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Posts tagged ‘U. S. troops’

Graham: Karzai ‘Empowers’ Taliban By Freeing Afghan Thugs.


Sen. Lindsey Graham has accused Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai of “empowering” Taliban terrorists by releasing 65 dangerous Afghan “thugs” from jail.

The South Carolina Republican, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned Karzai for freeing the prisoners who pose an immediate threat to U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in the war-torn country, McClatchy reports.

“Karzai is doing a lot of damage to his country and to the relationship between us and Afghanistan,” said Graham, who once traded jokes with Karzai over dinners at his presidential palace in Kabul.

“He’s undercutting a relationship (with the U.S.) that most Afghans want and empowering the Taliban…

“The Taliban look at something like this (the release of prisoners), and they’ve got to be encouraged. I’ve been to that prison dozens of times, and it makes my blood boil to see these thugs walk out of there.”

Graham said he’s been unable to confirm reports that Karzai has held secret talks with the Taliban, Muslim fanatics who ruled the country and imposed strict Islamic laws there until the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

Although the Taliban have recently launched a new offensive in the region, Graham said, “(Karzai) doesn’t treat the Taliban as an insurgency. He calls them ‘wayward brothers’ rather than thugs that are killing people.”

“I’ve known Karzai for 10 years, but he’s getting completely irrational. He’s totally detached from the reality about what’s going on in his own country.”

Graham, who has made several trips to Afghanistan as a senator and as an Air Force Reserve colonel, even met with Karzai in Kabul last month, along with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and pleaded with him to keep the “thugs” behind bars, McClatchy reported.

But Karzai dismissed them, saying that the national detention center in Parwan that housed the inmates and was built with U.S. funds was “a black hole.” Although the jail is guarded by U.S. troops, the Karzai government has authority over the handling of prisoners and claims the 65 detainees were being held without cause.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S troops in Afghanistan, attacked Karzai’s decision because he believes that some of the freed prisoners will join forces with the Taliban insurgency.

“They have killed Afghan men, women and children,” Dunford said, noting that two dozen inmates were tied to roadside bombs, the number one killer of Afghan citizens. “We believe some of the individuals previously released have already returned to the fight.”

Now a furious Graham is fighting back by demanding that Congress cuts off U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, and he’s enlisted the support of House Speaker John Boehner.

“After years of fighting alongside our Afghan partners — who have sustained serious casualties themselves from common enemies — this decision is especially egregious,” said Boehner.

The tense relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. have sunk to an all-time low, with U.S. officials claiming that Karzai has gone back on a bilateral agreement to keep a small military contingent in the country after the remaining 34,000 U.S. troops pull out by the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House may now wait until Karzai leaves office in April before attempting to sign a new pact with the next government to keep peace-keeping troops on the ground there.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Ayotte: Why Was $29M Army Recruiting Fraud Not Spotted Earlier?.


Image: Ayotte: Why Was $29M Army Recruiting Fraud Not Spotted Earlier?

By Todd Beamon

Sen. Kelly Ayotte pressed Army officials on Tuesday on why a massive scheme involving a National Guard recruiting program that has been estimated to cost taxpayers at least $29 million was not spotted earlier.

“Where was the oversight of this?” the New Hampshire Republican asked at meeting of a Senate Homeland Security oversight subcommittee charged with investigating the scandal. “How were we … conducting oversight of these contractors?”

The top Army officials disclosed the massive fraud to legislators on Tuesday. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians are under criminal investigation in the scheme, which involved taking fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.

The fraud cost the U.S. at least $29 million and possibly tens of millions dollars more, the officials said.

The investigation involves as many as 200 officers, including two two-star generals and 18 colonels, who are suspected of participating in schemes to take advantage of the Army National Guard’s Recruiting Assistance Program, a referral program that paid out cash bonuses of $2,000 to $7,500 per recruit.

None of those top National Guard officers has been been imprisoned, lost benefits or resigned for fraud, said Maj. Gen. David Quantock, head of the Army’s Criminal Investigation and Corrections commands. So far, however, 16 people have been convicted and jailed in the scandal.

Overall, more than 1,200 people — including civilians with military ties and men and women in uniform — are being examined by at least 60 full-time investigators. The program began in 2005 to boost flagging enlistment during the Iraq War.

Only nine cases were investigated from 2007 to 2009, Quantock said. It wasn’t until 2010, when 10 cases indicated “that we have a major problem here,” USA Today reports.

“That’s a long time when you’ve got fraud going on,” Ayotte said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the subcommittee’s Democratic chairwoman, called the inquiry “one of the largest that the Army has ever conducted, both in terms of the sheer volume of fraud and the number of participants.”

“These are criminals that have dishonored the uniform we are all so proud of,” she said.

Lt. Gen. William Grisoli, director of Army Staff, told the panel of a “fundamental breakdown” in establishing and executing the program, which had relied on contractors.

Officials told legislators that the fraud was believed to be so widespread that they may not complete their inquiry until as late as 2016 because of the number of potential cases.

The Recruiting Assistance Program was created to increase enlistment when wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had left the military below recruitment goals, the officials told the subcommittee. The program offered cash bonuses to civilian recruiting assistants for referrals.

Uniformed recruiters were supposedly prohibited from receiving the cash payments. But investigators have since found recruiters worked around that prohibition by myriad means, and for several years did so virtually undetected.

In addition, some recruiting assistants eligible for the payments were coerced into splitting their bonuses with military recruiters. Other military recruiters did not inform civilian assistants about the bonuses but registered them for the program.

The military recruiters would then substitute their own bank information for that of the civilian assistants.

In one case alone, Quantock told legislators,  five people split about $1 million.  Investigators have clearly identified $29 million in fraudulent bonus payments and were investigating another $66 million in potential cases.

Officials said the program brought in more recruits, so much so, that they were furious when allegations of fraud threatened that success.

Auditors shut down the program in 2012 after watchdogs found evidence of widespread abuse.

In all, the Army National Guard paid upward of $300 million for roughly 130,000 enlistments, the officials said.

Besides Grisoli and Quantock, Ayotte also questioned Joseph Bentz, the Army’s chief auditor, as to why the fraud was not detected sooner.

“When the money starts going out the door a lot faster, how was it within the command structure that we didn’t pick up on that as a raw indicator, right there, that something wasn’t quite right — as oversight within the system?” she asked, according to a transcript provided by her office.

Bentz acknowledged that “oversight of the contract was insufficient.”

“The contracting officers’ representatives that were responsible for that oversight — they believed that the contractor was responsible for the oversight and control of the program,” he added.

“They thought the contractor [was responsible for oversight and] they didn’t realize that … we had to oversee the program?” Ayotte asked.

“Correct,” Bentz responded.

Grisoli, in his written remarks to the subcommittee, acknowledged that, “funds were lost due to systematic weaknesses, a general breakdown in sound business processes and wrongdoing.”

Ayotte then asked: “How can we have confidence that the Army doesn’t have similar problems in other programs when we’re talking about systematic problems?”

He noted that the Army was investigating whether similar problems existed in other programs.

“The way we prevent something like this happening in the future is we have what we call program management reviews,” Grisoli said. “We had our procurement executive do a program management review on the overall contracting system of the National Guard Bureau.

“We are working very closely with them to implement that now,” he added. “They’ve provided us a corrective action plan. We have accepted that plan and now they are implementing that plan.”

The senator then returned to questioning Quantock about the lax oversight.

“Why is it [that] … when the money started going out the door on a faster rate and that wasn’t flagged … , why wasn’t it that somebody before it got to you all asked the question, ‘Well, why is this money going out the door so much faster than we thought it would last us?'”

He acknowledged that the internal controls regarding the program “and properly providing that oversight to track that … that was another weak area.”

“So, someone just wasn’t tracking that … or was it not flagged?” Ayotte asked.

Quantock said that the Army’s contracting officer’s representative examined the “burn rates” — meaning how quickly the funds were being paid out — but that “they just did not call flags based on what they saw … on the burn rates.”

“That didn’t flag for them?” Ayotte asked.

“That didn’t flag,” Quantock responded.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hagel Voices Frustration with Afghan Foot-Dragging.


Expressing growing impatience, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday he doesn’t know what to believe about new assurances from Afghanistan that President Hamid Karzai is moving closer to signing a pact to keep American troops in his country next year as advisers.

“What is coming out of the presidential palace today, or what President Karzai says today, I don’t know,” Hagel told a news conference in Warsaw. “It changes constantly.”

Hagel pointedly noted that Karzai had “agreed — personally agreed — to the bilateral security agreement” negotiated between the two nations last year, yet continues to balk at signing it.

The deal would allow some U.S. service members to remain and keep training Afghan soldiers after most of the 39,000 troops now there withdraw. The 12-year-old U.S. combat mission is set to end in December.

The Obama administration has indicated it might be willing to keep as many as 10,000 military trainers in Afghanistan to advise forces fighting the Taliban insurgency.

Earlier, on his overnight flight from Washington to Warsaw, Hagel told reporters that Karzai’s foot-dragging puts at risk the planning necessary for a post-combat mission.

“You can’t just keep deferring and deferring,” he said, “because at some point, the realities of planning and budgeting — it collides.”

Since the new year, the Obama administration has repeatedly said it needs an agreement signed in weeks, not months, if it is to keep any troops in Afghanistan in 2015.

In Kabul on Thursday, Karzai’s national security adviser voiced optimism about the pact.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta said he has grown more hopeful that the Afghan leader will sign the agreement before leaving office this year. Karzai has repeatedly said he wants to wait to sign the document until after the country chooses his successor in April 5 elections.

At a news conference, Spanta said intense talks in the last few days have made him “more optimistic” that the stalemate can be broken.

“We are working very intensively together with the United States authorities to reach and sign this agreement soon,” Spanta said. “I cannot go today into detail, but I don’t know — since two, three, four days, I am more optimistic compared to last week. Let us wait a few days more.”

If the deal falls apart, Afghanistan could lose up to $15 billion a year in aid, effectively collapsing its fragile economy and making it unable to pay its 350,000-strong army and police.

Hagel, who was visiting Polish leaders to consult on Afghanistan and other security issues, sounded skeptical at his news conference in Warsaw when asked about Spanta’s remarks.

Saying that the Afghan president’s position keeps changing, Hagel noted that U.S. officials, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, have pressed Karzai and “talk with him constantly.” But they have limited ability to influence his decision, Hagel said.

He added that U.S. allies who are willing to help train and advise Afghan forces beyond 2014 also are eager to know if there will be a U.S.-Afghan security agreement soon.

Insurgents in Afghanistan have intensified attacks recently in a campaign to regain territory as foreign forces prepare to leave the country.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com.

North: I Can’t Tell Families of Iraq Fallen Their Deaths Were Worth It.


Image: North: I Can't Tell Families of Iraq Fallen Their Deaths Were Worth It

 

By Greg Richter

Now that the Iraqi towns of Ramadi and Fallujah have fallen to al-Qaida, retired Lt. Col. Oliver North says he isn’t sure he can tell families of fallen service members their sacrifice was worth it.

“This is a devastating blow to those who fought in this war,” North said Monday on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” 

“I look at those kind of events as a personal tragedy for those who’ve lost them,” North said. “But up until now, when they would ask the question, was that sacrifice worth it, I could answer yes.”

The victory America sought in Iraq, a stable country, a friendly government that respected its own people and was a place where terrorists could not reign again, was doable, North said.

“That’s not what we’re seeing happen there.”

North blamed the fall of the two towns on a failure of the Obama administration to close the Bilateral Security Agreement that had already been negotiated.

The sacrifice services members made for each other is still there and worth it, North said, but Obama’s refusal to use the word “victory” or to step up and do what needs to be done is “disaster for those families.”

More than 8,000 Iraqis, 90 percent of them civilians, have been killed in Iraq in 2013. The last U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq in December 2011.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Inhofe: Gates Was Not ‘Honest’ With American People.


Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe said former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates should have outlined to the American people his concerns about President Barack Obama’s national security management style and wobbly commitment to the Afghanistan war while he was still in office, BuzzFeed reported.
On Thursday, Inhofe, ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Newsmax’s John Gizzi that he was becoming a “fan” of Gates after reading excerpts from his book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary At War,” to be published this week.
Interviewed on the WABC’s Aaron Klein Program, Inhofe said “I think, yes, we can justly criticize Bob Gates for admitting that he knew these things were going on and he did not reveal these to the American people.”
Inhofe continued: “If you go back and look at the history of some of the secretaries of defense that we’ve had, they have been very outspoken in being honest with the American people. And Bob Gates wasn’t.”
The senator also charged that the president and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were “both . . . playing a political game [in Iraq] with the lives of Americans and our allies [and that] is something that should be a huge wake up call to the American people,” Inhofe said.
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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Robert Gates: Obama Didn’t Make Troops Believe He Supported Their Sacrifice.


Image: Robert Gates: Obama Didn't Make Troops Believe He Supported Their Sacrifice

By Newsmax Wires

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said says he doesn’t regret anything he wrote in his controversial new book and calls the memoir “an honest account.”

And in an interview Sunday with CBS News, he offered perhaps his harshest yet criticism of President Obama’s wartime leadership: that he didn’t reach out to American troops and make them believe he supported their sacrifice.

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“You say about President Obama that as much as you admired him on so many levels, he never really had a passion for pursuing the war in Afghanistan, and that kind of bothered you,” CBS News correspondent Rita Braver asked Gates.

“It’s one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It’s another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed,” said Gates.

“President (George W. ) Bush did that with the troops when I was Secretary. I did not see President Obama do that,” he said. “As I write in the book, it was this absence of passion, this absence of a conviction of the importance of success that disturbed me.”

In “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” the former Pentagon chief raises questions about Obama’s war leadership and harshly criticizes Vice President Joe Biden.

Gates told CBS’ “Sunday Morning” that people credited him with being blunt and candid while he was in the Cabinet and that “I could hardly be any less in writing a book.”

Story continues below video.

Gates say how some are looking at the book reflects the country’s polarized political process.

He says he didn’t think that waiting until 2017 — after the next presidential election — to weigh in on important issues “made any sense.”

“So why was I so angry all the time? Why did I want to leave all the time? . . . It’s just because getting anything done in Washington was so damnably hard,” he said.

Lawmakers in Congress were “uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic Constitutional responsibilities, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical . . . too often putting self and reelection before country.”

“I thought about that sentence a lot,” Gates told Braver,” and whether it was too strong. And I decided at the end of the day, that that’s what I believe.”

Gates praised Obama for facing down political opposition from his own party. But he is still very critical of the president and says Obama was at skeptical of his own strategy in Afghanistan.

But he saves much of his criticism for the president’s staffers. The  national security staff under Obama was the most micromanaging and controlling since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

But, Braver asked, “Did you ever tell the president about it directly?”

“No,” Gates said. “And I acknowledge that in the book.”

“Should you have, do you think?”

“Well, first of all, things don’t happen that way if the president doesn’t want them to happen that way.”

“Do you have a sense that’s changed? Or do you think they are still running things from the White House?”

“I actually think it’s gotten worse,” Gates said.

His disagreements with Vice President Joe Biden were especially harsh.

“You are not very flattering to Vice President Biden in this book,” said Braver.

“Actually I think I am in some areas complimentary of him,” Gates responded, “but where I had a particular problem with the vice president was in his encouragement of suspicion of the military and the senior military with the president: ‘You can’t trust these guys. They’re gonna try and jam you. They’re gonna try and box you in,’ and so on. And that did disturb me a lot.”

But Gates said he did occasionally see eye-to-eye with Biden.

“One time when I agreed with him on something — often Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and I would ride back to the Pentagon together from the White House — and Mullen turned to me at one point [and] said, ‘You know that you agreed with the vice president this morning.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why I’m rethinking my position.'”

Gates says he was “dismayed” when he heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tell Obama that her opposition to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq had been “political, because she was facing him during the primary season.”

But Gates also has high praise for Clinton, saying she became one of his closest allies in the administration.

“The thing that I liked best about Secretary Clinton, other than the fact that she has a great sense of humor, was she is very tough-minded,” he said.

“Do you think she’d make a good president?” Braver asked.

‘Actually, I think she would,” Gates replied.

“And how about Vice President Biden? There is some talk he might run.”

“Well, I suppose to be even-handed, I would have to say I suppose he would,” he laughed.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

McCain: US Should Have Kept Residual Forces in Iraq.


Image: McCain: US Should Have Kept Residual Forces in Iraq

By Amy Woods

U.S. Sen. John McCain suggested Sunday sending Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, and Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, back to the Mideast to help quell the violence spreading throughout the region.

“[Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki trusts them,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s not just Iraq,” he said. “When you look at Iraq/Syria, you are seeing an al-Qaida enclave there, and that is very dangerous to American national security.”

The recent al-Qaida insurgence in Iraq has the country slipping toward a civil war less than three years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Now we see Fallujah vehicles driving down the main street with al-Qaida flags,” McCain said. “It’s very distressing to those veterans who fought so hard. This president wanted out. We got out. It would never say the number of troops that they wanted to have there, so Maliki decided to go his own way, and we’re now seeing dramatically increased Iranian influence there in Iraq.

“We could have kept a residual force there, and anybody who tells you we couldn’t is not telling the truth,” he added.

During the interview, the Republican slammed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for refusing to consider amendments to the unemployment-insurance bill.

“If we could have open debate in the United States Senate and amendments, then maybe we could make it better in the long run,” McCain said. “Instead, it’s being rammed through, cut off debate, no amendments, and that’s not the way the Senate should function.”

McCain addressed the Chris Christie bridge scandal on the talk show and said the New Jersey governor and likely presidential candidate will survive “as long as another shoe doesn’t drop.”

“I don’t think he could have handled it any better than he has so far,” McCain said of Christie’s lengthy press conference last week in response to revelations about a politically motivated traffic jam planned by the governor’s staff.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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