Archive for April, 2010
By now most people have heard about the projected environmental consequences of climate change – even if they don’t believe in global warming: more severe storms and droughts, melting sea ice, rising ocean levels and coastal flooding. Experts also expect food and water shortages in the poorer countries, causing population migration and possible conflict and political instability.
But the audience at a Washington think tank’s recent presentation on the environment and national security heard some surprising predictions about how climate could shape security issues in the future including:
–Global warming that melts Arctic sea ice could turn Russia and China into naval powers – and maritime rivals – later in the century;
–As more and more of the world’s population inhabits crowded urban areas near the ocean or river deltas, they will be increasingly at risk for climate-related events like hurricanes, typhoons and flooding;
–Climate change will lead to more humanitarian crises that will challenge – but could also benefit — U.S. military expeditionary skills – and improve America’s image in the Third World.
A panel of national security experts discussed climate change and energy use at an April 28 gathering hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). At issue, how the challenges of climate change, energy consumption and natural resources development affect U.S. national security and the future global security environment.
“It’s increasingly clear to me,” said counter insurgency expert Daniel Kilcullen, who moderated the discussion, “natural resources are tied up with civil reconstruction and counter insurgency.”
Kilcullen, who advised Gen. David Petraeus on counter insurgency during the troop surge in Iraq, says natural resources are “conflict drivers.” The continuing expansion of the deserts in North Africa, for example, are leading to population migration and pressures, such as water shortages, on local governments and communities,said Kilcullen now a consultant and senior non-resident fellow at CNAS noted.
Christine Parthemore, director of the Natural Security Program at CNAS and co-author of a recent CNAS study on climate change and the U.S. military, says climate change is global in nature but “effects will vary greatly by region.” She called climate change in the Arctic “a clear security challenge” and recommends giving U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) sole responsibility for the region.
Robert Kaplan, a journalist and senior fellow at CNAS, noted that global warming could be a good thing for Russia where most of the population lives above the 50th Parallel – an area colder than where most Canadians live. Warmer waters and less sea ice could open up Russia’s Arctic Sea ports and resource-rich Siberian rivers for longer periods of time. “The 21st Century could see Russia emerge as a maritime power,” Kaplan notes.
If the Arctic sea ice melt opens up the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans or along Russia’s Arctic Coast, opening up a Northeast Passage, that could change China’s shipping patterns and also diminish the importance of the Suez Canal.
Kaplan said there were increasing disputes between Russia and China in the Russian Far East. Right now, Russia is weak and China is getting stronger, he said, but climate change could strengthen Russia economically. “Global warming will affect Russia’s geopolitical interests and how China sees Russia,” Kaplan adds. Meanwhile the Chinese are building up their naval and maritime power. Navy Rear Admiral Philip Cullom said Chinese military strategists are avid readers of U.S. naval sea power advocate Alfred Thayer Mahan, adding that their maritime expansion was a sleeper issue for the present.
Cullom, who heads the Navy’s Task Force Energy program, says the military “needs to have an affordable alternative to petroleum” because untapped sources are diminishing and existing oil fields are often in unfriendly hands. In looking for a replacement for petroleum products, however, Cullom said the Navy is not interested in “first generation” biofuels or mixtures that require re-engineering all the Navy’s ships and planes. He’s also not interested in fuels based on food crops like ethanol derived from corn or sugar. Instead he’s looking at algae and camelina.
Urban areas in Africa and Asia are growing and most population centers are within 100 nautical miles of coastlines, Cullom said, making them more vulnerable to weather upheavals. And that will place more demands of the U.S. military’s expeditionary capabilities.
But that could be an opportunity to improve America’s image with potential opponents and allies. “Our audience is going to be the growing middle classes of the greater Middle East and the Islamic world,” Kaplan said.
Harder Than It Looks
O.K., we’ve all see a movie where the hero hits the ground, rolls, and takes down the bad guys. Well, it seems movie stunt men aren’t the only people who have to practice that tricky maneuver. Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division practice landing falls during a forcible entry exercise at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Pope AFB is adjacent to Fort Bragg, the home of the 82nd as well as U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Forcible entry exercises train the 82nd’s brigades for real-world contingency operations. A large contingent of the 82nd was deployed to Haiti to assist in post-earthquake relief operations — although most walked off planes or ships upon arrival. But forcible entry into a hostile or denied area by parachute assault — within 18 hours of notification — is still the 82nd’s prime mission. The April 26-28 exercise also included a static line parachute drop from C-17 cargo aircraft. For more photos of the exercise – and a look at just how big the inside of the airplane known as the Globemaster is, click on a photo essay here. As always, click on the photo for a larger image.
A Washington think tank is looking into the effects of climate change on U.S. national security and strategic interests. And the Center for a New American Security says in a recent report that the Navy is far ahead of the other services in addressing potential risks posed by climate change.
The report also makes several recommendations to improve U.S. ability to promote national security in the face of a changing climate.
The recommendations include developing U.S. policy on such topics as geo-engineering (intentional manipulation of the climate), the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas (commonly known as UNCLOS), nuclear reactors on military bases and making one military command responsible for the Arctic region.
“The Arctic is proving to be the first case study in how climate change affects military missions, and maritime services (the Navy and Coast Guard) are gaining first-hand experience on the impact and complexities that may lie ahead for the U.S.,” according to the 112-page report.
The report says the U.S. Senate should ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect U.S. and Defense Department interests. The CNAS report also recommends naming U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) as lead command on Arctic issues.
National security experts – including Daniel Kilcullen, the former counter insurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq – will take part Wednesday (April 28) in a roundtable discussion of the report, including topics such as energy and water challenges in Pakistan and Afghanistan and how they will affect current military operations in the region.
Also speaking at the CSIS event will be Carol Browner, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and now President Obama’s top adviser on energy and climate change.
The High North
Meanwhile, another think tank – the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) – is holding a pow-wow on U.S. Strategic Interests in the High North, the area inside the Arctic Circle.
Once blocked by sea ice that made most maritime travel impossible — except for nuclear-powered submarines moving under the ice — the Arctic is believed to hold one-fifth of the planet’s undiscovered petroleum reserves. Now that climate change is melting the sea ice and making the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific a reality, polar countries like Russia, Norway and Canada are jockeying for economic, political and military advantage in the region.
Speakers at today’s (April 28) day-long conference will include government officials and academics from the U.S., Norway, Canada and Denmark. They will discuss issues such as whether the U.S. should develop a separate Arctic policy and what will recent military posturing by Russia and other Arctic states mean for NATO.
CSIS also has a report out on the topic, U.S. Strategic Interests in the Arctic, which also calls for U.S. ratification of the UNCLOS and designating some U.S. agency to take the lead on Arctic strategy. The report’s authors thought NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command — a joint U.S.-Canadian operation — would make a good candidate.
Angel Thunder over the Desert
The crew of a Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apache helicopter looks up (click on image to enlarge ) as they fly over the desert surrounding Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Ariz., during Exercise Angel Thunder 2010. Organized by U.S. Air Combat Command, the two-week exercise, now in its fourth year, brings together more than 1,200 military and government agency personnel from around the U.S. and overseas as well as over 50 aircraft – including aerial refueling tankers, cargo planes and helicopters. The exercise, which ends next week, seeks to improve coordination and interoperability among participants in combat search and rescue and medical evacuation scenarios in the desert near the Mexican border. For more photos click here. (A translation tool like Google Translate is needed — if you don’t speak Dutch — for the RNAF site).
NEWS DEVELOPMENTS (click on images to enlarge)
“Wielding Islam as a Weapon”
The New York Times has a disturbing story about the control a politically-connected, militantly conservative Islamic student group wields over the Lahore campus of Pakistan’s largest university.
The group, identified as Islami Jamiat Talaba, has held sway over the University of the Punjab for years: threatening teachers and blocking classes – such as environmental science or western music – it deems un-Islamic. Much like the Taliban has done in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, the group has “created a parallel administration” at the university, controlling the dormitories, cafeterias and campus snack shops, according to the article.
Although relatively small, the group manages to dominate campus life by “deftly wielding Islam as a weapon to bludgeon its enemies,” according to the article, which notes that national political leaders sometimes make political alliances with the group’s parent organization, Jamaat-e-Islami, a powerful religious party.
“The university’s plight encapsulates Pakistan’s predicament: an intolerant, aggressive minority terrorizes a more open-minded, peaceful majority, while an opportunistic political class dithers, benefiting from alliances with aggressors,” writes Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise.
Meet Warrant Officer 1 Matthew Tomlinson, a commando with the Royal Marines who has been awarded the Military Cross, one of Britain’s highest military decorations, for his bravery and leadership under fire in Afghanistan.
According to the Royal Marines’ Website, Tomlinson, 43 — a 21-year-RM-veteran — was riding in Viking armored vehicle — part of a five vehicle convoy in Helmand Province last May – when the lead vehicle struck a roadside bomb, what the military calls an improvised explosive device, or IED. When the convoy halted, it came under sustained attack from militants using rocket propelled grenades.
Tomlinson jumped from his Viking, ran 50 meters to the burning vehicle and helped rescue the troops inside. Tomlinson and other rescuers had to dodge enemy fire while contending with the flames and the possibility that the damaged vehicle’s 4,000 rounds of ammunition might explode. Tomlinson directed return fire on the Taliban attackers while he and others tended the seriously injured driver of the damaged Viking.
The warrant officer again exposed himself to enemy fire while searching for the Viking’s turret gunner. He found the gunner dead, still inside the gun turret which had been blown some distance away from the vehicle.
Running back to his Viking, Thompson directed return fire onto the enemy, then assisted with the recovery of the destroyed Viking’s driver and the body of the turret gunner. Thompson, who joined the Royal Marines in 1989, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his service in Iraq. He has also served in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Congo, Hong Kong, Zaire and French Guiana.
Army-Navy Divers Repair Haitian Port
When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, a key part of the infrastructure damaged in the capital, Port-au-Prince, was the city’s port facility.
One of the port’s two piers was “a complete loss,” according to U.S. Navy Capt. James Wink, the chief engineer for the U.S. Joint Task Force-Haiti response to the quake. In addition to collapsing the port’s north pier, the earthquake knocked about 350 feet off the south pier, sending it into the water. That left some 800 feet of usable pier – after repairs were made, Wink told a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable recently.
U.S. Army divers from the 544th Engineer Dive Team and Navy divers from Underwater Construction Team 1 assessed the damage and then reinforced damaged sections of the pier. Final repairs were completed in March and the south pier can accommodate a load of up to 30 tons, said Wink, the executive officer of Naval Facilities and Engineering Command, Southwest, based in San Diego, California.
When he arrived in Haiti Jan. 29, Wink said he was almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the devastation after the 7.0-magnitude quake. “The debris management was probably the thing that jumped out at me on that first day,” Wink said, adding: “Before we could do anything else, we had to get the rubble out of the way.”
To illustrate the task, Wink said the rubble constituted 25 million cubic yards of debris, an amount that could fill New Orleans’ sports stadium, the 10-acre, 73,000-seat Louisiana Superdome, five times.
Another problem was getting earth-moving equipment through the snarled traffic of Port-au-Prince, a daunting task even before the earthquake struck. “Port-au-Prince is already a congested area. Getting through on a good day takes a long time. When you have heavy equipment removing rubble and causing detours, it really slows things down,” Wink said.
In addition to Navy Construction Battalions (Seabees) and Army and Air Force engineers, Wink said the humanitarian relief effort is being assisted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) a State Department entity, and the United Nations. Military engineers from Japan, Korea, Italy, Bolivia and Chile are also assisting.
He said reconstruction work is currently focusing on making safe temporary housing for the homeless — internally-displaced persons (IDP). That means improving the infrastructure at IDP camps in the hills around Port-au-Prince to mitigate possible flash-floods and landslides during Haiti’s rainy season.
“And we’re using both the Japanese and Navy Seabees inside some of those camps to work drainage systems, to build reinforcments to some of the walls inside the camp,” Wink said. Later the Seabees will assist the U.N. in building additional IDP camps north of Port-au-Prince.
Wink said the Port-au-Prince pier is now under control of the Haitian government “and there’s no Defense Department involvement in this operation today.” The Haitian government is working with an outside consultant to develop future port plans, including a possible second pier, Wink said. The Defense Department’s Joint Task Force-Haiti is scheduled to end operations at the end of May. But some Seabees will be staying on to participate in Operation New Horizon, an exercise that will include building community centers and schools in Haiti.
Naval Action, Fort Knox, Kentucky
That’s right Fort Knox, Kentucky, home of the Army’s Armor School, is also a training ground for Navy expeditionary combat units getting ready to deploy overseas. This week’s Friday Foto shows Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Geoffrey Martin, assigned to Riverine Squadron 1 (RIVRON-1), firing a GAU-17A gun from the bow of a riverine assault boat during live-fire battle drills March 29. The GAU-17 A, also known as a minigun, is a multi-barrel machine gun first developed for use on helicopters during the Vietnam War. The riverine squadrons, also created for patrols in Vietnam, were re-formed in 2007 for deployment to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The job of the “Brown Water Navy” includes protecting infrastructure, cutting off enemy escape routes, severing supply lines, searching out and destroying enemy troops and bases and providing a safe route for coalition troops to accomplish their mission. RIVRON-1 is part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), formed in 2007 to integrate and standardize training and equipping sailors for counter terrorism operations. For a photo of what Martin and his gun look like in broad daylight — as well as several other photos of this training exercise — click here.
Teaching Children to Kill
A Human Rights Watch report on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a murderous band of renegades in Central Africa was the subject of another CSIS gathering.
Despite claims by military officials in Uganda and Congo that the LRA is no longer a viable threat, Human Rights Watch says the Ugandan rebel group is plundering villages, killing inhabitants and kidnapping children in a remote area where Uganda, Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic meet. (see upper right corner of map below)
The LRA, which started out decades ago as a rebel group fighting the Ugandan government, was driven from that country in 2005. But it remains alive and well – ravaging villages in Congo, southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, according to Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. She and Paul Ronan of Resolve Uganda, another civil society organization, outlined the LRA’s depredations, including a four-day attack in the Makombo area of northeastern Congo that left 321 dead. Another 250 people were abducted including 80 children.
The report details a nightmarish scenario of brutality and senseless slaughter right out of the Vietnam War movie “Apocalypse Now,” (which was based on “Heart of Darkness,” a novel about colonial brutality in the Belgian Congo.)
Van Woudenberg, who traveled to the region in February and interviewed survivors, said only two victims were shot. The others were hacked to death with machetes or ha their skulls crushed with clubs and axes.
The LRA, headed by Joseph Kony, who is under indictrment by the International Criminal Court, only numbers about 200-400 hardcore fighters but sustains its ranks by kidnapping young people and turning them into porters and child soldiers. Van Woudenberg said children who have escaped the LRA’s clutches said they were forced to kill other children who disobeyed rules or could not keep up on the line of march. Older girls are forced to become “wives” to the LRA’s leaders.
In December 2008, Uganda, Congo and southern Sudan – with logistical and intelligence support from the U.S. military — launched an attack on the LRA. Despite planning assistance from U.S. Africa Command — which did not have any troops on the ground — the attack, called Operation Lightning Thunder, was poorly executed and the LRA split up, eluded the three armies and attacked locations hundreds of kilometers apart in Congo and Sudan. The national armed forces had not developed contingency plans to protect civilians in the area, the Human Rights Watch report said. About 200 UN peacekeepers in the area were not included in the planning for Lightning Thunder and were not positioned to protect communities at risk. In Congo alone, an estimated 865 people were killed and hundreds more were abducted by a vengeful LRA in the wake of the three-nation military attack.
Ugandan troops that crossed into Congo to pursue the LRA had to withdraw when the Congolese government found it “politically difficult” to allow foreign troops to remain on its soil, although about 2,000 were allowed to remain covertly in Congo with the tacit approval of the Congolese government. There are also an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Congolese troops in the area frequented by the LRA and the U.N. has four separate peacekeeping missions in central Africa but they are all spread thin and there is still poor communication and coordination among the various militaries in and around northeastern Congo.
“The lack of telecommunication is a huge problem,” said Van Woudenberg, adding that the LRA is operating in “the most rural, remote and forgotten parts of three countries.”
Ronan, who toured devastated villages in the Central African Republic, noted legislation is pending in the U.S. Congress to support multilateral efforts to protect civilians and eliminate the LRA threat. The measure would authorize funds for humanitarian relief and reconstruction, as well as reconciliation, and transitional justice.
Human Rights Watch called on the international community to develop a comprehensive strategy, in conjunction with the region’s governments, to protect civilians and apprehend the LRA’s leaders. The report called for:
–The governments of all four countries where the LRA ranges make protecting civilians and rescuing the abducted a priority in any military operation against the renegades;
–Congo to provide its troops in LRA-affected areas with better communication equipment including satellite phones and radios;
–The U.N. to increase peacekeeping troops and civilian staff in the area as well as increasing logistical support — including air support — for the Congolese armed forces;
–International donors, concerned governments and regional bodies to provide helicopter support, intelligence and communications capacity to U.N. peacekeepers and national armies in the region;
–U.N. member states to deploy a small, highly trained military unit to assist peacekeepers and national armies to apprehend LRA leaders.
The River Niger — and its oil (First of Two Parts)
A top Shell Oil official says a regional security and surveillance network is needed in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea to prevent theft and sabotage in Nigeria’s violence-racked oilfields.
Since 2006, Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region has been plagued by violence against oil production facilities – including the bombing of pipelines and kidnapping of foreign oil workers for ransom. Militants in the impoverished region turned to violence claiming the Nigerian government was not sharing the royalties from Delta oil.
They also protested pollution, gas flareups and oil development construction that encroached on villages, damaged crops and injured people.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars in crude oil has been stolen each year – either by illegal pipeline taps that siphon off oil or fraud in shipping by corrupt government officials and businessmen.
Last year, Nigeria’s president, Umaru Musa Yar’dua, reached an agreement with thousands militants in the Delta, who laid down their arms in exchange for amnesty, monthly payments, job training and economic development in their densely-populated but poor region.
But Yar’dua was sidelined for months by serious illness and the government was slow to act on its promises. Violence has flared up again with the kidnapping of four oil workers from Syria and Lebanon earlier this month. Two bombs were set off in March outside a meeting in the Delta to discuss the amnesty program.
Nigeria’s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan – Yar’dua’s vice president who took over the top spot two months ago – has pledged to address Delta’s problems. A native of the oil region, himself, he has appointed a new cabinet – including a new oil minister from the Delta.
But in order for Nigeria’s oil industry to reach its full potential there must be stability in the Delta region and safeguards against locals diverting oil from pipelines, says Thijs Jurgens, Shell’s senior adviser for sub Saharan Africa government relations. He called for more “regional security and surveillance” including monitoring oil traffic off Nigeria’s coast.
“We see new threats of attacks and bombings,” Jurgens said because “ex-militants are losing patience” with the government in Abuja.
Oil is the main source of Nigeria’s revenue – about 40 percent of GDP – and 20 percent of crude oil is exported to the U.S. But production has declined since 2005, largely – but not entirely – due to sabotage and theft, Jurgens told the CSIS gathering. Shell, one of the largest oil companies in Nigeria — the world’s 12th largest oil producing nation — has seen its production drop more than 200,000 barrels per day between 2008 and 2009.
Jurgens said his company was working with the British government to “fingerprint” oil shipments to keep track of their points of origin and destination to keep them from being waylaid. Record keeping also needs to be improved. He also said other governments could help track vessels leaving Nigeria’s oil production area.
Five years ago, a former U.S. chief of naval operations told another CSIS gathering that it would take about $100 million to develop a system for monitoring maritime traffic in the Delta region, David Goldwyn, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for International Energy Affairs. “It would probably cost $900 million today,” but the expense would be worth it to Nigeria’s government which funds about 80 percent of its budget through oil revenues, he added.
Both he and Jurgens conceded there were “many, many people who benefit” from the current system making reforms a tough sale. “If not welcome from within, then it’s going to be an impossible task,” Jurgens said.
Another panelist, Dimieari Von Kemedi, a state official from Nigeria’s Bayelsa State in the Delta, said the region needed jobs to keep the militants peaceful. Amnesty and disarmament alone wouldn’t be enough, he said adding: “It will take five years to deal with these boys.”
Jurgens said there would be no peace in the delta without jobs creation but he noted: “The oil industry is capital intensive, not labor intensive.”
(NEXT: The Lord’s Resistance Army and teaching children to kill)
Gates Going South
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads south for a week long series of meetings with counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean. The trip is slated to focus on counter narcotics efforts in the region but also on countering local insurgencies.
Gates is flying to Peru, Colombia and Barbados after signing a new defense cooperation agreement with Brazil today (April 12) at the Pentagon. Although the agreement isn’t as far reaching as one signed last year with Colombia, a Defense Department official told Pentagon reporters last week that it’s still a “big deal, ” in part because Brazil and the U.S. have not had a formal military cooperation agreement since 1977.
Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told lawmakers in his country last week that the agreement will make “defense-related businesses viable,” according to the Associated Press. Brazil, once a leading arms exporter, is trying to revive that industry, says UPI.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is trying to persuade Brazil to pick Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet for its next generation fighter jet. The Super Hornet is competing with France’s Dassault Rafale and Sweden’s Saab Gripen NG. Brazil has indicated any deal would have to include an agreement allowing the transfer of high technology, which the U.S. is usually bared by law from sharing. France, which is already helping Brazil with its nuclear submarine development program, is believed to have the edge in the competition.
Some critics have accused the U.S. of ignoring the region in recent years while conducting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates’ visit is seen as a way to reaffirm U.S. commitment to the region. The U.S. is also hoping to counter Russian and Chinese inroads in the area – mostly in military and commercial arrangements with Venezuela, Reuters reported. Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the U.S., is expected to come up in talks with officials in Lima and Bogota.
Last year’s U.S.-Colombia defense agreement – which allows U.S. troops wider accsess to Colombian military bases – provoked howls of protest from Chavez, who claimed it was a prelude to a U.S. invasion of his country. Meanwhile, Chavez has worried U.S. officials with his purchase of billions of dollars in weapons – including tanks, jets and small arms — from China and Russia while negotiating oil development deals with both countries.
In Peru, Gates will discuss efforts to finally suppress the violent Maoist guerilla group, The Shining Path. In Colombia, talks will include the government’s decades-long fight against the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Gates will finish up the week in Barbados where he will attend a meeting with regional leaders to discuss the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, which promotes regional cooperation against drug trafficking and security threats.