Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wire: Keel-Laying Saturday for Gerald R Ford Carrier

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that a keel-laying ceremony is scheduled for the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at the Virginia shipyard where the $5.1 billion nuclear-powered ship is being assembled.

The Associated Press said the 38th president's daughter, Susan Ford Bales, is the ship's sponsor and will attend the ceremony Saturday at Northrup Grumman Shipbuilding's Newport News shipyard. Her initials will be chalked onto a metal plate that will be welded to the keel.

Bales said her father learned of the naming before his death nearly three years ago. She said he was "very moved" by the honor.

The aircraft carrier is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2015. It will be the first in the Ford-class series.

Ford served on the carrier USS Monterey during World War II.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Pentagon Discusses Obama Administration Decision on Prosecution of 10 Guantanamo Bay Detainees

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Today’s decision to pursue the prosecution of 10 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, paves the way toward resolving the disposition of others there and eventually closing the detention facility, a senior Defense Department official said today.

Defense and Justice Department officials announced that five detainees accused of conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will be tried in federal court in New York. Another five, one of whom is accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, will be charged in military commissions.

"Bringing terrorists to justice is an integral part of our national security,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a release after the announcement. “The reform of military commissions and today's announcement are important steps in that direction."

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in January that suspended the commissions and ordered the detention facility closed within a year. Congress recently approved reforms to the Military Commissions Act, allowing officials to move forward with determining how and where the detainees are tried.

Officials from both departments said that the decisions announced today reflected a coordinated and cooperative effort and signaled a significant step toward closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

“The announcement today in terms of the prosecutable detainees was basically Round 1,” a senior Defense Department official said on background. “I think now that we have the process in place [and] we have the prosecution teams in place, … the process will move along at a fairly efficient rate.”

While the five accused of the 9/11 attacks are going to be prosecuted in federal court, and the other five are going to resume their military commissions, officials were quick to point out that the commissions are not a lesser form of justice.

“The whole effort that we went through with the Congress to reform military commissions was for the purpose of making the process more robust, more credible, more sustainable upon appeal,” the official said. “I think that we made some very significant reforms in that regard so that commissions would not be perceived as second-class justice.”

Each case was reviewed by representatives of both departments, and the trial venue was decided based on many factors. Two things considered were the identity of the victims and the location of the offenses, the official said.

“The Cole bombing was an offense directed at the United States Navy and the victims were sailors, so that was the type of offense that we think should be tried in a … military commissions context,” the defense official said.

The defense official could not say how quickly the disposition of the other detainees will be decided, or when and where the military commissions will resume, but he did say that senior officials are anxious to get the process rolling.

“I think that you’ll see more decisions like the decision today further down the road,” he said. “Certainly, today’s announcement is not the last one.”

The five detainees whose prosecution will be pursued in federal court for the Sept. 11 terror attacks are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. The Justice Department intends to pursue a prosecution against them in the Southern District of New York as soon as possible.

The detainees will be transferred to the United States for trial after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress, are satisfied, and consultations with state and local authorities have been completed, officials said.

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

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Pentagon: Army Orders Probe at Arlington National Cemetery, Releases Investigation Findings

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement announcing a probe into alleged issues at Arlington National Cemetery:
Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that he has ordered an investigation into allegations of lost accountability of some graves, poor record keeping and other issues at Arlington National Cemetery.

"This is the place where valor rests, a place of reverence and respect for all Americans," McHugh said after signing an order directing the Army's Inspector General to begin an investigation into allegations regarding cemetery operations. "As the final resting place of our nation's heroes, any questions about the integrity or accountability of its operations should be examined in a manner befitting their service and sacrifice."

McHugh's order comes on the heels of revelations that cemetery workers inadvertently buried cremated remains at a gravesite already in use. The error was discovered in May 2008, and cemetery officials immediately took corrective measures, moving the cremated remains to another gravesite and remarking the original grave. Since then, questions have been raised over whether cemetery officials used proper procedures to correct the mistake, including notifying the next of kin.

McHugh's announcement of the probe follows completion of separate internal investigation by the Military District of Washington (MDW) - which the Army released today - over the discovery of an unmarked grave. Cemetery officials conducted an extensive search of both internal and Department of Veterans Affairs records, followed by the MDW investigation and additional efforts by the cemetery, which employed ground penetrating radar and a team of geoarchaeologists.

"Cemetery records, the MDW investigation, and the non-invasive geophysical analysis of the grave sites strongly indicate that a husband and wife, who died years apart and should have been buried in the same gravesite, were instead buried in adjacent graves," said MDW spokesman Col. Dan Baggio.

Cemetery officials have ordered new grave markers for the site. While exhuming the remains and conducting DNA testing would provide a 100 percent assurance of the cemetery's findings, the family has declined taking such invasive action. The Army is abiding by their wishes.

While the unmarked grave was first discovered in 2003, cemetery officials took no action until 2009. McHugh is now directing the Inspector General to examine accountability and policy issues in that case. The Inspector General is also in the midst of a management review of Arlington National Cemetery, begun under former Army Secretary Pete Geren, to make overall recommendations on how better to operate the facility, including possible changes in policy, procedures and regulations.

"A thorough investigation, and transparency in its results, can help correct whatever may be wrong, and ensure America's confidence in the operation of its most hallowed ground," McHugh said, adding, "We will take appropriate action as the facts dictate."
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

Download: Article 15-6 investigation memorandum (pdf)

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US Airpower Summary, Nov. 13, 2009

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in the following operations, Nov. 12, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

Air Operations in Afghanistan:

Sangin
Air Force MQ-9A Reaper aircraft flew armed overwatch for a friendly forces patrol. The aircraft also provided surveillance for the patrol and when suspicious activity was observed, coordinates for the enemy position were confirmed. A missile was released on the enemy target eliminating the threat to friendly forces.

Asadabad
Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft provided armed overwatch for a friendly forces patrol. They also provided surveillance while the patrol swept known enemy fighting positions. When suspicious activity was observed, a show of force was performed to deter any threat to the friendly forces. The show of force was considered successful.

Chahar Bagh
Navy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft conducted armed overwatch for friendly forces. When enemy activity was observed at an enemy fighting position, air power was called in to intervene. A show of force was executed and was successful in deterring any enemy action.

Asmar
F-16C aircraft provided area reconnaissance for a friendly forces patrol. A request for a show of force was made to continue suppression of enemy action. The show of force was considered successful when no enemy action was noted.

Air Operations in Iraq:
No significant action to report in the last 24 hours.

Air Power Statistics:

Air Mobility:
U.S. Air Force airlift sorties: 167
Short tons of delivered cargo: 536
Passengers: nearly 4,400
Airdropped cargo: nearly 135,000 pounds

Close Air Support::
Sorties flown to support ISAF & Afghan security forces: 84
Sorties flown to support Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: 28

Surveillance & Reconnaissance::
Sorties flown in Afghanistan: 29
Sorties flown in Iraq: 28
Tactical reconnaissance sorties flown in Afghanistan: 2 (USN)
Tactical reconnaissance sorties flown in Iraq: 2 (USAF)

Medical Evacuation:
On November 11, Air Force HH-60 aircrew and Pararescue Airmen transported 11 patients

Aerial Refueling:
Sorties flown: 46
Fuel delivered: nearly 3 million pounds
Aircraft refueled: 246

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

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OIF Summary, Nov. 13, 2009: Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects in Iraq

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, arrested terrorism suspects and a suspected terrorist cell leader in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported.

Iraqi security forces arrested eight terrorism suspects today while conducting three combined security operations in pursuit of al-Qaida in Iraq members operating in northern Iraq.

In Jananiyah, northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched a building for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member allegedly involved in coordinating vehicle-borne bomb attacks and acquiring weapons for the al-Qaida in Iraq network in Anbar province.

Through preliminary questioning and evidence gathered at the scene, Iraqi forces determined the identity of the targeted al-Qaida in Iraq member and arrested him and two of his suspected criminal accomplices.

In a separate operation in Rashidiyah, north of Mosul, the Iraqi 3rd Federal Police Brigade and U.S. advisors searched a building for an alleged member of al-Qaida in Iraq involved in constructing homemade bombs used in attacks targeting civilians throughout the region.

One individual tested positive for explosive residue, and forces found several grenades and handguns in the building. Based on the evidence gathered at the scene, forces identified three suspects associated with criminal activity and arrested them without incident.

In a rural area northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police and U.S. advisors searched several buildings for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member involved in procuring vehicles for use in vehicle-borne bomb attacks in the region. Based on evidence found at the scene, Iraqi police arrested two individuals suspected of engaging in criminal activity.

Elsewhere, Iraqi security forces arrested a suspected member of the Jaysh al-Mahdi terrorist organization today during a joint security operation in northern Baghdad.

Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for the suspected Jaysh al-Mahdi member, who is allegedly involved in assassination and intimidation campaigns against Iraqi citizens who provide information to local law enforcement officials about Jaysh al-Mahdi members and criminal activities.

Based on preliminary questioning and evidence gathered at the scene, the security team arrested the suspected Jaysh al-Mahdi member without incident.

Elsewhere, the Sulaymaniyah Asaish special weapons and tactics unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist cell leader under the authority of a warrant Nov. 9 in northern Iraq. The individual is suspected of being a former high ranking member of the Baath Party – the political party of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein -- and allegedly is a key figure in the al-Qaida terrorist group.

The suspect has been linked to major explosive attacks throughout northern Iraq and has been connected to financing terrorist cells. He was arrested under the authority of a warrant issued by the Higher Judicial Court of Ramadi.

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

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Pentagon News Release on Forum Decisions for 10 Guantanamo Bay Detainees

News in Balance

News in Balance:
EDITOR'S NOTE: A number of the detainees named in the news release below have already confessed to their crimes, as referenced in Combatant Status Review Tribunal documents.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement announcing forum decisions for ten detainees at Guantanamo Bay:
The Departments of Defense and Justice today announced forum decisions for ten detainees at Guantanamo Bay whose cases were previously charged in military commissions, including five detainees accused of conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and a detainee accused of orchestrating the attack on the USS Cole.

"Bringing terrorists to justice is an integral part of our national security," said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. "The reform of Military Commissions and today's announcement are important steps in that direction."

"Today we announce a step forward in bringing those we believe were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the attack on the USS Cole to justice," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "For over two hundred years, our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims. Once again we will ask our legal system to rise to that challenge, and I am confident it will answer the call with fairness and justice."

The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, has determined that the United States government will pursue a prosecution in federal court against five detainees who are currently charged in military commissions with conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 individuals. These detainees are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.

The Department of Justice intends to pursue a prosecution against these five individuals in the Southern District of New York as soon as possible. Prosecution of these detainees will be co-managed by teams from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia. These detainees will be transferred to the United States for trial after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress, are satisfied, and consultations with state and local authorities have been completed. The detainees will be housed in a federal detention facility in New York, which includes maximum security units that have securely held terrorism suspects in the past. Once federal charges are brought against these detainees, military commission charges now pending against them will be withdrawn.

The Attorney General has also determined, in consultation with the Secretary, that the prosecutions of five other Guantanamo Bay detainees who were charged in military commissions may be resumed in that forum. These detainees include the detainee accused of orchestrating the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured dozens of others, and a detainee who is accused of participating in an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.

Secretary Gates and Attorney General Holder are confident that detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay can be detained securely in U.S. detention facilities and that their trials can be conducted effectively and safely in the United States, whether in federal court or in a military commission.

Over the past decade, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted many terrorism defendants in our federal courts. Today, there are more than 200 inmates who have a history of or nexus to international terrorism, who have been convicted in federal courts, and are now housed securely in Bureau of Prisons facilities. The Department has already transferred one former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, to the Southern District of New York to face trial for his alleged role in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings.

With regard to military commissions, the reforms Congress recently adopted to the Military Commissions Act will ensure that commission trials are fair, effective, and lawful. Military commissions have been used by the United States to try those who have violated the law of war for more than two centuries. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Congress' power to determine the need for military commissions and to provide their jurisdiction and procedures, and this Congress has recently reiterated its support for commissions in adopting important reforms to the Military Commissions Act.

Finally, the Secretary and Attorney General understand and share the concern of the victims of terrorist attacks about the length of time it has taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. Justice has been delayed far too long. Prosecutors in both departments are committed to moving forward with all these cases as quickly as possible and to working together to see that justice is served, consistent with our nation's values.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Wire: Rendezvous With Indecision, US Army Says Morale Down Among Troops in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that morale has fallen among soldiers in Afghanistan, where troops are seeing record violence in the 8-year-old war, while those in Iraq show much improved mental health amid much lower violence, the U.S. Army said Friday.

The Associated Press reported that though findings of two new battlefield surveys are similar in several ways to the last ones taken in 2007, they come at a time of intense scrutiny on Afghanistan as President Barack Obama struggles to come up with a new war strategy to replace the one he implemented in March of this year.
Both surveys showed that soldiers on their third or fourth tours of duty had lower morale and more mental health problems than those with fewer deployments and an ever-increasing number of troops are having problems with their marriages.

The new survey on Afghanistan found instances of depression, anxiety and other psychological problems are about the same as they were in 2007. But it also said there is a shortage of mental health workers to help soldiers who need it, partly because of the buildup Obama already started this year with the dispatch of more than 20,000 extra troops.

Efforts already under way to get more health workers to the Afghan war could be hampered somewhat by last week's shooting. The psychiatrist charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder was slated to go to Afghanistan. Some of the dead and wounded also were to deploy there to bolster psychological services for soldiers.

The new Afghanistan survey found that individual soldier morale was about the same as previous studies, but that "unit morale rates ... were significantly lower than in 2005 or 2007," said an executive summary of the report that was to be explained in a news conference Friday. The units referred to were mostly platoons of roughly a couple dozen people each.

In Iraq, some 2,400 soldiers in randomly selected platoons filled out surveys from December 2008 through March 2009 and a mental health assessment team went to the warfront for a month starting in late February to analyze the results and hold interviews and focus groups.

In Afghanistan, more than 1,500 troops in more than 50 platoons filled out the surveys from April to June, and the assessment team when through the same process from May through June.
Findings of the Afghanistan survey included:
  • Junior enlisted soldiers reported significantly more marital problems than noncommissioned officers, stating they intended to get a divorce or that they suspected their spouses back home of infidelity.

  • Exposure to combat, long recognized as a strong factor in mental health problems, was significantly higher this year than rates in 2005 and similar to rates in 2007 for the combat units.

  • Combat units reported significantly lower unit morale in the last six months of their tours of duty, more evidence of the wearing affect of long deployments.

  • Troops in their third or fourth deployment reported significantly more acute stress and other psychological problems, and among those married, reported significantly more marital problems compared to soldiers on their first or second deployment.

  • Soldiers on their third or fourth deployment reported using medications for psychological or combat stress problems at a significantly higher rate than those on their first deployment.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Video: Dedication of F4U Corsair to USS Midway on Veteran's Day 2009, Part 2


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of a dedication of an F4U Corsair aircraft to the USS Midway on Veteran's Day 2009 in San Diego, California with Marines. Scenes include the crowds on the ship, the Corsair, the flag detail and activities. Part 2 of 2. (Video by Gunnery Sgt. Steven Williams, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Length: 00:06:53.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Defense Imagery on THE TENSION

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Video: Dedication of F4U Corsair to USS Midway on Veteran's Day 2009, Part 1


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of a dedication of an F4U Corsair aircraft to the USS Midway on Veteran's Day 2009 in San Diego, California with Marines. Scenes include the crowds on the ship, the Corsair, the flag detail and activities. Part 1 of 2. (Video by Gunnery Sgt. Steven Williams, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Length: 00:10:55.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Defense Imagery on THE TENSION

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Wire: Bomber Strikes Near US Military Base in Afghan Capital

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that Afghan officials say a suicide bomber struck a convoy of vehicles Friday near a U.S.-run NATO military base in Kabul, wounding six people.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing outside Camp Phoenix.

NATO said the wounded include civilian contractors, foreign soldiers and Afghan civilians.

VOA News noted that there have been a number of attacks targeting international operations in the Afghan capital in recent months, including an attack on a United Nations guesthouse and the Indian embassy.
This year has been the deadliest for international troops in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban-led government in 2001.

Also Friday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he is urging military allies to contribute more forces to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. In an interview with the BBC, he expressed confidence that international partners could provide up to 5,000 additional troops.

Germany has pledged to send more than 100 extra soldiers to Afghanistan.

More than 4,000 German troops are in Afghanistan serving with NATO forces, with most based in the country's north.
(Report from newswire sources.)

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OEF Update, Nov. 13, 2009: VBIED Attack; Forces Nab Taliban Commander in Wardak

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2009 -- A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on Jalalabad Road in Kabul, Afghanistan, around 8 a.m. today, injuring nine ISAF servicemembers, 10 civilian contractors and several Afghans. No ISAF servicemembers were killed.

"The insurgents use indiscriminate attacks like this to attempt to intimidate international forces and our Afghan partners, but we will continue our important efforts in support of the Afghan people," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, IJC spokesperson.

Afghan-International Security Force Detains Taliban Commander in Wardak:

An Afghan-international security force killed a couple of enemy militants and detained several militants in Wardak province today, one of which was a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks in the area.

The joint security force searched the buildings near the village of Badam Kalay in Nerkh district where intelligence sources indicated a known Taliban commander to be located.

During the operation, the force surrounded a mosque, used by the Taliban commander to cache weapons, and called for the militants to surrender. The force received heavy hostile machine gun fire originating from the mosque and responded with precision fire, killing two of the militants. The force again called for the remaining militants to surrender. Several other militants surrendered, including the Taliban commander.

Afghan members of the joint force then entered and secured the mosque and recovered a medium machine gun, multiple AK47s, grenades, a pistol, ammunition, video recorder and communications equipment. Following the operation, village elders discussed the operation with the joint force and examined the militant weapons cache in the mosque. No Afghan civilians were harmed.

Afghan-International Security Force Detains Taliban Militants in Zabul:

An Afghan-international security force detained a group of suspected militants after searching compounds today in Zabul province known to be used by a Taliban commander responsible for making IEDs and conducting attacks in the area. After searching the compounds without incident, the joint force detained the suspected militants. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

Afghan-International Security Force Interdicts Taliban Militants in Khost:

An Afghan-international security force killed an enemy militant and detained a group of suspected militants in Khost province today while pursuing a local Taliban shadow governor with numerous links to Haqqani senior leadership in the area.

The joint security force targeted a series of buildings near the village of Bazikani in the Spera district after intelligence indicated militant activity. The enemy militant was killed when he fired on the joint force. The force searched the buildings, detained the suspected militants and recovered a number of small arms weapons. No Afghan civilians were harmed during this operation.

Afghan-International Security Force Interdicts Taliban Militants in Kandahar:

In a separate operation Nov. 12 in Kandahar City, an Afghan and international force detained one suspected militant while pursuing a senior Taliban facilitator and sub-commander who operates in the area.

The joint security force searched a compound after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force conducted the search without incident and detained one suspected militant for additional questioning. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

Tons of Wheat Seed and Supplies Issued to Farmers in Helmand Province:

In October and November, officials from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, development groups and ISAF personnel distributed thousands of tons of agricultural products to farmers in Helmand province.

The products included wheat seed, fertiliser and insecticide, which Afghan farmers will use to grow crops during the winter growing season. The wheat should be ready for harvesting in spring 2010.

Nearly 40,000 farmers in eights districts of Helmand province participated in the distribution program, which will contribute to economic development in the region and provide food for the population.

During a visit to the wheat issuing center in Lashkar Gah, Governor Mangal said, "The wheat and fertilizer being issued here today will give these farmers the opportunity to provide much-needed food for their families and the country and allow them to turn their back on poppy."

Afghan officials arranged the distribution of the agricultural products at district centers including Lashkar Gah, Sangin, Gereshk, Nad-e-Ali, Nawa, Khan-e-Shin, Musa Qala and Garmsir. The products distributed included 4,000 tons of seed, 8,000 tons of fertilizer and 40,000 liters of insecticide.

ISAF Casualties:

No ISAF servicemembers were killed since the last operational update was published.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pentagon: Task Force to Focus on Afghan Roadside Bomb Threat

News in Balance

News in Balance:

OSHKOSH, Wisc., Nov. 12, 2009 -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has created a new task force to enhance existing department efforts to counter the threat from roadside bombs, the No. 1 killer in Afghanistan.

Gates announced the new task force today, and said he expects its members to spend the next six months reporting to him about the best way to deal with the improvised explosive device threat in Afghanistan.

The task force will be co-chaired by Ashton Carter, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Marine Lt. Gen. John M. “Jay” Paxton Jr., the Joint Staff’s operations chief. It will integrate work by the Joint IED Defeat Organization and the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and acquisition communities, Gates said.

The task force also will work directly with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, and other ground commanders.

Gates noted broad efforts already under way throughout the department, but said he hopes the task force will cut through organizational stovepipes to make them more effective.

“We have people working all these different pieces,” he said. “My concern is whether all this has been properly integrated and prioritized and aligned, and whether we are adaptable and agile enough.”

Gates said he has tasked the new body “to make sure we have integrated all the capabilities we have to go after this challenge,” he said. “And if they identify a need for something new, then so we can go get it and get it into the hands of the troops and the commanders.”

The goal is to ensure the military has the same level of capabilities in Afghanistan that it has built in Iraq, he said. These include not just counter-IED measures, but also forensics labs and analytical capabilities to help identify and track terrorist networks that build and emplace them.

“The whole purpose of this, really, is to make sure we get the troops what they need to protect themselves, and also the tools to be more effective in taking down these networks,” he said.

Gates already has sent the new task force a job: to analyze lessons the Mujahadeen learned when it used the same kinds of IEDs being used today against U.S. troops as in its struggle against the Soviet Union three decades ago.

“So let’s go back and look at the playbook they used against the Soviets to see if there is something we have learned in terms of adapting our tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said.

(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)

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US Airpower Summary, Nov. 12, 2009

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 12, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in the following operations, Nov. 11, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

Air Operations in Afghanistan:

Chahar Bagh
Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft provided armed overwatch for friendly forces patrols and a convoy. When suspicious activity was observed at a known enemy fighting position, precision guided munitions were utilized to eliminate the threat to the friendly forces.

Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft provided armed overwatch for a Coalition forces patrol. Activity at an enemy position was observed and a show of force was requested to deter any potential enemy action. The show of force was considered successful when no enemy action was noted.

Tarin Kowt
Air Force MQ-9A Reaper aircraft flew armed overwatch for a friendly forces convoy. The aircraft provided route surveillance for the convoy and when the convoy reported receiving enemy mortar fire, the point of origin was observed and precision guided munitions and a missile were released on the enemy target eliminating the threat to friendly forces.

Konduz
Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft conducted armed overwatch for friendly forces and a convoy. When enemy activity was observed at an enemy fighting position, air power was called in to intervene. Shows of force were demonstrated and were successful in deterring any enemy action.

Lashkar Gah
Coalition aircraft provided area reconnaissance for friendly forces. A request for a show of force was made to continue suppression of enemy action. The show of force was considered successful when no enemy action was noted.

Air Operations in Iraq:
No significant action to report in the last 24 hours.

Air Power Statistics:

Air Mobility:
U.S. Air Force airlift sorties: 154
Short tons of delivered cargo: 542
Passengers: nearly 4,400
Airdropped cargo: nearly 75,000 pounds

Close Air Support:
Sorties flown to support ISAF & Afghan security forces: 86
Sorties flown to support Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: 22

Surveillance & Reconnaissance:
Sorties flown in Afghanistan: 29
Sorties flown in Iraq: 26
Tactical reconnaissance sorties flown in Afghanistan: 2 (USN)
Tactical reconnaissance sorties flown in Iraq: 2 (USAF)

Medical Evacuation:
On November 10, Air Force HH-60 aircrew and Pararescue Airmen transported 4 patients

Aerial Refueling:
Sorties flown: 53
Fuel delivered: 3.7 million pounds
Aircraft refueled: 295

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

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 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 Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson, 21, of Anaheim, Calif., died Nov. 10 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: Hasan Charged With 13 Specifications of Premeditated Murder

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2009 -- Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has been charged with 13 specifications of premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 attack at Fort Hood, Texas.

Hasan has been charged under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, meaning the case will be heard in the military system.

"These are initial charges, and additional charges may be preferred in the future, subject to the ongoing criminal investigation," said Chris Grey, spokesman for U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, during a news conference at Fort Hood today.

"Our investigation remains open and ongoing," Grey said. "We are doing everything possible, and we are looking at every reason for this shooting. We are aggressively following every possible lead."

Preferring charges is the first step in the process. "A charge is merely an accusation," Grey said. "The accused is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty."

Hasan has hired a lawyer. Under Article 118, the minimum sentence if he's convicted is life with the possibility of parole. The maximum sentence is death.

Life at the sprawling installation is returning to normal, and the mission of the post continues, said Army Col. John Rossi, a Fort Hood spokesman. Twelve gunshot victims remain in local hospitals, with one in the intensive care unit. All are in stable condition, the colonel said.

Experts in psychological trauma continue to deploy to the base. More than 100 behavioral health specialists have deployed to help with assessments and assist across the command. Critical-incident stress management teams, unit ministry teams, health specialists and family life consultants are among those who have deployed to the central Texas post.

"Collectively, they have made more than 3,000 individual contacts so far," Rossi said. "All of the wounded have received the critical incident stress de-brief, and all those at the scene are receiving the same de-brief.

"Our goal is all that require, or desire, help get it," he continued. "We are guarding against any premature determination that all is OK."

Unit commanders and leaders are actively engaged in the recovery process, the colonel said.

"As part of our healing process, Fort Hood continues to responsibly and respectfully resume normal activities," Rossi said. "Our security posture remains vigilant, and our Fort Hood home is a great place to remain safe and secure. Units are returning from deployments as other units continue to train. The soldier readiness processing center is re-established and is operational at this time."

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

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OEF Summary, Nov. 12, 2009: Forces in Afghanistan Capture Terrorism Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2009 -- Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan today captured a sought-after Taliban commander following a firefight in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, and also captured a Haqqani terrorist group leader in another area, military officials reported.

In the first incident, the combined force killed several enemy militants and detained others in Ghazni's Zankhan district.

During the operation, the force received and returned fire, killing several enemy militants. A security element of the combined force searched the enemy position and recovered a rifle, multiple grenades, ammunition and communication gear.

The force then searched the compound and detained a group of suspected militants. The force also recovered IED-making materials and multiple assault rifles.

In other operations in Afghanistan:
  • A combined force in the Zadran district of Wardak province today detained several suspected militants, including a sought-after Haqqani leader responsible for financial and logistical support of militant attacks in the Khowst-Gardez Pass. The force searched the camp where intelligence sources located the man. The force detained the suspects, one of whom surrendered and identified himself as the Haqqani leader.

  • Combined forces detained several suspected militants in Helmand province yesterday while pursuing a senior Taliban commander who operates in the area. The force searched a camp outside of the village of Nabi Chah in Garmsir district after intelligence indicated militant activity there. The force conducted the search without incident and detained the suspects.

  • In an operation yesterday in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak province, Afghan and international forces detained several suspected militants after searching compounds known to be used by a Taliban element. The combined force searched the compounds without incident, detained the suspects and recovered bomb-making materials, small arms components, a small cache of ammunition, and video equipment.

  • A combined force yesterday detained two suspected militants in northeastern Kandahar City while pursuing a Taliban commander responsible for financial, media and logistical support of other militant elements in the area. The force searched the compound without incident.

  • A combined force yesterday killed a group of enemy militants and detained a suspected militant in Ghazni province while pursuing a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks in the area and with numerous links to other Taliban commanders. The force targeted a compound near the village of Akhtar Kheyl in the Qara Bagh district after intelligence indicated militant activity there. During the operation, the force engaged and killed the enemy militants. The force searched the compound, detained the suspect and recovered bomb-making materials and multiple assault rifles and chest racks. No civilians were harmed.

  • A combined force detained multiple suspected militants in Khandahar province after searching compounds known to be used by a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks in the area. The force targeted the compounds near the village of Atalay in Kharakaz district after intelligence indicated militant activity. The combined force searched the compounds without incident and detained the suspect.

  • Combined forces detained a suspected militant in Wardak province who identified himself as a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks and supplying other militant elements in the area. The force targeted buildings in the Nerkh district after intelligence indicated militant activity. Afghan soldiers searched the buildings without incident and detained the suspect.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

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Pentagon: Gates Condemns Leaks

News in Balance

News in Balance:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Newswire services yesterday reporting stories detailing further delays on the president's Afghan strategy attributed their unnamed source as "a senior administration official."
EN ROUTE TO OSHKOSH, Wis., Nov. 12, 2009 -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today condemned a spate of leaks regarding both the Afghanistan strategy deliberations and last week's shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, threatening to fire anyone in the Defense Department he finds is involved.

"I am appalled by the amount of leaking that has been going on," Gates told reporters traveling with him today in the wake of media reports following yesterday's national security session on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama's eighth in the past two months.

Gates said he has little doubt that some of those leaks have come from within the Defense Department. "If I found out who" was involved, he said, "it would probably be a career ender."

Leaking information as Obama is weighing critical factors serves neither the interest of the country nor the military, the secretary said. He refrained from sharing his own views about the best option, but said Obama appears to be leaning toward one that combines parts of various alternatives presented so far.

The question, he said, comes down to "How do we signal resolve, and at the same time, signal to the Afghans and the American people that this is not open-ended?"

Returning to the leaking issue, Gates condemned information made public about the alleged Fort Hood gunman that he said could jeopardize the investigation.

"Everybody out there with their own little piece of the action" doesn't understand how it fits into the big picture, he said. "Everybody out there ought to just shut up."

Gates spoke with reporters en route to Oshkosh, Wis., where he said he wants to thank factory workers at the Oshkosh Corp. who have stepped up production of all-terrain versions of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle specifically designed for Afghanistan's rugged terrain.

The M-ATVs, as the special MRAP vehicles are known, are part of the defensive response to roadside bombs responsible for more than 80 percent of casualties in Afghanistan, Gates said. Going after the networks that build and plant them is the offensive part of the response, he added.

Gates also announced a new task force focused on protecting U.S. troops in Afghanistan against improvised explosive devices. The new counter-IED task force will oversee the full range of efforts already under way, including the Joint IED Defeat Organization, MRAP production and other measures.

"It will bring together the range of capabilities we already have, and make them more collaborated and more integrated," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell explained.

Gates conceded that while M-ATVs provide more troop protection, very large IEDs being seen in Afghanistan pose a huge threat. "There is nothing that can protect our troops against everything," he said.

(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wire: Rendezvous With Indecision, Official Says Obama Nixes All Current Afghan Options

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, looking instead at clarifying how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

That move follows reservations about a possible troop buildup expressed by the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official. The Associated Press reported this evening that, in a strongly worded classified communications to Washington, Eikenberry said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama and the White House continues to promise a revamped war strategy. AP said that the decision would now likely wait until after the president returns from a trip to Asia that ends on Nov. 19.

After months of deliberations, the president raised new questions at a meeting Wednesday that could alter how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and what the timeline would be for their presence in the war zone, according to the official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Combat Camera Video: Iraqi Air Force Hellfire Rocket Launch, Part 2


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of the Iraqi Air Force hitting a target with a Hellfire rocket. For the first time since the re-formation of the Iraqi air force, an Iraqi pilot fired a missile from an aircraft Nov. 04.

A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base, officials at Multinational Force Security Transition Command Iraq announced in a Nov. 10 press release.

The event marked a milestone for the Iraqi military as they become increasingly responsible for their own security. The ability for Iraqi aircrews to launch missiles from the AC-208 will dramatically improve their ability to operationally support Iraqi security forces on the ground and achieves a key foundational capability for a credible and enduring Iraqi air force.

“These rockets will have a great and active role in fighting terrorism in all parts of Iraq," said Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed, commander of the Iraqi air force.

“I’m extremely proud of both the Iraqi Air Force and our Advisor Team,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Rob Kane, director of Iraq Training Advisory Mission-Air Force. “Together we have all worked hard to make this important day a reality. From the enlisted crews who loaded the missiles, to the aircrew who employed the system, to the air operations directors who integrated the entire sequence of clearance and authorization, this live-fire exercise was a perfect example of what a strong professional partnership between air forces looks like.”

The capability is several years in the making and is a dramatic step forward in establishing the Iraqi military as a credible and effective force for defending the people of Iraq, said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq. Part 2 of 2.

(Courtesy Video, American Forces Network Iraq. Length: 00:6:42.)

Related: Combat Camera Video: Iraqi Air Force Hellfire Rocket Launch, Part 1

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Pentagon: Gates Discusses Reagan’s Decisive Role in Fall of Berlin Wall

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2009 -- A flexible American strategy based on Ronald Reagan’s inflexible belief in liberty was key to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here yesterday.

The secretary spoke at the Library of Congress at a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. The Reagan Library sponsored the event.

And Gates was in a position to know: he served as the deputy director of intelligence at the CIA, and as deputy National Security Advisor under President George H.W. Bush.

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, American influence was low: Iran had humiliated the United States in taking hostages at the embassy in Tehran, the country was in what President Jimmy Carter called a malaise and the Soviet Union looked to match or surpass American military might.

Gates called Reagan “the ultimate Cold Warrior.” The new president’s first job was to restore America’s military strength. “A broad U.S. defense build-up began early in the Reagan administration, with more advanced planes, ships, submarines, combat vehicles and nuclear weapons added to America’s arsenal,” Gates said during his speech.

And Reagan wasn’t afraid to use this new American power. Libya challenged American naval might in the Mediterranean Sea with the “Line of Death” at the Gulf of Sidra. In 1981, Reagan sent two aircraft carriers across the line, and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sent two fighters to challenge the American ships. \

“Big mistake,” Gates said. Under Ronald Reagan’s new, aggressive rules of engagement, two F-14 Tomcats splashed the two Libyan fighters.”

Reagan extended the strategy of containment of the Soviet Union far beyond the primary theater of Europe. The Soviets found themselves being confronted in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, Gates said.

“While countering the Soviets … had been a common feature of every administration since the end of World War II, under President Reagan this struggle gained new moral energy, purpose and sense of urgency,” Gates said.

Reagan believed that the West would triumph over communism in his lifetime, and through his two terms in office he never lost sight of that, the secretary said. On Jun 12, 1987, Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate on the western side of the Berlin Wall and issued a challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“Mr. Gobachev, tear down this wall,” Reagan said.

Gates said there were some in Reagan’s own State Department who didn’t want him to say those words, but the president stuck to his guns.

But Reagan was not simply an ideologue. “President Reagan also had the insight, the sense of historical moment, to know when it was time to sheathe the sword, soften the tone and re-engage – even with our most implacable enemy,” Gates said.

Reagan’s meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in 1984, was “a turning point,” the secretary said. The president followed this with meeting with new Soviet Leader Gorbachev in 1985. And there were items the two sides could negotiate, Gates said.

“He made it clear that we did not value the ICBMs, tanks, or warships in and of themselves. They were negotiable,” the secretary said. “No, the West’s differences with the East – the democracies’ dispute with communism – was, he said, ‘not about weapons, but about liberty.’”

Reagan never lost sight of the fact that the Cold War was a struggle of ideas and economic systems at it root. There were treaties with the nation Reagan called “the Evil Empire.” Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, banning the use of these missile systems.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Gates was President George H.W. Bush’s deputy national security advisor. He spoke of his wonder at seeing hundreds of thousands of Berliners dancing on the Wall, hacking away pieces of it and knocking down whole sections with bulldozers.

“There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets and virtually no violence,” Gates said. “Within two years, the other Soviet satellites had broken free as well, and again, largely without violence. The effort to reform communism, as suspected, actually ended up sweeping it away. For its foundation was force and terror and without them, communism could not survive.”

The world changed when the wall fell 20 years ago, and people are still trying to devise strategies that work in a different, but still dangerous world, the secretary said. “In many ways geopolitics are much more complex than when two nuclear-armed superpowers tested each other,” he said.

Still there are lessons to be learned, and first among them is the appeal of freedom – political, economic and spiritual. “And the idea that free men and women of different cultures and countries can, for all the squabbling inherent in democracy, come together to get the big things right, and make the tough decisions to deter aggression and preserve their liberty,” Gates said.

Each generation must make this choice, he said. “It is a sad reality that in our time and in the future … there will be those who seek through violence and crimes to dominate and intimidate others,” Gates said. “We saw this on (/11, and we see it today in Afghanistan, where more perseverance, more sacrifice and more patience is required to prevent the terrorists who attacked us from doing so again.

“We see it anywhere nations, movements or strongmen are tempted to believe the United States does not have the will or the means to stand by our friends, to meet our commitments and to defend our way of life,” he continued.

President Reagan knew this inherently, Gates said. “Ronald Reagan was a great president who acted and planned, but most importantly, who dreamed and believed,” the secretary said. “And he truly accomplished great things.”

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

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OEF Update, Nov. 11, 2009: Military Divers Find One Missing Soldier; Forces Nab Taliban Militants

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 11, 2009 -- One of the two missing U.S. soldiers was found by a military dive team yesterday in Western Afghanistan. Afghan-international forces continue to search for the other soldier missing since Nov. 4. More information will be provided when appropriate.

Taliban Militants Interdicted in Ghazni:

Afghan-international security forces killed a group of enemy militants and detained a suspected militant in Ghazni province while pursuing a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks in the area and with numerous links to other Taliban commanders.

The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Akhtar Kheyl in Qara Bagh district after intelligence indicated militant activity. During the operation, the joint force engaged and killed the enemy militants. The joint force searched the compound, detained the suspected militant and recovered IED-making materials and multiple AK-47 rifles and chest racks. No civilians were harmed.

Taliban Militants Detained in Khandahar:

In a separate operation, Afghan-international security forces detained multiple suspected militants in Khandahar province after searching compounds known to be used by a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks in the area.

The joint security force targeted the compounds near the village of Atalay in Kharakaz district after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compounds without incident and detained the suspected militants. No shots were fired, and no one was injured. No civilians were harmed.

Taliban Commander Interdicted in Wardak:

In a different operation, Afghan-international security forces detained a suspected militant in Wardak province identified as a Taliban commander responsible for several attacks and supplying other militant elements in the area.

The joint security force targeted buildings near the village of Qal'ah-ye Muhammad Jan in the Nerkh district after intelligence indicated militant activity. Afghan soldiers of the joint force searched the buildings without incident and detained one suspected militant who was identified as the Taliban commander. No shots were fired, and no one was injured. No civilians were harmed.

ISAF Casualties:

No International Security Assistance Force servicemembers were killed during the past 24 hours.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Combat Camera Video: Iraqi Air Force Hellfire Rocket Launch, Part 1


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of the Iraqi Air Force hitting a target with a Hellfire rocket. Scenes include the attack fro two different angles and shots of a plane carrying a rocket. Part 1 of 2. (Courtesy Video, American Forces Network Iraq. Length: 00:10:00.)

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A Day to Honor Veterans

Living History

Living History:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2009 -- World War I, known at the time as “The Great War,” officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible." (Click here for the full text of the proclamation.)

On that same day, the President sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee. (Click here for the text of President Eisenhower’s letter.)

In 1958, the White House advised VA's General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee's chairman.

The Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to insure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

(Report compiled from VA.gov resources.)

Related: Dept. of Veterans Affairs Veterans Day Page -- Photos, posters, resources.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 -- The following news release made available Tuesday 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 Nov. 8 in Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries sustained when their OH-58D helicopter crashed. They were assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Killed were:
  • Chief Warrant Officer Mathew C. Heffelfinger, 29, of Kimberly, Idaho; and

  • Chief Warrant Officer Earl R. Scott III, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla.

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

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US Military Meets, Exceeds Recruiting Goals for October 2009

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 -- The U.S. Department of Defense announced today its recruiting and retention statistics for active and reserve components for October 2009.

Active Duty Recruiting for October 2009. All four services met or exceeded their recruiting goals.
  • The Army had 6,914 accessions, making 101 percent of its 6,858 goal.
  • The Navy had 2,926 accessions, making 100 percent of its 2,926 goal.
  • The Marine Corps had 2,851 accessions, making 100 percent of its 2,843 goal.
  • The Air Force had 2,198 accessions, making 100 percent of its 2,198 goal.

Active Duty Retention. All four services met or exceed their retention goals for October 2009.

Reserve Forces Recruiting for October 2009. All six Reserve components met or exceeded their goals.
  • The Army National Guard had 4,425 accessions, making 112 percent of its 3,947 goal and the Army Reserve had 3,348 accessions, making 125 percent of its 2,675 goal.
  • The Navy Reserve had 671 accessions, making 100 percent of its 671 goal.
  • The Marine Corps Reserve had 1,132 accessions, making 144 percent of its 787goal.
  • The Air National Guard had 698 accessions, making 124 percent of its 562 goal, and the Air Force Reserve had 1,083 accessions, making 100 percent of its 1,083 goal.

Reserve Attrition. Losses for the Reserve components are not available pending corrections and resubmissions from services.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 -- The following news release made available Tuesday 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.

Sgt. Charles I. Cartwright, 26, of Union Bridge, Md., died Nov. 7 while supporting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OEF Summary, Nov. 10, 2009: Forces in Afghanistan Seize Bomb Materials

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Nov. 10, 2009 -- Afghan National Police and international forces seized 250 tons of suspected bomb-making material and detained 15 people in a Nov. 8 raid in southeastern Afghanistan, military officials reported.

Based on reliable information, the combined force searched a warehouse in Kandahar province, where they seized 1,000 100-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and detained 15 people. They found an additional 4,000 100-pound bags of fertilizer at a nearby compound, and also seized 5,000 components used in improvised explosive devices.

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a key ingredient in IEDs and is illegal in Afghanistan.

“This was a tremendous success for the Afghan National Police who led this operation,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an International Security Assistance Force spokesman. “This find will undoubtedly save many lives and points to the increasing capability of the Afghan national security forces.”

In other operations in Afghanistan:
  • A combined force detained several suspected insurgents in Logar province while pursuing a Taliban commander operating in the area and linked to other local Taliban shadow government leaders. The force targeted compounds in the Baraki Barak district after intelligence indicated militant activity there. The force searched the compounds without incident and detained the suspects.

  • A combined force detained several suspected insurgents in Helmand province, including a sought-after Taliban leader linked to drug trafficking and responsible for weapons shipments to other militants in the area. The force searched a compound in the Garmsir district where sources reported the wanted man to be located. The force searched the compound without incident, recovered bomb-making materials and manuals and detained the suspects, one of whom identified himself as the Taliban leader. No shots were fired, and no civilians were injured.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: Firefight in the Waterpur Valley, Afghanistan


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. Army 3rd Platoon, C Company, 2-12 Infantry engaging insurgents in a two and a half hour firefight outside the village of Qatar Kala, Afghanistan. Scenes include an exchange of small arms fire. (Video by Sgt. Justin Puetz, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Length: 00:03:24.)

Related: Combat Camera: Firefight in the Waterpur Valley (OEF)

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Pentagon Discuses Deployment of Civilian Expeditionary Force to Support Military Operations

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 -- A recent Facebook post by a U.S. soldier heading home from Iraq highlights some of the nonmilitary roles American troops often assume in today’s counterinsurgency wars.

“My time in Iraq approaches its end,” the junior enlisted soldier wrote, listing military duties he performed on tour, followed by the more unorthodox roles: “I’ve been a public affairs guy, mechanic, carpenter, custodian, business capital injector and loan approval officer.”

To relieve troops of these additional tasks, a Defense Department initiative known as the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce, or CEW, is training and equipping a civilian work force of department employees capable of deploying overseas to support military missions.

“We call it a ‘force multiplier,’” said Marilee Fitzgerald, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “It allows the military to do what they do best, and it relieves them, because we can do some of the things they don’t need a warfighter for.”

Currently, about 110 such civilian volunteers are participating overseas as part of the CEW, which the department officially established in January, and the program has received more than 7,200 resumes, according to defense officials.

In addition to a salary bump, one benefit of CEW is that when participants return to their domestic Defense Department jobs – which are guaranteed upon return – they do so with a broadened perspective, Fitzgerald said in an interview last week.

“They understand the mission better, they understand how to contribute better, and they have an understanding of what this Department of Defense is all about,” she said. “It translates to some really powerful messages for them.”

Jobs in highest demand at the CEW have been in the fields of intelligence and contracting, but the program covers a broad range of career fields, including engineering, acquisitions, human resources, law enforcement and logistics management. Employees in deployable-designated positions will be trained, equipped and prepared to serve overseas in support of humanitarian, reconstruction and, if absolutely necessary, combat-support missions.

Certain duty positions may require compulsory deployment, but eligible employees will be asked to sign an agreement at the time of hire, officials said, adding that all participants to date have been volunteers – none of whom were directed by the department to deploy.

The CEW comes to fruition as the military’s focus on the counterinsurgency approach in Iraq and Afghanistan places an emphasis on “soft power,” or means of government influence traditionally carried out by nonmilitary personnel. Counterinsurgency -- known as COIN in military circles -- is a form of warfare in which a civilian population is in the center of a tug-of-war between an insurgency and the forces attempting to stop it.

According to the U.S. military’s COIN doctrine, military operators have assumed these typically civilian roles because the military often possesses the only readily available personnel capable of meeting a local populace’s needs.

“Military forces can perform civilian tasks, but often not as well as the civilian agencies with people trained in those skills,” the manual reads. “Further, military forces performing civilian tasks are not performing military tasks. Diverting them from those tasks should be a temporary measure, one taken to address urgent circumstances.”

Fitzgerald said one change that could help draw attention to the civilian talent pool at CEW is the fact that the civilians increasingly are considered in the policymaking decision process.

“It is both in theater at the [combatant command] level and here at the expeditionary cell that they begin to talk about which [job] could be civilian and which one needs to be military,” she said, referring to military command centers where personnel needs are first formulated.

“We are building the capability to continue the conversation at [U.S. Joint Forces Command] so that we get it at all three spots,” she said of the combatant command responsible for tracking and allotting forces for U.S. operations. “This notion of the combatant commands having the capability to consider the civilian talent is a major paradigm shift.”

Fitzgerald, who returned recently from a trip to Iraq, where she got an up-close view of CEW participants on the job, said those interested in joining the work force are well served by a “pioneering spirit.” But she added that participants can deploy with assurance that their former job will be there upon their return.

“Know that when you leave, you leave with the tremendous support and care and concern of the organization that you left, and your job will be waiting,” Fitzgerald said. “We tell them the coffee cup will be where you left it.”

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

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OIF Summary, Nov. 10, 2009: Forces Nab Terrorism Suspects in Iraq

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 -- Iraqi police, working with U.S. advisors, arrested five suspected members of the al-Qaida in Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq terrorist groups today during operations in Iraq's Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, military officials reported.

In Saytiyah, about 65 miles northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police and U.S. advisors searched with an arrest warrant for an alleged Islamic State of Iraq member known to be directly linked to a—Qaida in Iraq. The man is suspected of orchestrating attacks in Baghdad from remote locations in Diyala province, and also is wanted for providing vehicles for vehicle-borne bombings in the region.

Iraqi police established a cordon and searched a building during the operation. During preliminary questioning and based on evidence found at the scene, a suspect was determined to be connected with the Islamic State of Iraq network and was arrested without incident. The warranted man was not apprehended.

In a separate operation, Iraqi police and U.S. advisors searched for an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq associate in a rural area about 50 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The team searched a building and questioned people. Based on information gathered at the scene, they arrested four people suspected of engaging in terrorist activity.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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OEF Update, Nov. 10, 2009: Forces Seize 250 Tons of Suspected Bomb Making Material in Kandahar; US Casualty

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 10, 2009 -- Afghan National Police and ISAF forces seized 500,000 lbs. of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, 5,000 IED components and detained 15 people after a raid in Kandahar Nov. 8.

Based on reliable information, the patrol discovered 1,000 100-lb. bags of fertilizer, which is often used by insurgents to make explosives, and detained 15 people in a warehouse. After the initial find another 4,000 100-lb. bags of fertilizer were found in a nearby compound.

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a key ingredient of homemade explosives and used in the majority of main charges for IEDs. This type of fertilizer is illegal in Afghanistan.

"This was a tremendous success for the Afghan National Police who led this operation," said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an ISAF spokesman. "This find will undoubtedly save many lives and points to the increasing capability of the Afghan national security forces."

Afghan-International Security Force Detains Taliban Militants in Logar and Interdicts Taliban Facilitator in Helmand An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Logar province while pursuing a Taliban commander operating in the area and linked to several local Taliban shadow government
leaders.

The joint security force targeted compounds near the village of Yusof Kheyl in Baraki Barak district after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compounds without incident and detained the suspected militants. No shots were fired, and no Afghan civilians were injured during this operation.

In a separate operation, an Afghan-international security force detained a group of suspected militants in Helmand province, including a sought-after Taliban facilitator responsible for weapon shipments to other militant elements and heavily linked to narcotics traffic in the area.

The joint security force targeted a compound in the rural section of Garmsir district where intelligence sources reported the Taliban facilitator to be located.

The joint force searched the compound without incident, recovered IED-making materials, bomb-making manuals and detained the group of suspected militants. One of the suspects surrendered and identified himself as the Taliban facilitator. No shots were fired, and no Afghan civilians were injured during this operation.

ISAF Casualty:

An ISAF servicemember died as a result of an IED strike in Southern Afghanistan today. The service member was from the United States.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2009 -- The following news release made available Monday 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 Nov. 5 in Jelewar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:
  • Spc. Aaron S. Aamot, 22, of Custer, Wash.

  • Spc. Gary L. Gooch Jr., 22, of Ocala, Fla.

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

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Pentagon: Officials Plan Fort Hood Memorial Service

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2009 -- President Barack Obama will join Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. at Fort Hood, Texas, tomorrow for a ceremony to honor the victims of the Nov. 5 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 38 wounded.

Many of those wounded in the attack have recovered enough to attend the ceremony, said Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, commander of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood.

“We still have 15 of our great soldiers hospitalized; eight are in intensive care, and seven are in wards,” Cone said during a news conference at Fort Hood today. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and their families during this difficult time.”

Cone said he is most concerned that the healing phase begins. “I think what’s absolutely critical is that we understand the nature of what has happened here,” he told reporters. “There are probably about 600 people who were somehow directly touched by this incident.”

Cone said authorities’ initial focus in these last three days has been working on getting those 600 people the right behavioral assessments and counseling.

Now, officials are dealing with the larger population at the sprawling post. “I had a very good session yesterday with … the civilian personnel and the soldiers who worked at the soldier readiness site, and had a good opportunity to address their concerns,” Cone said. “And … they began their processing through this critical-incident debrief process.”

Soldiers are among the best prepared to deal with the stress of this incident, the general noted, because they have had training and experience. “Many of us are used to being in theater, and something like this happens, and we come back right away. We get on with the mission. We do the memorial service, we send our comrades home, and then we move on with the mission,” he said.

But dealing with the civilians and families poses more of a challenge. They’ve always considered the base to be a safe place, Cone noted, and now officials must devise ways to help them. “We are right now in the process of executing a comprehensive program to address the needs of all of these populations,” he said.

Officials also must find ways to help soldiers who suffered post-traumatic stress from earlier combat-related incidents, Cone said. They, too, saw Fort Hood as a safe place. “We don't really know what the impact of something like this has on them,” the general acknowledged.

The Army has mobilized resources to help, with 27 military family life consultants, 18 combat stress control teams, 41 behavioral health specialists and 57 ministry support teams on the ground at Fort Hood.

“We have additional resources coming in as we need it,” Cone said. “As General Casey tells me, the entire resources of the United States Army are at the disposal of Fort Hood and its population to help deal with the impact of this event.”

People who wish to donate to aid the victims and the families have a number of options.

Checks can be mailed to:

Chaplain's Fund Office
Bldg 44, 761st Tank Battalion Ave.
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5000

Checks should be made payable to "CTOF" -- which stands for Chapel's Tithes and Offerings Fund -- with a note on the memo line stating "Nov. 5 Tragedy."

Contributions on behalf of Fort Hood soldiers also can be made to:

Fisher House
Bldg 36015, Fisher Lane
Fort Hood, TX 76544

Donations also can be made through the Red Cross:

Killeen Red Cross
208 W. Ave. A
Killeen, TX 76541
Visit http://www.waco.redcross.org.

Finally, donations can be made through the USO:

USO Fort Hood
Building 1871, 50th St.
Fort Hood, TX 76544
Visit http://www.uso.org.

In related news, the Army Criminal Investigation Command is seeking anyone who may have left the area of the shooting with gunshot damage to their vehicles or clothing, and anyone who may inadvertently have left the scene with material that could be used as evidence -- shell casings inside their boot, for example.

The evidence would aid CID and FBI investigators, officials said.

Officials said gunshot-damaged material needs to be inspected by the soldier's or civilian's supervisor or chain of command, and commanders or first sergeants must verify that the person providing the evidence was at the scene.

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

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