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Author: TriSec    Date: 12/22/2015 11:08:41

Good Morning.

We'll dive right in; by now you've probably heard of the Taliban attack near Bagram that killed six US servicemen? This is the single largest casualty event there in a number of years now.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide attacker rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol Monday, killing six American troops in the deadliest attack on international forces since August. Two U.S. troops and an Afghan were wounded.

The soldiers were targeted as they moved through a village near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

A U.S. official confirmed that six American troops were killed and two wounded. An Afghan was also wounded. The official was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those affected in this tragic incident, especially during this holiday season," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William Shoffner, head of public affairs at NATO's Resolute Support base in the Afghan capital Kabul, said in a statement.

In New York, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Monday that a New York City police detective, Joseph Lemm, was one of the six American killed in the attack.

Lemm was a 15-year-old veteran of the New York Police Department and worked in the Bronx Warrant Squad. Bratton says Lemm served in the U.S. National Guard and, while a member of the police force, he had been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

In Washington, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the nation's thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and their loved ones, and that the U.S. will continue to work jointly with Afghans to promote peace and stability in their country.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in statement called the attack "a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan."

It was the deadliest attack on foreign troops in four months. On Aug. 22, three American contractors with the RS base were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul. On Aug. 7 and 8, Kabul was the scene of three insurgent attacks within 24 hours that left at least 35 people dead. One of the attacks, on a U.S. special operations forces base outside Kabul, killed one U.S soldier and eight Afghan civilian contractors.

This attack comes just three weeks after NATO decided that it was going to maintain troop levels there, and also look for more funding. Seems like that idea has worked out well.

The NATO allies decided on Tuesday to hold alliance troop levels in Afghanistan steady at about 12,000 next year and launched a campaign to fund the 350,000 Afghan forces it hopes can some day secure the country against Taliban militants.

Fourteen years after the United States first sent troops to Afghanistan, NATO governments have doubts about the ability of its army and police to defend against Taliban fighters, who briefly took over the northern city of Kunduz in September.

As a result, the 28-member Western alliance is abandoning plans to slash its troop levels by the end of this year.

"We are in Afghanistan to prevent that Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists ... that is also in our security interest to make sure that that doesn't happen," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

Excluding U.S. counter-terrorism forces, NATO will have about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan for most of next year, made up of about 7,000 U.S. forces and 5,000 from the rest of NATO and its partners such as non-NATO member Georgia.

At Tuesday's meeting, allies also launched a campaign to raise about $3 billion euros to help pay for Afghanistan's state security forces from 2018.

The Afghan security forces budget, funded by the United States and its NATO allies, is agreed up to the end of 2017. NATO wants to announce further funding for the 2018-2020 period at its next leaders summit in July.

"Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world, so I think this is a good investment we are making," Stoltenberg told a news conference.

This story is a few days old now too, so I'm sure you also heard that pretty much ALL combat jobs are going to be open to women soon. Which means they can go and get killed in Afghanistan too, but that is the price of an equal society, isn't it?

WASHINGTON — All U.S. military combat jobs, including infantry units and special operations, will be open to women beginning next year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday.

Carter said the decision was part of his commitment to build a force of the future. The ban will be lifted in 30 days, he said, and the services have until April 1 to accommodate women in all roles.

"In the 21st Century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest pool" possible, he said, adding that the Pentagon can't successfully defend the nation by eliminating half of the U.S. population from combat roles.

The decision was immediately blasted by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and a member of the Armed Services Committee as a politically motivated move that will erode the ability of the military to fight. Hunter pointed to a study done by the Marine Corps that showed that infantry units with women performed worse than all-male ones.

"No. 1, this is being done for political reasons," Hunter said. "What is it going to do to our ability to be lethal at the small-unit level? It degrades that ability."

The armed services had been given a Dec. 31 deadline to allow women into all of its units, including elite special operations ground combat position, or to request a waiver. Those exceptions had to be backed by data showing why women would not be able to accomplish the necessary tasks.

Carter acknowledged that the Marines asked for some exceptions, Carter said, "but we are a joint force."

"​There will be no exceptions," Carter said.

Finally, since it is Christmas week and we could probably use a little bit of good news...Congress actually did something meaningful and actually passed a bill last week. It's an extension of the 9/11 First Responder laws, under the name of the 'Zadroga Health Bill'.

WASHINGTON (December 18, 2015) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, applauds the extension of key provisions of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Congress included a 75-year renewal of the World Trade Center Health Program and a five-year, $4.6 billion Victim Compensation Fund extension in a $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill that funds the federal government through the rest of Fiscal Year 2016. Congress had let the critical program expire at the end of September.

“Today’s victory is due to the community of veterans and first responders who stood together to hold Congress accountable,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “When we called the IAVA community to action, they acted with ferocity. Many of us who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were also on the front lines in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania on 9/11, and for weeks after, carrying out the work our country called us to do. This was not and is not a New York issue, but a national one.”

As the leading veteran service organization calling for the passage of the Zadroga Act, IAVA was proud to help build a coalition to fight for the bill, which included the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, John Feal of the FealGood Foundation, first responders, survivors and veterans from all 50 states. IAVA worked with the coalition to blanket Capitol Hill to push for passage, significantly adding to the list of Congressional support. IAVA members also sent more than 4,100 messages to members of Congress demanding action on the bill.

“We are glad that the Zadroga Act was finally included in today’s Omnibus bill, but more than disappointed at the amount of advocacy it took to get this done,” added Rieckhoff. “First responders like myself were humiliated by having to come to Washington and beg for simple measures to protect our health and provide compensation for healthcare expenses. Once again, our nation’s heroes had to suffer at the hands of partisan politics. Let this be a lesson to future lawmakers — if you want us to protect your freedoms, then protect us.”

So as you all gather with your families at the end of the week for whatever winter solstice ritual you participate in...pause for a moment and remember those who cannot.

10 comments (Latest Comment: 12/22/2015 20:00:50 by Scoopster)
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