Friday, September 28, 2012

Combined Force Kills Multiple Insurgents

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 28, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force killed multiple armed insurgents during an operation to arrest a senior Haqqani facilitator in the Gelan district of Ghazni province today, military officials reported.

As the security force approached the Haqqani facilitator’s suspected location, armed insurgents attacked the Afghan and coalition troops with heavy machine gun fire, officials said. The coalition troops returned fire, killing several armed insurgents. No civilians were harmed in the exchange.

The sought-after Haqqani facilitator is believed to be directly involved in several attacks throughout the region, many involving improvised explosive devices, and suicide bombers, resulting in civilian casualties, officials said.

The security force also detained two suspects and seized multiple assault rifles, a heavy machine gun and several explosives, including rocket-propelled grenades, officials said. The weapons and explosives were destroyed.

In other operations today:

-- A combined force detained a number of suspects during an operation to arrest a Taliban leader in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. The sought-after Taliban leader is suspected of facilitating the movement of weapons throughout the region and reported directly to senior Taliban leaders in order to coordinate insurgent attacks.

-- A combined force detained one suspect and seized several pounds of illegal narcotics during a search for a Taliban leader in the Washer district of Helmand province. The sought-after insurgent leader is alleged to serve as a link between senior Taliban leaders and local attack cells, directing insurgent activity throughout the district.

-- A combined force arrested one Haqqani network leader and detained two suspects in the Sharan district of Paktika province. The arrested Haqqani leader is suspected of being directly involved in the planning of insurgent attacks and acquiring weapons and explosives for Haqqani fighters.

-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force arrested a Haqqani explosives facilitator, detained one suspect and seized IED-making equipment in the Bak district of Khost province. The arrested facilitator is alleged to be directly involved in the acquisition and emplacement of improvised explosive devices and rockets for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force arrested a number of suspects and seized several firearms during a search for a senior Haqqani leader in the Sayyid Karam district of Paktiya province. The sought-after Haqqani leader is suspected of directing attacks and coordinating the acquisition of weapons and funding for insurgent activity.

-- A combined force detained a number of suspects and seized multiple firearms during a search for a Haqqani IED attack leader in the Sharan district of Paktika province. The sought-after Haqqani leader is believed to be directly involved in the acquisition and emplacement of IEDs for insurgent attacks.

In Sept. 27 operations:

-- An International Security Assistance Force patrol rescued three Afghans who were being held hostage by Taliban insurgents in the Panjwa'i district of Kandahar province. The ISAF unit, Task Force Arrowhead, observed a number of insurgents load three men, bound and blindfolded, onto a trailer towed by a tractor. The ISAF patrol pursued and stopped the tractor, at which point the insurgents attempted to flee. Task Force Arrowhead troops freed the hostages and detained three of their captors, who were later identified as Taliban members. ISAF learned the three captives had been held by the Taliban for up to six days. The freed men were released by ISAF to Panjwa'i district officials.

Panetta Discusses Operations in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Most Afghan and NATO troops are now conducting normal partnered operations, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced during a news conference here today.

Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, had ordered that all combined operations below the battalion level be approved by regional commanders following attacks by Afghan soldiers and police that have killed 51 members of the coalition this year.

However, Afghan and coalition troops are now back to conducting partnered operations as before, Panetta told Pentagon reporters. The military believes some of the insider attacks were perhaps triggered by Muslim anger over an American-made internet video that defamed the Prophet Muhammad.

“I can now report to you that most ISAF units have returned to their normal partnered operations at all levels,” said Panetta, who was accompanied by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey, just back from a visit to Afghanistan, said partnering efforts are back to the level they were before the difficulties. Around 90 percent of all operations in the country are partnered.

Even with the insider attacks, Panetta said the coalition and Afghan efforts are paying off. He said the Taliban were in control of large swaths of Afghanistan and were poised to take more when the coalition surge into the country began in December 2009.

Last week, the secretary announced the end of the surge, with the departure of the last of the 33,000 troops who were ordered deployed. There are now 68,000 American service members in Afghanistan.

“[The surge] accomplished the primary objectives of reversing the Taliban’s momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces,” Panetta said.

This will continue, said Dempsey, noting coalition troops will continue to partner with Afghan soldiers and police. The Taliban has failed to recover momentum or any territory. “Our Afghan partners are working with us to shut down the threat of insider attacks,” the chairman said. “As one Afghan army commander told me, insider attacks are an affront to their honor, at odds with their culture and their faith.”

Taliban insurgents are actively trying to infiltrate Afghan army and police formations, Dempsey said. The insurgent group is also trying to turn Afghan soldiers and police against their coalition allies.

Dempsey said coalition forces are adapting to the Taliban’s change in tactics.

“That’s what professional militaries do,” he said. “And we are doing it in a way that ensures we continue to be able to partner.”

The Taliban wants to break the coalition, the general said, but the coalition’s resolve to stand with Afghan formations is strong.

Still, it will be tough going in the country, Panetta said. “The enemy we are dealing with … is adaptive and resilient,” the secretary said. “Their focus has shifted to carrying out high-profile attacks in order to undermine the new sense of security that has been felt by ordinary Afghans.”

Panetta expects there will be more high-profile attacks like the one that struck Camp Bastion last week.

“The enemy will do whatever they can to try and break our will using this kind of tactic. That will not happen,” he said.

Afghan forces are the “defeat mechanism” of the insurgency, Panetta said.

“We have an enduring commitment to an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself and that is never again a safe haven from which terrorists can attack us,” he said. “Our men and women in uniform, our fighting forces, ISAF, Afghanistan fighting forces I think have sent a strong message to the Taliban that time is not on their side.”

Army Casualties

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

They died Sept. 26, in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated the device near their patrol. These Soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Schweinfurt, Germany.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, 29, of Tucson, Ariz., and

Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J.

For more information, please contact the U.S. Army Europe public affairs office in Heidelberg, Germany at 011-49-162-271-6685.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stavridis: Cooperation Key in Tackling Piracy Threat

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2012 – Hoping to build on successes over the past year in combating piracy, the top U.S. commander in Europe and other key stakeholders in the fight gathered in London this week to help chart the way forward.

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, who also serves as the NATO commander, joined leaders from the NATO Maritime Component Command, European Union, shipping security officials and other experts to explore ways to improve their cooperation in tackling this transnational threat.

“We face a significant global problem that has caused extensive and expensive disruptions to the global maritime grid,” Stavridis noted in his blog post on the U.S. European Command website. “In particular, off the Horn of Africa in the northern Indian Ocean, we’ve seen hundreds of pirate attacks and dozens of successful hijackings over the past years.”

He estimated costs to the international community as high as $5 billion to $10 billion per year, noting that hundreds of mariners have been held hostage by pirates for ransom.

“Although the success rate and the numbers of attacks are down this year, we still have seven ships and more than 100 hostages held by Somali pirates on the largely ungoverned east coast of Africa,” the admiral said.

NATO, the European Union and a variety of other nations, including Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Iran and the Gulf States, have come together to help address this problem, he noted. With a fleet that averages 20 to 30 ships, they patrol waters stretching from the Red Sea, past the Gulf of Aden and down into the northern Indian Ocean.

Shared concern about the problem led last week to the first bilateral counter-piracy exercise between the United States and China. Crew from the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill and other Navy assets joined Chinese People’s Liberation Army sea elements, including the frigate Yi Yang, for training near the Horn of Africa.

The sailors’ focus was on bilateral interoperability in detecting, boarding and searching suspected vessels, as well as the ability of both Chinese and American naval assets to respond to pirated vessels, a USS Winston S. Churchill spokesman reported.

Meanwhile, the shipping industry has implemented best business practices: traveling in convoys, hardening their defenses such as stringing concertina wire along their decks, posting lookouts and hiring private teams, Stavridis reported. They appear to be paying off, he said, recognizing that although many ships with embarked private security teams have been attacked, none has been successfully hijacked.

Participants at this week’s conference, co-hosted by the U.N.-sponsored International Maritime Organization, discussed ways to increase cooperation between shippers and protecting forces and ways to move ashore to pre-empt pirate strikes and disrupt pirates’ bases and logistics systems.

Another focus, Stavridis said, was on building capacity within local coast guards and to applying a comprehensive approach to make piracy less attractive as an occupation.

Former Employee of New Jersey Defense Contractor Convicted of Exporting Sensitive Military Technology to China

Stole Trade Secrets from Morris County Company

NEWARK—A federal jury today convicted a former employee of a New Jersey-based defense contractor of exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), stealing trade secrets, and lying to federal agents, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Sixing Liu, a/k/a, “Steve Liu,” 49, a PRC citizen who had recently lived in Flanders, New Jersey, and Deerfield, Illinois, was taken into custody following the verdict, based on risk of flight considerations. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler is scheduled for January 7, 2013.

“The jury found that in order to promote himself, Liu took highly sensitive defense information and trade secrets to China, violating the rules of his company and the laws of this country, and then lied about it upon his return to the United States,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “We will not tolerate the exploitation of this country’s opportunities through the theft of our secrets.”

“This specific investigation is troubling on many levels,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward said. “Mr. Liu helped develop technology critical to our military, then took a computer with that information on an unauthorized trip to China to present at a conference sponsored by the Chinese government. The United States spends billions of dollars each year on research and development, and this ‘intellectual capital’ is very attractive to others. If they are able to acquire this research, they can save billions and quickly develop their own products to compete against the United States, be it in the world economic market or on the battlefield.”

“Exporting military weapons and technical data and the theft of sensitive technology in violation of the Arms Export Control Act are serious crimes with global consequences,” Andrew McLees, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Newark, said. “Illegal foreign procurement networks continue to threaten our safety and this conviction reinforces that HSI has no tolerance for those who try to undermine our nation’s safety and security.”

“This arrest demonstrates the determination of Customs and Border Protection’s frontline officers, who work closely with our law enforcement partners to safeguard the American public from potential threats,” Robert E. Perez, Director Field Operations, for CBP New York, said.

The jury convicted Liu of nine of the 11 counts in the second superseding indictment with which he was charged, including six counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, one count of possessing stolen trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, one count of transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, and one count of lying to federal agents. The jury acquitted Liu on two counts of lying to federal agents.

According to documents filed in the case and evidence presented at trial:

In 2010, Liu stole thousands of electronic files from his employer, L-3 Communications, Space and Navigation Division, located in Budd Lake, New Jersey. The stolen files detailed the performance and design of guidance systems for missiles, rockets, target locators, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Liu stole the files to position and prepare himself for future employment in the PRC. As part of that plan, Liu delivered presentations about the technology at several PRC universities, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and conferences organized by PRC government entities. However, Liu was not charged with any crimes related to those presentations.

On November 12, 2010, Liu boarded a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to the PRC. Upon his return to the United States on November 29, 2010, agents found Liu in possession of a non-work-issued computer found to contain the stolen material. The following day, Liu lied to agents of the Department of Homeland Security about the extent of his work on U.S. defense technology, which the jury found to be a criminal false statement.

The U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls later verified that several of the stolen files on Liu’s computer contained export-controlled technical data that relates to defense items listed on the United States Munitions List (USML). Under federal regulations, items and data covered by the USML may not be exported without a license, which Liu did not obtain. The regulations also provide that it is the policy of the United States to deny licenses to export items and data covered by the USML to countries with which the United States maintains an arms embargo, including the PRC.

The jury heard testimony that Liu’s company trained him about the United States’ export control laws and told him that most of the company’s products were covered by those laws.

After the verdict, Judge Chesler ordered Liu taken into custody, citing the penalties Liu faces, his ties to the PRC, and the lack of an extradition treaty with the PRC, among other reasons.

Liu faces the following maximum penalties, per count:

■Export violations—20 years in prison, $1 million fine
■Stolen trade secrets violation—10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
■Interstate transportation of stolen property—10 years’ in prison, $250,000 fine
■False statement—five years in prison, $250,000 fine

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ward; special agents of ICE-HSI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge McLees; and officers of CBP, under Director of Field Operations Perez, for the investigation leading to today’s verdict.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Judson Welle of the United States Attorney’s Office’s National Security Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gurbir S. Grewal of the United States Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit, both in Newark. The prosecution received valuable support from attorneys of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, Counterespionage Section.