Security hurdle keeps U.S.-bound Iraqi refugees in limbo
Musadaq Alsamawi and his wife hold photos of their daughter, who hasn't been able to join them at their new home in Arizona.
December 23rd, 2011
05:10 PM ET

Security hurdle keeps U.S.-bound Iraqi refugees in limbo

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the security hurdles faced by Iraqi refugees trying to enter the U.S.:

While the U.S. military has pulled out of Iraq, thousands of Iraqis who worked for the men and women in uniform are hoping to follow in their boot tracks.  But a special immigration program meant to facilitate the process has slowed to a crawl, leaving many Iraqis fearing for their lives as they wait to be accepted into the United States as refugees.

The hang-up seems to have been caused by an additional security screening implemented at the start of 2011. Iraqis requesting resettlement go through a series of security background checks and medical exams before they’re cleared to travel to the United States.  The process used to take approximately six months.

“When the newest layer went into place …  it brought the whole system more or less to a halt,” said Bob Carey, vice president of Refugee Resettlement and Migration Policy at the International Rescue Committee. The non-profit agency works on refugee issues around the world.

“Certain security checks expire. Medical exams, which have to take place before refugees enter the U.S., expire,” said Carey. By the time all of the security checks are completed, he said, the initial screenings have expired and the applicants have to become recertified. “So it becomes kind of a circle that refugees are caught in and can’t get out of.”


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Filed under: Iraq • Military • Politics • U.S. • U.S. Army • World
December 16th, 2011
12:07 PM ET

N.C. soldier reportedly last to die in Iraq war

David Hickman was a star football player in McLeansville, North Carolina. He was a quiet man with a larger-than-life presence. He also holds the distinction of being the last soldier to die before the official announcement of the end of the Iraq war. That fact has made him a part of history, CNN affiliate WGHP reports.

Hickman, an Army specialist, was remembered Thursday by friends as the U.S. marked the official end of the war.

President Obama commemorated the milestone with an appearance at Fort Bragg, where Hickman was stationed before being deployed in September.

Obama, Panetta honor Iraq war troops

"As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree - welcome home. Welcome home,” he told cheering troops.

The coincidence did not go unnoticed by Hickman’s friends, who spoke to WGHP.

"That is so like David. He wasn't going to go out quietly. He's going to go down with a place in history," said his friend Logan Trainum. "He wasn't the loudest one in the room, but he was the most noticed one in the room. He just had that presence about him."

Home and Away: Share your tributes to fallen troops

Even in death, Hickman was making his presence known, his friends said.


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Filed under: Barack Obama • Iraq • Military • U.S. Air Force • U.S. Army • War
WikiLeaks suspect hearing set for December 16
If convicted of all charges, Bradley Manning would face life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
November 21st, 2011
03:17 PM ET

WikiLeaks suspect hearing set for December 16

The American soldier behind bars for more than 18 months, suspected of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website, will go before a military panel on December 16, according to a U.S. military release.

The military made the announcement Monday afternoon regarding Pfc. Bradley Manning. The hearing will happen at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. placed a call to Manning's attorney, who was not immediately available for comment.

Manning is charged with aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of property or records, transmitting defense information, fraud and related activity in connection with computers and violating Army regulations, according to the military.

If convicted of all charges, he would face life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

In February, a friend of Manning's told reporters that the soldier, who was 23 when he was arrested in 2010, was deteriorating mentally and physically from his imprisonment. Manning was initially held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, but has since been transferred to the prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Last month, WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange was ordered extradited from England to Sweden to face charges related to a sex crime investigation unrelated to WikiLeaks. But Assange's extradition is significant in the WikiLeaks story because many say that if he is behind bars, WikiLeaks will not be able to continue.

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Filed under: Julian Assange • Military • U.S. Army • WikiLeaks
November 10th, 2011
06:10 PM ET

U.S. soldier gets life for murder of Afghan civilians

[Updated 10:18 p.m. ET] Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs was sentenced Thursday to life in military prison with eligibility for parole in 10 years after being found guilty of murdering three Afghan civilians, cutting pieces from their corpses to keep as "souvenirs" and planting weapons on them to make them appear as if they had been killed in legitimate firefights.

[Posted 6:10 p.m. ET] A U.S. Army staff sergeant accused of leading a rogue "kill squad"in Afghanistan was found guilty Thursday of all charges, including murder in the death of  three Afghan civilians.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs faces a maximum sentence of life in military prison. He was convicted in a military courtroom in Washington state of murdering Afghan villagers, planting weapons on them and cutting body parts off to keep as grisly war trophies..

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • U.S. Army
October 15th, 2011
06:40 PM ET

U.S. combat brigade to leave Iraq well ahead of schedule

A brigade of U.S. troops originally scheduled to be among the very last to leave Iraq is being pulled out of the country months ahead of its planned departure, military officials said Saturday.

The announcement follows news this month that a deal to keep American troops in Iraq past a December 31, 2011, deadline to withdraw was on shaky ground after Iraqi leadership said any remaining U.S. forces would not be granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other top brass have repeatedly said any deal to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the withdrawal deadline must require a guarantee of legal protection for American soldiers.

The Fourth Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division, based at Fort Bliss, deployed to Iraq in August to replace two withdrawing brigades. The troops were sent with the understanding they would be among the last to leave the country and were told to expect up to a 12-month deployment, though it wasn't clear how long they would stay in Iraq. But brigade officials informed hundreds of military families gathered Saturday at its headquarters that their troops would begin returning home within weeks.

When family members inquired why soldiers were returning early, they were told by a military official: "Basically, what's happened ... is that the United States and Iraq have not come to an agreement," according to a CNN reporter who attended the meeting.

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Filed under: Iraq • Military • U.S. Army
General: Army to cut 8.6% of troops
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick says the troop cuts will take place over five years.
September 26th, 2011
09:24 AM ET

General: Army to cut 8.6% of troops

The U.S. Army in March will embark on a plan to cut 50,000 troops, or 8.6% of its soldiers, over five years, the service's personnel chief tells Army Times.

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick said the cuts will bring the Army's total force to 520,400 active-duty soldiers by October 2016, according to the Army Times report.

“We feel that with the demand going down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and given the time to conduct a reasonable drawdown, we can manage (the force reduction) just as we have managed drawdowns in the past,” Army Times quotes Bostick as saying.

The troop cuts will come in two phases, Bostick told the newspaper, with the first covering the 22,000 troops added to the service three years ago to support the troop surge in Afghanistan. A second phase will cover 27,000 slots added in the Grow the Army program, begun in 2007, he said.

The Army hopes to achieve the cuts through retirements, buyouts and voluntary and involuntary separations, Bostick told Army Times.

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Army
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