Saturday, August 22, 2009

Combat Camera Video: US Marines Pull Security for 2009 Afghan Election

video

NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of security run by U.S. Marines during the 2009 Afghan elections in the Washir District and Helmand province. Scenes include a Marine patrolling the area, a group of Marines sweeping the area for explosives, locals looking on, Afghan locals being searched before voting and the local people voting at the poll. Produced by Marine Cpl. Aaron Rooks, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Length: 00:04:22.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2009 -- The following text is a summary of news releases made available Friday and Saturday by the U.S. Department of Defense identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense has announced the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • Army 1st Sgt. Jose S.N. Crisostomo, 59, of Inarajan, Guam, died Aug. 18 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to International Security Assistance Force Kabul, Kabul, Afghanistan.

  • Pfc. Brian M. Wolverton, 21, of Oak Park, Calif., died Aug. 20 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

  • Spc. Justin R. Pellerin, 21, of Boscawen, N.H., died Aug. 20 in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

(Report compiled from U.S. Defense Department news releases.)

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OIF Update, Aug. 22, 2009: 4 US Soldiers Charged With Cruelty and Maltreatment

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, Aug. 22, 2009 -- Four U.S. soldiers serving with Multi-National Division -South have been charged with cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates.

On August 19, charges were preferred against Staff Sgt. Enoch Chatman, Staff Sgt. Bob Clements, Sgt. Jarrett Taylor and Spc. Daniel Weber, all of B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Bliss, Texas.

The four soldiers are alleged to have treated soldiers within their platoon inappropriately.

“Accusations of cruelty and maltreatment are taken very seriously, and we will investigate this isolated incident thoroughly,” said Brig. Gen. David Elicerio, Deputy Commanding General for Multi-National Division-South.

The accused soldiers are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any alleged offense.

The preferral of charges is the initial step in the prosecution of Chatman, Clements, Taylor and Weber.

The four accused soldiers face a variety of charges:
  • Chatman faces six total charges including four charges of cruelty and maltreatment, one charge of making false official statements; and one charge of reckless endangerment. The maximum penalty for these charges is a Dishonorable Discharge, 10 years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction in rank to E-1.

  • Clements faces nine total charges including four charges of cruelty and maltreatment, three charges of making false official statements, one charge of reckless endangerment and one charge of impeding an investigation. The maximum penalty for these charges is a Dishonorable Discharge, 25 years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction in rank to E-1.

  • Taylor faces four charges including two charges of cruelty and maltreatment, one charge of making false official statements and one charge of reckless endangerment. The maximum penalty for these charges is a Dishonorable Discharge, 8 years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction in rank to E-1.

  • Weber faces six charges including three charges of cruelty and maltreatment one charge of reckless endangerment and one charge of impeding an investigation. The maximum penalty for these charges is a Dishonorable Discharge, 9 years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction in rank to E-1.

This is a developing story.

(Report from a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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Wire: Baghdad Bombings Possible Inside Job Says Iraqi Leader

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that Iraq's foreign minister said Saturday that those who carried out bombings that targeted government buildings in the Iraqi capital received help to pull off the attacks, possibly from Iraqi security forces.

The Associated Press said the comments come as anger mounts over the bombings that have lead lawmakers to scrutinize the readiness of Iraqi security forces and raised questions about the loosening of security measures in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered security tightened and concrete blast walls to remain around potential targets in the aftermath of the attacks, reversing an order earlier this month to remove the walls in Baghdad by mid-September.

"Regrettably, we accepted the order to remove concrete walls and removal of a joint checkpoint near the ministry," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters during a press conference in Baghdad.

The blasts Wednesday primarily targeted government buildings, including the foreign and finance ministries, killing at least 101 people and wounding more than 500, AP said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Iraqi FM: Baghdad bombings possible inside job

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Wire: As Vets Await Checks, VA Workers Get $24 Million Bonuses

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

The Associated Press said, in scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.

AP noted the following details:
The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.

The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.

Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost $37,000.
AP said the details on the alleged improprieties were in two IG reports issued this week. VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the agency was extremely concerned about the IG's findings and would pursue a thorough review.

The VA has faced criticism before in its awarding of bonuses. In 2007, AP reported that the then-VA secretary had approved a generous package of more than $3.8 million in bonus payments in 2006, citing a need to retain longtime VA executives.

See links below for details.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Related Documents: Reports from VA Inspector General:
http://www.va.gov/oig/51/fy2009rpts/VAOIG-09-01123-196.pdf
http://www.va.gov/oig/51/fy2009rpts/VAOIG-09-01123-195.pdf

Source:
As vets await checks, VA workers get $24M bonuses

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 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 Enduring Freedom.

Army 1st Sgt. Jose S.N. Crisostomo, 59, of Inarajan, Guam, died Aug. 18 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to International Security Assistance Force Kabul, Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: Army Announces Force Structure Actions

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement regarding Army force structure actions:
The Department of the Army announced today a series of planned unit activations, inactivations, relocations and conversions at four installations. These force structure actions will result in an increase of 2,440 soldiers at Fort Riley, Kan., an increase of 418 soldiers at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., a decrease of 295 soldiers at Fort Irwin, Calif.; and a decrease of 376 soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo. Implementation of these changes is expected to be completed in September 2011.

For unit relocations; the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Brigade will move from Fort Carson to Fort Riley and the 70th Engineer Battalion will move from Fort Riley to White Sands Missile Range and be re-designated as the 2nd Engineer Battalion.

At Fort Riley, the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (1/1 ID), will convert to a modular, Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) formation. The 2nd Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, Delta Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 5th Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, and 101st Combat Support Battalion will convert to modular force structure design to support 1/1 ID HBCT.

At Fort Irwin, the 79th Ordnance Company will activate, the 557th Maintenance Company will inactivate, and the 669th Maintenance Company will convert to a modular design.

These force structure actions are a part of the integrated force structure changes that support Army transformation. These actions are not expected to change Army civilian authorizations at each installation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Wire: Obama Resuscitates VA 'Death Book' Directive

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- In an article published on August 19, The Wall Street Journal discusses the ‘Your Life, Your Choices’ document that is given to veterans regarding their ‘end of life care.’

The article says last year, officials at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices."

The document was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its network of hospitals and nursing homes.

After the Bush White House examined how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, the article points out, under President Barack Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

This ‘end-of-life’ planning document is now being distributed to all Veterans receiving care:
"…a July 2009 VA directive instructs its primary care physicians to raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to "Your Life, Your Choices." Not just those of advanced age and debilitated condition—all patients. America's 24 million veterans deserve better."
Linked below is a copy of the ‘Your Life, Your Choices’ document.

Within the document exists a checklist that specifically asks questions about 'What makes your life worth living?'.

These questions are being asked to all Veterans receiving treatment, including 19 and 20 year-olds who have been severely wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Listed below are all of the checklist questions:
a. I can no longer walk but get around in a wheelchair.
b. I can no longer get outside—I spend all day at home.
c. I can no longer contribute to my family's well being.
d. I am in severe pain most of the time.
e. I have severe discomfort most of the time (such as nausea, diarrhea, or shortness of breath).
f. I rely on a feeding tube to keep me alive.
g. I rely on a kidney dialysis machine to keep me alive.
h. I rely on a breathing machine to keep me alive.
i. I need someone to help take care of me all of time.
j. I can no longer control my bladder.
k. I can no longer control my bowels.
l. I live in a nursing home.
m. I can no longer think clearly-I am confused all the time.
n. I can no longer recognize family/friends
o. I can no longer talk and be understood by others.
p. My situation causes severe emotional burden for my family (such as feeling worried or stressed all the time).
q. I am a severe financial burden on my family.
r. I cannot seem to “shake the blues.”
These questions are followed by the questions below:
"If you checked "worth living, but just barely" for more than one factor, would a combination of these factors make your life "not worth living?" If so, which factors?

If you checked "not worth living," does this mean that you would rather die than be kept alive?

If you checked "can't answer now," what information or people do you need to help you decide?"
See source link below for details, discussion.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: WSJ: The Death Book for Veterans

Document: Your Life, Your Choices (pdf)

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OIF Update, Aug. 21, 2009: Iraqis Arrest 10 on Terrorism Charges

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, working with U.S. advisors, have arrested 10 people in Iraq on terrorism charges related to bombings, murder and kidnappings against Iraqi and U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians, military officials reported.

The arrests were made Aug. 19, and seven were with court-issued warrants.

In Kirkuk province, two men were arrested at their homes and charged with attacking Iraqi and U.S. forces with grenades and sniper rifles, as well conducting kidnappings, murders and intimidation against Iraqi civilians. Three other men believed to be associates of the suspects were found and detained in another home.

In Diyala province, Iraqi commandos with U.S. advisors arrested four suspects wanted for attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces and for kidnapping and murdering local civilians there. All were arrested in their homes without incident.

In Ninevah province, Iraqi commandos with U.S. advisors arrested a man on a warrant charging him with attacking Iraqi security forces with roadside bombs and car bombs.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Update, Aug. 21, 2009: Coordinated Effort Protects Voters in Zabul Province

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 21, 2009 -- As Afghans took to the streets yesterday to exercise their right to vote authorities here worked together to provide security for polling stations across the province.

The Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and NATO International Security Assistance Force servicemembers coordinated security for more than 40 polling stations.

"The strong coordination of [Afghan and NATO] forces in Zabul to protect the people allowed them to vote for their favorite candidate," Gov. Mohammad Ashraf Naseri said.

Coordination for most of the election took place at the province's Operations Coordination and Cooperation Center, which serves as the hub of information for the army, the police and National Department of Security's provincial office. All the organizations worked together to draft and implement a security plan, officials said.

During the elections, the center's personnel tracked polling stations and supplies, as well as the movements of election officials, watching for events that might disrupt the election process. Despite incidents of small-arms fire and mortar and rocket attacks, officials said, the province saw little violence. The polls were scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., but many sites extended hours to accommodate voters.

"The international community should continue to support the security, development and the people of Afghanistan," Naseri said. "Without the support of the international community, we will not be able to provide the proper security for the people."

ISAF troops fulfilled the quick-reaction-force role, responsible for being ready at a moment's notice to aid the Afghan army and police. ISAF troops also served as mentors, ensuring that the army and police executed their security plans.

The people of Zabul were happy to go to the polling stations and vote, said Afghanistan National Army Col. Rahmuttula Spaloni, Zabul province commander.

Naseri called the election a momentous event in Afghanistan history that allows the people to show their support for stability and peace.

(Report by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marcos Alices, Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan public affairs office.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Aug. 18 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Killed were:
  • Staff Sgt. Clayton P. Bowen, 29, of San Antonio, Texas.

  • Pfc. Morris L. Walker, 23, of Chapel Hill, N.C.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday 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 Enduring Freedom.

Spc. Paul E. Dumont, Jr., 23, of Williamsburg, Va., died Aug. 19 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 149th Transportation Company, 10th Transportation Battalion, Fort Eustis, Va.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

US Airpower Summary, Aug. 20, 2009: F-15E Destroys Enemy Position

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F-15E Strike Eagles taxi in at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after an Operation Iraqi Freedom mission. The F-15E is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions as well as provide armed aerial overwatch. The fighters are deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tony R. Tolley.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Aug. 20, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Aug. 19, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, coalition aircraft provided armed overwatch for friendly forces near Sheykhabad. Friendly forces reported taking enemy fire and requested a show of force. The shows of force, which included release of flares, were successful in stopping the enemy fire. In another engagement in the same area, a friendly force's patrol requested a show of force for reassurance that air power was in the area. The show of force, which included release of flares, was successful in deterring any enemy engagement.

Other coalition aircraft provided additional armed overwatch for friendly forces near Tarin Kowt. The aircraft focused attention on the village and a police substation. A show of force, which included release of flares, was successful in deterring enemy action during the day.

Coalition aircraft provided armed overwatch for friendly forces near Lashkar Gah. Afghan forces reported receiving small-arms fire from enemy position located in a ditch and requested assistance from air power. A strafing run eliminated the enemy position with cannon fire.

Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets were providing armed overwatch in the vicinity of Orgun-E when they were requested to provide armed interdiction against anti-coalition force's rocket positions. Friendly forces identified and confirmed the positions as hostile before being destroyed with precision guided munitions. The F/A-18Fs also provided overwatch of polling stations and school houses in the town.

F/A-18E Super Hornets also provided armed overwatch in the vicinity of Lowkhi. The Super Hornets displayed several shows of force for friendly forces under fire from several enemy positions.

Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles at Asadabad destroyed several enemy fighting positions that had been identified and confirmed. This was accomplished using precision guided munitions. There were also requests for shows of force for the deterrence of enemy fire. The shows of force successfully resulted in ending the enemy fire.

In Lowkhi, F/A-18C Hornets worked with a friendly force's convoy to prevent enemy engagement as the convoy left on a mission. Shows of force were successful in suppressing any enemy action on the departing convoy.

F/A-18E aircraft in the vicinity of Lashkar Gah performed shows of force and strafing runs against anti-Afghan forces that were targeting coalition forces with small-arms fire. The strafing runs eliminated the enemy position.

Coalition aircraft provided armed overwatch for friendly forces near Ghazni and Asmar. In Ghazni, coalition aircraft performed a show of force to reassure friendly forces that air power was overhead. At Asmar, coalition aircraft eliminated several enemy positions including a sniper position that had been firing on Afghan forces. This was achieved using precision guided munitions and a strafing run.

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

In total, 94 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Thirty-three Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Afghanistan. In addition, two coalition and two Navy aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

In total, 30 close-air-support missions were flown in support of 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-four Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. In addition, two Air Force 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.

Air Force airlift crews flew 144 airlift sorties, 676 short tons of cargo were delivered and about 3,400 passengers were transported. This included about 70,000 pounds of aerial resupply cargo dropped over Afghanistan.

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

On Aug. 18, Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and "Guardian Angel" teams transported 12 patients to coalition field hospitals from locations in Afghanistan. Pararescue team members aboard located, rescued and began treatment to stabilize patients in the battlefield. The HH-60G transported these patients to field hospitals in less time than it takes for a civilian patient to reach emergency care by ambulance in most major cities.

Air Force aerial refueling crews flew 58 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.3 million pounds of fuel to 286 receiving aircraft.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday 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. Matthew D. Hastings, 23, of Claremore, Okla., died Aug. 17 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 582nd Medical Logistics Company, 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, Fort Hood, Texas.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday 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.

Pfc. William Z. Vanosdol, 23, of Pinson, Ala., died Aug. 19 at Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy rocket fire struck his quarters. He was assigned to the 172nd Support Battalion, Schweinfurt, Germany.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Combat Camera: 2/8 Marines Operate in Helmand Provence, Afghanistan

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Javier Rohas and Lance Cpl. Gregory Butera provide security at a compound recently occupied by insurgents where their patrol found a cache of materials to make improvised explosive devices in Garmsir district in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009. Rohas and Butera are assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. (Photo by 1st Lt. Kurt Stahl, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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A cache of materials to make improvised explosive devices sits in a compound recently occupied by insurgents in Garmsir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009. U.S. Marines discovered the materials during a patrol. (Photo by 1st Lt. Kurt Stahl, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Angelo Agudelo carries a bag of ammonium nitrate from a cache of materials to make improvised explosive devices found in a compound recently occupied by insurgents in Garmsir district in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009. Agudelo is a team leader, assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. (Photo by 1st Lt. Kurt Stahl, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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A U.S. Marine provides security while fellow Marines load imaterials to make mprovised explosive devices found in a compound into a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle in Garmsir district in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009. (Photo by 1st Lt. Kurt Stahl, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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U.S. Marines load materials to make improvised explosive devices found in a nearby compound into a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle in Garmsir district in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009. (Photo by 1st Lt. Kurt Stahl, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Pentagon Discuses Baghdad Attacks, Cites Security Lapse

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2009 -- A U.S. commander in Iraq condemned yesterday’s wave of attacks in Baghdad that killed at least 95 people, saying a security lapse allowed the deadly assault.

Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick said the Iraqi government is investigating the attack that involved two truck bombs exploding minutes apart near ministry buildings in Baghdad, killing scores and injuring more than 500 others.

“Clearly, there was a lapse of security, or this would not have happened,” Helmick, who heads the U.S. command that oversees Iraqi security forces’ training and development, told reporters at the Pentagon today.

The attack came nearly two months after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq’s cities and villages as part of a deal to hand over increased authority to Iraqi forces. At the Iraqi government’s request, Helmick said, American troops provided intelligence, surveillance and medical assistance after yesterday’s attacks.

The bloodshed underscored that security in Iraq is an evolving process of training, partnering and development, Helmick said. He echoed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in saying that the bombings warranted a re-evaluation of security methods.

“These events clearly demonstrate that security is not only an ongoing process, it really is a never-ending commitment,” Helmick added.

While the general acknowledged that future attacks are likely, he characterized yesterday’s attack as an isolated security breach that is overshadowed by broader trends that indicate improved safety in Iraq compared to previous years.

Some 80 weekly attacks occur in Iraq, compared to an average of 1,600 a week during the height of violence in June 2007, he said.

“Do we anticipate more attacks in the future? I think there are going to be some bad days ahead,” he said. “But again, if you look at the progress of the Iraqi security forces across the board, there are more good days ahead than there will be bad days ahead. And again, this is a constant challenge and a constant commitment to maintain security in this country.”

Helmick said the declining number of attacks over time is proof of the Iraqi security forces’ increased capability.

“Yes, we have much work to be done,” he said. “And the U.S. forces will continue to work with the people of Iraq to improve the capabilities of their security forces.”

(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)

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Combat Camera: SWCCs Film Hollywood Action Scenes

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Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 operate a special operations craft-riverine during the filming of a scene in a upcoming major motion picture. The movie is due in theaters in 2010. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kathryn Whittenberger, Navy Visual News Service.)

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Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 operate a special operations craft-riverine during the filming of a scene in an upcoming major motion picture. The movie is due in theaters in 2010. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kathryn Whittenberger, Navy Visual News Service.)

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Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 operate a special operations craft-riverine during the filming of a scene in a upcoming major motion picture. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kathryn Whittenberger, Navy Visual News Service.)

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Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 operate a special operations craft-riverine during the filming of a scene in a upcoming major motion picture. The movie is due in theaters in 2010. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kathryn Whittenberger, Navy Visual News Service.)

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Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 operate a special operations craft-riverine during the filming of a scene in a upcoming major motion picture. The movie is due in theaters in 2010. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kathryn Whittenberger, Navy Visual News Service.)

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