Sons of Iraq Payday in Multaka
Members of the Sons of Iraq gather at their headquarters in Multaka, Iraq, to register for their monthly salaries, March 6, 2009.
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Short
Dual Role in Securing, Developing Iraq
U.S. Army Capt. Eric Currence, commander of the 641st Civil Affairs Team, shakes hands with Jameel Bashar, the village sheik’s brother, after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new water filtration facility in Kalamat Village March 9.
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
Unrest on U.S. / Mexico Border + Updates from Iraq
Sgt. Stryker here, with some military news a little closer to the U.S. homeland. Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, has recently requested about 250 more National Guard troops for its border with Mexico. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas is considering a similar request for help on the border with Mexico. This is unsettling news, but it will be interesting to see which way President Obama goes with this. The violence is continuing to get bad down there.
“We’re going to examine whether, and if, National Guard deployments would make sense and in what circumstances they would make sense as part of this overall review of our border situation,” Obama told reporters on March 11, 2009, according to media reports. The White House confirmed his comments, made during a media roundtable session.
“I haven’t drawn any conclusions yet,” Obama said. “I don’t have a particular tipping point in mind.”
While emphasizing that he does not want to “militarize” the border, Obama called it “unacceptable if you’ve got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing our citizens.”
“I think if one U.S. citizen is killed because of foreign nationals who are engaging in violent crime, that’s enough of a concern to do something about it,” he said.
The president noted that Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Mexico last week to meet with his Mexican counterparts about the situation and to discuss additional support the United States could provide.
Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates requesting 250 more National Guard soldiers to be posted along the 350-mile Arizona-Mexico border.
Although Brewer has the authority to call up the troops, she asked Gates to mobilize them as part of the federally funded Joint Counter Narco-terrorism Task Force. That force currently includes about 150 Army and Air National Guard members.
“Arizona communities and citizens are negatively affected by the impacts of the illegal drug trade and related border violence, and enforcement agencies in all jurisdictions are stretched as they attempt to address the enormity of the problems,” Brewer said. “The support these additional soldiers can provide to law enforcement agency operations would prove invaluable.”
In neighboring Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has expressed the need for more troops or border agents along its border with Mexico. Perry reiterated at a ceremony last week the need for more help to disrupt operations of the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Barrio Azteca, MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters on March 12, 2009, that it was too soon to know if additional military support would be granted by President Obama. The United States is exploring other ways it can help Mexico deal with escalating violence, he said. “We continue to offer Mexico assistance in any number of ways,” he told reporters.
The Merida Initiative, for example, provides Mexico and several other countries funding to counter drug trafficking, and the U.S. military has a strong military-to-military partnership with Mexico. The United States also is providing Mexico foreign military financing for five helicopters, a maritime surveillance aircraft and handheld scanners used for detection purposes, Whitman said.
“The U.S. government as a whole is concerned about the escalating violence and its effect on public security as well as the Southwest U.S. border,” he said. “I think that what you are seeing is a recognition of the problem that is facing the Mexican government, and as good neighbors, the United States is looking at any number of ways in which we might be able to render some additional assistance.”
Meanwhile, in Iraq, Iraqi forces, with coalition support, captured a man and nine others wanted for bomb attacks, dismantled two make-shift bombs, and seized weapons caches in Iraq in recent days, according to U.S. military officials.
Combined forces detained the ten men as they were attempting to flee the town of Murbat-Garha on March 7, 2009, officials said. The troops had warrants for the suspects and were searching for hidden weapons in the area. Iraqi soldiers cordoned off the town, and detained the 10 as they were attempting to flee. The soldiers uncovered a 120 mm round, an automatic weapon, and a video hidden in an irrigation ditch in a farmer’s field.
In other Iraq operations:
Iraqi forces found and disposed of a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib district on March 11, 2009. There were no injuries and no damage reported.
Acting on a civilian’s tip, Iraqi forces discovered and destroyed a roadside bomb March 10 in northwestern Baghdad’s Kadhamiyah district. The bomb was beneath the driver’s seat of the informant’s vehicle. Iraqi police immediately notified coalition forces in the area and requested assistance with the removal and safe transport of the device. A coalition explosive ordnance disposal team dismantled the device, then moved it to a nearby base to be examined.
Provisional security forces in Saqlawiya discovered multiple weapons caches during a two-day sweep March 8 and 9 with the U.S. 7th Marine Regiment. The eight sites yielded 165 grenades and rockets, nearly 40 mortar rounds, 14 artillery rounds, several hundred rounds of small-arms and anti-aircraft ammunition, more than 225 pounds of rocket propellant and explosives, various weapons accessories, and a large stockpile of bomb components. Explosive ordnance disposal teams conducted controlled detonations to destroy the munitions.
Iraqi and U.S. soldiers have discovered two weapons caches in Kirkuk in less than a week. The most recent cache, found March 6, included grenades, rockets, 82 mm and 60 mm mortars, a machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and various types of small-arms ammunition.
This is Sgt. Stryker saying stay safe out there, wherever you might be serving.