Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We are all human

Why is it that a place like the Fertile Crescent can give rise to three major religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and we are still fighting about it? I don’t understand how when you look back into the history of the human race that we have so many convergence points and then we diverge out into warring fractions. We come from the same stalk and yet will continue to focus on our differences instead of our similarities.
See 10/9/2006 post.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Project Kuwait

Kuwait's $8.5bn northern oil fields project, known as Project Kuwait, is still under consideration, reported the Kuwait Times. The project aims to involve foreign oil firms in the stepping up of production at four oil fields from 550,000 bpd to 900,000 bpd. The scheme has been stalled by opposition MPs for 12 years due to fears the country's oil industry will fall into the hands of international firms.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Army is training advisors for Iraq

Laura sent me this article and it is a good read. We are in this for the long run and with our military training the Iraqi military the use of American civilians to work in theater will increase.

Army is training advisors for Iraq
The mission signals the U.S. vision of its long-term role there.
By Peter SpiegelTimes Staff WriterOctober 25, 2006Within the Army's tightly knit community of counterinsurgency experts, Lt. Col. John Nagl is something of a star.When the Army and Marine Corps decided to rewrite their field manual on how to fight insurgents last year, Nagl was chosen as one of its authors. His doctoral thesis on guerrilla wars was just republished in paperback with an approving foreword by the Army's chief of staff.But when Nagl's two-year stint in the Pentagon ended this month, he did not, like most accomplished soldiers of his rank, take command of an armored battalion headed back to Iraq. Instead, he shipped out to this sprawling base in rural Kansas where the Army is attempting what some consider its most ambitious structural change since the Vietnam War.Here, amid rolling fields dotted by scores of quickly built barracks, the Army is building a training base that by early next year will be turning as many as 2,000 of its most promising midlevel officers into military advisors every two months, most of them headed to Iraq.The mission reflects the U.S. military's vision of its long-range role in Iraq — as advisors for local forces that will be doing the actual fighting. But it represents something of a gamble as well: The effort is sucking thousands out of their normal combat deployments at a time when American forces are facing personnel shortages as violence in Iraq surges.It is also a signal that, as commanders in Iraq move to re-evaluate tactics in the wake of a faltering Baghdad offensive and rising U.S. casualties, the work of military advisors is likely to emerge as a pillar of any plan to withdraw American troops. In Baghdad on Tuesday, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said it might take more U.S. troops to quell violence in Baghdad.There are 3,600 military advisors in Iraq training, organizing and accompanying Iraqi units into action. But as the effort at Ft. Riley ramps up, Army officials acknowledge that number could grow by thousands in the coming months — and perhaps tens of thousands once Afghanistan is added to the program."This is much bigger than … sending Special Forces teams down to El Salvador or Colombia to work in small groups," said Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, referring to past U.S. advisory efforts.The size and scope of the new effort, which began in June with the arrival at Ft. Riley of the first class of prospective advisors, is a sign of how seriously the Army is taking the mission."I feel like we'll be the last men standing at the end of the U.S. presence here," said Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, the Army officer sent to Baghdad in July to take over the advisor program.The Army has begun pouring resources into the effort. Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, has assigned an entire division headquarters — the 1st Infantry, one of 10 Army divisions — to take over the training mission, and has ordered two of its combat brigades to rid themselves of all their tanks and infantrymen to devote their officers exclusively to training advisors."The fact he took one of his divisions, at a time he needs divisions, and two heavy brigades, at a time he needs heavy brigades, that by itself speaks volumes of how important this is," said Maj. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the 1st Infantry's new commander.In April, the Army added incentives to persuade its best officers to volunteer for the program. The most attractive is a guarantee that volunteers will get an assignment of their choice after a year as an advisor.The advisor program's effects are already visible. Kalev Sepp, an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School, said he was taken aback when, before a recent lecture to Iraq combat veterans taking a course for captains at Ft. Knox, Ky., he was repeatedly told by officers that they were headed to Ft. Riley."I finally just said, 'How many people here are going back to Iraq as advisors?' and half the people in the room raised their hand," said Sepp, who was a military advisor as a Special Forces major in El Salvador 17 years ago. "That's extraordinary."But until the start of the year, the Army's attention to its military advisor program was haphazard at best.The concept started on an ad hoc basis. Early in the Iraq war, some commanders adapted quickly to fighting a counterinsurgency and set up embedded military advisor teams on the fly.Most prominently, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli — who in early 2004 was the 1st Cavalry Division commander in Baghdad's Sadr City slums but now commands all ground forces in Iraq — took hundreds of his soldiers from their assigned units to create 70 small teams who "lived, ate and trained with the Iraqi army," Chiarelli wrote in a summary of his deployment.Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division the same year, took similar steps in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad.But Chiarelli and Batiste were exceptions to the rule. Most commanders, when ordered to provide soldiers for military training teams — dubbed MiTTs — would turn over those not needed for essential operations."Some took it very seriously and picked very good people," Pittard said. "Some said, 'Well, who can we spare?' "The result was predictable. When Sepp, who has traveled to Iraq as a counterinsurgency advisor to U.S. commanders, met military trainers in Taji as recently as December, he was "unimpressed with the quality of people.""The lieutenant colonel that I met there, the first thing on his mind was how much longer he had before he left," Sepp recalled. "He had it down to hours. He was completely uninterested in what they were doing."Advisor teams were thrown together and, in many cases, did not meet one another until arriving in Iraq — a drastic change for combat units who normally spend a year together before deployment.While the huge shift underway at Ft. Riley will address many of the earlier problems, it also raises some new ones.The Army is scrounging for soldiers to send to Iraq in combat brigades. Two senior military planners said in interviews that the move to push thousands of officers into advisory roles has exacerbated readiness problems plaguing the Army.The advising mission is particularly debilitating because it is officer-heavy. The typical 11-person U.S. team sent to advise an Iraqi battalion consists of five enlisted officers above the rank of staff sergeant and six commissioned officers.Cody acknowledged the overhaul of the advisor mission will "put added strain on the force." He said the Army was compensating by filling some senior officer jobs with more junior officers, particularly in units that have recently returned from Iraq.Perhaps more troubling, however, is the time it has taken to make the advisor program a priority. Though Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and President Bush have mentioned military advisors as central to plans to hand security duties to Iraqis, it has taken three years to begin to fix the program.Counterinsurgency experts said the U.S. must make a long-term commitment to the program and support the Iraqi military with money and American airpower, or risk a catastrophic, Vietnam-like collapse of the Iraqi armed forces.But it is unclear how long the Army is willing to stay with the program. Ham, the 1st Infantry commander, said he viewed the training mission as a two- to three-year commitment. Cody said he was preparing for five years.But even that might not be long enough. Nagl, the Army guerrilla war expert, pointed out that the British counterinsurgency that began in 1948 in Malaya lasted 12 years."These are long wars," Nagl said. "These are long, hard wars."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

History of Islam

Islam is a major world religion, founded in Arabia and based on the teachings of Muhammad, who is called the Prophet. The Arabic word islam literally means "submission," but as a religious term in the Koran, it means "submission to the will or law of God." One who practices Islam is a Muslim. According to the Koran, Islam is the primordial and universal religion, and even nature itself is Muslim, because it automatically obeys the laws God has ingrained in it. For human beings, who possess free will, practicing Islam does not involve automatically obeying but rather freely accepting God’s commandments.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ramadan & the drive home

Well Ramadan continues here in Kuwait and one thing I have really noticed is the reduction in the morning traffic. It is really nice to have fewer cars to move out of the way of. The drive home (back to my apartment) is good also although the evening traffic is heavier than the morning traffic since the locals have been fasting all day and it is time to celebrate, worship and meet with fellow Muslims.

Narrative or Analysis

I am wondering if this blog is more narrative or analysis. It was started on 30 April 06 after my first trip to Kuwait and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). I plan on reviewing my blog posts to see if they are more narrative or analysis or maybe reporting. I would like it to be more analysis and that is what happens between my ears but I don't think it is getting to the blog posts. What do you think?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Afghanistan now under NATO

Coalition in Afghanistan transfers command to NATO

KABUL NATO assumed command of foreign forces in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, taking over from a U.S.- led coalition that toppled the Taliban regime five years ago and completing its expansion across the country.
The transfer saw 12,000 troops, who had been operating in the east under the coalition, fall under the 37-nation International Security Assistance Force, increasing the force to about 31,000 soldiers nationwide.

excerpt from International Herald Tribune - Asia-Pacific published Oct 5, 2006, Agence France-Presse

IRAQ- the cost of war

Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post. Sunday, October 8, 2006 -- The number of U.S troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest level in nearly two years as Americans fight block-by-block in Baghdad to try to check a spiral of sectarian violence that U.S. commanders warn could lead to civil war.Last month, 776 U.S. troops were wounded in action in Iraq, the highest number since the military assault to retake the insurgent-held city of Fallujah in November 2004, according to Defense Department data. It was the fourth-highest monthly total since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.The sharp increase in American wounded -- with nearly 300 more in the first week of October -- is a grim measure of the degree to which the U.S. military has been thrust into the lead of the effort to stave off full-scale civil war in Iraq, military officials and experts say. Beyond Baghdad, Marines battling Sunni insurgents in Iraq's violent western province of Anbar last month also suffered their highest number of wounded in action since late 2004.More than 20,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in combat and 2,700 killed in the Iraq war. While much media reporting has focused on the number of dead, military experts say the number of wounded is a more accurate gauge of the fierceness of fighting because advances in armor and medical care allow many service members to survive who would have perished in past wars. The ratio of wounded to killed among U.S. forces in Iraq is about 8 to 1, compared with 3 to 1 in Vietnam."These days, wounded are a much better measure of the intensity of the operations than killed," said Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Ramadan has special customs in Oman

REL-OMAN-RAMADAN-TRADITIONS Ramadan has special customs in Oman
By Ahmad Al-Rubei'e MUSCAT, Oct 7 (KUNA) --

The holy month of Ramadan has special customs and traditions in Oman, and is well known for being the time of worship and charity.Muhammad Al-Badi, from Muscat, told KUNA that Omanis concentrate in this month on praying and doing good deeds, as Ramadan is the month of social unity, mercy, and love.Like all Muslims, the people of Oman prepare for the month before its approach, by getting ready to fast, he added.Meanwhile, Muhammad Al-Rawas, from Dhofar governorate, told KUNA that despite the differences between Ramadan in the past and today, it is still "a dear guest" that is welcomed by all Muslims.He pointed out that one of the main practices Omanis do in Ramadan is visiting their relatives and neighbors and holding special gatherings.On the time of Iftar, at sunset, people go to mosques close to their homes with their food to break their fast together and provide the needy with Iftar meals, and later would pray together, he said.Omanis give a lot of charity in Ramadan, seeking God's blessings, he stressed.Mosques all around Oman hold religious lectures for people from all ages, including children who are taught good deeds and how to read the holy Quran, he pointed out.Musallam Al-Ghailani, from Sour, said one of the special practices in this spiritual month is firing shots from cannons as a sign of Ramadan's approach.

Fertile Crescent Beginings

Peoples of the Fertile Crescent domesticated local plants much earlier. They domesticated far more species, domesticated far more productive or valuable species, domesticated a much wider range of types of crops, developed intessified food production and dense human popluations more rapidly, and as a result entered the modern world with more advanced technology, more complex political organization, and more epidemic diseases with which to infect other peoples.
From: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Fertile Crescent background info

The Fertile Crescent is a historical region in the Middle East incorporating Ancient Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. Watered by the Nile, Jordan, Euphrates and Tigris rivers and covering some 400-500,000 square kilometers, the region extends from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea around the north of the Syrian Desert and through the Jazirah and Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf. These areas correspond to the present-day Egypt, Israel, West Bank, Gaza strip, and Lebanon and parts of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, south-eastern Turkey and south-western Iran.

The Fertile Crescent has an impressive record of past human activity. As well as possessing many sites with the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans , later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers, this area is most famous for its sites related to the origins of agriculture. The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements, which date to around 9,000 BCE (and includes sites such as Jericho). This region, alongside Mesopotamia (which lies to the east of the Fertile Crescent, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates), also saw the emergence of early complex societies during the succeeding Bronze Age. There is also early evidence from this region for writing, and the formation of state-level societies. This has earned the region the nickname "The Cradle of Civilization."
Since the Bronze Age, the region's natural fertility has been greatly extended by irrigation works, upon which much of its agricultural production continues to depend. The last two millennia have seen repeated cycles of decline and recovery as past works have fallen into disrepair through the replacement of states, to be replaced under their successors. Another ongoing problem has been salination -- the seepage of salt water into irrigated farmland.
As crucial as rivers were to the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, they were not the only factor in the area's precocity. The Fertile Crescent had a climate which encouraged the evolution of many annual plants, which produce more edible seeds than perennials, and the region's dramatic variety of elevation gave rise to many species of edible plants for early experiments in cultivation. Most importantly, the Fertile Crescent possessed the wild progenitors of the eight Neolithic founder crops important in early agriculture (i.e. wild progenitors to emmer wheat, einkorn, barley, flax, chick pea, pea, lentil, bitter vetch), and four of the five most important species of domesticated animals - cows, goats, sheep, and pigs - and the fifth species, the horse, lived nearby.

Fertile Crescent: It is hedged in on all sides by natural borders: the sea on the west, arid wastelands in the centre and on the south, high mountains on the north and east. Its eastern and northern arm is known as Mesopotamia, the land of two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The upper Euphrates is at the apex of the Fertile Crescent While the Tigris is on its eastern edge. The Fertile Crescent south- western arm reaches Palestine. It is the poorest and smallest of all its countries but it has a very important role as a passage way to Egypt. It is the corridor between Egypt and the lands of the Fertile Crescent
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fertile Crescent

I really like maps and charts. They show so many interesting things about a place, provide historical context and geogrpahic details. The Fertile Crescent is the place where we, the human race came from. Where we learned how to domesticate plants and animals.
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