Entries in War (18)


President Obama Hails 'Light of New Day' in Afghanistan

The White House(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In a dramatic, live address to the American people from inside Afghanistan, President Obama on Tuesday hailed a new milestone in his effort to end the nearly 11-year Afghan war. He also marked the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who triggered it.

"We have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," Obama said.

"The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm's way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda."

"This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end," Obama said later.

The live address from Bagram Air Field, a U.S. military base outside of Kabul, comes on the one-year anniversary of the successful Navy SEALs mission into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, who plotted and launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghan soil.

It is believed to be the first time a sitting U.S. president has spoken to the American people from inside an active war zone. Obama flew to Afghanistan on a secret overnight mission aboard Air Force One, landing under the cover of darkness. He is expected to leave before dawn.

"One year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is within reach," Obama said.

Since bin Laden's death, 367 American troops have been killed and almost 4,500 wounded in Afghanistan. In the 10 and a half years since America's longest war began, more than 1,800 service members have lost their lives.

There are roughly 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now, according to the Pentagon, but a withdrawal of those troops is well underway.

The last of the president's "surge troops" -- 23,000 service members -- are expected to withdraw by September, with the remaining U.S. combat forces scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. The transition is made possible, Obama said, by the determination and sacrifices of men and women in uniform.

"Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and the flag they serve under," he said.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder," he said. "In their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country."

But while Obama sought to reassure his domestic audience of the war's end -- a key campaign promise -- he also tried to assure Afghans and insurgents that the U.S. will not abandon the country after 2014.

Earlier on his visit, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement that outlines ways the U.S. will remain engaged in Afghanistan's development and security to prevent the Taliban from re-taking control of the government.

"The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: as you stand up, you will not stand alone," Obama said.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found a record-high number -- 66 percent -- of Americans believe the Afghanistan war has not been worth fighting, matching opposition to the war in Iraq at its peak five years ago.

As for views of Obama's handling of the war effort, more Americans approve than disapprove of his leadership, 48 to 43 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poll: Concern About Broader War Dampens Support for Iran Attack

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Broad concern about wider war in the Middle East is dampening public support for U.S. or Israeli military strikes against Iran’s nuclear development sites, with Americans by wide margins preferring diplomatic efforts or economic deterrence instead.

Eighty-four percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll suspect that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, basically unchanged since late 2009. As then, the preferred approaches are direct diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Iran, backed by 81 percent, and an increase in international economic sanctions, supported by three-quarters.

Many fewer, 41 percent, support a U.S. bombing effort, with 53 percent opposed, again similar to 2009. Support for Israeli strikes is virtually identical, with 42 percent in favor and 51 percent opposed. Israel has threatened such strikes; President Obama, while not ruling out military action, has urged allowing more time for sanctions to work, a position criticized by some of his Republican opponents.

RISK OF WAR -- Reluctance to support airstrikes stems mostly from a broad concern that they could trigger a larger war in the Middle East. Nearly nine out of 10 in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, see a risk of broader war if Israel were to bomb Iran; three-quarters call it a “major” risk.

Among those who perceive a major risk of war, just 32 percent support Israeli strikes against Iranian nuclear sites, and 35 percent back U.S. bombing efforts. Those who perceive little or no risk of sparking a regional war are far more supportive of airstrikes -- 76 percent support action by Israel, 64 percent by the United States.

WAIT AND SEE? -- More than twice as many Americans say it’s a better idea to wait and see if economic sanctions against Iran work -- even if this allows more time for its nuclear program to progress (64 percent) -- than to attack Iran soon, before its nuclear program progresses further than it already has, even if that means not waiting to see if sanctions work (26 percent).

The “wait-and-see” approach is particularly popular among those who perceive a major risk of wider war. Nearly seven in 10 in this group think the U.S. should pursue sanctions first. Among those who see no risk of war, many fewer, 47 percent, agree.

GROUPS -- Preferred approaches to Iran vary as expected by political preference. Fifty-five percent of Republicans support U.S. bombing strikes, compared with 36 percent of Democrats and independents combined. Similarly, support ranges from 55 percent among conservatives to 38 percent of moderates and a quarter of liberals.

Support for U.S. airstrikes also is 10 points lower among women than men (36 percent vs. 46 percent); women customarily express lower support for military action. It’s also 13 points lower among college graduates than among non-graduates, 32 percent vs. 45 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What Will Happen to the US If Israel Attacks Iran?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Obama is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday to try to talk him out of an immediate strike on Iran's nuclear sites.

But if Israel does decide to bomb Iran, what will it mean for the United States?

According to former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, Americans should brace for a painful impact.  Within a week of the first Israeli attack, says Clarke, a worst case scenario would bring soaring gas prices, terror attacks in U.S. cities, worldwide cyberwar, dead and wounded U.S. sailors, and the real possibility of broad American military involvement.

Gas Prices Could Double

According to U.S. government estimates, about 20 percent of the oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, bordered by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.  If Israel were to bomb Iran, oil prices would immediately go up.  If Iran responded by attacking oil tankers going through the Persian Gulf, says Clarke, gasoline prices for U.S. consumers could double.

"You could see very quickly Iranian commandos and their small boats attacking tankers, attacking oil platforms," said Clarke.  "You could see mines being laid in the Gulf."

The result, said Clarke, "would be a huge crisis in energy."  President Obama would tap the U.S.'s strategic petroleum reserve, alleviating some of the price rise.  The spike in prices "might not last long if the U.S. and its allies are able to take control of the Gulf," said Clarke.  "But that could take more than a week and under some scenarios it could take almost a month."

Terror Threat Against Americans

If Israel were to bomb Iran, American officials fear there could be a new wave of terrorism directed by Tehran, especially if the U.S. gets pulled in to the conflict.

"If we, the United States, we're bombing Iran, then I think they'd certainly want to try to do something on our homeland because we were bombing their homeland," said Clarke.

Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have already shown a willingness to act outside their own borders, both with deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s and the apparent attempted hits on Israeli targets in a number of countries earlier this year.

"Both have strong inroads in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, where they could strike Israeli, Jewish, and U.S. targets," said Clarke.

Israeli embassies and consulates and Jewish places of worship in the U.S. have been put on alert.

The World's First International Cyberwar

An Israeli attack on Iran would likely set off the world's first international cyber war.  Before striking, Israel will try to blind the air defenses of Iran and its neighbors with cyber warfare.  And the U.S. might end up using capabilities it has kept secret until now.

"The United States has a very powerful ability to cause this sort of disruption to electric power grids, communications networks," said Clarke.  "It hasn't done it because it doesn't like to expose its tricks as it's afraid once it does it, people will figure out how the United States does it.  But in a war with Iran, they would be willing to run that risk."

Iran would also attempt to hit back.  Said Clarke, "Iran also has a cyber command, which might try to retaliate by attacking U.S infrastructure such as the power grid, trains, airlines, refineries."

U.S. Navy Casualties in the Gulf

Should the U.S. become involved in the Israeli-Iran conflict militarily, says Clarke, it will be impossible to avoid American casualties.

"The Iranians have hundreds if not thousands of small boats, armed small boats, commando small boats, that will operate in the Gulf," said Clarke.  "They can get in, they can swarm a U.S. destroyer.  The Iranians now also have cruise missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles."

Clarke said there is a potential for the U.S. to sustain significant damage to a few ships and lose some sailors, just as it did during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.  Two U.S. ships were hit during that conflict, with a loss of nearly 40 American lives.

The U.S. Enters the War

According to Clarke, Israel can't do long-term, severe damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure, so its chief purpose in bombing Iran would be to trigger Iranian retaliation and draw the U.S. into the war to defend Israel, and to finish off what Israel started.

If Israel bombs Iran, Clarke says the cascade of events will lead to attacks on Israeli cities.

"Advisors to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak are saying that if Israel bombed Iran, the retaliation on Israel would be tolerable," said Clarke.  "But if Hezbollah in Lebanon launched thousands of extended range, improved accuracy rockets on Israel, hundreds of Israelis would die.  In such a small country, that would be devastating."

The casualties, in turn, would bring the inevitable call to Washington for help.

"You will very quickly see a phone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to the President," said Clarke, "and he will say to him, 'Only the United States, Mr. President, can find and destroy these mobile missile launchers.  Only you can save the lives of Israelis who are dying as I speak in our cities."

Clarke said that message would probably spur any U.S. president into action -- but especially one who is up for reelection within months.  "It's likely to get a yes answer from the president," predicts Clarke, "and bring the U.S. into the war." 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama to Thank Fort Bragg Troops Ahead of Iraq Withdrawal

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel with the first lady to Fort Bragg Wednesday morning, where he will deliver a speech to troops and their families, thanking them for their service.

The Obamas' visit to the North Carolina military base comes as America's involvement in the near nine-year war in Iraq comes to an end later this month. Just over 5,000 U.S. troops remain there in advance of the Dec. 31 withdraw deadline, down from the peak of 170,000, during the successful "surge" in 2007.

The White House says the president, "will speak about the enormous sacrifices and achievements of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq War, and he will speak about the extraordinary milestone of bringing the war in Iraq to an end."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama: War in Iraq Ends 'This Month'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Monday he has no doubt Iraq will succeed as an independent, post-war nation, but that history will judge America’s decision to invade the country nearly nine years ago.

Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stood side-by-side following a morning meeting at the White House where they discussed the final days of U.S. troop presence in Iraq and future relations between the two countries.

“As we end this war and as Iraq faces its future, the Iraqi people must know that you will not stand alone,” Obama told al-Maliki during a joint news conference. “You have a strong and enduring partner in the United States of America.”

About 6,000 U.S. troops remain in advance of the Dec. 31 withdraw deadline, down from 170,000 at the peak in 2007.

Obama said that the United States will maintain a “strong diplomatic presence” inside Iraq—including about 16,000 people working in the embassy in Baghdad, but that all troops will leave the country and all military bases will close.

Following a joint press conference, Obama and al-Maliki visited Arlington National Cemetery, where nearly 4,500 Americans killed during the war are buried.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Veterans: A Look at Those Who've Served

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- America has been at war with Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade, and during that time, more than two million Americans have been deployed overseas.

Friday, on 11-11-11, as the country celebrates Veteran's Day, the millions of Americans who have not worn the country's uniform will take a moment to honor and remember those who have.

Here's a look at America's veterans, by the numbers.

Those Who Have Served: 2,333,972

In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 2.3 million American military personnel had been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both, as of Aug. 30, 2011.  Of that total, 1,353,627 have since left the military and 711,986 have used Veteran Affairs health care between fiscal year 2002 and the third-quarter fiscal year 2011.

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, nearly half -- or 977,542 -- of those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have been deployed more than once.

Those in Uniform Right Now: 2,317,761

There are currently 2,317,761 men and women in uniform.  Of this total number, 1,348,405 have been deployed since the Sept. 11 attacks.  About 58.2 percent of those currently in uniform have served a deployment since 9/11.

Population: 0.75 percent

According to the 2010 Census, the population of the United States is 308,745,538.  Including active duty, national guard and reserves, the population of Americans in uniform is 2,317,761, meaning that less than 1 percent, 0.75 percent to be exact, of the country's population is a member of the military.

Unemployment Rate: 11.5 percent

While members of the military make up a tiny fraction of the country's population, the unemployment rate for America's veterans far exceeds the national average.  About 11.5 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed, compared with 9 percent of Americans nationwide.  And that number is on the rise.

In 2007, 6.1 percent of current-war veterans were unemployed.  In 2009, the unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had risen to 10.2 percent.  It is now more than two percentage points higher than the national average.

According to a Labor Department report released last week, Iraq and Afghanistan vets have higher unemployment rates than living veterans from previous wars because of their young age.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Air Force Disposed of War Dead Ashes in Landfill

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DOVER, Del.) -- For several years, the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base cremated the unidentified body parts of fallen service members and disposed of the ashes in a southern Virginia landfill, Air Force officials confirmed to ABC News.

The mortuary carried out the practice from 2003 to 2008, but now has a policy of burying these kinds of remains at sea.  It processes all of America’s war dead returning to the U.S. from overseas war zones.

The disposal of unidentified cremated remains at the landfill was first reported by the Washington Post on its website Wednesday evening.

The cremations “only occurred in instances where the person authorized to direct disposition of remains opted for military disposition of any subsequent portions of remains,” according to Air Force spokesman  Lt. Col. John Dorrian.

Subsequent remains refers to body part fragments of an individual that may have remained unidentified or were recovered after a funeral had already taken place.

Air Force officials acknowledge that the military branch did not discuss the military disposition option in detail with the families of service members who gave their consent.

In those cases prior to June 2008 where families gave their consent for the military disposition of subsequent remains, Dorrian said “the Air Force would transfer the portions to a local funeral home where cremation was effected and the cremated remains were returned to Dover.”

From there, the cremated remains would be turned over to a contractor for “further incineration and disposition in accordance with medical disposition.”

“The common practice was that any residual matter remaining after incineration was disposed of by the contractor in a landfill,” Dorrian said.

An Air Force official identified the landfill as being located in King George County in southern Virginia.

In Dec. 2008, the mortuary began its current policy of burying the ashes at sea after the then-mortuary director recommended it “to effect disposition as a more respectful and dignified process.”  Since then, the ashes have been placed in urns made of sea salt that dissolve in water.

The new information about the disposition of these remains comes on the heels of Tuesday’s acknowledgement by the Air Force of two instances where mortuary officials misplaced a body part and another where a Marine’s arm was sawed off so he could be buried in his uniform.

After a year long investigation, the Air Force disciplined three mortuary supervisors for their involvement in these incidents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Marines Will No Longer Allow Rolled-Up Sleeves

Sgt. Heather Golden/US Marine Corp(WASHINGTON) -- On the same day that the Marine commandant lifted a ban on wearing KIA bracelets, another fashion edit is raising howls from within the ranks.

Beginning next Monday, Oct. 24, Marines won’t be allowed to roll up the sleeves of their uniforms. Marine regulations currently allow for sleeves to be rolled up on camouflaged uniforms, and doing so is a matter of pride for Marines who feel it makes them look distinctive from the other services.

Marine regulations even have precise instructions for how those sleeves are to be rolled: "The camouflage utility coat will be worn outside the trousers. Sleeves may be rolled up at the option of local commanders. When authorized, utility sleeves will be rolled with the inside out, forming a roll about three inches wide, and terminating at a point about two inches above the elbow. ”

A Marine official says the Marine Uniform Board decided to make the change after Marine leaders observed that “deployed Marines were operating with sleeves down…their intent with this decision is to have one uniform policy, a single look.”

So the board has decided that “the Marine Corps will roll sleeves down and remain sleeves down year-round, beginning on Monday, 24 October. There will be official guidance released soon directing the uniform change.”

On Tuesday, Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said Marines will be allowed to wear KIA bracelets honoring fallen fellow service members while in uniform. This uniform allowance is effective immediately.

A recent Marine Corps Times article generated controversy when it brought to light how some unit commanders were not allowing their Marines to wear bracelets to commemorate those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Marines of all ranks were wearing the popular bracelets, though they technically violated regulations that ban Marines from wearing jewelry while in uniform.    

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Amos said that he was allowing their use. "We are acknowledging the close personal nature of our 10 years at war and the strong bonds of fidelity that Marines have for one another, especially for those fellow Marines who we have lost,” said Amos.

“There’s not really a ban on the KIA bracelet specifically,” says the spokesperson for the Marines.  “There are regulations for wearing the uniform and specifically jewelry, and Marines are not allowed to wear bracelets. This falls under that spectrum.  Now, the KIA bracelet will be lumped into the same category as the POW/MIA bracelets, which are approved for wear.”    

According to the statement, effective immediately, “Memorial bracelets memorializing prisoners of war, missing in action, killed in action, and those who died of wounds or injuries sustained in a combat theater are authorized.”

Some senior Pentagon officials have been spotted wearing the bracelets, most notably former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President, First Lady Honor Service Members Killed in Iraq, Afghanistan

Leslie E. Kossoff-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and the first lady Saturday morning visited the section of Arlington National Cemetery where the U.S. service members who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are laid to rest to pay tribute to them.

The president and Michelle Obama made their way to section 60 of Arlington, where they met with a family visiting a grave and walked a row of grave sites hand in hand.  They also took a few minutes to greet others at the cemetery, shaking hands and taking pictures.

Section 60, located in the southeast part of the cemetery, is the burial ground for military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This was the president’s third visit to the section.

After the visit, the president and first lady traveled to a Washington, D.C.-area service event.  They will participate in a number of 9/11 memorials and tributes on Sunday.

The two wars launched by the United States after 9/11 have claimed the lives of 6,213 military personnel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poll: Sense of Security Rebounds at 10th Anniversary of 9/11

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Confidence in the country’s safety from terrorism has rebounded sharply in the past year to near its highs, with most Americans expressing satisfaction with the steps the country’s taken in response to 9/11.  But there are two major exceptions: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Overall, support for the country’s response is broad, albeit not deep.  Sixty-seven percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll are satisfied with the way the United States has responded to the attacks, and 64 percent think the country is safer now than it was before 9/11, up sharply from its low -- 48 percent -- a year ago.

Still, likely reflecting the continued sense of risk, far fewer think the country is “much” safer -- 26 percent -- or are “very” satisfied with the U.S. response -- 18 percent.

The two boldest and costliest actions taken by the United States, moreover, are controversial.  This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that just 52 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has been effective at reducing the risk of terrorism, and fewer than half -- 46 percent -- say the war in Iraq made the U.S. safer from terrorist attacks.

Larger majorities, however, say a variety of other actions -- from enhanced airport security to increased wiretap and surveillance efforts to the killing of Osama bin Laden this spring -- have been effective at reducing the threat of future terrorism.

It is worth noting that the results of this latest poll come as a new possible terror threat against major U.S. cities has been uncovered.  According to intelligence officials, the CIA has developed information indicating that at least three individuals entered the county in August by air with the intent to launch a vehicle-borne attack against Washington, D.C. or New York around the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Officials say the alleged terror plot was initiated by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor, who had pledged to avenge bin Laden's death earlier this year in a U.S. raid.

In light of the threat, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Thursday that security measures would be ramped up across the city as it prepares for the anniversary of the attacks this Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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