Friday, November 30, 2012

Johnson Gives Legal Background for War Against al-Qaida

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2012 – The United States remains in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, but it is important that the fight against the terrorist group is done in a lawful manner that does not compromise American values, Jeh C. Johnson told the Oxford Union in England today.

The group invited Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, to discuss the implications of the fight against al-Qaida -- a conflict that Britain has been involved in as well since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Al-Qaida planned and executed the attacks that killed 3,000 people from their base in Afghanistan. The United States has taken the fight directly to the terrorists, “the result of which is that the core of al-Qaeda is today degraded, disorganized and on the run,” Johnson said. “Osama bin Laden is dead. Many other leaders and terrorist operatives of al-Qaida are dead or captured; those left in al-Qaida’s core struggle to communicate, issue orders, and recruit.”

But, the group remains a danger. While the international coalition has degraded al-Qaida’s capabilities, it has decentralized, and relies much more on affiliates. The most dangerous of these are al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in northern and western Africa. In Yemen, the United States works with the government there in counterterrorism operations.
But the question for some is whether all of these actions are legal. Taking on al-Qaida is not like declaring war on a sovereign nation. It is an amorphous terror group that operates worldwide. Some have asked what is the legal basis for armed conflict against such a group?

“The United States government is in an armed conflict against al-Qaeda and associated forces, to which the laws of armed conflict apply,” Johnson said. “One week after 9/11, our Congress authorized our President ‘to use all necessary and appropriate force’ against those nations, organizations and individuals responsible for 9/11.”

Then-President George W. Bush, and now President Barack Obama have acted militarily based on that authorization ever since. The Supreme Court also endorsed this justification in 2006.
But, for the United States, this is a new kind of conflict. It is an unconventional fight against an unconventional enemy.

“Given its unconventional nature, President Obama -- himself a lawyer and a good one -- has insisted that our efforts in pursuit of this enemy stay firmly rooted in conventional legal principles,” Johnson said. “For, in our efforts to destroy and dismantle al-Qaida, we cannot dismantle our laws and our values, too.”

He added that the United States is “not at war with an idea, a religion or a tactic. We are at war with an organized, armed group -- a group determined to kill innocent civilians.”

The nation is also in conflict with groups that aid al-Qaida.

“We have publicly stated that our goal in this conflict is to ‘disrupt, dismantle, and ensure a lasting defeat of al-Qaeda and violent extremist affiliates,” Johnson said. “Some legal scholars and commentators in our country brand the detention by the military of members of al-Qaida as ‘indefinite detention without charges.’ Some refer to targeted lethal force against known, identified individual members of al-Qaeda as ‘extrajudicial killing.’”

Johnson countered, by pointing out that “viewed within the context of conventional armed conflict -- as they should be -- capture, detention and lethal force are traditional practices as old as armies.”
He added, “We employ weapons of war against al-Qaida, but in a manner consistent with the law of war. We employ lethal force, but in a manner consistent with the law of war principles of proportionality, necessity and distinction.”

He also emphasized the United States detains al-Qaida terrorists consistent with the Geneva Conventions and all other applicable law.

The armed conflict is now in its twelfth year. How will it end?

“It is an unconventional conflict, against an unconventional enemy, and will not end in conventional terms,” Johnson said.

Every defense secretary since 9/11 has said the war against terrorism will not conclude with a formal surrender such as the ceremony that took place on the deck of the USS Missouri that ended World War II.

“We cannot and should not expect al-Qaida and its associated forces to all surrender, all lay down their weapons in an open field or to sign a peace treaty with us,” Johnson said. “They are terrorist organizations. Nor can we expect to capture or kill every last terrorist who claims an affiliation with al-Qaida.”

Al Qaida’s “radical and absurd goals” include global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate, terrorizing the United States and other western nations so they retreat from the world stage as well as the destruction of Israel.

“There is no compromise or political bargain that can be struck with those who pursue such aims,” Johnson said.

The general counsel believes there will come a tipping point when so many al-Qaida leaders and operatives have been killed or captured that the group and its affiliates can no longer attempt to launch a strategic attack against the United States.

“At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an ‘armed conflict’ against al-Qaida and its affiliates; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al-Qaida,” he said.

DOD Identifies Units for Upcoming Afghanistan Rotation

The Department of Defense today identified three major units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan.  The scheduled rotation involves two infantry brigade combat teams – one with roughly 1,400 personnel, the other with roughly 2,800 personnel – and one division headquarters with roughly 620 personnel to rotate in winter 2012 and spring 2013. The deploying units include: 

Brigade Combat Teams:
1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Division Headquarters:
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

DoD will continue to announce major deployments as they are approved.  For information on these respective deployments, contact the following:  1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, contact the 10th Mountain Division public affairs officer at 315-772-7634; 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division Headquarters, contact the 101stAirborne Division public affairs officer at 270-798-9962.

Combined Force Arrests 2 Haqqani Insurgents

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 30, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Haqqani leader and a Haqqani facilitator in Afghanistan’s Logar province today, military officials reported.

The arrested insurgent leader acquired weapons for Haqqani fighters and directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the province’s Muhammad Aghah district, officials said. At the time of his arrest, the insurgent leader was overseeing the movement of improvised explosive devices and Haqqani fighters in preparation for an attack.

The detained facilitator had planned and executed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces within the Muhammad Aghah district while managing the transfer of weapons and IEDs to Haqqani fighters.
The security force also detained one other suspected insurgent and seized multiple firearms.
In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In Helmand province, a combined force arrested a Taliban financier. The detained insurgent financier managed money for the Taliban in several districts within the province and was directly responsible for distributing funds to Taliban fighters for their use in planning and executing attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained one other suspect.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban facilitator in Kandahar province. The facilitator was responsible for distributing and coordinating the movement of weapons and ammunition for the Taliban in the area.
And in Jowzjan province yesterday, a combined force arrested a Taliban facilitator who planned and directed IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained one other suspect and seized a number of IED components.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Panetta Outlines Objectives For Troops in Post-2014 Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today laid out three missions for the post-2014 troop presence in Afghanistan, and also made it clear the U.S. is not arming rebels fighting to topple the Assad regime in Syria.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak speak to reporters at the Pentagon, Nov. 29, 2012.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During a joint press conference here with visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Panetta was asked what the focus in Afghanistan should be following the transition to Afghan-led security.

“The fundamental mission in Afghanistan is to establish [a nation] that can secure and govern itself and ensure that al-Qaida, never again, finds a safe haven within Afghanistan from which to conduct attacks on the United States or any other country,” he said.

The goal for remaining troops, Panetta said, is an enduring presence that will direct itself towards three important missions.

“One is obviously [counterterrorism] to ensure that we continue to go after whatever al-Qaida targets remain in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Although we clearly have had an impact on their presence in Afghanistan, the fact is that they continue to show up, and intelligence continues to indicate that they are looking for some kind of capability to be able to go into Afghanistan as well,” Panetta said. He noted that forces have to be continually vigilant to protect against the terrorist group’s resurgence.

“So that’s going to be the fundamental thrust of the CT effort in the enduring presence,” Panetta said. “We also are going to continue to have a train-and-assist mission to help develop the capability of the Afghan Army.”

“The third mission will be to continue to provide some enabling capability so that we can provide the support needed for our forces as well,” he said.

Panetta noted the necessary troop levels to accomplish these missions is “exactly what’s being discussed” now.

In addition to discussing Afghanistan, the defense secretary also re-emphasized that the United States has had no involvement in equipping rebel forces in Syria with weapons or surface-to-air missiles.

“With regards to Syria, let me say, unequivocally, that we have not provided any of those kinds of missiles to the opposition forces located in Syria,” Panetta said. “We do provide … non-lethal assistance to the opposition.”

“We obviously are continuing to work on humanitarian relief to the refugees that have been impacted,” he added.

Panetta noted the U.S., with assistance from Israel and other countries in the region, also continues to monitor fighting in areas with chemical or biological weapons sites.

Our main focus right now, he said, has been working with other countries to try to provide whatever assistance we can to the opposition so it can ultimately become not only an effective force, but one that will be “needed once Assad comes down.”

Transcom Addresses Afghanistan Redeployment Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Nov. 29, 2012 – After redeploying 33,000 surge forces and their equipment from Afghanistan nine days ahead of the presidentially mandated deadline, U.S. Transportation Command is assessing the lessons learned to improve its processes for ongoing drawdown operations.

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Marines board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III as they redeploy from Camp Bastion Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2012. U.S. Transportation Command has a sophisticated planning process to ensure it can support U.S. Central Command as it redeploys forces and their equipment while transitioning security control to the Afghan National Security Forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clay Lancaster

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Col. Rob Brisson, chief of Transcom’s Fusion Center, called the successful drawdown to pre-surge levels “a huge statement” about the collaboration between U.S. Central Command, U.S. Forces Afghanistan and U.S. Transportation Command and its components and partners.

But the success was no mistake, he emphasized during an interview here with American Forces Press Service.

Despite not knowing exactly when the drawdown would happen, the Transcom team had been planning for it since 2009. “As soon as those troops went in, we were already thinking in this building about how they were going to get out,” Brisson said. “For us, when somebody is talking about delivery, somebody else is already talking about redeployment or retrograde.”

When it comes to drawing down in Afghanistan, officials agree that there’s plenty to talk about. Afghanistan’s challenging geography, weather and security situation, its limited transportation infrastructure and uncertainty about the future U.S. presence there all present a Rubik’s cube of challenges.

By comparison, the redeployment from Iraq was a cakewalk. Largely relying on Kuwait as a staging point and shipping the vast percentage of the equipment from ports there and in Iraq, Transcom, its service components and commercial partners redeployed more than 60,000 troops and more than 1 million pieces of equipment by the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline.

“Leaving Iraq was a lot simpler,” said Curt Zargan, deputy director for Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s Transportation Engineering Agency. “There were a whole lot fewer issues to deal with and a whole lot less complication.”

Because Afghanistan is landlocked, all the troops and much of the equipment must leave by air, at least for the first leg of their return, Zargan said. That applies particularly to weapons systems, combat vehicles or anything that regional neighbors might view as implements of war and won’t allow to transit across their borders.

“When you are deploying from a landlocked country, you are not going to drive them out of there. You are not going to sail them out of there. You are going to fly them out of there,” Brisson said. “That takes a well-coordinated flow plan that ensures sufficient airport capacity and prevents a logjam at any one node.”
That plan, coordinated closely with Centcom officials who periodically travel to Transcom to iron out redeployment plans in about six-month intervals, has to factor in demand on four major air bases in Afghanistan, Zargan noted. It also recognizes the ripple effect on air bases that receive redeploying flights during transit.

“You can’t push 15,000 people to Manas [Air Base in Kyrgyzstan] the last week of September and expect them to get out and make the president’s mandate,” Brisson said.

Using computer simulation models, Transcom planners evaluate the entire transportation and distribution network in the Centcom area of operation to come up with the best methods of exodus. Some involve “multimodal transport,” with an initial movement to one country, usually by air, then a transfer to other conveyance, such as a ship, for the rest of the trip.

“With multimodal, you rely on short air legs, or only as much air as you absolutely need to overcome the obstacle or access challenge,” Zargan said. “Whenever you can find a capable multimodal hub with ease of transfer from one mode to another, it offers a lot of efficiencies and cost savings.”

The shortest and least-expensive ground routes out of Afghanistan, referred to as the Pakistan ground lines of communication, remain closed to U.S. traffic for political reasons. The U.S. military had made heavy use of these routes, which originate at Pakistan’s port in Karachi, until November 2011. The Pakistani government suddenly closed them, however, after a border incident with U.S. forces left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead.

Pakistan announced July 3 that it would reopen the routes, but some of the required agreements have yet to be finalized.

“We still haven’t been able to use the [Pakistani routes] to move any supplies out,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Samuel D. Cox, Transcom’s operations and plans director. “It’s one of the issues we are working to resolve. As the [route] opens up again, it will give us another avenue to be able to bring equipment out of Afghanistan and back to the United States.”

Transcom plans to move much of its retrograde shipments out of Afghanistan through Pakistan, the fastest and most cost-effective option, Brisson said. But based on current projections, officials estimate that it could take until February -- the heart of the winter season -- before outbound equipment begins flowing through Pakistan.

So for now, Transcom is focused on moving about 7,000 shipping containers that had been stuck along the route for more than seven months -- with much of the contents no longer useable or needed in Afghanistan.
In addition, command planners hope to make extensive use of the Northern Distribution Network Transcom established in 2009. This elaborate network of rail, sealift and trucking lines and material handling teams and their equipment includes several major routes across Eastern Europe, Western Asia and into Afghanistan.

Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, the Transcom commander, credited the Northern Distribution Network with enabling Transcom to provide uninterrupted service to Centcom even after Pakistan closed its supply routes.

Fraser recently visited several of the countries that make up the network to thank them for their support and to ensure they are ready for the role they will play in the drawdown.

“We are capitalizing on that network that had been built to take things into Afghanistan to now taking things out, and we have multiple lanes that we can use,” Fraser said. “Some of the routes are more mature than others. … But we have people coming to us, wanting to know how they can help, whether by air or sea, and what they can do to help facilitate this. It’s been very positive.”

For now, planners are evaluating the capacity of these routes to ascertain whether they can stand up to drawdown demands.

“There are literally physical limitations in some of the infrastructure,” said Army Col. Glen Baca, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s operations director. “We have some very big, very heavy pieces of equipment that, if you tried to push it up those lines of communication, you could compromise their infrastructure to the point that they might not be able to use it.”

Meanwhile, Transcom is testing out new additions to the network. “We’re working the proof of principle right now to add additional capacity,” Brisson said. “Anything we have not done before, we check it out to make sure that what we have generated through prudent planning makes sense before we move into execution. And once we make those first couple of moves, then we figure out how we can do that on a consistent basis.”

Other factors complicate the drawdown planning effort. Some countries in the network specify what kinds of equipment can and can’t transit through their territory. Most, for example, want clean cargo -- a challenge, because forces in Afghanistan don’t have a willing Kuwait across the border that offers up space to clean and stage their vehicles, equipment and gear for shipment. Other counties won’t allow wheeled vehicles, or cargo that’s obviously wartime equipment, across their borders.

For some nations in the network, the caveats boil down to volume. To allow the United States to ship cargo through their transportation systems, they require a minimum quantity of business so they can predict workflow.

That can be a challenge, particularly because the redeployment rate isn’t set in stone, explained Navy Cmdr. Matt Secrest, chief of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s operations division.
“It’s not just a straight plan with a linear chart going down saying it is going to be 100 vehicles per month for the next year and a half,” he said. “More likely, it is going to be 450 this month and 25 next month. And so you have to work with those variables.”

“All of these factors go into our planning and analysis,” Zargan said. “It’s a challenge to figure out.”
In “figuring it out,” Transcom is making certain there’s no “point of failure” that can be the undoing of its planning efforts.

“One reason we have so many routes is to ensure that we are not reliant on any single host nation affecting our ability to redeploy out of Afghanistan,” Secrest said. “We need lots of options so no one country’s policies could affect our operations. That way, we have a variety of reliable solutions to redeploy out of Afghanistan when the time is right, as we are directed.”

Combined Force Arrests District-level Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 29, 2012 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a district-level Taliban leader in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today, military officials reported.
The arrested insurgent leader had been in charge of coordinating the storage and transfer of Taliban weapons and ammunition, officials said, and also oversaw the construction of improvised explosive devices.

In other recent Afghanistan operations:
-- Coalition forces in Helmand province found and destroyed 538 pounds of heroin.
-- An Afghan security force, supported by coalition troops, killed several insurgents and detained two others in Laghman province Nov. 27.
-- A Taliban facilitator who oversaw the construction and emplacement of IEDs was arrested in Kandahar province Nov. 26.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wisconsin Guard unit driven to complete Afghanistan mission

November 26, 2012
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep." - Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 

It's not too likely that the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1157th Transportation Company made many intentional scenic stops while conducting convoy escort missions for the past several months in Afghanistan, but the men and women of the Oshkosh-based unit has kept their commander's promise to meet or exceed expectations, and it has logged tens of thousands of miles in doing so. 

While the mission allows 1157th Soldiers to see parts of Afghanistan that others do not, those missions are not without challenges. The missions range from one or two days to a few weeks in length. Common obstacles include poorly maintained roads requiring improvised detours and slower convoy speeds, dense civilian traffic and frequent vehicle breakdowns with the National Afghan Truckers (NATs). There is also the very real danger of encountering armed insurgents along the way. 

"It is not uncommon for Afghani motorists to weave in and out of traffic at high rates of speed, often traveling for long periods of time in the wrong lane or off-road," said Sgt. 1st Class Dominic Renteria, a platoon sergeant with the 1157th. "Traffic lights are virtually non-existent, and many heavily trafficked areas rely on traffic police." 

Renteria said that in gridlock-plagued Kabul, pedestrians rule the streets. However, NAT vehicle breakdowns top the list of convoy complications to avoid. Heavy payloads, extensive mileage and insufficient maintenance take their toll on the civilian semi-tractors, and frequent mechanical breakdowns result.
"Soldiers cringe as the radio relays the message, 'Convoy commander, please halt the convoy - we have a NAT broken down and pulling off to the side of the road,'" Renteria said. Such delays can last from 10 minutes to hours, increasing the risk of fatigue as well as enemy attack. 

"I hate when the NATs have a long breakdown - it makes me feel like a sitting duck at times," said Staff Sgt. Melissa Jeske of Newton, Wis., a convoy commander. "I do take comfort in knowing that my Soldiers are ready and prepared to deal with anyone who wants to mess with a sitting duck." 

This statement was validated in June, when one 1157th convoy endured a small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenade attack. In an instant, 1157th gunners returned fire and suppressed the insurgent advance. Within moments, the attack was over. Thanks to the convoy's tactical preparation, the vehicles suffered only minor damage - and while one Afghani truck driver sustained minor shrapnel wounds to his feet, no other injuries were reported. 

"That was a rough day, but I think we proved to ourselves that we were prepared to handle whatever was thrown our way," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Roth of Appleton, Wis., who has led 40 missions across Afghanistan and commanded that particular convoy. Many of his Soldiers have earned the Army Combat Action Badge on this deployment. 

In spite of the dangers, Soldiers welcome the opportunity to go on mission as doing so seems to make the deployment go by faster. Each Forward Operating Base contains its own bazaar of local vendors - a popular destination for road warriors seeking mementos of their journey. 

"I am doing all my Christmas shopping at the bazaar this year," said 1st Lt. Nathan Wilhelms of Neenah, Wis. "I hope everyone back home likes decorative scarves and Afghani pottery." 

With Thanksgiving over and Christmas approaching, many in the 1157th are reminded of home.
"Being here for Thanksgiving really put into perspective what I am thankful for back home," said Sgt. Susan Delaney. 

Trying to recreate a sense of home, Delaney and her platoon prepared a Thanksgiving dinner at the barracks, using only a crockpot and microwave oven. The food was delivered courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service, and included turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, apple pie and sparkling grape juice. 

"This was such a morale booster for the platoon when it was obvious we were all missing home," said Sgt. Tiffany Gorges of Oshkosh, Wis. "This year, I am thankful for being part of a platoon that makes the best out of every situation."

Afghanistan Supply Network Provides Economic Opportunity

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Nov. 28, 2012 – The Northern Distribution Network that U.S. Transportation Command helped establish three years ago to supply U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan laid the foundations for strong U.S. partnerships in Central Asia and Russia and for the region’s long-term economic security, the Transcom commander said.

Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III traveled through the region last month, thanking the governments for their support for the network’s multiple truck, water, rail and air routes used to transport about 40 percent of all military cargo destined for Afghanistan.

The routes have been particularly critical during the past year, Fraser noted, because the Pakistani government closed logistical routes known as the Pakistan ground lines of communication in November 2011 after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed during a border incident with U.S. troops. Pakistan announced in July that it would reopen the route, but Transcom is still working to break the logjam created by thousands of shipping containers that had been stranded for months.

Relying heavily on the Northern Distribution Network since the closure, Transcom ensured that warfighters in Afghanistan never went without the logistical support they needed, Fraser said during an interview with American Forces Press Service.

“They had the sustainment they needed because we had developed these relationships and had multiple lanes [of supply] to use,” he said.

Now, as the United States lays plans to draw down in Afghanistan, Fraser said he’s found support for strengthening those relationships and improving the processes behind the transportation network -- not just for the duration of the Afghanistan mission and redeployment, but beyond.

Recognizing that U.S. shipments will diminish over time, leaders in nations supporting the NDN see the routes established to support the war effort in Afghanistan as a path to economic progress, Fraser noted. “I think the NDN is opening up opportunities for the future that these countries can capitalize on,” he said.
Nations are working together in unprecedented ways as a result of NDN agreements and exploring ways to streamline their import and export procedures to encourage cross-border commerce.

“We are already seeing some of that,” Fraser said. “As they look forward to the future, these countries know that the military is not going to be doing things at the same level that we have been for a long time. So they are looking for ways to capitalize on what has happened as a result of the Northern Distribution Network.”
Ambassador Dennise Mathieu, Fraser’s foreign policy advisor who accompanied him on the trip, said these efforts fit into the State Department’s vision of a “New Silk Road” that offers new potential in one of the least economically integrated areas of the world.

The goal is to reconnect economies that had been torn apart by decades of war and rivalry, helping restore commercial bonds among some of the world’s fastest-growing economies that sit at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“The idea is that you can build on the links that have already been established in an economic way,” Mathieu said.

Those efforts are bearing fruit in infrastructure improvements to support this vision, she reported. Azerbaijan is building a new port with hopes of becoming a transportation hub. Rail connections are being built between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and a recently completed rail line runs from the Uzbek border to Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.

“Eventually, with continued cooperation, they will be able to go all the way from China into Europe,” Mathieu said. “You will have a whole new economic network, built upon the foundation of this military logistics supply network.”

By integrating economically, regional nations will have a lasting impact that supports U.S. national interests in the region, she said.

“We believe that when you have economic prosperity, then that helps bring about stability and security,” Mathieu said. “So therefore, the region is going to be more secure. You will have less conflict. It provides opportunities for people to prosper and for their children to go to school and provides the conditions to start to build a democratic base and institutions.”

“All of that is good for the United States,” she said, opening new economic markets and strengthening partnerships across the region.

“This is something that has brought people together,” Mathieu said. “It’s something that enables them to put any differences or difficulties aside so they can work together toward something that benefits everyone.”

Afghan, Coalition Forces Arrest Haqqani Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2012 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a local Haqqani leader in the Sabari district of Afghanistan’s Khost province today, military officials reported.

The detained Haqqani leader was in charge of the acquisition and distribution of weapons and ammunition to insurgents operating throughout Khost province, officials said.

The security force also detained several suspected insurgents and seized a number of weapons and grenades.

In operations yesterday:
-- A combined force killed two insurgents and detained one suspect during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Sar-e Pul district of Sar-e Pul province. The sought-after Taliban leader controls Taliban insurgents operating in Jowzjan and Sar-e Pul provinces, and is thought to be responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in both provinces.
In operations Nov. 25:
-- In Wardak province’s Jaghatu district, a combined force killed the insurgent leader Zubayr, who’d supplied weapons to fighters operating throughout the district. One other insurgent was killed during the operation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marine Casualty

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

Cpl. Christopher M. Monahan Jr., 25, of Island Heights, N.J., died Nov. 26 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 2, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. 

For more information media may contact the 2nd Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs Office at 910-451-3538.

Face of Defense: Motivated Marine Drives On

By Marine Corps Cpl. Mark Garcia
Regional Command Southwest

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2012 – The drive to become a Marine and gain acceptance into the tight-knit family is what inspired Staff Sgt. Monica Paz to enlist in July 2000.

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Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Monica Paz in Helmand province, Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mark Garcia

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
A veteran of two previous combat deployments to Iraq, Paz is currently serving as the accounting division chief and squadron support division chief for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

“I originally wanted to go to college, but I really wasn’t set on what I wanted to study and didn’t want to waste my parents’ money,” said Paz, from Miami. “The Marine Corps was the hardest. It seemed like it was the most challenging branch of the military. I didn’t want to regret something that I didn’t do, and my mother always encouraged me to go ahead and accomplish something no matter how hard it was.”

When Paz left for recruit training, she had no idea what her job would be in the Marine Corps.

“My main focus was, ‘I’m going to be a Marine.’ I didn’t care what job they gave me,” Paz said.

Although Paz came in with an open contract, she has worked to become a proficient leader.

“As a Marine, she’s top notch,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Mena, aviation supply chief with MALS-16, 3rd MAW (Fwd). “She’s well rounded and embodies the whole Marine concept. She definitely has a very positive staff noncommissioned officer future ahead of her. She’s a mentor to a lot of Marines. She’s fantastic at her job, and I couldn’t ask for anything better. She’s motivated and is constantly seeking improvement and trying to make processes better.”

During her 12 years in the Marine Corps, Paz’s most difficult tour was her time as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Paz reported to the drill field in July 2007. Paz noted both the mental and physical challenges associated with the job.

“It was the toughest thing I have ever done,” Paz said. “In my mind, it’s harder than deploying. Physically it hurt. It was one of the biggest sacrifices I’ve ever had to make both to my time and my body, and mentally, it was hard.”

Paz credits former drill instructors for her interest in that job.

“My drill instructors are what motivated me to follow in their footsteps,” she said. “I saw them, and they were extremely tough. They didn’t allow us to be mediocre, and they pushed us to the limit. I know that they changed my life.”

Since leaving the drill field, Paz has run into several of her former recruits both in garrison and while deployed to Afghanistan.

“It’s really good when you get to see former recruits be successful,” Paz said. “Even if they don’t re-enlist and decide to get out, they’re on the right path to having successful futures. They’ve gained a lot of knowledge being in the Marine Corps.”

Sgt. Brenna Aspera, a radio chief with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, 3rd MAW (Fwd), is a former recruit of Paz’s and was able to see her former drill instructor while deployed to Afghanistan.

“It’s pretty cool because the Marine Corps is pretty small, so being able to run into someone you knew from so long ago out here in Afghanistan is crazy,” Aspera said.

Aspera has plans of becoming a drill instructor herself and said she will try to mirror Paz’s dedication.
“I was actually thinking about becoming a drill instructor because I need to do a [secondary billet] soon,” Aspera said. “I will definitely try to emulate Staff Sgt. Paz and what she was as a drill instructor. She was a good drill instructor. She was definitely somebody to look up to.”

After completing her tour on the drill field, Paz found out she had a health issue.

“For a moment I thought I was done with the Marine Corps,” Paz said. “I thought that I wouldn’t be able to stay in. I had spinal cord surgery after completing my time in the drill field and finding out I had a serious spinal cord problem. They had to go in there and take out bits of my spine and everything. So it’s been very hard to get back physically to where I am now.”

Despite her injury, Paz will continue to push forward in the Marine Corps and hopes to serve 20 years before pursuing a job as a pharmacist.

“It crosses every Marine’s mind whether they want to stay in for the full 20 years or get out,” Paz said. “It crossed my mind once or twice. But just the thought of waking up in the morning and not putting on my uniform or never being able to go to a Marine Corps Ball again just didn’t feel right.”

During this deployment, Paz was working near the flight line during an attack on Camp Bastion in September.
“It was very real. Being in the air wing, it’s not very common for us to go through something like that. It was definitely an eye opener, but once everything was said and done and you saw how the Marines reacted, you witnessed that they did good things and what you taught them in boot camp still sticks with them to this day. They weren’t afraid and they just did what they had to do.”

While deployed to Afghanistan, Paz will continue to look after the unit’s funding and ensure the service members in MALS-16 have enough equipment to accomplish their missions.

Combined Force Detains 3 Insurgents in Kunduz Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2012 – An Afghan-led, coalition-supported security force detained three suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Archi district of Afghanistan’s Kunduz province today, military officials reported.

Officials describe the wanted Taliban leader as an improvised explosive device facilitator who coordinates IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Also today, a combined force operating in Kandahar province’s Shah Wali Kot district arrested a Taliban facilitator suspected of being responsible for overseeing IED and mine emplacements. He is also suspected of training other Taliban insurgents to build and test IEDs. The combined force also detained three suspects and seized multiple weapons.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A local Taliban leader, Amirullah, was killed during an Afghan-coalition security operation in the Watahpur district of Kunar province. Amirullah was involved in the unsuccessful Nov. 12 suicide attack that targeted the anti-terrorism chief in Kunar province’s Asadabad district. Amirullah was also involved in coordinating the movement of weapons, ammunition and various military supplies for insurgents in the province.
-- One insurgent was killed during an Afghan-coalition security operation in the Shahid-e-Hasas district of Uruzgan province. The combined force also destroyed two caches that contained materials used in the construction of IEDs.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rasmussen Discusses Afghanistan Progress, Missiles for Turkey

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2012 – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is confident Afghan security forces will be able to take full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security by the end of 2014, he said today during an interview with the Pentagon Channel.

His confidence comes from discussions with senior Afghan and International Security Force officials during a recent visit to Afghanistan, the secretary general said. He added that he saw Afghan special operations forces in action during that trip and was "impressed."

Speaking from NATO headquarters in Brussels, Rasmussen said an encouraging development is that Afghans are taking more responsibility for their own training and operational activities.

"Right now, around 90 percent of all training activities are conducted by the Afghan security forces themselves," he said. "Furthermore, we have seen the Afghan security forces take the lead in around 80 percent of all our security operations. These developments are testaments to the increasing security capability of the Afghan security forces."

The secretary general noted that while NATO is on track to meet the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline, troop reductions and redeployments should not be seen as a rush for the exit. "It's actually part of the plan," he said. "As the Afghans take more responsibility, and we hand over that responsibility to them, our troops can take a step backwards and move into a more supportive role. … All 50 nations within the ISAF coalition have committed themselves to stay until the end of 2014."

Rasmussen said the NATO Response Force, which is intended as a rapid response force and as a framework for NATO training and exercises, will gain importance as operations in Afghanistan draw down.

"Furthermore, the United States has decided to rotate a brigade unit to Europe to participate in NATO Response Force activities," the secretary general said. "That would be an excellent opportunity for American service men and women to work together with partners and allies in Europe so that we maintain that ability to operate and work together."

Rasmussen also touched on the security situation in Turkey, which he said officially requested Patriot missile support from NATO last week. "This week, a military expert team is visiting Turkey to look closer into possible sites for the deployment of these Patriot missiles," he said.

The NATO countries that would supply the missiles -- the United States, Germany and the Netherlands -- are holding internal discussions, and a decision by the NATO Council would follow, he said. "I would expect that decision to be taken in days," the secretary general added.

Post-2014 Afghanistan Troop Levels Remain Undecided

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has yet to forward a recommendation to the White House on how many U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan after 2014, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

“It’s entirely premature to speculate on troop numbers in Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014 or beyond,” he said. “In September, we completed the full withdrawal of the 33,000 surge troops, and we will soon begin considering how we move forward on further troop level adjustments which will include planning for our post-2014 military and civilian presence in Afghanistan.”

Little told reporters the defense secretary will speak tomorrow with Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, to discuss a “range of matters on Afghanistan.”

Pentagon officials have asked for options to be considered, relatively soon, for what the post-2014 presence might look like, Little said.

“As we’ve made clear on several occasions, any U.S. presence would only be at the invitation of the Afghan government, and aimed at training Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaida,” he said.

“Ultimately, it will be the president’s call,” he said. “[President Barack Obama] will make decisions on these issues in the near future based on what’s in our national interests, as he has done in the past.

“He receives options from our military leaders on the situation on the ground,” Little continued, “and considers the recommendations with his national security team, including [Panetta], in a consultation with the Afghan government and our international partners.”

Separately, Little said, U.S. military leaders soon will present options to the Defense Department on further troop drawdowns for the coming year.

“There are no discussions, at this point, on particular options for 2013 at this stage,” he said. “As the president made clear in June 2011, our forces will continue to come home at a steady pace as we transition to an Afghan lead for security.”

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Bomb Expert

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2012 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban bomb expert in Afghanistan’s Logar province today, military officials reported.

He allegedly has built and supplied improvised explosive devices to insurgents and is believed to have selected targets for IED attacks.

Also today, an Afghan-led security force, supported by coalition troops, detained two suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban facilitator in Kandahar province. The Taliban facilitator directed IED operations, including the construction and emplacement of IEDs for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In operations yesterday:
—-- A combined force seized 2,778 pounds of hashish and recovered a cache of weapons, ammunition and communication equipment in Kandahar province. Three insurgents were killed and a suspected insurgent was detained during the operation.
-- Afghan and coalition forces in Wardak province arrested a Taliban leader who planned the transfer and delivery of ammunition and rockets to insurgents and directed the emplacement of IEDs. He also is suspected of being directly responsible for rocket, IED and small-arms attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.
-- In Nangarhar province, security combined force arrested a Taliban leader suspected of facilitating attacks against coalition forces. The security force also detained four other suspected insurgents.
-- A combined force in Logar province arrested a Haqqani network weapons facilitator who managed and maintained control over weapons caches and was responsible for the movement and delivery of supplies and weapons to Haqqani fighters. The security force also seized firearms during the operation.
-- In Wardak province, a combined force arrested an insurgent IED attack leader.
-- A combined force in Ghazni province arrested three insurgents during a search for a Taliban operations advisor. The security force killed an insurgent who fired at them and seized a rifle with ammunition.
-- Also in Ghazni province, a combined force arrested an insurgent while searching for a Taliban IED attack leader.
-- In Khost province, security combined force arrested a Haqqani network IED and direct-fire attack leader who also is believed to facilitate the transfer and delivery of IEDs and assorted weapons into Afghanistan. The security force seized firearms and associated gear.
-- A combined force in Takhar province detained an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan weapons facilitator who is believed to have purchased rifles, machine guns, mortar systems, and fertilizer for building IEDs to conduct attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.
-- In Kunduz province, a combined force detained four insurgents during a search for a Taliban operations leader.
-- A combined force in Helmand province arrested two Taliban facilitators believed to be orchestrating an impending high-profile attack. The security force also detained two other suspected insurgents.

In other recent operations:
-- A combined force in Helmand province arrested a Taliban leader Nov. 24. He is believed to have facilitated movement of weapons and ammunition and to have coordinated attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces. Several other suspected insurgents were detained in the operation.
-- Also in Helmand province, a combined force arrested a Taliban attack coordinator Nov. 23. He is suspected of being directly responsible for coordinating vehicle-bomb and suicide-bomber attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Navy Casualty

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

Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin R. Ebbert, 32, of Arcata, Calif., died Nov. 24 while supporting stability operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.  Ebbert was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit in Virginia Beach, Va.  

For further information related to this release, please contact the Naval Special Warfare Group Two Public Affairs Office at 757-763-2007.