Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Combat Outpost Serves as Front Line in Afghanistan Fight

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Next to a small village in Afghanistan's fertile Jalrez Valley, a platoon of U.S. soldiers busy themselves fortifying a fighting position, stringing concertina wire, aiming mortars, and filling lots and lots of sand bags. "Apache," a U.S. military combat outpost, is housed in an abandoned former district agricultural building. It is flanked by a school and medical clinic on its east. Villagers tend to an orchard that runs along its west side, and to the north a handful of farmers care for cattle and crops.

It seems an unlikely spot for coalition forces to go toe-to-toe with the Taliban and other enemy fighters who use this valley for staging attacks in nearby areas, such as the capital city of Kabul. But the outpost is the front line in a fight against an enemy that hides among the local population in the villages and in the mountains.

Pushing troops out of larger forward operating bases and into community-based combat outposts was successful in Iraq for holding areas cleared of enemy forces. It is this same strategy that military officials in Afghanistan's Wardak province hope will quash enemy activity in one of the country's most dangerous valleys.

"Our presence alone is the security," said Army Capt. Matthew Thom, commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. "I believe that since we're here ... our permanent presence is going to prevent that kinetic activity."

The 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team has more than tripled the firepower here since taking over operations in Wardak and Logar provinces last month. It has doubled the number of combat outposts to six in Wardak.

Before, only a company patrolled an area where two battalion-sized task forces now operate. Everything about the troop's presence here projects power, and that is exactly the message military officials want to send to the enemy fighters expected to return to the area as the weather warms.

"I am fully confident that they would be foolish to attack us," Thom said. "Nobody wants that, but I feel that we are postured according to the threat level very well. I believe that our posture alone is going to prevent that from happening."

Thom's troops landed, literally, in the valley about a month ago, in an air assault mission that many of the soldiers described as the most difficult of their careers. In the bitter-cold, early morning hours, the infantry troops launched with full combat packs from hovering helicopters into waist-deep snow and began a five-mile trek to what is now their outpost.

The mud building that would become their home was abandoned and cold. There was no electricity or water. Like most outposts here, conditions are, to say the least, austere, especially at the start. The troops themselves build up the outposts, securing them first, and then adding comforts such as heat.

There is no running water and no cold storage, which means no cooked meals and no showers. Troops suffice with heated, packaged Army meals and keep clean with "lots and lots of baby wipes."

But, for the most part, the infantry soldiers are happy. It's not a bad life as far as infantry goes, they said. There is a roof over their heads, and they are not sleeping on the ground. Mail is delivered fairly regularly, and soldiers rely on comfort items sent from home. Conditions are better now that during the unit's first deployment to Afghanistan a few years ago, the unit's veterans said. One platoon sergeant went four months without a shower then, he said.

"Life is good," Thom said. "This is definitely not Bagram [Airfield], but I really don't want it to be that. We have what we need to do our jobs, and too much more becomes a distraction. We stay really busy."

Security is provided from three outposts along the Jalrez Valley, which stretches west about 15 miles from the provincial capital of Maydan Shahr. About 70 small villages are scattered through the valley, with multiple tribes in each.

Thom divides the responsibility for the villages between platoons, and military leaders spend their days patrolling, meeting with tribal leaders and assessing villages' needs.

The U.S. troops bring with them much-needed funds for construction and renovations. But still, some in the area are wary that the troop's presence will draw more fighting to the valley, and that their families and livelihoods could be caught in the crossfire.

"When we come here, we kind of bring a sense of war with [us]," Thom acknowledged. "There is some skepticism, but I believe the better part of the population is happy we're here."

The commander's fight in the valley demonstrates the evolution of the traditional infantry role. Once focused primarily on operations surrounding killing or capturing the enemy, now Thom and his troops find themselves at the tip of the spear in what he called a true counterinsurgency fight. The soldiers spend less of their time looking for the enemy and more time befriending the local people in an effort to drive a wedge between those who support an insurgency and those who don't.

"Now we have to be dual-hatted. We have to have that ability to conduct kinetic operations and counterinsurgency operations, and that's what we do," Thom said. "We knew coming into this country there was a kinetic threat, but we were going to beat the kinetic threat with the counterinsurgency fight."

Patrols are focused around assessing villages and meeting local leaders. Military officers mentor district government leaders and help them strengthen their local support. And millions of dollars in Commanders' Emergency Response Program funds are funneled into local projects such as repairing wells, refurbishing schools and building roads.

And for their efforts, the troops hope the local people will point out anyone in their villages who would threaten the security in the area.

But Army 1st Lt. Mark Hogan, a Company A platoon leader, said the soldiers don't dangle dollars for projects over the heads of the tribal leaders in exchange for intelligence.

"I can help them, and if they become our friends, they want to give us information. It helps us help them," Hogan said. "The concern is their security. My guys are going to be able to secure themselves. Them giving us information is for their own safety."

Hogan said that if local residents deliver up the names and locations of enemy fighters operating in the area, U.S. and Afghan forces can be more strategic about removing them from the local population. One military officer referred to the precise operations as "surgical."

Hogan said this allows his forces to strike first, using less firepower and with safety measures in place to protect civilians.

The platoon leader acknowledges that is the delicate balance he must strike operating within a civilian population. One wrong move, or misplaced mortar, and Hogan jeopardizes alienating the population he is trying win over and knocking the legs out from under coalition counterinsurgency efforts.

The U.S. forces operating before in this valley offered a blunt assessment of the threat for Hogan and his forces.

"You don't come into the valley without fighting your way out," he said.

But the troops have been there a month now, and so far there have been no attacks. Hogan and the soldiers in his command are hopeful that the increased troop strength may have staved off some attacks. And they are pushing hard to establish roots in the communities so that when the enemy fighters return, they find themselves without the support they enjoyed in previous years.

Still, only time will tell -- as the days warm and snow melts on the surrounding hills, and enemy fighters begin to move through the passes -- whether Hogan can place stock in the fruits of this different fight.

The young infantry officer, who seven years ago would have been spending his days here engaged much differently, is now not itching for that kind of a fight.

"If we can come here and improve this valley and walk away without firing a shot, the closer the war is to being over," Hogan said.

Vets Bring Encouragement, Example to Newly Disabled Comrades

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Someone who has lived with a disability for more years than he cares to count knows exactly what newly disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going through. Jake Hipps, 54, served as a Marine Corps lance corporal during the Vietnam War era, and his life made a dramatic turn during an accident he still doesn't like to talk about that landed him in a wheelchair.

Sixteen years later, he considers himself an old sage who can be an example to young troops struggling to accept their disabilities.

So between runs down black-diamond slopes during the 23rd annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, he cheers on fellow veterans tackling adaptive skiing and other adaptive recreational activities for the first time.

"You have to let them know that this isn't the end of the road," Hipps said. "I tell them, 'Watch me grow, and you can grow, too.'"

Hipps credits a dedicated Department of Veterans Affairs staff, and a whole host of events the VA sponsors, with helping him take the steps to turn his life around. In fact, he said, he's more active now that when he was walking.

"What's important is living one day at a time," he said. "That's how I've learned to take life."

Kyle Keinitz, 28, who was paralyzed in a car accident in December 2002, said newly disabled troops go through an almost inevitable process.

"When you're first injured, you have to go through that mental downfall into acceptance," said the former Marine Corps lance corporal. "But once you get past that, rehabilitation is a tool to get better, both physically and mentally."

An avid skier before his accident, Keinitz said, he wasn't willing to let a wheelchair and a dose of nervousness stand between him and the mountains he loves. "I'm a 'baptism by fire' kind of guy, so I gave it a whirl" at last year's clinic, he said. "I was hooked after the first day."

Now back at his second winter sports clinic, Keinitz said he's passing what he learned along to his fellow veterans. He encourages them to embrace the therapy VA offers to get their bodies stronger – a big step, he said, toward getting mentally healthy, too.

"And when you're done with therapy, don't stop," he said. "Don't sit on the couch. If there's something you can try, try it."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki challenged veterans like Hipps and Keinitz during the clinic's March 28 opening ceremonies to take newly disabled comrades under their wings and mentor them as they learn to live with their disabilities.

"They have a lot of living in front of them, and they have a role in the quality of that living," Shinseki said during an interview with American Forces Press Service.

Shinseki said he believes the winter sports clinic gives young veterans "a glimpse of what is possible if they keep hope alive."

For Army Staff Sgt. Jake Leitz, whose car hit a sheet of ice just a year ago that sent him into a wheelchair, the opportunity to learn from others who understand his situation like few others can is a big plus of the winter sports clinic.

Leitz, a Montana National Guardsman, spent five months in three different hospitals being treated for a compressed spinal cord before his VA recreational therapist suggested he give the clinic a try.

"I jumped right into it. I didn't hesitate at all," said 29-year-old Lietz.

He described his first ski experience yesterday in superlatives: "a blast," "amazing," and "one of the most fun things I've ever done."

But Leitz said he's taking far more away from the clinic than a good time. "It's camaraderie," he said. "It reaffirms that no matter what happens to us, the camaraderie never leaves. There's always somebody out there willing to teach me. It's awesome."

Just two days into the clinic, Leitz already has received tips from a fellow vet who underwent a stem cell procedure like the one he'll go through in May. Another veteran is committed to teaching him how to "hold a wheelie" in his wheelchair.

"It reinforces that there are plenty of guys and girls out there, all in the same situation," he said. "We're all here together, helping each other. The camaraderie never leaves."

Sandy Trombetta, VA's national director for the clinic, said the goal of the six-day clinic is to push disabled veterans' limits and help them discover things they never imagined they still could do. He called the experience a "ride of discovery" that gives participants new motivation to press on with their rehabilitation.

Kevin White, a member of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center's medical team, said he marvels at the therapeutic impact of the winter sports clinic. "It lets the veterans know they can do anything they want, just like before," he said.

But the camaraderie and spirit of the clinic last long after the closing-day awards ceremony, he said.

"When the veterans go back home, it definitely makes a big difference," he said. "After they come here, they just know what's possible."

Pentagon Report Cites Gains in Iraq, Despite Rifts

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - The security and political situation in Iraq continues to improve, but ethno-sectarian agendas and other obstacles remain, according to Defense Department findings. Pentagon officials today released a congressionally mandated quarterly report on Iraq that focuses on December through February, a period during which pivotal security arrangements between Washington and Baghdad took effect.

"With the signing and implementation of the strategic framework agreement, the relationship with Iraq has become more mature and what we would consider a more normalized U.S.-Iraqi relationship through economic, diplomatic, cultural and security ties," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. A status-of-forces agreement, implemented Jan. 1, calls for U.S. troops to begin transferring a greater share of power to Iraqi security forces, and provides a time frame for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

The report to Congress, known colloquially as the 90-10 Report, characterized the transfer of authority to Iraq as "an important milestone" in relations between coalition and Iraqi forces. The agreement is highlighted by coordination on detention operations, it says.

"There have been no major issues to date in the coordination of detention operations," the report's executive summary states. "Multinational Force Iraq continues to release security detainees captured prior to Dec. 31, 2008, in a safe and orderly manner in consultation with the [Iraqi government]."

The report notes that President Barack Obama last month announced a plan to commence a phased drawdown of U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, and spells out U.S. goals prior to that deadline.

"By this time, U.S. forces will have completed the transition from combat and counterinsurgency activities to a more limited mission set that focuses on training and assisting the Iraqi security forces, providing force protection for U.S. military and civilian personnel and facilities, conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations, and supporting civilian agencies and international organizations in their capacity-building efforts," it reads.

The overall security situation slowly continues to improve, with security incidents remaining at low levels and a sense of normalcy returning to Iraqis' everyday life in much of the country, the report states.

Violence levels are on par with early 2004 figures, Whitman said.

"With respect to the security situation, we continue to see that improve, though with security incidents remaining at the same low levels as experienced in early 2004," he said. "During this reporting period, there were 35 percent fewer civilian deaths than during the last reporting period."

The report notes that although these security achievements are increasingly positive, they remain fragile in some places, most notably in Ninevah and Diyala provinces, as well as in some parts of Baghdad.

Whitman said that the round of safe provincial elections held in 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces in January demonstrates Iraqis choosing the political process over violence. But he added that sectarian allegiances within the country's population still play a divisive role.

"Despite some of these positive developments, national reconciliation continues to be hindered by the pursuit of ethno-sectarian agendas and disagreement over the distribution of power and resources at all levels."

One Killed, 12 Detained in Afghanistan Operations

American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Afghan and coalition forces killed one person and detained four known militants and eight suspected militants during pre-dawn operations in Afghanistan's Khowst province today. In the Besmil district, a combined assault force targeted a compound housing a militant with the Islamic Jihad Union, a group known to traffic foreign fighters through the Khowst-Gardez pass.

When the assault force arrived at the targeted compound, they called for occupants to peacefully exit. Twelve men and 14 children followed the forces' directives and left the building. One person did not comply, and Afghan and coalition forces again instructed him to come out. When he proceeded toward the force, he appeared to quickly reach for something, and his sudden movement was perceived as hostile. The force killed him with small-arms fire.

Following the incident, forces uncovered identification documents that revealed the noncompliant male was 15 years old. The elder on the compound confirmed his identity and accepted money from the force to pay for his funeral.

"We are saddened an Afghan youth was killed during this operation and regret he did not comply with Afghan and coalition forces' directives," said Army Lt. Col. Rick Helmer, U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman. "However, we remain steadfast in our commitment to working with Afghan partner forces to root out militants who seek to destabilize Afghanistan and prevent regional peace and prosperity."

The targeted militant and three suspects were detained without further incident.

In separate operations in Khowst's Sabari district, Afghan and coalition forces conducted operations to disrupt Haqqani network bomb-making cells. Three known militants and five suspects were detained with no shots fired. A search of one compound revealed blasting caps, a loaded machine gun and grenades, which were subsequently destroyed a safe distance from the compound. Fourteen women and 45 children were protected.

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

Mullen Cites High Priority of Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - The entire U.S. government is behind President Barack Obama's strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told chiefs of defense from Central Asia who are meeting here today. "We have no higher priority in the U.S. military than executing the strategy," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told defense leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan at a conference sponsored by U.S. Central Command.

Mullen said the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan requires Americans to look at the situation through the eyes of the people in the region. "This is why conferences like this are so important," he said. "This is an opportunity to address the challenges together. It will provide a better path for us all to succeed."

The comprehensive strategy is important to success, he said. Wending its way through Congress is a bill that would provide $1.5 billion in nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, Mullen said. The money would funnel through Pakistani agencies to pay for schools, hospitals, roads, agricultural aid and many other things. It would show the Pakistanis that the United States will confront the root causes of extremism, he explained.

Mullen stressed that the nations must maintain communications, and said young officers and noncommissioned officers need to meet and understand one another and each others' nations. Building relationships among members of the various militaries will pay off better than simply providing equipment, he said.

The trends in Afghanistan and Pakistan are worrisome, the chairman acknowledged. Violence is up in both countries, and many people in both countries identify with the Taliban. The comprehensive strategy attacks extremism where it resides, he said.

An attack yesterday on the police academy in Lahore, Pakistan, is an example of the trend, Mullen noted. Still, he added, Pakistani leaders understand what confronts the nation and he has "great confidence" in the Pakistani military to handle the situation.

America's main target in the region remains al-Qaida.

"Al-Qaida is the group that killed 3,000 Americans," Mullen said. "They live there. They are not going away. They are plotting against us as we speak." Obama said in announcing the new strategy last week that al-Qaida is a threat to America and its allies.

The Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan give these foreign extremists safe haven, Mullen said. "They provide them with places to train and live, and actively support them," he said. "It's my view [that] if we don't get Afghanistan right, Afghanistan becomes a safe haven again for the same group. That's why defeating al-Qaida is the single most important part of this strategy."

The chairman said he is concerned about other areas, such as Somalia and Yemen, possibly becoming safe havens for the group. "Al-Qaida is a sworn enemy of the United States," he said. "They see us as an enemy. They've killed a lot of Americans. They'll continue to do so, given the opportunity."

Mullen stressed the civilian portion of the comprehensive plan, and said the United States has learned from its experience in Iraq.

"We don't have a good track record," he said. "In Iraq, it took us a couple of years to generate the kind of capacity that we need to generate this year and get in place in Afghanistan.

"There's a sense of urgency that we must deliver otherwise the whole thing just gets drawn out to the right," he continued. "The military side isn't enough -- can't do it alone. We need to generate this capacity to support these elections to get to the governance level at every level -- local, provincial and national -- as quickly as possible."

President's Plan Signals U.S. Commitment to Bolster Afghan Security

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - President Barack Obama's decision to send 4,000 extra U.S. military trainers to Afghanistan to mentor that country's soldiers and police signals the United States' commitment to bolster security there, a senior U.S. military officer said today. "The decision to send 4,000 U.S. trainers is a demonstrable and significant commitment to the development of the Afghan national security forces," Army Maj. Gen. Richard P. Formica, commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters today. Formica was speaking from his command's base at Camp Eggers in Kabul during the satellite-carried news conference.

Formica's command is charged with training Afghan soldiers and national police. The additional U.S. trainers, he said, will assist in efforts to boost Afghan National Army ranks from about 82,000 now to 134,000 and to increase the Afghan National Police from about 80,000 to 82,000 officers by 2011.

On March 27, Obama announced his plan to increase U.S. support to Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorist elements that operate in the region and to provide security and a better quality of life and opportunities for Afghan citizens.
Before the strategy review, 17,000 additional U.S. troops were approved for deployment to southern Afghanistan. Some of those forces, Formica said, will mentor Afghan soldiers and police, while others will battle Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists.

The troop deployments will boost the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to more than 62,000 servicemembers.

Thanks to the extra U.S. troops, "we will be able to meet the established training requirements for the current year for the first time," Formica said.

Meanwhile, Formica said, CSTC-A has provided an analysis for potential future growth of the Afghan army and constabulary. That report, he noted, has yet to be reviewed by senior U.S. officials.

The 4,000 U.S. military trainers "will come over here and work for us," Formica said, noting the particular unit has not yet been identified. Currently, he said, soldiers of the Army National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade based at Urbana, Ill., are busy training up Afghan soldiers and police.

Also, Formica said, a Georgia Army National Guard unit, the 48th Brigade Combat Team, is slated to arrive in Afghanistan in the late summer or early fall. The Guard units, he said, will train Afghan soldiers and police stationed in the northern, central and eastern portions of the country. The 4,000 additional U.S. military trainers will be distributed into embedded teams assigned to Afghan army and police units in the southern and western parts of the country.

Formica said he expects that each 16-member U.S. training team will be attached to a battalion-sized Afghan army or police unit consisting of about 500 to 600 members.

Meanwhile, Formica said, Afghan Interior Minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar supports a training initiative called the Focused District Development program as a means to eradicate corruption in the Afghan National Police, which includes the border police. Under the program, the entire police force of an Afghan provincial district travels to a regional center for thorough training, with highly trained police officers taking their place in the district until they return.

Atmar "has embraced the Focused District Development program as the flagship program for [police] reform," Formica said. Also, Atmar has dispatched provincial audit teams, he said, to review police personnel practices, pay and financial systems, equipment accountability and other areas.

The deployment of 4,000 extra U.S. military trainers "will help us accelerate the application of FDD across Afghanistan," Formica said.

Clinton Calls for Renewed, Patient International Commitment to Afghanistan

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton opened the first day of talks at the International Conference in Support of Afghanistan today calling for renewed, but patient international support for the country, emphasizing that success or failure there will have far-reaching impacts across the globe. "The range of countries and institutions represented here is a universal recognition that what happens in Afghanistan matters to us all," Clinton said. "Our failure to bring peace and progress would be a setback not only to the people of Afghanistan, but to the entire enterprise of collective action in the interest of collective security."

Clinton joined representatives from more than 80 countries and international groups at the conference in The Hague, Netherlands, aimed at jump-starting political support for Afghanistan.

Clinton said a new strategy must integrate military and civilian efforts. But, she acknowledged, security in the region is an essential first step.

In the wake of President Barack Obama's announced plans to deploy 17,000 more U.S. soldiers and 4,000 additional military trainers, Clinton called on the international community to step up with more military resources. She specifically asked that each army and police unit in Afghanistan be partnered with an international mentoring force. Clinton said the goal should be to stand up an Afghan army of at least 134,000 soldiers and a police force of at least 82,000 officers by 2011.

The secretary also pushed for more help in rebuilding the country's critical infrastructure such as roads, public buildings, schools and hospitals, and she called for an emphasis on redeveloping Afghan's once-thriving agricultural-based economy.

"The United States is focusing its efforts on rural development in provinces near the Afghan-Pakistan border, and we hope that others gathered here will heed the ... call for help throughout the country with job creation, technical expertise, vocational training, and investments in roads, electrical transmission lines, education, health care, and so much else," Clinton said.

The secretary of state also announced a U.S. commitment for $40 million to help fund Afghanistan's upcoming elections.

Clinton added that reconciliation should be offered to enemy fighters who no longer want to side against the Afghan government.

"We must also support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al-Qaida and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks not out of conviction, but out of desperation," Clinton said. "They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al-Qaida, and support the constitution."

Clinton said the challenges facing Afghanistan are regional, and she called on its neighbors to support efforts there. The secretary said success in the country will provide a blueprint for "a new diplomacy powered by partnership and premised on shared interests."

Empowerment Program Helps to Educate Afghans

By Air Force Capt. Stacie N. Shafran
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Thousands of people living in northern Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley are improving basic reading and math skills, and local teachers are receiving training, under a U.S.-funded program. In Panjshir's Anaba district, a classroom of 10 women -- all teachers -- practice a lesson plan to teach their future students about numbers. The women are enrolled in a two-year U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program called "Learning for Community Empowerment."

The program is designed to increase literacy and numeracy education, while also providing vocational training. More than 5,700 of the Panjshir Valley's men and women participate.

"The goal is to educate and provide vocational skills to those who have not previously had the chance to attend school because of social reasons or because of the war-time environment," said Jeremy Richart, the USAID field officer assigned to the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. As such, students tend to be older, ranging in age from high teens to 30 years old.

During the first six months of the training, the students are provided with literacy and numeracy training. Then, they select their vocational track and, ultimately, become more competitive in the job market.

After villages are identified for the program, up to 25 men and 25 women are selected as students. Additionally, the program trains the teachers who will go on to teach the students selected for the program around Panjshir.

During a March 24 visit to the Anaba classroom, Army Sgt. Amanda Cutler, a member of the PRT's civil affairs team and also a women's affairs liaison, visited with the female students.

Cultural sensitivity prevented Richart, the overall activity manager, from checking the women's classroom progress, Cutler had the opportunity to interact with and learn more about the Afghan women.

"The class was an extraordinary site. The women were so happy about being in the class, and it was obvious in their eyes and the way they took in the information," Cutler said.

The women also were excited to talk about the program. When one woman stopped talking, the next woman started, Cutler said.

"The women are ready and enthusiastic to start teaching others," she said.

As students graduate from the program, their success is shared through word of mouth, encouraging others to participate.

"At first, we had problems getting women to the classes, because the families were scared that the women becoming educated might hurt the family," Roh Afza, the female student's trainer, said. "Now that the families are seeing the benefits to the class, there are women waiting left and right for the classes. The support from the villages is growing at a rapid rate."

On her own time, Afza also travels to the village of Tawakh to train a woman whose family does not permit her to leave the village. Afza said she does this so the women in that village are able to receive the same opportunities the other villages receive.

(Air Force Capt. Stacie N. Shafran serves with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)

Circus Helps Group Ship Care Packages to Deployed Troops

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus recently presented a $12,636 check to American Recreational Military Services to help the troop-support group ship care packages overseas to deployed servicemembers. The check included a $10,000 donation and a portion of the circus's four opening-night proceeds from performances in New Jersey and New York earlier this month.

"We had been scrambling for months to cover costs as donor fatigue and the economic decline had cut into our donations," Ronnie Micciulla, executive director at American Recreational Military Services, said. "The average cost for shipping an individual box overseas is $10. We are very thankful for this support."

The American Recreational Military Services goal this year is to provide a care package for every tri-state area servicemember, Micciulla added.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus learned about the New York group's woes from an employee while riding in a New York cab. After hearing about the group's struggles from a media news story, the employee started thinking of ways she could possibly help.

"I have a brother who fought in Iraqi Freedom, so I know first-hand how important it is for the troops to receive these packages," Amy Alter, director of marketing for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said. "When I heard about this group having all these packages stored in a warehouse, but no funds to ship them, I knew we had to do something. It just seemed like the right thing to do."

Throughout the four circus performances, American Recreational Military Services had 90-second spots at each show to say something about the group and serve as the guest ringmaster. The group also was allowed to set up a table at each event to hand out pamphlets about the group and talk about how Americans can support the nation's troops.

"All the money raised will be going to either shipping packages to our troops or buying supplies that our troops need and can't get," Micciulla said. "We also will use the money to take care of the families back home, ... helping to pay bills they can't pay, helping when a disaster hits a family and running a food pantry so our families don't have to go without."

Iraqi Special Ops Forces, Air Force Conduct Joint Medevac Mission

American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2009 - Iraqi special operations forces and their air force partners teamed up recently to conduct their first joint medical evacuation from the Iraqi capital. Flying a newly refurbished Mi-17 helicopter for the March 20 mission, the Iraqi air force pilots transported an Iraqi lieutenant from Baghdad to the Joint Base Balad medical center to undergo surgery.

"Iraqis coming together for this mission means we are going forward to achieve our independence," an Iraqi special operations forces officer assigned to the Iraqi medical center said.

The patient said it made him feel good knowing the respective Iraqi forces were working together, because sooner or later Iraq is going to have to run things on its own.

On April 15, while driving in the Baghdad area in civilian clothes, the Iraqi special operations officer was targeted by extremists who fired 7 mm rounds in his direction. Although medical personnel were able to remove the round from the side of his neck, his vocal cords remained damaged.

The Iraqi doctor in charge of the lieutenant's case said he worked tirelessly with U.S. ear, nose and throat specialists to get him on the surgery list. With everything in place at the Joint Base Balad medical center, his Iraqi air force comrades were willing to help him get there.

Although he has been described as "a brave man" by others in his unit, the lieutenant admitted he is a little nervous since finding out he was scheduled for surgery. Nonetheless, when asked if he wanted to be able to sing after the surgery, he laughed and jokingly responded, "I can't wait to scream."

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Petraeus, Holbrooke Describe Afghanistan Strategy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - The new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will include unprecedented integration of military and civilian activities, two key leaders in the effort said yesterday. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, spoke with host John King on the CNN program "State of the Union."

Holbrooke said that in the wake of a full review of Afghanistan policy ordered by President Barack Obama, he and Petraeus plan to meet soon to work on details for the way forward.

"Dave Petraeus and I are now going to sit down and plot the most serious integration of civilian and military activities ... we have had in our time," he said. "We're going to integrate the policy like it's never been done before."

On the civilian side of the equation, Holbrooke said, deliberations during the review focused on Afghanistan's agricultural sector and creating jobs.

Militarily, about 30,000 more U.S. forces will deploy to Afghanistan, doubling the number of Americans on the ground in the country, Petraeus said. "They'll all be on the ground by the end of the summer and the early fall," he said.

Holbrooke noted that the enemy in Afghanistan and contemporaries operating from the federally administered tribal areas in Pakistan present a danger to America.

"The people we are fighting in Afghanistan and the people they are sheltering in western Pakistan pose a direct threat [to the United States]," Holbrooke said. "Those are the men of 9/11, the people who killed [former Pakistani Prime Minister] Benazir Bhutto. And you can be sure that as we sit here today, they are planning further attacks on the United States and our allies."

The effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan is comprehensive, Petraeus said, employing all elements of government to deal with the Afghans and Pakistanis. Much of this is building trust and cooperation between the two nations, he said.

Asked by King whether sending more troops into Afghanistan is like sending the fire department there while the fires are in Pakistan, Petraeus said the troops are needed in Afghanistan, and that Pakistani officials are working on matters on their side of the border.

"Let me just say that it's very important that the fire department address the fires that have sprung up in the eastern and southern parts of Afghanistan without question," the general said. "And then it's critically important that the fire department, if you will, in Pakistan, do the same thing in the federally administered tribal areas."

The Pakistanis have been working on their side of the border to eliminate the safe havens -- most notably with offensives in Bajour and Mohmand. But they have to control all areas and establish government control throughout the country, Petraeus added.

"We've had ups and downs between our countries over the years," he acknowledged. "We've now got to get on an up and stay on an up with them."

In his March 27 speech announcing the plan, Obama said Pakistan must demonstrate "its commitment to rooting out al-Qaida and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken, one way or another, when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets."

Petraeus said that doesn't mean U.S. ground forces would operate in Pakistan.

"There is no intention for us to be conducting operations in there, certainly on the ground, and there is every intention by the Pakistani military and their other forces to conduct those operations," he said. "[Pakistan] is a very proud country. It has existing institutions. Our job is to enable those institutions, to help them develop the kinds of counterinsurgency capabilities that are needed and to help their entire government at large to conduct the kind of comprehensive effort that is necessary well beyond just the military effort, but one that then looks after displaced citizens, that tries to foster local economic development, and there was some of that in the president's speech as well."

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill 11 in Southern, Western Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - Afghan and coalition forces killed 11 insurgents in separate firefights March 27 in southern and western Afghanistan, military officials said. Forces killed six of the enemy fighters in a nighttime raid to degrade terrorist networks in the Nahr Surk district of northern Helmand province. Afghan and coalition forces targeted a compound that housed known insurgents. When the assault force arrived at the targeted location, militants positioned south of the compound immediately began attacking the force using small-arms fire. The forces returned fire and called for supporting fire. Four of the insurgents were killed.

Having eliminated the immediate threats, the assault force proceeded to the target, meeting resistance from militants inside the compound's buildings.

Aware that women and children may be inside, Afghan forces called out for noncombatants to leave the buildings, but none complied. The assault force attempted to clear a building where two militants had barricaded themselves behind women and children. When the assault force encountered the armed militants, they killed them without harming the noncombatants.

As they continued to clear the compound, the force began receiving small-arms fire from multiple barricaded shooters inside another building. The assault force proceeded to clear the rest of the compound without incident. Nine women and 20 children were protected during the firefight. One child received a minor injury and received immediate care from a coalition medic, with no further treatment required.

Earlier in the day in Oruzgan province, Afghan National Army soldiers, assisted by coalition forces, killed five armed militants and destroyed three homemade bombs.

The force was conducting a reconnaissance patrol in the Shahidi Hassas district in an area known to have a heavy insurgent presence when they were attacked with small-arms and mortar fire.

Once it was determined that the area was clear of civilians, the combined forces returned fire and called for close-air support while maneuvering toward the enemies' position, killing the five militants.

During a search of the area, Afghan soldiers discovered three homemade bombs and safely destroyed them in place. No coalition forces or civilian casualties were reported.

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

On the Ground: Troops Provide Medical Care, Necessities to Afghans

American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - Even as coalition and Afghan forces try to stamp out violent extremism in Afghanistan, troops also work to provide a better life for the people who live there. U.S servicemembers worked alongside Afghan soldiers in recent days to deliver medical treatment to more than 1,300 villagers in several southern and western provinces in one operation, while in another, they distributed food, clothing and other basic supplies to a nomadic family.

"The humanitarian aid missions help build a positive view of Americans and an understanding that we are here to help make the Afghans' lives better," Army Staff Sgt. Dwayne Hood, a forward observer attached to the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade, 71st Cavalry Regiment, said after distributing clothes, food and blankets to the family. "Hopefully, we get to continue doing missions like this and helping more families."

Hood was on patrol with other soldiers along the foothills near Forward Operating Base Altimur in Afghanistan's eastern province of Logar on March 25 when they came across the family, part of the nomadic Kuchi tribe. After talking with them, the soldiers found the family had a few basic needs, which they could supply.

Blankets, clothes and food were pulled from the trunk of the vehicle as the family looked on, smiling. The soldiers also brought gifts for the children in the form of two soccer balls. The family offered repeated thanks to the soldiers.

"It's really all about bettering their life out here," Hood said.

Meanwhile, U.S. special operations forces set up clinics in the southern and western provinces of Farah, Helmand and Heart provinces, where they, alongside Afghan military and civilian health care workers, treated more than 1,300 men, women and children who gathered for medical and dental care.

The Afghans traveled from near and far to visit the clinics, bringing with them an array of ailments and injuries. One elderly man was all smiles after he had two painful teeth removed by the dental team in Heart's Shindand district. Also in Shindand, a small child with a burned foot and a young man with a dog bite were among many who found relief from a doctor with the Afghan army's commando team. Another man came to the clinic seeking follow-up care after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound.

The clinics open their doors multiple times throughout the week, welcoming Afghans who otherwise would find no relief from the medical hardships they face.

"The Afghan National Army's commandos and soldiers are taking the lead in Afghanistan's health care. The welfare of the Afghan people is uppermost in the minds of the country's security forces," said Maj. Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

(Compiled from joint U.S. Forces Afghanistan/Afghan Defense Ministry and Combined Joint Task Force 101 news releases. Army Spc. Matthew Thompson of the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment contributed to this report.)

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- March 30, 2009

The shadowy world of bioweapons
"Anthrax War, a documentary by Bob Coen about the anthrax attacks in the U.S. […] When award-winning filmmaker Bob Coen began an investigation of the links between the world's biological-weapons labs, he took a journey to the dark side that would return him to his own roots - and expose the alarming possibility that a lethal new worldwide arms race has already begun. Anthrax War, a documentary directed and co-written by Coen, has its world premiere tonight at 10 p.m. on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye." (Toronto Star; 29Mar09; Olivia Ward)

SLO [San Luis Obispo]?county [CA] roundup
"The [San Luis Obispo] county's public health laboratory has gained a license to diagnose specimens that might be used for bioterrorism. Since March 1, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and California's state emergency preparedness office have recognized the local lab as 'a fully functional confirmatory laboratory, capable of accepting and confirming the multiple agents of bioterrorism, such as anthrax,' [sic] according to Dr. James Beebe, lab director." (San Luis Obispo Tribune; 28Mar09; Bob Cuddy) http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/story/666412.html

Agricultural agents wage war on bugs, plants and disease
"Ten days ago, Newark [airport inspection] agents announced they discovered a plant bug never before seen in the U.S. Botanists don't know if it is a killer, because, like most of the estimated 30 million insect species on the planet, it has never been studied. Drug and anti-terrorism agents get the glory, but agricultural agents are on the front line against an equally frightening threat to the economic and environmental safety of the country: Foreign species, be they plants, bugs or disease. […] Every day, inspectors in Newark intercept on average more than 100 bugs, according to customs reports. About once a month, they come across a species never before seen in the U.S." (Star-Ledger; 29Mar09; Judy Peet) http://www.nj.com/newark/index.ssf/2009/03/agricultural_agents_wage_war_o.html

Hawaii working on list of who gets shots first in flu pandemic
"State health officials want the public's views on deciding who should get vaccinated - and who should not - against the next flu pandemic that reaches the Islands. So far, a wide-ranging advisory group […] will help determine who will be inoculated first and who will have to face the pandemic unarmed, at least until more vaccine can be manufactured and shipped to Hawaii. […] There is no way to stockpile vaccine for an unknown virus that has yet to arrive. […] So it could take months before federal officials isolate the virus, create a vaccine for it and send it to Hawaii." (Honolulu Advertiser; 29Mar09; Dan Nasako)

Former inspector warns of bioterrorism, outbreaks
"A retired food inspector is warning lax meat import rules leave Canada vulnerable to bioterrorism and outbreaks of dangerous bacteria such as Listeria. […] The report says the problems begin at the border. The CFIA [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] pre-clears U.S. meat imports before they enter Canada. The agency tells American exporters at least three days ahead of time if their shipments will be checked. The report says this could allow 'unsavoury' exporters to dump unsafe meats into Canada, and it is an ideal means to smuggle contraband across the border or carry out acts of bioterrorism." (Metro News; 30Mar09; Source: Canadian Press)

New technology helping protect San Diego [CA] Bay
"The Joint Harbor Operations Center -- or JHOC -- was activated a couple of years ago. The JHOC has a room described as a high-tech arena where protection of the bay is paramount. […] Once limited to the military, new underwater robotics are being used as well. 'The increase in our capability has been exponential after 9/11,' said Capt. Don Claypool of Harbor Police. […] More technology is on the way as San Diego will join the ports of Seattle, Los Angeles and Long Beach in a pilot program designed to detect radiological devices, or so-called dirty bombs." (10News; 27Mar09) http://www.10news.com/news/19032716/detail.html

Radioactive devices continue to go astray: report
"Seventy-five radioactive devices used in Canadian medicine and industry went astray in recent years - almost one-third of them dangerous enough to cause people harm, newly released figures show. A Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission report says 24 radioactive items classified as 'moderate-risk' or 'high-risk' were lost or stolen from 2005 through the end of last year. Security officials have tried to improve tracking of such devices, used for everything from measuring soil moisture to irradiating blood, out of concern they could be used for malicious purposes including terrorist attacks. […] The report says many of the two dozen devices of greatest concern from the four-year period were lost in transit or happened to be in vehicles targeted by thieves." (Canadian Press; 29Mar09) http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5gXktszmmXD1NbF8dmJbGAjuCKI9A

Canada contributes to multilateral effort to prevent nuclear terrorism
"The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that Canada will contribute million [sic] to strengthen nuclear security in countries of the former Soviet Union through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear Security Fund (NSF). This contribution-Canada's third to the NSF-will complement the nuclear security improvements made previously. 'Nuclear terrorism is a global threat that demands a global response,' said Minister Cannon." (ISRIA; 29Mar09)

How they [the U.S. House of Representatives] voted
"Here is how […] members of Congress [U.S. House of Representatives […] voted from March 20 to 26: […] The House approved the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act (H.R. 730), sponsored by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-CA, to develop a nuclear forensics program in the Department of Homeland Security that will enable investigators to identify the source of materials used by terrorists in a dirty bomb or nuclear weapon. […] 402 yeas to 16 nays." (Chicago Post-Tribune; 29Mar09; Source: Target News Service) http://www.post-trib.com/news/1501288,votechart.article

A.F. [Air Force] fails to account for WMD equipment
"After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the Air Force decided to quickly buy millions of dollars' worth of equipment to help protect its bases from weapons of mass destruction. The trouble is, most Air Force emergency responders were never trained how to use much of the equipment, which ranged from monitors to detect chemical weapons to special, tight-fitting air purifying respirators for security forces. And that's just the beginning of many Keystone Kops-style foul-ups with the gear designed to help protect against biological, chemical and radiological attack, according to a once-classified Air Force Audit Agency report obtained by the Deseret News through a Freedom of Information Act request." (Deseret News; 28Mar09; Lee Davidson) http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705293849,00.html

UK terrorism document says strategy will target al-Qaida
"The British government will tackle the threat of terrorism through the relentless pursuit of terrorists and disruption of their plots, according to a document released by the Home office. The Home Office laid out a comprehensive strategy, under the name 'CONTEST,' 'to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism,' in the report. The threat from al-Qaida […] represent[s] the biggest current challenge to the UK, according to the document. It also looks at how to prepare for attacks from chemical, biological, radiological, explosive and nuclear materials. The threat is different today, with a 'wide-ranging religious and political agenda and religious justification' found to justify terrorist acts, it says." (Jerusalem Post; 30Mar09; Johnny Paul) http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1238354475945&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

U.S. Senator [John Kerry, D-MA] seeks to ratify nuclear test ban pact
"The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, said on Friday he had begun laying the groundwork for Senate ratification of a global pact banning nuclear tests. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was rejected by the Senate a decade ago. President Barack Obama said during his campaign that he would seek to get it ratified. But ratification is up to the Senate, where two-thirds approval is required. […] Kerry said his committee would hold hearings on the treaty. A vote by the full Senate is unlikely before next year, the Massachusetts Democrat said." (Edmonton Journal; 27Mar09; Source: Reuters) http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/senator+seeks+ratify+nuclear+test+pact/1436856/story.html

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

On the Ground: U.S. Forces in Iraq Build Schools, Provide Job Training

American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - U.S. forces in Iraq increasingly are focused on educating Iraqis as they move toward returning Iraq to national sovereignty. In recent days, they have overseen job skills training of former "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group members and taken part in the reopening of two schools. "This is an excellent example of cooperation between coalition forces and our Iraqi counterparts," Christopher Crowley, mission director for the U.S. Agency for International Development said at the March 24 reopening of the Salman Pak Industrial School in Baghdad's Madain neighborhood.

Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 6th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 2nd Battalion, attended the grand reopening of the school, which was made possible by $600,000 from USAID.

The school underwent major reconstruction after being virtually destroyed during insurgent-led attacks at the height of the capital city's sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007.

The school will offer eight courses available for up to 700 students to learn skills on sewing generator maintenance, welding, automotive repair, plumbing, electrical installation, masonry and carpentry. The school also received new equipment for a women's sewing room, a machine and metal working section and a computer room.

Iraq's Education Ministry will maintain the building grounds, hire and retain qualified teachers, and provide a full-time guard for the school.

"This school has a 30-year history and always represented a chance for learning and helping the youth of the Madain progress, but because of the violence in the area after the war, it stopped," Qassi Mrweh, Madain council chairman, said.

The improved security enabled contractors to rebuild the industrial school, Mrweh said.

In Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood, former members of the Sons of Iraq, the civilian security group that worked alongside coalition and Iraqi forces to secure the country, are filling the classrooms at centers opened by the coalition to provide job training.

The city's four demobilization, demilitarization and reintegration centers teach courses in surveying, electricity, mechanics, generator repair and solar energy.

"We here in Adhamiyah are so happy coalition forces are supporting this project. The project helps the people of Adhamiyah by providing trade skills to local, unemployed people. After graduating the program, they continue to assist the people of Adhamiyah by providing a local work force," Mokdad Hassan, a local tribal support council member, said.

Under the program, each neighborhood may nominate 10 people for attendance to each cycle of the program. Each of the four DDR centers in the district of focuses on a different trade skill.

While attending a six-month class rotation, each student receives a monthly stipend of $350. At the end of the program, after passing the final exam, the students are awarded certificates of completion.

The program is designed to take selected Sons of Iraq members from their checkpoints to the classrooms. The goal is to provide them with essential, high-demand job skills, officials said.

In Iraq's northern city of Dahuk, 600 middle and high school students will benefit from a bigger and better school, thanks to the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq.

Engineers with the division's Mosul Area Office participated recently in a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new 12-room, $1.1 million Shindokha School. Local dignitaries at the ribbon cutting included the provincial governor, education, police and transition team officials.

The new school greatly reduces an overcrowding problem and allows for a longer school day while comfortably accommodating 600 students in grades 7 to 12.

The school is unique in that the entire curriculum is taught in English, according to school administrators. To prepare for the English curriculum, prospective teachers must undergo four months of intensive language training, with only 50 of the top prospects offered positions at the school.

Since 2005, USACE has managed school construction projects totaling $16.3 million in Iraq's Dahuk province. Those projects include 94 school renovations and 17 new school construction projects, according to Terry Samson, the USACE resident engineer in Dahuk.

Samson said the renovation and new school projects provide educational facilities for more than 10,000 students. These new schools also will give an economic boost to the area by offering 500 new jobs for teachers, administrators, janitorial and security personnel, said he added.

"These new educational institutions increase the scope and quality of education for Dahuk area students," Samson said. "This, in turn, will better prepare students for the future and improve their employability, lifestyle and the living conditions of all residents. It also demonstrates that the United States is a caring nation and is extremely interested in the educational process in Dahuk and in the future of the region."

(From Multinational Corps Iraq and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division North, news releases. Mike Scheck, of USACE's Gulf Region North district contributed to this report.)

U.S., Iraqi Soldiers Protect Eastern Baghdad Highway

By Army Staff Sgt. Alex Licea
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - Traffic is common in a city of 7 million people. With the lingering threat of roadside bombs at any turn, U.S. paratroopers here work daily with their Iraqi counterparts to ensure the people of Baghdad are safe on the highway. Walking alongside a busy road here is no easy task. Coalition forces and their Iraqi partners have to contend with the dangers of improvised explosive devices and speeding motorists on the roadway. But despite the dangers of this foot patrol, it's a mission that Multinational Division Baghdad paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, take very seriously.

"This is one of the main roads into Baghdad, and if it is not clear, then people will be scared to drive on it and it can affect commerce, daily life and security as a whole," Army 1st Lt. Logan Cole, platoon leader for Company C, said.

Cole and his fellow soldiers patrol with Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 11th Iraqi Army Division's 3rd Battalion, 44th Iraqi Army Brigade. Cole said the frequent patrols have given his soldiers a good perspective of the roadway and help them identify anything new or suspicious on the road.

"The good thing about doing this every day is that we get to know what the terrain looks like and familiarize ourselves with the area," said the native of Fort Knox, Ky. "When we see something new in the area, we can recognize it right away and look into it."

Iraqi army officials have credited the combined efforts in keeping this once violent stretch of highway safe.

"Because of these patrols, this area is safe and secure," said Iraqi Maj. Abd Alrhamen Jaber said. "These efforts have helped reduce the threat of IEDs, and attacks have gone down significantly in this area."

Army Sgt. Robert Durst of Douglasville, Ga., said the efforts of his unit and their Iraqi partners have led to lasting peace and safety in this region of eastern Baghdad.

"This is a very busy and important road, and we save a lot of lives, because we patrol this area every day looking for anything that can endanger the area and the people," he said.

(Army Staff Sgt. Alex Licea serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Soldiers, Afghan Police Work Together Outside Bagram Airfield

By Army Capt. Michael Greenberger
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - The rising sun brought a flurry of activity in the motor pool of the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion on March 19 as the soldiers prepared to run a "reverse option" – a joint checkpoint with Afghan National Police outside Bagram's entry control points. Just two weeks prior, a suicide bomber attacked one of the base's entry control points, but was thwarted by local Afghan peacekeepers.

Everywhere in the 2nd Platoon motor pool, Alpha Company soldiers moved with a purpose, loading equipment, weapons and water into their up-armored Humvees. After radio checks were complete, the soldiers mounted up and rolled out to the entry control points.

The road outside the southern edge of Bagram Airfield is a stretch of muddy potholes, rocks and debris. With skill, precision and watchful eyes, the soldiers navigated their immense vehicles over the uneven terrain, constantly beeping their horns at civilian traffic to alert them to their presence.

"Our main goal is to keep everyone and the vehicles safe," said Army Sgt. Roberto Castillo, an Iraq veteran now serving in Afghanistan. "We do a lot to avoid civilians and their vehicles on the road, because we have to share it and want to maintain a better relationship with the [local people]."

Gunners constantly scanned the terrain for threats while the vehicle bounced around the muddy mess.

"We are always aware of our surroundings," said Army Spc. Todd Haskel said. "When I first got here, I was constantly scanning – constantly on edge. Now it is like second nature to me."

After a short but challenging trip, the soldiers rolled on to the checkpoints in force. They moved swiftly to cover the avenues of approach, laying down concertina wire and orange cones to block the roads while patrol leader Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Button contacted the Afghan National Police already on the ground.

"We are very happy with these guys," said Jalaludin, a captain with the ANP. "We have worked with them often, and we work well together. The Army soldiers are happy with us, because they know when they call us for a joint mission, we will be here."

The town outside Bagram is a bustling hub of two-story buildings, shops and shanties --– people are everywhere. The Afghans watch the soldiers intently as they go about their tasks, yet keep their distance.

"We set up these blocking positions as an antiterrorism measure," Button said. "It's a nice show of force for any bad guys who might be in the area."

The soldiers kept an eye out for anyone or anything that looked suspicious.

"If we see a suspicious vehicle, the Afghan police stop and search the vehicle and question the occupants," Button said. "We mainly serve in a support roll to back them up."

"We've been doing missions like these for 13 months," said Army Spc. Randall Preston said. "We set up these positions, and the Afghan people immediately adjust. They stay out of the way and try to help."

The Afghan National Police are familiar with the people who congregate around the entry control point, and they quickly recognize strangers.

"Before the Americans came, there were a lot of bad people here," Jalaludin said. "These are good people here now though, and they are tired of all the fighting. They just want security and peace, and are glad the Americans are here to help."

"These ANP are really solid," Button said. "They do what you ask them to do, and they show up and do a good job."

Missions employing random antiterrorism measures and procedures are an important part of security operations in Afghanistan.

"It's important to do random patrols to disrupt enemy forces," said Army Capt. William Coulter, Alpha Company commander, "as well as not set a predictable schedule or pattern of patrolling."

After an hour or so, the ANP commander gave the call to collapse the blocking positions, so the U.S. soldiers secured their equipment, said their goodbyes, and headed for home.

Unique to the 101st Airborne Division, the "Slayers" serve as a mobile reaction force, able to respond within minutes of being called.

"We have infantrymen, signal soldiers, a mechanic --– it makes us self-sufficient, adaptable and flexible," Button said.

Along with Alpha Company's 1st platoon, 2nd platoon's primary mission is patrolling and the security of Bagram Airfield and Afghanistan's Parwan and Kapisa provinces.

"These are an extraordinary group of guys," Button said Button. "They never back down from a mission, and never got a mission they couldn't handle."

The Slayers have performed more than 1,000 missions since arriving in Afghanistan in March 2008.

(Army Capt. Michael Greenberger serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

VA Secretary Opens Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opened the 23rd annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic here last night, encouraging more than 400 participants he said had found their way "to the top of the mountain in search of miracles." "Thank you for your service. Thank you for your examples of courage and determination," the former Army chief of staff told the group, which includes about 150 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. "You have overcome a lot of obstacles in life to be here, and you will overcome many more by the time this clinic is over."

The clinic, jointly sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, uses recreation as a rehabilitative tool for veterans with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries and orthopedic amputations to visual impairment and neurological conditions.

As they learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and get introduced to rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, wheelchair fencing, sled hockey, snowmobiling, and sled hockey during a six-day program, the veterans' eyes get opened to a whole new world of opportunity.

"I think you will do things this week some of you thought you would never do again," Shinseki told the veterans. "I hope you are as excited about the experiences you are going to have as all the rest of us are at being here to witness your triumphs."

Shinseki, a disabled veteran who lost part of his right foot in Vietnam, said experiencing a life-altering event changes the body, but not the person. "Your dreams and hopes are just as real today," he told the veterans. "It's the heart and the mind that keep hope alive."

Shinseki praised the strides the veterans have made in proving the human spirit's ability to triumph over adversity. "Your courage and determination speak for themselves," he said. "We marvel at your spirit. We marvel at your perseverance. We celebrate your accomplishments."

The secretary urged the veterans to take those accomplishments a step further this week as they experience the "exhilaration and healing powers of these mountains" and the support of corporate sponsors and volunteers who make the winter sports clinic possible.

"This is not just about this one week," Shinseki said. He expressed hope that the participants will gain newfound confidence here that helps them through the next 51 weeks, so they return to next year's clinic even further along in their rehabilitation.

Raymond E. Dempsey, national commander of Disabled American Veterans and a first-timer at the clinic, encouraged the veterans to think of the week ahead as a battle they're entering together.

"We all have a fight in front of us this week," he said. "We will meet the mountain as individuals, and also as a band of brothers."

Dempsey said he looks forward to experiencing the camaraderie disabled veterans find at the winter sports clinic. "This is a chance to gather inspiration, an opportunity to be mentors and be mentored," he said. "And you won't be the same when you go home."

Another newcomer to the clinic is Chad Erumpton, a Marine Corps staff sergeant who had both legs amputated last year as a result of an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in 2005.

Erumpton, who was medically retired in April 2006, snowboarded for 10 years before being wounded. Now, he's looking forward to taking his first whirl down the slopes using adaptive snowboard techniques.

"This is a great program," he said of the clinic. "I'm meeting some great people, and networking and learning about resources. But most of all, I'm just here to have fun."

American Contractors Discuss Time in Captivity

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2009 - Three American contractors who survived five and a half years in a Colombian jungle likened their captivity to being on the "planet of the apes," said one of the three contractors held by the terrorist organization known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. "We were off this planet for so long that we would marvel at something basic, as basic as a flat floor and a flat wall. It was a totally different planet that we had escaped or been rescued from," Tom Howes told online journalists and bloggers during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable March 26.

Another former captive, Marc Gonsalves, added that seeing an American for the first time upon their rescue brought an overwhelming emotion of pride.

"After coming off the helicopter in which we were rescued, we were then guided to a jet, and we were then loaded on that aircraft. At the entryway of the stairs leading to the door, there were a couple of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers there as guards," he said. "That was the first Americans that I had contact with. And, I remember the sight of that beautiful flag patch on his shoulder, and I just remember feeling an immense amount of pride to see and talk and to hear the voice of another American again."

Their captivity started in February 2003 on a routine mission. The three -- Gonsalves, Howes and Keith Stansell -- were based out of Bogota, Colombia.

"We were flying en route to a forward operation location where we would be able to pick up more fuel," Gonsalves said. "And as we were crossing a mountain range, we experienced an engine failure and were forced to crash land."

Five people were aboard the plane when it crashed into the thick jungle of Colombia: four Americans and one host-nation rider.

"The impact was violent. The fuselage of the airplane was ripped open," Gonsalves said. After landing in a small clearing on a mountain slope, the group was greeted with the sound of gunfire.

"We were immediately ... attacked, basically by a group of rebels, a group that calls themselves the FARC," Gonsalves said. "And, in their luck, and against our luck, we crashed right in a middle of a group of these people. It was only minutes before they were there. They had us, and they began to take us away at gunpoint."

As the three Americans were taken away from their crash site, Howes was still unconscious from the crash. His left shoulder had slipped out of the safety belt, and on impact he swung around and hit his head on the support between the windshield and the side window. They would later learn that a member of the terrorist organization had killed the rest of the crew.

"And when my memory came back, I was a prisoner of the FARC. I'd already been strip-searched, and there were people -- FARC -- with AK-47 rifles on either side of me," Howes said. "And that began the period of captivity."

The three American contractors were forced on a 24-day march deep into Colombia, to what Howes called a fixed camp.

"We had time to rest up and realize the severity of our situation," he said. "In my mind, I started to eat myself alive, realizing that this was going to be a ... possibly very long, difficult period in the most difficult of conditions."

Howes and Gonsalves both said while the situation shocking at first, their minds toughened up to adapt. The three Americans, Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 11 Colombian national police and military members also held hostage by the FARC were flown to safety after being rescued July 2 in a Colombian military operation. Howes said the rescue seemed to be over almost as soon as it started. "Five and half years ended in less than a second," he said.

The former captives both said they didn't the extent of efforts on their behalf in the United States and Colombia until after their rescue. "And my heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone in the U.S. military and all those in the Colombian military, for everything they've done for us," Howes said.

Since their return to the United States, the former captives have reconnected with their families and started working again. On March 12, they received the Department of Defense Medal of Freedom, the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)

New Afghan-Pakistan Strategy Refocuses Military Efforts, Obama Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2009 - President Barack Obama said today his new strategy for what he calls "America's War" is intended to zero in on the heart of the matter at hand in Afghanistan.
"The focus over the last seven years, I think, has been lost," the president told Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation." "What we want to do is refocus attention on al-Qaida. "We're going to go with a strategy that is narrowly focused, that is narrowly targeted on defeating al-Qaida," he continued. "We are going to make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies' interests around the world."

This depends, in part, on denying al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It also means making the Pakistani people understand that the "creep of extremism" into their country is the greatest threat to them and the stability of their government, Obama said.

"One of the concerns that we've had building up over the last several years is a notion, I think, among the average Pakistani that this is somehow America's war, and that they are not invested," he said. "What we want to do is say to the Pakistani people, you are our friends, our allies. We are going to give you the tools to defeat al-Qaida and to root out these safe havens."

The administration is prepared to help Pakistan grow its economy so it can provide basic services to its people. If Pakistan's government doesn't have credibility or is weakened, it will be much more difficult for its people to deal with the extremism within their borders, Obama noted.

"We have to recognize that part of our task I'm working with Pakistan is not just military," he said. "It's also our capacity to build their capacity through civilian interventions, through development, through aid assistance.

"That's part of what you're seeing -- both in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- I think is fully resourcing a comprehensive strategy that doesn't just rely on bullets or bombs, but also relies on agricultural specialists, on doctors, on engineers, to help create an environment in which people recognize that they have much more at stake in partnering with us and the international community than giving into to some of these extremist ideologies," he said.

In return for the assistance, however, the administration expects much greater accountability, Obama said.

The president also said reports that Pakistani intelligence may be communicating with the Taliban and al-Qaida aren't new, and just one of the contingencies the United States will face in defeating al-Qaida.

All contingencies can be overcome by combining military, civilian, diplomatic and development approaches, Obama said, if the United States does a better job of coordinating with its allies. Part of the plan includes training the Afghan National Army so it increasingly takes the lead to deal with extremists in the country.

"We realize there are going to be a lot of hurdles between now and us finally having a weakened al-Qaida or destroyed al-Qaida to the point ... it cannot pose a danger to us," he said. "And we will continue to monitor and adjust our strategies to make sure that we're not just going down blind alleys."

Shifting to talk of Iraq, Obama said despite the current situation in the country, the plan put forward is the right one; a very gradual withdrawal schedule through the national elections in Iraq.

"There's still work to be done on the political side to resolve differences between the various sectarian groups around issues like oil ... [and] provincial elections," he said. "I'm confident we're moving in the right direction, but Iraq is not yet complete."

Closer to home, the president doesn't see the drug fighting in Mexico as an "existential threat," but said it is a serious threat to U.S. border communities.

"[Mexican] President [Felipe] Calderon, I think, has been very bold and rightly has decided that it's gotten carried away," Obama said. "The drug cartels have too much power, are undermining, and [are] corrupting huge segments of Mexican society."

With some threat to U.S. interests, namely the communities on the Mexican border, the president is considering putting National Guard troops on the borders. But before that happens, he'll wait and see if some of the other steps already taken will quell the violence.

'Flourishing' Democracy in Afghanistan Remains Long-term Goal, Gates Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2009 - The United States' short-term goal for Afghanistan may have been refined, but the long-term goal has stayed the same, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today on "Fox News Sunday." "I think the near-term objectives have been narrowed," Gates said, referring to the Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review President Barack Obama unveiled March 27. "I think our long-term objectives would still be to see a flourishing democracy in Afghanistan.

"But I think what we need to focus on ... is making headway and reversing the Taliban's momentum and strengthening the Afghan army and police, and really going after al-Qaida, as the president said," the secretary said.

When all is said and done, about 68,000 U.S. troops will be on the ground in Afghanistan to help achieve this goal. They will be supplemented with another 35,000 or so European and other partners' troops, Gates said.

While ground commanders may have wanted more than the 17,000 troops the president has committed, the 2009 requirements Army Gen. David D. McKiernan has established have been fulfilled, Gates said. McKiernan is the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"I don't think I've ever in several decades ran into a ground commander who thought he had enough troops," the secretary said. "[But] I have not sent any requests for units or troops to the president that he has not approved."

While additional troops from allies or partner countries are welcome, the larger need from these entities is help with civilian experts, Gates said.

"What I think we're really interested in for the longer term from our partners and allies is helping us with this civilian surge," he said. "[This would be helpful] in terms of experts in agriculture and finance and governance and so on to help us improve on the situation inside Afghanistan, give a sense of forward progress on the part of the Afghan people."

Police trainers also would be a great help, he added.

Gates said he still considers al-Qaida a serious threat with the capability to plan attacks, and has metastasized with elements in North Africa, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. While these factions aren't directly controlled by al-Qaida in western Pakistan, they get training, guidance and inspiration from there.

The president, he said, understands this is a tough fight and the United States is in it until it's successful. That will be when al-Qaida is no longer a threat to the nation, Gates said, and when there is no danger of Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan providing al-Qaida safe havens. That is what the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy aims to accomplish.

"I think he's been clear, and frankly, it was my view in our discussions that we don't want to settle on this strategy and then pursue it blindly and openendedly," Gates said. "That's why I felt very strongly that toward the end of the year, or about a year from now, we need to re-evaluate this strategy and see if we're making progress."

There are concerns about reports that the Pakistani intelligence service is in contact with some extremist groups operating from the country; however, the reports are not surprising, Gates said.

"The reality is the Pakistanis have had contact with these groups since they were fighting the Soviets 20 or 25 years ago, when I was first dealing with the Pakistanis on this," he said. "What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand that these groups are now an existential threat to them, and that we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan, that they can count on us."

Gates also fielded questions on North Korea and the country's claim that it's prepared to launch a communications satellite in a few days. The country has moved a missile to the launch pad.

"I don't know anyone at a senior level in the American government who does not believe this technology is intended as a mask for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile," Gates said. "The reality is that the Six-Party Talks really have not made any headway anytime recently.

"If this is [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il's welcoming present to a new president, launching a missile like this and threatening to have a nuclear test, I think it says a lot about the imperviousness of this regime in North Korea to any kind of diplomatic overtures," he said.

Economic sanctions may be needed in North Korea and Iran before diplomacy will work, Gates said.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Navy Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two sailors who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon, Calif., and Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, of Narragansett, R.I., died March 27 when an insurgent posing as an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on personnel assigned to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen, Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan.

For more information media may contact the U.S. Forces Afghanistan public affairs office at 011- 93-799-51-2919, or email USFOR-A-MediaRelations@afghan.swa.army.mil .

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- March 27, 2009

Israel panel slams anthrax [sic] vaccine test on troops "
An expert panel has accused Israeli defense officials of 'grave ethical failures' in testing an experimental anthrax vaccine on hundreds of Israeli soldiers. Some of the more than 700 soldiers who took part in the experiment in the late 1990s have complained of headaches, dizziness and skin, respiratory and digestive problems that they say are related to the vaccine. […] The experiment came when Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, and it was feared he was developing chemical and biological weapons that could hit Israel. During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq launched repeated barrages of Scud missiles at Israel." (Associated Press; 26Mar09; Amy Teibel)

New nanogenerator may charge iPods and cell phones with a wave of the hand
"In research presented at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting, scientists from Georgia describe technology that converts mechanical energy from body movements or even the flow of blood in the body into electric energy that can be used to power a broad range of electronic devices without using batteries. 'This research will have a major impact on defence technology […]' says lead researcher Zhong Lin Wang, […] To date, he says that there have been limited methods created to produce nanopower despite the growing need by the military and defence agencies for nanoscale sensing devices used to detect bioterror agents. The nanogenerator would be particularly […] useful to the military and police sampling air for potential bioterrorism attacks in the United States, Wang says." (Science Centric; 27Mar09; Source: American Chemical Society)

Local concerns over plan to cut bioterrorism funding [NY]
"Nassau County [NY] officials warned Friday that a $1.3 million cut in state bioterrorism funding will hurt the county's ability to respond to public health emergencies ranging from West Nile virus to hurricanes. The state will end all local funding for public health emergency preparedness and take over that function, according to Legis[lator] David Mejias (D-Farmingdale), chairman of the Committee on Health and Social Services.
However, the state has not indicated how it will take over those duties, and there will be no money for county workers to perform them, Mejias said." (Newsday; 27Mar09; William Murphy) http://www.newsday.com/news/local/ny-literr2812592643mar27,0,2198224.story

Virginia is geared up in case of bio attack
"Larry Edwards remembers the first act of bioterrorism using salmonella bacteria in the United States better than most people. […] Edwards and more than a dozen other speakers from around the country were […] participating in the Virginia Agroterrorism Conference [Thursday]. Workshop topics included domestic terrorism threats, FBI response capabilities, food safety, animal health, plant protection and countermeasures for weapons of mass destruction. More than 130 people […] attended the conference to learn how the state would respond if an act of terrorism were to impact its food supply. […] 'We are very vulnerable to this kind of thing, much more so than most people realize,' said Edwards. Retail outlets are the last opportunity for protecting the public from tainted foods, Edwards said." (Daily Press; 27Mar09; Allison T. Williams) http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-local_iwterror_0327mar27,0,5067025.story

Deeper anthrax [sic] shots could cut side effects
"A study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October found that injecting the [B. anthracis] vaccine into a muscle rather than into the fat just under the skin greatly reduced side effects, including warmth, itching, redness, inflammation or nodules. […] Lt. Col. Patrick Garman, Deputy Director for Scientific Affairs at the Defense Department's Military Vaccine Agency [said] 'This is a normal result of intramuscular versus subcutaneous administration regardless of the medication or vaccine being delivered.' The study also found that people didn't need as many injections, and the military has adopted that recommendation, as well." (Army Times; 27Mar09; Kelly Kennedy) http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/03/military_newanthrax_032609w/

Simulated anthrax [sic] attack to test crisis plan
"Sun City Grand [AZ] will be the site of a simulated anthrax [sic] attack this weekend to test the county's plan on dispensing medication during a large-scale crisis. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health's Office of Preparedness and Response is hosting the medication-dispensing drill, its second one so far. Working with the Sun City Grand retirement community, golf carts will be used to simulate residents driving through the site and receiving simulated medication. The simulation is meant to test the speed and accuracy of delivering aid during a public-health emergency to nearly 4 million residents in the county." (Arizona Central; 26Mar09; Source: Republic; Lily Leung) http://www.azcentral.com/community/westvalley/articles/2009/03/26/20090326gl-nwvanthrax0327.html

Lack of adequate records limits FDA
"Federal investigators found that many food companies don't comply with federal recordkeeping requirements, hobbling the Food and Drug Administration's ability to trace the source of food-borne illnesses quickly, a top government investigator told lawmakers Thursday.[…] The watchdog agency also tried to trace 40 items such as fresh tomatoes, whole milk, oatmeal and yogurt from retail stores to the farm where they were grown, but could do so for only five items.[…] The [Health and Human Services] inspector general [Daniel Levinson]'s survey raises questions about FDA enforcement and whether proposed legislation requiring food companies to keep even more records to help authorities trace food-poisoning outbreaks is practical." (Wall Street Journal; 26Mar09; Jane Zhang) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123810975105652717.html

Close out of chemical event at Blue Grass Army Depot [KY]
"Army officials report the closure of the chemical event stemming from the 2007 leak of the agent GB from a ton container stored at the depot. Toxic chemical crews working for the Blue Grass Chemical Activity have successfully completed the destruction and disposal of three ton containers which held approximately 160 gallons of the chemical agent. All wastes generated by the operation have been transported to contractor operated hazardous waste disposal facilities located outside of Kentucky."
(U.S. Chemical Materials Agency; 26Mar09; Richard Sloan)

Five Mass. companies get contracts for small business innovation research
"Five small businesses in eastern Massachusetts have received a total of $1.125 million from [the] EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] to commercialize innovative technologies that address pressing environmental problems. […] These research and development companies will address issues ranging from air pollution to water security. […] EIC Laboratories is developing a hand-held instrument to detect harmful contaminants in water supplies. These water analyzers will be able to immediately detect and identify unusual contamination from chemicals, such as chemical warfare agents, that might result from terrorist activities." (Environmental Protection Agency news release; 26Mar09) http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/0a39157c915ea25d85257585007c70b9?OpenDocument

Mirion [Technologies] to deliver dosimeters to Poland
"The Polish army has contracted Mirion Technologies Health Physics Division for radiological-measurement technologies. U.S. company Mirion has been awarded a contract to deliver its active tactical dosimeters and portable reader systems to the Polish army. Mirion says its dosimeter technology, widely deployed by NATO forces, measure a range of gamma and neutron dose rates for a soldier's exposure to radiological threats in the field." (United Press International; 26Mar09) http://www.upi.com/Security_Industry/2009/03/26/Mirion_to_deliver_dosimeters_to_Poland/UPI-13241238093542/

Gen. Richard Myers: U.S. enemies seek WMDs to end 'our way of life'
"Former top military commander Gen. Richard Myers tells Newsmax that America's enemies in the war on terror are 'ruthless' and 'relentless' and will not hesitate to use nuclear or biological weapons if they obtain them. 'They want to do away with our way of life,' Myers tells Newsmax TV's Ashley Martella. 'They could bring great harm to this country and our friends and allies.' Myers, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2001 until September 2005, tells Newsmax that the U.S.
focused too narrowly on tactical battles and failed to develop a long-rang strategy to battle terrorism." (Newsmax; 25Mar09; Jim Myers) http://www.newsmax.com/headlines/richard_myers_wmds/2009/03/25/196103.html

Harvard defense expert [Ashton Carter] aims to fight Pentagon cost overruns
"President Barack Obama's nominee to fix Pentagon purchasing problems vowed Thursday to root out cost overruns in major arms programs, fearing the $150 billion arms-procurement budget may be […] unaffordable. Ashton Carter, a physicist, international-security expert and Harvard University professor, told his Senate confirmation hearing he expected funding for big-ticket programs to be under 'increasing pressure in the future.' […] Asked in the hearing about the roughly $10 billion spent annually on missile defense, the Pentagon's largest single weapons development outlay, [Carter] said there were a lot of ways the United States could be attacked with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, not just those carried by a ballistic missile. 'I would say we have to have walls as well as a roof,' he added." (Reuters; 26Mar09; Jim Wolf)

Los Alamos [National Laboratory]'s security flaws exposed
"An Energy Department investigation has alleviated fears that a significant amount of plutonium was missing from a national laboratory, but it has also heightened concerns about flaws in the system for controlling the U.S. stockpile of weapons materials. The investigation began in February, shortly after a routine inventory […] found a plutonium shortage estimated at 2.2 pounds […] The confidential investigation concluded this week that statisticians at the lab had miscalculated the amount of plutonium at its facility and that none was actually missing.Although the finding eliminates the worst-case scenario […] it raises doubts about the lab's management at a time of growing concern about nuclear terrorism." (Lab Manager Magazine; 26Mar09)

IAEA: Nuclear Security Fund receives key financial support
"The UK is to double its contribution to the IAEA´s Nuclear Security Fund to £4 million (€4,33 million) from £2 million (€2,125 million) given in 2006. The Fund is a voluntary funding mechanism for Member States established to support the IAEA´s activities in nuclear security aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to nuclear terrorism. Speaking to an international audience of diplomats and scientists convened in London for a conference on nuclear energy and proliferation, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the move as part of the country´s Global Threat Reduction Programme (GTRP) aimed at improving nuclear security around the world."
(ISRIA; 27Mar09)

Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi sermon on Qatar TV: the Arabs must obtain, but not use, weapons of mass destruction
"Following are excerpts from a sermon by Sunni Islamic scholar Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, which aired on Qatar TV on February 20, 2009. To view this MEMRI TV clip, visit http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2057.htm. Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: The Koran says 'prepare against them what force and steeds of war you can, to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies" […] 'if we had nuclear weapons, they would be afraid to attack us. A few days ago, a Muslim asked me if we were allowed to possess WMDs - nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. I said to him: 'Yes, we must possess such weapons, but not use them.'" (Middle East Media Research Institute; 26Mar09)

Germany readies 600 troops to guard NATO summit
"Germany is providing 600 soldiers to help protect next week's NATO summit, the [German] government said in a written parliamentary response disclosed Wednesday. Their duties would include providing first aid and helping guard the 3,500 delegates against potential attacks from atomic, biological or chemical weapons, the statement said. Some 15,000 German police will be on duty during the gathering from April 3-4 in the towns of Baden-Baden and Kehl in Germany and Strasbourg in France […]" (Journal of Turkish Weekly; 25Mar09) http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/68516/-germany-readies-600-troops-to-guard-nato-summit.html

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