Berserkeley Versus the US Marines (and all their supporters)--UPDATE
The Fight for Mosul

McCain & Reality not hip enough

Some of our moral betters have made a video for Sen. McCain in the style of the Obama Hollywood one. They are smarty pants enough to think they were catching him saying objectionable things, sadly they just prove their utter cluelessness as to where their freedoms come from. Every one came from the sharp end of a bayonet. As far as I'm concerned the Maverick sounds just fine to me.

DefendUSA points out this letter from a Marine over at TownHall.

And 1LT Fishman sends the Weekly Good News after the jump.

1) Iraqi Baath law comes into effect BBC News
A measure allowing former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to public life in Iraq has become law.  The legislation was passed by the Iraqi parliament last month, but needed final approval by the country's presidency council before coming into effect.  The council approved the law despite objections by one of its three members, Sunni Vice-President Tariq Hashemi.  He said the law would result in people being forced out of their jobs to make way for returning former Baathists.  US President George W Bush last month praised the law as an important step towards national reconciliation in Iraq.  The Baath party, formed mainly from Iraq's Sunni minority, was declared illegal after the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

2) Iraq works to clean up National Police Force,1,756923,full.story?ctrack=4&cset=true Email Picture Khalid Mohammed / Associated Press National police raise their weapons as they patrol the capital. Now, one resident said, "there is a huge difference in the national police force's attitude toward the people." Training, integration and anti-corruption efforts are aimed at creating a force that will contribute to the country's stability.
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer  February 6, 2008  NUMANIYA, IRAQ -"Police, police, police!" Young recruits cradling make-believe machine guns lined up in front of a building, identified themselves three times in Arabic, then burst through the door. For the first time, the class -- 1,830 cadets who graduated Jan. 21 -- included as many Sunni as Shiite Muslims. They are part of an effort to overhaul the national police, a force that is equated in the minds of many Iraqis with Shiite death squads that kidnap, torture and kill Sunnis, whose bodies once turned up by the dozens each day in Baghdad's garbage dumps and sewers. Last year, national police chief Maj. Gen. Hussein Awadi sent recruiting teams into former Sunni insurgent strongholds such as Anbar and Diyala provinces to persuade Sunnis to join the overwhelmingly Shiite force. He has also pulled hundreds of corrupt and abusive policemen off the streets; standardized uniforms, equipment and training; and introduced a computerized payroll to help reduce fraud. But his biggest challenge, he said, is convincing his critics that the national police force has changed. As recently as September, an independent U.S. commission recommended that the force be disbanded. "It has become something like the hanger on which everyone hangs their dirty laundry," said the wiry commander, fingering worry beads at his office in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, about 80 miles northwest of the Numaniya training center. Every time there is an abuse of authority, the assumption is that the national police must be responsible."I don't deny that there are probably still some mistakes being made," Awadi said. "But as soon as we are made aware of them, we act on them." A commission led by retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones found that the national police remained "a highly sectarian element of the Iraqi security forces and one that for the most part is unable to contribute to security and stability in Iraq." The force reports to the Interior Ministry, which the panel concluded was so riddled with corruption and sectarian factions that it would be incapable of carrying out reforms.
The panel recommended using about 6,000 of the 26,000 members of the force to create specialized units to assist with ordnance disposal, civil unrest control and other tasks beyond the abilities of local police. The rest of the members should be absorbed by the police and army, it said. U.S. military officials in Iraq acknowledge major shortcomings in the national police, but say Iraqi leaders are weeding out sectarian elements. "They chose an option to attempt to eliminate . . . bad actors and to then put in the right leadership and train the force in order to reform," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones, who commands the U.S. assistance teams that advise the Iraqi Interior Ministry. "In this case, it appears to me that their option is working."

In just over a year, all nine brigade commanders have been replaced -- one of them twice -- for improper behavior, along with 18 of the 27 battalion commanders and about 1,300 rank-and-file policemen, according to U.S. figures. Thousands more have been removed from the rolls for being absent without leave, Awadi said. But senior leaders are rarely brought to trial; most are reassigned to less influential positions within the ministry. Accusations of misconduct dog all of Iraq's security forces, but few are as feared as the national police. It was created to rein in a patchwork of commando-style, anti-terrorist units with questionable loyalties and no unified command. U.S. advisors to Bayan Jabr, a Shiite who became interior minister in May 2005, accused him of purging Sunnis from the ministry and organizing Shiite militiamen into special police commando brigades. Jabr said the new commandos were needed to pursue Sunni extremists responsible for relentless bomb attacks on Shiite communities and the Iraqi security forces. He conceded that there was some militia infiltration, but denied that it was systematic or widespread.In April that year, U.S.-led forces persuaded Jabr to combine the commandos and other heavily armed units into a single force, the national police. Under Jabr's successor, Jawad Bolani, national police officers have been vetted and sent on a four-week basic training course that focuses on professionalism and ethics -- in most cases, the first training they had received. Upon completion of the course, they have been issued blue, digital-print uniforms. Jabr had maintained that criminals were buying fake uniforms in markets, but the new ones are more difficult to replicate. The last of the former commando units completed the training, referred to as "re-bluing," in November, and the Italian Carabinieri are now providing advanced leadership courses. Residents of Dora, a mostly Sunni neighborhood that was once one of Baghdad's worst killing grounds, say they have noticed a change. Jasim Kamil, who sells wedding dresses in the Dora market, said he saw men in national police uniforms gun down five Sunni shop owners a year ago. A few days later, Sunni insurgents bombed the unit, killing and injuring some of the remaining shop owners, he said. "Now, there is a huge difference in the national police force's attitude toward the people," he said. "They are greeting the people at the checkpoints and treating people with respect."

But just west of Dora, U.S. officers say, a notorious national police unit known as the Wolf Brigade continued to help the Shiite Mahdi Army militia drive Sunnis from their homes after it was retrained last year. The Wolf Brigade once had its own TV show in which alleged insurgents, some of them clearly bruised, were paraded before the cameras to confess. In May 2006, a joint U.S. and Iraqi inspection found more than 1,400 prisoners crammed into a Baghdad lockup under its control, some of them showing signs of torture. In a bid to curb militia influence in this unit, Awadi said, he fired the Shiite brigade commander in October, reassigned about half its members and brought in a number of Sunni officers. The new commander is a Sunni Kurd, whom Awadi refers to jokingly as his "mountain wolf," a reference to the mountainous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. But it is a work in progress. When one Sunni officer was asked recently whether he trusted the mostly Shiite men under his command, he considered the question for a moment, then raised a clenched fist and said, "I have them under my hand." Awadi, a Shiite, says about 40% of his officer corps is Sunni. He is now trying to make the rank and file more reflective of Iraq's ethnic and sectarian mix. When Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province began encouraging their people to fight the insurgents they once backed, Awadi said he went to offer them 500 places in the 460-hour course at Numaniya. The sheiks were skeptical at first, and only about 200 volunteers turned up on the first recruitment day. Awadi refused to take them, and told the sheiks he would hold up the entire course until he had 500 men from Anbar. That, he said, convinced the sheiks that he was serious. More than 300 Anbar recruits attended the most recent course at Numaniya. Awadi describes them as "ambassadors for the national police to Anbar" and said he hoped they would persuade others to sign up. Sunni Arabs made up more than half the class. Most of the other trainees were Shiites, but there also were a small number of Kurds, a Turkmen and a Christian. Some of the Sunni recruits acknowledged to their instructors that they were nervous about joining. But a month into the course, the men appeared to be at ease with one another. They said they eat, sleep, train and pray together. "We thought this day would never come," said Allah Nouri Shakir, a Sunni who gave up a job as a carpenter in Fallouja to join the national police. "It is a dream."

3) ‘United and Strong’ Conference Strengthens Governance in Northern Iraq Wednesday, 06 February 2008 TIKRIT — Seven Northern provincial governors and their Iraqi Security Force leadership met here Feb. 4 for the second ‘United and Strong’ conference facilitated by Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander, Multi-National Division – North, and 1st Armored Division.  The provincial governing body is being mentored by the U.S. State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams and Coalition forces in each Northern province. All decisions regarding security, infrastructure, and economic issues in each province are currently being made at the central government level in Baghdad. The ‘United and Strong’ conferences are allowing MND - North’s key military leadership to “consolidate and focus issues (which) encompass Iraq’s Northern provinces (and deliver them) to Iraq’s central government,” Hertling said.  “Once priorities for projects and concerns are established, they are discussed by the governing provincial leadership. (These issues will be) presented to the central government, ‘as a Northern (bloc) issue,’” Hertling continued. “This is a way we can form a united front here in the north.”
The first conference, held last month, brought Northern tribal leadership together. “The purpose of this meeting is not to air your desires or needs to benefit your province solely,” Hertling said. He explained that Iraq’s central government is inundated with issues and needs that effect 18 provinces. “It is overwhelming,” he said. By consolidating priorities that effect essential services that cross provinces such as electricity, key bridges and roads, as a united front, “this will narrow their focus and add more weight that will be felt,” he said, referring to Iraq’s central government located in Baghdad. He likened that to the provincial governors visiting the many villages and cities in their provinces. “You have to prioritize issues in each of those villages or cities you visit,” he said. “That is what we are trying to accomplish here.” At the end of February, the next tier in this process will take place, bringing local ministries from Baghdad to the north to evaluate the seven provinces’ common issues and concerns for action and resolution.

4) Iraq Division of Border Enforcement graduates 160
BASRA – The Iraq Division of Border Enforcement of the Ministry of Interior graduated 160 students from basic recruit training at the Basra Training Academy on Jan. 31 and Feb. 4.  The total personnel in the Division of Border Enforcement is 39,752. The Division of Border Enforcement has two other training academies located in Al Kut and Sulamaniya.  The goal for 2008 is to train more than 6,000 new border police, increasing the total in the DBE to 46,000, according to Ashford Mohammed, Directorate of Interior Affairs’ In-country supervisor for the Department of Border Enforcement. Mohammed said the Division of Border Enforcement has made significant progress in the past two years. “We have and continue to work hard toward achieving the goal of ensuring the Division of Border Enforcement recruits are receiving the highest quality training that is consistent with international standards of democratic policing and border enforcement,” Mohammed said. The Division of Border Enforcement training course is an eight-week course that involves instruction in military training, border patrols, checkpoint set up, vehicle searches, and detecting narcotic and human smuggling. There are currently 269 border forts in Iraq with 28 more under construction.

5) Security Gains by Coalition Allow Families to Return to Zambraniyah ZAMBRANIYAH — Nearly 1,000 residents returned to Zambraniyah throughout the last week of January after learning the area had been secured by Coalition and Iraqi forces.  When heavy fighting in the Zambraniyah area broke out in early January, Coalition Forces advised families to evacuate the area to stay out of danger.  As residents fled, blending in was difficult for al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) members, enabling Soldiers to identify and target them. Over the course of combat operations, more than 40 extremists were killed. The 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, currently attached to 2nd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., is now helping displaced families return to their homes. “In the past 48 hours approximately 1,000 Zambraniyah residents have returned to their homes,” said Captain David Lively, 6-8th Cav. Regt. assistant operations officer.
Last year, AQI infiltrated Zambraniyah. Local citizens said those who refused to support AQI were killed. Now, citizens are standing up to protect their community. Coalition forces have organized a neighborhood watch program of concerned citizens, called ‘Sons of Iraq’.
To date, more than 500 Sons of Iraq in the Zambraniyah area have been recruited and organized into a force that works closely with the Iraqi Army and Coalition forces. More than 100 improvised explosive devices have been uncovered and disposed of with their help.
As the civilian population returns to this agricultural community, the hope is that economic activity will increase. U.S. Army civil affairs teams working with the 6-8 Cav. Regt. are assisting in economic assessments of the Zambraniyah community and plan to offer micro-grants to small businesses in the community.

6) Mayor Declares 'Year of Peace' for Mahmudiyah Qada Capt. Allison Flannigan Multi-National Division - Center PAO

Mahmudiyah Mayor Jabbar Farraj Mullah al-Kilabi declared this year will be a "year of peace and development" at a qada council meeting. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Robert Bertrand, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
BAGHDAD — The four nahias that comprise the Mahmudiyah Qada Council came together recently  to discuss progress in the qada and talk about future plans.  Lt. Col. Daniel Dolwick, deputy commanding officer of 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Maj. Robert Bertrand, brigade civil military operations officer and members from the four nahias of Lutifiyah, Mahmudiyah, Yusufiyah and Al Rasheed, attended the meeting. Mahmudiyah Mayor Jabbar Farraj Mullah al-Kilabi began the meeting by describing the responsibilities councilmen have to constituents in their respective nahias. "This will be the year of peace and development," al-Kilabi said. "Security is strong and it has been relatively strong for some time now. It's time for the people of Iraq to see their government stand up and start governing." The chairman, Najim Mahdi Al-Dulaymi, echoed the mayor's sentiments and encouraged the nahia leadership to provide essential services to the people of the qada. He congratulated the local populace on their victory over al-Qaeda and encouraged them to continue their recent progress. Bertrand said the Mahmudiyah Qada has seen relative peace for the last six months, lending hope to the people and the government of Mahmudiyah. "It's impressive to see the council members beginning to cut ties with American funding and go to their own government to solve their own problems," Bertrand said. "This inspires the Coalition Forces to work even harder to help the Iraqi government to achieve their own independence." Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the development of the insurgency, the Mahmudiyah qada became known as the Triangle of Death, where Sunni insurgents fought both Coalition Forces and Shia citizens. In these recent months of peace, the qada council, local citizens and their leadership have begun referring to this area as the "Circle of Peace" as they begin their road to reconciliation.

7) Teamwork Returns Life to Doura Area One of the many shops Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division has assisted in opening and sustaining in southern Baghdad's Doura neighborhood, Jan. 29. The "Warriors" are currently attached to Task Force Dragon of Fort Riley, Kan. Photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Smith, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
BAGHDAD — Teamwork is something often talked about, but not always executed. ‘Loners’ may not understand the necessity of collaboration between different forces toward a common goal.  All they need to do is look at Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division’s area of operations and they’ll understand the value of teamwork.  Capt. Craig Johnson, commander of the ‘Creek,’ Company C, from Manistique, Mich., said partnership between Coalition forces, Iraqi Security Forces, and the Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) is key to improving security in his unit’s part of Doura. “The Concerned Local Citizens of Iraq have contributed a lot to the security improvements here,” he said. “In this neighborhood, there hasn’t been an incident now in three months. It takes cooperation between all three agencies.” Johnson added that the Iraqi National Police (INP), known as ‘shurta,’ have also been a great asset in the fight. “We’ve got excellent INPs; it’s really great to have them,” he said. Kareem Muhammed, a member of the CLC in Doura, said the teamwork has led to improved security, but just as important, it has returned a feeling of normalcy to the troubled region. “You see a lot of people in the streets. It feels good the way things are right now,” Muhammed said. “You see a lot of children playing and a lot of shop owners opening up again. The situation is very good.” The citizen-soldier cited shops staying open later at night as an example of a return to the way things used to be. “For a long time, all the shops were closing at four in the afternoon. For a long time, it was a very hard situation in the neighborhood,” Muhammed said. “Now I feel a lot of change; all the shop owners are open up until nine at night. The Iraqi security volunteers are patrolling the streets 24 hours a day.” ‘Creek’ company is continuing to contribute to the local citizens’ return to normal lives through facilitating the restoration of essential services in the region. “Coalition forces emplaced a power generation station inside the neighborhood consisting of six generators. Currently it is not operating, but the community has come together to provide fuel for it,” Johnson said. “It should be operating this week, and they’ll be providing energy to more than 600 homes within the area. This is a short-term solution. “The real solution is bringing the power-grid in. We’re doing whatever we can to provide electricity.” In addition to addressing the electricity issues in the region, the unit is also working on economic solutions for their area of operations. “Currently, we have five large projects planned to bring jobs into the region. The projects are focused on businesses within the neighborhood. We’re fixing up buildings in order to bring shops into old, abandoned buildings and for the people to run shops out of them. It’s to improve the look of the buildings and make sure they’re structurally sound,” Johnson said. “In addition to that, for small businesses that already exist, we’ve given out 25 grants for small businesses. What that’s doing is bringing jobs for the long-term sustainment of the economy.”
The grants are funds anywhere from $100 to $5,000 granted based on need that can be used for anything from repairing shops to providing additional inventory. With all the measures being taken, it’s still tough to place a time on when restoration of the ‘Creek’ Company’s area will be complete, Johnson said. “The children go to school, the marketplace is thriving. With time and with the utilities and the electricity coming in, things will get back to normal,” he said. “Security opens the door to getting back to normal life.”

8) New COP built in Mosul and taking down terrorists around Iraq
MOSUL — Piles of concrete rubble, rows of rusted vehicles, busted water lines and local snipers are just a few of the obstacles U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers are overcoming to build a combat outpost in one of Mosul’s most dangerous neighborhoods. U.S. Army Soldiers from Killer Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, based out of Ft. Hood, Texas, and members of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army (IA) Division teamed up Jan. 19 with the U.S. Army’s 43rd Combat Engineer Company and 77th Engineer Company to build Combat Outpost Killer, also known as COP “Rabiya,” which means “springtime” in Arabic. “Security is the word,” said Capt. Peter Norris, commanding officer of Killer Troop. “Up until now this part of town has had little to no coverage. We’re looking to increase the Coalition presence here.” As part of the ongoing counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, the U.S. military has sought to partner with Iraqi security forces and move off the larger bases into smaller outposts in local neighborhoods. The close proximity not only decreases response time to emergency situations but allows the Coalition more opportunities to interact with the local population, Soldiers said. “This intersection and this whole little neighborhood has been a hotbed of SIGACTS,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Corella, using the military abbreviation for significant actions, a term given to all critical incidents which need to be reported. “What we’re trying to do is close the gap between some of our other COPs, put some Soldiers in here and catch the bad guys.” The northern Iraqi city of Mosul, home to around 1.7 million people, is the country’s third-largest city and the capital of Ninewah province. It is thought that more insurgents have moved into the city as recent “surge” efforts in Baghdad and Diyala province to the south have squeezed enemy fighters from their hiding places. COP Killer is located in east Mosul, between the downtown and Al-Jededa sections of the city, in an area which Norris and others referred to as “highly contentious.” “You could call this area the most dangerous neighborhood of Mosul,” said a local interpreter, who withholds his name for security reasons. “This place where we’re building COP Rabiya used to be a building where insurgents hid their weapons and took sniper shots at people.” “I describe this area as battle-torn,” Corella said. “The insurgency has made it a brutal place to live.” The interpreter said that insurgents have intimidated many locals into cooperating with them. However, many residents he talked to also expressed appreciation that Coalition forces were moving in, he said. For the first four days of construction, Killer Troop Soldiers patrolled the area, sleeping inside their vehicles or on the hoods with the engine running to stay warm at night, as engineers worked to clear the area of rubble and erect protective barriers around the premises. “On day one the insurgents realized what we’re building and they’ve been taking shots at us to slow us down,” Corella said. “Every day we get hit with something- RPG’s, small arms fire- but we haven’t had any casualties.” “The other day I bent down to tie my boot or something just as two shots whizzed by,” said Spc. Jessica Larsen, a medic with Killer Troop. “There are lots of rooftops around here and they seem to be trying to shoot down into the compound.” The troops receive additional protection from aviation units which routinely fly helicopter missions over the neighborhood to deter enemy activity. Once the outpost is finished, it will house a large number of Iraqi Army troops with a smaller number of U.S. troops there to provide support. “This really fits in with what we’re trying to do all over,” Corella said. “The IA gathers the intel, leads the raids and patrols the area while we provide security and help them with things they can’t do.” Corella said the hope is to take back the neighborhood from insurgents and make it a habitable place again for the residents who’ve fled the violence. “If we can get the people to move back and the insurgents to go away, that’s just one more little piece of Mosul that’s secure.”
Feb. 6 BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. and Iraqi forces detained 20 suspected insurgents in four days of raids across Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday. Working off a tip from a local resident, U.S. troops captured 10 suspects Monday in the Sayifiyah area south of Baghdad, the military said in a statement. A day later, they arrested two more men in western Baghdad, another statement said. Meanwhile, Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces detained three suspected weapons dealers and three suspected insurgent cell members in separate raids Sunday in Ramadi and Mosul, the U.S. military said. Blocks of TNT, electric blasting caps, assault rifles and rocket- propelled grenades were found in the Ramadi suspects’ home, it said. On Saturday, U.S. forces captured two suspects in connection with a roadside bomb attack in eastern Baghdad, the military said.
Kirkuk: Feb 6, (VOI)- A joint force of U.S. and Iraqi personnel detained 46 suspected gunmen, including seven wanted men, in two separate operations southwest of Kirkuk, a police source said on Wednesday. “Police forces, backed by U.S. troops, waged a security operation at dawn in al-Gheda village in Daqooq district, southwest of Kirkuk, where they arrested 16 suspected gunmen, including seven wanted men,” the source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI). “The operations witnessed also the confiscation of a large amount of weapons and ammunition,” he added. Meanwhile, the same source said “joint forces arrested 30 suspected gunmen on Tuesday night during a security operation in Touz Khormato district, southwest of Kirkuk.” Kirkuk lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad.
9) Iraqi National Police Force Continues Expansion: Baghdad Welcomes Hundreds More Officers

Iraqi Police graduates dismount a patrol vehicle Feb. 2, during a demonstration of capabilities learned at the Camp Fiji Iraqi Police Training Facility. Photo by Sgt. Daniel D. Blottenberger, 18th MP Brigade Public Affairs Office.
BAGHDAD — Top Iraqi Police officials and Coalition military police gathered at the Camp Fiji training facility Feb. 2 to witness 493 new Iraqi Police officers graduate and perform a demonstration.  "This increase in police force will better the peace for the citizens," said Capt. Mohammad, training commander, Iraqi Police's Forward Unit. "I see only good things in our future." An Iraqi Police expansion program aims to eventually train more than 12,000 new Iraqi Police recruits from surrounding provinces. Maj. Gen. Kadhem Hamid Sharhan, Provincial Police Commander of Baghdad, members of the 18th Military Police Brigades' command group and the Provincial Police Transition Team were among those present at the graduation. "I am anxious to find out how many improvements there will be in the near future in Baghdad because of this increase in Iraqi Police forces," said Maj. Larry Dewey, Provincial Police Transition Team Chief, 18th Military Police Brigade. "I am very impressed with the training we have seen to date in this graduating class, as they (Iraqi Police trainers) have led the class completely on their own."
The ceremony included an Iraqi Police demonstration of techniques learned during the two-week training period at the academy. The demonstration illustrated how the new Iraqi Police officers will provide safety in their neighborhoods with weapons training, combative techniques, structure-clearing techniques, first aid and defensive maneuvers against small-arms attacks.
In addition to the techniques demonstrated at the graduation, the two-week course offers Iraqi Police candidates a basic understanding of democratic law enforcement and policing skills, while incorporating values, ethics, human rights, crime scene preservation and detention procedures.
The Iraqi Police and the 18th MP Brigade will continue their partnership, officials said, to increase the number of recruits and train capable Iraqi Police to better serve the nation's people.

10) The Walls Of Baghdad  February 6th, 2008 Posted By Pat Dollard. BAGHDAD - To some Iraqis they are the reason it is safe to shop. To others they are like big jails. Nothing symbolizes the year-long security offensive in Baghdad more vividly than the thousands of tonnes of concrete walls that have been erected around dozens of markets, public places and even entire neighborhoods. But as violence has fallen in the capital, some Iraqis have begun debating whether the 12-foot (3.5-metre) high walls should come down. Does the inconvenience and ugliness of the grey barriers outweigh the protection and peace of mind they provide? Most seem to want the walls to remain at markets and even be strengthened — especially after two female bombers killed 99 people at pet markets last Friday in attacks blamed on al Qaeda. “I don’t mind having the walls for years if they keep the market secure. Many of my neighbors and relatives are still in hospital because of explosions,” said Um Haitham, a woman in her 60s as she shopped in the Sadriya market in central Baghdad.
Added Abu Mohammed, 45: “I don’t like these walls, they make me sick. But if you ask me, no matter how much inconvenience they cause, I prefer them because they provide security.”
The walls are designed to stop suicide bombers ramming cars filled with explosives into crowded places and to keep out gunmen by setting up security posts at entry points. During 2006 and into the first half of 2007, suicide car and truck bombers turned Baghdad’s popular outdoor markets into killing fields until the U.S. military began putting up the concrete blast walls to block access to vehicles. The U.S. military said about 65 markets and some 50 neighborhoods were either partially or fully protected by concrete blast walls throughout the greater Baghdad area. All are integrated with security checkpoints. “FUNDAMENTAL” TO SECURITY While walls are good at stopping cars, suicide vest bombers can still slip through. Some markets are also set up on sidewalks, like the pet markets, making them harder to protect. But Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military in Baghdad, said the walls were “absolutely fundamental” to security and there was no plan to tear any down. “Who would want to remove these walls? Can you imagine a house without a fence. These walls will remain until we have imposed security in all of Baghdad,” Moussawi told Reuters. Protecting markets and other public places became a key element of the Baghdad security offensive, which involved the deployment of an extra 30,000 U.S. troops.

11) 56 Iraqis Graduate NCO Academy  Fifty-six Iraqi noncommissioned officers stand in formation at their graduation ceremony from the Task Force Marne NCO Academy at Forward Operating Base Kalsu. The NCOs are the first to complete the two-week course which instructs NCOs on leadership and Soldier skills necessary to mold their units into effective fighting forces. Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky.
FOB KALSU — For 56 Iraqi noncommissioned officers (NCO), their recent graduation from the Task Force Marne NCO Academy on FOB Kalsu is just the starting point. The class of NCOs included 55 Iraqi Army NCOs and one Iraqi Police NCO; they are the first class to graduate from the course, which began Jan. 14. The hope is that these leaders will take lessons learned and pass them on to troops they lead.  Additionally, lessons learned from the class will be used in future training after the academy’s official grand opening, Feb. 12. “What do you do now? You go back to your units and make a difference,” said Task Force Marne NCO Academy Chief Commandant and Multi-National Division - Center Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews Jr. “Use your newly acquired skills to train your units.” The newly acquired skills consist mainly of tasks aimed at making the NCOs more effective leaders and fighters. During the 14-day course, the students were taught a variety of battle drills, including reacting to small arms fire, reacting to improvised explosive devices (IED), vehicle and detainee searching and performing building clearing, all under the guidance of skilled American NCOs. To make the training, which was based on Fort Stewart’s Warrior Leaders Course, more realistic, the instructors used a variety of props and simulators. “We wanted to make it as realistic as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Duke, Academy 3rd Platoon small group leader. “We used dead rounds (artillery shells), smoke and simulators.” Duke, originally with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 7th Inf. Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., was in charge of training the students what to look for when searching vehicles. He hid inert IED components in a vehicle and had students try and locate the mechanisms. The Ardmore, Okla., native said the students performed well and successfully completed their mission. Duke said as days were spent living, working and learning together, the students molded into a team. “By the end of the course, they wouldn’t do anything individually. They understand how to work as a team.” Their success gives U.S. Army leaders confidence in the development of Iraqi Security Forces. “This is the beginning of a new era,” Andrews said, noting all graduates were better leaders than when they first entered the class. “All Soldiers deserve outstanding leadership. You will provide it.” Although a junior leader, Cpl. Muhamed Ahmed Jasim, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, said he is eager to share what he learned and provide that leadership. As an infantryman, he feels his own Soldiers will benefit from the lessons he learned at the academy. By teaching them skills such as dismounted battle drills, first aid and clearing buildings, he said they will be more effective at taking the fight to insurgents. “We gained good instructions on how to do things right,” he said.
Seeing the motivation displayed by the graduates helped academy staff realize they are accomplishing something worthwhile for future Iraqi Security Forces. “This is just a start, building a foundation,” said Andrews, from Lincolnton, Ga. Instruction will continue throughout the year and the goal is to have a new class graduate monthly, with each class gradually increasing in size until classes hold 180 students, Andrews said. “In the end this will enable us to tie into two lines of operation: security and (transition), transferring over patrol bases,” Andrews said. “(If we) work together as a team, we will get the mission accomplished.”

12) Iraqi National Police Take the Lead, Teach Colleagues Lifesaver Skills
BAGHDAD — Coalition Transition Teams have been teaching Iraqis combat lifesaver classes (CLC) for several years.  Recently, at Joint Security Station Jazeer, medics from the 7th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police (NP) Division were the instructors teaching fellow Iraqis these valuable skills.  “There have been two main individuals I’ve been using throughout the class, that I identified early on from a previous class to be my instructors,” said Sgt. Jason Kun, a medic with Company C, 610th Brigade Support Battalion, Task Force Dragon, and Silver Lake, Kan., native. “I was able to bring them back and utilize them to teach several classes themselves.”
The NP instructors are medics with their unit and were charged with teaching their fellow shurta, Arabic for police, basic CLS skills including basic bandaging, vehicle extrication, and inserting an IV. The students are now able to take their skills back with them to their respective units within their brigade, and also to the people of Iraq. “The medic course is very important because you need it everywhere,” said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Karim, commander of the Iraqi brigade. “You don’t need these skills just in the compound. You may need them to treat your family.”
When the medic skills are needed in the NP compound, the police will be better prepared to save a life if needed. “They’ll actually be able to do some work on the ground to improve the chances of the injured Soldiers staying alive,” said Spc. Jonathan Matesic, a medic with Company C, 610th BSB and native of South Hampton, N.Y. With the help of the National Police Transition Team, the 7th National Police Brigade aims to be self-sufficient and fully mission capable.
“We’re trying to depend on ourselves from now on. The Coalition is helping us, but we’re trying to do our things by ourselves,” Karim said. The training conducted by the NP medics was the first step, but it was a successful step. “I just stood back there and monitored them, and they did an outstanding job” Kun said. This step in training the NP is important, as a major part of U.S. strategy in the war is training the Iraqi security forces to be self sufficient.

13) Iraqi Air Force Training to Sustain Fleet TAJI — The Iraqi Air Force Training School has opened their classrooms to recent Iraqi Air Force warrant officer graduates in an effort to train and improve their air power capabilities.  Students are participating in the Fundamentals of Aircraft Maintenance courses taught in blocks of instruction to ensure the students are comfortable with the basic instruction of aircraft maintenance. The courses included in the Fundamentals of Aircraft Maintenance are Maintenance Supervisor; Firefighter Apprentice; Aircraft Structures; Air Intelligence Operations and Aviation Fuels.  “Selection of the course curriculum reflects the needs of the growing Iraqi Air Force from the ground up,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Scott Marshall, Iraqi Air Force Training School chief air advisor of basic technical training.  Classroom training coupled with hands-on training and reinforced with additional classroom training allows the students to build on to their learning ability said Marshall. “The classroom training and structure is a new environment for the students,” said Marshall. “We will have to use the students training period as an experiment until we work out the nuances.” The school has made several decisions to enhance the training currently received by the students. A member of Defense Language Institute is teaching U.S. Air Force staff instructors how to teach English as a second language to minimize the language barrier faced by instructors and students. Another decision made by school operations is to provide Quality Assurance classes to the students. The classes will prepare them for pre-maintenance inspections that are required before operating any aircraft before and after use to ensure all equipment has proper maintenance performed.

14)  Anbari and U.S. Kids Exchange Letters, Tell About Life in Their Countries
HABBANIYAH — Just four years ago, Capt. Brian Von Kraus, now commander of Headquarters and Support Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, was a platoon commander, fighting a kinetic war against insurgent forces here in Anbar.
Serving in 2004 at the forefront of clandestine military operations, Von Kraus witnessed the worst of what the enemy could throw at a Marine unit. During one complex attack, initiated by insurgents, he led his Marines in three separate successful assaults on an enemy position. For his actions that day, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal, one of the Marine Corps’ highest awards for conspicuous gallantry, third only to the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.
Four years later, Von Kraus finds himself back in Anbar province, but this time he’s winning the war without firing a shot. He has once again come to the forefront of operations as the creator of “Operation Iraqi Pen Pal”, a letter exchange program bridging the gap between the young students of the local Iraqi schools here, and students of Boston and Maine  public schools in the United States. Operation Iraqi Pen Pal recently completed its first transfer of more than 70 letters from Iraqi children to multiple U.S. schools, who in turn provided more than 100 responses that were handed out to Iraqi children by Von Kraus himself. “The Americans, all they see is bad news; bombs, crimes, all of this,” said the 29-year-old Boston native, standing amongst a throng of local youth while he handed out another batch of American letters. “With the pen pals, American kids can talk to Iraqi kids and see the reality of the good stuff and see how similar they really are to the children over here in Iraq. I’m sure we all have common misconceptions and I hope this can clear some of that up.” The program’s initial stages started late September with just a couple of e-mails and some help from his family, said Von Kraus. “I got the idea from the adjutant, who was starting a similar project,” he said. “I also got an e-mail from my mother the same day. So, I started e-mailing some schools back home and my mother started working the network down there, getting in contact with schools.” Eventually the program proved to be a popular idea in the United States and it was put on a type of Boston public schools bulletin. People started calling Von Kraus, asking how they can get involved. Since then, the letters continued to flow in from the states. According to Jasam Mouhame Idan, the Assistant Manager of the Arfwan girls’ school here, he couldn’t be happier. “This is the first time I have heard of a program like this, and it is great,” said the tall, Habbaniyah native. “And it is a very good idea because these students can make friends in the United States and other countries, and it lets them know that we are not bad people. We are good. We like this idea because we see that your people want to know what is going on in our country.” “One cool thing about when the Iraqi kids get these letters and post cards is they realized that they are noticed by American kids and they write back with their own letters and photos,” said Von Kraus. “I think these kids have no idea what to make of it. There are photos of American girls playing soccer and having class and doing everything together with the guys. There are pictures of the kids sledding, skiing, going to the movies, swimming and some of this blows the Iraqi kid’s minds. The stuff we take for granted, they don’t get to do over here in Iraq, but I think Iraqi kids respond really well to the letters.” There has been a great resurgence of local security, safety and progress in this area once dubbed the “wild west” of Iraq. This security has allowed Iraqis to begin training as Iraqi security personnel, which allows other Iraqis to go about their lives and start rebuilding their country in a safe environment. “It is amazing how many Iraqis you see out here taking charge now, which allows us to do great stuff like this.” The program is a great success, said Idan, and for more than one reason. “I also think that when kids see the U.S. forces, some wave, but some are scared,” he said. “It’s going to also help kids understand more about the Marines, because some of them have heard bad things from insurgents, who have said the American forces are bad guys. I think this program will let them know how Americans really are.” “I really think it is good for both countries and hopefully we can make this possible across every unit here in Anbar,” said Von Kraus. “I hope to pass it up to the Regimental Combat Team level and push it out to other battalions and out to as many schools as possible. I would love to see them carry this one and I think it will be good if they do.”