War on Terrorism

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Coalition Working Together to Secure Tal Afar


By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2007 – Coalition and Iraqi forces are working with city leaders to secure the Iraqi city of Tal Afar after a bombing at a market killed more than 80 people earlier this week, a
military official said today in a briefing from the city. "It's been a tremendously busy four days, tremendously stressful four days," Army Lt. Col. Malcom Frost, commander of 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, told journalists from Forward Operating Base Sykes in Tal Afar. "But ... the city is now secure and going back to its normal routines."

The question of possible involvement by Iraqi security forces,
police or army has come up since the March 27 attack. Frost dismissed the notion that Iraqi forces had anything to do with the incident.

"As we investigate this, there's no indication that this was an inside job or that the Iraqi
police or army or security forces supported this incident from the inside so to speak," he said. "As much as we want war to be, it is not a zero-defect exercise, and unfortunately the enemy sometimes finds a seam. This is the case in this incident."

Extra measures are in place to prevent another such incident, he added. Checkpoints are being reinforced and joint checkpoints are being increased, as are patrols.

Frost said coalition an Iraqi security forces are working to ensure that the attack doesn't overshadow the good works done during the past 15 months. Schools and medical clinics have been built, infrastructure and the general economic situation of the residents of Tal Afar have been improved.

"I want to emphasize that this tragic event is absolutely not indicative of the thousands of good things that have happened over the last 15 months in the city of Tal Afar," Frost said.

In addition to working with the Iraqis to help secure the city, he added that coalition forces are conducting successful humanitarian assistance missions to provide food, medical supplies and shelter to the victims of the March 27 blast.

Frost describes the market bombing as the insurgents' "Hail Mary" attempt to regain a foothold in the city, incite sectarian violence, and undermine the credibility of the Iraqi police and the local government. It fell short, he said.

Instead of driving the city into continued sectarian violence, it has had the opposite effect, he said, as the city's residents have come together.

"Sometimes you must take half a step back to take two steps forward," he said. "I'm confident that the city that has already come together will take those steps forward and continue to progress toward a more secure and stable area here in Tal Afar."

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Prosecutor: Hicks Case Good Start for Military Commissions

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2007 – The
military commissions case of Australian detainee David Hicks, which concluded last night with a sentence of nine months imprisonment, was a fair proceeding that established a good basis for future commissions cases, the chief prosecutor for the Defense Department said here yesterday. Hicks, 31, was sentenced according to a plea agreement after pleading guilty to one charge of providing material support for terrorism. The commission recommended a seven-year sentence, which was the maximum allowed under the agreement, but another part of the agreement guaranteed a suspension for any portion of the sentence beyond nine months.

"What I hope is going to be reported is that we gave an al Qaeda terrorist a full and fair trial,"
Air Force Col. Morris Davis, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, said at a news conference after the sentencing.

Davis conceded that because of the plea agreement, not all parts of the commission process were tested. However, the portions that did happen were fair and orderly, and everyone involved learned from them, he said.

Hicks, the first detainee charged under the
Military Commissions Act of 2006, entered a guilty plea March 26 in an unexpected evening hearing here. After two days of negotiations between the defense and prosecution, Hicks appeared before the military judge to confirm that he attended several al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in 2001 and that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he spent time with al Qaeda fighters at Kandahar Airport and at the front lines in Konduz before being captured while fleeing to Pakistan. He did not, however, admit to ever firing a shot or having any knowledge of the 9/11 attacks in advance.

Marine Maj. Michael Mori, Hicks's detailed defense counsel, said at the news conference that the plea agreement was Hicks's choice, and that Hicks is looking forward to returning to Australia soon. The agreement states that Hicks must be transferred to Australian custody within 60 days of the sentence being passed.

"I think David right now is looking forward to getting back to Australia," Mori said. "He has some certainty finally in his life, and he'll be able to focus on getting on with his life, getting back with his family, finishing his education, and putting this part of his life behind him."

Mori said he has filed all the necessary paperwork for Hicks's transfer and hopes it will happen before the May 29 deadline.

Davis said about 74 more cases are waiting to be tried in military commissions here, and that the processes will be the same as were used in Hicks's case. Each case is unique and may or may not involve a plea deal, but what is important are the procedures and rules, he said.

"I'm not as concerned with the outcome of a particular case as I am in that the trial is fair and the proceeding is fair," Davis said.

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Giambastiani: More Help Needed in Afghanistan

By Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – While NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is a success, more help is needed from the international community, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a speech here yesterday.
Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani spoke to about 60 members of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Euro-Atlantic Center, and Center for European and North Atlantic Affairs about NATO efforts in Afghanistan.

Giambastiani said NATO has a Combined Joint Statement of Requirements, or CJSOR, to fill military missions.

"The inability of NATO to fill all of these CJSOR requirements is disconcerting," Giambastiani said. "To a former NATO officer, it's hard. Given the size of the combined militaries of NATO and the universal political commitment that has been shown, several key capabilities are needed."

One top priority in his view: helicopters.

"In a country that's as vast as Afghanistan with mountainous regions and valleys, you need helicopters to move around. Thousands of helicopters exist within NATO. We are still having trouble finding 20 helicopters to replace the U.S. bridging force that we put in Afghanistan."

He said this also highlights the importance of a strategic lift capability within NATO to get troops and helicopters into a theater of operations.

Giambastiani also said Afghanistan needs more help from other nations.

"The dollars and the euros actually spent there are much less than the promises or commitment made in many cases. They have not met the Afghan people's expectations based on what they've been told. There's a good effort to date. For example, 1 million in euros in reconstruction aid has been promised. Not all of it has been obligated."

Another area Afghanistan needs assistance with is police forces.

"More police mentors are needed in Afghanistan," the admiral said. The European Union is sending 160 mentors. Seventy will go to the Afghan capital of Kabul, while the other 90 will go to other parts of the country, he said, noting that as a positive sign.

Overall, the admiral said, the mission in Afghanistan is critical to the NATO alliance.

"In my view, so goes Afghanistan, so goes NATO. This is a big challenge, both for our defense establishments and our cultures."

The admiral said intelligence sharing among Afghanistan, its neighbors and other NATO countries is critical, and overcoming challenges faced in Afghanistan is imperative for the alliance.

"Conducting high-intensity operations, counterinsurgency operations and civil-
military cooperation operations will either serve to transform NATO and its military capabilities, or drive it to division and failure," he said. I am optimistic about NATO. I am optimistic about this alliance and its ability to transform."

(
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Staff public affairs office.)

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Petraeus Condemns al Qaeda's 'Barbaric' Acts

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – The general in charge of coalition military efforts in Iraq today condemned "barbaric actions" by al Qaeda elements in the wake of bombings in the northern city of Tal Afar that killed dozens of Iraqi civilians and injured scores of others. In a written statement issued by Multinational Force Iraq,
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said the attacks are designed to divide the Iraqi people and draw attention away from the improving security situation in Iraq's capital.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq elements once again displayed their total disregard for human life, carrying out barbaric actions against innocent Iraqi citizens in an effort to reignite sectarian violence and to undermine recent Iraqi and coalition successes in improving security in Baghdad," Petraeus said in the statement.

"These horrific attacks demonstrated al Qaeda's complete rejection of respect for life itself, and the coalition joins Iraqi leaders in condemning these latest acts of cold-blooded murder," he said.

Today's statement is the second strong official reaction to the attack on a crowded marketplace from the top coalition command in Iraq. The day after the attack, Multinational Force Iraq released a statement that wasn't attributed to a specific official.
The March 28 statement called the attack a "cowardly and inhumane" and "another example of attempts by extremists to reignite violence between people who have lived in peace despite being from different sectarian and ethnic groups."

The statement called on Iraqi leaders and citizens to remain united, to reject violence, and to bring to justice those responsible for the Tal Afar attack.

A coalition
military leader in northern Iraq also spoke out on March 28.

"This was an act of cowardice and only demonstrates to the world how desperate this enemy is," said Army Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commander of Task Force Lighting and Multinational Division North. "The Iraqi people must stand united against these forces so the country can continue on its path to a free and democratic state."

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Troops Capture 12 Terror Suspects; Bombers Target Iraqis

American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – Coalition and Iraqi forces captured 12 suspected
terrorists today, and bombers continued to target Iraqis over the last few days, military officials reported. In Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, Iraqi and coalition forces captured a suspected criminal tied to explosively-formed projectile facilitation networks.

The suspect is believed to be involved with several violent extremist groups responsible for attacks against the Iraqi people and coalition Forces and facilitating the movement of EFPs into Iraq, officials said.

Near the Syrian border, coalition forces captured six suspected terrorists with alleged links to al-Qaeda and the smuggling of foreign fighters into Iraq. Five more suspects with alleged involvement in foreign fighter smuggling were captured in a raid north of Karmah.

Meanwhile, bombers targeting Iraqis have continued to strike. An explosion occurred at a Shaab Ur market last night. Coalition officials had no immediate information on how many people were killed or wounded, but said the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division responded to provide medical assistance and to secure the area. The market was closing down at the time of the attack.

Two car bombs killed four Iraqi
police officers and an Iraqi civilian and wounded 16 others in southwest Baghdad yesterday. Initial reports indicate that the police officer and Iraqi civilian died when a bomb detonated near a patrol at about 8 a.m. near the Jihad neighborhood. Iraqi soldiers and police were investigating a suspicious vehicle when it detonated, officials said. Later, a second car-bomb detonated in Bayaa, wounding seven Iraqi civilians, including several children.

Shortly after the attacks, Iraqi security forces and Multinational Division Baghdad troops established checkpoints and began to evacuate the wounded to local hospitals, while also searching for other possible car-bombs in the area.

A vehicle exploded between a market area and a mosque south of Baghdad on March 28, killing five people and wounding 20 others. Iraqi soldiers responded to the explosion and assisted in the evacuation of the wounded to the al-Hillah hospital. They also found an unexploded 82 mm mortar round was found.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Guantanamo Detainees Deny Allegations, One Claims Torture

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – An alleged al Qaeda leader being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said he admitted to involvement in the attack on the USS Cole only because he was being tortured, according to a transcript of his hearing released today. Meanwhile, another detainee admitted that he helped transfer the funds used to bomb the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in August 2003, but said he had no idea how the money was to be used.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, alleged to be the mastermind and local manager of the 2000 Cole bombing, spoke through a translator during his March 14 combat status review tribunal hearing at the detention facility.

Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, known as "Lillie," opted not to attend his March 20 hearing, but issued a written statement denying the allegations against him.

Both tribunals were administrative hearings to determine only if the detainees could be designated as enemy combatants.

Evidence was presented against Narshiri, alleged to be a former al Qaeda operations chief on the Arabian Peninsula who led terror cells in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

During his hearing, Nashiri said he had confessed under torture to playing a role in several terrorist incidents, including the USS Cole bombing and the October 2002 ramming of the French oil tanker MV Limberg Aden Harbor, Yemen. However, he insisted that he made the confessions only because he was coerced.

Nashiri denied any involvement with al Qaeda, although he admitted to knowing people who were involved in the Cole and other attacks.

He told the tribunal he had confessed to involvement in plans to bomb U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf and to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship, and claimed that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has a nuclear bomb.

"The detainee states that he was tortured into confession, and once he made a confession, his captors were happy and they stopped torturing him," Nashiri's translator told the tribunal president.

Nashiri "made up stories during the torture in order to get it to stop," the translator told the tribunal president.

"From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me," Nashiri said, according to the transcript. "I just said those things to make the people happy. They were very happy when I told them those things."

Nashiri acknowledged frequent meetings with bin Laden and said he received big sums of cash from him, some of it meant to buy explosives for the Cole attack. However, Nashiri said, he spent it in other ways or gave it to friends.

Nashiri said he doesn't consider Americans his enemies, but he said he does want the United States to leave the Persian Gulf.

Lillie said in a written statement he had no knowledge of the Jakarta Marriott bombing.

Evidence presented against him during the tribunal showed Lillie was slated to be a suicide bomber for an al Qaeda attack targeting Los Angeles. He also allegedly was involved in a plot against the British High Commission in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and cased targets in Thailand in mid-2002.

The U.S. government established the CSRT process at Guantanamo Bay as a result of a June 2004 Supreme Court decision in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who challenged his detention at Guantanamo Bay. Between July 2004 and March 2005, DoD conducted 558 CSRTs at Guantanamo Bay. At the time, 38 detainees were determined to no longer meet the definition of enemy combatant, and 520 detainees were found to be enemy combatants.

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Chlorine Gas, Child-Borne Bombs Show Enemy's Barbarity

Al Qaeda's use of chlorine gas against civilians and use of children as suicide bombers highlights the terror organization's barbarity, a Joint Staff spokesman said here today. Al Qaeda extremists in Iraq are using chlorine canisters and chlorine-carrying trucks to attack civilian targets,



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U.S. General Sees Cause for Optimism in Anbar Province

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – Over the last year, coalition forces have laid the foundation for stability and provincial Iraqi control in Anbar province, the commander of Multinational Force West said today. "Our strategy of clear, hold and build, combined with an energized governmental and tribal engagement, is beginning to bear fruit,"
Marine Maj. Gen. Walt Gaskin told reporters at the Pentagon via satellite.

Progress is evident in the region's increased Iraqi security forces recruiting figures, decreased number of attacks, and in the upswing in economic commerce, he said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's benchmark visit to the region, Gaskin added, was a large step in the right direction for reconciliation and reconstruction. "We cannot overemphasize the significance of having the prime minister come to an overwhelmingly Sunni chapter of Ramadi," he said.

"An important event which occurred in Ramadi while the prime minister was (here) was the first locally held meeting of the Al Anbar Provincial Council in 11 months," the commander said. "The council adjourned last spring from Al Anbar because of security concerns. This dialogue makes me very hopeful for the future of the province."

Anbar governance, Gaskin said, is beginning to function independently. Residents there are starting to put in place city mayors and provincial and municipal governorships, all of which are helping to stimulate economic development and provide input to the council.

Public sentiment toward al Qaeda in Iraq has shifted from "tolerance to open hostility" in the province, the general said.

"Anbar is different than the other 17 provinces in Iraq," Gaskin said, describing the unique challenges in Anbar. "It is predominately Sunni, the main threat that we have is al Qaeda in Iraq, and what we see is that once we gain the peace and stability into the major cities, then we can work on ... pushing al Qaeda out."

Purging al Qaeda elements from Anbar cities requires three important aspects, including "getting the Iraqi
police into the cities, getting the Iraqi army in support of the police (and) getting the coalition forces in overwatch," he said.

Many tribal sheikhs, a highly influential sector of Anbar society, believe reconstruction strategy is consistent with the principles of human rights, the rule of law and due process, and are encouraging young Iraqi men to enlist in Iraqi security forces, Gaskin said.

"It is with their permission and courageous
leadership that the men of Al Anbar join the Iraqi army and the police," he said. "With the support of the local tribal leaders, the capabilities of the security forces are growing. The terrorists are finding it increasingly difficult to operate and hide within the civilian population."

There are about 2,500 members of the various emergency relief units, 13,200
police officers and 13,000 Iraqi army soldiers, alongside about 35,000 men and women of Multinational Force West currently serving throughout Anbar, Gaskin said.

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Coalition Recommends Ninewah Province for Provincial Control

American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – Notwithstanding a March 27
terrorist attack that killed and injured scores of Iraqis in Tal Afar, Iraq, coalition officials have recommended that Ninewah province be transferred to Iraqi control next month, a top coalition officer in the province said today. Army Brig. Gen. John Bednarak, deputy commander of Multinational Division North, told reporters via satellite that the Tal Afar tragedy must be balanced with the progress that has taken place in the province as a whole.

Tal Afar is due west of the provincial capital of Mosul on one of the main roads into Syria.

"The enemy is trying to reach out and drive a wedge between the people and the government and security forces," Bednarek said. "This adversary is desperate."

Tal Afar has been relatively calm, he said, and the shocking attack was all the more disturbing because of that.

"But the government hung tough after the attack," the general said. The Tal Afar mayor, the Ninewah provincial
police chief and governor and the commanders of the Iraqi Army divisions stood with the local sheikhs to calm the people, he said.

Following the attack, the coalition stood by ready to offer aid. It was not needed, Bednarek said. City and provincial officials were able to handle the casualties and clean up the damage without outside aid.

The government of Iraq has ordered a full investigation into reports of alleged revenge killings by off-duty Shiia
police officers of Sunni Iraqis in the attack's aftermath. News reports said 18 Iraqi police have been arrested in connection with the murders. Bednarek said the Iraqi Interior and Justice ministries are working together and will try those responsible for the atrocities.

The four Iraqi
army divisions in Multinational Division North are leading operations, with three of the four having transitioned to Iraqi Ground Force Command. This means the divisions conduct independent operations, Bednarek said.

He said the police forces in the region are experiencing good results in recruiting, retention and
training, and that the Army and police are working well with the border police manning checkpoints on the borders with Syria and Iran. Some 132,000 Iraqi security forces are involved in the Multinational Division North area, which stretches from Diyala province northward, he said.

The general said work continues on improving the Iraqi forces' professionalism and instilling loyalty to the elected government and not militias, Bednarek said.

"One Iraq is the vision of the government," he said.

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Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Cites Slovakia's Importance

By Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump, USAF
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2007 – Slovakia is a key ally in the
global war on terror, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday. Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani participated in a joint news conference with Slovak Lt. Gen. Peter Gajdos, the deputy chief of the General Staff, which highlighted military cooperation between the NATO allies.

Giambastiani thanked the Slovak republic and
military for support in Iraq and highlighted the Slovakian role in missions in both Afghanistan and Kosovo.

"As a former NATO and supreme allied commander, this type of performance by military forces within the alliance is important," he said.

The upcoming deployment of Slovakian troops to Afghanistan, recently approved by the country's parliament, will help NATO's International Security Assistance Force, Giambastiani said.

During his visit to Slovakia, the admiral said, he heard from both government and non-government officials that the country is a dedicated party in the North Atlantic alliance.

"We are looking forward to continuing this very close relationship with the Slovak republic," the admiral said.

One of those relationships was noted by Gajdos, who said the Slovaks have a "close cooperative agreement with the Indiana National Guard."

The admiral said the cooperation also extends to deployments, indicating that there will be an upcoming F-16 rotation to Slovakia.

He said he hopes there will be opportunities in the future for the United States and other NATO allies to participate in deployments, citing the Joint Warfare
Training Center in Poland. Giambastiani oversaw the center's creation while serving as NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation.

He also complimented the Slovak military's effort to transform.

"Operations to date in transformation of Slovak forces have been excellent and will continue to get better," he said.

Overall, Giambastiani said, the work so far leaves room for the two countries to grow closer.

"Anything is clearly possible in the future," he said.

(
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Staff public affairs office.)

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Cheney: Withdrawal From Iraq Would Validate al Qaeda's Strategy

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2007 – An arbitrary U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would tell al Qaeda's leaders they've been right all along and would embolden the terror organization to launch more audacious attacks against the United States, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said last night. In a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition
Leadership in Manalapan, Fla., Cheney said some people believe pulling out of Iraq before the country can fend for itself would strengthen the hand of the United States in the war on terror.

"This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the al Qaeda strategy," he said. "The terrorists do not expect to be able to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission -- and the
terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome.

"Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight," he continued. "They've cited the cases of Beirut in the '80s and Somalia in the '90s. These examples, they believe, show that we are weak and decadent, and that if we're hit hard enough, we'll pack it in and retreat."

The result, Cheney said, would be greater danger for the United States, because terrorists who believe attacks can change a nation's behavior will attack that nation again and again.

"And believing they can break our will, they'll become more audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and kill our citizens, and ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire," he said.

If the coalition abandons its effort in Iraq, radical factions would battle for dominance, and violence would spread throughout the country, Cheney said.

"Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions," he said. "Many would head for Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others would find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents."

Cheney rejected the notion that the war in Iraq has noting to do with the war on terror and that it's diverting attention and resources from fighting al Qaeda.

"Our Marines tonight are fighting al Qaeda terrorists in al Anbar province," he said. "U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed a number of al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad who were responsible for numerous car-bomb attacks. Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. Here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us."

Noting the battle on Capitol Hill over a supplemental funding measure for the war, Cheney blasted a House bill that sets a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, saying it would hinder the war effort and interfere with the president's authority with military commanders.

"It's counterproductive," he said. "It sends exactly the wrong message because of the limitations that are written into the legislation. When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called 'slow bleed,' they're not supporting the troops, they're undermining them. And when members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy simply to run out the clock and wait us out."

Cheney said the goal in Iraq is for the country to be a democratic nation that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror. The Iraqi government needs the space and time to work toward those goals, he added, and the security situation, especially in Baghdad, needs to improve for their efforts to succeed.

He noted that the Senate only weeks ago unanimously confirmed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to be the new commander of coalition forces in Iraq.

"Our coalition is pursuing a new strategy that brings in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure the capital, so that nation can move forward and the political process can turn toward reconciliation," he said. "General Dave Petraeus and his troops are in the midst of some extremely tough, intense, and dangerous work. They are doing a brilliant job, and they need to know this country is behind them all the way."

Cheney said the nation's values would see it through on the tough road ahead.

"We can be confident in the outcome of this struggle," he said. "America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of the Earth. We're the kind of country that fights for freedom, and the men and women in the fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that is not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail."

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Iraq Rebuilding Successes Don't Get Enough 'Ink,' U.S. General Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2007 – Stories of violence are overshadowing the many successes achieved by U.S., coalition and Iraqi rebuilding efforts in Baghdad and other areas of the country, a senior
U.S. military engineer said today. "You can't pick up a newspaper or turn on television these days without seeing violence every day in Iraq," Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division, said to Pentagon reporters during a satellite-carried news conference from Iraq.

"What you don't see are the successes in the reconstruction program (and) how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday Iraqi people, especially here in Baghdad," Walsh pointed out.

The United States has provided nearly $22 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects, Walsh said, noting it'll likely cost between $60 billion to $80 billion to restore Iraq's worn infrastructure.

"The U.S. government and the government of Iraq are working together to yield positive, tangible reconstruction results that are significantly improving the lives of the Iraqi people," Walsh said.

Operation Law and Order, the U.S., coalition and Iraqi anti-terrorist campaign launched in mid-February, is making progress in reducing the violence in Baghdad and Anbar province, Walsh said.

However, "it will take a continued commitment and determination over the course of many months" for the anti-terror operation to succeed, he added.

Meanwhile, ongoing electrical, water treatment, sewage, road, and school reconstruction projects in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq are giving Iraqis hope for the future, the general said.

Although reconstruction work in Iraq is challenging and difficult, Walsh said, those efforts are vital to Iraq's progress toward a peaceful, democratic society.

"As citizens feel safer, conditions will be set for the resumption and improvement of basic essential services," the general said. Today, out of 2,500 projects planned for Baghdad, almost 2,000 water, sewer, medical, electrical, school and other projects have been completed, Walsh said.

He noted the completion of 28 projects totaling $24 million for police, fire, and military facilities established within Baghdad's 10 security districts as part of Operation Law and Order. Other completed reconstruction projects in Baghdad include: 21 education projects totaling $1.1 million, 24 health projects totaling $12.9 million, 20 water projects totaling $10 million, and 79 electricity projects totaling $125 million.

All of these projects improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Baghdad's citizens, Walsh said, noting that about 30,000 Iraqis are employed in various reconstruction projects across Iraq. About 60 percent of Corps of Engineers' work contracts are performed by Iraqi companies, the general added. Since 2003, the Corps of Engineers has contracted around $8.5 billion of work for Iraq reconstruction projects, Walsh said, with another $3.5 billion earmarked for work to be completed over the next 18 months.
Walsh was joined by Ibrahim Mustafa Hussain, Baghdad's deputy mayor for technical affairs, who said ongoing reconstruction work across the city is giving residents hope for a better future.

Hussain said his office provides roads, water, sewage treatment and other public services to Baghdad's 6.5 million residents. About 75 percent of Baghdad is now served by public sewage systems, he said, noting his office is working with U.S. and coalition engineers to extend public sewage as well as water and electrical service across the municipality.

Baghdad's infrastructure suffered greatly from neglect during the 1980s, Hussain explained. But, the current reconstruction work being performed across the city will certainly improve the lives of Baghdad's citizens, he said.

"We've started a lot of projects to improve the situation in Baghdad," Hussain said. "Everybody here is optimistic that the situation will be better in the future. We hope in the future that you will see (that) Baghdad is a better city and a good city as it was before."

Walsh, too, predicted better days ahead for Baghdad's residents and all of Iraq's people.

"Iraq is a country rich in natural resources and intelligent and talented people," Walsh said. "And, I'm confident that by continuing to work with our Iraqi partners in reconstruction and focusing on essential service projects we can help build a bright future for Iraq."

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Coalition Forces in Iraq Kill Four Terrorists, Capture 67

American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2007 – Coalition forces in Iraq this week killed four suspected
terrorists, captured 67 others and netted scores of weapons in various operations, military officials reported.

In Iraq today:

-- After receiving fire from a group of armed terrorists in Mosul, coalition forces returned fire and killed four enemy fighters. Troops also detained two suspects allegedly involved in several improvised-explosive-device attacks in the area.

-- During an operation in Baghdad, coalition forces detained nine suspected
terrorists allegedly involved in al Qaeda-related foreign fighter facilitation.

-- Forces raided a foreign fighter safe house northwest of Haditha, netting two suspects.

-- During a raid south of Fallujah targeting al Qaeda finance operations and foreign fighter facilitation, coalition forces detained two suspects.

"Successful coalition operations continue to disrupt al Qaeda in Iraq operations, restrict the flow of foreign fighters, and reduce the terrorist organization's manpower pool," Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesperson, said.

In Iraq earlier this week, Iraqi and Multinational Division Baghdad forces detained 38 suspected terrorists and discovered an improvised explosive device and five weapons caches south of Baghdad on March 27.

Soldiers of 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi
Army Division and 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, participated in Operation Eagle Thunder III, an operation intended to deny terrorists safe haven within the southern region of Iraq.

Two suspects detained in the raid were wanted for ties to
terrorism, five were carrying illegal weapons, and four others were in a vehicle that contained an AK-47 assault rifle, four magazines and a hand grenade.

The weapons caches discovered during the operation contained enemy propaganda, an insurgent information booklet, two bags of homemade explosives, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher with five rockets, a 122 mm projectile, a propane tank, and various small-arms ammunition.

During the operation, troops discovered a command-wired IED near a road close to the al QaQaa weapons facility, southwest of Yusufiyah.

The contents of the cache were destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by the explosive ordnance disposal team, and the detainees are being held for further questioning.

Elsewhere in Iraq March 27, 2nd Brigade, 8th Iraqi
Army Division soldiers and Hillah Iraqi police, worked together to conduct a cordon-and-search operation to confiscate unauthorized weapons, detain 14 insurgents and secure bomb-making materials in Hillah and outlying areas.

More than 700 Iraqi security personnel took part in the operation, and a
military transition team from 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, assisted in command and control.

The confiscated weapons included 124 AK-47 assault rifles, 15 various 7.62mm rifles, 15 pistols, one shotgun, 84 AK-47 ammunition magazines and 10 pistol magazines. In addition, 18 sticks of C-4 explosives were found and secured.

The 14 detained insurgents are being held for questioning.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Detainee Admits to Receiving Funds from 9/11 Hijackers

By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2007 – A detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has admitted to being one of the financial facilitators for the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks on the United States. The Defense Department today released the transcript of the March 21 combat status review tribunal hearing held at the detention facility for Mustafa al-Hawsawi. The tribunal was an administrative hearing to determine only if Hawsawi could be designated an enemy combatant.

Hawsawi is one of 14 high-value detainees who were transferred Sept. 6, 2006, to Guantanamo Bay from CIA custody. The CSRT hearings for these detainees are not open to media because of national security concerns, DoD officials said.

The detainee heard evidence against him charging that while in the United Arab Emirates he received nearly $20,000 from the Sept. 11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Waleed al-Shehri and Marwan al-Shehhi from locations in Maryland and Massachusetts.

Although he did receive the funds, Hawsawi said, speaking through an interpreter, he didn't do anything with the transfers after placing them in his bank account.

The detainee also admitted to having repeated communications with Osama bin Laden and Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, but said he neither worked for them nor claimed allegiance to jihadist or al Qaeda causes.

Hawsawi also said he communicated with four of the hijackers prior to the attacks, but he had no specific knowledge of the operation until afterward.

Both Muhammad and al-Shibh talked to Hawsawi on Sept. 10, 2001, but he said he had no prior knowledge of the attacks.

"(Shibh) told me that (the) next night there would be an operation, and therefore I should go back to Pakistan," Hawsawi said. The detainee said that he returned to Pakistan on Sept. 12, 2001, and from there entered Afghanistan, where he helped to train jihadists to rebel and attack if needed.

Hawsawi also heard evidence charging him with the possession of a laptop computer hard drive containing al Qaeda expense reports and allowance information from 2002 to 2003. Officials also charged him with the possession of detailed operational status and family information of known al Qaeda operatives.

Although the detainee did not deny possessing the computer, through a personal representative he said he didn't have any knowledge of the content. Hawsawi said the information on the laptop was copied from several different personal computer hard drives located in a safe house. The information was copied to several laptops to make it easier to transport, he said.

A 19-page handwritten telephone and address book containing the contact information for numerous al Qaeda operatives was found in a laptop computer case associated with Hawsawi. The document was discovered where a senior al Qaeda operative was captured.

Prior to the hearing, a reproduction of the phone book was made available to the detainee for his review when he said it could not be something he owned since he "didn't know enough people to fill a 19-page phone (book)."

The hearing came to a close when the CSRT president said an assessment would be made as to whether the detainee continued to pose a threat to the United States or coalition partners in the ongoing conflict against terrorist organizations.

The U.S. government established the CSRT process at Guantanamo Bay as a result of a June 2004 Supreme Court decision in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who challenged his detention at Guantanamo Bay. Between July 2004 and March 2005, DoD conducted 558 CSRTs at Guantanamo Bay. At the time, 38 detainees were determined to no longer meet the definition of enemy combatant, and 520 detainees were found to be enemy combatants.

Hawsawi's tribunal followed the March 10 proceedings for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who admitted to masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as well as the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Proceedings also were held March 9 for Abu Faraj al-Libi, an alleged senior al Qaeda member, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is said to have helped Muhammad plan the Sept. 11 attacks. Neither of the two elected to be present for their tribunals.

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Coalition Forces Capture 19 Terrorists; Attacks on Iraqi Civilians Continue

American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – Coalition forces in Iraq this morning captured 19 suspected
terrorists in various operations, Iraqi forces repelled an attack in Fallujah, and attacks on civilians continue across the country, military officials reported.

-- Coalition forces east of Karmah captured five suspected terrorists with alleged involvement in al Qaeda terrorist operations.

-- Forces detained an additional five suspected terrorists, reportedly tied to foreign fighter facilitation, during a raid northwest of Haditha.

-- In southwest Baghdad, coalition forces detained five suspects reportedly involved in car-bomb operations.

-- Three more suspects with alleged ties to al Qaeda were detained in Baghdad.

-- Another suspect detained south of Fallujah is reportedly involved in the movement of weapons and forgery of passports.

"Coalition forces will continue deliberate and methodical operations in order to hunt down and capture or kill terrorists trying to prevent a peaceful and stable Iraq," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.

U.S. officials in Iraq reported today that eight U.S. soldiers were wounded in a March 26 attack on a coalition post north of Karmah. Soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 6 repelled the coordinated attack, which included two suicide truck bombs.

The attack started at about 2 p.m., when a soldier from 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment (Airborne), attached to 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), engaged a water truck attempting to enter the compound without authorization, causing it to detonate. Immediately following the explosion, about 30
terrorist fighters engaged the compound with small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. The soldiers returned fire with small arms, mortars and artillery.

About five minutes into the attack, soldiers engaged a dump truck following the same path as the previous suicide attacker, causing it to detonate, as well. Initial estimates indicate as many as 15 terrorists were killed, U.S. officials said.

One of the wounded soldiers was evacuated to a nearby coalition medical facility, and the remaining seven were treated on site and returned to duty.

In other news from Iraq, attacks on civilians continue throughout the country.

Iraqi soldiers and
police repelled a complex attack at the Fallujah Government Center this morning. The attack included two suicide truck bombs containing chlorine. It began at 6:33 a.m. with mortar fire, followed by two truck bombs and small-arms fire. Iraqi police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound. Iraqi soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small-arms fire, causing it to detonate near the entrance of the compound.

About 15 Iraqi security and coalition force members were injured from the bomb blast and were evacuated to the 2nd Iraqi
Army Brigade's aid station and a coalition medical facility. Numerous Iraqi soldiers and police officers are being treated for symptoms such as labored breathing, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting, that that are synonymous with chlorine inhalation.

Elsewhere in Iraq today, one civilian was killed and seven were injured after a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at 1:20 p.m. in northwestern Ramadi. The injured were evacuated to a local aid station, Ramadi general hospital, and a coalition medical facility.

Coalition forces arrived after the explosion to assist in the medical evacuation and set up a cordon around the blast site. Local citizens provided information about a second truck bomb that may be in the area. Acting on the tip, a search was conducted and an abandoned truck was found wired with explosives and chlorine tanks.

Insurgents near Abu Ghraib killed the brother of a tribal leader yesterday in a suicide attack that involved two car bombs detonated at the house of a sheik. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment put out the resulting fire. They found three bodies, an assault rifle and several unexploded hand grenades among the debris surrounding the bomb-ravaged sedans. The sheik confirmed that one of those killed was his brother.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Bush Vows Veto if Funding Bill Includes Troop Withdrawal Language

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – President Bush said today he will veto any bill that reaches his desk containing a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. "It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C., to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our
military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away," Bush said.

In a speech to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association meeting here, Bush said politicians on Capitol Hill are playing politics, and he condemned efforts to put non-emergency items in the emergency supplemental war funding request.

Both the Senate and House have passed versions of the supplemental measure, and both versions call for troop withdrawal.

Bush said the bills neglect the fact that initial responses from Baghdad indicate the new security plan for the city is working. The Iraqi people are feeling safer and are turning in those who mean harm, he added. "The Iraqi people are beginning to gain confidence," the president said.

Bush said the bills also ignore that the plan, begun with such promise, has only about half of its troops in place so far. The Baghdad security plan calls for an extra 21,500 U.S. combat troops. Just over three brigades have arrived so far, with full operational capability not expected until the end of May.

The bill would damage U.S. efforts in Iraq in some basic ways, the president said. It imposes unnecessary restrictions on U.S. commanders in Iraq and places rigid conditions on the Iraqi government, he said.

"It would mandate a precipitous withdrawal of American forces if every one of these conditions is not met by a date certain," he said. "Even if they are met, the bill would still require that most American forces begin retreating from Iraq by March 1st of next year, regardless of conditions on the ground."

If the bill becomes law, "our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars," Bush said.

The House bill cuts funding for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders do not meet certain deadlines. He said House leaders cannot say the Iraqis must do more and then take away the funds needed for the missions.

Finally, the House bill would add billions of dollars in domestic spending completely unrelated to the war, Bush said.

The president called the Senate bill no better than the House version. The Senate bill also sets a date for U.S. withdrawal and cuts funds for Iraqi security forces. The Senate bill also has add-ons not related to
military operations.

"Here's the bottom line: the House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal," he said. "And I have made it clear for weeks (that) if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it."

In all likelihood, Bush said, his veto would be sustained, so he called on Congress to revamp the bill because "the clock is ticking for our troops in the field." Current funding for forces will begin to run out in mid-April, the president said.

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Afghan, Coalition Forces Arrest Six; Rocket Hits U.S. Base

American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – Afghan and coalition forces arrested six suspected militants near Khowst, in eastern Afghanistan, early today. Elsewhere, a rocket hit Bagram Air Base, but no one was killed or injured. Today's operation targeted several people with connections to extremist leaders and organizations operating in the Khowst area, as well as ties to attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

The inhabitants of the targeted compounds complied with requests for peaceful surrender and were not harmed, U.S. officials said. No shots were fired during the operation, and there were no injuries reported by civilians or
military personnel.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan today, a rocket hit an unoccupied area of the flight line along the runway at Bagram Air Base around 7:20 p.m. No personnel on the base were injured, officials said.

Afghan national security forces and coalition forces are investigating the incident, officials said.

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)

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Reopened Iraqi Factories Take Aim at Insurgency

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – With straight unemployment running at 20 percent nationwide, there is no wonder that Iraqi men would be sympathetic to violence and insurgency, the Defense Department's point man for Iraqi reconstruction said today. Paul Brinkley, deputy defense undersecretary for business transformation, acquisition, technology and logistics, said Iraqis want work, normalcy and security. He is working with the Iraqi government and coalition officials to open factories and create jobs for those unemployed and those underemployed, said during a Pentagon news conference today.

Getting Iraqis back to work, he said, takes groups of people out of the recruiting pool of al Qaeda in Iraq and insurgent factions.

"It is the belief of our command ... that this economic factor goes hand in hand with security, and as security is established, it is critical to follow and to restore economic opportunity for the population," Brinkley said.

The coalition already has helped open three factories in Iraq, and officials plan on opening dozens more in the future. Brinkley said that in 2003, 200 large factories were doing business in the country. For a variety of factors - including security, lack of raw materials, lack of transportation and lack of electricity -- these factories have closed.

DoD has undertaken a comprehensive effort to engage industrial operations -- some idle, some state-owned, some private sector -- across Iraq in an effort to identify potential sources of goods and services, he said. This survey will allow Iraqi factories to reopen and connect Iraq with the rest of the Middle Eastern and international marketplace.

Most of the 200 large factories were state-owned, he said. Restoring these factories will spur growth in other related areas, Brinkley said. Secondary benefits will accrue to the economy not just for large factories, but also for all of the surrounding private businesses.

"This will begin to create an uplift of economic opportunity for the Iraqi people," he said. And that uplift will take potential recruits out of terrorist or insurgent recruiting pools, he added.

A reopened Iraqi clothing factory is making uniforms for the Iraqi army and Iraqi police. It also is producing goods for export, and Brinkley said some of these clothes should be on shelves in the United States in time for Christmas. "We have major American retail distributors who have engaged in that operation," he said.

Another reopened factory near Baghdad manufactured buses. It now makes armored vehicles for the Iraqi security forces.

Another reopened factory in Ramadi illustrates a different problem. The factory made bathroom fixtures and ceramic tile, but has no one to sell the goods to.

"It's hard to put U.S. government contracts for ceramic tile; we don't buy a lot of ceramic tile in the DoD," he said. "These Iraqi factories used to sell to other Iraqis. Sunnis sold to Shiia; Sunni sold to Kurds; Shiia sold to Kurds; businessmen did business with each other. It's the same anywhere in the world."

As the factories were idle, the commercial ties died, he said. "In this particular case, Kurdish construction firms have committed to buy anything that particular factory can make," he said. "Why? Because they need these goods, and they're having to import them from outside the country today, and they can get them cheaper."

Brinkley said this type of success breeds other successes and that he expects to see acceleration in factory opening and concurrent employment.

The Iraqis obviously want this to happen also, Brinkley said. He said that even in areas of the greatest unrest, idled factories have been untouched. "We've gone to factories where literally gunfire has been going off in the surrounding neighborhood, and one would expect the factory to have been looted," he said. "Yet you go in and there's computer equipment, robotics, brand new production machinery sitting idle.

"The doors are chained and dust has settled over everything and the workers aren't working, and yet the factory hasn't been damaged, which is indicative of the fact that there is a level of control and a level of awareness even in areas of great unrest that future economic prosperity is critical to the population."

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Long-Term Iraqi Stability Requires Rule of Law, Officials Say

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – Security progress in Baghdad requires more than
military success; it also requires advances in Iraq's institutions, including its criminal justice system, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today. "We can and will win every battle, but we cannot win the peace alone," Navy Adm. Mark Fox said during a media roundtable in Baghdad. "Even-handed justice is an essential part of every democratic society."

After decades under Saddam Hussein's repressive regime, "the Iraqi government is creating an independent judicial system to ensure that the rule of law applies to everyone," he said.

James Santelle, Justice attache at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, joined Fox in sharing perceptions after a visit yesterday to the Central
Criminal Court of Iraq and speaking about steps under way to continue advances being made.

"Rule of law is a critically important part of the united Iraqi-coalition force effort to preserve the peace and to ensure the safety and security for all Iraqis," Santelle said.

Rule of law requires confidence in the institutions of government, provincial and city governments, elected officials and
police. That is a tall order, Santelle acknowledged, because Saddam's brutal police force left widespread, lingering fear and distrust.

As they look toward the future, the Iraqi government and coalition are focusing on what Santelle called the three touchstones of a good rule of law operation: courts, prisons and police.

He said his visit to the Central
Criminal Court gave him optimism that it's possible to break beyond past wrongs.

"If there is any illustration of rule of law in operation here today in Iraq, it is just that," he said, citing the CCCI's operations and its combined staff of police, law enforcement agents and officers, judicial officers, and corrections officers. All are working together in Baghdad and other Iraqi providences to ensure rule of law is promoted, he said.

Santelle cited the facts that crimes are being investigated fairly and that courageous judges are hearing evidence of crimes as examples of positive strides.

"That is a reflection of a civilized society," he said. "That is a reflection of a rule-of-law operation that does, in fact, work."

Joint
training programs are ensuring that the principles of rule of law go to all levels of the criminal justice system, and new courthouses and other facilities are being built or renovated to support this system, he said.

As these efforts take shape, Santelle said he's been impressed by the many courageous Iraqi leaders -- judges, prison officials, police officers, non-governmental organizations and entities among them --pursuing rule-of-law principles while operating in the midst of violence.

"That is a sign of tremendous promise and future for this country ... (that) speaks well, not only for the present generation, but also those to come," he said.

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Security Crackdown in Baghdad Shows Progress, But Challenges Continue

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – The crackdown on insurgents in Baghdad is showing progress, but a senior
military official there warned that it's likely to drive the enemy to strike out dramatically before succeeding. "Like backing a rat into a corner, increasing pressure on the extremists by limiting their available resources and places to hide leads to desperate changes in tactics," Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters during a roundtable session in Baghdad today.

Fox cited a Feb. 23 suicide-bomb attempt in Ramadi as an example of that desperation. When Iraqi police apprehended a would-be attacker whose vehicle failed to detonate, they found the truck filled with five 1,000-gallon barrels of chlorine and almost 2 tons of explosives.

"We are seeing preliminary signs of progress," Fox said of Operation Law and Order, an effort focused on establishing security in the Iraqi capital that's entering its second month.

"Our commitment to provide security for the people of Iraq remains unshakable," Fox said. "Together, Iraqi and coalition forces are clearing the streets of insurgent activity and taking back the neighborhoods of Baghdad, block by block. We are holding our positions, living and developing relationships with the people of Baghdad instead of commuting from forward operating bases."

Those relationships are paying off as Iraqis continue to step forward as valuable intelligence sources, he said. Tips they provide Iraqi security forces and coalition troops help them find more weapons caches. "Living in the neighborhoods (and) building relationships is making a difference," Fox said.

That difference was evident during clearing operations in southern Ghazaliya and Yahmariya last week that yielded 31 terror suspects and two weapons cache discoveries, including containers of nitric acid and chlorine, Fox said.

But providing security "is more than just seizing weapons from the hands of murders and terrorists," he said. "It is providing basic services to begin building a community."

Fox pointed to a step forward in that effort over the past weekend with the first large-scale humanitarian aid project in Adamiyah since Operation Law and Order began. Iraqi security forces and coalition troops used the city schoolhouse as a temporary medical clinic, treating more than 100 local residents.

Fox said continuing to build on this progress to secure Baghdad won't come easily. "It will take patience, resolve and commitment (and) will not be measured in days or weeks, but rather, months," he said. "And to be sure, there are still rough days ahead."

He expressed confidence the effort will ultimately prove successful.

"We are working hard to secure progress (and) provide hope for the people of Iraq in order to begin the process of building better communities," he said.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Progress Continues in Afghanistan's Panjshir Province

By Sgt. Timothy Dinneen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – The tomb of Shaeed Ahmad Shah Masood, "the Lion of Panjshir," stands on a hilltop overlooking the mountainous river valley which he dedicated his life to protect against Soviet invasions and Taliban assaults. Masood was the leader of the Northern Alliance, and he is a hero to many Afghans because he was able to defeat the Soviets, accounting for more than 50 percent of their casualties. In addition, he kept the Taliban at bay while they controlled 90 percent of the country, according to Army Maj. Clifford White, deputy provincial reconstruction team commander, Panjshir PRT.

Although assassinated by al Qaeda just days before the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, Masood's legacy of peace and progress for free Afghans endures through progress made by Panjsheeris.

Panjshir province is a model of success because of the strength shown by the people living within the valley, White said. He added that Panjsheeris are providing the muscle behind security, cultivating a fertile environment for construction projects and humanitarian-aid assistance.

"We live in one of the best neighborhood watches on the planet," White said. "They do more than guard houses -- when we go on missions, they come with us. The security details are from all six districts so they know the people and the terrain. When we have problems, they handle it Afghan against Afghan."

Panjshir only has been recognized as a province since 2004, but its residents and leaders have completed a micro hydro plant for electricity generation, new roads for commerce, bridges, wells, schools, and a radio station to connect the remote valley to the rest of the country.

Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force 82, arrived here yesterday to help inaugurate another project. He attended the groundbreaking of a new public works building.

"The (Afghan) New Year provides a great opportunity to focus on the future of reconstruction and not a future of war," Votel said. "Public works will play a key part in the future of Panjshir sustaining a self-sufficient province. Education and agriculture are also important, but without public works, children cannot attend school, adults can't get to work and produce won't reach the market."

Votel acknowledged the positive security situation in Panjshir has made reconstruction possible. "Cooperative security here is a model for the rest of Afghanistan and, hopefully, the reconstruction will also serve as a model," he said. "It is a step-by-step process, and today is a big step."

The public works building will help with road clearing, water purification, landscaping and waste management -- many of the small things a community needs in order for the bigger projects to get under way.

"This is a nice, secure province because the people won't allow the Taliban here," said Saddeem, a local student. "People are generally happy with the American presence because they recognize they are helping."

White did concede there are some security issues within the Panjshir community, but at the end of the day, residents all recognize they must work together peacefully to succeed.

"There are a number of factions that disagree. However, as Governor Balu said, 'Panjshir is like an open hand with it's fingers arguing, however when outside forces try and take something from the valley or impose its will, the hand closes and becomes a fist,'" White said.

According to the latest Panjshir PRT census, Panjshir province has more than 300,000 inhabitants with new villages being discovered when exploring around the mountainous bends. It is a mono-ethnic area dominated by the Tajik tribe that is predominately Sunni.

White said even though society is conservative, education for both girls and boys is important to Panjsheeris.

"There are 55,000 school-age children, and 80 percent attend school every day," White said. "Of those 80 percent, 35 percent are female."

Panjshir province Deputy Gov. Kabini said he can tell the people of his province are growing more optimistic from the way their eyes and faces look, and the people are becoming more informed and connected to their government through their new radio station.

"We will not accept al Qaeda in any form of this government because they killed our national hero and attacked the U.S.," Kabini said. "These tragedies bind us together against al Qaeda."

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Three Servicemembers Killed in Iraq; Previous Casualties Identified

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2007 – A soldier and two Marines have been killed while serving in Iraq in recent days, and the Defense Department has released the identities of four soldiers killed March 25.

-- A Multinational Force Iraq soldier died March 27 after an attack by indirect fire in the International Zone. A second soldier is currently being treated at a local coalition force facility for wounds suffered in the attack.

-- A Marine assigned to Multinational Force West also died March 27 during combat operations in Anbar province.

-- Another Marine assigned to Multinational Force West was killed March 24 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of family members. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has identified a Marine and six soldiers who were killed earlier in Iraq.

-- Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus A. Golczynski, 30, of Lewisburg, Tenn., died March 27 from wounds suffered in Anbar province. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Nashville, Tenn.

-- Army Sgt. Curtis J. Forshey, 22, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., died March 27 in Hamburg, Germany, of a non-combat related illness. He was assigned to the 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

-- Army Spc. Sean K. McDonald, 21, of Rosemount, Minn., died March 25 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Wiesbaden, Germany.

Four soldiers assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. died March 25 in Baqubah when a roadside bomb detonated near their vehicle. Killed were:

-- Sgt. Jason W. Swiger, 24, of South Portland, Maine;
-- Cpl. Jason Nunez, 22, of Naranjito, Puerto Rico;
-- Pfc. Orlando E. Gonzalez, 21, of New Freedom, Pa.; and
-- Pfc. Anthony J. White, 21, of Columbia, S.C.

Australian Detainee Heads Toward Sentencing in Guantanamo

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – Australian detainee David Hicks, who entered a guilty plea March 26 to a charge of material support for terrorism, is expected to be sentenced by the end of the week,
military officials said. Officials today released information about how the military commission will move forward with sentencing, a process that has not been tried either in the previous round of military commissions last year or under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, established after the Supreme Court struck down the first commissions process as unconstitutional.

Before the
military commission members can be assembled and proceed with sentencing, the military judge has to verify the validity of Hicks' guilty plea, Army Maj. Beth Kubala of the Office of Military Commissions told reporters. This will be done in a hearing session where the judge will question Hicks to determine if his plea is voluntary and based on facts. The military judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, already has ordered the prosecution and defense teams to agree on the facts that make up the offense.

Kohlmann ordered this collaboration March 26 in an unexpected late-night court session where Hicks pleaded guilty to providing support to a terrorist organization, but not to a terrorist act. Kohlmann has not announced the court schedule, but Kubala and members of the prosecution and defense said they expect the sentencing to be completed this week.

Under the
Military Commissions Act, after the judge accepts the accused's guilty plea, military commission members must determine the sentence. Commission members are active-duty military officers selected by the convening authority. The 10 commission members for Hicks' case already have been selected and include officers from all four services, Kubala said. Only five of these commission members have to be present to pass a sentence.

Once the commission members arrive here for proceedings, they will be subject to "voir dire," a legal process in which attorneys from both sides and the military judge question the members to determine their impartiality. Once voir dire is complete, sentencing proceedings will begin. The prosecution and defense make arguments and present information, and the accused has the right to testify or make an unsworn statement.

After commission members have deliberated on the evidence and instructions, they begin the process of arriving at a sentence. Any member who chooses to can write down a complete sentence, and these proposals are arranged by the junior member in order of severity and then voted on, beginning with the least severe sentence. As soon as a sentence gets the required number of votes, the process stops and the sentence has been determined. More severe sentences are not voted on.

If the sentence includes confinement of more than 10 years, three-quarters of the members must vote for the sentence, but if the sentence includes confinement of 10 years or less, two-thirds of the members must concur.

Air Force Col. Morris Davis, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, has said repeatedly he will not seek a life sentence for Hicks, even though that is the maximum penalty for his charge. Under a diplomatic agreement between the United States and Australia, Hicks will return to Australia to serve any prison sentence.

Hicks, 31, is the first detainee to be charged under the
Military Commissions Act of 2006. According to documents released by the Defense Department, Hicks, who was born in Adelaide, Australia, was a member of two terrorist organizations in Albania and Pakistan in 1999. In 2001, Hicks traveled to Afghanistan and attended al Qaeda training camps.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hicks is alleged to have joined al Qaeda forces at Kandahar Airport. After a few weeks at the airport, Hicks traveled to the front lines in Konduz, Afghanistan, to fight coalition forces. Northern Alliance forces captured him in December 2001 while attempting to flee to Pakistan.

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Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Marcus A. Golczynski, 30, of Lewisburg, Tenn., died March 27 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Golczynski was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Nashville, Tenn.

For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office at (504) 678-4177.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Master Sgt. Sean M. Thomas, 33, of Harrisburg, Pa., died March 27 in Baghdad, Iraq, when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using indirect fire during combat operations. Thomas was assigned to the 28th Division Support Command, Harrisburg, Pa.

For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at (717) 861-8468.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Coalition Forces Capture 19 Terrorists; Attacks on Iraqi Civilians Continue
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2007 – Coalition forces in Iraq this morning captured 19 suspected
terrorists in various operations, Iraqi forces repelled an attack in Fallujah, and attacks on civilians continue across the country, military officials reported.

-- Coalition forces east of Karmah captured five suspected terrorists with alleged involvement in al Qaeda terrorist operations.

-- Forces detained an additional five suspected terrorists, reportedly tied to foreign fighter facilitation, during a raid northwest of Haditha.

-- In southwest Baghdad, coalition forces detained five suspects reportedly involved in car-bomb operations.

-- Three more suspects with alleged ties to al Qaeda were detained in Baghdad.

-- Another suspect detained south of Fallujah is reportedly involved in the movement of weapons and forgery of passports.

"Coalition forces will continue deliberate and methodical operations in order to hunt down and capture or kill terrorists trying to prevent a peaceful and stable Iraq," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.

U.S. officials in Iraq reported today that eight U.S. soldiers were wounded in a March 26 attack on a coalition post north of Karmah. Soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 6 repelled the coordinated attack, which included two suicide truck bombs.

The attack started at about 2 p.m., when a soldier from 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment (Airborne), attached to 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), engaged a water truck attempting to enter the compound without authorization, causing it to detonate. Immediately following the explosion, about 30 terrorist fighters engaged the compound with small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. The soldiers returned fire with small arms, mortars and artillery.

About five minutes into the attack, soldiers engaged a dump truck following the same path as the previous suicide attacker, causing it to detonate, as well. Initial estimates indicate as many as 15 terrorists were killed, U.S. officials said.

One of the wounded soldiers was evacuated to a nearby coalition medical facility, and the remaining seven were treated on site and returned to duty.

In other news from Iraq, attacks on civilians continue throughout the country.

Iraqi soldiers and
police repelled a complex attack at the Fallujah Government Center this morning. The attack included two suicide truck bombs containing chlorine. It began at 6:33 a.m. with mortar fire, followed by two truck bombs and small-arms fire. Iraqi police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound. Iraqi soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small-arms fire, causing it to detonate near the entrance of the compound.

About 15 Iraqi security and coalition force members were injured from the bomb blast and were evacuated to the 2nd Iraqi Army Brigade's aid station and a coalition medical facility. Numerous Iraqi soldiers and
police officers are being treated for symptoms such as labored breathing, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting, that that are synonymous with chlorine inhalation.

Elsewhere in Iraq today, one civilian was killed and seven were injured after a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at 1:20 p.m. in northwestern Ramadi. The injured were evacuated to a local aid station, Ramadi general hospital, and a coalition medical facility.

Coalition forces arrived after the explosion to assist in the medical evacuation and set up a cordon around the blast site. Local citizens provided information about a second truck bomb that may be in the area. Acting on the tip, a search was conducted and an abandoned truck was found wired with explosives and chlorine tanks.

Insurgents near Abu Ghraib killed the brother of a tribal leader yesterday in a suicide attack that involved two car bombs detonated at the house of a sheik. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment put out the resulting fire. They found three bodies, an assault rifle and several unexploded hand grenades among the debris surrounding the bomb-ravaged sedans. The sheik confirmed that one of those killed was his brother.

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