Entries in War (28)


White House Responds to North Korean Threats

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that the time had come to "settle accounts with the U.S.," the White House responded, calling Kim's comments "unconstructive."

"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

In the statement, Hayden did note that North Korea "has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats," a pattern followed by Friday's threat.

Kim's statements on Friday declared a "state of war" with South Korea. He additionally threatened to respond to any provocation by South Korea or the United States "without any prior notice."

The Pentagon continues to take every North Korean threat seriously. Recently, plans were announced to increase U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar.

"We're concerned that their reach in and beyond the region will be extended over time," said a senior defense official. "That's one reason why it's all the more important to show that the United States is committed to our alliances, interests, and personnel in the Asia-Pacific."

South Korean media reported on Friday that North Korea's missile sites have been the location of increased activity. However, the South Korean government has said that there is no evidence to suggest the threats are anything more than propaganda.

Thousands of North Koreans gathered in Kim Il Sung Square on Friday in support of their leader's strong words. The rally came just one day after U.S. B-2 stealth bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula.

According to USA Today, North Korea's military, while poorly trained and equipped, is large enough to cause significant damage to its southern neighbor, before ultimately falling to a joint effort between South Korea and the U.S.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


North Korean FM: US Using Hatred of NK as Excuse to Start War

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the U.S. tries to extricate itself from an 11-year-long war in Afghanistan, an old nemesis is alleging that Washington is ready to start another one in the Far East.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon told the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that the U.S. has drawn up plans to launch a second Korean War but this time, nuclear weapons will be involved.

The only thing that has stopped Washington from undertaking such a venture, according to Pak, is the military might of Pyongyang.

Nonetheless, Pak warned that just a single event could trigger a thermonuclear conflict that could have a devastating impact on the region and the world.

He defined the U.S. strategy as first launching a "vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation" against North Korea as a prelude to taking over the Korean peninsula with the eventual goal of dominating the entire Asian continent.

Pak claimed the only way to make certain that this scenario doesn't occur is for the U.S. to end all hostilities toward North Korea, which his government refers to as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israelis Suspect Obama Media Leaks to Prevent Strike on Iran

Alex Wong/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Two reports Thursday about Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of an Israeli military strike have analysts in Israel accusing the Obama administration of leaking information to pressure Israel not to bomb Iran and for Iran to reach a compromise in upcoming nuclear talks.

The first report in Foreign Policy quotes anonymous American officials saying that Israel has been given access to airbases by Iran’s northern neighbor Azerbaijan from which Israel could launch airstrikes or at least drones and search-and-rescue aircraft.

The second report from Bloomberg, based on a leaked congressional report, said that Iran’s nuclear facilities are so dispersed that it is “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be…” A strike could delay Iran as little as six months, a former official told the researchers.

“It seems like a big campaign to prevent Israel from attacking,” analyst Yoel Guzansky at the Institute for National Security Studies told ABC News. “I think the [Obama] administration is really worried Jerusalem will attack and attack soon. They’re trying hard to prevent it in so many ways.”

The Foreign Policy report by Mark Perry quotes an intelligence officer saying, “We’re watching what Iran does closely....But we’re now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we’re not happy about it.”

If true, the deal with Azerbaijan “totally changes the whole picture,” says Guzansky, making it far easier for Israel to strike faster and harder, rather than having to fly 2,200 miles to Iran and back over Iraqi airspace.

Thursday’s reports come a week after the results of a classified war game was leaked to The New York Times that predicted that an Israeli strike could lead to a wider regional war and result in hundreds of American deaths. In a column Thursday afternoon titled “Obama Betraying Israel?” longtime defense commentator Ron Ben-Yishai at Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper angrily denounced the leaks as a “targeted assassination campaign.”

“In recent weeks the administration shifted from persuasion efforts vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel’s public opinion to a practical, targeted assassination of potential Israeli operations in Iran,” Ben-Yishai writes. “The campaign’s aims are fully operational: To make it more difficult for Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] to carry out a strike, and what’s even graver, to erode the IDF’s capacity to launch such strike with minimal casualties.”

Ben-Yishai says much of the information in the reports has either been published or is simply wrong, but in the case of the Bloomberg report on American knowledge of Iran’s nuclear facilities, “instead of forcing the Iranians to piece together all the assessments themselves, the Congress report offers them everything in one place.”

The reports pressure both Israel and Iran, fellow Yedioth columnist and military analyst Alex Fishman told ABC News, but he doesn’t buy into the theory that Azerbaijan will be a base for potential Israeli operations.

“I don’t believe that there’s news behind this story because it doesn’t make sense. It’s very romantic, very John le Carre, but less practical,” he says, explaining that the airstrips as they are now are far too basic for a “huge wing of airplanes.”

The report’s purpose is “to show the Iranians that something is going on, to make them much more suspicious, much more nervous. You need this pressure in order to put them in a lower position when negotiations start.”

Iran has agreed to international nuclear talks next month, negotiations that the U.S. hopes will help avert a conflict but that Israel dismisses as a stalling tactic by Iran. Asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the reports as pressure from the Obama administration, an Israeli official indicated that they fall into the very category of “loose talk” of war that President Obama recently criticized.

“When we [Netanyahu's office] were in Washington [in early March], President Obama called publicly for people to tone down the rhetoric,” said the official. “The prime minister has called on ministers not to talk. We agree with Obama that loose talk is not doing anyone any favors.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Israel Loves Iran’ Campaign Gains Force

Iranians Love Iran Campaign(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- As diplomats and journalists dissect every word spoken by top Israeli, Iranian and American officials for signs of a potential Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, an online campaign to prevent just that has gained steam in Israel.

On a sunny Friday in Tel Aviv, a few dozen Israelis gathered on tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard to shoot a video to be posted on YouTube. It was the latest effort in the “Israel Loves Iran” campaign that Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamirm, launched last week

“For there to be a war between us, we must first be afraid of one another, we must hate,” Edry says in a fundraising video already on the site.  “I’m not afraid of you. I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you. No Iranian ever did me … harm. I never even met an Iranian, just one in a museum in Paris -- nice dude.”

Sitting one by one in front of the camera, the mostly young Israelis took turns holding “Iranians, We Love You” placards and saying a few words to the camera in the same vein.

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"The message of this campaign is people to people,” Moti Khemo, who manages the movement’s website, told ABC News.  “We believe that we’re not that different, and most people just want to live in peace.”

The site and its accompanying Facebook page are filled with photos of Israelis from all walks of life and the “Iranians, We Love You” slogan, with the subheader: “We will never bomb you.” On Friday evening, the page had almost 28,000 “likes,” and the campaign has raised more than $16,000 to print  posters and “keep the movement grow[ing].”

Organizers say responses from Iranians around the world have poured in.

"Unfortunately, the stupid politicians in both countries are trying to separate these two rich cultures!” wrote one responder.

One of the more popular posts ricocheting around Facebook is of a man and woman kissing, with him holding up his Israeli passport as she flaunts her Iranian passport.

According to a recent poll, 19 percent of Israelis support a unilateral strike on Iran.

"No one wants to live under any kind of nuclear threat,” said Shai, who was passing by the “Israel Loves Iran” shoot. “We don’t want war, we don’t want anybody to die. Not here, not there. But we are under a threat, what are we supposed to do?”

The participants recognized that it’s a simple message for a very complicated issue, and of course, they can’t promise “we will never bomb you.”

"In today’s world, it’s really more about public awareness, public consciousness,” participant Talia Gorodess told ABC News. “The more people join this campaign, the more, I hope, my government will think twice before doing anything foolish.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Clinton: Lack of Water May Lead to Terrorism, Violence, Failed States

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a message for policy makers on World Water Day: Lack of access to clean water isn’t just an issue of health and sanitation, but national security. Clinton unveiled a new U.S. Intelligence report assessing the threat global water challenges pose to America and the world’s stability. She called the results “sobering.”

The unclassified “Global Water Security: Intelligence Community Assessment,” commissioned by the State Department, found that some of the world’s most unstable regions — North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia — will experience water problems over the next 10 years “that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important U.S. policy objectives.”

Secretary Clinton cited the example of Yemen, an important U.S. ally on the war or terror, as a country where access to water could lead to more instability.

“Hydrologists predict that many wells in Yemen will run dry in as little as 10 years,” said the secretary. “These threats are real and they do raise security concerns.”

Terrorism related to water insecurity is also a concern. The report says physical infrastructure, including dams, have been used as “convenient and high-publicity targets by extremists, terrorists and rogue states,” all factors in the most affected regions.

A senior intelligence official said that although actual wars breaking out over water resources are unlikely in the next 10 years, the chances of violent conflict breaking out within states and across borders will increase greatly over the next 20 years if steps aren’t taken now to help these regions manage what little water they have.

“Water problems when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions — contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure,” stated the report.

At Thursday’s event Secretary Clinton announced a new program, the U.S. Water Partnership, focused on helping vulnerable nations find ways to better use the water they have, and manage diplomacy surrounding shared water sources. So far, the program has 28 partners coming from business, government, humanitarian organizations and universities who will offer advice and solutions at global meetings, and also on a new Web portal.

“It’s exciting that it’s not only about water,” said Secretary Clinton. “It is about security, peace, and prosperity as well.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama: Koran Apology 'Calmed Things Down'

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said his formal apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Korans by U.S. troops last week has "calmed things down" after the incident sparked an outbreak of violence across the country.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Bob Woodruff at the White House. "But my criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission."

The president's comments came just hours before a formal White House dinner to honor Iraq War veterans, some of whom have also served in Afghanistan and may be redeploying there to assist ongoing U.S. military operations. Woodruff was the only journalist invited to attend the dinner.

Obama said his letter to Karzai aimed to curb further danger to U.S. troops on the ground. It reportedly expressed regret for the apparently inadvertent burning of the Korans, the sacred text of Islam, on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

Still, the president's critics and some members of the military have questioned the appropriateness of the move, given the subsequent murder of two U.S. military officers at the hands of an Afghan inside one of the capital's secure ministry buildings.

"Everything else -- the politics or second guessing of these various decisions -- I'm not worried about," Obama said.

Even as he honors the service and sacrifice of veterans who have returned home, Obama said that at Wednesday night's event he will urge troops still fighting in Afghanistan not to recoil from the short-term challenges and to learn from the successful mission in Iraq.

"As difficult as Afghanistan has been, we are making progress because of the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform," Obama said. "The overwhelming majority of Afghan troops have welcomed and benefitted from the training and partnering that we're doing."

"When you think about it, the same thing was true in Iraq," he said. "War is a tough business, and never goes in a perfectly good path. But because of the stick-to-it-ness of our teams, I feel confident that we can stay on a path that, by the end of 2014, our troops will be out and will not be in a combat role, and Afghans will have capacity, just as Iraqis, to secure their own country."

Wednesday's event, themed, "A Nation's Gratitude," is the first of its kind to mark the end of a major war and comes just two and a half months after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq.

A handpicked group of 78 service members selected proportionally from across all military branches, ranks and states will attend, officials said, joined by members of military families, Gold Star families and wounded warriors. They are said to reflect the diversity of the more than 1.5 million Americans who served in Iraq during the nearly nine-year war.

The dinner "is a celebration of the men and women who carried out an extraordinarily difficult mission and did so with honor, integrity, and courage and, as a consequence, were successful in being able to give Iraq a chance to build a representative, democratic country," Obama told Woodruff.

"I am always in awe of the sacrifices they've made and the excellence of their work," he said. "And I think this is just one small gesture among many gestures across the country of gratitude for those folks who gave extraordinary service."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'It's Finished': Last of US Soldiers Leave Iraq

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Camp Victory, once the site of Saddam Hussein's former palace, is a military ghost town now. A base where 70,000 Americans once lived, the base was eerie and barren as the last of the U.S. troops departed Iraq this week with a one-way ticket.

Army Pfc. Joseph Kelley, who was 11 when the war began in 2003, smiled wide as he patrolled Baghdad presumably for the last time Wednesday. He wasn't the only one.

Across the world, in Fort Hood, military families waited anxiously for the return of their loved ones. Five-year-old Scottie Mathews, clutching his "papa bear," had been counting the days for the return of his father, Army Staff Sgt. Ferren Mathews. Across town, Raitasha Green and her three children also waited patiently, as did Jennifer Smitt.

Mathews, Sgt. First Class Larry Green and Staff Sgt. James H. Courter are part of one of the last units to leave Iraq. Among them, they boast 11 tours of the war-torn country.

For Courter, 28, the final departure from Iraq marked the closure of a long and turbulent decade. Just one semester into college, Courter dropped out in 2001 to join the armed forces. His unit was one of the first to be deployed to Iraq when the United States invaded the country in 2003. Since then, Courter has been back four times.

Mathews knows very well what it's like to be in the line of fire. In his three tours in Iraq, the 38-year-old father of three has narrowly survived six bomb attacks. On his last deployment, he barely made it out alive. Mathews was inside a flaming vehicle that was attacked by insurgents, and later featured in one of their videos.

Mathews is thrilled to be coming home, but like many of his counterparts, he is troubled by the personal costs that both Americans and Iraqis have had to pay. Nearly 4,500 Americans and 104,000 Iraqis have died since the war began, and more than 32,000 Americans have been wounded.

The stories of sacrifice run deep among the thousands of soldiers who were deployed to Iraq.

On four tours to Iraq, Green has spent more than half his life in the past nine years away from home, missing birthdays, anniversaries and many "firsts" of his children.

"I look at it like a loss," he said. "I look at it as something that I will never have the opportunity to re-live: First steps, first words, first days of school, and there is no type of accomplishment that I will be able to achieve that will meet me with that satisfaction that I wasn't there to take part in."

To this day, the 33-year-old has continuous nightmares about being in Iraq.

One of his most vivid memories, he recalls, is of killing an 8-year-old boy who was throwing grenades over the military's compound wall in Fallujah.

But like many of his fellow soldiers, Green says without hesitation that if he would have to serve in Iraq, he would do it all over again, "the exact same way." The father of three says he is proud to have played a part in history and moving Iraq into a different direction, one he hopes will be for the better.

Iraq and the United States face a new chapter and a new set of challenges as U.S. troops withdraw. For the United States, the growing influence of Iran on one border and Syria on the other is a continuing cause of concern. Iraq continues to be rocked by Sunni-Shia, Kurdish-Iraqi violence and the absence of a strong, stable regime. The threat of al Qeada also remains, but U.S. generals say it's time for the Iraqi security forces to take over.

"We know that al Qaeda is going to do what they've always done," Gen. Lloyd Austin said. "They are going to continue to try to focus on the government and the Iraqi security forces. And the Iraqi security forces are going to have to deal with that, and I think they can."

"They are going to have to work hard at it. They are going to have to improve their intelligence. They are going to have to continue to work on their logistics as well, that's still a work in progress."

For U.S. soldiers leaving Iraq, this week is momentous.

"I stopped, took a second, looked around, smelled the air as only Iraq can smell, saw the sunset," Courter said, laughing, of what's expected to be his last departure from the country. "It was an indescribable feeling, knowing you had been here so much, all the cost of what we have done here. It's finished."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Mark End of the War in Iraq

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will visit Fort Bragg, N.C., next week to “speak about the extraordinary milestone of bringing the war in Iraq to an end.”

The president and his wife will salute the end of the war, and the combat forces who fought there as well as all military families during the event on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Fort Bragg is one of the U.S. Army installations that has deployed thousands, and is helping to close down operations in Iraq by the end of the month.

The ceremony to mark the end of the Iraq was comes about 8.5 years after President George W. Bush stood beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare “the end of major combat operations” in Iraq.

Fort Bragg’s commander Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, who is also deputy commanding general (operations ) for U.S. Forces-Iraq, told reporters he’d like to have his troops home before Christmas, but logistics of closing down bases will make that difficult.

“You just can’t leave equipment in Iraq or Kuwait,” Helmick told reporters. “We have to do what is responsible and that is to make sure all of the equipment is accounted for, all of the people are accounted for and all of the ammunition is accounted for. It’s a very, very arduous process and we’re trying to streamline that process to make it as efficient as possible.”

“We’ve closed about 70 bases and we’ve moved roughly 100,000 soldiers and civilians since September of this year,” he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Considering Reducing Military Involvement in Afghanistan in 2012?

ISAF/Pfc. Cameron Boyd(WASHINGTON) -- Is the U.S. preparing to "cut and run" from Afghanistan sooner than originally intended?

There are reports that the Obama administration is exploring ways to move up the timetable of transferring the coalition's security responsibilities to Afghanistan's army and police from 2014 to next year.

Such a plan holds greats risks, since it's generally accepted that the Afghan military is still weak, understaffed and under-equipped and could be easily overcome by a resurgent Taliban intent on retaking control of the country.

However, the White House is mindful that the public has grown weary of the 10-year-long war that seems to have accomplished its goals of killing Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, wiping out al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan and at least establishing a quasi-democratic Afghan government.

Political talking points aside, al Qeada and the Taliban are far from finished with the war-torn country. U.S. deaths in Afghanistan have risen dramatically over the past few years. The cost of paying for the war continues to harm the American economy.

One senior defense official also said that an end to direct military involvement in Afghanistan doesn't mean the war will suddenly come to a halt, adding, "It's not like we're...going to move to train, advise and assist and just let the Afghans do everything on their own and we're not fighting bad guys."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Condoleezza Rice’s Retrospect on Iraq: ‘We Could Have Done Better’

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- She served eight years in the Bush administration as national security advisor and secretary of state, and now Condoleezza Rice is out with a memoir, No Higher Honor, where she paints a detailed picture of policy making while conducting two wars.

Though she never directly addressed it in her book, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked her the question on many people’s minds -- if she thought the war in Iraq was worth the sacrifice in lives lost and money spent.

“Now, we didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis.  And I try in the book to really explain that that wasn’t the purpose,” Rice said.

“This was a security threat of Saddam Hussein, who had started wars before, used weapons of mass destruction, was shooting at aircraft in the no-fly zone, was still threatening his neighbors, had tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush, was a cancer in the Middle East and a great source of that volatility in the Middle East, needed to be dealt with,” she said.  “And I, as much as anybody, understand and really regret the cost, particularly in lives.  But I also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.”

Rice remained confident that Hussein was not “removable by any other means” and writes in her book that she’s “grateful that today’s concern is not an impending nuclear arms race between Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.”

But don’t we know now that Hussein had no meaningful nuclear weapons program?

“He had the scientists, he had the infrastructure,” Rice said.  “He was buying all kinds of stuff through front companies.  He had not reconstituted it.  But the idea that Saddam Hussein had given up on weapons of mass destruction, I think, is simply ahistorical... And I cannot imagine that Saddam Hussein watching Iran move along a nuclear path [and not reacting], given all the infrastructure he had, given all the knowledge he had, given that we know that when in 1991, the inspectors got there, he was far closer to his nuclear device than they thought.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio