Ashton Carter meets US military leaders in Afghanistan

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Carter in Afghanistan to review security as violence rises.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) – Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Afghanistan to assess the fragile security situation, amid reports of increased violence and a growing campaign by Islamic State loyalists to gain a foothold in the eastern part of the country.The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday called on the Pentagon to seek an inspector general’s investigation of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s use of a private email account to conduct Pentagon business.

Carter’s use of the personal account was first reported by The New York Times, which said he had been confronted about his email habits by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough this past May, three months after Carter took office as defense secretary. “I believe that it would be appropriate for him to ask for the DOD Inspector General’s assessment that no classified material was transmitted over unsecured channels,” he said. “It would be prudent for this assessment to extend to Secretary Carter’s time as Deputy Secretary of Defense as well. John Campbell, voiced concerns that foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq are joining with Afghans who have declared loyalty to IS in the east, near the Pakistan border. Carter continued the practice, which violated Defense Department rules, for at least two months after it was publicly revealed in March that Hillary Clinton had exclusively used a personal e-mail account as secretary of state, the officials said. He said the consequences at this point do not appear significant but the Defense Department has indicated it would cooperate with congressional oversight efforts.

Fueling those concerns is a new Pentagon report saying that the Taliban has been emboldened by the reduced U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and attacks increased this year. Earnest also expressed some surprise that, given the furor over Hillary Clinton’s personal email use, another Cabinet secretary would make this error. “I observed [in past conversations] that surely given the attention to Secretary Clinton’s email habits, that no one would make the same mistake.

The Defence Department said all his messages, which appeared to be largely about meetings and speeches, were backed up for record keeping on the department’s email system. But as Secretary Carter himself admitted, he did make that same mistake,” Earnest said. “… But to his credit, he owned up to it and he took full responsibility for it.” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook also released a statement on the matter, but declined to say whether it was a violation of Pentagon email policies. In October, at the urgings of his military commanders, President Barack Obama announced that he would keep troops levels steady through most of next year. The Times reported that Carter was assigned a government email account when he assumed his office in February, but continued to conduct most of his business on his private account, often sending messages via his iPhone or iPad.

Carter did not respond directly when asked by a reporter whether he had stopped using his personal account only after the Times filed a Freedom of Information request in September for some of his emails. According to a senior defense official, elements of the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan feel threatened by the Islamic State’s growth there and it has created a new dynamic in the region. And basically, what that means is I was doing it for longer than I should have.” “I should have known better,” Carter said while visiting Irbil, Iraq, where US troops are training and advising Kurdish forces. “It’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity to understand what the right thing to do was. Last year, a law signed by President Obama barred federal officials from receiving or sending emails from personal accounts unless the messages were either copied or forwarded into government accounts within 20 days.

I didn’t do the right thing.” Clinton, now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, used her private account exclusively during her four years as the nation’s top diplomat. Scores of her emails have been shown to contain classified information. “With all the public attention surrounding the improper use of personal email by other Administration officials, it is hard to believe that Secretary Carter would exercise the same error in judgment,” he said.

One topic of discussion with the Afghans during the trip will be the U.S. plans to deliver A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft to the Afghans. He also has made cybersecurity one of his top policy priorities at the Pentagon, which is among the most frequently and intensively targeted government agencies by international hackers.

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