Taliban


Via Michael Yon, a link to an opinion piece by someone he calls a friend.

To Bring Peace n In Afghanistan, Talk to the Taliban

Or, in other words, why Petraeus had to go to CentCom. I wrote last August that the problem in Afghanistan is that there is no Petraeus. Prescient or just common sense? Both, likely.

I'll skip past the "we are failing" opening gambit and the "we don't need to keep so many troops there" (I'll get to that comment). Let's head right for the meat of the "failed counter-insurgency" in Afghanistan:

Before the arrival of our forces in strength in the south in the summer of 2006, I visited Afghans independently in the provincial capital of Helmand. ‘If the British bring security and reconstruction, they are welcome here. But if they don’t bring them, then they should leave.’ A year later — after high levels of violence and tiny amounts of reconstruction — I sat nervously with a group of young Helmandis: ‘The British tell us that we have security and reconstruction — but where is it? They should show us, not always just tell us.’

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Apr 30, 2008

April 29, 2008

The War: Headlines From Around the Globe


Hat Tip Long War Journal and Mudville Gazette

The Luck of the Irish

A foot patrol of British soldiers recounted the moment that they survived an attack by a suicide bomber only to run into an ambush by the Taleban as they picked themselves up after the blast.

“It's the luck of the Irish,” said Sergeant Paul Harrison, 27, from Liverpool, who survived the attack along with the rest of his patrol from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Apr 29, 2008

April 28, 2008

Strategic Communications: Speaking A Universal Language - Take 2


In my original theoretical concept, I gave a simple schematic about how groups of people directly or indirectly influence others: Developing Effective Strategic Communications

One of the necessities for developing a communication strategy is determining what the message is and what method or concept would be most conducive to delivering that message.

Strategic Communications - Speaking a Universal Language

The idea is to look for commonalities among communities and cultures that would align with our own. These commonalities could be leveraged to influence communities that, in turn, would influence individuals to act or not act in specific ways. I chose "morality" or "morals" as the "universal language" for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is the social bond that ties communities together, that allows great and small numbers of people to live together in relative peace. Morals (or values?) are "expected behaviors" that shape how individuals act personally and to or with each other.

In developing that idea, I discarded, rather offhandedly, the idea of math as the universal language. The question arose as to whether I had discarded that too easily considering the number of scientific studies and philosophical meanderings that indicate that human interaction is governed by math. There is truth in that and I did it for the purpose of leaping, maybe too quickly, to the idea that I believe is most effective in motivating people's behavior. Largely, shared behaviors that create human bonds and rules, or morals, that govern that behavior to allow a number of people to get on with a minimum of friction.

Before I explore the mathematical influences on people and their behavior, I believe that I should explain the other reason that I first discarded math. There are several studies that have been published regarding what motivates someone to accept, propagate and act on a specific ideology. To wit, what makes a normal young man (or woman), living a relatively comfortable life, eschew any cultural or moral normative to become a terrorist?

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Apr 28, 2008

April 25, 2008

Someone You Should Know

Staff Sergeant Carletta Davis, Combat Medic.

Davis was worried about returning to Iraq and made sure to spend more time with her family, including her husband and three sons before her most recent deployment.

“I think she was concerned particularly for her children,” [her mother] said. “She knew the danger of going back a third time.”

Yet she went. She died in Tal Al-Dahab, a few miles from here, on 5 November, 2007, along with four other soldiers when an IED detonated near their Humvee. They were enroute to set up a combat aid station.
AFSister has a post you should read -- about the Band of Sisters serving their country. Performing their duty, often at hazard, often unrecognized.

There is another Band of Sisters who performed their duties, faced the hazard and, in our sorrow, we search for ways to recognize their sacrifice and honor their memories.

SSG Carletta Davis will be remembered.

Our hospital, staffed and run by the 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron, is undergoing renovations. Part of that was to be an upgrade to the combat clinic, the ER for casualties coming in by medevac.

Instead of upgrading the existing clinic, they built a new one.

Davis Combat Clinic, Kirkuk, Iraq

The paint was still wet when I took that picture...

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on Apr 25, 2008

April 24, 2008

Strategic Communications: Speaking A Universal Language


Follow up to: Developing Effective Communication Strategies

"Madison Avenue at its best could not have done more for al Qaeda and other insurgent groups than the flattening of Fallujah, or the Abu Ghraib photos." - Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq
"The American soldier is the most dangerous man in the world and the Iraqis had to learn that before they would trust or respect us. But it was when they understood that these great-hearted warriors, who so enjoyed killing the enemy, are even happier building a school or making a neighborhood safe that we really got their attention." - Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq
"...we hold the moral high ground. - Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq

There is one truth and only one in a battle of ideologies. It is best proclaimed in a document over two hundred years old, written to announce the joining of a physical war on the American continent, involving nations spanning oceans and continents, over an ideological war that had been brewing for centuries - The Declaration of Independence:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In effect, when given a choice, people will choose to follow an ideology, develop a governing and political structure that they believe will "most likely effect their Safety and Happiness." That choice can be greatly effected by many external and internal forces. Not the least of which is the availability of information about and experiences with other ideologies and political concepts.

Yet, there is one concept, one point of reference, that can be found in every society; a universal concept that is practiced by individuals and binds societies together that can, indeed, transcend both geographical and language barriers: moral imperatives.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Apr 24, 2008

April 11, 2008

A Canadian in Iraq

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to a Canadian friend of The Castle, I read about a rather unusual person--a Canadian soldier in Iraq. Thanks to MAJ Conway of 3rd Infantry Division's Public Affairs Office, I interviewed him last Tuesday.

Canadian LTC Darryl Mills has been part of the U.S.-Canadian officer and NCO exchange program since 2004, and so deployed with the 3ID in 2005-2006. He was supposed to finish up in 2007, but with 3ID about to deploy again, he was asked to stay on. Today he's serving alongside American soldiers in Baghdad as the division's Deputy Chief of Staff, assuming the same responsibilities in the position as an American soldier would.

“I'm treated just like a U.S. officer,” he says. As a deputy chief, he is helping to synchronize the entire range of daily activities for the division--from combat operations to humanitarian assistance, to personnel administration. He seems particularly glad to have the educational opportunities available in such a high-level position. The Canadian army is divided at only the battalion level without any divisions above, so this is “great exposure…giving me a full range of understanding of what a U.S. Army Division does in Combat,” he explains with appreciation. It has also introduced him to hardware and resources that he wouldn't encounter in Canada.

The military exchange program has been in existence for quite awhile, but it's not something well-known in the civilian world. According to LTC Mills, there are currently about 300 Canadians working within their allies' armed forces, a not-insignificant number when one considers the size of Canadian Forces. Canada's goals in participating so strongly are two-fold: to increase their knowledge/skill/experience in ways they can use to improve their own military, and to improve the Canadian military's ability to integrate effectively with allies in both war and peacetime exercises. “When we come back, we’re able to bring back to our country…what we’ve learned abroad,” LTC Mills says. He also points out that it is important for Canada to improve integration for future coalition operations with allies because they recognize that due to their modest size, “We will always be fighting alongside someone else.”

LTC Mills describes the Canadians and Americans as very similar armies. The biggest difference is obviously in scale--Canada's entire combat forces (the “Field Force”) would fit within the U.S. Army's 3ID. A related difference he has noticed is that due to the limited size of Canadian forces, there is less specialization for the average Canadian soldier than for Americans. For example, an American soldier might be trained primarily to fire a 50-caliber machine gun, but a Canadian would be expected to be thoroughly competent with 4 or 5 different offensive weapons ranging from handguns to mortars. However, “We share a lot of things,” he reports. "Different acronyms, but basic soldiering and training for combat and combat itself is standard across the board.”

On the cultural side, the biggest change for LTC Mills has been the difference between the regimental system of Canada, and U.S. attitudes toward staffing a unit. Once someone is assigned to a Regiment, he/she tends to be there for the duration. They “don't move around so much,” said LTC Mills, and so there is a very strong personal connection to the home regiment and the people in it, “more of a family feel." Having American soldiers move through 3ID during his time with them has taken some getting used to for LTC Mills.

When LTC Mills deployed to Iraq with 3ID in 2005, he was Operations Officer for the Deputy Commanding General for Maneuver and Operations. It meant he was “outside the wire” on a daily basis, and had the chance to develop intimate knowledge of the people and situation on the ground. “It was an eye-opening and professionally rewarding experience,” he says. In the current deployment he's been tied to desk, and expresses a certain amount of frustration that he must rely on the reports of others for information about what is happening outside the walls. He reports a lack of comfort about that, and feeling a sense of isolation--the lament of many a staff officer who would rather be on the front lines.

[The rest is in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry]

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by FbL on Apr 11, 2008

April 10, 2008

Red Legs to the Rescue


red legs
MOSUL — The urban terrain of Operation Iraqi Freedom limits the use of large cannons and field artillery units. The days of all out destruction and artillery raining down from the skies seem to be over. But there are still uses for these Soldiers and instances in which destruction with precision accuracy is vital to the U.S. Army’s mission success.

The Redleg Soldiers of Howitzer Battery, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment are one of the few field artillery units executing their area of expertise in Iraq today.

The term “Redleg” comes from a time when Cannons were much simpler and the field artilleryman’s uniform was much different. The Army blue uniform for artillerymen had a two-inch red stripe on the trousers and horse artillerymen wore red canvas leggings, distinguishing themselves from other Soldiers.

The Cannons used by Redleg Soldiers were towed by man, horse or mule, providing no protection to the crew operating it. Misfires, muzzle bursts and exploding weapons were not uncommon. Accuracy and reliability were questionable.

Today, the U.S. Army’s M109A6 Paladin self-propelled 155mm howitzer is a tracked vehicle that can reach out and touch a target accurately from 30 km away.

Read about their mission to shed some light on the enemy here

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Apr 10, 2008

April 4, 2008

Zawahiri's Town Hall


I'd really like to spend some time reviewing this, but I want to get it up ASAP. Several months ago, Zawahiri put out a call for people to ask questions of him about al Qaida and their operations. He answered back recently with an audio that the Jawa Report has translated. I'll post a few highlights, but, if you have the time, you should read it.

It's starts out with Zawahiri trying to justify the attacks on Muslims:
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by Kat on Apr 04, 2008

April 3, 2008

Hussan's Story

Net connectivity has been a bit hinky the past week, but I've been able to pop in often enough to read what's been going on -- although my comments usually earn a "Gee, IE can't display that page, and it's really, really sorry about that. Try again next month" message.

So, I have a bit of time after work to yak with the Junior Birdmen. The following came out in a one-on-one that took place a couple of days ago, and I think it ties in nicely with what Kat's been saying, particularly in her Global Jihad All Star Team and FuzzyBee's
Disturbing. BTW, I *had* comments, but I see the Regulars did their usual sterling job of covering for me...

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Hussan (not his real name, for a very good reason) had just finished a couple of bumpy trips around the traffic pattern (okay, they call it a “circuit” -- ‘nother Brit legacy) and I was quizzing him about what the winds were doing at 2,000 feet. After about five minutes, the topic shifted to flying in general, then to combat flying in particular. Then it took a turn I hadn’t expected.

“There is a mosque in [town name redacted], the mosque is Wahabi. One day, there is a sniper in the minaret with a Dragunov -- you know this rifle?”

“Yeah -- Russian sniper rifle. The VC had Sov advisors and they used it on us in Vietnam.”

“Yes, the Russian rifle. The sniper in the minaret, he is a good shot, a very good shot with the Dragunov. He begins shooting at people in the street, not hitting, just shooting. A police car drives up in front of the mosque and the two policemen get out. The sniper shoots the driver *bip* in the head, and the driver falls down. The other policeman goes to his friend to pull him behind the car and the sniper shoots him *bip* in the head also. So two policemen are dead in the street.

“The people run to the policemen and the sniper shoots *bip*--*bip* and the people run to the doorways. He does not shoot the people, just shoots so more policemen come so he can shoot them when they get there. Soon some more cars with policemen come and the sniper shoots one *bip* and the other policemen shoot back and take cover, they do not run away like they do in the time of Saddam. The sniper hides and the policemen stop shooting. The sniper looks up over the balcony and all the policemen shoot. They stop shooting when the sniper hides, then all shoot when he looks up over the balcony, then they stop when he hides again. All at once, all the policemen come out from cover and shoot. They move into the street and keep shooting up at where the sniper is, they keep him from looking up.

“Suddenly, there are some American soldiers running around the corner toward the mosque. They run to the door with a shotgun, they shoot the hinges and kick the door in, then they run inside, then some of the policemen stop shooting and run inside with them. The other policemen stop shooting at where the sniper hides in the minaret, but they keep aiming up there. Then one gets a call on his cell phone, and he tells the others to stop aiming, and some go over to the dead policemen and some go into the mosque.

“I saw this, it was in my town. My little brother -- not *smaller-than-I-am* little, *younger-than-I-am* little -- he was with me and saw this, too. I am already in the Army, on leave from Army cadet school. My little brother now joins the police.

“When the soldiers and the police go into the mosque, there is a fight. When it is over, they search the mosque and find IEDs, mortars, RPGs. The Wahabis are two Afghans, one Syrian, three Saudis. No Iraqis.

“So, why do the CNN reporters say this is *Iraqi* insurgency?”

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on Apr 03, 2008

Outside the Wire 2007: First Hand Look at the New War


While at the VFF event on March 26, I noticed a man with a camera, filming and then later interviewing Hegseth and Bellavia. I thought he was with VFF. Later, as I was speaking to someone else, Hegseth interrupted and said, "this man has been to Doura". The man slid a DVD across the table and said it was a film about his time there. I had to go on, so I thanked him, put the DVD in my folder and left to meet with some others. Later, as I looked at the DVD, I realized that I had just missed personally speaking with JD Johannes. The DVD he had given me was his latest "Outside the Wire" documentary.

I watched it last weekend. I think it is better than his first documentary. In fact, it was much better than some documentary type programs I had seen on The Military Channel, The History Channel, HBO and Showtime. The narration was well done, the interviews, interspersed with actual events, were excellent and highly educational. This would also be appropriate to show in any class room, at least high school and college. Frankly, they should be watching this instead of reading the papers or watching news because they are not getting the whole story nor the right story. Read Toby Nunn from Bad Voodoo. The WAPO took unverified, insurgent propaganda and turned it into a story about US forces attacking a bus. Bad Voodoo was there. You can see a good documentary about another side of the war with Bad Voodoo's convoy War.

This is one reason why JD's Outside the Wire is so important. This "Bad Voodoo" experience is the news that people get. This is the story that is being fed to the American people. This is what is being used to create Hollywood movies like "redacted" or "stop loss". This is why I am telling you that you should get this movie, "Outside the Wire", watch it and spread it around or recommend it to others.

The documentary is in three parts. Each could stand on its own as a thirty to forty minute segment. Together, they help pull together the disparate aspects of a "three block war" and really give a great understanding of the battle for Iraq today.

This is what you'll find in this documentary:
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by Kat on Apr 03, 2008

April 2, 2008

The Pacifist and The Warmongerer


It was interesting to read FbL's post Monday and the responses. While you might be tired of hearing about the Vets for Freedom stop in Kansas City, for me, it gave me several experiences to draw from and an opportunity to expand my own education on things military and war.

One of those experiences was meeting a pacifist. No, he wasn't there to protest. In truth, the meeting was extremely ironic because he was a local book seller who was providing the books, House to House, for Bellavia to sign. The book is subtitled as "an epic memoir of war" and the book itself is hardly a denigration of war or in the terribleness of its destruction.

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by Kat on Apr 02, 2008

March 31, 2008

Global Jihad All Star Team

Reading Bellavia's book, House to House, he talked about fighting the "global jihad all-star team". They were many men from all over the world that had traveled to Iraq specifically to kill Americans. Most of them were hardened fighters from Islamist battle fields around the world, many of them had been trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He (Bellavia) repeated this point during the Vets for Freedom event on Wednesday, March 26. He said he would go through the pockets of the dead (to gather "intel") and find wads of United States dollars and foreign passports from all over the world, including: Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Palestinian Authority, the Philippines, France and Germany (among many others not listed).

A report came out recently that a naturalized German citizen became a suicide bomber in Iraq: the first known and recognized German citizen. On March 19, 2008, seven men went on trial in France for recruiting foreign fighters to go to Iraq or having participated in the fighting. These men began sending fighters and recruiters to Iraq in 2005.

They are part of the recruiting system for what Bellavia calls: The Global Jihad All Star Team.

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by Kat on Mar 31, 2008

March 27, 2008

Bloggers Roundable: Developments in Diyala Province

Yesterday I participated in a DoD Blogger's Roundtable with Colonel Jon S. Lehr, Commander, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. His area of responsibility in Iraq is Diayala Province, which lies directly east and northeast of Baghdad. [click for: audio, transcript (pdf), and bio].

Overall, COL Lehr gave the impression that Diyala province is a bit of a mixed bag, which is to be expected, considering that it lags areas like central Iraq in terms of the "Awakening," etc. It's not as far along in development of Iraqi Security Forces (police and army) as 3rd ID's AO is, but COL Lehr believes "we are running al Qaeda off" in the Diyala province. He also said Coalition Forces have good relationships with the Sons of Iraq, noting, "I have an allegiance to them" because they have fought hard and "spilled their blood" to drive al Qaeda out of the province.

He rates progress in terms of three "lines of operations:" Security, transition (to ISF leadership of security) and governance. On a green-to-red scale, he describes security as amber--"Pretty good, considering what the province has been through in the last year." Transition is amber to red, having made "vast improvements since last summer...The Iraqi Army is capable of unilateral operations with support from enablers [air support, artillery, logistics]." The red factor comes in when looking at the Iraqi police, which he describes as "a bit more challenging," with problems related to a lack of numbers, training quality and professionalism. Governance is amber. "If we walked away right now, the provincial government could function. The capacity and subject-matter expertise is not there, but it would function."

Interestingly, 4th Stryker BCT is seeing a change in tactics from IEDs to a preference for suicide vests. There are still attempts at IEDs, but ISF and Coalition Forces are increasingly capable of detecting and mitigating IEDs. In addition, the MRAP vehicle is making IEDs less effective, and al Qaeda is "on the ropes. Everything we hear and read from our sources is that they are very scared and confused about what is going on" in terms of military actions and the Awakening.

COL Lehr seems very concerned about the possiblity of the recent violence and Shia (Sadr-related) extremism "migrating" to Diyala province. He acknowledges that in some ways it may be a case of being overly-concerned, but he is keeping a very watchful eye on it. It is an issue that he has repeatedly discussed with local Shia and Sunni leadership, even before the more recent spasms of violence in southern Iraq. The good news is that the local leaders reportedly believe that any Sadr-related disruptions will be more civil disobedience that outright violence, and they are very serious about avoiding sectarian conflicts. Ultimately, COL Lehr said that while they are prepared for violence against the coalition by "special groups" [a euphemism for Iranian-influenced/supported organizations] and those who have split off from Sadr's cease fire, they don't expect it in the current unrest.

Overall, COL Lehr reports a downward turn in attacks on coalition and ISF in Diyala Province, even in the last seven to ten days. Attacks are "well below the historical norm," and extremely low against coalition forces. Yesterday by the time of the roundtable (9 p.m. in Iraq), he had received only two reports of "significant events"--discovery of an IED (EFP), and a weapons cache that was turned over.

Like the rest of the issues in Diyala, the quality of the Sons of Iraq is mixed. "Not all CLCs [Concerned Local Citizens groups] are created equal," he says. In Diayala, they have naturally split themselves into two groups: rural organizations who are tribally-based and not really political, and urban (in Baquba) groups that are very political and looking forward to the provincial elections this Fall. In Baquba, four CLC-type groups have formed a joint political committee.

I asked COL Lehr about concerns that the urban CLCs could become political militias and might be negatively influenced by foreign elements. He acknowledged that this is a major concern and a complicated issue. "I do see foreign influence," he says. "At this point and time I don’t think it’s negative... It could easily become negative." He is clearly concerned about a political insurgency developing, and he added with an edge to his voice, "The Iraqi government needs to pay attention to the situation... there is a lot of political posturing going on in Iraq right now." However, he is optimistic about the current quality and effectiveness of the CLCs. "We’ve done a lot of good detective work, and we have culled a lot of bad apples," he reports. "We have detained dozens of bad or rogue CLCs and AQ infiltrators." Since November 2007, 60-80 high-value targets have been removed from the CLC program in Diyala.

More about the the Roundtable here and here (pdf), including COL Lehr's candid thoughts on the recent "strike" of the CLCs, and a new program to employ CLC members in work similar to what they are doing now.

There have been a number of very interesting Blogger's Roundtables recently, including one on the development of the Afghan National Army (by MG Robert Cone). Check it out!

by FbL on Mar 27, 2008

Vets For Freedom: Kansas City


Before I begin, a reminder that Vets for Freedom will be at the Dole Institute Thursday at 9:30 AM

WHEN: March 27, 2008, 9:30 am

Where: The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics (2350 Petefish Drive, Lawrence, KS 66045)

***Open to the Public***

Not up on their website yet, but I caught the news Wednesday evening and KCTV5 covered the event. Stand by for potential other reports. Blackfive should have a video up soon[Update: Video of KC arrival]. Our erstwhile marine, Jim B, gave up his Scoresby for the evening and took some pictures which I'll post when I get, though he did send me two that I'll put beneath the fold.

The turn out to the event could have been better. I was torn between disappointment that more people in our city had not come out to hear the vets and a little bit of selfish happiness that it gave me an opportunity to have some one on one time and ask a lot of questions (what? you think the lack of brevity is only about my posts?). The Patriot Guard in our city and the police department did give the vets our usual "welcome home" with a full blown escort to the Museum. I was not on that mission, so video/pictures will have to come from Blackfive.

David Bellavia joked that the police coverage was so good, they were muscling people out of the way at Denny's. The VFF guys should feel honored. I don't think we even did that for Garth Brooks or Hannah Montana when they came to the Sprint Center. You know who Kansas City considers our "heroes" though.

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by Kat on Mar 27, 2008

March 22, 2008

Iraq Economy: Light At the End of the Tunnel Part III


...all that we need is the existence of companies with materials and expertise because we have the money and fuel." - Minister of Electricity Karim Waheed

Continued follow up on FbL's great Iraq Economy Series. This is a continuing look at Iraq's electricity situation.

In response to a request, Haditha Dam. Also, great pictures of what passes for electrical wiring in Iraq. Old video, but an excellent review of Haditha and its potential. It is right now providing nearly 24/7 electricity to Ramadi and surrounding Anbar.

The fact is that Iraq's economy is growing, and large projects are underway to continue to improve the flow of electricity. Second to the Hydro-Carbon Law (development of oil infrastructure and revenue sharing), electricity effects the overall political and economic development of Iraq. While oil may bring in the money, electricity may be the gauge by which the security and future economy can be measured.

Part I: Light At the End of the Tunnel - History of Abuse and Neglect

Part II: Light At the End of the Tunnel - The Electrical Surge

Part III: Powering Iraq's Future

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by Kat on Mar 22, 2008

March 20, 2008

Iraq Economy: Light At the End of the Tunnel Part II


Never before has so vast a reconstruction program been attempted in the face of enemy fire or managed in the shadow of geopolitics - Uknown

Continued follow up on FbL's great Iraq Economy Series. This is a continuing look at Iraq's electricity situation.

In response to a request, Haditha Dam. Also, great pictures of what passes for electrical wiring in Iraq. Old video, but an excellent review of Haditha and its potential. It is right now providing nearly 24/7 electricity to Ramadi and surrounding Anbar.

The fact is that it is growing, and large projects are underway to continue to improve the flow of electricity. Second to the Hydro-Carbon Law (development of oil infrastructure and revenue sharing), electricity effects the overall political and economic development of Iraq. While oil may bring in the money, electricity may be the gauge by which the security and future economy can be measured.

Part I: Light At the End of the Tunnel - History of Abuse and Neglect

Part II: The Electrical Surge

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Mar 20, 2008

March 18, 2008

The Cult of the Suicide Bomber in Iraq

The Defense Department has been pushing out a big story over the last two days--their debriefing of 48 prospective suicide bombers who were captured or who surrendered. As part of that, they made made Air Force Colonel David Bacon, Chief of Special Operations and Intelligence Operations, Strategic Communications for Multinational Forces - Iraq, available for a Blogger's Roundtable (audio file), of which I was a participant.

The 48 would-be suicide bombers form a fascinating demographic study of suicide bombers in Iraq. Surprisingly, the Associated Press has an article on the topic that tracks very well with what we were told at the Roundtable.

While al Qaeda in Iraq is composed of both foreigners and natives, the foreigners comprise about 10-15% of AQI, but the majority of that segment operate either as leadership or suicide bombers. The suicide bombers are over 90% foreign, and perform the most deadly and ultimately effective of AQI's attacks. Thus, understanding their behavior, methods and movement into the country are a high priority for the Coalition.

The terrorists of 9-11 were middle-to-upper-class and educated, but these recruits for simple suicide bombings are young, under-educated and often lonely or social outcasts. COL Bacon paints a picture of deception and manipulation on the part of al Qaeda recruiters, describing recruits as having been brought into "Jihad" by someone (usually not an Imam) who befriends them and offers to help "correct" their worship. These recruits end up radicalized, though they had not shown signs of it before. As I listened to the colonel, I was struck by the similarity of AQI's techniques to the methods used to suck young Westerners into cults.

Of course, suicide bomber recruiters paint a heroic picture of going to Iraq to help Iraqis fight the American "oppressors." They say al Qaeda is defeating the U.S., which is abusing the Iraqis. "Be part of a winning team," they say. Eager to prove themselves special in their large families and heroic among a society from which they feel cut off, they head out to Iraq.

COL Bacon reports that most of the prospective suiciders come into Iraq through Syria (all 48, in this case). And to the disappointment of their charges, their Syrian handlers are quite secular, entertaining them at discos and bars before shepherding them across the border.

Iraqis have come to distrust foreigners due to previous bombings, so AQI foreign fighters are hidden once they are in-country and are housed in very poor conditions. Their passports and money are taken, and suiciders are often isolated even from each other. This comes as a surprise to the recruits. A key point that the 48 recruits made was that they "came expecting to see Americans get killed...but they saw Iraqis getting killed and it bothered them." They were further disturbed to see their fellow recruits blown up in infrastructure attacks rather than assaults on Americans. Additionally, must recruits do not arrive in-country expecting suicide missions. They have to be pressured into it once there: "This is your duty. This is what we need you to do for the Jihad. You could be more useful… a martyr." After a few weeks of difficult living conditions and disillusionment, they reported simply "going into survival mode." They "felt relief when they were captured," reports COL Bacon, with some crying with relief during debriefings.

One participant asked whether these recruits were "evil" people or just brainwashed. COL Bacon said some were more ideologically-driven than others, but of the 48 profiled, most were youngsters looking for respect, friendship, or a sense of importance. They were ideological, but only after they met their recruiter.

The recruitment networks are paid for each recruit. While they seem to be focused on Iraq right now, they recruit for al Qaeda activities around the world--evidence that AQI is not separate from AQ itself, despite media efforts to paint it as such.

Colonel Bacon also spoke of efforts to break the supply lines and networks for suicide bombers through military and diplomatic means. He gave a surprising description of cooperative efforts from both Saudi Arabia and Syria, including things like Saudi Imams preaching that it is "not a righteous cause." These activities have severely restricted the number of suicide bombers and other foreign terrorists entering Iraq. According to captured records, during May and June of 2007, about 124 potential bombers entered Iraq. That number is down to about 50 per month, now. Currently there are 240 in Coalition custody, with an additional unknown number in Iraqi custody.

As on the "frontline" side of things, Mosul is a center of particular focus for those attempting to disrupt suicide bomber supply networks. And like the other military leaders I've spoken to, COL Bacon points out that greater economic opportunity and continued improvements in security both work to reduce incentive and support for militant activities.

One final note: on the subject of Mosul, COL Bacon used a phrase about the terrorists I've now heard from sources as diverse as reporters, to Senator McCain--"To win, they need Baghdad. But to survive, they gotta keep Mosul.” Baghdad is still hanging in the balance in many ways, but the terrorists do not currently hold it; in Mosul, they are fighting for their lives. Like the patchwork quilt I've seen on the economic side of things, there are obviously multiple kinds of fronts on the kinetic side... each one developing and strengthening one aspect of the fight. Stitch them all together eventually, and it'll be quite a quilt.

I find I've been holding my breath when I think of Iraq these days. So much is going right, but so much still hangs in the balance.

[I'll add a link to the Roundtable transcript when it becomes available. UPDATE: transcript (pdf) and video.]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by FbL on Mar 18, 2008

Iraq Economy: Light At the End of the Tunnel Part I


Never before has so vast a reconstruction program been attempted in the face of enemy fire or managed in the shadow of geopolitics - Unknown

Continued follow-up on FbL's great Iraq Economy Series, this is a look at Iraq's electricity situation. The fact is that it is growing, and large projects are underway to continue to improve the flow of electricity. Second to the Hydro-Carbon Law (development of oil infrastructure and revenue sharing), electricity effects the over all political and economic development of Iraq. While oil may bring in the money, electricity may be the gauge by which the security and future economy can be measured.

Part I: History of Neglect and Abuse

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Mar 18, 2008

March 13, 2008

Vets for Freedom "Heroes Tour" Kick-off

I should've put this up earlier, but things got busy.

Vets for Freedom is kicking off the "National Heroes Tour" in San Diego tomorrow (Friday) to draw attention to their mission as they travel to Washington, DC to meet with legislators ahead of General Petraeus' expected testimony in April. Events will include appearances/speeches by heroes like Bud Day, Marcus Luttrell and David Bellavia, as well as local heroes. There will be a book signing in Pendleton in the morning, then a party on the deck of the Midway Museum at 6:30 p.m., including a parachute team landing and F-18 flyover, and music and food until 10:00 (Hugh Hewitt will be broadcasting from the ship starting at 3:00).

All events are free. Uncle Jimbo of Blackfive and I will be there to cover the news for the blogs.

Hope to see you there!

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Mar 13, 2008

Outside the Wire: The Awakening


If you don't check it out, you don't know what you're missing. JD at "Outside the Wire" has been back from Iraq for a bit working with David Chavarria to edit the latest "Outside the Wire" trilogy.

Danger Close (OP Omar)

"Hopefully they'll grow some balls and just bound on us and try to overrun us, but they don't want to die that quickly," the paratrooper said.

Two hours later, Al Qaida in Iraq did just that.

On March 26th, 2007 Al Qaida in Iraq attacked O.P. Omar, a small outpost in Al Anbar province manned by Army paratroopers from Blackfoot Company, 1-501st.

Al Qaida brought two suicide truck bombs, and more than 40 gunmen to the 20 minute battle.

Anbar Awakens (Al Qaeda has a new enemy.)

In 2006 a classified report declared that Iraq's Al Anbar province is lost. In 2007 Al Anbar province is held up as a model of effective counter insurgency.

How did the situation change so drastically in one year?

Documentary filmmaker JD Johannes traveled the Euphrates river valley interviewing tribal leaders and military officers who turned Anbar from a defeat into what might be a victory over Al Qaida.

Hear first hand from the Iraqis who have suffered under Al Qaida and then rose up to the fight terrorist why they have joined with the coalition and get an indepth look at the techniques of modern counter insurgency.

Baghdad Surge

Documentary filmmaker JD Johannes spent a month in some of Baghdad's toughest neighborhoods--Doura, Bayya, Rashid--seeing the surge firsthand.

Now you can see the s urge from a 'boots on the ground' level following a U.S. Army Captain through 18 hours of the surge.

With expert analysis from leading counter insurgency theorist and two-time Iraq veteran Col. G.I. Wilson, USMC (Ret.), 'Baghdad Surge' shows you the tactics, techniques and procedures that are being used to by the coalition.

Just so you understand the success that we've been having, here are two stories about Rashid today:

East Rashid holds local elections (And there are no bombs or shootings)

Humanitarian Mission in West Rashid (And there are no bombs or shootings)

Now, go sign up to get updates on when the DVD will be available for purchase. I have good insider information that it should be within the next week. You'll want to see what "Victory in Iraq" looks like.

I hope JD gets a chance to do "V.I. Day" real soon.

by Kat on Mar 13, 2008

March 12, 2008

Falling All Over Fallon


Ry linked up to the story yesterday about Fallon leaving and the media stating that its over the whether Fallon agrees with the White House about using military force against Iran. FbL comes in and links to Blackfive who says that internal sources say there is a lot more to the story. Which I agree with.

The Armorer says he hasn't read the Esquire report yet, but gives the best two word description of the situation: trouble magnet. Both are right, but Iran is not the only "trouble" that Fallon has been attracting throughout his CentCom command.

One thing I do remember, for those with short memories, is that Fallon was no fan of the surge. In fact, from the beginning he was pressing for a reduction in troops and a draw down from combat operations. His two major concerns were the stresses on military capabilities (human and machines) as well as the ability to handle other threats in the region along with a belief in moderating use of military force. That position, along with several other issues surrounding Iran AND Iraq, has been plaguing his command.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Kat on Mar 12, 2008

March 7, 2008

Live from Iraq: No (MSM) News is Good News

[FbL here, with another 3ID interview]

Thursday morning I spoke by phone for about 40 minutes with Brigadier General Jim Huggins, Deputy Commanding General (maneuver), 3rd Infantry Division, Iraq. The 3ID (Taskforce Marne) is headquarters for MND-C (Multinational Division Central) and has been in Iraq since early last year, conducting operations in south-central Iraq--from just south of Baghdad down to Karbala and Najaf, including the east and west borders of Iraq. The wide-ranging interview covered recent operations, Shia-Sunni relations, the Arbaeen pilgrimage, 3ID's detainee release program, signs of Iranian involvement, Iraqis' desire for provincial elections, and ePRTs/intensive rebuilding efforts.

Executive Summary? While the troubles of northern Iraq are making the news, the religiously-mixed area of south-central Iraq in which 3ID operates is starting to sound like the crown jewel of "surge" success in Iraq.

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Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by FbL on Mar 07, 2008

February 21, 2008

Live from Iraq: Redevelopment and Reconciliation

[FbL here, with another installment in a series of interviews with the leadership of 3rd ID/Taskforce Marne.]

Wednesday morning I spoke by phone to Brigadier General Edward Cardon, Assistant Division Commander (Support), 3rd Infantry Division, currently in Iraq. In thirty-five minutes we covered a great deal of ground, focusing mostly on reconstruction, redevelopment and political engagement. 3rd ID functions as leadership for Multi-National Division—Central (MND-C), covering a band of land just south of Baghdad City from east to west, and south past Karbala and Najaf.

I began by asking BG Cardon about operations and engagements in the two weeks since I spoke to CSM Andrews. He reported that attacks remain at a rate of roughly four per day, though there were no attacks Wednesday. Their biggest activity this week has been disposing of discovered weapons caches. He said the Sons of Iraq (formerly Concerned Local Citizens) have been reporting weapons caches at such a high rate recently that it is challenging Coalition disposal personnel (EOD, etc). Among the caches have been a number of Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs, the most deadly IEDs); BG Cardon reports they have observed no direct evidence of Iranian activity, but the EFPs are “associated as Iranian.” The EFP issue seemed to neither surprise nor alarm him.

I asked BG Cardon about efforts to knit together local governance and national leadership, and how the Sons of Iraq and the challenge of the Sunni-Shia divide fit in. He said that the SOI are largely tribal, but the leaders of SOI groups participate in local councils, which are then linked to local governments, Nahia, Kada, and finally the Provinces. He gave the example of Baghdad Province, in which the Shia governor has been visiting leadership in Mahmoudiyah, Arab Jabour and Salaman Pak, which are Sunni regions. He reports that these meetings have been productive as the leaders are developing contacts and getting to know each other. Right now, the Sunnis in the area have little representation at the provincial and national level because they largely sat out the elections of 2005. However, they are anxious to participate in the elections this Fall, and so these contacts are setting the stage for future governance. BG Cardon described this--and building government from the ground up--as a grassroots action.

However, the Coalition is walking a fine line in using SOI as an organizing force for governance because participants in some areas have been showing signs of trying to organize themselves into political parties, which is a big concern. “We watch this closely….We don’t want a militia to form. One of the problems here is that every political party has an armed wing.” BG Cardon was emphatic that such things are not tolerated. “If you want a political movement, you’re no longer part of the Sons of Iraq,” which means no more money in exchange for SOI activities such as neighborhood checkpoints.

Getting local Iraqis hooked into the national government has been a big challenge in recent years, as corruption, incompetence and other barriers to effective governance have disillusioned many. However, BG Cardon reports that he has observed a shift in Iraqi attitudes toward the government in his AO since he arrived. The Iraqis seem to be a bit more patient about rebuilding and redevelopment. “[There is] a growing understanding that Iraq didn’t get this way in a day and won’t take a day to improve it. The national government is also doing a better job of explaining what is going on and how it will take time, and so people are more patient.”

Locals are showing a real desire to engage with the central government because they see it as being the source of services to their areas and having the capacity to facilitate the transfer of goods in their locale. As an example, BG Cardon mentioned that in a recently-secured area, one of the first things that was done was to bring in the Iraqi government construction teams to pave the roads, which thrilled the village. Things such as this are becoming more common because local governors are “more active in getting out and about,” developing contacts with town/tribal leaders that enable them to identify needs and spend their money more effectively.

BG Cardon said that something he’s found particularly encouraging lately is the level of private (foreign) investment interest in Iraq. “There have been more [inquiries about investment] in the last three weeks than I saw in the last ten months. There have not been very many deals completed yet, but “companies are very encouraged by what they find.” He acknowledges that people have a perception that security is still a huge issue in MND-C’s area, but says they are incorrectly “extrapolating” based on reports from Northern Iraq, not realizing that things are so much calmer south of Baghdad. For example, he reported that there is no need to wear body armor in Najaf, and described taking a private investor to visit. “Is security like this all the time,” the investor asked? “Been like this for several months,” Cardon said he replied, to the investor’s astonishment.

This is the big story that Cardon expects to become more obvious in the near future, “The real story over the next several months is going to be political and economic.” He pointed to the recent legislation passed, but also talked of Iraq’s great economic potential: “With the resources, the people, they could resume their role as the breadbasket of the Middle East.” He also mentioned opportunities to develop a strong tourist industry as the area becomes safer—Shia shrines, sites of historical significance to Christians, etc.

As he talked of Iraq’s economic prospects, he stopped to caution that things can still go wrong on the security front, but his enthusiasm and excitement about the future kept spilling over, as he discussed the potential for foreign investors who would bring industry and jobs to Iraqis. He said now is the time for business to come and take a look. “This is a country of personal engagement…. Getting here early is a good thing if you want to have a long-term business arrangement.”

[Coming up, in Part II: the nascent work of engaging women’s leadership and addressing the medical infrastructure, the State Department, and the next big challenge for South-Central Iraq.]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Feb 21, 2008

February 6, 2008

Live from Iraq: CSM Andrews (Part II)

[This is Part II of a recent interview FbL conducted with 3rd Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major Andrews. Part I covered the new Iraqi NCO Academy and relationships between Iraqi officers and enlisted.]

In the second half of the interview, I asked Command Sergeant Major Andrews about the morale of 3ID soldiers and factors that can influence morale. Once again, he demonstrated a markedly positive outlook. His enthusiasm seemed limitless.

Surprisingly, CSM Andrews reported that morale has been on a rise overall, without any kind fall throughout their deployment. "I haven't seen a dip at all," he said. When I questioned him further, he said that it was a natural outgrowth of a successful mission, of soldiers seeing the positive results of their efforts in the AO. "When they are out and about and conducting patrols they see, 'Hey, look! We're making a difference!'" This keeps them motivated and wanting to do more to complete the mission. "They understand the mission."

CSM Andrews believes that the Combat Outposts and Patrol Bases are part of that constant good morale. COPs and PBs are constructed immediately after combat operations in a new area and "Once security is established...we build infrastructure for quality of life—amenities such as Internet connectivity, telephone networks and quality meals...We try to get everything we possibly can" out to the COPs and PBs. They are "pretty rough at first, but we try to overwhelm them with all the [amenities] we try to get out to them.” CSM Andrews emphasized that the COPs/PBs will never have the quality of life of the main bases, but there is a strong effort to make them technologically connected as soon as possible, and to add any amenities they can. This affects morale because the occupants are able to be in touch with family and friends as much as if they were on a big base. According to CSM Andrews, a number of soldiers have said they prefer the COPs because they feel comfortable with the living conditions while still having a meaningful mission. Out on the COPs "they can see the results of their hard work," and that is very motivating and morale-boosting.

The 3rd Infantry Division has had three deployments in the last five years, and I asked CSM Andrews if signs of strain from that operations tempo had been seen in the division. He
acknowledged that it was a demanding pace, but didn't believe it had put undue strain on things like retention. 3ID has had three mass re-enlistment ceremonies (150-300 soldiers) since arriving in Iraq. Less than halfway through the fiscal year, they are at 53% of their retention goal.

CSM Andrews also mentioned a strong Family Readiness Group as part of 3ID's resiliency in the face of so many deployments. "We have very well-organized FRGs. " He took obvious pride in describing the FRG's as well-integrated into the Division leadership, "It's really a seamless operation." For example, part of the deployed leadership's weekly video teleconferences with the Rear Detachments are devoted to specific updates for families about division activities that do not make the news, providing as much information as possible within OPSEC concerns. CSM Andrews added that home communities of 3ID/Taskforce Marne's soldiers have been an important part of meeting homefront/family needs--"We couldn't ask for better support!"

Another part of meeting homefront and family needs is caring for the wounded. CSM Andrews is obviously proud of efforts to maintain contact with and support for 3ID's wounded who are sent back home: "We have a very robust program when it comes to staying in touch with our wounded warriors." This includes an NCOIC and an assistant at every hospital that treats a wounded 3ID soldier, and the deployed leadership has weekly conversations with each NCOIC to identify any individual or group problems that can solved, ranging from pay problems to awarding purple hearts to general care. Additionally, CSM Andrews was emphatic about leadership's commitment to spending part of any leave or other trips back home visiting their wounded soldiers. He and Major General Lynch do this in particular, but it is strongly encouraged at other levels, too.

In closing, I asked what 3ID soldiers needed from Americans on the homefront. "Continue to keep us in thoughts/prayers and support us,” he requested. He wanted Americans to know the soldiers are "focused, extremely proud of what they are doing,” and emphasized that they are volunteers. "We will continue to do what we need to." He also expressed his appreciation for people who are interviewing and blogging about what is happening in Iraq. “The news gets distorted, or it’s not getting reported with the specificity you get talking to the leadership here... [So] we appreciate what you are doing on your blogs and with these interviews, etc."

I've only done two interviews so far, but that paragraph above is what I hear loud and clear from my interviewees and all involved in this process--they do not believe the truth and details of what is happening in 3ID's area of operations is getting through to America, which is why they are making themselves available to "little people" who both have a foundation of military knowledge and are not reflexively anti-military. I think they are right about the media. As I've watched the horrifying news from Northern Iraq these last few weeks--bombings, soldier deaths, etc--I couldn't help but realize that those important stories were largely crowding out equally-important stories about the surprising accomplishments and excellent work being done by 3ID south of Baghdad.

[Extended entry: It's a small world]

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Feb 06, 2008

February 4, 2008

Live from Iraq: CSM Andrews

[by FbL]

Last Friday in my continuing series of interviews with the senior leadership of 3rd Infantry Division/Taskforce Marne, I spoke to Command Sergeant Major Jesse L. Andrews, Jr. for about 45 minutes by phone. Topics covered included general security, the first graduating class of the new Iraqi NCO Academy headed up by 3ID, and the strategy of and living conditions on Combat Outposts. As the senior enlisted soldier in the battalion, he also answered questions about homefront support, and retention and morale in 3ID in the face of a heavy deployment schedule. Throughout the interview, CSM Andrews showed tremendous enthusiasm and positivity about conditions on the ground in Iraq and the attitudes of the soldiers for whom he is responsible.

The security situation continues much as Colonel McKnight described it last week, though CSM Andrews added that combat in Arab Jabour (Operation Marne Thunderbolt) is largely over for now, with activities turning to stabilization, cleanup, and community development. He also offered the new tidbit that only one in seven attacks on coalition soldiers results in damage to people or equipment. Combined with McKnight's report of about four incidents a day, that means a damage-causing attack happens an average of only once every other day in their Area of Operations. We are reading news of a great deal of insurgent/terrorist activity in northern parts of Iraq, but Multi-national Division Central (3ID's command) is obviously much more peaceful.

The big story from the CSM's perspective was that the new Iraqi NCO Academy graduated its first ("test") class on Friday, and he seemed to relish the chance to talk about it. The academy is modeled after 3ID's Warrior Leader Course--the first level of training enlisted personnel receive on their way to becoming NCOs--but it has been distilled into bare essentials that are directly applicable to needs of the Iraqi Security Forces. It is shaped to provide “the most bang for the buck," said CSM Andrews, with the guiding standards of providing skills that are "relevant, repeated [during the course], and retained." The goal is newly-trained Iraqi NCOs who can go out and “make a difference” in their own units as they share their skills and lead by example.

Most Arab militaries do not have a robust NCO tradition. There is a strong social class distinction between officer and NCO, with officers being wealthy and politically-connected, while the soldiers they command are uneducated, questionably trained, and lacking in any social standing. The old Iraqi army was no exception, and so a trained and professional NCO corps is a new concept for them.

CSM Andrews described his briefings on the NCO Academy with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) generals and brigade commanders throughout 3ID's AO as a matter of education: "Here’s what we’re trying to do, a new concept we want to provide." Once he'd explained the goals and how it was modeled on American training, the ISF leaders were extremely excited. "When I finished the brief, the only questions were 'When does it start, and how many slots can I have?'" They were even more impressed when they visited the classes in session. "We received rave reviews...The ISF leadership sat in the back and observed with their own translator." He reported their approval was obvious and they thanked the Americans for offering the instruction. "The Iraqis are really digging the training."

Academy curriculum included basic NCO duties and responsibilities, values, Iraqi ethnicities, the Iraqi oath of service, basic first aid/combat medicine, map reading, combat awareness, marksmanship, combatives, physical fitness, patroling, IED/sniper response, and beginning MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training such as breaking down doors and clearing/securing a room, almost all of which were new concepts/skills for the students. When I asked if any changes were planned in the curriculum due to lessons learned in training the first Academy class, CSM Andrews said they didn't plan any major changes, but they'd learned a little about the Iraqi NCOs. The students did not do particularly well with classroom instruction, and so the instructors had to adjust the training proportions to include a much greater emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning, which was very effective. The instructors also discovered they they had to carefully distill instruction styles to "focus on providing clarity," both because of time constraints and the instructional backgrounds of the students.

I asked CSM Andrews if he had seen significant changes in perspective, philosophy or outlook among the Academy students in such a short (two-week) course. He was forcefully positive on that point, describing a strong difference in them between his welcoming speech and his graduation speech. On the first day of classes, he had emphasized to the students "how important it was to build this foundation in the ISF." And he pointed out the significance of this kind of class in the American military: "[It] is a base, a foundation for the rest of your career," he advised them. Upon encountering the students again at the graduation ceremony on Thursday, he reported he could instantly observe their growth. "They really took it to heart."

This NCO training is a big piece of building a professional and humane Iraqi military that can take over when the Americans leave, and a it's a huge culture shift. However, CSM Andrews is obviously confident that the American-style reliance on an NCO corps will take hold within the ISF. He sees Iraqi officers "adjusting great" to learning to rely on their developing NCOs, and predicts the training NCOs receive at the Academy will further increase their credibility in the eyes of their officers.

[Part II is up.]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Feb 04, 2008

January 31, 2008

Fog of War: Friends and Enemies


Marine expert says Marine vehicle was fired on in Afghanistan Back story reminder:

Mero was the first defense witness to corroborate the version of events from Marines in Fox Company, who said they were fired upon March 4 after a suicide bomber detonated a white van packed with explosives.

Some witnesses have said they didn't see anyone shooting at the six-vehicle convoy.

As many as 19 civilians were killed, according to an Army investigation, but attorneys for two Marine officers involved in the incident say the death toll was lower.

The Marine Company was subsequently ordered out of the country after protests from the government and from the local populace. There is a question about how many casualties there were besides if they were fired on by small arms fire.

Typical insurgent tactic picked up from Iraq is to explode an IED or, in this case, suicide VBIED (vehicle borne improvised explosive device) and follow on with an ambush using small arms, RPGs and mortars depending on the terrain and number of insurgents. The Marines contend that this was exactly the kind of typical attack that occurred and that they were using appropriate force to defend themselves.

The question of casualties among civilians is also important. Aside from Afghanistan's notoriously bad government control and collation of information, particularly casualties from any event, there is the problem of enemy propaganda which typically tries to claim all deaths as "civilians", ramp that number up and then insist that they have had no casualties themselves. This is part of a typical propaganda campaign that tries to paint civilians as victims of US aggression, the enemy as "protectors" of the people as well as untouchable ghosts that can come and go as they please.

It happened again recently when 9 "Afghan police" were allegedly killed in an air strike. That air strike was called in by a unit on patrol that came under heavy fire. It could be that the real Afghan police were not informed of the unit in their area and thought they were Taliban. It could be that there was no communication available to call the police off and they did as they were supposed to and drove towards the sound of guns. Or, it could be, that the "Afghan police" were actually members of the Taliban as such groups can and are infiltrated. They may have purposefully fired on the unit. In either case, the "police" never broke off contact and the unit called in an air strike.

That's the "fog of war".

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Jan 31, 2008

January 30, 2008

"Death Blow" for AQI?

That's what Michael Yon suspects it is. In recent weeks we've heard of the terror being perpetrated on the people of Mosul and others north of Baghdad. That area has been described as the last "uncleared" area. Not anymore:

Major operations against al Qaeda have begun in northern Iraq. Al Qaeda is in serious trouble. These are not ad hoc operations, but are deliberate, systematic, well-planned and working. I’ve been watching this unfold for months but have not reported due to sensitivity, but the real shooting has started and Maliki has announced it. There is every indication that this series of operations could be the death blow for al Qaeda in Iraq. AQI can continue to murder people here and elsewhere for years to come, but their grip on Iraq is weakening faster than I can track. The Iraqis and Americans have seized the initiative. Al Qaeda is on the run. Due to these operations, I anticipate an increase in US casualties, but the operations are working.
Most you may recall... Yon was among the first to sound the warning when things went downhill in 2005/2006 (for which he received a lot of flack), so he's no shill for the Bush administration. For those of us watching from the sidelines, hope is not a strategy, but it's all we've got.

Here's to hoping Yon is right... and thoughts and prayers for the "good guys" of all stripes as this unfolds.

[I thought this deserved more attention than a blurb in H&I Fires -- FbL]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Jan 30, 2008

January 29, 2008

Live from Iraq (Part II)

This is Part II of an interview "FbL" conducted with the 3ID Chief of Staff, Colonel Mark McKnight. See Part I for background and topics such as Iraqi security, Concerned Local Citizens groups, and the enemy tactics 3ID is encountering.

The big softball question I pitched to COL McKnight was whether there was something the major media wasn't covering that he wished they would. His two-part answer to was a bit unexpected, as it didn't revolve around the activities of American soldiers.

In pointing out what he says has been a continuing deficiency in major media reporting, COL McKnight referenced his last deployment (according to his bio, COL McKnight's was Commanding Officer of 3ID's 1st Brigade Combat Team when it was deployed to Iraq in 2005). "Bombing always gets traction," gets play in the media. Thus in 2005, they "only wanted to report on death and destruction." So the story of the Iraqis' response, beginning "almost from the moment of attack," was never told; there wan't media coverage "when Iraqis showed up the next day to sign up, to rebuild." Iraqi civilians would return to the site of the bombing, clean up, and then line up again to join the police or army. He sees this pattern continuing in his current deployment, as the resiliency and determination of Iraqis in the face of terror and hardship is not being covered.

Colonel McKnight continued, describing his admiration for what he called "Iraqis' constant bravery and courage to work their way through... adversity." When one has "lived amongst them and served with them," COL McKnight said, "you appreciate their courage." He added that Iraqis want what is best for their families and their country, and are "pursuing that with great bravery and courage," a story he says isn't heard.

American civilians in Iraq a another group of people who are not getting the attention COL McKnight believes they deserve. Everyone focuses on the work American soldiers are doing, but he pointed out others he described as integral to success in Iraq--contractors working in HQ and the embassy, State Department personnel going out in Provincial Reconstruction Teams, businessmen assisting in rebuilding and guiding economic development, law enforcement advisers providing security and training--civilians of all ages and backgrounds working side-by-side with soldiers throughout the AO. He also expressed frustration that other coalition members do not get a lot of attention for their work, and mentioned a new Georgian brigade that is about to relieve their redeploying countrymen, whom he praised for their professionalism and contributions.

I asked COL McKnight what had been 3IDs biggest success so far, and what would be his biggest concern if they were to leave tomorrow. He reported that reducing overall violence in Baghdad (by reducing flow of fighters and weapons into the city) has been 3ID's biggest achievement because it has given average Iraqis "a period of respite... an opportunity to get government and services functioning." He added that 3ID has also been successful in helping to support reconciliation between what he called "central government factions," and that his biggest concern would be not having enough time to "get more police and Iraqi Army personnel involved... both training and positioning [deployment]."

When talking to Colonel McKnight, it becomes obvious that senior leadership is feeling good about the positive security developments in 3ID's AO. He reports that the most pressing need is for people to assist in the development of Iraq's economy, to get services functioning so that jobs and production can grow. "We are very good at security operations," he says, "but other enablers can help us with the economy." He speaks of the need for "private investment and expertise that can stand up the economic system," and the help needed to build the necessary public and private infrastructure. However, he expects to see more of that "soon, as things continue to calm down."

Overall in this interview, COL McKnight answered questions with a "from the ground, up" perspective, rather that with an overly-administrative focus that some in his position can demonstrate. He constantly focused on the needs of and gave credit to the people on the ground in his responses, whether discussing Iraqi Security forces, coalition soldiers, American civilians or average Iraqis. As I understand it, this "ground, up" perspective is a key component of effective COIN strategy/philosophy, and so has likely played a significant role in 3ID's success in their AO.

I appreciate COL McKnight taking the time to answer my questions and expect to have the opportunity to speak with him again in the near future. If you have questions or would like clarification on anything addressed here, please leave a comment below and I will bring it up in my follow-up with the Colonel. Next interview: Division Command Sergeant Major Jesse Andrews, Jr.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Jan 29, 2008

January 28, 2008

Live from Iraq: Interview with 3iD CoS

[Posted by FbL. Update: Part II is up]

Last Friday I had the pleasure of spending about half an hour interviewing Colonel Mark McKnight, 3rd Infantry Division Chief of Staff, currently deployed to Iraq. Topics included security for Ashura, CLCs, the media, and challenges ahead. Unfortunately I didn't have the capacity to record our phone conversation, but I was able to quickly type many of his statements as I listened. Most of his answers weren't exactly terse, but he was rather succinct, so we were able to cover a lot of ground.

Soldiers of 3ID (Task Force Marne) have been in Iraq since early 2007. Their area of operations comprises a band along the southern part of Baghdad Province, running from the Najaf/Karbala region eastward to the Iranian border. COL McKnight described the northern edge of their AO as "the non-urban areas of Baghdad," and said that a significant part of their mission has been to "block accelerants [of violence] into Baghdad" so that the city can be cleaned up, though they do not operate in urban Baghdad itself.

Overarching COL McKnight's statements was something we are hearing from other military leaders in Iraq--that lots of very good things are happening, but we must not lose sight of how much is still to be done. When I asked him to identify the most important thing America needed to know about what is happening in Iraq today, this was the issue he raised. There is a great deal of progress in evidence "every day," he emphasized, but added very seriously, “There are long days ahead. There is an enemy over here that is determined to take the future away from the Iraqi people," that has not given up yet. Attacks are down, but there is “frankly, an evil still out there...that doesn’t hesitate to kill families, women and children. It's not over, over here.”

I asked about the recent conclusion of a safe and successful Ashura and what factors had made it so. COL McKnight told me there were no "significant incidents" throughout the entire AO of 3ID, nor any indications that major attacks were broken up. He credited the peaceful passage of Ashura to the efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces (police and army), pointing out that the two most important Shiite holy cities--Karbala and Najaf--were patrolled and protected entirely by Iraqis. He was happy to report that in general, the Iraqis took the lead in security preparations and activities throughout 3rd ID's AO.

But according to COL McKnight, the biggest factor in a successful Ashura was that the Iraqi people have "tired of violence, didn’t want to put up with it." He described an "increasing marginalization of extremist organizations” because the population will no longer tolerate the violence and bloodshed they have suffered. "The people stood up to put a stop to it."

Along with the greater numbers of soldiers available due to the surge, and the increasing capability of Iraqi Security Forces, COL McKnight gave a great deal of credit for the Ashura success to the existence of Concerned Local Citizens groups (CLCs). These neighborhood/tribe-level organizations provide security at checkpoints and significant locations or events. But more importantly, they “hinder extremists’ ability to move among the population.” He reiterated this several times, describing CLC activities as a kind of force-multiplier where there is "difficult terrain"--small villages, places without a strong coalition presence, etc.

The CLC groups are a "bottom-up evolution," CLC being a generic designation for what has been called Awakening and Sawha, among other titles. They are a result of Iraqis coming forward and asking for assistance in ridding their neighborhoods of violent extremists. Group members are paid by the coalition for services, but there are plans to wean them off that and into a formal relationship with the Iraqi government (McKnight called it "reconciling" them with the central government).

According to COL McKnight, the ultimate vision is to form CLCs into a kind of Civil Service Corps by training them for jobs in construction and other such trades. There is also an effort to shift selected CLC members into a provisional policeman status, or even into the Iraqi Army. COL McKnight reported that all of these plans are in their "infancy," but that there is movement in these directions.

I asked the colonel about reports that funding for CLC activities is becoming a problem, mentioning both the congressional budget battles in the U.S. and reports of changes in funding priorities at upper military leadership levels. He agreed that there had been "some restrictions given," but that it "hadn't had a large impact," and pointed again to the efforts to transfer CLCs to Iraqi administration. In general, he didn't seem to think it was a worrisome issue.

On the tactical side, I asked about reports of increases in EFPs and suicide bombers. He responded that they have seen "no indication of Iranian involvement" in either training or supplying within their AO, and that there has been "an across-the-board reduction in attacks." In fact, Thursday's Operations Report was "zero attacks in the AO" for the day. Neither are they reporting attacks on schools, or suicide bombings by females, as seen in other locales.

This is the first of a two-part report of the interview. For more from Task Force Marne/3ID's leadership, check out an extensive video interview with Major General Lynch, and the transcript of the latest blogger's roundtable with Brigadier General Cardon (pdf file). BG Cardon's topics include Ashura (great anecdotes on pg 4), and CLCs (page 6, bottom).

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Jan 28, 2008

January 21, 2008

Ask the Taskforce

Taskforce Marne (3rd ID), to be specific. They deployed to Iraq last April, and currently operate in the general area of Baghdad and al Anbar province.

Later this week, I have the opportunity to interview the Division Chief of Staff by phone. I'm planning to ask about security activities during the recent Ashura holy days, as well as perhaps the newly-opened "NCO Academy" for the Iraqis. But, I would greatly appreciate suggestions from the local peanut gallery insightful people that hang out here.

So... What should I ask him?


Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Jan 21, 2008

January 15, 2008

The News in Pictures

It's gotten so that if you want any news from Iraq, you gotta look at the pictures. Here's what I found today:

Apparently victims of Saddam Hussein's 1996-1999 "Anfal" Campaign in which entire Kurdish villages were gassed and leveled, are finally being laid to rest.

Though I've Googled the name, I can find nothing more than captions about this story. No context, no sense of the depth of significance of this man's death.

The Shiite "high holy days" of Ashura are passing peacefully, a notable achievement. And on that subject, how does this picture strike you?

In fact, it has gotten so "quiet" that at least one reporter has had to dig into the past for a story.

And here are some photos about a story that has been widely publicized. Every recent photo I could find on Yahoo News involving a story about veterans has a caption that mentions the same article, and the particular photos chosen to illustrate the captions are downright chilling in that context, At least that's obviously the intention, though my reaction is quite different.


Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Jan 15, 2008

December 25, 2007

Why Uniforms Go Where Uniforms Go...

...and Do What Uniforms Do.

It's already ten minutes past the time the shuttle from Huntsville should be arriving in Atlanta and it hasn't even departed from Atlanta for Huntsville yet. My fellow strandees are conversing quietly with one another -- a prototypical Dad-and-Mom-and-Two-Kids re-hashing a recent trip to the Pentagon-In-Orlando, a scattering of older couples comparing notes on their respective retirement communities, some Auburn students alternately dozing and reading, a couple of businessmen laptopping and a solo Mom slowly rocking her six-month-old, who is staring at me in wide-eyed wonder.

"Wow -- lookit him *look* at you."


"It's the mustache. Kids think it'll turn into a butterfly if they stare at it long enough."

*return grin*

"His Daddy has a mustache, too. He'll be home on leave next month."

Maybe thirty people at the gate, counting the relief flight crew, and their only immediate concerns are weather-related. Nobody worries that they'll be snuffed in-flight by a bomb planted by someone who thinks they need to die for the crime of being Americans. Nobody worries that someone walking past will scream "Allah akhbar!" and go full auto with an AK into the waiting area.

A Mom doesn't worry that an act of violence by a Death-Worshipper will keep her child from growing and playing and learning.

That's why Uniforms Go Where Uniforms Go and Do What Uniforms Do.

And they also Go and Do so that other moms in Iraq and Afghanistan and Alltheotherstans will have a chance at living without that particular worry and their children, too, will grow and play and learn.

Me? I go where I go and do what I do 'cuz I really hate raking leaves.

Heh. Merry Christmas, kids...

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on Dec 25, 2007

November 27, 2007

The transcript of the remarks of Secretary Gates' Landon Lecture at KState.

Landon Lecture Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Manhattan, Kansas, Monday, November 26, 2007



It is both an honor and a pleasure to be part of the Landon Lecture series – a forum that has for more than four decades has hosted some of America’s leading intellectuals and statesmen. Considering that, I at first wondered if the invitation was in fact meant for Bill Gates.

It is a pleasure to get out of Washington, D.C., for a little while. I left Washington in 1994, and I was certain, and very happy, that it was the last time I would ever live there. But history, and current events, have a way of exacting revenge on those who say “never.” I’ve now been back in the District of Columbia for close to a year, which reminds me of an old saying: For the first six months you’re in Washington, you wonder how the hell you ever got there. For the next six months, you wonder how the hell the rest of them ever got there.

As I look down at my remarks and the material to cover this afternoon, I am reminded of the time George Bernard Shaw told a speaker he had 15 minutes to speak. The speaker replied, “15 minutes? How can I tell them all I know in 15 minutes?” Shaw responded, “I advise you to speak very slowly.” I want to warn you in advance that my remarks are more than 15 minutes.

First, I need to establish my K-State bona fides – my brother, sister-in-law, and niece are all K-State graduates. They and my mother and other family members are here today.

It is good to be back in Kansas, where my family has lived for more than a century.

I believe Kansas imparts to its children three characteristics that have been a source of strength for me over the years: a rejection of cynicism and an enduring optimism and idealism.

Looking around the world today, optimism and idealism would not seem to have much of a place at the table. There is no shortage of anxiety about where our nation is headed and what its role will be in the 21st century.

I can remember clearly other times in my life when such dark sentiments were prevalent. In 1957, when I was at Wichita High School East, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, and Americans feared being left behind in the space race and, even more worrisome, the missile race.

In1968, the first full year I lived in Washington, was the same year as the Tet offensive in Vietnam, where American troop levels and casualties were at their height. Across the nation, protests and violence over Vietnam engulfed America’s cities and campuses. On my second day of work as a CIA analyst, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. And then came the 1970s – when it seemed that everything that could go wrong for America did.

Yet, through it all, there was another storyline, one not then apparent. During those same years, the elements were in place and forces were at work that would eventually lead to victory in the Cold War – a victory achieved not by any one party or any single president, but by a series of decisions, choices, and institutions that bridged decades, generations, and administrations. From:

· The first brave stand taken by Harry Truman with the doctrine of containment; to
· The Helsinki Accords under Gerald Ford; to
· The elevation of human rights under Jimmy Carter; to
· The muscular words and deeds of Ronald Reagan; and to
· The masterful endgame diplomacy of George H. W. Bush.

All contributed to bring an Evil Empire crashing down not with a bang but with a whimper. And virtually without a shot being fired.

In this great effort, institutions, as much as people and policies, played a key role. Many of those key organizations were created 60 years ago this year with the National Security Act of 1947 – a single act of legislation which established the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, the United States Air Force, and what is now known as the Department of Defense. I mention all this because that legislation and those instruments of national power were designed at the dawn of a new era in international relations for the United States – an era dominated by the Cold War.

The end of the Cold War, and the attacks of September 11, marked the dawn of another new era in international relations – an era whose challenges may be unprecedented in complexity and scope.

The rest of the address are in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry. My post on the subject is here.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Nov 27, 2007

November 1, 2007

A "State" of Being

[Denizen Opinion -Kat]

Well, it's a milblog, but State is supposed to work before, during and after a conflict. So what is the deal with the State department employees who won't volunteer for Iraq and are complaining about being "assigned" there? Is there any part of a working contract that indicates that all or any assignment is "volunteer"? Or, did that start under Powell, get carried on by Rice? Some other tradition to allow "volunteers" for hot zones?

And what's the complaint about threat of dismissal? Not in their contract?

Part of me would like to side with these folks since they aren't military who go where they are ordered to go with little choice. On the other hand, part of me considers State to actually have been complicit in a number of failed diplomatic efforts or, at least, obstructing others. The problem as I see it is outlined by this State Employee:

"It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment," Croddy said. "I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?

The problem with State is that they believe they are playing the right game, the only game and that they do not have to play the game as outlined by whatever administration is in power. In this case, the Bush administration. Now, there is a case for State, working in and knowing the inner workings of countries, knowing what diplomats and what issues are at play, balancing those with US national interests to get the best effect.

But, there is a problem when State employees suffer their own sort of "Stockholm Syndrome". When they begin to identify with their host nation, the interests and the ideas of their host nation, above and beyond that of the United States. It's a fine balancing act, but it appears to happen more often than we should like.

(continued in flash traffic)

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Nov 01, 2007

October 30, 2007

Blogger's Roundtable Interview with MG Hertling.

I just got off the phone from a roundtable discussion with the Commander of MND-North and 1st Armored Division, Major General Mark Hertling.

MG Hertling opened in classic GO fashion by saying how MG Mixon and his soldiers of the Tropic Lightning Division (25th ID) had just left Iraq after doing a great disservice to the enemy.

Nice line, General.

Andrew Lubin of US Cav On Point brought up the recent take-down of the EFP factory, by soldiers of the Stryker Brigade of 4th ID, in Diyala province. The factory contained 130 assembled EFP devices, 170 in the component stage, with a total of 350 of the copper plates that form the explosively-formed-projectile captured (includes the assembled and unassembled devices), along with 600 pounds of C4, 30 107mm rockets, 100 mortar rounds and a couple of mortar tubes. Discovered because the 4th Division soldiers had gained enough trust and respect that a local concerned citizen gave them the tip. Andrew followed up with a question regarding whether or not the cache was the work of the Iranian government, to which MG Hertling gave an interesting answer - he would not confirm (nor did he deny) that it was sourced to Iran - but he did say that they knew where it had come from and how. He indicated there was chatter picked up by the intel people that this put a big hurt on operations in the region.

David Abt from the Aviation Week Group ask the general about MG Mixon's departure from command harsh comments regarding the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. General Hertling, after professing a long friendship with MG Mixon, promptly distanced himself from those comments as being "rather harsher terms than he (Hertling) would have used." An answer that didn't surprise me, given that he now has to work with those people over the next year.

MG Hertling mounted a defense of the Iraqi government, pointing out that the government is an institution trying to get it's process and procedures implemented under extreme pressure.

True enough. I'd note that in most places, that kind of extreme pressure either rapidly sorts things out, or they fall apart. The Iraqis, in some respects, seem to have found a middle way of two-steps forward, one step back, made possible by the presence of American troops. As Michael Ledeen would say in an entirely different context - "Faster please!"

MG Hertling went on to say that this time, in comparison to his last tour in Iraq in 2004, he sees a sense that the Iraqis are starting to see things as having turned the corner. In 2004, he averred they were very much in a "wait and see" fence-sitting position, not wanting to commit to anyone - but that now, they seem much more confident that the Iraqi security forces and military are much more proficient and reliable, and that local government is becoming more functional.

David followed that with a "Gosh, General, that seems like an awfully rosy picture you just painted given the other news out of Iraq" which caused MG Hertling to qualify his remarks as meaning there has been marked improvement since his first tour, not that things were all sweetness and light in Iraq at the moment. I took the General's words at face value - (i.e., better in comparison, not as an absolute) but then, I'm used to listening to Generals speak.

MG Hertling laid out his Job 1 and Job 2.

Job 1 - Keep up and build upon the success of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Job 2 - Keep pressing the Iraqi government at all levels to step and take over.

Bruce from QandO brought up the turn-over of Karbala province and asked what the benchmarks were for the turn-over for Nineveh province, and how close were they to turning it over to the Iraqi government?

MG Hertling responded that he was working closely with the provincial governor and Iraqi security forces - and said that both sides had concerns yet, especially with border control issues, but he sees them as being ready to accept responsibility sometime between December to April. While not explicitly naming a benchmark, MG Hertling clearly is waiting for the Iraqi security forces in the area to decide they are ready - with the boys from Multi-National Division - North in agreement with that assessment.

Wretchard from Belmont Club was next, but my cell connection was flaky and I didn't catch enough of his question or the CG's answer to do anything other than make a hash of things.

I was going to ask about Turkey and what kinds of provisions have been made to prevent NATO-on-NATO incidents in the Kurdish areas, but before I got my chance to bring up any of that MG Hertling had to attend his CUB - Commander's Update Briefing. Hard to argue with that.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Oct 30, 2007

October 27, 2007

DoD news release on Iraq.

Iraq Facts: 10/25/07


Commanders report improved security throughout the country. (Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, Press Briefing, 10/24/07)

·        Attack levels have been on a downward trend since June and are at their lowest levels since January.

·        IED attacks have been reduced by 60% in last 4 months, with a notable decrease in lethality.

·        In a change from the past, Iraqis celebrated Eid al Fitr this year in parks, restaurants, and streets due to decreased violence.


On October 17, Sunni and Shiite leaders from the southwestern Baghdad neighborhoods of al Jihad and al Furat signed an important reconciliation agreement (Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, Press Briefing, 10/24/07). A group of Iraqi officials visited the group and agreed to help:

·        Get al Furat hospital operational

·        Improve delivery of oil to the area

·        Return the sewage station to working order

·        Restore a local mosque


On October 18, Coalition Soldiers discovered and destroyed one of the largest weapons caches found in the Salah ad Din in the last 15 months. (Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Press Release, 10/20/07)

·        Coalition forces discovered weapons caches containing approximately 41,000 pounds of explosives and 35 projectiles west of Tarmiya.

·        The fifth cache alone contained 300 bags of homemade explosives, each weighing 100 pounds.

·        Col. Bryan Owens: “A discovery of this magnitude deals a crippling blow to the enemy.”


Col. Michael Garrett reports “measurable progress” in the Kalsu region southwest of Baghdad. (Col. Michael Garrett, Press Briefing, 10/22/07)

·        Attacks have declined since March and are now at the lowest levels since the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division’s deployment 13 months ago.

·        Col. Garrett: concerned citizens reflect the population, and they are both Sunni and Shi'a.  We now have 13 active concerned citizens contracts, over 3,400 concerned citizens, and … the roads are controlled by over 111 checkpoints.” Col. Garrett: “[T]he two men that I respect the most of the many that I have met in Iraq are Major General Qais, the commander of the Babil Provincial Police Force, and Major General Uthman, the commander of the 8th Infantry Division, Iraqi Army.  These men are Iraqi, they are nonsectarian, and they are patriots.  And at the end of all of this, my sense is, it will be men like General Qais and General Uthman that, through sheer force of will and patriotism, cause this great country to succeed.”

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Oct 27, 2007

October 3, 2007

Victory in Iraq: 300 Tyrants

[Denizen Opinion - Kat]

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. - Declaration of Independence

I am writing this piece as a follow up to "Winning in Iraq: Disconnecting From the Matrix". Mainly because, while I was making a point about media coverage and the difficulty in understanding what was really going on, I did not want anyone to be fooled or to fool myself about reality in Iraq.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Oct 03, 2007

September 28, 2007

GWOT: Developing Effective Strategic Communications

In a previous post regarding information operations, I made the mistake of linking IO (military Information Operations) to PA (Public Affairs) and State Department. The Armorer rightfully rebuked gently in the comment section: "Doctrine, Doctrine, Doctrine". In essence, an age old discussion among those who look at current day domestic and foreign information as well as military operations: who is responsible for relaying information to whom.

To clarify, it's about law, area of responsibility and target audience. But, as the Armorer notes, as have other bloggers on the subject, with the advent of global communications and media, these areas have continued to drift closer together and even overlap. Thus, when we discuss the matter, we have a tendency to view the situation from the "nine thousand mile" perspective: it is all one giant field of operations and every organization is responsible for it.

Add to that, every organization affects the operations and outcomes of the others. Finally, also based on the Armorer's comments and previous discussions, while approaching the field of operations from different angles, each of these organizations have to have the same overarching message to achieve the ultimate central goal: United States' Policy.

Where to begin?

GWOT: Developing Effective Strategic Communications
(continued in Flash Traffic)

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Sep 28, 2007

September 27, 2007

News from our Man in the 'Stan...

In which we learn our Castle Correspondent can put some wood to the ball, and that not being able to drink apparently means the Air Force can't play ball, either.

Most importantly, we learn how to control staff officer over-population...

Joe, the Castle's Man in the 'Stan, does his part spanking the Air Force - oddly enough, this is an official DoD photo.

I wanted to talk a little more about the 9-11 ceremony we had. As I said it was at night here, to coincide with the time of the attack. We had three speakers, all officers who had been in the Pentagon on that day. Two things that were said really struck me, the first was that we are now walking around the same areas of Afghanistan where Osama used to freely go, and the second was the mention of a recent suicide bombing in a market down south. The only difference between that attack and 9-11 he said, was of scale. The same evil and the same intent were present on both days. We lit candles afterwards, and when the crowd left the gardens there was dead silence, and most kept there candles burning all the way out and back through the camp. I’d call it a steely resolve mixed with sadness.

We had GEN Smith, JFCOM commander come for a visit last weekend. He came to see how the support was going and was really pleased. He gave me one of his personal four star coins (which a certain person, and he knows who he is, can still trump.) [Preen -the Armorer] When getting ready for the visit our boss was trying to put a briefing together for the general and was trying to get a slide off the intranet which he couldn’t download. Someone said “just screen capture it and port it into PowerPoint.” And he replies “how do I do that?” Now saying PowerPoint in front a bunch of staff officers is like spraying catnip. Three seconds later there were four of us looking over his shoulder offering advice.

“Control V then paste”

“You need to crop it”

“You have to get the picture toolbar”

There is a type of IED called a “come-along” which is designed as bait to sucker you into the kill zone. If the Taliban wanted to hurt the staff they should use a badly formatted PowerPoint brief.

“Courier New? Nobody uses that font fo…BOOM…”

The Air Force had a sixtieth anniversary celebration. Part of that was inter-service softball. I played even though I fall in the casual player category and never really did it a lot. Now put a lot of naturally competitive military people out in the field, playing for the honor of their service, and things get serious really quickly. There were quite a number of us older types limping around for the next few days, from trying to play like kids again.

For the record the scorecard in the Kabul Cup is Army 2-0, Navy/Marines 1-1 and Air Force 0-2. We were pretty close in the game we lost to Army, but had a few bad breaks. We sent a couple of players back down to the minors in Khandahar and Tirin Khot to work on their basics.

My line of the night:

Air Force Captain “Hey are you going to the cookout tonight?”

Me: “Sure, are you guys going to have birthday cake? Because we gave you your spanking this afternoon.”

Probably time for one more update before the fun ends.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 27, 2007

September 26, 2007

Iraq: Winning, Disconnecting From the Matrix

[Kat - Denizen Opinion]

What we got here is a failure to communicate. Some men you can't reach, that is they just don't listen when you talk reasonable so you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it, well he gets it, and I don't like it any better than you men. - Cool Hand Luke

History, they say, is written by the victors. Except for modern history, which is written by the media with all the snapshots, sound bites, so called expert analysis, and two minute pundit riffs trying to tell the story before the next commercial break or within the 1.5" x 6" column they were allocated in the news paper.

In this war, history is still being written by the media. They create a narrative that equates to the knowledge of the masses and trickles down to the polls. Yet, somewhere amongst the narrative is the true story of the war, written in "0" and "1" bytes on the world wide web. It was hidden except to the few who knew that the narrative on the air waves did not match the whispers of communications from the front. And we searched for the real story among the bytes, flashing around the world at the speed of light.

It was these flashes among the dark and gloomy midnight of the narrative that has kept us going, insisting that reality, like the interned in the "Matrix", was not reality at all. Becoming unplugged from the legacy media "matrix", we found reality. Still, we shout to people to believe and their eyes are blurry while the media "matrix" tries to shift reality once again, changing the story to meet the reality they can no longer hide.

The "surge" they say is working. A miracle in many quarters while in others it is still rejected. People are waiting and watching for the "next shoe" to drop. Another gigantic frenzy of bloody horror unleashed on unsuspecting people. Yet, if something does come, it will be little and in no comparison to the bloody orgy that the enemy in its death throws perpetrated on the Iraqi people throughout 2005-2006. And, any who will try to claim that it is the "resurgence" of the enemy with a possibility that they will "win" will be dead wrong, just as they have been wrong throughout the war.

Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence-Sun Tzu

(continued in Flash Traffic)

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Sep 26, 2007

September 25, 2007

News of the 1st Division of Foot.

From the War Is Hell file...

Photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Smith, 4th IBCT, 1st ID</p>

<p>First Lt. Travis Myers, a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, gets the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders' autographs during a signing session Sept. 15 at Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad

Photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Smith, 4th IBCT, 1st ID

First Lt. Travis Myers, a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, gets the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders' autographs during a signing session Sept. 15 at Forward
Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad.

I'm guessing Lieutenant Myers is getting more backslaps for that pic than I got for my pic with the President...

Sergeant Hook - not posting much, because he's been busy. Busy deploying his Combat Aviation Brigade to Kuwait, preparatory to them moving into Iraq.

<br />
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jefferey Troth, CAB PAO</p>

<p>A UH-60 Black Hawk crew with 3rd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, heads out for an environmental flight in Kuwait. All of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division crews took their aircraft for flights in Kuwait to familiarize themselves with the unique flying conditions in the desert, to include flying dust.

HELICOPTER IN COUNTRY Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jefferey Troth, CAB PAO

A UH-60 Black Hawk crew with 3rd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, heads out for an environmental flight in Kuwait. All of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division crews took their aircraft for flights in Kuwait to familiarize themselves with the unique flying conditions in the desert, to include flying dust.


By Spc. Michael Howard

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - For two weeks, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division Families tearfully bid farewell to their Soldiers.

Hours later, those same troops bid hello to Kuwait.

CAB Soldiers benefited from a shipping out procedure the Army has refined over several years. "It was long, but it was pretty well organized. If you've been deployed, it went pretty smoothly compared to previous deployments," said Spc. Brandon Graham, an Apache crew chief with Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment.

The CAB Soldiers hit the ground running in Kuwait. With no time to lose before assuming their mission in Iraq, Soldiers began training within 24 hours of boots on ground. Soldiers rolled out of their cots as early as 3:15 a.m. each morning to attend a variety of ranges, including a crew-served weapons range, and a number of briefings and classes.

"We had some (improvised explosive device) training, some crew served weapons training, mass casualty training, we got a rules of engagement brief, among other things," Graham said. "We've been busy. The training has been pretty good. They go into detail and elaborate on the things they told us stateside, so when you take in both pieces and put them together, it works."

The aviators of the CAB also stayed busy, undergoing environmental flights to familiarize themselves with the area and gunneries where they tested their weapons systems before heading into Iraq. Their ground crews then got a taste of maintaining the aircraft beneath the hot
Kuwaiti sun.

Some CAB Soldiers were surprised at the quality of living at Camp Buehring. "I was in OIF III," Graham said. "There have been a lot more accommodations added since I was here then." Spc. Michael Wagner, a network switching systems operator with Company C, 601st Aviation Support Battalion also said the standard of living was better than he expected. "If you don't like what the (dining facility) serves, you can eat where you like," he said.

Soldiers at Camp Buehring enjoy choices between a number of restaurants including Taco Bell, Pizza Inn, Panda Oriental and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Soldiers also are able to use their down time to visit a full-sized movie theater that plays several movies per day and three Morale, Welfare and Recreation tents with table games, books and console games such as the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii.

While the Soldiers come together as a team, there is always the thought of the loved ones they left behind. "The separation is always the toughest part of it," said Graham, who has a wife and two children. "I love the Army, but being away from your Family is tough. You've got to be strong mentally and talk to them when you can." To help with this, there are MWR phones, AT&T phone centers and Internet cafes for the Soldiers.

Single Soldiers have their share of hardship as well. "I have a boyfriend, and it's hard being away from him," said Pfc. Nikki Waggoner, of Headquarters Company, 601st ASB, "It might not be as hard as being separated from someone you've been married to for years, but it's still hard." However, Wagner added, it is still easier to deploy as a single Soldier than to deploy in the midst of a marriage, because the ties between mothers and fathers are already broken somewhat when a Soldier leaves home to join the military.

Despite the hardship involved in being separated from loved ones, the CAB Soldiers are prepared to move forward, reach their final destination in Iraq and tackle the mission that awaits them there. "We're just ready to get in country and take care of our mission," Graham said. "The camaraderie of this team is excellent. Our company leads the way. We support everybody. We've been working together, doing our tasks back at Riley, and we're ready to go."

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 25, 2007

September 22, 2007

Cyber Warfare: David and Goliath

(Kat-Denizen Opinion; hopefully the Armorer doesn't think I am invading the castle via the port door with all my posts)

In light of the Armorer's post below, I thought I would bring this to our attention:

Analyzing Al Qaida's Media Arm

I believe both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz warned against over estimating your enemy. Bryan Preston from Hot Air goes head to head with the "experts" over their analysis of AQ's As-Sahab (The Cloud) capabilities. The long and short of it is, the "experts" believe that AQ's As Sahab "Institute" is a large group (in Bryan's words, "an army") of media and PR savvy men. They believe this because the group puts out a video every three days and the type of video is in different codes.

Bryan says, "not so much." That, in fact, it is likely one to four men with a bank of four or so computers, most likely laptops for mobility. They are PR and media savvy, but that, using a single computer, he and Michelle Malkin could write a script, film and produce a rather slick video every day last year using his laptop and some basic equipment that fits in a bedroom and he can breakdown and transport in a mini-van.

He goes on to say that the software they are using is available to anyone and his probably pirated since such software is often available for download on certain sites even before it is available to the public. He says that the most labor intensive portions of making the video are actually sped up by this software, like adding backgrounds.

I can attest to that. I am not as competent as Bryan or these internet terrorists, but I can take video, pictures, music and even backgrounds and voice overs and whip together a fairly decent video in less than three hours using a cheap software program that came with my cheap little camera and upload it in ten minutes to a free platform (like YouTube). A little more money, a little better equipment, we would have some nice vlogging at the Castle and the Middle Ground.

The translation and addition of the sub-titles are also "labor intensive", but only so far as it requires time to edit the script with time codes before emailing it to the only "army" the institute has, ideological followers who live in or come from many nations and are natural speakers of the language. Those don't even have to be in close proximity or know anything else about the media arm besides translating the script in an hour and returning it via email.

In short, I concur with Bryan that this is not necessarily the work of fifty takfiri, mufsidoon hiding out in a warehouse decked out like WNN (Waziristan Network News). With their disseminated network, they don't have to control distribution. Real and wannabe takfiri around the globe take care of that.

I believe this over estimation of their strength and abilities is a product of what the Armorer called "traditionalists" whose experience in creating video for consumption on network news leads them to imagine something much bigger and ponderous.

Also, I believe that the military IOs are failing to counter this ability because they do not take advantage of the same strengths within the internet community and they have routinely attempted to control the distribution of this message to the degree that it limits their counter-information war.

It's improved, as noted, with milblogger video conferences, but even this is limited by not improving the number of attendees or providing additional materials on a regular basis that could be added as visual aids or even developed into videos. Some Milbloggers have taken an end run at this problem, such as Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive with his occasional interviews with deployed military via skype where he has added images above the audio. Then there is Matt Sanchez, Michael Yon and even JD Johannes who have added video to their websites over the last year or so.

However, they have to do all the work or most of the work and the distribution of their information is sometimes limited because the people who are willing to distribute their work also recognize it as intellectual property. Something that working in a non-criminal, though free-wheeling environment creates the drawback.

A few bombers and a few internet jockeys can out pace a huge, organized and well funded military. In other words, a huge, ponderous, easy target that is felled by a guy with a laptop literally living in someone's basement.

David and Goliath.

What the Cyber War folks need is the equivalent of Special Ops. Small, flexible and relatively autonomous that takes advantage of the terrain, develops relationships with the inhabitants and uses both to their advantage. One of the advantages that the takfiri have is their contact lists and access to many websites. Centcom attempted to do something of the reverse by noting those who were linking to their stories and website and requesting a link back. While this is somewhat effective, it is certainly not routinely distributing updates or email alerts, though the MNF weekly newsletter also improves on this theory, it is a bit cumbersome, not as timely and does not always reflect the "market's" demands.

Let's call this first operation, Prometheus - bringing fire to the primitives. .

[Update: State Department Does Digital Jihad]

Walid Jawad was tired of all the chatter on Middle Eastern blogs and Internet forums in praise of gory attacks carried out by the “noble resistance” in Iraq.

So Mr. Jawad, one of two Arabic-speaking members of what the State Department called its Digital Outreach Team, posted his own question: Why was it that many in the Arab world quickly condemned civilian Palestinian deaths but were mute about the endless killing of women and children by suicide bombers in Iraq? [snip]

Some analysts question whether the blog team will survive beyond the tenure of Karen P. Hughes, the confidante of President Bush who runs public diplomacy. The department expects to add seven more team members within the next month — four more in Arabic, two in Farsi and one in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan.

The team concentrates on about a dozen mainstream Web sites such as chat rooms set up by the BBC and Al Jazeera or charismatic Muslim figures like Amr Khaled, as well as Arab news sites like They choose them based on high traffic and a focus on United States policy, and they always identify themselves as being from the State Department.

They avoid radical sites, although team members said that jihadis scoured everywhere.

Is State outstripping the DoD IOs? Maybe this will stir the competition.

Thoughts on Prometheus in Flash Traffic

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Sep 22, 2007

September 20, 2007

News from our Man in the 'Stan.

Same caveat - there's some OPSEC delay in timing.

Joe Honan, Castle Argghhh!'s Man in the 'Stan!

I spent the last two days in Bahgram Airfield meeting with the eastern regional commander (82nd Airborne) to discuss how things were going so far. Now when I say “meeting with” of course I mean I sat in another room listening to him give his assessment without him knowing I was ever there.

It was a fun trip and it was great to get out of ISAF for a while and see something new. We took a convoy to Kabul Airfield late at night. (As we piled into the SUV with our guns the Brit driver was listening to rap…It all seemed so right somehow.) Then sleeping the night away at the airfield in a tent for transients (insert joke here) and off the next morning on a Blackwater plane to Bahgram. The base is huge, and was interesting to see so much “America” after two months in a European command.

The effects assessment branch here at ISAF asked us to go, but pretty much ignored us after that, so we traveled on our own. The trip was easy considering we weren’t on any schedule. I had a veteran Special Forces Major who showed me the ropes of inter-theater travel. Most of which apparently consists of lying and obfuscation. The Air Force people who run the flights do revel in their power, so it was kind of even.

There is this 82nd Lieutenant Colonel as liaison here we call “Colonel Flagg” from MASH. He suddenly appears and disappears and seems to know everything and anyone. Of course while we were trying to find our contacts from ISAF who were coming up another flight (they neglected to tell us where the meeting was) who do we see but Colonel Flagg rounding the corner, going to the same meeting. Later we stopped to get badges for the building, needed a signature, and who turns the corner? Colonel Flagg. Needed to find a contact for their J5? Ran into Colonel Flagg. Saw him today too to set up another visit.

We stayed in transient barracks in Baghram, listening to the Talilban trying to mortar the runway, at night. Now I know sailors haven’t really carried guns since the cry “boarders away!” went out of style but someone needs to do something about the Air Force. While in barracks a newly arrived AF officer pulled his pistol out of the case, racked the slide a few times, pulled the trigger a few times, slipped in a magazine and walked out. The soldiers in there and I stared at each other in shocked silence. You know what I said about being polite and having a plan to kill everyone? I had a plan to kill him as well. You are just as dead from an accidental discharge as from one on purpose. During the safety briefing the old British corporal who convoyed us out said “in the past three months I have been shot at seven times, all of which came from inside the vehicle.”

Anyway the ride back to base from Kabul was eventful; there is always lots of traffic and lots of stupidity. Now it is everyone’s best interest that military vehicles get off the road as soon as possible (especially for those of us in the vehicles) and ISAF drivers have a tendency to pull into the oncoming lane, block other cars, and go the wrong way around traffic circles. All of which means we blend right in. It’s reasonably hard to separate out the stupidity from the complex IED attacks. On the way back a motorbike with three guys pulled in front of us, slowing us down, then when we got around them a van pulled right across our front from the right lane. (I thought “uh oh here it comes”) but it was just two unrelated idiots. We took the van’s bumper off and knocked it across the road. Now when ISAF vehicles get in an accident, the driver just hands out a paper in Dari and Pushtun basically saying “you have been involved in an accident with an ISAF vehicle, come to the gate and we will give you money” and then off we go. I think I’ll bring a few of them home.

We were talking about the Osama video in the office last night and his demand we all convert.

Me: “I’d convert for a 2.5% tax rate.”

Carl: “Joe you’re Catholic that’s almost the same thing right?”

Me: “First off we’re the senior varsity, and they would have to change the ‘pray five times a day’ thing to ‘just Christmas and Easter.’”

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 20, 2007

News of the 1st Division of Foot, Fort Riley.

Photo by Spc. Ben Washburn, 4th IBCT</p>

<p>Capt. Kirk Olson, Squadron Surgeon for 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., flushes the ear of an Iraqi girl Sept. 11 at the Al Doura Clinic.  Olson, a Darlington, Wis., native, was on hand to help Iraqi doctors and nurses<br />
open the new clinic.

ALL SMILES Photo by Spc. Ben Washburn, 4th IBCT

Capt. Kirk Olson, Squadron Surgeon for 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., flushes the ear of an Iraqi girl Sept. 11 at the Al Doura Clinic. Olson, a Darlington, Wis., native, was on hand to help Iraqi doctors and nurses
open the new clinic.

In other division news... a little sign of home.

'KODIAKS' RECEIVE SIGNS OF HOME By Capt. Louis-Philippe L. Hammond 70th Eng. Bn. FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan - After four months, a trip halfway around the world, and the strict negotiation between the staff of two local units, the 70th Engineer Battalion has finally brought a little piece of Kansas to Afghanistan. Street signs sent from Junction City to the "Kodiaks" have arrived.

The project started as a request from Chap. (Capt.) Brian Oh of the 70th Eng. Bn. to Junction City Mayor Mike Rhodes in the hope the unit could take several street signs to Afghanistan as a reminder of home. Instead of grabbing a few extra street signs, Junction City made five special street signs for the Kodiaks and presented them May 24 to then Rear Detachment Commander Capt. Mickey Morris. The signs, marked "Junction City KS," "6th St.," "Grant Ave.," "Washington St." and "Chestnut St.," were ready for shipment in June, but because of the Kodiak headquarter's remote location and a changing of the unit chaplains, the signs didn't arrive until mid August.

With the help of the Kodiak's new chaplain team, Lt. Col. Keith Shurtleff and Spc. Chris Patchen, the signs were officially set Sept. 5 on the streets of FOB Orgun-E. Since then the street signs have made their mark on the camp as Soldiers from the 70th Eng. Bn. stop and blink, not quite believing their presence.

"Last thing I figure to see would be Grant Avenue on the middle of camp or Washington Street when we drove in." said Pfc. Justin Weglinski, a gunner with the battalion Personal Security Detachment. More difficult than digging the holes for the signs has been changing the FOB's maps to reflect the new streets. Whether reflected on a map or not, the signs have already become useful navigational tools for the FOB's Soldiers. "You're looking for the laundry facility. It's right behind the Grant Avenue street sign the engineers put up," one Soldier was heard telling another.

Not only have the signs been a reminder of home for the Kodiak Soldiers, but they've also sparked an unwritten tradition on the FOB. Each unit will bring in their own street signs and leave one behind when they redeploy to add to the history of FOB Orgun-E. When the Kodiaks depart, the battalion will leave behind "Junction City KS" and "Washington St." as a reminder of their presence in Afghanistan.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 20, 2007

September 17, 2007

An Update on J.R. Salzman

Recovery has its highs and lows, but athlete and former National Guardsman J.R. Salzman is back in school and trying to adjust to "regular" life. In a local newspaper article, he talks about what happened the day he got wounded, his plans for the future, and why he has no regrets:

To cope with his injuries, Salzman, who was medically discharged earlier this month and is considered 90 percent disabled, said he breaks it down and accepts it.

"Stuff happens," he said. "I don't regret going into the military and getting deployed. I am really proud of what I've done. I'd do it all over again."

Combat soldiers understand that injuries happen, Salzman said.

He is emphatic the U.S. needed to take responsibility in Iraq and fight insurgents.

"I would rather fight over there than on our own soil," he said, noting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks proved insurgents will fight Americans anywhere.

It's a great (mostly-unbiased) look at yet another wounded soldier who is an example of patriotism, determination and sheer grit to us all.

And this is a good time to point out that it isn't just J.R. himself who has been through a long recovery process and continues to fight his way back to "normalcy." At twenty years old, his devoted bride Josie has faced her own trial at his side.

[For background on J.R, one of Valour-IT's 1200+ laptop recipients, see Blackfive, or go here and do a search for "Salzman."] - FbL

[cross-posted at the Fuzzilicious Thinking]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Sep 17, 2007

September 14, 2007

More news from our Man in the 'Stan.

Gotta love the line... "Your service must be at least this old..."

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Well last weekend was the farewell dinner for our contractor Mark. Due to the relationship he has with the carpet guys, they hosted it. We had all our JFCOM guys and the team from Allied Command Transformation, the NATO command in Norfolk. Karim’s wife, mother and sister-in-law did the cooking. That was one of the best meals we’ve had here. Rice with raisins, beef, flat bread and the best lamb I think I ever ate (fell right off the bone.) Not that I eat a lot of lamb, but having raised them I do enjoy the chance to get back at the little buggers.

My favorite theory of warfare is that the side with the most sheep-herders wins. (My second favorite is that the side with the silliest hats loses.) Spend your life around sheep and you become inured to pain, discomfort and disappointment. They also drive you crazy and mean. That’s why the Afghans have done so well, lost of sheep. That’s also why the only two armies that have done any good here were Alexander the Great and the Brits. Lots of sheep-herders up in northern Greece and places like Shropshire and Suffolk. In fact go to the front gate here and you will find Brits and Macedonians guarding the place. Coincidence? I think not.

Mark made it back to Qatar and had some issues suddenly crop up that would have required him to return here if they were not resolved. The response from the officer in charge of the JFCOM “support” team there was basically “not my worry, he’s a contractor.” Now LTC Moore fixed him up from here, and Mark (COL, USA, ret) went home to see his new baby granddaughter. Now having spent a few years as a contractor before Uncle Sam asked me to put the uniform back on full time, I know two things. One is that everyone must leave the military at some point. The second is that there is joy in taking the carefully worded resume of some sanctimonious twit and feeding it into the shredder. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind on.

Was a little bit under the weather middle of last week. I’ve been healthy so far this tour and this wasn’t so bad, just bad enough to convince me to lay low for a day or two.

The Air Force command (CENTAF) has decided that they can’t drink, even if their attached to NATO. I told my Air Force colleague that it was an age thing. Your service had to be at least 75 years old to have a drink.

A small bit of excitement in Kabul, rocket attack somewhere in the vicinity of the US Embassy a couple of nights ago (heard that one) and two IEDS on ISAF convoys late last night. Those attacks apparently triggered the general alarm here. I heard nothing in our out of the way little corner of the base. (Hey, if you can sleep right below the deck of an aircraft carrier, you can sleep through anything.)

We had another rocket warning last night. The siren went off about 1030 and they announced “stay inside and keep your body armor nearby.” Of course I was inside already, and my gear was in the office, so I tried to get back to sleep. They set the siren off about for more times until midnight to say the same thing, but of course we all had to run back out to the door to hear if they were ordering us to our bunkers. I don’t think that anything landed in the city. I know I know, war is heck.

Your Service must be at least 75 years old before you can drink...

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 14, 2007

Just in case you missed it:

The script of the President's speech - as written, not necessarily as delivered.

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people.

We are now at such a moment.

In Iraq , an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival. Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq ’s government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home. If Iraq ’s young democracy can turn back these enemies, it will mean a more hopeful Middle East and a more secure America . This ally has placed its trust in the United States . And tonight, our moral and strategic imperatives are one: We must help Iraq defeat those who threaten its future and also threaten ours.

Eight months ago, we adopted a new strategy to meet that objective, including a surge in U.S. forces that reached full strength in June. This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress about how that strategy is progressing. In their testimony, these men made clear that our challenge in Iraq is formidable. Yet they concluded that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy, and that the troop surge is working.

The premise of our strategy is that securing the Iraqi population is the foundation for all other progress. For Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides, they need to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. For lasting reconciliation to take root, Iraqis must feel confident that they do not need sectarian gangs for security. The goal of the surge is to provide that security and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it. As I will explain tonight, our success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home.

Since the surge was announced in January, it has moved through several phases. First was the flow of additional troops into Iraq , especially Baghdad and Anbar Province . Once these forces were in place, our commanders launched a series of offensive operations to drive terrorists and militias out of their strongholds. Finally, in areas that have been cleared, we are surging diplomatic and civilian resources to ensure that military progress is quickly followed up with real improvements in daily life.

Anbar Province is a good example of how our strategy is working. Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to al Qaeda. Some cited this report as evidence that we had failed in Iraq and should cut our losses and pull out. Instead, we kept the pressure on the terrorists. The local people were suffering under the Taliban-like rule of al Qaeda, and they were sick of it. So they asked us for help.

To take advantage of this opportunity, I sent an additional 4,000 Marines to Anbar as part of the surge. Together, local sheiks, Iraqi forces, and Coalition troops drove the terrorists from the capital of Ramadi and other population centers. Today, a city where al Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. Anbar citizens who once feared beheading for talking to an American or Iraqi soldier now come forward to tell us where the terrorists are hiding. Young Sunnis who once joined the insurgency are now joining the army and police. And with the help of our Provincial Reconstruction Teams, new jobs are being created and local governments are meeting again.

These developments do not often make the headlines, but they do make a difference. During my visit to Anbar on Labor Day, local Sunni leaders thanked me for America ’s support. They pledged they would never allow al Qaeda to return. And they told me they now see a place for their people in a democratic Iraq . The Sunni governor of Anbar Province put it this way: “Our tomorrow starts today.”

The changes in Anbar show all Iraqis what becomes possible when extremists are driven out. They show al Qaeda that it cannot count on popular support, even in a province its leaders once declared their home base. And they show the world that ordinary people in the Middle East want the same things for their children that we want for ours – a decent life and a peaceful future.

In Anbar, the enemy remains active and deadly. Earlier today, one of the brave tribal sheikhs who helped lead the revolt against al Qaeda was murdered. In response, a fellow Sunni leader declared: “We are determined to strike back and continue our work.” And as they do, they can count on the continued support of the United States .

Throughout Iraq , too many citizens are being killed by terrorists and death squads. And for most Iraqis, the quality of life is far from where it should be. Yet General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report that the success in Anbar is beginning to be replicated in other parts of the country.

One year ago, much of Baghdad was under siege. Schools were closed, markets were shuttered, and sectarian violence was spiraling out of control. Today, most of Baghdad ’s neighborhoods are being patrolled by Coalition and Iraqi forces who live among the people they protect. Many schools and markets are reopening. Citizens are coming forward with vital intelligence. Sectarian killings are down. And ordinary life is beginning to return.

One year ago, much of Diyala Province was a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and its capital of Baqubah was emerging as an al Qaeda stronghold. Today, Baqubah is cleared. Diyala Province is the site of a growing popular uprising against the extremists. And some local tribes are working alongside Coalition and Iraqi forces to clear out the enemy and reclaim their communities.

One year ago, Shia extremists and Iranian-backed militants were gaining strength and targeting Sunnis for assassination. Today, these groups are being broken up, and many of their leaders are being captured or killed.

These gains are a tribute to our military, they are a tribute to the courage of the Iraqi Security Forces, and they are a tribute to an Iraqi government that has decided to take on the extremists.

Now the Iraqi government must bring the same determination to achieving reconciliation. This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division. The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks – and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must.

Yet Iraq ’s national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget. They are sharing oil revenues with the provinces. They are allowing former Ba’athists to rejoin Iraq ’s military or receive government pensions. And local reconciliation is taking place. The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad . As local politics change, so will national politics.

Our troops in Iraq are performing brilliantly. Along with Iraqi forces, they have captured or killed an average of more than 1,500 enemy fighters per month since January. Yet ultimately, the way forward depends on the ability of Iraqis to maintain security gains. According to General Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired General Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable, although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the National Police. Iraqi forces are receiving increased cooperation from local populations. And this is improving their ability to hold areas that have been cleared.

Because of this success, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 Marines scheduled to leave Anbar Province later this month. In addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade, for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas.

And he expects that by July, we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from 20 combat brigades to 15.

General Petraeus also recommends that in December, we begin transitioning to the next phase of our strategy in Iraq . As terrorists are defeated, civil society takes root, and the Iraqis assume more control over their own security, our mission in Iraq will evolve. Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces. As this transition in our mission takes place, our troops will focus on a more limited set of tasks, including counterterrorism operations and training, equipping, and supporting Iraqi forces.

I have consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other members of my national security team, Iraqi officials, and leaders of both parties in Congress. I have benefited from their advice, and I have accepted General Petraeus’s recommendations. I have directed General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to update their joint campaign plan for Iraq , so we can adjust our military and civilian resources accordingly. I have also directed them to deliver another report to Congress in March. At that time, they will provide a fresh assessment of the situation in Iraq and of the troop levels and resources we need to meet our national security objectives.

The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is “return on success.” The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home. And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.

Americans want our country to be safe and our troops to begin coming home from Iraq . Yet those of us who believe success in Iraq is essential to our security, and those who believe we should bring our troops home, have been at odds. Now, because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq , we can begin seeing troops come home.

The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together.

This vision for a reduced American presence also has the support of Iraqi leaders from all communities. At the same time, they understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my Presidency. These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America . And we are ready to begin building that relationship – in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops.

The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States . A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran . A free Iraq will marginalize extremists, unleash the talent of its people, and be an anchor of stability in the region. A free Iraq will set an example for people across the Middle East . A free Iraq will be our partner in the fight against terror – and that will make us safer here at home.

Realizing this vision will be difficult, but it is achievable. Our military commanders believe we can succeed. Our diplomats believe we can succeed. And for the safety of future generations of Americans, we must succeed.

If we were to be driven out of Iraq , extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaeda could gain new recruits and new sanctuaries. Iran would benefit from the chaos and would be encouraged in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons and dominate the region. Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply. Iraq could face a humanitarian nightmare. Democracy movements would be violently reversed. We would leave our children to face a far more dangerous world. And as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people.

Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq , we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East . We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda, counter Iran , help the Afghan government, work for peace in the Holy Land , and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists and extremists.

So tonight I want to speak to Members of the United States Congress: Let us come together on a policy of strength in the Middle East . I thank you for providing crucial funds and resources for our military. And I ask you to join me in supporting the recommendations General Petraeus has made and the troop levels he has asked for.

To the Iraqi people: You have voted for freedom, and now you are liberating your country from terrorists and death squads. You must demand that your leaders make the tough choices needed to achieve reconciliation. As you do, have confidence that America does not abandon our friends, and we will not abandon you.

To Iraq ’s neighbors who seek peace: The violent extremists who target Iraq are also targeting you. The best way to secure your interests and protect your own people is to stand with the people of Iraq . That means using your economic and diplomatic leverage to strengthen the government in Baghdad . And it means the efforts by Iran and Syria to undermine that government must end.

To the international community: The success of a free Iraq matters to every civilized nation. We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy. We encourage all nations to help, by implementing the International Compact to revitalize Iraq ’s economy, by participating in the Neighbors Conferences to boost cooperation and overcome differences in the region, and by supporting the new and expanded mission of the United Nations in Iraq .

To our military personnel, intelligence officers, diplomats, and civilians on the frontlines in Iraq : You have done everything America has asked of you. And the progress I have reported tonight is in large part because of your courage and hard effort. You are serving far from home. Our Nation is grateful for your sacrifices, and the sacrifices of your families.

Earlier this year, I received an e-mail from the family of Army Specialist Brandon Stout of Michigan . Brandon volunteered for the National Guard and was killed while serving in Baghdad . His family has suffered greatly. Yet in their sorrow, they see larger purpose. His wife, Audrey, says that Brandon felt called to serve and knew what he was fighting for. And his parents, Tracy and Jeff, wrote me this: “We believe this is a war of good and evil and we must win … even if it cost the life of our own son. Freedom is not free.”

This country is blessed to have Americans like Brandon Stout, who make extraordinary sacrifices to keep us safe from harm. They are doing so in a fight that is just, and right, and necessary. And now it falls to us to finish the work they have begun.

Some say the gains we are making in Iraq come too late. They are mistaken. It is never too late to deal a blow to al Qaeda. It is never too late to advance freedom. And it is never too late to support our troops in a fight they can win.

Good night, and God bless America .

by John on Sep 14, 2007

September 12, 2007

More from our Man in the 'Stan.

Dated, but OPSEC is OPSEC.

Not much going on here, we are fully integrated into the planning cell, and going around now doing a lot of overview briefs so the staff knows what we are capable of. I expect a flood of tasking pretty soon. I’ve been lending an oar wherever it’s been needed, but it will be nice to have the majority of my work actually being what I was sent to do.

Other than that we just keep plugging away at the problem. The Peace Jirga with the tribal leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan is ongoing, and hopefully going well. Yesterday at Camp Anaconda in the south the Taliban tried a frontal assault on the base. About a dozen died of melancholy and high explosive…but mostly high explosive. Apparently we haven’t killed all the dumb ones yet. It’s also a great sign that the flags here are at full staff. When a NATO soldier is killed they put the flags at half-mast for three days. It’s been rare for them to be up all the way. (Note: Five days, yesterday a British soldier from the Royal Anglian Regiment was killed in a firefight down south. We lost another from wounds and four Americans a day later. Overall not a good end to the week) .

I know everyone will be disappointed to know I refrained from going over to Eggers for Steak and seafood night. We have two new team members coming in, and today was the first day we could expect them. Obviously they had the same trip LTC Moore and I had, because they didn’t show today. I spent a hot afternoon traipsing around the compound looking for them, and was just too tired to put the gear on. (I know, poor me.)

I’ve been working some effects assessment stuff late this week, and will really hit it hard this weekend. Good to be gainfully employed at last. In fact I actually had a few of the planners come and ask for help. I have four irons in the fire right now. Its nice to be wanted.

The office was being cleaned today, so the planning staff went out for “sports”. We played volleyball. Although the purists in Holyoke would be shocked to know that playing with the Europeans means that soccer kicks are acceptable. (I also saw some Pakistanis (I think) in the basketball court practicing Cricket. There’s a game I know very little about.) Fun morning, and I got a little burned, that’s the longest I’ve been outside for a while. Luckily we finished before the dust storm came in. The haze is so bad you can barely see the foothills.

Well now that I have been here more than a month I am eligible for the NATO medal. We have a ceremony in the gym once a month where the generals came in to pin them on the people that have earned them. It was run by a German Sergeant Major, and there were a lot of Brits and Canadians there, so you heard a loud stomp when we went to attention. I was pinned by a Dutch Marine general. We commiserated about being so far away from our natural habitat, and he said “As I told your Commandant when he was here, I consider India and Pakistan just one big beach.” …typical. Anyway the medal has a clasp on the ribbon for ISAF. I am considering going to the bazaar and replacing it with on that says “Northwest Frontier 1870-1890”. ‘Cause that’s the way I roll.

Mass went off Saturday with a French chaplain. I was late out of a meeting so I had to go to church armed. It made me feel like I joined the Cameronians. (I think only two people are going to get that reference.)

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 12, 2007

September 11, 2007

Fight! Fight!...or not...

You want discussion? We got the Armorer and the Instapilot circling each other warily vis-a-vis John's Congresswoman: [btw- the fight starts here.]

John: Last things first - I disagree completely on how you choose to interpret Boyda's message regarding the ad.

Me: Fine. But I don't believe her for a New York minute. The Democrat Party is FULLY invested in defeat. Period. Dot. I cannot see her have a significant disagreement with her Party's senior leadership (See Tom-You're-All-Lying-Bastards-Lantos's comments). The Democrat Party is nothing if not a disciplined machine. MoveOn has its place in their worldview and how that is leveraged will be adjusted to reduce the public backlash, but make no mistake, it IS now part of the genetic makeup of the Dems.

John: And, as for "I don't think the United States is capable of fighting a war on multiple fronts, despite what history tells us. " I'd have to say it's a bit more complex than that.

Me: Noted. Fully agree. But the implicit message in her release is "CAN'T," not "need to adjust and plus up."

John: Maintain the current optempo on two fronts? With the size force we have now? With the relative paucity of dollars going into rehabbing worn and procuring new gear? The dollars for that are in the outyear POMs and Congressional talking points, but nothing near like enough is in the current and pending POMs. (POM - Program Objective Memorandum - Pentagon-speak for budgets).

Me: Again, fully, completely and enthusiastically agree...but that wasn't apparent in her message. At least not to me. The minimum share of the GDP we should be spending on defense is not being met by any stretch--how much is subject to debate (hah!)--but I heartily agree it isn't adequate now. That is perhaps the second biggest national security mistake of the Bush Administration after their complete cocking up of the strategic information war.

John: My sense is... no, we can't.

Now, since the Dems don't want to do that anyway, have a war on multiple fronts, they having put forward no real plan with any substance for just what their actual strategic vision is, they have only to point to those things they are pointing at to make that point. It's always easy to carp, and they are carpe'ing the carp.

And the administration doesn't really seem to be interested in countering it, because they're not asking for significant numbers of more troops, nor are they asking for large infusions of cash to gin up the industrial base.

Neither side seems interested in maintaining this optempo.

Me: I think my response above is in line with your thoughts in these final sentences. We aren't taking this seriously, not in our rhetoric, not in our actions...unless you're a soldier/Marine on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. We are not doing what it takes to support the latter and it drives me absolutely nuts. That said, Nancy's Party has trashed America, her soldiers, and the people they disagree with so much and so long that the resultant polarization has poisoned the well of discourse and weakened our national resolve to the point that many of us have lost a shred of trust in their sincerity or judgement. You can trash talk your country and countrymen so long, then your words truly become "fighting words."


Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Dusty on Sep 11, 2007

The First Thing Shaken Out Of The Can

"Mr. Tuttle, what could cause a plane to crash into a skyscraper?"

We were sitting on the loading ramp of the clothing issue point at Fort Dix, waiting for the facility to open so we could draw our two dufflebag-loads of deployment gear. Fifteen officers and enlisted -- Jersey's contribution to the 29th Infantry Division and SFOR-10 -- feet dangling off the edge of the dock, everyone Bosnia-bound, and everyone asking the Deployment Subject Matter Expert -- me -- what to bring in addition to what we knew would be issued.

Then came the airplane question from one of the enlisted guys.

"Bad weather, low visibility, fog, the pilot not realizing where he is and not talking to ATC, most likely. In 1945, a B-25 flew into the side of the Empire State Building -- the pilot was scud-running in bad weather and just flew right into it. And at night, all buildings are lit up like Christmas trees, so, yeah, I'd say crummy visibility. What brought *that* up?"

He held up his go-anywhere radio. "A plane hit the World Trade Center a little while ago."

The pilots in the group automatically looked up to check the ceiling and visibility. It was a little hazy, but there were no significant clouds anywhere below what we guesstimated as 6,000 feet. And all of us had the same thought: somebody in a little bug-smasher had been sightseeing up the Hudson Exclusion Zone and wandered out of the corridor over the city. But why would he hit a building -- heart attack? Stroke? We were trying to visualize what set of circumstances would cause an accident like--

"Geez, now they said another one just hit! Two airplanes hit the World Trade Center!"

??? A newsie reporting on the first accident? Couldn't be -- all the newsies up that way use helicop--

"What was the second one, an airplane or a helicopter?"

"An airplane. An airliner. Two airliners hit the buildings."

"That doesn't sound like any accident, especially if it's two airliners. ATC keeps them north and south of the city, except when they're above about 4,000 feet."

Oh, damn -- kamikazes...

Everyone's first thought after that was about Pete. Pete was one of our part-timer Huey pilots and the full-time Head of Security for the WTC complex. In the '93 bombing, a retaining wall was the only thing that kept him from being flattened by the pressure wave...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We had no training scheduled -- once we had drawn our gear, we were supposedly Bosnia-bound the following day. No training would have been accomplished that day, anyway. We could see the smoke.

We saw the Cloud that rose from each tower when it fell. The Cloud of smoke from burning plastic and paper and people. We expected to be trucked to the site for rescue operations, and wondered if anyone knew we were there, and ready to go. We were there. Ready. We waited. We waited, growing impatient to be called -- and we waited, wondering why we hadn't been called to help and feeling helpless because we hadn't been called to help. And waited...

We were told to form up outside the barracks for an address by the CG.

"...and you will *not* be called to assist in the rescue efforts, because you have a more important task. The President is gonna open a can of WhupAss and you people will be the first thing he shakes out of it."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Shortly after we arrived as Peacekeepers, we got in the first licks in the Global War On Terror at a small airfield in the small town of Visoko -- and discovered exactly why the adjective "Global" applied...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pete was retiring and had spent the previous week breaking in his replacement as Head of Security. He had decided to go in late that morning. He survived.

His replacement, John O'Neill, and 2,600 other men, women and children did not.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on Sep 11, 2007

9/11, the Armorer remembers.

The Armorer remembers... Karl W. Teepe.

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Karl was a good commanding officer and always treated the troops under him fairly.

I knew several victims of the attack on the Pentagon. The week before, I had briefed LTG Maude and some of his staff in that exact same conference room that General Maude and others died in on that dark Tuesday. People I knew died in that room, briefing LTG Maude on that day.

And below that room, a couple of floors down, worked another man who died, with whom I had a somewhat closer, longer relationship. DIA budget analyst and retired soldier Karl Teepe.

He was my ROTC instructor at Mizzou. Along with Captain Mac, and the Master Sergeants Rodriguez, he had a distinct imprint upon my development as a cadet, and therefore as an officer.

He was a Duck Hunter, meaning his branch was Air Defense Artillery.

He was funny, in a snarky way, but took his job seriously. He loved his family, his job, and he took personal interest in his cadets He always had a ready smile - unless you were screwing up by the numbers - in which case he was all business. He had a lot of energy, too - but it was expressed in a laid-back manner. I don't know what he was like at home, but with his cadidiots he always kept an observant, available, hands-free approach - meaning he'd let you fail, in order to learn. Not in the catastrophic be-the-only-cadet-to-get-a-D-on-a-test fail - but the spread your wings and learn from experience but-I'll-keep-you-from-doing-something-stupid kind of fail.

Like skylining yourself in a tactics problem, or siting the machinegun where it can take flanking fire but not defend itself kind of thing. That kind of learning. The school of hard knocks, gently applied.

And despite good reason - he was always even-tempered, a trait he did *not* manage to pass on to me.

He had an impish side. I won't say that he was *involved* when we painted the Navy ROTC anchor pink for Homecoming, or was there when we covered it with grease and grass clippings, so it was all green and hairy. No, I couldn't say that. But I could say that he was... well, aware that his cadets were, um, er, oh, never mind. Look, bright shiny object!

He touched other people as well, and I've included those tributes, to flesh out the pale presence of Karl I've added here.

For an officer, you can't ask for much better a tribute from the soldiers you commanded than this one:

Karl was a good commanding officer and always treated the troops under him fairly.

I could live with that as an epitaph.

From the website we find this:

Karl W. Teepe Attack Location: Pentagon Age: 57 Home: Centreville, Virginia

Karl Teepe would sometimes take the Metro from the Pentagon to the Mall on his lunch break. He'd sit in a sculpture garden, or one of the Smithsonian Institution galleries, just to let the beauty sink in.

It had been a beautiful year. His daughter Wendy, 28, got married. His son Adam, 22, graduated from college.

"I think we were the most important thing to him," said Adam.

The family wanted to find a photograph that seemed appropriate. His Army and Defense Intelligence Agency IDs wouldn't do. For those, he would always make the funniest face possible. They chose the one from Wendy's wedding -- the glowing father of the bride.

Karl W. Teepe, 57, was born in St. Louis. He worked as a budget analyst. At home in Centreville, he spent his time making his surroundings beautiful -- the yard, the deck, the house. He took classes on the human genome, the Civil War, painting.

"Every time I came home, he had some exhibit I had to see," Wendy said.

At Christmas, he told the stories during the family slide show, bringing alive years of memories.

Before his Pentagon office was struck, he and his wife, Donna, planned a night out to see Garrison Keillor.

"We still have the tickets," she said.

-- Michael Laris

From September 11 we get this:

Cpt. Karl Teepe was my commanding officer at Foxtrot Battery 2/44th A.D.A. in South Korea from 1971 to 1973.We happened to meet again at Kleber Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, W.Germany in 1979 and visited some about old times at Foxtrot Battery. Karl was a good commanding officer and always treated the troops under him fairly. I just recently learned that Karl was killed

From Newsday, there is this light shining on Karl:

Avid Gardener, Devoted Family Man As much as Karl W. Teepe was devoted to his career, those closest to him knew what was most important to the Defense Intelligence Agency budget analyst -� his family.

�He always came home as soon as he could,� said Donna Teepe, 56, his wife. �We have two children and we were his life. He was very interested in everything the kids did. Our daughter got married last November and we had a really, really nice wedding. He loved being the father of the bride.�

Teepe, who lived in Centreville, Va., was just 57 when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11. He was born and raised in St. Louis, graduated from University of Illinois in 1967 and received a master�s degree from University of Missouri in Columbia. He joined the Army after obtaining his bachelor�s degree and served for 20 years, doing tours in Germany and South Korea. He retired 12 years ago to work as a civilian in the Pentagon.

Donna Teepe, who had known her husband since the seventh grade in Meadows Elementary School, said he enjoyed gardening and working on home projects. �He was very handy,� she said. �He made shelves, he built the deck in the back and he always tended the yard, making sure it looked very nice. He even commented one time about how he treated our backyard as another room in the house. I�m going to miss that in the spring, I know it.�

The Teepes were married 34 years and began dating since their days together at Riverview Gardens High School. �He was very sure of himself and everybody liked him,� Donna Teepe said. �He had a very dry sense of humor that was always fun.�

Besides his wife, Teepe also is survived by his daughter Wendy Green, 28, of Denver; his son Adam, 22, of Centreville; his mother, Ruth, of St. Louis; and his brother, Ken, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Photo By M. R. Patterson, 27 June 2003

Photo By M. R. Patterson, 27 June 2003

by John on Sep 11, 2007

September 10, 2007

General Petraeus' testimony.

Here's .pdf copies, if you'd like them.

For the prepared remarks, click here.

For the slides, click here.

Take a look at slides 8 and 9 (as numbered in the presentation) - did the MSM reportage of events in that time frame leave you with the same impression?

Heh. Then there's this.

Before closing, I want to thank you and your colleagues for your support of our men and women in uniform in Iraq. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen with whom I’m honored to serve are the best equipped and, very likely, the most professional force in our nation’s history. Impressively, despite all that has been asked of them in recent years, they continue to raise their right hands and volunteer to stay in uniform. With three weeks to go in this fiscal year, in fact, the Army elements in Iraq, for example, have achieved well over 130% of the reenlistment goals in the initial term and careerist categories and nearly 115% in the mid-career category. All of us appreciate what you have done to ensure that these great troopers have had what they’ve needed to accomplish their mission, just as we appreciate what you have done to take care of their families, as they, too, have made significant sacrifices in recent years.

The advances you have underwritten in weapons systems and individual equipment; in munitions; in command, control, and communications systems; in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; in vehicles and counter-IED systems and programs; and in manned and unmanned aircraft have proven invaluable in Iraq. The capabilities that you have funded most recently – especially the vehicles that will provide greater protection against improvised explosive devices – are also of enormous importance. Additionally, your funding of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program has given our leaders a critical tool with which to prosecute the counterinsurgency campaign. Finally, we appreciate as well your funding of our new detention programs and rule of law initiatives in Iraq.

Heh, again. Would that several members of this Congress speak as well of the General and his soldiers as he just spoke of them.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 10, 2007

News from our Man in the 'Stan.

Just a reminder - we held these up for OPSEC reasons, so they've aged a bit. Just slices of the life of a Fobbit in Afghanistan.

Lots more discussion of civilian casualties lately. There has been a push by NATO and the Afghan government to not only pull pack a little when civilians may be in the line of fire, but to get on the radio and television and tell the Afghans what we are doing. Like I said we are guests here, and our hosts don’t want us killing indiscriminately. Which we aren’t. Air power is getting a bad name here, but it is the nature of war that nothing ever goes perfectly. We don’t just have airplanes flying around looking for something to bomb. Every mission is directed in by someone on the ground who is receiving fire or by very good intel. Very rarely is the airplane the only weapon used. Unfortunately the enemy talks a lot but doesn’t back it up with action. Case in point was several women and children were killed in an attack on a compound. We had monitored the place for several hours before the decision was made, and didn’t see anyone. It turns out the Taliban kept them inside specifically because they knew if we saw them, we wouldn’t attack.

The information war is huge. The Taliban will pay locals to say that there were massive civilian casualties. So that gets reported as well as NATO and local Afghan government denials. One big problem is that the first story tends to get believed, so the western view of “we don’t know yet, we’ll have to research and get back to you” isn’t quick enough to combat what the enemy is saying. They may be living in the ninth century, but they are not idiots when it comes to influencing pubic opinion.

Of course its all relative, two South Koreans were killed for the sin of trying to nurse sick people and teach kids English and computers. We are seeing a lot South Koreans around here now. Good tough troops if needs be.

We had a small amount of excitement here last week. Someone found some old unexploded ordinance on the soccer field. Don’t know what it was. They made us all stay inside while EOD blew it up. The field is about 600 meters from our office, so I heard the boom. It doesn’t appear to have been a big deal, since everyone was back to playing soccer the next day.

Father Muretti is done coming here. I guess he was serious about wanting us over at the Italian embassy. Unless I can find a battle buddy I’ll probably stay here. I think a group may come together to say a rosary, which means I have a week to remember how to do that.

We had a meeting with some NGOs and UN people on how to support the rule of law here. Most Afghans use an informal tribal or religious system. The local Shura is the leadership, and do a credible job in sorting out disputes about land or water rights. It’s an Afghan solution for an Afghan problem and for the most part is what you want out of a legal system: its fair and consistent. However it’s not so great for a woman up for moral crimes. She needs to be able to say, to paraphrase St. Peter, “Civis Afghanum Sum” and be allowed to take her case to a government court where she would be treated as any other citizen.

by John on Sep 10, 2007

September 9, 2007

Alive Day Memories (updated)

Denizenne FbL here...

"Alive Day" is a label many wounded apply to the day they were hit--the day they could've died but lived instead. HBO has taken that label for a new documentary by James Gandolfini of Sopranos fame that seems to be worth checking out.

As many of you may know, the well-being and treatment of the wounded is a subject that is very close to my heart. So, when I hear of a documentary being done about the experiences of some of them, I start to get nervous. I worry that it will be exploitative or condescending, or in some way pitying--anyone who works with the wounded knows that in most cases, offers of pity are generally not well-received.

Somehow I ended up on the publicity list for HBO's Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq (being broadcast today) awhile ago, but I knew I had to take the time to explore it before I could endorse it. Upon getting around to reading what people who had already seen it had to say, I found most of them seemed to be viewing it through an anti-war cognitive lens that made it hard to identify the film's actual message. But simply on the basis of the following, this sounds promising. It seems Gandolfini lets interviewees speak for themselves [click on the video and see the sidebar for more excerpts and media coverage]:

The first interviewee is Bryan Anderson, whom I've written about before, and there are others in the video who have also received the help of Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT. This sounds like worthwhile viewing, if only for the chance to see the kinds of people that need our physical and emotional support as they continue to recover from devastating wounds.

There is one concern, however: the documentary includes insurgent video of successful attacks, including those that injured the veterans featured in the film. From the tone of the preview, it seems those videos are treated as archival footage relevant to the story being told, and not as something to gasp and gawk over. Still, I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea...

Alive Day Memories is being broadcast today, and will be repeated a number of times in the coming month [click and search for "alive day"]. I don't have Cable, so I would appreciate the report of anyone who is willing and able to watch. I hope Alive Day Memories is as worthwhile as the trailer seems to promise.

Update: Wounded veteran JR Salzman gives it his full endorsement. And if you miss it today, you can also stream it on on from 11:30PM EST Sunday September 9th until Sunday September 16th.

[cross-posted at Fuzzilicious Thinking; h/t to Blackfive for the Salzman link and streaming info]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Denizens on Sep 09, 2007

September 7, 2007

Making the mistake of letting my choke chain slip

One of the first rules of good blogging is "be civil." Not polite, necessarily, but civil (a distinction I was first made aware of in The Blue Centurions). So what follows is an excerpt of a conversation in the Castle's command hooch that was originally meant to be private to avoid hurting feelings/flame wars/etc., etc. It was prompted by a gentle, and understandable, slap for my troll references in this post.

Fair enough.

However, comma, sometimes you just gotta wave the BS flag (respectfully, of course) and let the chips fall where they may. Bottom line: I've got little, no, zero, patience with a lot of the rhetoric coming out of people's pie holes these days. I have a personal stake in the outcome of this conflict. Like it or not we all do. If you don't understand that, sorry, but you're stupid.

So much for "civil," but holy mother of pearl, these people are crazy and want to kill us, OK?

Moreover, I appreciate the need for dissident voices -- the Bays of Pigs could have ended much differently had the White House had a few "No" Men sitting on the Oval Office couches (like they did during the Cuban Missile Crisis).

In any case, what follows is my rant on said subject and John thought it might generate some discussion...if nothing else, where I can get some help for my anger management issues. Your comments are welcome.

Hugs and kisses - Instapilot

BTW, because I still have a little girl at home, I take this war very personally. I don't want her dying like Ben Hall because we're still [expletive deleted] with these scum and she felt compelled to run to the sound of the guns like the sheepdog I hope she'll be, or watch her have to change her behavior to avoid "offending" some rag-head wanna-be at [local university reference deleted] by walking around with her hair exposed. So the [colorful reference to the gentlemen who posted] that wrote the "Bush lied, people died" nonsense in the remarks section made me feel like taking a tire iron to him.

Besides, if I wanted to give Nancy Boyda the benefit of the doubt (I don't, based on her behavior so far, but let's say I did), that wouldn't be possible in that guy's world. To this [person], everyone who has a different opinion is a liar, fool, failure and should be imprisoned/run out of town on a rail. So, political discourse is poisoned by his ilk and effective compromise, to say nothing of "partisanship ends at the waters edge" is well nigh impossible.

Sorry, dude, but I think the guy is a troll. He doesn't reach the level of Kossack, but he'll get NO quarter from me. At this point in my life, this war, and everything, I'm at the hoist-the-black-ensign-and-start-slitting-throats stage. Yeah, I wasn't a grunt, [I was flying above them] so mebbe this is all just posturing but I think I'm capable of putting 9 rounds into the wayward "flying imam," reloading, and doing it again until there's nothing left to hit.

Just sayin'


Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Dusty on Sep 07, 2007

The Air Force does its bit for the war (long view)

Last time I checked, there was still a fair amount of bloviating about how our "dependence on foreign oil" was a key factor in why we find ourselves fighting nouveau riche Bedouins, et al., trying to impose (and in some cases, like Spain, re-impose) a 7th-century Caliphate on the rest of us.

Some of the proposed responses seem to me to be a tad ethanol, which takes more energy to produce than it generates. Of course, empirical data has fallen out of favor lately on a whole host of issues—the suppression of any debate among the cognoscenti on global warming being a good example.

Nevertheless, with the right incentive, Western infidels never cease to amaze.

Take the space program. Nugging out solutions to seemingly intractable problems has given us:
Three-dimensional semiconductor packages, air quality monitoring systems, virtual reality, advanced keyboards, Customer Service software, Database Management Systems, Laser surveying, aircraft controls, the Lightweight Compact Disc, microcomputers, design graphics, enriched baby foods, municipal-size water treatment systems, scratch-resistant lenses, pool purification systems that kill bacteria without chemicals, swimsuits that increase your speed in the water, golf balls that fly farther and straighter, athletic shoes, the Dustbuster, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, flat panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, food packaging and freeze-dried technology, cool sportswear, sports bras, hair styling appliances, fogless ski goggles, self-adjusting sunglasses, composite golf clubs, hang gliders, art preservation, and quartz crystal timing equipment...among other things. LOTS of other things.

None of this was apparent to Sayyid Qtub when he wrote the book that inspired today's Islamofacists. He can be forgiven, somewhat, given the fact that we didn't have a space program of any consequence back then, but there WAS World War II, and the rather spectacular end to it in the Far East. Alas, none of his disciples seemed to have taken a hard look at their opponents in that regard...and they've had a lot more chances to see what we're capable of.

So, I actually pity the cockroaches. Check that…I don’t pity them. I just have this feeling that when the collision comes it’ll be awful but I’ll be ashamed to admit I won’t be able to avert my gaze—like watching the six gazillion skateboarding faceplants on YouTube.


They've only nicked us so far—just ask Hollywood; 9/11 wasn't THAT big a deal—but when they land a big punch, the response is not only going to be a pounding that will leave only a puddle, it'll also accelerate a nascent but very real commitment to a "take your oil and stick it up your [insert appropriate orifice here]" effort that will not only leave them hammered, but worse—marginalized.

by Dusty on Sep 07, 2007

More from our Man in the 'Stan

Like I said, this has been held for some OPSEC reasons. The two dead soldiers referenced in this bit we talked about here - since one, Colonel Harrison, was deployed from Fort Leavenworth.

There has been a successful spring here. Part of it is because we changed direction from the last year. NATO is out mixing it up with the enemy more. Early in the year you would read reports about troops staying in their bases, and calling in artillery or air strikes on one or two insurgents they would see moving around outside the wire. That’s using a very inaccurate hammer to kill a gnat. Now you read about patrols dismounting and engaging the enemy and killing them by the dozens. I understand that it’s easy for me to say we need to be more aggressive, I’m sitting in the middle of the headquarters, but it does need be done for two reasons.

First is that getting out is the only way to really hurt the enemy. Take away their sense of security, and keep them looking over their shoulder for a patrol and it is that much harder for them to get organized, it also helps the locals to know that the cavalry may just arrive in time. Second reason is it helps our reputation. Afghans, especially Pustuns have a warrior culture. They don’t mind us using the heavy weapons as long as we mix it up man to man. Staying in the bases makes them view us as cowards. If they don’t respect you, then they don’t tip you off when the insurgents are in the area, or when someone buries and IED.

Now I’ve talked a lot about how much I like the Afghans I’ve met, and the other NATO folks I work with. However one thing I always keep in mind is that the last two US soldiers killed in Kabul were killed by an Afghan soldier who was actually a member of the Taliban. I’ve got three or four references from the staff for every guy I deal with at the bazaar, and I never go alone, but I don’t know enough about the society here to ever drop my guard. As the saying goes, I am polite, I am professional, and I have a plan to kill everyone I meet.

Not much to tell really, the Commander makes his decision tomorrow as to whether we stay or we go. Until then we are in a holding pattern.

These missives are a little stale - but still offer that window into the day to day life of being deployed in Afghanistan, from a staff officer's perspective.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 07, 2007

September 6, 2007

News from our man in the 'stan.

This is dated, admittedly. I held slowed down on some for OPSEC reasons. Bill's already talked about the Pakis moving into the tribal areas - so OPSEC isn't important any more - but these are still good small windows into the life of a Fobbit, our Sailor in a Strange Land.

So I’m walking to my office and I see an Air Force Captain I used to work with as a contractor. He usually gives part of the morning briefing, and I hadn’t seen him for a few days.

Me, holding out my hand: “Hey Dave I haven’t seen you in about a week, I thought maybe you rotated home.”

Him, shaking my hand: “Oh no, I had a severe case of Viral Meningitis, I was in an isolation ward up in Baghram Air Base for four days with a morphine drip.”

Me thinking: Great, maybe you could have told me that before you shook my hand?”

At the gym the TV deviates between Al Jazeera and an Indian music video channel. Best way to describe them is Al Jazeera is CNN without the Paris Hilton coverage, and the other is like MTV when all they showed was videos. One song (Miraksam) stayed in my mind so much I downloaded it. It’s from a movie called Waqt apparently. A lot of the videos seem to be either by movie stars or have stars in them. Sometimes you can tell by the way the camera switches to someone that you’re supposed to say “Hey! Isn’t that so and so?” Of course I don’t know who any of those people are, but the videos are fun. No angsty Emo bands glowering at the camera in eyeliner or “artistic” use of puppets to show how bad life is when you’re a rich American rock star.

Speaking again about cultural differences, I heard mention this morning that the command was going to start a radio comedy hour to help get their message across. My first thought was “Fighting is easy, comedy is hard.” If they try to write the jokes themselves I don’t think its going to be a success. There is a lot of shared cultural shorthand in a good joke. Anyway, I spent a good couple of minutes after that coming up with names. “Ahkbar and Andy in the Morning”, “Herat Home Companion”, “The Burns and Allah Show”, depends on the format really.

Its starting to look like Pakistan is going to move into the border tribal areas. It’s also starting to look like they don’t want us to be involved. Good news is that Pakistanis, being local, are better able to separate out the wheat from the chaff. Bad news is that the Pakistanis, being local, have some sympathy for the Taliban. We will have to see how this shakes out.

Sun Tzu talked about military force being like water; it avoids the obstacles and seeks the low, easy ground. That’s one of the problems in fighting an insurgency in this terrain. As you attack in one province, they can flow to another where there aren’t any operations going on. On the large scale, that’s what they do by moving into Pakistan. Most likely when the Pakistanis move into Waziristan, the Taliban will try to flow back across the border. That’s a good chance for us to be the anvil to their hammer.

The Father of the Nation is dead. King Zahir Shah is dead at ninety-two and buried in Kabul. He ruled Afghanistan for forty years before being exiled in 1972. He was probably the most popular man here overall. He was king during some generally good ties for Afghanistan, especially considering what happened later. I saw parts of his funeral when I was over visiting my carpet guys. Now it wasn’t as smooth as say the British do it, but they have about a thousand years of experience with burying kings. I do know it was heartfelt, and the Afghans I was with were watching reverently. President Karzai was there of course, a long with some tough looking old guys that were former Mujahaddin. Old men in Afghanistan, with their flowing white beards, look both really tough and really smart. Of course you have to be both tough and smart to be old in Afghanistan.

It rained here a couple of days ago. It cuts the dust and the heat for a while, but brings all sorts of interesting smells. Kabul is in a bowl, so most of the hard stuff falls in the mountains. Of course that brings flooding, and with so many roads here actually being dry stream beds, and can get dangerous. Disaster relief is a big part of the mission here for everyone, the UN, relief agencies, and us. Once winter sets in the insurgency cools down, the ground is too hard to bury IEDs, and the mountain passes fill with snow, so it gets harder for them to move. (That’s why people always talk about the “Spring Offensive”, happens every year.) Also during the winter you get villages that are already isolated by bad roads get eight feet of snow dumped on them. Once they run out of whatever supplies they had, they need help. That snow in the mountains melts at the end of winter, and you get serious flooding in the valleys from all that run off. Add the occasional earthquake, and you have a pretty busy year.

Now everyone here wants to help, and the first instinct is for NATO to rush in with helicopters full of supplies to ease the suffering, but that’s not what we do. Remember, this is their country. If the Afghan government is going to get better, and the people start relying on their government, then they have to do it, not us. We lend a hand where we are able, but any work we do is under the authority of the Afghan government, and it’s the Afghan government, from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness down to the local cop that the people are going to see in charge.

Three things to remember here:

We are teaching them to fish, not giving them fish.
It’s their country, we are guests here.
It is what it is. (My favourite, deal with the reality on the ground, not with what you wish it was – or as the locals say “Insh’allah” God wills it.)

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 06, 2007

September 5, 2007


Or, perhaps, more accurately, Artillacops.


By Spc. L.B. Edgar
7th MPAD

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Over six months into his deployment, artilleryman Pfc. Brandon Tripp has yet to move his Howitzer, let alone fire it. His M-4 rifle, on the other hand, has not received a day off since its owner stepped foot in Baghdad.

On patrol in the western section of the capital, Tripp stops to speak with residents, play with children and look for anything to indicate signs of the elusive enemy. The out-of-sight antagonist hides within a few million citizens in an urban jungle making capture more difficult than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Tripp, a 26-year-old native of Jackson, Ohio, is not alone. Soldiers working throughout Baghdad to improve security face an enemy who does not fall under a flag, wear a uniform or fight under an organized command structure.

This morning, Tripp's eyes are on the watch for any sign of danger as he walks down the streets of Hateen, a neighborhood within Baghdad's Mansour District, with his unit, 4th Platoon, Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment. The mission is to search the homes of eesidents with the assistance of troops from the 6th Iraqi Army Division, said the battery's commander, Capt. Brian McCall.

By the end of the operation, the Soldiers had searched approximately eight blocks of the neighborhood and confiscated a few contraband weapons. Simply removing a few rifles and hand guns off the streets did not necessarily make the mission a success. But the time the Soldiers used to talk with residents about helping them expel the enemy in hiding was, said McCall, a native of Junction City, Kan.

"By getting out and talking with the local populace, we've been able to build a good rapport and as a result they've passed us tips, which have helped us find (improvised explosive devices) and guys who are causing trouble," McCall said. "A lot of times people are nervous talking to us on the street. So, we'll quietly hand them a card in a handshake. It doesn't look like they're being complicit but they're encouraged to call."

McCall said his phone rings off the hook thanks to tip cards and the signs attached to the battery's Humvees, which advertise an e-mail address and phone number for information. To improve the chances of residents making a call or sending an e-mail, the troops frequently hit the sweltering streets.

Operating in Hateen for more than seven months, Tripp takes every opportunity on patrol to make small talk with residents, he said. "A lot of people in the neighborhood remember our names," he said. "I think that helps."

Yet, no matter how much Soldiers like Tripp think they know the people, they are never really certain who is truly a friend or foe. The unauthorized weapons the Soldiers routinely confiscate could be for defending the home or killing Soldiers.

"We talk to them once a week and then all of a sudden, we go in on a raid, and find 10 AKs in their house," Tripp said, explaining that many Iraqis feel the need to stockpile weapons for protection. "You just don't know who to trust."

Under such conditions cultivating trust is an uphill battle. But fortunately many of Hateen's educated residents understand violence is not the way ahead for Iraq, McCall explained. However, there are groups opposed to progress in Hateen. Cells of al-Qaida in Iraq and Jaish Al Mahdi, commonly referred to as JAM, a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, operate in Hateen, he said.

As Tripp and his fellow artillery Soldiers were patrolling the streets of Hateen, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of Multi-National Corps - Baghdad, recently told reporters Iraqi and Coalition Forces are making progress against insurgents and extremists in Baghdad. "The surge of Coalition Forces had an impact in denying sanctuary to al-Qaida in Iraq and Shia extremists," Odierno said.

According to McCall, Hateen is one of those sanctuaries. The neighborhood is very affluent, composed primarily of educated Sunni residents and professionals such as engineers, doctors and school teachers. But it also houses financiers and planners, who masquerade as professionals, but essentially are the brains behind many operations against the government of Iraq and Coalition Forces, McCall said.

"They're very quiet and they don't do very many things in their own backyard per se. We have not found any large caches in our area. Nor has any intelligence led us to believe there are large groups of fighters (in Hateen)," McCall said. "It makes it a lot harder to find (them)
because they are smart and can cover their tracks."

In addition to the insurgent and extremist cells bent on destabilizing Hateen, Tripp and his unit also are combating sectarian violence. A dispute between two families in the neighborhood has caused sectarian strife. Violence between the families has escalated to reprisal killings, bombings and collateral damage, McCall said.

"They've started to fight amongst each other," he said. "While it may not be al-Qaida or JAM, it's still violent action in our neighborhood that's causing problems. So we're trying to bring the killers to justice."

In addition to policing the neighborhood, artillerymen like Tripp, are asked to work toward the reconstruction of Hateen's essential services, including the restoration of electricity, sewerage and trash pickup, McCall said.

"We're artillerymen, so we're used to firing Howitzers." McCall said. "But our Howitzers haven't moved out of the motor pool the whole time we've been here."

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 05, 2007

September 4, 2007

Evidence of the impact of the surge.


By 2nd Lt. Ryan Wood 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Regt.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq - In an effort to adapt to the ever-changing battlefield in the heart of Iraq, the "Rangers" of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, are on the move. With a recent drop in sectarian violence in the Ranger area and the increased need for services, the battalion has been able to shift its focus to helping to provide essential services to eastern Baghdad residents.

"Our initial task when we arrived in Baghdad was threefold," said Ranger Commander Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich. "We were to reduce sectarian violence, assist in the development of Iraqi security forces and assist in providing essential services to the people. Our efforts up until now
have decreased the violence level significantly, and now we are reorganizing to better achieve our remaining objectives."

Before August, the Rangers were responsible for five sections in eastern Baghdad that comprised 32 neighborhoods. With the new distribution of forces, Task Force Ranger will now only be responsible for four areas with a population of approximately 350,000 people.

According to Kauzlarich, this change will allow a greater concentration of forces and better align the Ranger's boundaries with the Iraqis with whom they work. This change from clearance to control operations won't cause major changes in the daily actions of the companies operating in the area, said Maj. Brent Cummings, the battalion executive officer. It will allow an evolution to operations that are less intrusive on the general population.

"The companies will continue to conduct combat patrols and dominate the terrain," Cummings said. "What will change is a shift to more intelligence-driven, pinpoint raids instead of clearance operations, allowing us to control the zone better." The boundary shift also has aligned 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Regt. with a single National Police battalion instead of the two the Rangers were working with in the past. This will allow much better communication, coordination and training opportunities, Kauzlarich said.

The increased security and drop in violence also has allowed a more concentrated effort to provide essential services to the people. With many Iraqis in the area living with no power, water or sewage removal, the efforts of the Rangers and the local Iraqi security forces are their only links to these needs.

"Our guys are involved in building essential services every day," Cumming said. "They will help ISF provide security for essential services projects and work with the ISF to bring new projects into the neighborhoods so that the people can see and benefit from the results of the security that Task Force Ranger is providing."

Dozens of projects are being worked throughout the Ranger area, with many nearing completion. Sewage projects, water treatment, power generation and transmission, and school rehabilitation projects all are in progress.

In one much-needed project, the battalion is providing 40,000 gallons of water per week to local neighborhoods and increasing that amount to 94,500 gallons per week by the end of the month.

Yeah, I know, I'm just an uncritical shill for the government. Just like those news outlets that uncritically publish the work of al-AP stringers are uncritical shills for jihadis.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Sep 04, 2007

August 28, 2007

Update from the Edge of the Edge

The Shadows were watching TV at late chow (2330 Pakitime) and I was curious to see what they were watching (they *love* "Indian Idol"). Considering all the action up north, I wasn't really surprised to see it was the news. I haven't mastered Urdu by a long shot, but the broadcaster was speaking Hindustani, which uses quite a few words from both English and Urdu, so I was able to get the gist of it.

There was a big dustup in southern Afghanistan earlier. No word on coalition casualties yet, but at least a hundred Taliban KIA. Right across the border from where the Frontier Forces were firing H&Is the other night.

The strategy of find 'em, flush 'em and fight 'em seems to be working so far.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In other news, all nineteen kidnapped troops (fifteen local militia and a Frontier Forces colonel and his traveling party) were due to be released yesterday afternoon (today's early morning for everybody except Murray, Trias and OFS) -- no official word on their release yet. The Mehuda tribal council is still speaking softly, but the pro-Taliban militants in their area can definitely see the big stick that's only a cellphone call up the road -- about 40,000 Army and Frontier Force troops.

by CW4BillT on Aug 28, 2007

News from our Man in the 'Stan.

The landlocked sailor's updates continue.

Another week down. I’m getting more comfortable here. I still miss things like the color green and the smell of cleanliness, but over all, its not bad here at all. I have more room than if I was on ship, better food than the front, and decent company.

I’m friendly with a couple of kids at the bazaar, and a couple of them give me presents of little necklaces or bracelets if I come by. As a thank you to two of them I gave them each a soccer ball from my family to honor the presents they gave me. Now everybody wants a soccer ball. At first I was upset at being seen as a big American flagged ATM, who can just conjure up presents from the great PX, but I really can’t blame them, it’s an honest assessment of how they see us and our way of life. I doubt they think it’s a big hardship for me. Sure there is the assumption that every American is super-rich, but there is also the assumption that every American is super-generous. Not a bad way to be seen overall.

Anyway, buying things at somewhat unreasonable prices is my contribution to the war effort. A huge part of this war is in the minds of the Afghanistan people. If they trust their government, and trust that we are here to help, we win. If they don’t believe that, things get a lot tougher. We are in a contest with the Taliban over civilian casualties. Every person killed in an airstrike is tallied against ones killed by suicide bombers and IEDs. Not a very happy thing overall, so we do what we can on the positive side, showing that we do care for and respect the Afghans. It may not always go the way we plan, but we do try.

With all the problems here, the Taliban, the corruption, the drugs, and the interference from over the border, one big one is the lack of what I call cultural imagination. Quite a lot of the people here want a better life, and are willing to take great risks and work very hard to make that happen. Everyone understands that if the boys and girls get to go to school, and the infrastructure improves life gets better. The issue is convincing people to put aside some of the deeply ingrained cultural issues like honor killings and blood feuds. Its always very tricky mucking with people’s culture, and the best way to do that may be just by example. It also doesn’t help that there is no Afghan culture. You have Afghans in the big city, but outside, people are sub-tribes of the Pushtun Ghilzai, Pushtun Durrani, Tajiks or Dari.

When I was at the Market I promised to come back and get some jewellery I was looking at after I ran some quick errands. It took longer than I what I told him, and when I got back he said “I did not think you would come back, but my friend said that if Allah was merciful you would, and here you are.” Interesting enough, it was the first time anyone mentioned Allah to me. That probably means that I don’t get out enough.

On Fridays we usually take a shuttle over to Camp Eggers for a few hours to provide a little variety. The shuttles are Afghan owned mini-vans that are contracted to drive us around. I always keep a sharp eye out for attacks, but the main worry is other drivers. There are no traffic laws in Afghanistan, in fact there aren’t even traffic suggestions! (I’m here all week! Try the veal!) My barracks is right near the compound wall, and every couple of hours you can hear someone locking up the brakes outside.

I said hello to some Afghan National Policemen yesterday on the way back from visiting my rug guy. I really respect those men. They are under armed, underpaid (if at all) and out there pretty much alone. They are a favourite target for the Taliban because they thrive on lawlessness. They exist to be bait for the Taliban so NATO and the Afghan Army can find out where the enemy is. You want to know what selfless sacrifice looks like? It looks like an Afghan policeman.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 28, 2007

August 27, 2007

Moving the Edge

And it looks like I've got a ringside seat.

This morning's above-the-fold from The Nation:

Coalition forces hit Taliban inside Pak Say raid carried out after permission from Islamabad: Pakistan military denies claim

Kabul (AFP) -- US-led and Afghan troops struck Taliban positions in fresh clashes with the extremist militia that left at least 19 rebels dead, security forces said Sunday.
The US-led coalition said it received permission from Pakistan to attack across the border on Saturday, but this was denied by the chief military spokesman in Islamabad.

Relevant excerpts follow.

Afghan and coalition forces used mortar and artillery fire to destroy insurgent attacking positions on both sides of the border after a military post in Afghanistan came under attack, the coalition said in a statement. The Afghan army saw Taliban fighters firing mortars and rockets from several positions and Pakistan's military confirmed three of the firing sites were on their soil, the statement said...Six insurgent firing sites were destroyed, three on each side of the border, and more than a dozen insurgents were killed...US military spokeswoman, Captain Vanessa Bowman, insisted to AFP that "this was fully-coordinated with Pakistan and agreed on. There is a very close working relationship (with Pakistan) to eliminate this kind of threat," she said.

In the Op Area -- North Waziristan: In Miranshah, pro-Taliban militants rocketed and then assaulted a checkpoint in Ismailkhel, killing a soldier. Troops then counterattacked, killing five and wounding seven. In Banda, troops walked H&I fires along the border for ninety minutes -- no report of the results, but the Taliban and their allies have been restive in that area.
-- South Waziristan: Negotiations are underway between the tribal council of the Mehuda and militants who kidnapped nineteen government officials (note: around here, a government official is any public servant, from local postman to local senator). In Ladha, a Frontier Forces colonel "and three others" were kidnapped; negotiations are continuing for the release of the fifteen troops kidnapped earlier in the same region.

On the Street: Four policemen were killed in Machar when a suicide bomber they halted at a checkpoint blew himself up to avoid arrest. Police in Karachi killed a recently-released-on-bail bomber in a shootout -- he was a late member of a militant Sunni group calling itself Lashkar-e-Jangvi, which appears to specialize in badly-made parcel bombs; they sent out ten a few years ago and seven of them fizzled. Baluchistan, just across the river to the west of Shangri-La (if you think I just blew OPSEC, guess again -- Baluchistan's a thousand klicks in length) is heating up. Local pro-Taliban types have been grenading barber shops and threatening to kill Baluchi men who trim their beards.

[Armorer's note - Catch up on Bill's Excellent Adventure in the Archives.]

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on Aug 27, 2007 | TrackBack (0)

August 25, 2007

A Dissertation Upon the Differences Between the MSM and The MSM

Well, between the MSM over here and the MSM back home, anyway.

Today's below-the-fold headline from The Nation:

250 militants, 60 troops killed in one month

End of dissertation.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by CW4BillT on Aug 25, 2007 | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2007

News from our Man in the 'Stan.

Which is not Bill, he's our Man in a different 'Stan... this would be Joe, the Landlocked Sailor.

There has been some news about al-Qaeda re-energizing on the border. Some of that is true. The Pushtun people live on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and both sides don’t recognize the border, but consider themselves a part of Pushtunistan. So there is a lot of traffic across the area, and the part of Pakistan near the border (Waziristan) is pretty much run by the local tribes and not President Musharraf. That adds up to a perfect safe haven for the enemy. It’s easy for them to get across the border into Pakistan, and it’s pretty much impossible for us or the Pakistanis to get them there. That being said, being able to rest easy in a cave for a week is not the same as being able to plan, organize and operate. I think that after the revolt of the Red Mosque, the Pakistanis may have changed their minds about the “live and let live” agreement they have there. Time will tell, the concern here is still the Taliban, and the related militias, but ISAF and the Afghans are ready.

I’m browsing through about four books on Afghanistan now. “CROSSLINES Essential Field Guide to Humanitarian and Conflict Zones –Afghanistan”; “Afghanistan – The Mirage of Peace”; A Dari dictionary and proverbs book; and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (from the author of “The Kite Runner”) It helps get a broader sense of what’s happening here and how the history and culture shapes the place.

In one of the books, I can’t remember which one; they interviewed a European man who was doing agricultural aid in Afghanistan since the early 80s when the Soviets were here. He said “The best agricultural aid the Americans sent were Stinger missiles. The missiles got rid of the helicopters, and with the helicopters gone the people could go out in safety and work the land.”

I think that’s a good overview of what we are doing. There are plenty of really good people with agencies like OXFAM and Children’s Charities here doing really good things to help the Afghans, (like Shanna’s friend with “Women of Hope.”) With the exception of some projects requiring bulldozers and helicopters, the military really can’t do humanitarian aid better. Unfortunately there are some people here that require help of, shall we say, a more kinetic nature. That’s what we are for, helping the good people by killing the bad. (As far as I know, Catholic Charities doesn’t do that - maybe if it had more Jesuits in it.)

I went to the gym last night for an hour’s kickboxing class. Half was hitting pads and the other was us sparring with each other. (“Hit the other guy in the stomach for 30 seconds…go!”) I got kicked in the chest so hard it knocked my religious medal off. It was a great workout however. By the end I could barely lift my boxing gloves up high enough to protect myself. A fact my sparring partner reminded me of every time he hit me in the head (I think it was a lot). They have it again tomorrow; I’ll have to see if I’m healed up and stupid enough to go back. (Editors Note: No, I’m not that stupid, being seen as a quitter may hurt, but being kicked in the face hurts more.)

On the job front, the staff seems ready to give us a chance to work the tools we brought. I don’t know what the commander will say, but we cross that bridge when we come to it. We spent quite a lot of time recently preparing a briefing on the costs and benefits of both programs. Lots of long nights for us and early mornings for the team back in Norfolk. We’re continuing to do the best we can to help the staff here, but I still feel a bit like Schrödinger’s cat. I won’t know if we are alive or dead until General McNeil opens the box.

Funny bit of trivia, Colombo filmed a two part episode at the Citadel. In one scene Peter Falk is looking at the grass on the parade deck and a golden retriever comes bounding over to play, followed by an apologetic cadet and his girlfriend. That cadet is Capt Grayson. He said they were walking the dog when it got loose and ran into the shot. Peter Falk stayed in character, and they kept filming.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 24, 2007 | TrackBack (0)

August 23, 2007

Life with our Man in the 'Stan. which we learn he's a softie. Oh, he's a warrior, no doubt, as this Motivator of his suggests...

Well another day at the bazaar, and apparently I walked in with “all day sucker” on my forehead again. Still I got some decent deals, and some interesting things, and was served some hot green tea in a glass. I’ve got about four kids that I buy from now, plus my scarf guy, my wood guy, and my carpet guy.

One of the kids tried to sell me pictures of Ahmad Shah Masoud. He was a Northern Alliance commander who fought the Russians, fought the Taliban, and ended being killed by al-Qeada (coincidently) on September 9th 2001, and is now a national hero His picture is everywhere, on rugs, posters, in car windows and on the sides of buildings. Since before the beginning of this war, we have been fighting with more Afghans then we have been fighting against.

Other than the fun of going to Camp Eggers on Friday, every day is the same. I think we made some real progress this week, and got some good comments out of the staff. We were working with a German captain from the humanitarian and civil affairs department (I know, right?) He’s a weightlifter and looks and talks like a young Arnold. The German Army wears pretty much the same rank, same hats, and same spotted camouflage that they had in WWII. If you gave Uncle Joe his M-1 and told him to pick out someone to shoot, he’d probably have no trouble.

Today is Bastille Day, there apparently was wine, cheese and song last night. The French have a pretty decent contingent here. The chief of plans here is General Khone, an excellent officer. I don’t know if there will be celebrations tonight or not. Since I can’t leave this topic without a little bit of snark. I would observe that we celebrate the end of our revolution (which would not have happened without the French) and they celebrate the beginning of theirs. That’s because ours ended up so much better.

Two stories before I send this, one quick, one not so quick.

I was at breakfast this morning, and in front of the bins where the sausage and bacon was a hand lettered sign saying “PORK”.

My first thought was “Good, they are being respectful of the Turks and Pakistanis and other Muslims here.”

My second thought was “Oh my God, what HAVE they been making the bacon out of!”

I don’t think I want to know…still tastes good though.

Before I left Chip came up with a great idea to keep connected. I won him a large penguin at Busch Gardens, so for a few weeks I slept with the penguin, and he slept with a smaller stuffed animal. Then when I left we traded, and true to my word I have it on my bed. Now I know that at least my Army Colonel roommate and a couple of Italian sergeants who traded out my mattress wonder why a seventeen year Navy veteran sleeps with a stuffed blue whale, but they are too polite (or too weirded out) to ask. I think I’ll keep them guessing.


Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 23, 2007

August 22, 2007

Excerpts from the speech the President will deliver today in Kansas City.

There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we are fighting today. But one important similarity is that at their core, they are all ideological struggles. The militarists of Japan and the Communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity. They killed Americans because we stood in the way of their attempt to force this ideology on others. Today, the names and places have changed, but the fundamental character of the struggle has not. Like our enemies in the past, the terrorists who wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places seek to spread a political vision of their own – a harsh plan for life that crushes all freedom, tolerance, and dissent. Like our enemies in the past, they kill Americans because we stand in the way of their goal of imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world. This enemy is dangerous, this enemy is determined, and this enemy will be defeated.

We are still in the early hours of the current ideological struggle, but we know how the others ended, and that knowledge helps guide our efforts today. The ideals and interests that led America to help the Japanese turn defeat into democracy are the same that lead us to remain engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq. The defense strategy that refused to hand the South Koreans over to a totalitarian neighbor helped raise up an Asian Tiger that is a model for developing countries across the world, including the Middle East. And the fruit of American sacrifice and perseverance in Asia is a freer, more prosperous, and stable continent – whose people want to live in peace with America – not attack America.

Since there's already a lot of words on the page today - the rest of this is in the Flash Traffic/Extended entry.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows �

by John on Aug 22, 2007

Brits can fight - when their leaders let them.

Of course, we might never hear about it... unless their leaders let them.

AN Army sniper hero has beaten an MoD ban to reveal the true story of the most epic battle fought by British troops in Iraq.

Sgt Dan Mills has told of the bloody, six-month Siege of Cimic House, which defence chiefs tried to conceal.

The Sun today begins serialisation of the platoon commander’s book Sniper One - click here to read more.

But wait! There's more!

...100 soldiers of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment refused to retreat despite running low on ammo and food. Mills and his 14 sharpshooters killed as many as 400 rebels.

The company lost one of their own, Private Chris Rayment, 22, from London. Six were badly wounded.

The 2004 siege is the longest defensive stand fought by the Army since the Second World War.

Yet MoD media bosses imposed a news blackout, leaving the incident still largely unknown today.

Defence bosses also pressured Sgt Mills, 39, to drop the book — and are now trying to stop him receiving any payment for it.

Given the gag order they've imposed, at this point they're following the script, and if the Sergeant published in the face of the ban, yeah, okay.

Of course, the ban, as imposed, is just stupid, with no accounting for nuance. It's typical bad-commander-covering-his-butt over-broadly written.

Anyway - the saga of the fight continues.

by John on Aug 22, 2007

August 21, 2007

News from Afghanistan.

The series continues. Just life as a fobbit, this one being a Sailor in a landlocked country. Some of these will be a little dated, as they went to family first, then got sent to me to run for all y'all. Our landlocked sailor, btw - is also the creator of the Motivator series...

As I said Friday is our day off. So yesterday I went to the bazaar for some shopping. One of the interesting things about the bazaar is the bargaining. Its pretty easy to get to something that both can agree on, but of course only the seller knows what the real cost is. Some of the good ideas are to do your homework, to stick with single merchants you trust, buy in bulk, and be honest. It also helps to at least attempt to speak a few words of Pushtun. (“Hello”, “please”, “thank you”, is “A Salaam Alekum”, “luftan” and “tashakor”)

There really are no thieves here. Being allowed to sell on the bases is a really good deal. It’s all cash and there are lots of people wanting to buy. Now while they will mostly not cheat you, they will also not stop you from cheating yourself. For example if your starting offer is twice what they would have started with, they won’t tell you to bring it down, they will just accept it. The tradition is that they will offer you gifts as one friend to another to get right with Allah for taking advantage. Mostly I was offered gifts (a distressingly large amount of gifts) but I do owe one young man a soccer ball for a necklace he promised to sell me for whatever I had on me. I saw his face fall when I opened my wallet. Bulk buys at an honest price will also get you gifts, and I had a few for just being friendly.

There is one 12 year old named Masood who remembered that two weeks ago I promised to come by his stall and by something. I did, when I opened my wallet and he saw the picture of Caroline and Chip he gave me a necklace for each of them. He is a sharp young man, and I should probably give him my resume, I think he’ll own his own company some day.)

Bargaining is fine, and I figure anything I pay a horrendous extra amount for is going directly to the Afghans, so I don’t really mind all that much. They are also pretty friendly, ask to see the different level of quality in a carpet or anything and they are pretty up front. I am staying away from the antiques though, I don’t know enough to really spot the fakes.

Saturday night is Mass. A priest comes over from the Italian embassy. It was an interesting display of the Catholic community. We had Spaniards, Frenchmen, Poles, Italians, Irish and Americans. The mass was mostly in English, with the readings in whatever language was the reader’s native one. Father did use Latin for the blessing of the Eucharist, though, which threw me. When we said the Our Father, we said it first together in English, then once again in each language. All in all it did feel the same as mass anywhere else.

The Italian embassy has what is probably the only Catholic Church in Afghanistan. They Afghans let them build it because Italy was very supportive after the collapse of the Soviet backed regime, when most of the rest of the world lost interest. A friend of mine who went there said she met a nun who has been in Afghanistan for about twenty years. She said that when the Taliban were in power they would often ask her to pray for them. While they didn’t really respect her religion, they did respect her dedication to it.

Things keep moving on here, we’re still trying to fit our tools in with the staff, and trying different configurations of support.

Update: Since the question arose in email - no, Our man in the 'Stan is not the guy who blogs at Military Motivator - though he obviously uses the same muse as Joe, our man in the 'Stan. Joe's stuff has been released into the wild via this space and his email list - I just recently saw they've been posted on the Usenet, too.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 21, 2007

August 18, 2007

News of Fort Riley and the 1st Division.


<p>Photo by Spc. L.B. Edgar, 7th MPAD</p>

<p>Pfc. Brandon Tripp, an artilleryman with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, keeps a watchful eye while Soldiers speak with residents of Hateen, a neighborhood in Baghdad's Mansour District. The joint operation between coalition forces and Iraqi security forces disrupted insurgent activities in the area with a search of residents' homes.


Photo by Spc. L.B. Edgar, 7th MPAD

Pfc. Brandon Tripp, an artilleryman with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, keeps a watchful eye while Soldiers speak with residents of Hateen, a neighborhood in Baghdad's Mansour District. The joint operation between coalition forces and Iraqi security forces disrupted insurgent activities in the area with a search of residents' homes.

Okay, this next bit is for Maggie - Sailors at Fort Riley - about as far away from salt water as you can get in this country...

Hey - they're sure going to be "joint" when it's all over... and I think Lieutenant Del Carpio is *really* going to appreciate being in the Navy, based on how she's found Army life so far...


By Gary Skidmore
1st Brigade

Navy Cmdr. Phil Blaine is a pharmacist. He's also a member of a transition team destined for Afghanistan. He and the other members of his team will be standing up a hospital when they deploy, but first, they have to get through their training at Fort Riley.

The equipment they wear weighs between 50 and 70 pounds and for someone who isn't used to wearing it, it doesn't take long to get worn down. That was the hardest thing Navy Lt. Priscilla Del Carpio had to deal with. "Never in a million years did I think I'd be doing all this Army stuff," Del Carpio said. "I knew I'd be deploying sooner or later, but I always thought it would have been with the Navy.

'The body armor is something you get used to eventually," Del Carpio said. "But when I first put it on I thought, 'holy moly,' and then add your weapons and all your other gear; it wears you down. "It doesn't hurt nearly as bad as it did the first two days I wore it," she said. "The first day I wore it, I really thought I was going to cry,"

Another thing Del Carpio said she had to get used to were the terms the Army uses. "They speak a different language then we do," she said. "Sometimes we have them slow down and explain what they just said. But we're getting used to it and it's become second nature to us now."

Blaine, Del Caprio and the rest of their team were learning building clearing techniques, one of the most dangerous jobs there is, said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Walder, the first sergeant for Battery G, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment. "We're showing them the basic stack procedures, sectors of fire and entry techniques," Walder said.

The training is progressive, Walder said. "It's the crawl, walk, run method of teaching. We're starting everyone off in 'glass houses,'" said Walder, explaining a glass house as a taped-off area symbolizing a building with rooms. The next level for the teams to master is a closed building.

"It's basically the same thing as the glass house but we've added walls and have them work in a dimly-lighted area," Walder said. From there, the last step is a blank-fire assault on a building. "We've added pictures of the enemy and of friendly bystanders," Walder said. "As they make their way through the building they have to pick and choose where they fire.

"Knowing how to do this is a great basic skill to have," Walder said. "No matter what type of unit they belong to, if you get told you have to do this, there's no such thing as an administrative move. You will have to do it, and knowing how will save their lives."

"This is like drinking water through a fire hose," Blaine said of the training. "There's so much to do, so much to learn. We're like sponges and taking it all in." Blaine said since he and his team have been training, they've done a lot of marksmanship, convoy movements, classroom work and language training. "We've had a lot of classroom work in the Dari language," Blaine said.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to converse with our counterparts when we get there. At least we'll be able to say 'hello' and 'goodbye.'"

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 18, 2007

August 14, 2007

News from the 'Stan.

Update 3 from our Fobbit out in the Misty Mountains Old... a Sailor serving in a land-locked war.

It’s been a little over a week and it already seems like Groundhog Day. Things are progressing rather well, job wise we are still trying to come to grips with where in this staff we should be. The tools we brought have some benefit, and we are trying to figure out where best they can be applied. It’s a slow process; we’re trying to integrate with a staff that’s very busy and constantly on the move.

Still plugging along. I know I got some chuckles over the Army chow, but hey Steak and Seafood day on Fridays sometimes has fried shrimp instead of lobster. The food here is actually pretty good. There is an Arab company doing our messhall, and they keep it pretty diverse. Being NATO you also have the occasional sauerbraten and Marmite is always available for the Brits. No Pirogues yet. I usually stick with Raisin Bran and bacon for breakfast; kabob for lunch (basically a gyro without the bread: meat, lettuce, cucumber and yogurt sauce); and curry and rice for dinner. Tried the pizza last night, not enough sauce and the bread was NOT pizza dough. Some things are better left to the experts.

Fobbit Feed in teh 'Stan - more of them 'obscene amenities'...

Schedule here is I get up about 5 or 5:30 and head for the gym (I know, I’m just as surprised as you are.) Shower, eat, work, eat, work, have a team meeting to discuss the work we did, eat, and then watch a movie on the laptop or read until about 9pm. Not such a bad schedule, it’s a little screwy because we deal with the staff here and with our rear team analysts back in Norfolk. We get pretty busy with Norfolk right around the time we stop working with the staff. Time change means they are getting to work in Norfolk when we are stopping work here. (Kabul is 8.5 hours ahead of Norfolk.)

Want to talk about the mission. Overall we are here to support the Afghan government get on its feet. There are three main problems we face: insurgents, drugs and corruption.

Insurgency is not just the Taliban, you have some related Islamic warlord types such as Ghulbbudin and Haqqani, some numbers of Al Qaeda and related foreigners here to fight the Great Satan, and local thugs trying to carve out sections of the country. They have been taking a real kick in the pants lately. The fighting season starts in spring, when the mountain passes clear of snow and the ground thaws enough to plant IEDs. This year when the insurgents came out of their holes they found NATO waiting. They have been off balance ever since, and we intend to keep them off balance all the time. No rest for Mullah Omar this winter. They are getting desperate, we are killing or capturing their best, and they can feel it all slipping away.

Growing poppy for heroin is fairly common, especially in the south. The money helps the insurgency, and causes a lot of corruption. The problem with eradication is giving farmers alternatives. Opium is labor intensive and easy to transport and store. The farmer hires lots of locals to score the poppy and collect the sap. Any replacement crops will have to support these people. Other problem is roads, it takes a lot of time to get crops out to market, and fruit and vegetables would probably rot before they got there. We can take the crops away, but we have to give them something back. My hope is cotton.

Third, and in my opinion the most important is corruption. Lots of people are making a buck off the drugs, and from graft. Its not just Chicago style “donate to the selectman and get a job as a fireman” type stuff (known as “Backsheesh”) but Afghan Policemen getting their entire paycheck stolen. Even when they do get pay, its not enough to live on. Its hard to fault them for being paid to look the other way. While I would like to have some high ranking scalps, the best way to attack that is probably direct deposit. Fix the banking system, and no one gets their hands on these guys pay.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 14, 2007

August 13, 2007

A thought for the Copperheads...

"Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate 'war, pestilence, and famine' than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun.... The most favorable posthumous history the stay-at-home traitor can hope for is -- oblivion."

~~ Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs

I wonder how General Petraeus' memoirs will read...

Confused by the term "Copperhead?" Click here. There's room for argument all around the war. There are plenty of people making the case for principled opposition (though I believe a good chunk of the political opposition to be opportunist) and I recently ran into someone who is war-weary and casualty-conscious in a way that surprised me.

One problem for the conduct of this war is that we've not actually declared it a war (for good reasons and bad) and the administration is painted into the corner of what would traditionally be considered campaigns of an overall war have been mounted as separately authorized undertakings - kind of like WWII being conducted with Congress authorizing the separate Army and Navy campaigns in the Pacific, and each invasion in Europe, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and finally, France - with a re-authorization needed to take the war into Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany.

But, since we've decided to do this without a draft, and don't consider the individual fights to be true battles for survival - that may be apt, I suppose...

Whatcha think?

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 13, 2007

August 11, 2007

A real sign of the change in how wars are fought in the COE...

...the Current Operating Environment.

Let's just say, when I went through Field Artillery Officer Basic in 1980, the Field Artillery Officer Advanced Course in 1985, and the Staff college in the early 90's - *this* was *not* on the curriculum. But look at what this field artillery battery commander does as a part of his duties.


By 1st Lt. Brian Cooke
2nd Bn., 32nd FA Regt.

BAGHDAD - A Multi-National Division - Baghdad unit hosted a small business seminar Aug. 1 in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Yarmouk. "Patriots" from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, have been looking for ways to stimulate economic activity in Yarmouk since the battery took control of the area in early March.

For the past several months, Capt. Jayson Morgan, the battery commander, has been telling local merchants about the small business micro-grant program run by Coalition Forces, but the process of securing a grant turned out to be too complicated for many local business owners.
The seminar, hosted by Bravo Battery in conjunction with 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Infantry Division, was held in the banquet hall of the Yarmouk Health Club.

Dr. Faleh al-Mansour, chairman of the Yarmouk Neighborhood Advisory Council, recommended the location for the seminar and assisted in publicizing the event throughout the area, along with Sheik Samir, the imam of a nearby mosque. Both community leaders attended the event to act as liaisons between the attendees and Coalition Forces.

The main purpose of the seminar was to give local business owners a guide to apply for small business micro-grants. Local entrepreneurs can apply for grants up to $2,500 to help start new businesses or expand existing ones. Loans in larger amounts also are available if the business owner applies and meets certain requirements.

To help explain the technical parts of the application process, two representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke during the seminar. 1st Lt. Alex Barnett, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery's civil military officer and battalion manager of the micro-grant program, also addressed the application process.

Forty-nine men and three women attended the seminar; a number that far exceeded Morgan's expectations. The turnout is evidence of the burgeoning popularity of the micro-grant program. By the end of the seminar, three business owners already were filling out applications,
and two dozen more applications were distributed for later use.

"This is just the beginning," said Morgan after the event. "I've been getting calls all day from Iraqis about when we're having the next one. Clearly the word has gone out that today's seminar was a success."

by John on Aug 11, 2007

August 9, 2007

The Prince of Darkness on why terrorists aren't soldiers., not Robert Novak - retired General Wesley Clark.

Damian Brooks, of Babbling Brooks and The Torch, sent me a link to the NYT Op-Ed piece by the POD.

Damian said:

Where exactly does "criminal" show up in the Geneva Conventions? And isn't "unlawful" a synonym for "criminal" in any event?

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this, John, if you have the time and interest to comment.



Here's the core (as always, you should follow the links and read the whole thing and judge for yourself, not just the excerpt):

Treating terrorists as combatants is a mistake for two reasons. First, it dignifies criminality by according terrorist killers the status of soldiers. Under the law of war, military service members receive several privileges. They are permitted to kill the enemy and are immune from prosecution for doing so. They must, however, carefully distinguish between combatant and civilian and ensure that harm to civilians is limited.

Critics have rightly pointed out that traditional categories of combatant and civilian are muddled in a struggle against terrorists. In a traditional war, combatants and civilians are relatively easy to distinguish. The 9/11 hijackers, by contrast, dressed in ordinary clothes and hid their weapons. They acted not as citizens of Saudi Arabia, an ally of America, but as members of Al Qaeda, a shadowy transnational network. And their prime targets were innocent civilians.

By treating such terrorists as combatants, however, we accord them a mark of respect and dignify their acts. And we undercut our own efforts against them in the process. Al Qaeda represents no state, nor does it carry out any of a state’s responsibilities for the welfare of its citizens. Labeling its members as combatants elevates its cause and gives Al Qaeda an undeserved status.

If we are to defeat terrorists across the globe, we must do everything possible to deny legitimacy to their aims and means, and gain legitimacy for ourselves. As a result, terrorism should be fought first with information exchanges and law enforcement, then with more effective domestic security measures. Only as a last resort should we call on the military and label such activities “war.” The formula for defeating terrorism is well known and time-proven.

I responded:

Clark chooses to ignore the salient point that motivated the whole "unlawful combatant" category.

In fact, he ignores the reason for the insertion of the term "unlawful" into the debate.

The inadequacy of the Conventions (and other Law of Land Warfare agreements) in dealing with non-state actors who act... as de-facto states. Who wish to be states, however nebulous and fuzzy their ideas on the subject are. Al-Qaeda's intent is to first re-establish the old Caliphate (a state) and then to extend it's dominion, by word and sword, until the globe is the Caliphate.

Al-Qaeda fighters *claim* to be soldiers, act as soldiers in many respects, but toss over those distinctions that the Conventions use to separate combatants from non-combatants, even as they may wish to cloak themselves in the protections afforded by the Conventions, while denying them to their opponents.

In other words, they look and act as non-combatants, until they suddenly reveal themselves to be combatants. The traditional law of land warfare actually almost allows for the essentially summary execution of people who behave like that. See "spies and saboteurs."

Clark ignores the fact that the terrs have information of a militarily useful nature, which cannot be gotten at if we accord them the normal protections due a detained civilian murderer.

Nor can we necessarily properly prosecute these people in open court because much of the evidence needed to convict has military and security concerns attached. And, as we've seen as we've let these guys go - a significant number of them "re-offend." By attaching the combatant label to them, we can, under the usages of war, detain them for the duration of the conflict.

All knotty issues, with real concerns attached, from *both* sides of the issue.

But Clark just blows all of that off as essentially irrelevant.

Oddly enough - I agree with him in most aspects, just not in his breadth and scope.

His formulation works, really... if you are aggressive in the law enforcement aspect (think IRA and Basques) up front and continually - but they fail to be useful when it gets to the point to the fight in significant ways - in other words, when the terrorism ceases to function at the level of criminal nuisance and reaches the level of armed conflict.

In other words - I agree with him. Until the situation is such that it truly is a war. When you get to that point, the existing rules are insufficient, as they didn't take into account non-state entities acting as sovereign entities, yet not. That's where we find ourselves, and we have to find a way to account for that.

That there is room to wiggle and for discussion, certainly. That's how the system works.

And, as evil as people wish to portray us - we've not adopted the German, Russian, or French historical solutions to the problem - nor did we ever consider them. But sometimes, listening to he rhetoric, such subtleties and distinctions are seemingly lost.

That's my take.

What's yours?

Update: Lex's take here.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 09, 2007

August 8, 2007


Kevin sent an email:

Now as long as the machines never get self-awareness, I'm happy with that!

Wonder what Hadji thinks when the Tonka toy rolls up?

My response to Kevin was:

The real question to ask - is what are the ROE when hajj sends his grandmother or 8 year old daughter out with a plastic bag to cover the camera?

Or a stick to stick in the track?

These were Kevin's answers:

Good thought, hmmmm. I don't suppose you've mounted a speaker system on it to give instructions or warn off folks? With a lack of Arabic speakers, perhaps pre-recorded msgs that the operator can merely push a button to send?

Why not add a 'bear mace' (South Park comment) cannisters on it for non-lethal deterrence? Arrange them similar to smoke cannisters on APCs, or a spray nozzle for direct fire. That nasty CS foam comes to mind. Preferably colored to mark the perps.

A bit more forceful, but mebbe bean bag ammo for a piggybacked shotgun?

Or.... a nice, fully charged up battery of multiple tasers....


How about a big cannister labled "Lard" (in Arabic) with a wide-spray nozzle? And/or have it shoot up and out like those old wacky water toys we had as kids. A nice umbrella pattern all around the vehicle. Let's see if the jihadis get close to it then! With my evil infidel mind, I like this one best.

I'm sure there are other non-lethal systems out there, but your point is well taken. It can't be that difficult to add something non-lethal on it.

And, the remote speaker would be a useful addition I would think, esp with the addition of a microphone in case a conversation is required.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Now, about that sub-contractor's fees....

Got any of your own?

The comments over at Wired are a hoot, too.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 08, 2007

August 7, 2007

Reporting out from the 'Stan.

A U.S. Army Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment pulls security as Soldiers from his battalion search the mountains af Andar province, Afghanistan, for Taliban members and weapons caches June 6. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Quarterman

A U.S. Army Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment pulls security as Soldiers from his battalion search the mountains af Andar province, Afghanistan, for Taliban members and weapons caches June 6. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Quarterman

The pic is just for ambience - it has nothing to do with the post, other than location... larger format here, should you want it.

Our sailor from JFCOM working with NATO in the land-locked nation of Afghanistan continues his tale:

Well the first team is gone, and we are on our own. Not so bad so far, I moved out of the cramped box the two Poles and I were squeezed into, and into a slightly larger box that the last team had been in. (Pictures to follow) The mission is a little bit different than what we expected, but nothing earth shattering. Any time you step into a new job, the reality is going to be a bit different.

NATO’s overall mission is to help the Afghan government provide for its people, and either convince the bad guys to get with the program or kill them. We do that until the Afghan Police and Army are trained and equipped enough to do that themselves. Simple right? Like the old proverb, we moved from giving people fish to teaching them to fish and now are trying to help them set up a canning facility and fish fillet distribution center while repairing the roads in between and stopping the guys who think eating fish is a sin because the fish stares back at you.

Not so much going on, Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, is our day off, so I expect to sleep in and visit the bazaar for the best deals in all Afghanistan. I haven’t had much chance to interact with the population yet. Most of the support staff cooking and cleaning are local, and the traders at the bazaar, but I haven’t really been off the compound yet. I helped load a few jeeps with donated shoes for one of the local orphanages, but had to stay behind when they distributed them because of work conflicts.

People have been asking what I need. Not much really, I came pretty well prepared, and to be honest if I say anything I know some of people are going to go nuts. Stuff that’s always welcome are AA batteries (my camera eats them), Swedish fish, we drink a LOT of bottled water here, so any of those single serving crystal light packs are good to break up the monotony. Also fly paper. I’ve always believed that little bit of dirt was healthy for you but here in Afghanistan I’ve changed the “ten second rule” to the “no second rule.”

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 07, 2007

August 6, 2007

Information operations.

How about we execute one right now?

Remember the convoy ambush in Afghanistan that the MSM (and, in the end, command) had a hissy about - resulting in the deportation (hey, call it what it was) of the Marine unit. It matters not if the JTF commander truly thought the Marines had over-reacted or he was just bowing to the political realities at the time - the Taliban, with the able assistance of the Press and others, was able to effect the removal of that unit.

From Our Correspondent in the 'Stan:

I’ve got some stuff I’m putting in the next letter about civilian casualties and the information war. I’ve attached some interesting info from Dr. Gleyn Bledsoe, a U of Washington guy and Vietnam veteran who works over here with USAID providing alternative livelihoods to poppy farmers.

You may not remember the name Marko, buts it’s a town where a US Marine convoy was shot up, and when they were accused of indiscriminately killing civilians the unit had to leave the country. Dr. Bledsoe was about 200 meters away when this happened. I’ve attached the Taliban release (sent out amazingly fast), the Seattle Times article, and his letter back to the Times (which they didn’t print.)

When I asked him if it was OK to forward this with his name attached, he said “sure, what are they going to do, send me to Afghanistan ?”

The reaction of the Talibs to the event was swift, with this posting on their website:


In a sacrificing attack 2 vehicles of NATO invaders were demolished in Nangrahar Zabiahulla/Mujahid

This morning at 9:00am a Mujahid of Islamic Emirate performed a sacrificing attack on a convoy of NATO invaders on Jalalabad -Toarkham highway in Nangrahar province.In result 2 tanks were demolished and all troopers were killed or wounded. After the incident invaders fired on civilians and martyred or wounded a number civilian.

We must mention that this not the first time that invaders fired on civilian and martyred many civil people when Mujahideen performed the sacrificing attack on them.

Heh. I'd note that they don't mention the innocents *they* "martyr" when they send in the "sacrificing attacks" now do they? And it's the civilians that do most of the sacrificing in those attacks, methinks. Of course, it's okay if the Talibs do the martyring of the civilians - after all, they're just sending 'em to Paradise, right? How, oh, medieval Christian of them, eh?

The AP's Rahim Faiez put out this story, as carried by the Seattle Times:

U.S. forces blamed for civilian deaths

The Associated Press

BARIKAW, Afghanistan -- An explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines that U.S. officials said also came under fire from militant gunmen Sunday. As many as 10 people were killed and 34 wounded as the convoy made a frenzied escape, and injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.

U.S. officials said militant gunfire may have killed or injured civilians, but Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and wounded Afghans said most of the bullets were American. Hundreds of angry Afghans protested near the blast site, denouncing the U.S. presence here.

As the Americans fled, they treated every car and person along the busy, tree-lined highway as a potential attacker, said Mohammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

"I saw them turning and firing in this direction, then turning and firing in that direction," Ahmed Najib, 23, who was hit by a bullet in his right shoulder, said of the U.S. forces. "I even saw a farmer shot by the Americans."

Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said gunmen may have fired on U.S. forces at multiple points during the escape. He said it was not yet clear how the casualties happened, though he left open the possibility that U.S. forces had shot civilians.

"It's not entirely clear right now if the people killed or wounded by gunfire were killed or wounded by coalition forces' gunfire or enemy attackers' gunfire," he said.

The accusation that U.S. forces killed or wounded so many Afghans was likely to cause an uproar in a country that has seen an untold number of civilians killed by international forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. A high-level delegation was appointed to investigate.

The story continues - but this is sufficient for our point.

Here's your chance to participate in an InfoOp. Our Correspondent in the 'Stan, with the permission of the author - sent us this letter to the editor that the Times chose not to publish.

So, as our little InfoOp, we *will* publish it.

VBIED attack near Marko, Afghanistan, 3 March 2007.

What Really Happened at Marko on March 3?

I am a Seattle Native working on economic development in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan and currently residing in Jalalabad. I keep in touch with the new in Seattle thanks to the Seattle Times daily email for which I wish to thank you. Today, March 5, you ran an Associated Press article entitled U.S. Forces Blamed for Civilian Deaths by Rahim Faiez. That article disturbs me in that it is unnecessarily inflammatory, very biased, and not very accurate. It unjustly makes out American Marines who had just been attacked as a bunch of out of control killers firing wildly without discretion as they escaped that attack.

What really happened? Three US Marine up-armored humvees were returning to their base in Jalalabad. While passing thru a market place in a rural village, a mini-van, laden with explosives was driven into the small convoy and was detonated by the suicide bomber driving it. The Marines then came under fire from a number of positions along side the road. It was obvious that the intent of the bomber was to disable the vehicles and the gunmen to kill those that survived. The Marines returned fire as they drove rapidly away. One Marine was wounded. When the battle was over, 8 civilians were killed and 34 others, including a Marine had been wounded. The several bullet impacts on the escaping vehicles attested to the fact that they had been fired upon by gunmen; a fact that the AP reporter failed to mention. The attack seemed to have been a rather well planned one, and it appears that the planning included manipulation of the news as is often the case with both Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The statement by district chief Katawazi that the Marines “treated every car and person along the busy, tree-lined highway as a potential attacker” is an accurate one. They have no other choice. The vehicle that had attacked them was not a military vehicle; it was a civilian Toyota mini-van just like the ones many of your readers drive everyday. The vehicles used in these attacks are always civilian vehicles, most commonly 4-wheel drive SUV’s, mini-vans and sedans. Of course, the AP reporter also neglected to mention that the bomber had attacked and detonated his bomb in the middle of a crowded village’s market area with quite obvious disregard for the civilians in the area and does not even mention that these were amongst the total killed and wounded. Such a revelation might have distracted from the sensationalism he was seeking.

What did the Taliban have to say about the attack? The following is from their web page ( ) “This morning at 9:00am a Mujahid of Islamic Emirate performed a sacrificing attack on a convoy of NATO invaders on Jalalabad -Toarkham highway in Nangrahar province. In result 2 tanks were demolished and all troopers were killed or wounded. After the incident invaders fired on civilians and martyred or wounded a number civilian.” They also failed to mention that the “sacrificing attack” was done in a village amidst a number of civilians. As for the “2 tanks” that were demolished and all of the killed or wounded troopers; it appears that they have trouble with accurate reporting too.

Attached is a photo of the blast that was taken by one of our engineering crews who were working in the area and were about 200-300 meters from the blast when it occurred. As you can see from the resultant smoke plume, it was not a small explosion.

Again thank you for the daily Seattle Times via the internet. I would hope in the future, though, that the Times hold its news sources to higher standards of accuracy and not permit itself to be used as a propaganda organ for the likes of the Taliban.

Dr. Gleyn Bledsoe,

Jalalabad, Afghanistan

For those interested, a larger format version can be had here.

That's it! Thank you for participating in our little demonstration of an Information Operation.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 06, 2007

August 5, 2007

Keeping an eye on my Representative to Congress.

Representative Boyda (D-KS 2) voted *against* the FISA bill.


The House of Representatives today passed S. 1927, the Protect America Act, which authorizes the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to acquire foreign intelligence of individuals "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States without a court order. Representative Nancy Boyda voted against the amendment to FISA and released the following statement:

"Tonight I voted to uphold something near and dear to America - the U.S Constitution. When the President signs this bill, anyone out of the country, including Americans, can have their communications monitored with virtually no oversight. Sadly, the slippery slope of our civil liberties has given way to a mudslide.

"It's never been easy to balance our security and our liberties. Our nation has struggled with this for over 230 years. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.' Tonight our freedoms took a serious blow.

"For the past several weeks, Congress and the Administration worked closely to achieve a bipartisan agreement on foreign surveillance. An agreement was reached that would have provided our nation's intelligence community with the powers it needed while safeguarding the Constitution. But Friday night, at the 11th hour, the Administration effectively eliminated oversight.

"Over the next six months, we may hear reports of information gathered under this bill. Let me be clear - that same information could have been collected without giving up Constitutional oversight.

There was way too much "We don't like Gonzales" in the debate, methinks - just as Republicans would had a "We don't like Reno" tizzy back during the Clinton administration. No one got everything that wanted - and perhaps more importantly, the bill has a sunset provision in it.

I happen to like sunset provisions, even when they put something I like at risk (such as the Bush tax cuts) - why? Two reasons - it forces/allows a relook at legislation, rather than just stuffing the Title books with more and more pages, leaving criminalized ever-greater swaths of behavior/activity (until such time as enough people have been ground up by it that there is a forcing function on removing the law) *and* it has the side benny of keeping Congress busy relooking old law - which means they can engage in less mischief in the enactment of new law.

Just sayin'. Now if we could only force the Federal bureaucracy to periodically have to relook their regulatory fiats...

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 05, 2007

August 3, 2007

New correspondent from the box...

Carpe Capria
Slightly larger version available here.

In addition to Bill's Excellent Adventure, there is a Castle Reader and Contributor off in the 'Stan.

His contributions are the "Motivators" posters - his latest available above.

The good sailor in a landlocked-country is a busy man, but we've got some missives of his to give a flavor of the "Life of the Deployed."

Well it’s been a long trip but we are here. Kabul is an interesting place, at least what I can see from the compound. On the convoy in from the airfield the British Corporal in charge said to watch out for anything “unusual”. Of course that only works if you know what is “usual”. I just looked out for the kids, figuring that if people let their children out it should be safe for us.

The room I share with the two Poles is a little small, but as our old team leaves LTC M and I will take their cushy digs, which means I can actually unpack much of my stuff and also set up my computer and download my photos. The food however, is great, there is curry and kabob meat available at lunch and dinner, and I usually stick with that. The job is in a bit of transition right now, we are here as part of a Joint Forces Command experiment fielding some new planning tools. NATO is not sure if they want to use all or parts or none of the things we bring, but we are doing our best to lend an oar wherever we see a need.

Some quick impressions:

The Engrish: A large sign on the Afghan office announcing it the home of the “Sivil Aviation Bureau” and the slightly off grammar of most of the signs around. (Please not to put refuse in toilet)

Being briefed by a Lawyer from the Canadian Navy named LCDR Pierre-Noel and wondering if there was a Captain Santa Clause from Toronto somewhere.

Going to the Bazaar, where everyone is my friend (“hello my friend”) and has the lowest prices on the best quality in all Afghanistan, only for me.

More on that last bit in a future post. All I can say is - it's good for the Brady Bunch that the Armorer is *not* in Kabul, as the count of pre-1898 weapons in the US would *double* by the time I returned. My mailman would hate me for all the long bulky packages he'd be schlepping to the door.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Aug 03, 2007

August 2, 2007

Meanwhile, over in the sandbox...

U.S. Army Spc. Carlos Santos, of 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, surveys the streets of Jamia, Iraq, for insurgent activity July 29, 2007. DoD photo by Master Sgt. Brian L. Boone, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Carlos Santos, of 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, surveys the streets of Jamia, Iraq, for insurgent activity July 29, 2007. DoD photo by Master Sgt. Brian L. Boone, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

by John on Aug 02, 2007

July 31, 2007

This is only partially useful...

The question immediately that pops to my mind is... where is the equivalent program, focus, and highly-successful-career requirement for... the State Department, Justice, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, etc?

All well and good that we encourage and reward military personnel for stepping outside of the confines of the Department - but it won't integrate Federal Government operations offshore if the only player training to that level is DoD.

New Joint Qualification System Enhances Officer Management

The Department of Defense announced today the details of a new joint qualification system (JQS), which will help to identify military personnel who possess the abilities needed to achieve success in the joint/interagency environment.This new program will allow DoD to better incorporate an officer's joint experiences and qualifications into assignment, promotion and development decisions.

Inherent in this new system is the ability to recognize the skills that aid U.S. military efforts to respond to national security threats, as well as interagency, combat operations and humanitarian crises at home and abroad.A four-level system serves to enhance the tenets of jointness set forth in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act (GNA) of 1986 and will be implemented for all services on Oct. 1, 2007.

While officers may still earn designation as a Joint Qualified Officer, formerly known as a Joint
Specialty Officer, by completing the requisite joint professional military education and a standard-joint duty assignment, officers may also earn qualifications by accumulating equivalent levels of joint experience, education, and training.The experience-based system awards points in tracking the progression through successive qualification levels, while accounting for the intensity, environment, and duration/frequency of each joint activity.

The system encourages officers' career-long development of joint expertise because it recognizes experiences earned from commissioning to retirement.Earning these joint qualifications is vital for officers who wish to advance their careers to the highest level.As of Oct. 1, 2008, active component officers must have completed a full joint duty assignment and be designated a joint qualified officer in order to be appointed to the rank of general or flag officer.

The JQS also represents a "total force" approach that allows active and reserve component (RC) officers to earn the same joint qualifications.Recognizing that the reserve components lacked the opportunity to receive joint credit since the inception of the GNA in 1986, RC officers who served in qualifying joint assignments under provisions of title 10 U.S.C., chapter 38 that were in effect from Oct. 1, 1986, until Sep. 30, 2007, may be awarded joint duty credit.Additionally, all officers may self-nominate their joint activities for point recognition dating back to Sep. 11, 2001, enabling the recognition of joint experience outside of traditional joint duty assignment positions.

And, from the DoD perspective - there has to be some real effort to place officers *in* inter-agency positions, not just joint positions within DoD - which, among other things, means playing nice with others so that they're willing to let the uniforms in.

I would *also* note - in some respects, Ralph Peter's idea of using retirees in "Auxiliary Officer" positions might be useful in this regard, too.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Jul 31, 2007 | TrackBack (0)

July 27, 2007


Ry is on the road, doing Good Things, if Unappreciated. He submits this week's IPB via email.

*That's* dedication, folks.

Here’s a piece that attacks many lines of thought about what creates and defeats terrorism. Economic determinism takes a hit. So does the capitalism inspired ‘a rising tide raises all boats.’ They’re going with a variant of the Treaty of Versailles as cause for Hitler and WW2 theorem. (
Does the ‘liberal peace thesis’ (the idea that extending Enlightenment values and ideas unlocks the innate peacefulness of a people/society) always work in the real world? Is war inherently ‘development in reverse’? Not according to the author of ‘The sense that war makes.’( War, any war but civil wars in particular, are transformative events is the take home message here.
van Creveld(author of Supplying War) speaks about the nature of ‘power’ and how it changes over time in contests between the weak and strong(
The abstract of his paper:
The nature of war has been widely misunderstood. Far from being the continuation of policy, as Clausewitz and his present day "neorealist" followers think, in many ways it follows the rules of sports. In particular, the resemblance to sports ensures that, in a long conflict, in which the strong beat down the weak, the former will lose strength, whereas the latter will gain it. This logic has profound implications for counterinsurgency operations, including those ongoing in Iraq.

(You’ll have to do a free reg with Berkeley Press to see the actual pdf, I’m unable to post a direct link).
A differently reasoned call to not end the mission in Iraq is presented at War in Context than one we typically see at Castle Argghhh!. A call to not end the mission in the name of pluralism(
Word from the CBRN/disaster preparedness realm is over at Sigger’s ArmchairGeneralist( The latest deals with the state of destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in the US, but there’s a bit more in the archive of interest(except for Maggie since he slags the latest Die Hard movie there too.).
David Halberstam’s latest in Vanity Fair questioning the reasoning used, or if any, by the current Administration in public speeches about the Iraq War. Basically, I think of this as a report card on how well the war is being ‘sold’ to the public/effectiveness of ‘Strategic Communications’. Not that Vanity Fair is the most impartial source, but its criticisms seem rather representative of the 60+% who now think OIF was a mistake.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Ryan on Jul 27, 2007

July 26, 2007

A different Baghdad Diarist.

Much better than TNR's "Scott Thomas." Far more authentic, no fabulism - and doesn't sugar coat anything, while still showing the basic humanity of the American soldier. H/t, Jim C.

UPDATE # 20 July 20, 2007

“Six, this is five, ya see the smoke?”

“Roger, looks like it’s in our sector”

“Check it out?”


We turned right, back into the heat instead of left and back home. An afternoon meeting and lunch with a panel of retired four star generals making their rounds at the beck and call of some congressional or presidential commission had gone exceptionally well. Nothing else was on the schedule and the previous few days had been hectic, so we were going to pack it in early. But a tall pillar of black smoke was a pretty clear indication that the plan was changing.

We had not heard the explosion earlier. Acoustics in the city continue to baffle me, some of the largest booms go completely unmissed, yet a distant boom will roll me out of bed over the sound of both air conditioning and headphones. Without having heard it, the visual signs brought the event together pretty quickly. A car bomb had detonated just off the side of a main road, and had ignited four of five cars adjacent to it. The cluster still burned intensely, while a crowd of Iraqi Police looked on. National Police Shurta, from one of our subordinate battalions, scurried around trying to restore some order. Several hundred meters down the road it looked like one of their truck had been shredded. We pulled up as close as seemed prudent and dismounted.

Sam and I wadded into a crowd of locals and IPs asking questions. As the story started taking shape, an American platoon arrived to help secure the area, followed shortly by Iraqi fire trucks. The well practiced crew doused the raging fuel fires in white foam, leaving the charred automotive remains in a drenched cluster. The car bomb had detonated as a national police convoy had passed by, on its way to deliver dinner to one of the checkpoints. The fire had been raging for somewhere between twenty to ninety minutes depending on who you asked. Iraqis are hopeless at telling time, so I suspect it was closer to twenty as my team was the first on the scene, and the road is heavily trafficked by military convoys.

Determining the casualty count was equally frustrating. The wounded had all already been thrown into the back of national police trucks along with the dead. The whole lot taken hastily to a nearby hospital. As the numbers sorted out, it looked like one national policeman killed with nine others wounded. The residents suffered as well, with another Iraqi national killed and four of them wounded. As the cars became safe to approach, we were relieved to find that no one had burned to death inside. A small mercy. While my dismount team asked questions, the vehicle crews passed the appropriate reports, and got in touch with Bahaa, he would be out shortly.

General B was not going to be happy. The side road was blocked to through traffic by a chain and bollard fence. That allows the neighbor hood to limit entry to a few checkpoints, and by and large provides an increased sense of security to the residents. But it has the unfortunate side effect of creating a small parking area. This area, along with a variety of others in the neighborhoods busy market districts have long been a concern as they provide a tempting target for car bombs. The General has been working diligently with the neighborhood councils, and police to prevent residents from parking in these most dangerous areas, but has met with less than satisfactory results. The paradox of improved security is an increasing unwillingness on the part of the population to follow the precautions that allowed things to get better. Today it was clear that the local police forces inability to force the no parking rules had had terrible consequences.

While I mused on General B’s likely response, the National Policeman on the scene continued to try and keep curious onlookers away. They were pretty hyped up, having just evacuated so many casualties, but the major in charge was doing a creditable job of keeping order. And then things went to shit.

Across the divided highway from where I watched, and on the other side of the now smoldering cars was a small row of businesses, all with their security fences lowered, thier windows shattered from both concussion and shrapnel. A pair of shurta kept onlookers at bay. One, I would learn later took his rifle and knocked out a piece of broken glass from one of the store fronts. Hard to say why he did it…frustration, anger, ill intent? Regardless, the populace always assumes the worst about the police, and was immediately stirred into motion. Watching from and adjacent courtyard, a Sudanese man emerged, making a bee line to the store. Confronted by the police, he began a shouting match. I have no idea what was said, but the previously efficient major began beating him. Within seconds, others emerged from the courtyard, and the shurta closed into a tight knot. Rifle butts and batons emerged.

“Doc, Koast, on me!” They had been looking the other way, but quickly understood. They and Sam joined me in the sprint across the burning wreckage and into the crowd. In those seconds an old black berka clad women and several more men had joined the fray, with the major now steadily smacking the crowd down. We each grabbed a Shurta and flung them from the group, our sudden appearance surprising enough to get all parties to separate and desist. The major didn’t need a terp to understand my command for him to get back to his truck. All was quiet for the few seconds it took for everyone to catch their breath. And then the verbal assault on Sam started, as an ever increasing crowd tried to talk at once. I try to never to show anger when talking to the locals, but they were trying my patience. Eventually I pried the victims of the fight from all the extraneous witnesses and started hanging facts on the skeleton story I had observed.

The Sudanese family lived adjacent to a string of money exchanges. The first man from the courtyard was paid by the owner to be the security guard. When he saw the young shurta break the glass, he assumed it was an attempt to use the explosion as an opportunity to loot the money exchange. I have no idea what he said to the major, but given his agitated state, I am certain it was confrontational. Iraqis are outrageously vocal in their disrespect of all civil servants. On the other side, I have little doubt that the Shia Major was more than anxious to beat down a foreign and almost certainly Sunni outsider, who was so blatantly challenging his authority, at the scene of an explosion. The Sudanese man could very well have been the trigger man, given the location of both his house and shop.

While I gathered up what appeared to be the local leaders and lectured them all on the need to work with the police and not deliberately provoke them, General B arrived and waded into the Iraqi security forces with every bit of the fury I had expected. Gathering up both the National Police Major, and the Iraqi Police captain responsible for the area, a load and public tongue lashing ensued on their failure to do their duty and prevent cars from parking in the area. The major, who at this point was not thinking anything through bowed up and argued back. B. skipped his notorious finger waving rebuke and escalated straight to an arrest order, sending the major in disgrace back to the trucks. The captain, with more sense, took his medicine. Having vented his initial frustration, I walked over to him and caught him up on what had happened. The situation was largely under control, all we really had to wait on was EOD to show up and reduce an orphan explosive which had been blown clear and lay in the median. A few cracked 60mm mortar rounds that had not gone off in the main blast.

Within minutes, Mr Jammal, the head of our district’s Ammanant (the cities public works organization) arrived. A small, penguin like man, who is always immaculately dressed, he is a constant feature amongst the people of our district. Much like B, he is always out and about, and is a bit of a media whore, often taking credit for projects initiated by coalition forces. But in spite of that, he is one of the few who legitimately seems to working for the good of the people, and is part of the solution. His team of workers immediately began sweeping the streets and removing the signs of violence. Getting the area quickly back to normal is an important part of the process. While the sweepers cleaned, the Sudaneese family brought out water jugs for B’s policeman. The difference in the manners between those my team works directly with, and others is often night and day. With any luck our actions mitigated the previous abuses to some degree.

The EOD team arrived after almost an hour. A young sergeant declaring that this was “his” incident scene and barking orders. That kind of statement is almost deliberately calculated to piss me off, and wasn’t well received by B either. Our work largely complete, and the threat of half a mortar round, being largely insignificant I decided it was time to go. “Saydee, lets go to the hospital and check on your shurta…they don’t need us here.” He jumped into my HMMWV. His trucks scrambled to mount up and followed us south.

We pushed our trucks into the crowded entry of the hospital. Sam, Doc and I trailed in B’s wake as we pushed into the emergency room surrounded by a swarm of B’s personal security detachment. It was complete bedlam, and the introduction of another fifteen did nothing to help. National policeman from the unit that was hit crowded the waiting area, while their wounded comrades were being worked on inside. There was no method to the madness, and as we worked our way in, a gurney was working its way out. B pushed passed to start asking questions, I backed out to keep from being part of the problem.

Inside the emergency room, a tall Iraqi Lieutenant Colonel saw me and frantically pushed through the crowd towards me. In perfect English, he introduced himself as the ministry of defense liaison to the hospital, and that the man that had just wheeled out on gurney was a shurta that had been injured in the car bomb. His femur was crushed, and he was past what the local facilities could do for him. The bleeding was too much. They were loading him up into the ambulance to take him to the best hospital in Baghdad, but that was at least a forty minute ride, and at this time of day probably twice that.

“Doc, Sam, go find out what you need from the doctor. LTC Fahil, we will take him to the CASH in the green zone. Is he in the ambulance now? Tell the drivers to follow the second HMMWV. B! Mount up, were taking this one!” I vaguely heard the LTC’s thanks, but the relief in his eyes was obvious. We burst back out into the afternoon heat. This was turning into a long day. MAJ B was on the ground outside the truck. “Were heading to the CASH! That ambulance is coming with. DOC has the report, get him on the medivac net. B, come with me, have your guys wait at the bridge.” The seven kilometer race began.

The trip didn’t take long, but seemed agonizingly slow. Every speed bump fraying the nerves. Entry control points, designed to save lives, now frustratingly delaying attempts to save one. We made contact with the CASH so they were expecting us. The team helped transfer the patient to a small ATV for movement into the emergency room, an American medic taking over from the Iraqi ambulance crew. B, Doc and I shed our gear, and were escorted inside while the team parked the vehicles nearby. Our walk was largely silent. A few quick questions as we went inside linked us up with the right set of staff. We found seats in the corner. I consumed a bottle of water in seconds. B declined and paced, as anxious as I have ever seen him. At the reception counter the staff chatted quietly and joked and talked happily about whatever kept them going from day to day, while the young shurta lay inside. I clenched my fist, knowing that they saw this every day, it was part of their world. I had no right to judge.

Minutes later, a tall doctor emerged; tossed blood stained gloves into a waste can and approached me. He determined I was who he was looking for. “The patient arrived with no pulse. We conducted a scan to determine if there was any brain activity to attempt resuscitation. He was dead before he got here.” He turned, and walked away. That was it. Nothing else. Just one more dead Iraqi. I should have punched that ****er.

Doc coordinated getting the shurtas remains back out to the ambulance so we could take him home. B and I walked slowly out to the trucks. Soldiers know when not to talk, and when questions with one word answers are the best defense against public tears.

“Saydee, do you know his name?”

“Not yet…”

The team waited in the shade of the large trees that make the green zone green. My crews mingled with the civilian ambulance drivers and the cousin of the young man that had until a few minutes before been struggling for life. Our premature return announced the unhappy outcome without need for the confirmation we eventually voiced. Failure is an emotion that mixes poorly with grief.

Later that night, at various times, and each in their own way, all three of the interpreters that were there that day found me. The conversations were all eerily familiar.

“Sir, I wanted to thank you for taking that Iraqi to the CASH.”

“Of course, why wouldn’t I have?

“Well, he is Iraqi, you didn’t have to do that.”

“He was human, of course we did.”

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Jul 26, 2007

July 22, 2007

A Question for Our Readers...

I probably won't get a lot of grief from the usual audience if I said two of the most interesting, most accurate and most informative news sources in Iraq and the Middle East are Michael Yon and Michael Totten. The former has as y'all know been embedded with our forces in Iraq for months. The latter just arrived in Iraq with a substantial background in covering other hot spots in the region, most notably Lebanon and Israel.

I you want a taste of journalism-the-way-it-ought-to-be, visit their sites often and hit the tip jar if you can (I do).

Anyway, it occurred to me that if these guys get hurt, they hardly have anything to rely on, treatment-wise, other than what I would expect to be initial triage and evac by MNF-I military assets.

I could be wrong, and God forbid we should ever have to find out, but does anyone have a clue as to what they can expect/what they're "entitled" to? If the answer is, "Not much," I think it's a worthwhile cause to come up with something. Yon, a veteran, could I think have sufficient access to the VA system (shudder) but Totten is and always was a civilian.

To quote a certain colleague, "Just sayin'."

I am fully aware this issue probably falls under the Quixotic category but in any case I would welcome any inputs/ideas.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by Dusty on Jul 22, 2007

July 17, 2007


"Mother, how will you keep them down on the farm now that they've seen Paree?"

Afghan soldiers get look at American way of life.

By Gary Skidmore 1st Brigade

What do you do with 55 Afghanistan army and policemen after they've completed their training exercise with the U.S. Army at Fort Riley? That's easy, you take them to Kansas City's Bass Pro Shop, Wal-Mart and the local Chipotle Mexican Grill. "We gave them a taste of American culture," said Maj. Dan Palmer, plans officer for the Directorate for Cultural Influence and Counter Insurgency.

[Heh. When I was at Fort Riley, we din't have no fancy-pantsed sounding directorates! I see they finally told Custer "No". Inside joke - if you were stationed at Riley long enough, you know the joke... -the Armorer]

By taking them to the Bass Pro Shop, they were experiencing a unique American store that you can only see in America, Palmer said "And you can't come to America and not at least visit a Wal-Mart." Palmer said he thought the group was impressed with their tour. "I think they were overwhelmed," Palmer said. "They saw Americana at its finest."

One Afghan National Army soldier said his experience with the trip was very rewarding and he loved what he saw. "We bought items to take home as gifts," said Aziz Ahmad Azizi, an E-6
in the Afghanistan National Army. "The quality of items we're buying is much better than we can buy in our country." Azizi, like everybody on the tour, received a free hat as he entered the
Bass Pro Shop. As they came through the door, they immediately stopped and gazed at the enormous facility.

"It is very large," said Shah Hosain Mandori. "I've never seen so many stuffed animals, so many boats and so many different things for camping anywhere before." Mandori bought a collapsible chair with red, white and blue material. "I will display this with pride when I go home," he said. "This is a great gift for me to remember my trip to America."

Gifts weren't the only thing the soldiers took back to Afghanistan. Flashes from their cameras were going off at every opportunity. One check out lady at the Bass Pro Shop had her picture taken individually with six soldiers and a mother and daughter strolling the store gladly posed with several Afghan National Police. "It's fun," said Angie Pruitt of Olathe, Kan. "You can tell they're having a great time here and we want their experience in America to be a good one."

When the visitors got to the Bonner Springs, Kan. Wal-Mart, they were full after having eaten at the Legends Mall Chipotle. At Wal-Mart, it was a shopping free-for-all. One shopper, Capt. Ahmadudin Ahmadi, with the Afghanistan National Police bought six bottles of shampoo in various fragrances. "At home we can't get this," Ahmadi said. "My wife will like this very
much." However, the trip to the United States was more than just a shopping trip, said Col. Ghulam Wahid Neekzai, from the Afghanistan National Army.

"We trained with the American military. We learned advanced military tactics that we will use when we go back to Afghanistan to fight the enemy," Neekzai said. "This is a good nation-building program. We come here to train and American Soldiers come to our country to help us fight for our country. We all benefit from this."

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! �

by John on Jul 17, 2007

July 14, 2007

President Bush on Iraq.

President Bush: "The Best Way To Begin Bringing [Troops] Home Is To Make Sure Our New Strategy Succeeds"

President Bush Discusses Interim Report To Congress On Progress Toward Iraq Benchmarks

"…[W]e need to ensure that when U.S. forces do pull back, the terrorists and extremists cannot take control. The strategy that General Petraeus and the troops he commands are now carrying out is the best opportunity to bring us to this point. So I ask Congress to provide them with the time and resources they need. The men and women of the United States military have made enormous sacrifices in Iraq. They have achieved great things, and the best way to begin bringing them home is to make sure our new strategy succeeds."

– President George W. Bush, 7/12/07

President Bush: "Today, my administration has submitted to Congress an interim report that requires us to assess … whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks [in Iraq] is or is not being achieved." "Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism." (President George W. Bush, Press Conference, The White House, 7/12/07)

· "Of the 18 benchmarks Congress asked us to measure, we can report that satisfactory progress is being made in eight areas." "For example, Iraqis have provided the three brigades they promised for operations in and around Baghdad. And the Iraqi government is spending nearly $7.3 billion from its own funds this year to train, equip and modernize its forces."

· "In eight other areas, the Iraqis have much more work to do." "For example, they've not done enough to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share oil revenues."

· "And in two remaining areas, progress is too mixed to be characterized one way or the other."

"It's Not Surprising That Political Progress Is Lagging Behind … Security Gains"

President Bush: "Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress. So it's not surprising that political progress is lagging behind the security gains we are seeing."

· "Economic development funds are critical to helping Iraq make this political progress." "Today I'm exercising the waiver authority granted me by Congress to release a substantial portion of those funds."

"This Is A Preliminary Report – And It Comes Less Than A Month After The Final Reinforcements Arrived In Iraq"

President Bush: "In September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment." "By that time, we hope to see further improvement in the positive areas and the beginning of improvement in the negative areas."

· "We'll also have a clearer picture of how the new strategy is unfolding, and be in a better position to judge where we need to make any adjustments."

· "I will rely on General Petraeus to give me his recommendations for the appropriate troop levels in Iraq." "…[W]e owe it to our troops to support our commanders – smart, capable people who are devising a strategy that will enable us to succeed... "

"The Strategy I Announced In January Is Designed To … Make Possible A More Limited Role In Iraq For The United States"

President Bush: "I believe we can succeed, and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political track to succeed as well." "By doing this, we'll create the conditions that will allow our troops to begin coming home, while securing our long-term national interests in Iraq and in the region."

· "When we start drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will [be] because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say it'll be good politics."

· "…[I]f our troops thought that I was taking a poll to decide how to conduct this war, they would be very concerned about the mission." "In other words, if our troops said, … here we are in combat and we've got a Commander-in-Chief who is … running a focus group – in other words, politics … is more important to him than our safety and/or our strategy. That would dispirit our troops."

· "To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we're ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to Al Qaida."

"The Way To Defeat … Radicals And Extremists Is To Offer Alternative Ways Of Life"

President Bush: "Now the fundamental question facing America is will we stand with this young democracy? … Will we help them become an ally in this war against extremists and radicals…?" "This is a difficult war, and it's a tough war. But as I have consistently stated … it is a necessary war to secure our peace."

· "I firmly believe that you'll see the democracy movement continue to advance throughout the Middle East if the United States doesn't become isolationist." "That's why I told you that I'm making sure that we continue to stay diplomatically involved in the region. Condi Rice and Bob Gates will be traveling there in early August to continue to remind our friends and allies that ... one, we view them as strategic partners, and secondly, that we want them to work toward … a freer society, and to help this Iraqi government survive."

by John on Jul 14, 2007

July 13, 2007

The House having voted... require the start of redeployment, let's take a look round the 'net on that subject...

The Christian Science Monitor: President Bush Says "Progress On Security Will Pave The Way For Political Progress" In Iraq. "In unveiling the report, Bush said at a press conference Thursday that the military progress is laying the groundwork for the necessary political advances. 'Progress on security will pave the way for political progress,' he said, acknowledging that his report paints a brighter picture on the military front. Adding that security is the prerequisite for political progress, the president added, 'It is not surprising that political progress is lagging behind' military achievements. He also acknowledged the US public's dim view of the US presence in Iraq, but called for Americans to reconsider 'the consequences for America if we fail in Iraq.' He repeated his long-held view that a failure to confront Al Qaeda and related groups in Iraq would risk for emboldening extremists to extend their actions to American soil." (Howard LaFranchi, "Bush Report Sharpens Iraq Debate," The Christian Science Monitor, 7/13/07)

Multi-National Force – Iraq Commander General Petraeus Warns Against Hasty U.S. Pullout From Iraq. "Progress, says Petraeus, is not limited to this area south of Baghdad, but throughout neighboring provinces. 'The dynamic out there that is very surprising in the past several months is the increasing rejection by the Sunni population of Al Qaeda ideology,' he says. The prospect of any hasty removal of US troops has him concerned. 'If we pull out there will be greatly increased sectarian violence, humanitarian concerns. ... You don't know what could happen in terms of dangerous conflicts, what could happen along the Kurdish/Shiite/Sunni fault lines, or how [Iraq's] neighbors will react.' He says that 'there are all kinds of dynamics to consider: Iran, Syria, and others have distinct interests. There are a number of different concerns hanging on the security situation.'" (Leslie Sabbagh, "Gen. Petraeus Warns Of A Hasty US Pullout From Iraq," The Christian Science Monitor, 7/13/07)

Fox News: Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice Sees "Signs Of Hope" For An "Improving" Environment In Which Political Matters Can Go Forward. SEC. RICE: "Well, I certainly do see signs of hope that the improved security environment – and I don't want to overstate the improvements of the security environment, but the fact that sectarian violence is down, the fact that the security forces are showing up in the numbers that they're supposed to, the bottom-up ... efforts that are being made with the Sunni sheikhs ... against the al Qaeda – that that is improving the environment in which these political matters can go forward. But ... ultimately it is true that the Iraqis are going to have to press ahead. One good sign is that their legislature... [has] said that if the business of the nation is there to do, they're going to stay in session and do the business of the nation." (FOX News' "Special Report," 7/12/07)

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in USA Today: Abandoning Progress In Iraq "Would Have Devastating Consequences For Iraq" And "For The Security Of The United States." "Our new strategy is already showing some encouraging signs of progress. ... Abandoning this progress and embracing failure would have devastating consequences for Iraq, for the region and for the security of the United States. ... Congress should give Gen. Petraeus the chance to come back in September to give his assessment of the strategy he is pursuing. At that time, we will be in a better position to judge the impact our new strategy is having in Iraq and determine what adjustments need to be made." (Stephen J. Hadley, Op-Ed, "Strategy Shows Progress," USA Today, 7/13/07)

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on MSNBC: "There Has Been Considerable Success On The Security Side" In Iraq. SNOW: "What the President outlined today was really the beginning of a fully operational surge. We got the last forces in about three weeks ago. … I think what the President did today is tell Americans something maybe they hadn't have heard a lot of, which is, since we have gone in with the surge, there has been considerable succes