Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pentagon: Gen. McChrystal Promises Full Accounting of Kunduz Air Strike

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2009 -- The commander of the International Security Assistance Force promised Afghans a full accounting of the air strike in Kunduz province Sept. 3.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in a radio address to Afghans today that “nothing is more important than the safety and protection of the Afghan people.”

The general spoke soon after visiting the site. The incident occurred after Taliban insurgents hijacked two fuel trucks. They drove the trucks to the banks of the Kunduz River where they became stuck in the mud. NATO soldiers spotted the trucks, ascertained there were no civilians present and called for the air strike. American F-15E Strike Eagles dropped ordnance on the site.

Now there are charges that, in addition to the Taliban, civilians were present. News reports indicate that civilians from neighboring villages may have been siphoning gas from the trucks. Estimates of the number of dead vary, with German officials – who patrol the area – saying there were 50.

“While the air strike was clearly directed at the insurgents, ISAF will do whatever is necessary to help the community, including medical assistance and evacuation as requested,” said Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, and ISAF spokesman.

Previous bombings have enflamed Afghan passions against the NATO-led security force. McChrystal moved quickly to defuse the situation, sending an investigation team to the area and stressing that the team will work closely with Afghan officials.

“I take this possible loss of life or injury to innocent Afghans very seriously,” he said in the address," he said. “I have ordered a complete investigation into the reasons and results of this attack, which I will share with the Afghan people,” he said.

ISAF is offering emergency medical aid and other emergency assistance to those affected.

Previous instances of unintended civilian deaths have angered Afghan leaders. As soon as McChrystal took command in June, he instituted strict standards for close-air support missions.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2009 -- The following news release made available Saturday 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 Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Baltazar Jr., 19, of San Antonio, Texas, died Sept. 3 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OEF Update, Sept. 5, 2009: US Servicemember Killed in Eastern Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2009 -- An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) servicemember died of wounds today as a result of hostile fire in eastern Afghanistan.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. spokesperson, confirmed that the deceased is a U.S. servicemember.

“We share the pain felt by the family members and friends of this courageous and selfless servicemember,” said Brigadier-General Eric Tremblay, ISAF Spokesperson. “This unfortunate loss does not alter our responsibility and resolve to help Afghans determine their own brighter future.”

Earlier today, ISAF officials reported the death of a U.S. servicemember in western Afghanistan.

(Report from an International Security Assistance Force news release.)

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Wire: Gen. McChrystal Inspects Afghan Tanker Airstrike Site

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan is visiting the site of an airstrike where American jets bombed two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban.

The Associated Press said that Gen. Stanley McChrystal traveled to inspect the site in northern Kunduz province Saturday as NATO began a formal investigation into the attack in which up some reports claim to 90 people died. It is unclear how many of the dead were militants and how many were villagers siphoning fuel from the trucks.

Preventing civilian deaths has been an Obama Administration priority for McChrystal since he took command in Afghanistan this year. However, it is proving to be a daunting task in a war where all enemy combatants are civilians.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Combat Camera Video: Joint Patrol in Eastern Baghdad

video

NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police conducting a joint patrol in eastern Baghdad. Scenes include soldiers and Iraqi police patrolling various streets, soldiers and Iraqi police meeting with Iraqi citizens and an interview with Sgt. Daniel Gardiner discussing the patrol. (Produced by Sgt. Stephanie Louge, 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Length: 00:04:37.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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OEF Update, Sept. 5, 2009: US Servicemember Killed in Western Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2009 -- An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) servicemember was killed today by hostile small arms fire in western Afghanistan.

ISAF Press Officer Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo confirmed that the servicemember was from the United States.

“Every casualty is a significant loss for their family, our forces, and the nation,” said Col. Wayne Shanks, an ISAF spokesman.

(Report from an International Security Assistance Force news release.)

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Wire: Democrats Signal Resistance to US Troop Increase in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that key Senate Democrats signaled Friday that any effort by President Barack Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan is likely to hit resistance on Capitol Hill, deepening a growing political divide on the war even within his own party.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin today said the U.S. must focus more on building the Afghan security forces. His cautionary stance was echoed by fellow Democrat Sen. Jack Reed, who is also on the committee and spent two days in Afghanistan this week with Levin.

The Associated Press noted that senators will return to Washington next week, just as Obama receives a new military review of Afghanistan strategy that officials expect will be followed up by a request for at least a modest increase in U.S. troops battling insurgents in the eight-year-old war.

Obama came into office on a campaign platform pledging to shift U.S. focus from the war in Iraq to the Afghan fight.

Lawmakers now say they want the U.S. to more quickly train and equip the Afghan Army and police so the Afghans can take over their own security.

The offensive effort to root out terrorists seems to be taking a political back seat to defensive efforts involving nation building and searching for an exit strategy.

By the end of the year, an estimated 68,000 troops will be in Afghanistan, 21,000 of which were ordered there by Obama last spring.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Dems signal resistance to Afghan troop increase

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Wire: Obama Urged to Rally Support for Afghan War

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that the White House is facing mounting pressure from lawmakers to work harder to rally flagging public support for the war in Afghanistan.

With casualties rising, the administration is struggling to persuade voters that the war can be won or is worth the human and financial costs. Afghanistan is President Barack Obama's top foreign-policy priority, but recent polls show that a majority of voters oppose the war for the first time since the conflict began eight years ago, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Wall Street Journal noted the following details:
The politics of the war are getting trickier for key American allies as well. A junior minister in Britain's Ministry of Defense resigned Thursday, criticizing his government's strategy in Afghanistan on the eve of a major speech by Prime Minister Gordon Brown about Britain's efforts there.

In the U.S., a growing number of lawmakers say that Mr. Obama needs to make the case for Afghanistan more forcefully -- and more frequently -- than he has done to date.
Some lawmakers feel that the president hasn't spent enough time on Afghanistan.

Additionally, White House officials said there were no plans for Mr. Obama to address the Afghan war in a major speech in the near future.

Recently, Obama said "victory" in Afghanistan isn't the United States' goal.

In a factually incorrect comparison, Obama told ABC News, "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur."

Emperor Hirohito was not in attendance at the ceremony aboard USS Missouri where Japanese officials signed the surrender documents concluding World War II.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Obama Urged to Rally Support for War

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OIF Update, Sept. 4, 2009: Iraq-based US Marine Unit Undergoes Significant Reduction in Size

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Since 2004, a 4,000-person Marine Logistics Group has served as the logistics combat element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force operating in Al Anbar province, Iraq. But as of Sept. 1, a regiment-sized element, which is about half the size of the group, uncased their military colors for the first time to assume the responsibilities of providing logistics support to the Marines still in Iraq.

The change is a significant step for the Marine Corps as it shows substantial progress in their responsible drawdown from Iraq. The Marines’ mission in Iraq is scheduled to be completed by spring of 2010.

Under the heat of the Iraqi sun, members of the 2nd MLG (Forward) headquarters element and guests, to include Maj. Gen. R. T. Tryon, Multi National Force - West commanding general, gathered aboard Camp Al Taqaddum for a ceremony to recognize the transfer of authority from Brig. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, commanding general for 2nd MLG (Fwd), to Col. Vincent A. Coglianese, commanding officer for the newly designated Combat Logistics Regiment 27 (Forward). Coglianese will be leading the logistics element of the MAGTF in completing the remainder of its planned year-long deployment.

When a logistics command element first stood up in support of the MAGTF mission in Iraq in 2003, the MLG (Fwd), or the 1st Force Service Support Group as it was called before 2005, consisted of four subordinate battalions of about 1,000 Marines and Sailors each. The standard makeup of the group included an engineer battalion, two direct support battalions - one in support of the Marine units operating in eastern Al Anbar, and the other focused on units working in the west, and a general support battalion in support of all Marine Corps units within MNF-W.

For five years, this lineage of Marine logistics units has provided the ground units, and their own units, the support they needed to carry out day-to-day operations.

“[Marine logisticians] continued to sustain our forces at the outer edges of the battlefield and the edges of this empire,” remarked Ayala during the ceremony. “They’ve been on duty in Al Anbar and Ninewa provinces, in Basra, Waleed, Diyala supporting those [Regimental Combat Teams], Army [Brigade Combat Teams] and the combat advisors.

“All have collectively convoyed hundreds of thousands of miles transporting and escorting tons of critical supplies such as fuel, spare parts, ammunition, mail, personnel and equipment over the same dangerous and [improvised explosive device]-laden roads which our ground combat element operates on,” he continued.

The newly established CLR-27 (Fwd) will consist of a headquarters battalion; a direct support, reserve battalion - Combat Logistics Battalion 46; and a general support battalion, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, home-based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“Today serves as another success story in our nation’s involvement in [Operation Iraqi Freedom],” expressed Coglianese during his closing remarks. “The improved security situation we see today is a direct result of countless deployments made by our U.S. service members over the last six years.”

Marine units serving throughout Al Anbar and Ninewa provinces have and continue to return to their home station without replacements. The reduction has enabled the logistics combat element to continue their service support mission while allowing them to also work towards getting all Marine gear and equipment out of Iraq.

With supply records showing the Marine Corps still has nearly 95,000 pieces of equipment to remove from Iraq, the Marines prepare to conduct the largest drawdown of their recent operational history.

(Report from a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies Navy Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 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 sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin P. Castiglione, 21, of Howell, Mich., died Sept. 3 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Battalion.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Summary, Sept. 4, 2009: Iraqi Forces Wound Terror Suspect, Nab Smuggler

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, working with U.S. advisors, wounded and captured a suspected terrorist and arrested an alleged weapons smuggler in recent operations, military officials reported.

Elements of the Iraqi special operations forces detained a suspected terrorist who was wanted for engaging in sectarian violence in Baghdad yesterday. He was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, and when approached the Iraqi soldiers with the intent to fire, they shot and wounded him.

The elite counter-terrorism force was operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Central Investigative Court of Karkh. Iraqi soldiers rendered medical aid and transported the suspect to a nearby medical facility. The U.S. advisors present were not involved in the shooting, officials said.

On Sept. 2, an Iraqi special weapons and tactics team served an arrest warrant without incident on a suspected smuggler in Ramadi.

Kamil Fadil allegedly was involved with smuggling foreign fighters, weapons and suicide vests. He also is believed to have ties to other wanted individuals throughout Iraq. The warrant was issued by the Magistrate Court in Ramadi.

The arrest may lead to the disruption of networks known to smuggle foreign fighters and finance terrorism in Iraq, officials said.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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NATO Investigates Air Strike in Northern Afghanistan

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has launched an investigation into a coalition air strike that reportedly killed civilians yesterday, military officials reported.

NATO officials still are working to ascertain the facts in the incident, which occurred in Regional Command North's area of operations in Kunduz province, according to an ISAF news release.

What is known is that ISAF soldiers reported that insurgents had hijacked two fuel trucks in Kunduz yesterday. The troops located the trucks on the banks of the Kunduz River when the vehicles became stuck in the mud.

The troops observed insurgent activity around the vehicles, and did not believe civilians were in the area. The NATO commander in the area called for an air strike, and American F-15s responded.

"A large number of insurgents are believed to have been killed or injured, and the fuel trucks were destroyed in the attack," the release said.

Afghan officials put the death toll at 90, 60 of them being insurgents. Afghan provincial and national officials are working with ISAF investigators, NATO officials said.

"While the air strike was clearly directed at the insurgents, ISAF will do whatever is necessary to help the community including medical assistance and evacuation as requested," Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, an ISAF spokesperson, said. "ISAF regrets any unnecessary loss of human life and is deeply concerned for the suffering that this action may have caused to our Afghan friends."

Civilian deaths are a flashpoint in Afghanistan, and the commander of American and NATO troops, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has stressed the importance of minimizing civilian casualties.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:
EDITOR'S NOTE, Spc. Jordan Shay, the creator of the blog Through Amber Lenses, was killed in Baqubah, Iraq, on Wednesday in a rollover accident. Jordan was new to blogging, having written only 16 posts since May. His blog is at: http://throughamberlenses.blogspot.com.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday 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 Iraqi Freedom. They died Sept. 3 in Baqubah, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. The soldiers were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:
  • Staff Sgt. Todd W. Selge, 25, of Burnsville, Minn.; and

  • Spc. Jordan M. Shay, 22, of Salisbury, Mass.

The incident is under investigation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Discuses Gates' Objection to AP News Photo of Dying Marine

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates used the strongest terms in trying to persuade the Associated Press to refrain from running a graphic picture of a Marine taken shortly after the servicemember was wounded in southern Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today.

Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard later died on the operating table Aug. 14.

The Marine’s family in New Portland, Maine, asked the Associated Press not to run the photo, which was taken by Julie Jacobson, who was embedded with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

The AP put out a series of photographs of the Marine patrol, and Gates objected to one showing Bernard clearly in anguish while being treated. He had just been hit in the legs by a rocket-propelled grenade.

When Gates heard the AP was going to send the photo to its subscribers, he called Thomas Curley, president and chief executive officer of the news service, asking him to pull the photo, Morrell said.

Morrell quoted the secretary as saying to Curley, “I’m begging you to defer to the wishes of the family. This will cause them great pain.”

Curley told the secretary he would reconvene his editorial team to re-examine the release.

The secretary followed his call with a letter to AP. “I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family,” the secretary wrote. “Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency.”

Curley got back to Morrell later yesterday afternoon and said his crew had “seriously considered the secretary’s concerns and the families concerns … but ultimately decided that they wanted to proceed with pushing out this image to their clients,” Morrell said.

Morrell said Gates was extremely disappointed that the Associated Press did not adhere to the wishes of the family. The vast majority of news outlets did not run the photo, he added.

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

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Wire: Gates Blasts Associated Press Decision to Run Photo of Marine Dying in Combat

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is objecting “in the strongest terms” to an Associated Press decision to transmit a photograph showing a mortally wounded 21-year-old Marine in his final moments of life, calling the decision “appalling” and a breach of “common decency.”

The Associated Press reported that the Marine’s father had asked -- in an interview and in a follow-up phone call -- that the image, taken by an embedded photographer, not be published.

The photo shows Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard of New Portland, Maine, who was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14 in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, according to AP.

The Politico politics blog noted that Gates wrote to Thomas Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. “Out of respect for his family’s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly. In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed -- as was the case with Walter Reed.
“I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family. Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right -- but judgment and common decency.”
The four-paragraph letter concluded, “Sincerely,” then had Gates’ signature.

The following cut line was attached to the image:
“The U.S. patrol had a tip that Taliban fighters were lying in ambush in a pomegranate grove, and a Marine trained his weapon on the trees. Seconds later, a salvo of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades poured out, and a grenade hit Lance Cpl. Joshua ‘Bernie’ Bernard. The Marine was about to become the next fatality in the deadliest month of the deadliest year of the Afghan war.”
The Associated Press continues to defend its decision to publish the photograph.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Combat Camera: Cobras Search the Night, Nassir Wa Salam, Iraq

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
"I'm trying to get a good scan of the area and trying to get the element of surprise on anybody trying to do the wrong thing in the area," explained Urbana, Ohio, native, Pfc. Brendan Smitke, an infantryman assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as he uses his night vision scope to check on enemy activity during a night patrol in Nassir Wa Salam, Sept. 1. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
Staff Sgt. Ron Sherwood (left), a tanker section sergeant from Tishomingo, Okla., gives some direction to Pfc. Brendan Smitke, an infantryman from Urbana, Ohio, during a night patrol in Nassir Wa Salam, Sept. 1. "We're just here to check up on things and try to prevent insurgents from using this area," said Sherwood. Both soldiers are assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
"I'm just trying to play around with them...It builds morale with the kids and just tries to show them that we're friendly," said Spc. Andrew Timon, a combat medic from Santa Clara, Calif., assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as he tests the strength of an Iraqi boy during a dismounted night patrol through Nassir Wa Salam, Sept. 1. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
Pfc. Brendan Smitke, an infantryman from Urbana, Ohio, assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, stays vigilant while providing security during a night patrol to inhibit insurgent activity in Nassir Wa Salam, Sept. 1. "We're just trying to protect those who want to live a good life...like we live back home," said Smitke. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
Soldiers from C Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, cross a pipe over a canal during a night patrol in Nassir Wa Salam, Sept. 1. The soldiers' presence prevented any insurgents from operating in the area during the twilight hours. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Wire: NATO Airstrike Kills 90 in Northern Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that Afghan officials say a NATO airstrike Friday morning hit a fuel truck in northern Afghanistan, killing around 90 people, including civilians.

Officials say a majority of the dead were Taliban militants, according to a VOA News report.

NATO officials confirmed they ordered the airstrike to target militants who had hijacked two fuel trucks. They say they are investigating whether the airstrike killed any civilians.

VOA News said officials in Kunduz province say Taliban militants had hijacked the trucks and brought them to a village in the Aliabad district, near Afghanistan's northern border with Tajikistan. The officials say militants invited villagers to collect fuel from the trucks when a bomb struck.

The incident highlights the growing insecurity in northern Afghanistan, VOA said.

(Report from newswire and NATO sources.)

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pentagon: Army Announces New Afghanistan Troop Rotation

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement announcing units for an upcoming Afghanistan rotation:
The Department of the Army announced today the extension of a division headquarters and a combat aviation brigade in Afghanistan, as well as the future deployment of a division headquarters with recent Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) experience.

These moves are part of an initiative to place units on a habitual rotation to take advantage of their knowledge of the complex environment to which they are returning and to increase deployment stability. We will seek to better align the rotation of units and their headquarters for force cohesion.

The units being extended are the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters, Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Stewart, Ga. The 82nd Airborne Division will extend its current deployment by approximately 50 days, and the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade will extend for 14 days. These extensions are necessary to allow follow-on units to accrue one year of time at home station before redeploying (dwell time). The process will be managed to avoid any stop-loss for personnel.

The follow-on forces will deploy in the late spring of 2010. They are the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters, Fort Campbell, Ky., which will now deploy six months sooner than previously planned, and the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Drum, N.Y.

These adjustments to the OEF troop rotation achieve better continuity at the division headquarters level in Afghanistan and increase deployment stability for the soldiers and families of these units. When these adjustments are completed, the units will deploy at close to a 1-2 ratio (1 year deployed - 2 years home) -- much better than today’s ratio.

This rotation continues the U.S. commitment to maintain the level of forces necessary to provide sufficient military capability for the NATO-International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to further improve security and stability operations. In consultation with Afghan officials and NATO, commanders continue to assess the situation to ensure sufficient force levels to best support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, perform counter-terrorism operations, assist with reconstruction, and train and equip the Afghan national security forces. Afghan security forces continue to develop capability and assume responsibility for security. This U.S. force rotation may be tailored based upon changes in the security situation.

“These adjustments to our force flow strategy are an important element in supporting the commander of ISAF’s efforts to develop greater campaign continuity in regard to maximizing experience and stability in Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Lt. Gen. J.D. Thurman, the U.S. Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Discuses Afghanistan Assessment

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2009 -- Enemies of America remain in Afghanistan, and the United States must stay there to defeat the terrorists, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

That is the focus of President Barack Obama’s regional strategy announced in March, Gates said. The secretary said he is studying the assessment Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, submitted earlier this week. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke during a Pentagon news conference.

Gates said he has passed McChrystal’s assessment on to the White House. The assessment looks at the comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the goal of defeating al-Qaida, and charts the way forward.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff will provide their expertise and input. They will send their thoughts on the situation in Afghanistan to the president next week, Gates said.

The chiefs plan to finish their evaluation tomorrow, Mullen said. “We're going to do that with a clear eye, not only on the needs in Afghanistan, but also the needs of the force, in general, and on our other security commitments around the globe,” he said.

McChrystal’s assessment lays out in frank and candid terms “how he believes his forces can best accomplish the mission the president has assigned to him,” Mullen said.

Both Gates and Mullen stressed that the assessment does not deal with troop numbers and other resources. That will be discussed later this month, Gates said.

“What's more important than the numbers of troops he may or may not ask for is how he intends to use them,” Mullen said. “It should come as no surprise to anyone that he intends to use those forces under his command to protect the Afghan people, to give them the security they need to reject the influence the Taliban seeks.”

Ultimately, the strategy also is meant to prevent terror groups from launching another major attack against the United States from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and Gates and Mullen said it is important for the United States to stay there.

“The fact is that 9/11 represented the first foreign-based attack on the continental United States, with significant casualties, since the War of 1812,” Gates said. “That attack emanated from Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The Taliban did not just provide a safe haven for al-Qaida. They actively cooperated and collaborated with al-Qaida. They provided a worldwide base of operations for al-Qaida.”

The U.S. military must work with the international community to ensure that Afghans can develop the security apparatus needed to protect their people and prevent their country from being used by violent extremists, the secretary said.

“In the context of the president’s goal of disrupting, dismantling and destroying al-Qaida, we seek an Afghanistan that is our partner in that endeavor and that can sustain that endeavor after we’re gone,” Gates said.

The secretary acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated, but cautioned Americans from making a snap judgment. He reminded reporters that the new strategy only came about in March, that the last of 21,000 new U.S. troops committed to the country are just now flowing in and McChrystal has only been in command since June.

“I don't believe that the war is slipping through the administration’s fingers,” Gates said in response to a reporter’s question. “The fact that Americans would be tired of having their sons and daughters at risk and in battle is not surprising. I think what is important is for us to be able to show, over the months to come, is that the president's strategy is succeeding.”

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

Related: Gen. McChrystal Issues Afghan Counterinsurgency Guidance (w/doc link)

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