War on Terrorism

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Senior Department Officials to Review Security Procedures With International Airport Leaders

December 31, 2009: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that she is dispatching Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman and other senior Department officials on a broad international outreach effort to meet with leaders from major international airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America to review security procedures and technology being used to screen passengers on flights bound for the United States.

“As part of the ongoing review to determine exactly what went wrong leading up to Friday’s attempted terrorist attack, we are looking not only at our own processes, but also beyond our borders to ensure effective aviation security measures are in place for U.S-bound flights that originate at international airports,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Because I am fully committed to making whatever changes are necessary to protect the safety of the traveling public, I am sending Deputy Secretary Lute and Assistant Secretary Heyman to work with our international partners on ways to collectively bolster our tactics for defeating terrorists wherever they may seek to launch an attack, and I will follow up on these efforts with ministerial-level meetings within the next few weeks.”

Deputy Secretary Lute and Assistant Secretary Heyman will first travel to Europe , departing on Monday. While there, they will brief European authorities on the findings of President Obama’s aviation security review and then report back to Secretary Napolitano on their discussions on enhancing international security measures.

Following the attempted attack on Christmas Day, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States , such as increased gate pat-downs and bag searches. At the direction of the flight crew, passengers may also be asked to follow additional instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

Other security measures implemented have included the deployment of additional law enforcement at airports, air marshals, and explosives detection canine teams. TSA will continue to work with airline and law enforcement authorities, as well as federal, state, local and international partners to put additional security measures in place to ensure that aviation security remains strong.

Forces Capture Militants, Seize Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2009 - Afghan and international security forces captured suspected militants and seized weapons in Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported. A combined force captured suspected militants in Kandahar province while pursuing a Taliban district commander.

Also in Kandahar, a combined force detained a suspected militant while searching for a Taliban commander.

Meanwhile, a combined force found two 20-pound jugs of explosives in Helmand province's Garm Ser district. The explosives were destroyed and no one was injured.

In Kandahar province's Panjwa district, a combined force discovered five artillery rounds tied together with wires in a sack.

Also in the south, Afghan civilians handed over four artillery shells to International Security Assistance Force members in Helmand province's Nad Ali district.

No shots were fired and no one was harmed during these operations.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

Rodriguez Calls Partnerships Key to Afghan Success

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2009 - Building partnerships and understanding the nature of Afghanistan and its people are keys to achieving success in that country, the commander of NATO's Joint Command in Kabul said. In an interview with Stars and Stripes reporter Heath Druzin, Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez re-emphasized the role that building relationships plays in the new Afghan strategy.

U.S. and NATO strategy is to build capabilities in Afghan security forces, Rodriguez said. And, having U.S. and NATO troops serve side by side with Afghan security forces, he said, builds trust and serves as a link to the Afghan people.

Maintaining an interface between U.S., NATO and Afghan forces also constitutes "the best way to develop the capacity of the Afghans to lead this [security effort] themselves," Rodriguez said.

Conditions of security across Afghanistan vary from good to not so good, Rodriguez said.

However, he said, as 30,000 additional U.S. troops flow into Afghanistan in coming months, the Afghans should gain "a greater sense of security and a better trust and confidence in their future."

Better security means an environment where better governance can flourish, Rodriguez said, and economic prospects increase. Better security also will allow foreign government organizations and nongovernmental organizations to help. These groups often are hampered by the lack of security.

In announcing the revised Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, President Barack Obama said that U.S. troops will begin to redeploy home in July 2011.

"You can look at that time [line] many different ways," Rodriguez said. "If you are looking at it one way, the enemy thinks you're quitting. And if you look at it from the way some of the Afghan leadership looks at it, it's encouraging or inspiring them to hurry up and give it all that they have to improve as fast as they can."

Still, the general thinks that any drawdown will be dependent on the conditions on the ground. The rate and numbers of the withdrawal, he said, will depend on a deliberate decision-making process that will include considerations of security, governance and economics.

The U.S. government has made Afghanistan the priority. And, at least another 7,000 NATO troops are slated to arrive in Afghanistan. Additionally, a civilian surge will help the government and economy. All of this is to ensure Afghanistan "does not allow terrorist and extremist groups to operate here," Rodriguez said.

The Afghan people will be the best judges of the success of the strategy, the general said.

"We're conducting operations that will change their outlook on life from one of fear and distrust and uncertainty that they've had to live with for the last 30 years, to one of trust and confidence in their government," Rodriguez said.

The command looks toward achieving results soon.

"We want to turn around the momentum here pretty doggone quickly," Rodriguez said.

Once progress is made in taking momentum away from Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan the NATO force will be able to transition into a security-assistance type relationship as the Afghans take on more responsibility for their security.

"I think that would go on for several years as they fully develop their capacity to serve the people," Rodriguez said.

Marines, Sailors Undertake Deployment in Afghanistan


American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2009 - Walking off the loading ramp of a C-17 cargo plane and into vibrant sunlight, members of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment arrived at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Dec. 15. The Marines and sailors grabbed their gear and loaded into white busses turned brown from dust and set out to Camp Leatherneck where they filed into ballroom-size tents and picked out places to bed down in their new home.

For some of the servicemembers the deployment marks a return to Afghanistan after serving there in 2008. For others, it is their first Afghanistan deployment, and in many cases, their first trip outside of the United States.

Later, the Marines get on phones in the early morning to hear the voices of friends, wives and children. Card and board games are played between training and work, as the Marines and sailors seek out a routine that can be maintained throughout the course of their deployment.

There's a level of uncertainty tugging at everyone, but it's expected, and solidarity and encouragement are easily found among the group, said Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Bright, an administration clerk who is on his first deployment outside the United States.

Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, Bright acknowledged, are an intelligent and resourceful enemy.

"I'm not as worried about gunfire," Bright said, noting he's more concerned about the enemy's use of improvised explosive devices.

"We can handle a straight-up fight," Bright emphasized.

However, Bright said, the Marines and sailors also feel a sense of purpose and direction, as well as a thrill that comes with participating in something big and historic.

"I'm excited to be a part of the effort to help train and mold the Afghan military in order to lay the foundation for them to provide security and stability for their own people," Bright said. "The biggest thing that I think will help is to just keep some degree of normalcy – to keep your mind off of what might happen."

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Esemann, a training specialist, is participating in his second deployment to Afghanistan with the 6th Marine Regiment. He looked back on the change between his first deployment and now.

"When I first got here last year, there was that feeling of loneliness and uncertainty and that thought of: 'What have I gotten myself into?'" said Esemann, as he eyed several Christmas stockings sent by stateside well-wishers. "This time when we arrived, the first thought was: "'I know this place,' and I felt surprised by how much it had changed for the better."

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Richard D. Ayala also is on his second deployment to Afghanistan, which marks his sixth overseas deployment, overall. Ayala reflected on the difficulties facing Marines and sailors deploying to Afghanistan for the first time.

"Having to deal with a deployment this close to the holidays is probably the hardest part for most, especially those with wives and children," said Ayala, a 15-year Marine Corps veteran. "You need to stay vigilant and press forward, always taking that 30-inch step."

As he turned to leave, Ayala paused, and reiterated that the Marines and sailors need to be on their toes in Afghanistan.

"You need to remain focused and control what you can; don't let your mind wander towards what you can't."

(From a 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 7news release.)

Review of Transportation Security Administration's Expenditure Plan: Explosives Detection Systems and Equipment


We reviewed Transportation Security Administration’s expenditure plan for explosives detection systems and equipment as part of our oversight responsibilities to monitor the department’s use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) funds. The Recovery Act provided $1 billion to TSA for the procurement and installation of explosives detection systems and equipment. Our objective was to determine whether the expenditure plan was practical, thorough, comprehensive, and designed to meet the Recovery Act’s goals. Further, we evaluated the plan according to prudent management principles, such as whether it contained risk mitigation and management control strategies.

Transportation Security Administration’s expenditure plan to procure and install explosives detection systems and equipment is generally practical, thorough, and comprehensive, except that it does not have contingency plans for equipment that the Transportation Security Laboratory has not yet qualified or operationally tested. Transportation Security Administration did not develop a contingency plan to reallocate the Recovery Act funds if the passenger screening technology it plans to purchase does not pass qualification and operational testing. The unavailability of qualified technology may delay projected contract award dates and the expenditure of the Recovery Act funds. Although Transportation Security Administration’s expenditure plan did not meet the Recovery Act goal of using 50% of the Recovery Act funds for activities that could be initiated by June 17, 2009, Transportation Security Administration expects to fulfill the special contracting provision by using competitive procedures to award fixed-price contracts.

We are not making any recommendations in this report. The Acting Assistant Secretary disagreed with our conclusion that the expenditure plan did not include contingency plans for equipment that had not been qualified or operationally tested. The response also included an update to the agency’s obligation of funds.

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http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_10-25_Dec09.pdf

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 31 December 2009

Top Stories

Food Safety News reports that an E. coli outbreak tied to a nationwide recall of mechanically tenderized steaks is now linked to 21 illnesses in 16 states, according to public health officials. Oklahoma-based National Steak and Poultry announced last week it was initiating the recall. (See item 29)

Foster’s Daily Democrat reports that about 80 people will be offered antibiotics and the anthrax vaccine after tests confirmed the presence of the disease at the drumming room of the United Campus Ministry’s Waysmeet Center in Durham, New Hampshire. A young woman who attended a December 4 event has tested positive for gastrointestinal anthrax — the first such case in U.S. history. (See item 51)

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http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/DHS_Daily_Report_2009-12-31.pdf

Army Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Spino, 45, of Waterbury, Conn., died Dec. 29 in Bala Morghab, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when he was shot while unloading supplies. He was assigned to the 274th Forward Surgical Team, 44th Medical Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

For more information the media may contact the XVIII Airborne Corps public affairs office at 910-396-5600 or 910-396-5620.

U.S. Air Force Medical Personnel Train Iraqi Counterparts

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Allison Boehm
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2009 - Members of the U.S. Air Force Theater Hospital here are training Iraqi defense ministry medical personnel as part of the new American-Iraqi Air Medical Evacuation and Medical Provider Training Course. The training enables Iraqis to study burn care as well as to observe and practice proper medical evacuation techniques.

Classes are scheduled every two weeks. Topics vary to achieve the goal of helping the Iraqi Ministry of Defense strengthen its military medical program.

"The ultimate goal of this military-military medical capacity-building program is to help establish an Iraqi military air medical evacuation program with trained flight surgeons, flight nurses and medevac technicians," said Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Hoettels, a 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group civil-military operations officer.

The training program was requested by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense surgeon general. It supports the overall effort to responsibly drawdown U.S. forces from Iraq.

The two-day course began Dec. 21, 2009, at the al-Muthana Military Hospital, where four Iraqi medical evacuation technicians loaded a patient with a simulated fractured leg bone. The group of medical professionals traveled to the U.S. military hospital at Balad.

At Joint Base Balad's hospital, the Iraqis received educational briefings and took part in some hands-on medical training.

Eleven Iraqi medical personnel observed real burn victims and watched as an occupational therapist demonstrated how to properly splint a burn fracture.

The purpose of the training program is to enable Iraqi military health care providers to obtain "medical sovereignty," said Air Force Col. Andy Marchiando, commander of the 332nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron.

The Iraqis will be able to take the information they learn "and carry it on once we leave," Marchiando said.

(Air Force Airman 1st Class Allison Boehm serves with 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

Funds Help Nations Develop Counterterrorism Capabilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2009 - The United States does not have the desire, resources or will to be the world's policeman. But, some sovereign countries are so vulnerable that they cannot guard against national security threats without outside help.

That's where "1206" funding comes in. Twelve-oh-six – as it is called – is named from the section of the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act that enabled it. In short, there are funds that can be used to help countries develop counterterrorism capabilities or to help with stability operations, a Defense Department official speaking on background said.

This year $350 million is available for distribution to nations that need it. Since its creation, Section 1206 has funded over 100 train-and-equip programs spanning 50 countries.

Building partnership capacity is especially critical in reducing risk from non-traditional national security threats. Capable partner nations fight terrorist networks and eliminate ungoverned areas themselves, reducing stress on U.S. forces, according to the defense official.

The process works like this: Congress allocates the money. The requests from the field go before a joint interagency working group at the Pentagon with representatives from the Joint Staff, the State Department and the Defense Security Assistance Agency. "We go through an average of 60 to 70 proposals," the official said. The group ensures the proposals are within the letter and intent of the law and sends them to offices within the Defense and State departments for comment.

All told, the total amount requested is usually around $700 million. With a top line of $350 million, this means the requests must be winnowed down. "The strongest requests naturally rise to the top," the official said.

The group sends a memo to the defense secretary for approval and an identical memo to the secretary of state for concurrence. "1206 is really the combatant commander's assessment of what really country 'X' needs in terms of their capabilities," the defense official said. DoD buys the equipment or schedules the training and works with participating nations to transfer the equipment or knowledge.

Yet, it is not quite that clean cut. Combatant commanders identify capability gaps in the countries in their areas. The commanders and the group must be aware of "absorption issues." These are poor, fragile countries and many would not be able to absorb millions of dollars worth of equipment and the maintenance associated with it.

"This has to be taken under consideration when looking at what the countries can use," the official said.

Yemen will receive roughly $67 million under the program for fiscal 2009. This includes equipment and training. In most cases, the defense official said, the equipment provided consists of small ticket items – basic soldiering equipment and ammunition.

Military personnel or contractors generally do the training for the nations.

The program is designed to be flexible, in order to respond to urgent needs, the defense official said.

The countries receiving the largest amount of 1206 money are Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon and the Philippines.

For fiscal 2010, Congress clarified the legislation to allow DoD to use the funds to prepare partner nations for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The division of funds among nations for fiscal 2010 has not been announced yet.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Metz Hands Bomb Defeat Organization Reins to Oates

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2009 - Defeating the terrorists' weapon of choice is and will remain a priority for the Defense Department, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said here today. Lynn spoke during a Pentagon ceremony where Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz stepped down as director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates took up the charge.

The organization looks for ways to defeat terrorists using car bombs, roadside bombs, as well as suicide vests – all examples of improvised explosive devices. The bombs are the biggest killers of American servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The weapon is a tactical device that has impacted the operational missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We must preclude the IED from impacting us strategically," Metz said. "We cannot allow this weapon to influence the national-level decisions of our most senior leaders."

"Under [General Metz's] leadership, JIEDDO has moved forward on three lines of operation: attacking the networks that place IEDs, devising ways to defeat the device and training our forces to counter the threat," Lynn said.

The organization -- only four years old -- is a model of rapid acquisition, Lynn said. Its military and civilian staff quickly finds and employs ideas and technologies that can help servicemembers in harm's way. The organization operates with the services and combatant commands in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lynn said.

The threat continues, Lynn said, noting that in October IEDs claimed the lives of 41 coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and one soldier in Iraq. The devices "are a clear and present danger," the deputy secretary said.

And the enemy knows how to use the devices. "In Afghanistan we are up against a determined and clever foe who mastered the use of this deadly technology long before our forces set foot in the mountains of the Hindu Kush," Lynn said.

The Soviets lost nearly 2,000 soldiers and 1,200 vehicles during their nine-year war in Afghanistan, the deputy secretary said.

"That IEDs have defeated another technologically advanced military in the very same place we fight now, only adds to the urgency of our mission," Lynn said. "Our ability to project power in this world of asymmetric threats and to secure our population at home depends on JIEDDO's success."

Measuring success remains an issue for the organization. "We may never find a way to determine how many lives and limbs we are saving, how many warfighters return home with their eyesight and how many have avoided serious burns that would have left them in pain for the rest of their lives," Metz said.

The departing general thanked his staff, citing their dedicated and professional service. He also told them he is proud of the work they did together and the record they have made. Metz said getting the organization made a permanent entity was the toughest challenge of his time.

Still, a number of challenges remain. "JIEDDO's establishment is a mandate to bring us to the reality of the enemy we currently face," Metz said. "Our role is to ensure that the fight we are currently in has a champion; one that can take prudent risks and rapidly respond to the warfighters' needs."

The organization has a transparent process in place to manage funds, "but if we add more and more layers of bureaucracy and thus time to get things done, we relinquish the initiative to the enemy," Metz said. "The enemy is smart, innovative, agile, cunning and ruthless."

Minimizing bureaucratic roadblocks will assist JIEDDO, Metz said, since the enemy operates in disregard of Defense Department contracting rules and budget cycles.

Oates thanked Metz "for looking out for our soldiers" and said he was proud and happy to be part of the organization. The incoming general also pledged to work with all to solve the very complex problem posed by improvised explosive devices.

Coalition Forces Capture Insurgents

Dec. 30, 2009 - Several militants were killed as coalition forces responded to an insurgent attack against Afghan soldiers and police in Afghanistan's Baghlan Jadid district yesterday, military officials reported.

Two Afghan National Service members were killed during the initial insurgent attack. No civilians or international forces were injured or killed.

In other news, International Security Assistance Force members patrolling the Reg-e-Khan-Neshin district of Helmand province yesterday detained several suspected insurgents and confiscated weaponry. Seized items included 15 rocket-propelled grenades, three hand grenades, a machine gun with 500 rounds, six handheld radios, a satellite phone and five insurgent manuals.

Also yesterday, coalition and Afghan forces safely detonated a 500-pound bomb in Kandahar.

Meanwhile, the NATO ISAF is calling for a joint investigation of an incident that allegedly occurred in the village of Ghazi Khan in Konar province Dec. 26. An Afghan government review asserts that a combined coalition and Afghan force was responsible for the deaths of nine Afghan civilians during the operation.

The ISAF has requested and welcomes an immediate joint investigation to reach an impartial and accurate determination of the events that occurred.

Homeland Security Daily Open Source InfrastructureReport for 30 December 2009

Bloomberg reports that Somali pirates hijacked a U.K.- flagged chemical tanker and its 26 crew in the Gulf of Aden on Monday. Pirates also hijacked the Panama-flagged bulk carrier Navios Apollon as it was sailing in the Indian Ocean; it was carrying a cargo of fertilizer. (See item 5)

According to IDG News Service, computer security researchers say that the GSM phones used by the majority of the world’s mobile-phone users can be listened in on with just a few thousand dollars worth of hardware and some free open-source tools. The flaw lies in the 20-year-old encryption algorithm used by most carriers, a 64-bit cipher called A5/1. (See item 39)

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http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/DHS_Daily_Report_2009-12-30.pdf

'Fly the Flag' Program Reaches Milestone in Iraq



By Army Spc. Stephanie Cassinos
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2009 - Soldiers in Iraq fly dozens of donated U.S. flags each day outside of Multinational Division South's headquarters here as part of the "Fly the Flag" program. "When I took on this program, I never thought it would be this popular," said Army 2nd Lt. Kenneth Toole, assigned to the division's visitors' bureau.

"But when I am out there flying flags," Toole said, "it's not just an American flag that I am flying. I am doing something for someone else."

The visitors' bureau flew its 3,000th flag here Dec. 18. One of the flown flags was presented to members of "Serving Our Troops," an organization that has hosted steak dinners in St. Paul, Minn., Kuwait and Basra for soldiers and their families.

Toole and other members of the bureau daily tote dozens of donated U.S. flags to the flagpole at the entrance of the division's headquarters building. There, they diligently raise, properly salute, lower and carefully fold each and every flag, while passers-by come to attention to pay tribute to the Stars and Stripes.

Soldiers who volunteer their time to fly the flags find the experience a meaningful one, Toole said.

The donated flags, he said, represent "a true gift from the heart."

The program "isn't just about the flags," Toole pointed out, adding it "is about doing something for someone else and being part of something bigger."

The U.S. flags that have been unfurled in Iraq, Toole said, will be displayed in American homes and offices in honor of servicemembers' accomplishments and sacrifices in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"The program has been a great success and it has been an honor to fly the flags over Basra," Toole said.

The last day flags will be flown for the program is Jan 2, 2010. It is estimated that by that time the visitor's bureau will have flown more than 3,500 flags, a number that exceeds Toole's goal of 1,000.

(Army Spc. Stephanie Cassinos serves with Multinational Division South public affairs.)

Why Work for the Department of Homeland Security?

Are you a motivated and talented individual who is ready to take on a position of significant responsibility? At the Department of Homeland Security, you will have more than just a job. You will be a vital part of the solution to our country's security challenges for the 21st century.

We want exceptional individuals for mission-critical positions. You will be part of a team that procures over $20 billion worth of goods and services, the third largest procurement budget in the federal government.

As a member of the Department's Acquisition team, you will put your education and experience to work. You will be on the front line, directly impacting the mission every day by procuring everything from IT hardware and software to boats and aircraft.

If you are selected for the Acquisition Professional Career Program (APCP), you will be given structured, specialized training from the first day of your new career. Mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals in your acquisition field will give you the tools you need to perform the vital responsibilities you will be entrusted with as a rising leader in the federal government. This accelerated program will put you on a path to professional success well ahead of your peers in the private sector.

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http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/careers/gc_1191246953945.shtm

Team Provides Expertise to Afghan Workers



By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2009 - Military and civilian members of the local provincial reconstruction team here are training Afghan workers how to build structures to exact engineering specifications. On a visit to the Nowabad School construction project Dec. 26, Navy Chief Petty Officer David Zahm and Brandon Toliver, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative, met with the Afghan construction manager to discuss the project's progress and to offer critiques and support.

"It's important to do the work right. You have to make sure you're using good-quality materials and the right construction practices," Zahm said to Safiullah, the site manager.

It's important, Zahm said, to "do things the right way."

The Nowabad School project is one of many ongoing efforts to improve the infrastructure here. The school represents a $219,000 investment that will house 20 of 26 classes currently taught to more than 2,000 area boys and girls.

The construction project also provides much-needed jobs. Since most of those jobs are held by workers with scant building skills the team's engineers pass their knowledge to the site managers.

"You should have the skilled workers paired with the unskilled workers for two reasons," Zahm said to Safiullah. "One, it gives them the training to become skilled workers, and two, it teaches them the right way to do things."

As the engineers walked through the school construction site, they showed workers the proper mixture of sand and rocks to make cement.

"See this, these are too small and it won't work," said Zahm as he showed workers a handful of rocks from a pile used to mix concrete.

As the quality assurance and compliance check concluded, Zahm turned to Safiullah and offered words of encouragement.

"You're doing a good job and I know it is tough," Zahm told him. "But, you have to teach your workers how to do things the right way the first time."

(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves with Combined Joint Task Force 82.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Forces Capture Taliban Commanders in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2009 - Afghan and international security forces captured some Taliban commanders and other suspected militants and seized weapons yesterday in Kandahar and Khowst, Afghanistan, military officials reported. The forces captured a Taliban commander believed to be responsible for homemade bomb attacks during a series of raids in Kandahar. They also detained three other suspects.

Also in Kandahar, a combined force captured another Taliban commander and a small group of militants believed to be responsible for supplying weapons to insurgents.

In Khowst, a combined force detained suspected militants while searching for a Haqqani terrorist network commander.

No Afghan civilians were harmed and no shots were fired in these operations.

Yesterday in southern Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force members seized about 1,200 pounds of opium after two people in a car stopped and fled from a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan. The opium was destroyed.

Also in the south, Afghan National Army forces discovered a weapons cache consisting of seven rocket-propelled grenades, two grenades and 800 rounds of ammunition. Forces also found a cache containing two AK-47 rifles and three magazines.

In the east, Afghan national security forces discovered a backpack with half a liter of diesel fuel, a small propane tank and several feet of timed fuse, wire coils, 10 blasting caps, five hand grenades and three bags of ammonium nitrate.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

Iraqi Forces Arrest Terrorist Suspects

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2009 - Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, arrested nine suspected terrorists today in Iraq, military officials reported.

In western Baghdad, Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched two residential buildings for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq leader in the Karkh region. The forces arrested two suspected criminal associates of the targeted leader.

North of Baghdad, Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors arrested four suspects.

Northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers arrested two suspects. The security team also discovered two grenades, which were safely destroyed.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces arrested a suspected terrorist today during an operation in northern Baghdad.

The suspect is linked to providing weapons, including improvised explosive devices, for terrorists' use.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

Female Marines, Sailors Assist Afghan Women



By By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2009 - Throughout Afghanistan's Garmsir district, Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, interact with key leaders and locals to learn the needs of local Afghan villagers. However, there is one gap that is hard to bridge -- the interaction between Marines and Afghan women.

This is an issue that female Marines and sailors of the U.S. military engagement team worked to solve as they conducted patrols through the village of Tajik Khar Dec. 16 through 20.

With help from male Marines and members of the Afghan National Army, female Marines moved from compound to compound, hoping to speak to Afghan women to ascertain their medical and humanitarian assistance requirements.

"This is extremely important," said Marine 2nd Lt. Carly E. Towers, the officer in charge of the engagement team. "Our mission out here is to talk to and work with the locals to build cooperation and security."

Because of local culture, male Marines are not allowed to look at, let alone talk to, any Afghan women. Even Afghan soldiers are not supposed to talk to the women of any compound, so the female Marines' efforts not only benefit other Marines, but the local Afghan military, as well.

"It is good news for us," said Sgt. Shokorunnah, an Afghan soldier. "The female Marines came and talked to the women and found out their problems. I am very happy."

Before the all-female Marine team can enter a compound, they must first talk to the owner, generally a male who is not used to interacting with Marine females.

"The general perception has been ranging from positive to dumbfounded," said Towers, who hails from Modesto, Calif. "We've had a lot of success in the past few days."

The key to her unit's mission success is to establish a connection with the Afghan women, Towers said.

"We just try to sit down, talk to them, and get to know them a bit," said Towers, a Naval Academy graduate. "We ask them if they have any questions for us. We're trying to build rapport."

In deference to Afghan culture, Tower and her team members remove their helmets and don head scarves to cover their hair whenever they enter a compound.

Through their interactions, Towers said, the female Marines have encountered many Afghan females who claim to have never left their compounds for fear of firefights and homemade bombs.

"We hear a lot of things from the women that we wouldn't hear from the men, or that would be said in a different way," Towers said.

Towers' team has a female corpsman that can provide medical care to the Afghans if they so desire.

Relationships established through these interactions, Towers said, help to build bonds of trust between the Afghans and the Marines.

(Marine Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson serves with 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 7 public affairs.)

Sailor Battles Malnutrition in Afghanistan

By Douglas H. Stutz
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2009 - Navy Chief Petty Officer Connie Smith, a hospital corpsman, is helping to combat malnutrition in Afghanistan. Smith is involved with the Strong Food Project, which fights malnutrition among local Afghan children under the age of 5.

"The project basically is to help kids from 6 to 60 months regain a normal appetite," explained Smith, who is deployed from Naval Hospital Bremerton here to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

According to NATO's International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan, the Strong Food Project began in November 2008 in the southern Afghan province of Zabul. The project is composed of five ingredients which can be purchased by locals and then combined with liquid vitamins. The resulting mixture is a high-fat, sweet-tasting blend provided daily for children with severe malnutrition.

"I come to work every day hoping to make a difference in the lives of the Afghan people," said Smith, a Navy veteran with 21 years of service.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the infant mortality rate in Afghanistan is 151.95 deaths per 1,000, behind only the West African nations of Angola and Sierra Leone.

The infant mortality rate "really is the barometer of the level of health of the country," said Navy Capt. Fred Landro, a branch clinic director at Naval Hospital Bremerton.

Afghan civilians carry a high degree of risk for major infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include bacterial and protozoan diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. Other prevalent diseases include malaria and rabies.

Consequently, Smith and her medical team find there is no shortage of opportunity to employ their skills in Afghanistan. Smith also discovered that her gender augments her corpsman's knowledge in gaining access to Afghans in need.

Females comprise more than 48 percent of the Afghan population. Smith said she has provided medical support and health care for many Afghan women and their children.

"Most of the people are happy to see us," Smith said, noting that Afghan women seem more comfortable obtaining medical assistance from female health care providers.

"The local [Afghan] women would ask to see me," Smith said.

Smith also has participated in humanitarian assistance projects such as women/children health clinics set up at Afghan security force bases.

"We saw almost 600 patients within a three-day period at one of our arranged clinics," Smith said.

Smith recalled helping a young Afghan girl who'd gotten gum stuck onto her neck. The girl was crying "because she couldn't nod her head without getting the gummy residue stuck on her chest," Smith said.

"We finally got it off by rubbing lotion on her neck and by giving a good scrub," Smith said. "I then handed her a piece of candy and some vitamins, and off she went. She's the cutest little thing and could not have been more than 3 years old."

Smith said she's preparing for a holiday season away from her family.

"We do have a Christmas tree up and the hallways are decorated," she said. "One of our interpreters will be bringing in some Afghan food dishes, which are really pretty good. I miss cooking, so thinking about not being able to cook the traditional holiday feast for my family is harder than I thought it would be."

Smith said she regularly communicates with her husband Jeffrey, also a chief corpsman, and their two boys. Yet, she said, it is hard being separated from her family during the holidays.

"Luckily, I can talk to them almost every day and hear their voices, which I am truly grateful for," Smith said. "I know my husband is doing a great job and making everything as normal as possible for them and for that I am also grateful."

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan "we are all making a difference," Smith said. "We are making history. It doesn't get any better than that."

(Douglas H. Stutz serves with Naval Hospital Bremerton public affairs.)

Rule of Law Director Discusses Iraqi Transitions

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2009 - U.S. forces are training and advising Iraqi officials in forensics, evidence collection, human rights and how a legal system is managed in a democracy. U.S. Marine Col. Darrel Halse serves as the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission's rule of law director. He discussed the Iraqi transition from dictatorship to democracy during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable Dec. 23.

Halse said his directorate's mission is to ensure that Iraq Ministry of Interior leaders and law-enforcement officials become stakeholders in Iraq's post-Saddam, democratic legal culture.

Halse said his legal advisors make an effort to see that Iraqis preserve their unique cultural attributes as they embrace democratic principles of governance and civil law.

Another important factor, Halse said, is making sure the Iraqi people understand that they have their own laws that are to be followed by all citizens.

One of the greatest accomplishments his directorate takes pride in, Halse said, is moving away from the old Iraqi legal system's confession-based template for convictions and adopting the new system's requirement of collecting physical evidence, along with obtaining a confession or a statement.

"That was a huge, huge step forward. I believe in helping the defendant," Halse said.

Halse's directorate also is working to ensure that every Iraqi defendant can obtain a court-provided attorney, if needed, and that all defendants are told of their basic legal rights.

"Not all the Iraqi citizens know that," Halse said. "It's a change from what they've had for 15 to 17 years, or 20 years or more, so it will take time for that to flow down to the average Iraqi citizen walking on the street."

Iraqi-held detainees accused of a crime now have access to the Iraqi judicial system, Halse said. All detainees, he said, are seen by an investigative judge who will decide whether their case will go to trial and if so, are assigned a defense attorney.

Meanwhile, Iraqi lawyers are "building up their experience" that will be useful as they become defense attorneys, Halse said.

Yet, he said, more work remains to be done to correct inconsistencies in service and overcrowding at Iraqi detention facilities.

"The No. 1 thing that I would like to see worked on within the Ministry of Interior is to build additional facilities or move detainees, so the overcrowding does not become the No. 1 issue," Halse said.

Halse said his directorate is proud of the legal strides it is making in Iraq, noting it'll take time for changes to take hold.

"You have to understand that this concept [of law] is so new that it may take up to five years before everyone in Iraq understands that they have these human rights available to them," Halse said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Georgia Air Guard Teams With Fighting 48th in Afghanistan



By Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2009 - Georgia Air National Guardsmen assigned to the 165th Air Support Operations Squadron have teamed up with 48th Infantry Brigade soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. The airmen comprise several Joint Terminal Attack Controller units that will call in combat air support for the 48th's fighters, said Army Capt. Roger Brooks IV, from Marietta, Ga., the commander of the Georgia JTACs.

Brooks describes his team as an "in-case-of-emergency-break-glass" option.

The controllers serve with the advancing infantry, he said, assessing the situation alongside the combat troops and calling in air support if the situation dictates.

Georgia's JTACs are divided into three-man teams spread among four battalions conducting battlefield operations.

Air Force Master Sgt. James F. Harnisch, from Savannah, Ga., is the senior noncommissioned officer on Brooks' team. He has been a support member of the 48th Brigade for nearly six years. He and his fellow airmen have served with the Guard members during various operations.

Harnisch found familiar faces at Forward Operating Base Hughie in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, where the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment is based. Many of the Georgians previously had served together in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.

"Because of that history, they know what they can expect from us and what we can provide them," Harnisch said.

The JTACs' sense of situational awareness allows them to assist with intelligence gathering and provide input based on what they call patterns-of-life observations. These traits are invaluable to the cavalry scouts who patrol the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Missions in Afghanistan are conducted during unpredictable weather amid formidable terrain. The Georgia airmen and soldiers surmount such difficulties through communication and teamwork.

"The camaraderie is appreciated. With them being from the same state makes them more valuable, because we sort of speak the same language," said Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Warren, who hails from Douglasville, Ga.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Hammond, Georgia Air National Guard commander, is slated to visit with soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan. During recent stateside pre-deployment training exercises he highlighted the need for airmen and soldiers to speak the same language and work in concert.

"There should be no delineation as to uniform or branch of service," Hammond said. "The primary focus is to make sure the 48th Brigade is successful during this deployment and we will do everything we can to make sure that they are successful."

(Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith serves with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.)

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 29 December 2009

Top Stories

Bloomberg reports that a suspected terrorist tried to blow up a Detroit-bound transatlantic flight on December 25 with 278 passengers before he was subdued. A congressman said the incident on Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport appears to be al-Qaeda related. (See item 20)

According to the Associated Press, a levee break near the Pulaski-Saline, Arkansas county line has flooded a nearby community and cut off access to at least three houses. The break occurred Saturday evening. (See item 42)

READ ON
http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/DHS_Daily_Report_2009-12-29.pdf

Monday, December 28, 2009

Official Commends Yemeni Government for Taking on al-Qaida

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2009 - The Yemeni government deserves praise for taking on the al-Qaida threat in that country, a Defense Department official said here today. The Yemeni government took full credit for strikes against al-Qaida hide-outs and training sites Dec. 19. U.S. officials have been concerned that al-Qaida has been increasing in Yemen.

"The fact of the matter is that Yemeni officials and government ought to be commended for taking on the al-Qaida threat that exists in their country," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. "Yemen has a growing al-Qaida threat and the government has taken the important steps to address it."

The Yemeni government said the strikes were a success, but there has not been an accounting of casualties in the strikes.

The Defense Department has worked with Yemen to train their forces. The United States spent roughly $67 million to train Yemeni troops in counterterrorism operations, Defense Department officials said.

Meanwhile, there haven't been "any substantial increases in our training with Yemen over the past few months," Whitman said.

U.S. training with Yemen runs throughout the year and includes land, air and maritime scenarios. These exercises generally are small-scale events that last a couple of weeks at a time. The number of trainers involved fluctuates depending on the training, Whitman said, noting the exercises do not run back to back.

Defense relations between Yemen and the United States are good. Yemeni servicemembers participate in the International Military Education and Training program and the United States has transferred military equipment and spare parts to the country.

In fiscal 2006, U.S. Foreign Military Financing for Yemen was $8.42 million, International Military Education and Training was $924,000, and Non-Proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs was about $1.4 million.

Iraqi Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2009 - Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, arrested several suspected terrorists and seized weapons in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported. Iraqi security forces today arrested 14 suspected terrorists during a series of operations conducted in northern Iraq targeting suspected al-Qaida in Iraq members.

In southwest Baghdad, Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq explosives operative believed to be planning and conducting homemade bomb attacks throughout Diyala province.

Meanwhile, in a separate operation in Jalula, northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. forces arrested four suspected al-Qaida members.

Also today, while conducting an operation southwest of Kirkuk, Iraqi and U.S. forces arrested nine suspected al-Qaida members.

During an operation in Ninevah yesterday, Iraqi and U.S. forces shot and killed a suspected terrorist after he fired at them. Another suspect was arrested.

Also yesterday, Iraqi security forces arrested three suspected terrorists during operations conducted near Mosul and Baghdad.

Additionally, a surveillance crewman on board a 25th Combat Aviation Brigade surveillance aircraft spotted three suspicious men digging and placing an unknown object alongside a road north of Kirkuk on Dec. 25.

As members of a route clearance team attempted to capture the suspects, two of the suspects began shooting. The patrol returned fire, killing one suspect and injuring another. The third suspect surrendered. The soldiers discovered two homemade bombs where the suspects had been digging. They also found two 105 mm artillery rounds, a 122 mm artillery round, a landmine and an 80 mm mortar round. A U.S. explosive ordnance disposal team used C4 explosives to destroy the bombs and artillery rounds.

After questioning the non-injured suspect, Iraqi soldiers went to his house and arrested three more suspects.

In other operations in Iraq:

-- Iraqi police and U.S. advisors arrested four suspected terrorists Dec. 25 and 26 in northeastern Mosul while targeting a suspected member of al-Qaida in Iraq believed to be responsible for suicide vest attacks in Balad and Muqdadiyah.

-- Iraqi police arrested a suspected terrorist group leader and nine suspects Dec. 26 during security operations near Tikrit. The security team discovered five 107 mm rockets, more than 20 rocket-propelled grenades, seven RPG launchers, two 80 mm mortars and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

-- Iraqi security forces arrested two terrorist suspects during a Dec. 26 operation in northeastern Baghdad.

-- Iraqi security forces arrested five suspected members of the Kata'ib Hezbollah terrorist group Dec. 24 in northeastern Baghdad.

-- Iraqi security forces arrested two suspected terrorists Dec. 24 in Tikrit. The suspects are believed to be associates of a leader of a Jaysh al-Islami Mujahadeen explosives cell that operates in Bayji.

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

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Jason M. Johnston, 24, of Albion, N.Y., died Dec. 26 in Arghandab, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information the media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at 910-432-0661.

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 28 December 2009

Top Stories

The Associated Press reports that a man who held three people for more than eight hours December 23 inside a Wytheville, Virginia post office surrendered to police after freeing the hostages unharmed. Dozens of SWAT members surrounding the building did not have to fire a shot. (See item 25)

According to the Wall Street Journal, multiple Internet sites were temporarily disrupted for some Web users after Neustar Inc., the company that provides them directory service with UltraDNS, suffered a “denial of service” attack before Christmas. Sites included those run by Amazon.com Inc. (See item 45)

Read the Full Briefing
http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/DHS_Daily_Report_2009-12-28.pdf

Forces Detain Suspected Militants in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2009 - Afghan and international security forces detained several suspected militants, including a Taliban commander, in Afghanistan in recent days, military officials reported. A combined force captured a Taliban commander and other suspected militants in Wardak yesterday.

The force went to a small compound in Sayad Abad district after intelligence confirmed militant activities there. The force entered the compound and captured the Taliban commander, who identified himself and the other militants.

Meanwhile, a combined force captured a Taliban facilitator and several other suspected militants in Kandahar yesterday.

Elsewhere, a combined force captured a Haqqani terrorist network suicide bomb facilitator and several other suspected militants yesterday in Khowst.

In Helmand, a combined force detained one suspected militant yesterday while searching for a Taliban weapons facilitator.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

In Zabul yesterday, a combined force killed several militants, including a Taliban commander responsible for homemade bomb attacks.

The force found machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and a significant amount of bomb components.

In Kandahar yesterday, a combined force captured a Taliban facilitator believed to be responsible for transporting weapons and illegal aid.

No civilians were harmed in either operation.

During a Dec. 26 operation in Wardak, combined forces killed a Taliban commander responsible for planning attacks against combined security forces and buying weapons and bomb components in Wardak.

In other operations in Afghanistan:

-- In Laghman, a combined force detained suspected militants Dec. 26 while searching for a Taliban facilitator.

-- In Khowst on Dec. 25, a combined force captured several suspected militants, including a known Haqqani facilitator. The force recovered multiple AK-47 rifles, hand grenades and bomb components from the home of the Haqqani facilitator.

-- In Kandahar, a combined force captured a Taliban facilitator and a small group of other suspected militants Dec. 25.

-- A combined force detained several suspected militants while searching for a Taliban enabler in Wardak province Dec. 25.

-- In Paktika, a combined force killed somearmed militants and captured a small group of insurgents while searching for a Haqqani commander. During a search, the force captured several more suspected militants and recovered weapons and bomb components.

-- International Security Assistance Force members in southern Afghanistan detained nearly a dozen insurgents Dec. 24 for possible connection to the manufacturing of homemade bombs. Patrolling servicemembers in the south also found about 600 pounds of what is believed to be ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient of homemade explosives, as well as a Russian anti-tank mine. A local resident also led troops to a homemade bomb that had been placed under a bridge.

(From International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

U.S. Scouts Advise, Assist Iraqi Commandos

By Army Capt. Rafael Acevedo
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2009 - U.S. Army scouts are helping Iraqi army commandos in securing their country. U.S. forces in Iraq transferred security duties in cities and towns to Iraqi security forces June 30. In support of this mission, the Scout platoon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, is conducting joint operations and training with 38th Iraqi Army Brigade commandos.

Scout platoon members are instructing Iraqi commando leaders how to be more effective trainers for their soldiers. This initiative, officials believe, will help the Iraqis continue quality training of their soldiers after the drawdown of U.S. forces.

"I believe this is a great opportunity to develop our soldiers by allowing them to instruct and mentor their Iraqi counterparts," said Army Staff Sgt. Adam Wilson, a section sergeant from San Antonio.

The scout platoon's noncommissioned officers said they take great pride in this mission and realize the training's importance.

"Throughout the United States Army's history, noncommissioned officers have trained and taught not only their soldiers, but [also] soldiers in foreign militaries. I'm glad to be a part of it," said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Salazar, a section sergeant from Downey, Calif.

Concurrently, the Iraqi instructors teach the U.S. soldiers about the capabilities of the AK-47 rifle, which is the Iraqi commandos' primary weapon.

The knowledge obtained from the training is put to the test when the Iraqi commandos and U.S. scouts conduct joint patrols.

They conduct operations across Maysan province to identify enemy rocket launch sites and to deter insurgent operations.

The commandos and scouts have developed a strong relationship, officials said.

The Iraqi commandos "always seem so happy and eager to see us," said Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Williams, from San Antonio.

As a result of this partnership and training, Iraqi commandos are securing their province with minimum assistance from U.S. forces.

(Army Capt. Rafael Acevedo serves with the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.)

Afghan District Governor Hails Rebuilding Projects

By Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Reney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2009 - Afghanistan's Now Zad district governor, Sayed Murad Agha, greeted more than 100 local citizens of the once-abandoned market here Dec. 20. The rebuilding process for the Now Zad district has started, but there will be challenges, officials said.

Agha surveyed the area, asked questions and addressed local Afghans' concerns. He visited the medical facility where Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, provided care for local Afghans and spoke with local shopkeepers as he made his way through the district's recently cleared streets.

Although locals conveyed many concerns, Agha had some of his own centering on the welfare of the community, mainly getting people back into their homes and back to work.

"I would like to work on rebuilding the school and getting people back to work, so people can return to their lives," Agha said through an interpreter. "I'd like to get the teachers back."

Now Zad was once the second-largest city in Helmand province. However, after several years of insurgent activity, this part became uninhabitable for Afghan families.

U.S. Marines and Afghan national security forces have cleared the market and district center to allow the people to return and begin rebuilding.

The market and district center are experiencing rapid progress, officials said.

"The Marines have done a lot to get the people back to work," Agha said. "The people here really want to get back to work and are tired of the enemy activity."

As Marines and Afghan security forces partner to provide security and civil affairs support, the Marines see great benefit for the community in having the district governor present for the rebuilding process.

"The people here haven't had any form of government for four years,' said Marine Capt. Jason Brezler, a civil affairs officer from Bronx, N.Y. "To have a committed and educated man, like [the district governor] here to rebuild is a good thing."

(Marine 1st Lt. Joe Reney serves with 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 7 public affairs.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Army Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. David H. Gutierrez, 35, of San Fransico, Ca., died Dec. 25 at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his dismounted patrol with an improvised explosive device in Howz-e Madad. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

For more information the media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at 253-967-0152, 253-967-0147 or after hours at 253- 967-0015 (ask for the Public Affairs Officer on call).

Northwest Flight 253

Statement by Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Sara Kuban

December 27, 2009” "A passenger on today's Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit spent an unusually long time in the aircraft lavatory. Due to this unusual behavior, the airline notified TSA and the agency directed the flight to taxi to a remote area upon landing to be met by law enforcement and DHS. The passenger in question, a Nigerian national, was removed from the flight and interviewed by the FBI; indications at this time are that the individual's behavior is due to legitimate illness, and no other suspicious behavior or materials have been found. Though this does not appear at this time to be a security incident, in an abundance of caution, the aircraft was fully screened, with negative results, and all baggage is being rescreened before the aircraft taxis to the gate."

Flight 253

Statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

December 26, 2009: "I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results. The Department of Homeland Security immediately put additional screening measures into place—for all domestic and international flights—to ensure the continued safety of the traveling public. We are also working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, as well as our international partners on enhanced security at airports and on flights.

The American people should continue their planned holiday travel and, as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials.

Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Northwest Airlines flight #253

Statement by Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Sara Kuban

December 25, 2009: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been briefed on the incident aboard Northwest Airlines flight #253 and is closely monitoring the situation. Passengers may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights. As always we encourage the traveling public to be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials. We encourage those with future travel plans to stay in touch with their airline and to visit www.tsa.gov for updates.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Forces in Afghanistan Detain Suspects, Find Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2009 - Afghan and international security forces in Afghanistan detained numerous suspected militants and seized weapons stockpiles in various operations today, military officials reported. A combined Afghan-international force detained several suspected militants in Helmand province while searching for a Taliban commander linked to a murder and intimidation campaign.

The force went to a compound north of the village of Ser Banader in the Garmsir district after intelligence experts confirmed militant activity in the area. Despite receiving hostile fire when they approached, the servicemembers searched the compound and detained the militants.

A combined force captured a suspected Taliban commander believed to be responsible for recent assassinations and detained two other militants in an operation south of Kandahar City.

In Khost province, a combined force detained about a dozen suspected Haqqani terrorist network militants and recovered illegal weapons.

The force moved into a series of compounds in the Sabari district after intelligence sources found a concentration of militant activity. After an extensive search, the security force detained the militants. The joint force also found assault rifles and pistols.

In other operations, international forces discovered three weapons caches and drugs in Helmand province yesterday while conducting a patrol. The unit seized assault rifles, ammunition magazines, more than 200 7.62 mm rounds and 40 pounds of black-tar heroin in the Now Zad district.

The drugs were destroyed, and the weapons were seized as evidence.

No civilians were harmed in any of these operations, officials said.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

Soldiers Meet With Leaders in Remote Afghan Province


By Army Spc. William E. Henry
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2009 - Over mountainous terrain, a pair of UH-47 Chinook helicopters glided through the cold air to the remote village of Shaykh Ali in Afghanistan's Parwan province Dec. 19, carrying nearly 45 Task Force Cyclone team members. Their mission: to speak with district leaders, police and villagers about how to better serve and contribute to the local people.

The group unloaded off the helicopters swiftly in the snow-covered fields to meet Afghan National Police officers. They then moved to the village center, where they met with the district subgovernor, business owners and townspeople.

Leading the team of Task Force Gladius soldiers, who are in charge of security for all of the areas within Parwan province, was Army Capt. Booker Wilson, commander of B Company, 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion. Wilson said the people he spoke to were friendly and pleased with the recent and earlier operations in their area.

"The people of Shaykh Ali were hospitable and engaging," Wilson said. "They were pleased with current coalition forces and past coalition force actions, and requested more coalition force and Afghan government involvement."

A human terrain team research manager, Army 1st Lt. Raphael Howard, had similar thoughts on how the people responded to the visit from coalition forces.

"The people we interviewed were very happy to speak with us and happy to see that coalition forces were interested in them," Howard said. "They were particularly happy at just being able to express their concerns. The children in the area were especially behaved, and are a credit to their families and village."

Task Force Cyclone's senior civilian representative, Abigail Friedman of the State Department, also talked with the people.

"This mission was important to me, because it is critical that we connect with the people of Afghanistan and understand what their needs are and how the international presence in Afghanistan can help the people," Friedman said. "We were very well received, both by the village elders and in the bazaar by the local merchants and villagers."

Team members, the information from this mission will be used to develop a strategy that will help communities in the areas to be more self-sustaining. It also allows coalition forces to maintain a close relationship with the Afghan government, police and residents of the area to better serve the people of Parwan province.

"This mission allowed Task Force Gladius to assess the effects of current and recently completeled projects," said Wilson. "This assessment also allowed Task Force Gladius to gain a sample of public opinion concerning the effects of future projects concerning road expansion and project placement."

All agreed that this type of research is crucial to development and assessment of the area, as well as integration between civilian and military operations throughout the Task Force Cyclone area of operations.

"We work together well in the planning of these kinds of missions, and then, once on the ground, we seem to intuitively know how to help each other out," Friedman said. "Both the senior U.S. military officers and the senior civilians are active in engaging with the community and elders."

A couple of hours after arriving, the team converged back into the fields where they were dropped off, armed with new information and a better knowledge of the villagers living there. Hundreds of villagers gathered at the edges to watch them go.

(Army Spc. William E. Henry of the 38th Infantry Division's public affairs office serves with Task Force Cyclone.)

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 24 December 2009

Top Stories
ABC News reports that the Department of Energy may jeopardize the security of its nuclear weapons and energy technology and lose millions of dollars if it does not improve its cyber security, according to a recent Inspector General’s report. (See item 9)
According to Reuters, an American Airlines Boeing 737 carrying more than 150 passengers and crew overshot the runway while landing in torrential rain in Jamaica Tuesday, cracking open its fuselage and halting just short of the Caribbean sea. Ninety people were taken to local hospitals, where they were treated for broken bones, cuts, and bruises, as well as shock. (See item 13)

More Information
http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/DHS_Daily_Report_2009-12-24.pdf

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Omar G. Roebuck, 23, of Moreno Valley, Calif., died Dec. 22, as a result of a non-hostile incident in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force at 910-451-7200.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, December 23, 2009

Tests confirm third anthrax case

"Health officials have confirmed that anthrax has been found in a third heroin user in Glasgow. The male patient is in a critical condition in the city's Royal Infirmary. Another patient there is also being tested for the infection. [...] Dr Syed Ahmed, consultant in public health medicine, said: 'I urge all drug injecting heroin users to be extremely alert and to seek urgent medical advice if they experienced an infection. Drug injecting is extremely risky and dangerous. The possible presence of a batch of heroin contaminated with anthrax [bacteria] makes drug injecting even riskier and even more dangerous.'" (British Broadcasting Corporation; 22Dec09) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8425313.stm

Woman infected with anthrax still in hospital

"A woman who doctors believe may have injected heroin contaminated with anthrax [bacteria] is being treated in hospital. She is in Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary after being admitted with an infection. A man with similar symptoms died in the hospital on Wednesday. [...] Staff are awaiting results of tests on a third drug user, who is in intensive care at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The three cases, all of which involve infections in specific areas of the body injected with heroin, are not being linked. [...] NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the procurator fiscal and Strathclyde Police are trying to identify the source of the anthrax [bacteria]. One possibility is that contaminated heroin, or a contaminated agent used to cut the drug, is to blame. Heroin often comes from countries where anthrax is more prevalent in animals and bone meal, an animal product, is sometimes used as a cutting agent." (Press and Journal; 21Dec09; Lucy Christie)
http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1533103

DoD bill will fund biological attack sensors

"Under the recently $636 billion Department of Defense appropriations bill passed by the Senate, Michigan companies will soon see grants to aid in the prevention of bioterrorism. [...] The bill will send $1.6 million to Dexter Research Center in Dexter, Mich., to continue its development of a security sensor meant to protect military installations from chemical and biological attacks. Dexter Research Center has been working in conjunction with the Army on developing the concept for the sensors." (Bio Prep Watch; 22Dec09; Nick Rees) http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/211349-dod-bill-will-fund-biological-attack-sensors

Pennsylvania hospitals given grant to fight bioterror and pandemics [Jameson and Ellwood]

"Jameson and Ellwood City hospitals in Pennsylvania will receive a $1.6 million grant award to aid them in their fight against bioterrorism and pandemics. The U.S. Defense Department grant, announced last week by U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, will allow health-surveillance technology to be manufactured and equipped by the ProcessProxy Corporation of Ellwood City for Lawrence County medical providers. [...] ProcessProxy's Terry Rasjasenan told Vindy.com that the funding will create 12 hardware and software engineering jobs in Lawrence County. ProcessProxy is currently located at the offices of Dr. Vaudevan Rajasenan, an Ellwood City cardiologist. The grant will also aid in the implementation of electronic health-record systems at Jameson and Ellwood City hospitals and medical offices county-wide, allowing data to be shared while treating patients who normally receive care at another facility." (Bio Prep Watch; 22Dec09; Tina Redlup)
http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/211348

Oklahoma Representative [Phil Richardson] reacts to cancellation of anthrax study [Stillwater, OK]

"Phil Richardson, an Oklahoma State Representative, veterinarian and farmer, has taken aim at Oklahoma State University for its recent cancellation of an anthrax study that would have required testing and euthanasia on primates. 'I bleed Orange as much as anyone, but I am deeply concerned by the actions of Oklahoma State University officials, which appear designed to cater to animal-rights fanatics instead of providing sound education in agricultural sciences,' Richardson said in a statement on his website. [...] In his statement, Richardson says that OSU's plan to establish itself as a leader in infectious disease research is undermine[d] by the cancellation of the anthrax study. [...] The federally funded study, which would have studied the effects [of] anthrax on live baboons at OSU's Center for Verterinary Health Sciences, was cancelled by Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis. Hargis called the testing of lethal pathogens on primates controversial, noting it would fall outside of the current research programs of the school." (Bio Prep Watch; 22Dec09; Nick Rees)
http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/211381

Assessment of epidemiology capacity in state health departments

"Since 2001, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) periodically has conducted a standardized national assessment of state health departments' core epidemiology capacity. During April--June 2009, CSTE sent a web-based questionnaire to the state epidemiologist in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The assessment inquired into workforce capacity and technological advancements to support surveillance. This report summarizes the results of the assessment, which determined that in 2009, 10% fewer epidemiologists were working in state health departments than in 2006. Compared with 2006, the percentage of state health departments with substantial-to-full (>50%) epidemiology capacity decreased in three ESPH, including 1) capacities to monitor and detect health problems, 2) investigate them, and 3) evaluate the effectiveness of population-based services. The percentage of departments with substantial-to-full epidemiology capacity for bioterrorism/emergency response decreased slightly, from 76% in 2006 to 73% in 2009. [...] Working together, federal, state, and local agencies should develop a strategy to address downward trends and major gaps in epidemiology capacity." (Center For Disease Control and Prevention; 18Dec09; Matthew L Boulton, et. al.) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5849a1.htm

Positive results announced for Restanza in treatment of inhaled tularemia

"Positive top-line results have been announced by Advanced Life Sciences Holdings, Inc., for its once-a-day, oral antibiotic Restanza to treat inhaled lethal doses of tularemia. 14 day course of Restanza during a pivotal, non-human primate study achieved a 100 percent survival rate at the doses tested. In the study, all 10 animals receiving 16 mg/kg of Restanza once-a-day, the equivalent of a human dose of 300 mg, within 24 hours of exposure to a lethal dose of inhaled tularemia survived. Only of of the 10 [sic] animals that received a placebo survived. [...] 'We believe that the impressive survival data in tularemia, combined with previously reported survival data in anthrax and plague, confirm the profile of Restanza as a potent, broad spectrum medical countermeasure for biodefense and underscore Restanza's impressive efficacy and safety against lethal pathogens which could represent significant threats to public health and safety,' Michael T. Flavin, Ph.D., chairman and chief executive officer of Advanced Life Sciences said." (Bio Prep Watch; 17Dec09; Ted Purlain)
http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/211316

Russia further fulfils commitment for chemical weapons decommissioning

"Russia remains on schedule in fulfilling its commitments under the chemical weapons convention, and has met the end-of-year deadline for reducing its stockpiles by 45% from the 1990s level, a government official said according to RIA Novosti. 'In line with Russia's federal program for destroying chemical weapons, in spite of all the difficulties in implementing this program, Russia will have fulfilled its obligations under the third stage of the Chemical Weapons Convention as of December 31, 2009,' Deputy Russian economics minister Oleg Savelyev said. In November the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russia had reached this year's target of 45% ahead of schedule." (Defense Professionals; 18Dec09) http://www.defpro.com/news/details/12060/

Army can't speed up chem[ical weapon] demil[ilitarization] project

"A spokesperson for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Program, whose plants at the Pueblo Chemical Depot and Blue Grass Army Depot will be the last to close, said this week, '2012 is not achievable for Pueblo and Blue Grass under any circumstances or funding profile. That is, there is no amount of funding that would enable all of the activities to be conducted (i.e., plants built, tested and operated) to destroy the stockpiles by 2012.' The Chemical Weapons Convention [...] set a deadline of 2007 but the commission overseeing the pact extended that to 2012. [...] in 2007, Congress mandated a 2017 deadline with a pledge to provide the funding needed to achieve it. Pueblo probably will meet that now with its stockpile of mustard-agent weapons, although the nerve agent weapons at Blue Grass pose some greater challenges. [...] U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Tuesday, 'It's my understanding that it is not technically or legally possible to destroy these weapons by 2012. I know how important it is to the people of Pueblo to have these weapons cleaned up safely and efficiently.'" (Pueblo Chieftain; 18Dec09; John Norton) http://www.chieftain.com/articles/2009/12/18/news/local/doc4b2b3152203e0139148408.txt

American children in South Korea get new protective masks

"[T]he continuing threat of attack from North Korea makes for some unique provisions U.S. servicemembers and their families must keep on hand when living in South Korea. 'It's just a [matter of] preparation,' said Army Capt. Allan Garcia, the 2nd Infantry Division's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear operations officer. 'You just never know what the capability ... is of [North Korea].' In hopes of making things a little easier in the event of a chemical attack, 2nd ID officials this month are requiring soldiers with children living in South Korea to pick up new child-friendly protective masks. [...] The new model, he said, is good for children 8 and younger and 'looks more like a space suit.' The XM52 Joint Service Chemical Environment Survivability Mask will continue to serve adults and children as young as 9. Garcia said the new mask allows young children more room inside, a greater field of vision and even a built-in straw for drinking." (Stars and Stripes; 21Dec09; Jon Rabiroff)
http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=66815

$41M ASU [Arizona State University] project targets nuclear disasters

"Arizona State University will lead a $41 million research project to develop systems to help first responders assess radiation exposure in the event of a large-scale nuclear disaster. The five-year contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will focus on the development of prototypes to enable more rapid triage of patients. [...] ASU will oversee the research program, which also includes Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, Columbia University, High Throughput Genomics Inc., Tecan Group Ltd., University of Arizona, Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute and the University of Illinois in Chicago." (Phoenix Business Journal; 21Dec09) http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2009/12/21/daily10.html

Nuclear issues a critical challenge: [Prime Minister Kevin] Rudd

"[Austrailian] Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament as a 'critical challenge' for the century ahead. Mr Rudd, who is on a whistle-stop visit to Tokyo, helped launch the final report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) on Tuesday. [...] he report comes ahead of a review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in May next year, as well as a summit to be hosted by US President Barack Obama in April on ways to prevent nuclear terrorism and misuse of materials. Mr Rudd said nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament represented a 'critical challenge for us all in the century which lies before us'." (World News Australia; 21Dec09; Source: Australian Associated Press)
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1152617/Nuclear-issues-a-critical-challenge:-Rudd-

U.S. to make stopping nuclear terror[ism] key aim

"The Obama administration's classified review of nuclear weapons policy will for the first time make thwarting nuclear-armed terrorists a central aim of American strategic nuclear planning, according to senior Pentagon officials. [...] the Nuclear Posture Review will order the entire government to focus on countering nuclear terrorists -- whether armed with rudimentary bombs, stolen warheads or devices surreptitiously supplied by a hostile state -- as a task equal to the traditional mission of deterring a strike by major powers or emerging nuclear adversaries. [...] To underscore the point that concrete consequences will follow its guiding philosophy, the Nuclear Posture Review is scheduled to be released along with the Obama administration's next budget in February." (New York Times; 18Dec09; Thom Shanker)
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/19/us/politics/19nuke.html?_r=1

India to set up special training centres for cops

"The Government of India has planned to set up a set of special training centres to train state police forces to deal with Naxals, terrorist[s] and face chemical and biological warfare challenges. Under the plan a Central Academy for Police Training (CAPT), two Central Detective Training Schools (CDTS) and 20 temporary Counter Insurgency & Anti-Terrorism (CIAT) Schools in different states will be set up to improve capability of the state police forces in various aspects of policing. These are to be set up in the 11th Plan Period (2007-12)." (iGovernment; 17Dec09)
http://www.igovernment.in/site/india-set-special-training-centres-cops-36354

Maine to receive more than $3 million to aid bioterror[ism] research

"More than $3 million will be set aside for bioterrorism research in Maine by the Department of Defense's new appropriation bill, which has been sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. [...] The bill will grant $1.9 million to Orono Spectral Solutions to continue its development of an infrared detection system for chemical and biological agents. Another $1.3 million will be set aside for Sensor Research & Development in Orono, Maine, for real time test monitoring of chemical agents, chemical agent stimulants and toxic industrial chemicals. The appropriations bill also earmarks $1.6 million to go to the Maine Institute for Human Genetics & Health in Brewer, Maine, for technologies meant to support the health care challenges in the military and to address the reduction of disease risks in unique population segments that are exposed to environmental or stress hazards." (Bio Prep Watch; 22Dec09; Paul Tinder) http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/211350

S.D. projects get nearly $40 million in defense bill [Rapid City, SD]

"South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid city will receive $11.7 million, and private-sector projects in western South Dakota will receive more than $14 million in the new defense appropriations bill passed by the Senate late last week and signed by President Obama. South Dakota-related projects will receive a total of nearly $40 million, according to a news release from Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. [...] The School of Mines will receive [...] $480,000 to EMCC [Engineering, Measurement & Certification Center] of Rapid City for its Optimization, and Transfer of a Reliable Testing Technology for Materials Designed to Protect War-fighters Against Toxic Chemical Warfare Agents. EMCC will support the collaborative development of an advanced, analytical testing system for accurate evaluation of various military protective materials and their abilities to minimize human threats from battlefield exposure to hazardous chemical warfare compounds." (Rapid City Journal; 22Dec09) http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_5f074b0a-ef24-11de-8d0c-001cc4c002e0.html

Bahrain's stand on nuclear treaty

"Bahrain has expressed reservations over Article 17 of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material including new provisions to combat and prevent nuclear terrorism. [...] Under Article 17, each state party may at the time of signature, ratification, acceptance or approval of this convention or accession thereto declare that it does not consider itself bound by either or both of the dispute settlement procedures pertaining to disputes between two or more State Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this convention that can not be settled by negotiation, or by any other peaceful means of settling disputes acceptable to all parties of the dispute." (Gulf Daily News; 21Dec09)
http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=266745

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