Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wire: Japan Preps for North Korea Missile Launch

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

For First Time, Tokyo Says It Will Deploy Missile Interceptors Against Rocket or Debris From Pyongyang's Planned Launch

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2009 -- Newswires reported Saturday that Japan's move Friday to deploy missile interceptors is the boldest challenge North Korea faces so far to its plan to launch a rocket in the next few days.

In The Wall Street Journal, Yumiko Ono detailed the news :
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said he ordered the deployment of missile interceptors to Japan's northern coast to prepare to shoot down the rocket and any debris that could fall on Japanese territory. It was the first such order Japan had issued, a ministry spokesman said.

North Korea said it will launch a rocket carrying a satellite between April 4 and April 8, and warned that fragments could fall into the Sea of Japan between the two countries as well as southeast of Japan in the Pacific Ocean.

Japan and its allies suspect the rocket is a new long-range missile, and have demanded that Pyongyang cancel the plan. A launch would violate United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed in 2006 after North Korea tested a long-range missile.

Any action Japan takes would be restricted to shooting at material that threatens to fall on Japanese land or sea. Nevertheless, the move is a bold one for Japan, which has a pacifist constitution that strictly restricts its military to measures of national defense.
The Journal also reported that the U.S. has been leaning against trying to shoot down the North's projectile and a senior U.S. official this week said the administration has ruled it out.

The Japanese government said two destroyers carrying sea-to-air missiles would also be deployed in nearby waters, joining U.S. and South Korean warships in the area, the report said.

(Report from a commercial news source.)

Source: Japan Prepares for North Korea Missile Launch

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"We're Not Drones; We Fire Back"

Dispatches from the Front
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off for a mission in Afghanistan. The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and in addition to its traditional ISR capabilities, is designed to attack time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision. (CENTCOM photo.)

Dispatches from the Front:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 28, 2009 -- The door to the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron here features a drawing of an MQ-1 Predator armed with Hellfire missiles underscored with the words "We're not drones; we fire back."

Often referred to by news reporters as "drones," unmanned aircraft like the MQ-1 Predator and RQ-4 Global Hawk are weapons systems flown remotely, in-country or stateside, from ground stations using satellite uplinks. They're also far more complex than the U.S. military's relatively more simplified radio-controlled drone aircraft used for aerial target practice, experts said.

For the airmen flying and maintaining the lethal Predator and its big brother, the MQ-9 Reaper, from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, and from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., the message is demonstrated to their adversaries on a regular basis.

Both the MQ-1 and MQ-9 are weapons-carrying aircraft, “and both have a hunter-killer role in addition to their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," said Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Miller, the 62nd ERQS commander, who is deployed from the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base.

Performing dual missions of close-air support and ISR taskings, the Predator can stay airborne for more than 12 hours at 50,000 feet, and the Reaper can stay up longer and at even higher altitudes, squadron officials said. Boasting a full-motion video camera with various modes that can detect enemy movements, the Predator and Reaper also carry the Hellfire missile. The unmanned aircraft bring to the fight a set of two 500-pound, laser-guided bombs that allow operators to not only observe and detect hostile forces, but also eliminate them if called upon to do so.

"Both aircraft can initiate and complete the 'kill chain'," Miller said. "With their ability to loiter for long periods of time over a target, eliminate it, stay on station and then provide the [bomb damage assessment], they provide continuity to a mission and prove to be invaluable assets."

The aircraft are flown jointly by the 62nd ERQS crews stationed here with the 451st Air Expeditionary Group and by crews back at Creech. They use satellite uplinks that transfer control from the local pilots who taxi, launch, land and recover the aircraft -- all from trailers adjacent to the flightline -- and the Creech aviators flying inside of mission control elements.

General Atomics contractors perform maintenance on the Reaper, while responsibility for Predator maintenance is undertaken by 62nd ERQS airmen.

"As this aircraft is like 90 percent avionics, it's a pretty unique experience to work on it," said Senior Airman Doug Cox, a 62nd ERQS MQ-1 avionics specialist deployed from Creech. "We're asked to do a lot more than our traditional specialties, and most of us are trained up on crew chief duties such as performing 60-hour inspections, changing spark plugs, engine oil and things like that."

Air Force 1st Lt. Andrew Dowd, also deployed from Creech as the unit's maintenance officer, agreed.

"This aircraft does not have hydraulic fluid and operates using electro-servos," he said, noting the aircraft recently reached a 500,000 flight-hour milestone. "It's a very unique platform, but of course, when it's all said and done, it's the $1.2 million camera that runs the show."

After the aircraft are airborne and are handed off by the Kandahar crew, Creech aviators perform the majority of traditional mission taskings. However, the 62nd ERQS airmen increasingly are taking responsibility for executing missions within the local area to aid and protect coalition forces stationed around Kandahar who are fighting the enemy. Sometimes weapons are dropped, demonstrating the lethality and uniqueness of the 62nd ERQS' mission and aircraft to friend and foe alike.

Notably, some missions often are generated to fly only within the local area, putting the responsibility for the entire mission on the shoulders of the Kandahar-based aircrews.

It's great to have a direct impact on the war," said Airman 1st Class Patrick Snyder, an MQ-9 sensor operator who maneuvers the system's cameras and sensors as well as directs its munitions when launched. "We provide over-watch for the Canadians fighting the Taliban and then have coffee with them at the end of day [here at Kandahar.] It really makes us feel connected."

Air Force Capt. Ryan Jodi, a B-1 pilot who now flies the Reaper from his cockpit position in a ground control element, also acknowledged his preference for performing missions locally as opposed to Creech.

"I really enjoy doing the launches and landings from here," Jodi said. "It really gives you more of a flying feeling. And doing local missions is also great because we can really appreciate the camaraderie we have with our coalition partners who we live with here."

With spring arriving in Afghanistan, Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents once again will likely ramp up hostile operations against coalition forces around the country as they have demonstrated each year during the duration of Operation Enduring Freedom.

However, with the planned increase of forces within the area, that means more assets are on the way, with 62nd ERQS leaders preparing for additional aircraft and more mission sorties generated from combatant commanders. With nearly 10 additional Reapers coming to supplement the squadron's MQ-9 aircraft, which number about a dozen, Miller said that means more work.

"In 2005, we were generating about two sorties a day," he said. "We've more than quadrupled that now, and we are going to expect a lot more coming in the future."

Air Force Col. Ted Osowski, the 451st AEG commander, agreed with Miller on the demand for the ISR hunter and killer platforms in theater.

"No other asset is more sought after," he said. "Close-air support and ISR are very valuable to the ground commanders."

(Report by by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wilson, U.S. Air Forces Central News Team.)

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Combat Camera Video: USNS Impeccable Harassed by Chinese, Part 3

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2009 -- Embedded above is a recently released b-roll video of USNS Impeccable being harassed by Chinese ships while in international waters. Scenes include the Chinese ships stopping in front of the Navy ship keeping it from moving. (Video by Navy Visual News Service. Length: 3:43. Part 3 of 3.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Friday, March 27, 2009

OIF Summary, March 27, 2009: Iraqi Citizen’s Tip Leads to Explosives

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, March 27, 2009 -- Iraqi Army soldiers and Multi-National Division - Baghdad Paratroopers discovered a weapons cache March 26 while conducting operations in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad.

IA soldiers and Paratroopers from Troop A, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division discovered a cache in the district after receiving a tip from a concerned Iraqi citizen.

They safely removed 11 rocket propelled grenades, five 82 mm mortar, four RPG propellant tubes and additional bomb-making components.

The joint patrol safely transported the munitions to a nearby Iraqi Army compound

(Report from a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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Wire: Japan OKs Deployment of Missile Defense System

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 -- Newswire services reported today that Japan's military mobilized Friday to protect the country from any threat if North Korea's looming rocket launch fails, ordering two missile-equipped destroyers to the Sea of Japan and sending batteries of Patriot missile interceptors to protect the northern coastline.

The Associated Press reported that Pyongyang plans to launch its Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite April 4-8, a moved that has stoked already heightened tensions in the region. The U.S., Japan and South Korea suspect the North will use the launch to test the delivery technology for a long-range missile capable of striking Alaska.

From the AP story:
Japan has said that it will shoot down any dangerous objects that fall its way if the launch doesn't go off successfully. Tokyo, however, has been careful to say that it will not intervene unless its territory is in danger.

The North said earlier this month that any attack on the satellite would be an act of war.

South Korea and the U.S. prepared deployments of their own. Seoul is also dispatching an Aegis-equipped Sejong the Great destroyer off the east coast to monitor the launch, a military official in Seoul said. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Two U.S. Aegis-equipped ships, docked at a South Korea port, will set sail in coming days, U.S. military spokesman Kim Yong-kyu said.

As Japan's military got its orders Friday, North Korea's preparations appeared to be moving ahead quickly, and South Korea's nuclear envoy headed to Washington as regional powers scrambled to coordinate a joint strategy for the launch.

North Korea mounted a rocket on a launch pad on its northeast coast, American intelligence officials say, putting Pyongyang well on track for the launch.

North Korea is now "technically" capable of launching it in three to four days, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unnamed diplomatic official.
AP also reported that the U.S. and South Korea warned Thursday it would be a major provocation with serious consequences, and Japan's parliament was expected to issue a resolution next week demanding the launch be scrapped.

Regional powers have said any launch is banned under a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution and would trigger sanctions.

(Report from a commercial news source.)

Source: Japan OKs deployment of missile defense system

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OEF Summary, March 27, 2009: Troops Kill 13 Militants, Destroy Weapons in Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces killed 13 militants, detained one suspected militant and seized weapons caches in operations in Afghanistan over the past four days, military officials reported.

In Helmand province’s Lashkar Gah district, Afghan and coalition forces arrived at a compound militants had occupied for the night. The force immediately was engaged by armed militants from inside the compound. Several militants fled, while the force continued to receive small-arms fire from inside a building. The force cleared the building, killing three militants.

One militant was barricaded in one of the buildings, using women and children as shields. The force used precision small-arms fire to kill the militant with no harm to the women or children.

The force pursued the armed militants who had fled the compound on foot. One militant was killed when he maneuvered on the force. Four other militants engaged the force with a PKM machine gun and were killed. Two militants armed with AK-47 assault rifles were killed after posing a serious threat to a nearby compound. One suspected militant was captured unharmed and detained.

Also yesterday, Afghan national security forces, assisted by coalition forces, killed two armed militants and destroyed an improvised explosive device in Oruzgan province’s Deh Rahwod district.

The Afghan-led force was conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol in a known area of heavy militant presence when they observed three militants planting IEDs along a frequently traveled road. Once it was determined that the area was clear of civilians, forces called for close-air support, killing two militants.

During a search of the area, Afghan forces discovered one IED and safely destroyed it in place.

In operations March 24, Afghan soldiers, assisted by coalition forces, discovered and destroyed two weapons caches while on a combat reconnaissance patrol in Herat province’s Shindand district.

Concerned local villagers stopped the patrol and directed the commandos to the location of two weapons and ordnance caches in a nearby area. The commandos unearthed the first cache, which was buried less than two-feet deep in a dried-up riverbed near a well-traveled road. The cache consisted of 10 mortar rounds, seven cases of 30 mm anti-aircraft rounds, one 100 mm projectile, nine rocket fuses and four grenades.

The second cache contained 20 rocket-propelled grenades, 30 sabot rounds, eight Russian smoke canisters and two cases of 20 mm anti-aircraft rounds.

The contents of both caches were safely destroyed by the commandos.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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Report: Afghan Soldier Kills 2 Coalition Servicemembers, Wounds 1

Dispatches from the Front
News from U.S. Forces Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 27, 2009 -- An Afghan National Army soldier reportedly killed two coalition servicemembers and wounded one in northern Afghanistan today, military officials reported.

The wounded servicemember was evacuated for medical treatment. A fourth servicemember appeared uninjured, but was evacuated to a medical facility for evaluation.

The Afghan National Army soldier reportedly killed himself immediately after the incident, which took place at about 2:20 p.m. local time.

The scene has been secured and the incident is under investigation.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak expressed his condolences for the servicemembers killed and wounded. He said he was “saddened and deeply regretful this tragedy occurred.”

“It is too early to speculate, but the investigation will bear out the truth,” Wardak said, noting that “full corrective action will be taken.”

The coalition servicemembers’ names and service components are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

(From a joint Afghan Defense Ministry and U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

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USS Hartford, USS New Orleans Undergo Damage Assessments

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Mar 23, 2009) Chief Navy Diver Jason Potts, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU 2), jumps into the water to perform an underwater inspection on USS New Orleans (LPD 18). MDSU 2 is an Expeditionary Mobile Unit currently deployed to support diving and combat salvage operations and fleet exercises in the U.S. Naval Central Command area of responsibility. New Orleans is in port Bahrain to assess and evaluate the damage that resulted from their collision at sea with USS Hartford (SSN 768) March 20. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mathew J. Diendorf.)

Dispatches from the Front:
ALSO SEE: Photo Essay: USS Hartford, USS New Orleans Collision Damage
MANAMA, Bahrain, March 27, 2009 -- The U.S. Navy submarine and U.S. amphibious ship that collided in the Strait of Hormuz March 20, have been undergoing extensive engineering and damage assessments since pulling into Bahrain March 21.

Engineering and technical experts arrived in Bahrain to assess the damage to USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18). Twelve Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard (PHNSY) personnel and two Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) experts are assessing the damage to Hartford and New Orleans and have begun initial in-theater repairs. They will augment Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) Detachment Bahrain.

While overall damage to both ships is being evaluated, investigators believe Hartford rolled approximately 85 degrees during the collision. Despite the roll, engineering investigations have confirmed the propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. However, Hartford sustained damage to its sail and periscope, as well as the port bow plane.

New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank. Divers have determined the resulting hole is approximately 16 by 18 feet in size. There was also interior damage to two ballast tanks.

In addition to the engineering efforts, two formal investigations are currently underway; a Safety Investigation and a Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) Investigation. Capt. Craig Kleint, the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) Class Squadron commodore has been appointed as the Investigating Officer (IO) for the JAGMAN Investigation. A senior O-6 submarine officer has been named as the senior member of the Safety Instigation Review, but his name is not releasable until the investigation has been completed.

The Safety Investigation Board is appointed to identify hazards and their causal factors in serious incidents. Their report is an essential tool to identify causes to prevent recurrence.

The JAGMAN investigation is intended to provide and critical and objective overview of what happened. Capt. Kleint, a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer, is joined by a post-command submarine officer. They are supported by a three-person legal team.

Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) and Naval Submarine Forces (SUBFOR) are providing extensive support to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) for the Safety Investigation Board and JAGMAN investigation team.

Both investigations have a 30-day initial timeline, but extensions may be granted if more time is needed to complete the investigation process.

Hartford and New Orleans were currently on regularly scheduled deployments to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) when the accident occurred.

(Report from a Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs news release.)

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US Airpower Summary, March 27, 2009: F-16s Provide Cover

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F-16 Fighting Falcons fly over Southwest Asia. The F-16 is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, March 27, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations March 26, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, coalition aircraft employed a guided bomb unit-12 and cannon strafes against anti-Afghan personnel who were observed planting an improvised explosive device near Kajaki Dam. The aircraft waited until the personnel were away from civilian structures before beginning attack. The individuals attempted to escape on a motorcycle after they became aware of the aircraft's presence, but were caught in the GBU-12 explosion that destroyed the motorcycle. The passenger was able to survive the explosion and tried to run away, but was finished off by the jet's strafing pass.

Near Nangalam, a flight of Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles took out multiple enemy fighting positions using a variety of guided munitions after anti-Afghan forces were detected preparing to attack a coalition base. The aircraft destroyed several heavy machine gun nests during the engagement, followed up by strikes targeting enemy gunmen trying to escape into the mountains.

A Navy F/A-18C Hornet executed a show of force and expended flares in the vicinity of Garmser after coalition ground troops spotted suspicious individuals on a roadside culvert. The individuals, who appeared to be readying a site for IED emplacement, fled the area. A coalition aircraft also performed a show of force in the area later in the day when other potential enemy activity was noted.

An Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-15E flew additional shows of force over Garmser and Bagram in order to deter enemy activity in those areas.

Joint terminal attack controllers assigned to coalition units verified the success of these missions.

In total, 68 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Six Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Afghanistan.

In Iraq, Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons flying near Ba'qubah provided cover for Iraqi and coalition security forces' operations, responding to an insurgent attack against friendly troops with several strikes. The aircraft employed GBU-38s and multiple cannon strafes against enemy targets, which included armed gunmen, insurgent vehicles, and enemy positions.

Coalition aircraft flew 24 close-air-support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions integrated and synchronized with coalition ground forces, protected key infrastructure, provided overwatch for reconstruction activities, and helped to deter and disrupt hostile activities.

Twenty-six Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. In addition, three Air Force and coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and C-17 Globemaster IIIs provided intra-theater heavy airlift, helping to sustain operations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

Approximately 150 airlift sorties were flown, 400 tons of cargo were delivered and about 3,650 passengers were transported.

Coalition C-130 crews flew as part of operations in Afghanistan or Iraq.

On March 25, Air Force tankers flew 43 sorties and off-loaded approximately 2.9 million pounds of fuel to 209 receiving aircraft.

(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: Mortars Down Range in Afghanistan

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 -- Embedded above is a video package about mortar soldiers who use their weapons to keep the pressure on the enemy. (Hosted by Sgt. Rob Frazier; American Forces Network Afghanistan. Length: 1:39.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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NATO Resumes Counter-Piracy Operations

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 -- The following is the text of a NATO statement released March 25 regarding NATO counter piracy operations:
On 24 March 2009, NATO resumed counter piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. Operation ALLIED PROTECTOR is NATO’s continuing contribution to international community efforts to enhance the safety of commercial maritime routes and international navigation in the area.

Five NATO ships will assist in international efforts to deter, defend against, and disrupt pirate activities off the Horn of Africa. The ships, part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) under the command of Portuguese Rear Admiral Jose Pereira da Cunha, will start their duties at the end of March. The five ships that participate are:
  • NRP Corte Real (flagship, Portugal)
  • HMCS Winnipeg (Canada)
  • HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën (The Netherlands)
  • SPS Blas de Lezo (Spain)
  • USS Halyburton (United States of America)

The first phase of counter piracy operations will be undertaken on the outbound leg of NATO’s first ever maritime deployment to South East Asia. The second phase will take place as SNMG1 makes the return journey towards European waters at the end of June.

The deployment to SE Asia demonstrates the high value that NATO places on its relationship with other partners across the globe. It will include a visit to Karachi, Pakistan, before sailing on to Singapore to take part in the IMDEX 2009 Exhibition and Conference at the invitation of the Republic of Singapore Navy. From Singapore SNMG1 will sail to Perth, Australia.

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope KCB OBE, Commander Maritime Component Command Northwood which will oversee Operation ALLIED PROTECTOR, said, “This mission reflects NATO’s relevance and adaptability to meet the challenges of the current security environment. In conjunction with other nations and international organisations we aim to enhance the safety of commercial maritime routes vital for the global economy.”

The counter piracy mission will be co-ordinated with other international actors and expands on what was achieved during Operation Allied Provider in 2008. The NATO Force will assume a highly visible profile, conducting surveillance tasks and providing protection to deter and suppress piracy and armed robbery.
(Report from a NATO news release.)

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Pentagon: Obama Unveils Afghan-Pakistan Strategy Review

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 -- President Barack Obama unveiled the Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review today, calling the situation in the region "increasingly perilous."

The report, which Obama requested upon taking office in January, comprises input from U.S. military and diplomatic leaders, NATO and other allies, and non-government organizations, the president said during a news conference.

"It has been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "Attacks against our troops, our NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily. Most painfully, 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American forces."

Obama spelled out the broad U.S. objectives: To disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

"That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just," he said. "And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you."

This is a developing story.

More to follow.

(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Wire: Guantanamo Detainees May be Released in US

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 -- President Barack Obama's intelligence chief confirmed yesterday that some Guantanamo inmates may be released on U.S. soil and receive financial assistance to return to society, newswires reported today.
"If we are to release them in the United States, we need some sort of assistance for them to start a new life," said National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair at his first press conference.

"You can't just put them on the street," he added. "All that is work in progress."
Earlier newswire articles reported that Attorney General Eric Holder said on March 19 that some detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may end up being released in the U.S.

Obama has vowed to close the detention facility by next January and has ordered individual reviews for cases against each of the over 240 remaining prisoners.

This is a developing story.

(Report from a commercial media source.)

Source: Terror inmates may be released in US: intel chief

Related: Wire: Obama May Release Guantanamo Detainees in US

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Combat Camera: US Troops Search for Enemy Bunkers in Balad Ruz, Iraq

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U.S. Army soldiers prepare to load a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter for transportation to an area south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. The soldiers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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U.S. Army soldiers set a security perimeter while searching for and destroying enemy bunkers south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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Right to left, U.S. Army Sgt. Jay Sims, Capt. Joseph Hansen, Spc. Cayce Watson and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barrera take a tactical pause during an operation south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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U.S. Army Sgt. Cory Carnes, left, leads a patrol searching for enemy bunkers south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Fry searches for enemy bunkers south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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U.S. Army Sgt. Shane Fackrell gets a hand climbing up a canal embankment south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jared Naegele prepares an explosive charge to destroy an enemy bunker found next to a canal south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

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U.S. Army soldiers wait to be picked up by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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US Navy Completes Air and Ballistic Missile Exercise

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In this file photo, an MH-60s helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65). The San Diego-based Aegis destroyer engaged multiple targets during exercise Stellar Daggers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick W. Mullen III.)

Focus on Defense:

SAN DIEGO, March 27, 2009 -- Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear announced the completion of the fleet operational exercise, Stellar Daggers, March 26.

The scheduled event took place March 24 and 26. Command and control of the participants in Stellar Daggers resided with U.S. 3rd Fleet based in San Diego.

San Diego-based Aegis destroyer, USS Benfold (DDG 65) engaged multiple targets during this multi-event exercise with Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA and modified SM-2 BLK IV missiles. The overall objective of Stellar Daggers was to test the Aegis system's sea-based ability to simultaneously detect, track, engage and destroy multiple incoming air and ballistic missile threats during terminal or final phase of flight.

During the event, Benfold's Aegis Weapons System successfully detected and intercepted a cruise missile target with a SM-2 BLK IIIA, while simultaneously detecting and intercepting an incoming short range ballistic missile (SRBM) target with a modified SM-2 BLK IV. This is the first time the fleet has successfully tested the Aegis system's ability to intercept both an SRBM in terminal phase and a low-altitude cruise missile target at the same time.

Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), which includes Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), is a Navy core competency and a key warfighting capability for the U.S. maritime strategy, which calls for credible combat power to be continuously postured to protect America's vital interests.

(Report from a U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs news release.)

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Combat Camera Video: USNS Impeccable Harassed by Chinese, Part 2

video

News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a recently released b-roll video of USNS Impeccable being harassed by Chinese ships while in international waters. Scenes include the Chinese ships stopping in front of the Navy ship keeping it from moving. (Video by Navy Visual News Service. Length: 4:21. Part 2 of 3.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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