Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Officials Investigate Afghanistan Shooting Incident

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2010 – A gunman in an Afghan Border Police uniform turned his weapon against coalition forces during a training mission in eastern Afghanistan today, killing six International Security Assistance Force servicemembers, military officials reported.

The gunman also was killed, officials said, and a combined Afghan and ISAF team is investigating the incident.

Also today in Afghanistan, two Afghan children were killed and another was wounded in a roadside-bomb device blast in Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district. Afghan soldiers and an ISAF patrol responded to the scene, where ISAF medics treated the wounded child.

ISAF Joint Command officials also provided details on recent operations.

In operations yesterday:

-- Afghan and coalition forces killed four armed insurgents who threatened them in Paktia province’s Zurmat district. People at the scene reported they did not know who the insurgents were and that they had arrived that evening, officials said. The combined security force was seeking a Taliban leader who coordinates the planting of roadside bombs and conducts attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and elements of the local provincial reconstruction team. After questioning people at the scene, the security force detained several suspected insurgents and found a dozen hand grenades, ammunition, bayonets, bomb components and military uniforms.

-- Afghan and coalition forces captured a senior Taliban leader and two of his associates during an intelligence-based operation in Wardak province’s Sayyidabad district. The Taliban leader conducted roadside-bomb and direct-fire attacks along Highway 1 and other public roads in Tangi Valley. The captured leader also is linked tokidnapping operations against Afghan civilians, officials said.

-- A partnered security force acting on intelligence information detained numerous suspected insurgents while searching for a Haqqani terrorist network facilitator who provides weapons and ammunition to multiple insurgent groups in Khost province’s Sabari district.

-- Afghan and coalition forces in Farah province’s Bakwah district detained several suspected insurgents as they targeted a Taliban leader as they were searching for an Iran-based facilitator for foreign fighters and weapons.

-- In Kandahar province’s Panjwai district, a combined force acting on intelligence information detained several suspected insurgents as they targeted an enemy bomb-attack leader. The targeted individual is known to operate in the province’s Spin Boldak district to conduct attacks against Afghan police and coalition forces, and he’s reported to be in the planning stages of suicide-bomb attack operations in addition to being responsible for building vehicle-borne bombs, officials said.

-- ISAF forces found and destroyed 1,653 pounds of homemade explosives in Helmand province’s Marja district while responding to reports of an explosion.

-- ISAF forces killed a Taliban leader during an airstrike in Helmand’s Nad-e Ali district. The targeted Taliban leader planned and coordinated roadside-bomb attacks, and senior Taliban leaders in Pakistan used him as a key conduit of information to lower-level leaders in the district, officials said. Multiple intelligence sources and tips from local Afghans led ISAF forces to the Taliban leader’s location. They tracked him throughout the day as he moved from one location to another conducting what appeared to be meetings with other insurgents. During a stop, he moved alone on foot and walked into an open field. After confirming that no civilians were nearby, ISAF forces conducted the airstrike.

In Nov. 27 operations:

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained several suspected insurgents in Helmand’s Nawah-ye Barakzai district while targeting a man who, according to intelligence reports, worked closely with two Taliban leaders detained in the area Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 and reportedly was to move into the vacated leadership position.

-- Afghan and coalition forces in Paktika’s Sharan district detained two suspected insurgents during an intelligence-driven search for a Taliban weapons facilitator.

In other news from Afghanistan, Afghan and ISAF forces found several caches of weapons, explosives and bomb components Nov. 26 and 27 in southern and western Afghanistan.

In Helmand’s Marja district, a combined patrol found 3,500 pounds of ammonium chloride, a banned fertilizer used in making roadside bombs.

An Afghan National Police patrol in Kandahar province’s Arghadab district found a bomb components cache and detained several suspected insurgents. The cache consisted of 20 containers of homemade explosives, several electrical components, two guns, two ammunition magazines, several gun rounds, a 70 mm mortar shell, a motorbike and a vehicle.

In Farah province’s Qal ah-ye Kah district, an ISAF patrol found two 107 mm Chinese rockets, three Pakistani anti-tank mines, an Italian mine, four 65 mm anti-tank rockets, two 85 mm Bulgarian rockets, 46 Chinese mortar fuses, seven 82 mm Russian mortars, an 82 mm Chinese mortar, four 89 mm U.S. rockets, three 75 mm rockets and a 122 mm Russian rocket.

In Nov. 26 operations:

-- Afghan and coalition forces acting on intelligence information detained several suspected insurgents while searching for a high-ranking Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan senior leader in Kunduz province’s Chahar Darah district. The targeted man facilitates suicide bombers from Pakistan for attacks in the province and acts as a liaison for Taliban in the area, officials said.

-- In Khost’s Tanai district a combined force acting on intelligence information detained numerous suspected insurgents during a search for a senior Haqqani leader responsible for the facilitation of bomb components, weapons and ammunition. The security force found roadside-bomb instruction manuals hidden among Qurans, officials said. They also found automatic weapons, military uniforms and a significant amount of ammunition.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a suspected insurgent in Zabul province’s Shah Joy district while searching for a Taliban bombing cell leader whose operations extend from Shah Joy into Ghazni province’s Gelan district.

-- Afghan and coalition forces acting on intelligence information detained a key roadside-bomb facilitator and two suspected insurgents in Kandahar province’s Kandahar district. He is known to import bomb components and fertilizers used in homemade explosives from a network in Chaman, Pakistan, officials said.

-- Acting on intelligence information, Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban leader and several suspected insurgents in Helmand’s Nad-e Ali district. He is believed to be a significant supplier of homemade explosives used in roadside-bomb attacks in Nad-e Ali and the neighboring Lashkar Gah district. He also taught Taliban associates how to fabricate and employ roadside bombs.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces killed more than 15 armed insurgents during an operation in Nangarhar province’s Sherzad district. The partnered force was searching for a senior Taliban leader and foreign fighter facilitator who also raises funds for the Taliban and plans attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. Intelligence tips led the force to a remote compound, where they came under immediate machine-gun and small-arms fire by numerous insurgents fleeing the area. The security force responded, killing numerous insurgents. A search of the compound yielded automatic weapons and a suspected insurgent was detained.

-- Insurgents used indirect fire in at least 17 unsuccessful attempts to strike Afghan and coalition forces as a combined security team conducted a day-long, intelligence-driven sweep to clear Taliban cells in Helmand province. Two insurgents were killed and several were detained in an operation to disrupt terrorist efforts in a Taliban-occupied area of the province’s Musa Qalah district. Afghan and coalition forces moved through the terrorist-occupied area to disrupt the insurgents’ command-and-control system and safe-haven activities. The Taliban members began launching rocket-propelled grenades at the security team in the early morning hours, but the attack proved ineffective. No Afghan or coalition forces were injured in the hours-long effort. The team searched more than 70 buildings and found multiple weapons caches.

Monday, November 29, 2010

More Ups than Downs in Afghan Counterinsurgency Fight

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2010 – A counterinsurgency campaign is a lot like a roller coaster with many ups and downs, said Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Rodriguez said, there have been more ups than downs.

In an interview with the “Today Show” yesterday, Rodriguez said the 2014 goal for turning over security responsibility to the Afghan government is possible, and is a “light at the end of the tunnel” for American servicemembers.

The general stressed that the 2014 date –- endorsed by NATO heads of state at the Lisbon Summit last week –- will be conditions-based even then. “We’re going to work together with the international community and the Afghan forces to assume that goal,” he said.

The general told “Today’s” Lester Holt that the International Security Assistance Force commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, had worked closely with Afghan leader President Hamid Karzai and others in setting the date. The questions come to “how we can go forward in this and how long it’s going to take and what their objectives are and what our goals are,” the general said.

Tactical leaders –- squad, platoon, company and battalion commanders –- carry the brunt of the counterinsurgency strategy, and progress is uneven in an asymmetric conflict like that in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said.

“We’re having more ups than downs, and we’re moving in the right direction and making progress,” he said. “The advantage really gets done over that enemy by the great leaders that you have at every level, innovative servicemen and women, and just a tremendous thinking organization that learns and gets better every day.”

There are more than 130,000 NATO troops -– with about 90,000 Americans –- in Afghanistan. U.S. leaders say that this is the first time the mission to Afghanistan has been adequately resourced. The end-game is to train Afghan police and soldiers to assume security responsibility. Officials in the Pentagon and in Kabul expect that in the spring announcements will be made for areas or provinces that will be turned over to Afghan security forces.

At its heart, what will make the counterinsurgency strategy successful is that Afghans do not want the Taliban back. They remember the repression and terror and do not want a repeat, Rodriguez said.

“We just have to help them build enough capacity so that doesn’t happen in the future,” he said. “The entire process that we’re working on –- the transition –- is all about irreversibility. And we're going to pay attention to that every step of the way.”

NATO Helicopters Did Not Fly into Pakistan

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2010 – NATO’S International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan confirmed through operational reporting and the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan that no ISAF aircraft crossed the border into Pakistan today and that there have been no reports of injuries, military officials reported.

ISAF is aware of a claim by China’s Xinhua News Agency that two NATO helicopters crossed into Pakistan’s air space today.

ISAF officials said they were not contacted for comment prior to the publication of the Xinhua article.

In other new today, three Afghan civilians were killed and one seriously wounded in two separate improvised explosive device blasts in Kandahar province.

In Zharay district, Afghan civilians struck an IED, which resulted in three young Afghans killed, reportedly 10, 15 and 20 years old. An Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Force patrol responded to the scene of the blast to investigate the incident.

In Kandahar district a private vehicle struck an IED which resulted in one Afghan civilian seriously injured. The wounded was evacuated to an ISAF medical treatment facility in Kandahar.

“This is a terrible tragedy and demonstrates the indiscriminate killing of civilians from IEDs planted by insurgents. ISAF condemns these acts of terror,” said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, ISAF Joint Command’s Combined Joint Operations Center director. “Our thoughts and concerns are with the victim’s families. We’ll work with our Afghan partners to find those responsible for these attacks and bring them to justice.”

In yesterday’s operations:

-- Afghan and coalition forces captured a Taliban facilitator during a security operation in Paktika province. The facilitator operated mainly in Yosef Khel district conducting surveillance of Afghan and coalition patrols for Taliban cells in the area. Based on tips, the security force targeted a compound northeast of Yahya Khel. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the buildings peacefully before the joint security force cleared and secured the compound. After initial questioning at the scene, the security force detained the suspected insurgent.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained more than 10 suspected insurgents. A joint security force in Paktiya province detained several suspected insurgents while targeting a Haqqani Network facilitator operating in the Khost-Gardez pass. Tips led the security force to a compound southwest of Hokumati Waze in Zadran district to search for the facilitator, who moves materials and operational information in and out of the Khost-Gardez pass. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the buildings peacefully before the joint security force cleared and secured the compound. After initial questioning at the scene, the security force detained the suspected insurgents. The assault force also discovered several automatic weapons and a large quantity of sniper and automatic weapon ammunition at the scene.

-- A combined security force detained several suspected insurgents during a search for a Haqqani leader in Sabari district, Khost province. The targeted individual conducts remote-controlled IED attacks against coalition force bases and convoys. The suspected insurgents were detained after initial questioning at the scene. An Afghan-led security force detained numerous suspected insurgents in Kunduz province during a deliberate clearing operation aimed at disrupting the Taliban’s freedom of movement in Kunduz district. The Afghan security force, mentored by coalition forces, conducted the clearing operation to degrade the insurgent command networks, deny insurgent safe havens and minimize the foreign fighter capability in the district.

Officials Condemn Leaks, Detail Prevention Efforts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2010 – Government officials condemned the publication of hundreds of thousands of sensitive, classified State Department cables by WikiLeaks today.

The website published the documents that detail private U.S. diplomatic discussions with foreign governments. The cables are candid reports by diplomats and, seen by themselves, can give an incomplete picture of the relationship between the United States and the foreign governments, White House officials said.

The cables are not expressions of policy, nor do they always shape final policy decisions. “Nevertheless, these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a press release.

“To be clear, such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government,” he continued.

The release of the documents may risk the lives of diplomats and friends living under repressive regimes. The United States stands for responsible, open government at home and around the world, Gibbs said.

“This reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal,” he said. “By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

Today’s posting is the third WikiLeaks publication of sensitive U.S. documents. The last publication included military and intelligence reports from Afghanistan, and another contained similar documents from Iraq. Newspaper and magazine journalists in the United States and Europe received and reviewed the documents from WikiLeaks and have written stories on their content.

The Pentagon has put in place methods to minimize such thefts of classified materials.

“It is now much more difficult for a determined actor to get access to and move information outside of authorized channels,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in a written statement following publication of news articles on the documents today.

The theft of the materials traces to the lack of sharing of information and intelligence prior to and after the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The commission studying the environment at the time found that agencies weren’t sharing enough information with each other. While stopping short of saying better sharing could have prevented the attacks, the 9-11 Commission pointed this out as a weakness that needed to be closed.

Federal officials responded by working to push out more information and intelligence in an effort to strike a balance between the “need to know” and the need to “share to win.”

“Departments and agencies have taken significant steps to reduce those obstacles, and the work that has been done to date has resulted in considerable improvement in information-sharing and increased cooperation across government operations,” Whitman said.

The effort backfired in that it made it easier for individuals or groups inside the process to steal the information. DOD responded by putting in place policies to prevent such occurrences, while still giving information and intelligence to the people who need it most – those confronting the realities of terrorism.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered two reviews of information and intelligence sharing in August.

The review called on DOD systems to disable all “write” capability for removable media on classified computers to mitigate the risks of personnel moving classified data to unclassified systems, Whitman said.

The reviews also direct DOD organizations to have a limited number of systems authorized to move data from classified to unclassified systems, he said.

DOD organizations are also implementing two-person handling rules for moving data from classified to unclassified systems to ensure proper oversight and reduce chances of unauthorized release of classified material, Whitman said.

DOD is also taking a page from credit card companies which monitor patterns and detect suspicious or anomalous behavior. Some 60 percent of DOD’s classified net is now using a host-based security system – an automated way of controlling the computer system with a capability of monitoring unusual data access or usage. The department is speeding deployment to the rest of the classified system, Whitman said.

In addition, the department is conducting security oversight inspections in forward-deployed areas, undertaking vulnerability assessments of DOD networks and improving awareness and compliance with information protection procedures.

U.S. Central Command, for example, has increased insider threat training for its intelligence professionals and
started multidiscipline training between traditional security, law enforcement and information assurance at all echelons.

The command also has established insider threat working groups to address the Wikileaks incident and prevent reoccurrence.

Army Casualty

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

Pvt. Devon J. Harris, 24, of Mesquite, Tex., died Nov. 27 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with a rocket-propelled grenade.  He was assigned to the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, at Ft. Polk, La.

For additional background information on this soldier, news media representatives may contact the Ft. Polk public affairs office at 337-531-7203.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chairman Discusses Afghanistan, Threats from Iran, Yemen

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2010 – The United States is “very committed” to begin drawing down its forces in Afghanistan in July, but large numbers will remain, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said on a televised broadcast today.

“We will start drawing down troops next July,” Mullen told Fareed Zacharia, host of the CNN program, GPS. Any drawdown will be based on conditions on the ground and via a recommendation from commanders on the ground, he said. It is too soon to know the numbers of troops and locations the drawdown will affect first, he added.

“We’re very committed to beginning the drawdown then,” he said. “But there will continue to be a large number of U.S. and allied troops on the ground in Afghanistan after July 2011.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also said that reconciliation talks with the Taliban must be done from a position of strength, and that any talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government right now “are talks about talks.”

Reconciliation is a very important process for Afghanistan, Mullen said, and when that can happen, political progress will follow.

“We need to do that from a strong position, and we’re just not there right now,” he said. “The Taliban don’t think they are losing and the likelihood that they are going to take any significant steps with respect to reconciliation is low.”

Turning to Iran, the chairman said he believes Iranian officials still are working to develop and weaponize nuclear devices, despite their public words to the contrary. The United States has been thinking about military options against Iranian facilities for some time, but “I still think it is important to focus on the dialogue, to focus on the engagement, but do it in a realistic way,” he said.

The United States needs to look at Iran and decide whether the nation is going to “tell the truth, actually engage and actually do anything,” he said. Iran has a history of gamesmanship, and American leaders need to take this under consideration, he said.

Mullen also spoke of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, saying that the Yemen-based terrorist group continues to be a problem. The recent bombs on cargo aircraft emanated from Yemen and the group is actively recruiting members to attack the United States, he said.

“This al-Qaida group in Yemen is trying to kill Americans,” Mullen said. “I think that will continue and we are obligated to address that threat.”

Oregon Resident Arrested in Plot to Bomb Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Portland

Vehicle Bomb Left at Scene Was Inert and Posed No Danger to Public

PORTLAND, OR—Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia and resident of Corvallis, Ore., has been arrested on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony earlier this evening in Portland, Ore., the Justice Department announced.

According to a criminal complaint signed in the District of Oregon, Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau at approximately (PST) Nov. 26, 2010 after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s
Pioneer Courthouse Square
. The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud had been monitored closely for months as his alleged bomb plot developed. The device was in fact inert; and the public was never in danger from the device.

Mohamud is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Portland on Monday. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Dwight C. Holton, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, said, “This defendant’s chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people—even here in Oregon—who are determined to kill Americans. The good work of law enforcement protected Oregonians in this case—and we have no reason to believe there is any continuing threat arising from this case.”

“The complaint alleges that Mohamud attempted to detonate what he believed to be a vehicle bomb at a crowded holiday event in downtown Portland, but a coordinated undercover law enforcement action was able to thwart his efforts and ensure no one was harmed,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “While the public was never in danger from the device, this case serves as yet another reminder of the need for continued vigilance both at home and abroad.”

“The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack.”

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in August 2009, Mohamud was in e-mail contact with an unindicted associate (UA1) overseas who is believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December 2009, while UA1 was located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, Mohamud and UA1 discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to engage in violent jihad. UAI allegedly referred Mohamud to a second unindicted associate (UA2) overseas and provided Mohamud with a name and email address to facilitate the process.

In the months that followed, Mohamud allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to contact UA2. Ultimately, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via e-mail in June 2010 under the guise of being an associate of UA1. Mohamud and the FBI undercover operative then agreed to meet in Portland in July 2010. At this meeting, Mohamud allegedly told the FBI undercover operative that he had written articles that were published in Jihad Recollections, an online magazine that advocated violent jihad. Mohamud also indicated that he wanted to become “operational.” Asked what he meant by “operational,” Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an “explosion” together, but needed help.

At a second meeting in August 2010, Mohamud allegedly told undercover FBI operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15. According to the affidavit, Mohamud then told the undercover FBI operatives that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s
Pioneer Courthouse Square
on Nov. 26, 2010.

According to the affidavit, the undercover FBI operatives cautioned Mohamud several times about the seriousness of this plan, noting there would be many people at the event, including many children, and emphasized that Mohamud could abandon his attack plans at any time with no shame. “You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?” an undercover FBI operative asked Mohamud. According to the affidavit, Mohamud responded that he was looking for a “huge mass that will...be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.” Further discussing the attack, Mohamud allegedly stated, “...it’s in Oregon; and Oregon like you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”

The affidavit alleges that in subsequent months, Mohamud continued to express his interest in carrying out the attack and worked on logistics. He allegedly identified a location to place the bomb and mailed bomb components to the undercover FBI operatives, who he believed were assembling the device. He also mailed them passport photos, as part of a plan to help him sneak out of the country after the attack. In addition, Mohamud provided the undercover FBI operatives with a thumb drive that contained detailed directions to the bomb location and operational instructions for the attack.

According to the affidavit, on November 4, 2010, Mohamud and the undercover FBI operatives traveled to a remote location in Lincoln County, Ore., where they detonated a bomb concealed in a backpack as a trial run for the upcoming attack. Afterwards, on the drive back to Corvallis, undercover FBI operatives questioned Mohamud as to whether he was capable of looking at the bodies of those who would be killed in the upcoming attack in Portland. According to the affidavit, Mohamud responded, “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured.”

Upon returning to Corvallis that same day, the affidavit alleges that Mohamud recorded a video of himself with the undercover FBI operatives in which he read a written statement that offered a rationale for his bomb attack. On Nov. 18, 2010, undercover FBI operatives picked up Mohamud to travel to Portland in order to finalize the details of the attack.

Earlier this evening, Mohamud was arrested after he attempted to remotely detonate what he believed to be explosives in a van that was parked near the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the affidavit alleges.

This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Oregon State Police, the Corvallis Police Department, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portland Police Bureau. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ethan D. Knight and Jeffrey Sweet from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon. Trial Attorneys Jolie F. Zimmerman and David Cora, from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, are assisting.

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

Marine Casualty

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

1st Lt. William J. Donnelly IV, 27, of Picayune, Miss., died Nov. 25 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at 760-725-8766.

RVTT to Launch Innovative Three-Dimensional Targets for Combat and Counter-Terrorism Units at I/ITSEC 2010

Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel, November 24 2010. RVTT Reshef Technology, a developer and provider of advanced targets for combat units, will launch its new line of revolutionary 3D targets for combat and counter-terrorism units at I/ITSEC 2010 – the world’s largest modeling, simulation and training conference, to be held November 29-December 2, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. The new targets will be on display at the company’s booth, #2085.

The new 3D targets, RESHEF RVTT 3039, are realistic, visual 3D infantry targets for dry/live-fire training of military combat forces and police anti-terror special units, such as SWAT teams. The multi-spectral target, designed for day and night training, has passive thermal reflective capability and provides users with a realistic thermal picture. Radar and laser signatures can be provided as an option.

The RESHEF RVTT 3039 targets are positioned in the field training area, using various battlefield scenarios. The target’s unique features create a realistic atmosphere – a real battlefield look and feel – in all weather conditions.

RESHEF RVTT 3039 is based on RVTT’s proprietary worldwide Multi Spectral Products patent and on the Visual Reality™ concept, which combines various means of display perceived as real by the trainees, providing them with a realistic visual experience as if they were actually involved in a battle. RVTT’s Visual Reality™ bridges the gap between physical reality and virtual reality, in a variety of different terrain conditions.

“The new RESHEF RVTT 3039 highly improves the skills of combat forces at all levels using day and night target identification and destruction means in a real terrain environment,” said David Reshef, RVTT’s CEO. “The new targets are another milestone in our efforts to equip combat units and anti-terror Special Forces with the best training aids, creating the feeling of being on a real battlefield.”

About RVTT Reshef Technology
Founded in 2000 by Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Reshef of Israel Defense Forces (IDF), RVTT Reshef Technology provides training aids such as advanced targets that highly improve simulated battlefields in day and night training, creating a real combat experience. The company’s solutions are based on its proprietary Visual Reality™ concept, and allow rapid installation of enemy targets while safely marking the forces to prevent friendly fire. For more information visit the company’s website at: http://www.epicos.com/epicos/extended/israel/RVTTReshefTechnology/page01.html

Friday, November 26, 2010

Peace Talks a Function of Afghan Government

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 – The Afghan people have the lead role in the reconciliation talks with the Taliban, and the United States serves only as a facilitator, specifically for the safe transportation of people to meet with the Afghan government, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said today on MSNBC.

“We’ve also said for a long time the security situation on the ground has to change a little more before we see real progress in terms of high-level reconciliation,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates supports “keeping the pressure on the Taliban even more than we already are, change the dynamic on the ground even more than it already has, so they finally feel the pressure enough to finally come to the negotiating table,” Morrell said.

The departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is slated to begin in July 2011, but U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond that date until 2014, Morrell said.

“[July 2011] is the beginning of a process, condition-based, to draw down forces for exiting in 2014,” he said. “Anybody who’s followed this closely knows this was not going to end in 2011. The president never suggested such. We always knew this was going to be a lengthy process. There’s far more work to be done than we can achieve in the next eight months.”

Morrell said the security situation in Afghanistan is improving.

“We’re seeing a lot more reintegration, [such as] low-level fighters giving up and wanting to end their alliance with the Taliban, and join the government,” he said.

Turning to another topic, Morrell said ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is vital to national security.

“On the merits, if START is defeated it would be a big setback for us in terms of national security,” he said. “We would have no verification, as we don’t right now, of what the Russians and nuclear forces are up to. We’d have to divert intelligence assets that are badly needed elsewhere, to monitor what they are doing on the ground.”

Five Somalis Convicted of Piracy Against USS Nicholas

NORFOLK, VA—A federal jury in Norfolk, Va., has convicted five men from Somalia of engaging in piracy and related offenses in their attack on the USS Nicholas, marking what is believed to be the first piracy trial conviction in the United States since 1820.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.

"Today marks the first jury conviction of piracy in more than 190 years," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "These five Somali pirates were convicted of an armed assault on the high seas against what they thought was a merchant vessel, but turned out to be a U.S. Navy frigate engaged in counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments. Today's conviction demonstrates that armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels are crimes against the international community and that pirates will face severe consequences in U.S. courts."

"Ensuring maritime security on the world's seas continues to be a high priority for NCIS as part of the international law enforcement community," said NCIS Special Agent in Charge Russ. "NCIS is forward deployed with U.S. naval forces and is able to deliver a unique blend of capabilities to help deter and prosecute pirates."

After nine days of trial, the jury convicted the five men—Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia—of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). They face a mandatory penalty of life in prison when they are sentenced on March 14, 2011.

The Somalis were indicted on April 21, 2010, and were later charged with additional crimes in a 14-count superseding indictment on July 7, 2010. According to evidence and trial testimony, the five men left Somalia in search of a merchant ship to pirate. They used a larger ship full of supplies, along with two smaller vessels loaded with assault weapons and a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) that served as attack boats. On April 1, 2010, Hasan, Ali, and Dire boarded one of these smaller vessels and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar remained onboard the large ship to maintain that ship during the attack.

Ali and Dire each carried an assault weapon, and Hasan carried an RPG. They opened fire on a ship, which they later discovered was the USS Nicholas, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate homeported in Norfolk, Va.

The piracy conviction and the conviction for the use of a destructive device (an RPG) in relation to a crime of violence both carry a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In addition, they are facing a maximum of 10 years in prison for attack to plunder a vessel; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy and an act of violence against persons on a vessel; a maximum of 10 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon in the special maritime jurisdiction; a maximum of 20 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence; a maximum of 10 years in prison for one count of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, a second firearm count carries an additional 25 years—to equal 35 years—in prison.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph DePadilla, John Davis, and Benjamin L. Hatch from the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome Teresinski from the Department of Justice's National Security Division prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.

Northern Afghanistan Sees Security, Governance Progress

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010Military operations in four northern Afghanistan provinces are yielding progress in security and training programs, and in the kind of development that links people and their government, the 1st Brigade Combat Team commander said today.

In a live digital video conference from Camp Mike Spann in Mazar-e Sharif, Army Col. Willard Burleson updated reporters on the work his brigade, a component of the 10th Mountain Division, is doing in Regional Command-North.

“Recent Afghan-led operations with [the U.N.-led International Security Assistance Force] in Kunduz and Baghlan have allowed the Afghan security forces and the government of Afghanistan to expand into areas where insurgents previously had operated freely,” Burleson said.

These operations, he added, “have enabled the expansion of government services to now-safe havens and improved the population's sentiment toward its government.”

Burleson’s 3,500-soldier brigade deployed throughout Afghanistan in March and April.

One battalion task force is headquartered in Kabul, working as part of the NATO training mission, and the cavalry squadron is in Kandahar’s Dand district, he said. But most of the brigade is in Regional Command-North, operating mainly in the northern provinces of Faryab, Balkh, Kunduz and Baghlan.

Their mission is to partner with the Afghan National Security Forces there, specifically the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Border Police.

“As we conduct comprehensive operations -- that's security, governance and development -- with the Afghan security forces,” Burleson said, “we seek to neutralize the insurgency in these key-terrain and area-of-interest districts.”

Brigade members also help the Afghan Border Police in partnered operations at the Hairatan and Sher Khan border-crossing points, Burleson said.

“We were really the first sizable American force to operate in this area, to assist in areas where there have been security issues. And there still are but I think they're getting better,” Burleson said.

Two months ago, he added, Afghan forces planned, led and executed– an operation in Takhar province near the border with Tajikistan. An insurgent threat in that remote location had been largely untouched.

“The police zone commander here at the 303rd Police coordinated it with the border zone commander and then with a little bit of the army,” Burleson said, “and they conducted the operation themselves” with some help from ISAF enablers and close-air support.

“But they planned and conducted the operation,” Burleson said. “That says a lot about the internal security forces being able to solve problems themselves.”

Another successful effort involves the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program sponsored by the government of Afghanistan, he said.

The program extends a hand to combatant groups, offering them full rights as Afghan citizens and a dignified way to renounce violence and reintegrate themselves into local communities.

“To date we've seen approximately 100 former insurgents reintegrate up here, with another couple-hundred at varying steps in the process,” Burleson said.

“These initial reintegration numbers,” he said, “are an indicator of the willingness of some of our former fighters to become decent members of the society who support the Afghan government.”

Much of the reintegration -- as with nearly all progress in Afghanistan, where establishing relationships is a critical cultural imperative -- is based on good relationships, Burleson said.

Speeding integration depends on relationships among the security force commanders, the provincial chiefs of police and the provincial governors, he said.

“Police leaders call people they know and say, ‘Look, it’s time to come in, time for the fighting to end,’” the colonel added. “And that’s really how some of this reintegration starts.”

During their time in the region, Burleson said, brigade members have been able to contribute to development efforts that improve the relationship between people and their government.

“Education is paramount in any society, specifically educational facilities for young women, who under the Taliban certainly were denied that opportunity,” he said.

“It's not uncommon now to see large groups of young girls going to and from school on the streets of Mazar-e Sharif, Maimana or Kunduz in this area,” Burleson said, “and I think it's a sign of progress, at least in northern Afghanistan.”

Commander’s Emergency Response Program funds have been employed to replace donkey carts and buses with government-sponsored vehicles to provide Afghan district and deputy governors better access to their populations, he said.

“We've also had projects in Faryab where, under the leadership of the governor and deputy governor, they've provided street lights,” Burleson said.

The increased security in and around communities promotes commerce. Street vendors stay open later and people can shop later in well-lit areas.

“It’s a visible improvement in people’s lives as a result of their government doing things for them,” he said. “A lot of this is connecting the government to the people through their security forces and with the help of the International Security Assistance Force.”

In downtown Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh province, Burleson said, “Governor Atta has security, he’s got development and he’s got a form of effective governance. A place like that sets the example for what different parts of Afghanistan can become.”

A lot of work remains in all those areas, he added.

“But we're seeing progress,” Burleson said. “And I am confident that, in time, the Afghans will be able to take [control] and certainly this increased [NATO-U.S.] presence will not be required.”

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Ardenjoseph A. Buenagua, 19, of San Jose, Calif., died Nov. 24 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at 760-725-8766.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Afghanistan Report Shows Security, Governance Gains

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 – Progress across Afghanistan remains uneven, with modest gains in security, governance and development in key areas, according to a Defense Department report sent to Congress today.

The congressionally mandated report, submitted every 180 days, tracks government, economic and military activity to assess coalition success in reaching President Barack Obama’s goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

A senior Defense Department official and a senior State Department official briefed reporters on background about today’s report, which covers activities in Afghanistan from April 1 to Sept. 30.

The report cites growth in Afghan security forces as the “most promising” area of progress, and notes incremental improvement in security and socio-economic development.

The increase in Afghan security forces “is the key to the transition,” the Defense official said, noting that both the Afghan army and police have been ahead of their recruiting goals since July.

As the report points out, Afghan forces still need more leaders in their ranks, he said.

“Building leaders take time,” he said, noting that senior noncommissioned officers, captains and majors don’t appear overnight.

The report records a 55 percent rise over the previous quarter in “kinetic events,” including direct and indirect fire, surface-to-air fire and exploded, found or cleared roadside bombs.

The Defense official said the Afghanistan strategy always assumed the increase in coalition forces would be followed by a rise in violence, which the report bears out.

The report attributes this rise to the increase in coalition and Afghan forces and their expansion into new areas, a dramatically accelerated pace of operations and a spike in incidents during the September parliamentary elections, consistent with previous elections.

Despite the jump in violence, the report noted fewer civilian casualties attributable to coalition actions than in previous reporting periods.

The report also indicates the number of Afghans rating their security situation as “bad” is the highest since the nationwide survey began in September 2008.

The Afghan public’s dissatisfaction with their level of security also stems from coalition and Afghan forces’ expansion into areas they hadn’t previously cleared, the Defense official said.

“Two years ago, if you had asked an Afghan in Helmand if they were secure, they wouldn’t have been happy that the Taliban were there, but there wasn’t fighting going on,” he said. “When we got there, there was a lot of fighting going on.”

The report, which includes data only up to Sept. 30, doesn’t reflect the most current security situation in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, he said.

“Over the past two months, there has been slow and steady progress in Helmand,” he said, “and important progress in Kandahar.”

The State Department official said civilian-led coalition efforts to encourage Afghan governance and economic development in Helmand and Kandahar also show progress.

In the end, the question of what level of local governance Afghans want is a question “Afghans need to decide,” the State Department official said.

The drawdown of combat forces set to begin in July, and the 2014 goal to complete the security handover to Afghan forces, doesn’t negate the United States’ and coalition’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan, the Defense official said.

“We need to correct misperceptions about that,” he said. “We have a long-term enduring commitment to Afghanistan.”

Iraq-Deployed Louisiana Guard Troops See Gains

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010 – Members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have at least two things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

First, their deployment to Iraq has been less violent than their previous 2001-2005 tour in the war-torn country.

“The violence has really been getting lower and it gets lower every day,” Army Lt. Col. David Gooch, commander of 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, told reporters Nov. 23. “We’re really thankful for that. There are still enemy elements out there but for the most part they’ve calmed down quite a bit. And the Iraqi security forces are getting stronger every day so, we’ve been very fortunate.”

Secondly, elements of the brigade are scheduled to return home before Christmas.

“It may be the day before Christmas, but we [should] be home before Christmas,” Gooch said.

The unit arrived in Iraq in March and it has performed a variety of security-related missions.

“Our primary mission is convoy security, but we do also have some fixed-site security missions and some personal security missions that we conduct in the country,” Gooch said.

Being on the road conducting convoy security often means facing off against a variety of threats, especially improvised explosive devices, the lieutenant colonel said.

“IEDs are, obviously, the number one threat to us during convoy security,” said Gooch, adding that overall the threat level in Iraq has decreased during the unit’s deployment and has dropped off considerably since the unit’s previous Iraq tour.

During this deployment, he said, the unit suffered no casualties or other serious incidents.

“Thus far we’ve been here [about] a year, and we’ve had 1,400 convoys with about a million miles driven by our soldiers and, to date, not one serious injury as a result of enemy activity,” said Gooch, adding that there still is sporadic small arms and IED activity.

Gooch attributed this success to the experience level of the soldiers in the battalion, many of whom had previous service in Iraq.

“This is my second deployment to Iraq,” Gooch said. “And, I guess for about 60 percent of the soldiers this is their second deployment as well.”

Also during this deployment, as in 2004, there is a tremendous amount of support from those at home, he said.

“We have terrific family support groups back in Louisiana at all of our armories throughout the state,” Gooch said. “The families have been incredibly supportive and we get boxes of things every day in the mail. We just couldn’t do this without them.”

He said support comes from other sources as well.

“Veterans groups and veterans’ affairs groups throughout the state have also helped and even city councils from the various cities have helped us,” Gooch said.

However, he said, there is one thing that those groups could not provide for the Iraq-deployed Louisiana Guardsmen.

“Most of the soldiers here are used to Cajun food,” Gooch said. “We can’t wait to get back and get some good food.”

As he looks back, Gooch said, it couldn’t have been a smoother deployment.

“The soldiers have done a terrific job,” he said. “They’ve been very professional and have handled this mission incredibly. I could not have asked for a better group of soldiers to have come with to Iraq and now they’re just all ready to get back to their families.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Officials Confirm Taliban Leaders’ Death

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan today confirmed the deaths of two Taliban leaders killed in recent Afghan and coalition force airstrikes, military officials reported.

Both individuals were killed in Helmand province Nov. 20.

Sabir, who’s responsible for planning and directing attacks on Afghan and coalition troops, led a 40- to 50-person terrorist cell. He also is tied to weapons trafficking operations throughout the province.

Mullah Abdul Aqyoum, the Sangin district Taliban shadow governor, held overall military command for northern Helmand province. He provided guidance and financial support to Taliban leaders in the area. He also approved all major attacks against Afghan and coalition troops there.

In operations yesterday:

-- Afghan and coalition forces in Paktiya province captured an individual suspected of supplying Taliban with bombs and bomb-making material. The suspect is connected to ambushes and assassinations on development projects, troops and Afghan government officials. The suspect was caught in Gardez district and taken into custody without incident..

-- In Khost province, Afghan and coalition forces captured a Haqqani network leader connected to several attacks in the province’s Shamul district. The individual was taken into custody peacefully after Afghan forces surrounded his compound. Several other suspected insurgents were also detained.

-- Several suspected insurgents and a Taliban bomb cell leader were detained by Afghan and coalition forces in Helmand province. The individuals were attending a Taliban funeral in the Garm Ser district when Afghan and coalition forces received a tip of his location. The individuals surrendered without firing a shot.

-- Afghan and coalition forces concluded a four-day operation throughout Kandahar, Uruzgan, Qalat and Helmand provinces that netted more than 1,000 pounds of various explosives, more than 65 various types of mortars, dozens of small-arms weapons and ammunition, bomb-making materials and several rocket-propelled grenades and launchers.

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.  They died Nov. 22 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Sean M. Flannery, 29, of Wyomissing, Pa.; and

Spc. William K. Middleton, 26, of Norfolk, Va.

For more information the media may contact the Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office at 270-798-3025.