Posts filed under ‘Counter Insurgency’
Arms Cache Found
Nigerian authorities say they have uncovered a large cache of automatic weapons and explosives belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah, the BBC reports. Authorities say they found the weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and anti-tank mines in a warehouse in the northern city of Kano.
Three Lebanese were arrested, an Army spokesman said, insisting that officials had uncovered a Hezbollah cell. Northern Nigeria, where Kano sits, has been wracked by violence over the last three years since Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group launched an insurgency to overthrow Nigeria’s government and establish fundamentalist Sharia law in Nigeria. An estimated 3,000 people have died in Boko Haram-sparked violence, the government said.
President Gooluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three regions – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – and he has admitted that the government has lost control in parts of those states, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Pirates Attack oil tanker
Armed pirates attacked an oil products tanker off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa and abducted an unknown number of crew, Reuters reports. Shipping costs have increased as acts of piracy increase in the Gulf of Guinea region, which includes Africa’s leading oil producer Nigeria. According to Reuters, gunmen boarded the Nigerian-flagged MT Matrix in the early hours Saturday (May 25) about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria in a stretch of water often targeted by pirates.
There were 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew members aboard the vessel when it was attacked, sources told Reuters. International navies have not launched counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Guinea – as they have in East Africa – leaving the many vessels in Nigeria waters vulnerable to attack.
Piracy is on the rise in West Africa, according to a Reuters analysis, but the police and coast guard in most of the countries in the region, like Ivory Coast, are too weak and poorly armed to challenge the pirate gangs. In 2010, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has monitored global piracy since 1991, recorded 33 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. But that figure jumped to 58 last year.
Great Lakes Funding
The World Bank announced today (May 22) that it will pledge $1 billion in development funding for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president, said the proposed funding would help finance health and education services, hydro-electric projects and cross-border trade in the strife-torn region in Central Africa. The Great Lakes region has been destabilized by years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has spread to neighboring nations like Rwanda and Uganda. More than two million people have been displaced – just inside the DRC – since 2012, and another 70,000 people have fled the DRC for neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Thousands more have crossed into the DRC from Angola, the Central African Republic and Burundi, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“We believe this can be a major contributor to a last peace in the Great Lakes region,” Kim said, according to the Aljazeera news service. The pledged money would spend $100 million to support agriculture and rural livelihoods for displaced people and refugees; another $340 million would go for an 80 megawatt joint hydro-electric project for Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania; $165 million for roads in the DRC and $180 million for infrastructure improvements and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border. Additional funding would go to public health laboratories, fisheries and trade facilitation programs, according to the World Bank.
Kim announced the plan on the first day of a three-day trip to the region with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to support a landmark peace agreement for the DRC and the surrounding region.
But the optimism was marred by fighting between the DRC’s army and fighters from the M23 rebel group near the eastern city of Goma on the Rwandan border. At least 19 people have been killed in the last week. More civilians were killed in rocket and artillery fire Wednesday during the third day of fighting between Congo’s army and the rebels, according to the Voice of America.
Lebanese Firm to Farm Sudan
A Lebanese investment firm plans to spend as much as $800 million on farmland in Sudan to produce animal feed for sale in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports.
Beirut-based GLB Invests isn’t the first Arab firm to launch farmland and livestock projects in Sudan, where the farmland is water by the Nile River. The idea is to provide Gulf oil-producing countries with a way to meet foods needs in the arid lands.
Firas Badra, president of GLB Invest, told Reuters that the firm had leased 78,000 hectares (192,000 acres) of land 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Khartoum to produce and export 40,000 tons of animal feed annually.
He said the company was starting out with a goal of producing 40,000 tons temporarily but the land will produce a maximum of 750,000 tons by 2019.
The Big Lonely
The commanders of the Joint Tactical Group and the Régiment de marche du Tchad (a unit of the French 2nd Armored Brigade) observe maneuvering ground troops from a sand dune near Qatar’s Al Qalayel military camp during Exercise Gulf Falcon 2013.
(Click on the photo to see a larger image)
For three weeks, nearly 3,000 French and Qatari military participated in the bilateral exercise. The effort is planned and conducted under cooperation agreements between the two countries that were reached in 1994.
The French military see the exercise as an opportunity to toughen the men and materials of the Army, Air Force and Navy to harsh desert conditions.
To learn more about the exercise and see more photos, click here. Be advised the site in in French.
Tag, You’re It
Marines of the 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment fire an M777 A2 howitzer during a series of exercises at Twentynine Palms, Calif., April 26, 2013.
Colombia is back in the news.
Vice President Joe Biden has announced that he is going to visit Colombia during a Latin America trip later this month. The trip, which is slated to begin the week of May 26, will include visits to Brazil and the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
“In Colombia, the vice president will meet with President [Juan Manuel] Santos to build on security relations and focus on ways to further the prosperity of our two countries,” the White House announced.
It was the latest development in the increasing cooperation between the United States and Colombia.
Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with his Colombian counterpart – Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon – to discuss the security partnership between the two countries. Speaking later at the National Defense University’s Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Pinzon said ““Today, the average Colombian citizen lists street crime as a greater threat than terrorism.” Pinzón said, noting how far Colombia has come from the height of its nearly 50-year Marxist insurgency, when more than four terrorist attacks a day occurred.
For the last two decades the insurgency by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known by its Spanish acronym FARC, has been fueled by narcotics trafficking, according to the CIA.
At the height of the insurgency, 20-30 years ago, Colombia was “nearly a failed state,” Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly told a recent conference on transnational organized crime. But in the years since, said Kelly – the head of U.S. Southern Command – Colombia has done a “tremendous job” battling both the FARC and narcotics cartels — while reforming its military and legal system. “And they’ve done this almost entirely by themselves,” with relatively limited military assistance from the United States, Kelly said. “Once they stick a fork in the FARC, they’ll be even more effective in taking cocaine off the market,” Kelly told the gathering in Alexandria, Virginia, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.
At an earlier IDGA conference on countering-improvised explosives devices, one speaker was a Colombian Army officer who described the skill in dealing with booby traps and roadside bombs that his military has developed during almost 50 years battling a Marxist insurgency. Colombia is considered second only to Afghanistan for the number IED attacks within its borders.
Meanwhile, a panel of Latin American experts on Colombia’s counter insurgency opined that the “military-centered approach has been good but not sufficient enough” to deal with problems within its borders and across the region. In a March panel discussion at George Washington University, experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Strategic Studies Institute and the National Defense University, cited the need for politicians and bureaucrats to show a governmental presence in rural areas once controlled by the rebels, the need for the military to coordinate operations with analysis of how FARC had changed tactics and areas of operation; and provide security and stability while dealing with new types of battlefields. Here’s a Synopsis
Today (May 1) marks the bicentennial of the siege of Fort Meigs on northern Ohio during the War of 1812.
In the first year of the war, the U.S. Navy has been scoring one-on-one victories against the Royal Navy but several attempts to invade Canada have ended in failure. Meanwhile, conflict has been constant on the frontier of the Old Northwest – which now makes up the Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin .
The previous year, the U.S. Army posts of Forts Detroit, Dearborn, Harrison, Madison and Wayne all came under attack by Native Americans – largely unaided by British troops or Canadian militia. Detroit and Dearborn both fell to the British and their native American allies.
Fort Meigs, built in early 1813 by Major Gen. William Henry Harrison on the Maumee River in Ohio, has come under attack by about 400 British regulars, 450 Canadian militiamen and more than 1,200 Indians. The British and Canadians are commanded by Major Gen. Henry Procter, while the Native Americans follow Shawnee leader Tecumseh and the Wyandot chief Roundhead.
About 1,100 men are bottled up in the huge – eight-acre – fort, commanded by Harrison. A brigade of Kentucky militia numbering about 1,200 is on its way to reinforce the American garrison. About 700 Kentuckians attack British positions in the siege lines on May 2. But the Kentuckians are lured into the woods by fleeing Indians who then spring an ambush. Hundreds of Kentucky militia men are killed and wounded. About a dozen more taken prisoner are tortured and killed by the Indians until Tecumseh and two Brisith officers intervene.
The siege of Fort Miegs continues until May 9 when the Indians and Canadians withdraw. They try to mount another siege in July 1813 but fail.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Security Council Votes
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously today (April 25) to approve a peacekeeping mission to the war-wracked North African nation of Mali.
A force of 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers could be deployed as soon as July, the New York Times reported. About 6,000 troops already deployed by member countries from the Economic Community of West African States — as well as about 1,000 French troops — are expected to form the base of the peacekeeping mission. France intervened in its former African colony in January when militant Islamic extremists and Tuareg separatists threatened Bamako, Mali’s capital.
For nifty interactive timeline by the Times chronicling the 16-month-old crisis in Mali, once one of the few working democracies in West Africa, click here.
Meanwhile, Mali’s interim president has launched the country’s reconciliation commission to deal with security and governance issues in the country’s north. But a Tuareg separatist group, the MNLA, refuses to disarm before beginning negotiations with the Malian government, the Voice of America reports.
Nigeria: Business and Bullets
Nigeria’s National Economic Council has approved a $9 billion foreign loan to fund new infrastructure, invest in agriculture and create jobs, Bloomberg reports. The lenders include the Export-Import Bank of China, rthe Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank. Capital interest rates on the loan will be as low as 2 percent and Nigeria will have more than 40 years to repay.
Meanwhile violence has erupted again in the country’s north, according to the Voice of America. Nearly 200 people were killed last weekend in an attack by the militant Islamist group in the fishing town of Baga. But some analysts say many of the slain may actually have been killed by security forces.
In a report that echoes earlier ones by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government says indiscriminate killings and detentions by security forces are “a seroious human-rights problem” in Nigeria, VoA reported.
Understanding People, Culture in Conflict Zones
For centuries, mathematician, inventors, traders and explorers have mapped the Earth from the ancient Mediterranean and Fertile Crescent to the mountains of Antarctica and the undersea canyons of the Atlantic.
Now social scientists, soldiers and businessmen are among those mapping a different kind of geography: human geography.
Human geography is a multi-discipline study of the Earth and how people move across it, where they gather on it and how they interact there. It combines numerous fields including history, agricultural science, economics, political science, meteorology, geology, urban studies and anthropology. Studying human geography can be very important for soldiers, says Lt. Col. Andrew Lohman, an associate professor in the Geography Department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
On-the-ground knowledge can indicate what is normal and what is out of place in a society, a province or a village. And in an era of low intensity conflicts and asymmetric warfare, that knowledge – combined with cultural sensitivity – can be as important as attack helicopters and satellite imagery.
In five deployments to Iraq with Army Special Forces, Lohman said “we learned everything about an area before going there.” The important lesson wasn’t just the facts like what percentage of the population was urban or who the local power players were, he said, but “how is this going to affect what we’re doing when we’re there.” In short, area analysis and mission analysis, Lohman told your 4GWAR editor at a Human Geography conference last Fall.
Lohman said the study of geography is making a comeback in Army circles. Its popularity is growing at West Point where every year 50 to 60 cadets pick it as their major, he added.
To read more of this story, visit the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) website.
Some Additional Background:
In the photo above, soldiers with Texas Army National Guard provide security at the Friendship Gate for team members assessing the progress of the new customs yard being built near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The new facility will help to increase border traffic.
The Army’s Human Terrain program has sent teams of sociocultural experts to both Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to avoid bloodshed and calm relations with local populations during the height of fighting in both countries. But the program has been controversial, both for how it was managed and for its basic concept of using civilian social science professionals for a military program.
(UPDATE below in italics: one suspect, two police officers killed, second suspect at large)
The joy and exuberance of the 117th Boston Marathon were shattered a little more than four hours into the 26.2-mile race on Monday when two bombs shattered storefronts and bodies near the finish line.
The latest casualty report puts the death toll at three – including an 8-year-old child and two young women – and 180 injured, many of them suffering horrendous injuries to their legs.
[A SHOCKING AND ALMOST INCREDIBLE DEVELOPMENT:
Early Friday morning two men -- identified Thursday by the FBI as suspects in the bombing -- reportedly tried to rob a convenience store in Cambridge, Mass., shot and killed two police officers, hijacked an SUV and fled. They engaged in a four-mile firefight with pursuing police. One suspect was killed, the other fled and is the subject of a massive manhunt in the Boston area. Stories can be read here, here and here.]
Your 4GWAR editor is going to drop the “royal We” normally used when directly addressing the blog’s readers – and rely on the singular pronoun “I” to express my sadness, anger and hurt.
I have run three marathons although I could never qualify to run Boston. But if I had been running there on Monday, I probably would have been crossing the finish line about 40 minutes after the blast. I would have seen all that chaos and pain first hand. And that is disturbing to contemplate.
Boston is one of my favorite cities and I have visited it many times – most recently, the day of the bombing. So I take this attack very personally. I left Boston Sunday, the day before Marathon Monday by train a little more than 25 hours before the first bomb went off.
There is still no one in custody. No suspects have been identified – that we know of. But I believe justice will be served. Remember, it took more than 10 years, but Osama bin Laden now sleeps with the fishes.
Make no mistake about it. The bombings in Boston were acts of terrorism – even if this turns out to be the work of a nut job like the Unibomber or just some crooks who wanted to divert attention from some other illegal activity.
When acts of violence like those in Boston, occur, they have a profound effect on a community and often on the larger society. And it almost doesn’t matter what the motivation was. I say this as someone who lived through the Washington area sniper siege back in 2002. That, too, was the act of criminals with non-political motives. But it was terrorism nonetheless. Schools canceled field trips and recess. Night life in Washington suburbs dried up because people were too afraid to go out at night. Restaurants, stores and movie theaters all lost business.
The day of the first shootings, I saw police cars with their sirens wailing rush to the street outside the store I was in — just a few hundred feet from where one of the first victims was shot. Helicopters hovered over head and police in bullet proof vests toting machine guns scoured a nearby parking lot.
During that period I pumped gas while crouching behind my car: One of the early attacks came at a service station. I ran in a zig zag pattern from the car to the ATM and kept a nervous eye on the nearby woods. The snipers used similar woods as cover to shoot a schoolboy on his way to class.
Experts like to cite specific factors that determine whether an act of violence is “terrorism.” But I believe this distinction is a legalistic one – like the definition of hate crimes. If all violent acts are hate crimes, how do you enforce the law against hate crimes? Where do you get the resources to combat them?
Of course every violent act isn’t an act of terrorism but authorities need to take a look at widening the definition to encompass acts that terrorize people on a large scale.
A last word. Boston is a tough town, just ask anyone who’s driven there. It’s people are tough. They can be demanding of themselves and difficult with others. But they are fair and they are unrelenting in wanting to fix things that are no functioning properly. I am sure Boston will get through this crisis.
Corrects: that I left Boston the day before the bombings NOT the same day as the attack.
A series of suicide and bomb attacks ripped through Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, Sunday (April 14) striking a court complex and the outskirts of the city’s international airport. As many as 29 people were killed in at least two separate attacks, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported.
According to the BBC, the Islamist militant group, al-Shabab, said it carried out the attacks.
Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for a series of attacks in Mogadishu over the last two years. The group has been pushed out of most of the key towns it controlled in the southern part of the country after a stepped-up offensive by African Union peacekeepers allied with troops for Kenya and Ethiopia.
Quoting Somalia’s interior minister, the Associated Press reports that nine militants attacked Mogadishu’s Supreme Court complex and that all nine have been killed. Abdikarim Hussein Guled said that six of the attackers detonated suicide vests and three others were shot and killed during the assault, the AP added.
A car bomb was detonated later, outside a building housing security forces on the road to the airport. The blast went off near a convoy carrying Turkish aide workers, killing two of them, BBC reported.
Ghana Running Dry
Almost 40 percent of Ghana’s population lacks access to tap water, forcing the poor to pay high prices to private suppliers, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. The West African nation’s booming economy is also being hurt by water shortages.
According to Bloomberg, water is one of the biggest issues facing Africa’s urban areas, which the United Nations says will see a 66 percent population increase – to 1.2 billion people by 2050.
Tuaregs Scout for French
Here’s a switch: Nomadic Tuaregs who stayed loyal to Mali’s government – during last year’s military coup, the Tuareg rebellion that sparked it and the violent Islamist insurgency that followed it – are now scouting for the French military.
They work as scouts for the French-led mission to purge Mali of its al-Qaeda-linked militants and return the country to government control, according to an AFP story in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.
Chad Withdrawing Troops
After helping drive Islamist insurgents from Mali’s northern towns, Chad intends to withdraw its troops from the embattled North African country because it doesn’t want to get bogged down in a guerilla war, according to Chad’s president, Reuters reports.
About 2,000 troops from Chad – like Mali a former French colony in northern Africa – fought alongside French troops in the heaviest fighting to drive the radical Islamists from remote towns as well as the deserts and mountains in Mali’s north.
But President Idriss Deby says “the Chadian army does not have the skills to fight a shadowy guerilla-style war that is taking place in northern Mali. “Our soldiers will return to Chad,” he told French reporters, noting a mechanized battalion has already been withdrawn.
Desert Refugee Crisis
A report by the humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, says about 70,000 refugees who fled the violence in Mali are living in “appalling” conditions in a camp in the middle of neighboring Mauritania’s desert.
About 15,000 more refugees have flooded into the camp since the ench intervention in January and now conditions at the camp are so bad that many who were healthy became ill or malnourished after they arrived, CNN reports.