Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

FRIDAY FOTO (October 31, 2014)

Autumn at Sea.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt

It’s Halloween, but instead of some scary ghosts or skeletons we thought we’d show you a beautiful pumpkin-colored sky at sea.

This Navy photo shows the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN77) as it transits the Gulf Aden. The Bush Carrier Strike Group is heading back to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting maritime security operations and carrier-based airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the ultra radical Islamist extremist group known alternately as the Islamic State, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Pentagon Calls it Operation Inherent Resolve.

October 31, 2014 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Burkina Faso Unrest; Ebola Update; Zambia President Dies; Another Boko Haram Attack, Nigeria President Seeking Re-Election; [UPDATE]

UPDATES with  Rioting, state of emergency in Burkino Faso, Nigerian President to Seek Re-election.

Burkina Faso Capital in Flames.

Burkina Fasolocation  in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Burkina Fasolocation in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency, after tens of thousands of people took the streets, setting the  parliament building ablaze. Violence in the capital, Ouagadugou, has left at least one person dead, according to Al Jazeera.

Army General Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, said that the government and parliament were dissolved on Thursday (October 30). Some of the protesters, who are opposed to constitutional amendments that would allow President Blaise Compaore to stay in power for another term, ransacked state television and tried to storm other state buildings, Al Jazeera noted. 

“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today,” said a statement from the president read by a presenter on Radio Omega FM.  The president also said he would open talks with the opposition.

“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change,” the statement said. “I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.” 

The BBC is reporting that President Compaore  is defying opposition calls that he step down. The president says he will stay in power for a year under a transitional government, following a day of violent protests demanding his resignation. Demonstrators angered by his bid to extend his 27-year rule torched Parliament and other government buildings.

General Traore did not spell out who would lead the interim administration. He also declared the imposition of an overnight curfew. In a message broadcast by a local TV station after the general’s statement, Compaore said he welcomed the military’s “patriotic action”. He said he would hand over power to a democratically elected government after the transitional administration had completed its term. He also said he was withdrawing a controversial legislation that would enable him to seek another term in office. He has held the presidency for 27 years.

*** *** ***

Ebola Update

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says here has been a decline in the spread of Ebola in Liberia, the country hardest hit by the deadly virus.

The WHO’s Bruce Aylward said it the U.N. agency is finally confident health officials are gaining the upper hand against the outbreak, the BBC reported.

However, Aylward warned against any suggestion that the crisis was over.  Liberia’s Red Cross said its teams collected 117 bodies last week, down from a high of 315 in September, according to the WHO. Treatment centers also have empty beds available for patients.  “It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing,” said Aylward.

According to the latest WHO situation report, the death toll from the West African outbreak stands at 4,922. The WHO says a total of 13,703 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virdus disease (EVD) have been reported in six countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States as of October 28. Meanwhile, the outbreak of EVD in Senegal was declared over on October 17 and in Nigeria two days later (October 19, 2014).

EVD transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the WHO report said, adding: “All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began.” Cases of EVD transmission remain lowest in Guinea, but case numbers are still very high in absolute terms. Transmission remains intense in the capital cities of the three most affected countries. Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in the outbreak.”

More on Ebola Later

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Attack

Updates with President Goodluck Jonathan saying he will seek re-election.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

The Voice of America website is reporting that Boko Haram militants have taken over a city in northeast Nigeria — another violation of a cease-fire declared by the government earlier this month.

Local residents tell VOA’s Hausa language service that militants stormed the city of Mubi on Thursday (October 30), pillaging the local emir’s palace and freeing jailed militants from a prison.

A Mubi resident reported seeing black turban-wearing Boko Haram fighters patrolling the city on motorbikes. The witness also said Nigerian soldiers have either fled or abandoned their positions in the city. The Nigerian air force is reported to have launched air strikes in Mubi to counter the Boko Haram advance, VOA reported.

Despite widespread discontent with how his government is handling the Boko Haram crisis, President Goodluck Jonathan announced he would seek re-election in February’s elections, the BBC reports.

The announcement comes as Jonathan faces mounting criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and the group’s abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, the BBC noted. The government announced a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram earlier this month that was supposed to lead to the release of the schoolgirls.

The Nigerian government says it has been talking to Boko Haram in neighboring Chad with both parties agreeing on a ceasefire. But with attacks in northeast Nigeria continuing and no word on when — or if — the girls will be released, critics have raised questions about the validity of the truce.

*** *** ***

Sata Dead, Scott Acting President.

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013. (Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013.
(Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

The president of Zambia, Michael Sata, has died and his successor — at least temporarily — is the Zambian-born son of a Scottish doctor and sub-Saharan Africa’s first white head of state in 20 years.

Sata, 77, who was elected president of the South Central African nation in 2011, died Tuesday (October 28) in a London hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness, according to the BBC.

Zambia’s vice president, Guy Scott, 70, will serve as acting president until elections are held in January. He is a former agriculture minister who also worked in Zambia’s finance ministry.

“Elections for the office of president will take place in 90 days. In the interim, I am the acting president,” Scott said in a broadcast address that also announced the start of  a period of mourning for the late president, the Associated Press reported.

MAP-Zambia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

MAP-Zambia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Scott, whose parents were both Scottish, has said he has no presidential ambitions. Zambia’s constitution also bars him from running for president because his parents were not Zambians by birth or descent, the AP said.

Sata — nicknamed “King Cobra” for his blunt talk and sharp tongue — was Zambia’s fifth president and the second to die in office.  He promised to tackle corruption and create jobs and prosperity for the former British colony (Northern Rhodesia) of 15 million people.  But his declining health was mirrored by Zambia’s declining economy, and he left behind an impoverished country with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, according to the BBC’s obituary.

October 30, 2014 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: New Threats, Tight Money

Protecting the Border — and Everywhere Else.

U.S. Border Patrol would rather send robots than agents to investigate drug smuggling tunnels, like this one in Nogales, Arizona, between the U.S. and Mexico. (Customs and Border Protection photo by Josh Denmark)

U.S. Border Patrol would rather send robots than agents to investigate drug smuggling tunnels, like this one in Nogales, Arizona, between the U.S. and Mexico. (Customs and Border Protection photo by Josh Denmark)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for protecting Americans from terrorism, transnational organized crime and natural disasters, but new threats continue to spring up.

In the past year, DHS confronted unexpected challenges like the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and the massive influx of illegal immigrants, most of them children unaccompanied by adults.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently cited his biggest threat concerns. One is the lone wolf, self-radicalized gunman with no known connection to terrorist groups. Johnson said that is the threat he worries about most because it’s the hardest to detect and “could happen on very little notice.” The recent attacks on uniformed soldiers in Canada and police in New York City underscored the danger. Johnson also has concerns about Americans returning from fighting in Syria and the Islamic State, radicalized by Islamist extremists and armed with the skill sets to commit mayhem.

Those threats, and ways to deal with them, were discussed Oct. 6-9 at a homeland security conference in Washington sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).

Officials from one of DHS’s biggest components, Customs and Border Protection, said congressional budget cuts require them to look for equipment and technology that will help them do their job with less people and, for less money. “We’re about managing risk now,” said U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher.

Wolf Tombe, CBP’s chief technology officer outlined several areas where new technology could help. Tombe said DHS was dealing with massive amounts of data from biometric identification systems like fingerprints.

“The real ideal capability is to use all of them – fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scan – to see if they all match” the people presenting themselves for entry into the United States at airports, seaports and land border crossings, Tombe said. Right now fingerprints are the core biometric technology. Facial recognition “is in its early stages” of use and iris identification and verification “is being evaluated,” he added.

“The U.S. border is tens of thousands of miles and it is impossible to cover with a human presence alone,” Tombe said. Cross-border tunnels used by drug, gun and people smugglers are getting bigger and more sophisticated with lighting and their own sensors and communications, Tombe said, adding that CBP “would much rather send a robot” to investigate a tunnel than endanger an officer.

To see the rest of this story, click here or go to:

http://www.idga.org/homeland-security/articles/as-new-threats-rise-and-budgets-fall-dhs-looks-for/

October 29, 2014 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Death Toll; Boko Haram Ceasefire and Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Ebola Death Toll

WHO declares Ebola outbreak over in Senegal (World Health Organization image)

WHO declares Ebola outbreak over in Senegal
(World Health Organization image)

The death toll in the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has risen to 4,493, according to the latest situation report by the World Health Organization.

The WHO said there have been 8,997 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of what the U.N. agency calls Ebola virus disease (EVD) in seven affected countries:  countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of  October 12.

Today (October 17) the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in Senegal over. The U.N. agency commended the country’s authorities for their “diligence to end the transmission of the virus.” The WHO said it has been 42 days since any new cases had developed in Senegal.

However, the WHO said the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone “is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of EVD.” The situation report said an increase in new cases in Guinea is being driven by a spike in confirmed and suspected cases in the capital, Conakry, and the nearby district of Coyah.

“In Liberia, problems with data gathering make it hard to draw any firm conclusions from recent data.” The the report stated, adding that it suspects “almost certainly significant under-reporting of cases from the capital, Monrovia.” While there does appear to be a genuine fall in the number of cases in Liberia’s Lofa district, the WHO said a concerted effort will be needed to confirm that drop  and whether it means EVD has been eliminated in that area.

In Sierra Leone, intense transmission is still occurring in the capital, Freetown, and the surrounding districts.   

Back in the United States, President Obama has appointed Ron Klain, “a seasoned Democratic crisis-response operative and White House veteran,” to manage the U.S. government’s response to the deadly virus as public anxiety grows over its possible spread, the New York Times reported. The new Ebola czar is a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, is known for his ability to handle high-stakes and fast-moving political challenges, according to the Times.

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane arrives with the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help contain Ebola in Liberia, Sept. 23, 2014. The cargo included a heavy duty forklift, drill set and generator.  (U.S. Army Africa photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia) Liberia

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane arrives with the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help contain Ebola in Liberia, Sept. 23, 2014. The cargo included a heavy duty forklift, drill set and generator.
(U.S. Army Africa photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia) Liberia

Hundreds of U.S. military personnel are already in Liberia assisting in the construction of Ebola treatment centers and training local personnel. They include Marines helicopter crews, Navy SeaBees and lab technicians, Air Force cargo handlers and Army engineers.

The Pentagon says between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel may be sent to Liberia to help with logistical, construction and administrative tasks. Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reservists, if necessary. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says no U.S. military personnel will be involved in treatment of Ebola patients during the mission, which is called Operation United Assistance.

*** *** ***

Nigeria: Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria’s military says it has agreed to a ceasefire with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and that the militants will release hundreds of schoolgirls it kidnapped earlier this year.

Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce but Boko Haram has yet to make a public statement, according to the BBC.

Boko Haram, which seeks to create an Islamic state governed by a severe interpretation of Sharia law, requiring beheadings, whippings and limb amputations for crimes launched an insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Thousands have been killed in the struggle, including some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year, the BBC said.

The group, whose name translates roughly into “Western education is fraudulent” and by implication, forbidden, has bombed police stations, churches and bus terminals and attacked high schools and colleges, killing students and teachers. It sparked worldwide outrage in April when it raided a high school in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria and carried off hundreds of teenage girls.

Many in the country have been critical of the government’s slow response to the kidnappings and the counterinsurgency in general. They remain skeptical about the ceasefire announcement.

Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, says the negotiations in Saudi Arabia and Chad between the government and Boko Haram will only increase the stature of the group.

“It has acquired its own status that puts it on its own pedestal.  But the reality is there [are] a lot of people in northeastern Nigeria who have an incentive to join Boko Haram because of the failures, corruption and the inability of the government to exercise transparency and good governance,” Nwankwo tells the Voice of America.

He’s also worried that Abuja’s willingness to negotiate with Boko Haram may reflect the government’s “desperation” bring the abduction crisis to a close. 

October 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

U.S. ARMY: Learning to Win in a Complex World [UPDATE]

AUSA: So Many Tanks, So Little Time.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

UPDATES to clarify late night — sometimes clunky –writing, and add background and perspective.

The Association of the United States Army’s massive annual conference and exposition just ended. And while there were few, if any, tanks on display, enough trucks, and armored vehicles — including a vintage Volkswagen bus with a rooftop machine gun — were on view to satisfy any military gadget junkie

During its three-day run in Washington’s Convention Center there was much discussion at AUSA about where the U.S. Army is going — and how it’s going to get there–  in a world where a war, insurgency, terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks or natural disasters seem to be breaking out every day. Compounding the problem — thanks to budget cuts —  which Congress may reintroduce in a year or so — the Army is shrinking and disposing of war-worn equipment to stay within its budget.

But Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said those previous across-the-board budget cuts meant developing projects like the Ground Combat Vehicle had to be scrapped and there is little money to buy new vehicles, aircraft and weapons that will be needed to tackle future crises. They also said more budget cuts starting in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015) will mean even less money for training and that will lower the Army’s readiness for the complex world it faces. Assistant Army Secretary Heid Shyu explained that congressional budget cutting through sequestration has drastically reduced research and development for new technologies that could help a smaller Army deal with multiple challenges.

We heard at least two generals and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a former Army sergeant, say they didn’t want to see another Task Force Smith  as an example of what could happen if a major crisis breaks out after precipitous, post-war cuts to defense spending. Task Force Smith was a disastrous delaying action by an understrength, poorly equipped and makeshift Army battalion cobbled-together in Japan and rushed to Korea during the first days of the Korean War. The valiant but ineffective effort to stop the Communist advance in July 1950 came as a shock to U.S. leaders and the public just five years after America ended World War II with the largest, best-trained and best-equipped army in the world.

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

Despite the often grim forecasts about defense funding, thousands of military and civilian visitors turned out for AUSA 2014 to see hundreds of armored vehicles, unmanned aircraft, helicopters, small arms and body armor on display in the two floors of exhibits by industry and service organizations. Also on display: the latest sensors and video cameras, robots and communications equipment.

While the AUSA exhibit floor has often been used to unveil industry’s latest solutions to the Army’s problems — like coping with roadside bombs or lightening soldiers’ equipment loads — several big defense contractors this year trumpeted new contracts to upgrade, or extend the lifespan, of aging equipment like the Humvee or Stryker armored vehicle. In addition to pavilions for foreign exhibitors and products, there was also a homeland security pavilion that emphasized the links between defending America over here as well as over there.

In coming days we’ll be exploring some of the things we heard discussed at AUSA 14 including developments like the new Army Operating Concept of what it takes to win in a complex world. We’ll also be discussing the regionally aligned force concept and the Pacific Pathway initiative to facilitate America’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

October 15, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

ARMY: Big AUSA Conference Opens

AUSA.

ausa logo

The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) holds its annual meeting and trade show this week in Washington starting Monday.

Thousands of visitors in and out of uniform are expected to visit the Washington Convention Center Monday through Wednesday to hear Army leaders and experts talk about where the Army is going and where it should be going in the future.

Speakers include Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno.

The exhibit halls will be filled with all manner of armored vehicle, unmanned aircraft systems, combat gear, communications and sensor technology and smalls arms and protective clothing.

New this year in the exhibit hall: a Homeland Security Pavilion where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will have a display and companies and organizations offering products and services to support the homeland security mission will be showing their wares.

Since 4GWAR views itself as a counter terrorism blog focusing on the intersection of homeland security and asymmetric warfare, we’ll be taking special interest in this new feature at AUSA.

October 13, 2014 at 12:26 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Helicopters Without Pilots

Sky Spies.

Black Hornet micro helicopter (Photo courtesy: Prox Dynamics -- click on photo to enlarge)

Black Hornet micro helicopter
(Photo courtesy: Prox Dynamics — click on photo to enlarge)

The reductions in force and budget cutbacks have U.S. commanders increasingly turning to unmanned aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

But the low-intensity conflicts springing up around the world — in both urban settings and remote areas without finished airfields — have also increased the need for vertical take off and landing unmanned air vehicles (VTOL-UAVs) … ranging from the full-sized Northrop Grumman Fire Scout to tiny pocket-sized quad-copters like Prox Dynamics’ Black Hornet.

The Black Hornet unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has been tested by the U.S., U.K. and Norwegian militaries and has been used by the British Army since 2012 in Afghanistan’s Helmand and Kandahar provinces. And the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center has awarded Prox Dynamics a $2.5 million contract to develop a pocket-sized UAV for infantry and special operations troops.

Newer unmanned helicopters are being developed by companies from the British Isles to Colorado.

A Welsh company, Torquing Technologies, has begun rolling out its nano drone, Sparrow, and new communications technology for operating it. Sparrow has machine-to-machine communication technology allowing multiple Sparrows to communicate with each other and fly in swarms.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, Scion UAS is developing two VTOL aircraft, the full-sized optionally manned SA-400 Jackal, which has been acquired by the Naval Research Laboratory for testing, and the smaller SA-200 Weasel. Both aircraft are  designed to be payload agnostic, says Scion’s chairman and manager, Jim Sampson. “We try to build the generic pickup truck because every user has a different payload in mind for their mission and every mission is going to require a different suite of payloads,” he noted.

To read more, see your 4GWAR editor’s story in the September issue of Ground Combat and Tactical ISR magazine

 

October 11, 2014 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

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