Tuesday, August 31, 2010

U.S. Combat Mission Ends in Iraq, Obama Says

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2010 – President Barack Obama today announced the official end to combat operations in Iraq during a prime-time Oval Office address, declaring “a new beginning” for the Iraqi people.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom is over,” Obama said, speaking just hours after the launch of Operation New Dawn in Iraq. “The Iraqi people now have the lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

Obama offered high praise for the men and women in uniform whose service and sacrifice led to this “historic moment” in time.

“The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given,” he said. “They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block-by-block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.”

That effort came at tremendous cost, he said, noting more than 4,400 U.S. troops killed and thousands more wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest; it is in our own,” Obama said. “The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets home.

“We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people: a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization,” he continued.

“Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility,” he said. “Now, it is time to turn the page.”

Obama outlined the future role of the transitional force of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq through December 2011. They’ll advise and assist Iraqi security forces, support Iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions and protect U.S. civilians.

“Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year,” he said.

And as the military draws down, civilian diplomats, aid workers and advisors will step up to help Iraq strengthen its government, institutions and ties with the region and the world. “This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq – one based upon mutual interests and mutual respect,” the president said.

Obama conceded that violence in Iraq will not stop with the end of the U.S. combat mission there, and that enemies of Iraq will keep up their attempts to derail progress. He expressed confidence, however, that the Iraqis have the will, and Iraqi security forces, the capability, to stand up to the extremists.

“Ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals,” the president said, offering assurance that the United States will continue to support Iraq as a friend and partner.

While building that long-term partnership, the United States will take the lessons learned in Iraq as it confronts what Obama called its most pressing security challenge: the fight against al-Qaida.

“As we speak, al-Qaida continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.

“And because of the drawdown in Iraq,” he said, “we are able to apply the resources necessary to go on the offense.”

The surge forces in Afghanistan will serve for a limited time to break the Taliban’s momentum and help the Afghans build their capacity and secure their future, Obama said.

As in Iraq, he said Afghanistan’s future ultimately will depend on its own government and security forces’ capabilities.

Toward that end, the United States will begin a transition to Afghan security responsibility next July, with the pace of troop reductions based on conditions on the ground.

Obama offered assurance of enduring U.S. support for Afghanistan as this transition takes shape.

“But make no mistake: this transition will begin,” he emphasized, “because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

One of the lessons of Iraq, he said, is that “American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone.”

“We must use all the elements of our power, including our diplomacy, our economic strength and the power of America’s example, to secure our interests and stand by our allies,” he said.

Obama called the milestone achieved today in Iraq a reminder to all Americans that "the future is ours to shape, if we move forward with confidence and commitment."

"It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States intends to strengthen our leadership in this young century," he added.

Army Casualties

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

They died Aug. 28 in Babur, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.

Killed were:

Sgt. Patrick K. Durham, 24, of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Spc. Andrew J. Castro, 20, of Westlake Village, Calif.

Durham was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Castro was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 270-798-3025.

‘Tough Slog’ Remains Ahead in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2010 – “A very tough fight” remains in Afghanistan that will demand more hard work and sacrifice, President Barack Obama acknowledged today while visiting Fort Bliss, Texas, to thank troops there for advancing the mission in Iraq.

“It is going to be a tough slog” in Afghanistan, Obama told 1st Armored Division “Old Ironsides” soldiers just returned from Iraq, where the U.S. combat mission officially ends tomorrow.

“A lot of families have been touched by the war in Iraq. A lot of families are now being touched in Afghanistan,” he said. “We've seen casualties go up because we're taking the fight to al-Qaida and the Taliban and their allies.”

Obama emphasized the government’s commitment to prevent another 9/11-style attack from striking the U.S. homeland. “We are going to go after those who perpetrated that crime, and we are going to make sure that they do not have safe haven,” he said.

The president expressed confidence that the proper leadership and troop strength on the ground will ensure the success of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. “Now, under the command of [Army] General [David H.] Petraeus, we have the troops who are there in a position to start taking the fight to the terrorists,” he said.

“That's going to mean some casualties, and it's going to mean some heartbreak,” the president said. “But the one thing that I know from all of you is that when we put our minds to it, we get things done and we're willing to make some sacrifices on behalf of our security here at home.”

Fort Bliss currently has five units supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan: 31st Combat Support Hospital; 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment; 202nd Military Police Company; 377th Transportation Company; and the 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Officials Confirm Capture of Insurgent Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2010 – A senior insurgent leader believed to be responsible for coordinating the movement of fighters across three provinces in Afghanistan was captured by Afghan-led security forces, military officials reported today.

The International Security Assistance Force confirmed the capture of a Haqqani network facilitator linked to the movement of fighters throughout Khost, Paktiya and Paktika provinces. The facilitator was captured Aug. 29 during an Afghan-led security force operation in Khost province.

Afghan and coalition forces targeted a remote series of compounds north of Ziarat-e Bad in Khost district to search for the facilitator. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compounds peacefully and then secured the area. After questioning all the residents at the scene, the security force detained the facilitator and four of his associates.

The security force did not fire weapons and protected the women and children during the search.

"The Haqqani network's violent and immoral tactics will be stopped," said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, the director of ISAF’s Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center. "Afghan and coalition forces will continue targeting and dismantling this terrorist organization."

In Aug. 30 news:

-- Afghan security forces and U.S. soldiers from Task Force Bastogne conducted a major air assault in the village of Omar, in the Monogai district of Kunar province. Since the operation began, Afghan and coalition forces have killed 19 insurgents and captured five others. Two of the detained insurgents, who were wounded in the operation, were treated and released into Afghan police custody along with one insurgent who was not wounded. Two other insurgents are receiving medical care at coalition bases. During the assault, the joint force discovered numerous insurgent fighting positions, weapons caches, and stockpiles of ammunition within the village. Local villagers in the area cooperated fully with the Afghan-led forces.

"This operation shows the true strength of the Afghan National Security Forces," said Lt. Col. Joseph A. Ryan, commander, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, that’s part of TF Bastogne.

-- Coalition forces conducted a precision air strike in Kandahar province, targeting a Taliban commander responsible for directing improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan civilians, as well as Afghan and coalition forces. The commander also coordinates the movement of supplies and fighters throughout the province. Intelligence tracked three Taliban insurgents to an open, unpopulated field in Zharay district. After careful planning to ensure no civilians were present, coalition aircraft engaged the insurgents. Officials believe the air strike killed two of the insurgents and wounded the other.

-- A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured a Haqqani network subcommander in charge of an insurgent cell responsible for the facilitation of weapons and supplies for area fighters, along with some of his associates in Khost province. He also is believed to have coordinated and conducted IED attacks. Acting on intelligence tips, the security force targeted a compound south of the village of Wardagano Kelay in Sabari district. Afghan soldiers used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully exit the buildings and then secured the area. After initial questioning on the scene, the assault force identified and detained the subcommander and additional insurgents. The security force did not fire weapons and protected the women and children during the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several insurgents in Kandahar province, including a Taliban commander who coordinated weapons movements and IED and direct-fire attacks on Afghan civilians, as well as Afghan and coalition forces. The security force targeted a compound in the village of Jelawur in Arghandab district. Afghan soldiers used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the buildings peacefully and then secured the area. After initial questioning on the scene, the assault force detained the commander and three of his associates for further questioning. The security force did not fire weapons and protected the women and children during the search.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces detained two insurgents in Kunduz province in their pursuit of an al-Qaida-affiliated extremist linked to several insurgent groups in the area, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Taliban. The extremist was recently forced to leave his safe haven in Pakistan and moved to Takhar province with several al-Qaida members. The assault force targeted a series of compounds in Kunduz City in pursuit of the al-Qaida operative. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit each of the compounds peacefully and then secured the areas. After questioning residents at the scene, the security force detained two insurgents. The security force did not fire weapons and protected the women and children during the search.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force detained several insurgents in Ghazni province, including a Taliban subcommander who led an IED attack cell. The commander recently returned from Pakistan where he was training new recruits how to make IEDs. The security force targeted a series of compounds in the village of Nuri Kala in Andar district. Afghan soldiers used a loudspeaker to call for the commander and the rest of the occupants to exit the buildings peacefully. After an extensive search, the commander was found hiding in an oven, breathing through a tube. After initial questioning on the scene, the assault force identified and detained the subcommander along with several of his associates for further questioning. The security force also found automatic weapons, pistols and grenades along with IED components. The security force did not fire weapons and protected the women and children during the search.

-- A joint Afghan and ISAF patrol came under small-arms fire from multiple firing points, one of which was a mosque, in the Nad 'Ali district of Helmand province. Acting in self-defense, Afghan and coalition forces returned fire at the insurgents, causing them to flee the mosque. The combined force made all efforts to avoid damaging the mosque. Following the incident, the force determined a window frame in the mosque received minor damage. Afghan and coalition forces met with the mosque owner, who will be compensated by security forces for the minor damage to the window frame. The mosque owner told Afghan and coalition forces that he understood they had no other option but to return fire in self defense. The owner also said he will tell all others who use the mosque the truth of the incident at the next prayer session. During the assessment of the damage, the Afghan and security patrol continued to receive fire from several firing points. The security force plans to return to the area to conduct a local shura, or meeting, regarding the incident.

-- A district subgovernor was killed and four of his bodyguards were wounded when a vehicle-borne IED detonated outside of the governor's palace in the Jalalabad district of Nangarhar province. Sayeed Mohamed Paliwan, the subgovernor of La'l Por district, was killed as a result of the blast, according to official reports. "Our thoughts and concerns are with the families of the deceased and wounded during this difficult time," said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Garza, deputy chief of staff for joint operations, Headquarters ISAF Joint Command. "This killing of a government official is senseless." Afghan National Police and ISAF troops immediately responded to the scene. Initial reports indicate the IED was attached to the bottom of the subgovernor's vehicle.

"This is a flagrant act, particularly in the context of religion and in the context of the normal codes of conduct," Garza said. "I can assure the enemies of Afghanistan that we will pursue those responsible and we will continue to set the conditions to protect the Afghan people and provide a secure environment for sustainable [government of Afghanistan]-led peace."

Gates: Commanders Have Resources to Win in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MILWAUKEE, Aug. 31, 2010 – The U.S. military has fought two separate wars in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the American Legion here today.

The first war was when the military defeated the Taliban and its terrorist allies from 2001 to 2002. The second war in Afghanistan started with a holding action in the country and only now do commanders in Afghanistan have the troops and resources necessary to win this second conflict.

Gates spoke to the annual convention of the American Legion – one of the nation’s largest veterans’ service organizations. He said the invasion of Iraq distracted leaders and diverted needed resources from effort against the Taliban.

This had a cost. “Starting in 2003, the Taliban regrouped, re-filled their ranks, re-constituted themselves in safe havens and re-entered Afghanistan,” Gates said.

Violence against the NATO-led coalition, against Afghan security forces and against the Afghan people increased significantly in 2005, “and has grown worse ever since,” he said.

But a corner has been turned, and the coalition now has the resources needed to stop the Taliban and give the Afghan government the breathing room it needs to take control.

“The total international military commitment, when fully deployed, will reach approximately 150,000 – more than three times the number when I became defense secretary four years ago,” Gates said. This number includes 45,000 troops from NATO allies and other international partners.

The coalition also has tripled the number of civilian experts working with Afghanistan’s central and provincial governments.

But, the Afghans must ultimately accept responsibility for their country’s security. About 85 percent of the Afghan security forces are partnered with coalition forces. They are learning through instruction and by example how to secure and hold territory, and allow the government to take hold.

The Obama counterinsurgency strategy is taking hold, the secretary said. All allies are following the strategy that protects the population and separates the vast majority of Afghans from the Taliban and other insurgents.

As part of the strategy, the United States will begin to bring troops home in July 2011. This does not mean the lights go off in the country next summer, Gates said.

“As in Iraq, our drawdown will be gradual and conditions-based, accompanied by a build-up of our military assistance and civilian development efforts,” he said. “If the Taliban really believe that America is heading for the exits next summer in large numbers, they’ll be deeply disappointed and surprised to find us still very much in the fight. And the realization that we are still there and aggressively going after them will impact their morale and willingness to continue resisting their government and the international coalition.”

The enemy will continue to resist, Gates predicted, noting that the Taliban are ruthless and cruel. But they are paying a price – more than 350 Taliban leaders have been killed or captured over the past three months, the secretary said.

Yet, Gates said, victory over the Taliban will not be an easy endeavor.

“It will be a tough, hard campaign, with its share of setbacks and heartbreak,” the secretary said. “The fact that we knew that our losses would increase as the fight was brought to the enemy makes them no easier to bear.” He said the increasing casualty count is reminiscent in some ways of the initial months of the surge in Iraq.

Gates said it is important that America stick with the strategy and continue to support the effort in Afghanistan. Ignoring Afghanistan after the Soviets left put in place the haven that al-Qaida used to attack the United States, Great Britain, Indonesia and many other areas, he said.

“Success is not inevitable,” Gates said. “But with the right strategy and the willingness to see it through, it is possible. And it is worth the fight.”

Gates: Iraq Has Chance Now, Thanks to U.S. Servicemembers

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MILWAUKEE , Aug. 31, 2010 – It is thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of American servicemembers that Iraq has the chance for political freedom, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the annual convention of the American Legion here today.

The secretary cautioned that much remains to be done in Iraq, but the people have the chance to move forward after 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s oppression.

Gates ticked off the major signs of progress. Despite recent al-Qaida attacks on Iraqi civilians the overall level of violence in the country remains at the lowest level since 2003. U.S. Forces Iraq has not launched an airstrike in more than six months.

“In an important victory against transnational terror, al-Qaida in Iraq has been largely cut from its masters abroad,” he said.

Today marks the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom; the 50,000 American troops that remain in Iraq will now operate under Operation New Dawn. U.S. servicemembers will continue to advise and assist Iraqi security forces – now 660,000-strong – until all American troops leave Iraq at the end of next year. Since the height of the surge, about 84,000 American troops have redeployed out of the country.

The secretary is a realist about Iraq. “I am not saying that all is, or necessarily will be, well in Iraq,” he told the Legionnaires. “The most recent elections have yet to result in a coalition government. Sectarian tensions remain a fact of life. Al-Qaida in Iraq is beaten, but not gone.”

Americans should not celebrate prematurely, and no one should become complacent. “We still have a job to do and responsibilities there,” Gates said.

The secretary asked the Legionnaires to remember the sacrifices servicemembers have made. “Today, at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 4,427 American servicemembers have died in Iraq – 3,502 of them killed in action; 34,268 have been wounded or injured,” he said. “The courage of these men and women, their determination, their sacrifice – and that of their families – along with the service and sacrifice of so many others in uniform, have made this day – this transition – possible.

“We must never forget,” he said.

Gates said the American Legion has been at the forefront of efforts to remember the troops and aiding those affected by the wars. He praised in particular the Legion’s Heroes to Hometowns program. The program aims to help wounded servicemembers ease back into civilian life.

Biden Visits Iraq to Mark Operation New Dawn

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2010 – While President Barack Obama travels today to Fort Bliss, Texas, and later gives an Oval Office address marking the end of combat operations in Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq meeting with U.S. and Iraqi leaders about the new U.S. mission there.

While offering reassurance to the Iraqis as Operation New Dawn begins tomorrow that the United States remains a vigilant partner, Biden also is expected to encourage Iraq’s political leaders to move forward in forming the central government considered critical to the country’s long-term success.

Biden arrived in Baghdad yesterday, meeting with Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq; Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who will replace him following tomorrow’s change of command ceremony; and Army Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command.

The vice president also met with Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, the former ambassador to Turkey who assumed the top diplomatic post in Iraq earlier this month.

Today, Biden is slated to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other political leaders.

Biden will give them a preview of the speech Obama will deliver tonight from the White House, reinforcing that the United States is “making good on our commitment to end the war in Iraq responsibly and to help build a stable, self-reliant and sovereign Iraq,” Antony Blinken, the vice president’s national security advisor, said during a news conference yesterday at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

The vice president also will underscore the United States’ commitment to an ongoing relationship with Iraq, Blinken said.

“We’re not disengaging from Iraq,” he said. “The nature of our engagement is changing with this change in mission from a military lead to a civilian lead.”

With just under 50,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, the United States is ramping up its engagement on the diplomatic, political, economic and cultural fronts, Blinken said.

“We are determined to build a long-term partnership with the government of Iraq and with the Iraqi people,” he said, emphasizing the need for Iraq to take the steps needed to form its government. “To build a partnership, you need a partner,” he added.

Iraq’s slowness in putting the government in place wasn’t unexpected, Blinken said, particularly in light of the close election results. But he emphasized the risk of “a really dangerous vacuum developing” if the current political stalemate doesn’t end soon.

“We sense some frustration among Iraqis that this process is now taking a considerable amount of time,” Blinken said.

And without an elected government in place, Iraq will have difficulty dealing with the broader political, economic and security issues confronting the country, Blinken said.

“All of these big, outstanding issues require the elected government,” he said.

Blinken emphasized that the United States recognizes that the Iraqis are responsible for the makeup of their government.

“This is up to the Iraqi people,” he said. “It’s not our decision, but we would hope that the government that results will include in its leadership positions parties and coalitions that are interested in building a long-term partnership with the United States.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Army Casualties

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

They died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device Aug. 27 in Paktiya, Afghanistan.

Killed were:

Pfc. Chad D. Coleman, 20, of Moreland, Ga.

Pvt. Adam J. Novak, 20, of Prairie du Sac, Wis.

They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 270- 798-3025.

Army Casualty

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

Spc. James C. Robinson, 27, of Lebanon, Ohio, died Aug. 28 at Paktika, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information the media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 270-798- 3025.

Army Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. James R. Ide, 32, of Festus, Mo., died Aug. 29 at Hyderabad, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to the 230th Military Police Company, 95th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Sembach, Germany.

For more information, the media may contact the 21st Theater Sustainment Command public affairs office at 011-49-631-413-8184.

Marine Casualty

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

Master Sgt. Daniel L. Fedder, 34, of Pine City, Minn., died Aug. 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Logistics Group public affairs office at 760-725-6573.

Army Casualties

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

They died Aug. 29 at Nangahar, Afghanistan, of wound sustained when their military vehicle was struck by rocket propelled grenade on Aug. 28 at Nangahar, Afghanistan.

Killed were:

Capt. Ellery R. Wallace, 33, of Utah.

Pfc. Bryn T. Raver, 20, of Harrison, Ark.

Wallace was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Raver was assigned to 1st Brigade Special Troop Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information, the media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 270-798-3025.

Marine Casualty

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

Gunnery Sgt. Floyd E. C. Holley, 36, of Casselberry, Fla., died Aug. 29 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Logistics Group public affairs office at 760-725-6573.

Progress in Implementing New Security Measures Along the Southwest Border

Release Date: August 30, 2010
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that Predator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) flights will begin out of Corpus Christi, Texas, beginning on Wednesday, Sept.1. With the deployment of an UAS in Texas, DHS unmanned aerial capabilities will now cover the Southwest Border—from the El Centro Sector in California all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas—providing critical aerial surveillance assistance to personnel on the ground.

The new, border-wide use of the Predator aircraft, comes on the heels of the recently passed Southwest border security supplemental legislation, which will provide two additional UASs that will bolster these newly expanded operations.

These UAS efforts are just the latest steps in the historic approach—and unprecedented amount of resources – that the President and this Administration have directed to the southwest border since launching the Southwest Border Initiative in March 2009. Since then, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has doubled the number of personnel assigned to border enforcement security task forces; tripled the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers working along the U.S.-Mexico border; quadrupled deployments of border liaison officers; and begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash.

In addition, the President has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to provide intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and immediate support to counternarcotics enforcement while Customs and Border Protection recruits and trains additional officers and agents to serve on the border. The Administration is dedicating $600 million in new funding to enhance security technology at the border, share information and support with state, local, and tribal law enforcement, and increase federal law enforcement activities at the border. That effort will include the deployment of more agents, investigators, and prosecutors as part of a coordinated effort with states and cities to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money.

Among the progress achieved to date:

1 – Expand Unmanned Aircraft Systems operations to cover the entire Southwest Border.

Results: On Sept. 1st, CBP will expand Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) flight operations, covering all Southwest border states and providing critical aerial surveillance assistance to personnel on the ground.

2 – Dedicate historic levels of personnel to the Southwest border.

Results: The Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its 86-year history, having nearly doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 20,000 today – including more “boots on the ground” in Arizona than ever before. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also deployed a record number of agents to the Southwest border with more than a quarter of its personnel deployed in this region, doubling the number of agents assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces and tripling the number of ICE intelligence analysts working along the U.S.-Mexico border. Further, President Obama has ordered the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border to contribute additional capabilities and capacity to assist law enforcement agencies.

3 – Deploy additional technology and complete fencing construction along the Southwest border.

Results: Over the past 17 months, CBP has deployed additional Z-Backscatter Van Units, Mobile Surveillance Systems, Remote Video Surveillance Systems, thermal imaging systems, radiation portal monitors, and license plate readers to the Southwest border. DHS has also completed 646.5 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles mandated by Congress, including 298.5 miles of vehicle barriers and 348 miles of pedestrian fence, with the remaining construction scheduled to be complete by the end of 2010.

4 – Increase outbound inspections to interdict illegal weapons, drugs, and cash leaving the United States.

Results: In addition to placing an increased emphasis on screening southbound vehicle traffic, CBP began screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash – for the first time ever. These enhanced outbound inspections have yielded more than $39.2 million in southbound illegal currency – an increase of more than $29.4 million compared to 2008.

5 – Increase seizures of drugs, weapons, and currency to disrupt the operations of transnational criminal organizations.

Results: In 2009, DHS seized more than $103 million in illegal currency, more than 1.7 million kilograms of drugs and more than 1,400 firearms – increases of more than $47 million, more than 450,000 kilograms of drugs and more than 300 firearms compared to 2008.

6 – Deter illegal immigration through unprecedented investments in border security.

Results: Illegal border crossings have been significantly reduced, as apprehensions of illegal aliens decreased from 723,825 in FY2008 to 556,041 in FY2009, a 23 percent reduction, in part as the result of increased security along the southwest border.

7 – Increase employer audits to deter violations of employment verification laws and protect American workers.

Results: Since Jan. 2009, DHS has audited more than 2,785 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor, debarred more than 100 companies and 80 individuals, and issued more than $6.4 million in fines—more than the total amount of audits and fines issued in the entire previous administration.

8 – Deploy Secure Communities technology to all southwest border communities.

Results: The Obama Administration has expanded the Secure Communities initiative—which uses biometric information to identify criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails to expedite removal proceedings—from 14 to 567 locations, including all jurisdictions along the Southwest border. DHS expects to expand this program nationwide by 2013. As of July 31, 2010, this program had identified more than 287,500 aliens in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 43,000 charged with or convicted of major violent or drug offenses (level 1 offenses). Through Secure Communities, over 37,900 convicted criminal aliens have been removed from the United States, including more than 10,800 convicted of major violent or drug offenses (level 1 offenses).

9 – Target criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety.

Results: The Obama Administration has fundamentally reformed immigration enforcement, focusing on identifying and removing criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety. Overall, criminal removals/returns increased by almost 22,000 between FY 2008 and FY 2009, a 19 percent increase. So far this fiscal year, ICE has removed a record 170,000 criminals from the U.S. DHS will continue to increase focus on removing those convicted of crimes who pose a threat to the safety of communities.

10 – Boost funding for Southwest border infrastructure, technology, and law enforcement.

Results: The recent passage and signing of Southwest border security supplemental legislation will provide critical additional capabilities to secure the Southwest border at and between our ports of entry and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons. This law provides $14 million for improved tactical communications systems along the Southwest border and $32 million for two additional CBP unmanned aircraft systems – in addition to $176 million for an additional 1,000 Border Patrol agents to be deployed between ports of entry; $68 million to hire 250 new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry and to maintain 270 officers currently deployed to ports of entry; and $6 million to construct two forward operating bases along the Southwest Border to improve coordination of border security activities.

DHS and the General Services Administration (GSA) are also directing more than $400 million in Recovery Act funding to the Southwest border, including funds for:

•Port and other infrastructure projects in Otay Mesa, California; Antelope Wells, New Mexico; Los Ebanos, Amistad Dam, Falcon Dam and Corpus Christi, Texas; and Nogales, Arizona.

•Non-Intrusive Inspection Equipment at Southwest border ports of entry, including both low energy and large-scale systems;

•Modernized tactical communications equipment for the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley Sectors; and

•Tested, commercially available security technology including thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and Remote Video Surveillance System enhancements.

Further, DHS has increased the funds state and local law enforcement can use to combat border-related crime through Operation Stonegarden—a DHS grant program designed to support state, local, and tribal law enforcement efforts along our nation’s borders. Based on risk, cross-border traffic and border-related threat intelligence, nearly 83 percent of 2009 and 2010 Operation Stonegarden funds – more than 124 million dollars – went to Southwest border states, up from 59 percent in 2008.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Navy Casualty

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

Petty Officer 3rd Class James M. Swink, 20, of Yucca Valley, Calif., died Aug. 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Swink was a hospital corpsman assigned to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Forces.

For further information related to this release, contact 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs at 910-450-6575.

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 27, 2010

Lysozyme can protect anthrax contamination in processed foods: study
"An antibacterial enzyme found in human tears and other body fluids could be applied to certain foods for protection against intentional contamination with anthrax [bacteria], scientists reported here today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). 'Data from this study could be used in developing safer foods for human consumption,' said Saeed A. Khan, Ph.D. 'The data from our study shows that lysozyme application has the potential to eliminate anthrax [caus]ing bacteria in processed foods.' Khan and colleagues knew from almost a century of lysozyme research that the enzyme kills certain bacteria. It does so by destroying bacteria cell walls, the rigid outer shell that provides a protective coating. Lysozyme was discovered in 1922 by Alexander Fleming during the search for antibiotics that eventually led to penicillin. A drop of mucus (which contains lysozyme) from Fleming's nose fell into a culture dish of bacteria. Much to his surprise, it killed the bacteria. Since then, scientists have shown that lysozyme has far-reaching roles in protecting against disease-causing microbes." (Medical News; 27Aug10) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100827/Lysozyme-can-protect-anthrax-contamination-in-processed-foods-Study.aspx

Funding top of mind as [Rep. Betsy] Markey [D-CO] tours CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ] site [Fort Collins, CO]
"Robed up in a white disposable lab coat in a cramped high-containment laboratory packed with congressional staffers Monday, Ann Powers described to Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., how U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists at the agency's Fort Collins branch identify various mosquito-borne viruses from around the world. The CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases lab, or DVBD, on Colorado State University's Foothills Campus houses some 10,000 strains of insect-spread viruses from different countries and points in time, said Powers, a scientist in the CDC's Arboviral Disease Branch. With the $26.7 million needed to operate the lab still at risk of federal budget cuts, Markey toured the DVBD's labs and offices Monday afternoon to take a closer look at what might be lost if the lab's funding vanished. After the tour, she said it's imperative the lab maintain its current level of funding because the lab's disease-fighting and research capabilities are vital to national security and public health. The lab's funding is currently in limbo in Congress, where the Senate has all but secured the money in its budget-writing process, but the House has not yet taken up the matter, Markey said. 'I think it's likely' the lab's funding will be restored, she said. The Fort Collins lab serves as a backup to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta should it become the target of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, DVBD Director Lyle Petersen said." (The Coloradoan: Fort Collins, CO; 24Aug10; Bobby Magill)

Ebola drug breakthrough
"US scientists claim to have cleared a key hurdle in the quest to treat the African virus Ebola, a feared future bioterrorism weapon. A treatment administered to rhesus monkeys within an hour of being infected by the deadliest strain of Ebola was 60 per cent effective, and a companion drug was 100 per cent effective in shielding cynomolgus monkeys against Ebola's cousin, the Marburg virus, the scientists said. After studying the findings, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for trials on a small group of human volunteers, the scientists said yesterday. [...] The drugs are in a class of compound called PMO, for phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers. They are designed to hamper the virus's replication in cells, thus buying time for the immune system to mount a response and crush the invader. The research, appearing online in the journal, Nature Medicine, was conducted by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in collaboration with a biotech firm, AVI BioPharma. The Pentagon pumped funding into research for a vaccine and treatment for Ebola-type viruses in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror[ist] attacks on the US." (The Australian; 23Aug10)

U.S. biodefense effort to be revamped
"The U.S. Health and Human Services Department yesterday declared that a major program intended to prepare the country for a biological weapons attack would be overhauled with a focus toward decreasing the length of time it takes to produce new medical countermeasures, the Los Angeles Times reported. 'We aren't generating enough new products,' HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. She attributed the lengthy time it takes for medical discoveries to be turned into commercially available vaccines and treatments on 'leaks, choke points and dead ends.' The $1.9 billion program revamp is to include improvements to the countermeasure production process that could reduce by weeks the time required to manufacture flu vaccines as well as several changes to the process for identifying encouraging research and moving candidate drugs quickly through the medical development pipeline. As part of the overhaul, $678 million would be allocated to establish one or more private institutions that would collaborate with small firms on the production of new treatments, establishment of new production systems and manufacturing of vaccines during times of extreme demand. Another $822 million would go toward efforts to decrease the amount of time required to produce pandemic flu vaccines. The planned reforms appear to be a tacit admission by federal authorities that the $5.6 billion Project Bioshield has failed to adequately meet the goals of speeding along the development of treatments, vaccines and medical processes to be used in a potential bioterrorism or other WMD attack, according to the Times." (Global Security Newswire; 19Aug10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100820_7273.php

Russian depot destroys 5,300 metric tons of nerve agent
"A Russian chemical weapons disposal plant has eliminated more than 5,300 metric tons of the nerve agent sarin in the last two years, ITAR-Tass reported yesterday. Disposal of soman nerve agent stored at the chemical depot near the village of Leonidovka is set to start next month. Plans are still being developed for building a structure where particularly complicated chemical munitions can be safely disarmed. The Leonidovka installation held roughly 17 percent of Russia's chemical weapons, originally totaling 6,886 metric tons of warfare materials. The stockpile is scheduled to be eliminated by May 2012, one month past the deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention." (Global Security Newswire; 25Aug10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100825_6236.php

Bioreactors arrive at depot for installation [Pueblo, CO]
"A major component of the Pueblo Chemical Depot's high-tech wastewater treatment facility is being installed this week, a part of the program that almost passed Pueblo by. Bechtel, the lead contractor for the program to destroy the depot's stockpile of 780,000 mustard agent weapons, is taking delivery of 16 Immobilized Cell Bioreactors [ICB]. When weapons destruction gets under way, almost five years from now, the boxcar-sized units will house bacteria that will break down the mustard agent components created when the weapons are flushed out with hot water and the agent neutralized. The primary ingredient of the wastewater, also called agent hydrolysate, is thiodiglycol, a hazardous substance. Under the international treaty requiring the destruction of chemical weapons, it also has to be eliminated in the demilitarization process. The ICB units will act in a way similar to municipal wastewater treatment ponds where bacteria is used to break down sewage, only these devices will be a lot more complicated. A system of baffles inside the units provides a large surface area for the bacteria to grow on, eating the thiodiglycol and turning it into salts." (Pueblo Chieftain; 26Aug10; John Norton) http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/article_9563ba56-b0d7-11df-b31f-001cc4c002e0.html

Pont-Saint-Esprit poisoning: did the CIA spread LSD?
"Nearly 60 years ago, a French town was hit by a sudden outbreak of hallucinations, which left five people dead and many seriously ill. For years it was blamed on bread contaminated with a psychedelic fungus - but that theory is now being challenged. [...] That view remained largely unchallenged until 2009, when an American investigative journalist, Hank Albarelli, revealed a CIA document labelled: 'Re: Pont-Saint-Esprit and F.Olson Files. SO Span/France Operation file, inclusive Olson. Intel files. Hand carry to Belin - tell him to see to it that these are buried.' F. Olson is Frank Olson, a CIA scientist who, at the time of the Pont St Esprit incident, led research for the agency into the drug LSD. David Belin, meanwhile, was executive director of the Rockefeller Commission created by the White House in 1975 to investigate abuses carried out worldwide by the CIA. Albarelli believes the Pont-Saint-Esprit and F. Olson Files, mentioned in the document, would show - if they had not been 'buried' - that the CIA was experimenting on the townspeople, by dosing them with LSD. The conclusion drawn at the time was that one of the town's bakeries, the Roch Briand, was the source of the poisoning. It's possible, Albarelli says, that LSD was put in the bread. [...] But American academic Professor Steven Kaplan, who published a book in 2008 on the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident, insists that neither ergot nor LSD could have been responsible. Ergot contamination would not, he says, have affected only one sack of grain in one bakery, as was claimed here. The outbreak would have been far more widespread. He rules out LSD on the grounds that the symptoms people suffered, though similar, do not quite fit the drug." (British Broadcasting Corporation; 22Aug10; Mike Thomson)

Schoolgirls and teachers sick from poison gas in Afghanistan
"Dozens of schoolgirls and teachers were sickened Wednesday by poison gas in Afghanistan, medical and government officials said. The latest incident, this one at a high school, is the ninth such case involving the poisoning of schoolgirls, said Asif Nang, spokesman for the nation's education ministry. Dr. Kabir Amiri said 59 students and 14 teachers were brought to the hospital, and were faring better. 'We don't have good equipment to verify the kind of gas that they were poisoned with, but we have taken their blood tests to send to Turkmenistan for verifying the type of gas' that was used, Amiri said. [...] But female educational facilities, students and teachers have come under vicious attack as the insurgency has strengthened and spread from Taliban strongholds in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand." (Cable News Network; 25Aug10) http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/08/25/afghanistan.girls.sick/

Chemical warfare manual to be published
"The IDF [Israeli Defense Force] Medical Corps is set to distribute an instructional booklet about treating wounds resulting from chemical warfare substances to IDF combat and medical personnel. The booklet features new information on the subject, detailing the types of chemicals used and the damage they can cause, ways to treat chemical wounds, the readiness of troops for a chemical warfare attack, and what this threat means to the IDF. The booklet, which the Medical Corps spent over a year working on, is a revised edition of the 1998 version. Besides including updated and more comprehensive information, the booklet is published and printed in a compact, easy-to-carry format. 'This instructional booklet is the bible for medical crews having to deal with chemical warfare. We are currently starting to distribute it, with the goal of handing out a few hundred copies,' says head of the Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare branch in the Medical Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Ram Sagi. All IDF medical crews take chemical warfare courses during their service training, and maintain their readiness for such attacks through exercise drills. The Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare branch of the Medical Corps develops these drills, simulating scenarios on robotic simulator dolls. Members of the branch even arrive on field and are integrated into exercise drills in order to guide the medical crew trainees and ultimately test their knowledge and implementation of the material." (Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson; 26Aug10) http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/10/08/2601.htm

Predicting the future: chemical warfare
"Col. Ari Hoze, Head of the Center for Atomic, Biological and Chemical Warfare (ABCW), anticipates that the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) current emphasis on ABCW preparedness will continue to grow. This year, the soldiers of the ABCW Unit who serve under Col. Hoze were designated in advance to be enlisted in the unit, and the length of their specialized training has been extended from 5 to 8 months. [...] 'The idea is that the Battalion will be part of a training force, with constant cooperation between them. The Battalion will enable other forces to continue their combat operations despite an ongoing ABC attack. It will evacuate, decontaminate, and protect the forces. The Battalion knows how to detect and identify chemical warfare materials, and will help soldiers to decontaminate and return to the field. We are also strengthening the professional identity of the Battalion soldiers so that they will understand the need and the importance of their work.' [Col. Hoze said]." (Defence Professionals; 23Aug10) http://www.defpro.com/news/details/17742/

Simulated disaster fills Noble Hospital with dying mannequins [Fort McClellan, AL]
"Inside the emergency room, the lights go dark and voices shriek as the beeping of computer that monitor patient breathing, heartbeats and sugar levels fall ominously silent. Outside the hospital doors, emergency responders in hazmat suits hose off the peeling skin and bloody wounds of screaming victims suffering from chemical burns. And in a conference room, public information officers, financial and medical leaders talk on phones and send e-mails from laptops, setting up conferences to mitigate a growing sense of panic within and outside hospital walls. All of these scenes are, of course, practice exercises at the Noble Training Hospital in Fort McClellan, but to those who participate in them – and the media personnel watching Wednesday afternoon – it feels like real life. 'It's quite overwhelming,' said Lanney Campbell, an emergency room physician from Idaho. Like the several dozen other healthcare professionals, he's lived with at the Noble Training Facility's dormitories since Monday, Campbell is enrolled in a Center for Domestic Preparedness healthcare course. The CDP medical training program started 11 years ago, and the courses are designed to test emergency medical response skills in the face of natural, manmade and terrorism disasters. Funded by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and free for healthcare professionals who wish to participate, the weeklong courses include classroom lectures followed by realistic disaster simulations staged at the old Noble Army Hospital." (Anniston Star; 26Aug10; Cameron Steele) http://www.annistonstar.com/view/full_story/9280169/article-Simulated-disaster-fills-Noble-Hospital-with-dying-mannequins

Smuggled uranium-238 seized in Moldova [Chisinau]
"Moldovan police have seized 1.8kg of uranium-238 in the capital, Chisinau, officials say. Three members of the group, which included former police officers, were arrested, they said. The smugglers had reportedly been trying to sell the material on the European black market for 9m euros (£7.4m). [...] Uranium-238 is the most commonly found, naturally occurring form of the substance. The type needed for nuclear fuel and weapons is the less common uranium-235. The Moldovan haul was found in a garage in Chisinau, where it was under guard and in a special container, said interior ministry spokesman Chiril Motpan. He said there were seven suspects, some of whom had previous convictions for possessing radioactive materials in Moldova, Russia and Romania." (British Broadcasting Corporation; 24Aug10)

U.S., Mongolia participate in radiological security response exercise
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency (MNEA) today announced the completion of a successful exercise that helped train Mongolian regulatory, law enforcement and other officials how to respond in the case of a terrorist attack at a facility that houses nuclear or radiological material. The exercise, which simulated three terrorist attack scenarios, took place over four days at MNEA headquarters in Ulaanbaatar. The purpose of the response exercises is to gauge a site's preparedness for an armed attack, improve response plans and procedures and bring different response groups into the same room to analyze their roles in the response effort. The training was part of NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which works to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites around the world. In addition to the training exercise, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative has worked with Mongolia to upgrade physical security at two radiological sites. 'Our partnership with Mongolia is part of NNSA's worldwide mission to prevent nuclear and radiological material from falling into the hands of terrorists,' said Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. 'Working collaboratively with our counterparts around the globe allows us to join forces in the international fight against illicit trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.' NNSA's partnership with Mongolia also includes a 2007 memorandum of understanding that has led to the outfitting of 10 border crossings, with four more planned or in progress, with radiation detection equipment, designed to detect illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials." (National Nuclear Security Administration; 26Aug10) http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/mongolia082610

Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] says it mishandled nuclear material [Washington, D.C.]
"The military's flagship hospital has acknowledged it mishandled two packages of radioactive material in May, possibly exposing staff and patients to elevated radiation levels. Spokesman Chuck Dasey said Thursday that Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington doesn't dispute the allegations made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission said the packages sat beneath a lobby counter for nearly two days after they were delivered. Dasey says the hospital has since reinforced its nuclear medicine safety program and retrained staff on the proper handling of radioactive material. The packages contained radioactive material used to treat and diagnose ailments such as cancer and heart disease. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said no harm has been reported from the incident." (Associated Press; 26Aug10) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gD-1JLz8ReVQmLR-FJSqsXcGS6_gD9HRCC480

URMC [University of Rochester Medical Center] gets $15m to study homspera as a radiation-induced injury countermeasure [Rochester, NY]
"University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has obtained a $15 million five-year grant from the NIAID to investigate ImmuneRegen BioSciences' Homspera in various radiation-induced injury settings. Research will expand on studies already being performed at URMC evaluating the efficacy of this adult stem cell product in mitigating lung injury induced by radiation exposure. Research under the NIAID funding will be divided into four projects, each covering a specific organ system that is particularly susceptible to radiation: lung, brain, skin, and blood. Rochester researchers believe that cancer patients will also benefit from the award as they uncover new information about how to protect blood vessels and bone marrow from injury due to radiation therapy. The NIAID award is a continuation of a 2005 grant totaling $24 million under which URMC became part of a national research network called the Centers for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation. The centers were charged with researching how best to respond to a possible dirty bomb or other radiological or nuclear attack. This new award will allow URMC researchers to focus on testing known drugs and experimental agents like Homspera for use as a radiation-induced injury medical countermeasure." (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News; 25Aug10) http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/urmc-gets-15m-to-study-homspera-as-a-radiation-induced-injury-countermeasure/81243836/

NIH [National Institutes of Health] renews research for countering nuclear threats
"The National Institutes of Health has announced it will renew a major research effort to develop medical devices for diagnosing, preventing and treating victims of a radiological or nuclear terrorist attack. The research will be conducted through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Centers for Countermeasures Against Radiation, known as the CMCR program. CMCR was established in 2006 to fund 130 pilot studies to develop methods and tools to measure radiation exposure and evaluate potential drugs to treat radiation injuries. Under the renewed program, announced last Thursday, NIH expects to invest $105 million to support research at seven institutions from 2010 to 2015. One of those is at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where researchers will devise methods for determining physical and chemical changes in teeth, hair and fingernails resulting from radiation exposure, which could be used to develop noninvasive diagnostic tools." (Government Executive; 24Aug10; Katherine Mcintire Peters) http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0810/082410kp1.htm

Former soviet states flush with "dirty bomb" materials
"The bust last month of an alleged would-be uranium smuggling ring demonstrates how widespread and vulnerable to theft radioactive materials are in the former Soviet Union, Agence France-Presse reported today. 'Hundreds of thousands of [metric] tons of uranium lie in storage at industrial sites, one can take bagfuls of them,' Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said. 'There are people who try to sell them at a high price and most often they fall into the hands of security services.' [...] The seized material 'could be used to make a dirty bomb that could cause contamination and panic,' Russian military specialist Alexander Golts said." (Global Security Newswire; 27Aug10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100827_5433.php

Castor bean genome may help prevent potential bioterrorism events
"A research team co-led by scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), University of Maryland School of Medicine, today published the sequence and analysis of the castor bean (Ricinus communis) genome in Nature Biotechnology. Agnes P. Chan, Ph.D., JCVI, and Jonathan Crabtree, Ph.D., IGS were co-lead authors on the paper describing the 4.5X coverage of this important oilseed crop. The availability of the castor bean genome also has important biodefense implications since the plant produces the powerful toxin, ricin." (News-medical.net; 22Aug10) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100823/Castor-bean-genome-may-help-prevent-potential-bioterrorism-events.aspx

Aussie students assigned to plan terrorist attack [Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia]
"A high school teacher who assigned her class to plan a terrorist attack that would kill as many innocent Australians as possible had no intent to promote terrorism, education officials said Wednesday. The Year 10 students at Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School in the state of Western Australia were given the assignment last week in a class on contemporary conflict and terrorism. Principal Terry Martino said he withdrew the assignment as soon as he heard of it. But after news of the assignment was published in Wednesday's West Australian newspaper, talk radio and online forums began a busy debate and some survivors of terror attacks across Australia -- which has been a target of terror campaigns at home and abroad -- came forward to express their outrage. [...] The students were asked to pretend they were terrorists making a political statement by releasing a chemical or biological agent on 'an unsuspecting Australian community,' according to a copy of the assignment received by the West Australian newspaper. The task included choosing the best time to attack and explaining their choice of victims and what effects the attack would have on a human body." (Time; 25Aug10; Tanalee Smith) http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2013226,00.html

War demands compromise hunt for deadliest weapons, top U.S. commander says
"The effort to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists has been slowed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the head of U.S. special forces. Fewer elite commandos are available for the hunt and their expertise has been degraded by 'the decreased level of training,' Admiral Eric Olson said. They now have only a 'limited' capability for this mission, he said. Meanwhile, the threat of extremists acquiring and using chemical, biological or nuclear arms 'is greater now than at any other time in history,' Olson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written response to a question posed by lawmakers after a March 16 hearing on his command's budget. [...] Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in his fiscal 2011-2015 budget, shifted a total of $147 million to accelerate fielding new technology for these elite commandos. In his unreleased guidance, Gates cited the need to 'fully fund' technologies for disposing of explosive ordnance, destroying 'ultra-high performance' concrete that might shelter WMD production or storage sites and disabling 'control systems' for 'state-run weapons production facilities.' The proposed budget for the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency that develops these capabilities increases to $113 million in 2015 from $61.3 million in fiscal 2010. [...] Gates's guidance 'appears intended to give' the commando command 'additional capabilities at all levels' of threats, from improvised roadside bombs containing chemical or biological weaponry to sites operated by terrorist groups,' said Congressional Research Service analyst Ken Katzman." (Bloomberg; 26Aug10; Tony Capaccio) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-26/top-u-s-commando-says-war-demands-compromising-hunt-for-deadliest-weapons.html

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Combined Forces Kill 3 Insurgents

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

Aug. 27, 2010 - Afghan and coalition forces killed three insurgents and detained three others yesterday during their continuing pursuit of a Taliban subcommander responsible for leading attacks against Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan's Paktia province, military officials reported.

As the assault force approached a targeted compound, three armed insurgents ran out and posed an imminent threat on the assault force. The assault force engaged and killed the insurgents, who were armed with assault rifles, grenades, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and multiple rounds of ammunition.

After questioning all of the residents at the scene, the security force detained three more suspected insurgents. They also found an automatic weapon with rounds in the compound. The security force protected women and children throughout the search.

In other news from Afghanistan, a coalition combat outpost came under insurgent fire yesterday in Kunar province's Darah-ye Pech district. The coalition force responded with mortar fire and called for air support.

An insurgent round landed short of its target, reportedly killing an Afghan civilian in a cornfield. Coalition operational reports confirm that four insurgents were killed when precision-guided munitions were used on a ridgeline near where the insurgent fire originated.

International Security Assistance Force officials said they are aware of civilian casualty allegations and are conducting an investigation.

"We take allegations of civilian casualties seriously," said Air Force Col. James Dawkins, ISAF Joint Command's combined joint operations center director. "We're investigating to find out what happened."

In an Aug. 25 operation, an Afghan-led force discovered a large weapons cache in a remote village in Badakhshan province.

The cache consisted of 78 107 mm rockets with launchers, 47 82 mm mortar rounds, more than 1,100 rounds of 30 mm ammunition, 8,000 rounds of 7.62 mm machine-gun ammunition, 24 rocket-propelled grenades, 60 fuses and anti-aircraft artillery parts. With help from pack animals supplied by villagers, the cache was moved to a safe location before being destroyed.

Afghan soldiers partnered with agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Afghan National Interdiction Unit and U.S. Special Forces, discovered the cache in Nawci, a village suspected of being a safe haven for Taliban drug and weapon smugglers operating in the area and an infiltration route for foreign fighters operating throughout Afghanistan's northeastern provinces.

The partnered force established security around the cache site to protect local villagers and then met with village elders to discuss any concerns. Because of the remoteness of the village, the meeting was only the second opportunity coalition forces have had to speak with villagers in Nawci, officials said.

Also on Aug. 25, Afghan forces partnered with ISAF forces concluded a combined security sweep of eastern Afghanistan's Uzbeen Valley area.

The operation began Aug. 21 with an air assault of Afghan, French and U.S. soldiers and focused on clearing the area, rooting out enemy insurgent fighters and securing and destroying illegal explosives and munitions, officials said.

After initial success in which about 40 Taliban fighters were killed and several key Taliban facilitators were captured, officials said, operations transitioned toward the disruption of insurgent networks and the elimination of explosives and weapons.

The combined force consisted of 430 French soldiers from Task Force Bison, 360 U.S. soldiers from Task Force Iron Grey, 200 soldiers from the 201st Corps of the Afghan National Army that were integrated into both task forces, 60 Afghan commandos from Kandak Commando, and elements of the Afghan National Police in partnership with French police liaison teams.

Sixty rockets and mortars were found and safely destroyed, as well as a large quantity of homemade explosives and materials used in building roadside bombs. In addition to the munitions, two laboratories used in forging fake identifications and official papers were found and destroyed.

The Afghan and coalition forces conducted several meetings with local residents during the five-day operation, explaining what they were doing and addressing concerns that arose as the combined operation moved through the area. Particular attention was paid to cultural sensitivities and the heightened requirements of a local population that is immersed in the observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said.

Meanwhile, ISAF officials confirmed the capture of a senior Haqqani terrorist network commander during a combined Afghan and coalition operation Aug. 25. The commander, who coordinates and conducts attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, was among several insurgents detained after intelligence indicated the group was gathering for an upcoming complex attack consisting of suicide bombers and a vehicle-borne bomb.

Iraqis Arrest 10 With Suspected Terrorism Ties

Compiled from U.S. Forces Iraq News Releases

Aug. 27, 2010 - Iraqi forces arrested 10 people believed to have ties to terrorists in three operations today, military officials reported.

In Baghdad, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors arrested a suspected Promised Day Brigade leader and two suspected criminal associates.

The Promised Day Brigade leader allegedly is directly responsible for operations, finances and weapons procurement for members of the group operating in Diyala. The Promised Day Brigade is the successor organization to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia, and is believed to have Iranian backing.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces arrested seven suspected al-Qaida in Iraq criminal associates during two separate operations near Taji.

In one operation, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors arrested six suspected criminal associates while searching for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq financier believed to be responsible for planting roadside bombs targeting Iraqi and coalition forces.

In the other operation, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors arrested a suspected criminal associate while searching for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq leader allegedly involved in building vehicle-borne bombs for terrorist operatives.

Combined Team Investigates Shooting Incident

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2010 - A combined team of Afghan and International Security Assistance Force officials left Afghanistan's capital of Kabul today to perform an initial assessment of a shooting incident in western Afghanistan yesterday.

The shooting left two ISAF servicemembers, an Afghan National Police officer and a civilian interpreter dead. A demonstration of local residents occurred after the shooting near the camp where the incident occurred.

The initial assessment team is made up of Afghan interior and defense ministry representatives, as well as an ISAF Joint Command general officer and staff members. The team will review evidence, gather facts and talk with people who can provide details of what happened, officials said.

Initial reports indicate that during a mentoring session, an Afghan National Police member fired shots, killing the ISAF soldiers and civilian. One or more ISAF members reportedly returned fire, killing the ANP member. At this point, officials said, the cause of the shooting is unclear.

"These incidents are still very isolated," said German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, ISAF spokesman. "The coalition forces are training thousands of Afghan army and police forces every day. Training the Afghan national security forces remains as the foundation of a successful Afghan-led transition strategy."

ISAF Joint Command officials said they will provide more information following the team's assessment.

In other news from Afghanistan, Afghan police and coalition forces repelled insurgent attacks today at several locations in Helmand province's Nahr-e Saraj district, suppressing the insurgents and maintaining control of the area. Partnered security patrols will continue to reassure the local residents in Nahr-e Saraj, officials said.

"The attacks coincided with Iftar as the Afghan forces were breaking their fast during the holy month of Ramadan," said Marine Corps Lt. Col Chris Hughes, Regional Command Southwest public affairs officer. "Insurgent attacks and violence against Afghans during this holiest month characterize the insurgents' lack of respect for fellow Muslims."

Meanwhile, Afghan and coalition forces continued their pursuit of Haqqani terrorist network leadership yesterday, detaining several insurgents in Khost province while in pursuit of a senior Haqqani commander.

The commander coordinates and conducts attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, including suicide bombings, and also is believed to be responsible for the transportation of weapons and supplies for attacks against Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces.

Intelligence sources indicated the group was gathering for an upcoming complex attack in the area that would involve suicide bombers and a vehicle-borne bomb, officials said.

After questioning all of the residents at the targeted compound, the security force detained the insurgents. The security force did not fire their weapons, and they protected women and children who were present throughout the search.

Afghan and coalition security forces captured two Haqqani leaders and several Taliban leaders during 35 separate operations this week, officials said, and in the past week, a Taliban commander and a commander in Jamaat ul Dawa al-Quran, an Islamic fundamentalist group that works alongside the Taliban, were killed.

ISAF Joint Command officials noted that with clear rules of engagement in effect and extreme measures taken to avoid civilian casualties, more than 85 percent of the operations were conducted without shots fired. The Afghan-led operations resulted in more than 60 suspected insurgents detained and more than 45 insurgents killed, officials added.

Enemy bombs continued to take a toll on the Afghan people yesterday, as three Afghan civilians were killed when they stepped on a roadside bomb in Kandahar province's Arghandab district.

Iraqis Gain Capability Against Internal, External Threats

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 26, 2010 - Even after Operation New Dawn begins next week, U.S. military trainers will continue to help Iraqi security forces build the capabilities to maintain internal security and increasingly, to bolster their defenses against external threats as well, senior military officials in Iraq reported.

Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza called yesterday's rash of violence that largely targeted Iraqi security forces the enemy's attempt to intimidate the Iraqi police and military and shake public confidence in their capabilities.

Lanza emphasized during an interview yesterday with American Forces Press Service the need for Iraqi security forces to remain vigilant against the al-Qaida network and others trying to derail progress, and cited U.S. support to ensure they're up to the task.

Six U.S. "advise and assist" brigades fanned out across Iraq have embedded with their Iraqi counterparts to accelerate training and more quickly build both capability and capacity, he said.

"What we are expanding right now is not just building internal capability, but also an external capability to defend the borders," Lanza said.

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, recognized Iran's role in the uptick of violence in recent weeks during an interview on last night's PBS "Newshour."

In addition to launching direct-fire attacks against U.S. forces, Iranians appear to be "influencing some action by intimidation," Odierno said. "So they are behind this. They are training people. They are supplying people with weapons."

Odierno noted that Iraqis -- Sunnis and Shiia alike -- "do not want Iran meddling inside of Iraq's business," and need to take a stand to stop it.

With U.S. forces in Iraq transitioning to stability operations under Operation New Dawn, Odierno expressed confidence in the Iraqi security forces' growing capabilities to maintain internal security and protect Iraqi sovereignty.

"The Iraqis have been doing the majority of the security work for some time now," he said. "And so I feel very confident that they will be able to continue. There will be ups and downs. There will be mad days, but they will continue to provide adequate security."

Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, U.S. Forces Iraq's deputy commander for advising and training, agreed that Iraqi security forces are up to the challenges they face.

"After seven years of hard and dangerous work, and the certification of the election results, the [Iraqi forces are] ready to take on full responsibility for the internal security of Iraq," he wrote in a blog posted earlier this month. "Iraq's security forces are better today in ever," he continued, noting that eight out of 10 Iraqis have expressed confidence in their ability to do their job.

Barbero cited some of the initiatives under way to further improve those capabilities.

Iraqi crews are preparing to man the first of 140 M1 tanks that began rolling into Iraq this summer. In addition, 11 Iraqi army-run training centers across the country are running at full bore, and the Iraqi army is focusing on specialized individual skills and preparing for a major joint train exercise planned for April 2011.

Lanza, who visited an airfield yesterday to observe Iraqi pilots training on T-6 trainers, cited progress in building long-term capabilities within the Iraqi air force.

It now operates more than 100 aircraft, Barbero reported, and has nearly doubled its force in the past year with plans to grow to 10,000 airmen.

"Iraq is training its own helicopter pilots and is building a cadre of fixed-wing trainers who will help provide a steady flow of skilled flyers to defend Iraq's skies well into the next decade," he said.

The Iraqi navy now includes 50 vessels, which conduct 50 patrols a month to protect offshore oil infrastructure, territorial waters and commercial ports, Barbero said. Additionally, the first of 15 new, U.S.-built patrol boats is slated to arrive in Iraq later this summer, and the second group of Iraqi sailors will soon be training in Louisiana.

Barbero also expressed confidence in Iraq's counterterrorism forces, which he said "are now very experienced and effective as they run both independent and joint operations, maintaining pressure on violent extremists in Iraq."

He reported additional progress within Iraq's interior ministry, which has fielded a force of more than 410,000 police across the country. "The Iraqi police are completely in the lead today, protecting the people in the cities and gathering evidence when crimes are committed," he said.

U.S. advisors train only in a few specialized areas at the 18 Iraqi-run police training centers, he noted.

These developments give Barbero no qualms about the transition to Operation New Dawn in just a few days.

"I have no doubt that the [Iraqi forces] are ready to take on the mission Sept. 1 and to successfully take the first steps toward what will indeed be a new dawn for the people of Iraq," he said.

Meanwhile, Barbero re-emphasized that the United States will remain at the Iraqi security forces' side -– the advise-and-assist brigades, at the tactical and unit level, and the advising and training directorate, at the ministerial and strategic level. "We will remain partnered every step of the way as the [Iraqi forces] continue to develop and build their skills until December 2011," he said.

Until then, Barbero urged renewed urgency in fulfilling the U.S. mission in Iraq. "This is the most critical part of the mission, the point when a commander brings all of his resources together to close with and achieve his objective," he said. "I believe we are at this point now -– in the last 100 meters of this mission."

Army Casualty

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

Pfc. Justin B. Shoecraft, 28, of Elkhart, Ind., died Aug. 24 at Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device at Kakarak, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.

For more information, the media may contact the U.S. Army, Europe, public affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-8098 or ocpa.pi@eur.army.mil

Packers legend visits Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers in Iraq

Date: August 25, 2010
By 1st Lt. Peter Owen
Public Affairs Representative
724th Engineer Battalion/Task Force Badger

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Soldiers from Task Force Badger, 724th Engineer Battalion, had the opportunity to meet and spend time with one of their favorite Green Bay Packer legends.

Antonio Freeman, a former all-pro wide receiver and Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers, joined former Chicago Bear quarterback Jim Miller and NBA referee Bob Delaney as part of the "Sports By-Line" tour organized by sports radio host Ron Barr.

About 200 Soldiers from Task Force Badger were able to take time away from their work to get an autograph and show one of their favorite Packers what they are doing in Iraq.

"It was a great opportunity for our Soldiers to meet with someone they admire and explain the mission they are doing here in Iraq," said 1st Lt. James Schmitz of Madison, executive officer for the 950th Clearance Company, part of the 724th Engineer Battalion. "It's a nice change to the daily grind."

There was a mutual appreciation between Freeman and the Soldiers from Task Force Badger. Freeman thanked each Soldier for the sacrifice and hard work they are doing in Iraq. Each Soldier also appreciated that a Green Bay Packers legend was so interested in seeing what they are doing in Iraq. Both Freeman and the Soldiers enjoyed talking about Packer memories, including the 1996 Super Bowl season, and what Wisconsin Soldiers are accomplishing in Iraq.

"It was special seeing these Soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard," Freeman said. "I can't put into words how much I appreciate all of their hard work. They made me feel like I was back at Lambeau Field again." Freeman played his last season in Green Bay in 2003.

Task Force Badger is the enduring U.S. Army Engineer Battalion in Iraq. The headquarters element of Task Force Badger is the 724th Engineer Battalion of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. In Iraq since late April, Task Force Badger is composed of National Guard engineer units from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico in addition to active component units from Fort Riley, Kan. and Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash. and Army Reserve units from Illinois and Virginia.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mullen: Insurgents More Concerned With Fight Than Timeline

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

Aug. 25, 2010 - Extremists in Afghanistan are more concerned with continuing their fight than they are with the timeline that calls for a U.S. drawdown to begin next summer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

"I assure you from what I see that the enemy isn't focused on July 2011 for whether it makes a difference in their lives," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters here. "They're in a pretty tough fight, and they've sustained some pretty significant losses. There's a lot of the enemy who've been hammered very hard this year, and there's a lot of the enemy that's struggling."

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway said yesterday that the timeline gives the insurgents "sustenance," and that many Taliban and al-Qaida fighters simply are waiting for U.S. forces to begin their exit.

"I haven't seen a lot of that as any kind of a dominant theme," Mullen said today. "It would surprise me if the enemy looked at the date from that perspective."

Conway also said Marines will be fighting in Afghanistan for years beyond President Barack Obama's target date to begin the transition of security responsibility to the Afghans, adding that the president ultimately will have to make such a decision.

Predicting how much and how quickly the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan will decrease after July 2011 is difficult, Mullen said, as any drawdown will be based on conditions.

"There's a long time between now and next July," the chairman said. "The decisions associated with that will be based on conditions on the ground, and it's too early to say what those conditions will be."

Mullen said he supports Obama's Afghanistan strategy to begin a "responsible" drawdown of forces in Afghanistan beginning in July 2011. Though much uncertainty exists about when and where such a transition would begin, the timeline gives U.S. forces a goal to work with, he added.

"We understand very clearly what is going to happen in July 2011," the admiral said. "We will start to thin our forces, [but] that doesn't mean we're leaving in any kind of significant numbers."

Mullen is here as part of a three-day "Conversation with the Nation" tour across the Midwest. The trip is geared toward helping local community leaders, business leaders and academics hone military veterans' skills and life experience.

Spokesman: 'New Dawn' to Open New Potential for Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 25, 2010 - When Operation Iraqi Freedom ends and Operation New Dawn launches Sept. 1, don't look for a lot of fanfare as the mission officially moves from combat to stability operations, the top U.S. Forces Iraq spokesman told American Forces Press Service today.

Except for a ceremony in which Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno will pass command of U.S. forces in Iraq to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, there will be no official observances of other transitions that already are well under way, Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza said by phone from Baghdad.

"I think it's not going to look much different on 2 September," he said. "To be perfectly honest with you, we've been in stability operations for many months now," essentially since U.S. combat troops left Iraqi cities last June.

U.S. forces haven't conducted unilateral operations in Iraq since May 2009, Lanza said. "Everything has been done by, with and through the Iraqi forces," he added.

Meanwhile, the troop drawdown has proceeded smoothly and ahead of schedule. The last full brigade of U.S. combat troops left Iraq last week, and U.S. troop strength dipped below 50,000 yesterday, meeting President Barack Obama's directive a week early.

These developments have set the stage for Operation New Dawn, a mission Lanza said is particularly significant because it coincides with a changeover from a military to a civilian lead in Iraq. This includes the transition from the U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement that governs U.S. troops in Iraq to implementation of the strategic framework agreement by the U.S. Embassy.

The strategic framework agreement is broader in scope, Lanza explained, establishing the foundation for a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, long after the last U.S. troops leave in December 2011.

As these transitions unfold, U.S. forces will conduct three major missions during Operation New Dawn, he said.

They'll continue to partner with Iraqi special operations forces in counterinsurgency operations and to advise and assist Iraqi security forces. By embedding with their Iraqi counterparts down to the battalion level, six U.S. advise-and-assist teams have made big strides in quickly building capacity as well as capability, he said.

"More importantly, it has helped us build relationships with these forces to continue to train them," Lanza said. "So that is something we will continue to do until our mission ends in December 2011."

Meanwhile, U.S. troops also will continue to support State Department-run provincial reconstruction teams working to build civil capacity and civil institutions.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has been working hard to bring the parties together to break a near-standstill in forming Iraq's national government. But Lanza said he doesn't expect any major developments until after Ramadan in the latter part of September at the earliest.

He emphasized that Iraq's provincial governors and councils are functioning, with the provincial reconstruction teams and the U.S. Agency for International Development working with provincial leaders to help them build capability and develop their institutions. But much of their success, he acknowledged, will depend on what happens at the federal government level.

"I would suggest, both from a security perspective and also from a security capacity perspective, that the quicker the government gets seated, obviously, the better that is," Lanza said. "We want to see the Iraqis succeed. And we believe that if they get this government moving, they will have that opportunity."

Lanza recognized the potential Operation New Dawn will open up for Iraq.

"Iraq has an opportunity here to do something very unique in this region," he said. "We have sacrificed a lot here, the Iraqis have sacrificed a lot here, and there is a potential right now, an opportunity right now, for Iraq to be a safe, sovereign and self-reliant country."

Once achieving that state, Iraq could serve an effective role in enhancing security and economic growth and stability throughout the region, he said.

"The jury is still out on how long that is going to take to occur," Lanza said. "But I would just say that the sacrifices that have been made have given the Iraqis an opportunity to move forward here. And we are seeing that return on investment."