Saturday, June 29, 2013

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Justin R. Rogers, 25, of Barton, N.Y., died June 28, in Bagram, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation.  

He was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. 

For more information the media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 931-217-5074 or 931-220-7993.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Marine Transition in Helmand Ahead of Schedule, Amos Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2013 – Marine Corps security handoff and equipment recovery efforts in southern Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force are both ahead of schedule, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said here today.

Amos told the Defense Writers Group that conditions in Helmand province, which he visited last week, are “pretty remarkable” and “dramatically different” from what they were even six months ago.

“I was there at Christmas, and I was there in February, … and we just got back again,” he said. “Even from Christmas, the focus began to [be] the advise-and-assist teams.” He noted the 28- or 30-member teams drawn from across the coalition’s forces worked with individual Afghan army and police kandaks, or battalions, and their headquarters.

“We brought teams in last fall, and we reorganized the structure” in Helmand from seven Marine Corps infantry battalions to two, Amos said. That demonstrates how well the Afghan army has been doing, he added -- “really well.”

The advise and assist teams had been forecast for an intense effort through this year, Amos said, but “we missed the mark on that” because Afghan forces have improved more quickly than expected.

Some teams will be pulled out in the coming months, he added, and the advise-and-assist mission has gone well enough that in southern Helmand, Afghan army and police forces haven’t asked for the Marines’ operational help in more than a month.

“It’s the same thing going up north, except the Taliban have gotten a little bit frisky trying to test the Afghan National Army in places like Sangin,” he said.

Over the next year, Marine forces in Helmand will focus on advising at the corps, brigade and provincial government level, Amos said. He added the remaining two infantry battalions also will serve as a transitional “shock absorber” for Afghan forces’ logistics, sustainment and training.

“This is what we would hope to happen, but we didn’t think it would happen this soon,” he said.

Responding to a question on how much Marine Corps equipment would remain behind after the major U.S. troop withdrawal ends in 2014, Amos said that barring any designated for handover to Afghan forces, none will. After the war in Iraq ended, he noted, the Marine Corps learned its lesson.

In Helmand, Amos said, equipment went home along with the Marines, estimating that 65 to 70 percent of Marine Corps gear already is out of the country. “We’ve been flying equipment out for a year and a half. … These lots are empty. They’re clean,” he said.

Transition in Helmand is ahead of schedule, and nobody is running for the doors, Amos said. “We’re right where we need to be,” he added.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Combined Force Arrests Extremists in Wardak Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested two extremists during a June 22 search for a Haqqani network facilitator in the Pul-e Alam district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province, military officials reported.

The facilitator oversees transportation and distribution of weapons, ammunition and other supplies to extremist groups and has participated in attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

In a June 21 operation, a combined force in Paktia province’s Gardez district wounded an extremist during a search for a Haqqani network leader who leads extremists responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in several provinces. He also oversees improvised explosive device operations and facilitates the acquisition and distribution of weapons.

In June 20 operations:

-- Afghan and coalition forces disrupted an extremist command and control point in Helmand province’s Sangin district. The forces seized 33 IED pressure plates, 23 liters of homemade explosives and 10 battery packs.

-- In Ghazni province’s Deh Yak district, a combined force arrested a high-level operational commander who supervised the activities of several extremist groups responsible for IED operations and the acquisition and distribution of weapons. The security force also arrested three other enemy fighters.

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Javier Sanchez Jr., 28, of Greenfield, Calif., died June 23, in Sar Rowzah, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on mounted patrol.  He was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

For more information, media may contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Centcom Undertakes Massive Logistical Drawdown in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., June 21, 2013 – Two years ago, as commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was marching against a strict Dec. 31, 2011 deadline to complete the largest logistical drawdown since World War II.

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Army Sgt. Andrew Markley, materiel redistribution yard noncommissioned officer for Forward Operating Base Sharana, helps move containers at his facility. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
It was a mammoth undertaking, involving troop redeployments and equipment retrogrades that had peaked at the height of coalition operations in 2007 and 2008. At that time, the United States had 165,000 service members and 505 bases in Iraq – all packed to the gills with everything from weapons systems and computers networks to bunking and dining facilities.

Austin had to reduce the force to zero, collaborating with U.S. Central Command to determine whether equipment should return to the United States or be transferred to the Iraqis or sent to Afghanistan to support the war effort there.

Centcom, in lockstep with U.S. Transportation Command and its service components, redeployed the 60,000 troops who remained in Iraq at the time and more than 1 million pieces of equipment ahead of their deadline.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, commemorating the end of America's military mission in Iraq at a mid-December 2011 ceremony in Baghdad, praised Austin for conducting “one of the most complex logistical undertakings in U.S. military history.”

“Your effort to make this day a reality is nothing short of miraculous,” Panetta told Austin.

Today, as the Centcom commander, Austin is facing an even more-daunting challenge as he carries out a larger, more complex drawdown operation, in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s geography, weather and security situation and its limited transportation infrastructure present bigger obstacles than planners ever faced in Iraq, Scott Anderson, Centcom’s deputy director for logistics and engineering, said during an interview at the command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base here.
Also, there’s no other combat operation to transfer the mountain of logistics to. Everything has to be transferred to the Afghans, sold to a partner nation, destroyed so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, or returned to the United States, Anderson noted.

First and foremost among the challenges is Afghanistan’s landlocked location. There’s no ready access to a seaport, and no Kuwait next door, providing an initial staging point for retrograde operations as it did during the Iraq drawdown.

“Kuwait was our ‘catcher’s mitt,’” Anderson said. “If you were to ask me how long it takes to retrograde out of Iraq, I would say as long as it takes to get across the border to Kuwait.”

In contrast, there’s no similar “catcher’s mitt” for Afghanistan, he said. “Leaving Afghanistan, you can’t just go next door to Pakistan or up into Uzbekistan and park. Once the movement begins, you have to keep moving, and the velocity continues until [the shipment] gets home to the U.S.”

Outgoing shipments -- about 1,000 pieces of rolling stock and more than 2,000 cargo containers per month -- are moving primarily by air or through ground routes across Pakistan, Eastern Europe and Western Asia known as the Northern Distribution Network, Anderson reported.

When flying equipment out from Afghanistan,“multimodal transport” is the most-favored option. It involves an initial movement to one country, usually by air, then a transfer to another conveyance such as a ship for the rest of the trip.

The shortest and least-expensive ground routes out of Afghanistan pass through Pakistan to its port in Karachi. Centcom and Transcom used the “Pakistan ground lines of communication” for about 70 percent of Afghanistan-bound shipments until the Pakistan government abruptly closed them in November 2011 for seven months over a political dispute, Anderson said.

That forced the United States to make greater use of the Northern Distribution Network, an elaborate network of rail, sealift and trucking lines established in 2009, to sustain forces in Afghanistan, he said. It continues to provide about 80 percent of all sustainment operations.

With agreements in place to channel an ever-increasing amount of retrograde cargo through Pakistan, Anderson said Centcom is satisfied that it has ample capacity to support the drawdown.

But recognizing lessons learned, he said the United States wants to keep every possible exit route open to ensure no single “point of failure” can disrupt the effort. “If you lose a route, you lose capacity,” he said. “So you keep your options open. That’s why we look to maintain redundant routes and we want to keep those routes ‘warm’ by using them.”

Yet for now, only about 4 percent of retrograde equipment is flowing through the Northern Distribution Network.

One reason, Anderson explained, is that the vast majority of U.S. forces now are operating in eastern Afghanistan, which is closer to Pakistan than the NDN. “The majority of our cargo simply isn’t leaving the northern part of Afghanistan,” he said.

To get it across Afghanistan to the NDN involves crossing the towering Hindu Kush mountain range -- a logistical challenge that becomes monumental during the winter months.

But there are other complications to making greater use of the Northern Distribution Network, particularly for many of the shipments that initially entered Afghanistan via Pakistan or by air, Anderson explained.
Some of the physical infrastructure simply can’t accommodate the heavy equipment being moved. Many of the countries involved have strict rules about what kinds of equipment can and can’t transit through their territory -- with particular objection to weapons systems and combat vehicles. In some cases, nations will allow these shipments to cross into their borders -- but only if the contents are covered.

“For retrograde, we have had to renegotiate agreements with all the Central Asian nations” that make up the Northern Distribution Network, Anderson said. “It may not be as viable as route as we would like, but the bottom line is, we need it.”

Anderson said he’s optimistic that the retrograde is on schedule to meet President Obama’s directive that the current force -- about 60,000 -- reduce to 34,000 by February.

“Between now and February, we are going to have a substantial amount of cargo move,” he said. Calling the February deadline “achievable,” he called it an important milestone toward the Dec. 31 deadline.

Meanwhile, Centcom leaders recognize the operational requirements that continue in Afghanistan, including upcoming elections next spring.

“Some of the equipment that we would otherwise be retrograding must remain because there is an operational imperative there,” Anderson said. “So in everything we do, we are working to maintain this balance between operations going on in Afghanistan -- folks who need their vehicles and equipment -- and our ability to retrograde.”

Emphasizing that Centcom will continue to sustain forces on the ground throughout drawdown operations, Anderson said signs of the transition underway will become increasingly evident over time.

U.S. bases, which once numbered more than 600, are down to about 100, some closed but most now transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces. Much of the equipment is being shared as well, although strict U.S. laws dictate what kinds of equipment can be transferred to the Afghans or any other partners, Anderson noted.

There’s another consideration to weigh: leaving equipment the Afghans can’t maintain over the long haul does them no good. “If we know there will be challenges in maintaining what we give them, then giving them more equipment is not going to help,” Anderson said.

Meanwhile, Centcom will strive to maintain the highest quality of life for U.S. forces on the ground throughout the drawdown, he said.

One seemingly small change, however, is sending a big signal of what’s ahead. Rather than three hot meals each day, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are now getting Meals, Ready to Eat for their mid-day rations.
The idea, Anderson explained, is to use up what’s already available in the theater, particularly when shipping it home costs more than it’s worth.

“Every day, [Marine] Gen. [Joseph F.] Dunford [Jr., commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan], sits down at lunch like everyone else and eats his MRE,” Anderson said. “It sets a tremendous example.” In a small way, he said, it sets the tone for the entire drawdown process.

“We are doing the drawdown in a balanced way, and with concern about the taxpayers’ money,” Anderson said. “We want to do this in the most economical, most efficient way possible, without causing excess or waste.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Combined Force Arrests 2 Extremists in Nangarhar Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 21, 2013 – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested two extremists during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Khugyani district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province today, military officials reported.

The sought-after Taliban leader is a subordinate to one of the highest-ranking Taliban leaders in Nangarhar province, officials said. He is responsible for planning, coordinating and executing multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces using large groups of extremist fighters.

The sought-after insurgent also directs the movement of weapons, ammunition, money and other military equipment to Taliban cells operating in Nangarhar province, officials said. The security force also seized a shotgun and 30 pounds of opium as a result of the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani facilitator and five other extremists in the Pul-e ‘Alam district of Wardak province. The facilitator managed the transportation and distribution of weapons, ammunition and other supplies to extremist groups operating in the Pul-e ‘Alam district. He also participated in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- Combined forces confirmed the death of a Taliban leader, Jilani, during a June 19 operation in the Sayyidabad district of Wardak province. Jilani controlled a group of fighters responsible for attacks on Highway 1 targeting Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces. He also coordinated the movement of weapons for extremist operations and performed intelligence and reconnaissance duties for senior Taliban leaders.

In June 20 operations:

-- Afghan National Army Special Forces of the 4th Special Operations Kandak, advised by coalition forces, killed five insurgents in the Shindand district of Herat province. The insurgents attacked the joint forces as they conducted a presence patrol in the vicinity of Kushe village in south Zereko Valley. Three Afghan troops were wounded in the engagement.

-- Afghan National Army Special Forces, advised by coalition forces, killed three insurgents in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, and members of the Afghan National Army killed five insurgents in the Khakrez district of Kandahar province.

Hero Corpsman Reunites With Afghan Soldier

By Marine Corps Sgt. Bryan Peterson
Regional Command Southwest

CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan, June 20, 2013 – When Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Stanley Maculewicz visits this camp in Afghanistan’s Helmand province to advise the Afghan army’s 215th Corps Mobile Strike Force Kandak medics, he usually is welcomed with hugs and handshakes from his counterparts.

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Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Stanley Maculewicz and Afghan National Army Staff Sgt. Abdul Malik reunite at Camp Shorabak in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, June 15, 2013. Maculewicz saved Malik’s life two weeks earlier when the Afghan medic was wounded. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Shortly after he arrived here June 11, the officer in charge of his advisor team told him an Afghan soldier was looking for him. Maculewicz stopped what he was doing. He took a few steps and stopped in his tracks when he saw the soldier.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said as he stared at Staff Sgt. Abdul Malik. The two didn’t say a word or shake hands. They just hugged for a while.

Two weeks before, Maculewicz performed life-saving steps on Malik and called in an air evacuation during Operation Aoqad Se Hasht -- 38 Eagle -- in Sangin. The operation was an Afghan-led response to a Taliban attack on Afghan uniformed and local police patrol bases.

During the first week of the operation, which saw some of the heaviest fighting, Malik and another Afghan medic were recovering a fallen soldier. Malik loaded the soldier into an ambulance and was about to open the driver’s door when a bullet punched through his back below his right kidney and exited from the right side of his abdomen.

Around the time Malik was responding to the casualty call, Maculewicz was at the casualty collection point at Patrol Base Tobaq, from which the Afghan medics were operating. Unaware of Malik’s situation, he heard the call about a soldier killed in action. Minutes later, he heard another call come in about a soldier who was wounded.

“I initially thought there was some confusion in the communication, because I just had heard there was a KIA, so I thought it was just a wounded soldier,” Maculewicz said. “Either way, I was getting ready for what was coming my way. I was making sure my [Afghan] medic was prepared as well, should we take a casualty.”

Then the ambulance pulled up.

Maculewicz said his biggest fear was that if the time ever came to save someone’s life, he would freeze. Compared to his previous duty station at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he worked in the traumatic brain injury ward, the lifesaving acts he performed on Malik “were night and day,” he added.

At Walter Reed, the Washington Township, N.J., native worked in shifts and had set schedules. He had a routine -- and time to think things through. Now, Maculewicz is on his first combat deployment, and it is his first time serving with a Marine Corps unit. He also is the only corpsman on the advisor team, with no set schedule or routine. He learned that from Field Medical Training Battalion at Camp Johnson, N.C.
“When I was at FMTB, where you learn how to be a combat corpsman before joining a [Marine Corps] unit, they put you in situations like I was with Malik,” he said. “But when you’re in a training environment, the person still lives. It’s just training. But the instructors always told us, ‘Once you’re in that moment, it will automatically click in your head.’”

Maculewicz said he helped to pull the wounded soldier out and didn’t realize who it was. “I began working on him immediately,” he said, looking for wounds to Malik’s chest, arms, abdomen and leg.

“Each part of the body requires different treatments,” he explained. “Even if it’s a gunshot wound in the arm or the leg, each will require different measures.”

Once Maculewicz located the injury, he began stabilizing Malik. He treated the Afghan medic’s back and rolled him over to treat the exit wound. He asked the interpreter to reassure his patient that everything was going to be OK. Then he glanced at his face and realized who it was.

Without a pause, he applied a chest seal on the wound.

“The day before the operation began, I was training the medics about keeping a patient breathing should they have an open wound between their chest and hips,” Maculewicz said. “Malik was my go-to medic, so I applied a chest seal on him [to demonstrate for the class]. Now, I was doing it to save his life.”

Maculewicz couldn’t tell if Malik had any internal damage, but he didn’t want that to go unnoticed. He knew the wounded soldier would have to be evacuated by helicopter.

While treating Malik, Maculewicz reassured him everything would be fine, while relaying information to a Marine who was calling in the evacuation request.

“It was a lot of pressure that day,” the Navy corpsman said, “because in addition to all I had to do to get Malik out of there, there were also more than 20 [Afghan] soldiers watching me.”

The helicopter arrived shortly after Malik was stabilized. He was loaded up on the ambulance and driven to the landing zone, and Maculewicz said what he thought were the final goodbyes.

“I thought I wasn’t going to see him after that,” Maculewicz said. “I mean, I was confident he was going to be fine, but I just didn’t think he would be back at the unit.”

Malik didn’t remember much from the time he was shot to the time he arrived at the patrol base, but he did remember watching Maculewicz working on him -- and knowing he would be fine because “Doc is a great teacher.” He spent two days at the Camp Bastion Role 3 hospital and a week at Camp Shorabak’s clinic.
While recovering, Malik awaits orders for convalescent leave to see his family and newborn son in the Afghan capital of Kabul -- but he wanted to see Maculewicz first. The two spent more than an hour catching up, talking about the injury and the fighting in Sangin.

“He saved my life,” Malik said. “I can’t repay him for what he did for me, but I am going to get back to my job and keep fighting the Taliban. I will be back and be there for my soldiers’ medical needs, just like Doc was there for me.”

Maculewicz said he was surprised to see Malik walking, talking and laughing “as if nothing happened.”
Malik said he plans to spend his leave telling his friends and family about his experience, but “most importantly, I am going to tell everyone about my friend, Doc, who is the reason why I’m here today.
“It is my hope the people I tell spread the word about the Americans and their good intentions in Afghanistan,” he continued. “We call our fallen soldiers heroes, but Doc is my hero, too.”

Every time Maculewicz conducted training, he said, Malik always volunteered first. “He took the training to heart, and he was an example to his medics,” he said. “We have become close during this deployment.”
Maculewicz said seeing Malik wounded hit him hard, “because it would have been like treating a Marine I’ve known on this deployment.”

The corpsman said he’s no hero -- he merely did what he signed up to do.
“My mom tells me she’s going to slap me upside the head, because she keeps telling me I’m too modest,” Maculewicz said with a laugh. “I guess I know what’s coming when I come home.”

Afghan Government Key to Transition, Hagel Stresses

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 – Milestone 2013, which happened June 18 and marked Afghan forces’ assumption of the lead in security responsibility for their country, is an unprecedented achievement for the Afghan people, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said yesterday.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responds during a question-and-answer session with students from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in Omaha, Neb., June 19, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During a speech in Omaha, Neb., at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Hagel said the milestone
“keeps us on track to responsibly end the war next year in Afghanistan and allows us to transition to a far more limited, noncombat mission to assist the Afghan government as it takes full responsibility for the country's future.”
The secretary noted the United States and other nations will continue to engage in Afghanistan and will work with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India “to advance security in that critically important region in the world.”

After his speech, Hagel responded to a question about the role of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s future. The group has opened an office in Qatar, he noted, and the United States supports that initiative.

“We've always supported a peaceful resolution to the end of the bloodshed in the war in Afghanistan,” Hagel said, noting that acceptable conditions are in place for the United States to accept the possibility of a next set of meetings between Taliban and Afghan government representatives.

He cautioned, however, that the Taliban would have to “agree to certain things” before meetings would involve the United States.

“I think it's worth the risk,” he added. “But it can't be done without President [Hamid] Karzai, without the government of Afghanistan.”

Hagel pointed out that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen attended the Milestone 2013 ceremony in the Afghan capital of Kabul, representing the 50 member nations of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. Both NATO and U.S. forces have worked to establish stability in Afghanistan for more than a decade, he noted.

“This is really about the people, or it should be -- giving the people of Afghanistan … rights and freedom to make their own lives,” Hagel said.

The secretary noted that as a senator, he was part of the first congressional delegation to travel to Afghanistan after 9/11. “I've dealt with President Karzai right from the beginning,” he said. “I've known him since 2001 and have a very good relationship with him. But he represents his government, his people. He needs to do what he thinks is right.”

Hagel acknowledged the process is a bit frustrating. “But we have to continue to work at it,” he added, and we will continue to work at it.”

Afghanistan’s future depends largely on a political situation based on peace, Hagel said. If a politically negotiated settlement is possible, he asked, “Isn't it smarter, isn't it worth some risk, if the terms are right, to try to facilitate some agreement here that would … give the poor people of Afghanistan some opportunity to not to have to live in constant war that they've had to live in for decades?”

U.S. and NATO leaders are cleared-eyed about the possible obstacles to political settlement, the secretary said.

“But I think we have to continue to work it,” he added. “And it can't be done without the government of Afghanistan.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Coalition, Afghan Forces Arrest Extremists in Paktia Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 20, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested three extremists during a search for a senior Haqqani network leader in the Zurmat district of Afghanistan’s Paktia province today, military officials reported.

The Haqqani leader organizes and executes attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and manages supply routes for weapons and equipment.

The security force also seized a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a grenade, six anti-personnel mines, body armor, nine assault rifle magazines and ammunition.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district killed a Taliban leader who produced and distributed improvised explosive devices and facilitated the movement of Taliban weapons.

-- Afghan local police in Kandahar’s Panjwai district neutralized four IEDs after seeing enemy fighters planting them. Working from the district’s newest checkpoint, local police for the village of Pay-e Maluk have neutralized 12 IEDs over the last week in their daily patrols.

-- A combined force in Wardak province’s Sayyidabad district killed two extremists during a search for a Taliban leader who controls a group responsible for attacks on Highway 1 targeting Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces. He also coordinates the movement of weapons and performs intelligence and reconnaissance duties for senior Taliban leaders.

-- An Afghan provincial response company uncovered more than 800 pounds of homemade explosive materials near Wardak’s Sra Kala village and arrested a suspect.

Army Casualties

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

They died June 18, in Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire. 

Killed were:
Sgt. Justin R. Johnson, 25, of Hobe Sound, Fla, assigned to the 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, Fort Eustis, Va.,
Spc. Ember M. Alt, 21, of Beech Island, S.C.,
Spc. Robert W. Ellis, 21, of Kennewick, Wash., and 
Spc. William R. Moody, 30, of Burleson, Texas, all assigned to 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
For more information on Sgt. Johnson, media may contact Joint-Base Langley-Eustis public affairs at 757-878-4920, or after normal business hours at 757-878-5050.

For more information on Spc. Moody, Spc. Alt, or Spc. Ellis, media may contact the Fort Carson public affairs office at 719-526-4143/7525, or after hours at 719-526-5500.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Combined Force in Kandahar Arrests Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 19, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and another extremist in Kandahar City, the provincial capital of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, today, military officials reported.

The Taliban leader is responsible for attacks on Afghan and coalition forces, facilitates the movement of weapons in Kandahar City and the province’s Shah Wali Kot district, and manages weapons caches.
The security force also seized an assault rifle in the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Kandahar City arrested a Taliban facilitator who procures improvised explosive devices, weapons and ammunition and distributes them for attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces. He also manages supply routes into Kandahar province. The security force also arrested six other extremists.

-- In Helmand province’s Marjah district, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who controls groups responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also finances local Taliban cells, coordinates ammunition storage and coordinates IED movement and placement. The security force also arrested five other extremists and seized a shotgun.

-- Also in Helmand’s Marjah district, a combined force arrested five extremists during a search for Taliban leader who coordinates, directs and executes attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also passes strategic guidance from senior Taliban leadership to low-level fighters and facilitates movement of IEDs and other equipment. The security force also seized an assault rifle, four magazines and ammunition.

In operations yesterday:

-- In Herat province’s Shindand district, Afghan special forces soldiers killed two enemy fighters who attacked them during a patrol near a local police checkpoint.

-- Afghan special forces soldiers detained five enemy fighters in Kandahar’s Maiwand district. The Afghan forces planned and executed the unilateral operation to deny the enemy a safe haven in Chesmeth village

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dunford Congratulates Afghans for Taking Lead in Security

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 – With Afghanistan’s national security forces now leading all security operations throughout the country, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan today congratulated the Afghan people.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. called the milestone “a monumental step forward.”
“No longer are the Afghan people reliant on coalition forces to provide security,” the general said. “Afghan soldiers and police are now protecting fellow Afghans.”

The announcement of what planners call “Tranche 5” in the transition process begins the final phase of Afghan forces assuming full security responsibility throughout Afghanistan.

“This is a cause for celebration, not apprehension,” Dunford told the Afghan people. “While the nature of our relationship is changing, the commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan remains resolute and enduring.”

Two weeks ago, NATO’s defense ministers approved the concept for a new mission in Afghanistan beginning in 2015. The details of this new mission, called Resolute Support, will be developed in the coming months, officials said.

“Challenges lie ahead,” Dunford said. “But today’s announcement recognizes the ability of a sovereign Afghanistan to meet those challenges. The Afghan people will see their sons and daughters providing security. The enemies of Afghanistan will see a capable, credible force.

“Today is a proud day for Afghanistan,” he continued. “We in the coalition look forward to supporting you in the months and years ahead as you seize the opportunity to realize your dreams of a peaceful, prosperous future.”

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill Extremists in Paktia Province

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 18, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed two extremists during a search for a senior Haqqani network leader in the Zurmat district of Afghanistan’s Paktia province yesterday, military officials reported.

The Haqqani leader controls a group responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and facilitates the movement of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices and components.

Also yesterday, Afghan special forces soldiers, advised by coalition forces, detained five enemy fighters in Farah province’s Bala Boluk district.

In Helmand province June 15, Afghan and coalition security forces worked together in three operations that resulted in confiscation of Afghan police uniforms and caches of weapons and explosive materials. Four enemy fighters were arrested in connection with the discoveries. They also are suspected of kidnapping local Afghans for ransom.

Transition Opens New Opportunities in Afghanistan, Region

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., June 18, 2013 – Afghan forces formally assuming the lead in security operations throughout their country today and U.S. and coalition forces continuing their drawdowns in Afghanistan is opening new opportunities for the United States to engage more broadly, not just in Afghanistan, but across the region, the top policy and planning officer at U.S. Central Command said.

The U.S. commitment to Afghanistan will continue long after combat operations end in December 2014, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. William D. Beydler, Centcom’s director of strategy, plans and policy, told American Forces Press Service at the command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base here.

“We are not leaving at the end of 2014,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, we are reducing our combat presence, but our presence from a train-and-advise standpoint is only going to get better and more focused along those lines. … We are transitioning to an enduring presence that is acceptable to the Afghans and that allows them to continue the progress they have made.”

With a post-2014 security agreement still being negotiated, Beydler said it’s not yet clear what the bilateral relationship will look like after the transition.

“That will largely be determined by the Afghans,” he said. “They obviously are going to have a large say in where [U.S. forces] might be based, what our interactions will be, what the legal implications will be, and what the support arrangement will be.”

The goal, Beydler said, is to provide an enduring presence in Afghanistan that can continue to train and advise the increasingly capable, 350,000-strong Afghan National Security Forces.

That capability, highlighted during a ceremony today as NATO officially handed lead security responsibilities for the remaining areas of Afghanistan to the Afghan forces, will continue to grow over time, he said.

As Afghan forces take the planning and operational lead during the current fighting season and prepare for security challenges of next spring’s elections, the training emphasis is increasingly focused on building capability in the aviation, logistics and supply, maneuver and fires arenas, he said.

“That will take place over the next few years,” Beydler said. “And we will be there, supporting that as it comes into full operational capability.”

Meanwhile, Centcom is working closely with the NATO and the International Security Assistance Force commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., to support the operational and tactical-level transition, Beydler said.

Bases are being closed as operations consolidate. Equipment is leaving Afghanistan -- some through Pakistan, some through the Northern Distribution Network that stretches through North and Central Asia and Russia, and some by air. Troop numbers are drawing down, freeing up manpower to engage in other parts of the world.

As this unfolds, Beydler cited new opportunities to increase military-to-military engagement more widely across the Centcom area of responsibility that stretches from Egypt to Kazakhstan.

The United States currently engages with 18 of the 20 regional nations -- all but Iran and Syria, he said.
“The perception seems to be that we are withdrawing from the region, centered around the fact that we are reducing combat operations and moving to a stabilized presence in Afghanistan between now and 2014,” Beydler said. “But it is a misnomer to think that we are going to walk out at the end of 2014, shut the door, and that there is not going to be anything left behind.

“We will continue to engage not only in Afghanistan, but across the entire Centcom [area of responsibility],” he continued. “We will be engaged financially. We will be engaged from a training standpoint. We will be engaged from an exercise standpoint. The fact is we will continue to be engaged across the spectrum. And some areas and in some ways, we will be able to be more engaged than ever before, because after 10 or 12 years of sustained combat operations, we will have the capacity to do so.”