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Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry announced new funding and initiatives to strengthen a renewed U.S.-Afghanistan partnership after meeting March 22 with Afghan leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah participated in a series of meetings with President Barack Obama’s national security team to discuss developments in NATO's train, advise and assist mission, counterterrorism, and Afghanistan's long-term security objectives.
Joining Carter and Kerry at the formally named Naval Support Facility Thurmont in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park were Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, CIA Director John E. Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and others.
“As many of you know, I saw President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah in Kabul last month, where I was also able to thank the nearly 10,000 American troops still serving there and to assess the changed circumstances on the ground,” Carter said during a news conference after the Camp David meetings.
Today the leaders continued the discussion on progress made and challenges facing Afghan forces as they prepare for the coming fighting season and beyond, Carter said.
“Being here with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew puts Afghanistan's security challenges in the broader context of its political and economic development,” Carter noted, adding that Ghani himself says the U.S.-Afghan relationship is defined by the partnership’s comprehensive nature, not by numbers of troops.
Carter said that Obama has been clear that while U.S. and coalition troops have transitioned to a new mission in Afghanistan, “the United States maintains an unwavering commitment to a strong and enduring strategic partnership with Afghanistan.”
Ghani and Abdullah will meet with Obama tomorrow at the White House.
As what he called one part of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, Carter announced that the Defense Department will seek funding for Afghan forces to sustain an end strength of 352,000 through 2017.
“Afghan and coalition military commanders have jointly recommended this force size, at least through 2017, to ensure that the security gains we've made together are lasting,” the secretary added.
After a three-year interruption, the U.S.-Afghanistan Security Consultative Forum will be reinstated, Carter said, led by DoD along with the Afghan ministries of defense and interior.
In Kerry’s remarks at the news conference, he said the U.S. and Afghan delegations held three separate sessions on security; issues of reconciliation and regional cooperation; and economic matters.
“The depth of our discussions today reflects the critical nature of this moment,” he said, “with Afghanistan's government of national unity now fully responsible for the security of its people, and moving ahead on a reform agenda of its own design.”
Kerry also announced a new initiative -- a plan to create a new development partnership aligned with the unity government's reform agenda.
“This initiative reflects the strategic importance of the U.S.-Afghan relationship, and it recognizes a new era of cooperation between our governments,” he said.
The partnership, Kerry added, will promote Afghan self-reliance by using up to $800 million in U.S. aid to encourage and measure Afghan-led reform and development activities and strengthen Afghan institutions' sustainability and fiscal transparency.
Also in the discussion, Kerry said, the leaders committed to forming an energy working group that will focus on synergies of the regional energy market.
Ghani, in his remarks, welcomed the energy initiative, which he described as “the difference between the Afghanistan of today and the Afghanistan of the future.”
A lot ran through Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Joseph’s mind when he saw the body of a lance corporal on the pavement outside the movie theater at Marine Corps Base Hawaii Feb. 17.
Joseph recognized the victim exhibited signs of cardiac arrest. He knew if cardiovascular resuscitation wasn’t conducted immediately, the Marine would die.
Joseph began CPR. The lance corporal recovered.
That’s why Joseph received the Emergency Cardiovascular Care Heart Saver Hero Award from the American Heart Association on March 13 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“It is interesting to me that we have young men and women who step up and take action when action is needed,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan said at Joseph’s award ceremony. Toolan, the commander for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, called Joseph “the epitome of who we are as Marines.”
The morning of the incident, Joseph, 25, assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, attended annual training with his squadron at the base theater. Feeling tired and not wanting to fall asleep, Joseph headed out to his car to grab an energy drink.
That’s when he heard a thud, a car alarm and noticed a Marine roll on the ground and suddenly stop. He rushed over and realized the Marine had stopped breathing.
“I called 911 and saw two sailors around me and told them to start CPR,” Joseph said. “They said they weren’t trained, and I knew I had to.”
Joseph’s 18-year-old brother, Robert, died from cardiac arrest. When it happened, no one in the vicinity knew CPR and that’s why Joseph soon made it a point to become CPR-certified.
“I wanted to know why he died,” Joseph said. “Everyone should know CPR. I am familiar with what could happen without it.”
The West Virginia native said he was amazed at the timing of the incident. He had completed a CPR refresher course a few days earlier. He recalled the lance corporal’s mother telling him, “God sent you to my son.”
“To me, it’s just what Marines do,” Joseph said. “It’s a big deal to everyone else, but to me, it’s just what we do. It means a lot more that he is a Marine, after the fact, because of the brotherhood, but I would have done the same thing if he were anyone else.”
Joseph’s wife, Nicole, and their son, Miles, 3, came to the award ceremony.
“I’m so proud of him,” Nicole said of her husband. “He is very humble and didn’t expect anything in return. Miles [is proud of him, too]. He says he wants to ‘fix helicopters and fight bad guys with my dad one day.’”
The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Korea's demilitarized zone on March 8, where soldiers from North Korea and South Korea have stared each other down for more than six decades after an armistice ended hostilities of the Korean War.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. said the tour is a powerful reminder of just why American service men and women give so much to defend the freedom of the nation.
Winnefeld is leading a USO delegation of celebrities who are circumnavigating the globe in just over a week to bring cheer to deployed troops. After visiting in Europe and making their way through Bahrain, Afghanistan and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, South Korea was their last foreign call before heading for their final show in Hawaii.
He said he took the celebrities to the DMZ so they could gain a deeper understanding of the freedoms that the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and allied nations are fighting to defend -- and for the service and sacrifice of those who fought and died defending freedom in the Korean War.
The role of celebrities as goodwill ambassadors also is to greet the troops who are deployed so far from home, the admiral said.
Earlier in the day, at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Air Force Col. Brook Leonard, the 51st Fighter Wing commander, succinctly described the U.S. role in the region:
"Our grandparents fought and died together for freedom, and we continue to guard that freedom," he said.
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