War on Terrorism

Friday, January 30, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- January 30, 2009

[U.S.] House [of Representatives]-passed stimulus bill includes pandemic funding
“Yesterday the US House of Representatives passed an $819 billion economic stimulus bill that included funding for pandemic influenza and bioterrorism countermeasures […]. […] The House bill includes $900 million for biomedical advanced research and development, pandemic flu, and cyber security to help the nation better prevent or respond to a natural or man-made biological threat, according to a Jan 15 statement from Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington, DC.” (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy; 29Jan09; Lisa Schnirring and Robert Roos) http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/panflu/news/jan2909stimulus-jw.html

Food makers don’t report in-house test results
“A federal probe into a deadly salmonella outbreak has exposed a dirty secret: Food producers in most states are not required to alert health regulators if internal tests show possible contamination at their plants. The legal loophole surfaced this week when federal investigators disclosed internal Peanut Corp. of America reports that documented at least 12 positive tests for salmonella between 2007 and 2008 at their Blakely, Ga., plant, which has been identified as the source of the nationwide outbreak. In each case, the plant did not alert state or federal regulators. The flaw has infuriated regulators and food safety experts, who are pushing legislation that would require the alerts at the first sign of contamination.” (Associated Press; 29Jan09; Greg Bluestein) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/29/AR2009012903265.html

Progress made toward smallpox medication
“U.S. scientists say they have taken the first step toward developing a pharmaceutical medication to treat smallpox and the emerging human monkeypox. A major breakthrough by Oklahoma State University Assistant Professor Junpeng Deng and Ph.D. student Brian Krumm demonstrated the three-dimensional crystal structure of a poxvirus protein in the act of blocking a human immune molecule -- interleukin 18. The human immune system is rendered helpless against poxviruses partly because the viruses block interleukin-18 from sending a signal to the immune system that it's being attacked, the researchers said. The body thinks everything is fine and the deadly disease is able to take hold.” (United Press International; 28Jan09) http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2009/01/28/Progress_made_toward_smallpox_medication/UPI-65531233174304/

Boston’s BioDefense [Corp.] blocks anthrax mail threats
“[…] [O]ne local company thinks it has a solution to disinfect mail before it gets to its recipient. Boston-based BioDefense Corp. […] offers a machine called the MailDefender to its clients, which include the U.S.Department of Justice and the United Nations in New York. ‘It’s the only proactive prevention that kills the biopathogen before it gets distributed,’ said Jonathan Morrone, senior executive vice president at BioDefense.
[…] The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) itself deploys a biohazard detection system […] [but it] doesn’t destroy the pathogen, which would require eliminating the letter and potential criminal evidence […].” (Massachusetts High Tech; 30Jan09; Mark Songini) http://www.masshightech.com/stories/2009/01/26/weekly9-Bostons-BioDefense-blocks-anthrax-mail-threats.html

Uganda: scientists tipped on handling bio-terrorism
“Ugandan technicians and scientists have been tipped on how to prevent bio-terrorism in the wake of increased threat of its use by terrorist groups. Dr. Emmanuelle Tuerlings from the World Health Organisation's department of epidemics and pandemic alert, said unsafe laboratories can be a threat to humanity and the environment. ‘There is need for responsible use of science research management otherwise biological agents and toxins could be used as terrorist weapons,’ said Tuerlings. He was addressing participants of a workshop organised by the Uganda National Academy of Science at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on Wednesday.”(AllAfrica.com; 29Jan09; Catherine Bekunda) http://allafrica.com/stories/200901300098.html

[Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism] panel experts say bio terrorism imminent [New York University]
“Last night, the NYU School of Law hosted a panel discussion about weapons of mass destruction and the future of terrorism. The event, which featured members of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, showcased the commission’s newest report on the challenges posed by all forms of WMD […]. In opening the discussion, [former counselor to World Bank president Robin] Cleveland said a biological terror attack is much more likely than a nuclear war.” (Washington Square News; 29Jan09; Taylor Miller) http://www.nyunews.com/news/university/panel_experts_say_bio_terrorism_imminent-1.1316720

Structure of enzyme against chemical warfare agents determined
“The enzyme DFPase from the squid Loligo vulgaris, is able to rapidly and efficiently detoxify chemical warfare agents such as Sarin, which was used in the Tokyo subway attacks in 1995. A detailed understanding of the mechanism by which enzymes catalyze chemical reactions is necessary for efforts aiming to improve their properties. A group of researchers at the University of Frankfurt, the Bundeswehr Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology in Munich, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA, have successfully determined the structure of DFPase using neutron diffraction. They report their findings in the 20 January 2009 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” (Red Orbit;29Jan09)
http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1630728/structure_of_enzyme_against_chemical_warfare_agents_determined/

Fixing a broken world [The Economist]
“[…] [M]uch more needs to be done to shore up states that are failing, in a state of collapse, or so poor that they are heading in that direction.[…] The common denominator for al-Qaeda’s activity is not state failure, but the fact that attacks are carried out by extremists claiming to act in the name of the world’s Muslims. Their safe havens are not necessarily geographical but social. Being based in a remote spot, far from government authorities, may be important for training, building esprit de corps and, in the view of intelligence agencies, trying to develop chemical and biological weapons. […] Given that [state] failures come in so many varieties, fixing them is bound to be more of an art than a science.” (The Economist; 29Jan09)
http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13035718

Inmate [Luis Siveria] gets 7 years for ‘anthrax’ letters [IN]
“An Indiana Department of Correction inmate on Thursday received a seven-year sentence in federal prison for sending threatening letters containing phony anthrax powder. Luis Silveria, 36, had pleaded guilty to mailing threatening communications to two federal judges in Massachusetts and Connecticut, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy M. Morrison’s office.Authorities say Silveria sent the judges four letters containing a white power he claimed was anthrax.” (Indianapolis Star; 30Jan09
http://www.indystar.com/article/20090130/LOCAL18/901300356/1195/LOCAL18

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: CNS launches new Middle East project

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies is embarking on an ambitious program of work in the Middle East focused on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, regional security dialogue, and implementation of all aspects of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The program also will include an educational and training dimension.

CNS is delighted to announce that Ambassador Nabil Fahmy has agreed to play a leading role in this program as nonresident Chair of the new CNS Middle East Nonproliferation Project.

Before returning to Cairo in fall 2008, Ambassador Fahmy served for nine years as the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States. Prior to his posting in Washington, he served as Egypt’s Ambassador to Japan.

Ambassador Fahmy has led numerous Egyptian delegations to inter-governmental conferences and meetings on issues associated with the Middle East peace process (including the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference) and international security, disarmament, and nonproliferation. He also served for four years on the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, chairing the Board from 2001-2003. In addition, Ambassador Fahmy has been a long-time member of the CNS International Advisory Board and the Monterey Nonproliferation Strategy Group.

Ambassador Fahmy is the author of numerous articles and book chapters dealing with the Middle East, regional security, nuclear nonproliferation, and the establishment of a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East. His publications include contributions to The Nonproliferation Review and the CNS Occasional Paper series.

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers Detain Suspects, Find Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 30, 2009 - Iraqi security forces, aided by their U.S. partners, detained suspected criminals, seized illegal weapons and found and destroyed a "sticky bomb" in Jan. 28 operations, military officials reported. Iraqi National Police officers on a combined operation with Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers detained a suspected criminal in the Jihad community of Baghdad's Rashid district. The combined patrol transported the detainee, who was wanted for alleged car-bomb activity, to a joint security station for processing.

Meanwhile, another combined patrol captured a bomb-building suspect in the Zubaida community.

In another operation, Iraqi security forces acted on information provided by a detainee who had knowledge of recent attacks to arrest two suspects believed to have conducted hand-grenade attacks on civilians resettling in northern Baghdad's Ghazaliyah neighborhood.

In Baghdad's Rashid district, Iraqi security forces and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers seized weapons and found a bomb and unexploded ordnance in various operations:

-- Police and U.S. soldiers found a magnetic "sticky bomb" in the district's Jazeera community and called in an Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team to dispose of it.

-- Forces confiscated 15 AK-47 assault rifles in the Saydiyah community.

-- Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found a bomb made of a 2.75 inch rocket and a 60 mm mortar round in the Masafee community.

-- In the Abu Tshir community, a combined patrol found a rocket-propelled grenade round that had been fired but hadn't exploded.

-- Iraqi and U.S. soldiers found an 81 mm white-phosphorus mortar in the Arab Jabour community. A coalition EOD team secured it.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Face of Defense: Soldier Finds Freedom in U.S., Fights for Freedom in Iraq

By Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 30, 2009 - A 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, maintenance technician deployed here found his freedom in the United States and now fights so that Iraqis may enjoy what he has come to cherish. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jose Orellana of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team was born the son of a successful politician in El Salvador. Life was good, he said, as he went to good schools, dressed well, ate well and strove to excel in his studies for the sake of his father's pride. But his privileged lifestyle was taken from him at a painful price.

"Life changed for me very quickly in 1983," he said. "I was 13. One day my father came in and told us to pack our stuff, because his political party had lost the elections. Next thing, we're running away from the house, and my father got abducted for about 15 days."

Orellana explained that the political climate in El Salvador at the time was dangerously volatile, and members of the fallen political party often had to flee for their lives after elections.

After anxiously waiting, the Orellana family received an anonymous call early one morning telling them where his father was. They found him dead after having been brutally tortured. Young Orellana's world, which had begun to topple, was now shattered.

"My priorities in life changed," he said. "I was into revenge: getting back at the bad guys who did that to my dad and split up my family when everybody fled. The main thing after graduating high school at 16 years old was to join the [Salvadoran] military so I could pay them back. It was purely rage and hate motivated.

"It's funny, because you have plans in life to be this or that," he continued. "My father never wanted me to be a soldier. He wanted me to be an intellectual."

A few years after joining the military, Orellana was wounded.

"I got shot in one of the operations," he said. "I was paralyzed for a time. The doctors believed it actually hit my spinal cord. I got hit in the pelvis, and the bullet bounced up about an inch off my spinal cord. Thank God he saved me from that one. It was an experience."

After he recovered, he said, he turned his eyes back to re-entering the Army to continue his quest for vengeance. It was 1989, and his mother had a business in Florida. She convinced Orellana to go to the United States, at least for a time, to think about his options rather than going back to into the Salvadoran army.

"She was right," he said. "I came to the states and started going to school and started learning about history. The more I read, the more admiration I had for the United States. I started thinking that if I am willing to put my life on the line for a country that can't get straight because [it] keeps on changing power, how much can I do for a country that endorses the freedom that any good human being in the world is craving? I got intoxicated with freedom. I made the States my country. All the freedoms that we have are just amazing."

Orellana joined the U.S. Army in 1992 as a fuel and electric repair specialist, and after working his way up to the rank of sergeant first class, he became a maintenance warrant officer in 2004.

He said the differences in the two armies in which he's served have amazed him.

"This Army doesn't [focus] on how weak you were before," he said. "It is focused on what you can do now and later." He said the American Army is strong because it lets its soldiers be strong and improve for their own sake as well as the Army's. "It's a wonderful Army. It respects human rights [and] opinions," he said.

From the start of his time in America, Orellana said, he began changing rapidly, letting his old hatred and drive for revenge begin to fade.

In America, he also found his faith in God, and started his own family with his wife, Julie. They have two daughters, Theresa, 7, and Isobel, 3. They now call Killeen, Texas, home but currently live in Fountain, Colo.

Orellana deployed in 2003 with the push into Iraq and operated in Fallujah. In 2005 he was sent to Najaf and Kalsu. This is his third deployment to Iraq.

Orellana spends time almost every day speaking with the Iraqis from around the area. He drinks chai tea and eats with them often, sharing talk about topics that span from their families to the development of Iraq.

"When you see the progress, it helps you feel good," he said. "These people have suffered so much, and for them to get more freedom, it's worth it."

Being a soldier is not just a job, he said.

"It's a commitment," he said. "If you don't see it as a commitment, you're not going to be good at it. It's up to you what kind of impact you want to make."

He expressed confidence in his hope that after coalition forces leave Iraq the Iraqis will live in peace and their freedoms will blossom.

"When you hear them tell you it's better now for the Iraqis, for the kids, and there is more freedom, it makes it better," he said. "You kind of get choked up a little bit, because you start thinking: I'm part of it. I'm helping to bring freedom. And that is priceless."

(Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente serves with the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.)

Iraqi Military Ethics Center Hosts Election Conference

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 30, 2009 - In anticipation of tomorrow's nationwide provincial elections, Iraq's Center for Military Values, Principles and Leadership Development hosted a conference here Jan. 27 for senior military leaders on the role of the military in a democracy. The center's staff develops ethics-training doctrine for the Iraqi army and provides ethics training for the country's soldiers.

The seminar covered the Iraqi government's constitutional structure and the lawful functions of the armed forces. Like the United States, Iraq has three branches of federal government: executive, legislative and judicial. Each provides checks and balances to the power of the others. Iraq also has a provincial and local government, and representatives from each will be chosen in tomorrow's election.

Iraqi Staff Brig. Gen. Jehad, the center's deputy director, opened the conference with a video of the most recent election.

"This is a video of your people, the people of Iraq," he told the group. "They are going to polling stations to vote for their representatives in the past general election. Democracy is the rule of the people. The people are ruling themselves when they choose representatives."

Jehad stressed the importance of the Iraqi army helping every citizen vote and not interfering with the voting process.

"We should not put pressure on the citizen when he comes to vote," he said. "We should be impartial. He will choose the representative who convinces him. The army will be impartial."

Iraqi security forces from the Defense and Interior ministries had the opportunity to vote early Jan. 28 because they'll be busy tomorrow providing for security for the election.

"You have the right to vote," Jehad told the officers in attendance. "You cannot be nominated or elected to provincial council, but you can vote."

During a question-and-answer session, some asked whether soldiers could, or should, be forced to vote. The answer was a resounding 'No.'

"If someone wants to not vote, this is his freedom," said Lt. Gen. Hussain, deputy chief of staff for training for the Iraqi Joint Headquarters. "If you go and give a blank paper, this is your business. It is good to go and use your rights legally, but you have the right to go or not go. You are a free person."

Hussain reminded the group that although they've been focusing on the election, their daily work for five years has been serving democracy. "Every one of us should review for himself what duties he has done to serve democracy," he said.

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Iraqi Air Force Demonstrates Surveillance Capabilities for Elections

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 30, 2009 - The Iraqi air force demonstrated its capability to view polling stations and other potential critical-incident locations from above Jan. 28 in preparation for tomorrow's provincial elections. This "eye in the sky" is a sensor system similar to that of a U.S. Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, downlinked for display into the Iraqi prime minister's national operations center.

Iraqi air force officials conducted the demonstration for the Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie, other senior government officials and coalition military advisors to showcase the King Air 350 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft's ability to provide real-time surveillance and full-motion video to support decision-making in the prime minister's operations center.

The twin-engine turboprop aircraft boasts a crew of three, including a dedicated sensor operator. It can fly for more than six hours and has an operational radius of more than 1,000 nautical miles. The Iraqi air force's five King Air 350s operate from the 87th Squadron's headquarters at New Al-Muthana Air Base in Baghdad.

Four fixed ground stations, or downlink sites, are located throughout Iraq, and the Iraqi air force has five mobile ground receivers that provided the link into the operations center during the Jan. 28 demonstration.

The demonstration highlighted the aircraft's ability to display full-motion video through the airplane's 360-degree electro-optical sensor to the mobile ground receiver.
In addition to the video capability, the system also provides an infrared sensor, synthetic aperture radar imaging capability, and capabilities to detect moving vehicles.

With this capability, Iraq's top national security leadership and other decision makers now have a system to provide real-time, accurate information to help them make better decisions when responding to crises or conducting military and civil operations, officials said.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Chuck Pratt, an intelligence advisor with Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's intelligence transition team, commented on the King Air 350's advanced capabilities.

"We envision the Iraqi air force using this system to support military or police operations centers, or, for example, with the Iraqi navy, supporting maritime security operations and oil platform defense in the northern Arabian Gulf," he said. "We also need to network the ground stations so information can be viewed where it is needed."

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Coalition Forces Disrupt Kandahar Bomb Network

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 30, 2009 - Coalition forces in Afghanistan killed four militants and detained eight suspects during operations yesterday to disrupt Taliban bomb makers and militants in Kandahar. In Arghandab district, just outside the city, the operation targeted a Taliban operator known to have employed roadside bombs aimed against Afghan National Police and coalition forces.

When coalition forces reached the compound where the Taliban member was located, armed militants engaged them with small-arms fire. Militants barricaded themselves in a building, endangering the women and children on the compound. Coalition forces precisely engaged the barricaded militants after they refused to surrender, while safeguarding the women and children.

Other suspected militants on the compound followed instructions to surrender, and they were detained without incident.

Because a building damaged by the militants was deemed unsafe for occupants, coalition forces destroyed it after removing women and children to a safe distance.

During the operation, the force found AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and blasting caps.

Nine women and 17 children present on the compound were unharmed during the operation due to the precise actions of coalition forces, officials said.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On the Ground: U.S. Forces Step Back to Allow Iraqis to Oversee Election

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - U.S. forces, having helped their Iraqi counterparts for more than a month prepare for the country's Jan. 31 provincial elections, are now stepping back, confident their planning and practice has paid off. "At this point, we're trying to enable, not to direct, the Iraqis in how to accomplish their mission," U.S. Army Capt. Nicholas Doerr, of 1st Armored Division's Task Force 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, said.

In support of the U.S.-Iraqi status-of-forces agreement that took effect Jan. 1, U.S. soldiers rehearsed election security plans with Iraqi security forces Jan. 25 at Combat Outpost Meade, southeast of Baghdad, in an area once known for sectarian violence. In the past year there has been a significant decrease in attacks on Iraqi civilians as the "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group, the Iraqi army and the reconciliation program have greatly increased security and helped to reinstate a sense of normalcy.

For the rehearsal, Iraqi soldiers conducted a mock election drill on a large sand table. The unit acted out friendly and enemy actions, and the soldiers rehearsed their actions. While acting out the security plan, the Iraqi soldiers talked through their mission, critical tasks, actions and decisions to their leaders.

"The complexity of the display may seem a little elaborate, but it's all just a tool we're providing to our allies to aid them in securing their own democratic future," Doerr said.

Everyone was clear on their election-day role: Iraqi security forces will be overseeing election security, and U.S. soldiers will help if they are needed.

"We are asking the coalition forces for air support, especially in [medical evacuations], should we need them," Iraqi army Col. Abdalah Ramadan Atia said. "However, the coalition will have very little involvement in this operation. We have experience from the 2005 elections. The units are trained and prepared."

The combined forces got a trial run at the election when Iraqi security forces, detainees, hospital patients and other special-needs cases were allowed to vote three days before the general population.

About 3,000 detainees in coalition custody voted yesterday at eight polling stations in U.S. Theater Internment Facilities.

Multinational Force Iraq worked with the Iraqi government, the Independent High Electoral Commission, which the coalition established in 2004 to oversee Iraqi elections, and other agencies to provide credible and legitimate special-needs voting. A similar process was followed for detainees to vote in the 2005 elections.

The Iraqi government provided the poll workers, ballots and administrative support, and Multinational Force Iraq organized the IHEC-authorized detainees for the safe and orderly election. In addition, dozens of international and other IHEC-approved observers monitored the voting process.

Balloting opened at 7 a.m. and continued until all eligible detainees passed through the polling stations.

Iraqi correctional officers and linguists who work with the detainees said they were honored to be part of the historic event and felt the elections are another sign that Iraq is moving forward as a democratic nation.

Iraqi police also voted yesterday, at the Bilal Al Habashi School in Istaqlal Qada of northeast Baghdad.

"This is a good step for Iraq and the people. They have free opinions to vote wherever they want and for any person they want to give peace in Iraq," Iraqi police Col. Majeed Khalil said.

The special round of voting was set aside to ensure that soldiers will be able to provide security for the general election.

"We have all the emergency stuff we need, and we are going to do our best to provide security to the people so that the people are able to vote free," Khalil said.

For those who voted early, the importance of that decision was not forgotten.

"It is very good," said Bakr Hdait, a hospital janitor from Adhamiyah, who was casting his vote. "We have to choose the person who is going to work for us. He's going to make a lot of things good for us."

Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers also conducted a combined operation Jan. 25 to inspect and secure polling sites for the upcoming provincial elections in the Mahmudiyah Qada.

The combined operation involved soldiers and military working dogs from the Iraqi army and U.S. soldiers from the 1st Armored Division's 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The soldiers inspected and secured polling sites at four schools in the Warij region, which will be used as voting centers. Ensuring the sites are safe is a responsibility of the Iraqi police, who will be posted at the polling sites on election day.

"There will be 15 [Iraqi] soldiers and 10 [Iraqi police officers] at each polling site. I am using all my resources to make this a good election," Iraqi army Maj. Jabbar Hafuth, a battalion commander, said.

Throughout the pre-election security sweeps, Multinational Division Baghdad military police dogs searched for possible explosives at each polling site.

"The [Iraqi army] is gaining good knowledge working with [Multinational Division Baghdad] soldiers during security patrols on tactics, techniques and procedures," Army Staff Sgt. Roderick Buck, who serves with Company C, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, said.

Iraqi soldiers also are working with Iraqi police and the Sons of Iraq to establish vehicle checkpoints on roads and highways in the Mahmudiyah area.

"I am happy to protect my country and school. I want to help all the kids and hold free elections. I want leaders to help Iraq and the new government," Abaas Kathum Abdulah, an Iraqi soldier, said.

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

Military Commissions Must Obey President's Directive, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - The military commissions system created in 2006 to try accused terrorists held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must comply with President Barack Obama's directive to suspend all legal proceedings there, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said at a news conference today. A reporter asked for Morrell's reaction concerning news reports that say a military judge at Guantanamo today ordered that legal proceedings be continued against accused al-Qaida terrorist Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Nashiri is charged with planning the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole that was berthed in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors died as a result of the attack.

All legal proceedings at Guantanamo are "on hold," Morrell said. A series of assessments and reviews of detainee operations at Guantanamo are now being conducted as part of Obama's Jan. 22 executive order to shut down the detention facility within the year.

Obama instructed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Jan. 20 to cease referring any new cases through the military-commissions process at Guantanamo Bay and to request 120-day continuances on all ongoing active cases there. Two days later, the president issued three executive orders, one of which directs the closure of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay within the year.

Resolving the issue concerning Nashiri's legal proceedings at Guantanamo, Morrell said, is a matter for the military commissions convening authority.

"But the bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in this chain of command, and he has signed an executive order which has made it abundantly clear that until these reviews are done all [legal activity at Guantanamo] is on hiatus," Morrell said.

Obama signed three executive orders Jan. 22, one of which directs the closure of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay within the year. Another order signed by the president directs the stand up of a special interagency task force that will study the future disposition of present Guantanamo detainees who cannot be transferred to other countries and who pose a serious danger to the United States.

The third executive order signed by the president that day directs the U.S. military and other U.S. agencies to follow the Army Field Manual, which bans torture when interrogating detainees "to promote the safe, lawful and humane treatment of individuals in United States custody."

"This department will be in full compliance with the president's executive order," Morrell said at the news conference.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 established procedures governing the use of military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States for violations of the law of war and other offenses that can be tried by military commission, according to a military commissions fact sheet.

The detention center at Guantanamo Bay has housed nearly 800 suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places since the start of the global war on terrorism that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

About 250 people are being held at Guantanamo today, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Afghanistan Troop Buildup a 'Delicate' Endeavor, Spokesman Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to present the Pentagon's proposal for a U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan to President Barack Obama in the near future, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.
"I think everybody's committed to doing this as quickly and responsibly as possible," Morrell told Pentagon reporters. "In the coming days, the secretary hopes to present the president with his recommendation."

Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, who commands U.S. forces in Afghanistan as well as NATO's International Security Assistance Force, has asked his bosses for a 30,000-troop increase, which effectively would double the U.S. military contingent in Afghanistan.

Gates and other senior civilian and military officials at the Pentagon have said they believe it is necessary to send more troops to Afghanistan to suppress resurgent Taliban fighters and al-Qaida terrorists.

The White House is reviewing U.S. strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Morrell said. Any U.S. troop increase for Afghanistan, he said, needs the approval of the new commander in chief.

Increased violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan threatens global security and constitutes "the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism," Obama said during a Jan. 22 visit to the State Department.

Obama also is studying several options presented to him by Pentagon officials for a drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

During his Jan. 27 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said if Obama approves the Afghanistan troop increase, that most of those extra forces could be provided to McKiernan by midsummer.

Gates is mindful of the balancing of risk regarding U.S. troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan, Morrell said, noting that the Iraq drawdown affects the numbers of additional troops available for deployment to Afghanistan.

Additionally, any increase of combat troops for Afghanistan, Morrell said, would require additional support forces as well.

"It's a delicate plus-up, because you've got to do it commensurate to the infrastructure that exists" in austere Afghanistan, Morrell said.

Marines, Afghans Improve Security on Route in Southern Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan cleared a route between two Afghan districts, aiming to improve safety and encourage commerce in the area. Operation Gateway III involved the clearing of Route 515, a 26-mile stretch of road between the Delaram and Bakwa district centers in Afghanistan's Farah province.

Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and Combat Logistics Battalion 3, the ground and logistics combat elements of the task force, completed the project Jan. 26.

"By opening Route 515, we will decrease travel time for alliance forces, as well as enable civilian goods that are vital to the community to pass through the area with less resistance," Marine Corps Lt. Col. David L. Odom, commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, said. "The clearing of the route will also open the lines of communication between the two major district centers."

As they cleared the route, the Marines encountered nearly 30 homemade bomb-related incidents. To ensure security, Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers conducted joint patrols, and Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 3 constructed three combat outposts along the route, officials said.

AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters from Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 provided fire support for the Marines and Afghan soldiers while Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 airlifted construction materials weighing more than 95,000 pounds to the outposts' locations.

In Delaram district, the improved security yielded quick results for Afghan villagers. Dozens of villagers dug irrigation ditches along the route, ensuring local crop fields have sufficient water and increasing their output.

"The Afghan people will benefit directly from what we did here," Marine Corps Col. Duffy W. White, task force commander, said. "But our work is not yet done. We must continue to patrol this area with our Afghan partners to make sure they are not endangered by insurgent attacks."

(From an International Security Assistance Force news release.)

Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers Capture Bomb Suspects, Seize Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - Joint operations by Iraqi and U.S. soldiers in Iraq's Maysan province led to the Jan. 23 capture of five suspects accused of planting and detonating a roadside bomb meant for coalition troops. Iraqi and U.S. soldiers were conducting joint-security operations in the city of Amarah and the southern town of Qalat Salah when Iraqi officials say the suspects placed and detonated an explosive device in an effort to quell the operations.

Iraqi soldiers responded quickly by gathering evidence from their intelligence network to find who was responsible for the blast.

Within hours, the Iraqi army's intelligence cell identified the triggerman and set up a raid on a house that resulted in his capture. When questioned, the detainee confessed to being responsible for the crime.

The explosion did not have a major impact on the original mission to disrupt finances supplied to terror cells, officials said.

In conjunction with Iraqi investigators, U.S. military and law enforcement personnel are preparing evidence and procedures to make sure the suspect is brought to justice by an Iraqi court.

In another joint operation, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers seized weapons in Baghdad Jan. 27 that included two AK-47 assault rifles, an 82 mm mortar round, a 60 mm mortar round, a rocket-propelled grenade and a 22 mm anti-aircraft round. A coalition forces explosive ordnance disposal team responded to handle the munitions.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Iraqis Prepare to Vote in Jan. 31 Provincial Elections

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - Iraqis of all backgrounds are preparing to vote during their country's first election since 2005, a senior Defense Department official said here today. More than 15 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in the Jan. 31 provincial elections, which will select representatives for 440 council seats across the country's 18 provinces, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told Pentagon reporters.

The more than 14,000 candidates "have for the most part, run on issues that matter to the Iraqi people, rather than trying to exploit ethnic or sectarian divisions," Morrell said.

There has been some pre-election violence, but relatively few instances of voter intimidation, Morrell said.

Sunnis had boycotted the 2005 Iraqi elections, but indications are they will participate in this year's provincial-seat polling, Morrell said. This development, he said, should produce a more representative Iraqi government, particularly in traditionally Sunni areas.

U.S. and coalition troops will support Iraqi security forces during the election, Morrell said.

Morrell also noted that Afghan government officials have announced their country's next national elections will be held in August, just before the Ramadan observance period. Reports also indicate, he added, that voter registrations in Afghanistan continue to progress well.

"So, we are pleased that the relatively new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to mature rapidly," Morrell said.

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died from wounds suffered when two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters crashed Jan. 26 in Kirkuk, Iraq. They were assigned to the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Killed were:

Chief Warrant Officer Philip E. Windorski, Jr., 35, of Bovey, Minn.

Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Kelley, 30, of Cameron, Mo.

Chief Warrant Officer Joshua M. Tillery, 31, of Beaverton, Ore.

Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin H. Todd, 29, of Colville, Wash.


The incident is under investigation.

For further information contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at (315) 772-8286.

Reading Program Connects Deployed Soldiers With Their Children

By Army Sgt. Frank Vaughn
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - A program in Iraq is helping deployed soldiers bond with their children back home through books. United Through Reading, a nonprofit organization, gives deployed soldiers an opportunity to record themselves reading stories on a DVD that is shipped home for their children to watch.

The program, available worldwide for deployed units, is coordinated here by Army Capt. (Chaplain) Mike Jones, chaplain for the 10th Mountain Division Special Troop Battalion, and his assistant, Army Spc. Annamarie Greenfield.

To participate, soldiers first choose a book from the collection, along with a miniature stuffed animal to help them tell their story. Soldiers may send the book and the furry friend home with the DVD as a keepsake.

"That's one of the neat things about this program," Greenfield said. "The book and the animal make a good heirloom for kids, grandkids and so on."

More than 80 soldiers have participated in the program since its inception here in June.

"We have handed out around 140 DVDs so far," Greenfield said. "Some soldiers come back to do it again and again."

Army Sgt. 1st Class James Morton, noncommissioned officer in charge of the battalion's security section, is one of the program's repeat customers. He said he enjoys reading books via DVD to his 4-year-old daughter, Emily.

"I first discovered this program when I was deployed to Qatar in 2005," Morton said. "Since coming to Camp Victory, I've done it at least seven or eight times."

While the United Through Reading program helps soldiers like Morton stay connected with their children and loved ones, the benefit to their families is apparent as well.

"One of the major reasons I do this over and over again is because of the stress relief it gives my wife," Morton said. "She pops in a DVD of me when my little girl is sad."
Morton said his daughter is glued to the television when he's on the screen. "She likes having daddy around," he said. "She's definitely a daddy's girl."

While the program benefits deployed soldiers with children, it is not limited to parents.

"People can read stories to nieces, nephews, cousins or whomever they choose to do this for," Greenfield said. "We can even set them up to read to school children they don't even know if they so desire."

(Army Sgt. Frank Vaughn serves in Multinational Division Center.)

Transition Team Mentors Iraqi Soldiers to Success

By Army Sgt. Whitney Houston
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - Soldiers from varied backgrounds and specialties are helping to ensure the continued success of the Iraqi army as mentors and members of a military transition team. "Our main job ... is to professionalize the Iraqi army," Army Lt. Col. Thomas Seagrist, commander of the 9th Iraqi Army Division military transition team, said. "We have officers and noncommissioned officers from a wide variety of military occupational specialties. I have a logistics officer, an intelligence officer, an aviator, [explosive ordnance disposal], intelligence analysts, ... and the list goes on.

"These [servicemembers] are the leaders of their respective elements, and the advisory role is to help their Iraqi counterparts see that there's more than one way to skin a cat and open their eyes to other options," he explained.

For team members to make progress, the first step is to establish a rapport with their Iraqi counterparts, "which is easier said than done," Seagrist said.

"You have to build a relationship with them by sipping chai [tea] with them and having normal conversations with them -- even if the conversations have nothing to do with the job," he said. "They have to trust you, and you have to trust them, and that's definitely not an easy thing to do. You are not their friend -- although friendships do occur -- but there's also a working relationship that has to exist."

The team continually is faced with deeply ingrained cultural obstacles that require patience and perseverance to overcome.

"Many officers serving in today's Iraqi army also served under [Saddam Hussein's] regime, which is a totally different mindset. They grew up and prospered under a dictator who called all the shots," Seagrist said.

"They served with pride for their army and their country" he continued, "and in an army in a new democratic society, we are trying to help them serve the people and a constitution rather than serving a man."

To overcome the lingering cultural elements of a dictator's army, Seagrist and his team have suggested and reiterated the importance of strengthening the Iraqi army noncommissioned officer corps to distribute authority and provide a much-needed "backbone" for the army.

"One of the big things that myself and other members of my team are doing is not only trying to get an NCO academy going, but legitimizing the NCO corps," Army Master Sgt. Ian Hutchinson, the senior enlisted leader of the team, said. "In the Iraqi army, a lot of the soldiers don't wear their rank. They don't feel like it means anything, because they're not afforded the authority that an American NCO has.

"We're trying to show them they can do more than just bring the boss chai -- that they can take initiative and make things happen, and make NCOs in the Iraqi army just as proud as NCOs in the American Army," he said.

(Army Sgt. Whitney Houston serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad public affairs office.)

Face of Defense: Country Music Star Earned Stripes in Iraq, Afghanistan

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2009 - Stephen Cochran was a normal 19-year-old with a dream of making music his life when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led him down an unplanned path to the Marine Corps. "I dropped out of college. I walked away from a record deal," he said. "I was engaged." He didn't discuss his decision with his parents, or even his then-fiancée, who broke the engagement when he announced he'd enlisted. "It was really the first grown-up decision I'd ever made," Cochran said.

The musician, born in Pikeville, Ky., grew up in Nashville's songwriting and recording community. There, he learned the art of songwriting from his father. He made his musical debut on the radio at age 3 and had his first band by 15.

At 17, he was offered a record deal, but he and his parents agreed that he needed to go to college first. If this offer had been made now, they reasoned, there would be others after college.

While at Western Kentucky University, Cochran played lacrosse and continued to write songs and play music. True to his parents' prediction, he was offered another record deal. But he wanted to finish school.

The company offered a promissory note, but then Sept. 11 happened.

"It was just so horrific," he said. "It's like I'd been called. I'd never been pulled so hard to do something."

It may have been the audacity of the attacks, but more likely it was his family's long history of military service that drew him to enlist, he said. Both grandfathers served, as did an uncle and several other relatives.

"I've always been raised very, very patriotic. It's just what I had to do," Cochran said of his decision to join the Marines.

It wasn't long before he found himself in Kuwait with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, waiting to cross into Iraq. He was 20.

Once the unit crossed the Kuwait-Iraq border, contact with the enemy was a daily ocurrence, Cochran said. When the unit's tour was finished, the Marines had fought their way to Tikrit and back.

"We brought every man home with us," he said. "They said we did 111 missions. That was more missions than any other unit had done since Vietnam."

But daily battle takes its toll. Cochran said he thinks every Marine in his section showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Four months later, however, the entire battalion volunteered to go to Afghanistan with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. They figured nothing could be worse than Iraq.

They were wrong.

"In Afghanistan, everything was just dead. There was no foliage. The people wouldn't look you in the eye," he said, adding that he and his buddies had learned that usually meant they had something to hide.

In fact, after several months of daily fighting in Afghanistan, the Marines began to wonder just how wrong they'd been about nothing being worse than the fighting in Iraq.

"Some of us came up with a theory that maybe we had been killed in Iraq and now we were in hell," Cochran said with a chuckle that belied the seriousness of the thought.

That theory may have been conceived during a mission where the Marines were outnumbered more than 2 to 1 and he lost one of his best friends.

"It was a suicide mission," Cochran said. "We 100 percent knew there was going to be a casualty on this mission. We knew it."

The mission initially sent a five-man team into what Cochran described as very hostile territory. When 26 insurgents ambushed the team, another seven-man team responded. Despite killing 14 insurgents before the fight was over, they'd lost one Marine.

"If you wanted to pick one man to represent the entire military, it was him," he said about the Marine. "We were all trying to figure out different ports we could get drunk in. He was trying to get us into Bible study."

About a month later, on July 14, 2004, Cochran was on his last mission, working security for convoys carrying equipment back to Kandahar, when he was injured.

Just 20 yards inside Kandahar, the vehicle he was riding in hit an anti-tank mine. He was thrown from the vehicle and broke the five vertebrae in his lower back.

When he woke in the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., a month later, he discovered he was paralyzed from the waist down and most likely never would walk again.

To add insult to injury, the record company that had offered Cochran the deal dropped him, saying they couldn't put $1 million dollars into a paraplegic.

"I understand. It's a business," he said. "[But] I never believed I was never going to walk again."

The doctors at Bethesda weren't so hopeful. Despite the fact that Cochran's spinal cord was intact, the bone and cartilage were severely damaged and were pulling on his spinal cord. The doctors' best suggestion was to fuse the bone together to alleviate the pain.

Another option surfaced, however. Though his doctors in Bethesda, who were just beginning to see the types of injuries that became typical with servicemembers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, were vehemently against the idea, his mother -- and first sergeant -- pushed for the procedure. They finally won.

Kyphoplasty, a procedure used to restore fractured vertebra, usually is reserved for older patients suffering from degeneration of the vertebrae and cartilage. However, six months after an orthopedic surgeon at Vanderbilt Medical Center used essentially 4 pounds of cement to fix the crushed vertebrae in Cochran's back, he was up and walking with the help of a walker.

Today, he's back on the country music scene and has a deal with Aria Records. His debut album, "Friday Night Fireside," has received more than favorable reviews.

While music is his passion, Cochran said, he found room for a second passion after his recovery: working to make sure wounded veterans have what they need to recover and live the fullest life possible.

He does this is by working with the Independence Fund, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, provides robotic wheelchairs to veterans confined to wheelchairs. The high-tech chairs can walk stairs and give the veterans their height back, Cochran said.

"They can look everybody in the eye," Cochran said. "That's the biggest thing. When I was in a wheelchair ... I had to look up at everybody. It was a big shock to your confidence. This raises them up to where they can have a conversation and look you in the eye."

It has the same technology as the Segway personal transporter, so it won't fall over, he added.

As amazing as that piece of technology is, Cochran said, bigger things are on the horizon and he'll do everything he can to make sure veterans have access to them.

"My goal is that the bigger I get in music, the bigger my pulpit can get to preach on my soapbox ... and really get more people involved," he said. "There's a lot of people in the music business who talk a lot. We just need them to get their checkbooks out now."

What Cochran said he would really like, however, is for veterans to never have to worry about what comes next.

"I want to have a foundation that covers you from the time you enlist or from the time you're commissioned until we put you in the ground," he said. "There is no reason a man shooting a basketball should have to not worry about anything in life, and a man that is ready to take a bullet should."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On the Ground: Americans Witness Improvements in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - U.S. servicemembers and civilians are seeing the fruits of their labor in Iraq where, increasingly, they are celebrating completed projects and humanitarian efforts that build both infrastructure and relationships. The most recent examples of progress came this week when Americans took part in the completion of a culvert that bridged a gap, both natural and cultural, between Sunni Arabs and Turkmen and the opening of a market that will help rural Iraqis and Americans who work there.

The culvert was completed over the Tigris River in the village of Bushariyah, near Tikrit in Kirkuk province. For years, the village was divided, with Sunni Arabs on one side of the river and Turkmen families on the other.

"The culvert now connects the Sunni Arabs and the Turkmen who live within the village," said Army Capt. Marlen Ramirez, team leader of Detachment 1, Company B, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, which assisted with the culvert that was dedicated Jan. 26.

Local Iraqi security forces came up with the idea for the culvert, which is like a dam that allows people to drive across while water passes through below. It was funded by Iraqis and built in 90 days.

"The [Iraqi police and Iraqi army] will now be able to conduct their missions easily without having to go all the way around from one side of the village to the other," Ramirez said.

As important, Ramirez said, the culvert allows residents on both sides of the river, who have been in conflict for years, to build stronger relationships.

"The connection between the two ethnicities in Bushariyah Village is now there, so it is up to them to make it work," he said.

In the market project, members of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division attended a Jan. 23 ceremony with Iraqi businessmen and others to mark the opening of the new "Oasis Market" on Contingency Operating Base Adder in Iraq.

The market is part of the Iraqi-based Industrial Zone program, or I-BIZ, which started in October to help Iraqi businesses develop within the security of a military installation. It is designed to spark the local economy in Dhi Qar province, a rural area southeast of Nasiriyah.

The Oasis Market will cater to U.S. military and civilian customers who can purchase TVs and DVDs, among other things.

"The contract that we have with the Americans saves us money," said Yassir Ahmed, an Oasis salesman who previously leased land from an Iraqi contractor. "We are now able to use the extra money to provide a better quality of product for the soldiers that shop here."

The I-BIZ program also helps the local economy through income, employment opportunities and training. It aims to enable self-sustaining Iraqi-owned companies, increase employment in the Dhi Qar province and grow the working-class society in southern Iraq.

Army Lt. Col. Timothy Norton, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, attended the ceremony to show his support for the Iraqi contractors.

"It helps [the brigade] to help these Iraqi businessmen gain economic stability," Norton explained. "Simple things like this will lead to the Iraqis providing sustainment for this base long after we have gone home."

On the humanitarian front, some Army Corps of Engineers workers distributed more than 500 blankets to needy children in the Tallil area Jan. 22.

"We saw that children in many areas lacked sufficient means to stay warm," said Army Sgt. Danielle Colson, who helped organize the drive among American servicemembers and civilian workers. "We agreed that if there was any way we could help out, we would. Just by reaching out in a little way, we were confident we could make a difference."

(Compiled from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division, 1st Cavalry Division and Multinational Division North news releases.)

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- January 28, 2009

Al-Qa’idah Maghreb in Algeria denies testing biological weapons
“Algerian Intelligence reports noting that the Al-Qa’idah tested a biological weapon that caused the death of scores of its members were denied yesterday by Al-Qa’idah in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb [AQLIM], saying the reports were fabricated and baseless. […] Leaked reports have noted that the death of some of the Salafi organization members was a consequence of the plague disease. Meanwhile, The Washington Times, according to what it said was US intelligence information, noted that the death was caused by a chemical or biological weapon manufactured in the mountains. This was ruled out by observers on the basis that the organization always uses deception methods to win foreign support.” (Individual.com; 26Jan09; Source: BBC Monitoring)
http://individual.com/story.php?story=95314788

Biotechnical research on the most deadly pathogens: challenges for risk governance and safety management [Academic paper]
“Biotechnological research on the deadliest pathogens has rapidly grown into a vast enterprise in the United States. […] This paper describes this enterprise, defines several risk scenarios unrelated to terrorism which threaten lab workers and the public with lethal and contagious pathogenic disease, and evaluates the official policy framework for decision-making with regard to preventing and responding to the risk scenarios. It finds that the [security] framework […] fails to sufficiently address prevention of lab mishaps, accidental releases, and other incidents […]. Recommendations are made regarding these inadequacies of the federal framework [to] urge application of lessons learned […] where increasing attention is being given to safety culture initiatives.” (Safety Science Journal; December 2008; Professor Michael Baram, Boston University) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2008.10.010

Feds: company at heart of salmonella probe knew plant was contaminated
“The Georgia peanut butter processing plant at the heart of a nationwide salmonella outbreak investigation shipped products in 2007 and 2008 after internal testing turned up positive for bacterial contamination, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. […] Stephen Sundlof, of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said his agency had to use special federal powers granted under the Bioterrorism Act to gain full access to company records. The law was enacted in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. […] [He] would not say whether Peanut Corp.’s actions were
criminal.” (All Headline News; 28Jan09; David Goodhue)
http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7013865302

[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates sees ‘hard choices’ on [weapons] spending [and disposal of chemical weapons]
“Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Obama administration must make ‘hard choices’ on weapons spending that could include targeting specific programs, according to a draft of his testimony today to the Senate Armed Services Committee. […] ‘Five programs account for half of total cost growth in weapons spending,’ Gates said. These programs are Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Boeing Co.’s Future Combat Systems; Virginia Class attack submarines built by General Dynamics Corp.
and Northrop Grumman Corp.; the Pentagon’s primary satellite-launch program, a joint effort of Lockheed and Boeing; and a program to destroy the US stockpile of chemical weapons which includes a number of defense contractors.” (Boston Globe; 27Jan09; Source: Bloomberg News) http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/01/27/gates_sees_hard_choices_on_spending/

Obama administration to review disputed radiological cleanup guide
“The Obama administration plans to re-evaluate a controversial Environmental Protection Agency draft guide that could significantly relax requirements for decontaminating sites affected by radiological incidents such as a ‘dirty bomb’ attack […]. After the review, the agency would have the option of publishing the document in the Federal Register for public feedback. […] Some activists also expressed concern that even a published draft of the document could help federal agencies and private firms make a case for loosening radiological decontamination requirements at Energy Department nuclear sites and elsewhere.” (Global Security Newswire; 28Jan08; Source: Risk Policy Report, Douglas Guarino) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090128_9515.php

G8 cash not enough for [WMD] arms disposal, says Russia
“Russia said on Wednesday it might have to slow down destruction of its huge Soviet-era stocks of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction because its G8 partners were not providing enough funds to carry out the work. The Group of Eight industrialized nations clinched a $20 billion deal in 2002 to help Russia get rid of chemical, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and stop them falling into the wrong hands. […] ‘The problem is, while Russia meets its obligations in full, the rest of the G8 nations which made this commitment up to now have met these obligations by 40-45 percent,’ said Andrei Bokarev, a senior finance ministry official and one of Russia's G8 point men.” (Reuters, 28Jan09)
http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-Russia/idUSTRE50R5NE20090128

Obama factor already affecting [Canadian] foreign policy [on WMD]
“Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson listed […] nuclear proliferation […] as among the Conservative government’s top priorities. […] Canada’s foreign policy is being looked upon as a pre-emptive move to ensure [Canadian Prime Minister] Mr. Harper’s politics better reflect those of Mr. Obama. […] On Jan. 22, two days after Mr. Obama’s inauguration, the government issued a press release stating Canada would be contributing $10 million ‘toward U.S. efforts to detect and secure dangerous nuclear and radiological materials in Russia and Ukraine.’ […] It’s perhaps no surprise that one of Mr. Obama’s major priorities is eliminating nuclear terrorism and tracking nuclear material.” (Embassy Magazine; 28Jan09; Michelle Collins)
http://www.embassymag.ca/page/view/obama-1-28-2009

Inmate convicted of anthrax threat [TN]
“A federal prison inmate in Tennessee has been convicted of sending a threat to a federal judge -- a letter with white powder that proved to be Sweet ‘N’ Low. Marshall DeWayne Williams, 46, faces up to 10 years more in prison for the hoax, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal reported. […] Williams signed his name to a letter to U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen, claiming the powder was ‘powerful crystal anthrax.’ He reportedly told his mother after he sent the letter that it was an effort to draw attention to his bid to be paroled from the federal prison in Memphis.”(United Press International; 27Jan09)
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/01/27/Inmate_convicted_of_anthrax_threat/UPI-75571233118540/

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following Marines died Jan. 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan:

Sgt. David W. Wallace III, 25, of Sharpsville, Pa.

Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson, 23, of Forsyth, Mont.


The Marines were assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional information on these Marines, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at(910) 450-6575.

Navy Honors Civilian Journalist for Saving Marine's Life

By Army Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - A civilian journalist received a top Navy honor in Iraq on Jan. 24 for his heroism in saving a Marine's life while in Afghanistan. Then-Fox News cameraman Chris Jackson, embedded with a Marine Corps platoon, was traveling by Humvee down a dangerous road in Afghanistan on Aug. 3 when it hit 50 pounds of homemade explosives. All of the vehicle's passengers escaped the flaming vehicle, with the exception of vehicle commander Marine Corps Sgt. Courtney Rauch.

The blast severely injured Rauch and knocked him unconscious. Jackson, despite having received shrapnel wounds himself, rushed back to the vehicle, pulled Rauch out and carried him to safety.

"Without Chris' quick thinking and heroic act, I would have lost my life that day," Rauch said. "Chris forgot about being a reporter that day and became one of our brothers and acted as one of us. Chris went above and beyond his duty."

Jackson, who now works for CNN/Turner Broadcasting, was presented with the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the second-highest award given to civilians by the Navy, for his actions. Jackson received the award at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory, outside of Baghdad, during a stop in Iraq en route to India. An audience of appreciative Marines was on hand during the ceremony.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general for Multinational Corps Iraq, has a son in the same company with which Jackson was traveling. Lefebvre, who presented the award on behalf of the Navy, asked his son if all the wonderful things being said about Jackson were true.

"I asked him, 'Is this the real thing?' and he said, 'Yeah Dad, this guy's a hero,'" Lefebvre said. "This was not an everyday action. It came from somewhere deep inside and shows such a level of courage and commitment."

When told in front of the crowd why he was invited to Al Faw Palace, Jackson blushed. "It goes to show that Marines have a good sense of humor," he said. "I was told I was coming here for a briefing."

Jackson said he didn't think twice about risking his own life to save someone else's.

"I wasn't thinking. I saw there was trouble, and I didn't even think about grabbing a camera and filming it," Jackson said. "I just did what anyone else would do if someone was in trouble."

(Army Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante serves in the 13th Public Affairs Detachment.)

Largest Class of Women Graduates from Baghdad Police College

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - Nearly 500 new Iraqi policewomen graduated from the Baghdad Police College here Jan. 26, marking the largest female class ever to graduate from the school, officials said. Among their first duties, the new graduates will serve front-line roles providing security for the Jan. 31 election.

"We feel proud and happy that we are bringing new opportunity to Iraqi women today, and more women will follow us," a graduate said.

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani congratulated the new graduates for "taking another step toward rebuilding Iraqi security."

"These women are now sharing duties with the policemen to bring a new day of prosperity to Iraq," Bulani said.

"You are now qualified to defend Iraq, to protect our liberties, Iraqi laws, constitution and human dignity," he told the graduates.

Bulani also thanked coalition forces and trainers at Baghdad Police College for their support in making this course a success.

The women received training in checkpoint security, police operations and Iraqi law, and are qualified to serve in the same capacity as men, Iraqi police officer Col. Sabah Hashim, director of training at the Police Qualification Center, said. The women will serve throughout the nation with Iraqi and border police and other directorates as required, he said.

U.S. Army Col. Larry Saunders, senior advisor for the Baghdad Police College Transition Team, said the graduation clearly speaks to Bulani's commitment to distribute opportunity equally among genders in Iraq. The transition team provides U.S. and coalition assistance and training to the Baghdad Police College and Iraqi police forces.

"They graduated in time to serve in important roles during the election security process, thus combining two very important symbols of freedom: equal opportunity and the right to elect your political leaders," he said.

"This first all-female graduating class shows the wonderful progress the Ministry of Interior has made as it works to increase diversity in the Iraqi police," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mike Milano, deputy commanding general for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's directorate of interior affairs, which provides training support to the Interior Ministry.

Other dignitaries attended the ceremony, including Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal Mageed al-Samarai and Parliament member Sammera al-Mossawi, head of the Council of Representatives' committee on women's rights and family.

Samarai thanked Interior Ministry officials for their new plan to provide more female police. She congratulated the graduates and urged them to be honest and to respect human rights as well as women's rights.

"By your service, you will create more opportunity for more women to serve their homeland and help bring security to our country," Samarai said.

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Sports Complex Reopens in Baghdad Community

By Army Sgt. Zach Mott
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - As a two-time Olympian shouted instructions from the side, two boxers sparred for a crowd of onlookers to celebrate the reopening of the Adhamiyah Sports Complex in northeastern Baghdad yesterday. Following a $200,000 facelift funded through the coalition's Commanders' Emergency Response Program, the complex now boasts a remodeled boxing gym, an indoor basketball court/soccer field, an administration office and a FIFA-regulation 5-on-5 Astroturf soccer field.

"Adhamiyah, as a whole, has been waiting for this complex to reopen for a while," said Army Capt. William Murphy, a Waltham, Mass., native who serves as civil affairs team leader for Company A, 401st Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad.

The complex once was the training grounds for many former Iraqi Olympians. Farouk Changchun, one of those former national champions, now heads the boxing program there.

Changchun, who competed in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, served as the flag bearer for his country during the 1980 Moscow Games. As his young protégées put on a demonstration for the crowd, Changchun gushed over the new gear donated by USA Boxing. The donation included headgear, gloves, trunks and shirts.

"We are happy to get any help in sports material and supplies from USA Boxing, because it spreads the feeling of humanity everywhere," Changchun said. "A lot of people think that boxers have very harsh feelings and a very hard heart, but it's not true. Boxers have a very kind heart."

Changchun said he is hopeful that some of his students will one day get to represent Iraq as he was able to do twice.

"I'm hoping that there are future Olympians in this room," he said.

As the boxing demonstration concluded, there was another important event at the complex. A soccer match between the predominantly Shiia district of Kadhamiyah and the Sunni dominated Adhamiyah district was being played on the newly opened Astroturf field.

"That's the greatest accomplishment for this entire project," Murphy said.

(Army Sgt. Zach Mott serves in the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Coalition Transfers 4,000th Humvee to Iraqi Government

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - Coalition members transferred the 4,000th armored Humvee to the Iraqi government Jan. 25 as part of a program to provide mission-capable Humvees to Iraqi security forces and on-the-job training to Iraqi mechanics. The program, based at Camp Taji here, is managed by logistics personnel from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, with assistance from Army Materiel Command, Tank and Automotive Command, Multinational Corps Iraq and other coalition partners.

The program includes a complete refurbishment of Humvees for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry and Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Bureau. The project employs more than 500 Iraqis with varying ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs.

The Humvees began arriving at the Retrograde Property and Assistance Team facility here in late 2007 for induction into the program, officials said. Production began in January 2008 with instruction and on-the-job training.

"Above all, this partnership demonstrates the cooperation between the U.S. government, our supporting contractors ... and the [Iraqi government] to train and equip Iraqi security forces," Army Col. Michael Sage, deputy chief of staff for the transition command's logistics directorate, said.

The vehicles are refurbished to a mission-capable condition, then inspected by a joint U.S. and Iraqi team prior to transfer to the Iraqi government.

The first Humvees were fielded to the Iraqi army March 12. The production goals for the program included an initial delivery of 200 vehicles in March and 400 vehicles every month thereafter. The team is poised to reach its target of up to 8,500 Humvees by the end of 2009, officials said.

"It has been our pleasure to deliver over 4,000 Humvees to the [Iraqi government] in support of its security mission," Robert Cini, a project manager, said. "The 522 Iraqi employees refurbishing the M1114 [Humvees] on this project are extremely proud of their contribution in keeping their streets and neighborhoods safe."

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Iraqis Showcase Election Plans for U.S. Soldiers, Civilians

By Scott Flenner
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team and embedded provincial reconstruction team members traveled yesterday to schools in the Adhamiyah, Istaqlal and Sadr City districts here to observe preparations for Iraqi provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31. The provincial elections -- the first elections held in Iraq since 2005 -- will mark the first elections in which the Iraqi government and security forces are in the lead in providing security.

With Iraqis in control, the U.S. solders and PRT members traveled to schools –that will serve as polling places to get a sense of how things were going.

"I saw a lot of positives," Army Lt. Col. Troy Otto, commander of the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, said. "I was actually impressed that all the personnel on site have been going through elections training. They were very excited to show us. They were very thrilled about the process."

At every school the soldiers and PRT members visited, they were welcomed with open arms. Headmasters and Iraqi election volunteers were excited to explain in detail how they were going to handle the large crowds of expected voters.

"I think they understood that this is a historic moment in Iraq, and they were taking this as an opportunity to showcase how far Iraq has come," Otto said. "They see it as an opportunity and they are going to take full advantage of it to make Iraq a better place."

The upcoming provincial elections are to be followed by local elections during the summer and national elections near the end of the year.

(Scott Flenner works in the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Iraqi Security Forces Prepare for Safe Elections

By Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2009 - During the 2005 provincial Iraqi elections, voters had their fingers stained with election ink to prevent them from voting twice. Some held their fingers up in pride as they took part in democracy; others hid their faces from cameras, afraid of becoming victims of sectarian violence.

This year, ink or not, Iraqi security forces will make their vote count twice -- once through their own ballots, then again through the people they serve.

Iraqi soldiers, policemen and other security forces voted today, a few days ahead of the rest of the population. On Jan. 31, election day, they will stand guard to ensure their fellow citizens can vote without fear.

"We have a high commitment to provide security to people that come to vote. At the same time, we also wish to do the same thing," Iraqi army 1st Lt. Ammar Abdul Zahramuvjiaa, a troop commander within the 10th Iraqi Army Division, said.

"I was here in 2005 when the first elections were held," Army Maj. Troy Wayman, an Iraqi security forces coordinator with the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, said. "Everyone in the [Iraqi security forces] was proud of their right to vote and expressed it by showing their painted finger to us over and over. Everyone was jubilant. This year, that same enthusiasm is prevalent."

The Iraqi security forces have been preparing for several months for the upcoming election, with coalition soldiers pitching in during the planning stages. Once the big day comes, however, Iraqi police will stand watch around polling sites, while Iraqi soldiers will serve on the outskirts of the cities, at the forefront of security. Coalition members will stand aside.

"We have no hand whatsoever in the elections, Army Maj. Ryan Foxworth, operations advisor for the 10th Iraqi Army Division, said. "As enablers, we see their plans. We see their needs. ... We'll be standing by if they need us, [but] I don't foresee them needing us at all."

Foxworth has been working with the Iraqi army and police and representatives from provincial reconstruction teams on election security plans. He said this election was one of the first operations he's seen the Iraqi army and police come together to serve the population. Foxworth said the Iraqi security forces are prepared for every possible attack, and they don't lack the confidence to do their job.

"The same security concerns from four years ago are there, but now they feel they're better prepared to use their own resources and security preparations," Foxworth said.

Unlike the last election, Iraqi security forces have been in the lead for every aspect of security. The various security roles also have been delegated with better insight this year, officials said. For example, soldiers often were doing work meant for police, and vice versa. Now, the police are becoming more involved among the people. Their security presence will serve at the polling sites, ballot warehouse and counting centers.

Foxworth said he has seen a great relationship and trust grow between the Iraqi people and their army. Earlier this month, he said, he saw the two come together in celebration during Iraqi Day. The festivities took place at the Samawah Soccer Stadium in Iraq's Muthana province to honor the 88th birthday of the Iraqi army.

"The people were very receptive," Foxworth said. "I think the people in [Qadasiyah] province think the [Iraqi security forces] can secure them."

The security forces have put a considerable amount of time in planning over the last few months. The security working groups have met six times to review election issues and other concerns. Once the election is behind them, these work groups are where coalition forces will have been the most involved.

"[My soldiers] are so optimistic," Iraqi Chief Warrant Officer Jamal Ibraheem, deputy for the staff major general, said. "They are ready to elect a new leader that will serve this country. We [as Iraqis] are free to choose the chosen ones of this country. [The Americans] have been very good to us, and we accept their help.

"We look forward to the day when we need not their help, but only their friendship," he said.

(Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret serves in Multinational Division Center.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cooperation is Key to Regional Stability, Mullen Says

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - The most challenging security threat troubling the United States lies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it will take cooperation from throughout the region and support from much of the world to reach success, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a news conference at the Foreign Press Center here today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen answered a barrage of questions from foreign reporters about topics relevant to their countries, but few answers went without including the need to stabilize the entire region.

"When I talk about a regional approach, I include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, as well as India," Mullen said. "And I think the regional countries there have a very significant stake in stability and in outcomes which are positive.

"With respect to Afghanistan, a regional approach is critical," he continued. "And, to the degree that we are able to dialogue with them that finds some mutual interests, there is potential there for moving ahead together."

Military leaders and the national security team are working to craft a new strategy for the way forward in Afghanistan, which President Barack Obama wants to be "appropriately inclusive with our relationship with Pakistan as well as other nations in the region," Mullen said.

The Joint Staff at the Pentagon is ready to contribute to this strategy and implement the new president's guidance, he added.

"You all have been covering recent events in Afghanistan long enough to know that the situation there grows increasingly perilous every day," he told the reporters. "Suicide and [bombing] attacks are up; some say as much as 40 percent over the last year. The Taliban grows bolder in planting fear and intimidating the Afghan people, and the flow of militants across the border with Pakistan continues."

For those reasons, the Pentagon has been working for months to increase forces in Afghanistan and meet the requests of ground commanders there, he said. Some 20,000 to 30,000 additional troops are expected deploy to Afghanistan in the coming months, which is more than double the number of American forces there now.

Mullen said the contributions of foreign troops in Afghanistan are extremely valued as well. With 10,000 more NATO troops there now than last year, they are training Afghan security forces, working with local governments and improving infrastructure. Mullen stressed that more will be needed, but not just military.

There are "upwards of 42 countries in Afghanistan," he said. "And we need the assistance across a broad group of requirements, not just military, to assist in moving us forward there in a very positive way. Though military forces will never be enough to achieve a stable Afghanistan, we all agree that the security they provide is a necessary component to that success."

Mullen explained a need for a significant increase in the number of civilians from U.S. government agencies to impact Afghanistan. Those additions may improve the economic plight of the Afghan people and governance so the political piece can move forward, he said.

"[The military] can't do it alone under any circumstances," he said. "And all the additional troops in the world aren't going to make any difference if we don't get these other pieces in place as well. [The military] can do a lot, but we have limits. And if we're the only part of a solution in Afghanistan, it's not going to work."

Iraq Agreement a Watershed, Gates Tells House Members

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - The status-of-forces agreement between the United States and Iraq is a "watershed" in the Middle East, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the House Armed Services Committee today. The agreement went into effect Jan. 1, and it calls for U.S. combat troops to be out of Iraqi cities and towns by the end of June and out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

"It balances the interests of both countries as we see the emergence of a sovereign Iraq in full control of its territory," Gates said. Iraq's provincial elections, to be held Jan. 31, are another sign of progress, he added.

The agreement marks an important step forward in the orderly drawdown of the American presence, the secretary said. "It is a watershed, a firm indication that American military involvement in Iraq is winding down," he said. "Even so, I would offer a few words of caution."

Violence is low, Gates told the House members, but the potential exists for setbacks. "And there may be hard days ahead for our troops," he told the representatives.

Even with the military drawdown, Gates said, he expects American presence will still be felt in Iraq.

"We should still expect to be involved in Iraq, on some level, for many years to come, assuming a sovereign Iraq continues to seek our partnership," Gates said. This would be in an advisory and assistance mode negotiated between two sovereign nations, he said.

The secretary said President Barack Obama is committed to a responsible and safe drawdown of troops in the country. The president will hear from Multinational Force Iraq cCommander Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. David Petraeus and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In fact, Gates said, the president will meet with military leaders at the Pentagon tomorrow.

Gates said that he and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will continue to have regular conversations with the president.

"We are laying out – with each of the options we will present to him – each of the commanders' views of the risks that are associated with that timeline," Gates said. "So I think that he has entirely asked for a range of options – including the 16-month – and we will give him that. He has asked for some of our assumptions and for more analysis in certain areas, and I think this is a very thorough and real process. I don't think anybody associated with it in the Department of Defense thinks we are going through the motions, that a decision has already been made."

Though the military's focus is shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan, Gates said, Iraq remains crucial to the stability of the Middle East.

On the Ground: U.S. Troops, Civilians Bring Goodwill to Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - Even as military efforts increase in Afghanistan, coalition forces reach out to Afghan civilians with humanitarian aid, job training and other supportive efforts. U.S. soldiers distributed more than 300 backpacks filled with clothes, shoes, school supplies and hygiene items to high school students near Bagram Airfield on Jan. 22. The backpacks were donated by Americans throughout the United States after soldiers serving with U.S. Forces Afghanistan asked for the items through a program dubbed "Operation Backpack" that was posted on a Web page.

The program coordinator is a Special Forces soldier who said the program was a collaborative effort among him and several others in the unit. The main reason to start the program was "to help alleviate human suffering, and demonstrate American goodwill to the children of Afghanistan," one of the organizers.

Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, he added, was another inspiration. "We want the Afghan people to see that the American people care about them."

U.S. officials in Afghanistan's Konar province saw the success of their efforts Jan. 27 when the Konar Construction Center graduated 116 local workers in the eastern region of Afghanistan, including several from nearby provinces such as Laghman and Nuristan.

The center, which is locally owned and operated, teaches Afghans construction techniques including masonry, electrical work, rebar tying, painting and carpentry.

Workers who graduate are highly sought-after in the local economy, with a 100 percent placement success rate. In fact, the second graduating class had 136 graduates and 172 available jobs to choose from.

"Before, we were going to Pakistan for goods like furniture. Now we have more skilled and educated workers that can do it here in Konar," Konar Gov. Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi said. "We can only hope that one day we can do the same thing for business and agriculture."

PRT Konar has high hopes for the upcoming development of the KCC. Already, it has received a shipment of equipment to conduct material testing. Currently, material testing has to be done in more developed regions of Afghanistan or taken to Pakistan. Soon, qualified personnel will be able to do this work for a competitive fee.

Also, teachers are preparing to teach advanced courses. Tuition will be paid by the student's employer. All proceeds will help maintain the costs of the facility, allowing it to be self sufficient.

The center also has started implementing English classes, its first teacher arriving within the past month. Local construction companies also use the KCC structures to provide foreman or business classes to their employees.

The initial costs, provided by PRT Konar, total $200,000 to rehabilitate and refurbish an abandoned construction site with a barracks for students and two instruction bays for classes. The U.S. Agency for International Development continues to provide monthly funding to the school for classes.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

Defense Department Establishes Civilian Expeditionary Workforce

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - The Defense Department is forming a civilian expeditionary workforce that will be trained and equipped to deploy overseas in support of military missions worldwide, according to department officials. The intent of the program "is to maximize the use of the civilian workforce to allow military personnel to be fully utilized for operational requirements," according to a Defense Department statement.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed Defense Department Directive 1404.10, which outlines and provides guidance about the program, on Jan. 23.

Certain duty positions may be designated by the various Defense Department components to participate in the program. If a position is designated, the employee will be asked to sign an agreement that they will deploy if called upon to do so. If the employee does not wish to deploy, every effort will be made to reassign the employee to a nondeploying position.

The directive emphasizes, however, that volunteers be sought first for any expeditionary requirements, before requiring anyone to serve involuntarily or on short notice. Overseas duty tours shall not exceed two years.

Employees in deployable-designated positions will be trained, equipped and prepared to serve overseas in support of humanitarian, reconstruction and, if absolutely necessary, combat-support missions.

The program also is open to former and retired civilian employees who agree to return to federal service on a time-limited status to serve overseas or to fill in for people deployed overseas.

Program participants are eligible for military medical support while serving in their overseas duty station.

All participants will undergo pre- and post-deployment medical testing, including physical and psychological exams.

Defense civilians reassigned from their normal duty to serve overseas will be granted the right to return to the positions they held prior to their deployment or to a position of similar grade, level and responsibility within the same organization, regardless of the deployment length .

Families of deployed Defense Department civilian employees shall be supported and provided with information on benefits and entitlements and issues likely to be faced by the employee during and upon return from a deployment.

Defense civilian employees who participate in the expeditionary program shall be treated with high regard as an indication of the department's respect for those who serve expeditionary requirements.

Expeditionary program participants' service and experience shall be valued, respected and recognized as career-enhancing.

Participants who meet program requirements would be eligible to receive the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism.

On the Ground: Troops See 'Changing Times' in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - U.S. soldiers in Iraq are seeing their daily activities change from operational to humanitarian missions as the Iraqis take more control of their security. In a Jan. 23 "Operation Goodwill" endeavor, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police in Amarah distributed food, toys and medical supplies to farms and villages along the Tigris River.

"This is a sign of [changing times] for the war here in Iraq," Army Sgt. Robert Andrews of Fort Hood, Texas, said. "It's now all about the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people, he added.

"Working with the Iraqi police and going door to door with them to see families is both rewarding to me and the [police]," Army 2nd Lt. Timothy Hayes, a fire support officer, said. "That's the reason we are here, to help the citizens of Iraq."

Americans serving with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also are finding there is more to reconstructing Iraq than bricks and mortar. Those serving with the Corps' Gulf Region Division delivered toys and soccer balls Jan. 19 to students attending Dar Al-Amal, a hearing-impaired school in Basra.

The school's headmaster, Wafaa Mohammed, told the Americans, "Today is very special for them. The kids are very happy to see you. We get very few such visits, and your kind gesture means a lot to them. It tells them they are important and people really care."

"Seeing their smiles was wonderful," Elizabeth Anderson, a GRD construction representative, said. "They were very well behaved and so appreciative."

Anderson and six others from the division visited the school, where 25 teachers instruct 130 hearing-impaired students.

"When we first arrived, you could see that the students were wondering why we were there," Georgia Lewis, a GRD administrative assistant, said. "But when we brought out the toys, their eyes got so big; it was a very special moment. I am so grateful to the school for allowing us to touch their lives in such a positive way."

Mark Porterfield, a project engineer, said the visit was a highlight of his six months in Iraq. "Helping the Iraqi people is why we're here," he said. "This opportunity gave each of us a first-hand glimpse of why we're all working so hard on this historic mission."

Elsewhere, more than 120 new Emergency Response Brigade officers stood shoulder to shoulder and recited the oath of allegiance to Iraq on Jan. 22 during the selection course graduation ceremony in Baghdad.

The ERB, which operates under the authority of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, consists of a specially trained and equipped force to complete the most demanding security missions in the country, Iraqi Brig. Gen. Noman Dakhil Jawad, ERB commander, said.

"Our mission will lead Iraq to a more secure and stable country," the general said. The ERB will continue to grow in size and capability in the coming months, officials said, and the next training class is slated to begin in March.

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