Thursday, January 30, 2014

U.S. Combats Nexus of Illicit Networks, WMD Proliferation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2014 – U.S. national security officials have long been worried about the nexus between terrorists and transnational criminal organizations.

That’s because these developed global networks also carry the potential of trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and related materials.

“The same networks and same recombinant pipelines that are used to successfully move an enormous amount of a multitude of illicit products -- from cocaine to weapons to bulk cash to human beings -- can easily be used and likely will be used for illicit proliferation purposes,” said Douglas Farah of IBI Consultants. He spoke at a recent Proliferation Security Initiative table top exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command that examined ways nations can work together to combat these networks.

Transnational criminal organizations have long been a challenge in Southern Command’s area of responsibility. Colombian rebels, who have fought the government in Bogota since the 1960’s have used drug smuggling to finance their operations.

Hezbollah -- the Iranian-sponsored terror group -- has long been active in South America including being implicated in the deadly bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, as well as more recent accusations of being involved in laundering drug money from the region.

In 2011, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the growth of transnational crime in Africa -- notably for drugs -- has also touched on a number of other problem areas including human trafficking and syndicates working with terror organizations. Such organized crime, Mullen said, “is not just about drugs, … it’s immigration, it’s people, it’s weapons.”

“As criminal and terrorist networks increasingly overlap and find new and innovative ways to work together when it is mutually beneficial, the likelihood of [WMD-related trafficking] increases,” Farah said.

The table top exercise in Miami brought together fourteen PSI-endorsing nations from across the Western Hemisphere, as well as Australia and Poland, united in their commitment to stopping or disrupting shipments of WMDs and WMD-related materials.

“In the Western Hemisphere, we have an opportunity to get ahead of the threat, and in Miami we saw that the region is motivated to cooperate in new ways. Interdiction -- consistent with national laws and international legal frameworks -- can have a strategic effect through cooperation,” said Rebecca K.C. Hersman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction.

How to counter the emerging threat was another focus. Under the Proliferation Security Initiative, there is now a more systematic capacity building effort called the Critical Capabilities and Practices framework. The Miami exercise was the first presentation of this framework and an associated toolkit that provides specific measures to enhance a nation’s capability to interdict -- from legal tools and rapid decision making best practices to operational training, in concert with other U.S. government programs like the U.S. State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program.

More than 100 countries have endorsed PSI. They cooperate to enhance interoperability and improve national capacities to act with speed and effectiveness to stop WMD, their delivery systems, and related items. PSI participants are addressing the proliferation challenge on all fronts – air, land, and sea transport of WMD, their delivery systems, and related items, financial transactions in support of proliferation, and networks of persons engaged in the deadly trade.

The next major PSI exercise, Fortune Guard 14, will be hosted by U.S. Pacific Command in August.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pentagon Condemns Afghan Release of Bagram Detainees

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2014 – An Afghan government order to release 37 of 88 detainees who U.S. Defense Department leaders have deemed to be legitimate threats to national security drew condemnation from a Pentagon spokesman today.

Army Col. Steve Warren said strong evidence or investigative leads support the detainees’ prosecution or further investigation.

A special government panel called the Afghan Review Board, or ARB, ordered that the 37 detainees be released from the Afghan-supervised detention facility at Bagram Airfield.

“ARB is releasing dangerous insurgents, and the [United States] has provided extensive information and evidence on each of these 88 detainees,” Warren said. “We strongly condemn the extrajudicial release of these detainees.”

Warren also noted that of the 37 detainees, 17 are linked to the production of or attacks using improvised explosive devices, three participated in or had knowledge of direct attacks wounding or killing 11 Afghan national security forces members, and four participated in or had knowledge of direct attacks wounding or killing 42 U.S. or coalition service members.

The colonel described the detainees as “bad guys” and “individuals with U.S., coalition and Afghan blood on their hands.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Afghan Forces Winning Tough Fight Against Taliban

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2014 – Afghan National Security Forces are prevailing in their battles against the Taliban and other fighters, a senior U.S. commander told reporters from Afghanistan today.

And, Afghan forces are doing well with minimal assistance from the International Security Assistance Force as the end of the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan nears, Army Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of ISAF’s Joint Command said as he addressed the Pentagon press corps via satellite.

“Throughout the summer, it was a tough fight and the Afghans stood up … and fought well across the board throughout the provinces and the districts,” Milley said. “The Afghan security forces were tactically overmatching anything that the Taliban … or anybody else could throw at them.”

But Milley acknowledged Afghan casualties have increased 50-70 percent during some 3,000-4,000 firefights in recent years.

The U.S. and its NATO allies, Milley said, have shifted gears in Afghanistan since the invasion following the 9/11 attacks. At that time, he said, there were no Afghan police, and only remnants of the Northern Alliance patched together in small units.

“We came into this country … to prevent [it] from ever again being a platform to carry terrorism to the shores of the United States or any other vital national interest,” Milley said.

Antiterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, Milley explained, were intended to stabilize the country and establish a capable Afghan security force.

In the ensuing years, Afghan forces’ leadership, skills and cohesion have continued to improve, Milley said.

“The Afghans stepped up to the fight,” the general said. “Was it perfect? No. Was it pretty? No. But war is not a pretty thing.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

NATO Personnel Making it Matter in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Jan. 23, 2014 – International Security Assistance Force personnel are making a difference in Afghanistan as the NATO mission there enters its final year, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said here yesterday.

Dunford commands ISAF, which includes U.S. forces. He and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are attending the 170th NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting at NATO headquarters here.

Dunford said his troops are highly motivated as they perform a tough mission under arduous conditions.

“One of the campaign imperatives that I have is the spirit, discipline and the will of the force, which I don’t take for granted,” Dunford said. “I have not seen any indication that the uncertainty of the political environment has affected our guys in what they do every day. In fact, I’m astounded at how little impact that has.”

The troops are focused on getting done what needs to get done, he said.

There are about 58,000 troops in Afghanistan today from the 28 NATO nations and 22 partner countries. About 36,000 of those troops are American. Afghan security forces are in the lead throughout the country, with NATO personnel training and advising the Afghan military and police.

The NATO service members draw their strength from what they have accomplished with the Afghan forces, Dunford said. Personnel who have served in Afghanistan for multiple tours can see the increase in Afghan capabilities and capacity, the general said.

“The force as a whole believes they are making a difference with the Afghans and they are increasingly proud of the Afghan forces’ performance,” he said.

He said the way the Afghans handled security for November’s loya jirga was one example of the progress made. The assembly was in Kabul with Afghan army and police working together to provide security for more than 3,000 delegates. The loya jirga was a terrorist target.

Yet the Afghans handled the security and there were no incidents. “Our guys see that and know they are making a difference,” Dunford said.

Afghan special operations forces are making similar strides. Dunford spoke of Afghan-planned, Afghan-manned and Afghan-led missions now being conducted routinely.

“Those glimmers of capability development mean a lot to our guys,” he said.

Dunford also credits the senior enlisted leaders in the country with the high morale.

“You can’t be a strong, silent type at this point in the campaign,” he said. “You’ve got to be talking to people every day. They have to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.”

Dunford tells service members to stay focused on their Afghan counterparts and the missions they are assigned to do, “and we will take care of that political space.”

He said service members are adamant about making it matter, adding that personnel around the country want the sacrifices to count.

“What I tell them is at the end of this year and into the next mission we have got to look at the moms and dads who have lost sons and daughters, and we have to look at our buddies that came home a little different than when they deployed -- we’ve got to look them in the eyes and say, ‘We closed the deal.’ We made it matter,” he said. “And that also keeps them going.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Army Casualty

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

Chief Warrant Officer Edward Balli, 42, of Monterey, Calif., died Jan. 20, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds from small arms fire when he was attacked by insurgents.

Balli was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, Vilseck, Germany.

For more information, media may contact the U.S. Army Europe public affairs office at 011 49 162 271 6685 or