Saturday, July 31, 2010

Last Air Force police transition team completes mission

by Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen
Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq Public Affairs

7/29/2010 - CAMP STRYKER, Iraq (AFNS) -- The final Air Force police transition team in Iraq completed its mission July 26 as Iraqi police officials have reached a self-sustaining level.

In a ceremony here, 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Det. 2 officials transferred authority to officials from the Army's 94th Military Police Company, who will be taking over in an advise and assist role with the Iraqi police.

"We're officially the final Air Force police transition team in Iraq," said Maj. David Lederer, the Det. 2 commander.

The Airmen of Det. 2 were tasked with training Iraqi police officials in general police tactics and techniques, and they assisted the local Iraqi police with community policing, cordon and search, weapons cache searches, weapons training, and humanitarian missions.

The detachment also conducted missions supporting the investigative task force and exploitation task force, assisting Iraqi police officials with investigations of improvised explosive devices, vehicle-borne IEDs, explosions, murders and assassinations in the greater Baghdad area.

"You can measure your success in the proficiency of the men and women you train, and by a heightened public confidence in Iraqi police (officials) across Baghdad," said Lt. Col. Dustin Sutton, the 732nd ESFS commander.

Colonel Sutton said he used the March 7 elections as an example of Det. 2's success in training Iraqi police officials.

He said the world watched and waited to see if the elections would be successful.

"Significant events in your (area of responsibility) were lower than any area in Baghdad province," Colonel Sutton said. "Large scale and complex attacks were minimized and defeated through an Iraqi Security Forces integrated security solution that you developed, taught and monitored."

The colonel also described other significant successes the detachment had over the years, saying attacks throughout Baghdad have been reduced dramatically and public confidence in Iraqi police officials has soared to its highest level since the 2003 invasion.

"The success of the police transition team and mission in Baghdad is a direct result of you outstanding men and women who have served in this detachment for the past few years," Colonel Sutton said. "Your partnership with the Iraqis resulted in the development of a professional, mature and capable police force."

"You all should leave this deployment proud of what you've done," Major Lederer said. "Thank you for all you've done. This (transfer of authority) today closes a chapter in Air Force history."

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Abram L. Howard, 21, of Williamsport, Pa., died July 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of North Versailles, Pa.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office at 504-678-0052.

Pakistani Support for Taliban 'In the Past'

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Vice President Joe Biden today acknowledged that some people in Pakistan's intelligence community had supported the Taliban, but he said that situation is changing. "That's been a problem in the past, it's a problem we're dealing with, and [it] is changing," Biden said in an interview that aired on NBC's "Today" television show this morning. The interview with Ann Curry was taped yesterday while Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, were at Fort Drum, N.Y., to welcome home the Army's 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Iraq.

Biden's comments referenced WikiLeaks' July 25 Web posting of at least 75,000 secret documents on the war in Afghanistan spanning from January 2004 to December 2009. One issue highlighted in the documents involves allegations that members of the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, supported the Taliban while accepting U.S. funding to fight against them. President Barack Obama announced the current U.S. policy in Afghanistan, to include Pakistan, in December 2009.

"All those leaks predate our policy," Biden said. "Not one leak is consistent with our policy announced in December." He added that no U.S. money was diverted from its stated purposes in Pakistan.

Asked to justify U.S. spending in Afghanistan, Biden said the U.S. mission there is not "nation-building," but to stamp out al-Qaida so the terrorist group cannot continue to threaten the United States.

"We are in Afghanistan for one express purpose: al-Qaida, and its threat to the United States," he said. "We're not there to nation build. We're not there to turn this into a Jeffersonian democracy. We're not there for ten years. We're there to defeat al-Qaida, which operates there, and [the situation] is a clear and present danger to the U.S."

When asked how the United States and NATO coalition can defeat al-Qaida when it operates in Pakistan, Biden responded, "I assure you, we are doing significant damage to al-Qaida in Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan. We're making progress, but the truth of the matter is there's more to go."

On Iraq, Biden said there should be no concerns that reducing troop strength to 50,000 by September 1 will cause an explosion in insurgent violence there.

"I can't guarantee anything, but I'm willing to bet everything there won't be any such explosion," he said. "Neither I, nor General [Raymond T.] Odierno, or the Pentagon, or the people who have been on the ground so many times think that is likely to happen.

"We'll still have 50,000, battle-tested, combat troops in Iraq who are going from leading combat to supporting Iraqi combat capability," he added.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Leakers, Publishers May Have Blood on Hands, Mullen Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Those who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks and those who decided to publish them may have blood on their hands, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

The WikiLeaks organization made public tens of thousands of classified battlefield reports.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates condemned the leak in the strongest possible manner. Gates said he has asked the FBI to help Pentagon authorities in the investigation.

The chairman challenged the motivation of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, to publish the leaked documents.

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Mullen said.

People can reasonably disagree about the war and they can challenge commanders for their decisions, "but don't put those who willingly go into harm's way even further in harm's way just to satisfy your need to make a point," the chairman said.

Gates said the more than 90,000 documents that have been posted are old, and cover material already well known and debated. Still, he said, the release has battlefield consequences for U.S. and Afghan troops and Afghan civilians and also may damage U.S. relationships in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures, will become known to U.S. adversaries, the secretary said.

"These documents represent a mountain of raw data and individual impressions, most several years old, devoid of context or analysis," Gates said. "They do not represent official positions or policy. And they do not, in my view, fundamentally call into question the efficacy of our current strategy in Afghanistan and its prospects for success."

Defense Department officials will conduct a thorough and aggressive investigation to determine how this leak occurred, to identify who is responsible and to assess the content of the information compromised, Gates said. "We have a moral responsibility to do everything possible to mitigate the consequences for our troops and our partners downrange, especially those who have worked with and put their trust in us in the past, who now may be targeted for retribution," Gsaid he added.

Mullen said the sheer size and scope of the leak demands a careful review see how future tactical operations may be affected, and the degree to which the lives of U.S. and coalition troops and Afghan partners may be at risk. "I think we always need to be mindful of the unknown potential for damage in any particular document that we handle," the chairman said.

Calling on the FBI to aid the investigation ensures that the department will have all the resources needed to investigate and assess this breach of national security, the secretary said, noting that use of the bureau ensures the investigation can go wherever it needs to go.

The Defense Department also is tightening procedures for accessing and transporting classified information.

"As a general proposition, we endeavor to push access to sensitive battlefield information down to where it is most useful – on the front lines – where, as a practical matter, there are fewer restrictions and controls than at rear headquarters," Gates said. "In the wake of this incident, it will be a real challenge to strike the right balance between security and providing our frontline troops the information they need."

The documents may also damage U.S. relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gates said both nations remember that the United States walked away from the region in 1989, and U.S. military and civilian leaders have been trying hard since 2001 to repair those relationships and close the trust deficit.

"If we've learned nothing else in fighting these wars, it's that relationships matter," Mullen said.

These relationships are vital, Mullen said, and some of the documents may encourage distrust. "So in addition to making sure we understand the tactical risks from these leaks," he said, "I think it's incumbent upon us not to let the good relationships we've established and the trust we've worked so hard to build throughout the region also become a casualty."

Pentagon Officials Confirm Sailor's Death

American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Defense Department officials today announced the death of a sailor who previously was listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown" while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash., died of wounds suffered from an incident in Afghanistan's Logar province July 23.

Coalition forces recovered his body yesterday after an extensive search, officials said. He was assigned to Navy Reserve Force Command. The July 23 incident remains under investigation, officials said.

Iraqi Forces Arrest 6 Terrorism Suspects

Compiled from U.S. Forces Iraq News Releases

July 29, 2010 - Iraqi security forces arrested six people affiliated with the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorism organization in combined operations with U.S. advisors yesterday, military officials reported.

In southwestern Baghdad, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors searched several buildings for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member who allegedly has close ties to the organization's senior leadership. Information and evidence gathered at the scene led Iraqi forces to identify and arrest three suspected criminal associates of the wanted man.

In Hawijah, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors captured a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq leader who allegedly is involved in coordinating and planting roadside bombs.

During a separate operation in Baghdad, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors captured a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member who allegedly facilitates bringing foreign fighters into Iraq.

In western Mosul, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors arrested a suspected associate of a wanted al-Qaida in Iraq leader who allegedly plans attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces.

Insurgent Bombs Kill 6 Afghan Civilians, Wound 3

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2010 - Insurgents killed six Afghan civilians and wounded three more in roadside bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported.

Four civilians were killed and three others were wounded when a bomb detonated in Zabul province's Mizan district. The wounded were airlifted to a military medical facility in Qalat.

In Nimroz province's Khash Rod district, two Afghan civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb. Earlier yesterday, numerous civilians reportedly were killed when their bus struck a roadside bomb in the Khash Rod district, officials said.

International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials said the United Nations recently reported that roadside bomb incidents increased by 94 percent in the first four months of 2010 compared to the same period last year.

In other news from Afghanistan, two civilians were killed yesterday when they were caught in crossfire between insurgents and coalition forces.

Coalition forces operating just outside Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan came under small-arms attack. ISAF forces gained positive identification of the enemy and returned the small-arms fire, officials said. Upon assessment of the site after the attack, ISAF forces found that a civilian man was killed in the crossfire.

Also in southern Afghanistan yesterday, another patrol of Afghan and coalition forces came under insurgent small-arms attack and returned fire with small arms and mortar rounds after identifying the attack's point of origin.

After several fire fights from different locations, officials said, coalition forces received a report that a civilian girl had been killed in the fight. The ISAF forces were able to locate the compound and confirmed the death from apparent mortar shrapnel wounds.

ISAF officials expressed regret and stressed that they will continue to take all precautions they can to avoid civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, an ISAF task force found no basis for allegations in the media of Quran desecration in Uruzgan province's Tarin Kot district. The task force examined all patrol activities for the past three days to determine whether there could have been any situations when an ISAF servicemember came across a Quran, officials said. No such situations were found.

The allegations claimed that the Quran was stabbed with a bayonet, but soldiers performing patrols in that area do not carry bayonets, the task force noted.

"ISAF understands the significance and importance of the Quran to the Muslim religion and the people of Afghanistan, and takes allegations of the desecration and disrespect of the Quran or any other religious or cultural items very seriously," ISAF officials said in a written statement reporting the task force's findings.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Congress Approves Supplemental War-Funding Bill

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2010 - The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved passage of the Defense Department's supplemental war-funding bill, most of which will be used to pay for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Barack Obama and Pentagon officials said passage of the nearly $59 billion supplemental was critical for supporting overseas-deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill now awaits the president's signature.

Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates applauded passage of the bill, which the Senate had passed last week.

"Over the past several weeks, we have had to take extraordinary measures to fund our military operations around the world this late in the fiscal year," Morrell said in a statement, "but thankfully the money provided in the supplemental ensures that we will be able to continue the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq while we plus-up forces in Afghanistan as part of our efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida."

Most of the $58.8 billion contained in the supplemental will be used for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The supplemental also includes $13.38 billion for Vietnam veterans' Agent Orange exposure programs; $5.1 billion for disaster relief to the Federal Emergency Management Agency; $2.9 billion for Haitian earthquake relief; $178 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to respond to natural disasters; and $50 million to improve port facility access in Guam.

Pentagon Won't List Sailor as Captured in Afghanistan

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2010 - The Defense Department has identified two sailors who went missing in Afghanistan's Logar province last week, and U.S. forces there are focused on finding one still unaccounted for, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are investigating what caused the two to go missing July 23, but more importantly, Marine Corps Col. David Lapan told reporters, is the effort to find Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash.

Newlove was believed to be with Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, 30, of Wheatridge, Colo., when the two disappeared from their post in Logar province. McNeley died from wounds suffered in the incident and his body was recovered July 25 after an extensive search, according to a Pentagon press release issued late yesterday. McNeley was assigned to Assault Craft Unit 1 in San Diego, the release said.

Newlove is listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown" and he'll continue to be listed in that status unless or until there is firm evidence that he has been captured, Lapan said. The Taliban's statement of capture is not enough, he said.

Such a status change occurred when the Taliban released videos of Army Spec. Robert "Bowe" Bergdahl. In that case, Lapan said, the videos were authenticated by U.S. officials. Bergdahl, who went missing from his post in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, is the only U.S. servicemember known to be held captive by the Taliban.

Asked today about Newlove, Lapan said, "There's no information on his whereabouts, but that's what we're working hard to figure out."

Media reports that the sailors were captured after taking a wrong turn in a truck "are highly speculative," Lapan said.

Part of the investigation, Lapan said, is whether there were witnesses to the incident. He acknowledged military officials will not say much about the investigation.

"We don't need to tip off the enemy to what we're doing," he Lapan.

For now, finding Newlove is the top priority, Lapan said.

Spokane, Washington, Man Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Charges Related to Threats to Reproductive Health Services Clinic

WASHINGTON – Donald Hertz, 70, of Spokane, Wash., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Spokane to one count of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and one count of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate or interfere with, by force or threat of force, employees of a facility that provides reproductive health services.

During the plea proceedings and in documents filed in court, Hertz admitted that he intentionally intimidated and interfered with employees of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, located in Boulder, Colo., because they were and had been providing reproductive health services. Specifically, on June 23, 2009, approximately three weeks after the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician who provided reproductive health services, Hertz anonymously contacted the Boulder Abortion Clinic and stated that two of his associates were driving to Boulder to kill members of a clinic employee’s family in order to make that employee suffer.

"Threats of violence against facilities that provide reproductive health services are illegal, and they will not be tolerated in this country," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The defendant’s conviction should send a clear message to others who would carry out similar criminal acts that they will be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions."

Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 27, 2010. Hertz faces a maximum prison sentence of up to six years and a fine of up to $350,000.

The case was investigated by special agents from the Denver and Spokane Divisions of the FBI and deputies from the U.S. Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.

Founding Member of Abu Sayyaf Group Pleads Guilty to 1995 Hostage Taking Involving U.S. and Philippine Citizens

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced that Madhatta Haipe, a citizen of the Philippines and founding member of Al-Harakat Al-Islamiyyah, also known as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), pleaded guilty today in federal court in the District of Columbia to four counts of hostage taking in connection with the 1995 abduction of 16 people, including four U.S. citizens, in the Philippines. The guilty plea was announced by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; and Charlene B. Thornton, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Honolulu Field Office.

According to the factual proffer in support of the guilty plea, to which Haipe agreed in court, at the time of the hostage taking, Haipe was serving as the General Secretary of the ASG, or second-in-command of the organization, under the Amir. The Amir of the ASG had directed that members of the group engage in kidnappings for ransom in order to raise funds for the group and to raise the public’s awareness of the group’s purpose. The ASG was subsequently designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Secretary of State, and remains so designated today.

As admitted by Haipe as part of his guilty plea, on Dec. 27, 1995, several armed members of the ASG kidnapped 16 individuals, including four U.S. citizens, one U.S. permanent resident alien, and 11 Philippine citizens, in the rugged area around Trankini Falls, near Lake Sebu, in southern Mindanao, in the Philippines. The hostages, including six children, were forced to march up a mountainside. Some of the adult hostages had rope tied around their hands or neck.

Haipe informed the hostages that they were being kidnapped for ransom, and he individually questioned some of the hostages to determine the amount of ransom to be demanded. Later that same day, Haipe decided to release four of the 16 hostages to allow them to collect a ransom totaling at least one million Filipino pesos (equivalent to about $38,000 U.S. dollars, at the time). Haipe threatened that if the released hostages told anyone about the kidnapping, then hostages would be killed.

After releasing the four hostages, Haipe and his group forced the remaining hostages to continue marching up the mountainside to evade capture by the Philippine authorities. Four days later, on December 31, 1995, Haipe and his group released the remaining hostages after a ransom was paid.

"For roughly 15 years, FBI agents, Justice Department prosecutors and authorities in the Philippines relentlessly pursued this matter on behalf of the victims, who were held hostage and threatened with death by this Abu Sayyaf leader. With today’s guilty plea, Mr. Haipe is finally being held accountable for his actions," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

"Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message -- we will never tire in our pursuit of justice for those who seek to harm American citizens, whether at home or abroad," said Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. "Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that there will be serious consequences for those who commit such crimes."

"The FBI Honolulu Division has investigated this matter in close coordination with the Philippine authorities for approximately 15 years," said Charlene Thornton, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Honolulu. "Through this international cooperation, despite the time and distance, we have managed to bring to justice a defendant who had sought to harm our U.S. citizens abroad."

Haipe, who is now 48 years old, was indicted for this crime by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. in November 2000. In August 2009, he was extradited from the Philippines to face the charges against him. He is now scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Richard Roberts on Dec. 14, 2010. He faces up to life in prison on each of the four counts to which he pleaded guilty. As part of the plea agreement, the government may advocate for a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

The Department of Justice and the FBI, working with their partners in the Philippines, have vigorously pursued this case for years. The investigation was conducted by FBI Honolulu Field Office, with substantial assistance from the Philippines Department of Justice, the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and, in particular, Robert Courtney, the U.S. Justice Department’s Attaché to the Philippines, also provided substantial assistance in this case.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregg Maisel and Anthony Asuncion of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, as well as Trial Attorney T. J. Reardon, III, of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Insurgents Show Desperation in Afghanistan, General Says

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

July 28, 2010 - Although insurgents continue to threaten progress in Afghanistan, their efforts are becoming increasingly desperate, the top U.S. military commander in Eastern Afghanistan said today.

Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. and international forces in Regional Command-East and Combined Joint Task Force 101, as well as the 101st Airborne Division, underscored the recent desperate actions of militant groups, such as the Haqqani network, citing their targeting of Afghan civilians.

The insurgents have simply declared all-out war on innocent Afghan civilians, Campbell told Pentagon reporters during a video news conference.

"They ... have gone out recently and publicly said attack civilians, women and children that are working with the coalition forces and the Afghan national security forces," Campbell said, noting the Haqqani terrorist network in particular "is getting a little bit desperate."

The Haqqani network employed a female suicide bomber in Kunar province just two weeks ago, the general said.

The insurgents, Campbell said, are "really disgracing the Muslim culture here." Male insurgents, he added, have adopted the tactic of wearing burqas, which are traditional Muslim outer garments meant to hide the face and body of women while in public.

"It's something we hadn't seen in years past," the general said.

Although insurgents have become more creative in their tactics, the effectiveness of their attacks has decreased, Campbell said. Though the number of insurgent attacks since January has risen 12 percent in Eastern Afghanistan, compared to the same period last year, he said, the effectiveness of those attacks is down 6 percent.

"Because of the great aggressive operations by the coalition forces and by our Afghan counterparts, many times where we would have expected a continuous battle, [enemy fighters] did not have the required ammunition, they did not have the spirit or the guts to continue that fight, and it is sort of a 'hit-and-run,'" Campbell explained.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan expected a spike in attack levels, Campbell said, as insurgents attempt to counter the increased U.S. military footprint. And, experience has shown that fighting in Afghanistan increases dramatically in the summer, he added.

An additional Army brigade – about 3,500 troops – is expected to augment Campbell's forces in August, he said. It will take some time, he added, before the impact of the troop surge can be measured.

"We know that we'll have a tough summer as we bring in additional forces," Campbell said. "The insurgents will not let us bring in additional forces without trying to make a statement."

That statement, Campbell noted, has come at the cost of Afghan civilians' lives. Insurgents continue to target innocent civilians, he said, as a means of intimidating them to reject the Afghan government and its coalition partners.

Campbell also noted that in the past six months no innocent civilians were killed by NATO aerial bombings.

"I can't stress this enough," Campbell said. "[Insurgents] have really moved toward attacking the Afghan people. They declared that they had to do that, and that just shows an act of desperation."

Document Leaks Could Endanger Afghan Civilians

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

July 28, 2010 - The classified military documents released by the group could not only threaten the lives of U.S. troops, but the Afghan civilians with whom they work, a top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said today.

Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. and international forces in Regional Command-East and Combined Joint Task Force 101 as well as the 101st Airborne Division, addressed the issue during a video news conference with Pentagon reporters from his Afghanistan headquarters.

Though Campbell said he himself hasn't studied the contents of the documents, he said the leak of classified material could put lives at risk.

"Anytime there's any sort of leak of classified material, it has the potential to harm the military folks that are working out here every day to preserve that," Campbell said. The documents, reportedly given to several U.S. and international media weeks ago, are said to detail field reports from Afghanistan, as well as alleged Pakistani partnership with the Taliban. The more than 70,000 documents cover the period from January 2004 through December 2009, according to Pentagon officials.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said today that U.S. troops in Afghanistan are hearing discontent from Afghan partners, whose names were revealed in the documents leak. Some Afghan nationals work with coalition forces to provide information and whereabouts of militants and insurgent activities.

"There's been displeasure from folks whose names appeared there," Lapan said. "Anyone whose name appears in those documents is at risk. It could be a threat to their lives, or to their future conduct" in support of coalition forces.

The Pentagon has launched an investigation to determine the leak's source. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division is the lead organization.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Obama: Issues in Leaked Documents Led to Review

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2010 - President Barack Obama today issued his first comments on WikiLeaks' release of Afghanistan war documents, saying he is concerned about the leaks, but that they don't reveal any new issues.

"While I'm concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations," Obama said, "the fact is that these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan. Indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review last fall."

The president made the comments from the White House Rose Garden after meeting with members of the House and Senate on a variety of issues, including Afghanistan war funding, job creation, and energy policy.

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower Web site, created controversy July 25 by posting more than 90,000 secret military reports from Afghanistan.

Obama said the period covered in the reports – from January 2004 to December 2009 – show shortcomings in U.S. policy in Afghanistan that led to his review last fall and his decision to increase U.S. troop strength there by 30,000.

"For seven years we failed to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge in this region," Obama said today. "That's why we substantially increased our commitment there, and insisted on" the cooperation of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama said he hoped the House would vote today to support funding for the war in Afghanistan, which the Senate approved unanimously last week.

Pentagon Launches Probe into Document Leaks

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

July 27, 2010 - The Pentagon has launched an investigation to find out how thousands of classified military documents were leaked to the group, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Division, also known as CID, is heading the investigation, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told Pentagon reporters today.

"An investigation has been initiated, [and] Army CID has the lead," Lapan said.

Having the Army take charge of the investigation doesn't suggest that Army personnel are responsible for the leaks, Lapan explained. CID was chosen for its capabilities in such matters, he said.

"[CID] is an investigative agency that has the ability, the capability, to do these types of things," Lapan said. "There are a number of investigative agencies [within the Pentagon], but the decision was made that Army CID takes the lead."

Army CID, he said, also is investigating the case of Army Spc. Bradley Manning, who has been charged with leaking a video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq to WikiLeaks. The document leaks investigation is a continuation or extension of the existing open investigation on Manning, Lapan said.

However, he added, the document leak investigation is "broader" than the Manning case.

"The current investigation into the leak of the documents to WikiLeaks isn't focused on any one, specific individual," Lapan said. "It's much broader. They're going to look everywhere to determine what the source may be."

In an interview broadcast today on a segment of MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" television news show, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that Manning "is a person of interest with regards to this leak, but we just don't know at this point."

Morrell said the question was posed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently about changing the way the Pentagon shares information with uniformed members. Gates, he said, doesn't believe that that sort of adjustment is necessary.

"What makes our military the envy of the world is that we entrust the most-junior officers, the most-junior enlisted with incredible amounts of responsibility," Morrell said. "[Gates] doesn't want to alter that dynamic, that trust element that exists because of one or two 'bad seeds.'"

The answer, Morrell said, is "to go after the 'bad actors,' hold them responsible, prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but don't change the fundamental trusting relationship that makes the military so effective."

The documents, reportedly given to several U.S. and international media weeks ago, are said to detail field reports from Afghanistan, as well as alleged Pakistani partnership with the Taliban. The more than 90,000 documents cover the period from January 2004 through December 2009, according to news reports.

Morrell refuted questions about Pakistan being a questionable ally, saying Pakistan is a sovereign nation with its own interests. The U.S. military is thankful, he said, that Pakistan's interest in eliminating terrorists coincides with that of the United States.

"We are aligned in that respect," Morrell said of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. "But we each have our own interests here that we have to balance and work through. We think we're making a lot of progress there, but we're not alone in the driver's seat.

"As Secretary Gates says, we're in the passenger seat. They're at the wheel," Morrell continued. "They determine the direction and the pace, but we're going to be their partner in this effort."

On questions regarding the documents' outlining of miscues in Afghanistan, Morrell said the United States effort there is long term and moving in the right direction. Although civilian casualties there are a concern, he said, the numbers are down by a third this year, while the civilian casualties taken at the hands of the Taliban has nearly doubled.

Morrell noted "rules of engagement" changes U.S. and international forces made a year ago when former commander of forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal took the helm.

"General McChrystal, when he came in, instituted this tactical directive which has seen civilian casualties, due to our forces and coalition forces [efforts], plummet by a third this year," Morrell said. Meanwhile, he said, Afghan civilian casualties caused by the Taliban [casualties] are up by about 90 percent.

Turning back to the WikiLeaks situation, Morrell noted that the Pentagon's investigation of the leaked documents continues.

"To the issue of whether it's damaged operational security or endangered our forces, we're still trying to get our arms around that," he said. "We've got a team working around the clock going through them bit by bit to try to see is there any information in there that could imperil our forces, our coalition partners, the civilians who are on the battlefield with us.

"And are there any things in there that could jeopardize our operations or our nation's security?" he continued. "We just don't know at this point."

Former Army Contractor Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and Assault After Collision in Kuwait Kills One Sailor and Seriously Injures Another

WASHINGTON – A former U.S. Army contractor was arrested today in Newport News, Va., for allegedly killing one sailor and seriously injuring another in a vehicular collision in Kuwait, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia and Brigadier General Colleen McGuire, Provost General of the Army and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

Morgan Hanks, 25, of Newport News, was arrested on charges contained in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on July 13, 2010, and unsealed today in the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment charges Hanks with one count of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Brian Patton, and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury for injuring David Morgan.

According to the indictment, in November 2009, Hanks was employed in Kuwait as a canine handler by Combat Support Associates and Combat Support Associates Ltd. (CSA). CSA provided site security and force protection at U.S. Army bases in Kuwait. The indictment alleges that on approximately Nov. 19, 2009, Hanks was operating a motor vehicle in excess of the posted speed limit on Alternate Supply Route Aspen in Kuwait. The indictment alleges that Hanks attempted to pass an eight-vehicle convoy on the two-lane road while traveling uphill and caused a collision with another vehicle in which Patton and Morgan were traveling. The collision killed Patton and left Morgan with a serious brain injury and multiple fractures.

Hanks is charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), a statute that gives U.S. courts jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed outside the United States by, among others, contractors or subcontractors of the Department of Defense. If convicted, Hanks faces up to 10 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigative Division and is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorneys Micah D. Pharris and Steven C. Parker of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Hurt for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Criminal Division announced the formation of HRSP on March 30, 2010. The new section represents a merger of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section (DSS) and the Office of Special Investigations (OSI).

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Allegations of Civilian Casualty in Logar Province Are False

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

July 27, 2010 - The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan was made aware today of allegations in the media regarding a civilian casualty incident in the vicinity of Charkh district, Logar province, according to military officials.

After conducting a thorough investigation of the alleged attack on Afghan civilians, Regional Command-East officials have determined the allegation is false.

"None of our operational reporting supports this unfounded claim," said U.S. Army Maj. Patrick R. Seiber, the public affairs director of RC-East.

In other recent Afghanistan news:

-- ISAF officials report that Taliban intimidation and brutality against the Afghan population has increased in recent weeks. According to ISAF records for July 2010, Taliban insurgents have been responsible for at least 95 civilian deaths and the wounding of more than 235 people.

"ISAF's information systems and operational reporting allow us to track detailed information regarding insurgent brutality and intimidation," said German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, ISAF spokesperson. "Several recent events show that the Taliban have abandoned any pretense of caring for Afghan civilians. Their actions show they are willing to harm anyone to return to power.

"Rather than intimidating citizens," Blotz said, "the murders and criminal acts of the Taliban are bringing citizens closer together."

Meanwhile, ISAF officials said, partnered Afghan and international security forces' actions continue to deny the insurgents any significant operational successes.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces detained several suspected insurgents and killed one in Logar province during offensive clearing operations over the last 24 hours. Afghan and coalition security forces targeted several areas suspected of insurgent activity in the Charkh and Baraki Barak districts of Logar province. In Charkh district several suspected insurgents were detained after the assault force discovered and destroyed a cache of multiple grenades and automatic weapons. At another location in the district, the security force killed one man armed with an AK-47 after he attempted to engage the force. A separate Afghan-led security force cleared and secured several compounds west of Aladad Kheyl in Baraki Barak and detained several suspected insurgents after questioning residents. The women and children were protected throughout all of the searches.

In yesterday's Afghanistan news:

-- Insurgents killed six Afghan civilians, wounded two more and kidnapped an Afghan government official in the Siahgird district of Parwan province. The insurgents attacked vehicles carrying workers from an Afghan construction company with small-arms fire. Afghan National Police responded to the attack and forced the insurgents to flee. During their retreat, the insurgents kidnapped the attorney general for the district.

"These insurgents have chosen to follow Mullah Omar's recent guidance of attempting to capture or kill innocent civilians who are working for the coalition or government," said Col. Rafael Torres, ISAF Joint Command's Combined Joint Operations Center director. "Meanwhile, Omar is directing these attacks from the relative safety of his hiding place in Pakistan.

"The insurgents are attempting to deny Afghans of their opportunity to improve government capacity and promote economic development, Torres continued. "We will continue to work with our Afghan partners to seek out the insurgents responsible for these heinous acts."

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Helmand last night while in pursuit of a senior Taliban commander and member of the Nawa Military Commission who's linked to decisions involving military operations and matters of governance within the Taliban-controlled areas of Nawah-ye Barakzai district. The joint security force targeted a remote compound south in Nawah-ye Barakzai district and Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully exit the buildings. After questioning all the residents, several suspected insurgents were detained for further questioning. Approximately 15 pounds of black tar heroin, illegal in any amount under Afghan law, was found at the scene. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force conducted multiple precision strikes in Paktiya province targeting the senior Haqqani Network commander for Khost-Gardez pass responsible for the overall command and control of all Haqqani and foreign fighter camps in the area. Afghan and coalition forces are still gathering information to confirm the commander's death. The Haqqani commander is linked to attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and is said to be in regular contact with top Haqqani leaders situated across the border in Pakistan. After verifying insurgent activity and conducting an exhaustive review to avoid civilian casualties and mitigate collateral damage, a precision air strike was called to hit a bunker complex in a remote area of Dzadran district of Paktiya province where intelligence sources reported the commander to be hiding. The nearest populated area was more than a kilometer away and there are no reports of civilian casualties as a result of this strike.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Kandahar while in pursuit of a Taliban military commander who targets Afghan civilians working with coalition forces. The commander is also linked to suicide attacks against Afghan civilians throughout Kandahar province. The security force surrounded the targeted compound south of Bala Dehe Sufla in Panjwa'i district. All the occupants complied with the instructions provided by the Afghan forces using a loudspeaker. The suspected insurgents were detained for further questioning after all the residents were interviewed. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban subcommander and several additional suspected insurgents in Paktika province. The subcommander, who operated mainly in Mota Khan, conducted improvised explosive device attacks against coalition convoys and obtained explosives for his network. The security force surrounded the targeted compound east of Sharan and Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully exit the buildings. Several men attempted to disguise themselves by dressing in female attire before exiting the compound. However, they were immediately identified and detained for further questioning. The subcommander and several suspected insurgents were detained. The assault force discovered automatic weapons, ammunition, magazines and a bayonet, along with IED material, including 31 pressures switches and multiple pressure plates. A bag containing Pakistani, Afghani and American cash was also found at the scene. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

In July 25 Afghanistan news:

-- Afghan and coalition forces recovered the remains of a missing ISAF servicemember in eastern Afghanistan after an extensive search, ISAF officials said. Afghan and coalition forces launched an extensive search-and-recovery operation when two servicemembers failed to report to their destination July 23. Search efforts will continue until the other missing servicemember is found. The ISAF holds the captors accountable for the safety and proper treatment of the missing servicemember, officials said.

In July 24 Afghanistan news:

-- Four Afghan civilians were injured by two separate IED attacks in Badghis province. ISAF medics responded to the incidents. According to initial reports a civilian was injured by an IED in the Bala Murghab district. He was immediately brought to the surgical team at forward operating base Todd-Columbus for emergency care where he was stabilized and airlifted to the military hospital at Camp Zafar for further treatment. The second IED blast, which injured three more civilians, occurred near Darreh Ye Bum. ISAF forces in Bala Murghab provided medical care and evacuated the injured to an ISAF medical facility.

"These events demonstrate the complete disregard that insurgents have for the lives of Afghan people," said Torres, the ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. "Insurgents deliberately target civilians with suicide attacks and IEDs, with no regard for Afghan lives.

"Eliminating militant IED operations is a key focus of ISAF," Torres continued. "The highly indiscriminate nature of IEDs makes them a threat not only to Afghanistan's security forces and ISAF, but also to innocent Afghan civilians."

Mullen Calls for Long-Term Partnership with Iraqi Military

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2010 - The United States military is committed over the long-term to a positive, productive partnership with Iraqi security forces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today. The U.S. military drawdown in Iraq is on schedule, said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen. The drawdown, he added, will reduce the numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq to less than 50,000 by August 31.

"I see absolutely nothing to negatively impact that [drawdown]," Mullen said during a joint news conference with Jacob Lew, deputy secretary of state for management and budget.

Mullen has been visiting Iraq since 2004. "I've seen things at their worst," he recalled. "I remember when very few people had very few hopes for a better future in Iraq. Today, that hope abounds. It's nearly palpable."

Mullen said he is stunned and pleased by the changes in Iraq, but more progress must be made. The U.S.-Iraqi relationship will move from mainly military to one based on "strong, vibrant civilian institutions and leadership," the admiral said.

There are just under 65,000 American servicemembers in Iraq today – down more than 100,000 from the height of the surge of forces in 2007. Mullen praised Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, and his team for their management of the drawdown.

American planners here said they have sent much-needed equipment to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, provided equipment and materiel to Iraqi security forces, and cleaned up many of the sites to U.S. environmental standards.

The U.S. mission will change from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn on September 1, and the American forces will switch totally to an advise and assist role, Mullen said. U.S. forces, he added, will retain the ability to defend themselves.

Other U.S. forces will continue to train and work with the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, Mullen said. Other troops will continue to help the Iraqis develop logistics capabilities for their security forces, and also develop the Iraqi air force and navy.

"We will continue to assist in targeted counterterrorism operations where necessary," the chairman said. "But it is the Iraqi security forces that must provide for the security of their own people."

Mullen believes the Iraqi security apparatus is ready, and said he is pleased with their performance. Violent acts have declined 50 percent since July of last year, Mullen said, and security incidents are at their lowest point since 2003.

What's more, the Iraqi security force's behavior during the recent national elections proved to the Iraq people that the military is apolitical and loyal to the Iraqi constitution.

"As I have said to my own military, there are few attributes more important or more vital to a democracy than a military that stays out of politics and remains subservient to civilian leadership," Mullen said.

The election left a closely divided legislature, and the Iraqi politicians have yet to form a new government. Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have told the Iraqis that it is important for them to work together to form a government as quickly as possible. However, the delay in forming the new Iraqi government will not affect the U.S. drawdown or many of the development programs already underway, Mullen and Lew said.

Yet, the weakened insurgents still retain the ability to launch attacks, Mullen said. He called yesterday's attack on the headquarters of al Arabiyah television network an attempt to muzzle the press.

"That these criminals chose to lash out at a responsible, free and independent media organization, speaks volumes about the desperation of their situation and their motives," Mullen said. Insurgent attempts to squelch the Iraqi press, the admiral said, represents "nothing more than an attempt to hold back the Iraqi people from the free exchange of ideas and greater awareness of the world around them. It is as futile as it is foolish."

The chairman met today with Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Mullen also met with Defense Minister Abdul Qadir and Gen. Babakir Zabari, the Iraqi military chief of staff.

Navy Casualty and Identifies Sailor Listed as Whereabouts Unknown

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor and the identity of another sailor listed as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN). The announcement resulted from a July 23 incident in Logar province, Afghanistan, while the sailors were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, 30, of Wheatridge, Colo., died from wounds sustained from the July 23 incident. Coalition Forces recovered his body July 25 after an extensive search. He was assigned to Assault Craft Unit One (ACU-1), San Diego.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash., is listed as DUSTWUN from the July 23 incident. Search and recovery efforts are ongoing, and the incident is under investigation.

For further information related to McNeley, contact Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet public affairs at 619-929-7444.

For information related to Newlove, contact the Navy Office of Information at 703-697-5342.

Sailors, Marines Help Keep Citizens Safe in Western Afghanistan

By Marine Corps Sgt. Brian Kester, Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command Public Affairs

KABUL, Afghanistan (NNS) -- As of July 2010, the number of combat-related civilian casualties in western Afghanistan are at an all time low, and the Sailors and Marines with the Marine Corps special operations teams (MSOTs) play a significant role to keep innocent Afghans away from harm.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials attribute the civilian casualties from combat operations to insurgents.

Since January 2010, less than 10 casualty incidents were reported in western Afghanistan.

"This low number of civilian casualties is a direct result of Afghan and international forces conducting aggressive and safe operations in the area," said Marine Corps Maj. Paul Oliver, a U.S. Special Operations spokesperson. "Their actions show the concern they have for the safety of innocent civilians."

An intercepted message from the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, revealed he directed the Taliban to capture and kill any Afghan supporting and/or working for coalition forces or the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Omar also urged the murder of any Afghan women that help or provide information to Coalition forces.

"We believe this guidance provides important insight into recent events," said German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, an ISAF spokesperson. "The Taliban are causing an alarmingly high number of civilian casualties and they have also begun attacking those who have chosen to serve the people of Afghanistan as public servants."

The reduction of civilian casualties has not affected the frequency of Afghan and coalition forces security patrols in western Afghanistan. Joint forces continue to engage the people to secure their future.

"Unlike the Taliban whose senseless violence deliberately causes civilian casualties, we do our best to avoid non-combatant casualties," said Oliver. "Ultimately it's the insurgents whose intent it is to drag Afghanistan back several centuries into chaos."

Coalition officials emphasize that ISAF service members want to work alongside Afghan forces and assist Afghans.

"In our area of responsibility, all of our operations are population centric," said a Special Operations Task Force commander. "It is our goal to provide stability and security that will ultimately lead to development and greater governance."

Sacramento Man Ordered to Pay Victims and Government Responders for Costs Related to Anthrax Hoax

SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Marc M. Keyser, 68, of Sacramento, was ordered today by United States District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. to pay nearly $7,000 in costs that various victims and government agencies incurred in response to Keyser’s fake anthrax mailings in October 2008. On April 26, 2010, Judge Damrell sentenced Keyser to 51 months in prison and three years of supervised release for sending anthrax hoax letters but deferred until today the determination of the amount of restitution to be paid back.

Keyser admitted mailing over 100 packages containing fake anthrax to media outlets and politicians throughout the country and to Starbucks and McDonalds in Sacramento. Keyser was convicted by a jury on September 17, 2009, of charges relating to three specific victims—the Office of Congressman George Radanovich in Modesto, a Sacramento Starbucks, and a Sacramento McDonalds. He was specifically convicted of three counts of committing an anthrax hoax and two counts of mailing threatening communications. The restitution ordered today was divided as follows:

Modesto Fire Department—costs of response to the scene: $2,438.79

Modesto Police Department—costs of response to the scene: $748.29

Office of U.S. Congressman George Radanovich—costs of office closure: $1,200.00

Sacramento Fire Department—costs of response to the scenes: $609.06

Sacramento County Public Health Lab—costs of testing packages: $1,681.56

Total: $6,677.70

This case was the product of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jean Hobler prosecuted the case.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Frederik E. Vazquez, 20, of Melrose Park, Ill., died July 24 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, IIMarine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at 910-449-9962.

Mullen Attends Kandahar Meeting, Visits Local Police

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 26, 2010 - "We have left [Afghanistan] before," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said to Kandahar community leaders here today. "It didn't work." The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the four men at the Canadian-American camp in the city. It was the second time the chairman had met with the men. He held a similar shura, or meeting, with them last year.

The meeting gave the chairman an opportunity to hear from Afghans about what they believe are the problems confronting them. Mullen told the Afghans that he was pleased to meet with them again, and urged them to be candid with him.

And they were. "Do you bring security, or do you bring violence?" asked one of the Afghan leaders through a translator. The Afghans told Mullen they are concerned that Kandahar will become a battlefield, and that this should be avoided. All men spoke with the understanding that their identities will be protected, lest the Taliban retaliate against them or their families.

The Afghans told the admiral that not enough development money is reaching average Afghans, and that men are working for the Taliban as a way to feed their families.

And they want concrete steps taken. "The first thing is that nothing has changed," said one of the community leaders via a translator. The men had complaints about security, about the mayor and provincial leaders. The Afghans also told Mullen that they were worried about kidnappings and terrorist attacks from Pakistan.

"We hear that you are leaving," one of the elders said to Mullen. "Who will help us then?"

The chairman assured the men that the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. Mullen was referring to the end of the Soviet era in Afghanistan, when he'd told the Afghan men at the meeting that the United States had left Afghanistan before and the result was 3,000 American dead in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the thwarted attack that ended in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

"The operations piece is to focus on security," Mullen told the Afghan men. This, he explained, will allow civilian agencies – both international and Afghan – to focus on bringing good governance to Kandahar, the second-largest city in Afghanistan. The coalition and Afghan forces, he added, must "reduce the malign presence" the Taliban, crime families and narco-traffickers impose.

The military option in Kandahar City is limited, Mullen said.

"We are not going to be able to kill our way to success," the chairman said.

Creating jobs is a key to ridding Kandahar of the Taliban, Mullen said. He agreed with one of the elders that if they could produce 20 jobs for every 10 jobs lost, the Taliban would be gone.

Mullen also told the Afghan leaders that much progress has been made against the Taliban.

"We have learned and adjusted," the admiral said. "The next seven to nine months will be absolutely critical."

Mullen left the shura and travelled in a mine-resistant, ambush-protected Cougar vehicle to visit an Afghan police station. Some of the streets he travelled through were filled with trash and derelict buildings. Others were clean and the shops filled with produce, electronic gear and storefront car and motorcycle repair shops.

The convoy crossed a canal where some Afghan children were swimming. Some of the children waved to the convoy. Others threw rocks.

At the station, Mullen praised the Afghan police for their dedication and their willingness to step forward to defend their nation and the Afghan people.

Commander Explains Conditions in Regional Command–East

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 26, 2010 - Though the battle in Regional Command-East in Afghanistan is more difficult than expected, U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are making progress there, Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell said here yesterday.

Campbell, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division as well as Regional Command-East, spoke to reporters traveling with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen visited U.S. troops in Jalalabad and Forward Operating Base Joyce, before arriving here. Campbell also commands the Combined Joint Task Force 101.

Campbell's read on the fight in his area is that there is a U.S. surge into Afghanistan, and the enemy is surging in response.

"We've seen an uptick in the number of [improvised explosive devices], complex attacks and small-arms attacks," the general said. "I can tell you the number of attacks has gone up but the effectiveness has not. Part of that is the experience we bring and the focus of the soldiers and commanders as they assume battlespace."

RC-East is built around the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky. A French brigade and a Polish brigade also serve with the Americans. The command has 152 forward operation bases and combat outposts spread over 14 provinces.

The surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan – while centered on Regional Command-South – also is being felt in the east, Campbell said. The extra troops, he said, will enable penetration into more areas, and this allows the command to continue partnering with Afghan security forces – especially with the Afghan police.

The enemy remains basically the same, Campbell said, as when the 101st was last deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 to 2009 – the Haqqani network in the southern part of the area and Taliban to the north. Three provinces – Bamian, Panjshir and Parwan – are seeing significant declines in violence, and Campbell believes he can transfer those areas to Afghan security forces in the near future.

The counterinsurgency strategy concentrates on protecting the population, Campbell said, noting his command has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect civilians during combat operations. In the last month, he said, there were 100 civilian casualties. Ninety percent of those casualties, he added, were caused by the insurgents. And in the past six months, the general said, no innocent civilians were killed by aerial bombings.

Campbell said the 101st division's headquarters is based at the massive airfield here located just east of Kabul. The 1st Brigade, 3rd Brigade and soon the 4th Brigade will operate in RC-East. One of the two division aviation brigades is based in RC-South, as is the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

This arrangement, Campbell said, enables the division to tailor its training to the mission, especially the language and culture piece. Many of the 101st troopers served in Afghanistan before, he noted, and one – the 4th Brigade – will deploy to the same area they'd served in before.

There are many more resources being applied in addition to the surge in American troops, Campbell said. Training of the Afghan national security forces, he noted, has begun to pay off, with roughly 25,000 now serving alongside coalition forces.

One of the "game changers" Campbell sees is putting more attention on the Afghan police and the Afghan Border Police.

"In Iraq, we focused on [building] the army, and the police were a couple of years behind. [It's] the same [situation] here," the general said. "We put the Afghan police in the same missions as the army, but they are not manned, equipped or trained to do those missions."

Campbell wants to change the focus and have the Afghan police concentrate on policing the district centers. Providing protection in these areas, he said, will allow the government to concentrate on the governance and development aspects of counterinsurgency – the build portion of the clear, hold, build strategy.

"So our focus is going to come off the army a little bit – we'll maintain and sustain that – we think this will improve the effectiveness of the police," the general said.

Campbell also will see if the police can be bulked up while obtaining different weapons for its officers. He also is looking to get up-armored Humvees for the police. American soldiers mostly use all-terrain Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles.

"Instead of just letting them sit here, I want to get those up-armored Humvees out to the police and let them use them," the general said.

Leadership for the Afghan police is crucial to success and Campbell proposes taking experienced army officers and NCOs and then training them for duty with the police.

The general said his command also works closely with Pakistani army officers.

"Every time we do an operation near the border, Pakistan does a complementary operation," he said. "I have Pakistani and Afghan [liaison officers] in my joint operations center. We share all the information across all our partners."

Pakistani anti-insurgent operations conducted on their side of the border are causing the Taliban to be squeezed into Afghanistan, where U.S. forces deal with them, Campbell said.

Troops are finding and disarming more and more of the insurgents' primitive fertilizer-based bombs, he said, and Afghan and coalition forces are getting more and more tips from the local people.

There also is a strong civilian presence in his command, Campbell said, noting that he has 165 civilians. That number, he said, is slated to rise to 275 in the near future. Campbell said there are many dedicated civilians in his command, many of whom have volunteered to extend their stays in Afghanistan.

"You don't hear too much about that," he said. "They see the impact they are making and they make a difference every day."

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died July 24, at Qalat, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked their military vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Conrad A. Mora, 24, of San Diego, Calif.

Sgt. Daniel Lim, 23, of Cypress, Calif.

Spc. Joseph A. Bauer, 27, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pfc. Andrew L. Hand, 25, of Enterprise, Ala.

They were assigned to 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

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

Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following Marines died July 22 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Mario D. Carazo, 41, of Springfield, Ohio.

Maj. James M. Weis, 37, of Toms River, N.J.

Carazo and Weis were assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on these Marines, news media representatives may contact the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing public affairs office at 858-577-6000.

ATF, FBI and Glendale Police Department Arrest Walter Bond for Sheepskin Factory Arson

DENVER — Walter Bond, age 34, was arrested last night by Special Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the April 30, 2010 arson of the Sheepskin Factory in Glendale, Colorado, United States Attorney David Gaouette, ATF Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson, FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis, and Glendale Police Chief Victor Ross announced. Bond, who is charged with one count of arson of property affecting interstate commerce, is scheduled to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Denver at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, where he will be advised of the charges pending against him, and the related penalties for that crime.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on April 30, 2010, a fire occurred at the Sheepskin Factory located at 510 South Colorado Boulevard, in Glendale, Colorado. The business sells a variety of sheepskin products, including seat covers, shoes, rugs and blankets via their store and internet, meaning the products travel within interstate commerce. The fire destroyed the building and its contents, resulting in approximately $500,000 in damages.

According to the complaint, Bond went by the nickname “Lone Wolf.” He allegedly burned the Sheepskin Factory in Denver as well as a leather factory and restaurant in Utah. At one point it is believed that Bond lived near the Sheepskin Factory in Glendale. He allegedly watched the business burn and saw fire trucks responding. It is also believed that he intended to “torch” the Sheepskin Factory “in a couple of years” again since it is now reopened at another location.

The affidavit noted that someone using the nickname “ALF Lone Wolf” posted on an internet site the following text: “the arson at the Sheepskin Factory in Denver was done in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors. Be warned that making a living from the use and abuse of animals will not be tolerated. Also be warned that leather is every bit as evil as fur. As demonstrated in my recent arson against the Leather Factory in Salt Lake City. Go vegan!”

“Thanks to the hard work of the ATF and FBI, a serial arsonist has been arrested,” said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette.

“Arson is a serious and potentially deadly crime that impacts an entire community,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson. “ATF is committed to pursuing arsonists that endanger firefighters and communities by their senseless acts of violence.”

“Terrorism in the name of animal rights is every bit as dangerous and destructive as the other threats facing our country today,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis. “The actions of Mr. Bond resulted in significant property damage and worse, could have resulted in the loss of life. The FBI, along with the ATF and our other Joint Terrorism Task Force partners are committed to working together to ensure that citizens of this country are safe from terrorist threats of all kinds.”

If convicted of arson of property affecting interstate commerce, Bond faces not less than 5 years, and not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.

This case was investigated by the ATF, FBI, Denver Fire Department, and the Glendale Police Department.

Bond is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Holloway.

A criminal complaint is a probable cause charging document. Anyone accused of a federal felony crime has a Constitutional right to be indicted by a federal grand jury.

The charges contained in the complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Helicopter Lands Hard in Afghanistan; Operations Continue

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

July 26, 2010 - An International Security Assistance Force helicopter made a hard landing along the perimeter of a coalition force camp in Kabul province, Afghanistan, today.

Four passengers suffered minor injuries. The incident is under investigation.

In yesterday's Afghanistan news:

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents yesterday in Nangarhar province, including a Taliban subcommander operating in Khugyani district who was linked to several attacks against coalition forces, including a rocket attack on Jalalabad Airfield on Christmas day last year. The security force targeted a compound in Behsud district in pursuit of the commander. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully exit the compound and then secured the area. After questioning the residents, the security force detained the commander and several suspected insurgents for further questioning. An AK-47 rifle and three ammunition magazines were found at the scene.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces detained one suspected insurgent and killed one in Logar province last night during offensive clearing operations. Afghan and coalition security forces targeted several areas suspected of insurgent activity in the Charkh and Baraki Barak districts of Logar province. Near Qaryeh-ya Gol'alam in Baraki Barak one insurgent was killed after he attempted to attack the security force using a hand grenade. The combined force also detained one suspected insurgent in the same area after an automatic weapon and chest rack were found in his home. The women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force last night detained two suspected Taliban insurgents an operation in Zabul province.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force killed one insurgent and detained several other suspected insurgents in Helmand province last night while in pursuit of a Taliban bomb maker who profits from the trafficking of improvised explosive device materials, weapons, and ammunition throughout the province. The Taliban bomb maker also commands his own group of fighters and orders improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces killed several insurgents and wounded two in Ghazni province last night while in pursuit of a Taliban subcommander who operates mainly in the Mota Khan district of Paktika province. The security force also detained two suspected insurgents.

In July 24 Afghanistan news:

-- Two International Security Assistance Force members yesterday departed their compound in Kabul City in a vehicle and did not return. The unit dispatched vehicles and rotary-winged assets to search for them and their vehicle, and the search is ongoing. Details will be released as they become available.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained two suspected insurgents in Khost province including a Haqqani Network sub-commander responsible for coordinating and conducting improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan civilians, and Afghan and coalition forces in the region. Multiple rifles and grenades were found at the scene. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Zabul province while in pursuit of a Taliban commander, who coordinates attacks against Afghan civilians, Afghan and coalition forces. He also orchestrated kidnappings of Afghan government officials, Afghan National Security Forces and civilians in the Qalat district. The security force discovered and destroyed improvised explosive device materials at the scene. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night including a Taliban improvised explosive device cell leader operating in the Sanjeray area. The cell leader was also responsible for coordinating supply and logistical issues with Pakistan-based facilitators. The security force detained the IED cell leader and several suspected insurgents for further questioning. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces detained two suspected insurgents in Logar province during offensive clearing operations. The first security force targeted a series of compounds in the village of Mollakay in Charkh district and Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully exit each compound. After questioning the residents, the security force detained one suspected insurgent for further questioning.

A second security force targeted several tents and buildings in a remote area in Kharwar district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully identify themselves to the security force. After questioning everyone present, the security force detained one suspected insurgent for further questioning. No shots were fired and the women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Helmand province last night while in pursuit of a Taliban commander for Nad 'Ali district. After questioning the residents, the security force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning. The women and children were protected throughout the search.

-- The ISAF confirmed the capture of a Haqqani Network subcommander linked to attacks against coalition forces and responsible for facilitating the movement of weapons and ammunition into the Terayzai district of Khost during an Afghan and coalition security operation. The subcommander was captured along with a Haqqani Network facilitator who primarily planned and conducted attacks against coalition forces and Afghan officials throughout Khost province. The security force detained the subcommander and facilitator for further questioning.

In July 23 Afghanistan news:

-- An Afghan and coalition security force killed two armed men and detained several suspected insurgents in Khost province while in pursuit of a Haqqani facilitator for remote controlled improvised explosive devices who also plans and conducts attacks against coalition forces in the area. The combined security force went to a series of compounds north of Khvajeh Mohammad Kala in Terayzai district in pursuit of the Haqqani facilitator. As the security force began entering the buildings, two men armed with AK-47's and chest racks failed to comply with warnings and demonstrated a threat towards the combined security force. The combined force used precision fire, killing two insurgents. Multiple automatic weapons, magazines and grenades were found at the scene. After the compounds were cleared and secured, the security force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning. The women and children present were protected throughout the search by Afghan forces.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained four suspected insurgents in Paktika province while in pursuit of a Taliban subcommander involved in improvised explosive device attacks against coalition forces. The Taliban subcommander also acts as a Mullah who blesses the actions of foreign-influenced insurgents who intimidate the population in order to disrupt the security efforts of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Mota Khan. No shots were fired during the operation and the women and children were protected throughout the search. About 300,000 Pakistani rupees also were found at the scene.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents in Baghlan province while in pursuit of a Taliban district commander for Baghlan-e Jadid district and a Taliban military commander in charge of numerous insurgent fighters.

-- An Afghan-coalition security force detained two men and seized a suspected enemy weapons cache in Surobi district in Kabul province. The cache contained four 107 mm rockets and one fuse, two 76 mm recoilless rockets, two .22-caliber pistols and magazines, two improvised explosive devices, one .303-caliber rifle with a loaded magazine and one box of machine gun ammunition. Electrical components and detonation cord were also confiscated.

-- An Afghan National Police Special Response Team killed several insurgents at an illegal checkpoint along Highway 1 in Wardak province. According to ANP officials, illegal checkpoints are common methods of harassment by insurgents, who use these checkpoints to extort money from travelers and to identify individuals they believe favor Afghan and coalition forces. The six ANP officers were traveling together on leave through Shekhabad district when they approached several insurgents in the road. After being forced to stop and exit their vehicle, the ANP officers were guided off the road toward a ditch by two insurgent members. The insurgents, unaware the men they stopped were ANP officers, were caught by surprise as the officers were able to gain the upper-hand, draw their pistols and shoot and kill both insurgents, according to ANP officials. A third gunman fired on the officers, forcing them to take cover and then flee the checkpoint on foot. ANP officials said the officers fled to a nearby Afghan National Army base to gather reinforcements, and returned to the scene to take down the false checkpoint. No ANA or ANP personnel were injured during the engagement.

"This incident shows the capabilities of the ANP," said Lt. Col. Donald Franklin, Special Operations Task Force - East commander. "They've become a highly skilled force, trained and committed to protecting the people of Afghanistan from insurgent intimidation and extortion."

-- Afghan National Army Commandos, assisted by U.S. Special Operations Forces, killed a large group of insurgent fighters while pursuing a known Taliban network in Nuristan province. Afghan soldiers assigned to the 3rd Company, 1st Commando Kandak along with U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted clearing operations near the village of Awlagul in Barg-e Matal district to disrupt the Taliban activity, according to coalition officials. As the partnered force entered the area, coalition officials said their forces were met with heavy resistance from insurgents using small arms and automatic weapons. During the search of the surrounding area, the Afghan-led force found 35 rocket propelled grenades, six propellant charges, 1000 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition, 500 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, numerous mortar rounds, and several hundred pounds of explosives along with a spool of fuse and blasting caps. The cache was destroyed on site. No non-combatants were harmed during the operation and no property damage was reported.

-- ISAF officials are investigating an incident that occurred near the town of Khaki Bandeh in the Watapur district of Kunar province that resulted in the death of an Afghan civilian. Three other civilians were wounded. When ISAF forces received intelligence reports of an imminent attack against a combat outpost they fired two mortar rounds near a historic insurgent firing position. The position had been used several times in the past week to conduct small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade attacks on the outpost. Following the mortar fire, an Afghan civilian from Khaki Bandeh reported that one civilian was killed and three wounded. The civilian refused coalition assistance and the injured were taken to a local hospital.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Afghan citizens," said Lt. Col. Randall Harris, Task Force Bastogne deputy commanding officer. "We do everything within our power to prevent civilian casualties in the course of operations -- the safety of the Afghan people is very important to the International Security Assistance Forces." The incident is under investigation.

Mullen Thanks Embassy Employees in Kabul

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 25, 2010 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized the need for all aspects of national power to contribute to defeating extremists in Afghanistan during an "all-hands" talk today at the U.S. embassy here.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to more than 200 employees who crowded into the main atrium of the embassy and watched from staircases and balconies. They included representatives of the more than 600 Afghan nationals who work at the embassy, as well.

Employees from the Departments of State and Justice, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal agencies work in the embassy. Many work alongside U.S. servicemembers to bring the "civil" portion to the civil-military affairs program.

Mullen thanked the embassy employees for their efforts and sacrifices at an important time in history. "You represent such a critical part of our success in ways that have evolved dramatically ... over the course of this decade, in particular," he said.

The chairman spoke in front of an Afghan-made rug depicting Jasper Johns' famous painting of the American flag. Before speaking to the crowd, the chairman reenlisted a young Navy petty officer who works at the embassy.

Mullen said the military is needed to set conditions so other branches of government can help. Security is necessary, but it isn't the be-all and end-all of a counterinsurgency campaign. "If we don't have a great team like you, we can't get there," he said.

The chairman spoke about strengthening civilian-military cooperation over the long term. Important questions to answer, he said, are: What are the fundamentals in a campaign? How do we educate ourselves on that? How do we train ourselves on that? How do we work together before we are in a conflict?"

The increase in cooperation between civilians and servicemembers is increasing, Mullen said, naming U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Southern Command as examples where military formations are including other agency civilian employees in the basic manning documents.

"One of the problems in Iraq was generating civilian capacity in a war zone," the chairman said. Civilian agency employees had no expectation that they would serve in a war zone. Civilian agencies did not have the manpower policies in place to identify people who would be useful in the war zones, and then train and place them.

"The future includes all of us," he said. "It is an absolute requirement for the world we are living in right now."

Statement Issued by CNO on Events in Afghanistan

Special Navy News Service

Washington (NNS) -- The Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead extended the following statement on the events in Afghanistan:

"The thoughts and prayers of our entire Navy go out to the missing Sailors serving in Afghanistan and their families. We have been closely following the situation from the outset. These Sailors represent two of several thousand Sailors serving on the ground in Afghanistan in support of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan. Forces on the ground in Afghanistan are doing everything they can to locate and safely return our missing shipmates. "

Mission Unchanged in Afghanistan, Mullen Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 25, 2010 - The U.S. mission in Afghanistan has not changed, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said at a news conference at the Government Media Information Center here.

"We are still going to dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies, and prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a haven for them again," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The goal of international partners is a secure and stable Afghanistan, Mullen said, a country that can defend itself, provide for itself and its citizens, and contribute to the economic betterment of the region.

The strategy calls for a broad and deliberate counterinsurgency campaign to protect the Afghan people. "Again, none of this has changed with the arrival of (Army) Gen. (David) Petraeus," he said.

Mullen is visiting Afghanistan where he met with troopers of the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team at Jalalabad and Forward Operating Base Joyce. He then moved to Kabul where he spoke to Petraeus at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters and with the U.S. embassy staff. "We are in fact making slow, but steady progress toward our goals," the admiral said.

Counterinsurgency is a complicated fight. "There are ups and downs, setbacks and steps forward, but I am ... more optimistic than I've been in the past," he said.

The Helmand campaign is making progress. Afghan national security forces are making contributions and building capabilities in the province, Mullen said. Governance is lagging, but improving, he said, adding that Helmand may have been the most important Taliban base in Afghanistan, and they are fighting back.

The Kandahar campaign is growing in size and scope as additional U.S., coalition and Afghan forces flow in. Special operations forces are conducting missions to kill, capture or drive off Taliban leaders and their al-Qaida allies. Afghan and U.S. military police have established checkpoints through the city, and additional U.S. and Afghan brigades are partnering outside the city to expand security.

"The enemy is clearly feeling the pressure and lashing out," the admiral said.

Recent fighting has caused civilian casualties. "In the last two weeks, the Taliban have murdered 45 people countrywide, and wounded another 100 or so," Mullen said. "In that same period, four innocent civilians were killed in the course of Afghan and ISAF operations, and another four or five wounded."

ISAF and Afghan forces want to reduce civilian casualties to nothing. "The enemy cannot say, and most certainly will not strive for, the same result," he said.

Security is a prerequisite for progress in Afghanistan, Mullen said, enabling the government to put in place programs and to build projects that benefit all Afghans.

Mullen again explained that the July 2011 date for U.S. troops to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean the United States won't continue to support the region. He repeated the message he delivered in Pakistan the day before: U.S. forces will leave only "as fast and as far as conditions on the ground permit. No one is looking for the door out of Afghanistan or out of the region."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mullen Stresses Commitment to Afghanistan, Pakistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 24, 2010 - Navy Adm. Mike Mullen stressed America's commitment to Afghanistan and the region during interviews with Pakistani TV and print reporters today. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that the July 2011 date President Barack Obama has set as the start of drawing down the plus-up of troops he ordered in November does not mean the United States will run for the doors.

Mullen spoke directly to those Pakistanis who doubt America's commitment in Afghanistan. "America's military mission there will not end in July 2011," Mullen said slowly and deliberately.

A year from now, the United States and its International Security Assistance Force partners will begin the process of handing over security responsibility to Afghan security forces.

"We will do so only as fast and as far as conditions permit," he said. "No one is looking for the door out of Afghanistan, or out of this region."

Mullen said that while the U.S. military presence will diminish, American friendship and strategic partnership will endure. "The United States military is as committed to our relationship with Pakistan as it is to our mission in Afghanistan," he said.

The regional approach is the only way to defeat extremist groups that ignore borders and prey on helpless people wherever they find them, the admiral said.

"No one nation, and no one military can accomplish our shared goal of a stable and secure Afghanistan," he said. "We need Pakistan's continued help and, frankly, we still believe we have much to offer you in return."

Mullen emphasized that there are no American combat troops in Pakistan, nor will there be. There are about 120 American trainers who work with the Pakistani military at the Pakistani government's request and they will remain, he said.

"This is not America's war. It's a regional war, and, in some ways, a global war," he said.

The chairman appreciates the sacrifices of the Pakistani people against common foes in what is an uncommon and treacherous fight. The Pakistani military has conducted 16 months of ceaseless battle against extremists who are an existential threat to the Pakistani government, its people and their way of life.

Mullen also addressed what he sees as a growing problem in the interconnectedness among terrorist groups. Lashkar-e-Taiba is an example of a group that had limited goals at first – the "liberation" of Muslims in Kashmir – that has morphed into a general purpose terror group with regional and even global aspirations. LeT is affiliated with al-Qaida and other terror groups, he said.

LeT launched the attacks in Mumbai, India, in 2008 that killed 166 people, and brought relations between India and Pakistan – both nuclear-armed countries – closer to war, Mullen said.

The group is active in Afghanistan, and has targeted areas of South Asia, Europe and the United States.