6 US Soldiers Killed in Copter Crash

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By Cid Standifer and Jon Harper

Stars and Stripes

December 17, 2013

 

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KABUL — Six U.S. servicemembers were killed Tuesday when their helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan; one American on board survived, U.S. defense officials said.

The International Security Assistance Force did not release the names or nationalities of the casualties pending notification of their families. But in Washington, a U.S. defense official said all the victims were Americans.

The official said there was one survivor who was injured in the Black Hawk UH-60 crash. The injured survivor is an American.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the crash, but ISAF said initial reports indicated there was no enemy activity in the area.

Malik Ali Mohammad, district governor of Shahjoi district in southern Zabul province, said an aircraft crashed there at 2 p.m. Tuesday. ISAF officials would not confirm the location of the crash.

The crash brings the total number of ISAF deaths in Afghanistan to more than 150 this year, according to iCasualties.org. It marks the deadliest day for coalition forces in Afghanistan since seven Georgian soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in Helmand province on June 6.

Afghanistan has long been known as a difficult place for pilots to navigate due to its rugged high-altitude terrain. At least 180 aircraft are reported to have crashed or been destroyed during the 12-year war, according to civil aviation safety statistics and published reports on military crashes.

Accidents caused the vast majority of the crashes, and military helicopters belonging to the NATO-led coalition accounted for most of the overall losses. Helicopters are widely used in Afghanistan as inter-theater transports due to the threat posed by roadside bombs and land mines and because the mountainous country lacks modern roads.

In April, there was a series of crashes: A civilian cargo plane crashed in eastern Afghanistan, killing seven civilians; four airmen were killed in the crash of an MC-12 twin-turboprop aircraft, also in Shahjoi district; and on April 3, an F-16 fighter-bomber crashed about 10 miles south of Bagram Air Field, killing the pilot.

In March, two helicopters crashed within a week. The pilot of an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter died when the chopper crashed in Kandahar province. A Black Hawk crashed outside Kandahar city, killing five U.S. servicemembers.

In all of those instances, the NATO-led coalition said no enemy activity was reported.

Additionally, in May a KC-135 tanker aircraft supporting operations in Afghanistan crashed in nearby Kyrgyzstan.

In February, a U.S. helicopter went down in eastern Kapisa province. Coalition officials said no one was seriously injured in that incident, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. It, too, was under investigation.

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Jon Harper reported from Washington. Josh Smith, Alex Pena and Heath Druzin contributed to this report, as did Zubair Babakarkhail and The Associated Press.

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Elders Endorse U.S. Troops’ Presence

Afghan elder, interpreter, US soldier...

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by Tim Craig

Washington Post

November 24, 20013

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KABUL — An emotional showdown between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and 2,500 tribal elders here Sunday ended with some — but not all — of what the United States was hoping for.

The elders endorsed an agreement under which the United States will continue to provide advice and training to Afghan security forces, and conduct counterterrorism operations, after the withdrawal of international combat forces at the end of next year. Although President Obama has yet to indicate the size of a potential post-2014 force, most estimates are that it would include up to 10,000 troops.

Delegates said it was in Afghanistan’s “vital national interest” to have a partnership with the United States, and they urged Karzai not to delay the signing of the bilateral security agreement until after the country holds elections in April.

“President Karzai should promise us, he should sign the [agreement] as soon as possible,” said Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, the former Afghan president who chaired the four-day gathering, known as a loya jirga. “This agreement will be beneficial for the people.”

But Karzai remained defiant, taking the stage during the final hours of the jirga to repeat that his signature will not come easily ~ or quickly. Karzai said he wants additional assurances from Washington that the United States will not meddle in the April elections. He also wants the Obama administration to ensure security within Afghanistan and at the same time to promise that a U.S. soldier will never again enter the home of an Afghan citizen in a military operation.

“Peace, security and a transparent election are preconditions for signing,” Karzai declared. “From now onward, Americans don’t have the right to raid our homes. If they raid our homes one more time, there will be no agreement.”

Secretary of State John F. Kerry praised the elders’ decision to endorse the agreement and urged Karzai to sign it before the end of the year.

“I can’t imagine a more compelling affirmation from the Afghan people themselves of their commitment to a long-term partnership with the United States and our international partners,” Kerry said. “The critical next step must be to get the [agreement] signed in short order.”

When he called for the jirga a few months ago, Karzai said he needed to obtain a national consensus about whether U.S. troops were wanted after next year and if so, under what terms. He said repeatedly in recent weeks that the jirga’s vote would heavily influence his decision on whether to forward the agreement to parliament for final approval.

But faced with strong support for the agreement from the jirga, Karzai remained deeply skeptical. His speech to the delegates Sunday was frequently interrupted by elders who urged him to avoid delays in finalizing the accord.

Uncharacteristically, Karzai appeared to abruptly cut off his prepared comments in the face of the outbursts. “On your behalf, I will continue negotiating,” Karzai said as he quickly walked off the stage.

Unlike in his opening address to the jirga last week, Karzai appeared to stop short of directly stating that he won’t sign the agreement until after his successor is chosen in April. That omission is likely to please U.S. officials, who had been looking for an opening to try to get him to move up his timetable…

Afghan elder, interpreter, ISAF soldier

“We are studying President Karzai’s speech. We continue to believe that signing the agreement as quickly as possible is in the interests of both countries,” said Robert H. Hilton, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

The Obama administration has suggested that there is little room for additional negotiating on the agreement, saying the version now up for consideration was the “final offer.”

But the jirga, whose vote is not binding, set a few conditions before expressing approval of the agreement. Most notably, the elders called for a 10-year time limit on the post-2014 troop presence and said they would seek reparations for damages caused by U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan.

In stark contrast to the jirga delegates’ endorsement of the U.S.-Afghan partnership, Karzai denounced the U.S. government in his remarks Sunday, which were made with U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham in the room.

Karzai said the Obama administration undermined him when it allowed Taliban leaders to establish a temporary office in Doha, Qatar, in June, during an unsuccessful effort by the United States to broker peace talks between the Taliban and Karzai’s government. He accused the Obama administration of interfering in the country’s 2009 elections, which he called an attempt to weaken the Afghan government. And he lashed out at the U.S. military for entering the homes of Afghan civilians.

After Karzai spoke, Mojaddedi pleaded with Karzai to reconsider.

“Mr. President, give us your pledge that you will sign the deal soon,” Mojaddedi said. He added, apparently in jest, that Karzai would have to move out of Afghanistan if there is no long-term security deal with the United States.

Then, in an extraordinary moment in Afghan politics, Karzai returned to the stage so that he and Mojaddedi could briefly debate the matter before the 2,500 delegates and a national television audience.

“They must commit that they will not kill Afghans in their homes,” Karzai insisted, adding, “If they do this, then we will sign.”

As the encounter was ending, Mojaddedi said, “If you don’t sign it, we will be disappointed,” according to an account published by the Associated Press.

“Fine,” Karzai said, as he once again left the stage.

Sayed Salahuddin and Mohammad Sharif contributed to this report.

Afghan Elder 2

Afghan Elder

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Sexual Assault & Military Justice

Competing Reform Proposals

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by Tom Cushing

November 3, 2013

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This month we celebrate Veterans Day (every year on 11/11, as the Armistice ending World War One went into effect in the eleventh hour on that date, 1918). It is a time to honor and support all veterans, living and dead, who have served in the US military. More than 1.4 million men and women on active duty deserve and receive thanks for doing their duties well and faithfully. We can argue about the politics that put them in peril, but few would withhold gratitude for their sacrifice.

This may also be either an excellent or inopportune time to consider a tumor that threatens to sully the reputations of the vast majority of US military and vets. Your mileage may vary, but I was struck this week by the developing Senate push to address sexual misconduct in the ranks. It is important because the statistics are grim and deteriorating, and because there are currently two competing reform proposals sponsored in Congress by women of the same political Party.

First, the stats. In May, the Pentagon estimated that 6.1% of woman and 1.2% of men had been subjected to sexual assault while on active duty, meaning roughly equivalent raw numbers of men and women in the sordid total of 26,000 such cases. That’s up 40% and 33%, respectively from 2010. And while sexual assault is broadly defined, reported rapes constitute a substantial fraction: 3,374 last year alone. The Pentagon also estimated that as many as 7 in 10 sexual assaults go unreported.

Some might conclude that these stats simply reflect greater numbers of men and women of prime reproductive age and inclination working and living in close proximity. That dismissive approach, however, fails to comprehend that rape is not a crime of passion, but a life-threatening attack with a peculiarly devastating real and potential consequences. More men and women together in the ranks is a place to start the concern, not to end it – especially as the roles of women in combat are broadening. The problem urgently needs to be addressed; business as usual won’t do.

And as bleak as the numbers are, stories beat statistics. The assault problem was made –much – worse and more visible when the Air Force officer in charge of preventing it was himself arrested for drunkenly, brazenly groping a woman in a parking lot. Was he a fox in the proverbial henhouse? In fairness, his charges have been changed to functionally equivalent assault and battery, dropping the sexual component. However, the incident highlighted the unbecoming character of the issue and broadened its circulation among the public.

Rape, sexual assault and other crimes within the ranks are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Most of what’s known about the UCMJ is not known to me, but I am at least aware of the crucial role of chain-of-command in that system. Commanding officers have much more control over the initiation, conduct and disposition of charges than their civilian counterparts – say, mayors or governors — could exercise.

And therein lies a primary difference between reform proposals offered by Democrat Senators McCaskill of Missouri, and Gillibrand of New York. The McCaskill bill would remove authority of commanders to overturn jury verdicts, and would mandate dishonorable discharges for those found guilty. She is widely supported by the brass, as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gillibrand goes farther: she would remove commanders’ discretion over whether to pursue charges at all, and turn that decision over to military prosecutors. Victims’ Rights groups generally applaud that approach.

Now, as a general matter, self-policing is a poor means of addressing serious problems. It is too prone to rationalization and excuses born of self-interest, and that’s when it is played straight. It is also easily, privately manipulated. Lord knows we’ve borne witness to other institutions’ failure to adequately come to grips with internal problems of sexual misconduct – with equally tragic results. That said, I’m not a military man, although immediate family members served. I’m personally unfamiliar with the uniqueness of the military culture, in which battlefield survival can depend upon command, control and coordination.

So I’m particularly interested in readers’ thoughts on the competing proposals, especially the opinions of veterans. Are chain-of-command and cohesion so crucial to military effectiveness that Any change in command decision-making would compromise capabilities? Or is this limited exception sufficiently isolated that it will not significantly impact performance – except where it is supposed to do exactly that? Has this problem languished for so long, and become so deeply embedded that it requires a radical response, or can it be handled as another important goal to be achieved – yet another hill to be taken? Is there even an argument that such matters are so far afield from the military mission, and justice so far so elusive, that civilian courts ought to be entrusted with their handling?

We ask a lot of our armed services personnel. The military was ordered racially desegregated well before Brown v. Board of Education, gays in-service recently enjoy greater freedom from discrimination than that provided by civilian federal law, and women are being prepared to participate in mortal combat alongside their brethren-in-arms. There is no doubt that this organizational challenge can be met, as well. But to do so will require at least a new and different kind of commitment demonstrated up and down through the ranks, and a priority it has not commanded, until now. When that’s done, it will bring more, well-deserved honor to military personnel.

Veterans – do you agree it can be done? And what approach do you favor?

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Found at:

http://militaryjusticeforall.com

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Author Tom Cushing’s Blog:

http://www.sanramonexpress.com/blogs/b/raucous-caucus?i=27

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Report by US Representative Nancy Pelosi:

http://www.democraticleader.gov/Pelosi_Statement_on_Presidents_Efforts_to_Prevent_Sexual_Assault_in_Military

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