Saturday, February 9, 2008

Gates: More NATO Troops Needed in Afghanistan

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, left, meets with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier before the beginning of the 44th Werkunde Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 9, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison

News in Balance:

MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 9, 2008 (AFPS) -- Numbers do matter, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said at a press roundtable here today.

The counterinsurgency lessons of Iraq and the experiences of the U.S. surge into that country last year, proved to the secretary that not only the quality, but the number of troops involved in operations are important.

With that in mind, he has been particularly active in asking NATO allies to dig deep for more troops for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Gates is attending the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy. He said U.S. policy in Afghanistan boils down to, “anything more (that) anyone can do in Afghanistan.”

While the alliance has not suffered any military defeats in the country, there are not enough troops to allow the alliance to make progress in all parts of the country, Gates said. There are about 43,250 international troops in ISAF, according to the NATO Web site.

In the “clear, hold, build” counterinsurgency strategy, the forces are able to clear, but are too few to hold, Gates said, which makes it close to impossible to reach the build section of the strategy.

“So we need to have enough troops there, that once these areas are cleared we can hold them, so economic development and civil development can proceed,” the secretary said. “Ideally, those that hold the territory will be Afghan police and Afghan army,” but they are not ready yet.

As the troops and police train, a short-term solution is a larger NATO-led ISAF. “Any additional numbers from any country are most appreciated,” Gates said.

The secretary pointed out to the European reporters that the alliance had a very successful year in 2007 in terms of military operations. He said the press made a big thing, this time last year, about a Taliban spring offensive. “The offensive in the spring was NATO’s offensive,” he said. “There was no Taliban offensive.”

He said one of the reasons he is sending 3,200 more Marines in Regional Command—South is to hold the military advantage in that area. “One of the reasons in seeking more troops is not because I worried that we may have setbacks or that we’re not doing well, it’s because I believe we need more troops in order to accelerate our progress and lock in our gains, and to make them permanent,” he said.

Gates wants to remind Europeans what is at stake for them in Afghanistan. He said one reason why more Europeans are not supporting operations there is because many people cannot separate the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Europeans who are opposed to what the United States has been doing in Iraq, have projected that to the operation in Afghanistan. So there probably has been some spillover in that respect,” he said.

But he also believes there hasn’t been enough discussion in Europe over the danger al Qaeda and extremists groups in the area pose to Europeans.

“I think we need to remind Europeans of the attacks that have taken place here, but also the attacks that have been thwarted and what the targets were,” Gates said.

“There is a direct threat to Europe out of (Afghanistan),” he said. “I believe the governments of Europe understand this fully and so I hope to add my voice to the number of political leaders to be more explicit to the threat to Europe itself.”

Defense officials have estimated that NATO forces in Afghanistan are roughly 7,000 to 8,000 soldiers short. U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, the ISAF commander, said he needs three maneuver battalions, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and trainers – especially trainers for the Afghan police.

(Story by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.)

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Terrorist Leader's Captured Diary Reveals al Qaeda Decline

Bloggers' Roundtable

Bloggers' Roundtable:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2008 (AFPS) -- U.S. troops found a diary belonging to an al Qaeda in Iraq leader that has Coalition forces believing the terrorist organization is “on its heels,” a senior military official in Baghdad said this morning.

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team on Nov. 3, 2007, captured a diary belonging to Abu Tariq, an al Qaeda emir in control of five battalions within two sectors, U.S. Air Force Col. Donald J. Bacon, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told online journalists and “bloggers” during a conference call.

The soldiers found the diary during a patrol conducted about 15 kilometers south of Balad. Bacon said the 16-page diary contains records about man power, operations, weapons, and finances, and it shows that al Qaeda is hurting badly in the belts of Baghdad.

“There were 600 al-Qaeda members in this sector, now there (are) 20 or less,” said Bacon.

In the diary, Tariq describes each battalion’s number decline and goes on to describe the 4th battalion as “scoundrels, sectarians and nonbelievers.” Tariq attributes his terrorist organization’s decline in large part to groups of concerned local citizens, who are also known as the Sons of Iraq.

Many high-ranking al Qaeda members, including Osama Bin Laden, have spoken out about the negative impact that the concerned local citizens groups have had on their organization. As a result, the concerned local citizens are being attacked more frequently by the terrorists, Bacon said.

Nevertheless, Bacon said the numbers of concerned local citizens are growing, which indicates that they are less afraid of al-Qaeda.

“Right now there (are) approximately 77,500 CLC’s with 135 different initiatives, and more and more are being hired,” Bacon said.

Bacon said he believes the diary is also in part a will of sorts, in case anything was to happen to Tariq.

“He wanted to keep a clear record,” Bacon said.

Bacon said he believes the diary is indicative of some other areas in Iraq but not all of Iraq. He cautioned that al Qaeda is still a dangerous enemy.

“We still believe they are our number one threat,” said Bacon.

“There is a 90 percent decline of violence in Anbar but we are still fighting them in Diala,” he added. “They still have the capacity and the will but we have the momentum.”

Bacon noted, however, that “overall levels of violence in Iraq are down, and we are seeing positive trends.”

(Story by U.S. Navy Seaman William Selby, New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)

Related:
Translation of Abu Tariq's al Qaeda Diary
Original Copy of Abu Tariq's al Qaeda Diary

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Combat Camera Video: Angelina Jolie in Baghdad

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Video: Angelina Jolie
B-Roll of Actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees visiting in Baghdad. Scenes include the ambassador talking to Gen. Patreus and having lunch with the troops.

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Combat Camera: On Board USS Theodore Roosevelt; Feb. 9, 2008

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) Aviation Ordnancemen from the weapons department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) move ordnance to the elevator on the ship's mess decks for storage in the magazine. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John K. Hamilton (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) An MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 26, lifts off from the Military Sealift Command ammunition ship USNS Mount Baker (T-AE 34) to transport ammunition to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 2, 2008) Miami Dolphins cheerleaders watch an F/A-18 Hornet launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The cheerleaders visited the carrier to perform a half-time show during the Super Bowl. Theodore Roosevelt is conducting carrier qualifications off the coast of Virginia. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 2, 2008) A T-45 Goshawk training aircraft is launched from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Roosevelt is conducting carrier qualifications off the Virginia coast. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) Aviation Ordnancemen from the weapons department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) move ordnance to the elevator on the ship's mess decks for storage in the magazine. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John K. Hamilton (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) Two MH-60S Seahawks, assigned to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 26, transport ammunition from the Military Sealift Command ammunition ship USNS Mount Baker (T-AE 34) to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sheldon Rowley (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 3, 2008) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Keith Gutkowski, from Keene, N.H., gets his shirt signed by Miami Dolphins cheerleader Ireivy in the hangar bay of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The Roosevelt is conducting carrier qualifications off the Virginia coast. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sheldon Rowley (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (February 1, 2008) T-45 Goshawk training aircraft are staged on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during flight qualifications off the coast of Virginia. Roosevelt is conducting carrier qualifications off the Virginia coast. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Snyder (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) An Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) directs an MH-60S Seahawk assigned, to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 26, during a vertical replenishment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael D. Cole (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) An MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 26, transfers ordnance from the Military Sealift Command ammunition ship USNS Mount Baker (T-AE 34) to the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael D. Cole (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 2, 2008) An Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) prepares a T-45 Goshawk training aircraft for launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Roosevelt is conducting carrier qualifications off the Virginia coast. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) The aircrew of an MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 26, looks out of their aircraft during ordnance transfers from the Military Sealift Command ammunition ship USNS Mount Baker (T-AE 34) to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sheldon Rowley (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 1, 2008) A T-45 Goshawk training aircraft lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Roosevelt is conducting carrier qualifications off the Virginia coast. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Hall (Released)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 5, 2008) An MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 26, transfers ordnance from the Military Sealift Command ammunition ship USNS Mount Baker (T-AE 34) to the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sheldon Rowley (Released)

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Combat Camera: Known Area of Interest Control in Hateen, Iraq

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Sgt. Jason Billings from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, attached to 2nd Brigrade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), supervises an Iraqi policeman inspecting cars at a traffic control point in Hateen, Iraq, Feb. 3. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Sharhonda R. McCoy, 55th Combat Camera)

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A puppy stares as Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Brennan from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, attached to 2nd Brigrade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), while seeking cover in a trash pile outside a local market in Hateen, Iraq, Feb. 3. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Sharhonda R. McCoy, 55th Combat Camera)

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Sgt. 1st Class Rickie Jackson from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 2nd Brigrade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), provides security at a traffic control point in Hateen, Iraq, Feb. 3. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Sharhonda R. McCoy, 55th Combat Camera)

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Detained Taliban Insurgents Identified

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Mohammad Daud Gulzar in an undated photo obtained during a Jan. 21 coalition forces operation in the Qalat district of Zabul province in which Gulzar was detained. Gulzar is believed to have provided intelligence, logistical support and improvised explosive devices to Taliban forces. He is also believed to be involved in the deaths of nine Afghan national security force members in Kandahar province. (Photographer: Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO)

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$1,500 in U.S. currency, 100,000 in Pakistani Rupees, 93,910 in Afgani were among several significant items discovered in the room Abdul Kabir Khan barricaded himself in while attacking coalition forces during a Jan. 23 operation in the Ghazni district of Ghazni province. The room also contained several hand grenades which were destroyed on site to prevent use by extremist forces. (Photographer: Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO)

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2008 -- Two insurgents detained during separate coalition forces’ operations have been positively identified as Mohammad Daud Gulzar and Abdul Kabir.

Mohammad Daud Gulzar was detained during a Jan. 21 operation in the Qalat District of Zabul province, which targeted insurgents with ties to Taliban and foreign-fighter facilitators.

Gulzar is believed to have provided intelligence, logistical support and improvised explosive devices to Taliban forces. He is also believed to be involved in the deaths of nine Afghan national security force members in Kandahar province.

Coalition forces also detained Abdul Kabir, known as Abdul Kabir Khan, during a Jan. 23 operation in the Ghazni District of Ghazni province targeting a Taliban commander associated with suicide improvised explosive device operations.

Khan fired small arms at the coalition forces during the course of the operation. He then barricaded himself in a room containing a number of women and children. Coalition forces successfully made their way into the room detaining Khan.

A search of the room revealed several hand grenades that were destroyed on-site and large sums of currency including $1,500 in U. S. currency.

“Taliban losses in experienced fighters, funding and equipment continue to mount to the benefit of the Afghan people,” said Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a coalition spokesperson. “With the Afghan peoples’ continued support, coalition forces will continue to pursue insurgent hideouts until Afghanistan is a free, stable country without the fear of violence and instability the Taliban embody.”

(From a Combined Joint Task Force – 82 press release.)

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Military Commissions Charges Sworn Against Guantanamo Detainee Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul

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FILE PHOTO - Commissions building courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Aug. 13, 2004. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Mobley (RELEASED)

News in Balance:

RELATED:
Sept. 11 Co-Conspirators Charged
LATEST NEWS:
U.S. Seeks Death for Six Detainees Linked to 9/11

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2008 -- The Office of Military Commissions announced today that three charges have been sworn against Guantanamo detainee Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul.

The first two charges are conspiracy and solicitation to commit: murder of protected persons, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, murder in violation of the Law of War, destruction of property in violation of the Law of War, terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism. The third charge is providing material support for terrorism.

The charges allege that in or about February of 1999, al Bahlul traveled to Afghanistan to attend military-type training and to join al Qaeda. Once a member of al Qaeda, he allegedly served as the personal secretary and media secretary of Osama bin Laden. The charge sheet states al Bahlul created a propaganda video entitled "The Destruction of the American Destroyer U.S.S. Cole," propaganda declarations styled as martyr wills for 9/11 hijackers Muhammed Atta and Ziad al Jarrah, researched the economic effects of the 9/11 attacks on the United States for Osama bin Laden, and operated al Qaeda's media communication equipment. The charges also allege al Bahlul armed himself to protect and prevent the capture of Usama bin Laden.

In accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Manual for Military Commissions, al Bahlul will be brought before the military trial judge for arraignment within 30 days of the service of charges. Within 120 days of the referred charges being served upon the accused, the military trial judge will assemble the military commission. Assembly is the procedural step that usually occurs when all parties, including the members, are present and sworn, and the judge announces on the record that the commission is now assembled. The military judge will contact attorneys in the case to set an initial trial schedule.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal advisor to the convening authority, has stated that these war crime proceedings will continue to move forward in open trials and with more due process than any alleged war criminal has historically received.

Military Commission procedures include the presumption of innocence; a burden of proof on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; the right to remain silent; the right to present evidence and a prohibition from drawing any adverse inference if an accused does not testify or present any evidence; and representation by a military defense counsel free of charge with the option to retain civilian counsel at no expense to the U.S. government.

The referred charges are only allegations that the accused has committed a war crime under the Military Commissions Act. Al Bahlul is presumed innocent of any criminal charges unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a military commission.

Of the 275 detainees at Guantanamo, approximately 80 are expected to face trial by military commission.

(From a DoD press release.)

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National Guard Responds to Tornadoes, Snowstorms

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Idaho Army National Guard soldiers of the 145th Brigade Support Battalion shovel snow off Timberlake High School Feb. 2 in Spirit Lake, Idaho. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Bill Muthiora

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Soldiers of the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 142nd Fires Brigade, repair a roof damaged by a tornado in Atkins, Ark., Feb. 5, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chris A. Durney

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A Tennessee National Guard soldier captures an aerial view of tornado damage in Tennessee while travelling with the governor's staff to assess the situation, Feb. 6, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Senior Master Sgt. Randy Harris

On the Home Front:

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 8, 2008 (AFPS) -- Nearly 300 members of the National Guard responded to call-ups from governors in seven states over the last week after tornadoes hit the South and snowstorms blanketed the West.

National Guard units responded in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee after an unseasonable string of winter thunderstorms and tornadoes charged through communities Feb. 5 and left large swaths of destruction, death and injuries.

In Kentucky, up to 139 guardsmen with 32 humvees, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, a heavy equipment wrecker, a fuel tanker and a bus deployed to tornado damaged areas.

The Kentucky Guard provided emergency power for the Muhenberg Water Company and operated a mobile command post in Muhenberg County. Soldiers of the 307th Maintenance Company supported state and local law enforcement agencies at traffic control points.

In Arkansas, Army National Guard soldiers aided victims of a devastating tornado that touched down in Atkins. Arkansas National Guard troops from the 142nd Fires Brigade were called out late Feb. 5, and reported to disaster sites in the early hours of Feb. 6.

The soldiers provided a 5,000-gallon water truck to Clinton and two 500-gallon water trailers and a generator to the Town of Mountain View. Guard aviation assets provided aerial reconnaissance for Gov. Mike Beebe and the state's Department of Emergency Management. Twenty-eight guardsmen performed search and rescue missions in Atkins on Wednesday and aided with cleanup missions, through Friday.

The Tennessee National Guard operated five UH-60s in aerial assessment missions. In addition, 24 guardsmen supported civilian emergency response agencies with debris removal. Many are currently operating from a support base and civilian shelter at the Lafayette Armory.

Additional Tennessee guardsmen are planning to supply emergency power for the Red Boiling Springs Water System and a hospital in Hartsville. Up to 150 guardsmen are also planning to support debris removal operations in Macon, Trousdale and Sumner counties.

In the West, where heavy snowfalls stranded residents and motorists, National Guard units in Wisconsin, Oregon, New Mexico and Idaho were slowing or halting their operations Friday after several days of emergency response missions.

After the winter storms stranded an estimated 800 motorists on a 19-mile stretch of Interstate-90 in Wisconsin, 68 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers and airmen deployed and conducted health and wellness checks and delivered about 5,000 bottles of water and about 350 packaged meals to stranded victims. The Guard also flew aerial surveillance missions for emergency response personnel.

Thirty-four members of the Oregon National Guard cleared snow away from roadways and utilities. Soldiers were operating two Army Guard mine detectors to locate fire hydrants, water covers and pipes.

New Mexico National Guardsmen provided assistance to the town of Chama after Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency for Rio Arriba County. Twenty-seven Soldiers were assisting local residents with snow removal.

In Idaho, 63 Guardsmen deployed Feb. 2 to remove snow from the roofs of nine schools in the northern part of the state after four feet of snow crippled school systems in three counties.

(Story by Tech Sgt. Mike R. Smith, USAF, National Guard Bureau.)

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Post Office to Offer First Ever Military Discount

Focus on Defense

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2008 (AFPN) -- Planning to send a care package to a military service member serving abroad? Send it after March 3 to take advantage of a new flat-rate box from the Postal Service that is 50 percent larger and delivered for $10.95 to an APO/FPO address -- $2 less than for domestic destinations.

"This is the first time the Postal Service has offered a special price for our armed forces serving overseas," said Postmaster Gen. John Potter. "We're proud that family and friends will be able to use this new larger-sized box to send much appreciated packages from home to our dedicated troops overseas."

The new priority mail large flat-rate box (12" x 12" x 5-1/2" or 800 cubic inches) will be available in post offices nationwide beginning March 3, but customers can begin ordering them Feb. 20 at www.usps.com/supplies or by calling 800-610-8734. Some of the new boxes are co-branded with the logo of "America Supports You," which is a Department of Defense program that connects citizens offering support to the military and their families.

"It's terrific that the Postal Service continues to think of ways to help Americans support our troops and their families. Postage is always a concern when shipping care packages, and this new flat-rate box means our home front groups and supportive citizens can do more with their resources," said Allison Barber, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense. "We're especially pleased that some of the boxes will bear the America Supports You logo reminding our service members that they have our nation's support."

The $2 discount is applied when the priority mail large flat-rate box es are shipped to an APO/FPO destination. The two existing flat-rate boxes (11-7/8" x 3-3/8" x 13-5/8" and 11" x 8-1/2" x 5-1/2"), which currently retail for $8.95 for U.S. addresses, are not available for the military discount. All flat-rate boxes can be used for international shipping.

The new flat-rate boxes will be available in Post Offices starting March 3. The 'America Supports You' branded box will be available online, at select post offices near military bases, or by calling 800-610-8734.

(Story by Debora Preitkis, U.S. Postal Service.)

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NATO Leader "Cautiously Optimistic" About Afghanistan

News in Balance

News in Balance:

VILNIUS, Lithuania, Feb. 8, 2008 (AFPS) -- NATO’s secretary general said today he is “cautiously optimistic” on the reconstruction and development fronts in Afghanistan.

“When it comes to access to health care, infant mortality rates, education, women’s rights (and) economic growth, things are getting steadily better for the Afghan people,” Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said during a news conference at the alliance’s defense ministerial conference here, which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is attending.

De Hoop Scheffer said this morning’s meeting, which included discussion of non-NATO nations supplying troops to the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, went very well.

“All in all, I heard a unified national community, a determination to improve coordination between us in support of the priorities of the Afghan government, and a clear commitment that we are in this for the long haul,” he said. “The Afghan people should not have shimmer of doubt about that.”

The ministers stressed the importance of naming what de Hoop Scheffer called “a weighty” individual to head up the United Nations mission in Afghanistan. The individual would work to coordinate international and nongovernmental aid with the needs of the Afghan government. The secretary general specified the individual chosen would work with the Afghan government, and would not in any way supercede or compromise Afghan sovereignty.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak attended the morning meeting.

“I think Defense Minister Wardak heard commitments by his ISAF colleagues to step up efforts to train and equip the Afghan security forces,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “We know this is the future for Afghanistan. This is why nations must and will provide more training teams to support the Afghan National Army.”

NATO efforts in Afghanistan are only part of the story, the secretary general noted.

“Let me stress again this must be a comprehensive effort. This is a NATO effort, but NATO is only in the lead in security,” he said. “The United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, the donors and first and foremost the Afghans themselves must take their full responsibilities -- with NATO support -- wherever we can.”

The defense ministers also discussed a number of other NATO issues, including NATO policy on cyber defense, de Hoop Scheffer said. A reporter asked if NATO would invoke Article 5 of the treaty if a country came under cyber attack. Article 5 is the heart of the alliance that holds an attack on one nation is an attack on all.

“(Cyber defense) was discussed, not in relationship, by the way, with Article 5. Article 5 was not mentioned,” he said.

Cyber defense is a national responsibility, “but here again, NATO can offer first of all consultations; that is what NATO is for in the case of serious cyber attacks,” de Hoop Scheffer said. NATO has expertise to lend to nations under computer assault, including mobile teams that the alliance used to help Estonia when it came under attack last year.

The ministers also discussed ballistic missile defense with an eye on the ongoing discussions between the United States and the Czech Republic and Poland. There is a technical level to the discussions in NATO to determine what NATO’s responsibility would be for a site in Europe, the secretary general said.

(Story by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.)

Bio:
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Related:
NATO
NATO International Security Assistance Force

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Troops in Iraq Kill Four, Detain Numerous al Qaeda Agents

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2008 (AFPS) -- Coalition forces in Iraq killed four suspected al Qaeda agents and detained numerous other suspects today during operations to disrupt terrorist networks in northern and central Iraq, military officials said.
  • In Sharqat, coalition forces captured an alleged al Qaeda senior leader and his deputy. The detainees are linked to local kidnappings and mortar and improvised-explosive-device attacks against coalition and security groups of local citizens. Three more suspects also were detained during the operation.

  • In Mosul, coalition forces detained three suspects during an operation targeting a senior foreign terrorist facilitator. The suspected terrorist is linked to al Qaeda in Iraq operations, including a Jan. 28 attack that resulted in the deaths of five coalition soldiers.

  • Also in Mosul, coalition forces detained two more suspected terrorists while targeting an alleged IED manufacturer involved in attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces. “These operations are another step forward in the campaign to disrupt the al Qaeda networks in northern Iraq,” said Army Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. “As terrorists shift their operations to new locations, Iraqi and coalition forces will pursue them, attacking their networks and driving them from their hiding places.”

  • In Baqouba, coalition forces killed four suspected al Qaeda terrorists, while another suspected insurgent blew himself up. Coalition troops came upon four terrorists holed up inside a building. The four terrorists refused to surrender, and they were killed by coalition troops. A remaining terrorist inside the building detonated an explosive charge and blew himself up.

  • In Baghdad, coalition forces captured seven suspected al Qaeda operatives. The detainees are linked to al Qaeda in Iraq senior leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri. “Iraqi and coalition forces remain resolved to bring the terrorists to justice, ending their campaign of indiscriminate violence against the Iraqi people,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael Street, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.

  • East of Samarra, coalition forces captured three suspected terrorists during an anti-insurgent operation.

In operations yesterday:
  • Coalition forces killed three suspected al Qaeda terrorists during an operation east of Samarra.

  • Near the Hamrin Mountains, coalition troops detained two suspected al Qaeda agents linked to a terrorist-run prison and training camp in the region.

  • Coalition forces captured a suspected Iranian-trained “special groups” leader and detained three other suspects during operations to disrupt criminal networks in the Mashru area, south of Baghdad. The detainee is linked to Iranian-trained enemy elements in Wasit province. Reports also indicate the detainee was an associate of several senior-level criminal leaders involved in attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces.

  • Iraqi National Police disrupted the kidnapping of six members of the Sons of Iraq, a security group composed of concerned local citizens, from a checkpoint in Baghdad’s Ur neighborhood and rescued three of its members after a shootout. The kidnappers fled with three victims. Iraqi and coalition forces are on the lookout for the kidnappers and the abducted Iraqis.

In Feb. 6 operations, Sons of Iraq members operating near Mushada turned in a weapons cache to coalition forces. The cache contained 67 80 mm projectiles, eight 90 mm projectiles, miscellaneous ordinance, four unfinished IEDs and five homemade rocket launchers. The cache’s contents were destroyed.

Also Feb. 6, Iraqi police, Sons of Iraq and coalition troops found a 4,400-pound cache of explosives in Salahuddin province during a joint operation. The cache contained 40 bags filled with a mixture of ammonia nitrate and cocoa powder. Each bag weighed about 110 pounds. The mixture is commonly used as a homemade explosive employed by al Qaeda in Iraq. “The Iraqi police and the Sons of Iraq are committed to bringing stability to their country,” said Army Lt. Col. William W. Prior, commander of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. “They prove this on a daily basis. Today, they were able to make a significant impact in securing their country, their homes and their families.”

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Combat Camera: Operation Iron Harvest II in Iraq

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Sgt. Tim Failor of Crete, Neb., assigned to 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, moves through a courtyard in Sukkaryiah, during Operation Iron Harvest II, Sulah ad Dihn province, Iraq, Feb 6. (Photographer: 1st Lt. Richard Ybarra, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Pvt. Justin King of Indianapolis, Ind., Sgt. Kolin Guillien of Racine, Wisc., and Pfc. Cody Sandefer of Palmdale, Calif., assigned to 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, move to cover after searching a vehicle during Operation Iron Harvest II in the al-Jazeera Desert, south of Sukkaryiah, Sulah ad Dihn province, Iraq, Feb 6. (Photographer: 1st Lt. Richard Ybarra, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Spc. Kenneth Charleston of Grangeville, Idaho, assigned to 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides cover while his squad enters a courtyard in Sukkaryiah, during Operation Iron Harvest II, Sulah ad Dihn province, Iraq, Feb 6. (Photographer: 1st Lt. Richard Ybarra, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Soldiers from Comanche Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, move tactically from building to building during Operation Iron Harvest II, in the village of Sukkaryiah, Sulah ad Dihn province, Iraq, Feb 6. (Photographer: 1st Lt. Richard Ybarra, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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