Monday, February 28, 2011

Kuwaiti Troops Recall Invasion, Friendships Forged

By Donna Miles of American Forces Press Service
AL-SUBIYA, Kuwait : Kuwaiti Capt. Adel Khubert was just a 10-year-old boy when Saddam Hussein's Republic Guard screamed over the border from Iraq and took Kuwait by siege Aug. 2, 1990.
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Kuwaiti army Capt. Adel Khubert, lower left, was just a 10-year-old boy when Saddam Hussein's Republic Guard invaded Kuwait. Today, he and his fellow soldiers are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their country's liberation during Operation Desert Storm, Feb. 26, 2011. DoD photo by Donna Miles 
It was a scary time, he recalled. The images that flashed across the family's TV screen revealed the terror unfolding throughout Kuwait. "I felt terrible because we had lost our country," he said.
But just as clearly as those dark, uncertain days, Khubert remembered the jubilation that overtook Kuwait when the coalition freed it from Saddam's bloody grip Feb. 26, 1991. "We were so happy," he said. "We were liberated from a tyrant."
Serving for the past six years in a Kuwaiti artillery unit, Khubert said he and his fellow Kuwaitis have much to celebrate today as they commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation during Operation Desert Storm.
Kuwait pulled out all the stops today to commemorate three major milestones: the 50th anniversary of Kuwait's independence from Great Britain, the 20th anniversary of its liberation during Operation Desert Storm and the fifth anniversary of its ruling monarch's reign.
"This is three celebrations, all in one," said Sgt. Bader Abdul Aziz, a 14-year veteran of the Kuwaiti army.
Like Khubert, Aziz has vivid memories of the Iraqi invasion. He remembers the terror that gripped him as he awakened at 5 a.m. to the roar of jets screaming overhead and the rumble of tanks on the street as enemy forces filtered through the city.
"It made me crazy," he said, grasping to comprehend all that was happening.
But 20 years later, looking back, Aziz said the experience strengthened him personally and Kuwait as a nation.
Aziz went on to join the Kuwaiti army, where he serves as an M1 tank mechanic committed to his country's defense. He also deployed to Iraq in 2003, the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he worked as part of the coalition that ultimately brought down Saddam Hussein.
Both the United States and Kuwait have benefited from the close relationship forged 20 years ago during Operation Desert Storm, Khubert said.
Khubert said he's gained much professionally through the two countries' strong military-to-military relationship. He attended English language training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and the field artillery officer basic course at Fort Sill, Okla.
Training closely with U.S. forces, Khubert said he and his Kuwaiti comrades have gained technological know-how and advanced battlefield techniques.
"We have bonded together," he said. "And it is making us stronger every day."
That capability was on full display here today as the Kuwaitis staged a massive demonstration of military might. Fighter jets roared overhead, streaming green, red and white smoke in their wake. Tanks and artillery pieces rumbled past the official reviewing stand, and military members from every Desert Storm coalition nation marched by.
As the troops streamed by the official reviewing stand, they passed a message displayed prominently from the opposite embankment: "History does not make heroes. Yet heroes make history." (Issued on  Feb. 26, 2011)
Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Mullen 
Related Articles:
U.S., Kuwait Mark Gulf War 20th Anniversary 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSgt. Bader Abdul Aziz, a 14-year veteran of the Kuwaiti army, said there's much to celebrate during Kuwait's Liberation Day activities.

DoD photo by Donna Miles

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gates Challenges Cadets to Change Army Culture

By Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service
WEST POINT, N.Y., Feb. 25, 2011 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told cadets here that they must continue changing the culture of the Army to ensure the service can handle the challenges facing America.

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates addresses the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Feb. 25, 2011. DOD photo by Cherie Cullen 
This was the last opportunity for the secretary to speak to the Corps of Cadets. He has announced he will step down as secretary later this year.
Gates spoke about the future of conflict and the implications for the Army. He talked about institutionalizing the diverse capabilities the service will need. Finally, he threw out some ideas for how the service can recruit and retain the leaders needed in the 21st century.
"When you receive your commission and walk off these parade fields for the last time, you will join an Army that, more than any other part of America's military, is an institution transformed by war," Gates told the cadets gathered in Eisenhower Hall.
He said the changes have been wrenching, but the service used the experiences to learn and adapt. They "allowed us to pull Iraq back from the brink of chaos in 2007 and, over the past year, to roll back the Taliban from their strongholds in Afghanistan," he said.
The experience must be learned and incorporated into the service's DNA and institutional memory, the secretary said.
All this leads to the challenge of how the Army will structure itself, and train and equip for the diverse range of missions it will face in the future.
"There has been an overwhelming tendency of our defense bureaucracy to focus on preparing for future high-end conflicts –- priorities often based, ironically, on what transpired in the last century –- as opposed to the messy fights in Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates said. "But without succumbing to what I once called 'next-war-itis,' I do think it important to think about what the Army will look like and must be able to do after large U.S. combat units are substantially drawn down in Afghanistan –- and what that means for young leaders entering the force."
The United States has not done a good job over the years in forecasting where the next conflict will be, Gates said, but the country can build the capabilities to deal with a range of crises.

"We can't know with absolute certainty what the future of warfare will hold, but we do know it will be exceedingly complex, unpredictable, and –- as they say in the staff colleges –- 'unstructured,'" he said.
Gates listed a few of the challenges facing the country that will continue after U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. These include: terrorism and terrorists in search of weapons of mass destruction, Iran, North Korea, military modernization programs in Russia and China, failed and failing states, revolution in the Middle East, cyber threats, piracy, nuclear proliferation, natural and man-made disasters and more.
There is a need for heavy armor and firepower, but there also is a need for counterinsurgency and humanitarian assistance, the secretary said.
"Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services," Gates said, "the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements –- whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere."
The strategic rationale for swift-moving Army or Marine expeditionary forces and airborne infantry or special operations is self-evident, he said, given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response or stability or security force assistance missions.
"In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as [Army] General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it," he said.
The Army is not going to just build schools and sip tea, the secretary said. Still, the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely. "The Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size and cost of its heavy formations to those in the leadership of the Pentagon, and on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, who ultimately make policy and set budgets," Gates said.
Enemies will seek to attack the United States where they believe America is weakest. The Army will not repeat the mistakes of the past, where irregular warfare doctrine was shunted aside after the Vietnam War, the secretary said.
Gates said the odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq –- invading, pacifying, and administering a large third world country –- may be low. But in what Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has called "an era of persistent conflict," those unconventional capabilities still will  be needed at various levels and in various locales, he said.
A second challenge facing the service, Gates said, is whether and how the Army can adapt its practices and culture to these strategic realities.
"From the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our soldiers and junior- and mid-level leaders downrange have been adjusting and improvising to the complex and evolving challenges on the ground –- in many cases using the Internet, especially tools of social media -- to share tactical lessons learned in real time with their colleagues at the front or preparing to deploy back in the United States," he said.
It has taken time for the Pentagon to respond, but leaders are pushing the envelope. Gates pointed to the way the Army developed doctrine for the advise and assist brigades now deployed to Iraq. Planners devised the strategy in months rather than years and continue tweaking it as experience accumulates.
But people are the basis for American military excellence, and the question becomes how does the service prepare, train and retain officers "with the necessary multifaceted experience to take on a broad range of missions and roles," Gates said, that involve "many doctrines in play, often simultaneously."
As an example, Gates pointed to the ongoing and prospective requirements to train, equip and advise foreign armies and police. These capabilities must be institutionalized into the 'Big Army,' he said, while making the related experiences and skill sets a career-enhancing pursuit. This, he said, should be encouraged.
"If you chart a different path, there's no telling the impact you could have –- on the Army, and on history," Gates said.
While the Army has always needed entrepreneurial leaders, for an era of full-spectrum conflict "America can succeed only with leaders who are themselves full-spectrum in their thinking," he said. "The military will not be able to train or educate you to have all the right answers –- as one might find in a manual –- but you should look for those experiences and pursuits in your career that will help you at least ask the right questions."
The secretary told the cadets to look for opportunities that in the past were considered off the beaten path, if not a career dead end. He said the Army needs to encourage leaders in these pursuits. "Such opportunities might include further study at graduate school, teaching at this or another first-rate university, spending time at a think tank, being a congressional fellow, working in a different government agency or becoming a foreign area specialist," he said.
"It is incumbent on the Army to promote -– in every sense of the word –- these choices and experiences for its next generation of leaders; the junior- and mid-grade officers in Army ranks who represent the most battle-tested group in its history," Gates said.
The greatest challenge facing the Army is breaking-up "the institutional concrete" in the service's assignments and promotion processes to keep the best and most battled-tested young officers, the secretary said.
The soldiers have been resilient and have done all that national leaders have asked.
"I will never forget one of my first decisions as Secretary of Defense in early 2007, which was to extend Army combat tours from 12 to 15 months, including for units that had spent less than a year at home," Gates said. "This was perhaps my most difficult decision over the past four years because I knew the hardship this would place on those who had already borne so much for this country. But the alternative would have been a disaster for our country and for Iraq. And the Army did as ordered and much more."
Today's cadets will join a force that has been decisively engaged for nearly a decade, Gates said. "While it is resilient, it is also stressed and tired," he said.
The repeated deployments, Gates said, mean that young officers have had "little opportunity to do more than catch their breath" and then get ready for the next deployment. And waiting for these officers is the bureaucratic, garrison mindset at their home stations.
"In theater, junior leaders are given extraordinary opportunities to be innovative, take risks and be responsible and recognized for the consequences," Gates said.
In garrison, the opposite is often true.
"Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging or reconciling warring tribes, may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting Powerpoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs or assigned an ever expanding array of clerical duties," he said. "The consequences of this terrify me."
Gates said his experiences in running large public organizations –- he was the director of Central Intelligence and then president of Texas A&M University before becoming the defense secretary -– show that leaders must concentrate on the top 20 percent of their workforce ,and the bottom 20 percent.
"The former to elevate and give more responsibility and opportunity, the latter to transition out, albeit with consideration and respect for the service they have rendered," he said. "Failure to do so risks frustrating, demoralizing and ultimately losing the leaders we will need most for the future."
Any bureaucracy often encourages people to keep their heads down, avoid making waves and to never disagree with superiors. "The Army has been fortunate throughout its history to have officers who, at critical times, exercise respectful, principled dissent," he said. He pointed to Army Gen. George C. Marshall as one shining example among many, of this characteristic.
The tendency of any big bureaucracy is to revert to business as usual at the first opportunity. For the military, that opportunity is coming with the unwinding of sustained combat, Gates said.
Stopping that tendency is crucial to the health of the force. "The former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, [West Point] Class of 1976, has written that, 'In a smaller professional force competing for talent with the Googles of the world,' reforming this system is a 'must do' for the Army to keep its best and brightest leaders," Gates said.
But while the service competes with corporate America, the Army is not Apple or General Electric, he said.
"Taking that oath and accepting that commission means doing what you are told and going where you are needed," the secretary told the cadets. "But just as the Army has reset and reformed itself in when it comes to doctrine, equipment, and training, it must use the eventual slackening of overseas deployments as an opportunity to attack the institutional constipation of 'Big Army,' and re-think the way it deals with the outstanding young leaders in its lower- and middle-ranks."
Gates said for all the challenges that lie ahead for the cadets, they made the right choice in joining the Long Gray Line. "Beyond the hardship, heartbreak, and sacrifice -– and they are real –- there is another side to military service," he said. "You have an extraordinary opportunity -– not just for the lives of your soldiers, but for missions and decisions that may change the course of history."
Gates said the today's cadets will be challenged to take risks and expand what they thought they were capable of doing. "And you will be doing all this at an age when many of your peers are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies," he said.
"Each of you –- with your talents, your intelligence, your record of accomplishments –- could have chosen something easier or safer and, of course, better paid," Gates told the cadets. "But you took on the mantle of duty, honor and country; you passed down the Long Gray Line of men and women who have walked these halls and strode these grounds before you -– more than 80 of whom have fallen in battle since 9/11. For that, you have the profound gratitude and eternal admiration of the American people."
Related Sites:
U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point 

Marine Forward Element Set Up to Help in Middle East

By Donna Miles of American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 25, 2011 - Traveling through the Middle East to confer with U.S. allies in the midst of regional unrest, the top U.S. military officer visited a new Marine Corps headquarters element here designed to evacuate noncombatants or provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
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U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with U.S. Marines assigned to U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, in Bahrain, Feb. 25, 2011. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley 
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, checked in today on the Marine Corps Forces Central Command Forward element at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
The headquarters stood up in November to bring Marine Corps Forces Central Command what its other sister services already have: a forward element within the 20-nation Centcom area of operations.
"Trying to conduct business from the MARFORCENT headquarters in Tampa is a bit difficult," Lt. Col. Mark Duffer, the element's deputy current operations officer, told reporters traveling with Mullen. "So we wanted to push something forward to the here and now, to what's happening so we can [create an] effect right away."
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, pushed for the new forward element to focus on two primary missions: theater security cooperation and crisis management. "This was his vision here," Duffer said. "And his vision started a couple of years ago and finally came to fruition here."
MARFORCENT stood up with a staff of 161 Marines, sailors and civilian employees working in a tiny facility within Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
The location proved to be perfect, operationally as well as geographically, Duffer said. Home to Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. Fifth Fleet, close partners in the MARFORCENT mission, it's situated smack in the middle of the Centcom area of operations.
"If you put your finger right on the map, on Bahrain, you can see we are very centrally located and [that it's] a very good location," Duffer said. "We can ... reach out and touch anybody, so we provide that stabilizing force."
From their new location, Marines assigned to the element work to build capability within regional militaries, concentrating more on ground than amphibious forces. "We focus ... on the basics of what Marines do: hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship and other things that are very basic and make up the Marine Corps ethos that we want to provide," Duffer said.
The goal, he explained, is to help strengthen regional allies' forces so they are better able to defend their nations and, if needed, to provide coalition support for future operations.
Meanwhile, MARFORCENT is now positioned to provide faster response to a regional crisis -- particularly noncombatant evacuation operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
"We are that 9-1-1 force people can tap into to efficiently, effectively and always get the job done," Duffer said.
As unrest ripples through the Middle East, he recognized the potential for the new element to be called on to help evacuate civilian noncombatants caught in the violence.
"As we stand up this command center, we have an ability to command and control that" at Centcom's direction, he said. "We can actually stand up as a joint task force with coalition forces, as well as provide [evacuation operations] within this region.
"We are prepared to do that, but have not been asked as of yet," Duffer said.
The more certain requirement -- the only question being its exact timing and location -- is a rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the event of a crisis in the region.
Brig. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, commander of Marine Expeditionary Brigade Bahrain, understands that need firsthand. When the forward element stood up last fall, he was on the ground in Pakistan, commanding the U.S. joint task force that responded to devastating floods there.
"This is one of the key tasks that we can be assigned to do, so I think we are very well positioned" to carry it out," Duffer said.
Gunnery Sgt. Adam Doyle, who served with MARFORCENT headquarters in Tampa before helping form the forward element, said the new location improves the ability to coordinate operations, as well as logistics. "The command here brings ready access," he said. "It provides what we need to be more responsive."
As the element continues to take shape, Doyle and his fellow MARFORCENT Marines are preparing to move next month into a larger headquarters being renovated across the base.
Exactly how many Marines ultimately will join the element is classified, but Duffer said he sees developments underway as a sign of MARFORCENT's long-term commitment to strengthening partnerships and protecting U.S. interests in the region.
"We are building up this command center for a lasting, enduring mission within [Centcom's] area of responsibility," he said.
Related Sites:

Friday, February 25, 2011

IACTS CME in November at CMC

Ludhiana : The Christian Medical College & Hospital, Ludhiana has been chosen to host the prestigious National Continuing Medical Education (CME) of the Indian Association of CardioVascular & Thoracic Surgeons (IACTS).  Dr Harinder Singh Bedi – Head of CardioVascular & Thoracic Surgery at the CMC & H – said that at the recent 57th Annual Conference of the IACTS the CMC was chosen out of a panel of 8 Institutes which had applied for this prestigious meeting. The National CME is a condensed educative programme for all young Cardio Vascular and Thoracic Surgeons of India. A distinguished faculty from India and abroad is chosen to come to CMC to take part in the CME. The CME will be held in the first week of November 2011. Leading pioneers from India including Dr KM Cherian, Dr Sampath KumarDr JS GujralDr BhattacharyaDr Girinath, Dr Trehan and others have been invited for the lectures. The delegates are MCh students from all over India. Such a programme goes a long way in ensuring quality of training of the young surgeons.
CMC & H was chosen in view of the excellent track record it enjoys in the Cardio Vascular field. The surgeons of CMC are credited with innovating the world’s first ever series of multivessel beating heart surgery and of minimally invasive cardiac surgery and endovascular management of disorders which would otherwise need complicated open surgeries. In fact Dr Bedi had the largest number of presentations and lectures at the 57thConference in Chennai which were greatly appreciated by the National and international delegates.
Dr Abraham G Thomas – Director of CMC & H – reiterated that the CMC being one of the oldest Institutes of India was always in the forefront on imparting quality education so that the people of this country are not deprived of any therapy. --Rector Kathuria

Afghan Forces Expand, Gain Capability

By Cheryl Pellerin of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2011 - The Afghan army is growing fast and simultaneously struggling with the need to educate and train its noncommissioned officer corps, the senior enlisted leader of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan said today.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill of the International Security Assistance Force at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Dec. 3, 2010, after receiving a gift from Hill and Gen. David H. Petraeus, ISAF commander. Hill briefed Pentagon reporters via video teleconference Feb. 24, 2011, on the state of Afghanistan's security forces. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Sparks 
Army Command Sgt. Major Marvin Hill and his Afghan counterpart, Sgt. Maj. Roshan Safi, spoke with reporters at the Pentagon during a video teleconference from ISAF Joint Command headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.
"The Afghan National Army, like the entire [Afghan security forces], has come a long way in just a short period of time," Hill said.
The Afghan security forces include the army, the air force and the national police.
Since 2009, the army has grown more than 56 percent, Hill said. In the past year, it's grown by about 50,000 soldiers, more than 23,000 of them are in training, and the army consistently meets its recruiting goals, he added.
With new programs for recruitment and retention, higher salaries, an automated pay system and an attrition rate of 1.6 percent per month, growth is not a problem, he said.
"The bigger challenge is creating an entire structure of military education and development that will professionalize the entire force," Hill said. A big part of Roshan's role is helping professionalize the Afghan army's noncommissioned officer corps, he added.
In 2009, only 86 percent of army recruits were literate, and there was no mandatory literacy training. Soldiers faced substandard pay, shortages of equipment, a poor quality of life and a high attrition rate, Hill said.
"Under Sergeant Major Roshan's leadership, there's been a 76 percent increase in trained noncommissioned officers," Hill said. "[Afghan army] NCOs are already filling key positions, such as instructors for professional courses, as well as setting the example for standards and discipline," Hill said.
Today, all soldiers receive mandatory literacy training, he added. They are are outfitted with Afghan-made uniforms, NATO weapons and high-quality equipment.
Eleven of the 12 branch schools are open -- including infantry, engineering and intelligence -- and in many case, Afghan soldiers already are taking the lead as instructors, Hill said, adding that Afghanistan's army is "built on the pride of its people."
Soldiers represent several ethnic groups, including Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek, Hill noted, and the army takes pride in being "the protector of the people and the nation."
As a result of support the Afghan army has received from the United States and coalition forces, Roshan said, Afghan soldiers have begun to take the lead in a number of combat operations.
"We are well on our way to taking full control and leading all combat operations by 2014," he said. "By working shoulder to shoulder today, we will stand on our own tomorrow."
"Hooah!" Hill added, and both senior NCOs smiled.
Since 2009, women have served in the Afghan army, Roshan said.
"Just 10 years ago, women were not allowed to attend school," he said. "In fact, women had very little rights at the time. Now, we see women attending school, and they hold meaningful jobs in our community and position in our government." The Afghan army's training center is training future female NCOs, he added.
In late 2009, 20 women graduated from the first female officer candidate school. Twenty more women are enrolled in school now, and women also are enrolled in the military medical school, the Afghan sergeant major said.
Challenges lie ahead for the growing army, Hill said, especially in the areas of equipment and international trainers.
"The end state is that by 2014, the [Afghan army] is a self-sufficient professional force," Hill said.
"This process will take time," he added, "but ISAF is fully committed to an enduring relationship and partnership with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan national security forces as a whole."
In the meantime, Hill said, protecting people is the No. 1 concern.
"Right now, we have 110,000 more forces here in Afghanistan than we had at this time last year," Hill said. "We have 70,000 more Afghan national security forces, and we have 40,000 more U.S. and coalition forces. And that's providing a better umbrella of security.
"Just months ago," he continued, "the people in Marja couldn't come out of their homes. And today, bazaars are open, there are open shops and markets, and schools are open. There's a girls' school open that has 180 students, and that wasn't the case just months ago.
Security always is a problem anywhere, Hill said. "But here," he added, "we are combating that with the boots we have on the ground and with a competent Afghan national security force."
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gates Welcomes Afghan Leaders for Inaugural Forum

By Lisa Daniel of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates welcomed Afghanistan's defense and interior ministers to the Pentagon today for the first of what officials expect to be regular meetings to sustain a long-term military-to-military relationship.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, center, escorts Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi, left, and Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, right, into the Pentagon for a security consultation forum, Feb. 23, 2011. DOD photo by R.D. Ward 
The U.S.-Afghanistan relationship "is bonded in the blood of our sons and daughters," Gates told Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Afghan Interior Minister Besmillah Khan Mohammadi before the three men and their senior staffs began their meeting.
The administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai already has made much progress, and the Afghan national security forces have made "tremendous progress" in helping to secure the country, Gates said. The growth of Afghanistan's army and national police and their increasing ability to lead security operations has been "truly impressive," he added.
More than 5,000 Afghan forces have been killed in action since 2006, the secretary noted, adding that their sacrifice is "something we appreciate and honor."
Wardak said the Afghan casualties "are our patriotic duty," and added that Afghans are "extremely grateful for the sacrifices of your sons and daughters who fought from so far away."
"I strongly believe that our greatest tribute to them will be to realize the objectives of those brave soldiers who paid the ultimate price," he added.
Afghans have "profound gratitude and everlasting appreciation" to the United States, Wardak said. He added to Gates, "We are thankful for your personal engagement and leadership, ... and I believe we will prevail."
Afghan leaders are looking for a closer and stronger relationship with U.S. leaders, Wardak said. "Whatever we have achieved, we could not have accomplished without your support," he said.
Afghanistan had only a very basic foundation when U.S. forces began operations there in the fall of 2001 to drive out the Taliban, and clear progress has taken place since then, Wardak said.
Though plans call for Afghanistan's security forces to be responsible for the entire country's security by the end of 2014, Afghanistan still will need U.S. help, Wardak said. "I do strongly believe that for Afghanistan to survive in that very volatile region, we need your help beyond 2014," he said.
The meeting was the first of the U.S.-Afghanistan Security Consultations Forum, which Gates said he established "as an institution beyond 2014," when U.S. military forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan.
The forum included Michèle Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy; Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and other defense officials to discuss building long-term cooperation between the two countries, as well as issues of immediate importance, according to a Defense Department statement.
The secretary said he hopes the forum would meet twice a year to discuss shared expectations for Afghanistan, to set specific goals and objectives, and to demonstrate to others in the Central Asia region that the U.S.-Afghanistan partnership is putting Afghanistan on a path of improvement.
The meetings included a review of security gains across Afghanistan in 2010, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where improved security provided by a surge of Afghan and NATO forces has enabled greater Afghan freedom of movement, commerce, and development, officials said.
Talks focused on how to build on those gains this year, officials added, particularly in transitioning security to the Afghans.
Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told reporters that the leaders would meet for several hours today.
"This is looking to the future for a sustained and enduring relationship with Afghanistan as a country, but also with the Afghan security forces," he said.
The Afghan ministers and Gates also will discuss the gains of the last year and what needs to happen in the future to continue the progress, Lapan added.
"What will it look like past 2014?" he said. "These discussions will look beyond at what our relationship will be and what U.S. military support will be needed after that date."
(Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)
Robert M. Gates 

Mao Hengfeng has been released in China

We're thrilled to announce that Mao Hengfeng, a prisoner of conscience and recent Write for Rights case, has been released in China! 

Dear Rector,

We have great news to report — Mao Hengfeng was released unexpectedly yesterday, six months before the end of her sentence! She had been detained since March 2010 for protesting the arrest of Liu Xiaobo, a prominent human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

This most recent detention was only one of many for Mao. Mao has courageously worked for human rights in China for years, and has suffered torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities.

Mao was featured as a case in Amnesty's 2010 Write for Rights campaign, which generated an incredible number – 636,139 – of appeals, from 51 different countries worldwide, for the release of Mao and other human rights activists. Mao's husband, Wu Xuewei, believes that international pressure was integral to Mao's release, and he sends his thanks to Amnesty for all the campaigning we've all done on Mao's behalf.

This year's Write for Rights campaign has already seen some amazing successes, including the release of Femi Peters in Gambia, and now the release of Mao Hengfeng. We sincerely thank you for your letters, which have already delivered hope for so many.

But we still need your help to free thousands of other human rights activists who suffer unjustly in detention. Donate today to fund Amnesty's work to release prisoners of conscience and defenders of human rights all over the world!


Michael O’Reilly
Senior Campaign Director, Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA

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Call for Immediate Arms Embargo and Assets Freeze

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 12:15 AM
Amnesty International Statement
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

London : Amnesty International today accused the international community of failing the people of Libya in their hour of greatest need as violence spirals and Colonel al-Gaddafi threatens to “cleanse Libya house by house”. 

The organization said the response to the Libya crisis by  the U.N. Security Council fell shamefully below what was needed to stop the spiralling violence , and called for concrete action, including an immediate arms embargo and assets freeze. 

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday issued a statement calling for an end to the violence and urging Libya to act with restraint and respect human rights, but took no substantive measures. 

Amnesty International  also criticized the African Union, which has not convened its Peace and Security Council to address the human rights crisis in Libya. 

“Colonel al-Gaddafi has publicly made clear his readiness to kill those who oppose him in order to stay in power,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General. 

“This is unacceptable. Colonel al-Gaddafi and all those reporting to him need to know that they will be held personally accountable under international law for the crimes they commit.” 

“His threats make the half-hearted response from the international community even more shocking. What Libyans need now is not mere words of concern but immediate, concrete action.” 

Amnesty International said that as a bare minimum the Security Council must impose an immediate arms embargo against Libya and an asset freeze against al-Gaddafi and his key security and military advisers. 

The call came as Colonel al-Gaddafi gave a speech in which he called protesters “cockroaches” and “rats,” and compared the situation to China, saying that national unity had been “more important than the people of Tiananmen Square." 

Amnesty International also criticized the response of the African Union to the unfolding crisis, which has seen hundreds killed and persistent reports of mercenaries being brought in from African countries by the Libyan leader to violently suppress the protests against him. 

“It is outrageous that the African Union Peace and Security Council has not even met to discuss the emergency taking place in one of its own member states,” said Salil Shetty. 

Amnesty International called on the African Union to ensure that its member states, particularly those bordering Libya, are not complicit in human rights abuses in Libya. 

The organization also urged the Arab League, which yesterday banned Libya from participation in its meetings, to act at once on its public commitments, in particular by launching an independent Arab investigative committee into the crisis in Libya. 

In full, Amnesty International called on: 

·        The United Nations Security Council: to immediately impose an arms embargo on Libya preventing transfer of equipment and personnel, implement an asset freeze against Colonel al-Gaddafi and his senior military and security advisers and state unequivocally that crimes under international law in Libya will be investigated and punished. 

·        The African Union and its member states: to immediately investigate reports that armed elements are being transported from African countries to Libya, acting to secure the land borders into Libya and monitor suspicious flights. 

·        The U.N. General Assembly: to immediately suspend Libya from the 47-member UN Human Rights Council. 

·        The UN Human Rights Council: to deploy a fact-finding mission to Libya to make rapid recommendations on human rights abuses and whether a referral to the International Criminal Court is warranted. 

·        Libya and neighboring countries: to facilitate the safe departure of those who wish to leave Libya. 

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Face of Defense: Petty Officer Maintains Team's Network

By Air Force Master Sgt. Matthew Lohr 
Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team
KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2011 - To his teammates on the provincial reconstruction team here, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Riedel, an information systems technician from Corpus Christi, Texas, is known as a jack of all trades.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Riedel tests the speed of the Internet connection after an upgrade to the service at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan's Khost province, Feb. 15, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Lohr 
"My job consists of everything dealing with communications," Riedel said. He makes sure the communications systems on mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles are in good working order before missions, and he's also the provincial reconstruction team's network administrator.
The three-year Navy Reserve veteran helps the security forces members on the team by manning the guard tower and riding in the convoys as an alternate M-240 gunner. But he considers his most important duty to be ensuring his teammates have their personal Internet.
"Internet in Afghanistan is not as reliable as it is back home," he said. "I've had to do a lot of repairs to our personal Internet to keep it performing at acceptable standards."
Riedel's supervisor, Navy Chief Petty Officer Jean Law from Austin, Texas, said Riedel is "phenomenal."
"He has no problem waking up in the middle of the night to help people with Internet problems," the chief said.
Law, who has worked with Riedel for six months, said Riedel is close to his family, and he takes it upon himself to make sure other people can stay close to theirs.
Riedel said he knows the Internet plays an important role in morale.
"It's hard being deployed, but with features like Skype and instant messaging, it eases the burden of being away," he said. 

Young minds observe keenly and take their own meanings

Last evening had a FB chat with one of my students. How nostalgic such interactions can become...! It is pleasing to the eyes and ears when your students tell you that they have learn t from you not only the subject matter but also the positive values to live meaningful life. It was also revealing for me that students are much more sensitive and sensible than we are ready to admit at that point of time. 
I believe that learning is life long process. Last evening again I was made aware that I need to to take care of my body language and off the cuff remarks. Young minds observe keenly and take their own meanings which may not have been intended.
My conviction that one needs to keep doing what one deems right was also reinforced. It will take the desire effect, may be too subtly to be perceptible.The same feeling was given by two other students recently.Thanks DK, thanks KJ and thanks KK for making me feel worthy of myself.
--Jaswant Singh Aman 

Monday, February 21, 2011

A gym cum beauty studio inaugurated in Ludhiana

Ludhiana, :  Luxury Gyms In India are now a popular lifestyle. Peoples preferring the home gym also but it is not possible for everyone. Realizing the growing need of gym life the management of the Zero Gravity slimming, beauty & dance studio took another step for the Ludhiana residents. A gym cum beauty studio was inaugurated in Model Town Ext… on Sunday by its chairperson Rajan Nagpal. Inauguration Ceremony was started with the opening prayer. Speaking on the occasion Rajan said our mission is to provide the most accurate and up to date center for slimming beauty and dance with new techniques and up-to-date facilities. 
Your quest for slimming, fitness, beauty and dance ends here.  Zero Gravity (the slimming, beauty & dance studio) is a center where you get all the facilities under one roof. We are in weight loss profession since last 7 years. We also deals with medical problems, but don’t believe in dieting or medicine. 
While giving the vote of thanks Director Ms. Shikha said Gym area equipped with latest electronic machinery. Slimming therapies with unique computerized treatment with botanic muscle stimulation and many more. 
Professional skin ageing and lifting treatments with latest technology. Weight loss massages and spa treatments and steam bath. --Rector Kathuria & Shalu Arora

Kasāb can now challenge his death sentence

Mohammed Ajmal Amīr Kasāb can now challenge his death sentence, upheld by the Bombay High Court on Monday, in the Supreme. If the Supreme Court also uphold his death penalty then he may file mercy petition before the president. He was  born on 13 July 1987 in Pakistan. He is a Pakistani Islamic terrorist who was involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. According to Wikipedia details Kasab is the only attacker captured alive by police and is currently in Indian custody. The Government of Pakistan initially denied that Kasab was from Pakistan, but in January 2009, it officially accepted that he was a Pakistani citizen. On 3 May 2010, an Indian court convicted him of murder, waging war on India, possessing explosives, and other charges.On 6 May 2010, the same trial court sentenced him to death on four counts and to a life sentence on five other counts.His lawyer, Farhana Shah, said that her client still has a chance and is likely to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court's order, which upheld his death sentence. She said, "We will go through the judgement and then suggest Kasab on the next course of legal action. It is upto Kasab to decide.
Kasab was born in Faridkot village in the Okara District of Punjab, Pakistan. His father is a dahi puri vendor while his elder brother, Afzal, works as a laborer in Lahore. His elder sister, Rukaiyya Husain, is married in the village. A younger sister, Suraiyya, and brother, Munir, live in Faridkot with the parents.
Photo Courtesy:Urdu Tahzeeb
According to reports, the village of Faridkot is quite impoverished and isolated, despite being close to a larger town. On the side of a building, just outside Faridkot, graffiti in large lettering says, in Urdu, "Go for jihad. Go for jihad. Markaz Dawat ul-Irshad". 'Markaz Dawat ul-Irshad' is a parent organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba. For More details you may also click here

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Applauding award recipients in DoD Awards ceremony

Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Gipe, senior enlisted advisor for the office of the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, applaud award recipients during the 2010 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards ceremony in the Pentagon, Feb. 18, 2011. DOD photo by Elaine Wilson 

Alaska Guard Team Prepares for Snowmobile Race

By Kalei Rupp of Alaska National Guard
CAMP DENALI, Alaska, Feb. 18, 2011 - The Alaska National Guard team is putting the finishing touches on its machines and logging the last training miles in preparation for the start of the "Iron Dog" snowmobile race Feb. 20.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Jackson of the Alaska National Guard prepares to test the ignition of her snowmobile Jan. 17, 2011, in preparation for the Iron Dog race. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton 
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Harrington, of Palmer and Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Jackson of Anchorage will represent the Alaska National Guard in the pro-class division of what is known as the world's longest and toughest snowmobile race.
As the only all-female team among the 28 teams entered in this year's pro-class race, the two Guard soldiers will traverse more than 2,000 miles of Alaskan trails from Big Lake to Nome, then on to Fairbanks. If they finish, they will be only the second all-female team ever to finish the race, and the first since 2001.
For the first time, an ambassador team of riders, including an Alaska Army National Guardsman, will serve as goodwill ambassadors for the race, making public appearances in towns along the race route.
Army Command Sgt.Maj.Pamela Harrington of the Alaska National
Guard assembles her new snowmobile Jan. 17, 2011. Harrington and
her teammate, Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Jackson, also of
the Alaska Guard, spent 180 hours assembling their team's
new machines for the annual Iron Dog race.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton
"The purpose of the team is to express the gratitude of both the Iron Dog race and the Alaska National Guard to all volunteers and local community members at each checkpoint along the race," said Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, Alaska Army National Guard recruiting and retention commander and ambassador team rider. "We will be moving at the trail-class pace and start with the trail-class riders, but we will travel the entire route of the pro-class race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks."
For the second straight year, the Alaska National Guard is the presenting partner for the Iron Dog. The Guard became the lead sponsor in 2009 to support a uniquely Alaska event and bolster the Alaska National Guard throughout the state and nation, officials said.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Harrington and
Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Jackson, both of the
Alaska National Guard, take their new snowmobiles
out for a test ride on Big Lake, Alaska, Feb. 14, 2011.
Their goal is to put about 400 miles on the new machines
before the start of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog race.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton
"We view the Alaska National Guard as an excellent partner to help us elevate the race and grow to the next level," said Kevin Kastner, Iron Dog executive director. "With the Guard, we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the community and work on the education side to really connect on the ground with the youth. If we can engage and excite the communities out there, that's a huge benefit."
The Alaska National Guard team has put in hundreds of miles of training for the race and spent countless hours preparing their machines for the rugged terrain. But ultimately, they hope their experience as Guard members will give them an edge.
"An advantage we have as National Guardsmen is that we train for the mental aspect –- the stamina, the sleep deprivation, the perseverance," Harrington said. "You never quit, you never leave a fallen soldier behind. You know you will both prevail. That mental strategy is going to help us overcome any physical challenge."

Harrington and Jackson will be among 12 rookie teams and 27 rookie drivers.
"We're hungry and ready for the challenge," Jackson said.
Related Sites:
Alaska National Guard