Entries in Iraq War (5)


Panetta 'Not Discouraged' by Pace of Iraq Troops Talks

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta got a few words of Italian in Monday afternoon when he held a media availability on the steps of the Pentagon River Entrance with visiting Italian Defense Minister Ignazio LaRussa. 

“Mille grazie per tutto,” he said to LaRussa, wrapping up introductory remarks thanking Italy for its cooperation in military operations in Libya and Afghanistan.

But reporters were most interested in this weekend’s report that the U.S. was dropping plans to keep American troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 pullout date.

On his first visit to Iraq in July, Panetta had famously stated “dammit, make a decision” about the Iraqi government’s inability to decide on whether to ask the U.S. to extend the presence of American troops. 

Since then, the U.S. and Iraq have been holding quiet negotiations that reached a critical point last week when Iraqi leaders said they wanted 5,000 American troops to remain as trainers, though they would not have immunity from prosecution. 

From the U.S. point of view, not providing immunity for its military forces is a deal-breaker.

Monday afternoon, when Panetta was asked if he was frustrated about the lack of a deal with Iraq, he replied, “At the present time, you know, I’m not discouraged because we’re still in negotiations with the Iraqis.”

“At this stage of the game, you know, I think our hope is that the negotiators can ultimately find a way to resolve this issue in terms of what are the Iraqi needs and how can we best meet them, once we’ve concluded our combat operations,” he said.

According to Panetta there is no drop-dead point for the talks.

On recent media reports that some of the 20,000 shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles in Libya have made their way to the Sinai Peninsula bound for Gaza, Panetta said, ” I’m very concerned about the reports.”

“We had dispatched a group there to determine what the situation is, and have yet to get a report as to what the status is. But I do remain concerned about the reports of these weapons being out there,” he said. 

Later, Panetta aides said the “we” Panetta was referring to were the State Department contractors who continue the hunt for the missiles, and that the “there” he was referring to was Libya.

As to when the NATO mission in Libya would wrap up, Panetta said, “We are looking for our commanders to ultimately recommend when they believe that the mission comes to an end."

With fighting still going on in Sirte, Panetta said “our commanders feel the need for us to maintain our presence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nearly All Vets Proud of Their Service, but One in Three Believes Wars Were Not Worth It

Jupiterimages/Comstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new poll from the Pew Research Center out Wednesday finds that one in three U.S. veterans believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, weighing the costs and benefits.

Also from Pew Research, 96% of these veterans feel proud of their military service, yet more than four in ten of them report that they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life at home. Similarly, 37% of these veterans say that they have suffered from post-traumatic stress, though not necessarily formally diagnosed.

More than 700 veterans who served after the September 11th attacks were surveyed as a part of this poll.

The full report includes additional statistics detailing the characterization of post-9/11 veterans, pre- 9/11 veterans, and the general public’s relation with the military.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Toy Truck Saves Six Soldiers

US Dept of Defense(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Staff Sgt. Christopher Fessenden is on duty in Afghanistan now after tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He has traveled with standard-issue equipment -- weapons, helmet, uniform, boots and so forth -- plus a radio-controlled model truck his brother sent.

The truck was not a toy to him. He says it just saved six lives.

"We cannot thank you enough," said Sgt. Fessenden in an email from the front that his brother Ernie, a software engineer in Rochester, Minn., shared with ABC News.

The little truck was used by the troops to run ahead of them on patrols and look for roadside bombs. Fessenden has had it since 2007, when Ernie and Kevin Guy, the owner of the Everything Hobby shop in Rochester, rigged it with a wireless video camera and shipped it to him.

Last week, it paid off. Chris Fessenden said he had loaned the truck to a group of fellow soldiers, who used it to check the road ahead of them on a patrol. It got tangled in a trip wire connected to what Fessenden guesses could have been 500 lbs. of explosives. The bomb went off. The six soldiers controlling the truck from their Humvee were unhurt.

"Monday morning, Ernie comes running into my store and says, 'You're not gonna believe this,'" said Guy, recounting the story in a telephone interview. "I got an email from [Chris] that said, 'Hey, man, I'm sorry, but the truck is gone,'" said Ernie, admitting he still found it all pretty hard to believe. "The neat thing is that the guys in the Humvee were all right."

The military does what it can to protect its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, have been a constant danger.

That was what led Ernie and Kevin to send the model truck, a higher-end model called a Traxxas Stampede. After they added the video camera, with a small monitor Chris could mount on his rifle, Kevin guesses the total cost came to about $500.

In his email, Chris Fessenden said the little truck has successfully found four IEDs since he first got it.

"We do mounted patrols, in trucks, and dismounted by foot," he wrote. "The funny thing is the Traxxas does faster speeds than the trucks we are operating in under the governing speed limit... so the Traxxas actually keeps up with us and is able to advance past us and give us eyes on target before we get there."

A spokesperson for Traxxas tells ABC News Radio this isn't the first time its trucks -- some which could reach speeds of 75 mph -- have been used on the frontlines. Representatives for the company spent weeks with troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan, demonstrating how its vehicles could be used for this purpose -- and give away free vehicles to troops.

Sgt. Fessenden isn't alone in using kids toys to save soldiers' lives. Other troops have reported they've rigged the controllers of remote control cars in the "On" position to safely trigger infrared-detonated IEDs before their vehicles could trip them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


First US Soldier Killed in Iraq for Month of December

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Defense/Petty Officer 2nd Class Ted Green, U.S. Navy(BAGHDAD) -- A U.S. soldier was killed in action in Iraq Wednesday, marking the first death of an American troop in that country for the month of December.

The soldier was killed while conducting operations in Southern Iraq.  The service member's name is being witheld until family members are notified of the death.  The U.S. Department of Defense will release the name after next of kin have been notified.

Officials are investigating the incident.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


WikiLeaks: 400,000 Classified Documents Released

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo Courtesy - BERTIL ERICSON | AFP | Getty Images(LONDON) -- The whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has released a trove of classified reports that it said documented at least 109,000 deaths in the Iraq war, more than the United States previously has acknowledged, as well as what it described as cases of torture and other abuses by Iraqi and coalition forces.

"The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces)," WikiLeaks said in a statement regarding the documents' release. "The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60 percent) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six-year period."

At a news conference in London on Saturday, WikiLeaks said it would soon publish 15,000 additional secret Afghan war documents.

The new documents covered 2004 through 2009, WikiLeaks said, with the exception of May 2004 and March 2009.

A review of the documents by Iraq Body Count, an advocacy group that long has monitored civilian casualties in the war, found 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, according to WikiLeaks -- a detail first reported in The Guardian newspaper, one of a handful of international news organizations that got an advance look at the documents.

The U.S. military long has maintained that it does not keep an official death tally, but earlier this month following a Freedom of Information Act request, the Pentagon said some 77,000 Iraqis had been killed from 2004 to mid-2008 -- a shorter period than that covered by WikiLeaks.

The massive leak of 391,832 documents, which WikiLeaks billed as "the largest classified military leak in history," followed WikiLeaks' similar but smaller release on the war in Afghanistan.

The new release was anticipated by the Pentagon, which has warned that publicizing the information could endanger U.S. troops.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio