Saturday, May 30, 2009

Combat Camera Video: The Uzbeen Valley, Part 3 - The Shura

video

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2009 -- Embedded above is part three of a series. In "The Shura," French and American soldiers meet with Afghan forces in a former Taliban stronghold to discuss development and security issues with locals. (NATO video. Length: 3:04.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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OIF Update, May 30, 2009: 3 Detained in Basra Grenade Attack

Dispatches from the Front
News from Multi-National Force - Iraq.

Dispatches from the Front:

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, May 30, 2009 -- Three suspects were detained today, in an attack on Coalition forces Soldiers training with the Mufiqiyah Iraqi Police in West Basra.

The suspects allegedly attacked the joint training site with a hand grenade. The attackers were immediately detained by Coalition forces and turned over to the IP. No U.S. forces or Iraqi Police were injured.

“Attacks on U.S. forces and our Iraqi Security Forces disrupt the training that the Iraqi Police requested. This training is important for the continued development of the IP’s capability to provide for the security of all the citizens of Basra,” said Maj. Matthew Cody, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, operations officer.

(Report from a Multinational Force - Iraq news release.)

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Pentagon: Gates Warns North Korea

News in Balance

News in Balance:

SINGAPORE, May 30, 2009 -- In some of his strongest words on the subject to date, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today said the United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state and promised to defend U.S. allies in the region.

We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region – or on us,” Gates said at the opening of the “Shangri-La Dialogue” Asia security summit here.

This comes on the heels of yet another reported missile test by North Korea yesterday. North Korea reported conducting both nuclear and missile tests this week and threatened to attack U.S. and South Korean warships.

The secretary called North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles “reckless, and ultimately self-destructive.” The United States, he said, would not bend under the pressure or provocation of North Korea.

“North Korea’s nuclear program and actions constitute a threat to regional peace and security,” Gates said. “The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or nonstate entities would be considered a great threat to the United States and our allies. And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”

On the military flight here, Gates told reporters traveling with him that there are no plans for military action against North Korea and that diplomatic measures are the first option for dealing with the country’s developing nuclear threat. He said he hopes any sanctions, however, would target the country’s leaders and not strike at its impoverished people.

Next week the United States will send senior officials to talk with leaders of South Korea, China, Japan and Russia. All are original members of the Six-Party Talks, put in place to attempt a peaceful resolution to the security concerns of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The talks have been stalled since the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea in April for a failed missile test. Following the condemnation, North Korea expelled U.N. inspectors from the country.

Next week’s talks will center on developing a unified approach to North Korea’s actions, and will include discussion of military posturing should diplomatic sanctions fail, a senior defense department official said, speaking on background.

Gates met today with top defense officials from Japan and South Korea, the first time he’s met with them simultaneously. Customarily, Japan and South Korea have met with the United States separately, but Gates is reaching out for more multilateral approaches to security issues in the region.

He also met briefly with a senior military official from China, the country that Gates says has the most influence on North Korea.

Significant international cooperation is needed to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons program, and the consequences of a military conflict in region are “enormous to contemplate,” the secretary said. At this point, however, North Korea’s nuclear program does not pose a direct military threat to the United States, he added.

“I think what is central to multilateral efforts … is to try and peacefully stop those programs before they do in fact become … a clear and present danger,” Gates said during the question and answer session after his speech.

“If they continue on the path they’re on,” he said, “I think the consequences for stability in the region are significant, and I think it poses the potential … for some kind of an arms race here in this region.”

(Report by Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service.)

Related: The Shangri-La Dialogue

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OEF Update, May 30, 2009: Troops Nab 3 Suspected al-Qaida Insurgents in Khost

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 30, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces detained three suspected al-Qaida operatives this morning in Khost during a raid to capture an insurgent known to recruit foreign extremists for attacks in eastern Afghanistan.

In Khost city, Afghan and coalition forces patrolled to an urban area and searched a building where intelligence sources indicated the targeted insurgent and his associates were staying overnight.

Without incident, the combined forces detained three suspects.

"Afghan and coalition forces have had some very successful operations in the last several days – specifically in the eastern provinces – and we are not slowing down," said Ministry of Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi. "We will continue to partner with coalition forces and aggressively pursue extremists and the leaders who direct their actions."

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

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Wire: Official Says New Signs of North Korea Missile Preparations

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning that satellites have spotted signs that North Korea may be preparing to transport another long-range missile to a test launch site, South Korean officials said Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. issued his harshest warning to the North since its recent nuclear test.

"We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in Asia — or on us," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a regional defense meeting in Singapore. He said the North's nuclear program was a "harbinger of a dark future," but wasn't yet a direct threat.

AP noted that since last Monday's nuclear blast, North Korea has test-launched six short-range missiles in a show of force and announced it won't honor a 1953 truce ending fighting in the Korean War.

North Korea appears to be preparing to move a long-range missile by train from a weapons factory near Pyongyang to its northeastern Musudan-ni launch pad, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said. Images of the movements were captured by U.S. satellites, said the official, who was not identified.

This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Official: New signs of NKorea missile preparations

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Wire: 56 Die in Afghan Violence

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2009 -- Newswire services reported this morning that a battle in a militant-controlled region of western Afghanistan killed 30 insurgents and nine Afghan soldiers, while a roadside bomb in the country's north wounded an Afghan governor, officials said Saturday.

The Associated Press reported that violence elsewhere in the country killed 17 others, part of a spate of attacks that killed 56 people over all.

AP reported the following details:
The battle in Badghis province began Friday and continued into Saturday. Afghan troops supported by international forces killed 30 militants in the Bala Murghab district, a region where the Afghan government has little control. Nine Afghan soldiers died in the battle, and four "disappeared," the Ministry of Defense said. The ministry did not elaborate.

The roadside bomb detonated on the main highway in Kunduz province, and shattered glass slightly wounded Gov. Mohammad Omar, said his spokesman, Ahmad Sami Yawar. He blamed the "enemies of peace and security," a phrase that commonly refers to militants.

Taliban and other militants often target Afghan officials. Northern Afghanistan was once thought to be a peaceful enclave unaffected by rampant Taliban violence in the country's south and east. But militants have increased attacks in the area in the last two years as the insurgency has spread across the country.
(Report from newswire sources.)

Sources: 56 die in Afghan violence; bomb targets Afghan gov

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Combat Camera: Cavalry Soldiers Conduct Field Clearing Mission in Iraq

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U.S. Army Capt. Johnny Ulsamer of Staten Island, N.Y., commander of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is searching for cashes on a field that has been picked to be an impact zone to sight in mortars from Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Rudy of Lancaster, Penn., from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is using his scope to watch for mortars to impact on a field that he and his fellow soldiers cleared of civilians. The field is cleared to be used for an impact zone to sight in their mortar tubes at Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, clear a field of civilians and any caches so it can be used for an impact zone to sight in their mortar tubes at Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, clear a field of civilians so it can be used for an impact zone to sight in their mortar tubes at Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Rudy of Lancaster, Penn., from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, watches for mortar impacts on a field that he and his fellow soldiers cleared of civilians. The field is cleared to be used for an impact zone to sight in their mortar tubes at Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. Army Capt. Johnny Ulsamer of Staten Island, N.Y., commander of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, watches for incoming mortars to impact on a field after he and his soldiers cleared it of civilians on May 25, outside Baghdad. The mortars are being fired from Joint Security Station Bassatin to insure they are properly sighted. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. Army Capt. Johnny Ulsamer of Staten Island, N.Y., Commander of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, watches for incoming mortars to impact on a field after he and his soldiers cleared it of civilians on May 25. The mortars are being fired from Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, to insure they are properly sighted. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, clear a field of civilians so it can be used for an impact zone to sight in their mortar tubes at Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

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U.S. soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, clear a field of civilians so it can be used for an impact zone to sight in their mortar tubes at Joint Security Station Bassatin, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25. (Photo by Spc. Joshua E. Powell; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Wire: US 'Likely' Could Intercept North Korean Missile

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that the Pentagon’s independent testing official said today that U.S. ground-based interceptor rockets would "likely" knock out a long-range North Korean missile before it could reach the American mainland

The Bloomberg news service reported the following details:
“I believe we have a reasonable chance” of an intercept, Charles McQueary, director of operational test and evaluation, said in an interview as North Korea defied international condemnation of a nuclear test with another short-range missile launch.

“I’d put it ‘likely’ -- than ‘highly likely’ -- as opposed to putting it ‘unlikely,” he said on his last day in office after almost three years as the top weapons evaluator for the Defense Department.

McQueary’s office monitors and critiques the effectiveness of the nascent Boeing Co.-managed $35.5 billion ground-based system of what is now 28 interceptors placed since mid-2004 in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
North Korea has launched six short-range missiles this week that, while not able to strike the U.S., have refocused attention on American defenses, Bloomberg noted.

This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: U.S. ‘Likely’ Could Intercept North Korean Missile

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US Navy Updates Confirmed Cases of H1N1 (Swine Flu) to 79

News in Balance
News from the U.S. Navy.

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 -- The Navy updated its confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza May 29 to 79 sailors.

The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), the headquarters for Navy Medicine, continues to monitor the health of the force to ensure necessary precautions are being taken to educate and safeguard Sailors, civilian personnel and family members.

"During the initial outbreak, the Navy Medicine enterprise worked closely with the other Services in surveillance and detection efforts," said Cmdr. Steven Jeffs, chief of the BUMED Medical Operations Center.

According to Jeffs, Navy Medicine is also responsible for the healthcare of operational naval forces, many of which serve in close quarters on board ships and submarines.

"It is important to detect and isolate cases early and effectively and implement the right health protection measures to preserve mission capability of our deployed vessels and units," said Jeffs. "We have been very successful and the confirmed cases of H1N1 in the Navy have been mild and few."

In response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak, BUMED conducted and continues to conduct disease surveillance through the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) in Norfolk, Va. and Navy Medicine's CONUS and OCONUS laboratories. Information and public health guidance related to disease reporting, prevention and treatment has been provided to Navy/Marine Corps medical leaders, public health professionals and medical providers via multiple means.

The Naval Health Research Center was designated as an H1N1 confirmatory lab by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention May 7 after being provided the necessary materials for designation. NHRC is a leading research and development laboratory for the Department of Defense. The lab serves as a clinical reference laboratory that provided higher level public health testing and confirmation capabilities.

Additional information on the H1N1 influenza is available at:

(Report from a U.S. Navy news release.)

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Aircraft Carrier USS George HW Bush Certified for Flight Ops

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (May 26, 2009) Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Capt. Bob Roth, executive officer of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) watch as an F/A-18F Super Hornet from Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 211 launches from George H.W. Bush. The aircraft carrier is underway for flight deck certification in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst.)

Focus on Defense:

USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, At Sea, May 29, 2009 -- USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) reached another milestone when she successfully completed her first flight deck certification May 26.

An aircraft carrier's flight deck certification is a two-part certification that ensures the crew can safely and effectively conduct independent flight operations.

The Navy's newest aircraft carrier, along with the aircraft and personnel of Carrier Air Wing 1 and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 safely completed 695 catapult launches and arrested landings while underway in the Atlantic Ocean May 18-29. The event was evaluated by Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic and received a stamp of approval.

According to Capt. Jeffrey Austin, George H.W. Bush air boss, it was hard work, dedication and can-do attitude that achieved this certification.

"This is a significant milestone in the history of our ship," said Austin. "I couldn't be more pleased."

George H.W. Bush, homeported at Naval Station Norfolk is the 10th and final Nimitz-class carrier. She was commissioned Jan. 10 at Naval Station Norfolk.

(Report from a USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs news release.)

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Pentagon: Army Chief Says Global Conditions, Trends Indicate Years of Conflict

News in Balance

News in Balance:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Obama administration's national security advisor, James L. Jones Jr., yesterday claimed that the U.S. is "increasingly safer because of the president's leadership that he's displayed consistently over the last four months, both at home and abroad." In light of an uptick in violence in Iraq, increased nuclear posturing by North Korea and Iran, a resurgent Taliban, and rising economic tensions around the world, Mr. Jones' statement seems one of 'hope' at best.
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 -- As the Army continues to battle radical extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, global trends and conditions portend the likelihood that “persistent conflict” will occur around the world for some years to come, the Army’s top military officer said here yesterday.

The war against terrorism “is a long-term, ideological struggle,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told an audience at the Atlantic Council of the United States. The council promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, Casey said, the negative effects of globalization precipitated by the world economic crisis, combined with growing urbanization and an increased competition for resources, are among early 21st-century trends that indicate the potential for additional conflicts in the near future.

“Against that backdrop, we look out at trends that we see around the globe,” Casey said. “And the trends that we see, I believe, are more likely to exacerbate the conditions that we see now than they are to ameliorate them.”

Casey then ticked off some of those trends:
  • Up until the world economic crisis, Casey said, globalization “was generating prosperity around the world, but it was generating it unevenly and creating ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ conditions.” The have-not regions, he said, are mostly concentrated in the southern hemisphere and contain people who “are much more susceptible to recruiting” by terrorist and extremist organizations.

  • Technology, like globalization, has become “another double-edged sword,” Casey said. Computer technology that’s used to connect people and businesses across the world also is employed by terrorists to export their ideology and expedite their plans.

  • Populations of some developing countries are expected to double over the next decade, the general said, putting more pressure on already harried governments to provide adequate services for their people. Meanwhile, he said, the world’s people “are increasingly moving to cities,” a trend that makes for tough urban fighting during times of conflict.

  • Another demographic-related world trend involves an “increased competition for resources” among developed and newly developing nations, Casey said.

However, the two most worrisome scenarios, Casey said, involve “weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist organizations and safe havens – countries or parts of countries where the local governments can’t or won’t deny their countries as safe havens for terrorists to plan operations.”

All of these trends and conditions indicate “that we will operate in an era of what I call persistent conflict,” Casey said. He defined such conflict as “protracted confrontation among state, nonstate and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political objectives.”

Such conflicts, Casey said, could persist up to “a decade or so ahead of us.”

The fighting that occurred in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006 that pitted Israeli troops against Hezbollah terrorists, Casey said, is an example of the type of warfare that’s likely to be experienced in the years ahead. In 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas “used improvised explosive devices to channelize well-equipped attacking Israeli forces into ambushes, where they fired at them with state-of-the-art anti-tank guided missiles,” Casey said. The terrorists, he said, also shot down an Israeli helicopter with a surface-to-air missile.

Hezbollah’s use of hybrid warfare -- a mix of irregular and conventional tactics and weaponry – represents “a fundamentally more complex and difficult challenge than the challenges of fighting large tank armies on the plains of Europe,” Casey pointed out.
Casey predicted that future U.S. foes are likely to employ irregular and hybrid tactics in the years ahead. Meanwhile, he added, the U.S. Army is engaged in adapting itself to confront the new strategic environment of the 21st century.

First, he said, the Army is working to master irregular warfare “to prevail in counterinsurgency campaigns.”

Second, the U.S. military needs “to continue to engage with other countries’ security forces,” Casey said, “when we’re asked to help them build the capabilities they need to deny their countries to terrorists.”

Third, he said, U.S. forces need to continue to work with civil authorities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“And you have all heard people say time and time again that we will not win this conflict by military means alone,” Casey said, noting that securing success in Afghanistan and Iraq is predicated on the effective integration of all elements of national power, including diplomacy, reconstruction, governance, rule of law and other types of assistance.

Lastly, and no less important, Casey said, “we have to be able to deter and defeat hybrid threats and hostile state actors.”

(Report by Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service.)

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Pentagon: Army Investigates Misconduct Allegations

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement regarding an Army investigation into allegations of misconduct:

The Department of the Army announced today that the Army's Criminal Investigation Command and Multi-National Force - Iraq are investigating allegations of serious misconduct involving members of the 266th Military Police Company, Virginia Army National Guard, which allegedly took place during the unit's pre-deployment mobilization training at Fort Dix, N.J., in fall 2008.

The allegations state that several soldiers of the unit inappropriately photographed and filmed female soldiers while showering.

Commanders in Iraq learned of the allegations on May 21 and initiated an Army Regulation 15-6 investigation on May 22. The Criminal Investigation Command initiated a criminal investigation on May 23.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Update, May 29, 2009: Soldier Killed During Operations in Iraq

Dispatches from the Front
News from Multi-National Force Iraq.

Dispatches from the Front:

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq, May 29, 2009 -- A Multi-National Division - North soldier died today after a grenade detonated near a patrol in Ninewa province.

The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the U.S. Department of Defense.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Chad A. Edmundson, 20, of Williamsburg, Pa., died May 27 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while on a dismounted patrol. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry, 56th Stryker Brigade, Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: Gates Says Administration Doesn't See North Korea Crisis

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News in Balance:

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, May 29, 2009 -- As the plane flying him to a security conference in Singapore travels into a storm of regional unrest stirred up by this week’s North Korean nuclear tests, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today downplayed the swirling rhetoric and said he sees no need to adjust U.S. military forces levels in the region.

“I don’t believe that anybody in the administration thinks there is a crisis,” Gates told reporters traveling with him to this weekend’s “Shangri-La Dialogue” Asia security summit.

“What we do have, though, are two new developments that are very provocative, that are aggressive, accompanied by very aggressive rhetoric,” Gates said. “I think it brings home the challenge that North Korea poses to the region and to the international community.”

North Korea reported conducting both nuclear and missile tests this week and threatened to attack U.S. and South Korean warships. Nations of the region have denounced North Korea’s actions, with a strong reaction coming from China, the country’s longtime ally.

Gates said North Korea’s actions actually may work for the United States as it goes into the security talks in Singapore hoping to build on and strengthen relationships in the region. For the first time, Gates will sit down with his counterparts from both Japan and South Korea at the same time. He also will meet briefly with a senior military official from China.

“I think … it may create opportunities for multilateral cooperation to try and persuade the North Koreans to change that behavior,” Gates said. “My impression is that [China was] surprised by the nuclear test. I think there may be some opportunities here.”

At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Gates said, he hopes to articulate the U.S. administration’s commitment to the region, a point he said was underscored by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent visit to the region.

Gates will meet with defense ministers, senior military officials and other senior officials from across the region. He said that although North Korea likely will dominate the discussion, the participants also will discuss other security issues. The secretary said the meetings are critical as the countries move ahead together to form a response to North Korea’s actions, and that they’ll need “to be on and stay on the same page.”

“I think that there is a general agreement that whatever responses there are need to be multilateral, preferably under the auspices of the U.N.,” he said, “but perhaps there are other means as well.”

China probably has more influence on North Korea than any other country, Gates said, though he conceded that even China’s sway has limits. Still, it is important for the Chinese to be a part of any dealings with North Korea, he said.

Gates said plainly that there are no plans for U.S. military action against North Korea unless the country does something that requires a military response. The secretary said that international diplomatic measures are the first choice to curb further development of nuclear and missile capabilities in the north, while avoiding destabilizing the country.

“I would say that what we’re talking about principally would be diplomatic and economic measures,” he said. “But also, are there ways potentially to help strengthen our military cooperation and perhaps [defensive] military capabilities?”

Whatever sanctions are agreed upon, the secretary said, he hopes they will strike at the heart of North Korea’s government without hurting the country’s people.

“The North Korean regime has already done enough damage to the North Korean people,” gates said. “I think we should be cautious in the way we look at reactions in terms of doing something that would be further damaging and harmful to the North Korean people.”

About 25,000 U.S. military troops serve in South Korea. Some 250,000 -- or nearly one-fifth of total U.S. military strength -- are assigned to U.S. Pacific Command.

(Report by Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service.)

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Wire: Report Says North Korea Test-Fires 6th Missile

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

Initial reports say North Korea test fired a new type of land-to-air missile.

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 -- Newswire services reported this morning that a report says North Korea has test-fired another short-range missile off its east coast.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency did not provide any details about the reported launch Friday, the Associated Press said.

The Yonhap News Agency reported that a South Korean government official said, "What the North has launched this time appears to be different from what it had launched [previously]."

"It is a new type of a land-to-air missile," the official said.

North Korea launched the missile, with an estimated range of 160 km, into the East Sea at around 6:12 p.m., according to the official.

The launch, if confirmed, would be the sixth missile North Korea has test-fired since its nuclear test on Monday.

This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Sources:
Report: NKorea test-fires short-range missile
N. Korea fires new type of short-range missile off east coast: source

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OEF Update, May 29, 2009: Troops Kill at Least 29 Militants in Paktika Province

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 29, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces attacked a suspected foreign fighter encampment killing at least 29 militants during a fierce firefight in Paktika province yesterday during an operation to capture Sangeen, a wanted Haqqani commander.

In the mountainous region of Wor Mamay District, near the Pakistan border, approximately 160 kilometers southwest of Khost city, Afghan and coalition forces raided an enemy encampment where intelligence sources indicated the senior leader Sangeen was operating a staging area for future attacks in Paktika province.

Dozens of well-armed militants immediately began firing on the combined force to repel the assault. Afghan and coalition forces returned fire, engaging multiple enemies situated both in heavily fortified positions and inside structures on the compound.

Forces continued receiving enemy fire as they maneuvered toward the camp, calling for direct supporting fires from aircraft to subdue enemies firing from positions on higher ground.

Multiple enemies who were killed during the firefight were found with grenades that had been rigged to explode upon disruption. During the assault, at least six enemies detonated suicide vests, killing only themselves. During one blast, a coalition member sustained minor wounds, but no other forces were wounded during the battle.

Forces discovered multiple weapons caches containing rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine guns, chest racks and suicide vests.

No non-combatants were injured during this operation.

Sangeen, also known as "Fateh," is a member of the Haqqani senior leadership who is responsible for numerous attacks against forces in eastern Afghanistan. He has also planned and coordinated the movement of al-Qaida senior leaders and hundreds of foreign fighters from Pakistan to Afghanistan through the Spreah District.

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

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