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Saturday, September 7, 2013

INVESTOR AGREES TO PLEAD GUILTY FOR ROLE IN RIGGED BID FORECLOSURE FRAUD SCHEME

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, ANTITRUST 
Investigations Have Yielded 36 Plea Agreements to Date

WASHINGTON — A Northern California real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco against Daniel Rosenbledt of Hillsborough, Calif. Rosenbledt is the 36th individual to plead guilty or agree to plead guilty as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.

According to court documents, Rosenbledt conspired with others not to bid against one another, but instead to designate a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, Calif. Rosenbledt was also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out schemes to fraudulently acquire title to selected properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert to co-conspirators money that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and others.

Court papers stated Rosenbledt conspired with others to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Mateo County beginning as early as April 2008 and continuing until about January 2011. Rosenbledt was also charged with similar conduct in San Francisco County beginning as early as November 2009 and continuing until about January 2011.

“The Antitrust Division remains committed to vigorously pursuing conspirators who collude at foreclosure auctions at the expense of lenders and distressed homeowners,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “A competitive process benefits those homeowners who are looking for the best possible outcome during a difficult situation.”

The filing stated that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at San Mateo and San Francisco County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner. According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“For those who engage in illegal anticompetitive practices at foreclosure actions, we will hold you accountable for your actions and bring you to justice,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI and the Antitrust Division are committed to rooting out those who undermine the real estate market and take advantage of legitimate home buyers and sellers.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million. A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The charges today are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, Calif. These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-436-6660, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today's charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.

U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS ASIAN LEADERS ARE WELCOMING MILITARY REBALANCE

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Asian Leaders Welcome U.S. Rebalance, Official Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2013 - As leaders across Asia welcomed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his recent trip there, they also welcomed the U.S. rebalance to Asia, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs told reporters here today.

In a meeting with reporters to discuss the trip, Peter R. Lavoy noted that the secretary visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines during his nine-day trip. He also participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers conference in Brunei. Joining the ASEAN ministers for a "plus" session were defense ministers from China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

"Each of his interlocutors was extremely positive about the rebalance," Lavoy said.

All of the nations appreciated the fact that the rebalance is a whole-of-government approach to the Asia-Pacific region that is not limited to the military sphere, Lavoy said, but focuses on trade, investment, diplomacy, political engagement and defense. "It's important that we have balance within the rebalance as well," he added.

Asian leaders also showed satisfaction in the way the United States is resourcing and operating the rebalance, Lavoy said.

President Barack Obama, Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry all have spent significant time in the region. Hagel is returning to Asia next month, as is the president.

Hagel's trip also demonstrated U.S. global reach to the defense ministers, Lavoy said. As the secretary was in Asia, the Syria situation was heating up, he noted. The secretary held a full schedule of activities during the day with Asian leaders and also spent the nights dealing with interagency partners on Syria.

"He was doing Syria by night and Asia by day," Lavoy said. "It really impressed upon his interlocutors that the U.S. really brings incredible capacity wherever it goes. We're able to walk and chew gum at the same time."

In Malaysia, the secretary discussed the deepening defense relationship, including possible sales of F-18s to the nation. They also discussed competing claims over the South China Sea. Malaysia is leading an effort to create a code of conduct for the region that would include China. Lavoy said the United States strongly supports the effort.

In Indonesia, the secretary discussed the close military-to-military relationship between the two nations. The United States is selling AH-64 Apache helicopters to Indonesia, and one example of the closeness of the relationship is the creation of an alumni association for Indonesian and U.S. military personnel who attended each country's military schools, Lavoy told reporters. This includes the president, who graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

In the Philippines, Lavoy said, Hagel discussed progress in the framework agreement to provide U.S. forces the opportunity to operate on a rotational basis on Philippine territory. This, he explained, will allow U.S. and Philippine forces to train together.

"There have been two rounds of negotiations on the framework agreement, and we have two more rounds," he said. "Our expectation ... is we would try to get this done in the next few weeks."

Weekly Address: Calling for Limited Military Action in Syria | The White House

Weekly Address: Calling for Limited Military Action in Syria | The White House

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S EXPLAINS WHY MILITARY ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN AGAINST SYRIA

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
President Explains Syria Decision in Weekly Address
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2013 - President Barack Obama today used his weekly address to explain his decisions to take military action against Bashar Assad's regime in Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people and to seek congressional approval for that action.

More than 1,000 innocent people – including hundreds of children – were murdered Aug. 21 in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, the president said, and the United States has presented a powerful case to the world that the Syrian government was responsible.

"This was not only a direct attack on human dignity; it is a serious threat to our national security," Obama said. "There's a reason governments representing 98 percent of the world's people have agreed to ban the use of chemical weapons. Not only because they cause death and destruction in the most indiscriminate and inhumane way possible – but because they can also fall into the hands of terrorist groups who wish to do us harm."

Last weekend, he said, he announced that as commander in chief he had decided the United States should take military action against the Syrian regime. "This is not a decision I made lightly," the president added. "Deciding to use military force is the most solemn decision we can make as a nation."

Obama also explained why he sought authorization from Congress for military action.

"As the leader of the world's oldest constitutional democracy, I also know that our country will be stronger if we act together, and our actions will be more effective," he said. "That's why I asked members of Congress to debate this issue and vote on authorizing the use of force."

The president emphasized that the pending military action is not an open-ended intervention. "This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," he said. "There would be no American boots on the ground. Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope – designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so."

Obama acknowledged that the American people are weary after a decade of war. "That's why we're not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else's war," he said.

"But we are the United States of America," he added. "We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we've seen out of Syria. Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again [and] that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons -- all of which would pose a serious threat to our national security.

"That's why we can't ignore chemical weapons attacks like this one – even if they happen halfway around the world," he continued. "And that's why I call on members of Congress from both parties to come together and stand up for the kind of world we want to live in -- the kind of world we want to leave our children and future generations."


U.S. REP TO UN WARNS OF INACTION REGARDING SYRIAN REGIMES USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
U.N. Rep: Inaction Would Be More Risky Than Action in Syria
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2013 - The risks of inaction in response to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people would be greater than the risks of military action, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations said here today.

Speaking to an audience at the Center for American Progress, Ambassador Samantha Power characterized Syria as lying at the heart of a region critical to U.S. security -- a region that is home to friends and partners and one of the closest U.S. allies.

The Bashar Assad regime, Power said, has stores of chemical weapons that it recently used on a large scale and that the United States can't allow to fall into terrorists' hands. The regime also collaborates with Iran and works with thousands of extremist fighters from the militant group Hezbollah.

The ambassador acknowledged that questions are being raised about why the United States should be the world's police in such brutal situations and how the nation can afford another war in the Middle East.

"Notwithstanding these complexities, notwithstanding the various concerns that we all share," Power said, "I'm here today to explain why the costs of not taking targeted, limited military action are far greater than the risks of going forward in the manner that President [Barack] Obama has outlined."

The chemical weapons attack in Damascus on Aug. 21 killed more than 1,400 Syrian men, women and children, she said, and the U.N. assessed that although Assad used more chemical weapons on Aug. 21 than he had before, he's barely put a dent in his large stockpile.

"Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and many members of Congress have spelled out the consequences of failing to meet this threat, Power said. "If there are more chemical attacks," she added, "we will see an inevitable spike in the flow of refugees on top of the already 2 million in the region, possibly pushing Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or Iraq past their breaking points."

The Zaatari refugee camp is now the fourth-largest city in Jordan, she said, adding that half of Syria's refugees are children and that such camps are known to become fertile recruiting grounds for violent extremists.

Beyond Syria, the ambassador said, if violating a universal agreement to ban chemical weapons is not met with a meaningful response, other regimes will try to acquire or use them to protect or extend their power, increasing risks to American troops in the future.

"We cannot afford to signal to North Korea and Iran that the international community is unwilling to act to prevent proliferation or willing to tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction," Power told the audience.

"People will draw lessons," she added, "if the world proves unwilling to enforce the norms against chemical weapons use that we have worked so diligently to construct."

Moving from discussing the risks of inaction to the risks of taking action, Power said the reason nonmilitary tools can't be used to achieve the same end in Syria is that the alternatives are exhausted.

"For more than a year," Power said, "we have pursued countless policy tools short of military force to try to dissuade Assad from using chemical weapons."

The ambassador explained how she and others engaged the Syrians directly and asked the Russians, the U.N. and the Iranians to send similar messages, but when Scud missiles and other weapons didn't stop the Syrian rebels, Assad used chemical weapons on a small scale several times, as the United States reported in June.

Her group then redoubled its efforts, backing the U.N. diplomatic process and trying to get the parties back to the negotiating table, she said. They provided more humanitarian assistance and on chemical weapons they went public with evidence of the regime's use.

"We worked with the U.N. to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than 6 months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks. ... We expanded and accelerated our assistance to the Syrian opposition. We supported the U.N. Commission of Inquiry," the ambassador said.

She noted that Russia, often backed by China, blocked every relevant action in the U.N. Security Council, even mild condemnations of the use of chemical weapons that ascribed blame to no particular party. "And on Aug. 21, [Assad] staged the largest chemical weapons attack in a quarter-century while U.N. inspectors were sitting on the other side of town," Power said.

It was only after the United States pursued such nonmilitary options without deterring chemical weapons use in Syria that Obama concluded that a limited military strike is the only way to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons as if they are a conventional weapon of war, the ambassador added.

"From the start of the Syrian conflict, the president has consistently demonstrated that he will not put American boots on the ground to fight another war in the Middle East," Power said. "The draft resolution before Congress makes this clear."

The president is seeking public support to use limited military means to degrade Assad's capacity to use these weapons again and deter others in the world who might seek to use them, the ambassador said. "And the United States has the discipline as a country to maintain these limits," she added.

Limited military action will not solve the entire Syria problem, Power noted, but the action should reinforce the larger strategy for addressing the crisis in Syria.

"This operation, combined with ongoing efforts to upgrade the military capabilities of the moderate opposition, should reduce the regime's faith that they can kill their way to victory," the ambassador said.

"We should agree that there are lines in this world that cannot be crossed and limits on murderous behavior -- especially with weapons of mass destruction -- that must be enforced," Power said. "If we cannot summon the courage to act when the evidence is clear and when the action being contemplated is limited, then our ability to lead in the world is compromised."

PRESIDENT OBAMA WARNS OF SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS THREAT

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Obama: Syrian Chemical Attacks Threaten Region, Globe
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2013 - Chemical weapons attacks in Syria are not just a tragedy in that country, but also pose a threat to regional and global peace and stability, President Barack Obama said in St. Petersburg, Russia, today.

At a news conference following the G-20 summit, Obama said the Syrian regime's chemical attack on its own people threatens to unravel the almost century-old ban against using such weapons.

The president said the Syrian government's attack killed civilians, making this more than an esoteric subject. "Over 1,400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were children," Obama said. "This is not something we've fabricated. This is not something that we are ... using as an excuse for military action."

The Syrian attack threatens Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel, and threatens to further destabilize the Middle East, the president said. The actions also increase the likelihood that these weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of terror groups, he added.

"Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations, that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence," Obama said. "That's not the world that we want to live in."

G-20 leaders were unanimous that there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21, Obama said, and also were unanimous that the chemical weapons ban is important. Where there is a division in the G-20 has to do with the United Nations, he added.

"You know, there are number of countries that just as a matter of principle believe that if military action is to be taken, it needs to go through the U.N. Security Council," he said. "It is my view ... that given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action."

In a joint statement released today, the leaders of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom joined with the United States in calling for "a strong international response to this grave violation of the world's rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable."

Obama said he was elected to end wars, not to start them. "I've spent the last four and a half years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people," he said. "But what I also know is that there are times where we have to make hard choices if we're going to stand up for the things that we care about. And I believe that this is one of those times."

The president announced he will address the American people from the White House about Syria on Sept. 10.

DOD SAYS CHANGES IN AFGHANISTAN HELP AFGHAN GOVERNMENT

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Societal, Security Changes Give Afghan Government Momentum
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2013 - Societal and security changes in Afghanistan have shifted momentum in the country increasingly in the government's favor, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and U.S. Army's 3rd Corps said Wednesday

Army Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke to Pentagon reporters via satellite from his headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The changes in Afghanistan have been stunning, he said. Milley, who first served in Afghanistan in 2001, said the country had no hope at that time. "If you flash forward to today, you've got a significantly ... much more positive situation on your hands," he said.

From the security standpoint, the general said, the progress has been incredible, as Afghanistan now has more than 350,000 trained and ready security personnel. These forces, "are out there fighting the fight and carrying the load every single day," he said.

"They are capable at the tactical level, every day, day in and day out, and they're proving it over and over and over again in this summer's fighting season – the first summer that they've really and legitimately been in the lead," he added.

The bottom line is the Afghan police and army has been effective in combating insurgents throughout the country, Milley said.

A few reverses took place along the way, the general said, but they were small and short-lived. Afghan security personnel are in the lead throughout the country, Milley told reporters, and are effectively protecting the vast majority of the population.

Afghan forces are planning, coordinating, synchronizing and then executing combat operations every day, Milley said. Afghans lead about 1,000 patrols a day, and just this week led 35 named operations at kandak – battalion – level or above.

U.S., NATO and partner forces do provide support – advisors, close air support, medical evacuation and logistics, Milley said.

The enemy is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the enemy he has seen in previous tours, the general said. "They go by the same names -- Haqqani, Taliban, etc. -- but their capabilities are different," he added.

Enemy tactics are aimed at Afghan forces this fighting season, he said. The enemy relies on roadside bombs, suicide bombings, intimidation and some small-arms attacks. "What they can't do is they can't build," Milley said. "They can't provide an alternative form of governance. They don't have a political agenda that's acceptable to the vast majority of the people of Afghanistan."

That, he said, is because of the societal changes that have occurred in Afghanistan since 2001.

One societal change is communications. Under the Taliban, communications were squashed, and Afghanistan had no free or independent outlets. "Today, there is a press corps here," the general said. "There are 75 TV stations. There are 175 or 180 radio stations throughout this country."

In addition to these sources, Milley said, progress is evident in the explosion of high-speed technologies and what that means to the Afghan people. Millions of Afghans have access to cellphones, high-speed Internet, text messaging and the like, said he noted. "That communication explosion in Afghanistan, in a country of 30 million, is making a difference day in and day out," he added.

Roads are a lifeline in Afghanistan, and more than 24,000 kilometers of road have been built in the nation since 2001. Air transport also has grown, with 52 international airlines now flying in to Kabul, Milley said.

This infrastructure growth is fueled – in part – by a hothouse growth in education, the general told reporters. About 10 million Afghans are enrolled in schools. The literacy rate rose from less than 10 percent in 2001 to more than 28 percent today.

This is not good if you are a member of the Taliban and affiliated groups, Milley said.

"In this country, with this explosion of information, time is on the side of the government of Afghanistan [and] the people that are supporting a progressive Afghanistan, and not on the side of the Taliban," he said.

Almost 70 percent of Afghanistan's population is under 25 years of age, Milley noted, adding that those young people soon will come into positions of significant influence and power. "And I think the days of the Taliban are going to be behind them when that educated group of young people that are in existence today -- that are learning the sciences, the math, and all the social sciences, etc. -- assume positions of responsibility."

Milley said he is optimistic about the future in Afghanistan as long as Afghan forces continue their job of providing security. "If they continue to do that next year and the year after and so on, then I think things will turn out OK in Afghanistan," he said.

Navy to Commission Submarine Minnesota

Navy to Commission Submarine Minnesota

READOUT OF SECRETARY HAGEL'S MEETING WITH SPAIN'S MINISTER OF DEFENSE PEDRO MORENÉS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 

           Pentagon Press Secretary George Little provided the following readout:
           "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Spain's Minister of Defense Pedro Morenés met today at the Pentagon.

           "Secretary Hagel and Minister Morenés spoke at length about the violence in Syria. The two leaders discussed Spain's support of a joint statement issued at the G-20 in St. Petersburg condemning the horrific weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus and supporting the efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. Secretary Hagel praised Minister Morenés for Spain's support on the issue and the leaders agreed to remain in close coordination as the situation evolves.

           "Secretary Hagel thanked Minister Morenés for Spain's support of U.S. forces, specifically at Morón Air Base and Naval Station Rota. The two leaders discussed Africa and the continent's security challenges including piracy, illicit trafficking, and terrorism.

           "The two leaders also discussed the importance of supporting security and stability in Afghanistan post 2014. Secretary Hagel thanked Spain for being a valued ally, and conveyed the United States' appreciation for Spain's steadfast commitment to Afghanistan."

VETERANS, AGENT ORANGE AND PROSTRATE CANCER

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 
Diseases Associated with Agent Orange » Prostate Cancer

Veterans who develop prostate cancer and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their prostate cancer and military service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.
Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate, a small gland in the male reproductive system.

Some men may have urinary problems, but some men don't have symptoms early on. If you have any health concerns, talk with your health care provider.

The greatest risk factor for prostate cancer is increasing age. Other risk factors include having a father or brother with the disease and being African American.

Prostate cancer is often first detected with a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test or digital rectal exam. Talk with your health care provider about your risk and the pros and cons of screening.

Visit Medline Plus to learn about treatment for prostate cancer, the latest medical research, and more from the National Institutes of Health

Friday, September 6, 2013

DEFENSE SECRETARY HAGEL CALLS EGYPT'S DEFENSE MINISTER REGARDING SYRIAN SITUATION

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Hagel Discusses Security With Egypt's Defense Minister
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi yesterday to discuss the U.S.-Egyptian security relationship, the current security situation in Egypt and progress on the political roadmap, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

In a statement summarizing the call, Little said the Egyptian defense leader updated Hagel on security developments, including the Sinai Peninsula, and stressed the importance of the U.S.-Egyptian partnership against violent extremists.

Hagel acknowledged Egyptian accomplishments in providing security in the Sinai and declared that the United States stands with Egypt and all nations against terrorism worldwide, the press secretary said.

The two defense leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and its implications for security and stability in the region, Little said, and Hagel expressed appreciation for the defense minister's insights.


West Wing Week: 09/06/13 or "Stronger Together" | The White House

West Wing Week: 09/06/13 or "Stronger Together" | The White House

Unser lebender Planet: CO2-„Atmung“ der Erde vom Weltraum aus sichtbar

Unser lebender Planet: CO2-„Atmung“ der Erde vom Weltraum aus sichtbar

QUESTION: WHAT DOES U.S. THINK ABOUT KENYAN VOTE TO LEAVE ICC?

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Kenya: ICC Membership (Taken Question)
Taken Question
Washington, DC
Question: What is the U.S. position on the Kenyan vote to remove itself from the ICC?

Answer: The United States is dedicated to supporting the rule of law and working to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity. We urge the government of Kenya to fulfill its commitments to seek justice for the victims of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. In that regard, we note President Kenyatta’s recent statements affirming his commitment to ensure that Kenya meets its international obligations as a party to the Rome Statute.

OFFICIAL PREDICTS MILITARY WILL HAVE A "BLEAK BUDGET" FOR FISCAL 2014

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Official Predicts Bleak Budget Picture for Fiscal 2014
By NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2013 - Budget pressures mean defense acquisition workers' lives "are going to stay difficult for a while," their chief told the workforce here this week, but he reminded them that they have a critical mission for the country.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, visited here Sept. 3 to discuss the Pentagon's Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative and listen to workforce feedback after what he acknowledged has been a challenging summer.

"Pax River," as it's commonly known, is home to Naval Air Systems Command and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division headquarters, as well as more than 50 tenant activities. Staffs here provide the full spectrum of acquisition management, research and development capabilities, air and ground test and evaluation, aircraft logistics and maintenance management. The installation supports land-based and maritime aircraft and engineering, test, evaluation, integration, and life cycle support for ship and shore electronics.

Kendall told workers the now-completed civilian furloughs, which cut workers' hours and pay by one day a week for six weeks, were a last resort in the face of steep sequestration-mandated spending cuts that might otherwise have left the military in a dangerously low state of readiness.

"I'm sorry we had to do it," he said, emphasizing that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other Pentagon leaders exhausted all other possibilities before reluctantly approving what amounted to short-term layoffs.

Kendall said he can't predict what the new fiscal year will bring to the Defense Department when it begins Oct. 1.

"The budget situation we're in is pretty much unprecedented," he said. "I have not [before] seen this kind of gridlock on Capitol Hill."

Kendall said he doubts that sequestration, the provision in budget law that imposes across-the-board spending cuts to counteract budget deficits, will go away this year. Congress can de-trigger the automatic cuts, he said, but he added that he sees no appetite for doing so.

"The impact of sequestration, while it is very real, is also very distributed," Kendall said. He noted that wholesale program cancellations, which people might expect to see, have been avoided so far, "because we're trying to do our jobs."

Sequester will cut about $52 billion from the 2014 defense budget, he said, and leaders will begin implementing those cuts in October. While the Office of Management and Budget hasn't issued guidance yet for fiscal year 2014, Kendall said, "my expectation is we will start assuming sequestration from Day One."

Military personnel cuts take time, he explained, and military pay is likely to be exempt, so the burden of those cuts essentially falls on the civilian workforce and contractors, along with investment accounts -- his area of acquisition, technology and logistics.

The military culture is to "put your head down and get the job done" no matter the circumstances, he said, and the acquisition workforce continues its push to get the best value for taxpayer dollars.

"I do think we have to be vocal about what's going on, though. ... And I think it's going to be a lot worse going into [fiscal 2014]," he said.

Kendall said he hopes furloughs will not be repeated, but that while he also hopes DOD can avoid a reduction in force of the civilian workforce, it may be necessary.

"The odds of a [reduction in force] not happening are not so good," he acknowledged, though he added that defense leaders are researching alternatives.

"I don't see us getting to a time soon where we get out of the mess," Kendall said. "But I do think that as the damage becomes more visible, Congress will have to act and de-trigger [sequestration.] I just don't know how long it's going to take."


U.S. POSTAL SERVICE EMPLOYEES AND DOCTORS ARRESTED IN WORKERS' COMPENSATION FRAUD CASE

FROM:  U.S. POSTAL SERVICE 
Date: September 5, 2013
ARREST AND INDICTMENT OF TEN CURRENT AND FORMER 
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE EMPLOYEES AND TWO DOCTORS FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD 

Defendants face a combined forfeiture allegation of over $620,000.00
SAN JUAN, P.R. - On August 30, 2013 a Federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned twelve separate Indictments charging ten current and former U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees and two doctors, Luis E. Faura-Clavell and Alfonso A. Madrid-Guzmán, with fraud associated with Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). This program provides wage loss and medical benefits to employees who have become injured in the course of their official capacity within the USPS and are unable to work due to disability, announced United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez.
A two year investigation led by the USPS-Office of Inspector General (OIG), with assistance from the FBI, Social Security Administration-OIG, Health and Human Services-OIG, the DOL-OIG and the Puerto Rico Police Department targeted fraud associated with OWCP claims.
Postal Service employees are covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which provides tax-free benefits to civilian federal employees who sustain injuries or anoccupational disease as a result of their employment. Postal employees can receive up to 75
percent if there is at least one dependent. The Postal Service is the largest FECA participant, paying more than $1 billion in benefits and $60 million in administrative fees annually.
Pursuant to OWCP guidelines, a claimant must prove that he or she is disabled by furnishing medical documentation and other evidence with their work related claim. The employee’s claim and supporting medical evidence is then evaluated by the OWCP to determine the claimant’s medical impairments and the effect of the impairment on the claimant’s ability to work on a sustained basis. Employees and Two Doctors for Workers’ Compensation Fraud

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL'S REMARKS ON GLOBAL WATER SECURITY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks on Global Water Security
Remarks
E. William Colglazier
Science and Technology Adviser
46th Session of the Erice International Seminars: Role of Science in the Third Millennium
Erice, Sicily
August 19, 2013

It is my pleasure to talk to you today about “global water security” at the Erice International Seminars 46th Session focused on “The Role of Science in the Third Millennium.” The growing importance of water security can be framed in two ways. First, water resources should be protected so that, on a reliable basis, there is sufficient, safe water to sustain the health and livelihoods of populations, while also increasing their resilience to water-related hazards such as floods and droughts. Second, the geopolitical dimensions of water security should be addressed by considering how water shortages, poor water quality, or floods might impact the stability or failure of states, increase regional tensions, and pose a risk to global public health and food markets, thus hobbling economic growth.

Challenges

We face Global Water Challenges across many sectors because water has many uses.  At the household level, humans need sufficient, safe water for drinking and cooking; and, at larger scales, we use it for agriculture, sewage treatment, navigation, hydropower and other energy production, and industry. In the natural world, water sustains healthy ecosystems that protect biodiversity and provide a wide range of ecosystem services.

Clean water is essential for human health.  Few issues are more important to economic development, environmental well-being, and human security than water and sanitation. Yet today, nearly 800 million people -- one in nine -- lack access to an improved drinking water source, and more than 1.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. Each year, more than four billion cases of diarrhea cause 2.2 million deaths—most are in children under the age of five. In addition to the lives lost, the total economic losses associated with inadequate clean water supply and sanitation is estimated at more than $250 billion annually.

These issues disproportionately affect women and children.The burden of tending to family members sickened by water-borne disease falls primarily on women and girls, who are also more likely to stop attending school when appropriate sanitation facilities are not available. Women and girls often bear the primary responsibility for meeting the water needs of the family. Collecting water can consume up to five hours per day and involve walking more than three kilometers, carrying over 18 kilograms of water. It is estimated that, across sub-Saharan Africa, women spend some 40 billion hours per year collecting water, hours that could be spent going to school, improving their livelihoods, and becoming the future entrepreneurs that solve water security challenges.

The challenges of water extend beyond health and impact agriculture and food security. More than 70 percent of the water used globally goes towards agriculture; in some developing countries, it’s over 90 percent. As overall food demand increases with a growing population and as countries shift to foodstuffs that require more water – such as beef – already scarce water resources will be under greater pressure. To feed a growing world population, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that 14-17% more fresh water will be needed for irrigation by 2030. And it’s not just water resources under pressure – soil erosion, increasing soil salinity, nutrient depletion and the increasing affects of climate change add further complexity.

Many agrarian-based economies in the developing world are rain-fed: when it rains, lands produce and economies can grow; when it does not, countries that lack the capacity to store and save water face economic decline and food insecurity, even famine. And fish from freshwater and coastal ecosystems are a significant source of protein for more than 2.5 billion people in the developing countries. Overfishing, pollution (including agricultural run-off) and poor management have led to a decline in many freshwater fish populations and a reduction in freshwater fish species.

For the energy sector, it is clear that water and energy are inextricably linked resources that are in high demand. Water is required for energy production, and energy is necessary to convey and treat water. Shortages of one can limit the availability of the other.  Water can be a source of clean, renewable, energy. In many regions of the world there is significant untapped hydropower potential. Dams can play a key role in meeting future energy needs and along with natural infrastructure can be critical to managing and mitigating the impacts of floods and droughts.

Decisions about water are not to be taken lightly. Dams can have profound and often irreversible impacts on people and the environment. Other forms of new energy development can also have effects on existing water resources. For example, growing crops for biofuels could impact the land and water available for food production within a region. Alternatively, energy generated from renewable, lower-carbon emitting sources like wind requires little to no water.

These are the types of issues at the “water-food-energy nexus,” which has been the focus of much international discussion. In fact, the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” report predicted that the growing water-food-energy nexus would be one of the four overarching megatrends that will shape the world in the year 2030.(1)  Sound science and deliberative evidence-based decision-making that integrates across all three domains and includes all stakeholders will be essential to ensuring the long-term interests of people and the environment are protected.

Across all sectors, by the year 2025, experts predict that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will be living under water-stressed conditions as a result of increasing demand and our changing climate, including roughly a billion people facing absolute water scarcity, a level that threatens economic development as well as human health.

Major Drivers of Water Quantity and Quality and Their Vulnerabilities

The first is biophysical and refers to the natural supply of water above and below ground, in lakes and rivers, and in rainfall. The variability (e.g., seasonal and annual rainfall and snowmelt) and extremes (e.g., heavy rainfall, floods, and droughts) of these biophysical drivers are a key aspect of water security. We have long records of this variability and we know that these can be influenced, for example, by large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña patterns.

Climate change could greatly exacerbate the variability and extremes around the biophysical drivers. Some regions will get wetter; others drier; glaciers will recede; snow-packs may decline (reducing natural water storage for many regions of the world) and sea levels will rise. Rising sea levels, storm surges, flood damage, and saltwater intrusion will threaten freshwater supplies.

Greater water run-off from more frequent and more intense precipitation events is likely to carry more pollutants into water systems. Greater variability in rainfall will increase the likelihood of extreme weather (floods and droughts), threatening both people and economies. Floods, droughts, famine, and water-related epidemics now account for over 90 percent of water-related natural disasters world-wide – often with profound humanitarian and economic consequences; with climate change such impacts are likely to increase.

The second driver of water quantity and quality is the set of human actions in the water sphere that include agriculture, industry, and water infrastructure like dams and irrigation systems. The threats to stability of this set of drivers are many – and include population growth, poverty, environmental degradation via such phenomena as urbanization, pollution, increased soil salinity, overutilization of groundwater. Another set of threats includes ineffectual leadership and weak policy frameworks and political institutions.

It is beyond the scope of my talk to address all of these issues – my point here is to acknowledge the myriad of complex human factors that combine to threaten global water security.

Scientific and Geopolitical Sides of Water Security

One of the unusual parts of my position at the Department of State is that I have the chance to see both the scientific and the geopolitical sides of many issues. From where I sit and what I read, it is clear that water issues are likely to become an increasing threat to peace and security.

In late 2011, in response to a request from the Secretary of State, the U.S. intelligence community undertook an analysis of water security and issued a National Intelligence Estimate titled “Global Water Security and Its Implications for U.S. National Security.”(2) One of the report’s conclusions was that, “…during the next ten years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will risk instability and state failure, increase tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important policy objectives.”

The report also concludes that as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage over neighbors to preserve water interests. Over the next 10 years depletion of groundwater in some agricultural areas will cause food productivity to decline, resulting in food shortages that pose a risk to national and global food markets.  Shortages of water from now to 2040 were predicted to harm economic output where countries do not have sufficient clean water supplies to generate electrical power or to maintain and expand their manufacturing and resource extraction sectors.

Solutions To Ameliorate Global Water Challenges

I believe that Diplomatic and Development approaches hold great promise. I’ll start with Diplomacyapproaches. Disagreements over water are inevitable. The key is to keep these disagreements from escalating into violent conflict. Historically, countries have trended towards cooperation over water rather than conflict. This makes water a useful diplomatic tool for building trust and cooperation.

The United States and many other nations are now engaged in “Water Diplomacy.” This is essential both to ensure water issues are getting the appropriate attention at the national, regional, and global levels and to bring countries together in cases where water is, or may become, a source of tension.

One approach to water diplomacy is through multilateral partnerships – such as United States efforts with the G8 and Sanitation and Water for All activity – to focus global attention and hold countries accountable to their commitments.

Diplomatic engagement can also help pave the way for cooperation – rather than conflict – over water. These are tricky issues. Water is seen as a sovereign issue, and there are many cases where outside intervention is not wanted; these problems are often embedded within a much broader set of environment, development, political, and financial challenges.

There are times where diplomatic engagement can make a meaningful difference. This could be capacity building or technical assistance so that the parties have a common understanding of the challenges and potential solutions; it could be legal or facilitation support; and – in some cases – it could be putting forward solutions together that no party could risk putting forward on its own.

An example of a diplomatic effort being led by the State Department is the U.S. Water Partnership. In 2012, the Department of State, along with 27 other U.S. Government agencies and nongovernmental partners launched the U.S. Water Partnership to mobilize U.S. knowledge, expertise, and resources to improve water security throughout the world – particularly in developing countries.

The partnership, which now has over 60 members and has leveraged $600 million in project commitments, aims to improve service for water, sanitation and hygiene, advance integrated water resource management, increase efficiency of water use, and improve governance via stronger public and private institutions, policies and processes.

For addressing development challenges, I see a tremendous amount of promise. In May of 2013, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) formally launched its first ever, five year (2013-2018) Water and Development Strategy.  The Strategy aims to save lives and advance development through improvements in water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs and through sound management and use of water for food security. By integrating all of its considerable water investments (which totaled $558M in 2011) within these two overlapping strategic objectives, USAID hopes to increase its already significant impact in the water area.

USAID’s water portfolio has a richness of activities that are all adapted to the unique needs of each country, and all told, a set of programs that is improving the lives of tens of millions of people. Three overarching themes in USAID’s Water and Development Strategy are using a resiliency approach, leveraging partnerships, and harnessing the power of science, technology, and innovation.

Sustainable management of water resources is a key component of USAID’s efforts to build resilience at household and community levels in developing countries. Resilient communities, in the face of stresses and shocks, can take anticipatory action to sustain access to sufficient, quality water for health and food security. Resilient communities are able to anticipate droughts or floods and so reduce the risks of water-related disaster, and they employ science, technology, and good governance to manage climate change effects on water supply and use. And in the event of a water crisis, such communities are able to respond effectively and build back better than before.

Resiliency and effective governance of water resources are also essential aspects of conflict mitigation, particularly in arid areas where conflict over water resources can contribute to instability and exacerbate chronic vulnerability.

Another key strategy for USAID in the water sector has been to build partnerships. Over the past five years, in the International H2O Alliance with Rotary International, USAID and Rotary have worked with local organizations to complete more than 15,000 interventions in nearly 500 urban and rural communities in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and the Philippines, ranging from hygiene training and rural water systems to urban wastewater treatment.

A new exciting partnershipis the Securing Water for Food: Grand Challenge for Developmentto be launched by USAID and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency in early September during World Water Week in Stockholm. The two agencies have offered this challenge to identify and accelerate science and technology innovations and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability to boost food security. The focus of this effort will be on three areas, water efficiency and reuse, water capture and storage and salt water intrusion.

Science, Technology, and Innovation

And this brings me to the overarching theme of the role of science, technology, and innovation in development. USAID has embraced science, technology, and innovation as key drivers of identifying scalable solutions. Recognizing that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, the Water and Development Strategy calls for demand-driven, locally grown approaches and technologies in order to accelerate achievement of USAID objectives in the water sector. This work, often undertaken in partnership, is already well underway, and includes:

The WASH for Life Initiative is a four-year, $17 million partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which uses USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program to identify, test, and help transition to scale evidence-based approaches for effective WASH services in developing countries. One innovative example is a one-year pilot by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team to build a network of 60 low-cost latrines for residents of a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The program collects waste daily and processes it as fertilizer and biogas. It aims to expand 50-fold to reach more than one half million slum dwellers – creating jobs and profit, while aiming to reduce diarrhea by 40 percent in target areas.

Another example is the University of Colorado Boulder/USAID Research Partnershipthat assesses snow and glacier contributions to water resources originating in the high mountains of Asia that straddle ten countries. They use remote-sensing satellite data from NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Japanese Space Agency to develop time-series maps of seasonal snowfall amounts and recent changes in glaciers.

Such science and technology-related development efforts are being made worldwide, not just by the United States Government, and involve a wide range of different partners. For example, a partnership between World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Coca-Cola Company has brought high-resolution water availability data into the public domain.

After recognizing that water shortages could threaten its access to clean water, the life-blood of its business, Coca-Cola spent years building a comprehensive global data set on water availability around the world. This data includes sophisticated hydrological models of where water stress is most acute now and projections for water risks in the future. Coca-Cola released its water data to WRI when it realized that its water information could have a greater impact as a comprehensive, public platform than when only used internally.

Moving beyond diplomacy and development solutions, it is clear that the growing human demand for water will put increased pressure on managing water holistically across a broad range of competing needs. The National Intelligence Estimate on Global Water Security concluded that from now until 2040, improved water management (e.g., pricing, allocations) and investments in water-related sectors (e.g., agriculture, power, water treatment, water storage, and delivery) will afford the best solutions for addressing water problems.

Managing water requires hardware, be it a community tap, a drip irrigation system, a pit latrine, desalination, or a wastewater treatment plant. As we build capacity, we need to invest in basic infrastructure to meet needs and better manage water resources.

To this end, the State Department launched the Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure with the International Union for Conservation and Natural Resources and the International Water Association. The goal is to change the way in which the global community manages physical and natural infrastructure for greater economic, social, and environmental benefits and to improve food and energy security. Regional dialogues are happening in Nairobi, Bogota, and Bangkok and a rich collection of best practices and lessons learned being developed that can help guide future water-related infrastructure development.

Sound water resources planning and management, multi-purpose infrastructure (e.g., dams that both produce power and offer flood protection), better management of natural systems (e.g., flood plains), and improved water monitoring, prediction, and early warning systems can help people prepare and mitigate the impacts of many water-related disasters.

Science and Engineering Solutions

The U.S. National Intelligence Council also issued a 2011 report entitled “Impacts of Technology on Freshwater Availability to 2040.” While the report did not identify a “silver bullet” technology that would greatly reduce water shortages in the near term, it did identify likely science and technology advances in the area.

Since 70% of world’s water use is in agriculture – the greatest potential for relief from shortages comes from this sector. Advances in large-scale drip agriculture are the most likely means to relieve water shortages for agriculture. Drip agriculture delivers water directly to the crop plant and can be a great improvement over conventional irrigation where much of the water goes to evaporation and to weeds.Another promising approach in agriculture will be developing drought-resistance and salt-resistance in crop plants, which has been the focus of much research and could yield commercialization within the next three decades.

Technological advances may also help increase the supply of freshwater. Chief among these is likely to be the membrane technology involved in desalination and water purification. Reverse osmosis membrane desalination requires less energy than distillation and so has come to dominate. The report found that the greatest promise lay at the intersection of several rapidly developing technologies: nanotechnology (e.g., carbon nanotube membranes), biotechnology (e.g., biomimetic membranes), electrochemistry (e.g., to reduce membrane fouling), and renewable energy technologies (e.g., to reduce energy cost of desalination by using waste or low-grade heat or wind, tidal or solar-powered systems).

The report indicated approximately 20 percent of the global water supply is used by industry in power plants (hydroelectric and thermoelectric), oil refineries, mines, and by other industries that use water as a solvent or for steam generation.

I am an optimist about the role of science and technology in addressing our global challenges and helping to build a peaceful, secure, and prosperous world. I believe large-scale research investments will make a difference. I am also encouraged by some of the newer approaches to finding solutions. Here are a few illustrative examples:

a. The U.S. National Science Foundation has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for several years on BREAD (Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development), funding grants to support innovative basic scientific research designed to address key constraints to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. Numerous grants have been made in the area of drought resistance of crop plants. This year they held a new type of open competition – a BREAD Ideas Challenge – to stimulate new thinking by making cash prizes of $10,000 each for the best ideas.

One of the winners is Matthew Wallenstein, a scientist at Colorado State University who studies soil microbes. Drought is a well-known and frequent challenge faced by smallholder farmers across the developing world. Considerable efforts have gone toward developing drought-tolerant crops, but the drought tolerance of microbes living in the soil, which supply nutrients, prevent pathogens, and promote crop health, has not yet received much attention. Wallenstein’s challenge is to develop knowledge, methods, and tools to identify drought-productive microbiomes and facilitate their use by smallholder farmers.

b. In 2011, the World Bank, NASA, and several information technology partners teamed up for a Water Hackathon in 12 cities around the world, to help bring safe water to the hundreds of millions who lack it. The Hackathon teamed up software engineers, development experts, philanthropists, and environmental engineers – who identified 103 specific challenges, then generated more than 60 possible solutions. Some of those solutions received start-up funding and are being field-tested now.

c. Blue Planet Network’s goal is to solve critical unmet water sector challenges by helping organizations and individuals that are working to end the global safe drinking water crisis. It does this via its funding platform, connecting the public, funders (individuals, companies, foundations, and governments), and project implementers who work to provide clean water around the world. Their technology platform strengthens collaboration, monitoring, and analysis so impact can be measured and solutions shared.

My talk has just covered the tip of the iceberg on the myriad of issues associated with global water security. I want to leave you with my two main points. First, water security poses great and complex challenges to us all at local, regional, and global scales. And second, the tools of diplomacy and science hold great potential to ameliorate these challenges and so give me optimism for the future.

Note: I wish to thank Elizabeth Lyons, Aaron Salzberg, and Carol Lynn MacCurdy of the U.S. Department of State for their invaluable help in preparing this talk.

CDC SAYS 200,000 HEART DISEASE, STROKE DEATHS COULD BE PREVENTED

FROM:  CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION 
New CDC Vital Signs: CDC finds 200,000 heart disease and stroke deaths could be prevented

More than 200,000 preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke occurred in the United States in 2010, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  More than half of these deaths happened to people younger than 65 years of age, and the overall rate of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke went down nearly 30 percent between 2001 and 2010, with the declines varying by age.  Lack of access to preventive screenings and early treatment for high blood pressure and high cholesterol could explain the differences among age groups.

Age: Death rates in 2010 were highest among adults aged 65-74 years (401.5 per 100,000 population).  But preventable deaths have declined faster in those aged 65–74 years compared to those under age 65.

Race/ethnicity: Blacks are twice as likely—and Hispanics are slightly less likely—as whites to die from preventable heart disease and stroke.

Sex: Avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure were higher among males (83.7 per 100,000) than females (39.6 per 100,000). Black men have the highest risk. Hispanic men are twice as likely as Hispanic women to die from preventable heart disease and stroke.

Location: By state, avoidable deaths from cardiovascular disease ranged from a rate of 36.3 deaths per 100,000 population in Minnesota to 99.6 deaths per 100,000 in the District of Columbia. By county, the highest avoidable death rates in 2010 were concentrated primarily in the southern Appalachian region and much of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.  The lowest rates were in the West, Midwest, and Northeast regions.

To save more lives from these preventable deaths, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers can encourage healthy habits at every patient visit, including not smoking, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medicines as directed.  Communities and health departments can help by promoting healthier living spaces, including tobacco-free areas and safe walking areas. Local communities also can ensure access to healthy food options, including those with lower sodium. Health care systems can adopt and use electronic health records to identify patients who smoke or who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and help providers follow and support patient progress

SOLAR ECLIPSE OBSERVED FROM MARS


FROM:  NASA 
Annular Eclipse of the Sun by Phobos, as Seen by Curiosity

This set of three images shows views three seconds apart as the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passed directly in front of the sun as seen by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.  Curiosity photographed this annular, or ring, eclipse with the telephoto-lens camera of the rover's Mast Camera pair (right Mastcam) on Aug. 17, 2013, the 369th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. Curiosity paused during its drive that sol for a set of observations that the camera team carefully calculated to record this celestial event. The rover's observations of Phobos help make researchers' knowledge of the moon's orbit even more precise.  Because this eclipse occurred near mid-day at Curiosity's location on Mars, Phobos was nearly overhead loser to the rover than it would have been earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. This timing made Phobos' silhouette larger against the sun -- as close to a total eclipse of the sun as is possible from Mars. › Related release Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

DOD SAYS US.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS CAN COOPERATE IN MANY AREAS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
U.S., Russia Can Make Bilateral Progress, DOD Official Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2013 - The United States and Russia disagree on some aspects of their bilateral relations, but there are many areas where the countries can and do cooperate, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia told the Heritage Foundation yesterday.

The relationship has been marked by ups and downs, Evelyn N. Farkas said, and that is normal. The idea, she added, is to work through these disagreements.

"We will continue to work with Russia to find mutually acceptable solutions," Farkas said in her prepared remarks. "We've been managing a significant disagreement with the Russians over Syria."

Still, Farkas said, American officials want to bolster defense cooperation. The United States wants to work on counterproliferation issues with Iran, North Korea, and on counterterrorism and counternarcotics in regions adjacent to Russia.

"Our level of interaction with Russia has increased substantially with the establishment of the Defense Relations Working Group in September 2010," she said. "The working group is intended to create mechanisms for discussion and exchange at the policy level between defense professionals on a range of issues, including defense reform and modernization, missile defense cooperation, defense technology cooperation, and global and regional security issues of mutual interest."

Increased cooperation on Afghanistan tops the U.S. wish list, Farkas said. "Working to bring improved stability to Afghanistan is clearly in U.S. and Russian interests, and Russia continues to be supportive by expanding the Northern Distribution Network and allowing for diversification in the types of cargo that can pass through its territory," she explained. "The U.S. and Russia continue working together to disrupt al-Qaida's and other terrorist groups' operational networks and undermine their access to financial resources."

Continued cooperation to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa also is a U.S. goal, Farkas said.

Even in areas of disagreement there must be conversations, Farkas said. Both Russia and the United States agree that the civil war in Syria should end, she noted, but Russia supports the regime of Bashar Assad. "Both of our countries have been adamant that we remain committed to working with each other to bring the parties together to negotiate a political settlement," she said.

Russia continues to express concern that U.S. and NATO missile defenses could pose a threat to Russia's strategic deterrent, Farkas said, and Russian leaders also question whether Iran really poses a threat.

"We continue to assure Russia that our missile defense efforts are not directed against Russia, nor do they pose a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent," she said. "And we continue to make the case that the transparency and cooperation we are offering are the best way for Russia to gain the confidence it seeks that our missile defenses do not threaten Russia's strategic deterrent."

Continuing talks on nuclear arms reductions also is important, Farkas said. "We have made clear our willingness to discuss the full range of strategic stability issues of concern to both our countries, and we will continue to seek opportunities to make progress on this agenda," she added.

Farkas echoed a statement President Barack Obama made yesterday in Stockholm on U.S.-Russian relations, citing areas in which U.S. and Russian interests overlap.

The president pointed to progress the two nations have made in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, in Russia joining the World Trade Organization, and in close cooperation on counterterrorism issues. Russia has also provided logistical support to U.S. and NATO forces based in Afghanistan.

Still, the president acknowledged, relations have cooled recently over Syria and over Russia granting asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. "But I have not written off the idea that the United States and Russia are going to continue to have common interests even as we have some very profound differences on some other issues," Obama said. "And where our interests overlap, we should pursue common action. Where we've got differences, we should be candid about them --try to manage those differences, but not sugarcoat them."

Department of Defense Press Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

Department of Defense Press Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

DEFENSE OFFICIAL SAYS MORE SPENDING CUTS COMING NEXT YEAR

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Official Warns of Continued Spending Cuts in Next Fiscal Year
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2013 - With the new fiscal year less than a month away, a senior Defense Department official delivered a warning today at a defense cooperation conference here: expect the current spending cuts triggered by sequestration to be part of the budget landscape for the foreseeable future.

Elana Broitman, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy, told an audience of defense industry and government officials -- including those from some of America's closest allies -- that there's no indication Congress is prepared to pass a new budget that would end sequestration when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

"You know the sequestration story will largely not go away in the coming fiscal year," she said in her prepared remarks, an indication of more belt tightening likely to affect defense contractors and the industrial base. "In [fiscal year 2014], we don't have a choice but to take a hard look at investments as well."

Senior leaders in the military and the office of the secretary of defense "will continue to take an unsparing look across their portfolios to uncover ways to cut or trim programs that have become bloated, no longer serve their original purpose or have become such an exquisite option they no longer fit with either fiscal or strategic realities," Broitman said.

She cautioned however, that if not carefully considered, cuts to defense-related research and development risk affecting more than just jobs and contracts within the defense establishment.

"If we get it wrong, we jeopardize lives, and the longer-term national security interests of over 300 million fellow citizens as well as the hundreds of millions more around the globe who depend upon our unique and storied institutions," she said.

Broitman warned that the Pentagon "won't have the luxury of continuing every program, or starting every new one," and said she is concerned that the continued cutbacks rippling through the defense industry could mean companies that the department relies upon, especially medium and small suppliers, won't invest in research and development, and therefore would leave the defense establishment with vulnerabilities in the supply chain.

That could be especially pernicious, she suggested, given the kinds of challenges the Pentagon is facing, not only geopolitically, but from the likelihood of continually shrinking budgets.

"We cannot afford to sleepwalk through a period of tighter fiscal belts, and wake up to a lack of new and advanced systems in a few years," Broitman said. "International security and the fiscal realities the United States faces in the years to come [are] quite different and much more difficult than many past eras." This, she added, leads to hard choices for the foreseeable future.

Blood sugar and dementia

Blood sugar and dementia

PRESENTATION FROM PENTAGON BY ISAF JOINT COMMAND COMMANDER GEN. MARK A. MILLEY

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Presenter: ISAF Joint Command Commander/U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Deputy Commander Army Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley
Department of Defense Press Briefing with Lt. Gen. Milley from the Pentagon Briefing Room

           COMMANDER BILL SPEAKS: Good morning here in the pentagon briefing room and good evening in Afghanistan.

           I'd like to welcome Lieutenant General Mark Milley to the Pentagon Briefing Room. Lieutenant General Milley has commanded the International Security Assistance Force, Joint Force Command since May of this year. As the IJC commander, he is the operational commander for Afghanistan, which is primarily focused now on train, advise and assist missions being conducted across the country with the Afghan national security forces.

           General Milley was commissioned in 1980. His key staff assignments include chief of staff for the 25th Infantry Division Light; Joint Operations Division chief; on the Joint Staff, military assistant to the secretary of defense; and deputy director for regional operations, J-33, for the Joint Staff.

           Lieutenant General Milley has held command positions in airborne, air assault, light infantry and special forces units. He commanded 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, (Currahee). He commanded the U.S. Provisional Brigade Task Force Eagle, 25th Infantry Division (Light) during their deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation Joint Forge.

           He led the 2d Brigade Combat Team (Commando), 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the deputy commanding general (operations) for the 101st Airborne Division deployed through Regional Command-East, Afghanistan. He most recently commanded the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry.

           Lieutenant General Mark Milley currently commands the 3rd "Phantom" Corps out of Fort Hood, Texas. He will provide brief opening remarks and take your questions.

           And with that, sir, I'll turn it over to you.

           LIEUTENANT GENERAL MARK A. MILLEY: Hey, thanks, Bill, and I appreciate it.

           Although I can't see the folks in the room, thanks for coming. At least the list of names I was provided, I know several of you from your tours over here in both Afghanistan and then previously in Iraq.

           And I want to thank Bill for those -- that little bit of an introduction. And I want to thank everybody for joining me.

           What I'd like to do today briefly is just give a little introductory statement, kind of on my perspective. And many of you have a lot of experience here in Afghanistan. I'm on my third tour. I came into this country with 2d Brigade, 10th Mountain at the beginning of the mission here in Afghanistan.

           And I'd like to give a little bit of contextual perspective from a guy who's got a couple tours -- couple -- three tours here in this country.

           And when I first arrived in this country -- like many of you can remember -- there was no Afghan national army and there was no Afghan national police. There was the remnants of the Northern Alliance. The Taliban had been shattered. And it was a state of minor anarchy that had been emerging from 30 years of consecutive brutal warfare, first under the Soviets; and then, when the Soviets left for a years there, under the Najibullah regime. And then, of course, it breaks apart into a civil war followed by the regime of the Taliban.

           So in this country, if you're about 40 years old or younger, then you've experienced nothing but unrelenting consecutive war. And for me it looked a bit like the pictures I used to see when I was younger of World War II. The cities in Europe or the cities in Japan that had been all bombed out. That's what Kabul looked like. That's what many of the other cities looked like. They were rubbled. They were destroyed. And there was really nothing here.

           There was no real health care. There was no water. There was no sense of hope. It was just a state in which the people had been devastated by years and years of war.

           If you flash forward to today -- and I was here at the beginning, and then I come back in the '08-'09 time frame, and then I'm back now -- if you flash forward to today, you've got a significantly and, in my opinion, much more positive situation on your hands.

           First of all, with the security forces, we in fact have almost 350,000 uniformed police or army and -- and multiple different types of police and army that are out there fighting the fight and carrying the -- carrying the load every single day. And, in addition to that, not only do they have the numbers, or they have capacity, but this army is capable.

           So they've gone from zero to 350,000 in -- in a relatively short amount of time. And they are capable at the tactical level, every day, day in and day out, and they're proving it over and over and over again in this summer's fighting season, the first summer that they've really and legitimately been in the lead.

           I've been here now for about four, going on five months. I've gone through the pre-Ramadan part of the fighting season where the enemy laid out their objectives. Things toned down a bit during Ramadan. They picked back up.

           But, for the most part, this army and this police force have been very, very effective in combat against the insurgents every single day. And I think that's a -- an important story to be told across the board.

           Have there been one or two outposts that have been overrun? Yes. But you're talking about 3,000 or 4,000 outposts that are in the country.

           So the bottom line is, the Afghans have successfully defended the majority of the population of this country. If you looked at where they -- population lives, you got Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Jalalabad, Ghazni -- you know all of the major urban areas.

           And then, roughly speaking, within about 25 miles or so of Highway 1 and Highway 7, Highway 4 and the other major lines of communication, that's where 80 percent of the population lives. That's where most of the Afghan security forces have focused their effort in order to protect the population.

           So they're executing a full spectrum counter-insurgency -- the Afghans are -- and their design, their purpose is to protect the majority of the population. And they have effectively done that in the first four-plus months of the fighting season, in which they have literally been in the lead.

           If you look back to kind of the '01, the post-9/11 period, all the way to about '06, I think it's fair to say that the United States and -- and other members of the coalition were in the lead fighting essentially unilaterally a counter-insurgency operation. Then if you look at about the '06-'07 time frame, we had at that time somewhere to the tune of 100,000 or so Afghan security forces.

           So we started fighting what we called shoulder-to- shoulder. And the -- and the by-word of the day was shohna ba shohna.

           And that lasted -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- from about that time all the way up through the surge period, and really until last summer -- toward the end of the summer -- August, September, October time frame -- we started very progressively, very deliberately having the Afghan security forces in the lead where they were capable of being in the lead.

           And that really was symbolically addressed in the Milestone 13 Tranche 5 ceremony that occurred last June, 18 June. But in fact, from last winter, and into the early-late winter and the early spring and now into the summer, they have progressively taken the lead. And they are, in fact, right now, leading well over 90 percent of the operations that are occurring.

           And what does that mean? That means that they are planning, they're coordinating, they're synchronizing and then they're executing combat operations every day. About 1,000-plus patrols a day. Just this week, they're doing 35 named operations at kandak level or above. They're running multiple special operations throughout the AOR.

           We do support them. We provide advisers. We train. We advise. We assist. We do enable with intelligence capabilities. We have close air support. We provide rotary wing. But for the most part, and well in excess of 90 percent, the -- the Afghan security forces have completely taken the lead in this fight.

           This is a different fight today in Afghanistan than what I saw before. This is a fight in which the -- the forces of Afghanistan, the forces of the government are, in fact, engaged every single day, which you can tell, as you know, from casualty rates, et cetera, have gone up on the part of the Afghan security forces.

           So the bottom line is, that's a huge change. That's a significant condition change that has occurred, really in the last few years over here, and it's culminating right now.

           Secondly, I think you have to talk a little bit about the enemy. The enemy that I've seen this tour is quantitatively and qualitatively different than the enemy I've seen in the previous tours. They go by the same names -- Haqqani, Taliban, et cetera. And you know all the names. But their capabilities are different.

           So far this year in this fighting season, what have they been able to do? They've been able to do some suicide bombings. They've been able to intimidate some people. They've been able to do assassinations. They continue to do IEDs. There's some small-arms attacks, et cetera.

           What they can't do is they can't build, they can't provide an alternative form of governance. They don't have a political agenda that's acceptable to the vast majority of the people of Afghanistan.

           All they can do, and all they've been doing this year, is terrorizing people. And that is not playing well with the people of Afghanistan.

           All the information we have, both classified and unclassified, clearly indicates the vast majority of people in this country reject the agenda or the program that is being offered by the opponents, the enemies, of Afghanistan right now in all the various radical groups.

           So there's two significant things that I think are different that have occurred over time and that we're witnessing the fruits of that labor right now.

           If you look at a couple of other things I think that are really significant that have changed, I've had some guys on my staff do a little bit of research on what causes, you know, societies to change, and look at some of the fundamentals that -- that cause societies to change. And if you look at this country, in the last 12 years -- these aren't things that catch headlines per se -- but in the last 12 years there's been really some significant change in this country.

           If you look at something like the business you're involved in, the communications business, the media business, that's huge. Where there was no media, essentially, 12 years ago, today there is a press corps here. There are 75 TV stations. There's 175 or 180 radio stations throughout this country. And that didn't exist 12 years ago under the Taliban.

           And in addition to that, you've got all kinds of high-speed communications around here, from Internet to telephones, all the cell phones, text messaging, Facebooks, all the social media. That is very significant. That communication explosion in Afghanistan, in a country of 30 million, is making a difference day-in and day-out.

           If you shift gears to landline in communications, this country, as you know, is tribally compartmented, mountainously compartmented by the physical terrain, et cetera. Roads make a difference in a rural country that is fundamentally agrarian based. So in order to get goods to market et cetera, you have to have roads.

           In the last 12 years, there's been over 24,000 kilometers of road. That -- those road networks are serving to connect the people of Afghanistan to each other. So where you have people in valleys that have never gone outside their valley their entire life, that is now happening.

           So there's a tremendous amount of movement. If you look at the airlines of communication, there's 52 airlines flying in and out of KIA every day -- international airlines. Now, when I first came here, the only thing flying 'em out was the U.S. Air Force. Now, you've got 52 international airlines flying in and out.

           So you've got international communications now in Afghanistan that never existed before. What's the "so what" of all that? Well, that to me matters. But when you expand knowledge at the rate at which knowledge is being expanded in this country over a mere 10 years, that has significant societal change written all over it, where people are exposed to ideas, knowledge, science, education, and so on and so forth, that were never exposed before.

           And what does that mean to the enemy? That's not a good picture for the enemy. I often hear people say time's on the side of the guerrilla, time's on the side of the Taliban. That's not true. In this particular case, in this country, with this explosion of information, time is on the hand -- on the side of the government of Afghanistan, the people that are supporting a progressive Afghanistan, and not on the side of the Taliban.

            The Taliban is out there trying to control information, trying to deny people information, trying to deny people knowledge. That's a huge change.

           Another one is education. This country's only got 30 million people or so. About 10 million of them right now are engaged in some form of education, either at the primary level or at the secondary level or at the university level. There's almost 200,000 university students. I think there's 17 universities spread throughout this country right now. There's several hundred thousand elementary and secondary school teachers in this country.

           The education boom in this country is significant. Again, that does not augur well for the opponents -- the Taliban, Al Qaida and the rest of them, because they are opposed to that. They're not in favor of education. They want to control education. All they want you to do is go to a madrassa and study the sharia. That's all they -- that's all they want. They want nothing more than that. And that's not what's happening in this country.

           So, you got about a third of this country whose literacy rate has -- has sky-rocketed from a mere 10 percent all the way up to 28 percent right now. And it's climbing very, very quick. So the education level is significant. But even more important than that is the demographic of this country. Right now, you've got something like 68 percent of this country -- well in excess of 50 percent -- are underneath the age of 25 years as we speak. That population is getting educated. In a very short amount of time, five -- 10 years, those people are going to be coming into positions of significant influence and power in this country.

           And I think the days of the Taliban are going to be behind them when that educated group of young people that are in existence today, that are learning the sciences, the maths, and all the social sciences, et cetera, assume positions of responsibility. And we're seeing that. We're seeing that all over the place with young reporters, urban intellectuals that are arising throughout the area. And we're seeing a very, very broad rising of young people that are clearly and unambiguously rejecting the agenda of the Taliban.

           And if you look at health care, when I showed up in this country, the average age of an Afghan male was 42 years old. If you look at it today, depending on the study you look at, it's somewhere -- it comes in somewhere around between 52 and 56.

           If you go back to London in 1750, the start of the Industrial Revolution, they were -- average age is 42 years old. If you come flash forward, it took them until 1870 to get to 52 or 56 years old. So this country has experienced a huge growth in positive health care.

           Yesterday, I visited a hospital here in Kabul, the Afghan National Police Hospital. I've gone out to several of the hospitals in the various communities. Almost every single community now in this country has some kind of clinic, health care, doctors, nurses -- they have bandages. Is it the type of health care that you might want? Perhaps not, but it's a hell of a lot better than what existed -- anything under the Taliban. And the answer's absolutely yes.

           And the people of Afghanistan are seeing that. They're seeing communications, they're seeing health care, they're seeing education.

           If you look at the economy, when you came here -- some of you did 12 years ago -- there weren't a whole lot of cars driving around. Kabul today, you have traffic jams. So there's fuel, there's cars, there's maintenance, there's mechanics. There's an economy that's bubbling in and around this country that did not exist before.

           The GDP here is still dependent on -- on foreign aid to a large extent, and unemployment is still much too high. But the positive signs are out there. There's early indicators of potential for this country, and I think that's all to the positive.

           The bottom line is, across the board in 12 years, this country's come a long way.

           This is not the same country I walked into back in the day, and it's not the same country even three or four or five years ago. This is a significantly advanced country, and most -- or significantly advanced from what they were. And it is mostly due, I think, to the Taliban and the enemy tactics of murdering people, terrorizing people -- they killed over 100 civilians just last month. That doesn't go well with the Afghan people.

           And it's mostly due to the Afghan security forces and what they have been able to do in the last few years, and then all the sacrifice and the blood, sweat and tears that the forces of the international community, most significantly, the United States, have done over the last 12 years.

           So, I -- I am someone here who can tell you by witness that things are quite a bit different and quite a bit better in Afghanistan then they were for sure under the rule of the Taliban. And I am much more optimistic about the outcome here, as long as the Afghan security forces continue to do what they've been doing this fighting season. And if they continue to do that next year and the year after and so on, then I think things will turn out okay in Afghanistan.

           And with that, I'll be glad to take anybody's questions.

           Q: General, this is Bob Burns with the Associated Press. You seem to be forecasting the demise of the Taliban. I'm wondering how does that factor into the prospect for political negotiations and the government, between the Taliban and the government, if the Taliban has no future?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Well, let me -- let me revise and extend my remarks. You used the word "demise." This war is not over. This is a very resilient enemy. It's an adaptive enemy. And -- and I don't think for a minute that the Taliban or their kind are going to kind of fade away into the dust here in the next year or two. That's not going to happen.

           On the other hand, the Taliban's stated objective is to seize political power in Afghanistan. I do not think at this point in time, with the strength and capability of the Afghan security forces, that the Taliban or any of their allies have the capability to re-seize political power in the country of Afghanistan under current conditions. And I don't think that that is a likely probability anytime in the near future.

           So, I don't see the Taliban's demise, but I do not think they any longer have the capability or any political support to achieve what is their strategic objective. If history is a guide, we know that if you're going to be a successful insurgency to achieve political power, you've got to achieve a certain degree of political traction in terms of popular support. You have to have the proverbial water for the fish to swim in in order to have a successful insurgency -- "success" being defined as seizing political power.

           So I don't think that condition exists anymore. The conditions still exist, however, for fighting to continue for a fairly long period of time. But I think the key word here is: Can the ANSF contain the insurgency; can they manage the violence so that the insurgents do not present an existential threat to the government? And I think the answer to that is yes. At least that's the indicators that I conclude from what I've seen so far.

           There's still a couple of months left in the fighting season. I would never want to call the ball too early. But I think all indicators are the ANSF have done well. In fight after fight, day in and day out, they are getting the upper hand on the insurgency.

           So I don't see the insurgency in all of its various groups being able to achieve their political and/or strategic objectives. I don't see that in the cards. But I also do not see them just disappearing or their demise.

           The question on reconciliation that you asked, that's really a political question for the government of Afghanistan. And they've got to figure that out. And -- and they're working at that. That's not -- that's not a military task per se. That's not something that we are engaged in, but it certainly, as it progresses or develops, will have effects on the battlefield. But that's not something that we're engaged in. That's something for the government of Afghanistan to work out.

           Over.

           Q: General, it's Courtney Kube from NBC News.

           You mentioned that the enemy is qualitatively different than your last tour several years ago. Then you also said that they are resilient. What -- what reason do you have to believe that they're not just biding their time? There's only a little over a year left in this NATO mandate. There's no sign of any kind of -- of a decision yet for U.S. troops to stay after December 31, 2014.

           So, what makes you think that they aren't just biding their time, and then after 2014, they'll adapt and -- and come back in Afghanistan and begin their -- their efforts to take over again?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Great question there, Courtney. And I've asked myself that question a thousand times: How can I be sure that they're not just preserving combat power, husbanding resources, getting ready for the quote/unquote, "departure of the international forces" in order to launch an offensive and bring down the Afghan government?

           Well, a couple of things I would say.

           I mean, is that possible? Sure, that's in the realm of the possible, but I don't think so. My -- my professional judgment is the enemy is not biding their time. The enemy, according to their own strategic guidance, their own operations order that they issued out for this summer's fighting season, clearly indicated that they wanted to push the envelope, press the offensive fight during this fighting season, both against Afghan security forces and against ISAF.

           So I don't think their intent was to hold anything back. And, furthermore, on -- and I won't give any specifics of classified -- but we have plenty of classified information to indicate that they're unhappy with many of their commanders for failing to show aggressiveness or failing to succeed on the battlefield. They've replaced several commanders, and others on the battlefield.

           So there's plenty of indications, both classified and unclassified, for me to conclude that the enemy has tried to mount a significant offensive against the Afghan security forces and ISAF. And thus far have failed across the entire country.

           Q: Dave Martin, with CBS.

           I saw General Dunford quoted -- I think it was in the Guardian -- as saying that Afghan forces were sustaining casualties at a rate that could not be sustained.

           One, is that true? And, two, how does that square with your portrayal of the Afghan security forces as becoming increasingly effective?

            LT. GEN. MILLEY: Hey thanks, David.

           Good to hear your voice. Hope everything's good with you and the folks back home.

           The -- I read that article actually -- read both the transcript and what General Dunford said. What General Dunford actually said was, he didn't assume that it was sustainable, as opposed to declare that it was unsustainable. There's a slight difference, but I think it's a substantial one, or it has substantive different in meaning.

           But bottom line is, here's my assessment: The Afghan security forces are suffering more casualties, no question about it. There's more Afghan security forces, and they're out there putting the wood to the enemy, every single day, day in and day out across the entire battle space. They're fighting significantly against all of the various groups. And they are suffering. They're taking casualties. They're inflicting a hell of a lot more than they are taking by the way, but they are taking casualties.

           On average, they're -- it's probably somewhere in the range -- it depends on the week -- but somewhere in the range of 50 to 100 or so Afghan security forces are killed in action per week. And -- and that's not at all insignificant. That is significant. And we're paying attention to that, and we want to continue to work with them on the tactics, techniques, procedures of good sound tactics in order to minimize their own casualties.

           So we're working heavily on counter-IED, for example. On all the technological devices that we use we are training the Afghans to use those; on proper movement techniques, et cetera.

            Also a big one is medical evacuation, because any time you take casualties there's obviously an impact on unit moral et cetera. So you want to make sure that an individual soldier, regardless of what country they're from, any individual soldier wants to ensure that they're getting -- gonna get adequate medical care if they're injured.

           So we're working hard to improve the medical evacuation system. Everywhere from point of injury all the way up to rotary wing medevac in order to evacuate the soldiers that are wounded in a timely way, and then -- and get them to appropriate medical care.

           In addition to that, close-air support and attack helicopter support; we provide both of those for the Afghans when requested. But they are now developing an attack helicopter capability with their MI-35s and a lift capability with their MI-17s.

            It's early. They've been running air assaults. They have been supporting themselves in a variety of ways, but those two capabilities are important in order to make the battlefield uneven in favor of the friendly forces.

           Also, indirect fire -- the Afghans now, this summer, are employing D-30 artillery in much greater use than they were in previous years, and they're getting up -- trained up to a level where they can plan, coordinate, call for fire, address fire, et cetera.

           Same thing, most importantly, with mortars. Probably the most responsive fire-support system that any infantry-based force can have is 60 millimeter and 82 millimeter mortars. So the Afghans are employing those to much greater effect than they have been in times gone by.

           So that -- those capabilities, once they're brought to the fight at the unit levels will change, we think, the quote/unquote "significant amounts of casualties" that they're having.

           The IEDs are big. Direct fire is big. IED, counter IED technologies, and tactics, techniques and procedures will work toward that. And then for the direct fire stuff, a lot of that -- in a direct firefight, as you well know, indirect fire tends to put the playing field in favor of the friendly forces.

           So the bottom line is working on capabilities to address that.

           But I think there's a broader question here on casualties. And I've given this a fair amount of thought over the summer. And some people say, well, you know, the U.S. Army or the U.S. Marines or the German army or the British army, et cetera, could never sustain those rates of casualties. And those rates approach rates that we took in Vietnam at the time.

           But I think that the ability to take casualties is directly related to the political object to be achieved. And for the Afghans, I think that's significant. For them, they are fighting for their country. They're fighting for the very existence of their future. And I don't -- I -- of the -- there's 24 maneuver brigades out here. There's over 100 kandaks. There's six different corps. And there hasn't been a single unit, police or army, that has shattered and lost their cohesion, lost their ability to carry on the fight as a result of casualties.

            I think that speaks volumes. That speaks volumes about their cohesion, their dedication, and their willingness to defend their own country. And I think they are fully cognizant of the fact of the enemy they are fighting who wants to take over their country. And they are fully aware that if they fail in their fight, they'll live under Taliban rule again.

           So they are determined -- and I've seen it over and over and over again throughout the last four months. These guys are absolutely determined to fight for their country. And they're doing a good job at it. And, yes, they are suffering.

           Is it sustainable or unsustainable? I think that's an open question. I personally believe that -- you know, I walked around the hospital just yesterday. And I don't -- I think there was probably about 80 or 90 Afghan wounded in action in there. And these are pretty serious wounds.

           And I got to tell you, these guys are hard guys. These are tough, physical tough people and mentally tough people.

           And -- you have to almost go back in time to, I don't know, the middle of the 1800s or something like that in the United States where the Union and Confederate armies are marching in boots and bare feet back and forth over the mountains of Virginia and Georgia to find people as hard and as tough as these people.

           So taking casualties is significant, and we, as ISAF and advisers, are working a whole wide variety of programs to try to reduce those casualties. That's on the one hand.

           On the other hand, I believe this enemy is resilient. But I got to tell you, the Afghan security forces are very resilient. They're hard. They're tough. And I don't think the rates of casualties, although significant, I don't think that's going to shatter or break the security force.

           Over.

           Q: General Milley, Julian Barnes here, Wall Street Journal.

            Do you think that the Afghan security forces post-2014 will still need some of those capabilities they're getting from ISAF that you just outlined -- close air support, the medevac?

            And if they don't still have that level of support that they have today in those areas, will we see this -- this level of violence go up? Will we see the casualties go up? What's your assessment from where you sit today?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Well, Julian, good to hear your voice as well.

           A couple of things. One is that I would argue that it's probably a little bit too early to tell. We -- we need to get the full results of this fighting season, which we'll get those probably in October -- Octoberish, whenever the snows start falling -- Octoberish, Novemberish. And we'll do an assessment and analysis. And we'll provide a military recommendation to General Dunford, and then he'll provide a recommendation on up to the North Atlantic Council and the U.S. senior leadership, et cetera, as to what our best military estimate is as to what kind of capabilities are going to be needed in 2015 and beyond.

           As -- as -- so, first of all, it's an ongoing process and it's not finalized. It's very much pre-decisional. And we -- we have to get some more data on exactly what kind of capabilities, where, what units, et cetera, will need assistance in January '15 and beyond.

           But having said that, as you probably are already aware, there's -- there is a mission that comes after the current mission. The current mandate ends 31 December 2014. And then there's this follow- on mission called "Resolute Support," a NATO mission called "Resolute Support" that is in development now in terms of the planning of it, the size of it, the scope of it, the tasks and so on and so forth.

           So, I think it's a bit premature for me to say exactly what will be needed. In broad terms, though, I do think that some element of support is going to be needed not so much at the tactical level, though. My observation is that the kandaks and the brigades that are out here every day, you know, the companies and the battalions and the brigades of the Afghans, and their counterpart police, they're pretty damned good at -- at, you know, shoot, move and communicate, and mounted and dismounted ground combat operations. They are pretty good. And they're doing just fine relative to this enemy in this country.

           So, that part's okay. The parts that need I think additional work, and we're going to work hard over the coming months and year up until the end of this current mandate, is to shore-up things like logistics supply at the institutional level, like Class 9, which is spare parts for vehicles, spare parts for weapons that break, et cetera.

           That's a very sophisticated logistics system, in order to make sure that we bring in the right parts and then get them distributed so you get the right part in the right vehicle at the right time. So, something like a logistics system at the higher levels, not so much at the lower levels. That definitely needs additional work.

           Things like personnel management systems needs work; promotion systems, merit-based promotions and those sorts of things. Leadership development clearly needs work. The integration of combined arms I think is coming along pretty well, meaning that an infantry unit out there in contact has the ability to call for and adjust indirect fire from either artillery or mortars, and can either ground or air evacuate their casualties.

           They're actually doing pretty good right now at indirect fire, in coordination with mounted and dismounted forces. But we need to continue to work that system so that it becomes self-sustainable over time. You've got to work ammunition resupply, fuel, water. You've got to do things like all of these compounds and bases that they're taking over, we want to make sure that, you know, basic things that you would imagine in any community -- you know, sewage, electricity, those sorts of things. All that institutional-type stuff has got to get worked.

           With respect to close air support, attack helicopters and medevac, those are systems that are currently in development. I'll give you, like, rotary wing, for example. Rotary wing resupply and medevac, they ran an operation in Azra district which was a multi- kandak, multi-brigade operation last month. They planned it. They coordinated it. They synchronized it.

           We had no advisers go with them on the ground. And they ran six different turns of air assault; brought their troops in on their own helicopters. They brought in, roughly speaking, 6,000 pounds or a couple of tons of resupply. They brought in humanitarian aid. They did all that on their own.

           They did take casualties, and they were able to evacuate the casualties on their own. They flew attack helicopter support on their own. We had ISR support over their head with some unmanned aerial vehicles and some other capabilities. And we did fly close-air support, but we didn't have to drop any bombs.

           So they are capable right now of doing some of those operations. What we need to get to here this year is we need to be able to see that across the board. That was done by 201st and 203rd Corps. We need to see that across all the corps, all the kandaks and a sustained level of effort over time.

           We think it's achievable to get to a pretty high level here in the next year, year-and-a-half here before 31 December. We think that's achievable. And then what residual capabilities they're going to need starting January 15 and beyond, we think those will be at the higher level of logistics and institutional support, and not necessarily at the micro-tactical level.

           I'm not sure that 100 percent answers the question you were after, but that's my assessment at this point, over.

           Q: Thanks, General Milley, this is David Alexander from Reuters.

           I understand that President Karzai's been quoted as saying he doesn't think it's necessary to have a post-2014 forces agreement in place until perhaps after the election. So I'm just wondering if that's -- is that, sort of, the new target, or is that pushing it a little too thin? When -- how's that going?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Well, I'll be frank, I don't -- my -- my level is below the president of Afghanistan. I don't engage with President Karzai. That's -- General Dunford does that. The ambassador does that and others do that.

           I saw the comment in the media. So I don't know. That's a political question. He's got to decide that. He's the sovereign leader of a sovereign country, and he's got to determine what he thinks is in the best interest, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

           Our position is, is we would like to have a bilateral security agreement. And I think publicly the chairman and others have stated they'd like to see that -- you know, in the October-November time frame. That's -- that's an -- that's one level above me. Does it have impact? Yes it does, but in terms of the day-to-day operational fight, no.

           Where it has impact, though, is in what I would call a sense of anxiety, a fear of the future, a sense of hedging on the part of Afghans across the board, both the civilian elites, and military leadership, as well as, I would argue, a broad base of Afghans throughout the country.

           So there's -- there's a degree of anxiety out there within Afghanistan about what 2014 means. And I think the sooner that various leaders define that with a degree of certainty, than I think the better it will be for the government of Afghanistan and the future of the people of Afghanistan.

           But that's a political question, and I'm not sure, candidly, of the status of negotiations, et cetera. But, we don't -- obviously play a role in that. I think the embassy has lead on it. And they're working it. But, certainly we want it, and we want to get that done. And I think that's in the best interest of the -- of the campaign effort over here. But we'll have to wait until we see what the political leadership of all the various countries come up with.

           Over.

           Q: Joe Gould from Army Times.

           You talked about the Taliban planning to push the envelope. There was a -- there was recently a complex attack in Ghazni that resulted in Afghan, Polish and one American casualty from the 10th Mountain. Do you expect that those kinds of complex attacks are going to increase, particularly as the -- you know, as the drawdown is coming and the fighting season is -- starts to dwindle? And also, what can you tell us about -- that attack?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Well, the short answer is, yes. We do expect that the enemy will try to do -- and he stated he would try to do -- what -- what's called, generally, high-profile attacks, or what we call complex attacks, which involve dismounted forces, suicide bombers attempting to breach, et cetera.

           That one on FOB Ghazni was a significant attack involving multiple suicide vehicle car bombs and an attempt by suicide -- dismounted suicide bombers to penetrate the perimeter, inflict significant amounts of casualties.

           Unfortunately, we lost a great American there from 10th Mountain Division in that attack, but the defenders did extraordinarily well. All of the attackers were killed, but the Afghan security forces did well as well. And the Polish security forces -- or the Polish contingent did great, the Americans did great from 10th Mountain. That was a tough fight. It was a tough attack. And the defenders did well. And we were -- in my opinion, the enemy completely failed in achieving any kind of operational or strategic effect from that particular attack.

           We do expect more of those against either fixed sites and/or key infrastructure in Kabul, political sites, et cetera. And they have had several to date, as well. So there's been -- in the Kabul area, for example, there's been 13 high-profile attacks since the beginning of May, about seven of them against ISAF facilities, and the others against the Afghan facilities.

           And in all of them, I would argue that they were a resounding failure, both in terms of trying to make a political statement on the part of the enemy and/or having any kind of military, strategic, or operational effect.

           You know, one of them -- they blew up a suicide bomber in the parking lot of the supreme court and they murdered a whole bunch of civilians. And another one, they attacked an international office of migration, a representative of the United Nations, a very soft target. And they killed some folks there. And they -- they attacked The Red Crescent in Jalalabad.

           But I would not call those attacks anything that demonstrates any kind of viable capability on the part of the enemies of Afghanistan, except the fact that they're terrorists and they're murderers. Other than that, they haven't been able to achieve much success at all.

           So we do expect more. This is a -- an environment in which the enemy has objectives. They are trying to achieve those objectives, and they're using the tool of terrorism to do it. And they're using the tool of wanton violence to inflict and undermine the legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan. And at least to date, they're having very little success in doing it.

           Over.

           CMDR. SPEAKS: Time for two more questions.

           Luis?

           Q: General, it's Luis Martinez of ABC News.

           Have there been some success areas that you did not expect? For example – after the transition? I saw recently that in Pech and Kunar, and there seems to be – have been quite a security turnaround there with the Afghans in lead – are there. Is that right? And are there other areas that are similar like that?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Yeah, there's -- there's several of them. You know, there's -- there's ups and downs. It's a war so there's -- there's puts and takes, there's goods and bads throughout. On balance, overall, there's much more goods than bads with respect to how the Afghan security forces are performing.

           One of them, you pointed out, which was the Pech River Valley. As you're well aware, ISAF forces, coalition forces withdrew from -- in large part, from the Nuristan/Kunar area, for good reasons. There was -- there was a modest amount of population up there, and the cost was exceeding any kind of benefit, as we could tell. And so a few years ago there was a decision made to go ahead and withdrawal most of the outposts from up there.

           So the -- so the Afghan security forces this past June -- 6th of June, in fact -- decided that they would go back up there, reassert governmental control in the Pech River Valley, the Waygal Valley, Chapa Dora, and a few others of the capillary valleys up in there.

           So, on 6th June, they went ahead and conducted an operation where they put in an Afghan kandak by ground. They did make contact. They defeated the enemy that they ran into in and around those areas. And then they have essentially maintained pretty good control of that area since -- since 6th June.

           And just this week, they're working to bring in a quote/unquote "holding force," in the doctrine there of a counter-insurgency. They'll bring in a holding force with police, which is a combination of Afghan uniformed police and Afghan local police. They've worked a variety of governmental actions there on behalf of Governor Nuristani. And they're pushing on further to secure the road all the way up to Paroon, et cetera. So they're doing a very good job with that. They put that together on their own.

           Another one was the Hazara operation -- an Hazarajat operation that I mentioned before with an air assault for multiple corps into some very rugged terrain in an area that was kind of tough.

           Another one, which surprised me, when I got back here, was, you know, down in R.C. South and Southwest, there was significant -- really significant fighting down in Helmand, Arghandab, Sangin, Panjwai, et cetera, just a few years ago. The level of security that's been brought to Kandahar and the areas in R.C. South and southwest, not only by ISAF but by now both the 205th and 215th corps that are operating down there is quite a bit different than -- than what I saw before.

           So that -- that's a significant and positive change, I think. And it appears to be holding up pretty well.

           So, Sangin, for example, the enemy has tried -- tried hard to re- take Sangin, but the 215th Corps down there in R.C. Southwest has done a very, very good job in holding that terrain and defeating the enemy offensives, such as they were when they tried to, you know, cut the road between Kajaki and Lash and all that.

           So, there are several spots. If you go up to Mazar-e-Sharif, you go up to Kunduz; if you go out to Herat, those places are extremely stable. And -- and they are, relative to the insurgency. Is there crime? Yeah, there's crime. There's some other things. But -- and, you know, there's other types of bad activity, but relative to the insurgency, those other areas are quite stable.

           Now, there's some areas that are tough. So it's not all rosy everywhere. Highway 1 south of Kabul, specifically between Wardak and Logar in Fayzabad district is -- is -- has been a tough fight this summer. The enemy, in combination with criminal groups, in combination with other, you know, miscreant-type actors, have been attacking various convoys, stealing fuel, torching trucks.

           But that's about a 20-mile stretch of road in some compartmented terrain that -- that causes a -- a defile just south of Kabul. So that area has been contested all summer long. The 203rd Corps right now as we speak is running a pretty significant operation there to clear out the enemy support zones. So that's an area that's been contested.

           Kunar is still contested, you know, as you go up to Barge Matal. That area is pretty contested as well. There are parts of Urozgan that are still pretty contested. As you get out into the west and you get into Farah and Gulistan, those areas are fairly contested and the Afghan security forces are in a fight there; parts of Zabul. But -- so there are areas in which there is significant ongoing fighting.

           And if you looked at it geographically and you lay it out kind of district by district and geography by geography, there's about somewhere around 15 or 20 percent maybe of the geographical land-space of Afghanistan that is significantly contested, and about 80 percent of it is not -- is not very contested. It's clearly under government control.

           If you look at it from a population standpoint, it's about the same. About 80 percent of the population lives in areas that are not significantly contested by the insurgents. Most of the insurgency that we see today is occurring in some rural areas of low-density population and that's where the Afghan security forces are trying to get after it.

           Over.

           CMDR. SPEAKS: Lalit

           Q: (inaudible) -- number of foot soldiers, do you have any estimate of the number of foot soldiers Taliban have now as compared to what was three years ago?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: I'm sorry. I could not hear the question. I think what I heard was how many people does the Taliban have now. Was that the question?

           Over.

           Q: Yes.

           CMDR. SPEAKS: That's correct, sir.

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Yeah, I -- I don't know for certain. And candidly, I'm not sure anyone knows, probably to include the Taliban, exactly how many Taliban there are. At best, you get a wide range of estimates, and then you have to define it even further. Are we talking about armed combatant-type Taliban? Or are we talking about supporters of the Taliban that lend some kind of logistical or political support, et cetera? So some of that depends on definition and so on and so forth.

           As a broad kind of comment -- I would probably be reluctant to give precise numbers. But as a broad comment, you're probably looking at something of a low of 10,000 or 15,000 armed combatants, and maybe a high of 25,000 -- 20,000, 25,000 armed. And it's not Taliban. It's -- it's the -- it's multiple groups. So you've got Taliban. You know, you've got Haqqani. You've got HIG. You've got TMJ. You've got al-Qaeda. You've got IMU, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. And you've got about four or five other named groups.

           You've got a potpourri of radical groups that generally have similar-type objectives. They're sort of this similar -- similar species of fish that are -- that are swimming generally in the same pond.

           But they are not exactly unified by any stretch of the imagination, but taken as a whole that's probably in the range of accuracy, and that's probably about as good a guess as anyone would be able to give you in terms of a left, right book end of the numbers. It's a pretty wide range, I know, but I think that's a question that is not answerable with any high degree of accuracy, over.

           CMDR. SPEAKS: Okay. With that, sir, we'll turn it over to you for any closing comments.

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: Okay, I've got time on this end to take another question, if there's one more question, and then I can kind of wrap it up.

           CMDR. SPEAKS: Okay, sir

           Jim Garamone.

           Q: Hi sir.

           For years, we've been hearing that the Afghan police are not trained up to the same sort of standard as the Afghan army. Yet, we keep hearing they're taking a lot of casualties. Is that -- are the Afghan police catching up?

           And -- and just as another aside, the American and NATO troops have essentially changed the way they conduct business over the last year with the Afghans in the lead. How is that working, and how have they adapted to that role?

           LT. GEN. MILLEY: The -- well, on the first question, to the Afghan police, the -- the training -- the level of effort in terms of training has clearly lagged behind the army from the very beginning of this operation. If you go back to the Bonn agreement and then you kind of trace that through the years, the level of effort was behind the army. And more training effort, equipment and -- and focus was put on the army.

           That was recognized a few years ago -- I don't know, probably '08, '09, '10, something like that, and the gears started to shift to increase the level of effort to support police forces.

           Now there's multiple types of police forces. So you've got the Afghan border police, which, obviously, operate along the border. And you look at the Afghan uniform police, which operate fundamentally in urban areas or higher density population areas. You've got the ANCOPs, the civil order police, which is sort of like a carabinieri type organization.

           So you got different types of police and they're all at different levels of training. But a concerted effort has been done in the last couple of years, and we're continuing that today, to improve the level of training, leadership, and equipping of the Afghan police. And we're seeing a better performance on the part of the police this summer than we've seen in the past.

           The enemy clearly is attacking the police more than any other force, both Afghan local police and Afghan national police because that police force is truly the front line of the government, and -- and they are not as formidable in -- in conducting small unit, dismounted, light infantry-type operations as the Afghan army.

           So the Afghan -- or the enemies clearly target the Afghan police more than they do the army. And the Afghan police proportionally take more casualties than the army. In the aggregate the army takes more than the -- more casualties than the police, but as a matter of proportion, the police take more per the number of police.

           But the police have not been shattered; they haven't broke. They're hanging in there. They're doing good. And they're improving in terms of their skills at both -- not only police work, but at their ability to operate in a counter-insurgency, terrorist type environment that you have here in Afghanistan.

           So, hopefully, that answers the first half of your question.

           As far as the relationship as to what we do, we -- we are clearly and unambiguously in the train, advise, assist part of -- or that is our mission, that's our task, that's what we do every day. We do not conduct unilateral offensive operations. We did that years ago. We do not do that anymore.

           What we do is help the Afghans in their conduct of their counter- insurgency. And we train them. We advise them. We work schools. We help equip them. And then we assist them where needed and where requested. And that relationship has worked out pretty well. And the Afghans have stepped up to the plate, and as you can tell by casualties and other things, that they are in fact fighting the fight.

           And let me -- let me just wrap it up. First of all, good to hear some of the voices I heard out there. And I hope everyone's doing well.

           But with respect to Afghanistan, you know, kind of going back to where I started, a lot has happened in 12 years in this country. Some of which makes headlines, some of which does not.

           But there is a significant degree of societal change, both in the security conditions, the security capabilities on the part of the Afghan government, and at least as important are the societal changes in terms of education and communication and so on and so forth.

           Taken as a whole, taken as an aggregate, and again, you know, it's still early in the sense of, you know, how does this all turn out, but I would argue that the -- the -- the changes that have occurred in this country speak that or would suggest that the momentum of this war has shifted in the favor of the government of Afghanistan and not in the favor of the Taliban.

           And I think the Taliban capability-wise and political action-wise do not have the capability to present an existential threat to this country, provided that we continue doing what we're doing, we stay on plan, we continue to advise and assist and work with the Afghan security forces.

           So I -- my own estimate -- and this is my estimate, not any kind of, not anyone else's, but my own estimate is that the situation in Afghanistan is significantly better than what many people may appreciate it to be, given a 12-year view, or even given a 40-year view.

           Most Afghans would tell you that the situation today is better than it certainly was 25 years ago or 20 years ago or even 12 or 13 years ago.

           And I -- and I hear that repeatedly. And not just from people that are senior in rank in the Afghan security forces, but I hear that from lots of people all over the country of various walks of life.

           So I think that the United States and the international security forces from NATO have got a lot to be proud of in what's occurred in the last 12 years.

           Having said all of that, though, this war is not over. This war is still being contested. It is still being fought, day-in and day-out. And it is not yet won.

           It -- right now, I would say, that the conditions are set for winning this war and, but it is not yet won and it is not yet over.

           So with that, I'll -- I'll bid adieu, and wish you guys the best and appreciate the time.

           CMDR. SPEAKS: Thank you, sir.