Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coalition, Iraqi Forces Detain Terrorism Suspects, Seize Weapons

American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2008 - Iraqi and coalition forces detained a dozen suspected
terrorists during operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq leaders in the central part of the country yesterday and today, military officials reported. Surveillance teams monitored several suspected associates of an al-Qaida in Iraq leader northwest of Samarra and conducted two operations today to target them. As coalition forces arrived in the area, they received small-arms fire but were unable to determine the source. Moving closer to the target building, they saw four individuals involved in suspicious activity. Perceiving hostile intent, officials said, the force shot and killed two men and a woman, and wounded another woman. A third man who was detained in the operation admitted to working with explosives. The injured woman, who was treated on site and taken to a military medical facility, was determined to be an Iraqi civilian.

Coalition forces did not find any weapons with the five individuals, officials said, and the incident is under investigation. In the other operation in the area, coalition forces detained six suspects and discovered two rifles.

In operations yesterday:

-- In the Hamrin Mountains region, coalition and Iraqi forces detained a wanted man and two additional suspects. The wanted man reportedly has ties to al-Qaida in Iraq
leaders in the area.

-- Iraqi and coalition forces detained two suspected
terrorists during an operation in Kirkuk targeting the leader of a bombing cell.

-- Iraqi soldiers seized homemade-bomb components north of Baghdad.

-- Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team seized a cache in Baghdad's East Rashid district after receiving a tip from a local citizen. The cache included a 60 mm mortar round and Iranian-manufactured 107 mm rockets.

-- Iraqi National
Police in Baghdad's West Rashid district found a cache that included 82 mm mortar rounds and five mortar fuses.

-- Iraqi National
Police in Rashid's Doura community notified soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team of a possible roadside bomb. The soldiers acted on the information and secured the roadside bomb and a cell-phone initiator until an explosives team arrived to dispose of it.

-- A citizen's tip led a patrol from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team to a highly sought-after suspected terrorist in southern Baghdad, officials said. The patrol detained and moved the suspect to a coalition forces base for questioning.

In July 28 operations:

-- Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team secured an undisclosed amount of homemade explosives at a house in Rashid's Saydiyah community until an explosives team arrived to dispose of them.

-- Operation Sabre Pursuit continued, with 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and Iraqi soldiers unearthing 12 caches near Hamud in Diayla province. The caches included 60 mm mortar rounds with a mortar tube, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with various grenades and several AK-47 assault rifles.

-- Iraqi
police seized a weapons cache in the New Baghdad district of the Iraqi capital. The cache included a rocket-propelled grenade, assorted artillery shells, an 82 mm mortar tube, cases of large-caliber ammunition, radios and a homemade-bomb trigger.

-- Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team seized a cache north of Baghdad that included 105 mm rounds, a 25 mm projectile and a 68 mm rocket warhead.

-- A leader of the Sons of Iraq, a citizen security group, turned in munitions to Iraqi soldiers in the Mansour area of Baghdad. The munitions included 60 mm mortars and RPG rounds.

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

DoD Continues to Look for Capabilities for Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2008 - Defense Department planners continue to look for capabilities to send to Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon spokesman said today. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell also said that, while DoD officials are encouraged by conversations with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, "actions speak louder than words."

Efforts to identify additional assets for Afghanistan continue, Morrell said. "Progress is being made toward that end, but I don't have anything definitive to stand here before you today and relay," he said.

He did say that for the time being, U.S. Central Command's strategic reserve –- 15th
Marine Expeditionary Unit -– will not deploy to Afghanistan. The 2,200 Marines of the unit now are training in Kuwait.

Military commanders said that as much as troops are needed in Afghanistan, the strategic reserve is an insurance policy in a dangerous part of the world. Morrell wouldn't discuss possible scenarios.

"If we were to commit these resources to Afghanistan now, we would be hamstrung in responding to future threats," he said.

"The situation is not so desperately urgent at this point that it requires us rushing the strategic reserve for Central Command into Afghanistan at this very moment," he said. "It is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed."

Gilani met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon today. Gates also attended the lunch President Bush had with Gilani yesterday.

The Pakistani government has been in office only since March and is working through growing pains, dealing with economic and political woes while trying to deal with extremists in its federally administered tribal areas and the North West Frontier province. U.S., NATO and Afghan officials have asked Pakistan to maintain pressure on Taliban and foreign fighters now using areas in the country as safe havens.

"We are very encouraging of the Pakistani government to do as much as they possibly can to diminish the threat posed by ...
terrorists, who are operating rather freely," Morrell said.

Commanders in Afghanistan have criticized Pakistan's policy of negotiating with tribal
leaders in the tribal areas. Morrell said the Pakistani approach is not strictly one of negotiation.

"If you look at the situation of the past several weeks ... indeed, months -- there has been an uptick in Pakistani
military operations within the border area," Morrell said. "Is it enough? Is it enough to stem the flow of foreign fighters that continue to traverse the border into Afghanistan? Obviously not, and therefore we have called on them to do even more.

"They seem to believe that negotiation with tribal leaders, in the [Federally Administered Tribal areas] and elsewhere, is worthwhile," he continued. "We have said from this podium and elsewhere that that is an option that is worth pursuing, provided that these deals are enforceable and that there is a constant
military presence within the FATA going after terrorists, so that no safe havens can develop there."

The words from Pakistani officials have been encouraging, he added, "but the deeds are what ultimately we will measure."

The mere presence of Pakistani troops near the border helps to stem the flow of Taliban and foreign fighters across the border into Afghanistan, Morrell said. "That is helpful," he added, "but obviously we would like for the Pakistanis to be as aggressive as they can be."

Coalition Forces Kill Militants in Afghanistan Province

American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2008 - Several militants were killed during a coalition forces operation targeting a Taliban
leader yesterday in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, military officials reported.
Coalition forces searched compounds in the province's Gairo district, targeting a militant
leader known to conduct foreign fighter operations in Ghazni and Paktika provinces, officials said.

Militants inside a building and around other buildings engaged the force with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Coalition forces responded with small-arms fire and air strikes, killing the militants and damaging a building, officials said.

During their search, coalition forces found bomb-making materials and rigged explosives within a building, as well as a vehicle rigged with explosives. Troops also found several rocket-propelled grenades and a vehicle used to transport them.

Coalition forces destroyed the munitions, explosives and both vehicles after moving all residents to a safe location, officials said.

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 101 news release.)

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. James A. McHale, 31, of Fairfield, Mont., died July 30 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., of wounds suffered July 22 in Taji, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 40th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany.

For more information media may contact the U.S. Army, Europe, public affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-5816 or 8694, or email: .

Soldiers Kill Known Terrorism Facilitator, Detain Suspects in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2008 - Coalition forces killed a known
terrorism facilitator during an operation in Baghdad today when the man refused to follow instructions to surrender, military officials reported. Coalition forces shot and killed the man -- who was known to be part of a network that provides false documents and moves supplies around Iraq -- when he made a threatening movement that was perceived as hostile intent, officials said.

In other operations today:

-- Coalition forces detained two suspected
terrorists in Baghdad while targeting a car-bombing cell.

-- East of Samarra, coalition forces captured an alleged al-Qaida
leader and one other suspect. The wanted man reportedly oversees terrorist activity in the region and recruits women to conduct suicide bombings.

-- Coalition forces targeted associates of al-Qaida senior leaders during operations in and around Mosul, detaining 13 suspected

-- Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers detained a key suspected criminal and four of his suspected associates in eastern Baghdad. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team detained the suspects while conducting an operation specifically targeting them in the New Baghdad district. The individuals allegedly house and hide key
criminal leaders, officials said. In addition to detaining the five suspected criminals, the soldiers seized weapons including an AK-47 assault rifle, AK-47 magazines, knives, a camcorder and assorted documents.

In other news from Iraq, coalition forces identified a suspected foreign terrorist facilitator driving southwest of Qaim yesterday. They stopped the man, who was with four children, and detained him without incident. Coalition forces drove the children home and left them in the care of family members.

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

Soldiers Tour Iraqi Fish Market to Assess Needs, Find Solutions

By Army Maj. Mike Humphreys
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2008 - Deep-purple eggplant glisten in the sun while stacks of fresh watermelon rest on display safely under cover from the midday 115-degree heat as Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team walk the street admiring the produce and assessing needs of a popular fish market in the Suleikh neighborhood of Baghdad's Adhamiyah district July 24. The patrol was part of a continued effort to build on the economic success the unit has seen in Adhamiyah.

"The fish market is a great example of what improved
security can mean in the lives of Iraqis," said Army Maj. Byron Sarchet, information operations officer for 3rd BCT. "This piece of Baghdad has seen little U.S. or [Iraqi Army] presence lately. Security is being provided by the Sons of Iraq currently, and the market is thriving."

Sons of Iraq are local residents who have taken on some of the responsibility for providing security in their neighborhoods.

But some dangers come with the limited U.S. presence that
security success has provided. Sarchet said simple problems with simple solutions often can easily become big problems for U.S. and Iraqi forces if left unattended. Just driving by the fish market, it's easy to get the impression of a flourishing market with no troubles in sight, but a cursory walk through the streets uncovers a problem.

Abdul al-Setar, an Iraqi business owner, runs into the street to greet the U.S. soldiers. Through an interpreter, he gives an animated report that his home and shop have power for only an hour a day. "It is too hot. This is not good for my wife and family," Setar tells the soldiers hoping they can bring relief.

After a round of tea from a street vendor, the soldiers begin their search for the generator meant to provide power to the street. They don't look far before an Iraqi woman approaches with the same concern as Setar's.

The patrol soon finds two generators in the market in similar degrees of disrepair. Sarchet said the first thought might be to contract for repair or replacement of the generators, but that doesn't help the Iraqis solve the problem for themselves.

"We can't let the fish market flounder," he said before explaining what the best solution would be. "It's important to find a local guy with a vested interest in the market and the economy to help provide power to the neighborhood," he said.

Another walk around and the patrol encounters a small store with a healthy generator powering about 60 shops along the busy street. Mustafa Abud Aller is happy to invite the soldiers in to see his shop, and he proudly shows off the generator that he and his brother-in-law maintain.

"Can you fix the generators in the market?" Sarchet asks Mustafa, who answers enthusiastically that he could, but that it would cost money.

"Sure, this guy is taking advantage of the situation," Sarchet said, "but that's business. If we can quickly get him $3,000 and he becomes the power company for the neighborhood, that's business."

Less than two years ago, Adhamiyah was wrought with violence and sectarian strife. Now, markets are flourishing all over the district. Iraqis sell fresh produce, clothes, electronics, auto parts and other wares, bringing normalcy to the area and stimulating the economy. But Sarchet warned that peace is fragile without continued interaction and communication with the people.

"The market here is thriving because the people have had a taste of how good it can be. We just have to keep progressing forward," he said.

Army Maj. Mike Humphreys serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)

Team Contributes to Development of Trustworthy Afghan Police Force

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2008 - More than 200 students processed into the regional training center here July 19 for focused district development training, a program to create a professional and well-trained
police force for Afghanistan, district by district. Afghan National Police and Afghan civilians handled the processing with help from Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan mentors.

Although the coalition mentors serving as subject-matter experts were on hand to advise their Afghan counterparts, the process was almost completely Afghan-led.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sheila Pearson, a recruiting mentor and Konduz processing team leader, explained that the team's goal is to help Afghan National Police leaders develop a sturdy processing system for police training, which leads to a trustworthy force.

"The goal to cleanse the ANP is started here at the [regional training center]," she said. "By cleanse, I mean to make sure the people the ANP are recruiting and training are good, trustworthy people. This is the start of that progression."

She said that having this process led by Afghans is the first step in building trust in the police force for the people of Afghanistan.

"Being responsible for the screening, training them correctly and then sending them back out into the community so the people can trust them and believe in them, is a huge step," she said.

During their enrollment, the students meet with an Afghan personnel representative who collects their individual data, then assigns them a processing number. This number, along with the personnel information, is used to track the students at the training center.

Once the students finish with the personnel representative, the Afghan ID card team collects additional information. They check their database to determine whether the student already has a national identification card and verify the expiration date as applicable. If the student does not have a national ID, more personal data is collected.

The students also go through a medical screening for basic vital signs, sight and hearing tests, immunizations, and a drug screening. Based on the results of the medical screening, an Afghan doctor makes a recommendation on qualification or disqualification.

The students also undergo a biometrics screening, which compares unique physical traits of the students to a
criminal database. As part of the biometrics screening, the students have their photos, fingerprints, handprints and irises scanned by a Ministry of Interior biometrics team.

Army Sergeant Wayne Demar, a Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan biometrics coordinator, said the screening benefits the Afghan National
Police in more ways than just tracking students.

"I think the biometrics screening process works as a deterrent," he said. "If these men know that the system will identify anyone who has committed any crimes, it will deter the criminals from trying to enter the force."

After the biometrics screening,
Air Force Capt. Sam Shimp, finance reform officer for the security transition command, talks with the students to determine any pay issues. He also gives the students a finance briefing, letting them know what pay to expect while they are in training and when they return to their districts.

He said electronic funds transfer, which deposits salaries directly into bank accounts, is a way to cut down on pay disbursement problems inside the force.

"Their previous pay-by-list system, in which one person collects and distributes money for the group, wasn't ideal. By the time the money reached the students, it wasn't the full amount they were owed," Shimp said. "Now, 17 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan have [electronic funds transfer], and it's effective, because it cuts down on the corruption of money changing hands."

Lastly, students receive new uniforms, boots and other gear.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William Sciarretta, logistics superintendent, said the police officers who work at the regional training center are responsible for issuing the gear, while he oversees the process.

"This time, we tried to hold them responsible for the process," Sciarretta said. "The questions they ask show they understand the process."

Sciarretta also considers the new uniforms and gear to be another way the Afghan National Police will gain trust from the people of Afghanistan.

"This not only standardizes the force, but brings it up to a certain standard. It gives them a greater capability to defend themselves, as well as a better image," he said.

Afghan National
Police Col. Hadid Khan, Konduz training commander, echoed the mentors' sentiments.

"We are a team, and we are working together and helping to improve the police together," Hadid said. "Our country is different, because some people linked with the enemy try to join the police. This system will find the bad people and keep them from our force. The people of Afghanistan will understand that."

While a district's
police officers spend two months in focused district development training, highly trained Afghan National Civil Order Police fill in for them in their district. When the newly trained police return to their district, coalition mentors help them apply their training.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)

Iraqi Interior Minister Visits, Thanks Wounded Troops at Walter Reed

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2008 - Iraq's interior minister thanked U.S. servicemembers and their families for their sacrifices on behalf of his country during a visit with wounded U.S. troops at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center here today. Through an interpreter, Jawad al-Bulani told reporters that he wanted to convey his country's "gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warrior-soldiers, in the freeing of the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq to recover from tyranny and dictatorship."

Bulani also praised U.S. servicemembers' families, noting their sacrifices are equally important and appreciated by his nation.

The senior Iraqi official also told reporters that he'd witnessed "the level of technical and medical sophistication" that is being practiced at Walter Reed. Observations at Walter Reed will be employed "to help our own wounded and many, many victims of
terrorism and violence in Iraq," Bulani said.

"We believe that we need facilities similar to this in Iraq, and we need to learn from not only the medical, but also the administrative and other systems that are in place here to help victims of war and violence," the Iraqi minister added.

Bulani then took a reporter's question about the progress of the national
police, which fall under his portfolio as interior minister. The Iraqi National Police have performed their duties with professionalism and increased levels of performance during a recent series of anti-insurgent operations conducted in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities throughout the country, Bulani said. And recent reforms implemented across the Iraqi National Police force have led to better officer vetting, training and replacement systems, he added.

The National
Police soon will institute "a joint training program that will foster the culture of professionalism" throughout the ranks, Bulani said.

Security has greatly improved in Iraq in recent months, Bulani said.

He acknowledged that challenges remain. "However, I can tell you that we are taking all that is necessary to be ready and to step up and to fulfill our requirements, play our role in this transitional time," he said.

More security responsibilities will be transferred from coalition to Iraqi forces, he predicted, as Iraqi forces continue to gain in capability.

When asked about media speculation on possible windows of time for possible phased withdrawals of U.S. forces from Iraq, Bulani commented that his government is engaged in ongoing discussions involving many issues that "will depend on all kinds of considerations that will come into play."

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- July 28, 2008

Powder scare unnerves East Liberty [Pennsylvania]
“The city's [Pittsburgh] hazardous materials team closed a section of Penn Circle South after getting the call from the PNC Bank branch about 11:30 a.m. White powder spilled from a deposit envelope onto a bank employee, but she washed it from her hands and shirt, leaving responders with too small a sample to identify. [...] The hazmat team closed Penn Circle from South Beatty Street to South Euclid Avenue and evacuated seven employees from the bank. They sent the woman who discovered the powder to UPMC Presbyterian for precautionary blood tests” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; 26Julo08; Jill King Greenwood and Tim Puko)

Scientists a step closer to making vaccine against biological weapons
“Experts at the Society for General Microbiology have made a significant advance towards making a vaccine against an organism that may be used to produce biological weapons. Writing about their achievement in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the researchers have revealed that they have made a rapid progress in understanding how the pathogen Francisella tularensis causes disease.” (Fresh News; 28July08; ANI)

Now, improved version of Anthrax [vaccine]
“An improved and a more effective version of Anthrax vaccine has been developed by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) with the help of funds provided by the State Government. Announcing this at a press conference here on Friday, Dr P Thangaraju, Vice Chancellor, TANUVAS, said that the improved version called `Montanied’ did not contain glycerine, one of the main causatives of side effects, when injected into animals.” (Express News Service; 26July08)

Al-Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert 'killed'
“An al-Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert may have been among six people killed in a suspected US missile strike on a Pakistani madrassa near the Afghan border today, according to security officials. Abu Khabab al-Masri, also known as Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, was an Egyptian chemist regarded as one of al-Qaeda’s top bomb makers and had a $5 million bounty on his head.” (Times Online; 28July08; Jeremy Page)

Anthrax confirmed in 21 patients in south Kyrgyzstan
“Anthrax has been confirmed in 21 patients in hospitals in southern Kyrgyzstan, a senior health official in the Central Asian state said Monday. More than 50 people have been hospitalized with symptoms of the potentially lethal disease in Kyrgyzstan's Osh and Jalal-Abad regions. […] Earlier reports said the people were taken to hospital after eating contaminated beef.” (Russian News and Information Agency; 28July08)

Thousands to be immunised in North Caucasus
“More than 290,000 people, many of them Internally Displaced Persons, families and children, will receive vaccinations in the North Caucasus through a new medical project implemented by World Vision in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Vaccines, still not readily available in Ingushetia and Chechnya will protect recipients against Gangrene, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Anthrax and other potentially life-threatening illnesses and tuberculosis diagnostics medication will also be made available through the World Vision Canada Gift Catalogue.” (Reuters and Alertnet; 28July08)

Seven anthrax patients remain in hospital in Siberian republic
“Seven people diagnosed with anthrax after eating pies containing the meat of an infected bull remain in hospital in East Siberia's Buryatia Republic, local emergency services said on Monday. The disease spread after the bull was culled in the republic's Barguzinsky Region in early July. The animal's meat was sold to the residents of four nearby villages without any checks being carried out. A total of 11 people who came into contact with the meat were later hospitalized, of whom seven people were diagnosed with skin or intestinal anthrax.” (Russian News and Information Agency; 28July08)

Sanofi to buy UK vaccine maker Acambis
“Sanofi-Aventis SA said its planned 276 million pound ($551 million) acquisition of Acambis PLC will bolster its leading position in the vaccine market and strengthen its development pipeline.The deal, expected to close by the end of September, would add Acambis' key smallpox vaccine ACAM2000 to the existing portfolio of Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines business of Sanofi-Aventis.” (Business Week; 28July08)

U.S. Bioterror - A Matter of Time?
“The overriding question is whether the U.S. is ‘ready’ for a bioterror attack. The answer could well rely on the ‘other’ question of what bio-agent and what’s the source? In 1991, 40,000 Russian scientists dispersed throughout the World, with knowledge of what the U.S.S.R. was doing in chemical and biological weapons. The question is to whom did they sell their knowledge? Some believe former Soviet scientists sold technology to countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Lurking is the spectre of al-Qaeda, a group that the Pentagon says continues to pursue biological weapons.” (Threats Watch; 26July28; Jay Fraser)

3 members of Congress urge more chemical weapons safety
“Repeated leaks of the nerve agent sarin from a storage container at the Blue Grass
Army Depot near Richmond have prompted a call for enhanced safety from three members of Kentucky's congressional delegation. U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, both Republicans, and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-6th District, co-signed a letter sent Thursday to Conrad Whyne, director of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency.”
(Courier Journal; 26July08; Tom Loftus)

China Dismisses Separatist Group's Claim to Bombings
police have dismissed a separatist group's claim that it was responsible for a series of deadly bombings this year. But terrorism experts say the group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, is capable of such attacks and its threats against the Olympic Games should be taken seriously. […] In the video, the group's leader says they are planning more attacks on Chinese central cities to target the Beijing Olympics. He says they will use tactics that have never been employed and that the group is willing to use biological weapons.” (VOA News; 27July08; Daniel

*U.S. Headed for 'Heightened Alert' Stage
“Government officials have been quietly stepping up counterterror efforts out of a growing concern that al Qaeda or similar organizations might try to capitalize on the spate of extremely high-profile events in the coming months, sources tell ABC News. Security experts point to next month's Olympics as evidence that high-profile events attract threats of
terrorism, like the one issued this past weekend by a Chinese Muslim minority group that warned of its intent to attack the Games.” (ABC News; 28July08; Pierre Thomas)

National Guard Teams Prepare for
Terrorist WMD Attacks [Nationwide]
“To prepare for potential attacks in the United States involving weapons of mass destruction, the US Congress approved the development of National Guard's
civil Support Teams which are responsible with identifying chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive weapons; assessing consequences; advising civil authorities on response measures; and assisting with requests for additional support. So far, 36 of the 55 approved teams have been fully certified to conduct their mission. The National Guard Bureau is in the process of establishing, certifying, and planning for the long-term sustainment of the CSTs, according to an unclassified report submitted to the National Association of Chiefs of Police by the GAO.” (Lincoln Tribune; 27July 08; Jim Kouri)

EDITORIAL: The Mediterranean Union
“The newly established Union for the Mediterranean is not yet fully formed, but members have already announced rather lofty ambitions for the organization, such as ridding the Mideast of weapons of mass destruction. The union was praised by leaders from the start, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who hailed its grounding focus on ‘practical projects’ - as compared to the previous union established in Barcelona in 1995. However, its nuclear proliferation goals are unrealistic.” (The Washington Times; 27July08)

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

Officials Strive to Reduce Preventable MRAP Accidents

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2008 - Emphasizing that the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs are the best protection available against roadside bombs and other underbelly explosions, defense safety officials are promoting enhanced
training and troop awareness to reduce rollovers and other accidents. Meanwhile, engineers are back at the drawing board, exploring design modifications to make the vehicles more maneuverable and as safe as possible to operate, Jennifer Malone, the Defense Department's lead safety officer for MRAPs, told American Forces Press Service.

Malone conceded that the MRAPs' high center of gravity, designed to keep the crew compartment high off the ground, can cause the vehicles to tip if proper precautions aren't taken. Compounding the issue are environmental limitations in the combat theater – soft sand and roads and bridges not built to handle the hefty MRAPs. Particularly during the spring rainy season, soft shoulders can give way under the MRAP's weight.

Low-hanging power lines strung in Iraqi towns also have been identified as problems, catching the tops of MRAPs as they pass below and shocking or injuring crewmembers.

With almost 10,000 MRAPs currently in the theater, and about 215 more arriving every week, the accident rate stands at 78, Malone reported. Five resulted in fatalities.

Forty-three of all MRAP accidents have involved rollovers. After hitting a high of 10 in April, the number dropped to six in May and three in June.

Bringing these numbers down even more is a top Defense Department priority, Malone said.

"We do not separate safety from survivability in this program," she said. "They are inextricably bonded. You cannot separate the two."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who championed efforts to field MRAPs as quickly as possible to save warfighter lives, received an update recently during a Defense Safety Oversight Council meeting about efforts to beef up ongoing safety initiatives.

"We briefed him about the where we are, and that knowing what we know about the number of rollovers, we realize that our work is not done and we have more work to do," Malone said.

Design engineers understood from the start that the MRAPs' design made it prone to rollovers if proper precautions weren't taken, Malone acknowledged. But desperate to protect troops from IEDs and recognizing the life-saving benefit of the MRAP's design against underbelly blasts, defense officials moved the program forward. "This was to meet an immediate need to protect the warfighter," Malone said.

Meanwhile, designers worked with safety and training experts to come up with ways to offset design limitations Malone said come with operating any vehicle as big as an MRAP.

Together, they prescribed specific tactics, techniques and procedures for operating the vehicles, and incorporated them into hands-on
training required for all drivers before they get behind the wheel of an MRAP.

The training emphasizes special considerations when driving a vehicle with a high center of gravity and an understanding of conditions such as soft shoulders, corners and canals most likely to result in a rollover, explained
Marine 1st Lt. Geraldine Carey, spokeswoman for the Marine Corps Systems Command, which manages the MRAP program for the Defense Department.

"These are big vehicles, and you have got to follow all the operational procedures and restrictions you are given to operate them safely," Malone said. "You have to be aware of speed restrictions, terrain restrictions [and] maneuverability restrictions. And that's what the
training programs emphasize."

accident investigation results and lessons learned are being incorporated into training to ensure troops have the most up-to-date information and can learn from each others' experiences, Carey said. The results are posted on safety center Web sites and handed down through the chain of command to users.

Results are incorporated into the additional hands-on
training operators and crewmembers receive, not only at their deployed locations, but also before they deploy and as they process into the theater.

User cards summing up this information have been printed and are being distributed to the field. The cards offer a checklist that outlines procedures to prevent rollovers and, should one occur, how to exit the vehicle quickly, Carey said.

Safety officials call ground commanders and noncommissioned officers key to ensuring these lessons are applied. Pre-mission briefs include not just threat information, but also a review of safety considerations and conditions most likely to result in an accident, she said.

As the
military promotes more training and awareness of potential hazards, engineers are taking lessons learned and input from users to identify design modifications that will make MRAPs more maneuverable and reduce rollovers, Malone said.

Malone said it's impossible to tell exactly how many lives MRAPs have saved on the battlefield, but said the Defense Department is committed to ensuring no warfighter dies operating one in a preventable accident.

"One accident or one rollover is one too many," she said. "We are doing everything possible to prevent those incidents from happening."

Bush, Pakistani Prime Minister Hold White House Talks

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2008 - President Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani discussed greater cooperation in the
war on terror and economic matters during a White house meeting today. The two leaders spoke with reporters after their Oval Office meeting.

"We talked about the common threat we face: extremists who are very dangerous people," Bush said. "We talked about the need for us to make sure that the ... Afghan border is secure as best as possible."

The president said Pakistan has committed to securing the border. Bush told Gilani the United States is committed to helping the Afghan democracy succeed. A peaceful, democratic country on its western border is in Pakistan's interest, the president said.
"We are committed to fight against those extremists and
terrorists who are destroying and making the world not safe," Gilani said. "This is our own war. This is a war which is against Pakistan, and we'll fight for our own cause. And that is because I've lost my own leader, Benazir Bhutto, because of the militants."

Gilani assured the American people that the people of Pakistan "want the peace in the world, and they want to cooperate."

Bush stressed that the United States respects Pakistan's national sovereignty. "We also appreciate the prime minister's strong words against the extremists and terrorists who not only would do us harm but have harmed people inside Pakistan," Bush said.

This was Bush's second meeting with Gilani, who took office March 24.

Coalition Troops in Iraq Capture 30 Suspected al-Qaida Terrorists

American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2008 - Coalition forces today captured two wanted men and detained 28 additional suspected
terrorists while targeting al-Qaida operations in central and northern Iraq, military officials said. Coalition forces detained two wanted men and five additional suspects during an operation in Abu Ghraib, about 25 kilometers west of Baghdad. One of the men reportedly is an al-Qaida in Iraq leader who oversees attacks. The other wanted man allegedly makes and emplaces roadside bombs.

Using information obtained from a June 24 operation, coalition forces in Mosul targeted a man believed to oversee al-Qaida financial operations in Ninevah province. They detained one suspect, and seven additional suspects were detained in another operation targeting an al-Qaida in Iraq senior leader.

Tips from local residents helped coalition forces envelop a village southwest of Mosul that reportedly is a hideout for al-Qaida facilitators and smugglers coming in from Syria. Fifteen suspects were detained.

During yesterday's operations:

-- Coalition forces captured two suspected
leaders of Iranian-backed "special groups" and another suspect during separate operations in Baghdad's Rusafa district. Coalition forces first captured one suspected special groups leaders operating in the Sadr City area. He is linked to attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, as well as to kidnappings and smuggling of weapons from Iran to Iraq. In a separate operation in the Rusafa district, coalition forces captured the leader of a Karkh-area special groups ring and another suspect. The detained leader is linked to the provision of weapons, money and logistical support to subordinates. He also is believed to have supplied fighters to support criminal operations.

-- Fifty-eight suspected al-Qaida members were detained and four were killed during a coalition search operation in Ninewah province.

-- U.S. soldiers detained a special groups operative and discovered a weapons cache in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. The detainee is linked to rocket and roadside-bomb attacks against coalition forces. Later, the soldiers discovered two nitrous oxide tanks, a
fire extinguisher filled with homemade explosives, ammunition, two pressure plates used in roadside bombs and a smoke grenade in Baghdad's Doura community. An explosives ordnance disposal team disposed of the explosive materials.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces detained a suspected al-Qaida
terrorist and discovered a weapons cache in separate operations in northern Iraq July 25.

The Muqdadiyah
special weapons and tactics team detained a suspected al-Qaida member in Babylon, northeast of Baghdad, in an operation to disrupt terrorist activity in Muqdadiyah. The suspect allegedly is a facilitator for a cell involved in roadside-bomb emplacements, sectarian violence and weapons smuggling.

Also, Iraqi National
Police operating northwest of Baghdad discovered a weapons cache consisting of about a metric ton of nitric acid, 150 pounds of explosive materials, mortar rounds, projectiles, tank rounds and rockets. An explosive ordnance disposal unit disposed of the cache.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Marine Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. Faoa L. Apineru, 31, of Yorba Linda, Calif., died July 2, 2007, from wounds sustained while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

Staff Sgt. Apineru was wounded on May 15, 2005. After his death on July 2, 2007, the initial medical examiner concluded that Apineru did not die from injuries sustained during his deployment, but a subsequent opinion by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology indicated that his death was a result of his injuries sustained in Iraq.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office at (504) 678-6539.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

America Supports You: Freedom Walk Plans Shaping Up Worldwide

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2008 - Individuals and organizations around the globe are planning special commemorations to mark the quickly approaching seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks. So far, nearly 185 America Supports You Freedom Walks are scheduled to take place on and around Sept. 11. Of those walks, eight are scheduled overseas, in Heidelberg, Germany; Santa Rita, Guam; Baghdad; Vicenza, Italy; Iwakuni, Japan; Moron, Spain; and Seoul and Daegu, South Korea.

America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

"The America Supports You Freedom Walk continues this year as a national tradition to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 and honor our veterans past and present," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison. "This will be a special year for Department of Defense employees, as the National America Supports You Freedom Walk begins a week of commemorations culminating in the opening of the Pentagon Memorial on 9/11."

Colton Lockner, 11, who organized his first America Supports You Freedom Walk two years ago, is organizing two this year. One will be held in Sebring,
Ohio, and the other in Lake Milton, Ohio.

Joey Rizzolo, 13, is organizing Paramus, N.J.'s second America Supports You Freedom Walk. This walk comes on the heels of Rizzolo's recently published guide to organizing a Freedom Walk, "20 Steps to a Freedom Walk."

The national America Supports You Freedom Walk will be held on Sept. 7. The walk, which has become a national tradition, calls on people to reflect on the lives lost on Sept. 11, remember those who responded, honor veterans past and present, and renew commitment to freedom and the values of the United States.

The fourth annual national walk will begin at the Women's Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery at 9 a.m. About one mile later, the walk will conclude in the Pentagon's south parking lot, adjacent to the site where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building. A musical tribute is being planned immediately after the walk.

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Seteria L. Brown, 22, of Orlando, Fla., died July 25 in Sharana, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident. She was assigned to the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood Texas.

The incident is under investigation.

For more information media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-9993; after hours (254) 291-2591.

Team Joins Divided Afghan Districts With Bridges

By Navy Lt. Neil Myers
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2008 - The Konar River runs for 150 kilometers and serves as a natural border between eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Although the villages along the eastern and western banks of the river are part of Konar, the river reinforces cultural and political alliances between Afghans on the eastern shore and tribesmen across the border in Pakistan. The people on the eastern side have had very little connection to the provincial government. To resolve this problem, the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team has embarked on a bridge-building strategy to connect the Afghan government to the five provincial districts east of the Konar River. Until recently, Afghans in the Khas Konar, Sarkani, Naray, Marawara and Dangam districts looked to Pakistan for cultural affiliation, services and trade.

Two bridges, in Nawabad and Asmar, now connect the eastern side of the river with the west and serve as the only means of vehicle access to the provincial center. The PRT is building five new bridges in the Guryak, Khas Konar, Marawara, Bar Sholtan and Saw Bridge districts to accommodate two-way commercial truck traffic and connect residents from the isolated areas along Pakistan's border with the rest of Konar.

Navy Lt. Matthew Myers, Konar PRT engineer, said local Afghan companies are doing all of the construction work.

"These projects demonstrate that Afghan engineers are capable of building large-scale and technically challenging projects," Myers said.

Myers also reported that residents on both sides of the river enthusiastically support the bridges.

"Due to the popularity of the bridges, there have been no attacks on the projects," Myers said. "Each bridge has an estimated lifetime of 60 years, so the benefits will last for generations of Afghans."

Navy Cmdr. Daniel Dwyer, Konar PRT commander, said the bridges will show local people their government knows and cares about them. "The bridges will further legitimize the Afghan government to the people in these areas," he said, "showing that the Afghan government is capable of bringing large-scale infrastructure projects to an area neglected by 30 years of war."

Construction is on time and on budget for completion between October and March, Dwyer added.

Sayeed Wahidi, Konar's provincial governor, said he sees the five bridges as transformational.

"These bridges will give [the Afghan national security forces] access to the most problematic areas of Konar," he said. "They will disrupt the insurgency along the border districts and will connect the Afghan citizens to markets, health care and the provincial government."

Navy Lt. Neil Myers serves with the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Schools as Terror Targets

On August 6, 2008, Conversations with Cops at the Watering Hole will feature an interview of John Giduck on the Beslan School Seige. According to Esquire Magazine, “On the first day of school in 2004, a Chechen terrorist group struck the Russian town of Beslan. Targeting children, they took more than eleven hundred hostages. John Giduck is the author of Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools.

Program Date: August 6, 2008
Program Time: 2100 hours, Pacific
Topic: Schools as Terror Targets
Listen Live:

About the Guest
John Giduck has a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State and a law degree from the University of Denver. He also earned a Master’s Degree in International Affairs, specializing in Russian studies, from the University of Colorado, which included completion of the Russian Culture and Language Program at St. Petersburg State University in Russia. He has traveled extensively throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union, training with Russia’s elite Special Forces units for more than 10 years; and, is a certified instructor in Russian Special Forces hand to hand combat.

John Giduck has trained state and federal
law enforcement officers and agents, including DEA, FBI, US Marshal’s Service, and SWAT teams throughout the US. He has served as a consultant on various international and terrorism subjects, and as a Russian Organized Crime instructor, for numerous federal and state agencies. He currently devotes his professional time to the Archangel Group, providing anti-terrorism consulting and training to U.S. law enforcement, government and military, part of which includes John serving as a civilian contract U.S. Army Special Forces hand-to-hand combat and firearms instructor. As well, he holds several black belts, is a multiple inductee into international martial arts halls of fame, and is a former U.S. national weightlifting champion.

John Giduck is a lifetime member of the Special Operations Association, Rocky Mountain Tactical Team Association, Russian Special Forces Brotherhood of the Red Beret Association, and is a lifetime executive member of the British Professional Bodyguard Association. He is a graduate of the FBI Citizen’s Academy and holds the highest level expert certification in
Homeland Security through the American College of Forensic Examiners International, and is a former member of the Executive Advisory Board of the American College of Homeland Security and Police Marksman magazine. He is a current member of the Advisory Board of the College of Disaster Medicine and Management of Philadelphia University. In addition to other published materials and articles on terrorism, Russian organized crime and close quarters tactics, finished his book, Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy With Lessons for America’s Schools, in 2005. His second book, co-authored with Green Beret Sergeant Major John Anderson, entitled The Green Beret In You: Living With Total Commitment To Family, Career, Sports and Life, was published in late 2007.

As part of his work with Archangel, John Giduck is also a scuba, tactical diving and CQB instructor, and teaches terrorist-hostage negotiations, narco-
terrorism, terrorism and global organized crime, and Russian organized crime courses. He is now working on his doctoral dissertation on the global expansion of radical Islam through King’s College of London.

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in
Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, law enforcement technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.

Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole.

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coalition, Iraqi Troops Keep Pressure on Terrorists

American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2008 - Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to push
terrorists and criminal in operations throughout Iraq. Coalition forces captured two suspected "Special Groups" leaders in Baghdad today. Special groups criminal are members of violent organizations, possibly trained and supported by Iran. These key leaders were taken in the Rusafa district of Baghdad.

Coalition and Iraqi forces also conducted operations over the weekend discovering a number of arms caches, capturing al-Qaida
terrorists, discovering roadside bombs and attacking terror and criminal networks.

In Rusafa, coalition forces used intelligence information, to locate and capture an Iranian-trained senior leader of Special Groups criminals. The agent of Iran is responsible for attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces as well as kidnappings and smuggling of weapons from Iran to Iraq. He was captured without incident.

Coalition forces also captured another Special Groups
criminal in a separate Rusafa district operation. He is a senior leader responsible for supplying weapons, money and logistical support to subordinate Special Groups commanders. He also provides fighters as reinforcements to areas in need – making his role crucial for sustained operations by Special Groups in the area. He, also, was captured without incident.

The Special Groups took another hit when Iraqi special operations forces detained two other criminals in Baghdad, July 24 and 25.

One of those detained was associated with improvised rocket-assisted mortar attacks. The other man is reportedly responsible for weapons trafficking from Iran into Diyala.

Coalition and Iraqi forces also hit al-Qaida in Iraq July 26, detaining five wanted men and 15 additional suspected
terrorists in central and northern Iraq.

In a precision operation in Baghdad, coalition forces captured a wanted man who is reportedly part of a group that builds trigger components for bombs used in al-Qaida attacks. Another Baghdadi allegedly tied to terrorist bombing and propaganda operations was captured, along with four additional suspects.

South of Baghdad, coalition forces detained a dozen suspects, including a wanted man, during continued operations. The wanted man is believed to be an al-Qaida
leader responsible for providing security for terrorist operations.

Coalition forces also continued to target terror leaders in Mosul, capturing a wanted man believed to work directly for al-Qaida leaders in the city. He also reportedly has knowledge of terrorist hideouts across northern Iraq.

Southwest of Tikrit, coalition forces captured a man who allegedly helps move foreign
terrorists through the Tigris River Valley. The man is also suspected of conspiring with a bombing network that operates in Bayji.

A concerned citizen reported a roadside bomb Iraqi
Police in the Karadah district of eastern Baghdad July 25, providing an example of average Iraqis feeling safer.

Acting on another citizen tip, National
Police and Multinational Division–Baghdad soldiers seized a weapons cache in the New Baghdad security district of eastern Baghdad July 25.

They uncovered a cache during a combined search operation in the Kamaliyah area. The cache consisted of 2,000 AK-47 ammunition rounds; 1,000 machine gun rounds; one rocket nose cone and one mortar round of undetermined size.

Iraqi police also discovered three improvised explosive devices during combat patrols in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad July 25.

Also in Baghdad Iraqi and U.S. soldiers discovered weapons caches as they continued operations to increase security July 25.

Iraqi National Police and Multinational Division–Baghdad soldiers seized a massive weapons cache in the Kadhamiyah district of Baghdad July 24.

The cache consisted of 71 blocks of Iranian C-4 explosives; 16 60mm high-explosive Iranian mortars; 11 explosively formed projectiles; an improvised claymore mine; 42 mortar rounds; 31 85mm rockets; eight grenades; two 73mm rockets; 11 40mm high explosive projectiles; four 75mm fragmentary rockets; four rocket propelled grenade launchers; 22 rocket propellant charges; approximately 40 pounds of explosives; approximately 5,000 feet of command wire; mortars; and other items.

In other operations on July 24 and 25, coalition forces disrupted suspected al-Qaeda terrorist leadership and bombing networks during operations in central and northern Iraq Thursday and Friday, detaining 21 suspected

Two wanted men in Mosul are in Coalition custody after operations July 25. Coalition forces captured an alleged
leader who reportedly coordinates suicide bombing attacks and foreign terrorist movement in northern Iraq. He was captured with one additional suspect. A separate precision operation netted a man wanted for his suspected ties to senior leaders of the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist organization.

About 90 kilometers south, in Sharqat, coalition forces conducted a precision operation July 25, capturing a suspected leader in the area's al-Qaeda network. The man allegedly spies on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces to facilitate his cell's attacks against them.

A series of raids July 24 and 25 targeted an AQI
leader with suspected longstanding ties to bombings and attacks south of Baghdad. Coalition forces detained 17 suspects in the operations.

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

Forces Engage Militants in Paktia, Kapisa Provinces

American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2008 - Coalition forces killed several militants and detained others during an operation in Kapisa and Paktia provinces over the past two days. In Paktia province's Zadran District yesterday, coalition forces searched several compounds targeting a Haqqani Network Taliban militant known to conduct operations against the Afghan government and coalition forces.

Multiple armed militants engaged the force from a fortified fighting position. It had been prepared and camouflaged near the compounds. Coalition forces responded with small-arms fire, killing the militants.

In Kapisa province July 25, coalition forces killed a militant and neutralized several explosive devices during an operation to disrupt militant activities.

Coalition forces searched several compounds in Kapisa's Tagab District targeting a militant suspected of conducting foreign fighter operations in the area.

During the search, an armed militant threatened Coalition forces, who responded with small-arms fire, killing the militant.

Coalition forces also discovered several rigged explosive devices and grenades which were safely detonated. The force also confiscated a pistol.

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 101 releases.)

Exercise Helps Partner Nations Overcome Cultural Barriers

By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2008 - A training exercise in the country of
Georgia is helping partner nations overcome language and cultural barriers to work together more effectively in combat situations, a U.S. official said. Exercise Immediate Response 2008, taking place outside the city of Tblisi, Georgia, has united forces from several nations to participate in small arms, combat lifesaver, and situational training exercises. Countries involved include the United States, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

"The overall purpose of the operation is to build cooperation in the region and teach everyone involved how to work better with their coalition partners," U.S.
Army Maj. Matthew Smith, commander of 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, told online journalists and bloggers July 24 via teleconference from the country of Georgia.

The 121st Infantry Regiment, which belongs to the
Army National Guard, has been involved with the exercise since July 14 and will return home to Atlanta, Ga., on August 2. The experience is preparing them to deploy to Afghanistan next year, Smith said.

"We're basically focused on getting us ready to go to Afghanistan," he said. "So, we're focused at the fire-team level and just trying to get built, if you will, for upcoming stuff that will take place over the next year."

Smith explained that the training is mainly preparation for small-arms combat operations and some civic engagement. "We use contemporary operating environment scenarios, where they might encounter improvised explosives (or) conduct some sort of civic engagement with a mayor or other
leader," he said.

Counterparts from different nations work together during the exercises, which Smith said is strengthening the relationships among coalition partners and proving to be valuable practice working through language barriers.

"It's been great watching these teams develop," Smith said. "After just a couple days, they're up and running, looking like they've been training together for several years (and) learning from each other both tactically (and) culturally."

For example, he said Georgian and U.S. soldiers are teamed in combat training for engaging targets and basic medical skills for sustaining life until medics arrive.

"One of the most amazing things that I have seen to date is just watching the soldiers figure out how to communicate, regardless of the presence of an interpreter," he said.

Smith said the language barrier is actually adding value to the training experience for his battalion, rather than deterring from it. "It also exposes some of our own challenges in dealing with another force besides English-speaking forces, which our battalion will likely have to do downrange," he said.

"The other aspect of it is that Georgians, when they're operating as part of the coalition in Iraq, they'll be dealing with American soldiers on a daily basis," Smith added. "So, I think just across the board, it will help strengthen both parties for future operations."

"I think no matter where we as U.S. forces go in the world, we're going to have to learn to work better with other forces, who may not share our language or culture," Smith said. "And this has been great preparation for that – great preparation for the battalion's mission to Afghanistan next year."

(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of the Defense Media Agency.)

General Details Security Improvements in Iraq's Northern Provinces

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2008 - The
security situation in Iraq's northern provinces has improved, but Iraqi and coalition troops will continue to pursue al-Qaida in Iraq and other criminal groups, the U.S. commander in the region said during a briefing in Baghdad today. Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division – North, told reporters that the number of security incidents in his area of operations has dropped from more than 2,600 in June 2007 to 650 in June 2008. The numbers for July 2008 continue to show a reduction.

Hertling said Iraqi commanders will launch a major offensive against al-Qaida and
criminal gangs in Diyala province next month. U.S. forces will launch a concurrent offensive – Operation Iron Pursuit – against al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists who are seeking sanctuary in the desert.

The success of the surge in Baghdad forced al-Qaida in Iraq to move out of the city mostly to the northern provinces of Diyala, Ninewah and Salah ad Din. These areas became the main battlefield as coalition, and increasingly, Iraqi forces hunted down the terrorists and killed or captured them. The cities are now "reasonably secure," Hertling said, and the Iraqi and coalition forces can shift focus to hunting down al-Qaida and its allies outside the cities.

Other indicators also point to progress, Hertling said. The number of roadside bombs declined by 50 percent since February 2008 from 950 to 430.

"That's not to say we still don't have threats," the general said. Suicide vest attacks and car bombs remain a problem in Diyala and the city of Mosul. On July 24, a woman wearing a suicide vest killed eight Iraqis and wounded 30 others in Baquba. Last month another suicide bomber killed Iraqi
police and recruits in the city.

The number of Iraqis killed by
terrorists wearing suicide vests has been about 250. Car bombs killed a further 1,500.

"These are random, violent acts conducted by these violent terrorists and that's why we are not only continuing to go after those who do these things, but the networks that support them," he said.

Iraqi and coalition forces are continuing Operation Mother of Two Springs in Ninewah and Mosul.

"We are beginning ... Operations Omens of Prosperity ... in Diyala province to begin in early August," he said. While the Iraqi
Army will lead the operations, coalition forces will continue to partner with Iraqi forces.

Coalition forces will go after the support zones for al-Qaida in Iraq. "Our message in conducting that operation is we have secured the key cities of the north and we have seen al-Qaida continue to be pushed into the support zones – the areas of the desert – and we will continue to relentlessly pursue them into those areas," Hertling said.

In addition to their own operation, U.S. forces will partner with Iraqi soldiers and
police units to provide them enablers: fire support, intelligence, artillery, some logistics, engineers and some aviation, Hertling said.

security is better in the north because of the increased number of Iraqi police and Iraqi Army units, Hertling said. Still the security forces are undermanned and can use more capabilities.

The Iraqi Ground Forces Command has moved a headquarters to the area outside Baquba.

"They will be bringing together in early August the elements of four Iraq
Army divisions, some additional Iraqi National Police and they will be linked very closely with police forces in Diyala itself," Hertling said. The Iraqi command is working closely with local Sons of Iraq groups.

This improved security has allowed a greater economic development in the four northern provinces. The markets are open, the roads are being paved and electric lines going up and being repaired. Oil exports are at an all-time high, Hertling said. "This allows for greater political interaction between the government of Iraq and the provinces as they ready for the up-coming vote," he said.

Al-Qaida is not giving up easily, the general said. There are intimidation tactics going on throughout the northern provinces, but especially in Mosul – Iraq's second-largest city. The terrorists have been targeting Iraqi
security force, the police and Iraqi intellectuals.

"There are still attacks in Mosul, but they have been greatly reduced," Hertling said. Again, the markets are open, but more needs to be done to improve the employment situation in the region. "The combination of the Iraqi security plan has significantly reduced the attacks and the flow of insurgents into the city," he said. "What needs to happen now is the Iraqi government and the provincial governments is continuing to improve the economic conditions of the city."

And insurgents are increasingly allying with the Iraqi government. "More than 2,100 former insurgents in our area that have turned themselves in and said, 'I don't want to fight anymore, I'm tired of running, I want to be part of the political process,'" Hertling said. "More of that will happen as people see the increasing strength of the Iraqi government."

The upcoming operations will cover an area the size of New Jersey, the general said. "It's hot out there and dusty," he said. "The temperature the last time I was in Baquba was 127 degrees."

Hertling said much remains to be done in the region. "There will be continued operations as long as the Iraqi people are threatened," he said.

Engineers in Iraq Monitor Bridge Repairs

By Army Pfc. Lyndsey R. Dransfield
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 25, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad engineers with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team journeyed to the Grand Canal Bridge in Taji Qada, northwest of Baghdad, on July 22 to monitor repair progress. The bridge, which spans a portion of the Grand Canal and is one of the key crossings along the main highway west of the Tigris River, was damaged by two
terrorist attacks last year.

The first attack happened May 11, 2007, when a
terrorist detonated a bomb-laden vehicle in the bridge's southbound lane. Three months later, another vehicle bomb, this one in the northbound lane, sent a large portion of the bridge plummeting into the water below.

Although temporary repairs were made, the damage caused other side effects, such as increased traffic and severe corrosion to the river banks.

The Iraqi government awarded a contract to Rownaq al Mas, a local construction company, to rebuild both lanes of the bridge and remove fallen debris from the canal below.

"What is most significant about this project is that the Iraqis are doing this completely on their own," said
Army Capt. Mark Gillman, a Las Vegas native and an assistant engineer with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "The bridge is funded by the Iraqi government, a local company is doing all of the work, and the Iraqi Army is here for security."

The project is separated into two phases, each scheduled for completion in three months. During the first phase, the contractors are working to repair the hole in the northbound lane and break down the fallen span to remove it from the canal piece by piece. During the second phase, they will focus completely on rebuilding the missing portion of the bridge in the southbound lane.

The workers began construction June 29 and have made a good amount of progress preparing foot paths, insuring the safety of the foundation and removing asphalt around the damaged area to begin installing the steel received last week.

The steel portion of the bridge is on schedule to be finished in less than two weeks, and from there, the workers will move on to pouring the concrete, which should take 28 days.

"By the end of the year, the bridge will look like it used to," Gillman said.

Each time a vehicle crosses the bridge, it passes a bold sign that can't be missed by the passengers inside. Printed in Arabic, the sign screams the words "We will rebuild."

"Seeing this project gives the people of Iraq confidence in themselves and their government," said Saleem Abdul Karim, bicultural and bilingual advisor who works with the civil engineers and is a subject matter expert in engineering. "It gives them hope for the future; it is a light at the end of a tunnel."

Army Pfc. Lyndsey R. Dransfield serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)