Entries in U.S. Military (21)


Two Sailors Arrested for Alleged Rape in Okinawa

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(OKINAWA, Japan) -- Two U.S. Navy sailors have been arrested in Okinawa for the alleged rape of a local woman.  The arrests come at a  rocky time for the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, which is home to half of the 50,000 American military forces based in Japan.

Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker were arrested early Wednesday by Okinawan authorities after a local woman alleged that she had been sexually assaulted and robbed in front of her apartment building.

A Navy official says that at approximately 4 a.m. Tuesday a group of sailors allegedly followed a 27-year-old woman to her residence.

Three sailors were picked up at 6 a.m. after she made a report to Okinawan authorities, but only Browning and Dozierwalker remain in custody.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry lodged a formal protest over the incident with the U.S. embassy in Japan.  Speaking to how seriously the incident is being taken by American diplomats in Japan, the embassy released a statement from U.S. Ambassador John Roos, saying the U.S. government is “extremely concerned” by the allegations.

“We are committed to cooperating fully with the Japanese authorities in their investigation,” he continued. "I am also in close contact with the Commander, U.S. Forces Japan.  These allegations, given their seriousness, will continue to command my full personal attention.”

The Okinawa governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, is expected to fly to Tokyo to lodge a formal complaint with the U.S. embassy in person.

For decades there has been significant local opposition to the continued  presence of large American military bases on the island, particularly the Marine base in Futenma.  The most recent flare-up involved the Marine deployment to the island of tilt rotor Osprey aircraft.  Local government officials said the aircraft posed a safety risk following two recent Osprey crashes that recalled the aircraft’s shaky safety record very early in its development.

There were massive protests on the island in 1995 following the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three U.S. Marines.

Per the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Japan, Japanese authorities are holding the sailors and have primary jurisdiction because it involved a Japanese national.  The Navy’s Criminal  Investigative Service is also conducting its own investigation and providing support to Okinawan authorities.

The Navy official says the sailors are based at Fort Worth Naval Air Base in Texas and were temporarily deployed to Japan as part of the crew of a Navy cargo plane.

The plane’s crew had flown a mission from Atsugi in Japan to Okinawa, but was required to stay the night on the island because of crew rest requirements.

The alleged incident is said to have occurred during their stay.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FBI Investigators Visit US Consulate Attack Site in Benghazi

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. official confirms that an FBI team, under the protection of a U.S. military unit, visited Benghazi for the first time since the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
At a briefing Thursday, Pentagon spokesperson George Little confirmed that the U.S. military's special operations forces transported the team into Benghazi Thursday to visit the damaged U.S. consulate.  Though Little was reluctant to provide specifics, saying he didn’t want to tip off “the wrong people" about the mission, he did say the military unit provided logistical and security support.  He later added that the U.S. military had provided an “airlift” for the visit that that lasted “a number of hours.”

The FBI team surveyed the damage at the consulate building and gathered evidence, Libyan security officials said, according to Voice of America.  Libyan military vehicles sealed off the road leading to the consulate compound to allow for the visit, which had to be approved by the Libyan government.

Asked why it took so long for investigators to visit the attack site, Little said that too much shouldn’t be read into any time delays because the U.S. has been actively investigating the events surrounding the attack.   

"We have not been sitting around waiting, you know, for information to come to us," he said about the investigation.

Little said investigators have been "actively chasing leads in various ways."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan Koran Burning: Investigators Recommend Administrative Punishments

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Military investigators, called in after the burning of Korans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan earlier this year, have recommended that as many as seven U.S. military service members face administrative punishments for their role in the incident.  They are not recommending criminal charges, according to several Defense officials.

A Defense official says as many as six Army soldiers and one sailor face administrative punishments that could range from letters of reprimand to reductions in pay.

Several Defense officials say the investigation’s results have been forwarded to the Army and Navy secretaries.  It will be up to them to determine if they will agree with the investigation’s recommendations or decide if a tougher or lighter punishment is in order.   A Defense official says the investigation’s recommendations for disciplinary action are “pending review” and no decisions have been made.

In February, the burning of Korans in a garbage pit set off rioting in Afghanistan and was likely the reason for the subsequent killings of two Army officers.  At the time Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, apologized for the incident. Officials labeled it inadvertent.

In the wake of the incident, NATO instituted new training so troops in Afghanistan could learn about the proper handling of religious materials.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: U.S. Troop Casualties Down in 2011 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in four years, U.S. military deaths dropped in 2011, USA Today reports. U.S. military troops have recently experienced successful runs against Taliban insurgents and coalition forces.

According to Pentagon reports compiled by USA Today, deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan totaled 405 in 2011 -- an 18-percent decline from the previous year.  Also in 2011, allied deaths, including U.S. outfits, totaled 545 -- down from 699 in 2010. According to the reports, the death toll for coalition forces had been climbing since 2005.

Despite the encouraging numbers, a think tank analyst told USA Today that the declining number of U.S. casualties is not the best gauge for progress in the war with Afghan insurgents.

Although these numbers can impact American public opinion, Seth Jones tell USA Today, "The struggle is for the hearts and minds of the Afghan population."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


13,000 US Troops Remain in Iraq As Drawdown Continues

US Department of Defense(BAGHDAD) -- As Vice President Biden visits Baghdad, he will find that the American military presence in Iraq has dropped significantly since his last visit.  The American military presence in Iraq now stands at 13,000 as the major logistical effort to get all American forces out of Iraq by the end of this year continues.

Just last week the total number of U.S. forces stood at 18,000.

The drawdown of all U.S. troops from Iraq began in September in accordance with the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement reached in 2008 by the Bush administration.

The numbers have decreased significantly since then. In mid-September there were approximately 45,000 American troops in Iraq. By the last week of October there were still 39,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq. That means that 26,000 American service members have left Iraq since then.

U.S. military commanders have said that the bulk of all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by mid-December.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is working on another drawdown, the reduction by year’s end of 10,000 of the 33,000 surge troops sent there last year.

In June, President Obama announced that the surge forces would be reduced in two phases: 10,000 by the end of this year and the remaining 23,000 by the end of next summer.

The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has already been reduced by 4,000 by not replacing some units as they finished their deployments.   In keeping with the Obama administration’s original plan for the surge, the drawdown began in July when two Army National Guard battalions were not replaced when they returned home. However, there were no further troop reductions until last month when a Marine combat battalion that served in the restive Helmand Province was not replaced at the end of its deployment. Defense officials say the bulk of the remaining 6,000 troops coming home in December will be support troops, not combat forces.

When this year’s drawdown of 10,000 surge forces is completed in December, the level of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will remain at 91,000. The next reduction in surge troops likely won’t occur until the last possible moment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Challenging the US Military’s Favorite Tactic in Afghanistan

John Moore/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The tactic that the U.S. military in Afghanistan calls its safest and most effective tool to capture or kill insurgent leaders actually helps turn the Afghan population against the United States, according to a new report released Monday by the liberal Open Society Foundations.

Every night, in an average of eight locations across the country, small teams of special operations forces storm over the walls of Afghan homes, looking for mid-level commanders it believes facilitate or lead insurgent activity against Western troops and the Afghan government, military officials say. According to statistics provided by the military, 85 percent of night raids end without a shot being fired and “just over” 50 percent lead to the capture or death of the target.

But Monday’s report argues that a five-fold percent increase in night raids and a similar increase in detentions from the raids in the last two years have imperiled more civilians than ever before and reinforced Afghan perceptions that the U.S. military uses “night raids to kill, harass, and intimidate civilians with impunity.” That perception, in turn, can push the Afghan population toward the insurgents and against the very people who are there to protect them.

“We’re sacrificing long term interests for short-term gains. You can have a night raid and maybe it will get a terrorist that you’re looking for, perhaps it allows you to gain more information. But in the process, you’ve probably turned that entire family, perhaps their entire community, perhaps their entire tribe, against you,” Erica Gaston, the report’s primary author, told ABC News.

The findings challenge the military’s argument that killing or capturing commanders -- despite the acknowledged risk to Afghan sensitivities -- can help tip the balance away from insurgents. They are especially relevant as the U.S. is expected to rely more on small, pinpointed raids as tens of thousands of troops begin leaving Afghanistan.

The report credits the U.S. military for improving night raids since the uptick began in 2009. It says the intelligence seems more accurate, the partnering with Afghan special forces has risen dramatically, and the troops are more respectful of women in the homes they raid. But despite those improvements, the report says Afghan anger over the raids has “reached a boiling point” and inflamed the population so much, they cause “blowback that endangers not our only own troops but also Afghan civilians,” as Gaston put it in the interview.

Military spokesmen in Afghanistan say night raids are the safest way to target militant leaders. They say civilian casualties during night raids count for only one percent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Above all else, the military argues they are effective.

Military officials said NATO plans to study the report, and that reviews of night raids are ongoing. But they indicated there is no intention to reduce the number of night raids -- 2,900 in the last 12 months, according to a senior NATO official.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Military Intervention in Libya Cost at Least $896 Million

AFPI/US AIR FORCE/US AIR FORCE/kb/jim/jim, mc(WASHINGTON) -- The cost of U.S. military intervention in Libya has cost taxpayers an estimated $896 million through July 31, the Pentagon said Monday.
The price tag includes the amounts for daily military operations, munitions used in the operation and humanitarian assistance for the Libyan people.  
The U.S. has also promised $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libyan Transitional National Council, half of which the Defense Department has already on MRE’s (military lingo for Meals, Ready to Eat).   
The military delivered 120,000 Halal MRE’s to Benghazi in May and a second shipment that included medical supplies, boots, tents, uniforms, and personal protective gear in June.
While Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appears on the way out, NATO says flight missions over Tripoli will continue, with the U.S. playing a role in helping to keep a tight window over the Tripoli area that’s been in effect for weeks.
Over the past 12 days, U.S. planes have flown 391 sorties for a total of 5,316 since April 1.  That total includes 1,210 airstrike missions over the same three-and-a-half-month period. The U.S. has also conducted 101 Predator drone strike missions in Libya.
A U.S. official credited NATO flight cover over the past many months with allowing the Libyan rebels enough time to eventually regroup and begin their pushes.   
One significant offset to the cost of U.S. involvement in the flights, however, has been the sale of military equipment to allies also involved in the cause.  Pentagon officials say the sale of ammunition, replacement parts, fuel, and technical assistance to allies since March has totaled $221.9 million.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Security Firm Uncovers International Cyber Siege

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Major companies and organizations have been under a sustained international cyber attack for several years, according to a report released Wednesday by McAfee.

Investigators for the security firm say the intruders have been in operation for five years and targeted sensitive data from U.S. military, corporate, and other systems.

The cyber spying investigation dubbed "Operation Shady Rat" uncovered a number of groups under siege from the hacking effort, including the United Nations, natural gas companies, a Florida real estate company, the government of Taiwan, and International Olympic Committee.

McAfee officials say 49 of the 72 organizations affected by the cyber attack were based in the U.S.

“We’re facing a massive transfer of wealth in the form of intellectual property that is unprecedented in history,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s vice president of threat research. “Even we were surprised by the enormous diversity of the victim organizations and were taken aback by the audacity of the perpetrators.”

Alperovitch also stirred speculation as to who might be responsible for the attack in saying McAfee believes one "state actor" was behind the intrusion because, "there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks." Vanity Fair, which broke a story on the cyber siege, reports security experts the magazine consulted all pointed fingers at China.

McAfee says it became aware of the breach of security in March and released the 14-page report after working with the targeted organizations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan Commander IDs Three Units to Be Part of July Drawdown

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The No. 2 commander in Afghanistan identified three units that will be part of the troop drawdowns there that are to begin this month. The units comprise the first elements of the drawdown of 30,000 of American troops in Afghanistan, to be completed next September.

In a video conference with Pentagon reporters, Lt. Gen. Dave Rodriguez said the drawdown will consist mostly of outgoing units not being replaced by incoming units, though there will be a few whose tours of duty will be shortened. He did not identify which units will have their tours shortened, but he did say three units currently scheduled to leave will not be replaced.

The top operational commander in Afghanistan said the drawdown is doable because of the growth of the Afghan Security Forces by 90,000 troops this year.  Rodriguez also did not feel the drawdown pace would put troops at risk.  "The decision has been made and now it's our turn to execute the decision," he said. "And we can do that without a significant change in risk."

However, the drawdown and transition will be handled carefully.  Two Army battalions will leave in July and not be replaced, Rodriguez said. The Pentagon later identified the units as two battalions totaling 800 soldiers serving with the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. One of the battalions is based in Kabul, the other in the relatively peaceful province of Parwan located north of the Afghan capital.

Rodriguez also identified the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment as another unit that will not be replaced. Currently serving in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, the 800-Marine combat battalion will not be replaced when it leaves this fall.

According to Rodriguez, the 5,000 troops that draw down this summer will be a mix of combat troops, combat support troops, combat service support units and headquarters units.

The additional 5,000 troops that will come out later this year will be determined by Rodriguez's successor, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparotti, and Gen. Petraeus' successor, Lt. Gen. John Allen, sometime in the fall.

According to Rodriguez, among the factors military planners will use to identify forces to be drawn down will be the ability of local Afghan security forces to "plan and execute and lead operations."

"The real issue for when we can begin the drawdown is when they can accomplish the mission with less of us," he added. "And that less of us starts with infantry soldiers. And the longer-term enabling factors that I just talked about will be what we enable and support them for the foreseeable future."

Overall, Rodriguez said, the situation in Afghanistan is still "fragile and reversible," but it is "starting to get past that level in selected areas."

The drawdown will involve the thinning out of U.S. forces in a given area and redistributing them to areas where they are needed. Rodriguez said that would involve thinning out forces in southern Afghanistan and sending them to more volatile eastern Afghanistan.

Rodriguez said that the overall number of violent attacks in Afghanistan this year has gone up slightly, but at the same time he indicated that the number of effective Taliban attacks has gone down.

While overall attacks have slightly increased, there was a significant increase in direct fire attacks, he said, but "they are very, very ineffective."

In the last six months 1,000 insurgents have been killed or captured, Rodriguez said. That's a 250 percent increase over the same time frame in 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Foreign Allies React to Obama's US Afghan Drawdown Plans

ABC News(LONDON) -- European allies have thrown their support behind President Obama's Afghan drawdown plan.  In their own way, the allies are saying that we've done enough, and it's time to start thinking about getting ready to go home.

"The tide is turning. The Taliban is under pressure everywhere. The Afghan security forces are getting stronger every day," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The tide of public opinion in Europe turned against the campaign long ago, with many saying the war goals were too ambiguous, the involvement too lengthy and the costs simply too high.

British Prime Minister David Cameron fully agreed with the president's assessment. The British leader is behind a progressive reduction in ISAF force levels, and for his combat troops, there is an exit date. By the end of 2014, the combat mission for UK forces will be over.

But until then, there will be lots of work to do.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says, for now, it'll be business as usual.

"In terms of the announcement of the United States, our work in Uruzgan province would continue in the same way," Gillard said.

But even as the combat mission winds over the next few years, a number of contributing nations plan to keep some troops in Afghanistan. Their role, however, will change to one of training.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio