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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan Elections’

Marines Clear Taliban From Buji Bhast Pass

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 21, 2009

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM, 213596Farah Province, Afghanistan – Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducted Operation Germinate to clear Taliban insurgents out of a pass through the Buji Bhast Mountains near here Oct. 6-10, 2009. The pass is the most direct route from the southern plain here to the district center of Golestan District in the mountains, where part of 2/3’s Company F is located.

The first element of 100 Marines left here by convoy the evening of Oct. 7 headed for the southern entrance to the pass. Hours later, a second airborne contingent of 100 more Marines and Afghan soldiers flew into previously identified positions in the pass to keep the enemy from escaping into the mountains. The Marine and Afghan national army forces aimed to push the enemy out – one way or another.

“I figured it was either going to be a ghost town or it was going to be a significant battle,” said Capt. Francisco X. Zavala, Company F commanding officer, “Unfortunately, there was some battle, but it was nothing my Marines couldn’t handle.”

As the ground-side element rolled through the pass, the rest of the Marines and ANA soldiers who had been inserted via helicopter blocked the eastern and northern exit routes. Their supporting mission was to stop and search Afghans fleeing the area and prevent any possible insurgent support from reinforcing their comrades.

It didn’t take long for them to attract the wrong kind of attention.

“We saw spotters throughout the hills, and we were just waiting for something to happen,” said Staff Sgt. Luke N. Medlin, the engineer platoon sergeant and part of the eastern blocking position.

A few hours after they assumed these blocking positions, the Marines and Afghan soldiers started receiving fire from machine guns, rifles and mortars from enemy positions in the surrounding hills. The Marines quickly dispatched the initial attackers and called in a UH-1N Huey, an AH-1W Super Cobra and an F/A-18 Hornet to destroy the enemy position further uphill.

“We were attacked from a well-fortified fighting position in the hills,” Medlin said. “My Marines quickly returned fire, giving us time to maneuver and overwhelm the position with fire until air support got there.”

Once the sound of gunfire died away, the Marines began searching the mud-brick buildings scattered throughout the pass to ensure they hadn’t missed any hidden insurgents and introduce themselves to the people living there.

The Marines spent the next two days moving from compound to compound, working with the people and maintaining a visible presence in the pass to keep the enemy from trying to move back in. They did receive some small-arms fire, but it was quickly dealt with.

“During the clearing of one compound, a woman drew a pistol, aiming it at one of the Marines,” said 1st Lt. Shane Harden, weapons platoon commander, F Company. “Lance Cpl. (Justin B.) Basham demonstrated extreme composure and great fire discipline not to shoot her. Within a split second he realized that he could use a non-lethal method to disarm her.”

At first the people in the Buji Bast pass were skeptical and nervous when the Marines came into their villages, Harden said, but after explaining why they were there, the people accepted their presence.

“Luckily the people that were still in the compounds cooperated with us, once they seemed to understand why we were here and what we were doing. It really helped speed things along,” said Lance Cpl. David W. Parrotte, an infantryman with Company F.

During the searches the Marines collected not only weapons and grenades, but also large supplies of IED-making materials, like batteries, connecter wires and open radios. They also found 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrite and 1,500 pounds of sugar, which are both primary components of homemade explosives, according to Zavala.

In some of the compounds, anti-International Security Assistance Force propaganda was found and confiscated. Some of the contraband was linked to two men who were taken into custody.

On Oct. 10, the last day of the operation, male and female corpsmen were brought in to treat and assess locals while battalion commander Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cashman held shuras with elders in the villages. These meetings gave the residents a chance to ask questions and put in reimbursement claims for any goods or property damaged during the searches.

During the shuras, the medical personnel treated and assessed some of the local population for symptoms of sickness and injury. The 2/3’s medical personnel treated approximately 300 people.

At each of the meetings, Lt. Col. Sakhra, commander of the Afghan 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 207th Corps, talked to elders about actions they should take to keep insurgents out of their towns and the pass. He talked about the power of unity against the Taliban insurgents who threaten their way of life and stressed that they need to trust the Marines and help them eliminate the threats.

“Lieutenant Colonel Sakhra did a fantastic job pointing out the responsibilities of the elders,” said Cashman. “He has the cultural knowledge to tell them where they are wrong and how they need to change to save the lives of their people.”

Cashman added that most of the problems in these small, isolated towns result from the younger men having no way to provide for a family or find legitimate work. So, some of them pick up a gun and take what they want. It is the responsibility of the elders to guide their people and help them prosper without using violence as an easy way to make a living.

After the meetings, the people were given food and water to take home, and instead of leaving immediately, the Marines and corpsmen stayed to give as much time as possible for the villagers to bring their sick and elderly for a checkup.

This four-day operation to clear insurgents out of the Buji Bhast Pass promises safer travel for Afghan people and coalition forces alike. But equally important are the first building blocks of trust laid down between the Marines and ANA and the residents of the pass.


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More U.S. Troops Needed in Afghanistan

Posted by Larry Barnes on February 3, 2009

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2009 – More U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to confront insurgent violence and to establish “a baseline of security” there, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters here today.

Escalating levels of violence committed by resurgent Taliban fighters and al-Qaida terrorists operating in southern and eastern Afghanistan and along the border with Pakistan has caused “a deteriorating security situation,” Morrell said at a Pentagon news conference.

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have acknowledged the need to shift the U.S. military’s focus from a less-violent Iraq to more-volatile Afghanistan, Morrell said.

“And the No. 1 focus of that goal is ensuring that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists, a place from which they can plot and launch attacks against us or our allies,” Morrell said.

The U.S. military’s task in Afghanistan “fundamentally is a counterinsurgency mission,” Morrell said. “That likely will continue to be the case, albeit with more troops.”

Commanders in Afghanistan have asked for 30,000 additional troops, which effectively would double the U.S. troop contingent there.

More U.S. forces are needed in Afghanistan so that it does not revert to being a terrorist haven, said Morrell, who emphasized that Obama would have to approve any additional troop deployments to Afghanistan.

However, the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan also will include political and economic components, Morrell said, noting Obama addressed those issues when he met with senior civilian and military leaders at the Pentagon last week.

“This will be a multifaceted approach to dealing with the problems we face in Afghanistan,” Morrell said, adding that “everybody acknowledges this cannot be done with troops alone.”

But, “troops are essential, at least in the near term, to try to reverse the slide in some parts of the country in security,” Morrell said. “And I think everybody recognizes that.”

Meanwhile, Morrell said, the situation in Iraq continues to improve. He cited the “very healthy voter turnout throughout the country” for the Jan. 31 provincial elections that were held in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. More than 50 percent of Iraq’s voters cast their ballots at polling stations, which experienced almost no security incidents, he said.

The lack of major violence during the Iraqi provincial elections “was another milestone in the progress that Iraq has made toward becoming a stable and thriving democracy,” Morrell said.

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Coalition Forces in Afghanistan Kill 15 Taliban Fighters

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 25, 2009

Coalition Forces in Afghanistan Kill 15 Taliban Fighters
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2009 – Coalition forces in Afghanistan killed 15 Taliban militants and detained one suspect during an operation in Laghman province Jan. 23, military officials reported.

The operation targeted a wanted Taliban commander and took place in the province’s Mehtar Lam district, northeast of Kabul. As coalition forces approached the militant leader’s compound, several armed insurgents emerged, and a firefight ensued. Nine militants were killed by coalition troops’ fire during the gun battle and four other Taliban fighters were dispatched by coalition air-to-ground support.

Shortly afterward, the coalition force again was engaged by armed militants firing from inside some buildings. Coalition forces killed two more militants in the firefight. A search of the area yielded AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, RPG rounds, a hand grenade, ammunition and other military equipment.

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Military to Focus on Shorter-term Goals in Afghanistan, Gates Says

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 24, 2009

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2009 – As part of the Obama administration’s assessment of the strategy being employed in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will focus its efforts on achieving shorter-term goals there, the Defense Department’s top official said here yesterday.

“One of the points where I suspect both administrations come to the same conclusion, is that the goals we did have for Afghanistan are too broad and too far into the future,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

President Barack Obama met with Gates and other National Security Council members at the White House on Jan. 21.

The United States needs to set “more concrete goals” for Afghanistan that “can be achieved realistically within three to five years,” Gates said. For example, he said, efforts should be made to re-establish Afghan government control in the country’s southern and eastern regions, as well boost security and improve the delivery of services to the population.

And, U.S., coalition and Afghan military operations targeting al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents must be maintained in Afghanistan to prevent the re-establishment of terrorism in the region, Gates said.

Obama said yesterday during a State Department visit that increased violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan threatens global security and constitutes “the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism.” The Afghan government, he said, has been hard-pressed to deliver basic services to its people.

“Violence is up dramatically in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “A deadly insurgency has taken deep root.” And, along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan, he said, al-Qaida and Taliban fighters “strike from bases embedded in rugged tribal terrain along the Pakistani border.”

About 34,000 U.S. troops are posted in Afghanistan. Commanders there have requested about 30,000 additional U.S. forces to be used to suppress resurgent Taliban fighters and al-Qaida terrorists.

Meanwhile, Obama is studying several Pentagon-provided options for a drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

Improved security and reduced violence in Iraq today “clearly permit” a responsible drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq, said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accompanied Gates at yesterday’s news conference. The availability of more troops for Afghanistan, Mullen said, is generally “tied to that [Iraq] drawdown.”

The threat to the United States now “is focused in the Afghan theater,” Gates said, including “both sides” of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Obama, accordingly, “wants to put more emphasis on Afghanistan,” the secretary said.

Therefore, Gates said, the U.S. military is transitioning from the “highest priority that we have given to Iraq over the last several years, and moving that priority to Afghanistan.”

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Bush: 8 Years in 8 Minutes. Olbermann 1/19/09

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 21, 2009… Friday 16 Janu…

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UBERHACK, eight minutes of BDS and lies.

Tripe and lies couched as news. Mindless drivel passing as substance, worse than reducing substance to a sound bite. It is sound bites compiled to simulate substance. I am ashamed that i allowed my self to be lured in by the biggest lie, it was over eight minutes.

The word is petty UBERHACK, it’s in the dictionary. Look it up.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bush, Comedy, Detainees, Gaza, GITMO, Hamas, Harry Reid, Iraq, Israel, Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Obama, Palistine, Pelosi, Pentagon, Sons OF Iraq, Stupid People, United Nations, US Forces | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sons of Iraq’ Graduation Demonstrates Reconciliation

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 18, 2009

By Ray McNulty
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Jan. 15, 2009 – Nearly 900 former members of the “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group officially joined the ranks of the Iraqi police at a graduation ceremony here yesterday.

Former “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group members demonstrate tactical movements that they will incorporate in their duties as police officers as part of their graduation ceremony at Al Furat Iraqi Police Training Center in Baghdad, Jan. 14, 2009.

Numbering 894 men and three women, they are the second class drawn from former Sons of Iraq members to graduate from the month-long police academy course at the Al Furat Police Training Center. Last month’s graduating class of 1,031 included 19 female police officers.

“These two graduations are tangible proof that the government of Iraq has kept its promise,” Maj. Gen. Khadim of the provincial directorate of police for Baghdad, said through an interpreter. “It offered Iraqi police jobs and training to former Sons of Iraq in recognition of their service. We will continue to extend a salute of respect and partnership to those who wish to serve with us.”

Registration has begun for the next class of police candidates, who will begin training before the end of January. Early indications point to another history-making class, which is expected to include nearly 500 female recruits, officials said.

“This transition of Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi police is a visible sign of reconciliation,” Army Col. Byron Freeman, commander of 8th Military Police Brigade, said. “Every graduation like today’s is a clear sign of progress. This effectively heals sectarian conflict with a sought-after job.”

Since Oct. 1, the Sons of Iraq program, previously administered by coalition forces, has been the responsibility of the Iraqi government. At that time, the Sons of Iraq rolls numbered nearly 100,000 throughout the country.

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GITMO Part Four; Defense Officials Address Detainee Concerns

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 17, 2009

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2009 – As the Defense Department prepares plans to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defense officials acknowledge the possibility that released detainees could return to the battlefield.

“It’s something that we’re cognizant of. It’s obviously something that we try to assess at the time of transfer when we are looking at these individuals,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters today.

President Barack Obama yesterday signed an executive order that directs the closure of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo within a year.

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The detention center has housed nearly 800 suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places since the start of the global war on terrorism that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. About 250 detainees are being held at Guantanamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Of the more than 500 detainees who have been transferred from Defense Department custody, 18 allegedly have resumed terrorist activities and another 43 former detainees are suspected of having resumed their former lives, Whitman said.

Whitman addressed a query from a reporter citing news reports that a former Guantanamo detainee had apparently become an associate leader for al-Qaida in Yemen.

Guantanamo inmates’ cases are reviewed annually, Whitman said, to ascertain whether or not they qualify for release. However, he said, there’s no guarantee released individuals won’t return to terrorism.

“You can’t have absolute certainly,” Whitman acknowledged.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday acknowledged there are challenges inherent with shuttering the center.

“Clearly, the challenge that faces us, and that I’ve acknowledged before, is figuring out how do we close Guantanamo and at the same time safeguard the security of the American people,” he said.

There “are answers to those questions,” Gates said, noting there is “a lot of work to do.”

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GITMO Part Three

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 17, 2009

    Guantanamo Pair Defiant In Court

Correspondents said the pre-trial hearing was chaotic at times, as two of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks on the US made unrepentant court appearances at pre-trial hearings at Guantanamo Bay.

Ramzi Binalshibh said he was proud of the attacks while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said he did not fear death and was working “for the cause of God”. These two were among five men appearing at a chaotic hearing at the naval base.

US President-elect Barack Obama is expected to issue an order to close the camp within days of taking office. The day’s hearings were intended to determine whether Mr Binalshibh was mentally competent to represent himself. He and his co-defendants have all said they do not want to be represented by US military lawyers.

“We did what we did and we are proud of this. We are proud of 9/11,” Mr Binalshibh told the courtroom in Arabic as guards removed his shackles.

Earlier Mr Mohammed, who claims to have been tortured while in the camp and is the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had requested the dismissal of all US lawyers on his bench.

“The people who tortured me received their salaries from the American government and the lawyers do too,” he said.

He later told the court he and his co-defendants were not afraid of receiving the death penalty because they were “doing jihad for the cause of God”.

When warned by the judge to stop interrupting the proceedings, he told them: ”This is terrorism, not court, you don’t give us an opportunity to talk.”

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Both defence and prosecution lawyers had asked the military judges to delay proceedings until after Mr Obama’s inauguration, but their request was refused.

The Pentagon last month withdrew and refiled charges in about 20 cases, saying this was merely a procedural step. This has added to the air of uncertainty surrounding the trials, correspondents say.

A Canadian national, Omar Khadr, faces a separate hearing, accused of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan. His lawyers are also arguing for certain statements to be suppressed, saying they were obtained through torture and coercion.

The US military says these were the result of “conversational and non-coercive interviews”.

Mr Khadr, who was 15 years old at the time, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2002. Mr Khadr’s trial is scheduled to begin on 26 January but his lawyer, Navy Lt Cdr Bill Kuebler, says he believes it is unlikely that the military tribunals will go ahead once Mr Obama is in office. “It is simply unimaginable to think that these proceedings would continue when you have an administration that is on the record saying that so clearly,” he said. “What’s very clear… is that they want to take a different course of action on Guantanamo.”

Barack Obama pictured on 12 December during a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon
Mr Obama has said he knows closing the camp will be challenging. Last week, senior advisers confirmed that Mr Obama would issue an executive order within days of entering the White House to close the detention center.

But shutting Guantanamo, where some 245 inmates remain, will not be immediate and Mr Obama himself has signaled that it will be a challenge.

His choice for attorney-general, Eric Holder, told his Senate confirmation hearing that he considered the interrogation technique of water boarding to be torture.

The CIA has admitted using the technique on at least three terrorism suspects, including Mr Mohammed.

The Bush administration set up the Guantanamo Bay camp in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects captured during the war against the Taleban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The camp once held some 750 inmates, believed to be mostly foreigners detained in Afghanistan on suspicion of being Islamist fighters.

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Division Commander in Iraq Voices Concern over Election Meddling

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 14, 2009

Division Commander in Iraq Voices Concern over Election Meddling
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2009 – With violence levels greatly reduced, meddling from outside influences is a concern surrounding upcoming Iraqi elections, a U.S. commander in Iraq said today.

Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of Multinational Division Center, said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged that Baghdad will do all it can to prevent defrauding of the Jan. 31 provincial elections by internal and external forces.

“We agree with [Maliki] that everybody should let Iraqis make their own decisions in this election,” he told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad. “What’s important to Iraq is that elections be seen as credible, and my only concern is that outside influences may interfere.”

Oates described such meddling as everything from “soft-power” tactics such as a foreign entity endorsing a candidate through political posters, leaflets and information campaigns to outright violence up to election day.

U.S. forces around the country are preparing to support Iraqi security forces in the event of possible violence surrounding the balloting. Army Col. Burt Thompson, commander of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, discussed potential election saboteurs in a Jan. 12 media briefing. “It’s pretty clear what they’d be going after,” he said. “It’s to sway the hearts and the minds — to intimidate those civilians from going and voting.”

In today’s news conference, Oates said Multinational Division Center troops are prepared to work with Iraqi security forces, which have taken the lead to ensure the elections occur safely and smoothly. The most likely security threat facing the electorate in his area of operations, the general said, comes from splinter groups of militia members who are disobeying a ceasefire order from the Iranian-influenced Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The general said a small number of such groups are responsible for much of the region’s violence. He added that the fact that attacks aimed at coalition forces are decreasing while violence aimed at Iraqi forces rises indicates the groups’ intention of fomenting internal chaos.

Meanwhile, Oates said, al-Qaida’s role has become “severely degraded” in the southern part of his jurisdiction, despite the terror organization’s attempts over the past months to regenerate. But he cautioned that al-Qaida still is capable of launching “spectacular attacks.” In large part, though, members of Jaysh al-Mahdi, Sadr’s armed constituency, are complying with their leader’s order to lay down arms, he added.

Oates expressed some concern that some of Iran’s influence in Iraq takes the form of humanitarian aid. Helping Iraq’s Shiite poor and supporting hospitals works to provide “significant influence in terms of soft power” for Iraq’s neighbor to the east among Iraqis. But extremist Iranian elements might be motivated to ramp up “lethal activity” as elections near, he added.

Still, Oates predicted a safe election, and said that the challenge afterward will be ensuring a smooth transition of power.

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