Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Army Casualty

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

Pfc. James L. Miller, 21, of Yakima, Wash., died March 29 in Dashat, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

For more information media may contact the Joint Base Lewis-McChord public affairs office at 253-967-0152, 253-967-0147.

Challenges Clear to U.S.-Afghan Partnership, Mullen Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2010 - After visits to U.S., coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan's Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today that "never has our partnership ... been stronger, or the challenges we face, clearer."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen completed a rigorous three-day visit to Afghanistan that took him to the region of the recent offensive in Marja in Helmand province. Mullen also attended a "shura" – a meeting of community leaders -- at the governor's palace in downtown Kandahar.

In central Helmand, Mullen saw the results of the offensive. Though combined Afghan and U.S. forces cleared them from many villages, the Taliban remain a presence. Intimidation remains, but the security situation is improving, the chairman said.

Still, he added, the offensive was a good example of how U.S., Afghan and coalition forces can work together to protect the people of Afghanistan, and it certainly has lessons for the upcoming fight for Kandahar.

The city is the very heart of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the chairman said. "Nearly half of President [Barack] Obama's 30,000 troop commitment has made it to theater, with more coming every month," Mullen said. "They are coming to Kandahar – the cornerstone of our surge effort and the key to shifting momentum from the enemy to the Afghan people."

While Mullen said he is encouraged, he added that patience is necessary noting that the operation into Marja was launched only 45 days ago.

The same ideas and elan that went into planning operations in Marja will go into Kandahar operations, the admiral said, but the worlds of the two places are far apart, so the tactical operations won't be the same. Marja is rural, with a population of roughly 70,000 spread over a large area, and the Taliban ruled there for the last two years. Kandahar has a population of more than 2 million and has a plethora of tribes, family groups, local power brokers and drug lords, Mullen explained.

"It's a much bigger challenge," he said, "and I think [it] has a much greater potential to achieve the goal of reversing [Taliban] momentum."

U.S. military and State Department officials talk about using the shura system as a way to work out thorny issues in the country that help to spur people to join the insurgents.

The partnership between U.S. and Afghan forces also has been crucial, Mullen said. "Many of the leaders [at the shura in Marja] told me that the security in many places was much improved – the result of extraordinary partnering and Afghan leadership," he said. "But so too, did they speak of Taliban intimidation, local corruption and a real economic need."

The leaders at the shura spoke of education, roads, health care, help for agriculture, and the need for jobs, Mullen said. He said he was struck by how normal the requests sounded, and that it appeared to him that the people of Marja just want to get on with their lives. Provincial leaders have heard these calls, but the capability to produce is limited.

Mullen said the U.S. military shares the desire for security and stability throughout Afghanistan that the people of Marja and Kandahar want. "We share the view that Afghan security forces, properly trained and equipped, can protect its citizens," he said.

The operation in Marja stands as a testament to that fact. More than 10,000 American troops are in Helmand, serving alongside coalition and Afghan partners.

"We still work hard every day to create security conditions conducive to economic development," the chairman said. "We're undoubtedly making progress, as I saw myself. Many villages are safe again. The streets are filling, and the shops are open.

"I must applaud here the terrific work of the Afghan National Army," he continued. "I heard from more than one American soldier and Marine how far the [Afghan army] has come in a short period of time. They fight bravely, they fight well, and they lead."

Mullen also said he is pleased with the way the Afghan National Civil Order Police operated in Marja. Police training has been under-resourced, and local police often have been put on the streets with no training, he said.

"We know this is a problem, and we are addressing this," he said. The people of the region want the civil order police to stay, he added.

Still, the admiral said, continued progress is not assured.

"We have moved to the 'hold and build' phase in many areas, and we will find ourselves clearing out areas in many others," he said. "The Taliban continue to be pervasive and persistent. It will take more work, and likely more bloodshed, to break it loose.

"Too sanguine an approach is just as treacherous as too little fortitude to see it through," he continued. "We have learned in this long fight that failure makes itself obvious; success takes longer to see."

Chairman Emphasizes Eliminating Civilian Casualties

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2010 - The coalition record on civilian casualties has improved significantly as a new strategy has gone into place in Afghanistan, but American leaders continue to hammer home how important it is to avoid killing civilians.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with troops serving on the front lines of the war in Regional Command South. Marines in Marja – the site of the recent offensive in Helmand province – asked him about the rules of engagement. Troops in other venues ask him about the furor over civilian casualties.

One Marine yesterday wondered why the Americans – who try desperately not to kill civilians – are pilloried when an accident occurs, yet the Taliban seems to kill fellow Afghans with impunity.

"The question that surrounds civilian casualties ... takes me immediately to the lack of depth and breadth of understanding that we had ... about the severity of the outcome and the impact it has," Mullen said to reporters traveling with him. "We just can't win it if we keep killing the locals."

The enemy uses any accidental civilian death against American or coalition forces. Mullen said Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in the country, shared with him the results of a study showing what happens in an area when civilian casualties occur.

"When we cause them, they generate a serious uptick in violence for up to five months," he said. "When the Taliban causes them, they generate an uptick in violence for about three months."

Coalition leaders know that civilian casualties have a huge impact on the overall strategy, Mullen said, and the study McChrystal commissioned proves that. "We know that the Taliban use that against us, and we are working hard to both denounce that and take that away, but they are very good and agile in attacking us," he said.

Coalition forces have to get to the point where they are not causing civilian casualties at all, he added, and when the local people know only the Taliban are causing civilian deaths, and it will start to work against the enemy. "We're not there yet," he said.

Forces in Afghanistan Detain Suspected Militants

American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2010 - Afghan and international security forces detained several suspected militants in recent operations, military officials reported. An Afghan-international security force on the outskirts of Marja in the Nawah-ye Barakzai district of Helmand province detained a few suspected militants for further questioning today after a search based on intelligence information.

In Khost province last night, a combined Afghan-international force in the Sabari district detained a suspected militant for further questioning and found automatic rifles, ammunition and chest racks.

Also last night, a combined force in the Zurmat district of Paktia province captured a Haqqani terrorist network commander responsible for leading several small groups of fighters.

In Helmand's Nad-e Ali district today, an Afghan-international patrol found three 105 mm rockets and an intelligence radio.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during these operations, officials said.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Randy M. Heck, 20, of Steubenville, Ohio, died March 28 from a non-hostile incident in Djibouti, Africa. He was assigned to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

This incident is under investigation.

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

Chairman Meets With Kandahar Leaders

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2010 - Navy Adm. Mike Mullen attended a meeting of community leaders in the governor's palace here today – a building that used to be the headquarters for Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had a full day of meetings with Afghan and coalition leaders.

The meeting – called a "shura" -- is the way Afghans get things done, said Frank Ruggiero, the senior civilian official at Regional Command South. It is the traditional way that Afghans discuss and argue and negotiate on matters affecting their community. Shuras are held at all levels of society, from small villages to nationwide.

The Kandahar shura was hosted by provincial Gov. Tooryalai Wesa and included district governors and sub-district leaders, as well as representatives of the tribes and elders held in respect throughout the province. The subject of the discussion was the way forward in Kandahar.

All in the shura recognized the problems created by corruption, but they disagreed on how to fight it. They also agreed on the need for security, but disagreed on who would provide it or which tactics work. "It's a process," Ruggiero said. "It will take a while."

Earlier, Mullen stopped at Forward Operating Base Wilson and spoke to the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, out of Fort Carson, Colo. Defense leaders had to extend the unit's stay in Afghanistan for 10 days. The unit was supposed to leave at the end of May, but now won't leave until June.

"In particular, I wanted to be with you and talk about your extension," Mullen said. "There were rumors beginning in January, and now that has happened. We worked like crazy to see if we could avoid that extension." He explained to the soldiers that changes to the battle space west of Kandahar made the choice inevitable.

Mullen thanked the troops for their sacrifice and also thanked their families.

"You couldn't do what you are doing without your families, and we really appreciate that they are sacrificing, too," he said.

Mullen moved on to Kandahar, where he met with the soldiers of the 20th Engineer Battalion. The 20th was one of the units processing through the facility at Fort Hood, Texas, when the Nov. 5 shooting rampage took place. The chairman met with soldiers of the unit and then pinned medals on soldiers for their actions that day. He also re-enlisted three soldiers.

Also in Kandahar, the admiral met with Vermont National Guardsmen of the 89th Brigade Combat Team – a unit he federalized earlier this year in Vermont.

Mullen Hears from Afghans, Marines

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2010 - The Marines who work at the governmental center here would feel right at home at an old cavalry post in the American West. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with local and provincial Afghan leaders and with U.S. Marines here today. The admiral said he wants to talk to the people on the ground to get a feel for how operations in this southern Afghanistan city are going.

The center looks like Fort Apache with razor wire and Hesco barriers. The center itself is a two-story building in the middle of a roughly five-acre piece of property. Guard towers are at the entrance, and the whole is surrounded by a 12-foot mud wall.

On one side of the square, Afghan National Civil Order Police and Marines live side by side in tents. The tents are surrounded by Hesco barriers that are so new that some of them are not filled with dirt yet. On the other side of the compound, Afghans are drilling a well.

"We hope to hook up a shower tent to it," said Marine Corps Cpl. Chris Learish, a communications expert with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. None of the Marines working at the compound has had a shower for almost two months.

In the center of the compound, the Afghans erected an awning where Mullen first received briefings from U.S. and Afghan military and police leaders, then met with about 30 elders and tribal leaders from the surrounding area.

The Afghan leaders came for a shura – a meeting of community leaders -- hosted by Helmand province's Gov. Gulab Mangel. Following the shura, Mullen walked down the street outside the government center. Finally, he sat down and had a field-ration lunch with the Marines doing the tough jobs in Marja.

If there was any doubt about who owned the compound, four Afghan flags flew from its highest points.

The operation in Marja tested the new strategy for Afghanistan, and Mullen said he wanted to hear from the people on the ground how it worked. Afghan leaders – including President Hamid Karzai – helped to plan the operation, and local leaders asked for coalition and Afghan security forces to help them.

Marine Corps Col. Randy Newman, commander of the 6th Regimental Combat Team, briefed Mullen first. He spoke of the fight the Marines had in Marja – a large agricultural area that the Taliban had controlled for more than two years. He was followed by Marine Corps Lt. Col. Cal Worth, commander of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, who spoke of the fight in the town.

Afghan Police Col. Sakhi, commander of the Afghan Civil Order Police partnered with the Marines, spoke of the fight and what his police have been doing to extend government control. Afghan army Col. Nawrooz, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 215th Corps, ended the series of briefings.

The shura hosted by Mangel was an eye-opener for Mullen and for the staff accompanying him.

"They're not shy, are they?" said Navy Capt. John Kirby, the chairman's spokesman. Leader after leader got up and spoke his mind – they were all men – to the admiral and the governor. Some praised the way the operation went. Others complained of the lack of progress in getting services to the people.

All wanted more schools, a working hospital, road projects and electricity. Other leaders railed against the cultivation of poppy in the region, and wanted the coalition and the government to do something about it.

Mangel told Mullen through a translator that his big job "is to get the trust of the people. If we can win their trust, we can win this war."

Mullen also spoke during the shura.

"This is your country, your province, your people," he said. "You have been through very difficult times and lost many friends. But there has been a great change in the past days, and I would like to ensure that the focus is on you and your families.

"It is for you to lead ... and us to support," the admiral continued. "You have to lead so that security that has changed this town in such a positive way can be sustained and the government can provide services for you all."

Later, Mullen said he was pleased with what he learned in the town and that the governor is a very impressive leader.

"I'm encouraged by watching his leadership in that shura," he said to reporters traveling with him. "I was encouraged by the number of people that came out and, recognizing that security was important, still encouraged by the list – education, roads, medical, crops – that they had."

Mullen said the Marines he spoke with were comfortable with the mission, but they did speak to him about the rules of engagement. The rules are written in such a way as to minimize civilian casualties. Right after President Barack Obama announced the strategy in December, the chairman traveled to Fort Campbell, Ky., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., to speak with the soldiers and Marines who would carry out that strategy.

"These Marines certainly represent that, and there are some tough decisions they have to make," Mullen said. "They have some concerns, but they really do get the issue of civilian casualties. Their concerns are the tension between calling in air or artillery support versus the potential of creating civilian casualties."

He said there was no push-back from the Marines that tactical success can lead to strategic defeat.

"I said to them, if we keep killing Afghan civilians, we might as pack it up and go home. It isn't going to work," Mullen said. "They understand that, but it's not easy."

Tennessee Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Commit Murders of African-Americans

Plot Included Then-Presidential Candidate Barack Obama

March 30, 2010 - WASHINGTON—Daniel Cowart pleaded guilty today to eight counts in a federal indictment charging him with crimes related to a racially-motivated plot to murder dozens of people, the Justice Department announced.

Cowart, 21, of Bells, Tenn., admitted to conspiring with Paul Schlesselman of West Helena, Ark., to engage in a killing spree specifically targeting African-Americans. He further acknowledged that he intended to culminate these attacks by assassinating President Obama, a U.S. Senator and a presidential candidate at the time of the planned attacks.

Cowart also admitted to shooting the window of the Allen Baptist Church in Brownsville, Tenn. Under the plea agreement, Cowart faces a sentence of at least 10 years and could face up to 75 years in prison.

“Despite great civil rights progress, this unthinkable conspiracy serves as a reminder that hate-fueled violence remains all too common in our country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Tragedy was averted thanks to the capable work of the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department and their willingness to work with the ATF, the Secret Service and the FBI.”

“Crimes committed against individuals because of their race will not be tolerated,” said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. “I commend the work of the investigative agencies in thwarting what could have been a series of tragic events.”

Cowart pleaded guilty to threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a major candidate for the office of President of the United States, conspiracy, interstate transportation of a short-barreled shotgun, interstate transportation of a firearm for the purpose of committing a felony, unlicensed transportation of an unauthorized short-barreled shotgun, possession of a short-barreled shotgun, intentional damage to religious real property, and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence

Schlesselman pleaded guilty on Jan. 14, 2010, to one count of conspiracy, one count of threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a presidential candidate, and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Schlesselman is scheduled to be sentenced on April 15, 2010, and faces 10 years in prison under the plea agreement.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Secret Service; the FBI; and the Crockett County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Powell and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti.

Kandahar Shaping Operations Under Way, Official Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2010 - U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan are laying the groundwork for their much-anticipated efforts to combat extremists in Kandahar, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in a Pentagon news conference today.

Morrell said combat operations will begin in earnest in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, he said, troops are engaged in what military officials refer to as "shaping" operations in preparation for the upcoming offensive there.

"The truth is they have begun," Morrell said of shaping operations taking place in Kandahar, the spiritual center of the Taliban. "They have been months in the making."

A U.S. Stryker brigade combat team arrived in southern Afghanistan last summer, marking the beginning of operations there. The Stryker vehicles are used to secure routes in and out of Afghanistan's second-largest city, while other preparatory work, such as tribal engagements by U.S. special operations forces, are also under way.

Shuras – meetings of influential community leaders – are a critical component to shaping the eventual operation by gaining local support, Morrell said.

"So clearly, a lot of the preparatory work, the shaping operations that will be essential to ultimate success in Kandahar, are under way, and have been under way, frankly, for months now," he said.

Morrell wouldn't speculate on a timetable for major offensives to begin in Kandahar, but more forces will be dedicated to operations there in the weeks ahead, he said. More civilian support also will be required from NATO and the Afghan government to be successful there, he added.

"Ultimately, we need a more sizeable force to be successful there than we currently have in place," he said.

Coalition and Afghan security forces are building on successful operations in Helmand province to launch similar operations in Kandahar city and province. However, Morrell stressed that forces in Kandahar would constitute more of a "facilitating" role, because the city has "some semblance of government control, unlike Marja, which was mostly entirely in the hands of the Taliban.

"There may be some foundation on which to build," he said of operations in Kandahar and its government. "Therefore we would more in the role of facilitating additional government assets and support and security elements coming in, and that they could be more the providers of security and better government services."

Kandahar will be an important operation to establish security in the country. The operation alone will not decide the overall outcome in Afghanistan, but it's a necessary step to root out the Taliban, given the city's historical significance to the Taliban movement, Morrell said.

"[Kandahar] is the likely next stop on a 12-to-18-month-long campaign," he said. "It will clearly be a very important operation. We certainly hope it will be one that will break the back, to a large extent, of the Taliban who have called it home and who have used it as a sanctuary for some time."

General Keen's Blog: The Power of Partnerships

By Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen
Commander, Joint Task Force Haiti

March 30, 2010 - My time spent here in Haiti has been a journey to say the least. I have been fortunate to be part of a mission that carries with it a level of importance that I could never begin to describe with words. I've also been fortunate to have a number of teammates with me at every step of the way. I am a firm believer that having strong partnerships in any operation, but particularly in a humanitarian one like Operation Unified Response, is the difference between success and failure. In October 1984, I was a battalion operations officer with the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment. I was participating in a one-month airborne exchange program with the Brazil Airborne Brigade in Rio de Janeiro. During my stay, I had the opportunity to meet then-Army Capt. Floriano Peixoto, an infantry pathfinder instructor in the Brazilian brigade. Little did I know that 26 years later he and I would be commanding troops in Haiti.

Over the years, we kept in touch and our paths occasionally crossed. The partnership we formed nearly three decades ago was rooted in our understanding of each other's culture, language and operability. And the fact that we are soldiers, paratroopers and brothers-in-arms made the bond between us even stronger.

Soon after the Jan. 12, 7.0-magnitude earthquake, I sought out the United Nations' military forces. And knowing Maj. Gen. Peixoto was the commander, I knew I had a friend, ally and partner to assist us in delivering humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti.

Since we had known each other for years, we didn't have to go through the standard protocols and introductions that usually occur when military leaders of two nations meet for the first time. He and I both agreed that saving lives and mitigating the suffering of the Haitian people was the goal. We wasted no time and immediately went to work, drafting up a plan to provide immediate relief.

From the start, it was clear Joint Task Force Haiti would operate within the envelope of a safe and secure environment. Maj. Gen. Peixoto's force of roughly 4,000 soldiers in Port-au-Prince would provide the necessary security so U.S. forces could support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission.

Having been in command for nearly a year and possessing extensive previous experience in Haiti, Maj. Gen. Peixoto and his staff had the situational awareness and clear understanding of the atmospherics on the ground. Bringing the U.S. and U.N. staffs together on such short notice gave us a common operating picture and assisted us in supporting the delivery of food, water and emergency medical care. This would not have been possible if it wasn't for the trust and partnership we shared. The result was a classic case study in international partnering and how to coordinate and collaborate in a humanitarian crisis.

As Operation Unified Response approaches the three-month mark, looking back I can list a number of lessons learned. But one that stands out above the others is that the power of partnerships can never be underestimated. The friendship Maj. Gen. Peixoto and I established 26 years ago is proof that partnerships play an essential role in international operations. It not only strengthened our collective approach to accomplishing the mission here in Haiti, but it ensured success in a very complex and dynamic environment.

Combined Forces Kill, Detain Militants

American Forces Press Service

March 30, 2010 - Afghan and international forces killed several militants and detained numerous suspected militants in recent operations, military officials reported.

No Afghan civilians were harmed in the operations, officials said.

-- An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning after searching a compound in north Kandahar city last night.

-- In Paktika province's Bermal district last night, several militants were killed when they threatened a combined Afghan-international security team. The combined force detained several additional militants and found automatic rifles and multiple rocket-propelled grenades at the compound.

-- In Wardak province's Sayyidabad district last night, an Afghan-international force captured a Taliban weapons facilitator accused of buying and selling large amounts of weapons, munitions and explosives for other militant networks. The security force also detained a few other suspected militants.

-- In Zabul province's Shinkai district last night, a combined force went to a rural area where intelligence information indicated militant activity. Two militants engaged the approaching force and were killed. During a follow-on search the combined force found radios, an automatic rifle, ammunition and a rocket launcher with multiple rounds.

-- In Farah province's Shewan district yesterday, an Afghan civilian turned in two 155 mm rounds and an improvised explosive device to a security force.

-- On March 28, a combined Afghan-international force noticed suspicious movements in an uninhabited area outside of Shindand in Herat province and launched an illumination round. Insurgents then opened fire on the force, causing no injuries. The security force returned fire with small arms and mortar fire, forcing the insurgents to flee. Upon searching the area, the security force found more than 300 pounds of explosives, an 82 mm mortar round, four artillery shells, two grenades, three anti-tank rockets, a 122 mm anti-tank round and small-arms ammunition. The cache was destroyed.

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Military Official Discusses Pakistani Offensive

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2010 - Roughly 40,000 Pakistani troops are conducting operations against militants in the country's North Waziristan region near the Afghan border, a senior U.S. military official said today.

Unlike a larger, "steamroller" offensive last year that uprooted enemy fighters in neighboring South Waziristan, the current engagement comprises smaller, piecemeal operations, the official told Pentagon reporters on background.

"We are seeing quite a bit of activity [in North Waziristan] that's going on that supports what General Kiyani's been telling in some of the strategic dialogues about his campaign plan," the official said, referring to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army's chief of staff.

Kiyani pledged in 2008 to step up offensive operations against militants within Pakistan, starting in the northern area of Bajaur, working through the federally administered tribal areas, the Swat Valley and the Northwestern Frontier.

The official said Pakistan "seems to be abiding by that kind of campaign plan to go and uproot the insurgencies" in the areas where militants have been entrenched.

"You're seeing a trend where they are trying to remove the areas that were once unapproachable," the official said, noting that Kiyani announced that the recent Pakistani military offensives marked the first any military had occupied South Waziristan.

The official characterized the accomplishments of the Pakistan security forces as "quite impressive."

"To see the gains that they have made in this short time is a real testament to the resolve, the fighting spirit and the leadership of Pakistan's armed forces," the official said.

About 200 U.S. military personnel in Pakistan are providing security assistance and training to the Pakistani military and to paramilitary operatives and members of the frontier corps. The official left open the possibility that the number of U.S. forces may increase if the U.S. delivers military equipment to Pakistan that requires specialized trainers.

"We stand fully behind Pakistan in its relentless drive to restore peace and security in this region," the official said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates held talks last week with a delegation of Pakistani officials, including Kayani.

"What we are interested in is looking at the long-term in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan," Gates said before the meetings, "how we can strengthen our relationship, and how we can help Pakistan in dealing with the security challenges that face them, but also face us and NATO as well."

Military officials have said that what spurred on Pakistan to greater action against militants within their borders was the realization that Taliban operatives -- working in Afghanistan and Pakistan and al-Qaida behave as a "syndicate," working in support of each other.

"Although they might not be bearing the big al-Qaida banner," the official said, "these forces do work together in different ways."

The official also noted that Pakistan began to take threats from the syndicate more seriously after militants began encroaching in areas that traditionally have not been home to insurgent forces.

"When the forces started packing into the settled areas of Pakistan within the last two years, I think they really realized that this is an extremist they have to deal with," the official said. "As they were taking over the Swat area -- [in addition to] very dramatic attacks inside Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi -- I think it was a wake-up call to some extent that they needed to deal with this insurgency, and it became their war, not our war, as it may have been portrayed."

The official said coordination has improved among the U.S.-NATO coalition forces, Afghan security forces and Pakistan.

"That [Afghanistan-Pakistan] border that was very fluid," the official said, "now is starting to be problematic for the insurgency."

Troops Kill, Capture Militants, Seize Weapons

American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2010 - U.S. and Afghan forces killed and detained militants and discovered weapons in operations in Afghanistan in recent days, military officials said.

Troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force, along with Afghan forces, killed several Taliban fighters while responding to heavy fire during a March 27 operation in the Tagab district of Kapisa province.

The combined force also detained an enemy fighter while searching a compound near Alasay Valley.

One of the militants involved in the operation is suspected of being the senior Taliban commander in the western Alasay Valley, responsible for a number of violent attacks against Afghan government officials and coalition forces.

Troops seized assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and several documents in the operation.

In other operations that day, combined forces detained two suspected militants in the Marja area of Helmand province and four enemy fighters in Kandahar City, near the village of Karz.

Also on March 27, troops seized an insurgent who fired two rockets at the compound where a meeting was being held in the Khakrez district center of Kandahar province.

Combined forces killed and detained militants a day earlier during operations near Kariz Deh Baba, east of Musa Qaleh.

As Afghan force members entered a targeted compound, a number of insurgents fired upon them. The force responded in self defense and killed several insurgents, according to military officials. Troops detained several other insurgents.

Afghan forces also recovered assault rifles, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and other military equipment in the March 26 offensive.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

Nine Members of a Militia Group Charged with Seditious Conspiracy and Related Offenses

March 29, 2010 - Six Michigan residents, along with two residents of Ohio and a resident of Indiana, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade and FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena announced today.

The five-count indictment, which was unsealed today, charges that between August 2008 and the present, the defendants, David Brian Stone, 45, his wife, Tina Stone, 44, his son, Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, of Clayton, Michigan, and his other son, David Brian Stone, Jr., 19, of Adrian, Michigan, Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Michigan, Michael Meeks, 40 of Manchester, Michigan, Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Indiana, Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio, and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio, acting as a Lenawee County Michigan militia group called the Hutaree, conspired to oppose by force the authority of the U.S. government. According to the indictment, Hutaree members view local, state, and federal law enforcement as the “brotherhood,” their enemy, and have been preparing to engage them in armed conflict.

The indictment further alleges that the Hutaree planned to kill an unidentified member of local law enforcement and then attack the law enforcement officers who gather in Michigan for the funeral. According to the plan, the Hutaree would attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with improvised explosive devices with explosively formed projectiles, which, according to the indictment, constitute weapons of mass destruction. Subsequently, and in furtherance of this plan, David Brian Stone, the Hutaree’s leader, obtained information about such devices over the Internet and e-mailed diagrams of such devices to a person he believed capable of manufacturing the devices. He then had his son, Joshua Matthew Stone, and others gather materials necessary for the manufacturing of such devices.

According to the indictment, in June 2009, David Brian Stone and his other son, David Brian Stone, Jr., taught other Hutaree members how to make and use explosive devices intending or knowing that the information would be used to further a crime of violence. In addition, the grand jury charged all nine defendants with carrying or possessing a firearm during a crime of violence on at least one occasion.

U.S. Attorney McQuade said, “Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time."

Andrew Arena, FBI Special Agent in Charge, said, "This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society. The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States. The FBI would like to thank our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners who are member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, for their assistance in this case."

As of this morning, eight of the nine defendants are in custody and seven of them will be making their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Donald A. Scheer at 10 a.m. Joshua Stone is currently a fugitive. Any person with information as to the whereabouts of this individual should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (313) 965-2323.

The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction carries a statutory maximum penalty of life in prison, Teaching the use of explosives materials carriers a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum penalty of at least five years in prison.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI and the Michigan State Police.

Reporters Reflect on '30 Days Through Afghanistan'

By Judith Snyderman
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

March 29, 2010 - Two military journalists behind an ambitious NATO International Security Assistance Force project to traverse Afghanistan in one month and file daily reports in words, photos and video recapped their experiences in a March 25 "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.

The Web-based project, titled "30 Days Through Afghanistan," concluded March 15. It was the brainchild of Air Force Tech. Sgts. Ken Raimondi, whose background is in broadcasting, and Nathan Gallahan, a photojournalist. Both are based at ISAF's Joint Command in Kabul.

The complex logistics required to reach all five ISAF regional commands in Afghanistan ultimately stretched the project an extra five days. From start to finish, Raimondi said, 90 percent of the encounters they had with coalition servicemembers and with Afghan civilians were positive.

"The whole 35 days through, we saw almost endless opportunity and good spirits out there, and it was really a morale booster for us about the whole mission," he said.

He added that no restrictions were placed on their coverage. "There was no approval chain. What we saw, we talked about," he said.

And they pulled no punches in talking candidly with those they met. Raimondi recalled speaking with a sergeant stationed in the south who had witnessed 117 "ramp" ceremonies conducted planeside for fallen soldiers. "It was just crushing, really, knowing that there are people out there that have seen that many ramp ceremonies," Raimondi noted.

Gallahan said the greatest challenge to keeping up the pace of daily reports was finding Internet access with enough bandwidth to upload video material to their Web site. The easy part, he said, was finding stories to tell.

"There are so many people in this country who have so much to say, and there's so much to talk about, that I could have spent 10 years blogging every day and could have found something new to talk about," he said.

Both reporters said they were gratified to read comments submitted by some of the several thousand followers of the blog, which Gallahan wrote, and the video log postings, which Raimondi produced. Although they would have liked the Web site to have attracted a larger audience beyond the military community, they said, they hope their approach has opened doors for others.

The airmen added that while "30 Days Through Afghanistan" may have broken new ground in contemporary military journalism, it really represents a return to the personal, frontline interview style of famed World War II reporter Ernie Pyle.

Gallahan said his two regrets about the project are a lack of time to plan out logistics and having to wrap up after just skimming the surface of the country.

"I would like to continue to try to tell the entire story of Afghanistan so people can make their own judgments," he said.

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Ross, 19, of Gillette, Wyo., died March 24, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 910-450-6575.

Couple Runs for Wounded Warriors

By Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod
U.S. Division Center

March 29, 2010 - Separated by seven time zones, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, a deployed U.S. paratrooper and his stateside wife celebrated the strength and resilience of America's wounded warriors with synchronized 50-mile runs March 20-21. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bruch, a platoon sergeant and military policeman with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, and Tammy Bruch, a doctoral candidate at University of North Carolina Greensboro, each ran 50 miles, supported by friends, relatives and Jason's unit, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

"I've had a lot of guys get [post traumatic stress disorder]," said Jason, who is on his fourth deployment to Iraq, "and they have to live with it the rest of their lives. I want to let them and the many other wounded warriors know they are not forgotten."

The idea came to the couple through Jason's interaction with Operation Proper Exit, a program that allows wounded servicemembers to visit the place of their injury to enable psychological healing to begin.

He also was influenced by Army 2nd Lt. Richard Ingram, a paratrooper with whom he currently serves, who lost his left arm to a roadside bomb during a prior deployment to Iraq.

The date for the run, March 20, was picked because it is the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

"This is a great project for a very special group," said Army Lt. Col. Douglas Stitt, battalion commander. Proud of his soldier's leadership, Stitt quipped, "To pardon the pun, he's willing to go the extra mile and then some."

"We have a bunch of soldiers who care about our fellow soldiers, those who have been wounded in combat and those who are not able to get out and maybe participate the way they want," added Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Martin Jr., the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the battalion.

Jason made 10 five-mile laps around Camp Ramadi, the U.S. military base where his unit has been deployed since August. Tammy's running course passed around Fort Bragg, N.C., and neighboring Pope Air Force Base.

Jason's run began at dusk; Tammy's began several hours after sunrise.

"I could not believe how many people were inspired by what Jason and I were doing – the support and encouragement was really overwhelming," said Tammy, now a reservist who left active duty in 2007.

The battalion's rear detachment and Jason's relatives organized individuals to run with Tammy, and many of her relatives traveled from out of town to support her. More than a dozen women from the company's family readiness group pushed strollers along part of the course in support, she said.

On Camp Ramadi, the run drew 30 participants, though many of them planned not to run the entire 50 miles. One of those who did was Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Jablow, commander of the 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron out of Baghdad, who was visiting his airmen in Ramadi.

Though Jablow runs several marathons a year, the farthest the Brooklyn, N.Y., native had run prior to the Wounded Warrior Run was 36 miles, around the island of Diego Garcia.

"I'll run any race and run any distance to be with the guys," Jablow said. "It never entered my mind that I would not finish, though after 35 miles, it was kind of rough."

In addition to the runners, several paratroopers marched 15 miles with rucksacks, and one, 25 miles. Members of Jason's squad provided much of the support.

"If it wasn't for all these aid stations out here and all these people out here pushing me, there's no way I would have made it," said Jason, who finished the run in 9 hours, 32 minutes.

Before this run, his farthest distance had been 35 miles. "I hit the wall at 20, 35 and 45 miles," he said of the sensation of total energy depletion that's familiar to marathon runners.

The couple met while deployed to Baghdad in 2005. Tammy introduced Jason to long-distance running.

"When we first met, she could smoke me," he said.

One of Tammy's goals is to run a marathon in every state. She has run four marathons since Jason deployed in August.

Wisconsin Guard unit's return a priceless moment for families

(3/26/10) - As members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Embedded Training Team arrived in La Crosse today following a deployment to Afghanistan, some family members let their T-shirts do the talking.

"Phone Cards: $400," the T-shirt front read. "Care Packages: $1,000. New Furnace: $5,000. Getting our Soldier back home ... PRICELESS!"

The back of those T-shirts read "Team Miller" in honor of Lt. Col. Russell Miller, one of 16 Wisconsin Guard Soldiers, who mobilized a year ago to mentor Afghan officials in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Col. Tim Lawson, ETT commander, thanked the families and friends gathered at the La Crosse Municipal Airport for their support of the unit he refers to as "Iron Badgers" over the past year.

"We were in a war zone, but I am sure that most of the battles were being fought over here by you," he said.

Members of the Miller family members acknowledged the deployment was stressful.

"Our family is so close and this made us stronger," said daughter Jen Miller. "We got through it together."

"He's home just in time for sports," added son Ryan Miller.

The Miller family explained that they make themed T-shirts for various celebrations and spent months on this version.

Lawson shared how the ETT had trained to support the Coalition Task Force Phoenix by mentoring the Afghan National Police in the western province of Herat, which it did through the presidential elections last August. Lt. Col. Brad Anderson and Master Sgt. Matthew Kronschnabel were sent north almost immediately after the ETT arrived in country, which would prove to pay dividends later.

Following the elections, the scope of the ETT's mission changed, and Lawson said he ultimately decided that "it was better to have a good job and separate some members than to have a bad job and stay together."

Miller and Sgt. 1st Class Noel Severson remained in Herat to fill critical positions with the Regional Support Team West, while Lt. Col. Richard Borkowski and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Hass headed to Kabul. The remainder of the team rejoined Anderson and Kronschnabel in the Regional Support Team North, a region administered by German forces. Lawson called it "the ultimate test in versatility."

"I know that most of us ended up doing something different than what we wanted or ever thought that we would be doing," he said. "Most of you became [forward operating base] builders, building contractors, site managers, equipment distribution centers and mentors to the Afghan Police and Army personnel."

Additional challenges came with the territory - rampant corruption among Afghan officials, and a dangerous enemy waging a determined insurgency campaign. Lawson said there were some close calls, and that fortune and timing favored his team.

"You are all warriors," he said. "I am extremely proud of how you all handled the mission changes and continued to give everything that you had to a country that is in great need. Take some solace in the fact that what you have done today will change tomorrow."

The members of the ETT spent about an hour with loved ones before heading by bus to Fort McCoy to begin the demobilization process. Jen Miller already had plans for when her father was home for good.

"We have a whole year of stories to catch up on," she said.

The ETT mobilized in March 2009, and after several weeks of training at Fort Riley, Kan. deployed to Afghanistan. This was the Wisconsin Army National Guard's fourth such embedded training team to be sent to Afghanistan.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chairman Calls Kandahar Operations 'Critical'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2010 - Kandahar is the center of gravity for operations in Afghanistan for at least the rest of this year, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. "I think Kandahar is as critical in this timeframe in Afghanistan as Baghdad was in Iraq during the surge," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said to reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan.

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has announced that Kandahar is the next target for Afghan and coalition forces. The general wants to build on the lessons learned in the Marja campaign in Helmand province for operations in and around Afghanistan's second-largest city.

Kandahar was the spiritual home of Mullah Omar and the Taliban and remains important to the Taliban. McChrystal said earlier this month that shaping operations in and around the city have begun. Some of these operations will be political, he said, and others are security-related, but coalition and Afghan forces will move forward with the full support of the Afghan government.

The two areas of highest risk are governance and the police, the chairman said, noting that effective governance has to be at all levels: local, provincial and federal. "It is governance at the village level that I am ... concerned about," Mullen said, "because that's the level of government that will deliver goods and services to people who are desperate."

Training the police has been a problem, the chairman acknowledged, but he said he feels confident that the right processes and systems are in place now.

Corruption is a problem in Kandahar, and an anti-corruption task force has been operating in the region. "It's still early, but I'm anxious to hear their conclusions," the chairman said.

Dealing with corruption and putting in place honest governance are the keys to Kandahar, the admiral told reporters. "We will be unable to succeed in Kandahar if we cannot eliminate a vast majority of corruption there and set up a legitimate governance structure," he said. "We can succeed militarily, but it's not going to work" if local government cannot serve the people fairly.

Since Kandahar is the center of gravity, success or failure there will have ramifications far beyond its borders.

Mullen visits Afghanistan at least once a quarter to assess what's happening on the ground and see if it matches up with what he is told in the Pentagon.

In Regional Command South, the admiral said, he wants not only to see the combat side of operations, but also to meet with the civilian leadership to assess how the governance portion of the "clear, hold, build" strategy is working.

"This starts at the local level and goes right up to Kabul," Mullen said.

The chairman said agrees with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that any negotiation with Taliban leaders would be premature. He said allies tell him the coalition should negotiate only from a position of strength, "and in my judgment, we're not there yet."

"There has to be a political strategy [toward reconciliation] in Afghanistan," he added. "We're really sorting our way to this."

The chairman also said he was pleased with the strategic dialogue meetings between the United States and Pakistan last week in Washington. The meetings reflected a whole-of-government approach, with ministers from all agencies and disciplines discussing mutual interests and concerns.

Pakistani officials told Mullen that they noticed "a sea change" in the attitude of Congress toward them, he said.

Mullen said he takes a long view of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. He has visited with Gen. Asfaq Kayani of the Pakistani army 19 times since being named chairman, he said, because he and other U.S. leaders must mend ties with Pakistan. The United States broke off military-to-military relations with the country in 1992. It wasn't until 2002 that normal relations resumed. Re-developing trust will take time, the chairman said.

Meetings like the strategic dialogue "are all part of the education process, the understanding process, the seeing it from both sides process that a couple two years ago wasn't there," Mullen said.

Mullen to Assess Afghan Training Needs

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2010 - Training Afghan security forces is a priority for coalition forces, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he intends to meet with coalition and Afghan leaders to assess that process.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who stopped here for fuel en route to Afghanistan, said he also wants to understand what the shortage of trainers for the Afghan army and police will mean to the effort.

By the end of fiscal 2010, plans call for about 240,000 members in the Afghan security forces. By the end of fiscal 2011, that number jumps to just over 300,000. Just managing the increase is a big job, but the training command also has to train replacements for soldiers and police whose enlistments end or who are killed or wounded.

All agree that the Afghan National Army has progressed the most. Afghan kandaks battalion-size units have led operations in many areas of the country. The army's biggest problem is a lack of mid-level leaders and staff officers and staff noncommissioned officers.

But the police have a long way to go. Local police in Helmand province were so corrupt they drove the citizens into the arms of the Taliban, officials in Kabul said earlier this month. But police are absolutely crucial to long-range security, Mullen said. "Police training was not resourced well in the past," he noted. "Previous commanders put in programs that matched the resources they had, rather than training to the requirements they needed."

The best counterinsurgency force is a local force, and coalition forces are working with the Afghans to build that force. But there are not enough trainers. "We've asked and pushed our partners to provide as many trainers as possible, and that continues," Mullen said.

Navy Adm. James Stavridis, NATO's supreme allied commander, is working with the alliance's countries and other international partners to get these trainers. "We've come up short a few hundred and that's part of the discussion I want to have," the chairman said.

Mullen said he will meet with Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, in charge of training Afghan security forces, "to understand this gap and how serious it is against that goal that we all have."

"That will inform me about the options we have," the chairman said.

Afghan army training takes in recruits and then forms kandaks at Camp Blackhorse, outside Kabul. At the camp, the units receive embedded trainers who work with the unit as it forms and increases capabilities. Once that aspect is finished, the kandak joins an Afghan brigade. McChrystal insisted that all Afghan units have partners, and those coalition units continue to work with the Afghans to train them.

"In the Marja offensive, some [Afghan units] were led well, some were so-so, and some of them weren't led well at all," Mullen said. "That doesn't surprise me. That outcome is something we will continue to work with."

But the face that many residents of Marja saw when the offensive began belonged to an Afghan soldier, and that should continue to be the goal, Mullen said.

"The feedback I get on counterinsurgency is that it is moving forward on the small unit level by both [the International Security Assistance Force] and the Afghans," the chairman said.

Obama Underscores U.S.-Afghan Partnership

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2010 - President Barack Obama, in a surprise trip that marked his first visit to Afghanistan as U.S. president, underscored his administration's continuing partnership with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government while also pressing for greater reform.

Obama landed under the cover of darkness at Bagram Airfield with a delegation of U.S. officials before flying by helicopter to Kabul, where he met one-on-one with Karzai for about a half hour.

"To the Afghan people," Obama said in remarks after the meeting, "the American people send greetings and are encouraged by the progress that's been made."

Obama highlighted recent military gains in Afghanistan, where a battle in central Helmand province last month routed the Taliban from its former stronghold of Marja. Defense officials have described Marja as an early victory in the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan that Obama unveiled late last year.

"We have seen already progress," Obama said, "with respect to the military campaign against extremism in the region."

But the president said the United States also seeks progress on civilian measures such as anticorruption reforms. The Afghan government has long been accused of cronyism and graft, and Karzai himself has been criticized as being too soft in cracking down on corruption.

"We also want to continue to make progress on the civilian process of ensuring that agricultural production, energy production, good governance, rule of law [and] anticorruption efforts end up resulting in a Afghanistan that is more prosperous, more secure, independent," Obama said.

Such measures, Obama added, would help protect Afghanistan from meddling by its neighbors, and would pave the way for a smoother a transition as the United States and its partners seek to transfer more security responsibility to Afghans.

"I'm very pleased to see that there's been some excellent efforts in terms of partnering Afghan national security forces with U.S. and coalition forces," he said. "We think that points to the direction that all of us are interested in a day when Afghanistan is going to be able to provide for its own security but continue a long-term strategic partnership with the United States."

The president said he extended an invitation to Karzai for a follow-on meeting in Washington in May to discuss mutual long-term strategic interests.

Obama also met with top American officials and delivered a message to U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield.

"One of the main reasons I'm here is to just say thank you to the incredible efforts of our U.S. troops and our coalition partners," Obama said. "They make tremendous sacrifices far away from home, and I want to make sure that they know how proud their commander in chief is of them."

Karzai thanked Obama and the American people for the help the United States has given to Afghanistan for the past eight years.

"And I hope that this process will continue into the future towards a stable, strong, peaceful Afghanistan that can sustain itself, that can move forward into the future with confidence and better hopes," he said.

Obama Meets With Karzai in Kabul

American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2010 - In a visit that wasn't announced until he arrived, President Barack Obama is in Kabul today, where he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama arrived at Bagram Airfield aboard Air Force One at 7:25 p.m. local time 10:25 a.m. EDT and was met by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry.

The president boarded a helicopter at Bagram for a 15-minute flight to the presidential palace in the Afghan capital.

James L. Jones, Obama's national security advisor, told reporters the president would engage his Afghan counterpart on benchmarks for matters that require attention, such as a initiating a merit-based system for appointment of key government officials, battling corruption, and taking the fight to the country's drug traffickers, who provide funding for insurgents.

Jones also said the two presidents would discuss the importance of the reintegration and reconciliation process for Afghans who are willing to renounce association with the insurgency.

Obama Pays Surprise Visit to Troops in Afghanistan

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2010 - President Barack Obama today paid a surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan, delivering a message of praise to American servicemembers on behalf of the United States. Speaking at Bagram Airfield to an audience of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Obama said support for deployed servicemembers transcends partisan politics.

"I know that sometimes when you're watching TV, the politics back home may look a little messy, and people are yelling and hollering, and Democrats this and Republicans that," he said. "I want you to understand this: There's no daylight when it comes to support of all of you. There's no daylight when it comes to supporting our troops. That brings us together.

"We are all incredibly proud. We all honor what you do," he continued. "And all of you show all of America what's possible when people come together, not based on color or creed, not based on faith or station, but based on a commitment to serve together, to bleed together and to succeed together as one people, as Americans."

The Obama family reportedly spent the weekend at the remote presidential residence at Camp David, from which the commander in chief quietly departed today en route to Afghanistan, where he also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama reiterated that continued military operations against the type of Afghanistan-based terrorism that led to the 9/11 attacks are necessary for American security, saying the "folks back home are relying on you."

"I want every American serving in Afghanistan, military and civilian, to know, whether you're working the flightline here at Bagram or patrolling a village down in Helmand, whether you're standing watch at a forward operating base or training our Afghan partners or working with the Afghan government," he said, "your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential, to America's safety and security."

Roughly a third of the 30,000-troop surge Obama announced for Afghanistan in December is in place, with 18,000 of the additional forces expected to be in Afghanistan by late spring. About 83,000 American and 45,000 allied forces are in Afghanistan now according to the latest available figures, as troop levels in Iraq continue to drop.

"Many of the troops that I ordered to Afghanistan have begun to arrive, and more are on the way," the president told about 2,000 servicemembers in Bagram's "Clamshell" amphitheater. "And we'll continue to work with Congress to make sure that you've got the equipment that you need, particularly as we complete our drawdown in Iraq. We're providing more helicopters, we're providing more intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities, more special operations forces, more armored vehicles that can save lives."

In Afghanistan, the battle last month that routed the Taliban from its former stronghold in Marja was cast as an early test of the strategy that includes increasing the number of American and allied troops in NATO's International Security Assistance Force and ramping up operations against militants in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan.

"Together with our coalition and Afghan partners, our troops have pushed the Taliban out of their stronghold in Marja," he said. "We've changed the way we operate and interact with the Afghan people. We see Afghans reclaiming their communities, and we see new partnerships that will help them build their own future and increase their security."

Obama said Americans have responded to the renewed offensive with "a huge increase in support," reflecting their understanding of troops' sacrifices and the clarity of mission servicemembers are bringing to bear. Military officials have said Kandahar, considered the spiritual epicenter of the Taliban, will be the next focus for military forces in Afghanistan.

The president highlighted the sacrifices made in Afghanistan, saying U.S. troops today represent a link to servicemembers who have worn the American uniform for hundreds of years.

"Here in Afghanistan, each one of you is part of an unbroken line of American servicemembers who've sacrificed for over two centuries. You're protecting your fellow citizens from danger. You're serving alongside old allies and new friends," he said. "You're bringing hope and opportunity to a people who have known a lot of pain and a lot of suffering."

Obama acknowledged the way forward in Afghanistan won't be easy, but added that the challenges are not insurmountable.

"There are going to be some difficult days ahead. There's going to be setbacks," he said. "We face a determined enemy, but we also know this: The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something. You don't quit, the American armed services does not quit. We keep at it, we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that."

DOD Announces Army Civilian Returned To Military Control

The Department of Defense announced today an Army civilian employee, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, was Returned to Military Control (RMC) on March 25.

Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., became unaccounted for on Jan. 23, 2010, and subsequently declared Excused Absence Whereabouts Unknown (EAWUN). He was believed to have been kidnapped in Baghdad, where he was assigned to U.S. Forces-Iraq. Salomi's permanent duty station is Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The circumstances remain under investigation.

For more information on his assignment and duties in Iraq, media my contact U.S. Forces-Iraq at 240-553-0581 ext. 3598 or 3559. For information on his reintegration, media may contact U.S. Army South at 210-295-6693 (office) or 210-392-6586 (cell).

Friday, March 26, 2010

FARC Logistical Network Commander and Two Collaborators Plead Guilty to Providing Material Support to the FARC

March 26, 2010 - WASHINGTON—A former high-ranking FARC 1st Front member and logistical network commander, Nancy Conde Rubio, and two collaborators, Ana Isabel Pena Arevalo and Luz Mery Gutierrez Vergara, have pleaded guilty to providing material support to the FARC, announced Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; David S. Kris, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Miami Field Office; Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Miami Field Office; and Chris K. Amato, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Southeast Field Office.

Earlier this afternoon, before the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the two FARC collaborators, Ana Isabel Pena Arevalo and Luz Mery Gutierrez Vergara, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (in Spanish, the “Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia,”commonly known as the “FARC”). Last week, on March 17, 2010, the former high-ranking FARC 1st Front member and logistical network commander, Nancy Conde Rubio, pleaded guilty to the same offense.

All three defendants are Colombian nationals. Conde Rubio, 37, was extradited from the Republic of Colombia in September 2009; Gutierrez Vergara, 32, was extradited in April 2009; and Pena Arevalo, 47, was extradited in March 2009.

According to the government’s proffer of evidence, as agreed to by the defendants at the plea hearings, Conde Rubio was the leader of the 1st Front’s logistical support network. To supply itself, the FARC’s 1st Front relied on a network of individuals with access to Colombia’s metropolitan and commercial centers, as well as to product markets in other countries. It also relied on individuals involved in trafficking in narcotics, who had access to weapons, foreign currency, and other supplies, such as high technology communications equipment.

The 1st Front commander and Conde Rubio directed other members of the logistical support network to obtain and transport materials and supplies. One primary method of communication used to operate the network was by satellite telephones obtained by Conde Rubio from the United States. FARC members obtained cash from drug dealers in exchange for FARC controlled cocaine, and then transferred funds to the FARC collaborators who were members of the conspiracy so that they could purchase the materials and supplies needed to operate the 1st Front. Materials and supplies were transported to the FARC in airplanes via clandestine airstrips located in Colombia and elsewhere, in trucks, and in river boats navigating remote jungle rivers that traverse rural areas of Colombia and neighboring countries.

Gutierrez Vergara and Pena Arevalo served in the logistical support and supply network as radio call center operators, patching through high frequency radio calls from FARC leaders operating in the jungle to co-conspirators in urban areas responsible for obtaining materials and supplies for the FARC guerillas. Because neither land line nor cell phone service was available in the jungle areas controlled by the 1st Front, satellite telephones and high frequency radios were the only methods of electronic communication available.

The FARC is engaged, and has been since its inception in 1964, in armed conflict against the government of the Republic of Colombia. It seeks to destabilize all levels of the Colombian government through violence, including murders, hostage-takings, and threats. In addition, the FARC has been strongly anti-American, characterizing American citizens as “military targets,” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage-takings. The FARC held three Americans hostage from Feb. 13, 2003, until they were rescued in a dramatic Colombian military operation on July 2, 2008. Beginning in September 2006, the three Americans were held hostage by the FARC’s 1st Front. As charged in the indictment, the logistical supply and communications network established by Conde Rubio was used by other FARC leaders to maintain control of and to transport the American hostages while they were being held by the 1st Front. Other alleged 1st Front leaders were charged in the indictment with hostage taking and related offenses, while other alleged members of the network—including narcotics traffickers and weapons dealers—were charged with providing material support or resources to the FARC.

Sentencing for Conde Rubio is scheduled for June 15, 2010, while Pena Arevalo and Gutierrez Vergara are scheduled to be sentenced on June 22, 2010. Pursuant to the plea agreement, if accepted by the court at the time of sentencing, Conde Rubio will serve a term of imprisonment of between 11 and 12 years. The two collaborators, whose roles were more minimal, each face a likely sentence of 37 to 46 months in prison.

In announcing the guilty pleas, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Attorney General Kris, FBI Special Agent in Charge Gillies, ICE Special Agent in Charge Mangione, and DCIS Special Agent in Charge Amato acknowledged the outstanding work of Colombian law enforcement and prosecution authorities, who worked cooperatively with the FBI, ICE and DCIS on this investigation. They also thanked Department of Justice National Security Division Trial Attorneys David P. Cora (Counterterrorism Section) and David Mudd (Office of Intelligence), and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion, Lynn E. Haaland, and M. Jeffrey Beatrice, who are prosecuting the cases.

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, March 26, 2010

Outbreak of rare disease in the Netherlands
“The Netherlands is grappling with an outbreak of a rare disease. It normally strikes farm animals, but it’s now sickening hundreds of people who have no contact with farms. While most people get something like the flu or pneumonia for a few weeks, some are sick for months, and a handful have died. The disease is caused by a type of bacteria so resilient that the U.S. government considers it a bioterrorism agent. From the Netherlands, Emily Kopp reports. Truck driver Frank van Lent lives in a small town an hour southeast of Amsterdam. He used to play tennis and jog, but now a short stroll through his neighborhood is all he has energy for. His trouble began ten months ago. He became exhausted, he says. He developed a fever, headaches, muscle aches, heart palpitations. At first, his doctor was stumped. He prescribed antibiotics, but those didn’t help. Two months went by, but van Lent didn’t get better. He went in for more tests.” (Public Radio International; 26Mar10)

President of Biopolicy Institute warns of bioterror[ist] threat
“‘The release of anthrax is silent and making endless quantities is very easy,’ Barry Kellman, president of the International Security & Biopolicy Institute, told the Union League Club of Chicago last week during a lecture that warned that biopreparedness is the only means of fighting bioterror. ‘I don’t think terrorists can get their hands on a nuclear weapon and, if they did, they can only be used once,’ Kellman said. ‘Smallpox - humanity’s greatest killer - can by synthesized, however, and spread. We don’t know the level of casualty it would cause, though some estimate it would be as high as 180 million people worldwide.’ Kellman said that terrorists know they’re losing and that the only way they have to fight back and change U.S. policy is to use a contagious disease.” (Bio Prep Watch; 26Mar10; Nick Rees)

Scores of Rocky Hill [CT] residents attend forum about planned lab
“Using handouts and PowerPoint presentations, state Department of Public Health officials Tuesday night made the case for the new, state-of-the-art lab they are planning to build on property next to the State Veterans Home. The forum in the high school auditorium was intended to answer questions and allay fears of residents who last week received fliers at their homes inviting them to meet what the fliers said would be their new neighbors -- Q fever, St. Louis virus and tuberculosis. The fliers, featuring a skull-and-crossbones logo, grew out of a dispute over whether union workers would build the new laboratory. The dispute temporarily halted the $76 million project, which has been planned since 2001. Funding for construction ran into a roadblock at last week’s State Bond Commission meeting, angering Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who said partisan bickering was jeopardizing the low bid. [...] The new facility, on 22 acres of state property, will measure 110,000 square feet. About 5 percent of the lab space will be used for BioSafety Level III testing for agents such as TB and anthrax. The bulk of the space is considered BioSafety Level II, where workers perform some 2 million tests annually for newborn disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, food- and water-borne illnesses, environmental screening and other public health issues, DPH laboratory director John Fontana explained.” (Hartford Courant; 24Mar10; David Drury),0,6797599.story

Uganda Ministry of Health: suspected smallpox cases are likely chickenpox
“A virus outbreak in eastern Uganda is not the highly infectious disease smallpox but most likely chickenpox, the Uganda Ministry of Health said on Thursday. Earlier on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating a report of four suspected smallpox cases in Uganda’s Bududa district. ‘We have reports of cases of smallpox in eastern Uganda,’ said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO. He said the information came from local media in Uganda, and said the organization was following up to verify. [...] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on its website that there are concerns that smallpox could be used for bioterrorism. ‘Because smallpox was wiped out many years ago, a case of smallpox today would be the result of an intentional act,’ the CDC said. ‘A single confirmed case of smallpox would be considered an emergency.’“ (Thaindian News; 26Mar10)

Weak laws put Africa at risk of bioterrorism, say experts
“As more African countries adopt biotechnology in a bid to increase agricultural production, weak biosafety laws threaten to erode the gains made in the sector. Concerns are emerging that unscrupulous scientists could sabotage the initiative in what has come to be known as bioterrorism -- by producing harmful weapons that destroy food, cause environmental degradation or even death. ‘These weapons could deprive crops of water or nutrients resulting in poor yields and eventually down play efforts aimed at marketing the products globally,’ said John Opuda -Asibo, the first deputy vice chancellor of Kyambogo University in Uganda. Biological weapons can infiltrate a country through various means including imports, food aid, medicines or planting materials. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa face the biggest risk due to weak plant and animal epidemiological infrastructure besides the lack of biosafety laws. ‘We need to combat the use of biotechnology as a weapon. That calls for bioterrorism preparedness,’ warned Prof Opuda -Asibo.” (East African; 22Mar10)

[Umatilla Chemical] Depot waits for DEQ green light before burning begins [OR]
“While the Umatilla Chemical Depot took a moment to look into the past on Thursday, officials at the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (UMCDF) were looking toward the future and the next steps toward closing the facility. The public comment phase on the Depot’s proposed Agent Trial Burn phase, part of the campaign to destroy mustard agent, closed Monday, and officials expect an answer from the Department of Environmental Quality as to whether or not that stage of the process can begin. ‘We’re expecting DEQ to make a decision on the permit request as soon as this Friday,’ UMCDF protocol manager Hal McCune said Wednesday. ‘Once we get that approval, we would push ahead and begin the trial burn within two or three days. If we did get approval on Friday, we would start the trail [sic] burn Tuesday or Wednesday.’ That trial burn will take 60 days and will help determine how quickly the depot can destroy those containers. ‘This will help us determine how many tons we can destroy a day. We’ll try to maximize the number of ton containers we can put through a furnace in a single day, and we can use that to project a timeline,’ Jim Hackett, public affairs specialist, said. ‘It’s been very challenging for the plant to go through this process, but they’re working very hard to speed up the process.’“ (Hermiston Herald; 12Jun69; Jennifer Colton)

Anniston [researchers] tests new equipment for Pueblo project [Anniston, AL]
“A new operation here is expected to have a big impact on future chemical munition disposal operations in Pueblo, Colo. Monday, Anniston Chemical Activity (ANCA) employees started delivering mustard-filled 4.2-inch mortars to a building on Anniston Army Depot laid out to resemble an area of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) under construction at Pueblo Chemical Depot, Pueblo, Colo. At the Anniston building, a team of specially trained Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ANCDF) employees started using the Linear Projectile Mortar Disassembly (LPMD) machine Tuesday (March 23) to remove explosives (fuzes and bursters) from the munitions ANCA is delivering to them. The Anniston-based employees will collect LPMD reliability and maintenance data associated with the removal of the explosives over the course of several months. The data collected in Anniston will be analyzed and used by Pueblo-based counterparts to safely demilitarize the chemical munition stockpile in Colorado.” (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency; 26Mar10)

Worker apparently burned by mustard gas at Oregon weapons depot
“A worker prepping chemical weapons for destruction at Oregon’s Umatilla Depot appears to have been burned by a mustard agent in what may be the first exposure-related injury since the depot began incinerating its chemical-weapons stockpile in 2004. The Army is still investigating the incident, but officials ‘feel pretty certain at this point that it was mustard,’ said Greg Mahall, spokesman for the depot. Another worker likely was exposed but hasn’t shown any telltale skin blistering. The Army says no chemicals were released into the environment and the public was not at risk. The injured employee already is back at work. The incident began Wednesday afternoon when a pair of workers in masks, gloves, boots, aprons and cotton coveralls were inside an air-locked industrial plant weighing a propane-tanklike canister filled with mustard gas before an upcoming test of the Army’s latest incineration process. The men finished and moved to leave when the Army’s sensitive sampling monitors warned a chemical agent was in the air. The men were rushed to doctors, where they were watched until a small blistering rash appeared on one man’s back.” (Seattle Times; 22Mar10; Craig Welch)

Court conference reset in chemical arms lawsuit [CO]
“Lawyers for the Army and the Colorado health department will return to court next month to talk about monitoring chemical weapons after bad weather forced a postponement in a conference scheduled last week. A new settlement conference is scheduled in Denver federal court for April 27. The state sued the Army last year, seeking more frequent and sensitive tests on 2,600 tons of mustard agent at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. The two sides announced a tentative settlement in January but couldn’t agree on whether the munitions should be considered waste or on the level of protection workers should have against chemicals other than mustard.” (San Francisco Examiner; 26Mar10)

Hill Air Force Base airmen prepare for chemical attack
“At the sound of ‘alarm blue’ over the loudspeaker, an airman has nine seconds to drop down, throw off his helmet, pull a gas mask out of the bag on his hip and get the mask to his face. Six seconds later, he had better have his hood on and pulled over his head. If he’s lucky, enemy combatants aren’t shooting at him at the same time. If he’s really lucky, he never hears ‘alarm blue,’ except in training. U.S. servicemen and women have been that lucky so far in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though the threat of chemical warfare exists. [...] This week, more than 900 active duty and reserve airmen at Hill Air Force Base have mobilized in what’s known as an operational readiness exercise. They’re training to deal with chemical attacks, and they’re using North Korea as their fictional deployment zone.” (Deseret News; 26Mar10; Joseph M. Dougherty)

Garrard gets new emergency preparedness director
“Garrard County has a new Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program Director, thanks to Garrard and Lincoln counties combining their solid waste efforts. [...] As CSEPP director, Overman will be in charge of budgeting and dispersing FEMA grant money for training and equipment for local emergency responders. The training and equipment provided by CSEPP helps prepare local responders for ‘worst case scenarios’ concerning the chemical weapons stockpiles located at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Madison County. The training and equipment is also beneficial in other emergency disaster situations like last year’s ice storm, Overman said.” (Am News; 25Mar10; Ben Kleppinger)

Better sleuthing through chemistry
“Finding out whodunit in chemical warfare cases may be aided by scientists focused on the howdunit. Researchers have developed a technique to ascertain the chemical fingerprint of compounds such as mustard gas, rat poison and nerve agents such as VX. Figuring out the details of how these compounds were created in the first place could provide vital clues to law enforcement agencies aiming to catch chemical warfare criminals and help guide first responders as they gather evidence. Chemical forensics typically focuses on identifying the compound in question, but chemist Audrey Martin and her colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California wanted to take these analyses a step further. ‘If we already know this was a chemical attack using mustard gas, now we want to know who made it,’ said Martin, who presented the research March 22 in a poster session at a meeting of the American Chemical Society held in San Francisco. ‘We’re looking at the next step -- where did this come from?’“ (Science News; 23Mar10; Rachel Ehrenberg)

U.S. trains nuclear detectives to trace ‘loose’ nukes
“Now, almost a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US government wants to ensure its nuclear forensics proficiency – and an adequate stable of scientists who know their way around radioactive materials. The Nuclear Forensic and Attribution Act, signed into law last month, aims to improve coordination among US agencies that probe cases of nuclear terrorism or nuclear smuggling. And it encourages tighter international cooperation in probing incidents beyond US soil. But just as important, it is designed to attract a fresh crop of scientists to the field, in recognition of a looming shortage of such expertise as current scientists near retirement. Scholarships for undergrads, fellowships for PhD candidates, and research awards to professors teaching in relevant fields are the government’s incentives. In return for the PhD fellowships, graduates must work two years at a national lab or at other federal agencies that help investigate nuclear terrorism or illegal trafficking. Federal agencies already were beefing up their ability to trace radioactive materials to their sources – either samples intercepted during an investigation or, in the worst case, residue collected after a ‘dirty’ bomb or nuclear device detonates. Still, the new law gives these efforts a more formal status, something that is ‘gratifying’ to William Daitch, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (NTNFC) in Washington.” (Christian Science Monitor; 12Jun69; Peter N. Spotts)

Smothering dirty bombs
“Call them snuggies for dirty bombs. Some of New York’s newest high tech weapons in the war on terror look like ordinary blankets. Others resemble bulletproof vests or shields commonly used by riot cops. But they’re all made of state-of-the-art material that can protect civilians and rescuers against chemical, biological and radiological attacks. The shield and vests would be used by first responders. The blankets come in two models. One would be thrown over radiation victims to keep them from irradiating others. Also in the depart ment’s arsenal is a ‘Hi-Energy Nuclear Suppression Blanket,’ designed to be placed over a dirty bomb about to go off. It has twice the capabilities of a standard bomb blanket in reducing the force of a blast. It also traps chemical, biological and nuclear agents, reducing by more than half the distance they can spread, said Ronald DeMeo, CEO of Radiation Shield Technologies.” (New York Post; 26Mar10; John Doyle)

U.S. opens highly enriched uranium materials facility at Y-12 [TN]
“Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today gave the keynote address at a dedication ceremony recognizing the start-up of operations at the nation’s new, one of a kind storage facility for weapons-grade uranium. The Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) -- the ultra-secure uranium warehouse at the Y-12 National Security Complex -- replaces multiple aging buildings with a single state-of-the-art storage facility. [...] HEUMF will play a major role in helping the NNSA accomplish its full range of nuclear security missions, including protecting the nation’s inventory of highly enriched uranium (HEU). ‘Your work matters deeply to the safety and security of our country, and we must ensure you have the tools – like the Highly Enriched Uranium Material Facility – to do your jobs,’ said Secretary Chu. ‘The Highly Enriched Uranium Material Facility is essential to achieving the President’s vision. As we reduce our nuclear stockpile and improve security of nuclear material, we now have a modern facility capable of safely storing HEU until it can be down-blended.’ Last April, President Obama called for an international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” (Gov Monitor; 24Mar10)

5 terror[ism] suspects on trial in Madrid
“Five Algerian men accused of collaborating with Islamic terrorists and seeking to obtain bomb-making components for an alleged plot to attack a Madrid department store went on trial Tuesday in a high-security courtroom at Spain’s National Court. [...] The alleged leader of the five defendants is Said Bouchema, 41, who is suspected of creating a support cell for the radical Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which is linked to al Qaeda, [prosecutor Blanca] Rodriguez wrote. He did so at his restaurant in Alicante, a meeting place for Algerians and also a locale where stolen goods were fenced, the charge sheet said. The proceeds, along with forged documents, were sent to Algeria, and Bouchema also tried to recruit others for radical purposes, Rodriguez wrote. The other four defendants, aged 31 to 40, also allegedly were part of the group, which in late 2004 and in 2005 allegedly attempted to obtain material that could be used to make bombs for an attack, Rodriguez wrote. [...] The defendants also allegedly searched for a substance called ‘red mercury’ that could be used to make a so-called ‘dirty bomb,’ the prosecutor said in the charge sheet.” (Cable News Network; 24Mar10; Al Goodman)

NATO and partners exchange best practices against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats
“On 23 and 24 March 2010, NATO will host a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence workshop and exhibition at its headquarters in Brussels. This is part of NATO’s commitment to bolster efforts against the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The event aims to deepen cooperation, facilitate information exchange and share best practices between Allies, partners and industry on CBRN defence capability development. It also aims to discuss ways of improving civil and military cooperation in crisis management operations. Experts will focus on NATO’s most critical capabilities, including CBRN detection, identification and monitoring technologies and strategies; disease surveillance, warning and reporting; CBRN attack recovery; and training opportunities for partners. Numerous experts from NATO member states, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and other partners around the globe will be attending. Also participating will be representatives from the European Union, the World Health Organization, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.” (Defence Professionals; 24Mar10)

Borders to be equipped with nuclear detectors by April
“After one-week intensive training of officers from the security services, including Botswana Defense Force (BDF), early this month, the Botswana Police Services (BPS) and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), as well as the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), the level of security preparedness at the borders is now being remarkably elevated. Stephen Williams, Director, Department of Radiation Protection, told the Sunday Standard that the department is awaiting at least 30 pagers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for detecting radioactive materials, intended for use at specified gazetted entry points into the country by respective user departments. ‘It is intended that as of April 1st 2010, all the thirty pagers should have been distributed to the borders. In addition, there will also be radiation identifiers, which because they are a bit more expensive, were ordered in less quantity than the pagers, for picking the specific type of substance inside any form of container without having to open it,’ said Williams.” (Sunday Standard; 22Mar10; Gowenius Toka)

Indian, U.S. commanders mull joint NBC training
“Exploring a new arena in Indo-US military cooperation, top army commanders from both sides are considering holding a joint training exercise in nuclear, chemical and biological (NBC) warfare, it is learnt. The moves comes in the backdrop of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal that envisions increased bilateral cooperation in the nuclear field and having economic, scientific and strategic spin-offs for both countries. Also looming large over the global security environment is the specter of NBC terrorism and Indian forces have in the recent past been engaged in orienting, training and equipping for operations in an NBC contaminated environment.. Sources revealed that the Americans put the proposal forth and the Indian Army is to revert back with modalities and the unit that is to participate in the drill. It is also yet to be decided whether to hold the exercise, thought to part of the ongoing Yudh Abhyas series, in India or the US. The NBC exercise, sources said, features on the agenda of the 14th meeting of the Army Executive Steering Group, comprising top Indian and US Army officers that began at Headquarters Western Command at Chandimandir near here today. The four-day event would be reviewing the progress made in Indo-US military cooperation during 2009 and chalk out the programme for this year.” (Nation; 24Mar10; Vijay Mohan)

Nuclear terror[ism] risk to Britain from Al-Qaeda
“Britain faces an increased threat of a nuclear attack by al-Qaeda terrorists following a rise in the trafficking of radiological material, a government report has warned. Bomb makers who have been active in Afghanistan may already have the ability to produce a ‘dirty bomb’ using knowledge acquired over the internet. It is feared that terrorists could transport an improvised nuclear device up the Thames and detonate it in the heart of London. Bristol, Liverpool Newcastle, Glasgow and Belfast are also thought to be vulnerable. Lord West, the Security Minister, also raised the possibility of terrorists using small craft to enter ports and launch an attack similar to that in Mumbai in 2008, when more than 150 people were killed. The Government is so concerned about the threat that it is setting up a command centre to track suspicious boats. The terrorism threat level was raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ in January after the failed attempt to blow up an aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day. Three separate reviews of the country’s ability to prevent a major terrorist attack were published simultaneously yesterday, before an international meeting on nuclear security in Washington next month.” (Telegraph; 24Mar10; Duncan Gardham)

Sellafield to be inspected by nuclear watchdog, says Gordon Brown
“The international nuclear watchdog [International Atomic Energy Authority] is to carry out a security inspection at the Sellafield reprocessing plant as part of a worldwide drive to stop the spread of fissile materials, Gordon Brown announced today. The prime minister said Britain is also launching a ‘centre of nuclear excellence’ where the UK could ‘lead global efforts to secure the safe global expansion of civil nuclear power’. Brown described 2010 as a ‘make or break year’ for international co-operation on a number of policy fronts – from the economy, to security and climate change – in a speech to the Foreign Press Association in London earlier today. Highlighting the merits of collective action, Brown also announced that the first meeting of the advisory group on climate financing would be held in London at the end of the month. On security, Brown said it was essential to prevent nuclear weapons falling into the hands of rogue states and international terrorists. Britain is joining Barack Obama’s drive to secure all fissile nuclear material across the world over the next four years, he said.” (Guardian; 22Mar10; Helene Mulholland)

BPSI’s [Building Protection Systems, Inc.] airborne toxin detection systems surpass 100,000 hours of operation with zero false alarms
“Building Protection Systems, Inc. (BPSI), the developers of the first complete Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) detection system to actively and reliably protect buildings, mass transit stations, stadiums, and public venues from airborne toxins, today announced a critical milestone in its achievement of surpassing 100,000 hours of operation of its Sentry One detection technology without a single false-positive or false-negative, a feat that until now has not been accomplished in the industry. ‘The false-positive nuisance alarm problem has plagued the detection industry for decades,’ said Greg Eiler, Founder and CEO, BPSI. ‘Infrastructure managers have been afraid to adopt unreliable first-generation technologies rendering millions of people unprotected from a CBRN release. Our achievement of surpassing the 100,000 operational hour milestone is a big step in encouraging more security professionals to adopt this proven solution and further strengthens BPSI’s position as the recognized leader in the next generation of CBRN detection technologies.’“ (Earth Times; 26Mar10),1214347.shtml

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.