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National Security Correspondent J.J. Green has traveled three continents covering intelligence, terrorism, and security issues. From Afghanistan to Africa, Iraq to Ireland, there isn't anywhere J.J. won't go, nor anyone he won't talk with, to get the stories affecting the defense and national security communities.
You can expect gradual movement of U.S. ships out of the Mediterranean. NATO is taking command of the international military campaign in Libya and is in charge of air strikes, an arms blockade and no-fly zone put in place to protect Libyan civilians from Muamar Ghadafi. The U.S. will still have a role, but it will not be leading the effort. At one point 11 U.S. vessels were stationed in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two guided-missile destroyers and two amphibious assault ships
Two Virginia-based ships are being credited with thwarting a pirate attack on a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel in the Arabian Sea. The Pentagon says the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and the guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf responded Thursday to the Falcon Trader II after the ship reported pirates in a skiff were attempting to board the vessel. The ships dispatched two helicopters to the Philippine vessel, and they fired warning shots. Men were seen jumping from the ship and speeding away in their skiff.
The Pentagon is stopping work on an new engine for the Air Force F-35 fighter jet. This engine was designed to be a back-up. The reason is because of money. The stoppage is expected to last for 90 days. There was no money included in President Obama's budget proposal for the next fiscal year for the project. But budget deliberations continue. Congress is split on the project. Some like, some don't. GE and Rolls Royce are the contractors.
The AP's Donna Cassata writes, "As of Tuesday, the coalition had fired at least 162 sea-launched Tomahawk missiles priced at $1 million to $1.5 million apiece and dispatched B-2 stealth bombers - round-trip from Missouri - to drop 2,000-pound bombs on Libyan sites. Total flying time: 25 hours. Operating cost for one hour: at least $10,000." And that's only a part of the cost.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others said the U.S. military's role will lessen in coming days as other countries take on more missions and the need declines for large-scale offensive action. Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by U.S. ships and submarines off Libya's coast were a part of that action. Senior Defense officials the attacks thus far had reduced Libya's air defense capabilities by more than 50 percent.
Al Qaida in Iraq has claimed responsibility for last week's car bomb attack on an Iraqi army unit that killed at least eight soldiers The bomb targeted an army headquarters in the northern area of Diyala province. 30 others were wounded when it exploded last Monday. Security forces stopped a second attack and defused a car bomb parked at the scene. The attacks in Iraq are a daily occurrence as insurgence continue to attack Iraqi forces knowing that U.S. troops are leaving Iraq totally at the end of this year.
The State Department's senior adviser for non-proliferation and arms control says Iran is approaching the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Robert Einhorn told the Arms Control Association yesterday in his own words, "We believe that at a minimum Iran is moving to the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability." But he clarified that he was referring to their intentions rather than their actual capabilities. Some have speculated Iran could reach the point where it could produce a nuke this year.
Iran wants more information from the U.S. on a former FBI agent who vanished in 2007 claiming they would make an attempt to find him. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week Washington had seen recent indications that Robert Levinson was being held in southwest Asia and appealed to Iran to help find him, despite past frustration that Tehran had ignored U.S. pleas for information about him.
Gulf Arab countries have been thinking about imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. That exercise requires more than just a blank declaration preventing Libya government jets from flying. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress in his own words, "let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses." The question that arises now is what are the Arab states willing to do that? The U.S. is said to be thinking about giving weapons to the rebels fighting the Gadhafi regime, but no firm decision has been made.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is not happy with the slow pace of using unmanned Predator drone aircraft. They've had great success in Afghanistan, dating back to early 2008. Gates told the Air Force Academy Friday that "it's been like pulling teeth" to get more of the planes "because people were stuck in old ways of doing business." Gates also clashed with Air Force leadership over production of the top-of-the-line, F-22 Raptor. He said pressure to build more than twice the number budgeted by the Defense Department is a problem.
According to the Pentagon, two soldiers assigned to the Aberdeen Proving Ground have been killed in Afghanistan. Twenty-five-year-old Staff Sgt. Chauncy Mays of Cookville, Texas, and 22-year-old Spc. Christopher Stark of Monett, Mo., died Monday in Wardak province when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 63rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 20th Support Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground.
There are reports from Iran that small pockets of protestors took to the streets yesterday, inspired by the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Sources say the Iranian government has cleverly refrained from deadly force against the protesters publicly, instead injuring them and sending them to hospitals. Several sources reports however, men and women wearing doctors and nurses uniforms were roaming the hallways, but they are actually members of the notorious Basijee or auxiliary police who work for government. There are reports patients may have been attacked.
The Pentagon has moved some of its forces in the region near Libya into position, but won't say for what. Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan says Pentagon planners are working on various options and contingency plans as the violence aimed at overthrowing the government continues. As a part of that planning, the Pentagon is repositioning some naval and air forces. The U.S. has a regular military presence in the Mediterranean Sea and farther to the south has two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf area.
The Army has to get ready for the future, which includes complex threats from terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction, hostile nation-states capable of nuclear warfare and the modern militaries being assembled in Russia and China. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told West Point cadets on Friday, they are joining a force that has been under pressure, but even though they've been stressed, they've been resilient. This is likely Gates last address to West Point. He's expected to leave the post this year.
Did a U.S. military psychological operations unit in Afghanistan try to persuade visiting U.S. senators to increase war funding? A Rolling Stone magazine article quotes the leader of the Army unit, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes, who seems to substantiate it. According to the article Homes says he objected to what he saw as an illegal use of his team's skills on American citizens. The article said the unit was ordered by Lieutenant General William Caldwell, a three-star commander in charge of training Afghan troops, to target visiting dignitaries.
Kuwait's Ambassador to the U.S. says Kuwait is safe from the kinds of protests that have toppled the governments in Egypt and Tunisia. His Excellency Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah says the protests that have taken place there are a group of people who came there from Iraq, Syria and other places and destroyed their identification papers hoping to convince the government they are Bedouins and be granted citizenship. Why? In Kuwait, Housing is free for all, so is education and there are no taxes.
Stratfor Global Intelligence is reporting Ukrainian pilots were involved in the strafing of Libyan protestors. An Arab diplomat close to the Libyan government told them the MiG pilots were Ukrainian. The Ukrainian military says none of its pilots were involved in the activity. Stratfor also reported on February 21, boats operated by Italians attacked demonstrators in Benghazi and Tripoli. The source's information also indicated that the Egyptian army prevented a convoy of trucks carrying aid to Libya from crossing the border.
Is the U.S. considering movement of forces in the Middle East to respond to Iran's plans to send two warship through the Suez Canal? A spokesman for Secretary Defense Robert Gates says, "we do not discuss the future movement of forces. We do have numerous assets in the region that are prepared to respond to contingencies if necessary." An Israeli official described the Iranian announcement as a public relations stunt.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told senators yesterday if the U.S. captures top al-Qaida leaders Osama Bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, they would likely be sent to the Guantanamo Bay military prison. What does that say about President Obama's plan to close Gitmo? White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president remains committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Carney would not speculate on what would happen in the unlikely event Osama Bin Laden were captured alive.
It may comes as a surprise to some, but the man who helped train the London suicide bomber whose attacks killed 52 people in 2007 has been free for two years. According to court documents Mohammed Junaid Babar, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, faced a 70-year prison sentence, but he cooperated with British and U.S. authorities and was released after five years. Some experts say his level of cooperation since his agreement has been extraordinary.