Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wire: Afghan Soldier Kills 2 US Servicemembers

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

UPDATE: The Assocated Press is reporting that the assailiant was "wearing an ANP (Afghan National Police) uniform."
The U.S. military said two American troops were killed by "an individual wearing an ANP (Afghan National Police) uniform" in Wardak province on Friday. Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Wardak provincial governor, said the policeman fired on the Americans while they were patrolling together Friday night, killing two and injuring two.

Halim Fidai, governor of Wardak, said two people who recommended the alleged assailant for his job were in custody for questioning. Fidai also said a joint team of American and Afghan officials was investigating the attack, interviewing both the American soldiers and the Afghans who had been on the patrol to learn what happened and how the gunman escaped.

[. . .]

Over a period of less than a month last year, Afghan policemen twice attacked American soldiers in the east. In October 2008, a policeman hurled a grenade and opened fire on a U.S. foot patrol, killing one soldier. In September 2008, an officer opened fire at a Paktia police station, killing a soldier and wounding three before he was fatally shot.

Most recently, in Kabul, an American service member and an Afghan police officer argued because the American was drinking water in front of police during the Ramadan fast, prompting the police officer to shoot the American. Other American troops responded and seriously wounded the Afghan.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that an Afghan soldier on guard at a joint base with U.S. troops shot dead two American servicemembers and wounded two others as they slept, a provincial official said on Saturday.

Shahedullah Shahed, spokesman for the governor of Wardak province west of Kabul, said the shooting took place after a combined team of Afghan and U.S. forces had returned from a joint operation late on Friday, according to a report by the Reuters news service.
"The Americans were in the middle of sleep when an Afghan soldier on duty opened fire on them," Shahed said.

"We have no clue as to why he shot them."
A statement from NATO-led forces said two American soldiers died from injuries suffered in a "hostile attack" in eastern Afghanistan on Friday. A press officer for the Western troops said he could give no further details of the incident.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire: 3 US Troops Killed by Attacks in East Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that three American servicemembers were killed by attacks in eastern Afghanistan, the military said Saturday, adding to the toll as the Obama administration continues to ponder its strategy in the war.

The Associated Press reported that two of the Americans were killed Friday in a firefight with militants in Wardak, an eastern province bordering Kabul. The third service member died Friday of wounds from a bomb attack in Wardak the day before. The newly reported deaths came the same day as a suicide attack on a U.S. convoy in the south killed two Americans.
U.S. and NATO deaths dropped in September over the previous two months -- possibly due to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan or because no major offensives were launched. But since President Barack Obama's decision to send 21,000 more troops to curb the growing Taliban-led insurgency, international and civilian tolls have risen steadily.
(Report from newswire sources.)

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Wire: Suicide Bomber Kills 2 US Servicemembers In Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that a suicide bomber struck a convoy of U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan on Friday, killing two U.S. servicemembers, a press officer for U.S. and NATO-led troops said.

Captain Elizabeth Mathias gave no further details of the attack.

The Reuters news service reported that a suicide bomber killed one American servicemember in a similar attack on a convoy on Wednesday in Khost province in the southeast.

The Associated Press reported that an American servicemember died when Taliban militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a patrol late Thursday in eastern Afghanistan.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Pentagon: American Samoa Relief Efforts Continue

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2009 -- The medical support situation in American Samoa has stabilized amid ongoing U.S. relief efforts after a massive tsunami devastated the area this week, a Defense Department official said today.

Medical triage, casualty care, shelter and bedding are being administered to those affected by the disaster, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

“It does appear as if the situation is stabilizing a bit -- at least the medical support situation has stabilized,” he said. “The hospital there is open, [and] the [Veterans Affairs] clinic on the island has been providing some additional assistance in the treatment of injured there.”

An 8.4 magnitude earthquake struck near the Samoa Islands region Sept. 29, causing devastating 15-to-20-foot-high waves to cascade inland across the South Pacific archipelago, including the eastern side of American Samoa, a U.S. possession.

Three C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes flew from Hawaii to deliver personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, food and water, and mortuary-affairs assets. A fourth flight is expected to arrive soon, and two other C-17 flights are being coordinated, Whitman said.

“It’s the very basic types of things that you need when people are all of a sudden without any shelter and all of a sudden need assistance with the basic necessities,” Whitman said. “Food, personal hygiene items, that type of [assistance].”

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers and subject-matter experts are working on power regeneration and handling issues related to debris and waste water.

The request for Defense Department assistance in providing medical triage, hazardous material response, mass casualty care and strategic airlift came from FEMA.

FEMA maintains well-stocked warehouses in Guam and Honolulu and is deploying resources to support 70,000 survivors in American Samoa survivors over the coming week.

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

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US Airpower Summary, Oct. 2, 2009: A-10s Silence Enemy Activity

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An A-10 Thunderbolt II prepares to make contact with a KC-10 Extender during a refeuling mission. A-10s provide close-air support for both operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Tankers offloaded 3.6 million pounds of fuel Oct.1 to more than 264 aircraft. (U.S. Air Force by Airman 1st Class Matt Cook.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Oct. 2, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Oct. 1, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flew armed overwatch in the Asmar area. Friendly forces reported receiving fire and requested shows of force to deter the enemy action. The shows of force were considered successful in deterring enemy activity.

In Sheykhabad, F-15E aircraft provided overwatch for friendly forces. When friendly forces started receiving sporadic enemy fire, a request for air support was made. Several enemy positions were confirmed, and strafing runs were made to eliminate the positions. One enemy position required a precision-guided munition to end the attack from that location. Two additional shows of force were made to deter further potential enemy aggression.

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft were in the vicinity of Chahar Bagh, providing armed overwatch for friendly ground forces and a convoy when the friendly ground forces reported receiving enemy small-arms fire. The point of origin for the enemy fire was confirmed and marked with a rocket. Aircrews supported the ground forces by conducting strafing runs against the enemy compound. The action was considered successful.

At Balocan, coalition aircraft provided overwatch for a friendly forces' patrol. The aircraft were also conducting reconnaissance for any suspicious activity in the patrol area. When friendly forces came under enemy fire, a show of force was conducted to deter the enemy aggression. The show of force successfully terminated enemy action.

In Sheykhabad, F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft providing armed overwatch for friendly forces in the area. The F-15Es were also tasked to support helicopter operations in the area and when requested provided several shows of force that successfully deterred enemy action.

F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft were also overhead at Farah providing armed overwatch for friendly forces. The aircraft performed several shows of force in an effort to deter enemy action during an operation and they were considered successful as no enemy action occurred.

Near Shurakian, Navy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft provided armed overwatch for a coalition forces' convoy in the area. The convoy passed a compound where suspicious activity had been noted earlier. A show of force was requested and was successful in deterring any threatening activity while the convoy passed.

In Iraq, Air Force F-16C aircraft were in the vicinity of Tall Afar when friendly forces requested a show of force. The action successfully deterred enemy aggression and was declared a success.

In total, 86 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

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

In total, 22 close-air-support missions were flown in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions integrated and synchronized with 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 165 airlift sorties; 4,680 short tons of cargo were delivered; and about 3,000 passengers were transported. This included about 110,000 pounds of aerial resupply cargo dropped over Afghanistan.

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

On Sept. 30, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and "Guardian Angel" teams transported seven 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 Pave Hawks 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 57 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.6 million pounds of fuel to 264 receiving aircraft.

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

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Combat Camera Video: Tangi Valley, Part 3 - Hunting Intelligence

video

NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2009 -- Embedded above is part three of a series. American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division patrol the local area to collect information in the enemy. (NATO TV video. Length: 4:34.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Wire: US, British Troops Killed, Wounded in Afghanistan Attacks

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that two international troops -- one American and one British -- were killed in separate clashes in Afghanistan, military officials said Friday.

The Associated Press reported that the American servicemember died when Taliban militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a patrol late Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said. Several other Americans were wounded, she added.

A British airman was killed Thursday when a bomb exploded alongside his patrol near Camp Bastion in southern Helmand province, the British Ministry of Defense announced.
The deaths were the first reported this month for the U.S.-led force, which has been locked in the heaviest fighting of the Afghan war. The Obama administration is debating whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, whose government faces allegations of widespread fraud in the disputed Aug. 20 presidential election.
At least 37 American servicemembers died in Afghanistan in September, compared with 51 in August, 44 in July and 24 in June, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press from official statements.

The September death toll for the overall international force, including Americans, stood at 65, compared with 73 in August, 75 in July and 34 in June.

At the same time, civilian deaths rose from 169 in August to 202 in September, according to AP figures compiled from police and other Afghan officials.

The reason for the decline in servicemember deaths was unclear, although major ground operations were launched against Taliban forces in July and August. No figures for wounded were available, AP said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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US Navy Establishes Carrier Strike Group 1

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 16, 2009) In this file photo, an F/A-18E Super Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136 prepares to land on USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) flight deck during routine flight operations. Carl Vinson is underway conducting flight deck certification after the completion of its scheduled refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. The RCOH was an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephen Rowe.)

Focus on Defense:

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 2, 2009 -- The Navy formally established Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1 in San Diego October 1, 2009. The flagship for CSG 1 will be the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), currently homeported in Newport News, Va. Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1, USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) will round out the strike group.

Commanded by Rear Adm. Ted "Twig" Branch, CSG 1 will be a San Diego-based operational command and will report to Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet.

"We are excited by the opportunity to establish this new command and bring the power of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group online in support of our nation's defense," said Branch. "I'm also very happy to bring this capability, along with the men and women who make it possible, to the great city of San Diego."

Carrier Strike Group 1's first mission is expected to be a transit around South America in the spring of 2010 as Vinson relocates to its new homeport of San Diego.

In support of the nation's maritime strategy, CSG-1 will help promote regional partnerships, deter crisis, project power, promote maritime security, and provide humanitarian assistance or disaster relief within the U.S. Pacific Fleet's 100 million square-mile area of operations.

The Navy took redelivery of Vinson July 11, 2009, following the successful completion of the ship's midlife refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH).

USS Carl Vinson is the third Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to complete RCOH at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News and is undergoing a four-month post-refueling shipyard maintenance period to prepare for its transit to San Diego.

(Report by Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs.)

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wire: Obama Admin Gives Up Control of Internet

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that the U.S. government and the body in charge of assigning Internet addresses signed an agreement on Wednesday that will relinquish some control over the way the network is run and allows for foreign governments to have more of a say in the future of the system.

The U.S. Commerce Department said it reached an agreement with Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), drawing praise from some U.S. lawmakers who wanted more trademark protections, and companies and international officials seeking greater independence from U.S. control, the Reuters news service reported.

The deal effectively pushes California-based ICANN towards a new status as an international body with greater representation from companies and governments around the globe, the UK based Guardian said.

ICANN had previously been operating under the auspices of the American government, which had control of the Internet thanks to the U.S. Defense Department's role in developing the underlying technologies used for connecting computers together.

The pact comes months after the European Union said ICANN should be delinked from the U.S. government and made fully independent.

See links below for details.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Sources:
US relinquishes control of the internet
UPDATE 1-US government signs pact with Internet domain body

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF) (Philippines)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 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 Sept. 29 in Jolo Island, the Philippines, from the detonation of an improvised-explosive device. The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:
  • Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw, 37, of Markham, Ill.

  • Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III, 26, of Bethany, Okla.

The incident is under investigation.
(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, Oct. 1, 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.

Staff Sgt. Alex French IV, 31, of Milledgeville, Ga., died Sept. 30 in Kwhost, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit using an improvised-explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Lawrenceville, Ga.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: The War in Afghanistan Can Be Won, Top Commander Says

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- The war in Afghanistan can be won if forces there change the way they fight, the top military commander on the ground said today.

“We must operate and think in a fundamentally new way,” Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said in a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.

In his first speech since submitting his recent assessment on the situation in Afghanistan, the general said that the fight needs to be redefined -- more focused on earning the trust of the Afghan people and less on chasing out the Taliban.

McChrystal called the situation in Afghanistan “serious,” and said that in some ways it is deteriorating. He also said that violence is up, not only because there are more troops on the ground, but also because the insurgency has grown.

At the same time, McChrystal said, he can point to progress, such as in road construction, health care and education.

The general said time is critical, and that the war will not “remain winnable indefinitely.” But it is not simply a matter of applying more force to the complex fight, he said. In fact, more is not necessarily better.

“We can’t succeed by simply trying harder. We cannot drop three more bombs and have a greater effect; it is much more subtle than that,” McChrystal said.

The Afghan people must be protected from all threats, he said. To do that, forces must be out, connected with the people. The Taliban many times rule, not because they are wanted, but because they offer protection and rule of law to the villagers.

“Villagers are supremely rational and practical people,” McChrystal said. “They make the decision on who they will support, based upon who can protect them and provide for them the things they need.”

Coalition forces also need to concentrate on areas that are most threatened, he said.

The commander called for faster growth of the Afghan security forces, both the Army and the police. The government also must increase its capacity, and corrupt officials need to be rooted out.

NATO forces must partner more closely with the Afghan forces, living, planning and fighting alongside each other, he said. And coalition forces must be more aware of their actions and their impact on the locals. If coalition forces are too aggressive in their quest to stamp out the Taliban, and end up killing locals or destroying their property, it counteracts their efforts.

“We say, ‘We are here for you. We respect and want to protect you’, and then we destroy their home, kill their relatives, destroy their crops,” McChrystal said. “It’s difficult for them to connect those two.”

Many times, even good intentions have the opposite effect that coalition forces expect, he said.

“Everything that you do is part of a complex system with expected outcomes and unexpected outcomes, desired outcomes and undesired outcomes, and outcomes that you never even know about,” McChrystal said. “In my experience, I have found that the best answers and approaches may be counterintuitive; i.e. the opposite of what it seems like you ought to do is what ought to be done.”

For example, blame is sometimes assigned to coalition forces if a bomb emplaced by the Taliban explodes and kills locals. If the coalition forces weren’t there, the bomb wouldn’t have been there, is the logic, McChrystal said.

“Sometimes, the things which are the most horrific done by the insurgents still reinforce to the Afghan people a decision that coalition forces are either ineffective, or at least not in their interest,” he said.

McChrystal said the stakes are high for security in Afghanistan, and that a loss of stability there brings a huge risk that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups will return to operate there.

McChrystal acknowledged that most of his ideas are not new, but that they need to be implemented more aggressively and effectively. Problems there have stemmed from an under-resourced fight that, in some areas, has resulted a degraded performance. It took the coalition too long to recognize the seriousness of the insurgency, he said.

Efforts there still do not have enough expertise, continuity, or enough language-trained people, McChrystal added, .

To succeed there, he said, forces need patience, discipline, resolve and time. He warned against viewing the counterinsurgency fight through a conventional warfare lens.

“Our societies want to see lines on a map and they want to see those lines move forward towards objectives, and you’re not going to see that in a counterinsurgency because you don’t see what’s happening in people’s minds as clearly,” McChrystal said. “So we’re going to have to do things dramatically differently, even uncomfortably differently, to change how we think and operate.”

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

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Wire: Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser Quits

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser has called it quits.

The White House says Mark Lippert is leaving the administration to return to active duty in the U.S. Navy, according to a report published by The Associated Press.
Obama said in a statement Thursday that he was not surprised when Lippert broke the news because he is "passionate about the Navy." Obama says he admires and respects Lippert's devotion to his country and that he's answering the call to active duty service.

Lippert also had been chief of staff for the National Security Council. He served as Obama's national security adviser during the presidential campaign.
(Report from newswire sources.)

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Pentagon: Some US Troops in Iraq May Face Deployment Extension

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- The deployments of about 1,600 U.S. troops in Iraq could be extended in the weeks following the national election slated to occur in January, Pentagon officials said today.

Some 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Cavalry Headquarters in Baghdad could be asked to stay up to 23 days longer and some 600 Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Anbar province could be extended up to 79 days, according to defense officials.

Gen. Raymond Odierno said current military thinking is to maintain force levels between 110,000 and 120,000 troops for the two months after the January election but ahead of a massive U.S. force reduction expected before next fall.

“What we'll do is we'll hold that in place through the elections and about 60 days after the elections,” he told Pentagon reporters today. “And depending on how that goes, it's peaceful, and then we will make a determination of coming down to the 50,000-transition force by the first of September.”

Odierno said he would prefer extending for a few weeks the deployments of soldiers already in Iraq over bringing in new troops during the critical post-election phase.

“What I don't want to do is bring in a brand new division headquarters, for example, for the elections,” he said, noting that the troops subject to the extension are the exception, not the rule. “I just want to wait till a couple weeks after the elections.”

The Marine extension, he said, is necessitated by the need for extra time to get equipment and materiel from the country as the Marine mission in Iraq comes to a close.

The announcement of possible deployment extensions comes a day after Odierno told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the United States may be able to draw down troop levels in Iraq quicker than expected if progress there continues.

About 122,000 military members are deployed in Iraq now, and an agreement that took effect in January calls for U.S. troops to cease combat operations and reduce their presence in Iraq to 50,000 by Aug. 31, 2010. All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to be out of the country by Dec. 31, 2011.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell today said the drawdown of forces hinges on having a force large enough to support successful elections in Iraq.

“Our troop drawdown is very much predicated on having enough forces there to have a successful election and then have a level of security in the intervening weeks where there would be a transition in power throughout Iraq,” he told the cable news network MSNBC.

A successful election and peaceful transition of power would be a coup for the Iraqi government, which Odierno said continues to move forward.

“Every day that goes by, it becomes less and less likely that some sequel to events would cause the government to fail,” he said, referring to Baghdad’s progress. “You know, I think every time we move forward, every day, it becomes less and less likely.

“That's why I think the elections are important, because they will go through what we hope to be peaceful elections, the seating of a new government peacefully,” he added. “And I think that will help to really stabilize the institutions as derived from their own constitution.”

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

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OEF Update, Oct. 1, 2009: First M-ATVs Arrive in Afghanistan

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A C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster spots the driver of a mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain Vehicle as he drives it off the aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 1, 2009. The M-ATV's are the first of their kind in Afghanistan and support small-unit combat operations in highly restricted rural, mountainous and urban environments that include mounted patrols, reconnaissance, security, convoy protection, communications, command and control, and combat service support. Transporting M-ATVs aircraft can be accomplished in a day, where sealift would require approximately 26 days. An order for more than 6,600 M-ATVs are expected to be fielded during the next year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Susan Tracy.)

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles arrived at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Oct. 1, after being offloaded from a C-17 Globemaster III. The M-ATVs arrived less than a day after leaving Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30.

The M-ATV's are the first of their kind in Afghanistan and support small-unit combat operations in highly restricted rural, mountainous and urban environments that include mounted patrols, reconnaissance, security, convoy protection, communications, command and control and combat service support.

Transporting M-ATVs by aircraft can be accomplished in a day, where sealift would require approximately 26 days. An order for more than 6,600 M-ATVs are expected to be fielded during the next year.

The M-ATV is designed to replace the up-armored Humvee in Afghanistan. The M-ATV will carry up to five personnel. The C-17 is from McChord Air Force Base, Wash. and was operated by a crew from Charleston AFB, S.C.

(Report by by Senior Airman Susan Tracy, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

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OIF Summary, Oct. 1, 2009: Iraqis Nab Terrorist Financier, Other Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, in recent days have arrested an alleged terrorist financier and recruiter, as well as five suspects in a roadside bomb network, military officials reported.

In Balad, the Iraqi army's emergency response brigade arrested alleged Khitab Hezbollah financier and recruiter Khalid Masur Ismail in Baghdad's Sadr City district.

Ismail, who also is known as Abu Mustafa, was arrested on a court-issued warrant when he identified himself upon contact and admitted to working as a manager for a security firm alleged to be a front for Khitab Hezbollah.

During the operation, Iraqi soldiers entered the suspect's workplace, arrested him, and searched the area without incident.

The arrest of Ismail and the information he provides will significantly affect the Khitab Hezbollah terrorist organization's finance and recruiting operations, military officials said.

In another operation, Iraqi police arrested five suspects yesterday while searching for members of bombing networks in Kirkuk and Muqdadiyah.

Iraq's 3rd Emergency Services Unit, with U.S. advisors, searched for and arrested a suspect on a criminal warrant in southern Kirkuk. The man, Diya Abdul Ghani Musa, is a suspected member of a terrorist network that plans and executes attacks against Iraqi security forces and residents in Kirkuk.

While searching a building for Diya, the security team discovered wireless triggering mechanisms used for explosives. A second man in the building was questioned by police and identified as an al-Qaida associate. Both men were arrested without incident.

In other operations:
  • Iraqi police, with U.S. advisors, searched several buildings in Muqdadiyah for an al-Qaida in Iraq member who is charged in a criminal warrant with orchestrating IED attacks throughout the Baghdad region. During the search, Iraqi police questioned and arrested three people suspected to be al-Qaida in Iraq affiliates operating in Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baghdad.

  • Iraqi forces today discovered a hidden cache of weapons and explosive material used by al-Qaida in Iraq operatives, and arrested a man believed connected to terrorist activity in Mosul.

  • Iraqi national police, with U.S. advisors, confiscated numerous weapons and explosive material used by Islamic State of Iraq members to build vehicle bombs and suicide vests for attacks against Iraqi forces and civilians in Mosul. The security team cleared several buildings, uncovering military rockets and industrial-grade chemicals used to manufacture bombs. The Islamic State of Iraq organization continues to use explosives to conduct deadly attacks targeting police and people in neighborhoods in Mosul, officials said.

  • Iraqi soldiers, with U.S. advisors, entered several buildings in Mosul to arrest a man on a warrant charging him with obtaining and distributing explosive material used to build bombs in Ninevah province. Another person was questioned and identified as an al-Qaida in Iraq criminal accomplice.

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

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Pentagon: Army Confirms First Suspected H1N1 (Swine Flu) Related Death

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- A soldier stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., who died Sept. 10, possibly is the first H1N1-related death suffered by the U.S. armed forces, Army officials here said.

Army Spc. Christopher Hogg, 23, of Dayton, Fla., died of pneumonia, but autopsy reports released yesterday confirm his death was the result of complications caused by the H1N1 virus, better known as swine flu, said Karen Soule, a Fort Jackson spokeswoman.

Fort Jackson doesn’t yet offer the H1N1 vaccine, but officials there expect the first supply to arrive this month, she added.

Fort Jackson is taking the issue seriously, Soule said. The base is the largest Army training facility with more than 10,000 soldiers stationed there at any given time. An H1N1 epidemic there could compromise the Army’s ability to effectively produce soldiers to support fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, she explained.

Hoggs was a basic training recruit in his fifth week of training when he was taken to the hospital Sept. 1 for a fever and respiratory issues. He was set to graduate Oct. 15.

(Report by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, Special to American Forces Press Service.)

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Wire: Replica of Wright Brothers Plane Crashes at Wright-Patterson

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that officials say a replica of the Wright brothers' plane has crashed in Ohio, sending the pilot to the hospital and heavily damaging the aircraft.

The Associated Press reported that Julia Frasure of the National Park Service says Mark Dusenberry was piloting his replica of the 1905 Wright Brothers Flyer III Thursday when it crashed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
Dusenberry was transported by helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital. His condition was not immediately available.

Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of Wilbur and Orville Wright, says Dusenberry was practicing for a flight Monday to mark the 104th anniversary of practical flight, when the brothers proved they could take off, control the plane and safely land.
The replica flyer is fragile, made primarily of wood and fabric.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire: Obama Advisers Split, Choose Sides on Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that President Barack Obama is seeing a split among his closest advisers on Afghanistan, reflecting divisions in his own party over how to change his failing strategy and whether to send in thousands more U.S. troops to the conflict.

With top military commanders and congressional Republicans pushing for a troop increase, The Associated Press said Obama asked members of his national security team Wednesday for their views during a three-hour session in the White House.

AP reported that the meeting didn't include specific discussions of troop levels, a senior administration official said.

At the meeting's conclusion, Obama reminded those attending that he hadn't reached a decision and that they should return twice next week with more details and ideas, the official said. The official spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The talks revealed deep divisions within the administration, with military commanders solidly behind the request for additional troops and civilian officials divided.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special Afghan and Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke appeared to be leaning toward supporting a troop increase, the official told AP.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Gen. James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, were in opposition, the official said. Vice President Joe Biden, who attended the meeting, has also been reluctant to support a troop increase, favoring a strategy that targets insurgents believed to be in Pakistan.

The meeting, the second of at least five Obama has planned as he reviews his Afghanistan strategy, comes after a critical assessment of the war effort from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the man he put in charge of the war earlier this year. McChrystal declared that the U.S. would fail to meet its objective of causing irreparable damage to Taliban militants and their al-Qaida allies if the administration did not significantly increase American forces, AP noted.
McChrystal is widely believed to want to add between 30,000 and 40,000 to the current U.S. force of 68,000.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both support McChrystal's strategy, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on the fence, the spokesman said.
Last night, newswire services reported that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement that Obama will take the "next several weeks" to review his strategy on Afghanistan.

As of today, 43 U.S. servicemembers have died in Afghanistan since McChrystal called for reinforcements.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 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. Ross E. Vogel, III, 27, of Red Lion, Pa., died Sept. 29 in Kut, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 67th Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga.

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

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wire: White House Says Obama to Take "Several Weeks" to Review Afghan Strategy

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that President Barack Obama will take several weeks to review U.S. strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the White House said on Wednesday after a meeting between top U.S. officials about the region.

"When it comes to decisions as important as keeping this country safe and putting our troops into harm's way, the president has made it clear that he will rigorously assess our progress," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement, according to a Reuters news service report.
"That is why he held this meeting today and will take the next several weeks to review our strategy."
(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire: Senate Overrides Pentagon, Keeps C-17 Funding Alive

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that the U.S. Senate on Wednesday kept alive funding for 10 Boeing-made C-17 cargo planes that the Pentagon has said it does not want.

The Senate rejected an effort by a vote of 64 to 34 to strip out $2.5 billion for the cargo planes from its $636 billion defense spending bill.

The House of Representatives has approved money for three of the planes in its version of the bill, which funds Pentagon operations for the fiscal year that starts on Thursday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military has all of the C-17s it needs and that buying more of the jets could take money from areas needed to maintain combat readiness.

However, lawmakers stood firm on the C-17, which is manufactured in 43 U.S. states.

Reuters news service reported that Republican Senator John McCain, the sponsor of the measure to kill the funding, argued that his fellow lawmakers had taken money from the Pentagon's logistics and operations budget to satisfy a politically powerful defense contractor.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Combat Camera: US Airmen Deliver First Mine Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) to Afghanistan

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Senior Airman Robert Clark marshals one of two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs, onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009. Airman Clark is a loadmaster with the 4th Airlift Squadron from McChord AFB, Wash. The two M-ATVs are the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use. The C-17 is based out of McChord AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by James M. Bowman.)

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Staff Sgt. Nicholas Reddin serves as a clearance spotter while one of two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs, is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009. The two M-ATVs are the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use. Sergeant Reddin is an air transport specialist with the 437th Aerial Port Squadron at Charleston AFB. The C-17 is based out of McChord AFB, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by James M. Bowman.)

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Two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs, await transport on a C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009. The two M-ATVs are the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use. The C-17 is based out of McChord AFB, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by James M. Bowman.)

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One of two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs, is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009. The two M-ATVs are the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use. The C-17 is based out of McChord AFB, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by James M. Bowman.)

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Airman 1st Class Daniel Anderson (left) and Staff Sgt. Charles Key use a tie down chain to secure one of two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs, in a C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009. The two M-ATVs are the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use. Both Airmen are air transportation specialists with the 437th Aerial Port Squadron at Charleston AFB. The C-17 is based out of McChord AFB, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by James M. Bowman.)

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One of two mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs, waits to be loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009. The two M-ATVs are the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use. The C-17 is based out of McChord AFB, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by James M. Bowman.)

Focus On Defense:

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., Sept. 30, 2009 -- Charleston, S.C., Airmen began the distribution Sept. 30 of a new version of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle from here.

The MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles, or M-ATVs, were the first to be delivered to the Afghanistan theater for operational use, and many more are to come said, David Hansen, deputy program manager with the Joint MRAP Vehicle Program in Quantico, Va.

The distribution officially began when two brand-new M-ATVs departed the base bound for Afghanistan in the early morning hours aboard a C-17 Globemaster III from McChord AFB, Wash.

From now and through December, between 300 and 500 M-ATVs each month are expected to be airlifted into Afghanistan via Charleston AFB, he said.

Although aircraft from many bases will be utilized to transport the vehicles, taking on the brunt of the loading operation will be the Airmen from the 437th Aerial Port Squadron here.

"We'll be busy," said Lt. Col. Robert Neal, 437th APS commander. "I always emphasize to the folks who are loading these ... you've got to realize you are making a difference in people's lives. These vehicles are designed for people to survive the improvised explosive device attacks, and every time we send a vehicle over, that just means a better chance [of survival] for troops over there in the area of responsibility."

Despite the surge of new MRAPs, Colonel Neal said it will be business as usual for his squadron. The 437th APS has shipped more than 3,700 MRAP vehicles to both Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, he said.

"Charleston AFB has been the sole airlift shipper of those vehicles, and we are continuing that trend with this brand new vehicle we're sending over there," said Colonel Neal.

The deployment of the M-ATVs is planned to occur in much the same way as with the previous versions of MRAP vehicles, said Mr. Hansen. The goal will be to utilize airlift in the initial phase of deployment to deliver the vehicles as quickly as possible and fill the "pipeline," after which shipments by sea will begin.

The time savings is immense for airlift, he said. Transporting a load of M-ATVs by aircraft can be accomplished in a day, where sealift would require approximately 26 days.

Transport by sea is not scheduled to begin until the end of 2009, he said, and for the time being, Charleston AFB will be the sole air distribution center for the overseas shipments.

The vehicle's design and production occurred after an urgent request was placed for a new type of vehicle with a design which was more suited to the rugged terrain of Afghanistan. The previous versions of MRAP vehicles were better suited for operations in Iraq, said Mr. Hansen, which has road systems more advanced than those of Afghanistan.

The response to the request was the creation of the M-ATV. The design, production, testing and delivery of the vehicle occurred all within a year of receiving the request.

The new vehicle weighs in at approximately half the weight of an average MRAP vehicle, and is 10,000 pounds lighter than the previous low-weight MRAP vehicle.

After production, the vehicles are delivered to the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Charleston to be outfitted with advanced electronic components. Once installations are completed, the vehicles are transported to the base for airborne deployment.

(Report by by Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles, 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Pentagon Discuses Deployment of New Mine Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) to Afghanistan

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- The first parcel of an influx of vehicles designed to protect troops from deadly roadside bombs is expected to arrive overnight in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

The expected delivery comes soon after the department awarded an order for more than 6,600 of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles -- known as M-ATVs -- to be fielded over the next year.

“That is just the first wave of a massive production and transportation program that will see at least 6,644 of these life-saving vehicles delivered to our forces in Afghanistan over the next year or so, making it one of the fastest and highest-priority acquisition programs in the history of the Defense Department,” Morrell told reporters today.

Three M-ATVs were loaded onto a C-17 and four onto a C-5 at the Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., yesterday and flown to Afghanistan. Morrell characterized the shipment as an “extraordinary achievement” considering that the contract for production of these highly maneuverable armored trucks was awarded to the Oshkosh Corp. just three months ago.

Conventional MRAP vehicles feature a V-shaped hull to deflect roadside bombs, and are proven to be lifesavers on the battlefield. The M-ATV provides troops a smaller and more maneuverable vehicle that can travel off-road and navigate Afghanistan's difficult, mountainous terrain, Marine Corps Systems Command officials said.

Morrell said the department would like the M-ATVs to have an effect in Afghanistan similar to the one that MRAPs had when they were delivered en masse to Iraq, leading to a reduction in casualties resulting from roadside bombs.

“These new vehicles are urgently needed, because improvised explosive devices are claiming the lives of more U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan than ever before,” he said. “The hope is that the M-ATVs will have the same impact in Afghanistan as the MRAPs did in Iraq, providing our troops the best counter-IED protection money can buy so that they can defeat the terrorist networks responsible for planting these bombs, and ultimately win the trust and confidence of the Afghan people.”

The M-ATV supports small-unit combat operations in highly restricted rural, mountainous and urban environments that include mounted patrols, reconnaissance, security, convoy protection, communications, command and control, and combat service support. It is designed to replace the up-armored Humvee in Afghanistan. The M-ATV will carry up to five personnel: four plus a gunner.

Morrell added that the vehicle has captured the attention of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who previously made it a personal mission to oversee the expedited fielding of the MRAP vehicle in Iraq.

“With so much riding on this program, of course Secretary Gates will be watching it like a hawk in the coming months, just as he did the MRAPs,” Morrell said.

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

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Wire: UN Fires Top US Diplomat in Afghanistan Who Complained About Election Fraud

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the top American official at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday after a widely publicized dispute with his boss over how to deal with widespread fraud charges in the country's presidential election.

The Associated Press reported that U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement that Ban decided to recall Peter Galbraith and end his appointment as the U.N.'s deputy special representative.
Diplomats said Galbraith disagreed with the head of the U.N. mission, Kai Eide, over how the U.N. should handle the disputed election.

The secretary-general reaffirmed "his full support for Eide" and made his decision "in the best interest of the mission," Montas said.

Neither Galbraith nor Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, have offered details of the disagreement, though Eide has confirmed that the two split over election issues.

The delay in final results from the Aug. 20 vote has led to fears of a power vacuum in the Afghan government that could endure until spring, even as Taliban violence against U.S. and NATO soldiers and Afghan civilians continues to rise.

The U.N. Mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA, had a mandate to support the Afghan government in conducting the Aug. 20 elections. It also has a mandate to lead international civilian efforts to provide aid, promote reconstruction, combat corruption, help improve civilian-military cooperation, and expand the U.N. presence throughout the country to promote good governance and the rule of law.
The Washington Post said Galbraith had pushed Eide, to forcefully address the claims of fraud.

In an interview, Galbraith said his dismissal sent a bad signal about the United Nations' commitment to fair elections.

"I think there was massive fraud in the elections -- no doubt about that," said Galbraith, who is now in the United States. "It undermines the credibility of the election process. I took seriously the mandate to support free, fair and transparent elections."

Galbraith said Eide had suppressed "extensive data" on fraud that the United Nations had collected, not sharing it with Afghan election officials. "I felt we should share it; Kai did not," he said.

Officials from the United States and other NATO countries in Afghanistan have told incumbent President Hamid Karzai that they expected him to win another five-year term. Afghanistan's election commission has said that he won 54.6 percent of the vote, but the United Nations is investigating the results.
See links below for details.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Related:
UN fires top US official at UN in Afghanistan
Top US envoy removed from Afghanistan UN job
UN Official Fired After Clashing With Boss Over Afghanistan Election

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Pentagon: Odierno Says Progress in Iraq Could Speed Withdrawal

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- The United States may be able to draw down troop levels in Iraq quicker than anticipated if progress continues there, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq said here today.

An agreement that took effect in January calls for U.S. troops to cease combat operations and reduce their presence in Iraq to 50,000 by Aug. 31, 2010. All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to be out of the country by Dec. 31, 2011.

“Although challenges remain in Iraq, with the continued support of Congress and the American people, I believe we are now in reach of our goals,” Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said.

About 122,000 military members are deployed in Iraq now, and by next month that number will decrease by 2,000, a milestone Odierno said is “faster than anticipated.” This is a reduction of more than 40,000 troops since 2008, he added, and the reduction to 50,000 troops also may happen sooner than the August target.

The first sign that a quicker U.S. drawdown was possible came on June 30, Odierno said, when U.S. forces moved out of the city centers and Iraqi security forces took full responsibility of security. Iraqi forces have handled the responsibilities well despite sporadic insurgent attempts to undermine progress, he added, and attack levels are down to levels unseen since the summer of 2003.

Overall attacks, U.S. and Iraqi deaths, and sectarian murders have declined greatly since August 2007, when more than 4,000 attacks took place, Odierno said. This month, he noted, fewer than 600 attacks. U.S. military deaths decreased by 93 percent and Iraqi military deaths by 79 percent in the same period, he added, and sectarian-related murders fell by nearly 90 percent.

“While statistics do not paint the whole picture, they help provide some context in understanding the progress made to date,” he said, noting that insurgent efforts to derail that progress are failing.

“The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people reject extremism,” the general said. “We have seen no indications of a return to the sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in 2006 and 2007.”

Odierno cautioned, however, that the transition to full Iraqi control must be done responsibly. He cited the need to continue U.S. efforts in training security forces and helping to establish government processes. Although progress is evident, he said, security is not yet enduring.

“There still remains underlying, unresolved sources of potential conflict,” he said. “Iraq is a nascent democracy emerging from 30 years of authoritarian rule based on ethno-sectarian privilege. Its future as a stable, multi-ethnic, representative state rests upon its ability to deal with the myriad of these challenges, and some of these issues will take time to resolve.”

Iraq has the potential to build a capable government, representative of all Iraqis, the general explained, but potential also exists for societal divisions like those of the old Iraq, where religious sect and affiliation had its privileges.

“Even as Iraq’s political system continues to mature, there is not yet consensus … that is accepted across ethnic, sectarian and regional lines,” he said.

Decades of neglect to the country’s infrastructure are another area of concern. But Iraqi institutions and essential services continue to improve, Odierno said.

Probably the No. 1 “driver of instability” that could be trouble for Iraq is the Arab-Kurd boundary dispute in northern Iraq, the general said. The conflict has been ongoing for centuries, but is being addressed by a special United Nations commission. Odierno said he believes a resolution will occur by the next Iraqi elections in January.

Despite these challenges, Odierno said, withdrawal plans continue. U.S. troops already have handed over the keys or closed more than 200 bases, he said.

“We have spent a lot of money and personal sacrifice [in Iraq],” he said. “Security is heading in the right direction, and we don’t want to lose that. Keeping troops through 2011 allows [the Iraqis] to establish their new government.”

Even after U.S. forces leave Iraq, continued partnership with the country and its government is the overall concern, he added.

“We have an opportunity here to have a long-term strategic partner,” he said. “It’s about strategic patience. Even after we leave in 2011, we can’t say Iraq is finished. We also need to continue to support them in some way beyond 2011, developing institutions. We contribute to our national security in the process.”

(Report by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service.)

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Wire: 43 US Troops Have Died in Afghanistan Since McChrystal Called for Reinforcements

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- Few, if any, newswire services today reported that another American died in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the final day of September -- and exactly one month after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan sent a confidential war assessment to the Obama administration, warning that more forces are needed -- soon.

The U.S. serviceman who died on Wednesday was caught in a suicide attack in Khost Province, in eastern Afghanistan, reports said.

On August 30, Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates a war assessment in which he said more U.S. troops -- and change to the current Obama strategy -- are needed if the U.S. is to defeat the insurgents in Afghanistan.

CNSNews.com said today that since that Aug. 30 date, a total of 43 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have died in a war that is now the subject of much discussion -- and apparently some confusion -- in Washington.
In his confidential report, which was leaked to the Washington Post on Sept. 21, Gen. McChrystal warned that defeating the insurgents will not be possible if the United States fails to "gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum" over the next 12 months.

McChrystal reportedly has prepared a separate request for tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to be sent to the 68,000 already in Afghanistan.

Since Sept. 21, when the Washington Post leaked information from McChrystal’s confidential report, the White House has been on the defensive over its Afghanistan strategy.
See link below for story details and names of 42 of the 43 American servicemen killed in Afghanistan since August 30.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: 43 U.S. Troops Have Died in Afghanistan Since Gen. McChrystal Called for Reinforcements

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US Airpower Summary, Sept. 30, 2009: F-15Es Strike Enemy

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An F-15E Strike Eagle deploys flares during a mission over Afghanistan. The F-15E provides close-air support and armed overwatch in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Sept. 30, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Sept. 29, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, coalition aircraft responded to a request for assistance in the Surkhabad area. A show of force was requested and successfully performed.

Asadabad saw Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles providing overwatch for a friendly forces' foot patrol. The patrol observed an enemy position and requested air support. Target coordinates were passed and precision-guided munitions deployed on the target destroying the enemy position.

At Chaghcharan Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets were providing armed overwatch for friendly forces on patrol. The patrol sent a request for support when they came under attack. Aircrews executed several strafing runs and then released a precision-guided munition to clear the way for the friendly patrol. The aerial strikes were successful in stopping the enemy fire and allowing the patrol to continue.

Navy F/A-18 Hornets were in the vicinity of Chahar Bagh providing armed overwatch for friendly forces. A request for a show of force was issued when friendly forces observed several suspicious personnel near the route of a coalition forces' truck convoy. The shows of force were conducted and declared successful by a joint terminal attack controller when the coalition force convoy passed by unimpeded.

At Sheykhabad, an MQ-1 Predator was assisting friendly ground forces in their search for improvised explosive devices and related activity. The ground forces detected a suspected IED and requested support. A missile was fired on the coordinates given and the potential threat was eliminated.

In Iraq, Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons were in action at Tall Afar and Mosul providing overwatch for friendly forces. The aircraft provided preemptive shows of force for a coalition force convoy and personnel conducting searches for improvised explosive devices. The shows of force were successful in deterring enemy action.

In total, 82 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

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

In total, 24 close-air-support missions were flown in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions integrated and synchronized with ground forces, protected key infrastructure, provided overwatch for reconstruction activities, and helped to deter and disrupt hostile activities

Thirty 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 149 airlift sorties, 367 short tons of cargo were delivered and about 4,000 passengers were transported. This included about 165,000 pounds of aerial resupply cargo dropped over Afghanistan.

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

On Sept. 28, Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and pararescue teams transported nine 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 aicrews 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 tanker crews flew 56 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.4 million pounds of fuel to 241 receiving aircraft.

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

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Pentagon: Military Provides Rescue, Humanitarian Support in Pacific

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- While U.S. special operators conduct a massive rescue effort after devastating flooding in the Philippines, the Hawaii Air National Guard and USS Ingraham are headed to American Samoa to support rescue and humanitarian relief there following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The Hawaii Air Guard is slated to fly two C-17 Globemaster III transport jets to American Samoa today in response to Federal Emergency Management Agency requests, Air Force Maj. Rene White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, reported.

The aircraft will transport cargo and personnel required to support disaster relief efforts, she said.

Meanwhile, USS Ingraham, homeported at Naval Station Everett, Wash., is en route to provide needed support, White said. Ingraham is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate.

FEMA officials asked the Defense Department to provide medical triage, hazardous material response, mass casualty care and strategic airlift. Officials are identifying the appropriate units to provide this support, White said.

An 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck 120 miles south of American Samoa yesterday afternoon, generating 15-foot waves in some of the territories’ islands that wiped out entire villages. At least 65 people are reported dead in Samoa, more than 20 in American Samoa, and at least six in neighboring Tonga.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people in the affected communities,” White said.

Meanwhile, members of Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines assisted the Philippine armed forces in rescuing 52 people stranded by massive flooding during Tropical Storm Ketsana earlier this week.

The storm, known locally as Tropical Storm Ondoy, struck in the Manila area Sept. 27 and 28. The floods displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and the most recent reports indicate that nearly 100,000 people have been relocated, according to Philippines Disaster Management Services.

Members of Navy SEAL teams and Naval Special Boat Teams 12 and 20, and U.S. medical troops attached to the Philippines task force responded, working with the island nation’s military and government officials to rescue people from rooftops, deliver food and distribute medical supplies, officials reported.

Joint special operations task force rescue teams launched two F-470 Zodiac boats in the flood waters and worked through the night transporting people to schools, churches and evacuation shelters. The teams also helped to rescue a woman in labor who was stranded in a flooded-out house.

In addition, task force teams delivered 500 pounds of food to a high school Sept. 27, and contracted a civilian helicopter the following day to deliver 4,200 pounds of food and water in Cainta, northeast of Pasig city.

“These people lost their houses [and] cars, and might still be looking for family members,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Porter, a joint special operations task force medic who provided medical care. “I wanted to do anything and everything I could do to help the Filipino people. I was glad I could be a part of the rescue efforts.”

Local officials praised the response. “The work the U.S. military did was terrific,” said Roman Romulo, Pasig City congressman. “I was very thankful for U.S. support. Your teams were able to successfully go to Santa Lucia High School to help deliver food. It was a big boost that your people were helping us.”

American Samoa is the only U.S. possession in the southern hemisphere. It is slightly larger than Washington, D.C., covering 76.2 square miles, and has about 57,000 citizens.

(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service; and Lt. j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Special Operations Task Force Philippines.)

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- The following news release made available Wednesday 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. Jordan L. Chrobot, 24, of Frederick, Md., died Sept. 26 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wire: US Military to get Mandatory H1N1 (Swine Flu) Shots Soon

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that a top U.S. military commander says servicemembers will begin getting required H1N1 (swine flu) shots in the next week to 10 days. Active duty forces deploying to war zones and other critical areas are at the front of the vaccine line.

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart told The Associated Press that as many as 400 servicemembers are ready to go to five regional headquarters around the country to assist federal health and emergency management officials if needed as the flu season heats up.
The Pentagon has bought 2.7 million vaccines, and 1.4 million of those will go to active duty military. National Guard troops on active duty are also required to receive the vaccine, as are civilian Defense Department employees who are in critical jobs.
(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire: Drawdown in Iraq to Send 4,000 More US Troops Home

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that the top general in Iraq is sending home 4,000 more U.S. troops by the end of October as the American military winds down the war. Army Gen. Ray Odierno said in remarks prepared for a congressional hearing Wednesday that the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq will total about 120,000 over the next month.

He said that will mean about 4,000 fewer troops than are in Iraq now -- about the size of an Army brigade.

"As we go forward, we will thin our lines across Iraq in order to reduce the risk and sustain stability through a deliberate transition of responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces," Odierno said in a statement he was to deliver before the House Armed Services Committee, according to an Associated Press report.

A copy of the testimony was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

A Defense Department official confirmed Odierno planned to announce at the House hearing that he is reducing the number of brigades in Iraq, as has been long expected.

In his eight-page statement, Odierno cited data showing that the monthly number of attacks in Iraq have dramatically dropped over the last two years — from more than 4,000 in August 2007 to about 600 last month. He also said that far fewer al-Qaida and foreign fighters remain in Iraq, and most of those who are left are criminals and disenfranchised Iraqis who have been recruited by what Odierno described as a "small ideological core" of insurgents.

Despite cautious optimism, Odierno's outlook of the nation he called an enduring U.S. interest was far from rosy.

He predicted several looming problems as U.S. troops prepare to end combat missions by September 2010 and leave Iraq at the end of 2011. They include:

_A pair of truck bombings Aug. 19 at Iraq's finance and foreign ministries, which killed about 100 people in Baghdad, revealed "a clear security lapse," Odierno said.

_Iraqi officials have yet to agree on a system of government that is accepted across what Odierno described as ethnic, sectarian and regional lines. He described a power struggle between provincial officials and Baghdad and said long-standing tensions continue to stall progress between Arabs and Kurds.

As the January elections approach, military officials have identified Arab-Kurd tensions as one of the top concerns for potential violence, especially in contested territories in the oil-rich north that each side claims as its own. Still, Odierno said the darkest days of the Iraq war seem to be long gone, citing failed efforts by extremists still seeking to destabilize the nation.

"The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people have rejected extremism," Odierno said. "We see no indications of a return to the sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in 2006-2007."

_Although Iraqi leaders had planned to find government jobs for all members of a group known as Sons of Iraq who helped curb the insurgency, "we do not believe they will meet this timeline," Odierno said. "We continue to monitor the progress of this program very closely."
(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire Commentary: Without Bush, Media Lose Interest in War Caskets

Commentary

Commentary:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2009 -- As part of the blog's ongoing coverage of military and national security issues, I'd like to bring attention to an editorial written by Byron York, The Washington Examiner's chief political correspondent.

With casualties mounting, the debate over U.S. policy in Afghanistan is sharp and heated. The number of casualties is increasing. But the journalists who once clamored to show the true human cost of war, York observes, are nowhere to be found.

Often times when researching news for the blog, I have found media reports of U.S. casualties buried behind unrelated headlines and listed within compilations. The life of these reports is but a brief flash in the news cycle.

On thing is true, however. While you cannot read the details journalists decide to edit or omit, the bias is actually very easy to read through their behavior.

Remember the controversy over the Pentagon policy of not allowing the press to take pictures of the flag-draped caskets of American war dead as they arrived in the United States? Critics accused President Bush of trying to hide the terrible human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These young men and women are heroes," Vice President Biden said in 2004, when he was senator from Delaware. "The idea that they are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night so no one can see that their casket has arrived, I just think is wrong."

In April of this year, the Obama administration lifted the press ban, which had been in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Media outlets rushed to cover the first arrival of a fallen U.S. serviceman, and many photographers came back for the second arrival, and then the third.

But after that, the impassioned advocates of showing the true human cost of war grew tired of the story. Fewer and fewer photographers showed up. "It's really fallen off," says Lt. Joe Winter, spokesman for the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where all war dead are received. "The flurry of interest has subsided."

That's an understatement. When the casket bearing Air Force Tech. Sgt. Phillip Myers, of Hopewell, Va., arrived at Dover the night of April 5 -- the first arrival in which press coverage was allowed -- there were representatives of 35 media outlets on hand to cover the story.

[. . .]

Fast forward to today. On Sept. 2, when the casket bearing the body of Marine Lance Cpl. David Hall, of Elyria, Ohio, arrived at Dover, there was just one news outlet -- the Associated Press -- there to record it. The situation was pretty much the same when caskets arrived on Sept. 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 22, 23 and 26. There has been no television coverage at all in September.

[. . .]

So far this month, 38 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan. For all of 2009, the number is 220 -- more than any other single year and more than died in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 combined.

[. . .]

The number of arrivals at Dover is increasing. But the journalists who once clamored to show the true human cost of war are nowhere to be found.
See link below for the full article.

Source: Without Bush, media lose interest in war caskets

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OEF Summary, Sept. 29, 2009: Troops Clear Insurgents, Nab Suspect in Western Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Sept. 29, 2009 -- A 500-strong Afghan and coalition force cleared insurgents in Afghanistan’s Farah province and detained a suspected militant in Takhar province in recent days, military officials reported.

Afghan and coalition forces participated in an operation yesterday to clear insurgents from Shewan City.

Heavy fighting took place for more than 12 hours, and the force received rocket-propelled-grenade, machine-gun and small-arms fire. The force responded with small-arms and machine-gun fire as well as air strikes. A large number of insurgents were killed, military officials reported.

“This is a great day for Afghanistan and a great day for Farah province,” said Afghan army Col. Namatulah. “Today we fought alongside coalition forces like brothers. Main roads that go through this city will not be under Taliban control. Safe roads are good for everyone, military and civilian.”

Elsewhere, an Afghan and international force detained a suspected militant today after searching a compound in Takhar province. The compound is known to be used by a leader in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group responsible for financing and shipping weapons to other militant elements in the region.

No shots were fired and no one was injured, officials said.

(From a NATO International Security Assistance Force news release.)

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Pentagon: First Mine Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) Deploy to Afghanistan

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2009 -- With unprecedented speed, the first of thousands of mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles —known as M-ATVs -- are being deployed to Afghanistan just three months after a delivery order was awarded.

Conventional MRAP vehicles feature a V-shaped hull to deflect roadside bombs, and are proven to be lifesavers on the battlefield. The procurement of the M-ATV grew from an urgent requirement to provide troops a smaller and more maneuverable vehicle that can travel off-road and navigate Afghanistan's difficult, mountainous terrain, Marine Corps Systems Command officials said.

“We have pulled out all the stops to collapse the schedule and get these vehicles into theater,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael M. Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command and joint program executive officer of the MRAP program. “We are doing everything that’s required to ensure that they are safe, that the risk assessments are complete, [and] that they’re fully integrated and flown into Afghanistan.”

The M-ATV supports small-unit combat operations in highly restricted rural, mountainous and urban environments that include mounted patrols, reconnaissance, security, convoy protection, communications, command and control, and combat service support. It is designed to replace the up-armored Humvee in Afghanistan. The M-ATV will carry up to five personnel: four plus a gunner.

The Defense Department has ordered more than 4,300 of the all-terrain mine-resistant trucks, and another 1,400 are planned. Oshkosh Corp. is producing the vehicles.

(From a Marine Corps Systems Command news release.)

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US Navy: Pirate Attacks on the Rise Off Somalia

Dispatches from the Front
News from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet Combined Maritime Forces.

Dispatches from the Front:

MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept. 29, 2009 -- Pirate activity has increased recently off the coast of Somalia with four attempted attacks occurring on motor vessels in the Gulf of Aden since Sept. 19. Three separate unsuccessful attacks occurred Sept. 19 and 20, while the most recent attack occurred Sept. 26 on the Panamanian-flagged Motor Vessel Handy V, in which seven pirates were arrested by the Turkish ship TCG Gediz (F-495), assigned to NATO’s Piracy Task Force. This brings the total number of piracy attacks on merchant vessels in 2009 to 146, 28 of which have been successful.

In order to coordinate, deconflict, and maximize the effectiveness of naval forces conducting counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, naval leaders from 30 nations and international organizations met today for a series of meetings held in Bahrain.

The SHared Awareness and DEconfliction (SHADE) meetings provide a working-level opportunity for navies to come together to share information and deconflict counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia. “By synchronizing and deconflicting our efforts, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, EU, NATO and other international forces are making a difference,” said Commodore Tim Lowe, Deputy Commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

Last week, CMF warned mariners of an increase in piracy off Africa's coast as the monsoon season has ended and expectations are that pirate activity will again increase as they target passing ships. “CTF (Combined Task Force) 151 is ready to counter these attacks and support vessels in need,” said Rear Adm. Scott E. Sanders, Commander, CTF 151. “We're not being passive out here; we're being proactive. We are creating an environment in which pirates are not so bold.”

CMF continues to operate off the coast of Somalia to enhance the security of commercial maritime routes. “We make every attempt to intercept the skiffs with pirate paraphernalia before they can attack a merchant ship,” said Sanders. Multinational forces are on patrol and prepared to defend commercial and fishing vessels and keep the area safe for trade and passage. According to Sanders, the maritime strategy is at work each and every day off the coast of Somalia and Coalition naval forces are ready to respond to any surge in piracy. Since August 2008, CTF 151 and other cooperating naval forces have disarmed and released 343 pirates, 212 others have been turned over for prosecution, and 11 were killed.

The presence of Coalition naval vessels in the region demonstrates a commitment to regional security and stability. CTF 151 continues to improve its working relationship with all the naval forces in the region by coordinating efforts and streamlining communication to strengthen counter piracy efforts. These efforts are being complemented by proactive measures that the merchant community is taking. CMF, commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community are coming together to deter piracy.

CTF 151 is a multinational task force established in January 2009 by the CMF headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, to conduct counter piracy operations under a mission-based mandate to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security, and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brianna K. Dandridge.)

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