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Soldiers, Afghan Police Work Together Outside Bagram Airfield

Posted by Larry Barnes on March 30, 2009

By Army Capt. Michael Greenberger
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 30, 2009 – The rising sun brought a flurry of activity in the motor pool of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion on March 19 as the soldiers prepared to run a “reverse option” – a joint checkpoint with Afghan National Police outside Bagram’s entry control points.

Army Spc. Steven Rogers

Army Spc. Steven Rogers stands atop his armored security vehicle while conducting checkpoint operations outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

Just two weeks prior, a suicide bomber attacked one of the base’s entry control points, but was thwarted by local Afghan peacekeepers.

Everywhere in the 2nd Platoon motor pool, Alpha Company soldiers moved with a purpose, loading equipment, weapons and water into their up-armored Humvees. After radio checks were complete, the soldiers mounted up and rolled out to the entry control points.

The road outside the southern edge of Bagram Airfield is a stretch of muddy potholes, rocks and debris. With skill, precision and watchful eyes, the soldiers navigated their immense vehicles over the uneven terrain, constantly beeping their horns at civilian traffic to alert them to their presence.

From left, Jalaludin, a captain with the Afghan National Police, briefs Ali, an interpreter, and Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Button at a checkpoint outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

From left, Jalaludin, a captain with the Afghan National Police, briefs Ali, an interpreter, and Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Button at a checkpoint outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

“Our main goal is to keep everyone and the vehicles safe,” said Army Sgt. Roberto Castillo, an Iraq veteran now serving in Afghanistan. “We do a lot to avoid civilians and their vehicles on the road, because we have to share it and want to maintain a better relationship with the [local people].”

Army Spc. Steven Rogers mans the turret of his armored security vehicle while conducting checkpoint operations outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

Army Spc. Steven Rogers mans the turret of his armored security vehicle while conducting checkpoint operations outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

Gunners constantly scanned the terrain for threats while the vehicle bounced around the muddy mess.

“We are always aware of our surroundings,” said Army Spc. Todd Haskel said. “When I first got here, I was constantly scanning – constantly on edge. Now it is like second nature to me.”

After a short but challenging trip, the soldiers rolled on to the checkpoints in force. They moved swiftly to cover the avenues of approach, laying down concertina wire and orange cones to block the roads while patrol leader Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Button contacted the Afghan National Police already on the ground.

“We are very happy with these guys,” said Jalaludin, a captain with the ANP. “We have worked with them often, and we work well together. The Army soldiers are happy with us, because they know when they call us for a joint mission, we will be here.”

The town outside Bagram is a bustling hub of two-story buildings, shops and shanties –– people are everywhere. The Afghans watch the soldiers intently as they go about their tasks, yet keep their distance.

“We set up these blocking positions as an antiterrorism measure,” Button said. “It’s a nice show of force for any bad guys who might be in the area.”

The soldiers kept an eye out for anyone or anything that looked suspicious.

“If we see a suspicious vehicle, the Afghan police stop and search the vehicle and question the occupants,” Button said. “We mainly serve in a support roll to back them up.”

“We’ve been doing missions like these for 13 months,” said Army Spc. Randall Preston said. “We set up these positions, and the Afghan people immediately adjust. They stay out of the way and try to help.”

The Afghan National Police are familiar with the people who congregate around the entry control point, and they quickly recognize strangers.

“Before the Americans came, there were a lot of bad people here,” Jalaludin said. “These are good people here now though, and they are tired of all the fighting. They just want security and peace, and are glad the Americans are here to help.”

“These ANP are really solid,” Button said. “They do what you ask them to do, and they show up and do a good job.”

From left, Army Spc. Randall Preston and Army Spc. Jeremy Richards place concertina wire and orange cones to block the road during checkpoint operations outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

From left, Army Spc. Randall Preston and Army Spc. Jeremy Richards place concertina wire and orange cones to block the road during checkpoint operations outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009.

Missions employing random antiterrorism measures and procedures are an important part of security operations in Afghanistan.

“It’s important to do random patrols to disrupt enemy forces,” said Army Capt. William Coulter, Alpha Company commander, “as well as not set a predictable schedule or pattern of patrolling.”

After an hour or so, the ANP commander gave the call to collapse the blocking positions, so the U.S. soldiers secured their equipment, said their goodbyes, and headed for home.

Unique to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Slayers” serve as a mobile reaction force, able to respond within minutes of being called.

“We have infantrymen, signal soldiers, a mechanic –– it makes us self-sufficient, adaptable and flexible,” Button said.

Along with Alpha Company’s 1st platoon, 2nd platoon’s primary mission is patrolling and the security of Bagram Airfield and Afghanistan’s Parwan and Kapisa provinces.

“These are an extraordinary group of guys,” Button said Button. “They never back down from a mission, and never got a mission they couldn’t handle.”

The Slayers have performed more than 1,000 missions since arriving in Afghanistan in March 2008.

(Army Capt. Michael Greenberger serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
U.S. Army photos by Capt. Michael Greenberger)

Posted in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Military, New, Obama, Terror | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Face of Defense

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 30, 2009

Soldier Finds Freedom in U.S., Fights for Freedom in Iraq
By Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente
Special to American Forces Press Service

CONVOY SUPPORT CENTER SCANIA, Iraq, Jan. 30, 2009 – A 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, maintenance technician deployed here found his freedom in the United States and now fights so that Iraqis may enjoy what he has come to cherish.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jose Orellana of the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team was born the son of a successful politician in El Salvador. Life was good, he said, as he went to good schools, dressed well, ate well and strove to excel in his studies for the sake of his father’s pride. But his privileged lifestyle was taken from him at a painful price.

“Life changed for me very quickly in 1983,” he said. “I was 13. One day my father came in and told us to pack our stuff, because his political party had lost the elections. Next thing, we’re running away from the house, and my father got abducted for about 15 days.”

Orellana explained that the political climate in El Salvador at the time was dangerously volatile, and members of the fallen political party often had to flee for their lives after elections.

After anxiously waiting, the Orellana family received an anonymous call early one morning telling them where his father was. They found him dead after having been brutally tortured. Young Orellana’s world, which had begun to topple, was now shattered.

“My priorities in life changed,” he said. “I was into revenge: getting back at the bad guys who did that to my dad and split up my family when everybody fled. The main thing after graduating high school at 16 years old was to join the [Salvadoran] military so I could pay them back. It was purely rage and hate motivated.

“It’s funny, because you have plans in life to be this or that,” he continued. “My father never wanted me to be a soldier. He wanted me to be an intellectual.”

A few years after joining the military, Orellana was wounded.

“I got shot in one of the operations,” he said. “I was paralyzed for a time. The doctors believed it actually hit my spinal cord. I got hit in the pelvis, and the bullet bounced up about an inch off my spinal cord. Thank God he saved me from that one. It was an experience.”

After he recovered, he said, he turned his eyes back to re-entering the Army to continue his quest for vengeance. It was 1989, and his mother had a business in Florida. She convinced Orellana to go to the United States, at least for a time, to think about his options rather than going back to into the Salvadoran army.

“She was right,” he said. “I came to the states and started going to school and started learning about history. The more I read, the more admiration I had for the United States. I started thinking that if I am willing to put my life on the line for a country that can’t get straight because [it] keeps on changing power, how much can I do for a country that endorses the freedom that any good human being in the world is craving? I got intoxicated with freedom. I made the States my country. All the freedoms that we have are just amazing.”

Orellana joined the U.S. Army in 1992 as a fuel and electric repair specialist, and after working his way up to the rank of sergeant first class, he became a maintenance warrant officer in 2004.

He said the differences in the two armies in which he’s served have amazed him.

“This Army doesn’t [focus] on how weak you were before,” he said. “It is focused on what you can do now and later.” He said the American Army is strong because it lets its soldiers be strong and improve for their own sake as well as the Army’s. “It’s a wonderful Army. It respects human rights [and] opinions,” he said.

From the start of his time in America, Orellana said, he began changing rapidly, letting his old hatred and drive for revenge begin to fade.

In America, he also found his faith in God, and started his own family with his wife, Julie. They have two daughters, Theresa, 7, and Isobel, 3. They now call Killeen, Texas, home but currently live in Fountain, Colo.

Orellana deployed in 2003 with the push into Iraq and operated in Fallujah. In 2005 he was sent to Najaf and Kalsu. This is his third deployment to Iraq.

Orellana spends time almost every day speaking with the Iraqis from around the area. He drinks chai tea and eats with them often, sharing talk about topics that span from their families to the development of Iraq.

“When you see the progress, it helps you feel good,” he said. “These people have suffered so much, and for them to get more freedom, it’s worth it.”

Being a soldier is not just a job, he said.

“It’s a commitment,” he said. “If you don’t see it as a commitment, you’re not going to be good at it. It’s up to you what kind of impact you want to make.”

He expressed confidence in his hope that after coalition forces leave Iraq the Iraqis will live in peace and their freedoms will blossom.

“When you hear them tell you it’s better now for the Iraqis, for the kids, and there is more freedom, it makes it better,” he said. “You kind of get choked up a little bit, because you start thinking: I’m part of it. I’m helping to bring freedom. And that is priceless.”

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Leaders Develop Vision for Iraqi Women’s Rights

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 21, 2009

By Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Jan. 21, 2009 – Coalition and Iraqi leaders discussed programs to improve Iraqi women’s rights and a vision for a more united future during a Women’s Initiative Seminar here.

An interpreter translates a speech for Sameera al-Mosawi, right, board president for the Council of Representative of Women, Family and Children Committee, on programs to benefit women’s rights during the Women’s Initiative Seminar on Camp Victory, Iraq, Jan. 17, 2009.

“I want to bring forward studies on women and human rights to be able to live in peace in the country and bring change to some aspects of our society’s perspective,” Sameera al-Mosawi, board president for the Council of Representative of Women, Family and Children Committee, said at the Jan. 17 seminar. “We want people to believe in this change like America did.”

The seminar provided a forum in which Iraqi government and coalition representatives from all levels could openly discuss the challenges facing Iraqi women and possible solutions to overcome those challenges.

“Increased and honest exchanges of information are vital to the development of any plan of action that addresses this seminal Iraqi societal issue,” Army Lt. Col. Robert Jones, deputy civil affairs officer for Multinational Corps Iraq, said.

Representatives brought forth ideas for future projects. Mosawi suggested establishing research centers to study women’s issues and roles in society. Scientific studies through universities and public agencies would be a powerful tool in uniting people toward a focused vision, she said.

The main hurdle, Mosawi said, is increasing awareness about women’s rights. “Society cannot grow unless women participate in culture, and society must realize this through education courses in all levels, both in rural and urban areas,” she said.

Representatives discussed using the help of nongovernment agencies, such as small businesses and private companies, to improve education.

In Iraq, only 42 kindergartens are open, 20 of them in Baghdad. Mosawi said these schools are not enough to provide care and education to more than 13 million Iraqi children. Additional schools would result in teaching opportunities for women, and enable mothers to work who otherwise would have to remain at home with their children.

A need exists for women to learn craftsmanship and other skills important in their present economic markets, seminar participants said. Ideally, grants and financial aid would be available to the trainers and the women being trained.

“In my personal opinion, an educated woman is distinguished and stands in a better position among her community of women,” Nawal Majid al-Samarrai, minister of state women’s affairs, said. “We only need to assist her [to give her] an opportunity.”

Many of the projects brought to the table went beyond women’s rights. Discussions included opportunities for children, orphans, displaced families and the disabled.

A lack of resources, both human and financial, is a challenge facing future initiatives, participants said.

The biggest hurdle, Samarrai said, is that offices for women’s initiatives don’t exist in provinces and cities throughout Iraq. They have been limited to inside Baghdad, isolated from the women who need it most in the communities.

Despite the obstacles, Mosawi said, she remains hopeful about the future.

“I’m very optimistic about the vision of Iraq,” she said. “I’m optimistic as well that Iraq will develop for the future, and it will be part of the international community and do good for the Iraqi society as a whole.”

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Obama Focuses on Iraq During First Full Day in Office

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 21, 2009

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2009 – President Barack Obama will spend part of his first full day in office today meeting with his National Security Council, including Pentagon and military leaders with direct responsibility for operations in Iraq.

Obama is slated to meet at the White House late this afternoon with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

“The president running up to his inauguration yesterday … made it clear this was one of the important items on his agenda, and he would be meeting with the commanders soon,” Whitman said. “This is a logical first step, meeting with the secretary and the chairman and field commanders and the combatant commander.”

The president is expected to meet in the near future with the Joint Chiefs, but no date has yet been set for that session, Whitman said. Whitman emphasized Gates’ longstanding policy of providing opportunities for his senior military staff and commanders to provide input to the president directly.

Obama, who campaigned on bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, told service members and their families during last night’s Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball that he’ll have no greater honor or responsibility than serving as their commander in chief.

“Right now, as we gather here in Washington, we are sobered by the knowledge that we have troops in all corners of the world, many of them in harm’s way,” the president said. “We are fighting two wars. We face dangerous threats to our security. We depend on the men and women of our armed forces to keep us safe.”

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

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 21, 2009

http://www.truthout.org/011… 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 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.

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

GITMO Part Two

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 17, 2009

A judge has suspended for 120 days the Guantanamo Bay trials of five men accused over the 9/11 attacks, as requested by US President Barack Obama.

Among the five is alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who had opposed the suspension saying he wanted to confess to his role in the attacks.

The new administration also circulated a draft order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. Mr Obama had earlier asked for a four-month halt to all tribunals there. The request was one of his first acts as president.

Before the military judge’s ruling in the 9/11 case, four men including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said they opposed halting the trials. Lawyers for a fifth man supported the proposed suspension.

Earlier a judge in a separate case – that of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 – suspended that trial. Lt Cmdr William Kuebler, a lawyer for Omar Khadr, said the practical effect of the ruling was “to pronounce this system dead”.

“There will certainly be no more military commissions in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

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The Obama administration is circulating a draft executive order calling for the closure of the detention centre.

“The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order,” the draft read.

It calls for a review of all pending cases, and provides for some prisoners to be released and others to be transferred. It is not known when Mr Obama will issue the order. Mr Obama has repeatedly promised to close the camp, where some 250 inmates accused of having links to terrorism remain and 21 cases are pending.

In his inaugural address on Tuesday, he emphasized the idea of respect for justice and the rights of the individual, rejecting “as false the choice between our safety and our ideals”.

A two-page document issued late the same day and ordered jointly by Mr Obama and the US Department of Defense, sought a 120-day suspension of trials. The delay would “permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process”, the document said.

The legal process has been widely criticised because the US military acts as jailer, judge and jury, the BBC’s Jonathan Beale reports from Guantanamo. Closing Guantanamo Bay will not be easy. Questions remain over where those charged will be tried and where those freed can be safely sent.

Our correspondent reports that the written ruling to suspend the 9/11 cases brought anger and frustration among representatives from five families of victims of the attacks, with one accusing Mr Obama of political posturing.

But there was a sense of relief among defense lawyers, who had criticized the cases as “show trials”.

Michele Cercone, a spokesman for the EU Justice and Home Affairs Commission, said the Commission was “very pleased that one of the first actions of Mr Obama has been to turn the page on this sad episode of Guantanamo”.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bush, Comedy, Detainees, GITMO, Guantanamo, Harry Reid, Iraq, Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Obama, Pelosi, Pentagon, Stupid People, United Nations, US Forces | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted in Bush, Harry Reid, Iraq, Joint Chiefs Of Staff, New, Obama, Pelosi, Pentagon, United Nations, US Forces | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

GITMO Part One: Detainee Treatment Remains Key as Officials Weigh Guantanamo’s Future

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 14, 2009

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2009

With both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President-elect Barack Obama advocating closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, the Defense Department is focused on a way forward that protects the American people while also ensuring proper detainee treatment, a senior defense official said today. A decision by the convening authority for military commissions that a detainee suspected of being the 20th 9/11 hijacker was submitted to inappropriate interrogation methods does not mean the case against him won’t ultimately go forward, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Judge Susan. J. Crawford told the Washington Post in an interview published today that she did not refer the case against Mohammed al-Qhatani to a military commission because she believed his treatment met the legal definition of torture. Crawford told the Washington Post she did not refer the case against Qhatani because he had been subjected to so-called “special interrogation techniques” that were authorized for a brief period in 2002. Instead, she dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that the prosecution can return to the convening authority at a later time with more evidence to re-swear the charges.” Some of the aggressive questioning techniques used on al-Qhatani, although permissible at the time, are no longer allowed in the updated Army field manual,” Whitman told reporters today. The Army published Field Manual 2-22.3, “Human Intelligence Collector Operations,” in 2006 to replace the previous manual with clearly worded doctrinal guidance on conducting military interrogations within U.S. and international law. Whitman said the Defense Department has taken great efforts to ensure it conducts interrogations and detainee operations in a legal manner.” We have conducted more than a dozen investigations and reviews of our detention operations, including specifically the interrogation of al-Qhatani, the alleged 20th hijacker,” he said. “The investigations concluded the interrogation methods used at [Guantanamo Bay], including the special interrogation techniques used with Qhatani in 2002, were legal.”

Despite those findings, department officials adopted new and more restrictive policies, Whitman said, as well as improved oversight procedures for interrogation and detainee operations. Whitman emphasized that the department does not tolerate detainee abuse.” We have always taken allegations of abuse seriously,” he said. “We investigate all credible allegations of abuse,” including more than a dozen internal investigations and major reviews of interrogation procedures and detainee operations.

Crawford’s decision on the Qhatani case made news as two other detainees were being arraigned at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing and other terrorist attacks, and Noor Uthman Muhammad, an alleged Taliban and al-Qaida leader, were scheduled to be arraigned today. The Defense Department works to ensure full and fair proceedings that give both the prosecution and defense the opportunity to present evidence, Whitman said.

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The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of six detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Four detainees were transferred to Iraq, one to Algeria and one to Afghanistan. These detainees were determined to be eligible for departure following a comprehensive series of review processes.

The transfer is a demonstration of the United States’ desire not to hold detainees any longer than necessary. It also underscores the processes put in place to assess each individual and make a determination about their detention while hostilities are ongoing – an unprecedented step in the history of warfare.

The Department of Defense has determined – through its comprehensive review processes – that approximately 60 detainees at Guantanamo are eligible for transfer or release. Departure of these detainees is subject to ongoing discussions between the United States and other nations.

Since 2002, more than 525 detainees have departed Guantanamo for other countries including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Yemen.

There are approximately 245 detainees currently at Guantanamo.

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