Wednesday, May 30, 2018

United States Citizen Sentenced to 35 Years for Providing Material Support to Al-Shabaab

Maalik Alim Jones, 33, of Baltimore, Maryland, was sentenced today to 35 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization based in Somalia, conspiring to receive military training from al-Shabaab, and carrying and using an AK-47 machinegun, rocket-propelled grenades, and other destructive devices in furtherance of his support for al-Shabaab.  Jones pleaded guilty on Sept. 8, 2017, to a three-count Superseding Information.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York made the announcement.  U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe imposed Jones’s sentence.

“U.S. citizens who travel overseas to fight with a terrorist organization – which is what Jones did – betray our country and pose a serious threat to our national security,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.   “The National Security Division remains committed to committed to identifying and stopping terrorists like Jones, and we will hold them accountable.  Credit goes to all those who worked so tirelessly to bring Jones to justice.”

“We may never know what drove Maalik Jones to travel to Somalia and pledge allegiance to al Shabaab, a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy America,” said U.S. Attorney Berman.  “But we do know that with today’s sentence, Jones is no longer a threat to America’s ideals.”

According to the Complaint, the Indictment, the Superseding Information, and statements made in court proceedings, including at sentencing:

In July 2011, Jones left Baltimore to join al-Shabaab in Somalia.  Jones traveled to New York City, then flew via commercial aircraft to Kenya, with stopovers in Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.  After arriving in Kenya, Jones traveled by land from Kenya to Somalia, which is a common travel route for foreign fighters traveling to Somalia to join al-Shabaab.

In Somalia, Jones joined al-Shabaab and was a member of the terrorist organization for approximately four years.  During this time, Jones trained, worked and fought with al-Shabaab in Somalia.  Among other things, Jones received three months of military training at an al-Shabaab training camp, where he learned, among other things, how to operate an AK-47 assault rifle and rocket-propelled grenades.  Upon completion of this training, Jones also was assigned to al-Shabaab’s specialized fighting force, Jaysh Ayman, and participated in combat against soldiers of the Kenyan government on behalf of al-Shabaab.

In particular, after joining Jaysh Ayman, Jones and his Jaysh Ayman unit participated in a battle in Afmadow, Somalia, against Kenyan government soldiers.  Jones, armed with an AK-47 rifle, engaged in the fighting until he was injured by a missile and then hospitalized.  After his release from the hospital, Jones continued to operate with al-Shabaab and, in particular, Jaysh Ayman.

Jones has appeared with other al-Shabaab fighters in videos that were recovered from an al-Shabaab fighter who participated in and was killed during the aforementioned Lamu Attack.  In one of the videos, Jones can be seen holding a firearm, and in the company of several al-Shabaab fighters.  The al-Shabaab fighters are depicted greeting each other, hugging each other and carrying firearms.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Jones was taken into custody by Somali authorities while he was attempting to procure a boat to depart Somalia for Yemen.

*                *                *

Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD.  Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. Department of State, for their assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew J. DeFilippis and Shawn G. Crowley of the Southern District of New York, and Trial

South Asia Strategy in Afghanistan Shows Results, Nicholson Says

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The South Asia strategy in Afghanistan has spawned intensified dialogue and a drop in Taliban violence, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, told reporters today.

Speaking to Pentagon media via teleconference from Kabul, Afghanistan, the commander said the goal of the South Asia strategy is reconciliation, and Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani has called it a game changer.

Six months into the strategy, Nicholson said, “we had the elements of a peace proposal outlined by the Taliban in an open letter to America and a formal peace offer by President Ghani,” followed by other communication channels.

Between February, when the peace offers were made, and the end of April, the levels of enemy-initiated violence dropped to 30 percent below the five-year average, Nicholson said.

But on April 25, the Taliban announced their offensive and since then, the violence has increased, but still stands at a level that’s 10 percent to 20 percent below the five-year average, he said.

“I call this talking and fighting,” Nicholson said. “And, as [Defense Secretary James N. Mattis] has said, ‘violence and progress can coexist,’ and that's what we're seeing.”

The South Asia policy brought additional firepower and authorities, he said, noting that the Taliban have sought to avoid attacks by air, and have targeted more remote district centers.

During the period of violence, the Afghan National Defense and security forces defeated more than 80 percent of the enemy attacks on district centers, meaning the Taliban failed to achieve their target goals, the general noted.

The 20 percent of the attacks in which the Taliban were successful in taking five district centers have been retaken by Afghan forces, the commander said, adding some were retaken in anywhere from hours to 10 days.

Driving the Enemy From Farah

“The one exception to a remote district center being attacked [by the Taliban] was the city of Farah. Within 24 hours of the attack, these Afghan forces, supported by the Afghan air force, and enabled by the United States, drove the enemy out of the city and into surrounding districts, where they pursued them for a week,” Nicholson said.

He added, “During this pursuit, a number of these Taliban leaders and fighters returned to Helmand, and through some great intelligence work by our Marines, … they tracked 50 of them to a meeting in Musa Qala and struck them with rockets, killing dozens of the enemy leaders.”

Another example of a failed enemy attack took place today, the general said.

Eight terrorists in a captured Humvee attempted to penetrate the ministry of interior headquarters in downtown Kabul, he said.

“They were stopped, and in a sharp firefight with special police, all of the enemy were killed, with the exception of one, who was captured. We did lose one friendly casualty and had a few wounded, but the enemy attack failed and never was able to penetrate MOI headquarters,” Nicholson said.

“[These] are just a few examples of the improvements we've seen in the [Afghan forces] fighting abilities, which … is the focus of our investment and one of the key parts of the South Asia strategy -- defeating 80 percent of enemy attacks, retaking any fallen district centers, successfully defending Farah, pursuing and killing the attackers, defeating terrorist attacks,” the general said.

Counterterrorism is the other key mission in Afghanistan, and the top two targets remain the Islamic State-Khorasan Province and al-Qaida, the commander said, noting that while the Islamic State aspires to spread around the country, it is geographically limited to Jowzjan, Nangarhar and Kunar.

“Our [counterterrorism] team recently killed the leader of the Jowzjan enclave, Qari Hekmatullah, and many of his fighters, which caused many of them to fade away or to flip sides to the Taliban, severely disrupted,” Nicholson said.

“We are maintaining the pressure on that particular enclave to defeat this group, and we're also maintaining pressure on the group in Nangarhar, with what is called Operation Hamza,” he said, “which has been going on for the past year and steadily reducing their space and inflicting casualties.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Face of Defense: Medical Logistics Soldier Supplies Kandahar Units

By Army Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Around the corner from the entrance  to the military hospital here on Kandahar Airfield there is a small office that belongs to the medical logistics team from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

However, that team only consists of just one person: Army Spc. Daimon Silva, a medical logistics specialist assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Charlie Company, 704th Brigade Support Battalion.

Small Office, Key Role in Unit Operations

Although his office may be small, Silva plays a big part in the War Horse Brigade mission.

An Army medical logistics specialist is responsible for receiving, storing, recording and issuing medical supplies that range from medication to medical equipment parts. “[Medical logistics] is not an easy task,” said Army Capt. Steven G. Oliveira, commander of Company C with the 704th. “They provide the medics, warfighters and the soldiers that are far forward the supplies they need to stabilize casualties and ensure they can get back to their families.”

Leaders have to decide who to assign to run the mission as a one-person section.

‘Silva Showed Competence, Proficiency in His Job’

“My first sergeant and I knew we had to choose someone we felt confident in, and Silva showed competence and proficiency in his job,” Oliveira said.

As the brigade's medical logistics specialist, Silva is in charge of ordering, receiving, inventorying and distributing supplies from brigade and airfield-based units. “Initially, [Silva] was going to support only the battalions within his brigade, but now his customer base is dependent on the units located on [Kandahar Airfield] as well,” Oliveira said.

Silva said he enjoys doing his job.

“I feel like I am ahead of the power curve compared to my peers,” he said.

Staying Focused on Mission

Silva attributes his success to staying focused on getting the supplies to their respective units.

“I have to make sure I order the correct items. Once they arrive, I have to inventory all the supplies to ensure I received everything the units asked for,” he said. “For the units that are not on KAF, I have to repackage the supplies after inventory, do the paperwork for the supplies to be shipped out and take it to the airfield. But if I get anything wrong, the supplies won’t get shipped, which will cause the unit not to have their supplies on time.”

Silva’s leaders have noticed his hard work. “He is performing above and beyond his rank and we are extremely proud of all the work he is doing here,” Oliveira said of Silva.

Silva has been recommended for promotion to sergeant, and he plans on re-enlisting and making the Army a career.