Thursday, June 11, 2009

North Korean Rhetoric Bears Watching, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 11, 2009 - Because it comes from what he called "an unpredictable regime," bellicose rhetoric from North Korea needs to be watched closely, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. North Korean officials have said that all agreements – including the armistice that halted the Korean War in 1953 – are null and void, and have threatened acts of war if the United Nations goes forward with sanctions.

North Korea reportedly tested an atomic weapon last month and has launched a number of missiles. The country has withdrawn from the Six-Party Talks with China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

"It's a very unpredictable regime, so it is probably not wise just to dismiss out-of-hand the rhetoric," Gates said. "I think we will just have to see. I think everyone is watching very closely."

But Gates also said intelligence does not indicate warlike changes in the North Korean military dispositions. "I don't think that there has been a commensurate change in the posture of the North Korean military that would suggest an intent to undertake operations," he said.

Intelligence information indicates that North Korea is not mobilizing troops or moving troops and equipment, the secretary said. "[North Korean] military operations are pretty routine at this point, so that's a source of some comfort," he said, "but again, they are so unpredictable you can't completely discount them."

Officials repeatedly have said that the preferred solution in North Korea is diplomacy, and that U.S. officials will work with allies to bring the North Koreans back to the negotiating table.

Gates is here to attend a conference of NATO defense ministers

Senate Confirms McChrystal, Stavridis, Fraser Nominations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 11, 2009 - The Senate confirmed Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal yesterday to receive his fourth star and serve as commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The Senate also confirmed Navy Adm. James Stavridis as commander of U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander for Europe, NATO's top military post. Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Fraser was confirmed for promotion to general and to take the post Stavridis will vacate as commander of U.S. Southern Command.

All three nominations were confirmed unanimously.

McChrystal will succeed Army Gen. David D. McKiernan as top commander in Afghanistan. Stavridis will replace the retiring Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock as the senior NATO and U.S. European Command officer.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced at a May 11 news conference that he'd recommended President Barack Obama nominate McChrystal to the Afghanistan post. "I believe that our mission [in Afghanistan] requires new thinking and new approaches from our military leaders," Gates told reporters. "Today, we have a new policy set by our new president. We have a new strategy, a new mission and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership is needed."

Gates also announced his recommendation of Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, his senior military advisor, for a new position under McChrystal. En route to Brussels, Belgium, for a NATO defense ministers conference, Gates said today that Rodriguez first will serve as deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan while a new NATO command structure is put in place there. Once the new headquarters is formed, Gates said, Rodriguez would serve under McChrystal in a strictly NATO capacity as day-to-day commander of the tactical effort in Afghanistan.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing June 2, McChrystal outlined the challenges in Afghanistan.

"Afghans face a combination of challenges – a resilient Taliban insurgency, increasing levels of violence, [a] lack of governance capability, persistent corruption, lack of development in key areas, illicit narcotics and malign influences from other countries," he said. "There is no simple answer. We must conduct a holistic counterinsurgency campaign, and we must do it well."

McChrystal will assume command as more than 21,000 additional U.S. military personnel are slated to finish deploying to Afghanistan by October.

Before serving as director of the Joint Staff, McChrystal was the commander of Joint Special Operations command. He's spent the majority of his military career commanding special operations and airborne infantry units.

Gates Urges Orderly Reduction in NATO's Kosovo Force

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 11, 2009 - With NATO defense ministers having agreed to reduce the alliance's military presence in Kosovo from 14,000 to 10,000 troops by the year's end, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today urged that the reduction take place as an organized process. On the first day of an alliance defense ministers conference here, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced the force reduction today, noting that Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, has proposed moving toward a deterrent presence in Kosovo that will require fewer troops in the country.

Gates said that any NATO drawdown in the country should be accomplished in an organized and coherent alliance process, and not by countries leaving unilaterally.

"The irony is [that] two years ago, everybody was worried about us pulling out, and I came to these meetings and said our policy will be, 'In together, out together,'" the secretary said in an interview with reporters traveling with him. "Now I'm in the position of worrying that some of them will leave prematurely. So the same phrase still applies: In together, out together."

Unilateral withdrawal leaves other nations exposed if there is too little time to plan, Gates said. "Just unilaterally just pulling up stakes is not the way you behave as a part of an alliance," he said.

De Hoop Scheffer said 14,000 NATO troops currently are in Kosovo, a number that is due to drop to 10,000 by Jan. 1. The United States has 1,483 troops – mostly National Guardsmen – deployed to Kosovo. The headquarters for the U.S. effort in the nation is at Camp Bondsteel. In addition, 33 NATO and non-NATO allies have troops in the country.

De Hoop Scheffer said NATO will remain in Kosovo and is committed to a safe and secure country. "We will remain for the security of the majority and minority alike," he said during a NATO news conference.

The decision is a reflection of how far Kosovo and the region have come, he noted. While much work remains, "the region and international players are on the right track," the secretary general said.

NATO's North Atlantic Council must approve the proposal. There are further plans to draw the numbers down to 6,500 and then to 2,500, but this will happen only if conditions warrant it and only after the North Atlantic Council approves, NATO officials said.

The mission in Kosovo began in 1999 after Serbian troops began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the ethnic Albanians in the country. NATO has led the security force – dubbed K-FOR – under a United Nations mandate.

Rewards for Terror

Fox reports this morning that four terrorists have been relocated to Bermuda.

Easy enough formula, wage war against the US, get relocated to an island Paradise.

For more about Will, visit His novel, 'A Line Through the Desert' can be purchased here.