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DOD Press Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

20110805 AQIM launches indoctrination campaign...

20110805 AQIM launches indoctrination campaign along Mali-Mauritania border | القاعدة تطلق حملة إيديولوجية على طول الحدود المالية الموريتانية | AQMI lance une campagne d’endoctrinement le long de la frontière mauritano-malienne (Photo credit: Magharebia)

GEORGE LITTLE: Good afternoon.

            I’ll start with a brief statement in French on Mali.

            (SPEAKING IN FRENCH)

            And now in English.

            The United States applauds the French for their leadership in Mali.  We share the concerns of the French in Mali, and we are supporting their operations in a variety of ways.

            Since French operations began on January 11, the U.S. has been sharing intelligence with the French.  In addition, since January 21st, the United States has been providing airlift support to the French army.  As of January 27th, the United States Air Force has flown 17 C-17 sorties, moving French personnel, supplies and equipment into Bamako.  We have carried more than 391 tons of equipment and supplies and nearly 500 passengers.

            Finally, on January 27th, the United States Air Force began refueling support to French air operations.  We have conducted one refueling mission so far with the KC-135, which provided about 33,000 pounds of jet fuel to French fighter aircraft.  More refueling missions should happen today.

            With that, I’ll open it up to your questions.

            Q:  Congratulations on your bilingual — (inaudible).

            Well, a question on Mali:  Are there additional types of support that the U.S. is considering providing?  And also, could you give us the latest on the planning for a possible drone base in Niger, the SOFA agreement?

            MR. LITTLE:  We’re in constant consultations with the French on their operations in Mali.  Our support is defined, as I just explained it, to information sharing, intelligence sharing, refueling and airlift.

            In addition, as we indicated on Saturday, following a phone call between the secretary and his French counterpart, we are supporting the international effort by providing airlift to countries in the region, to include Chad and Togo.

            We will review further requests from the French.  We strongly support French operations in Mali.  This is a key effort.  AQIM [al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] and other terrorist groups have threatened to establish a safe haven in Mali, and the French have done absolutely the right thing.  And we will continue to assess their needs and what our support might be in the future.

            As for Niger, we are grateful that the government of Niger has entered into a status of forces agreement with the United States.  This is a very important agreement, and we are, of course, looking to work with them to define precisely what kind of military presence we may have in Niger in the future.  That presence has not yet been defined.

Q:  Can you comment on reports that you’re considering a drone base in Niger?

MR. LITTLE:  I think that a lot of the reports talk about, you know, considering any number of forms of a military presence, and I wouldn’t speculate at this stage as to what that kind of presence might mean.

Q:  Can I follow up on that?

Not to speculate, but what would — what is — two things, what is the U.S. national security interest right now in AQIM?  Do you have reason to believe that they pose a threat to the United States, number one?

And number two, on Niger, what is the national security interest in having drone operations over western Africa?  What — what interests you about — about doing this?

MR. LITTLE:  The secretary has been very clear for a long time, since he was CIA director, that we have to go after A.Q. wherever they are, to include in South Asia, to include in other parts of Africa, and to include North Africa — places like Yemen, as well.

We are taking the fight in various ways to al Qaeda, and we’ve been doing so very effectively for a number of years now.

AQIM poses a threat in the region, and I can’t rule out the possibility that AQIM poses a threat to U.S. interests.  This is a group that has shown its ability to demonstrate brutality and to conduct attacks.  And it’s very important that we work with our partners in the region and our allies to thwart them.

And that’s why we’re applauding the French effort.

Q:  Do you see an AQIM threat to the U.S. homeland?

MR. LITTLE:  Well, I’m unaware of any specific or credible information at this time that points to an AQIM threat against the homeland, but, again, I’m not ruling it out.  We take al Qaeda wherever they are very seriously.  And we are not going to rest on our laurels until we find that that kind of specific and credible information.  At that point it could be too late.

Q:  (inaudible)?

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not going to comment specifically on certain capabilities that we have to pursue and gather information on terrorists.  But rest assured that the United States has capabilities it needs to maintain a very strong edge against al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

Q:  Back to Mali?

MR. LITTLE:  Yes?

Q:  You mentioned that —

MR. LITTLE:  Thank you for speaking English.

Q:  If you want to in French —

MR. LITTLE:  Okay.

Q:  I wouldn’t have to translate.

Yes, on Mali, you mentioned that the U.S. is providing airlift to countries in the region.  You mentioned Chad and Togo.  Could you give some specifics on that?  And does the U.S. intend to provide some training to the African countries in the region.  I know that there — there’s a State Department program under which there are 100 trainers from private security firms.  Does the DOD intend to go further?

MR. LITTLE:  We are not part of that State Department program at this stage, although I can’t rule out support of that kind in the future.  And to the first part of your question, you’re looking for more specifics on —

Q:  On this airlift, when did it start?

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not sure that it’s actually started yet.  We’ve agreed to do so.  I’ll provide you information as we — as we can.  If it has started, I’ll let you know that, too, but I don’t have that information at this time.

Yes?

Q:  Do you believe, does the secretary believe that A.Q. in the Af-Pak [Afghanistan-Pakistan] area, the threat from A.Q. in Af-Pak area has moved now to the A.Q. in Middle East and northern Africa?  Which was the more threat to the U.S.?

MR. LITTLE:  I think A.Q. in Afghanistan and Pakistan, A.Q. in Yemen, A.Q. in various parts of Africa, they all pose a very serious threat to the United States.  We view all of these groups as a priority in terms of our going after them.  So I wouldn’t rank order the various nodes of A.Q.

Let me be very clear that various nodes of A.Q. have come under very strong pressure in recent years in Pakistan and in Yemen and in Somalia, and we’re seeing pressure brought to bear against AQIM and other groups in North Africa.

We intend with our allies and in the context of international effort to sustain that sustain that pressure.

Q:  And — (inaudible) — complication and leadership exchange between A.Q. in Af-Pak and Yemen and northern Africa?

MR. LITTLE:  I wouldn’t comment on that kind of thing.  It might — coordination we’ll — we have seen this kind of coordination in the past.  I’m not going to get into specifics.  But that is a concern of ours.  And that’s another reason why we need to keep up the pressure.

Dan?

Q:  Yeah, why did it take, given the gravity of the threat you’ve just described and — and the support the U.S. has expressed for the French intervention, why did it take so long for the administration to decide whether it would offer up, I guess, three aerial refueling tankers, given how many tankers the U.S. has in its fleet?

MR. LITTLE:  Well, we agreed to provide support almost immediately with information and intelligence sharing.  We agreed to provide airlift rather quickly.  And it was a matter of consulting closely with the French on their specific needs and their requirements to agree to the refueling capability, and we’re doing that.

And we’ll continue to consult with the government of France in this effort.  And we, obviously, support what they’re doing, and it’s important that we do what we can to continue to help their effort and the effort — efforts of other countries to beat back AQIM and other terrorist groups in Mali.

Q:  The Global Hawks — also just for a note, the Global Hawks are involved in the surveillance as well?

MR. LITTLE:  It seems like ISR platforms are a theme of the day.  I’m simply not going to  get into the specifics.

Q:  George, does the U.S. have the authority to conduct offensive strikes in Mali?  Does it — are there legal barriers that would stop you from doing that should you desire or if say something were to happen to some of the assets that you have operating there now?

MR. LITTLE:  I’ve defined the parameters today to what our support to U.S. — the support to French operations in Mali are.  That’s where we are right now.  And as for the future, I wouldn’t necessarily speculate, but there is no plan at this stage to engage in combat with the French in Mali.

Q:  (off mic) paying for the fuel (off mic)?

MR. LITTLE:  The United States, as I understand it, is not seeking reimbursement at this time for flight operations.  The French have agreed to reimburse the United States for the cost of the jet fuel provided to French aircraft.

Q:  Number one of the themes you read in stories about France’s quick response in Mali is that they were able to take advantage of pre-positioned equipment in Chad and a couple other countries.  Has General Ham of AFRICOM come to the — come to Panetta and said, “We need to pre-position X, Y, Z assets around Africa.”  Is there any thought about that?

MR. LITTLE:  General Ham, as all of you know, is a very thoughtful combatant commander.  And he has put a great deal of strategic thinking around what we may need in the future to combat, not just the CT [counter terrorism] threat, but other national security challenges.

So is he looking at the mix of assets that we have in the region, is he energizing our defense relationships on the continent of Africa?  Absolutely.  So I would expect him to continue to make proposals on how we might be able to, working with countries in the region, address some of the issues that we confront together.

Q:  One broader question too:  How does this engagement fit into the pivot to Asia strategy?  Do you envision now — the plan — Secretary Panetta and all the officials who crafted the Asia — the Asia pivot, did they envision maybe a pirouette to Africa — to incorporate some of the aid and the assistance the United States is providing there?

MR. LITTLE:  Tony, I had no idea you were such a dance expert.  Look, we have made it very clear that even as we rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region as part of our strategy that we’re not going to keep our eye off the ball on security threats that we face in other parts of the world, to include terrorism, terrorism wherever it crops up, in Africa or elsewhere.

And it’s not zero-sum.  It’s not Asia and then we withdraw from other places.  We are going to sustain relationships throughout the world on every continent.  And that’s what we’ve expressed in the last 19 months since Secretary Panetta took office.

And we’ve gone to some three dozen countries.  We have articulated that we have a commitment to our defense relationships, our partnerships and alliances around the world, and it’s not just about Asia-Pacific.  We are rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, but we’re going to keep a focus on the Middle East, we’re going to keep a focus on Europe.  We have alliances around the world.  And we want to energize relationships in Africa.

David?

Q:  This status of forces agreement that (off mic) with Niger, when did that when was that — concluded, and what does it envision in terms of the kind of force that will be there?  Does it envision combat troops on the ground or combat aircraft or —

MR. LITTLE:  All of that is still to be determined, David.  But let me make a point about this particular SOFA.  It’s been in the works for some time with the government of Niger and is not related to recent events in Mali.

Again, we’re grateful to the government of Niger for entering into this agreement with the United States.  And we’ll continue to consult with them on what kind of military presence we may have in the country going forward.

Q:  (off mic)

MR. LITTLE:  Oh, yesterday.  I think it was the last couple of days that it was entered into.

Q:  Are we doing similar agreements with other African — African countries in the region?

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not aware of any impending announcements on SOFAs, but if I learn differently I’ll let you know.

Q:  And you’re saying this is just a coincidence that this was signed at the same time reports have surfaced —

MR. LITTLE:  It’s been a long-planned agreement with Niger.

Q:  Would it help to establish a drone base, should that be your future intent?

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not going to speculate on what kind of military presence we may have in Niger.  That’s something that we have to work out with the government of Niger.  And that’s to be determined.

Q:  Do you know how long it’s been in the works, roughly?

MR. LITTLE:  I think roughly months, or maybe a year.

Q:  And does it replace any other SOFA or is it a brand new SOFA that’s never been there?

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not sure we’ve had a SOFA with Niger.  I think it’s new.  If that is incorrect, I will certainly come back on the record and let you know.

Q:  I didn’t realize there were three tankers involved.  Where are the tankers coming from?

MR. LITTLE:  Moron Air Base in Spain.

Q:  Where are the French warplanes flying out of?

MR. LITTLE:  I’ll leave that to the French.

Q:  During the creation of the AFRICOM, there were some concerns about intentions of the U.S. to expand its military presence in Africa.  (inaudible) — plans for any kind of military engagement in the region that validate those concerns?

And then second issues, since we’re talking about al Qaeda — you mentioned al Qaeda in — in that region in Africa.  You talked about Asia.  You talked about the Middle East.  But it seems there is a growing presence of al Qaeda in Syria.  And being serious as you said — (inaudible) — al Qaeda.  What are you doing about al Qaeda in Syria?

MR. LITTLE:  Well, we are concerned about al Qaeda wherever they are to include in Syria.  I’m not going to get into specific steps we may or may not be taking with the countries in the region to address the AQA — the A.Q. threat there and in other parts of the Middle East.

I don’t think that these kinds of agreements with governments in Africa signal anything different about our approach on the continent.  I think what we’re talking about here is, as we do in other parts of the world, developing relationships and defense partnerships that benefit both countries.  And to the extent that we can build up capabilities and capacity in Africa then we want to help African countries help themselves.

As we said in other parts of the world, our goal is not to establish U.S. bases everywhere, it’s to help other governments provide for their own security.  And that is a core theme that the secretary has stated throughout his trips on virtually every continent — actually every continent minus Antarctica.

Q:  George, just to follow up as far as the A.Q.  threat in South Asia is concerned, — (inaudible) — network now beyond South Asia around the globe, or they are still in South Asia or — or it has anything to do with the U.S. announcement that U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan, and now they are maybe looking another network or other places to run their network?

MR. LITTLE:  Al Qaeda remains in South Asia, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  They’re diminished, but they’re not gone.  They’re in places like Yemen.  We’re concerned about their presence in other parts of the Middle East.  And they’re on the continent of Africa.

Q:  And — (inaudible) — outside — as far as U.S. focus on — (inaudible) — concern.  China is not very happy that U.S. is now running their business in that part of the world– near China or around China, in South Asia, in South China Sea.

Are you concerned with China what is their reaction now, because now al Qaeda is spreading in other parts of world also?

And finally, what do you think the strategy will be under the new secretary of defense?

MR. LITTLE:  What are the Chinese unhappy with?

Q:  U.S. presence in South Asia.

MR. LITTLE:  South Asia — Asia-Pacific?  Well, we’ve had a presence in the Asia-Pacific region for decades. And we’ve made clear to the Chinese directly in Beijing that we plan to maintain that presence and we want to work with the Chinese to foster peace and security in the region.  That’s been a core theme of all of our discussions with the Chinese.  And we welcome further engagement and transparency with the government of China.

So I think we’ve been very clear about what our goals and objectives are.  We have longstanding partnerships and traditional alliances in the Asia-Pacific region and we will sustain those.

Q:  — (inaudible) — the Chinese are expanding their presence in that part of the region now because of the — (inaudible) — U.S. — U.S. announcement.  And neighboring country like Japan — Philippines and other countries, including even India, they are now under pressure and under threat from the Chinese.

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not sure that I can definitively tie Chinese modernization efforts to our defense strategy.  Again, we’ve had a presence in the Asia-Pacific region for a long time.

Q:  Without going into whether or not it’s going to be a drone base, can you say what the impetus, though, is from the U.S. side?  And what does this give the U.S. that it did not have before in the region?  And then I have a second question.

MR. LITTLE:  SOFAs, as you all know, set up arrangements with other countries to establish, potentially, a military presence, or at least a presence of U.S. troops in the — in the region.  And this is often done to ensure that there are certain legal protections and a common understanding of what our presence is going to look like if it is actually gone into effect.

So I think that would — leave it there.  And these agreements tend to be frameworks and — and signal deeper defense cooperation with other countries, and we see that happening with the government of Niger.

Q:  But why Niger?  I mean, the U.S. doesn’t have a lot of assets in Africa as a whole when you look at the rest of the world.  So why Niger, just for a reader’s start here.

MR. LITTLE:  Well, we’ve been in discussions with the government of Niger for a very long time.  Why not Niger, I would ask you, Jon.  They have expressed a willingness to engage more closely with us, and we are happy to engage with them.

Q:  Can I just ask about Afghanistan quickly?

MR. LITTLE:  Okay.

Q:  There was a report yesterday, there’s some comments from Pakistani military leaders about Pakistani troops training — training Afghan troops.  What’s the DoD’s take on that?  I mean, can you comment?  And how would that be beneficial?

MR. LITTLE:  Who’s training who again?

Q:  Pakistani troops training —

MR. LITTLE:  Well, look, I think anytime the Pakistanis and the Afghans together — come together and cooperate on training or other activities, that’s beneficial.  We’ve been encouraging that kind of cooperation for a long time.  It’s no secret that there has been tension in the past between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And if there are confidence-building measures like this that can take place, then we will welcome that.

Q:  George, I would like to ask you about Egypt.  How does the Pentagon assess the situation right now?  And if the secretary has had any phone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart?  How could you address the administration —

MR. LITTLE:  I don’t have any recent conversation between the secretary and Minister al-Sisi.  I think, you know, I would leave a formal assessment of the situation in Egypt to the State Department.  But we’re obviously monitoring events closely in Egypt and look forward to a continuing defense dialogue with our Egyptian counterparts.

Q:  George, could you give us your current assessment of the level of North Korea’s preparations for a possible nuclear test?  I’m presuming that the department is prepared to or will or has deployed a full range of assets to assess such a test if it were to take place.  Is that true?

MR. LITTLE:  I wouldn’t comment on intelligence matters, naturally, but they have stated, the North Koreans, that they might be preparing for a nuclear test.  This statement is needlessly provocative.  And a test, if it occurred, would be a significant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Further provocations would only increase Pyongyang’s isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people.

I would add that the U.N. Security Council resolution — or Security Council adopted a resolution just a few days ago and expressed its determination to take significant action in the event of a further launch of some sort of a missile or a nuclear test.

Look, at the end of the day, we go through this cycle, it appears, with North Koreans, provocation and accommodation.  And if we’re entering a provocative phase — and we hope we aren’t — that’s problematic.  Ultimately, it’s problematic for the North Korean people.  It’s a problem for peace and security in that part of the world, and we’ll continue to monitor events closely.

But the important thing is for the North Koreans to do the right thing.  And they haven’t shown that willingness at some points in the past, and maybe they’ll take a different course in the future.

Q:  Senator Graham said — (inaudible) — vote for Senator Hagel until Secretary Panetta testified before Congress on Benghazi.  Any response to that?  And do you feel — does the secretary feel he’s provided adequate explanation for the Pentagon’s role during those events?

MR. LITTLE:  I was recently made aware that a request was made of the secretary to testify.  We will, of course, respond to Senator Graham and others on Capitol Hill.  We have been very forthcoming with the United States Congress on the U.S. military response to the incident in Benghazi, and we’ll continue to provide as much information as we can.

I think that it’s very important that the confirmation process move forward.  Senator Hagel will do an outstanding job, if confirmed, as secretary of defense.  And we have called for that confirmation process to occur as quickly as possible.

Q:  Was that a SASC request, for him to testify?

MR. LITTLE:  I don’t know if it was a committee request or if it was an individual member request.

Q:  Does he intend to do it?

MR. LITTLE:  I haven’t heard whether or not there’s intent to do that, but we will respond, of course, to the request that came in.

In the back?

Q:  Hi, this is — (inaudible) — from Turkish — (inaudible) — television.  Do you have any update information about Patriot batteries headed to Turkey?

MR. LITTLE:  I don’t have any further updates beyond what I provided in the past on our Patriot batteries in Turkey.  With respect to Turkey, let me just say that we have a very strong alliance with Turkey, that the Patriot battery deployments are part of a NATO effort, and we will support Turkey as much as we can, especially against potential threats emanating from Syria.

So we value our relationship with Turkey and look forward to identifying other ways that we can be of help as Turkey confronts threats coming out of Syria and from other places.

Q:  George — (inaudible) — interdiction off the coast of Yemen that involved some, I guess, the Yemeni government saying MANPADS coming from Iran.  Can you tell us what the U.S. role was and what exactly the cargo was, and how do you know it came from Iran?

MR. LITTLE:  We did provide support to the government of Yemen in intercepting and inspecting a vessel suspected of smuggling contraband into Yemen.  We commend the government of Yemen in their actions in this interdiction.  And for details, though, I would refer you to Sanaa and to the government of Yemen.

Let me just give you some — a little bit of background on — on this incident, though.  The dhow was observed operating erratically and low in the water and ventured into Yemeni waters, so a routine boarding was conducted.  Arms were discovered.  I think the Yemenis have indicated what some of those weapons and material were.  And we had crew statements that indicate that the point of origin was Iran.

Beyond that I would ask you to talk to our Yemeni partners.

Q:  Who has the weapons now?

MR. LITTLE:  I believe the government of Yemen does, but I would ask you to check with them to confirm.

Q:  And you said the crew said they were coming from the point of origin —

MR. LITTLE:  Crew statements indicate the point of origin was Iran.

Q:  (off mic)

MR. LITTLE:  We supported the mission.  For details I would refer you to Yemen.

Q:  (off mic) conclusive on the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan post 2014 — (inaudible).

MR. LITTLE:  No final decisions have been made.

Q:  — (inaudible) — or has the White House gotten their formal — quote/unquote, “formal” presentation yet?

MR. LITTLE:  We are in consultations with the White House on enduring presence numbers as well as the so-called glide slope between now and the end of 2014.  And those discussions are ongoing, but no updates at this time.

Maybe one or two more.

Q:  Same question.  Has it gone to the president, which seems to be the distinction?  Because it’s been at the White House for months, but has it gone to the president?

MR. LITTLE:  I don’t believe that the secretary and the president have spoken directly about this issue, but I’m sure that the secretary hopes to do so soon.

Q:  Well, at this point it’s fair to say that until a decision like this — that decision is made, U.S. troop presence will stay at 66,000, 68,000 for the foreseeable future, until this decision’s made, right?

So it’s — that —

MR. LITTLE:  I — I don’t want to speculate, Courtney, but our troop numbers are — right now in Afghanistan are around 66,000.  And this is of course a presidential decision at the end of the day.  I’m unaware of any change to that number in recent days.

Q:  There’s no plans — there’s no plan for any drawdown in the works at all, right, at this point?

I’m just trying to —

MR. LITTLE:  Well, there are —

Q:  — so there’s been so much speculation and back and forth over the numbers, and I mean, it’s already almost February and there’s still no plan for this year yet, right?  Is that fair to say?

MR. LITTLE:  Well, there’s a lot of work being done right now.  I wouldn’t suggest in any way shape or form that we’re not analyzing what the potential options might be and offering those up ultimately to the president.  Of course it’s his decision.

When the decision is made, I think we will do — we will carry out his decision in a way that is — is careful and prudent.  And so I wouldn’t get too worried about time frames.

Q:  Is the secretary briefing the Senator Hagel on these global events, including Afghanistan and Tokyo and all those issues?

MR. LITTLE:  The secretary has met privately with Senator Hagel, and they’ve discussed issues to include the defense strategy and the rebalance to Asia.

One or two more questions, Tony.

Q:  Speaking of pending business, what is the status of your review of the SEAL book?  In September, it was the biggest thing on earth.  It dropped off the map.  The movie’s up for an Oscar end of the month.  This profile is going to be raised again.

Where does this decision stand?

MR. LITTLE:  I don’t think this book contributed to the movie you’re talking about.

But — right.  I understand.

MR. LITTLE:  Let me pirouette here, Tony.

Yeah, there’s no update on — on this matter.  When I do have one, I’ll certainly let you know.

Q:  George, I mean, are you going to nail him or not?  Or let it drop?

MR. LITTLE:  I’m not going to comment any further.

Q:  Does the secretary plan to make a decision one way or another before he leaves the office?

MR. LITTLE:  On what?

Q:  On Bisonette?

MR. LITTLE:  He makes lots of decisions every day.  Look, this is a matter that’s in certain channels that I’m not going to comment on what may or may not happen or define a precise timeline.

Q:  Good pirouette.

Q:  — (inaudible) — time frame on when the secretary’s going to leave?  I know that Senator Hagel hasn’t even gone up yet, but —

            MR. LITTLE:  Senator Hagel, of course, testifies on Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee and we hope that he’s confirmed soon.  The secretary has indicated that he will stay on until Senator Hagel is confirmed, and then would return home to California.

            When that happens, of course, depends on the United States Senate and when they vote.

            Thanks, everyone.

MILITARY LEADERS OPPOSE CONFIRMATION OF SEN. CHUCK HAGEL FOR SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

English: Sen. Chuck Hagel does a meet and gree...

English: Sen. Chuck Hagel does a meet and greet with servicemembers during his July 18 visit to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Washington, D.C.): A distinguished group of fourteen retired generals and admirals, representing all branches of the United States Armed Forces, has signed a letter opposing the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.
The letter – addressed to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), respectively, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – raises several concerns about the nomination of Sen. Hagel, including:
Sen. Hagel’s support for further cuts to the defense budget.  Sen. Hagel stated in late August 2011 that the Pentagon is “bloated” and needs to be “pared down”, contrary to Sec. Panetta’s and Chairman Dempsey’s views that sequestration – the additional hundreds of billions in across-the-board cuts to defense that go well beyond the $787 billion in cuts already sustained by the Department since Sec. Gates’ tenure – would be “disastrous for the defense budget” and “very high risk” to national security;
Sen. Hagel’s support for the global elimination of nuclear weapons.  Sen. Hagel is a public supporter of the “Global Zero” Initiative, the goal of which is the “elimination of all nuclear weapons.”  This stance is ill-advised for any Secretary of Defense, as Russia and China continue to modernize their nuclear capabilities while North Korea and Iran move closer to obtaining them.
Sen. Hagel’s hostility towards Israel.  Sen. Hagel has demonstrated an abiding hostility towards Israel, a view that would be detrimental to our national defense and perhaps perilous to our only stable, reliable ally in the Middle East were he to become Secretary.
Sen. Hagel’s outlook towards Iran.  Sen. Hagel repeatedly opposed sanctions against Iran while serving in the Senate, and in 2006 stated that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option” – an ill-advised statement that undercuts the effectiveness of both diplomatic and military policies to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities.
The signers of the letter are:
Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Vincent E. Falter, USA (Ret.)
Rear Adm. H.E. Gerhard, USN (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Robert H. Gormley, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Higginbotham, USMC (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Mel Thrash, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. Ronald K. Kerwood, USA (Ret.)
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy, which facilitated this letter, stated: “These military leaders deserve our profound thanks for once again acting in service to our nation – in this instance, for the purpose of raising awareness of the risks associated with confirming Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  This group knows firsthand that the United States military requires leadership that recognizes the need for a defense budget commensurate with the threats we face; the need for a credible, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent; and the need to support our allies and not accommodate our adversaries.  Sen. Hagel lacks these qualities, and hopefully the United States Senate will heed the concerns of these flag and general officers during the course of his confirmation process.”
About the Center for Security Policy
The Center for Security Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan national security organization that specializes in identifying policies, actions, and resource needs that are vital to American security and then ensures that such issues are the subject of both focused, principled examination and effective action by recognized policy experts, appropriate officials, opinion leaders, and the general public. For more information visit www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org

 

The full text of the letter can be found below.
29 January, 2013
Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe:
As individuals who were privileged to serve our country as flag and general officers in the United States military, we write to you to express our deep concerns about the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.
Our nation faces enormous national security challenges as we enter 2013.  Addressing those challenges will require leadership at the Pentagon that recognizes the gravity of the threats we face and understands the requirement for a formidable military capable of deterring and, if necessary, overcoming them.  Senator Hagel’s record on key issues indicates he is not such a leader.
First, Sen. Hagel stated on 29 August, 2011: “The Defense Department, I think in many ways has been bloated…I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.”  This statement seems to ignore the fact that, the Budget Control Act of 2011 had already cut $487 billion from the defense budget over ten years — let alone that this round of reductions comes on top of the more than $300 billion in cuts that took place under then-Secretary Robert Gates.
Recall that Secretary Leon Panetta on 4 August, 2011 stated that hundreds of billions more in cuts over ten years that sequestration will bring about will be “disastrous to the defense budget.” JCS Chairman General Martin Dempsey has indicated that sequestration poses “very high risk” for national security.  Consequently, Sen. Hagel’s assertion that still further cuts are warranted is at odds with the judgment of the Pentagon’s current civilian and military leadership.  It suggests a disqualifying lack of understanding of the dire effects such reductions would have on our defense capabilities.
Second, Sen. Hagel is a signatory of the “Global Zero” Initiative, which describes itself as “the “international movement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.”  At a time when Russia and China are increasing and modernizing their nuclear capabilities, North Korea is enhancing its long-range nuclear delivery systems and the weapons they will carry and Iran is moving ever closer to obtaining such arms, we cannot responsibly abandon our deterrent.  It would be ill-advised and possibly very dangerous to have as a Secretary of Defense someone who believes otherwise.
Third, Sen. Hagel has demonstrated an abiding hostility towards Israel, a view that would be detrimental to our national defense and perhaps perilous to our ally were he to become Secretary.  For example:  In 2009, he urged President Obama to undertake direct negotiations with Hamas.  In October 2000, he was one of just three Senators to refuse to sign a letter expressing support for Israel during the second Palestinian intifada.  In 2002, following several deadly Palestinian suicide-bombing attacks in Israel, he authored a Washington Post op-ed asserting that “Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue.”
Israel is our only stable, reliable ally in an increasingly turbulent and hostile Middle East.  Given Sen. Hagel’s record of hostility towards the Jewish State, his confirmation could signal to Israel’s enemies and ours that this important bilateral relationship is unraveling.  That perception could invite aggression and perhaps another, otherwise avoidable regional war.
Another matter of profound concern is Sen. Hagel’s outlook towards Iran — a country that, among other acts of war against our country, employed its proxy, Hezbollah, to bomb the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, resulting in the deaths 241 American servicemen.  Sen. Hagel has repeatedly refused to support sanctions against Iran while in the Senate, and in 2006, he stated that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”  This ill-advised statement telegraphs to Tehran that it should not fear a U.S. military response to the continued pursuit of Iranian nuclear weapons.  Whichever policies are pursued with the objective of preventing a nuclear Iran can only have hope of success if backed by a credible military deterrent.  It would be unwise to confirm a nominee for Secretary of Defense who has already publicly taken that option off the table.
For all of these reasons, it is our professional assessment that confirmation of Sen. Hagel to be Secretary of Defense would be contrary to the United States’ vital national security interests.
Sincerely,
Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Vincent E. Falter, USA (Ret.)
Rear Adm. H.E. Gerhard, USN (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Robert H. Gormley, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Higginbotham, USMC (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Mel Thrash, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. Ronald K. Kerwood, USA (Ret.)

News Briefing with Army Lieutenant General Terry from the Pentagon

COMMANDER BILL SPEAKS:  Good morning.  I’d like to welcome back to the Pentagon briefing room Lt. Gen. James Terry, United States Army, who’s been here a number of times via satellite and joins us in person today.

Lt. Gen. Terry is the commander of ISAF Joint Command, deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, and commanding general,

afghanistan

afghanistan (Photo credit: The U.S. Army)

.  This is Gen. Terry’s third tour in Afghanistan, and he assumed his current duties in July — or June 2012.  He took command of U.S. Army V Corps in November 2011.

            Prior to this assignment, he served as commanding general, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Fort Drum, New York, from September 2009 to November 2011 and was deployed as commander ISAF Regional Command South from October 2010 to October 2011.  From August 2004 to February 2007, he served as deputy commanding general operations, 10th Mountain Division (Light), and deployed as a deputy commanding general for operations for Combined Joint Task Force 76, Afghanistan, from January 2006 to February 2007, with responsibilities in what is now Regional Commands East, South and Southwest.

            Gen. Terry regularly travels throughout Afghanistan, often joined by senior Afghan national security force officers, to gather a full picture of ISAF’s coalition and partnered efforts, and today he will update us on the progress of the campaign.  He will make some opening comments and then will take your questions.

            And with that, general, I’ll turn it over to you.

            LIEUTENANT GENERAL JAMES TERRY:  Well, good morning, all, and thanks, Bill, for that — that very kind introduction.

            I can tell everybody here today it’s much, much better to see you in person than it is to be sitting there in Kabul in a little — what we call the can, staring into a video lens there, so it’s good to see you all in person.  I see some familiar faces out there, also.

            Bottom line upfront, I tell you, we are — we’re in the process of moving the Afghan National Security Forces into the lead for security.  This spring, we’ll reach milestone 2013, and the Afghan National Security Forces will plan, lead and execute all operations across Afghanistan.  IJC will train, advise, assist, and support these operations, and this is a fundamental shift.

            What I want to do today is talk to you specifically about the Afghan National Security Forces that I’ve worked with over the course of six years and three deployments, as described by Bill.  Make no mistake — the progress there I think is very real.  It’s my assessment that it is.  It’s unmistakable, and it’s very substantial.

            Let me be clear, though.  There are challenges that do remain with the Afghan National Security Forces.  But with our partners, we’re going to work through those challenges.

            In June of 2012, we began moving out of partnered operations and, in fact, now with tranche four announced, the Afghan National Security Forces will have the lead to protect over 85 percent of Afghanistan’s population once tranche four is fully implemented, beginning about the March timeframe.

            The Afghan national police and army can and do fight for Afghanistan and for the people of Afghanistan.  What we must do now is build supporting and sustaining to the Afghan National Security Forces.  Those systems and capabilities allow them to address the current threat through sustained and continuous activity.

            Now, the way we’re doing this is called security force assistance, which encompasses all activities that move the Afghan security forces to sufficient and sustainable security.  In terms of our mission, this is more specifically known as train, advise, and assist.

            Today, insurgents fear the growing capability of the Afghan National Security Forces.  We are fully engaged in supporting the government of Afghanistan to develop the security forces that are capable of containing the insurgency and managing the violence.  The challenge is to continue to build their capability and capacity, while in the current fight.  And through security force assistance, that’s exactly what we are doing.

            Afghan national security forces are taking a lead not just because of the Lisbon agreement, but more importantly because long-term stability demands that Afghans own, manage, and lead their own security efforts.  The Afghan people want this, and we all know that the nature of this fight requires indigenous forces for the long haul.

            More importantly, transition undermines the insurgent narrative of fighting foreign forces and will uncover the insurgents’ true design — to control the people of Afghanistan, who quite frankly have grown tired of 34 years of war and desire a better future for their children.  Everywhere the ANSF, the Afghan National Security Forces, are leaning into the challenges.

            Now, I’d highlight that currently they lead a large majority of all the current conventional operations.  Insurgents have been pushed out of major population areas in our pursuit.  The population centers present an urban energy, one that I did not see six years ago, marked by bustling city streets, markets, cars — and, of course, with the cars come the traffic jams.

            Cellphone coverage has expanded over 80 percent of the population, and the kids are back in school.  Human capital is one of the biggest changes I’ve seen since 2006, as more than 8 million Afghans are in elementary and secondary education, and almost a quarter of them are young girls.

            Now, unfortunately, insurgents now rely primarily on IEDs, which kill more Afghan civilians than coalition forces.  Quite frankly, the people, as I’ve said, are tired and have no desire to be controlled by the insurgents.  Perceptions of the Taliban have worsened over time.  Anti-Taliban movements are springing up as the people of Afghanistan reject the heavy-handed tactics of insurgents.  Today polls indicate that the majority of the Afghans think the country is heading the right direction, which is, again, a significant increase from my time in 2006.

Where we are now:  in June, we started moving to the next phase in the campaign, which is driven by security force assistance.  More than 400 security force assistance teams are in place, training, advising, and assisting Afghan national security forces as they take the lead for security.

            We are now bringing purposely built formations — brigade-sized, in many cases — that are focused on and trained to train, advise and assist the Afghan national security forces.  They will command the security force assistance teams, provide force protection, and, when required, provide enabler support to Afghan National Security Forces.  Our only — our early-on assessment is that these formations are serving to accelerate moving the Afghan National Security Forces forward into the lead for security.

            ISAF forces are actively training Afghan forces to provide their own enablers.  While much work remains to be done, strides have been made in the areas of casualty evacuation, logistics, intelligence fusion, counter-IED, and fire support.  It’s important to note that in most cases, these enablers will not resemble U.S. or coalition enablers.  Rather, they will be supported by and sustained by growing Afghan national security force systems.

Too often, we look at enablers as a piece of material.  What we must do is have a view toward the future that looks at how Afghans will use these capabilities within their own organizations, how they will adopt doctrinally, and more importantly, how they will educate, train, and develop their leaders for the future.

We are witnessing examples of increasing Afghan National Security Force capability.  Let me give you just one example.  In November, the Afghan National Army 205th Corps successfully conducted core-level operations across Regional Command South.  These operations included all security elements, police, army, and were Afghan-planned, Afghan-led, and logistically supported by Afghan forces.  This included planning and conducting their internal re-supply convoys and separate aerial re-supply missions conducted by the emerging Afghan air force, using Afghan helicopters and Afghan pilots.

            Now, as the Afghan organizations demonstrate their ability to operate independently, security force assistance will focus at the next organizational level.  While this supports a smaller footprint, it is not simply about doing less.  This is about putting our advising and enabling resources in the right places at the right levels within the Afghan National Security Force to ensure that Afghan partners can hold the gains of the past.

            This is about the right mix of coalition forces and capability that balances risk to security, while continuing to support the Afghan national security forces as they grow their own enablers and capability over time.  Our partners will need our help in this regard, and we will be there to help them.

Now, no doubt challenges remain.  While much has been accomplished, we still have a long road ahead.  As we look to the future, it’s not without associated risk.  Some were generational, and some were regional.  Insurgent population has proven resilient and will, without a doubt, challenge the Afghan national security forces this spring as they take the lead of security.

Now, I’m confident that with our train, advise, assist mission, and security force assistance concept, we can mitigate that risk by supporting our Afghan partners, while continuing to grow that Afghan capability.  There are no short-term solutions; rather, it will take time and a long-term partnership with the international community, as put forth in the Chicago declaration.  We will stick with our Afghan partners as they continue to grow.

I would add that while the Afghan national security forces move to the lead, coalition support and coalition forces specifically will still be conducting operations in combat conditions beside our Afghan partners.  The mission will be to train, advise and assist, but, again, it will still be in combat conditions.

            We know that an essential task in moving Afghanistan towards sufficient, sustainable security — stability is the security provided by the Afghan National Security Forces.  As those security forces grow in capability, they now have an opportunity.  That opportunity is to secure the future of Afghanistan.  This also represents an opportunity for the Afghan people, who for over 34 years of war and conflict have proven to be resilient and creative and who very much want to move forward for the next generation of Afghans.  Afghans securing the Afghan people is the path.

            As we look toward the national elections in 2014, I am confident that the security provided by the Afghan national security forces will provide space for the political process to mature and connect to the Afghan society and support an emerging private sector.  Success may not be on the front pages.  Insurgencies are defeated over time by legitimate and well-trained indigenous forces.  Those forces are taking the lead.

            Recognize that in the road ahead, there will be Afghan solutions.  My caution to all is that we should not view these solutions through Western eyes and assess them too critically.  What we are now seeing as Afghans move in the lead can and will work.  We must remain patient in support of our partners.  And, again, it will take time.

            In closing, these initial comments are the road ahead for Afghan security forces, again, is not without challenges.  They will need a partner, and they will need our help.  But they are well on the way to taking the lead of security through the transition process.

Now, I’ve been talking entirely too long, and I could go on and on, but what I’ll do is stop and ask for questions right now.

Bob?

            Q:  General, thanks.  You referred very briefly to anti-Taliban movements.  Last year, there was considerable hope and even expectation that localized anti-Taliban movements in Andar districts and other adjoining districts in Ghazni might be built into something bigger, broader, more promising.  Has that petered out?  Or where does that stand?

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  There are still a series of Afghan — as I call them, local movements that are out there.  Frankly, it’s my assessment that they spring up from the fact that the Afghans have been at this for 34 years now and, again, they’re quite tired of the heavy-handed tactics of the insurgents that are out there.

We work with the Afghan national security forces, specifically the minister of interior and his forces, to try to identify those opportunities and in — move forward, where we can, to make sure that they are secured and given some space, so to speak, to continue to grow.

            Q:  So have they grown?  Or have they been crushed?  Or what —

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  There’s — they have not been crushed.  There are more of them.  They have, frankly, at this point, not grown together.  I think there’s great potential for them to at some point.

Sir?

Q:  General, can you elaborate a bit on what the day-to-day responsibilities of U.S. troops in these security force assistance brigades will be?  If they’re not going on, you know, partnered operations, patrols with the Afghans, are they going to be on bases, acting as — like a QRF force?  And what levels will the partnerships occur?  It seems a bit like a headquarters force, if I’m not misunderstanding.

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  Well, I wouldn’t call it a headquarters force.  Again, it’s purposefully designed.  If I can take you back through the history a little bit.  2006 in my timeframe there, we were coalition-led operations, where we planned and executed and assessed operations that, you know, we’ve — we began the initial stages of partnering, but those were, frankly, coalition-led or there weren’t enough — simply enough Afghan national security forces to go around at that particular point in time.

            As I came back in 2010, then, we had moved to what you referred to as partnered operations.  The shohna ba shohna, the shoulder-to-shoulder, and clearly we’re now moving away from that.  And what we have to do is put the Afghan National Security Forces into the lead.

            So the activity of the soldier out there will be all about training, advising and assisting the Afghans as they lead operations.  The goal here is for the Afghans to stand on their own, but not to stand alone and not to stand without that support, which is key to them moving forward.

            I would — I would say that inside — what we’re starting to do now is shift away from the security force assistance teams that you might be familiar with that started in — oh, around January or February of 2012, and then we’re now starting to move the concept along to where we have designed the brigades, in the case of the Marine Corps, the regiments, so that it’s one organization that man, trains and equips together.  Those organizations then are not purely headquarters-focused, but they are focused then on increasing the capability of the Afghans.  It doesn’t mean that they won’t be going out on patrol with them, either.

            Now, initially, we see this as being focused at the Afghan kandak level, which is, of course, the battalion level.  As those kandaks become more capable of time, then we’ll lift up to the brigade level and then potentially, in accordance with the campaign plan, up to the core and the police zone level.  And that’s the concept.

            Q:  So is it fair to say that this is going to be a largely FOB-centric force waiting for the Afghans as they take the lead, if they need additional U.S., say, combat support, to then go out with them?

LT. GEN. TERRY:  I’m not sure what you mean by FOB-centric force.

Q:  (off mic)

LT. GEN. TERRY:  I’m not a FOB-centric kind of guy, so I’m not —

            Q:  If they’re — if they’re not going out on patrol alongside them, what are they going to (off mic)

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  I think they will be.  A certain component of this, again, is — as, you know, some of this training will obviously have to be done in contact.  As you get better at the kandak level, you can lift up to brigade, but you’ll have to — you’ll have to shadow that brigade as it moves around the battle space.  And then some of it obviously is about, you know, the force protection component that has to be with the security force assistance teams and the policy advisory teams that are out there, as they move forward.  A certainly piece of it, also, then is — is until the Afghans, you know, grow their own enabling capability out there, that when required, will come back to some of the coalition enablers that are out there.  Thanks.

            Q:  Yeah, the other side of that coin, the Afghan national security forces, where are they?  I mean, you’ve been — for years, we’ve used the crawl, walk, run.  But if this was a U.S. force and you were going out and seeing what you’re seeing, would heads be rolling?  Or would you be thinking, well, we’re making progress, given it’s a fairly new force?  Where are they?  And how far (off mic)

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  Maybe because I’m from the mountains of Georgia, I don’t tend to look at it through — look at these guys through a U.S. lens.  And that’s kind of what I try to caution note, is that we — as they grow in capability, that we view, you know, where the Afghans are headed through a Western mindset.

            From where I’m at, they’re at the run phase of this.  And, you know, I’ll be honest with you.  Three tours, back down in the hard terrain in Kandahar and — you know, which is — been considered the heartland of the Taliban movement, having seen a hard fight down there in — some of the old safe haven in Zhari, Panjway and Arghandab and places like that, I was recently down in Arghandab, and it was, frankly — I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but very pleased with where the Afghan national security forces were in holding the terrain in Arghandab.  And so I would say they’re off and running with it.  Now, again, they’re still going to need some support there.

            Q:  Can we ask you just to look forward a little bit to the — the, quote, unquote, “fighting season” for 2013?  You know, in past years around this time, someone will — we’ll get a brief where they say, well, one of the biggest concerns is assassination of leaders or — in the last year, it was insider attacks.  What are you looking towards this year as the biggest — or the biggest several threats the Afghans are going to face?

LT. GEN. TERRY:  Obviously, the insider threat is on my mind.  For my assessment, as the operational commander in Afghanistan, it is an enemy tactic, as a stated part of the last campaign plan, and we actively work with our Afghan partners.  I’m sure you’re very aware of the vetting and the counterintelligence efforts that are ongoing there, to beat back that threat.  We’re constantly aware there.

            You know, in terms of the insurgency itself, the other signature weapon there, of course, is the IED.  And, frankly, using that IED in spectacular attacks, to which they really — they really don’t hold any terrain, but what the spectacular attack does is keep them in the mind’s eye of the population that’s out there and buys them some newsworthy events.

            And so, you know, you might suggest that that’s a battle for relevance, to stay in the front of the people’s minds out there.  Sadly, this IED threat kills innocent Afghans out there.  And, you know, I think you’ve heard recently some of the religious leaders inside of Afghanistan and outside of Afghanistan condemn suicide bombings, which is — which is a huge step forward out there.

So I — I think you will see, again, a stated part of last year’s campaign plan, which, frankly, failed, was to regain a lot of the territory that they had lost from what we know as the surge period, you know?  The surge worked.  It’s the best way to describe it.  They don’t hold that sanctuary anymore.

And now it’s time, in accordance with Lisbon and — you know, what the Afghans want is to move the Afghan National Security Forces into the lead.  We’ll be there with them during this fighting season.  It’s going to be a — it’s going to be a critical time for them, but I’m confident, with the concept we have, security force assistance, with the train, advise and assist, that they’re going to get through this fighting season and be well-prepared for the future.

Q:  Can I ask you about the ALP?  I mean, it’s been a few years now.  What’s your assessment of how important they are to this and, in some sense, important post-2014?  There are some proposals to expand it even further than it has — that it is now.  How do you feel about that?

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  I’m a fan of Afghan local police.  And I’ll tell you why.  The concept starts at the local level, and it’s more about governance at the local level than it is about security.  In other words, the community comes together via the old tribal mechanism to decide that it wants to secure itself.  So it’s about communities now wanting security.  And it’s about them pushing back against the insurgent out there, which really causes insurgents a lot of problems at the village level, where they have Afghan local police.

            Once they decide — and we use some of our special operating force capability come in and train those Afghan local police, once they’ve been vetted and cleared, and then the key now is that, once you’ve come through the local governance process and the vetting is now to tie that back to the district — chief of police at the district level so that there’s oversight of the Afghan local police.

            So I think it’s one of those solutions that I talked about that’s not quite — you know, be careful how we view it through Western eyes.  I think it, frankly, works.  And, in fact, I talked to many village elders.  And when I’m out and about, they like the program.  They —

            Q:  Do you see signs that it actually reduces violence in these areas?  I mean, there’s some evidence that — at least in the initial stages, violence goes up in areas where ALP (off mic)

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  I think over time it does decrease it.  You’ve got to remember that this is a threat to the insurgents, so it will be attacked out there, also.  So I’d just caution you with that one.

            Q:  You’ve sketched very clearly sort of the campaign plan for the hands-on aspect of train, advise and assist.  And thanks for that.  But can you talk a little bit about some of the not hands-on pieces which are probably a lot more challenging, casualty evacuation, close air support?  What is your assessment?  What are the challenges?  What are the big pieces that are going to be the heavier lifts?

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  Sure.  Logistics is the number-one thing on my mind right now, followed by counter-IED.  I would follow that with surface fires.  One of the things the Afghans are concerned about the most is their rotary wing fleet, as it grows in capability to replace what’s there from the coalition.

            We have been working hard with our Afghan partners especially on the logistics side, doing something I learned as a young lieutenant years ago in Germany.  It’s called the maintenance and sustainment terrain walk.  And it’s where you take combat leaders, you know, kind of like — kind of like I was once upon a time, and you walked them through the entire system.

And what we were able to do is now kick this off at the national level with Dan Bolger and the NTM-A, good friend of mine, and then take it from the national level, the depot level, if you will, and the repair parts and that level of maintenance, and then actually walk it down all the way to the kandak level.  And then through that process, then you start to uncover the challenges that the Afghans are under.

            Now, I bring with me Gen. Karimi — or Gen. Rahman from the police, who’s been over working with the police or the army, and then so they’re now exposed to this.  And what they’ve started doing is bringing their entire staff with them.

            And so when we go down to the core, as we recently did with the 207 Corps up in Herat what you find out is that it is not so much the process of walking through the maintenance sustainment terrain walk.  It’s everything that the Afghans did — Afghan national security forces did prior to that, simply trying to get ready for that.

            And a lot of that, you know, in the U.S. Army — I apologize.  I go back to look at it a little bit through Western eyes, then — gets into the old readiness briefings.  And then, you know, how does that now relate to that capability out there?

In terms of the casualty evacuation, we’re starting to move toward ground casualty evacuation.  And what has happened here in terms of an Afghan solution is quite interesting.  You know, they’ve — they’re starting to partner with the minister of public health and find the hospitals and the clinics, and then actually through mutual agreements then, as they evacuate their casualties back by ground, use those clinics and hospitals that are out there.  205th Corps is next, one example.  209th Corps up in the north recently did this, also, is it extended itself out toward the west.  And they fall back in on those systems.  And then when they can — what we’re starting to see, when the aircraft do become available, the Afghan aircraft, the Mi-17s, they’re coordinating non-standard casualty evacuations — what we call it on the U.S. side — not MEDEVAC.  I mean, it’s not a UH-60 with a doc on there or anything like that.

But they’re starting to coordinate that through the coordination centers at the regional level and then move forward and pick up casualties, and then eventually move them back to the military hospitals and the police hospitals.  And so it’s those kind of solutions over time, as you — as we look at things like close air support, what we must do then is bring the surface fire capability to fruition.  And that’s the indirect fire — observed indirect fire.

The D-30 howitzer, we recently filled an initiative for 60-millimeter mortars.  You might think that’s a lot, but, boy, when I was a company commander, I relied on that 60-millimeter mortar that’s out there.  And so now instead of, you know, calling back up into the air, they have those organic capabilities inside their formations.

Now, the other capability that’s starting to emerge out there is the mobile strike force, which is an armored, wheel-based platform.  Don’t get it confused with Strykers.  It’s not quite that size, but it is a very, very capable platform that’s out there.

            And there will be seven kandaks of these that will be under two emerging brigades that work at the national level, but be allocated down to the corps that are out there.  So now you’ve got some ground mobility, and in those platforms, I think potentially we’ll look at if we need to put a gun system on one of those platforms.  And then, again, that would help take care of some of them.

            Did that answer your question?  Okay.  Sure.

Q:  General, thank you, sir.  Still some Afghans have fear among them that what is their future, because one generation is already gone, 34 years or more that they have gone through the wars and still going.  What they’re asking is that after you leave, what is their future?

And also, as far as reconciliation is concerned, or talking to Taliban or bringing them to the mainstream, you think it’s working?  Or what will the future after you leave?  Because some Taliban are saying, after U.S. leaves, they are waiting for another war within Afghanistan.

LT. GEN. TERRY:  So your question’s about the concern on the part of the Afghans?

Q:  Yes.

LT. GEN. TERRY:  I think there’s concern about the uncertainty.  I think this past week here with events in Washington have helped solidify some of those questions that are out there.  And I think they’ll look toward future announcements by the president about, you know, what the future looks like out there.

You know, the Afghans are somewhat cautious as they look toward the future because of the past 34 years of war.  And when you look at everything they’ve been through, I don’t think we’d be any different than that.

            And I — again, I think there are multiple opportunities out there for them that they have to capitalize on.  One of the opportunities that they have, quite honestly, is a younger generation that has advantaged itself over the last 11 years in terms of education.  I mean, there’s a younger generation underneath the surface of the Afghans out there that are very smart, very intelligent, and I — I try to talk to them as much as possible, although I look like an old guy.  I know for certain they don’t want to go back to the way of the Taliban.

            And, again, I’m sure there’s going to be some solution that’s out there.  And I can’t look toward the future and tell you exactly what it is, but I think the Afghans will sort it out.

Q:  Quick follow-up.  As far as — many nations in the region, including India and including Pakistan are amongst, their fears that after you leave, what will happen, those Talibans and Al-Qaeda still inside Pakistan and in Afghanistan, where they will go?  Because India is also fearing and Pakistan is also among other nations that fear, what is the — what surety or guarantee can you give to those who are working in Afghanistan from other nations?

LT. GEN. TERRY:  I can’t look for the future and answer that question for you.  I think what we have to look at then is, as we — we have to rest comfortable with — that — through Bonn, Lisbon, Chicago, or to Tokyo, the international community has made a huge commitment to Afghanistan.  And, frankly, I think they’ll have an impact on the region.

And so when you look at, you know, $16 billion that have been pledged in international commitment, again, I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I don’t Afghans are going to be — Afghanistan is going to be left there, you know, standing alone.  We want them to stand up, but, again, I think we need to be there beside them.

Q:  (off mic) and then one on Pakistan.  Can you review the bidding on — what is the profile of the enemy — of the insurgency today?  Roughly how many Taliban are there?  How many Al-Qaeda?  What are your best estimates and, you know, the breakdown between the hardcore and those that are seasonal?

LT. GEN. TERRY:  That is a very difficult question.  You know, part of it — part of it deals with, you know, the nature of how things move in and out of Afghanistan for certain.  I’ve seen numbers, quite honestly, as low as 20,000 insurgents and — up there, as I listen to my Afghan partners, around 30,000.

The exact percentage of what’s hardcore and what is not is — is very hard to break apart.  I would tell you, I think there’s three sources of violence in Afghanistan.  One is the ideology the drives the insurgency.  I think there’s probably some tribal dynamics and ethnic dynamics that are out there, and I think there’s a criminal component to it, also.  So to kind of take those three apart is quite hard.

            Q:  Well, and a follow-up, too.  What progress has the U.S. and Pakistan made in shrinking the safe havens?  What’s the extent of the cross-border coordination center coordination, basically?

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  We — from a military perspective, we are starting to move away from — because we have to — a trilateral type of — you know, with Afghans, U.S. and Pakistan, in other words, Afghans in the middle.  And I think it will take time, to where we’ve got to now have Afghans and Pakistan talking together.

And then, you know, if you’re familiar with the border nation coordination centers on the military side, that is a mechanism that’s — it’s a tool, if you will, for when there is tension at the border that can come together, discuss it, and move off.  And then we have what we call the border flag meeting process, which involves the general officers.

Now, I would just offer to you that, you know, on the political side, we’re starting to see Afghans and Pakistan start to engage more.  And I think there’s great potential there in that regard.  And I apologize.  One more.  We’ve got to go meet some people here.

Sir?

            Q:  Sir, can you speak to the pace of U.S. withdrawal of the 66,000 troops in 2013 and 2014?  And also, sir, if I could, you said the Afghans are   tired of war.  The insurgents have proved resilient.  Do you have indications that possibly the enemy is growing tired, too?

            LT. GEN. TERRY:  Well, it’s certainly — I think the enemy’s getting tired.  You know, so the short answer there is yes.

            I would just — in terms of your first question, though, I would tell you that the president’s stated in the coming months here he’s going to make some announcements about the next phase of the drawdown that’s out there.  And it would be — it would be inappropriate for me to even speculate on Gen. Allen’s assessment and recommendation to the secretary of defense and the chairman, so I’m not going to.

            Okay, thanks, guys.  I appreciate it.  And I apologize for having to talk and run.  I would just leave you with this.  I have — I think you’ve all heard my introduction that I’ve been there for — for three different times.  The IJC motto is, “Make it matter.”  And unfortunately, you know, I’m getting older.  This is probably going to be my last tour in Afghanistan.  And I’ve been truly fortunate and blessed to lead coalition forces there, not just the U.S. side of this.  I’ve spent, let’s see, three Thanksgivings, three Christmases that are there.  And, you know, I can — I can tell you that the sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have contributed significantly to the progress of the Afghan National Security Forces.

            I’ve spent three 9/11s there, also.  And I think the fact that we haven’t had a 9/11 event since that timeframe from that region is owed to those sacrifices of our service members out there, also.  So never forget that.  And look forward to seeing some of you in Afghanistan.  I’ve got about three months left, so get on over.  Thanks.

            Q:  Thanks.

 

Air Force general calls sex assaults a ‘cancer’ – Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

This report from the Associated Press covers the Air Force Chief of Staff’s testimony on the sex scandals at Lackland Air Force Base, and elsewhere throughout the military.  Hopefully he means what he says, and he is not alone because this is an issue that needs not only our full attention, but immediate action !

 

Air Force general calls sex assaults a ‘cancer’ – Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston.

The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) Announces New Executive Director

Washington, January 22, 2013 – The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) announced today that Chris Griffin, most recently Legislative Director to Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), will join the organization as Executive Director at the end of the month.  As Executive Director, Griffin will oversee day-to-day operations of FPI’s activities, including its work on issues such as defense spending, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, democracy and human rights, and its leadership development programs.

The FPI Board of Directors issued this statement: “We’re thrilled with the job Jamie Fly has done running FPI for the last four years, and we congratulate him on the important position he’s assuming on Capitol Hill. And we’re very pleased we were able to recruit Chris Griffin to replace Jamie, and are confident that under his leadership FPI will only go from strength to strength.”

Prior to serving as Sen. Lieberman’s Legislative Director, Griffin was the senator’s Military Legislative Assistant between 2008 and 2011, working to develop and execute Senator Lieberman’s agenda as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Between 2005 and 2008, Griffin was a Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where his work focused on U.S. policy toward Asia and security assistance programs. While at AEI, he was also a Contributing Editor to the Armed Forces Journal, writing a monthly column on military blogs and occasional pieces on the defense industry. Griffin serves in the Virginia Army National Guard.

Griffin replaces Jamie Fly, who is leaving the organization in early February after serving as Executive Director for four years.  He will become Counselor for Foreign and National Security Affairs to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

About the Foreign Policy Initiative

FPI is a non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. FPI seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness. The organization was founded in 2009 and is led by Executive Director Jamie Fly. FPI’s Board of Directors consists of Eric Edelman, Robert Kagan,

English: Logo of the Foreign Policy Initiative

English: Logo of the Foreign Policy Initiative (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

, and Dan Senor. Visit our website at www.foreignpolicyi.org for more information.

ONR Program Uses Cell Phones to Fight Epidemics

New banner of the Office of Naval Research (ON...

New banner of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) including the seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) — A program managed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to get ahead of epidemic outbreaks has led to the deployment of new healthcare monitoring and information collection technology in South America and Africa, officials announced Jan. 15.

Building off of an original project funded by ONR, researchers are collecting data through a text message-based system set up to take advantage of widespread access to handheld devices in Colombia and Zambia.

Through the collection of pictures, videos, texts and geo-location information from cell phones in a given population, researchers can perform complex data analysis and begin to track and map a fluid situation such as an earthquake or the spread of disease.

In Sailing Directions meant to guide the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has called on the service to employ resources in a variety of situations.

“The U.S. military continues to take on a bigger role in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operations around the globe,” said Cmdr. Joseph Cohn, program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “Real-time epidemiological data allows military decision-makers to be medically prepared and, more locally, provide quicker responses to potential disease outbreaks in close quarters common to military facilities like ships.”

Limited technical infrastructure in developing countries often can slow humanitarian aid and hamper responses to disasters. ONR’s research delves into smartphone apps to take full advantage of the fact that more people have cell phone subscriptions than access to the Internet throughout the world, especially in lower income populations.

“When you’re trying to get information from people in an area devastated by a natural disaster, you have to use technology that the population already has in their pockets,” said Ryan Paterson, CEO of IST Research, LLC, which created an Android-based short message service (SMS) gateway to support the work being done in Colombia and Zambia.

The project, which also includes funding from Naval Sea Systems Command, is a partnership with the Zambian Ministry of Health, the University of South Alabama and Tiny People Matter, a global medical relief team that provides care for children and infants in developing countries.

“This effort shows it doesn’t require expensive solutions to effectively collect highly structured data from local populations in some of the least-networked locations around the globe,” Cohn said.

ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.