War on Terrorism

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Iran Using Yemen as ‘Test Bed’ for Malign Activities, DoD Official Says

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2018 — Iran is exploiting the situation in Yemen, arming opponents of the internationally recognized government and using the country as a "test bed" for malign activities, a top Defense Department official told lawmakers today.

The United States, as Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has said, supports efforts for a United Nations-brokered settlement to the conflict, Robert S. Karem, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy in Yemen.

The conflict, which began more than three years ago, threatens regional security and U.S. national security interests, which include the flow of commerce in the Red Sea, he said.

“Yemen has become a test bed for Iran's malign activities,” he said, adding that a political solution to the conflict will “reduce the chaos that Iran has exploited to advance its malign agenda.”

With support from Iran, the Houthis – a Shia group trying to take control of Yemen – have launched more than 100 ballistic missiles and “countless” rockets into Saudi Arabia directed at major population centers, international airports, military installations and oil infrastructure, he said. In this month alone, he added, the Houthis have launched more than 13 ballistic missiles and long-range rockets into Saudi Arabia.

Terrorist Organizations ‘Directly Threaten’ U.S., Allies

The Defense Department’s first line of effort and priority in Yemen is the fight against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Yemen, Karem said. AQAP and ISIS in Yemen are “two terrorist organizations that directly threaten the United States, our allies and our partners,” he told the senators.

U.S. forces are working in coordination with the U.N.-recognized government of Yemen to support regional counterterrorism partners, he said. 

AQAP and ISIS in Yemen are plotting from safe havens in Yemen against the American people and U.S. allies and partners, Karem said. U.S. military forces are conducting airstrikes against them in Yemen to disrupt and destroy terrorist networks, he said.

"We need a stable, inclusive government in Yemen to provide security to the Yemeni people and to reduce and ultimately eliminate terrorist safe havens that are being used by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula -- AQAP -- and ISIS in Yemen," Karem said.

A second line of effort, he said, is to provide limited noncombat support to the Saudi-led coalition in support of the U.N.-recognized government of Yemen, he said.

Fewer than 50 military personnel work in Saudi Araba with the Saudi-led coalition, advising and assisting with the defense of Saudi territory, sharing intelligence and providing logistical support, including aerial refueling, Karem said.

Single-Largest Humanitarian Crisis in the World

The conflict has had a devastating impact on the population, Karem and witnesses from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development told the Senate panel.

"Defeating ISIS in Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, countering Iran's malign activities in that region, and above all, reducing the extraordinary suffering and hardship for the Yemeni people -- all of these goals hinge on the resolution to the Yemeni conflict," David M. Satterfield, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, said.

Yemen is the single-largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 75 percent of the country, or more than 22 million people, needing humanitarian assistance, said Robert Jenkins, deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

Further, the country is facing the world’s largest cholera outbreak, with more than 1 million suspected cases, he told senators. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Face of Defense: Female Advisor Breaks Through Barriers in Afghanistan

By Army Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, April 16, 2018 — Army Master Sgt. Janet Bretado of the California National Guard is one of two female advisors from the 40th Infantry Division serving as part of Train, Advise and Assist Command South here.

“A lot of advising efforts derived from having the passion to help,” the Bellflower, California, native said. “I had that passion from my family upbringing and still do to this day.”

The command, composed of soldiers from the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, and 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, is focused on training and assisting Afghan security forces and supporting counterterrorism operations.

“I am part of the [military advisory team] for TAAC South,” Bretado said. “I advise the logistics section for 205th Afghan National Army Corps.”

As an automated logistical specialist for the past 13 years, Bretado was the perfect candidate for the team.

Experienced Logistics NCO

“During my past two deployments, back in 2008 and 2010, I was the supply support activity noncommissioned officer in charge,” she said. “I was able to use my experience from those deployments to help my counterparts here with their forward support depot, which is similar to our SSA.”

To fully assist her counterparts, Bretado said, she had to instruct them on a logistician’s duties and responsibilities.

“It was hard for them to understand that we don’t just deal with food and clothing, but with every class commodity -- ammo, transportation, weapons,” Bretado said. “Logistics is the heart of everything. You can’t help soldiers in the fight if you don’t have the correct equipment on hand.”

Bretado began her mentorship by incorporating systems used by the supply support activity into the 205th Corps’ forward support depot.

“[The Afghans] use what we call a ‘push system,’” she said. “The central supply depot in Kabul sends items to the 205th FSD, Bretado explained. The FSD will sometimes receive equipment and supplies that they need, but most times they won’t, she said, causing them to store excess items and continue ordering more supplies or equipment.

The “pull system” that Bretado integrated into the Afghan forward support depot ensures that units receive the requested supplies and equipment as needed and that any excess will be sent back for use by other units.

“When I first got here, I learned that the FSD had over 1,500 pairs of size 5 boots just stored here, because most of their soldiers wear size 7,” Bretado said. “We worked shoulder to shoulder, completed the correct paperwork and sent all the equipment back to be used for women coming into the Afghan army or police. We then used the pull system to get them the correct-sized boots.”

Although the FSD is only a small portion of what Bretado is helping to improve, she said, her Afghan counterparts are very receptive of all her recommendations.

“From the first moment I walked in, … they have been very welcoming,” she said. “They don’t see me for my gender. They see me as a professional soldier trying to help.”

With only a few short months left before her to return to the United States and her family, her counterparts are saddened to see her go.

‘She Has Done a Great Job Helping Us’

“She has done a great job helping us,” said Afghan army Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rawof Klafgani, logistics sergeant major, 205th ANA Corps. “She is a [competent] logistician and is always available when we need to reach out to her. We wish her happiness as she gets ready to go back home to her family.”

Through constant communication and a common goal to improve the Afghan army, relationships have evolved to more than just partnerships, Bretado said.

“It has grown into a friendship, sharing stories and pictures,” she added. “We put work aside and talk about our families, hobbies or what is going on in our lives. It’s important to know each other in order to help each other.”

Bretado said she’s very happy to have had the opportunity to serve in Afghanistan.

“It’s amazing to see [our allies] grow,” she said. “If you have the knowledge and experience to help, don’t let your gender stop you.”

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Three Men Plead Guilty to Concealing Sending Funds to Anwar Al-Awlaki

Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad, 38; Asif Ahmed Salim, 38; and Sultane Room Salim, 43, pleaded guilty this week to one count of concealment of financing of terrorism, for their roles in concealing the provision of thousands of dollars to Anwar Al-Awlaki in an effort to support violent jihad against U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division announced the pleas.

A fourth defendant, Yahya Farooq Mohammad, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support or resources to terrorists and one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence.  Farooq Mohammed admitted to conspiring to travel to Yemen to provide thousands of dollars, equipment and other assistance to Al-Awlaki.  He also admitted to soliciting an undercover FBI employee posing as a hitman to kidnap and murder U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary.  He was sentenced to 27 ½ years in prison last year.

Ibrahim Mohammad, an Indian citizen, studied engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 2001 through 2005.  In or around 2006, he moved to Toledo, Ohio, and married a U.S. citizen.  He became a lawful permanent resident of the United States in or around 2007.

Asif Salim, a U.S. citizen, studied at Ohio State University between 2000 and 2005.  He became a resident of Overland Park, Kansas, in 2007.  His brother, Sultane Salim, is also a U.S. citizen who resided in the Chicago area from 2006 through 2012, until he moved to the Columbus area, according to court documents.

The three defendants who pleaded guilty this week acted to conceal supplying funds to Anwar Al-Awlaki in 2009.  Al-Awlaki, a key leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, advocated violence against the United States and supported and was involved in attempted terrorist attacks against civilians, according to court documents.

Farooq Mohammad travelled with two other people to Yemen in 2009 to meet Awlaki.  They were unable to meet with Awlaki, so instead travelled to Sana’a, Yemen, to meet with one of his associates.  Farooq Mohammad and his two fellow travelers gave the associate approximately $22,000 to be given to Awlaki, according to court documents.  The money Farooq Mohammad provided included approximately $17,000 that had been provided by Asif and Sultane Salim in the United States.  Ibrahim Mohammad facilitated the transfer of the money to Farooq Mohammad overseas for him to take to Awlaki in Yemen.

After law enforcement began investigating the financial transactions involved in the funds provided to Awlaki, Ibrahim Mohammad, Asif Salim and Sultane Salim attempted to conceal the source of the funds provided to Awlaki by lying to investigators and deleting emails from their accounts that were related to the transactions.

This case is being investigated by the FBI.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd and Michael J. Freeman of the Northern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys David Smith and Gregory Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.