Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Afghanistan: Soldiers humbled by Missouri adjutant general's visit

By Air Force Capt. Dale E. Mitchell
Combined Joint Task Force 1 – Afghanistan

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (1/31/12) – The commander of the Missouri National Guard spent some time during the holiday season to visit the Missouri Agribusiness Development Team V at Forward Operating Base Finley-Shields, Dec. 29.

During his visit to Forward Operating Base Finley-Shields, Army Maj. Gen Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, shared a message of gratitude for the tremendous sacrifices each Citizen-Soldier and -Airman has endured while bringing agricultural stability to the eastern region of Afghanistan.

Accompanying Danner was Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Schulte, state command sergeant major of Missouri. Schulte played a key role in setting conditions in Nangarhar prior to the arrival of ADT I. During the visit his comments and words to the troops mirrored the adjutant general's themes. He also spent some one-on-one time with the ADT V enlisted personnel.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Seth Fifewas prepared to answer questions about his duties and accomplishments while in poverty-stricken Afghanistan, but was refreshed to share stories of his wife Jennifer instead.

"You always hear the idea, 'mission first,'" Fife said, "[but] when Maj. Gen. Danner shook my hand, he asked about my family, not the mission."

"Bringing in the New Year in Afghanistan could have been another routine event, however, it was nice to bid farewell to 2011 with a memorable visit from a supportive command," Fife said.

In preparation for the eventual drawdown in Afghanistan, Danner and Schulte led small informal discussion groups to alleviate concerns, and laid out the way ahead for the state of Missouri beyond the year 2014.

ADT members also engaged their top leaders in discussion of force reduction issues.

The state command team echoed sentiments that the U.S. government, as well as the state of Missouri, is focused on the shared goal of providing a foundation for an independently run, stable, democratic, and financially prosperous Afghanistan.

Danner will continue to dedicate troops to the Agribusiness mission as long as the proven model, created by the state of Missouri and replicated by numerous other states, can be funded.

"The ADT is performing a vital mission, and although they have faced adversity in attaining their goals, they continue to maintain high standards of performance established here in Nangarhar by previous Missouri Guardsman," Danner said.

"Nothing can be more trying at times than the life of a day-to-day Soldier or Airman, tasked to serve a people they don't often understand both through cultural nuance and language", said Army Maj. Samuel Forester, Nangarhar ADT executive officer.

"As the leaders of the Agribusiness Development Team, we know life is tough here – we depend on the resiliency and dedication of not only our team, but our family members back home. It was an honor to have the top leaders from our state set aside time that they could have been spending with their own families, to listen to and acknowledge the successes and concerns of our team members," Forester said.

As the Missouri Agribusiness Development Team heads into 2012, the agribusiness situation within Afghanistan continues to evolve. The team's priorities continue to revolve around supporting agricultural governance and development within Nangarhar Province. Their last few months of effort are focused on laying the foundation for a seamless transition between Missouri ADT V, and Team VI, scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan in the spring of 2012.

"This continuity of effort is one of the reasons why the Missouri ADT has been so successful in achieving positive long term effects within the Nangarhar province," Forester said.

Combined Force Captures Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2012 – An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The leader conducted attacks against Afghan forces and directed kidnapping operations throughout Badghis province, officials said.

One additional suspected insurgent was detained during the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force captured a Taliban leader, detained two suspected insurgents and seized bomb-making materials in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. The leader conducted attacks in Kandahar City.

-- In the Khost district of Khost province, an Afghan-led and coalition-supported force detained several suspects and seized weapons and chest racks while searching for a Haqqani network facilitator who conducts roadside-bomb attacks against Afghan forces and moves explosives from Pakistan.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Djibouti: Deployed Kansas Guard member becomes a naturalized American

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa report

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (1/30/12) – U.S. Soldiers and Sailors waved miniature American flags as they welcomed America’s newest citizens into their ranks, including a Kansas Guard member from Panama.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelan Scott and Kansas Army National Guard Sgt. Joel Lara raised their right hands and swore the oath of allegiance to the United States in front of other U.S. service members during a naturalization ceremony here Jan. 25.

“This was pretty cool,” said Scott, a utilitiesman with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 who emigrated to the United States from St. Lucia, an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be naturalized here, at Camp Lemonnier. It was very gracious of the camp leadership to do this.”

Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Nairobi Field Office Director Sonia Gulati said she has overseen these types of ceremonies for three years and this was the first time she conducted one at Camp Lemonnier.

“Truly this is one of the best parts of my job – clearing individuals for citizenship who are so dedicated to America. I always end up with tears in my eyes,” she said.

Both Lara and Scott said they left their respective countries for a higher quality living standard as well as education. The two men made serving in the military a top priority when they arrived in the United States and their service was appreciated by many in attendance today.

U.S. Navy Constructionman Aarron Emmons of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, a friend of Scott, said he thinks immigrants are an asset to the military because of their dedication to America. Even though they are not yet citizens, they are willing to serve, he said.

Diversity “is part of the U.S. military’s strength,” said Navy Capt. Gerry Hutchinson, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa director of religious affairs. “To me it’s great to have a military force that is diverse as the nation it defends.”

Having other service members in attendance during the ceremony was meaningful to Lara, a native of Panama and a sergeant in C Battery, 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery, Kansas Army National Guard.

“It feels good and I am happy,” he said with a smile. “The people here are my brothers and sisters, and I am an American with them now.”

Combined Force Captures al-Qaida Facilitator

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force captured an al-Qaida facilitator in the Gardez district of Afghanistan’s Paktia province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator coordinated insurgent activity t and provided reports to senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, officials said. No civilians were harmed.

In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- A combined patrol found about 5,559 pounds of marijuana in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province.

-- In the Qalander district of Khost province, a combined force detained several suspects and seized grenades and assault rifles while searching for a Haqqani network leader who attacks Afghan forces the in Nadir Shah Kot district.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported force captured a Taliban leader and confiscated bomb-making materials in the Nerkh district of Wardak province. The leader supplied bomb-making materials, weapons and ammunition to insurgents in the Maidan Shahr and Nerkh districts.

In Jan. 28 Afghanistan operations:
-- A combined patrol found and destroyed about 11,000 pounds of marijuana in Kandahar’s Panjwai district.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported force found and destroyed anti-tank mines and bomb-making materials in the Achin district of Nangarhar province.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported force detained two suspects and seized several mortar rounds and small-arms ammunition in the Kunduz district of Kunduz province.

-- A combined force captured a Taliban leader, detained two suspected insurgents and seized bomb-making materials in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. The leader shipped weapons and ammunition to insurgents.

-- In the Nadir Shah Kot district of Khost province, an Afghan-led and coalition-supported force detained several suspects while searching for a Taliban leader who directs insurgent operations.

-- In Paktia’s Ahmadabad district, a combined force detained a suspect and seized bomb-making materials while searching for a Haqqani network leader responsible for attacks in Gardez province.

In Jan. 27 operations:
-- A combined force captured a Taliban commander who plans roadside-bomb attacks and seized bomb-making components in the Saraj district of Helmand province.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported force detained several suspects in the Ghazni district of Ghazni province.

In Jan. 26 operations:
-- A combined force in Helmand’s Nad-e Ali district detained several suspects and captured a Taliban commander who supplied weapons and explosives to insurgents.

Face of Defense: Marine Conquers 1,000-mile Challenge

By Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff Drew
2nd Marine Division

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2012 – Running is in his blood, so Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Raymond German Jr.’s passion for the sport began at an early age.

The Detroit native began running with his grandmother at a local park while growing up and eventually found his stride running alongside friends on his high school and college cross-country teams. Eventually, his love for physical fitness found its niche in the Marine Corps, where a 1,000-mile challenge piqued his interest.

It began as the Leatherneck Challenge, a series of mile markers suited to test the endurance of any Marine. By running, biking, cross training and rowing, German could have chosen 236, 472 or 944 miles, but he decided to go the distance and push himself to 1,000.

“It became a challenge between me and one of the watch officers,” said German, the legal chief for the office of the 2nd Marine Division’s staff judge advocate. “He was only out for a six-month deployment, trying to reach 236 miles.”

The competition between the two became fierce as they constantly tried to one-up each other.

“When I'd see him come in off a casual five-mile run, I would immediately go do six miles,” said Melbourne, Fla., native Marine Corps Capt. James Morgan, a government prosecutor with the 2nd Marine Division’s legal services support Section. “When I would come in and boast that I just did seven miles in the 110-degree heat, he'd go do eight miles in the 115-degree heat at an even better clip.

“It was awesome,” the captain continued. “He is just an animal when it comes to [physical training]. Even when he was having a bad day because he wasn't able to talk to his daughter or he hadn't heard from his family in a while, he'd get out there and run his worries away. It was not only awesome, it was inspiring.”

On duty, German reviews and processes investigations within the entire division of 10,000 Marines. Running, he said, allows him to get out of the office and relieve stress. It cleanses his soul and it is where his mind can escape, he added.

“I think about my daughter – she’s about to be 7 this year,” German said. “I think about her starting to run and following in my footsteps. I think about things I could do to better myself. My thoughts are random – as I’m running, they’re running.”

For a long time, German used his runs as a way to train for Camp Leatherneck’s Marine Corps Marathon. With so many miles to go, he spiced up his many runs around the base by changing his routes frequently and challenging himself to break personal records on various courses to avoid monotony.

When he wasn’t hitting the pavement, he went to the cardio gym to work out on an elliptical machine, treadmill or bike.

“It’s very repetitive, but being able to get out there and not worry about where you are, just worry about your running – you kind of forget that you’re running in circles sometimes,” German said.

He finished the 1,000-mile challenge Jan. 16 with a morning run followed by three miles in the cardio gym, only nine months after beginning. His goals don’t stop there though, as he is training to beat a half-marathon time of an hour and 30 minutes.

“It’s about challenging yourself,” German said. “It’s pushing your body beyond its limits. As you get older, you always want to put a goal out there in front of you.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Face of Defense: Lieutenant Leads EOD Unit in Afghanistan

By Navy Chief Petty Officer Oscar Troncoso
International Security Assistance Force Regional Command North

CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan  – Leading one of the most dangerous units in northern Afghanistan typically includes a heavy burden of responsibility for its company commander.

Navy Lt. Eric R. Bond, a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, understands this better than most as the officer in charge of the Combined Joint Task Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit based in Camp Shaheen.

Bond, an Ashburn, Va., native, is responsible for the safety and readiness of his special forces team, which is trained and equipped to take on life or death missions in a multitude of tactical environments, such as onboard ships, underwater, and in urban areas, minefields and battlefields.

As if this was not enough, Bond decided to take on the additional responsibility of training Afghan security forces so they can properly dispose of explosives after the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan.

“Our direct task is to defeat the [improvised explosive device] threat,” he said. “But it became clear to me that if we intended to leave responsibly, we needed to do partnerships. One of my major initiatives is to partner any time we could with the Afghans.”

To facilitate collaborative efforts with the Afghan National Army, Bond needed the support of a top-level Afghan leader. This led him to Capt. Islamudin Behaddu, who is tasked to lead Afghanistan’s EOD unit.

“The first thing I did is foster a relationship with Captain Behaddu,” Bond said. “As the appointed team leader, he had not gone through the training himself. But he completed the training … and graduated. He earned the respect of his EOD team by completing the same training they did.”

Bond also worked to form partnerships with EOD teams from other International Security Assistance Forces, such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands and Latvia. However, these ISAF countries focus more on removing the IED threats that are littered across Afghanistan due to many years of war.

“It just made sense to me to establish partnerships,” he said.

The CJTF Paladin EOD unit, based out of Camp Shaheen, southwest of the city of Mazar-e Sharif, includes six teams with three EOD technicians. It serves as the only IED/EOD school for Afghan National Security Forces in the country.

“We have trained and validated four Afghan National Army EOD teams that can now go out on their own,” Bond said. “Before they were rag-tag groups, but now they have come back with dozens of success stories.”

Bond’s six-month tour in Afghanistan comes to an end in mid-January, and the former midshipman with a bachelor’s degree in oceanography is set to return to his EOD Mobile Unit 1 at San Diego’s Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. He said he’s proud that his unit of 20 sailors, which also includes two support personnel, has maintained their safety and that of the northern region of Afghanistan.

He’s equally proud that he can leave the war-torn country knowing that trained Afghan EOD teams will use the knowledge and skills he taught them to protect their population long after he is gone.

“Their EOD teams have exceeded all our expectations,” Bond said.” It’s unbelievable what they can do now on their own. Once we are gone, they can handle it by themselves.”

Combined Force Captures Taliban Facilitator

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON  – A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban facilitator and detained several suspected insurgents during an operation in the Lashkar Gah district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator distributed weapons and explosives to insurgent fighters and coordinated roadside bomb attacks against Afghan forces throughout the area, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- A combined force in the Jalrayz district of Wardak province captured a Taliban facilitator who distributed homemade explosives and weapons to insurgent fighters throughout the Maidan Shahr district.

-- In the Khost district of Khost province, a combined force confiscated weapons and ammunition and detained several suspects while searching for a Haqqani leader. The leader constructs roadside bombs and distributes weapons to insurgents in the Bak and Terayzai districts.

-- In the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province, an Afghan-led and coalition-supported force captured a Taliban facilitator and detained a suspected insurgent. The leader conducted direct-fire attacks in the Nahr-e Saraj district and distributed ammunition and bomb-making materials to insurgent fighters throughout Helmand province.

-- Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, condemned a suicide car bomb attack in Helmand’s Lashkar Gah district that reportedly killed four innocent civilians and injured at least 30 others.

"On behalf of the entire ISAF coalition of 50 nations, I extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of today’s attack,” Allen said.

"ISAF will continue to work alongside our Afghan National Security Force partners to pressure the insurgency to end these acts of terror, and to support the development of an increased security environment to promote peace in Afghanistan,” he said. “This is what the Afghan people want and deserve."

In operations yesterday:
-- In the Chahar Darah district of Kunduz province, an Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force detained several suspects and seized a prepared suicide improvised explosive device vest and about 4.4 pounds of homemade explosives during a search for insurgent suicide bombers. The targets were suspected of planning attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the Chahar Darah district.

-- A combined patrol discovered about 440 pounds of marijuana seeds in the Panjwa‘i district of Kandahar province.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Accomplishments in Afghanistan Set Stage for 2012 Progress

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Almost a month into 2012 -- a year both Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, called pivotal to operations there -- International Security Assistance Force officials said last year’s accomplishments have set the stage for continued success.

“This year offers an opportunity to turn a corner,” Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson of the German army, spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF coalition, told reporters during a Jan. 24 news conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

“I hope that when we will look back at 2012,” he said, “we will continue to see the incredible progress for the people of this nation on their path to a well-deserved peace.”

Panetta, during his pre-holiday visit to Afghanistan last month, told deployed troops he believes the effort has reached a turning point and emphasized the importance of what happens there this year.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Panetta said during a visit to Forward Operating Base Sharana in remote but strategically important Paktika province. “And we’re winning this very tough conflict in Afghanistan.”

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, said in his blog earlier this month he believes that progress will continue by focusing on the “keys to security.”

One of these keys, he said, is a unity of effort, with a goal of achieving a sense of “in together, out together” among ISAF’s 50 troop-contributing nations.

“In the military sphere, that means we have to pull together smoothly on the oars as we all downsize the number of coalition troops over the coming year,” Stavridis said.

He said he was encouraged by the long-term commitment exhibited by 100 nations and international organizations represented at the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in December.

Stavridis also noted continued progress during 2011 in two other key areas: the transition to an Afghan security lead, and continued pressure on the insurgents.

Jacobson reported during this week’s news conference that this trajectory is continuing.

Already, “2012 is off to a very rough start for the insurgency,” he said. He noted that it follows another “tough year” during 2011, with the insurgents losing key ground and resources and failing to accomplish their stated goals in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, their leadership “continues to hide across the border in Pakistan,” losing much of their ability to command and control their troops, Jacobson said.

Insurgent forces in Afghanistan continue to use improvised explosive devices to launch indiscriminate attacks, he said, despite orders from Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader, to quit harming civilians.

While acknowledging that they still have the ability to launch high-visibility attacks, Jacobson said “these acts of desperation should not fool anyone.”

“I believe the insurgency is starting to understand that they cannot continue their terrorist acts of the past against the Afghan people, and the only clear solution is reintegration into a peaceful Afghan society,” he said.

Jacobson lauded solid gains during 2011 that are laying the foundation for this momentum to continue.

He cited positive trends in terms of offensive operations against insurgents, as well as improvements in capacity development within the Afghan national security forces.

“Our goals were to increase Afghan lead of security responsibilities, target key insurgent leaders, retain and expand secure areas and help [Afghan forces] earn the support of the people through improved security capacity and capability,” he told reporters.

Jacobson cited areas of focus for the year ahead to build on and expand these gains.

In the east, for example, ISAF and Afghan national security forces “will continue to apply maximum pressure,” he said, to eliminate the Haqqani and other insurgent networks and disrupt their logistical capabilities through the winter and into spring.

This effort supports the vision Allen set for 2012.

During Panetta’s visit to Kabul in December, Allen told reporters he sees this year as a time to consolidate gains already made in Afghanistan’s north, south and west and to extend them eastward. This, he said, will include “significant counterinsurgency operations” to continue this year in the Regional Command East area, with the goal of pushing the security zone east of Kabul.

Jacobson said this week that progress also will continue in other areas ranging from education to infrastructure to counternarcotics.

Afghanistan had 175,000 teachers in 2011, up from 20,000 in 2012, he reported. Eight million Afghan children were enrolled in school, compared to fewer than 1 million in 2002. Afghanistan now has more than 6,200 miles of paved roads, with more than 80 percent of the population using them.

Local security development is progressing, too, Jacobson reported. The Afghan National Army now is almost 180,000 strong, and the Afghan National Police now has nearly 144,000 men and women in uniform, serving local communities.

As they grow in number, Afghan national security forces are assuming greater security responsibility. More than 50 percent of Afghanistan is slated to be under Afghan security control by this spring, Jacobson said, “and we have every expectation that this will increase to 66 percent in the very near future.”

Man Pleads Guilty to Shooting Military Buildings in Northern Virginia

Defense, Government Jointly Recommend Sentence of 25 Years in Prison

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Yonathan Melaku, 23, of Alexandria, Va., pleaded guilty today to damaging property and firearms violations involving five separate shootings at military installations in northern Virginia between October and November 2010 and attempting to injure veterans’ memorials at Arlington National Cemetery.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.

Melaku pleaded guilty to a three-count information that included injuring property of the United States, use of a firearm during a crime of violence and attempted injury to veterans’ memorials on U.S. property. The defense and government jointly recommended in the plea agreement a sentence of 25 years in prison. He will be formally sentenced on April 27, 2012.

“Yonathan Melaku pled guilty to carrying out a calculated, destructive campaign to instill terror throughout our community,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “The video he filmed during one drive-by shooting is a chilling portrayal of his intent and the escalating danger he posed. Thanks to the FBI and their law enforcement partners, we were able to apprehend Mr. Melaku, develop the evidence that linked him to the shootings, and secure this conviction today.”

“The partnerships and resources shared on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force are essential to the safety of our national capital region,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “I want to thank our law enforcement partners at Prince William County Police, Virginia State Police, Fairfax and Arlington Police, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, U.S. Park Police, Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the Military District of Washington, and the U.S. Marine Corps for their steadfast efforts throughout this investigation.”

According to the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Melaku admitted that he carried out a series of five shootings from Oct. 17, 2010, through Nov. 2, 2010, at the following locations: the National Museum of the Marine Corps (twice), the Pentagon, a Marine Corps recruiting sub-station in Chantilly, Va., and a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge, Va. Each shooting took place late at night or early in the morning and involved multiple 9mm rounds fired at each building. The cost for repairs at the facilities exceeded $100,000.

Melaku admitted today that during the second shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, he set up a video camera within the interior of his vehicle to record the shooting incident. The video shows Melaku repeatedly firing a handgun out the passenger-side window, and he narrates the incident on the video and states, among other things: “That’s my target. That’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked,” and at the conclusion of multiple shots exclaiming, “Allahu Akbar,” repeatedly.

In his statement of facts, Melaku stated that he attempted to flee law enforcement after being spotted on the property of Ft. Myer in Arlington, Va., at approximately 1:30 a.m. on June 17, 2011. During the pursuit, he dropped a backpack that contained numerous spent 9mm shell casings; four bags containing ammonium nitrate, and a spiral notebook with numerous Arabic statements referencing the Taliban, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, “The Path to Jihad,” as well as a list of several other individuals associated with foreign terrorist organizations.

Melaku admitted that, at the time of his apprehension, he was attempting to enter the area of Arlington National Cemetery containing graves of deceased Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, intending to desecrate and injure the grave markers by spray-painting the markers with Arabic statements and by leaving the ammonium nitrate he was carrying at the sites of the grave markers.

On June 17, 2011, during a search of his residence, FBI search teams found Melaku had stored within the bedroom closet of his residence a typed list titled “Timer” that included nine items that Melaku admitted are consistent with what would be required to construct the firing mechanism for an explosive device. Four of those items had been crossed through.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the police departments of Arlington County, Fairfax County, and Prince William County; the Pentagon Force Protection Agency; the Virginia State Police; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the Coast Guard Investigative Service; the U.S. Park Police; U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico; and the Military District of Washington Provost Marshal Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Grooms, Neil Hammerstrom, and Lynn Haaland of the National Security and International Crime Unit are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Eugene Man Sentenced for Lookout Point Trespass

EUGENE, OR—United States Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin sentenced Wiley Roy Nelson, 21, of Eugene to two years of probation and 60 hours of community service after accepting his guilty plea to entering a restricted area at Lookout Point Dam southeast of Eugene on March 2, 2011. Nelson faced a maximum possible sentence of six months in prison.

The incident at Lookout Point attracted national media attention when security cameras recorded a man wearing a camouflaged jacket climbing over razor wire in the middle of the night with a camera. The surveillance video showed the man taking pictures along the top of the dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offered a $1,000 reward through its Corps Watch program to anyone who could identify the intruder.

“Our dams are critical assets to our local communities, and we respond decisively to any attempt to compromise their security,” said Erik Petersen, operations project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Willamette Valley Projects, which operates Lookout Point Dam. “In this case, our security systems detected the intruder and our Corps Watch property protection program helped identify and bring him to justice.”

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Oregon State Police. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William “Bud” Fitzgerald.

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction in Plot to Attack Armed Forces Recruiting Center

BALTIMORE—Antonio Martinez, aka Muhammad Hussain, 22, of Baltimore, a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty today to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against federal property in connection with a scheme to attack an armed forces recruiting station in Catonsville, Md. Martinez was arrested on Dec. 8, 2010, after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be explosives at the armed forces recruiting station.

The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the FBI.

“We are catching dangerous suspects before they strike, and we are investigating them in a way that maximizes the liberty and security of law-abiding citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Rosenstein. “That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver.”

“This is an example of another successful prosecution that resulted from outstanding partnerships between the Muslim community and law enforcement,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge McFeely. “As the threat from homegrown violent extremists remains high, the FBI and our police partners rely on a two way flow of information with the Muslim community at large. Together we are working to stop those that have perverted the Islamic faith into something it is not.”

According to his plea agreement, on Oct. 22, 2010, Martinez raised the subject of attacking military targets with an FBI confidential source (CS). During the recorded conversations that followed between Martinez, the CS and later, an FBI undercover agent, Martinez identified his target—an armed forces recruiting station in Catonsville—and spoke about his anger toward America, his belief that Muslims were being unjustly targeted and killed by the American military and his desire to commit jihad to send a message that American soldiers would be killed unless the country stopped its “war” against Islam.

Martinez attempted to recruit a number of people to join in the operation, including an individual whom he said had the ability to obtain weapons. All of them declined, and one of them expressly attempted to dissuade Martinez from committing jihad. Thereafter, Martinez agreed to meet the source’s “Afghani brother,” an undercover FBI agent (UC), whom the CS represented would be interested in assisting in the operation.

According to the statement of facts, both prior to, and during the course of the investigation, Martinez articulated his militant beliefs in postings on his public Facebook page and in two Facebook chats with the CS.

According to the plea agreement, Martinez first met the UC on Nov. 16, 2010, and advised the UC that he wanted jihadist activities to be his “profession.” Throughout the course of the investigation, Martinez repeatedly expressed his desire to go forward with the attack. Martinez admitted that on Dec. 8, 2010, he met the CS to drive to a public parking lot near the recruiting center. On the way, Martinez had the CS tape him on a camcorder and a statement that he would continue to fight against the oppressors until those who waged war with Islam stopped their actions. Martinez subsequently attempted to detonate an explosive device at the armed forces recruiting station. Martinez admitted that the bomb was intended to kill military service members who worked in the building. As set forth in court documents, agents investigating Martinez ensured that the bomb was inert and no danger was presented to the public.

If the court accepts the plea, Martinez will be sentenced to 25 years in prison, which the government and the defendant have agreed is the appropriate disposition of the case. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for April 6, 2012, at 9:00 a.m.

U.S. Attorney Rosenstein praised the FBI and the members of its multi-agency Joint Terrorism Task Force for their work in this investigation. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge McFeely expressed their appreciation to the Baltimore City Police Department, Baltimore County Police Department, Maryland State Police, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Air Force Recruitment Command, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Army 902d Military Intelligence Group, and the U.S. Marshals Service for their assistance in the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian, who is prosecuting the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey E. Eisenberg, Chief of the National Security Section, who is supervising the case. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein also thanked the Justice Department’s National Security Division for its support.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Combined Force Captures Taliban Leader

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2012 – An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The leader coordinated roadside bomb and ambush attacks against Afghan forces along Route 1 in Helmand province, officials said.

The security force also seized 15 pounds of opium and detained an additional suspected insurgent.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined patrol seized about 500 pounds of marijuana and about 45 pounds of marijuana seeds in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province.

-- In the Zharay district of Kandahar province, a combined force seized 300 pounds of marijuana and detained several suspects while searching for a Taliban facilitator who plans attacks against coalition forces and moves weapons and ammunition throughout Kandahar.

-- A combined force captured a Taliban leader and detained another suspect in the Sayyidabad district of Wardak province. The leader planned assassinations and direct-fire attacks against Afghan government officials.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A coalition airstrike killed an insurgent after he attacked coalition forces with small-arms fire in the Alishing district of Laghman province.

-- Coalition forces arrested six people found with Afghan army uniforms and weapons in the Alingar district of Laghman province.

-- Coalition troops detained three people suspected of being bomb makers in the Terezaki district of Khost province.

-- Afghan police detained a man who had two assault rifles and ammunition in the Zurmat district of Paktia province.

-- Coalition troops detained a man for having bomb-making materials Khost’s Khost district.

-- Afghan border police detained a man as a person of interest in Paktia’s Jaji district.

-- A combined patrol found about 550 pounds of hashish and multiple 82 mm mortar rounds in Kandahar’s Panjwai district.

-- A combined patrol found and destroyed about 1,000 pounds of hashish in Kandahar’s Zharay district.

-- A combined force found and destroyed about 660 pounds of hashish in Helmand’s Musa Qalah district.

In other Afghanistan news, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, International Security Assistance Force commander, joined Afghan President Hamid Karzai in condemning a recent insurgent rocket attack on a home in the Allasai district of Kapisa province that killed a woman and a child and injured seven other people.

"Continued deliberate attacks on the people of Afghanistan that result in the brutal murder of defenseless women and children clearly show that this heartless insurgency has no moral compass whatsoever," Allen said. "I join President Karzai in extending my deepest sympathies to the families of those who were killed, and in praying for the fastest recovery of those who were injured in this needless tragedy.”

Allen added that Taliban leader Mohammed Omar's “deafening silence and inaction in stopping these ongoing attacks against innocent Afghan civilians shows that his foot soldiers are now giving the orders while he and his inner circle reside in comfort, allowing the killing of their own brothers and sisters.”

Officials: Medical Concern for Somalia Hostage Prompted Rescue

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – While President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address last night, a joint special operations forces team was finishing up a dramatic rescue of two hostages -- one of whom was seriously ill -- from an armed encampment in Somalia.

“A convergence of factors contributed to the decision to undertake the operation last night,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters here today.

Among those factors was a window of opportunity for mission success, he said, and information that one of the captured humanitarian workers, Jessica Buchanan of the United States, had a serious medical condition that could threaten her life.

“That added a sense of urgency to the need to move ahead,” Little said, “and that along with other considerations led to the decision to go with the operation yesterday.”

Details of what happened on the scene still are being determined, he said, adding that nine criminal suspects were killed during the rescue.

“They were heavily armed and had explosives at the site,” Little said.

Buchanan and Poul Thisted of Denmark worked for the Danish Demining Group, a nonprofit humanitarian organization for which the two were teaching local Somalis how to remove land mines from their environment. They were kidnapped at gunpoint Oct. 25 near Galcayo, Somalia, and were being held for ransom, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. When the U.S. Justice Department requested help from the Defense Department, the statement added, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, Africom’s commander, was directed to plan and conduct the rescue operation.

Whenever an American is taken hostage overseas, the FBI becomes involved in the investigation, said Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

“There was close coordination with the FBI throughout [the operation],” Kirby added. “It was very much an interagency effort.”

The president authorized the operation Jan. 23, and the military commanders decided to move ahead with it yesterday, Kirby said. “We made the proper notifications that needed to be made in the region,” he added.

The joint special operations assault team landed near Cadaado in north-central Somalia on Jan. 23 in the early evening Washington time, Kirby said, but “the operation was not over until a number of hours later, when the hostages were secured and our service members were safely out of harm’s way.”

The president, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other national security officials monitored the operation’s progress from the White House before leaving to attend the president’s State of the Union address. As the president spoke during the Capitol Hill event, Kirby said, “we knew at that point that shots had been fired [and] that casualties had been taken among the kidnappers, but more importantly, we knew that the two hostages were safe.”

Little said there have been consultations between the U.S. and Danish governments and that “some of those consultations occurred prior to the operation.”

During the rescue, the assault team made its way to the outdoor encampment and confirmed that Buchanan and Thisted were there, guarded by nine captors. After securing the location, the team found Buchanan and Thisted unharmed.

Details about Buchanan’s medical condition have not been released. “We believe it was pre-existing when she was taken hostage, and also have reason to believe that it was getting worse while she was in captivity,” Kirby said.

U.S. military doctors and nurses are treating Buchanan and Thisted at a medical facility in the region, he added, and their repatriation has yet to be worked out.

"Last night's mission, boldly conducted by some of our nation's most courageous, competent and committed special operations forces, exemplifies United States Africa Command's mission to protect Americans and American interests in Africa," Ham said in a statement.

"I am extraordinarily proud of the joint-service team that planned, rehearsed and successfully concluded this operation. Thanks to them, a fellow American and her Danish co-worker are safe and will soon be home with their families,” he added.

“We should remember that Mrs. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were working to protect the people of Somalia when they were violently kidnapped,” the general said. “It is my hope that all those who work in Somalia for the betterment of the Somali people can be free from the dangers of violent criminals."

Army Casualty

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

1st Lt. David A. Johnson, 24, of Horicon, Wis., died Jan. 25, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered after encountering an improvised explosive device while conducting a dismounted patrol.

Johnson was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

For more information media may contact Joint Base Lewis-McChord public affairs office at 253-967-0152 or 253-967-0148.

Jamshid Muhtorov Indicted by Federal Grand Jury in Denver

DENVER—Late yesterday a federal grand jury in Denver returned a one-count indictment charging Jamshid Muhtorov with one count of providing material support of a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempt to do the same. If convicted, Muhtorov faces not less than 15 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Today’s indictment formalizes the charges which were originally filed last Saturday evening. The defendant is in federal custody and is being transported to Colorado by the U.S. Marshals. Once he arrives in Colorado, he will make an initial court appearance. No date has yet been set for that appearance.

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

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, including their federal, state and local partners. Muhtorov is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Holloway.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marine Casualty

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

Capt. Joshua C. Pairsh, 29, of Equality, Ill., died Jan. 22 in the United States of a non-combat related illness.  He was assigned to 4th Civil Affairs Group, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Washington, D.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office at 504-697-8309.

Face of Defense: Deployed Marine Applies Junior ROTC Lessons

By Marine Corps Cpl. Katherine M. Solano
2nd Marine Logistics Group

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2012 – With a budding interest in joining the military beginning at a young age, Marine Corps Sgt. Xuchill Laput, a regional site manager with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group’s 9th Engineer Support Battalion, never really considered another option.

While he originally enlisted to be a combat engineer, over the years, Laput said, he has come to appreciate the importance of being a bulk fuel Marine. Every mission requires fuel, he explained, and it is up to the bulk fuel platoon to keep that mission fulfilled.

Laput said one man in particular solidified his interest in the military: his high school Junior ROTC instructor, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Mark Williams. While attending Lincoln High School in Stockton, Calif., Laput said, he stayed involved with the Junior ROTC program and gleaned much from it. To this day, he added, he continues to return to visit his mentor.

“I grew up without a strong male figure,” Laput said. “[Williams] was that figure for me in a lot of ways. He didn’t tell me what to do, but he gave me advice on how to do the right thing, even in hard situations.”

It is this lesson, he said, that he has carried forward the most in his Marine Corps career, both in general and as a bulk fuel specialist. Everyone, not just Marines, should wake up in the morning with a goal to do the right thing throughout the day, added, and that’s the attitude he carries over into his daily routine as a fuel farm manager.

Laput said he and his Marines wake up early every day and go through an extensive checklist of all of the equipment. The procedures include walking every inch of the fuel lines, looking for leaks and tears, checking valves, cleaning filters and ensuring log books are up to date. These procedures do not necessarily need to be done every day, he said, but the habit of doing them every morning solidifies his belief in doing the right thing.

“I can’t expect my Marines to do the checks and keep the farm up if I don’t get up early and do it with them,” Laput said.

His dedication has led his command to give him more responsibility. Laput now manages four fuel farms in the area. He said he intends to implement the same routine to keep military specifications and environmental regulations up to code at the other three sites.

“The Marine Corps has taught me to make do with what you have,” he said. “Our officer in charge takes care of us, so I’m going to take care of all the Marines [at each site]. In turn, they will take care of the fuel farms.”

Special Operations Forces Rescue Hostages in Somalia

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2012 – Special operations forces rescued an American woman and Danish man who had been held captive in Somalia for three months, President Barack Obama announced early this morning.

Both are well and are in a secure location, and there were no American casualties in the operation.

Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted were working as part of a Danish demining group when Somali criminals kidnapped them near Galcayo, Somalia, on Oct. 25, according to a statement from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. Galcayo is near the border with Ethiopia. There was no word where the two were held.

“This successful hostage rescue, undertaken in a hostile environment, is a testament to the superb skills of courageous service members who risked their lives to save others,” Panetta said in the statement. “I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation.”

The president said he had spoken with Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans are thankful that his daughter is safe and will soon be home.

“The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice,” Obama said in his statement. “This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.”

Panetta stressed the rescue was a team effort and required close coordination between the Defense Department and the FBI. “They are heroes and continue to inspire all of us by their bravery and service to our nation,” Panetta wrote.

The Danish Demining Group trains local people to defuse and render safe landmines and other ordnance left in the wake of war. In addition to Somalia, the group is working in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Liberia, South Sudan and Uganda.

At the beginning of the president’s State of the Union address last night, TV cameras caught Obama shaking Panetta’s hand and saying “Good job.” No one knew then what he was talking about.

During his address, Obama lauded service members’ commitment and ability to work together. The rescue operation is another example of that.

“As commander in chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts,” the president said in his statement.