Saturday, December 5, 2009

USS Nimitz Resumes Combat Operations in Support of OEF

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PERSIAN GULF (Nov. 29, 2009) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 launches from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Phillip Wagner Jr.)

Focus on Defense:

USS NIMITZ, At Sea, Dec. 5, 2009 -- USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 returned to the North Arabian Sea today, to resume combat missions supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) following a port visit in the Arabian Gulf.

Aircrews provide close air support and reconnaissance to coalition forces in Afghanistan, launching from the deck of Nimitz hundreds of miles away.

"After nearly 3 months on station, this air wing continues to hone our skills to deliver effective support to our coalition partners on the ground," said Capt. Bret Batchelder, commander, CVW 11, "although, nothing about this mission out here is routine".

CVW 11 aviators work closely with embarked Army ground liaison officers here and air controllers on the ground in Afghanistan to deliver precision support to counter-insurgency operations.

They are all guided by the tactical directive instituted in July by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, which places limitations on the use of force that could result in civilian casualties.

Since entering the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations Sep. 18., CVW 11 has flown more than 1,450 sorties and totaled more than 8,500 cumulative flight hours in support of OEF.

Nimitz provides 30 percent of the close air support to the coalition force in Afghanistan.

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, commanded by Rear Adm. John W. Miller, is comprised of USS Nimitz, embarked CVW 11, embarked Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin. Ships assigned to DESRON 23 include the destroyers USS Pinckney, USS Sampson and the frigate USS Rentz.

Squadrons from CVW 11 include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the "Tophatters" of VFA 14, the "Warhawks" of VFA 97, the "Sidewinders" of VFA 86, the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117.

Helicopter detachments include the "Easy Riders" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 37, the "Battle Cats" of HSL 43, the "Wolfpack" of HSL 45, the "Scorpions" of HSL 49 and the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. Also accompanying the Nimitz CSG are Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and the USNS Bridge.

(Report from a USS Nimitz Public Affairs news release.)

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US Navy Discuses Detainee Abuse Charges Against 3 SEALs

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News from the U.S. Navy

News in Balance:

MACDILL AFB, Fla., Dec. 5, 2005 -- In September 2009, evidence of possible detainee abuse came to light at a Forward Operating Base in Iraq.

Upon receipt of this evidence, Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) initiated an investigation which was conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Based upon the evidence uncovered in this investigation, three sailors were accused of making false official statements with the intent to deceive the investigator and dereliction of duty for failing to safeguard a detainee who was in their custody.

One of the three sailors has been charged with assaulting the detainee after the prisoner had been apprehended and while he was in their custody at the base.

Another has been charged with an additional offense of impeding an investigation by unlawfully attempting to influence a witness in the investigation.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the three sailors were offered non-judicial punishment as a means of resolving the allegations. All three sailors exercised their right under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to refuse the administrative punishment. After this refusal, the attached charges were then referred to Special Courts-martial.

The sailors are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty at Courts-martial. The charges against the accused are merely accusations. SOCCENT is committed to ensuring that the Constitutional rights of the accused are protected and to maintaining good order and discipline.

Two of the sailors are scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 7 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Regional Legal Service Office at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. The proceeding is scheduled to last one hour.

The third sailor's arraignment has not been scheduled. Trial dates are tentatively scheduled for mid-January 2010 at Naval Station Norfolk.

SOCCENT is the convening authority.

There were no further comments because the case is currently in the pre-trial phase.

(Report from a Special Operations Command, Central Public Affairs news release.)

Related: Wire: 3 US Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges for Nabbing Most-Wanted Terrorist

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OEF Update, Dec. 5, 2009: Forces Nab Taliban Facilitator in Logar

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained a handful of militants in Logar province including a key Taliban facilitator responsible for movement and training of militant elements in the area. The facilitator is linked to senior Taliban leadership in the province.

The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Sejawand in the Baraki Barak district where intelligence sources said the facilitator was located. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the militants, easily identifying the facilitator. The force recovered a number of AK-47 rifles, pistols, fragmentation grenades and chest racks fully loaded with AK-47 magazines.

No shots were fired and no one was harmed in this operation.

ISAF Casualties:

There were no ISAF fatalities in the last 24 hours in Afghanistan.

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

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Video: Bin Laden's Home in Kandahar

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 -- Just on the outskirts of Kandahar airfield lies the former home of Osama Bin Laden, Tamask Farms. The area was bombed by U.S. forces in the days after the September 11th attacks. (NATO TV video. Length: 01:50.)

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Pentagon Discuses Gen. Petraeus' Comments on Pakistani Offensive

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 -- As the Pakistani military achieves success against extremists operating in Pakistan, the campaign also is aiding anti-insurgent efforts in Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said today.

In fact, the months-long Pakistani offensive is putting the Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremists in the region "under significant pressure," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told National Public Radio host Steve Inskeep during a segment of the "Morning Edition" news program.

The Pakistani campaign is assisting U.S. and coalition efforts in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, noting Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar "is generally thought to be located most of the time, if not all the time, in Pakistan."

Pakistan's military has been engaged over the past nine months or so in several actions targeting extremist groups in Pakistan that are known to cross the border to create mayhem in Afghanistan, Petraeus said.

The offensive, the general said, indicates that Pakistan's government and citizens now recognize "that the most pressing threat to the very existence of Pakistan as they know it is the extremist syndicate" that operates in the region, which includes Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Pakistani troops have conducted "quite impressive" operations against insurgents in the Swat Valley area in the northwestern frontier section of the country, Petraeus said.

Pakistani soldiers also have moved against Pakistani Taliban elements based in the country's eastern-south Waziristan region and also are targeting other extremists operating in northern Warizistan, he said.

Pakistan has committed thousands of troops to deal with extremists operating within its borders, Petraeus said, adding "you cannot underestimate" the importance of the steps Pakistan has taken to deal with its internal terrorist threat.

The campaign has come at a cost, he pointed out, noting many Pakistani soldiers and civilians have been killed or injured over the past 9-10 months.

As the anti-insurgent campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue, Petraeus said, there needs to be very close coordination along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

The general observed that Pakistan's military campaign against extremists "has achieved a good bit" over the past nine months or so.

"But, we have a very long way to go in that regard," he said.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Kenneth R. Nichols Jr., 28, of Chrisman, Ill., died Dec. 1 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit using small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fires. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Summary, Dec. 4, 2009: Forces in Iraq Arrest 6 Terrorism Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 -- Iraqi security forces arrested six terrorism suspects in recent days, military officials reported.

In northwestern Baghdad yesterday, Iraqi security forces arrested three people during a combined operation conducted to find and arrest a suspected member of an explosives cell affiliated with the Jaysh al-Mahdi terrorist organization.

Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched a home for the alleged explosives cell member, who is believed to be staging attacks against security forces in the region. Based on preliminary questioning and evidence discovered at the scene, they arrested three people suspected of being criminal associates of the targeted cell member, who was not apprehended.

Also yesterday, Iraqi forces arrested two people in Abu Ghraib during a combined operation conducted to find and arrest an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq explosives expert believed to be building vehicle-borne bombs and planning deadly attacks in Baghdad and Anbar province.

Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched a home looking for the suspect, and though they did not locate him, they arrested two people suspected of criminal activity based on preliminary questioning and evidence discovered on the premises.

In Baghdad on Dec. 2, Iraqi forces and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers detained a suspected weapons trafficker. Acting on a warrant issued out of Bayaa, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police conducted a combined mission and seized various weapons, electronic devices and records.

The suspect is believed to be responsible for selling weapons to various terrorist groups throughout the Baghdad area. Iraqi forces transported him to a nearby headquarters for further questioning.

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

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Video: Fort Hood Unit Deploys to Afghanistan


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Embedded above is a b-roll video of the 467th Medical Detachment preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. The 467th was on Fort Hood during the recent Fort Hood massacre. Scenes include the soldiers walking in uniform around the base. (Courtesy Video, Fort Hood Public Affairs Office. Length: 00:02:58.)
See related article below:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 -- An Army Reserve unit that had soldiers both killed and wounded during the Nov. 5 shooting here deployed as scheduled to Afghanistan early this morning.

Maj. Laura Suttinger, commander of the 467th Medical Detachment, said the unit's soldiers are more dedicated than ever to the mission.

"I think they decided that same day (of the shooting) that they were more dedicated than ever in honor of the soldiers that we lost and have stood firm in that commitment," said unit commander Maj. Laura Suttinger. "They were all very dedicated, caring soldiers, and they will not be forgotten. We're carrying on in their honor."

Three soldiers from the Madison, Wisconsin-based unit were killed during the shooting: Maj. Libardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, Va., Capt. Russell Seager, 41, of Racine, Wisc., and Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wisc.

Members of the unit will be better able to help soldiers overseas since surviving this tragedy themselves, 1st Sgt. James McLeod, of the unit, said. "Even though we lost our fallen comrades ... 'no one is going to stop us from completing our mission' is really what their goal is."

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

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OEF Update, Dec. 4, 2009: US Marines Start Operation in Helmand Province

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 -- More than 1,000 International Security Assistance Force troops are partnering with Afghan forces to begin a large-scale operation in northern Helmand province.

About 900 U.S. Marines and sailors and British forces began partnering today with 150 Afghan soldiers and police to start Operation Khareh Cobra, or Cobra's Anger, to clear insurgent forces in the Now Zad valley.

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7 and 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion are partnered with Afghan army and police. The forces began helicopter and ground operations in the Now Zad valley early this morning.

Now Zad was once Helmand's second largest city, but is now empty due to years of fighting. Insurgents have heavily mined the area, and a key purpose of the operation is to provide enough security for the Afghan government and non-governmental organizations to begin clearing the mines and improvised explosive devices in order to enable the eventual repopulation of the city.

A company of Marines is stationed in Now Zad along with 150 Afghan soldiers and police.

(Compiled from a Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan news release.)

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OEF Update, Dec. 4, 2009: Forces Nab Insurgents in Kandahar

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 4, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Kandahar province today after searching a compound known to be used by a Taliban facilitator.

The joint security force targeted the compound near the village of Nurayo Kariz, approximately 10 miles northeast of Kandahar City in Arghandab district. The force searched the compound without incident and detained the militants, including the Taliban facilitator. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The Taliban uses an extensive network of supply routes in southern Afghanistan to arm and equip its militant elements within the country. Afghan and international security forces partner personnel and resources to block these routes and ensure the safety and well being of the Afghan people.

ISAF Casualties:

ISAF suffered no fatalities in the last 24 hours.

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

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pentagon Discuses Logistics for Afghanistan Surge

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News in Balance:

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 3, 2009 -- President Barack Obama’s call for another 30,000 troops to deploy to Afghanistan came as no surprise to Defense Logistics Agency planners.

One day after the president’s announcement, DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson described how the agency’s three strategic focus areas – warfighter support enhancement, stewardship excellence and work force development – will support the troop surge.

Just as DLA supply centers and support teams worked months in advance to pre-position items for nearly 20,000 troops who deployed to southern Afghanistan last summer, logisticians have spent the past several months working with U.S. Central Command and U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials to plan support for even more forces, Thompson said to a standing-room-only crowd at the Defense Logistics 2009 conference here yesterday.

Thompson told the assembled military members and defense contractors that representatives across all of DLA’s supply chains have been involved in the planning effort. Defense Supply Center Philadelphia -- which provides food, construction material, medical items, clothing and individual equipment -- has employees on the ground working with local subsistence prime vendors to provide additional fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries.

DSCP employees also are arranging for an increase in production of such items as lumber and housing, which are expected to be some of the most-requested commodities during the initial surge.

At Defense Supply Center Richmond, Va., work is under way to boost support to the fleet of helicopters that has become an important means for getting supplies to troops in Afghanistan, where unimproved roads and steep terrain make it difficult to move equipment.

In land combat support, Defense Supply Center Columbus, Ohio, has partnered with Oshkosh Defense, makers of the new all-terrain version of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or M-ATVs, to provide repair parts for the vehicles, which are being used to protect troops from roadside bombs. Six DSCC employees have deployed to Afghanistan to focus solely on support of conventional MRAPs and the new M-ATVs.

Employees at Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, Pa., are assembling new combat lifesaver kits that contain such medical supplies as bandages, scissors, splints and gloves that are used to treat severely wounded soldiers.

A key element of the Afghanistan support strategy, Thompson said, is the development of the Northern Distribution Network. This initiative provides additional routes to move material to troops on the ground through the South Caucasus and Central and South-Asian states.

Thompson met with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, Nov. 23 to discuss how DLA is supporting the Northern Distribution Network and the general’s local security cooperation strategy through local procurement efforts in the region. DLA has been leading this effort for Centcom by bringing together other contracting activities within U.S. Transportation Command, the State Department, the General Services Administration and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Thompson also visited DLA employees in southern Afghanistan in November to get a first-hand look at how the agency is supporting warfighters. Though the intent of his visit was to find areas that needed improvement, the admiral said, leaders on the ground had nothing but good things to say about DLA’s support.

“Looking across our full line of support, I’m confident that we’re on track to supply warfighters with everything they need, whether it’s fuel, spare parts for weapons systems or troop-support items,” he said.

Thompson also spoke at the conference about recent DLA initiatives to ensure stewardship and integrity in DLA’s acquisition process. He told attendees of DLA’s need to always be mindful of the role it plays on behalf of American taxpayers.

He finished his keynote speech by speaking about the important part DLA’s work force plays in the agency’s success and, ultimately, the success of its warfighting customers, and the programs DLA has to ensure that it has the right work force now and in the future.

(Report by Beth Reece, Defense Logistics Agency’s strategic communications office.)

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Pentagon Discuses F-35 Costs, Fair Tanker Competition

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News in Balance:

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2009 -- Pentagon officials are working to halt spiraling costs in the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft program, while ensuring competition for a new refueling tanker remains fair to all contenders, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said here yesterday.

Lynn told the Aerospace and Defense Conference he’s concerned about both “cost and schedule challenges” associated with the next-generation fighter aircraft that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates calls “the heart of the future of our tactical combat aviation.”

“We don’t like some of the trends we see, and we are determined not to accept those trends,” Lynn told the audience of aerospace executives.

Defense Department officials are reviewing the program and exploring ways to get the contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., to share in the cost of scheduling delays, he said. Meanwhile, they’re revising and restructuring the program to make sure it delivers on schedule.

The big question, Lynn told the group, is: “Can we make the test program more robust and more redundant so to ensure the development comes in a timely way?”

Asked about the contentious aerial tanker competition, Lynn said Pentagon officials are striving “to play it right down the middle” to ensure it doesn’t favor either Northrop Grumman Corp. or Boeing Co.

“We want a fair competition; we want a balanced competition,” Lynn said. “We think that is what will give the best value to the taxpayer.”

The issue involves a contract for 179 aerial refuelers estimated at about $35 billion. The new tankers will replace the aging KC-135R Stratotanker fleet.

Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday he wants both contractors vying to build the tanker to remain in the competition. “We believe that both of the principal competitors are highly qualified, and we would like to see competition continue in the process,” Gates said.

Northrop-Grumman has threatened to withdraw from the competition if the bidding terms aren’t changed, complaining that they favor Boeing. Boeing, on the other hand, contested the initial contract award to a Northrop Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium in February 2008. The Government Accountability Office reviewed the protest and recommended that the Air Force rebid the contract due to irregularities in the contracting process.

Lynn said yesterday he’s not surprised that both contenders, in comments about the new draft request for proposal, “argued for changes that would stress some of the benefits of their individual aircraft.”

“We are going to have to play this down the middle, take fair account of any comments that are made by both sides, and move through this,” he said. “We very much want to have competition, … and we can’t favor one side over the other.”

Lynn said he expects the department to issue a final request for proposals in January.

The Air Force will be the source selection authority for the new tanker, Gates announced during the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference in September. Defense Department officials are working closely with the Air Force to design the strategy leading up to the selection, Lynn told reporters during a late November Pentagon news conference.

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

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OEF Update, Dec. 3, 2009: Forces Detain Militants in Wardak, Khwost

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Wardak province while pursuing a Taliban sub-commander today.

The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Jamad Kheyl in the Sayed Abad district after intelligence sources indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants.

In another operation Wednesday, an Afghan-international security force detained a handful of suspected militants in Khowst province while pursuing a Taliban IED facilitator.

The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Khatekah in the Sabari district after intelligence sources indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants, including the IED facilitator.

No shots were fired and no one was harmed in either operation.

ISAF Casualties:

There were no ISAF fatalities in the last 24 hours in Afghanistan.

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

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

OEF Summary, Dec. 2, 2009: Combined Force in Afghanistan Nabs Suspected Militants

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2009 -- A combined Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today at a compound known to be used by a Taliban financier and facilitator, military officials reported.

The force searched the compound, about five miles southwest of Kandahar City, without incident and detained the suspected militants, including the Taliban financier and facilitator. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

In other news, international forces conducted an air strike against a Taliban commander in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan yesterday, officials said.

The Taliban commander was the target of the precision strike in Kunar province's Dara Noor district, which occurred in an open area away from civilian compounds or infrastructure. Assessment of the strike continues.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 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. Jonathan A. Taylor, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla., died Dec. 1 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd 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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Pentagon: Afghanistan, Iraq Drive Landmark Quadrennial Defense Review

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News in Balance:

NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 2009 -- The Quadrennial Defense Review under way within the Defense Department will be unlike any other: the first to be driven by current wartime requirements, to balance conventional and non-conventional capabilities, and to embrace a "whole of government" approach to national security, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said here today.

"This is a landmark QDR," Lynn told aerospace executives at the Aerospace and Defense Conference. "And it comes at a time when the nature of war is changing in ways that we need to adapt to. ... The QDR seeks to identify these changes and the challenges they present to our security."

The fiscal 2010 budget provided an important running start to the QDR, Lynn said. Difficult funding decisions made during the budget process reflect President Barack Obama's and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' strategic priorities, he said, and the QDR will build on this as it projects the way ahead.

Unlike previous QDRs, the current review puts the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq front and center, Lynn said.

"Secretary Gates has made clear that the conflicts we're in should be at the very forefront of our agenda," and set the priorities, Lynn told the executives. "He wants to make sure we're not giving up capabilities needed now for those needed for some unknown future conflict. He wants to make sure the Pentagon is truly on war footing."

The upcoming QDR also will reflect the changing nature of war and the threats the United States faces, he said.

Lethality no longer is directly related to a potential adversary's capabilities, Lynn said. Insurgents and non-state actors pose a threat once considered possible only at the highest ends of the lethality spectrum. The lines between conventional and conventional threats become increasingly blurred, Lynn said, as low-end actors gain access to high-end capabilities.

That demands that U.S. forces be agile enough to respond to low- and high-end as well as hybrid threats, he said. "They need what Secretary Gates has called the portfolio of military capabilities, with maximum versatility across the widest spectrum of conflict," he said. "This includes the ability to fight irregular conflicts."

So the upcoming QDR will seek to institutionalize both irregular warfare capability and an ability to stand up to other new and emerging threats, Lynn said, including cyber-threats, anti-satellite technologies and other asymmetric tactics that challenge U.S. conventional dominance.

With some 15,000 computer systems and 7 million computer devices, the Defense Department makes a tempting target to cyber-terrorists and more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations to hack into them, Lynn said.

"This is not an emerging threat. It's not a future threat. The cyber threat is here today," he said.

In response, Lynn said the QDR will address better ways to deter attacks on Defense Department systems while promoting an internal culture of responsibility that helps to safeguard information technology.

Meanwhile, Lynn said, the upcoming QDR will be linked to an unprecedented degree to a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review under way within the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

That review "takes a hard look at the role of civilian instruments in our foreign policy," Lynn said, and has big implications for the Defense Department.

"How we enroll all dimensions of our national power to avoid military action, or to ensure its success, are vital questions -- questions with both policy and institutional ramifications," he explained. Conducting the two reviews in concert will provide the administration more powerful, better coordinated interagency tools and approaches, he said.

For the Defense Department to adapt to be ready to respond to the broad range of potential threats requires a hard look at fixing shortcomings in its acquisition system, Lynn told the group. That's particularly true with multiple competing funding priorities during a time of constrained resources.

"A modern, effective acquisition system should deliver savings and speed: savings to taxpayers, speed for warfighters," he said. "And as we all know, today's acquisition system often does neither."

Lynn expressed confidence that an overhaul already under way, and to be an important part of the upcoming QDR, will accomplish what countless past efforts haven't. Gates has made acquisition reform a top priority. The president has firmly, and publicly, supported the effort. Congress passed landmark acquisition reform legislation. And change is taking place within the Defense Department to bring more expertise, discipline and constraint to the process.

"For the first time in decades, the political and economic stars are aligned for a fundamental overhaul of the way the Pentagon does business," Lynn said.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 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 soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Derrick D. Gwaltney, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla., died Nov. 29 south of Basra, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash.

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

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Pentagon Discuses Charges Against Fort Hood Shooter

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2009 -- Thirty-two specifications of attempted premeditated murder were preferred today against alleged Fort Hood, Texas, shooter Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan under Article 80 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The UCMJ is the U.S. military's legal system for servicemembers.

Hasan allegedly killed 13 people - 12 soldiers and one civilian employee - and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood during a Nov. 5 shooting spree. He now is confined in a medical facility.

The alleged shooter was confronted and wounded by two civilian police officers posted on the base. One of the officers, Sgt. Kimberly Munley, was wounded during an exchange of shots with the suspected gunman.

Hasan initially was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder under Article 118 of the UCMJ. He has hired a lawyer.

As with the initial charges, the new charges are allegations only, and the accused is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, officials emphasized, noting that the investigation continues and additional charges remain a possibility.

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

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appointed former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West and retired Navy Adm. Vernon Clark to lead an independent review panel that will examine the circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood shootings to see how potential future incidents could be avoided.

"We will look at policies and procedures that look at how we deal with servicemembers who may cause trouble or harm to their fellows," West said at a Nov. 24 news conference at Fort Hood.

The panel is to report its findings to Gates by Jan. 15.

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

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OIF Summary, Dec. 2, 2009: Forces in Iraq Nab 8 Terror Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2009 -- Iraqi police arrested eight terrorism suspects today, and an air strike during one of the operations killed an enemy fighter, military officials in Iraq reported.

A Salahuddin provincial police unit and U.S. advisors searched two buildings in a rural area north of Baghdad for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member coordinating suicide bombings in the region. Based on preliminary questioning and evidence discovered, police arrested four criminal suspects.

In a separate operation near Sadiyah, northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi police arrested four suspected al-Qaida in Iraq members.

Intelligence led police and U.S. advisors to the home of an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq member suspected of being in direct contact with the terror organization's leadership. As the combined security team moved to the targeted building on foot, five armed men from a nearby building fired upon them from a rooftop. The security team immediately returned fire, and during the exchange determined it necessary for their safety to call in a precision air strike.

Following the strike, the security team determined that one of the rooftop gunmen was killed by the strike. Two gunmen were apprehended near the building, and the location of the remaining gunmen is unknown.

Officials reported no additional casualties, but said an assessment of the air strike is ongoing.

Based on preliminary questioning and evidence discovered at the building, Iraqi police also arrested two other suspects believed to be involved in terrorist activity.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Update, Dec. 2, 2009: Forces Strike Taliban Compound in Kunar; US Casualty

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 02, 2009 -- International forces conducted an air strike against a Taliban commander in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan yesterday.

The Taliban commander was the target of the precision strike in Kunar province's Dara Noor district, which occurred in an open area away from civilian compounds or infrastructure.

Assessment of the strike continues.

In another joint operation today, an Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Kandahar province after searching a compound known to be used by a Taliban financier and facilitator.

The joint force targeted the compound approximately five miles southwest of Kandahar City. The force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants, including the Taliban financier and facilitator. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

The Taliban uses an extensive network of supply routes in southern Afghanistan to arm and equip its militant elements within the country. Afghan and international security forces consistently partner personnel and resources to block these routes and ensure the safety and well being of the Afghan people.

ISAF Casualty:

An ISAF servicemember from the United States was killed when his patrol was attacked by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan yesterday.

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

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

OEF Update, Dec. 1, 2009: Gen. McChrystal's Statement Regarding Afghan Troop Announcement

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2009 -- The following news release made available Tuesday is a statement by General Stanley McChrystal, Commander NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, regarding the address by The President of the United States:
"The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task. The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the President’s address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security.

"The NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) objective is equally clear: We will work toward improved security for Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces as rapidly as conditions allow. In the meantime, our Afghan partners need the support of Coalition forces while we grow and develop the capacity of the Afghan army and police. That will be the main focus of our campaign in the months ahead.

"The 42 other nations of the Coalition will benefit from a strengthened U.S. commitment, as success in Afghanistan must be an international, integrated civil-military effort – from our security and training capacity to the governance and economic development assistance that sustains long-term stability. The concerted commitment of the international community will prevail in bringing real change to Afghanistan -- a secure and stable environment that allows for effective governance, improved economic opportunity and the freedom of every Afghan to choose how they live.

"We face many challenges in Afghanistan, but our efforts are sustained by one unassailable reality: neither the Afghan people nor the international community want Afghanistan to remain a sanctuary for terror and violence. The coalition is encouraged by President Obama's commitment and we remain resolute to empowering the Afghan people to reject the insurgency and build their own future."
(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Pentagon Discuses Obama Afghanistan Troop Deployments, Drawdown Timeline

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2009 -- The United States will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan by next summer, but plans are to begin transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan forces and withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, a senior administration official said today.

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama prepares for his speech tonight at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in which he will articulate a U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that culminates months of deliberation with his senior advisors.

“The concept that he'll describe is to surge American forces to do several things,” the official said. “First, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, which has been building steadily over the last three or four years; to secure key population centers, especially in the south and the east; to train Afghan forces; and then as quickly as possible, transfer responsibility to a capable Afghan partner.”

The added troops will bring the total number of U.S. forces to nearly 100,000, and will likely comprise two or three additional brigade combat teams, or BCTs, an official said on background.

In addition to the combat brigades, the United States will deploy a brigade-sized element committed to embedding with and training their Afghan counterparts.

The official added that NATO, which currently has a complement of 42,000 troops in Afghanistan, is likely to make its own announcement this week about its contribution to the multinational war effort.

“I suspect by the end of that conference in Brussels that Secretary General Rasmussen will have an announcement of a significant number of fresh NATO troops to be committed,” the official said, referring to the Dec. 3-4 NATO ministerial meeting.

The aim of training Afghan national security forces is to allow the United States and NATO to transfer lead security responsibilities to Afghan security forces, the official said. That transfer of authority is expected to start by the July 2011 deadline, but the pace will be dictated by conditions on the ground, the official said.

“The slope thereafter is something that will be determined by the commander in chief,” the official said. “But the date that he will use tonight to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan would begin in July of 2011.”

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

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OIF Summary, Dec. 1, 2009: Forces Nab 11 al-Qaida Suspects in Northern Iraq

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 1, 2009 -- Iraqi police arrested 11 suspected members of the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group today during two joint security operations in northern Iraq.

Near As Sadiyah, northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police and U.S. advisors searched several buildings for an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq member believed to have ties to senior leadership.

Based on preliminary questioning and evidence discovered on the premises, police identified and arrested the al-Qaida in Iraq member and six suspected criminal accomplices without incident.

During a separate security operation conducted near Ad Duluiyah, northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi police arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member and three suspected criminal associates.

Iraqi police and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for the al-Qaida in Iraq member suspected of bring foreign fighters into Iraq.

Information and evidence gathered at the scene led police to arrest the al-Qaida in Iraq member and three suspected criminal accomplices without incident.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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Pentagon: More Troops Likely for Afghanistan's East, South

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2009 -- With President Barack Obama's expected announcement today to send more U.S. forces to Afghanistan, a defense official said a portion of the additional troops are likely to reinforce the country's contentious eastern and southern areas.

A chief responsibility of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will be to determine where to apply the added resources if the president authorizes them, a defense official said on background.

"I would think he would want to reinforce some of his forces in the east and the south where the main effort by the Taliban and associated forces have been," the official said of McChrystal. "But it's up to him, based on the types of troops he has and where he needs them first and how he's going to use them."

The distribution of additional troops would factor in the current U.S. footprint in Afghanistan, which comprises about 68,000 troops -- a mixture of combat forces and trainers -- spread throughout, but with the east and south serving as focal points. Troops under NATO's command add a complement of 42,000 troops.

Though violence has risen across the board in recent years in Afghanistan, the bloodshed is most intense in the country's east and south, which have seen more than a two-fold increase in the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Mark Wright said.

Two U.S. Army brigade combat teams, or BCTs, each with about 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers, are operating in Regional Command South -- one of five regional commands in Afghanistan comprising international forces under NATO leadership.

The 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Stryker BCT of Fort Lewis, Wash., operates in eastern and northern Kandahar province and western Zabul province, and the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th BCT of Fort Bragg, N.C., performs advisory roles and training in the region.

Attacks involving IEDs -- the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- is especially rampant in the south, Wright said.

"The Strykers have met a lot of resistance in the Kandahar province," he said of the 5th Stryker BCT, which employs eight-wheeled armored combat vehicles. "Around [Kandahar] city and out farther into the countryside, there have been a lot of IEDs. They've suffered some really significant casualties."

The Institute for the Study of War, a think-tank headed by Kimberly Kagan, a member of McChrystal's assessment team, cites the Taliban under Mullah Mohammed Omar as the main threat to stability in southern Afghanistan.

In July, U.S. Marines and Afghan security forces launched an operation in southern Afghanistan's Helmand River valley, waging war against Taliban operatives in the area.

Currently, some 8,000 Marines of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade of Camp Leujeune, N.C., are responsible for southern and western Helmand province and in the western border province of Farah.

The biggest security threat in eastern Afghanistan, which includes a war-ravaged border area with Pakistan that spans some 450 miles, is the Haqqani network, an insurgent group with ties to al-Qaida, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

"In the east, it's been pretty much a constant fight," said Wright, citing a large battle in the area's Nuristan province in October, where some 18 months earlier a battle raged for control of the Wanat district. "The same province has seen some fairly significant combat in significant numbers – hundreds of Taliban gathered and launching attacks against [U.S.] forces. So it's a pretty intense, ongoing fight there."

Of the four American BCTs engaged in eastern Afghanistan, the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd BCT of Fort Drum, NY, has operated in the Logar and Wardak provinces since January, and the 25th Infantry Division's 4th Airborne BCT of Wahiawa, Hawaii, has been engaged in Paktia, Paktika, and Khowst provinces since March.

In addition, the 4th Infantry Division's 4th BCT of Fort Carson, Colo., deployed to Nuristan, Nangahar, Kunar and Laghman provinces in June, and the 48th BCT of the Georgia National Guard deployed as an advisory brigade to Regional Command East in May.

Even with the sustained focus on the south and east, more troops are likely to deploy there if McChrystal determines those areas to have the biggest needs, the defense official said.

"For whatever forces are authorized by the president, [McChrystal's] going to have to make his decision based on priority of need and where they'd be most useful, where those additional resources can be applied," the official said.

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

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OEF Update, Dec. 1, 2009: Reconstruction in Zabul Province; Casualty Update

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 01, 2009 -- The ISAF Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), mid-way through its nine-month tour, has completed nearly 40 projects this year. Operational for several years, the Zabul PRT assists the Afghan government with improving stability through governance, reconstruction and development.

The Zabul PRT is a diverse organization with joint, interagency and international components.

"The PRT It is one of the principal counter-insurgency units in the region and part of the larger ISAF effort to bring stability to Zabul province," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Andy Veres, PRT commander. "The effort has resulted in approximately $140 million (U.S.) in developments in Zabul since we started the provincial reconstruction team here."

Projects completed by the PRT include the first electrical grid in Qalat, paved roads, bridges over the Tarnak and Arghandab Rivers, several modern schools with computer labs, sanitation services, government buildings and community centers at the district level to help revitalize the traditional shura system of governance in Afghanistan. The PRT has spent nearly $3 million (U.S.) on computers for education programs and safe drinking water and nutrition projects. The combined civilian-military team is also providing the mentorship which trains and enables government officials to serve their people more effectively, to include health care programs.

"The boys and girls of the next generation of Afghanistan need help on their way to a brighter future," Colonel Veres said. "Our team is here to reassure them that they will not have to confront the challenges of education on their own."

ISAF Casualty:

An ISAF servicemember from the United Kingdom died following an EID explosion in southern Afghanistan yesterday.

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

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Navy Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 -- The following news release made available Monday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Petty Officer 3rd Class David M. Mudge, 22, of Sutherlin, Ore., died Nov. 28, in a non-hostile accident aboard USS Rentz while in Port Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: US Marines, Afghan National Army Joint Patrol, Part 2

video

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of Marines and the Afghan National Army patrolling for IEDs, meeting with local elders and children, and ensuring the security of Garmzir District. (Video by Cpl. Jennifer Calaway, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Length: 00:12:57.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 -- The following news release made available Monday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Michael A. Rogers, 23, of White Sulphur Springs, Mont., died Nov. 27, at Forward Operating Base Hammer, east of Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

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

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Combat Camera Video: US Marines, Afghan National Army Joint Patrol, Part 1


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of Marines and the Afghan National Army patrolling for IEDs, meeting with local elders and children, and ensuring the security of Garmzir District. (Video by Cpl. Jennifer Calaway, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Length: 00:10:09.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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OIF Summary, Nov. 30, 2009: Forces in Iraq Nab 15 Allegedly Linked to al-Qaida

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 -- Iraqi police and U.S. advisors apprehended 15 suspects with alleged ties to al Qaida in Iraq during operations in there in the past few days, military officials said.

Iraqi police arrested four suspected members of al Qaida cells today in two joint security operations near Baghdad and Kirkuk, military officials said.

In a joint security operation in Karmah, west of Baghdad, police apprehended an alleged associate of a car-bomb cell believed responsible for attacks targeting government buildings and civilians in the Iraqi capital. Police also arrested a suspected accomplice.

During a separate operation in a rural area southwest of Kirkuk, the 3rd Emergency Services Unit and U.S. advisors arrested a suspected al Qaida in Iraq leader and a suspected criminal accomplice.

The suspected terrorist leader is believed to be responsible for emplacing improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, throughout the region, moving foreign fighters into Iraq to carry out attacks, and transporting and storing weapons.

In earlier operations, Iraqi security forces arrested four suspected members of al Qaida in Iraq during joint security operations in northern Iraq.

During a security operation yesterday in Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police and U.S. advisors apprehended a man with alleged ties to the terrorist network.

On Nov. 28, Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors in southwestern Mosul arrested three suspected associates of an alleged al Qaida member.

In other Nov. 28 operations, Iraqi police in Mosul arrested an alleged al Qaida in Iraq associate, and police in Hawija arrested an alleged associate of the network and a suspected accomplice.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Summary, Nov. 30, 2009: Remains of US Paratrooper Found in Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 -- The remains of a U.S. paratrooper reported missing since early this month in western Afghanistan were recovered yesterday, military officials said.

The body of Army Sgt. Brandon Islip was recovered from the Bala Murgahab River in Badghis province after a local Afghan resident provided information on his whereabouts, officials said.

Islip, a paratrooper with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, went missing with another paratrooper Nov. 4 after being swept away by a fast-moving current while on an airdrop re-supply mission in western Afghanistan.

The recovery comes weeks after British divers found the body of Islip’s fellow soldier, Spc. Benjamin Sherman, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

“The recovery of Sergeant Islip and Sergeant Sherman would not have been possible without the untiring support and efforts of our fellow international forces, the Afghan national security forces and the local people of Bala Murghab,” said Col. Brian M. Drinkwine, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, to which the two soldiers were assigned.

A memorial service for the two paratroopers will be held in Afghanistan in the coming days, officials said.

In other operations around the country, Afghan and international forces detained several suspected militants yesterday in Wardak province while pursuing a militant Taliban commander involved in weapons trafficking.

In a separate operation yesterday, an international security force killed an enemy militant and detained several others in Kandahar province while pursuing a Taliban district commander. The commander has ties to local senior militant leaders and weapons traffickers and is responsible for local attacks involving small arms and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

On Nov. 28, an international force detained several suspected militants in Logar province while pursuing a Taliban roadside bomber involved in several attacks in the area.

Elsewhere in the country Nov. 28, 12 inmates broke out of a prison in Farah province by digging a tunnel from their cell to the outside. Officials captured a 13th prisoner as he tried to escape, officials said.

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

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

OEF Update, Nov. 29, 2009: Militants Detained in Wardak, Kandahar

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 29, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants today in Wardak province while pursuing a militant who is a Taliban commander and IED weapons facilitator.

The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Tagab in the Sayed Abad district after intelligence sources indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants. No shots were fired and no one was harmed.

In a separate operation today, an Afghan-international security force killed an enemy militant and detained several others in Kandahar province while pursuing a Taliban district commander. This Taliban commander has numerous ties to local senior militant leaders and weapons facilitators and is responsible for many small arms and IED attacks in the area.

The joint security force targeted compounds near the village of Kudezai in the Zhari district after intelligence sources reported militant activity. The joint force killed an enemy militant who maneuvered near the force. Another man was wounded when he came from around a compound building in a hostile manner. The joint force provided immediate medical attention and evacuated the man to a nearby hospital. The force searched the compound without further incident and detained additional suspected militants.

ISAF Casualties:

ISAF suffered no fatalities in the last 24 hours.

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

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Wire: Democrat Report Slams Military's Effort to Get Bin Laden

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that a report written by staff working for the Democratic majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the U.S. military could have captured or killed Osama bin Laden in 2001 if it had launched a full-scale attack on his location in Afghanistan.

The report said the al Qaeda leader's escape was a lost opportunity that altered the course of the war and paved the way for insurgencies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, according to an article published by the Reuters news service.
"Removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," the report said.

"But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide."

U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the region with supporters after the Taliban government was removed from power.

U.S. military leaders allowed Afghan militiamen to spearhead the assault and bin Laden managed to escape.

The report said U.S. commanders rejected requests for more troops to launch a rapid assault in the area, relying instead on air strikes and the Afghan militias to lead the attack and Pakistan's Frontier Corps to seal off escape routes.

"The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines," it said.
The report was especially critical of military leaders including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top military commander, retired General Tommy Franks.

Democratic Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the committee, has complained the Bush administration missed a chance to get bin Laden and his top lieutenants in Tora Bora just months after the September 11 attacks, Reuters said.

Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election to Bush.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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