02 September 2010

Operation New Dawn or Yet Another Dawn?

First off, it’s great to be back in the US. After nearly three years of deployed time in Iraq, I’m fairly confident this was my last trip there. Obviously, after devoting the better part of my 20’s to either prepping for a deployment, or actually deployed, I have a fairly vested interest in Iraq; and also the American perception of our efforts in Iraq. Over the last week, there has been a tremendous amount of coverage regarding the formal end of combat operations in Iraq yesterday, 31 August. Yesterday Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and today brought the first day of Operation New Dawn and a new USFI Commanding General. Having worked extensively with the Diyala Provincial Reconstruction Team, I gained a solid and comprehensive understanding of the way ahead in Iraq. For the most part, I am a fan; it’s not perfect but I am just happy the State Department is finally taking the lead in Iraq.

Back to the topic at hand, the major headline in the news has been the end of formal combat operations and a transition to Stability Ops today (here, here and here). The reality though is that we really transitioned to stability ops as a force preemptively in December 2008 when conventional forces were bound to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). After SOFA, our ability to execute offensive operations was severely hampered by the Iraqi Security Forces, and pretty much the entire Government of Iraq (GoI). The post-SOFA reality for US Forces is that it has become more dangerous to operate with each passing day as our intelligence assets are pulled further away from its most important asset, the host nation population. Without good Human Intelligence the rest of our “int’s” become weaker and our ground forces suffer exponentially.

The other significant news last week was 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s execution of the last “combat patrol” in Iraq, which in all reality was a ground movement of their Strykers to Kuwait for movement back to the States. 4-2 SBCT was the last Brigade Combat Team in Iraq; now all that’s left are Advise and Assist Brigades. I love a good re-branding. A bunch of extra Field Grade Officers added to a Brigade Combat Team does not significantly alter the fact that these Brigades are still combat formations.

The reality: next week will be the same as last week for those living and serving in Iraq. There is still a lot of work to be done in Iraq. There is a significant ongoing SOF counter-terror mission that should not cease any time soon; evidence can be seen here. A new Iraqi government is nowhere in sight. Corruption and graft continue to plague the country. There is work to be done but we need a willing partner moving ahead, something that has been missing in Iraq for a long time.


  1. Dear Al Sahwa,


    My name is Dawn Weleski, and I am one of the collaborators of Conflict
    Kitchen: http://www.conflictkitchen.org

    I am writing to you to ask for your cooperation with a project discussing
    Afghan culture, everyday life, and politics, called Bolani Pazi. Please
    feel free to participate as your time and comfort level will allow.

    Bolani Pazi, an Afghan take-out restaurant that will be located in
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, is the second iteration of Conflict Kitchen
    (to open mid-October). The Afghan take-out restaurant will serve bolani
    with a choice of four different fillings: potato and green onion, pumpkin,
    lentils, or spinach. The bolani will be packaged in a custom-designed
    wrapper that highlights the thoughts, perceptions, and opinions of Afghans
    both in the U.S. and in Afghanistan. While the take-out restaurant is
    serving Afghan food, we will create programming that extends and deepens the
    dialogue between everyday Americans and Afghans.

    In an effort to collect quotes for the wrapper, I am writing to you with
    a short list of questions that I would ask each of you (if you are an Afghan
    that has even lived in Afghanistan or is currently living in
    Afghanistan) to answer (LISTED BELOW). You many answer as many questions as
    you wish. Additionally, if you have feedback on these questions, please
    feel free to send it my way so that we can adjust our approach before we
    send out to a larger group. Please send all answers to
    dawnweleski@gmail.com. Please pass along these questions to other Afghans
    that you may know.

    Please feel free to contact me with any questions and concerns. Finally,
    please allow me to extend me sincere appreciation for your participation.
    This collaboration is the crux, the heart of the Conflict Kitchen project.


    Dawn Weleski
    Conflict Kitchen collaborator
    U.S. cell: +1 724-681-3886
    skype: dawn.weleski

    ***Please note that these questions were created to reflect those that
    might be on the mind of the AVERAGE American.***

    As a woman, what's your role in Afghan culture? In your family?
    What do you do when you get together with other women?

    What is your ethnic heritage?
    How do you in general express your/their ethnic identity?
    How do the differnt Afghan ethnicities relate to each other?

    What is a essential food for all Afgan households, and how are these foods
    acquired (cultivated at home, local market, imported from other
    Do you get take away or street food often? What do you get? What is the
    experience like?
    What makes a good bolani?

    What do you think of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan?
    How has everyday life changed for you since the American occupation?
    What perceptions do Afghans have of average Americans living in the U.S.?

    What do you do for fun or leisure?

    Describe the current Afghan government structure.
    What's the most important issue that you would like your government to
    What type of government do you see in the future for Afghanistan?

    How available is public education in your community?
    What informal education has shaped your lifestyle and value system?
    Was your education secular or did it maintain some level of religious
    What sort of education do you wish for you child?

    How do Afghans find husbands or wives?
    What's dating like in Afghanistan?

    What are your feelings about the Taliban?
    What are your feelings about Al-Queda?
    What role, if any, do either of these groups play in your day-to-day life?

    What role do cell phones and personal electronic devices play in daily
    Afghan life?

    What are your hopes for your children?
    What are your hopes for your country?



    Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from
    countries that the United States is in conflict with. The food is served
    out of a take-out style storefront, which will rotate identities every 4
    months to highlight another country. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration will
    be augmented by events, performances, and discussion about the the
    culture, politics, and issues at stake with each country we focus on.

    Kubideh Kitchen, our current iteration, is an Iranian take-out restaurant
    that serves kubideh in freshly baked barbari bread with onion, mint, and
    basil. Developed in collaboration with members of the Pittsburgh Iranian
    community, the sandwich is packaged in a custom-designed wrapper that
    includes interviews with Iranians both in Pittsburgh and Iran on subjects
    ranging from Iranian food and poetry to the current political turmoil.

  3. Sorry Ms. Weleski, we're all gringos here.