Gen. Anthony Tata: Trump is perfectly within his authority to review case of Green Beret charged with murder

President Donald Trump is perfectly within his legal authority to assert that he will review the case of West Point graduate and Special Forces Major Mathew Golsteyn, who is charged with murdering a Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan in 2010. Moreover, the president’s tweet – “At the request of many, I will be reviewing the … Continue reading “Gen. Anthony Tata: Trump is perfectly within his authority to review case of Green Beret charged with murder”

President Donald Trump is perfectly within his legal authority to assert that he will review the case of West Point graduate and Special Forces Major Mathew Golsteyn, who is charged with murdering a Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan in 2010.

Moreover, the president’s tweet – “At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder. He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas.” – ensures that as the Army prosecutes Golsteyn, it will provide him due process and the presumption of innocence.

As commander-in-chief, the president has the ultimate authority and responsibility to review military cases as he sees fit. His tweet does not exert command influence and is neutral in its tenor – rightfully so, as Golsteyn’s is an almost nine-year-old, complex case that puts a warrior in legal jeopardy.

Golsteyn received the Silver Star – the third highest combat award the military can issue – for his actions in Afghanistan while serving as a member of the famed 3rd Special Forces Group in 2010. In 2006 and 2007, this same unit served with me during my tour as the deputy commanding general of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. They were a brave and noble fighting force doing our nation’s bidding.

At issue now are Golsteyn’s actions a few days after two of his Marines were killed by improvised explosive devices. Golsteyn and his men captured the Taliban bombmaker, who later wound up dead. During a CIA job interview in 2011, Golsteyn allegedly admitted to his killing.

If this killing took place while the detainee was in custody, Golsteyn’s actions would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Manual for Military Courts Martial article 118, Murder. It’s not clear this is the case.

One account has him shooting the enemy combatant away from the forward operating base where he was being held as a detainee and then burning the corpse in the “burn pit” on the operating base to dispose of the body. Golsteyn’s lawyer calls that account “fantasy” and there are apparently no corroborating witnesses to this alleged crime and cover-up.

After the 2011 CIA interview, the Army criminal investigation division was alerted to Golsteyn’s comments and opened an investigation. No charges were filed but Golsteyn received administrative punishment, including being stripped of his Silver Star and Special Forces tab.

Then, after comments he made on Fox News Channel in 2016 reiterating that he had shot the bombmaker, the Army opened another investigation. Last week, it charged Golsteyn with murder.

The Army is now moving forward with an Article 32 investigation – the military equivalent of a grand jury – to determine if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Golsteyn. The Army already decided that there wasn’t sufficient evidence in 2011, but sees fit to continue to tilt at the Golsteyn windmill.

Citizens and soldiers are innocent until proven guilty. It would be the height of irony to deny a combat veteran the constitutional rights that he so bravely fought for.

While the first investigation appears to have left questions unanswered, this new investigation could ultimately lead to prosecution and, worst case, the death penalty if Golsteyn is convicted of murder.

There has been much speculation in the press regarding his actions, but speculation is all it is. It’s clear, however, that Golsteyn became frustrated with the rules for processing detainees.

Troops on the ground had 72 hours from point of capture to formally enter a detainee into the system, then lost complete control of what happened next. There was constant Pentagon pressure to soften the rules in favor of the detainees, as the Obama administration sought to undo the wrongs of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay scandals.

The standard was simple: Does the detainee pose a threat to coalition forces and/or does the detainee have intelligence value? If the answer was yes to either of those questions, field commanders such as Golsteyn were to process the detainee immediately for transition to Bagram Detention Facility. Why this didn’t happen is central to the investigation, because it was clear that the detainee was both a threat and had intelligence value. Golsteyn should have been moving out on his next mission while intelligence officials immediately processed the detainee.

As Golsteyn goes before Army authorities once again, the military justice system should operate in broad daylight. That is the essence of President Trump’s tweet – to shine a light on the potential railroading of a man who sacrificed much on behalf of our nation. Citizens and soldiers are innocent until proven guilty. It would be the height of irony to deny a combat veteran the constitutional rights that he so bravely fought for.

The Army didn’t see fit to prosecute after the first investigation. Now, however, questions abound. Almost nine years later, are memories fresh enough to recall in any detail the specifics of the case? With no apparent evidence, can the Army convict a man based solely on circumstantial evidence, namely statements? Did the detainee attempt to escape? What, in fact, were the circumstances?

These are important questions and President Trump has rightly put the Department of Defense on notice that it better handle this with care.

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata is the former deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the national best-selling author of “Dark Winter.”

Family of young Lionel Messi fan forced to leave Afghanistan home over Taliban fighting

The young Lionel Messi fan who touched the hearts of millions when he was pictured wearing a makeshift soccer jersey with his favorite player’s name and number on it was forced to flee with his family from their home in Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s offensive in the region.

Murtaza Ahmadi, 7, met his idol in 2016 after the photo of him in the Messi jersey, made out of blue and white striped plastic, went viral. Murtaza got to meet Messi — the Argentine international player and FC Barcelona star — and even stood on the field with him when Messi’s club Barcelona played a friendly match in Qatar.

Two years later, Murtaza’s family was forced to flee from their home in southeastern Ghazni province because of intense fighting from a Taliban onslaught. The province had previously been deemed safe, according to Agence France-Presse. The family is now one of many living in Kabul and also fearing for their son’s safety.

“We couldn't take any of our belongings, we left only with our lives,” Murtaza’s mother Shafiqa told AFP.

The family are members of a Shiite ethnic group targeted by the Taliban.

“The danger of the Taliban coming back is high. Going back is not an option,” Murtaza’s mother said.

The pressure has only increased since Murtaza’s photos went viral. In 2016, the family was forced to move to neighboring Pakistan for a short time over threats from the Taliban. The family returned to Afghanistan when they ran out of money.

Shafiqa detailed the ongoing threats to AFP.

“Local strongmen were calling and saying, 'You have become rich, pay the money you have received from Messi or we will take your son,’” she said. “At night we would sometimes see unknown men, watching and checking our house, and then the calls. During the days, we wouldn't dare let him outside home to play with other children.”

While his family fears for their son’s safety, Murtaza told the news agency he misses playing soccer and misses the jersey he got from Messi.

“I miss Messi,” he said. “When I meet him, I will say, 'Salaam' and 'How are you?' Then he will reply saying thank you and be safe, and I will go with him to the pitch where he will play and I will watch him.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Military dog killed in Afghanistan reportedly saved Army soldiers’ lives during raid

A U.S. military dog who was killed late last month during a firefight with Al Qaeda forces reportedly saved Army soldiers' lives during the operation in Afghanistan.

Maiko, a 7-year-old dog, along with Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, from Washington, died after a raid in southwest Afghanistan's Nimruz Province on Nov. 24 that was intended to eliminate Al Qaeda militants, Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.

SERVICE MEMBERS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN REMEMBERED AT HOME

The military dog, according to the news outlet, was leading Rangers into a compound when their group was fired upon by militants — ultimately revealing where the militants were. Rangers were then able to target their location.

“The actions of Maiko directly saved the life of his handler … and other Rangers involved during the clearance,” a biography of Maiko that circulated on social media, but was confirmed by defense officials to Stars and Stripes, read. "The loss of Maiko is devastating to all that knew and worked with him."

Jasso, who was not Maiko's handler, and Maiko were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite unit within the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Jasso enlisted in the Army in August 2012 and was serving as a team leader on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

Maiko reportedly served six tours in Afghanistan and conducted more than 50 raids led by Army Rangers. When he died last month, "he was the most senior [multi-purpose canine] assigned to 2/75 with the most training and combat experience," according to the social media post.

Video

The Pentagon told Fox News after the attack that the incident remains under investigation.

Jasso was the ninth American killed in action in Afghanistan this year, and the second this month after a former mayor from Utah who served in the state’s National Guard since 2013 was slain in an “insider attack" in Kabul on Nov. 3.

Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @nicoledarrah.

US servicemen killed in Afghanistan bomb attack identified

The Pentagon on Wednesday released the names of three servicemen killed a day earlier in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.

Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, age 29, of Lexington, Virginia; Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, age 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, age 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania died of injuries sustained in the attack in Afghanistan's central Ghazni Province, southwest of the capital, Kabul.

Tuesday's attack was the deadliest against U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year. Three other service members were wounded in the explosion along with an American contractor.

In all, 12 Americans have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year, matching the total killed in 2017.

Ross and Emond were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Army Special Operations Command spokesman Loren Bymer said that Ross was on his second overseas tour, while Emond was on his seventh. Both men were posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Ross is survived by his wife and parents, while Emond is survived by his wife and three children.

Elchin was assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, based at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. He had arrived in Afghanistan this past August. His commendations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with Valor and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

"Dylan had an unusual drive to succeed and contribute to the team. He displayed maturity and stoicism beyond his years, and was always level-headed, no matter the situation,” said squad commander Lt. Col. Gregory Walsh, in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dylan's family, fiancé, and friends. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten."

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

3 US service members killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb blast; deadliest incident this year

Three American service members were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Tuesday, marking the deadliest day for U.S. forces in the embattled country this year.

Three American troops were killed and three others were wounded in the attack in the notorious Taliban hotbed – Ghazini city – after their armored vehicle drove over a massive bomb buried under the road. An American contractor was also wounded in the attack.

Including Tuesday’s attack, 12 Americans have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year. Five Americans have been killed this month alone.

The victims in the attack Tuesday weren’t immediately identified.

“In accordance with U.S. Department of Defense policy, the names of the service members killed in action are being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete,” military officials said in a statement.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a U.S. tank was completely destroyed.

The attacked was the deadliest since June 2017, when an Afghan soldier shot and killed three U.S. soldiers in an insider attack in the Achin district of the eastern Nangarhar province.

Tuesday’s deaths come just days after a U.S. soldier was killed in a firefight with Al Qaeda forces Saturday, defense officials told Fox News.

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, from Leavenworth, Wash., was wounded by small arms fire while conducting an operation to eliminate Al Qaeda militants in Nimruz Province, located in the southwest part of Afghanistan. Jasso was evacuated to Helmand province, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

The Pentagon said the incident remains under investigation. Jasso was the ninth American killed in action in the country this year, and the second this month after a former mayor from Utah who served in the state’s National Guard since 2013 was slain in an “insider attack" in Kabul on Nov. 3.

Brent Taylor, a married father of seven children who was deployed to Afghanistan in January, was a former mayor of North Ogden, a city of about 17,000 people located about 46 miles north of Salt Lake City.

The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but still provide vital support to Afghan security forces, who have been struggling in recent years to combat a resurgent Taliban and ISIS affiliate. Some 15,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan.

International forces have also suffered from so-called insider attacks in recent months, in which Afghan soldiers or police have opened fire on them.

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

3 US service members killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb blast; deadliest incident this year

Three American service members were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Tuesday, marking the deadliest day for U.S. forces in the embattled country this year.

Three American troops were killed and three others were wounded in the attack in the notorious Taliban hotbed – Ghazini city – after their armored vehicle drove over a massive bomb buried under the road. An American contractor was also wounded in the attack.

Including Tuesday’s attack, 12 Americans have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year. Five Americans have been killed this month alone.

The victims in the attack Tuesday weren’t immediately identified.

“In accordance with U.S. Department of Defense policy, the names of the service members killed in action are being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete,” military officials said in a statement.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a U.S. tank was completely destroyed.

The attacked was the deadliest since June 2017, when an Afghan soldier shot and killed three U.S. soldiers in an insider attack in the Achin district of the eastern Nangarhar province.

Tuesday’s deaths come just days after a U.S. soldier was killed in a firefight with Al Qaeda forces Saturday, defense officials told Fox News.

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, from Leavenworth, Wash., was wounded by small arms fire while conducting an operation to eliminate Al Qaeda militants in Nimruz Province, located in the southwest part of Afghanistan. Jasso was evacuated to Helmand province, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

The Pentagon said the incident remains under investigation. Jasso was the ninth American killed in action in the country this year, and the second this month after a former mayor from Utah who served in the state’s National Guard since 2013 was slain in an “insider attack" in Kabul on Nov. 3.

Brent Taylor, a married father of seven children who was deployed to Afghanistan in January, was a former mayor of North Ogden, a city of about 17,000 people located about 46 miles north of Salt Lake City.

The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but still provide vital support to Afghan security forces, who have been struggling in recent years to combat a resurgent Taliban and ISIS affiliate. Some 15,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan.

International forces have also suffered from so-called insider attacks in recent months, in which Afghan soldiers or police have opened fire on them.

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

US service member killed in Afghanistan, Pentagon says

A U.S. service member was killed in action in Afghanistan on Saturday, Pentagon officials say.

The service member's identity was being withheld pending notification of the next of kin, Stars and Stripes reported.

Details about the incident were not immediately available. The death raises the U.S. combat death toll in Afghanistan to nine for this year.

Earlier this month, Army National Guard Maj. Brent Taylor, a Utah mayor on leave of absence, was killed during an insider attack in Kabul. Another service member was injured in the same attack.

More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel have been killed in America’s 17-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.

Video

About 14,000 U.S. service members are currently stationed in Afghanistan, with the primary duty of training and aiding Afghan forces who are battling the Taliban, Reuters reported.

During a Nov. 17 forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the top U.S. military officer said the Taliban "are not losing" in Afghanistan.

"They are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say," said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much."

Meanwhile, Afghanistan has seen more than 28,000 police officers and soldiers killed since 2015, the New York Times reported. At least 242 security force members were killed between Nov. 9-15, President Ashraf Ghani said.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” Ghani told the Times.

On Friday, a bombing at an Afghan army base killed at least 27 soldiers and wounded dozens of others, the New York Times reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, the report said.

US soldier killed in Afghanistan during firefight with Al Qaeda militants identified by Pentagon

A U.S. soldier became the second American to be killed in Afghanistan this month after a firefight with Al Qaeda forces on Saturday, defense officials told Fox News.

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, from Leavenworth, Wash., was wounded by small arms fire while conducting an operation to eliminate Al Qaeda militants in Nimruz Province, located in the southwest part of Afghanistan. Jasso was evacuated to Helmand province, where he was pronounced dead, officials said

"The loss of Sgt. Jasso is felt by his family and loved ones, by all who served with him and by all on this mission to protect our country and our allies," said Gen. Scott Miller, Resolute Support and United States Forces – Afghanistan Commanding General.

The Pentagon said that Jasso was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite unit within the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He enlisted in the Army in August 2012 and was serving as a team leader on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, was killed after a firefight with Al Qaeda forces on Saturday in southwestern Afghanistan, defense officials told Fox News. (Department of Defense)

“Sgt. Jasso was a humble professional who placed the mission first, lived the Ranger Creed and will be deeply missed,” said Lt. Col. Rob McChrystal, Commander 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

The Pentagon said the incident remains under investigation. Jasso was the ninth American killed in action in the country this year, and the second this month after a former mayor from Utah who served in the state’s National Guard since 2013 was slain in an “insider attack" in Kabul on Nov. 3.

UTAH MAYOR, A FATHER OF 7, ID’D AS US SERVICE MEMBER KILLED IN ‘INSIDER ATTACK’ IN AFGHANISTAN

Brent Taylor, a married father of seven children who was deployed to Afghanistan in January, was a former mayor of North Ogden, a city of about 17,000 people located about 46 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Fallen soldier identified as Utah mayor

Utah mayor and father of seven Brent Taylor died in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan.

The killing of the American soldier on Saturday came as the Islamic State terror group in a statement posted on its Aamaq website which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on Friday inside an Afghan Army base in eastern Khost province which killed at least 27 soldiers.

"The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who detonated his explosive vest among them (army soldiers)," the ISIS statement said, without mentioning that the attack occurred inside a mosque at the base.

AL QAEDA RETURNS? UN PANEL WARNS OF NEW BIN LADEN THREAT

The attack came just days after a suicide bomber killed 55 religious scholars gathered in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to celebrate the holiday marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The Taliban denied involvement in that bombing, which also wounded 94 people.

Counterterrorism expert warns of ‘rekindling of Al Qaeda’

UN report warns that Al Qaeda is stronger than ISIS in Somalia, Yemen and South Asia; counterterrorism expert Aaron Cohen shares insight on ‘The Ingraham Angle.’

The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but still provide vital support to Afghan security forces, who have been struggling in recent years to combat a resurgent Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate. Some 15,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan.

International forces have also suffered from so-called insider attacks in recent months, in which Afghan soldiers or police have opened fire on them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed