Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Hizballah ("Party of God") is a Lebanon-based organization whose stated mission is the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state and the destruction of the State of Israel. Hizballah regards the United States as its enemy in this struggle and has pursued its mission through, among other things, attacks on civilian targets. Hizballah operates a television station in Lebanon known as Al Manar ("the beacon") to cultivate support, including raising funds and recruiting volunteers for attacks. Hizballah was designated on October 8, 1997, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. On October 31, 2001, Hizballah was further designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and Al Manar itself was so designated on March 23, 2006.
In pleading guilty, Elahwal admitted that between approximately September 2005 and August 2006, he knowingly provided satellite transmission services to Al Manar, for which he was paid thousands of dollars. Elahwal admitted that he knew that Al Manar was operated by Hizballah and that Hizballah had engaged in acts of terrorism as defined by federal law.
Elahwal pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum penalty of fifteen years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for February 19, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. before Judge BERMAN in Manhattan federal court.
On December 23, 2008, Elahwal’s co-defendant, Javed Iqbal, also pleaded guilty to providing material support to Hizballah. His sentencing is scheduled for March 24, 2009, at 12:45 p.m. before Judge Berman.
Mr. Dassin praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force in conducting the investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Eric Snyder and David S. Leibowitz are in charge of the prosecution.
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Monday, December 29, 2008
"These accusations are patently false and constitute an unprecedented demonstration of deep bias against Israel in a statement from a president of the United Nations General Assembly," said Lauder. "As Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist organization that is running Gaza, has placed its rocket launchers and munitions amongst the crowded civilian population and hides among those very citizens while it wages missile warfare on innocent Israeli citizens, it alone bears the blame for the civilian casualties. Israel has specifically targeted Hamas installations of terror and used pinpoint strikes in order to do its utmost to avoid hitting civilians."
"The international community for far too long has ignored the thousands of rockets and Qassam missiles rained down on Israeli towns from Gaza, even during a 'lull', continued Lauder. "A first and final responsibility of a state is to protect its citizens. Not only has Israel showed remarkable restraint and care to avoid citizen casualties, truckloads bearing massive amounts of aid are being sent to Gaza from Israel in a generous humanitarian gesture. It is finally time for the international community to recognize that Israel has the right and obligation to defend her citizens from unrelenting attack, as has every other member state in the United Nations. We hope that the United Nations will finally see the light and stand up for Israel's right to defend itself against a terrorist organization bent on undermining any remote chance for peace."
The World Jewish Congress is the international organization representing Jewish communities in over 80 countries around the world. The WJC serves as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people to governments and international organizations.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Staten Island Satellite TV Operator Pleads Guilty to Providing Material Support to Hizballah TV Station
According to the criminal Complaint, the count (Count Two) of the Superseding Indictment to which IQBAL pleaded guilty, and statements during the guilty plea proceeding before United States District Judge RICHARD M. BERMAN:
Hizballah ("Party of God") is a Lebanon-based organization whose stated mission is the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state and the destruction of the State of Israel. Hizballah regards the United States as its enemy in this struggle and has pursued its mission through, among other things, attacks on civilian targets. Hizballah operates a television station in Lebanon known as Al Manar ("the beacon") to cultivate support, including raising funds and recruiting volunteers for attacks. Hizballah was designated on October 8, 1997, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. On October 31, 2001, Hizballah was further designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist,and Al Manar itself was so designated on March 23, 2006.
IQBAL operated a satellite television service known as HDTV Limited, d/b/a HDTV Corporation, that maintained certain of its satellite equipment at IQBAL's residence on Staten Island.
IQBAL admitted that between approximately September 2005 and August 2006 he provided satellite transmission services to Al Manar, in exchange for thousands of dollars in payments from Al Manar.
IQBAL pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum penalty of fifteen years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24, 2009, at 12:45 p.m. before Judge BERMAN in Manhattan federal court.
Mr. DASSIN praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force in conducting the investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys ERIC SNYDER and DAVID S. LEIBOWITZ are in charge of the prosecution.
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Member of Afghan Taliban Sentenced to Life in Prison in Nation's First Conviction on Narco-Terror Charges
Khan Mohammed, 38, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to serve the two life sentences concurrently as well as 60 months of supervised release, served consecutively, for each of the two counts of conviction following the prison term. Mohammed was convicted on May 15, 2008, after a seven-day jury trial on one count of distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin knowing and intending that it be imported into the United States and one count of narco-terrorism, or the distribution of a controlled substance (in this case heroin and opium) in order to provide something of pecuniary value to a person or group that has engaged or is engaging in terrorist activity. The conviction represented the first time a defendant had been convicted in U.S. federal court of narco-terrorism since the statute was enacted in March 2006.
Mohammed, an Afghan national, was arrested on Oct. 29, 2006, near Jalalabad, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan. Mohammed waived extradition and was brought from Afghanistan to the United States in November 2007.
"A violent jihadist and narcotics trafficker, Khan Mohammed sought to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan using rockets," said Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich. "Today's life sentences match the gravity of the crimes for which he was convicted."
"The conclusion of Khan Mohammed's prosecution demonstrates DEA's ability and determination to go to the far corners of the world to bring to justice narco-terrorists who seek to harm Americans," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Today's strong sentence in this groundbreaking case is the result that can be expected by those who support terrorism by trafficking in narcotics."
The evidence at trial established the following:
The investigation began in August 2006 when a concerned Afghan farmer (testifying under the pseudonym "Jaweed") approached Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents through local Afghan law enforcement. He provided them with information that the Taliban in Peshawar, Pakistan, had attempted to recruit him to conduct a rocket attack on the Jalalabad Airfield, a facility used jointly by U.S. and NATO forces in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. The Taliban identified their local operations coordinator as Khan Mohammed, who was then a village elder in the Chaprahar District of Nangarhar Province, and with whom Jaweed was familiar.
Jaweed, agreeing to wear a recording device, met with Mohammed, who discussed prior attacks he had committed on government vehicles and facilities, confirmed that he was aware of the plan to attack the airfield, and discussed with Jaweed acquiring rockets and other munitions to conduct attacks on Americans, other Westerners and those Afghans who collaborated with them, stating "[t]he Americans are infidels and Jihad is allowed against them. If we have to fire [the missiles] toward the airport, we will do it and if not the airport, wherever they are stationed we will fire at their base too. I mean we have to use the mines too. God willing, we and you will keep doing our Jihad." Frequently during later conversations, additional references were made by Mohammed concerning the need to obtain rockets, meetings planned with other Taliban members, and the need to eliminate "infidels," a term Mohammed used to identify Americans, British, and other coalition forces, as well as Afghan citizens who assisted them. Evidence introduced at trial also proved that Mohammed previously engaged in similar terrorist rocket attacks against Afghan government targets.
During their initial interviews of Jaweed, the DEA agents were told that Mohammed had previously been involved in opium and heroin trafficking. This was later confirmed by Mohammed during several recorded conversations. Over this series of recorded conversations, Mohammed agreed to act as a broker for the purchase of opium, selecting the opium seller and negotiating on Jaweed's behalf.
In mid-September 2006, Mohammed accompanied Jaweed to an opium dealer's house, where, on videotape shown at trial, Mohammed was seen inspecting opium, handling negotiations and assisting Jaweed in the purchase of 11 kilograms. On later learning that the opium was intended for conversion into heroin to be imported into the United States, Mohammed replied, "[G]ood, may God turn all the infidels to dead corpses."
After purchasing the opium, Mohammed expressed his willingness to also sell heroin, particularly since it would be going to the United States. As Mohammed stated at various times, "Jihad would be performed since they send it to America," and "[m]ay God eliminate them right now, and we will eliminate them too. Whether it is by opium or by shooting, this is our common goal..." At the request of the DEA, Jaweed approached Mohammed to purchase heroin. On Oct. 18, 2006, Mohammed was seen on videotape shown at trial, in the presence of his four-year-old son, distributing two kilograms of heroin to Jaweed.
According the evidence presented at trial, the Taliban are an ultraconservative, Islamic militia that has continued to mount an insurgency against the Afghan government since it was removed from power in Afghanistan by Coalition forces in late 2001. According to court documents, as early as 1999, when the Taliban controlled much of Afghanistan, the United States recognized that they were facilitators of terrorism. DEA agents testified at trial that the Taliban has taken on a central role in every stage of opium/heroin production and transportation, relying on it as a principal source of funding for its activities. One agent testified that more than 50 percent of DEA cases have a definitive Taliban dimension.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Matthew Stiglitz, Deputy Chief for Litigation Julius Rothstein and paralegal Arianne Tice from the Criminal Division's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The investigation was led by the DEA, in close cooperation with Afghan law enforcement.
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Monday, December 22, 2008
To mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 yesterday, families of the victims and many of the investigators who helped solve the case joined together at Arlington National Cemetery to bear witness that lost loved ones will never be forgotten and that the fight against terrorism will never stop.
On December 21, 1988, Flight 103 exploded over Scotland as it headed from London to New York. All 259 passengers onboard died—189 of them Americans—along with 11 Scots on the ground when the plane crashed in the small town of Lockerbie.
“It is perhaps of some significance that this terrorist act took place on December 21, the longest night of the year,” FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told the crowd of about 200 family members
The families—from grandparents to infants—came together on a blustery winter day for a ceremony that included laying wreaths at a memorial cairn dedicated in 1995. Many wore blue scarves that said “WE REMEMBER” with the name of their lost loved one inscribed along with the date—“12.21.88.”
From the devastation, however, the victims’ families came together and found strength as well as a purpose: to be a voice for those who had died. And the FBI and Scottish authorities, along with law enforcement organizations and intelligence agencies around the world, cooperated in unprecedented ways to investigate one of the most complicated cases of international terrorism we had ever seen.
Ultimately, the evidence led to Libyan intelligence agents, and in 2001, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing. A co-defendant was found not guilty. The Libyan government formally accepted responsibility for the bombing and agreed to pay $3 billion to the victims’ families.
The case holds special significance for Mueller, who in 1988 was Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and headed up the investigation. “Let me say that I was confident then, and I remain confident to this day, that those we convicted were responsible for this terrorist act,” he said.
Mueller noted that while the passage of 20 years “may dull the deepest wounds, it cannot make them disappear. But time also provides a way forward,” he said, applauding the families for their successful advocacy to improve aviation security and to keep the threat of terrorism in the public eye.
“It may have been easier to turn from this tragedy and to find peace in a more private way,” he said, “but you have continued to push government officials to recognize the danger of terrorism, here at home and abroad.”
Fighting terrorism, he added, “remains the Bureau’s top priority. For those of us in the FBI, our work is not merely finding and prosecuting those who would do us harm. It is making sure that other families will not suffer as you have.”
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After 5½ days of deliberations, which began Dec. 17, the jury convicted Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, brothers Dritan Duka, Shain Duka and Eljvir Duka and Serdar Tatar on Count One of the seven-count Superseding Indictment that charged them with conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military. The jury acquitted each of defendants of Count Two, which charged attempt to murder members of the U.S. military.
For the conspiracy conviction only, each of the defendants faces a sentence of any number of years up to life in prison.
The case was tried by Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Hammer, Jr., Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Terrorism Unit. U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler, who presided over the 12-week trial, scheduled sentencing of the three Duka brothers for April 22. Judge Kugler scheduled sentencing of Shnewer and Tartar on April 23.
The remaining counts of the Superseding Indictment, which was returned in January, charged the three Duka brothers, who are illegal immigrants, and Shnewer with firearm offenses; including possession of machine guns. See below for conviction details on each of the defendants.
The defendants’ arrests occurred on May 7, 2007, in Cherry Hill as Dritan and Shain Duka were meeting a confidential government witness to purchase four automatic M-16 rifles and three semi-automatic AK-47 rifles to be used in a future attack on military personnel. The other defendants were arrested at various locations at about the same time.
“These men planned, trained and ceaselessly talked unambiguously about their intention to ambush and kill U.S. soldiers,” said Marra. “The word should go out to any other would-be terrorists of the homegrown variety that the United States will find you, infiltrate your group, prosecute you and send you to a federal prison for a very long time.”
“Vigilance was the key to disrupting the dangerous terrorists convicted today and we are glad they are off the street,” said Janice K. Fedarcyk, Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI. “We appreciate the tip from an alert citizen who reported this suspicious activity to law enforcement. Without tips from concerned citizens or cooperation from our law enforcement partners, it is much more difficult to safeguard our nation and protect the
United States from terrorist attack.”
“Today's verdicts underscore the need for continued vigilance against homegrown terror threats,” said Patrick Rowan, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “While these defendants were not members of an international terrorist organization, their involvement in weapons training, their surveillance of domestic targets and their discussions of killing U.S. military personnel posed a serious threat that required the law enforcement disruption and the prosecutions upheld by the jury today.”
In convicting the defendants, the jury found that one member of the group conducted surveillance at Fort Dix and Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia. The co-conspirator obtained a detailed map of Fort Dix, where they hoped to use assault rifles to kill as many soldiers as possible,
according to trial testimony and evidence.
During the trial, the jury viewed secretly recorded videotapes of the defendants preforming small-arms training at a shooting range in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and watching training videos amongst themselves that included depictions of American soldiers being killed and of known foreign Islamic radicals urging jihad against the United States.
The defendants and the charges on which each was convicted are as follows:
• Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 23, of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the members of the U.S. military, and the attempted possession of AK-47 semi-automatic assault weapons to be used in the attack.
• Dritan Duka, 30 of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military; possession of machine guns; possession and attempted possession of machine guns in furtherance of a crime of violence; and two counts of possession of firearms by an illegal alien.
• Shain Duka, 27, of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military; possession of machine guns; possession and attempted possession of machine guns in furtherance of a crime of violence; and two counts of possession of firearms by an illegal alien.
• Eljvir Duka, 25, of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military, and possession of firearms by illegal aliens. The jury acquitted on one count of possession and attempted possession of machine guns in furtherance of a crime of violence.
• Serdar Tatar, 25, of Philadelphia: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military.
A sixth co-defendant, Agron Abdullahu, 26, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, pleaded guilty before Judge Kugler on Oct. 31, 2007, to aiding and abetting the Duka brothers’ illegal possession of weapons. Abdullahu was arrested on May 7, 2007, along with the defendants convicted today. On March 31, 2008, Judge Kugler sentenced Abdullahu to 420 months in federal prison.
The charge of conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military carries a sentence of any number of years up to life in prison. The charge of possession of a machine gun in furtherance of a crime of violence carries a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment. The charge of attempted possession of AK-47 semi-automatic assault weapons to be used in the attack carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Each count of unlawful possession of machine guns carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. Each count of being an illegal alien in possession of firearms carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison.
Marra credited the Special Agents of the FBI's Philadelphia Division and the FBI South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Fedarcyk, in Philadelphia, for investigation of the case.
Marra and Fedarcyk also thanked investigators with member agencies of the FBI South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force, which comprises ICE’s Philadelphia Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John P. Kelleghan, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, under the direction of the Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk, NJ State Police, under the direction of Col. Joseph "Rick" Fuentes, Superintendent, and the Delaware River Port Authority Police, under the direction of Chief Dave McClintock, for their tireless efforts on the investigation.
Additionally, Marra and Fedarcyk would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance and support: the U.S. military services at Fort Dix, Fort Monmouth, Dover Air Force Base, and the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia, along with the Cherry Hill Police Department, Mt. Laurel Police Department, Cherry Hill Fire Department, Camden County Sheriff's Department, Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, and N.J. Homeland Security.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Leading Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organizations Urge Obama Not to Create On-Shore Guantanamo System
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear President-elect Obama:
As heads of four prominent civil liberties and human rights organizations, we wish to convey our uniform position on the steps we believe should be taken once you fulfill your pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Our groups firmly advocate an unqualified return to America's established system of justice for detaining and prosecuting suspects. We categorically oppose the creation of any other ad-hoc illegal detention system or "third way" that permits the executive branch to suspend due process and hold suspected terrorists without charge or trial, essentially moving Guantanamo on-shore.
As you know, the Geneva Conventions allow for the detention of enemy soldiers captured on the battlefield until the cessation of international armed conflict. But what is new -- and altogether radical -- is the notion that a wartime detention model can be applied to something as amorphous as a "war on terror" that lacks a definable enemy, geographical boundary, or the prospect of ending anytime soon. If a conflict exists everywhere and forever, empowering the government to detain combatants until the end of hostilities takes on a whole new and deeply disturbing meaning.
We are confident that when you take office, you will immediately set a date certain for closing Guantanamo. The new Justice Department should conduct a fresh review of all detainee records to determine whether there is legitimate evidence of criminal activity. Where there is not, detainees should be repatriated to their home countries for trial or release. If there is a risk of torture or abuse in their home countries, they should be transferred to third countries that will accept them or admitted to the United States.
Where evidence of criminal activity does exist, detainees should be prosecuted in traditional federal courts. Contrary to the views of proponents of detention without trial who argue that America's existing courts can't handle terrorism prosecutions, the United States justice system has a long history of handling terrorism cases without compromising fundamental rights of defendants while accommodating sensitive national security issues. In fact, a recent analysis of more than 100 successfully prosecuted international terrorism cases conducted by two former federal prosecutors for Human Rights First found that "the justice system ... continues to evolve to meet the challenge terrorism cases pose." Our courts have proven that they can handle sensitive evidence. The Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) outlines a comprehensive set of procedures for federal criminal cases involving classified information. Applying CIPA over the years, courts have successfully balanced the need to protect national security information, including the sources and means of intelligence gathering, with defendants' fair trial rights.
Some have argued that the best way to deal with the toughest cases at Guantanamo would be to establish what amounts to another unconstitutional detention system once the island prison camp is shut down. The proponents of this school of thought claim that there are some detainees who are too dangerous to be released but who cannot face criminal charges. This is mostly based on the assumptions that some detainees have committed crimes not covered by American law, that some cases rely on sensitive national security information that cannot be disclosed in open court, and that the evidence against some detainees would not be admissible in a regular court because it was coerced through torture or abuse.
But federal prosecutors have an imposing array of prosecutorial weapons at their disposal, including laws that criminalize conspiring or attempting to commit homicide, harboring or concealing terrorists, and providing "material support" to terrorist organizations. The government can secure a conviction for conspiracy by showing only an agreement to commit a crime against the United States and any overt act in furtherance of that agreement. If the government cannot meet that minimal burden of proof, it is difficult to see why it should continue to detain a suspect.
It is true that many of the statements obtained from detainees through abusive interrogation would not be admissible in a court of law. But the fact that the American justice system prohibits imprisonment on the basis of evidence tortured out of prisoners is one of its strengths, not a weakness; it's why we call it a "justice system" in the first place. Moreover, one would hope that if a prisoner were as guilty or dangerous as claimed, the government would be able to gather enough admissible evidence to prove its case from untainted sources, such as computers or cell phones that were seized, conversations that were intercepted, or physical surveillance that was conducted.
But most importantly, to create a whole new detention system and enact new legislation to accommodate the Bush administration's shameful torture policies would be a legal and moral catastrophe. Even the most unequivocal repudiation of torture would be hollow if your administration were to construct another regime to hide its occurrence and evade its consequences.
The lessons from the military commissions debacle should be heeded. It is not possible to create a brand new system of justice from scratch in the United States without enduring years of litigation and controversy. Any new national court system or regime that allows detention without due process will be challenged, most likely all the way to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, there will be massive controversy and uncertainty about the fate of detainees caught up in it.
There's no doubt the Bush administration's abhorrent detention policies have left you, the American people and the entire world with a huge mess to clean up. At the same time, you have inherited a huge opportunity to lead America on its journey to regain its values and credibility. This cannot be done with half-steps. There's no such thing as "sort of upholding our principles to the extent possible." We strongly urge you to uncompromisingly restore America's role as a nation that stands for decency, justice and the rule of law.
With gratitude for your consideration in this matter,
Anthony D. Romero
American Civil Liberties Union
Amnesty International USA
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Text of a Letter from the President To The Speaker Of The House Of Representatives And The President Pro Tempore Of The Senate
Dear Madam Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
I am providing this supplemental consolidated report, prepared by my Administration and consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148), as part of my efforts to keep the Congress informed about deployments of U.S. combat-equipped Armed Forces around the world. This supplemental report covers operations in support of the war on terror and in Kosovo.
THE WAR ON TERROR
Since September 24, 2001, I have reported, consistent with Public Law 107-40 and the War Powers Resolution, on the combat operations in Afghanistan against al-Qaida terrorists and their Taliban supporters, which began on October 7, 2001, and the deployment of various combat-equipped and combat-support forces to a number of locations in the Central, Pacific, European, Southern, and Africa Command areas of operation in support of those operations and of other operations in our war on terror.
I will direct additional measures as necessary in the exercise of the right of the United States to self-defense and to protect U.S. citizens and interests. Such measures may include short-notice deployments of special operations and other forces for sensitive operations in various locations throughout the world. It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces necessary to counter the terrorist threat to the United States.
United States Armed Forces, with the assistance of numerous coalition partners, continue to conduct the U.S. campaign to pursue al-Qaida terrorists and to eliminate support to al-Qaida. These operations have been successful in seriously degrading al-Qaida's training capabilities. United States Armed Forces, with the assistance of numerous coalition partners, ended the Taliban regime and are actively pursuing and engaging remnant al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is approximately 31,000, of which approximately 13,000 are assigned to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The U.N. Security Council authorized ISAF in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1386 of December 20, 2001, and has reaffirmed its authorization since that time, most recently for a 12-month period from October 13, 2008, in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1833 of September 22, 2008. The mission of ISAF under NATO command is to assist the Government of Afghanistan in creating a safe and secure environment that allows for continued reconstruction and the exercise and extension of Afghan authority. Currently, more than 40 nations contribute to ISAF, including all 26 NATO Allies.
The United States continues to detain several hundred al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who are believed to pose a continuing threat to the United States and its interests. The combat-equipped and combat-support forces deployed to Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations since January 2002 continue to conduct secure detention operations for the enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay.
The U.N. Security Council authorized a Multinational Force (MNF) in Iraq under unified command in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1511 of October 16, 2003, and reaffirmed its authorization in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 of June 8, 2004, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1637 of November 8, 2005, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1723 of November 28, 2006, and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1790 of December 18, 2007, set to expire on December 31, 2008. Under Resolutions 1546, 1637, 1723, and 1790, the mission of the MNF is to contribute to security and stability in Iraq. These contributions have included, but have not been limited to, assisting in building the capability of the Iraqi security forces, supporting the development of Iraq's political institutions, improving local governance, enhancing ministerial capacity, and providing critical humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the Iraqis. The U.S. contribution to the MNF fluctuates over time depending on the conditions in theater as determined by the commanders on the ground; the current U.S. contribution to the MNF is approximately 152,035 U.S. military personnel.
In furtherance of our efforts against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the United States, its friends and allies, and our forces abroad, the United States continues to work with friends and allies in areas around the globe. These efforts include the deployment of U.S. combat-equipped and combat-support forces to assist in enhancing the counterterrorism capabilities of our friends and allies. United States combat-equipped and combat-support forces continue to be located in the Horn of Africa region.
In addition, the United States continues to conduct maritime interception operations on the high seas in the areas of responsibility of all of the geographic combatant commanders. These maritime operations have the responsibility to stop the movement, arming, or financing of international terrorists.
NATO-LED KOSOVO FORCE (KFOR)
As noted in previous reports regarding U.S. contributions in support of peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo, the U.N. Security Council authorized Member States to establish KFOR in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 of June 10, 1999.
The original mission of KFOR was to monitor, to verify, and, when necessary, to enforce compliance with the Military Technical Agreement between NATO and Serbia (formerly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), while maintaining a safe and secure environment. Today, KFOR deters renewed hostilities and, with local authorities and international police, contributes to the maintenance of a safe and secure environment that facilitates the work of the United Nations Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the European Union (EU)-led International Civilian Office, and the evolving EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).
Currently, 25 NATO nations contribute to KFOR. Eight non-NATO countries also participate by providing military and other support personnel to KFOR. The U.S. contribution to KFOR is about 1,500 U.S. military personnel, or approximately 9 percent of KFOR's total strength of approximately 15,500 personnel.
The U.S. participating forces in KFOR have been assigned to the eastern region of Kosovo but also have operated in other areas of the country based on mission requirements. For U.S. KFOR forces, as for KFOR generally, helping to maintain a safe and secure environment remains the principal military task. The KFOR operates under NATO command and control and rules of engagement. The KFOR currently coordinates with and supports UNMIK within means and capabilities and has provided similar assurances of cooperation to EULEX. The KFOR provides a security presence in towns, villages, and the country-side; and organizes checkpoints and patrols in key areas to provide security, to protect all elements of the population living in Kosovo, and to help instill a feeling of confidence in all ethnic communities throughout Kosovo.
NATO continues periodically to conduct a formal review of KFOR's mission. These reviews provide a basis for assessing current force levels, future requirements, force structure, force reductions, and the eventual withdrawal of KFOR. NATO adopted the Joint Operations Area plan to regionalize and rationalize its force structure in the Balkans.
The UNMIK international police and Kosovo Police Service (KPS) have primary responsibility for public safety and policing throughout Kosovo. The UNMIK international police and KPS also have assumed responsibility for guarding some patrimonial sites and operating border crossings. The KFOR supports these police forces when requested and augments security in particularly sensitive areas or in response to particular threats as events on the ground dictate.
I have directed the participation of U.S. Armed Forces in all of these operations pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. Officials of my Administration and I communicate regularly with the leadership and other Members of Congress with regard to these deployments, and we will continue to do so.
GEORGE W. BUSH
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Monday, December 8, 2008
While the President has repeatedly acknowledged the mistakes in the pre-war intelligence, there is no support for the Times' claim that the President and his national security team "knew or should have known [the intelligence] to be faulty" or that "pressure from the White House" led to particular conclusions. Nothing in the many inquiries conducted into these matters supports the view of the Times' Editorial Board. Indeed, the independent Silberman-Robb Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that no political pressure was brought to bear on the Intelligence Community.
As the President has stated, he regrets the intelligence was wrong, but it was intelligence that members of Congress, foreign governments as well as the Administration all believed to be accurate. Working with Congress, the President has since put in place a number of intelligence reform measures to try to ensure that such mistakes do not happen again.
While Saddam Hussein did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, he was a threat, and his removal has opened the door to a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East that is an ally of the United States.
The New York Times continues to have difficulty acknowledging the undeniable success of the President's decision to surge an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq. Because of the surge, Iraq is a more stable and secure country. It is the success of the surge that is allowing American troops to withdraw from Iraq and return home with a record of heroic service and still unheralded success.
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