Posts filed under ‘BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)’
Updates with Dempsey visit to Brazil, adds background (in italics)
Colombia Rebels Killed
Government troops in Colombia killed 36 rebels Monday (March 26) in an airstrike on a training camp in the state of Metas south of Bogota, the capital.
It was the second such raid against Colmbia’s main guerilla force in less than a week. On March 21, the Colombian military killed 33 rebels in another air raid on Arauca state near the border with Venezuela, the British newspaper The Guardian reported. That raid followed an early March rebel attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers.
The attacks come just as the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, said it would release the last of its prisoners – some of them held for as long as 14 years – early next month.
FARC has been waging an insurgency against Bogota since the 1960s resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers, rebels and citizens. In recent years FARC has been battered by an increasingly professional and effective Colombian military with U.S. financial aid and military assistance, the Associated Press reported.
Recently FARC said it was halting kidnappings for ransom, a long-time source of income along with the illegal cocaine trade.
Veteran U.S. Officers to Assist Colombia
The United States is preparing to send Army brigade commanders with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan to Colombia to assist a joint task force aimed at defeating FARC guerillas.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, on a tour of Colombia and Brazil, says the U.S. officers will visit commanders of Joint Task Force Vulcano for two weeks to help with leader development and share their experience fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The task force is one of several created by the Colombian government to disrupt rebel organizations engaging in drug smuggling, arms trafficking, illegal mining and bomb manufacturing. The learning experience won’t be a one way street, Demsey says, adding that he fully expects U.S. leaders to learn from the Colombian counterparts.
On a two-day visit to Colombia to meet with high ranking political and defense officials, Dempsey said Colombia had a good strategy for combating FARC. That strategy calls for cutting FARC’s forces – now numbering 8,000-to-9,000 – by 2014.
During his meetings, Dempsey said the Colombians indicated ways to accelerate their efforts on the ground including: border security, protecting critical infrastructure, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, intelligence fusion, airlift and unmanned aircraft.
The Colombians also would like the U.S. to provide additional aircraft to transport cargo and troops, Dempsey told reporters traveling with him, the Associated Press reported.
Getting Closer to Brazil
Dempsey wound up his first trip to South America as chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a visit to Brazil, where he met with Brazilian military leaders and toured the country’s jungle warfare training center near Manaus in the Amazonia region. The world class training center has seen only a few U.S. troops among its students. In fact, it has graduated more officers and non-commissioned officers from France (86) than from the U.S. (25) in its 48-year history.
Dempsey said Brazil, the largest country and largest economy in South America, has a key role to play in the region. The Pentagon, as part of its new strategic guidance, is seeking to enlist the assistance of Brazil, Colombia and other countries in the region to block the spread of terrorist groups and transnational crime – particularly narcotics trafficking.
To protect its the offshore oil deposits and the water and agricultural resources of the Amazon region, Brazil is expanding its military acquisitions under a 2010 defense strategy. It is building five submarines – one them nuclear-powered – in an agreement with French shipbuilder DCNS. France also has a deal to sell Brazil 50 EC725 Cougar military transport helicopters. And Sao Paulo is said to be close to deciding from whom it will buy 36 next generation mult-role combat jet fighters.
Brazil is, itself, a military manufacturer and exporter. Recently it sold the Embraer’s Super Tucan turbo-prop plane, which can serve as a trainer or light attack counter insurgency weapon, to three African nations: Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In the past, when it was ruled by a military junta, Brazil was a leading manufacturer and exporter of armored vehicles, rocket launchers and small arms.
In addition to international drug cartels that move drug shipments by plane, boat and homemade submarines, U.S. security planners are also concerned about the activities of Iran, China and Russia in Latin America and the presence of businesses linked to international terrorist groups – particularly in the largely lawless Triple Frontier region where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay share borders.
Dempsey said he was concerned that transit routes used to smuggle drugs today could be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction in the future, the AP’s Robert Burns reported.
To see a 10-minute French television report on the Brazilian jungle warfare training center click here. (In French except where it’s in Brazilian Portuguese)
More than 10,000 troops from the United States and six Asian nations spent a week in Thailand hitting the beach in an amphibious exercise, learning jungle survival skills, building schools and practicing humanitarian evacuations.
It was all part of Cobra Gold 12, the largest joint exercise in the Asia Pacific region, which has been hosted by Thailand and the U.S. Since 1980.
Troops from Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Malayasia, Singapore, Japan and the United States took part in various parts of the exercise. Another 10 countries also joined in a computer simulated command post exercise at Camp Suranaree in Korat, Thailand.
The object of Cobra Gold is for participating nations to learn from each others’ unique experience and better prepare for a unified approach to future contingencies. Cobra Gold 12 ran from Feb. 7 to Feb. 17.
U.S. Marines joined South Korean and Royal Thai Marines in the amphibious assault demonstrationat Hat Yao. There also was a combined live fire exercise involving close air support, artillery fire and infantry maneuvers. Other participants like Singapore joined the U.S. and Thailand in building school buildings for several Thai communities. The bulk of the particiapting forces came from the U.S. : about 7,000 Marine and sailors. About 3,000 Thai troops, more than 300 from South Korea, 79 from Malaysia and 59 from Singapore also participated.
Although Cobra Gold 2012 has been planned for more than a year, it took on added significance this year with the U.S. Strategy shift that will focus on the Asia Pacific region. Also the U.S. Marine Corps, which sent the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force to Cobra Gold, is promoting its expeditionary and amphibious skills to Pentagon budget planners after 10 years of war in the deserts, mountains and cities of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition to current bases in South Korea and Japan, the U.S. plans to base Marines in northern Australia and new shallow draft Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore. The U.S. is also in discussions with the Philippines about a return of U.S. forces (but not U.S. bases) to the island nation for the first time since 1992, when massive U.S. naval and air bases were closed.
While China was not mentioned in the official press statements issued by government agencies during Cobra Gold, a number of countries from the region — including some that sent military units or observers to the exercise have gotten into tiffs with the People’s Republic over who has sovereignty over the South China Sea and the oil and mineral wealth believed to lie beneath its waters.
Cameroon Captain Released
Piracy is on the rise in the waters off the West Coast of Africa. What started out as low-level armed robberies has morphed into hijackings, cargo theft and kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea.
The latest incident saw the kidnapping of a Cameroonian sea captain by armed pirates off the coast of Nigeria. The captain, Moukoko Lottin, was released Aug. 29 after an undisclosed sum of money was exchanged for his freedom, according to an Associated Press report in the Washington Post.
The captain said he was not harmed when the seven pirates boarded his ship Aug. 27.
There has been a dramatic increase in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. The countries of Benin and Nigeria have reported more than 20 incidents. That number could increase as more and more oil is shipped from the region.
China Worried About Investments
With the Libyan uprising against strongman Muammar Qaddafi nearing an apparent end, diplomats are meeting in Turkey to discuss the North African nation’s future.
But some rebels are warning members of the international community – like China – who remained bystanders during the Libyan upheaval that there may be financial consequences.
An official at the rebel-run Libyan oil company, AGOCO, warned this week that Russian and Chinese firms could lose out on oil contracts because they failed to back the uprising against Qaddafi, according to reports by Reuters, the Voice of America and others.
China’s Ministry of Commerce urged the new Libyan government to protect its investments, noting the oil trade benefited both countries.
Moscow and Beijing – sensitive to outside criticism of Russian and Chinese civil rights abuses and corruption – generally oppose international intervention in the internal affairs of sovreign countries. Neither country voted for a U.N. resolution to use military force to protect Libyan civilians from attack by Qaddafi loyalists. In fact, oil-dependent China condemned NATO airstrikes authorized by the U.N. and called for ceasefire talks between Qaddafi and the rebels.
China is the world’s second largest consumer nation of petroleum (after the United States) and obtained 3 percent of its crude oil imports from Libya before the civil war.
China has yet to recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council as the legitimate government, but Beijing reached out to the rebels in recent weeks.
Diplomats from 30 countries including the U.S., European, Western Arab and African nations are meeting in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss Libya’s future — especially the unfreezing of funds to help pay government salaries and rebuilding infrastructure. Another meeting of the Libyan Contact Group is planned for next week in Paris.
Nelson Jobim Clashed with President
Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim has resigned – reportedly after clashing with new President Dilma Rouseff over her handling of the military. Jobim is the third cabinet member to leave in the first seven months of Rouseff’s presidency, according to the Chistian Science Monitor’s Latin America blog.
Last Fall (Oct. 21), 4GWAR reported on Jobim’s speech at George Washington University outlining Brazil’s new strategic defense plan to safeguard its natural resources in the Amazon region and along its coastline, and create jobs through technology transfer from other countries.
Technology transfer was a key element of Brazil’s plan to acquire more than 30 jet fighters to upgrade the Air Force. Brazil was close to buying the Rafale made by France’s Dassault for an estimated $6 billion. The deal was more expensive than ones offered for America’s Boeing F-18 Super Hornet or Sweden’s Grippen fighter, made by Saab AB. But the French deal included the rights to the high tech avionics and sensors as well as the finished aircraft. That would enable Brazil to manufacture and upgrade its own aircraft rather than relying on foreign companies.
But Rouseff reportedly thought the price tag was too big and decided to restart the bidding process, says Aljazeera.
Jobin will be replaced at the Defense Ministry by former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.
The Chinese government is trying to do more than just talk about the weather: firing liquid nitrogen-filled rockets into the sky to mitigate the country’s worst drought in 50 years.
SkyNews reports provincial authorities are using the ground-fired rockets and artillery shells for “weather modification,” hoping to encourage precipitation over the parched Yangtze River basin. More than 500 rockets and 3,300 artillery shells were fired over the weekend, causing only light rain to fall over parts of central China, People’s Daily Online reported.
But the massive drought has stalled shipping on the Yangtze — China’s biggest river — dried up lakes, threatened drinking water supplies and electricity production. It also bodes ill for China’s grain crops, which could prompt Beijing to make large-scale overseas purchases of food — driving up prices worldwide.
Water shortages in China have steadily worsened over the last 10 years, according to the Financial Times, and its water per capita supply is just a quarter of the world average. The drought has threatened drinking water supplies for more than 1 million people. More than 400 million depend on the Yangtze basin for food, water or livelihood.
To see video footage of the truck-launched rockets, click here.
Has Arctic Circle Land Rush Started?
Just days after the nations of the High North met in Greenland to discuss common problems and approve an Arctic search-and-rescue treaty, comes word that one of them plans to lay claim to the land under the North Pole.
The report comes just days after leaders of the eight countries that make up the Arctic Council – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States – met in Nuuk, Greenland to approve the search-and-rescue treaty and begin addressing such issues as oil and natural gas drilling.
But reports of a leaked Danish government document, first reported by Danish news media, say Denmark plans to make a claim for part of the land beneath the North Pole and elsewhere in the Arctic before a 2014 United Nations deadline.
The report on Denmark’s plans also comes shortly after leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveal the Arctic states are rushing to stake claims to the region, which is believed to be rich in minerals. As much as 25 percent of the world’s untapped petroleum fields are believed to lie beneath the Arctic’s ice ans frigid waters. The cables, released by Wikileaks, indicated most of the Arctic nations – including Denmark – are anxious to stake a claim before the ice melts.
Scientists say climate change and global warming could melt much of the polar ice, making the waters around the North Pole navigable – and more accessible for oil and gas exploration and drilling.
In a token gesture, Russia asserted its land claims in 2007 when it placed a small metal Russian flag in the sea bottom beneath the pole. Canada, which asserts is has sovereigity over any Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – should the ice melt prediction come true – has conducted military exercises (some with U.S. and Danish participation) to assert its sovereignty in the region. Norway has also hosted multi-national wargames in the Arctic — the most recent had a defense-of-North Sea-oil fields as part of its scenario.
The U.S. Norway and Denmark – through its rule over Greenland – are the only other countries that border the Arctic Ocean. Here is a Russian publication’s take on the controversy, including an explanation of why Denmark thinks it has a claim on the North Pole.
Most of the Arctic nations conduct military exercises and scientific missions in the region’s seas and skies. In the photo above, the Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) returns to port at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton after participating in Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2011 in the Arctic Circle.
The Connecticut and the Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) worked with the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory and the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory to test new equipment and train for under-ice operations in an Arctic environment.
Way Up North
The northern nations that form the Arctic Council are set to sign an agreement on a search and rescue treaty this week.
The eight-member council is holding its bi-annual ministers’ meeting in Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland this week. Among the agenda items, a treaty that would govern how Arctic countries respond to, and coordinate with each other in the event of a major catastrophe such as an airplane crash or cruise ship sinking in the Arctic. At least three ships – including a cruise ship and two oil tankers – ran aground off the coast of Greenland in 2010, requiring emergency response operations.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were both in Nuuk for the meeting. State Department officials say Clinton’s presence shows the U.S.’s increased interest in Arctic affairs.
The treaty – the first legally binding one agreed upon by the Arctic Council since it was formed in 1996 – is needed to coordinate search and rescue operations on the 13-million-square-mile waters of the Arctic. The Arctic Sea and surrounding waters are expected to become more navigable as polar sea ice melts in future years. That ice melt has touched off a series of issues in the High North (the area within and around the Arctic Circle) including the effect of development on indigenous people, maritime commerce across the region, oil and natural gas drilling and boundary disputes.
In 2007, Russia touched off territorial concerns when one of its submarines planted a metal flag at the bottom staking a symbolic claim on the mineral wealth believed to be there. Meanwhile, China has stepped up its scientific expeditions in the Arctic, and Canada is engaged in a massive project to survey its underwater boundaries in advance of the expected sea traffic through once icebound waters.
China is not a member of the Arctic Council, which was founded in 1996, but it has ad hoc observer status and is seeking permanent observer status – as is the European Union. The opening up of the Northwest Passage across the Canadian north could speed the shipment of Chinese export goods to Europe.
The members of the council are: Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States.
Easy Does It
The operation was part of the joint exercise by the Indian Navy and U.S. Seventh fleet, Malabar 2011, a series of training events between April 3 and April 10, aimed at advancing multinational maritime relationships and mutual security issues
Puting the Combat in Combatant Command
The allied intervention in the Libyan revolt/civil war has turned the spotlight on one the United States’ newest and least understood military organizations: U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM.
AFRICOM has spent years of trying to allay the fears of African political leaders, pundits and peace advocates who suspect the command is either a secret strike force for American imperialism to grab the continent’s natural resources, or the 21st Century version of Gunboat Diplomacy. But we wonder if AFRICOM’s stated message of supporting peace and stability has been undermined at all by the command’s involvement in Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn.
The United Nations-Security Council-authorized and Arab League-backed operation – ostensibly to implement a No Fly Zone over Libya and protect civilians from attacks by strongman Muammar Qaddafi’s military – has included multiple missile and aircraft strikes against Qaddafi’s air defense system and armored columns menacing rebel strongholds.
While that has sparked an outcry from peace activists, lawmakers and human rights advocates in the U.S. and Europe, we’re waiting to see how this plays with folks in Africa. Three African nations currently on the Security Council – South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon – all voted in favor of U.N. Resolution 1973, which in effect calls for the No Fly Zone. While no Security Council members voted against the resolution, Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany abstained from voting.
Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, has condemned the U.N. military action as well as the anti-Qaddafi rebels. But opposition parties in his country call his position hypocritical in light of his own lengthy autocratic rule and long-time friendly relationship with Qaddafi, according to local papers via the AllAfrica.com website. Museveni has penned a lengthy piece on his relationship with Qaddafi in Foreign Policy.
The African Union – which opposes the military intervention – called a meeting today (March 25) in Addis Ababa, Ehiopia to try and broker a truce invited representatives from the Qaddafi government and the rebel faction, as well as the U.N. Security Council, the European Union and neighboring Arab countries. But the rebels say they won’t negotiate with Qaddafi’s regime
At least one prominent African political leader, Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda – a country that is no stranger to bloodshed – has spoken out in favor of the U.N. military action. In an opinion piece, Kagame says when his country was wracked by ethnic strife in 1994 during which nearly one million people died, the international community was slow to respond – “failing to intervene to prevent a state killing its own people.”
“Given the overriding mandate of Operation Odyssey Dawn to protect Libyan civilians from state-sponsored attacks, Rwanda can only stand in support of it,” Kagame wrote.
Although the African Union was also slow to respond to the Libyan crisis, the Rwandan leader faulted the international community for not including the African group in the decision-making process even though the Arab League was consulted.
“African Union support for Operation Odyssey Dawn would have acted as a further deterrent to other African leaders who might be tempted to target their own people with violence,” Kagame concluded.
Meanwhile, NATO – which is taking over command of the Libyan intervention – said Canadian Lt. Gen. Charlie Bouchard will be running Odyssey Dawn. That should be a relief for AFRICOM and its new commander, Army Gen. Carter Ham, who in the early days of the air war over Libya was the public face of U.S. forces in the operation. AFRICOM’s area of responsibility includes every African country except Egypt, which is overseen by Central Command.
The newest of the six regional combatant commands, AFRICOM was created by the second President George Bush in 2007 to coordinate humanitarian relief operations and train local militaries – all as a stabilizing force on the continent. The military training is aimed at professionalizing local armed forces so they protect rather than oppress their citizens, and equipping them to handle transnational threats like al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
But no African government, save Liberia, would allow AFRICOM’s headquarters within its borders. AFRICOM continues to be based at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany and has no permanent armed force in Africa or anywhere else for that matter. Half of its 1,200 personnel are civilians.