Mar 1 at 3:03pm by David Tate
Members of USMC 3/8's Police Mentoring Team on patrol in Musa Qala, Helmand Province. Feb. 2009. All photos by David Tate.
Ok… I can’t take it anymore. Surge this, surge that. Whatever. Ever since the surge of 2007, as the Battle of Baghdad was raging, the media has had a penchant for this word and it is making me dizzy.
Let us get this straight because history needs to know what is, and what isn’t, a military surge. The media is back with this darling of a word and I’m going to get them to make this right.
surge |sərj|noun - a sudden powerful forward or upward movement, esp. by a crowd or by a natural force such as the waves or tide : flooding caused by tidal surges.• a sudden large increase, typically a brief one that happens during an otherwise stable or quiescent period.
Simple as that: ”A sudden large increase, typically a brief one that happens during an otherwise stable or quiescent period.”
The fact is, in regards to military surges, there have been three large scale surges, in either Afghanistan or Iraq, since either war began. What we face today in Afghanistan 2009, is actually an escalation and it needs to be recognized as such.
escalate |ˈeskəˌlāt|verb [ intrans. ]increase rapidly : the price of tickets escalated | [as adj. ] ( escalating) the escalating cost of health care.• become or cause to become more intense or serious : [ intrans. ] the disturbance escalated into a full-scale riot | [ trans. ] we do not want to escalate the war.
Marines from Bravo Co., 22 MEU search a village in Oruzgan Province. May, 2004.
Surge of 2004
The first true surge during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan came in spring 2004 in Afghanistan. At that time, the coalition was struggling to get security into place for the upcoming election, which would be Afghanistan’s first, free presidential election in its history.
One province that had seen no real coalition presence was the south central Taliban hub or Oruzgan Province; a major opium producing region that is the birth place of AQ #2 Mullah Omar himself.
US Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) landed there in early March, continuing military operations (and northern Kandahar Province) through the month of July. When the Marines left, they were replaced by an Army unit that was already in country, which started the process of turning it into the Provincial Reconstruction Team, as well as the center of operations for the Dutch-led task force, TF Oruzgan.
22nd MEU was in Afghanistan for roughly six months before being pulled out and not replaced by an additional unit, qualifying this event as a surge.
A member of TF Marne dashes across a bridge in Arab Jabour, Iraq during the surge of 2007.
Surge of 2007
In early 2007, President Bush announced his intention to launch a surge into the war in Iraq that would prove to be the death blow for Al Qaeda in Iraq during the pivotal Battle for Baghdad that had been underway for some time. The surge he ordered would see the troop numbers swell 30,000 to more than 160,000 troops, a wartime high.
At least 10,000 of those troops had extended tours of 15 months and were not replaced once those tours were up. I would qualify this as a sustained surge, because the fact is, post-surge levels are at 150,000, down just 12,000. Subtract that from the 30,000 surge and you see what was replaced. That number is now shrinking daily as the US finally shifts focus to Afghanistan.
Surge of 2008
In late spring of 2008, the 24th MEU landed in Kandahar and launched a massive assault on the Taliban’s logistic base, Garmsir, in the southern Helmand River Valley. After almost five straight weeks of fighting, the battle slowed, as frontlines set in and many of the regions residents returned to their homes and bringing life back to the pivotal District Center.
When the Marines were pulled out of southern Helmand, they were relieved in place (RIP) by British and Afghan forces as USMC 2/7 continued to set the foundation for the Special Purpose Marine Air/Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) which is currently in place.
Why This is Now an Escalation Phase
Once additional Marines (2/7) augmented the 24th MEU (surge force), this conflict escalated in troop numbers which set the American level at a wartime high of 33,000. This force eventually became the SPMAGTF.
3/2 Marines are currently preparing a prolonged RIP with the current combat element of the the task force, 3/8 Marines, which will sustain the Marine presence in Helmand and Farah Provinces.
With President Obama’s authorization of 17,000 additional troops, plans are now underway to send the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), which will permanently add approximately 8,ooo additional Marines to the mix currently fighting in southern Afghanistan.
Surge of 2009?
The surge of 2009 is the addition of troops that are coming in relation to the August election. For instance: Germany is sending an additional 600 troops in time for the election. If those troops are pulled after the election, those troops would be “surge” troops.
Currently, the 22nd MEU is once again out and about, cruising around the world to a destination(s) unknown. The current good odds bet on my chart would see the 22nd MEU landing in Helmand Province for a renewed push, south of Garmsir, to continue where the last combat MEU left off. If they are not replaced after 4-5 months of combat ops, they too would be a surge force.
However, there is a school of thought that suggests the MEU cycle is about to go into a steady Afghanistan replacement format, which would make that another escalation of boots on the ground (unless it is something already built into current plans but has not been released).
So in a nutshell, the current “surge” actually started with 24th MEU in spring 2008, was augmented by USMC 2/7, becoming an escalation in force when they were replaced by the current SPMAGTF in November of last year.
There’s my pitch. The surge is out, an escalation is in as a new catch word. Whataya think?
Dec 23 at 11:11am by David Tate
I would be completely amiss if I didn’t do a complete post on PMI, Bill Roggio and The Long War Journal. I cannot express properly just how important this organization is to, not only my work, but to the most complete assemblage reporting on our world at war today.
When I first stumbled onto Bill’s work in 2007, he was writing under the blog name, “The Fourth Rail”. I instantly realized the awesome resource he was putting out there and I contacted him immediately. A month later, we were in Iraq together. Within those first three days of meeting, Bill launched The Long War Journal and the rest is history.
As I got to know him, it turns out he convinced his wife of this idea, quit his job, secured a loan and a partner then went for it. A true entrepreneur, he took a huge chance and is now moving forward successfully. For the reader, it means the most centralized resource in regards to current events regarding the fight against al Qaeda. It cannot be missing from your favorites.
What’s In It For Me?
While cannot speak for Bill, I can speak about him and what he means to my work. He believes in the independent hard working spirit that he is creating and told me that he supports independents like myself.
His big contributions to me include a major forum to present my first person battlefield observations. He has also graciously provided a letter of accreditation needed for my embed (PMI is recognized by allied forces as a legitimate journalistic outlet), which is on its way to ISAF as we speak.
The biggest thing, however, is the very expensive insurance needed to financially protect myself, and my family, in the event of injury or death. This is as important as it gets and cannot be overlooked by independents.
Because PMI has an ongoing policy, they can add journalists to it while embedded, which they have agreed to do for me. I’m not sure of the cost yet, but it is not cheap. If there is any interest at all in helping this organization out, and ultimately me, this is a great chance.
Here at tax time, people may be interested in a write off. PMI is a legitimate 501(c) organization and is happy for the help. If you want to make it personal, just note it as funds to help pay my combat insurance.
Bill Roggio: email@example.com
Paul Hanusz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Multimedia Inc.
124 Kettlebrook Drive
Mt. Laurel NJ, 08054
Oct 27 at 8:08pm by David Tate
An American commando raid into Syrian territory has resulted in the “decapitation” of the primary network responsible for facilitating the Iraqi insurgency from Syria, this according to Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.
According to Roggio, the raid killed the group’s leader, Abu Ghadiya, as well as his entire senior leadership.
“Al Qaeda leader Abu Ghadiya was killed in yesterday’s strike inside Syria, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. But US special operations forces also inflicted a major blow to al Qaeda’s foreign fighter network based in Syria. The entire senior leadership of Ghadiya’s network was also killed in the raid, the official stated.
Ghadiya was the leader of al Qaeda extensive network that funnels foreign fighters, weapons, and cash from Syria into Iraq along the entire length of the Syrian border. Ghadiya was first identified as the target of the raid inside Syria late last night here at The Long War Journal. The Associated Press reported Ghadiya was killed in the raid earlier today.”
Read More here —> The Long War Journal
Sep 22 at 2:02pm by David Tate
I am now offering my pictures, and some video, to folks in need of images related to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can look at available pictures here: Available Pictures
If you cannot find what you need, ask, I may have it and just haven’t posted it yet.
I also have some video that can be licensed out (contact me directly), however most of my video clips are available here: David Tate’s Getty Collection
Photos include, but are not limited to, Afghan National Army, Romanian Army (Afghanistan), US Marines(Afghanistan), Iraqi Army and US Army (Iraq/Afghanistan). I also have images of civilians from Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan and of the first anti-Iraq War march in Washington, January 2003.
All proceeds gathered go directly to funding this site.
Sep 17 at 10:10am by David Tate
As 3,500 US Marines prepare to leave southern Afghanistan following an extended tour in Helmand and Farah Provinces, the US Department of Defense announces they will be replaced by at least 2,000 fresh Marines with 3,500 additional soldiers set to land two months later.
US Marines, led by Third Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment (3/8) from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, is expected to be in place by November and will comprise the combat element of a new Marine Air/Ground Task Force (MAGTF). 1,000 other Marines will be taken from across the Corps to complete the “ad hoc” task force.
Although the full mission of the MAGTF has not been disclosed, the Marines will most likely continue the training mission currently underway by Second Battalion, Seventh Marines (2/7), who are operating mostly in Farah Province.
3/8 will join First Division’s Second Battalion, Second Infantry Regiment, who have recently deployed to Maiwand in Kandahar Province, leaving the American overt troop total in Regional Command South at nearly 3,300 troops.
There is still no word whether replacements are coming for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is currently wrapping up operations in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. 24 MEU, originally sent to Afghanistan as a roving combat force designed to take the fight to Taliban fighters across Helmand Province, ended up securing Garmser (Garmsir) in southern Helmand and holding it until Afghan and British reinforcements could be sent in.
Earlier this month, Fourth Kandak, Third Brigade, 205th Corps (Afghan National Army), along with British embedded trainers, took over security of Garmser as the Marines pulled back to Kandahar in preperation for the trip home to North Carolina.
10th Mountain Returns
In January, approximately 3,500 members of 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division, will also be deployed to Afghanistan. Like 3/8 Marines, 3BCT is being diverted from an announced mission to Iraq.
More Marines Coming?
Another Marine Expeditionary Unit has also recently left port for destinations unknown. The 26th MEU, based in North Carolina, is a plausible candidate to fill any void left by 24 MEU in southern Afghanistan. The 2,100 member MEU has its own air assets, is special operations capable (SOC) and overall self-sufficient.
Edit - 9/17 2042 – After re-evaluating my information I realize there may be a mistake in my assessment, forcing me to re-work this article for known accuracy. While 3BCT will “join” (as reported by the Marine Corps Times) 3/8 Marines in deploying to Afghanistan, it is not clear if they are literaly joining 3/8 to form the MAGTF or if they’re even deploying to Regional Command South at all. I apologize for the potential error.
Sep 16 at 3:03pm by David Tate
A Battlefield Tourist is really just a name for what I do as a hobby: Collecting military video archive material for Getty Images. In 2005, I had the fortune of signing a contract with Getty, which turns out to be one of my biggest professional accomplishments.
Last month, my latest submission from Iraq made it on-line, giving me almost 690 images currently being managed by Getty; ensuring my work will be used in documentaries for years to come.
Here’s a link to the entire collection:
David Tate’s Getty Collection
Sep 3 at 10:10pm by David Tate
Here’s a great story I had the privilege of working on today. I think you all will really enjoy it.
Meet Hayder Kharalla, an Iraqi who joined US forces as an interpreter in 2003. It was in that year, during an ambush, Hayder braved enemy fire to try to rescue a fallen US soldier. The soldier died and Hayder took a round through both legs; a wound that eventually forced doctors to remove his right leg.
Hayder would eventually move to Jordan after his family was threatened with death.
Earlier this year, Hayder and his family were part of the largest wave of Iraqis allowed to immigrate since the start of the war and they settled in Roanoke, Virginia.
Coverage of Hayder’s story by WSLS-Roanoke (NBC) led to the donation of two prosthetic limbs that he hopes will help him fulfil his American dream.
Mollie Halpern wrote this continuing coverage story and David Tate shot and edited this particular segment (which originally aired September 3 on WSLS-Roanoke at 5:30).
Video Story From WSLS Roanoke
By Mollie Halpern
Published: September 3, 2008
A perfect fit.
Iraqi refugee Hayder Kharalla says his new prosthetic legs launch him another step forward in his life in America.
Kharalla says, “I’m really happy and so excited I’m out of words to be honest with you because I’ve been waiting for this moment since a long time, and it’s finally come.”
“Virginia Prosthetics’” made it possible for Kharalla to receive both walking *and* running prostheses.
The nearly $40,000 artificial limbs are made with the latest technology, unlike Kharalla’s old one which caused him great pain.
Kharallalost his leg while trying to save a U.S. Sergeant from crossfire.
At the time, he was an interpreter for U.S. troops in Baghdad.
Becky Stewart saw Kharalla’s story on “WSLS 10 On Your Side,” and it moved her so much that she asked her bosses if they could help.
Stewart told us, “I know what these guys can do for patients, and I knew if I could get it ok’d, they could get him where he needed to be.”
Hayder will need physical therapy to get used to his running leg. Lucas Therapies in Roanoke will provide Kharalla the physical therapy he needs, at no charge. Once Hayder gets his gait, he’ll organize a community run that will benefit the children of fallen U.S. soldiers.
That includes the U.S. sergeant Kharalla tried to save, who left behind a family.
“We laughed together, we sing together, and sometimes we cry together. So it’s a family to me they were like brothers,” says Kharalla.
Kharalla says he’s happy to call America home and is grateful for his new American friends, like Stewart.
A symbol of his patriotism proudly worn on his new limbs. A part of him, with every step he takes.
We will continue to follow Kharalla’s story, and when he organizes the charity run, we’ll be sure to pass that information on to you.
Jul 24 at 4:04pm by David Tate
Over the past several weeks, more and more evidence is mounting that a long term US presence in the Kurdish region of Iraq is in the works.
On July 16 the mayor of Halabja, Khadr Karim Mohammad, told the Aswat al-Iraqi news agency that the regional government in Sulaimaniyah Province has agreed to sell 1,500 acres of land east of town to the Americans to build an airport. Mohammad believes the airport will actually be an American airbase.
Halabja lies just under seven miles from the border with Iran and was the scene of a massacre of more than 5,000 Kurds during one of many Saddam-era offensives that targeted Kurdish civilians and rebel fighters alike.
The report claims a second source within the provincial government acknowledges that US officials have surveyed the site several times and that the project is being paid for by the Americans. “The project is much larger than just a civilian airport…”, the unidentified source reportedly said.
While the Americans do not deny the Halabja project is underway, US officials deny the airport is a “cover” for a military base.
The report of a possible US airbase in the Kurdish region is just one of several recent suggestions that any long term US presence in Iraq will most likely include, if not be relegated to, the Kurdish region. The cities of Zakho and Arbil have also been mentioned frequently as possible sites for future US bases.
Jabr al-Yawir, spokesman for the Protection Forces of the Kurdistan Region, recently told the Gulf News that, ”A permenent US presence in the Kurdistan region is welcome and is neccesary to protect Iraq from internal and external risks…”, but that the presence must be within an “Iraqi-Kurd-American” agreement because Kurdistan is the only place a US base can be present in Iraq without continuing to fuel the insurgency.
Al-Yawir suggests that US bases in Mosul and Kirkuk are fuelling armed resistance in those areas and permenant bases in either of those regions would continue to do so.
The Gulf News report also claims that US and Iraqi officials are currently working out an agreement that will solidify a defensive agreement for years to come. Those talks are reportedly ongoing with the latest round happening in the Kurdish capital, Arbil, July 20 between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Kurdish Regional President Barazani. Barzani has long sought a permenant US presence in his region, with or without Baghdad’s support.
Jul 12 at 2:02pm by David Tate
US Special Forces captured an Iraqi who led them to the bodies of two 10th Mountain Division soldiers missing in Iraq for more than a year.
Sgt. Alex Jimenez, of Massachusetts, and Pvt Brian Fouty, of Michigan, have been missing since their small unit was attacked May 12, 2007 south of Baghdad. The attack also left four US soldiers and an Iraqi soldier/interpreter dead.
According to the Associated Press, Brian Fouty’s stepfather, Gordon Dibler, said that military officials who personally visited the Fouty family July 8 told him the remains of both missing soldiers were found in the village of Jurf as Sakhr, an area where members of Saddam’s top-tier security apparatus used to live.
In the early morning hours of May 12th, 2007, seven soldiers and an Iraqi soldier/interpreter were manning an “overwatch” position on Route Malibu. Their mission: To monitor an area in the town of Qarghuli, 12 miles west of Mahmudiyah notorious for roadside bombs. The unit was part of a larger operation deployed within proximity of the road.
The Americans, using two humvees encircled by concertina wire as their position, were carrying out the often boring mission when, just before 5am, the trees and tall grass around them erupted in small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. It’s not known how long the battle lasted, but by the end, the insurgents were within hand grenade distance.
The attack happened just 800 yards from a US base and within view of an Iraqi Army position, which ignored the fighting.
A nearby American unit that had heard the explosions couldn’t reach the soldiers using their communications equipment, which prompted them to call in an aerial drone to investigate the position. In the early dawn light the drone found the position, which was now marked by billowing black smoke from the two humvees which were heavily damaged and on fire.
45 minutes later, two units made it to the scene, both slowed by IEDs encountered on the way. When they got there, they found the bodies of four soldiers, including the Iraqi soldier, in the burning humvees. The only evidence of the other four men came in the form of blood trails and drag marks. Soldiers following one blood trail found another soldier dead in a nearby building. He had been shot.
The capture of several members of the supposed kidnap team, including two major players in December 2007, led US officials to believe that 13 criminals, hired by Al Qaeda affiliated, Islamic State of Iraq, planned and executed the attack. Evidence indicates the terrorists had practiced the assault in the days leading up to May 12th.
Following the ambush, the team split into two groups and drove off; the three Americans were with the gang’s ringleader and were alive.
Al Qaeda in Iraq quickly took credit for the attack, claiming the umbrella group, Al Qaeda in Mesopatamia, carried the assault out. The group also warned the thousands of US and Iraqi troops, who had flooded the area in an attempt to find the soldiers, to stop looking or the prisoners would be executed.
On May 23rd, the body of Joeseph Anzack Jr., of California, was pulled from the Euphrates River by civilians 30 miles south of the area of the ambush. Anzack had been shot in the head and torso plus showed signs of excessive torture. There are plausible theories that suggest Anzack was shot and dumped in the river as US forces closed in on his captors.
While the search for the two remaining men did slow down in the ensuing weeks, the US military never stopped looking for them; digging up dozens of suspected gravesites over the past year.
In June 2007, Al Qaeda released a video claiming to have killed the men, but offered no pictures of the bodies. US troops also found the ID cards of the missing soldiers in a safehouse near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad and more than ninety miles from where the ambush took place. At that time, US military sources believed they were on the soldiers’ trail with “credible” leads taking them northeast to Iraq’s Salahuddin Province. In October, troops even recovered some of the weapons that belonged to the men, but still no sign of Jimenez or Fouty themselves.
That would all change on July 1 when US Special Forces captured a man who led them to the graves a few days later. The wondering, the questions, suffering the unknown, is now over.
Same Method of Operation?
A year earlier on June 16, 2006, not far from where the 2007 ambush/kidnapping occurred, a dozen soldiers manning a checkpoint on a bridge, also along Route Malibu, were attacked in a coordinated ambush that would later be realized as a planned kidnapping of American soldiers. The operation was a rare one for insurgents. The only other similar incident during the war happened farther south in Karbala in January 2007.
According to an Iraqi eyewitness, three humvees were manning a checkpoint on a bridge west of Yusifiyah when the checkpoint came under attack from several directions. Two of the humvees speed off and before the third could follow, it was engaged at close range by seven masked men supported by a truck bearing a heavy machine gun.
One soldier, Specialist David Babineau of Massachusetts, was killed during the initial assault. Two others, PFC Kristian Menchaca of Texas and PFC. Thomas Tucker of Oregon, were captured alive.
A month later, insurgents released a gruesome video of the two mutilated, decapitated soldiers as fighters continued to desecrate their bodies. A US military official says the men were paraded up and down Route Malibu before being killed.
The bodies were found June 19 in a ditch booby trapped with IEDs. They were found at the power plant in Jurf as Sakhr.
Abu Usama al-Tunisi, the alleged mastermind of the attack, was killed in an american airstrike in September 2006. Tunisi was also a major facilitator for foreign fighters coming into Iraq and was al-Qaeda’s emir of Yusufiyah.
Steven Dale Green’s Legacy?
There is a debate as to the motivation behind both of these attacks. Some say it’s as simple as well executed insurgent operations. However others, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, say both ambushes were in retaliation for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl and her family in 2006, three months before the first ambush, also west of al Mahmudiyah.
In March of that year, 15-year old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi was gang raped by a group of paratroopers after her mother, father and five year old sister were murdered. Abeer herself was then shot and set on fire. The main perpetrator was Pvt. Steven Dale Green.
Within three months insurgents sprung the first ambush/kidnapping detailed above, targeting members of the same unit accused in the rape and murder incident. Al Qaeda claims the executions of the soldiers were carried out by Abu Hamza al-Mujaeer, possibly a member of Abeer Hamza’s family.
Whether the deaths of these 10 soldiers from Bravo, 1/502, 101st airborne and 4/31, 10th Mountain are tied to the rape and murders of the Hamza family may never be agreed on. However, the fact that both ambushes carried similar hallmarks, both ambushes happened within 25 miles of one another and the fact that both incidents ended in Jurf as Sakhr certainly suggests, at the least, the two incidents are related in some way.
Jul 8 at 12:12pm by David Tate
In an effort to bolster its firepower in Afghanistan, the US military said July 7th, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is now in position to do just that.
The news, first reported by NBC and now CNN, is a continuing sign of US military forces ratcheting up involvement in Afghanistan.
The Abraham Lincoln, which had been supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, will be based in the Gulf of Oman where its F-18A fighter/bombers will have access to southern Afghanistan, and beyond, via overflights of Pakistan.
The move follows remarks last week by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates showing great concern over the rise in violence seven years into the Afghan war.
In April, a “one-time” surge of 2,200 US Marines landed in southern Afghanistan after a year of near-hollow wrangling to get the international community to send more troops to the fledgling government’s aid. That unit, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was extended 30 more days July 3rd.
In June, President Bush announced his intentions to bolster US ground forces in Afghanistan by two Regimental Combat Teams before July 2009. That move would increase US ground forces in that central asian country to roughly 40,000, up from the present level of 31,000. However, in a speech last week, the president acknowledged the tough time in Afghanistan, suggesting more troops could be in country by the end of the year.