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Thursday, December 9

Weather wages own war in Iraq

By C. Mark Brinkley | Army Times

MOSUL, Iraq - For commanders in war, fighting the enemy can sometimes be only half the battle. Weather can be just as challenging.

Consider Mosul. Once a relatively quiet city, it is now a key battleground. Insurgents launched coordinated attacks on police stations last month, driving thousands of officers away. Since then, insurgents have been targeting individuals cooperating with Americans or the Iraqi government, assassinating them and leaving their bodies in public places as a warning.

As commanders planned counteroffensives they encountered a force as unpredictable as the enemy: the weather.

``November was just crazy here,'' said Air Force 1st Lt. Noel Keene, 25, a military weather forecaster from Seaford, Del.

Daily temperatures can shift 40 degrees or more, and rain clouds or dust storms can pop up without warning.

Although the U.S. military prides itself on being an all-weather fighting force, unexpected weather conditions can endanger a mission, cause delays or cancel some operations altogether.

Weather in Mosul, located near the mountainous Turkish border about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, is almost always unpredictable. While the climate in much of Iraq alternates between hot and dry or cold and dry, the northernmost regions experience a full range of seasons.

``It hailed on us yesterday,'' said Army Sgt. Robert Adams, 24, an infantryman from Eufaula, Okla., making a circle with his thumb and forefinger about the size of a marble.

November, when the insurgency heated up here, was particularly bad. The region's warm temperatures plunged into the 30s and more than twice the expected rainfall drenched the area. But the insurgents seem to dislike the foul weather as much as the U.S. troops.

``This is a fair-weather foe,'' said Army Sgt. Maj. Frank Wood with 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, whose vehicle was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire during an otherwise beautiful day. ``They don't like fighting in the cold. They don't like fighting in the rain.''