Sunday, July 31, 2011
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, July 29, 2011 – Despite the spikes of violence here coalition and Afghan security forces are keeping the initiative, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.
Mullen, who arrived here today to meet with coalition leaders, U.S. troops and their civilian counterparts, spoke to reporters traveling with him.
Kandahar has seen a number of spectacular attacks recently. Ahmed Wali Karzai -- the half-brother of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and an important political force in the region, was assassinated last month. Kandahar’s police chief also was assassinated last month, and yesterday the Taliban claimed responsibility for murdering the city’s mayor.
These types of horrific attacks aimed at individuals were expected, Mullen said, noting that former International Security Assistance Force commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus predicted the Taliban would launch these attacks. Petraeus’ successor, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen “has reaffirmed that there are going to be these kinds of spikes -- in particular these spectacular assassinations,” Mullen said.
“There are some who believe that this is really all they can do,” he added, “given the challenges the Taliban has faced over the last couple of seasons, including this one.”
Coalition and Afghan leaders are not surprised that the Taliban are launching these attacks, and they are working to protect local Afghan leaders and to go after the cells that plan and launch these attacks, the chairman said.
Mullen said he does not know what effect these spectacular assassinations are having on provincial and district leaders, and he will speak with Afghan leaders to make his own assessment.
Last month, Afghan forces began taking over security responsibility for seven areas of the country, covering roughly 25 percent of the population. This includes the security lead for the capital region of Kabul.
Mullen said he’ll reassure Afghans of the U.S. commitment to their country. Though coalition and Afghan forces have wrested the momentum from the Taliban and their terrorist allies, he noted, the attacks and the first phase of the U.S. drawdown in the country has made many people nervous.
The chairman said he will stress “the many successes we’ve enjoyed over the Taliban in the past year, [and] reassure them that continues to be the case.”
President Barack Obama announced that the United States will withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, and another 23,000 by September 2012. The chairman said he wants to make the point to Afghans that a substantial number of American forces will remain in country. “There will still be 68,000 [American] troops in Afghanistan, and a significant number of coalition troops,” he said.
Allen will determine the drawdown methods, Mullen said, adding that he is confident the drawdown will meet the president’s goal and deadline.
“There will also be a significant buildup of [Afghan security forces] over the course of the next year,” he said. “So I’m sure there will be enough forces to reassure the Afghan people.”
Today, roughly 295,000 personnel serve in the Afghan army and police, building to 305,600 personnel this year. The goal is to have a force of 352,000 -- 195,000 in the army and 157,000 in the police -- by Oct. 31, 2012.
The chairman brought a troupe of USO entertainers with him on this trip.
“This is the time of year I normally go, and one of the reasons I go in the summer is it is brutally hot,” he said. “It lets me see the conditions our young men and women serve in.”
This year, Comedy Central satirist Jon Stewart, basketball legend Karl Malone and magician David Blaine will meet with troops.
“More than anything else, it brings a little bit of America halfway around the world, and puts a smile on their faces,” the chairman said. “It reminds them that we appreciate it, and that a lot of people at home care about what they are doing.”
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases
WASHINGTON, July 29, 2011 – The International Security Assistance Force joined Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in condemning the improvised explosive device attack that killed 18 people today in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, military officials reported.
Initial reports indicate that a passenger bus detonated a roadside IED.
“The loss of innocent civilian life in this calculated attack is heart wrenching,” said Navy Rear Adm. Vic Beck, the ISAF’s director of public affairs. “Our condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims. We will work with our Afghan partners to bring those responsible to justice.”
In Afghanistan news yesterday:
-- An Afghan-led security force killed several insurgents and freed a local family that had been taken hostage during an operation in the Dilah wa Khoshamand district of Afghanistan’s Paktika province. The target of the operation was a Haqqani network leader who also supports the Taliban. While searching for the Haqqani leader, the security force was fired upon by several insurgents. One of the insurgents took some members of a local Afghan family hostage, while other insurgents continued to fire on the security force. The security force killed several insurgents and freed the family. The security force confiscated one machine gun, several AK-47 rifles, some rocket-propelled grenades, and blasting caps.
-- An Afghan-led security force detained one suspected Taliban member during a clearance operation in the Sayad district of Sar-e Pul province.
-- In the Dand district of Kandahar province, an Afghan-led security force detained a suspected insurgent facilitator. The facilitator acquires and moves roadside bomb material and weapons for insurgents in the area.
-- An Afghan-led security force killed a Taliban leader who attempted to attack them while disguised in a women’s burqa in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province. The leader was responsible for attacks against Afghan forces in the Charkh and Baraki Barak districts.
-- An Afghan-led security force captured a Haqqani network leader and several of his associates during an operation in the Sabari district of Khost province. The leader was involved in roadside bomb and other attacks against the Afghan army.
-- An Afghan-led security force detained several suspected insurgents while searching for a Haqqani network leader in the Sabari district of Khost province. The Haqqani leader is responsible for roadside bomb and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.
-- A coalition patrol discovered a weapons cache in the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar province. The cache contained four AK-47 rifles, nine AK-47 magazines, 320 7.62mm rounds, one machine gun, nine mines, eight 81mm mortar rounds, 85 pounds of explosives and components used to construct improvised explosive devices.
-- A combined Afghan and coalition patrol discovered a weapons cache during a five-day operation conducted in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. The cache contained two sniper rifles, ammunition, and 220 pounds of explosives.
-- In the Spin Boldag district of Kandahar province, a combined Afghan and coalition force seized a drug cache containing 452 pounds of hashish.
By Army Spc. Brittany Gardner
U.S. Army Reserve
BASRA, Iraq, July 29, 2011 – Sibling rivalry isn’t always about animosity or jealousy. Sometimes it can spark healthy competitions between brothers or sisters and helps them accomplish their goals. One soldier here attributes his success in the military to the rivalry between him and his brother.
Army Spc. Andrew Deason of the Texas National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division Special Troops Battalion said he strives hard for military excellence to out-do his older brother, an active-duty Army specialist.
Deason serves as an Iraqi security forces knowledge management representative at Contingency Operating Base Basra here. His brother, Army Spc. Brian Brown, is a combat medic with the 10th Mountain Division.
Although he enlisted two years after his brother, Deason said, he so far is winning the competition between the two to be the first to achieve certain military goals. Graduating from basic combat training and advanced individual training, as well as being promoted, are a few of those goals.
“After he enlisted, I still considered myself better than him,” Deason said. “I told him, ‘All right. I can do everything you do, and better.’”
His brother attained his current rank in two and a half years, he said. Deason was a specialist in two. They both graduated from basic military training, but Deason was an honor graduate. His brother was an honor graduate from his advanced individual training course, but Deason one-upped him and was distinguished honor graduate at his.
The brothers also compete to see who can meet the highest-ranking military officials.
“When it comes to meeting people, I’ve got him beat so far, Deason said. They’ve both met the commander of U.S. Forces Iraq and the Army chief of staff, but Deason also has met the sergeant major of the Army. “So I’m a little ahead of him so far,” he said.
When Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited Contingency Operating Base Basra, he gave Deason a coin for excelling in his mission here. While handing him the coin, Chandler complimented Deason on his demeanor.
That excellence has not gone unnoticed by his leadership here.
“Specialist Deason is an invaluable part of our section,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class James R. Gifford, Iraqi security forces section noncommissioned officer in charge. “He has a great personality, and his positivity promotes a higher level of morale in our section daily. He has an extremely strong work ethic and continues to search for ways to improve through both civilian and military education, as well as daily experiences and others jobs.”
Deason said the rivalry between him and his brother keeps him motivated to accomplish his goals, but he also attributed his drive to succeed as just being part of his personality.
Part 2: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Our interview continues with Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of our Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMD, Directorate, which marked its fifth anniversary on July 26.
Q. Can you provide a few examples of successful WMD investigations over the past five years?
Dr. Majidi: We’ve managed quite a few cases actually, including our first major counterproliferation investigation that involved two Iranian men and one Iranian-American who were charged in California with conspiring to export certain technologies from the U.S. to Iran. Other examples include a Texas man charged with possessing 62 pounds of sodium cyanide; a government contractor in Tennessee charged with trying to sell restricted U.S. Department of Energy materials; and a Nevada man charged with possessing deadly ricin. (Note: see the sidebar for more examples.)
Q. What has the FBI learned over the past five years?
Dr. Majidi: Quite a bit. For some time, we’ve had WMD coordinators in every one of our field offices. But we realize that for WMD prevention to be truly comprehensive, we need to think and act globally. So that’s why—in addition to our network of legal attaché offices and agents around the world—we’ve recently put our first WMD coordinators overseas, in our offices in Tbilsi and Singapore. We also have personnel assigned to Interpol to help it develop an international WMD training program like ours.
Q. What kind of work is done overseas?
Dr. Majidi: It runs the gamut. For instance, several years ago, after an interdiction of highly enriched uranium in Georgia in the former Soviet Union, our WMD experts performed a forensic analysis of the material and then testified in Georgian courts. And when the Russian defector in London was poisoned with a radioactive isotope in 2006, our WMD personnel shadowed London Metropolitan Police during the ensuing investigation to develop lessons learned to help us prepare for such a scenario here. Through it all, we’ve built some strong relationships with our global partners.
Q. What are the WMD Directorate’s plans for the next five years?
Dr. Majidi: The basic knowledge and material that go into making weapons of mass destruction is becoming more readily available to anyone, anywhere in the world as the Information Age matures. That’s why we’ll continue to be all about partnerships—locally, nationally, and internationally. We’ll also focus even more on threats on the horizon. For example, we’ll look at emerging developments like synthetic biology from a preventative point of view. By collaborating with the synthetic biology community, we can articulate our safety and security concerns as they relate to weapons of mass destruction. We’ll also be improving our threat analysis capabilities to better spot potential WMD opportunities, potential WMD vulnerabilities, and gaps in our intelligence collection.
Q. What can the average citizen do to assist law enforcement with the WMD threat?
Dr. Majidi: Keep in mind that to develop weapons of mass destruction, you only need two things: the material and the know-how. So please, if you see anything suspicious or in a place where it doesn’t belong, report it to local law enforcement or your closest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. It could be just the tip we need to stop something serious.
WMD Case Highlights
Some additional FBI cases in recent years that have received valuable assistance from the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate:
- A plot in the Bronx to bomb synagogues and shoot down planes is foiled.
- A Texas resident is charged with attempting to make an improvised explosive device.
- An Illinois courthouse and a Dallas skyscraper are targets of separate bombing plots.
- A man who knew how to make the deadly toxin ricin—and had built his own weapons lab—is sentenced for threatening a federal prosecutor.
- A Colorado man who plotted to bomb the New York City subway system pleads guilty.
- Six members of a Michigan militia group and two others are charged with attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
Friday, July 29, 2011
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 28, 2011 – The U.S. Army general who leads the coalition training effort for Afghanistan’s security forces has been cleared of allegations that he used psychological operations personnel to try to influence visiting dignitaries.
A Rolling Stone magazine article in February quoted an Army lieutenant colonel saying that Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV had tried to use psychological operations capabilities to influence visiting senators and members of Congress.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who then commanded U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, initiated an investigation into the allegations and appointed Army Lt. Gen. William Webster to lead it. The investigation report exonerated Caldwell, who has served as the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan since October 2009.
The Army probe approved by Petraeus in May found the allegations raised by the article were not substantiated, and the Defense Department inspector general agreed with the findings.
“The DOD Inspector General reviewed the 15-6 investigation initiated by U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and concurred with the findings that the allegation against Lieutenant General Caldwell was not substantiated,” said Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The officer who made the statements to Rolling Stone also alleged that he was a whistleblower and that Caldwell retaliated against him for it. “With regard to the whistleblower reprisal allegation, the DOD IG also concurred that Lieutenant General Caldwell was not implicated as a responsible management official,” Robbins said.
The investigation said the officers who made the allegations prepared information packages on the congressional delegations that visited, and that this is neither illegal nor improper.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 28, 2011 – Before 2001, Afghanistan had a lot of warriors, but few disciplined soldiers or police.
Coalition forces came into the country and took on al-Qaida and the Taliban, but the long-term plan always has been to train Afghans to secure their own country.
The NATO training mission has made tremendous progress over the past two years to train Afghan security forces, and this month Afghan forces began taking over security responsibility for seven areas of the country covering roughly 25 percent of the population.
There is much more to training an army and police force than simply passing out rifles and pistols to willing personnel, said Dr. Jack D. Kem, the deputy to the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan commander, Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, during a recent interview here.
Trainers speak of the Afghan police and army as one force, rather than separate entities, Kem said. Going forward, he explained, the army and police must work together to guarantee security in the country.
Building the Afghan security force is more than simple training, Kem said. It includes dealing with literacy problems, leader development, gender integration and human rights, as well as acquisition issues and Afghanistan’s ethnic mix.
Roughly 295,000 personnel serve in the Afghan security force. “We’re building to 305,600 this year, and growing to a force of 352,000 -- 195,000 in the army and 157,000 in the police, by Oct. 31, 2012,” Kem said.
Two years ago, the army, which was the only semi-effective Afghan security force, was at about 90,000 members. With the training mission’s focus, the gains over the past two years are in quality, not just quantity, Kem said. “In October 2009, 35 percent of recruits qualified with their weapons,” he said. “Today, 95 percent do. Literacy rate is up to 50 percent in the army.”
On the police side, officers now train to a common standard, which was not the practice when the NATO training mission stood up two years ago. “The army is ahead of the police across the board,” Kem said. “But the Afghan Civil Order Police is a very good force, too.”
The army is built around infantry, and kandaks -- the equivalent of battalions -- remain the basis for the service. But over the past two years, the coalition has helped to build enablers -- engineers, signal corps, intelligence and logistics forces, the deputy said. “It is a force that primarily is to respond to external threats and secure the borders, and to respond to disasters as needed,” Kem said.
The police have a number of pillars. One is the Afghan uniformed police, which is the typical community police force that operates in each of the districts or provinces. There is the Afghan Border Police, whose mission is self-explanatory. And there is the Afghan Civil Order Police, which is a quick-reaction, gendarmerie-type force, along the lines of Italy’s Carabinieri. They provide a higher level, paramilitary type of force.
The typical recruit is “physically fit, clear-eyed and they want to work,” Kem said. “They are survivors and highly motivated.”
But they also are illiterate. “About 86 percent come in and can’t count to four,” he said. “They have not lived in wealth, so many have never seen running water or driven a vehicle. There are a lot of things that we have to do that wouldn’t be typical in the West.”
NATO trainers had to establish literacy classes, because while the younger generation now is in school and the oldest literate generation pre-dates the Soviet invasion, the current generation lived through the Taliban regime, which denigrated reading and counting and absolutely forbade women from getting an education. This generation can’t write their names.
“They want that,” Kem said. “The No. 1 motivator to join the army and police is literacy. The No. 1 motivator to stay is the literacy classes.”
Literacy is a huge issue that crosses all boundaries. Security requires a literate force if only to take down license plate numbers or write reports. From a governance standpoint, there are not enough literate people to provide the services that are needed and put in place the rule of law. The long-term economic issue requires literacy to put in place the human capital needed to prosper.
“We have 110,000 people in literacy courses,” Kem said. “In 10 years, school enrollment has gone from 800,000 to 8 million. Some of that is from our assistance.”
Leadership requires literacy -- and experience, Kem said. “We always say it takes 10 years to make a major or a master sergeant,” he said. “We don’t have 10 years, so you take the literate and give them a combination of education, training and experience, and you provide some of the assistance to bring them up. Then you watch them to identify the leaders, and you encourage them.”
Continuing education for the police and the army is crucial, and the NATO mission is taking a page from U.S. professional military education. Afghan military and police leaders must take classes throughout their careers.
Corruption is an issue, and even in that, literacy has a role. “If you can’t count to four, you don’t know how much money is in your pocket or how much you are paid,” Kem said. “You depend on other people, which leaves you open to be the victim of corruption.”
Most Afghans are honest and want to be treated fairly, he said. The coalition needs to help the Afghans create the structures to enforce the laws so everybody follows the laws.
Gender integration is an important issue for the Afghans, and a “red-line” issue for the United States. The Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights for women, and the security force is doing its part to cement these rights in place. The Afghan National Police want 5,000 women police officers by the end of 2014. Today, there are about 1,200, Kem said.
Next year, 10 percent of the Afghan military academy class of 600 will be women. Some of the Afghan pilots now training in the U.S. are female. “We are looking at areas where we can open the aperture for women,” he said. “The Border Police is a classic area where gender mainstreaming will work, and will serve as an example.”
The NATO training effort has been successful to the point that few NATO personnel are actually involved in hands-on training of Afghan forces. They have trained the trainers and the Afghan master trainers, and now are in an overwatch position.
“I think the Afghans are impatient about exerting their own sovereignty,” Kem said. “I think they would be more than happy for us to leave, but I don’t think they want us to leave before things are ready, and there is tension there. They’d like to have a long-term relationship with us, but not be dependent on us.”
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office
Former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger once told President Ronald Reagan that women were too valuable to be in combat.
"I will tell you that I think women are too valuable not to be in combat," Command Sgt. Maj. Eddie Noland, the top enlisted Soldier in the 3rd Ranger Battalion, told 56 females who graduated from the inaugural Cultural Support Training Course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, N.C. on July 19.
Females like Wisconsin Army National Guard 1st Lt. April Nelson of Viroqua, Master Sgt. Karen Dumke of Waupun, Sgt. Sonia Buchanan of Cottage Grove and Sgt. Kristen Elegeert of De Pere who were among the graduates. All are now trained to do what Special Forces troops have great difficulty doing - contact and communicate with Afghan women and children. The Guard Soldiers left Wisconsin in May to complete training and will soon be en route to their deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with an Army special operations unit.
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin Army National Guard commander, and State Command Sgt. Major George Stopper attended the graduation.
"We all should be proud of the professional and dedicated manner that these ladies conducted themselves," he said. "It is not only a testament to the quality of each of those Soldiers, but a reflection on the [Wisconsin Army National Guard] as a whole on the type of Soldiers we have in our formations. This continues to be just another indicator on the tremendous strides the Wisconsin Army National Guard has made over the past few years."
Noland remarked that 240 females signed up for the program. Only 106 were selected for assessment, and 59 of those attended the Cultural Support Team training.
"You are writing the history of women in combat as you fight," Noland told the graduates. "You are redefining the role of females in combat and in the military.
"You are going to embark on a long, tough but rewarding journey," he continued. "The fact that you volunteered - fully knowing the hazards of this assignment - says a lot about your character, selfless service and values as a leader."
The Cultural Support Training Course educates selected female enlisted, warrant and commissioned officers in the basic capabilities required to access relevant female and adolescent populations in support of Army special operations forces. The training focused on general culture, regional culture and language, mental and emotional endurance, engaging local populations, medical skills, tactics, reporting and use of interpreters.
State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper said this mission represents a historic leap forward for the U.S. armed forces.
"These Soldiers will not only be assigned to operate in austere conditions with combat troops, they may be among the first female Soldiers to be combat troops," he said.
Cultural Support Team members will go out on missions with Army Rangers and Special Forces Teams and will interact with Afghan citizens on a daily basis. As females, they can interact with Afghan women and children without violating cultural taboos. Taking part in these missions requires the female Soldiers to be in peak physical condition as well as mentally strong.
Four female Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers - Master Sgt. Karen Dumke, Sgt. Kristen Elegeert, Sgt. Sonia Buchanan and 1st Lt. April Nelson - graduated from the Cultural Support Training Course on July 19 at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Cultural Support Training Course educates selected female Soldiers in the basic capabilities required to access relevant female and adolescent populations in support of Army special operations forces, a segment of the Afghani population culturally inappropriate for male Soldiers to communicate with. The training focused on general culture, regional culture and language, mental and emotional endurance, engaging local populations, medical skills, tactics, reporting and use of interpreters. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Julie Gerety
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, presents a commander's coin to Master Sgt. Karen Dumke as Sgt. Sonia Buchanan, who received a coin moments earlier, looks on. Dumke and Buchanan were among four female Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers to graduate from the Cultural Support Training Course on July 19 at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Cultural Support Training Course educates selected female Soldiers in the basic capabilities required to access relevant female and adolescent populations in support of Army special operations forces, a segment of the Afghani population culturally inappropriate for male Soldiers to communicate with. The training focused on general culture, regional culture and language, mental and emotional endurance, engaging local populations, medical skills, tactics, reporting and use of interpreters. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Julie Gerety
Stopper said he was extremely proud that four of the graduates came from the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "Proud of their commitment, their performance, their extreme dedication and selfless service," he explained. "I am honored to serve alongside Soldiers of this caliber - leaning forward, setting the example and making history."
"They epitomize the best of what the Wisconsin Army National Guard has to offer," Anderson added. "We wish them the best of luck [and] a safe deployment."
Cultural Support Team members are expected to deploy with an Army special operations unit shortly after graduation. The deployment is expected to last approximately 10 months, for a total commitment to the Cultural Support Team program of 12 months.
One DEA Operation Results in Arrests of Defendants for Agreeing to Acquire $9.5 Million Worth of Surface-to-Air Missiles and Other Weapons for Hizballah
Separate DEA Operation Culminates in Arrest of Heroin and Weapons Trafficker from Kandahar, Afghanistan for Taliban-Related Narco-Terrorism Conspiracy
JUL 26 – Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, the Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced the unsealing of two indictments resulting from two DEA narco-terrorism undercover operations: first, an indictment against Siavosh Henareh, Bachar Wehbe, and Cetin Aksu for conspiring to provide various forms of support to Hizballah; second, an indictment against Taza Gul Alizai ("Gul") for narco-terrorism conspiracy, narco-terrorism, and heroin importation related to his supplying of 15 kilograms of heroin and six AK-47 assault rifles to a DEA confidential source whom Gul believed represented the Taliban. Henareh and aksu were arrested yesterday in Bucharest, Romania, where they were detained pending extradition to the United States. Wehbe and Gul were arrested yesterday in the Republic of the Maldives, and arrived in the Southern District of New York earlier today. Wehbe and Gul will appear later today in Manhattan federal court.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: "Today's indictments provide fresh evidence of what many of us have been saying for some time: that there is a growing nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, a nexus that increasingly poses a clear and present danger to our national security. Combating this lethal threat requires a bold and proactive approach. And as crime increasingly goes global, and national security threats remain global, the long arm of the law has to get even longer."
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart stated: "These DEA operations starkly illustrate how drug trafficking is a double threat that fuels both addiction and terrorism. We have successfully targeted, and substantially dismantled two dangerous and complex networks; stopped efforts to arm Hizaballah and Taliban terrorists; and prevented massive amounts of heroin from reaching illicit markets around the world. Those responsible for these crimes will now face trial due to the brave and talented men and women of the DEA, the skilled federal prosecutors of the Southern District of New York, and the extraordinary cooperation of our many international and federal agency partners, all whom were instrumental in the success of these DEA operations."
Charges Against Henareh, Wehbe, and Aksu
As alleged in the Superseding Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Beginning in June 2010, Henareh had a series of meetings in countries including Turkey, Romania, and Greece with DEA confidential sources (the "CSs"), at least one of whom represented themselves as an associate of Hizballah. During those meetings, and in a series of telephone calls, Henareh agreed to arrange the importation of hundreds of kilograms of high‑quality heroin into the United States. The CSs represented to Henareh that the profits from the sale of the heroin in the United States would be used, among other things, to purchase weapons for Hizballah. In April 2011, in Bucharest, Romania, the CSs received a one-kilogram sample of heroin from Henareh's co-conspirator in anticipation of a future, multi-hundred kilogram load.
As a result of their meetings with Henareh, the CSs were later introduced to Aksu and Wehbe. Beginning in February 2011, in Romania, Cyprus, Malaysia, and elsewhere, Aksu and Wehbe agreed to purchase military‑grade weaponry from the CSs on behalf of Hizballah. In those meetings, and in telephone calls and email messages, Aksu and Wehbe discussed the purchase of American-made Stinger surface-to-air missiles ("SAMs"), Igla SAMs, AK‑47 and M4 assault rifles, M107 .50 caliber sniper rifles, and ammunition, from (among other places) an American base in Germany.
On June 13, 2011, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aksu and Wehbe signed a written contract for the purchase of 48 American-made Stinger SAMs, 100 Igla SAMs, 5,000 AK‑47 assault rifles, 1,000 M4 rifles, and 1,000 Glock handguns, for a total price of approximately $9.5 million. During the course of the weapons negotiation, Wehbe stated that he was purchasing the weapons on instructions from Hizballah. Shortly thereafter, Wehbe and others caused approximately $100,000 to be transferred to the CSs as a down payment for the weapons purchase, including a $50,000 wire transfer to an undercover bank account.
In coordination with Romanian authorities, Henareh and Aksu were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, on July 25, 2011. In coordination with authorities in the Republic of the Maldives, Wehbe was detained in that country on July 25, 2011. Wehbe was transferred to DEA custody and transported to the Southern District of New York. Wehbe will make his first appearance this afternoon in Manhattan federal court. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge [ ].
The Superseding Indictment in U.S. v. Siavosh Henareh, et al. charges defendants Henareh, Aksu, and Wehbe with the following counts:
Count One charges Henareh and Aksu with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing or intending that the heroin would be imported into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 959 and 963;
Count Two charges Aksu and Wehbe with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization -- namely, Hizballah -- in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B; and
Count Three charges Aksu and Wehbe with conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti‑aircraft missiles, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332g.
The maximum and, in some cases, mandatory minimum penalties for these offenses are as follows:
Count One of the Indictment -- life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison;
Count Two of the Indictment –– 15 years in prison; and
Count Three of the Indictment -- life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 25 years in prison.
Charges Against Taza Gul Alizai
According to the Superseding Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
In May 2008, in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Gul sold approximately five kilograms of heroin to a DEA confidential source (the "CS"). Approximately two years later, Gul arranged for the sale of six AK-47 assault rifles and an additional 10 kilograms of heroin to the CS, who purported to represent the Taliban. In connection with the May 2010 transaction, Gul and the CS discussed, among other things, that the heroin sold by Gul to the CS was destined for the United States, and that the proceeds from the sale of the heroin were to be paid to the Taliban. Gul understood that the assault rifles would be supplied to the Taliban. In exchange for the heroin and the AK-47 rifles, the CS paid Gul and a co-conspirator $31,000. During the negotiations, Gul’s co-conspirator explained to the CS that heroin laboratories in Afghanistan were under Taliban protection.
In coordination with authorities in the Republic of the Maldives, Gul was detained in that country on July 25, 2011. He was then transferred to DEA custody and transported back to the Southern District of New York. Gul will make his first appearance this afternoon in Manhattan federal court. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge [ ].
The Indictment in U.S. v. Taza Gul Alizai charges defendant Gul with the following counts:
Count One charges Gul with conspiracy to engage in narco‑terrorism, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 960a;
Count Two charges Gul with engaging in narco‑terrorism, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 960a;
Count Three charges Gul with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing or intending that the heroin would be imported into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 959 and 963; and
Count Four charges Gul with distributing one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing or intending that the heroin would be imported into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 959 and 960.
The maximum and, in some cases, minimum penalties for these offenses are as follows:
Count One – life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison;
Count Two – life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison;
Count Three – life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison; and
Count Four – life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.
The charges, arrests, and transfers of these four defendants were the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the Special Operations Division of the DEA, and the DEA Country Offices in: Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Copenhagen, New Delhi, Athens, Cyprus, and Kabul.
Mr. Bharara expressed his gratitude to the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative Regional Center for Combating Trans-Border Crime, the Romanian National Police, the Turkish National Police, the Malaysian National Police, the Greek Hellenic Police, the Cyprus National Police, the Estonian authorities, and the Maldives Police Service. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division, the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol and Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France, the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, and the U.S. Department of State for their assistance.
These two cases are being handled by the Office's Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Naftalis, Adam S. Hickey, and Edward Kim are in charge of the prosecutions.
The charges and allegations contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
By Marine Corps Cpl. Katherine Keleher
2nd Marine Expeditionary Force
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan, July 28, 2011 – More than 6,500 miles from the Pacific Northwest, the arid heat near the front lines in Afghanistan is almost the complete opposite of the damp, cool weather of Monroe, Wash.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chandra Francisco left the comforts of Monroe in 2009 to serve her country, and is now deployed as part of the Marine Corps female engagement team in the Sangin district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Francisco, a supply administration Marine by trade, graduated from Monroe High School in 2007. After working full-time immediately after high school, she decided she needed a change.
“I needed to get out and start my life,” said Francisco, 22. “I needed money for school, so I decided to join the military. I looked around at other branches, and I just felt like the Marine Corps was more for me.”
Drawn to the challenge of being one of “the few and the proud,” Francisco said, she enlisted for four years of what she thought would be accounting for and ordering supplies for her fellow Marines.
She thought wrong. Last fall, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group placed Francisco on the female engagement team.
“At first I really had no idea what I was getting into,” she said. “Once I started training, I loved it. This is, by far, one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
After four months of training at her home station at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Francisco and the rest of her engagement team deployed to Afghanistan in late spring. The women were split into teams of two. Francisco and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Amanda Richeal were assigned to support 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in the Sangin district.
The concept of the all-women engagement teams originated in 2010 as a way for coalition forces to show their respect to the cultural norms of Afghanistan, Francisco said. The teams work to build relationships with the Afghan people, especially women and children, who otherwise would be unreachable due to local and religious customs, which frown upon contact between unmarried men and women.
Afghan children typically attend the team’s all-women meetings, and the team members usually ask what they or their battalion can do to help improve the quality of life for local youths. Female engagement teams have helped to arrange projects such as building schools, bringing in medical care and providing access to clean water.
The children provide common ground with which to begin relationships, Francisco said, noting she has a sincere passion for the children she meets.
“[Francisco is] really good with the children,” said Richeal, a Le Claire, Iowa, native. “None of these women or children are educated, and there is a language barrier a lot of the time, which makes it really hard to understand each other. But Francisco’s patience is really good with them. She goes out of her way to make everyone comfortable.”
To help ease tensions during her meetings, Francisco carries things such as candy and toys while on patrol.
“Whenever there is an awkward situation and tensions are rising, [Francisco] says ‘When in doubt, bubble out,’ and she pulls out these bubbles to play with,” Richeal said. “The kids go crazy. It makes them happy and eases the situation.”
Bringing smiles to the children’s faces is a natural instinct, Francisco said.
“You can’t help but to love on these kids -- they’re going through so much more than a child should have to,” she said. “I’m just grateful my sister, Kaylen, doesn’t have to deal with this type of stuff. The poverty, lack of education, lack of hygiene and food -- it’s so sad. You only want the best for the people who are closest to you, and I would never want a child to have to go through a lifestyle like this.”
The engagement teams help local women learn trades they can use to make money, and they help locate teachers for local schools.
“I’ve never been so grateful for the people in my life and the things I have until I came out here,” Francisco said. “I think a lot of people take for granted what they have. Give them a month out here, and they’ll see how good they have it.”
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases
WASHINGTON, July 28, 2011 – The International Security Assistance Force joined Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and the country’s Ministry of Interior in condemning today’s insurgent attacks in the Tarin Kot district of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province that, according to initial reports, killed and wounded more than 50 people.
Initial reports indicate that multiple suicide bombers attacked several government buildings in Tarin Kot, the provincial capital. Reports indicate that up to 10 children were among those killed, along with women and police officers.
“Innocent Afghans lost their lives today because insurgents have a despicable, complete disregard for human life,” said Navy Rear Adm. Vic Beck, ISAF’s director of public affairs. “Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of those who were killed and we will work with our Afghan partners to bring those responsible to justice.”
In Afghanistan news yesterday:
-- An Afghan-led force detained a Taliban leader and one of his associates during a security operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. The leader was the Taliban military commander for the district and was responsible for coordinating shipments of bomb materials.
-- In the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, a combined Afghan and coalition patrol seized a drug cache in a compound near Highway 1. The cache contained 396 pounds of hashish and 132 pounds of opium. An AK-47 rifle was also seized.
-- An Afghan-led force detained several suspects during a security operation in the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar province. The force was searching for a Taliban leader responsible for coordinating roadside bomb attacks against Afghan security forces.
-- An ISAF patrol seized a weapons cache in the Pul-e Alam district of Logar province. The cache contained nine rocket-propelled grenade rounds, four RPG boosters and one mortar tail fin.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Marine Corps Cpl. Colby Brown
Regimental Combat Team 1
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 27, 2011 – It looks like Marine Corps Sgt. Jose Hernandez is teaching an anatomy class, but he’s actually learning the local language as he points to a boy’s arms, legs, ears and eyes, naming each in Pashto.
For the last month, Hernandez has been patrolling here without an interpreter and has learned enough Pashto to hold a casual conversation.
“If they see me taking an interest in learning their language, it shows I really care about what I talk to them about, and they take it as a sign of respect,” said Hernandez, leader of 2nd Section, Combined Anti-Armor Team 1, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
His immersion in the local community doesn’t stop at language. Hernandez befriends everyone, from the children to the local elders.
While on patrol, he never turns down an offer from the local people for chai tea or a meal. Some of the local people have embraced him almost as a part of their family, referring to him as a son or uncle. His relationship also has led to several tips about insurgents and roadside bombs.
“Hernandez keeps a positive attitude,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Colfer, assistant patrol leader for 2nd Section, and a Philadelphia native. “He makes them feel comfortable and that we are here for them.”
The Los Angeles native’s friendships make the area safer for coalition forces and the local community. He has created a special handshake with one of the local children, which shows how close his relationships are with the local people. The people trust Hernandez and his squad enough to put themselves at risk of being targeted by insurgent forces to help in keeping their community safe.
“[Hernandez] is very good,” said Mohammed Mokhlies, a native of the Garmsir district here. “He is my friend, and he brings good peace and security. We are happy to have all the Marines, because they bring peace and security.”
Hernandez encourages his squad to emulate his efforts and treat the local people with respect. He includes his Marines when he is invited to a meal or chai tea, even if it means staying out on patrol two or three hours longer.
“The way they look at Sergeant Hernandez is the way they look at all the other Marines,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph Messina, a machine gunner with 2nd Section and a San Diego native. “When he goes up to the local people and is nice, they accept him. It makes it easier for us to interact with the local people, because they treat us like they would Sergeant Hernandez.”
For Hernandez, who is thousands of miles away from his family, the local people’s acceptance is comforting.
“Whenever I sit down with one of the local people, I feel like I am being accepted like at home,” Hernandez said.
“Since we arrived, we have gone from having the people resist shaking our hands to them inviting us into their homes,” he added. “The acceptance increases every day.”