Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’
A U.S. Marine assigned to a Force Reconnaissance Platoon in the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), rises from the depths with M-4 carbine at the ready as his teammates conduct an amphibious insertion while training foreign Marines in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).
The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group serving as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious operations across the full range of military operations.
Meanwhile, some of this sea swimmer’s teammates made it to shore on the interesting little gadget below, known as a diver propulsion device.
To see more photos of this interesting exercise, click here.
To see a brief video of the DPD in action, click here.
Considering COCOM Consolidation
At the Aspen Security Forum in mid-July, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the recently retired head of U.S. Africa Command said he thought most countries in Africa had a more positive view of the regional command now than when it was created in 2007.
Since then, the military and civilian workers of AFRICOM “have done so much to diminish the fears and anxieties of many African countries,” Ham told your 4GWAR editor during a question & answer session at the four-day conference in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. “We don’t go anywhere without the consent of the host nation government” and the consent of the U.S. ambassador to that nation, he added.
When then-President George W. Bush created the U.S. military’s sixth geographic combatant command there was a pretty large outcry in Africa that this was just another imperialistic move by a Western power seeking to grab all the oil, gold or other natural resources it could. Others saw it as an attempt to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
As an example of the hostility to the concept of U.S. troops in Africa, only one country – Liberia – offered to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, which still remains in Stuttgart, Germany. Many other African nations opposed having a U.S. military presence anywhere on the continent.
But Ham, who was AFRICOM’s second commander, said “many nations – not all – have found it to be in their best interests to have a military-to-military relationship with the U.S. through Africa Command.”
So we were a little surprised when reports began surfacing that AFRICOM might be folded into European Command or one of the other six regional combatant commands as a money-saving venture driven by the budget constraints of sequestration.
Defense News, a Gannett publication, reported August 12 that the Pentagon was considering “a major overhaul” of the commands that could include “dissolving Africa Command” and splitting its responsibilities between European Command, which is also headquartered in Stuttgart, and Central Command, based at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. AFRICOM is responsible for U.S. security, humanitarian and diplomatic operations in all of Africa’s 54 countries, except Egypt, which is overseen by Central Command.
As it says on its website, AFRICOM has four main roles in Africa: to deter and defeat transnational threats; prevent future conflicts; support humanitarian and disaster relief and protect U.S. security interests. AFRICOM has a very small permanent presence in Africa – a former Foreign Legion base in Djibouti where about 2,000 personnel are based and an airbase in Niger with a little over 100 personnel to support surveillance drones flying over northwest Africa where an affiliate of the al Qaeda terrorist network has been active. The bulk of AFRICOM’s small personnel force remains in Europe.
All of the services conduct training exercises with African militaries like Africa Lion and Flintlock. Other missions offer naval and police training as well as medical clinics, emergency response training and small construction projects.
“We didn’t really see ourselves as a fighting command,” Ham said at the Aspen event … until Libya happened.
AFRICOM found itself leading air and intelligence operations during the early days of the United Nations-sanctioned intervention in Libya’s revolt-turned civil war. AFRICOM also supplied military transport and air refueling assistance to French and African forces intervening earlier this year in the Islamist revolt in Mali. Later, AFRICOM reached an agreement with Niger to base unarmed surveillance drones there. AFRICOM has also played a role in battling pirates off the east and west coasts of Africa. And U.S. special operations forces conducted a hostage rescue mission in Somalia and provided assistance to African militaries hunting for renegade warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
That increasingly military role may have undercut AFRICOM’s original, largely non-miltary role in the eyes of some Africans, according to the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.
But summing in up his answer in Aspen to 4GWAR’s query about whether Africa was now more accepting of AFRICOM, Ham said: “If the United States were to say ‘We’re interested in relocating the headquarters to the African continent. Would you be interested in hosting [it]?’ I think there are a number of nations that would say ‘Yes.’”
Red Stars in Arctic Skies
U.S. and Russian leaders may be engaged in diplomatic tussling over what to do about Syria or rogue NSA contractor Edward Snowden, but the militaries of both countries are still working together on solutions to terrorist threats.
Here we see Russian Federation air force Su-27 Sukhois intercepting a simulated hijacked aircraft entering Russian airspace during Vigilant Eagle 13, a trilateral exercise operating out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
The four-day exercise kicked off Aug. 26 with scenarios requiring the United States, Canada and Russia to respond to simulated terrorist hijackings of commercial aircraft. Both NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) — a U.S.-Canadian bi-national command — and Russia, had to scramble fighter jets to track and intercept the jetliner as it crossed international boundaries.
To see a Defense Department slideshow of the exercise including Royal Canadian Air Force fighter jets, click here.
To see a DoD video explaining the exercise’s purpose, click here.
While U.S. Army regulars and militiamen from the states battled British troops, Canadian militia and warriors from the First Nations (as Canadians now call them) along the Great Lakes and the Upper Midwest during the war of 1812, the Army and state volunteers were also battling the Creek Indians of the Southeast in what has become known as the Creek War.
On August 30, 1813, pro-British members of the Creek Indian nation (also known as the Muskogee) attacked a poorly designed stockade known as Fort Mims in southern Alabama where hundreds of white settlers and pro-U.S. Creeks had taken refuge.
The bloodshed between whites and the Creeks in 1813-1814 was an outgrowth a civil war among the Creeks themselves.
That struggle erupted within the Creek nation, which inhabited parts of what is now Alabama and Georgia, over whether to join Shawnee leader Tecumseh‘s campaign against whites of the United States. The Red Sticks faction favored war with white America. Indian leaders from what was known as the Lower Creek towns were against war with the whites. They were known as the White Sticks.
The Fort Mims slaughter terrified whites in the South, who had waged war on and off with various tribes including Cherokee and Seminole Indians since before the American Revolution. Future President Andrew Jackson, an Army and Tennessee militia general, led a long campaign against the Creeks culminating with the battle (and for all intents a massacre) against the Indians at Horseshoe Bend in 1814.
A year later, Jackson would rise to national prominence following the Battle of New Orleans.
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.
More Than 40
Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency — and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command — made headlines back in March when he told Congress that the Defense Department was readying 13 teams to go on the offensive against enemies in cyberspace.
Another 27 teams will be created to support the needs of the military’s regional combatant commands in the cyber world, he said.
But that’s not all.
Many more teams are planned to safeguard the Defense Department’s information networks. Your 4GWAR editor writes about them and the manpower needs they will require in the Aug. 19 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription only).
Defending cyberspace and acquiring the tools and talent was a hot topic at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado and we wrote about that July 19 on 4GWAR. We got additional information and details about planning for the cyber teams from some top officials, like the commander of the Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command, at the Global Intelligence Forum, sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) in Washington.
AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2013 -UPDATE- (Updates with Keita winning in Mali after opponent concedes.)
Voters in the war-ravaged West African nation of Mali went to the polls again Sunday (August 11, 2013) to pick a president in a run-off election between the top two vote getters in last month’s polling.
On Monday night (August 12) underdog candidate Soumaila Cisse conceded, handing the election to Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former prime minister of Mali.
Cisse went to Keita’s house 24 hours after the polls closed, to concede defeat and wish him well. He made it official at a televised press conference today (August 13) where he said he was acting to avoid weakening the country or damaging national unity..
Unofficial results showed Keita with a strong lead. Cisse’s move was greeted with relief by many Malians traumatized by 18 months of violence and uncertainty brought on by a revolt in the north, a military coup in the capital and a counter insurgency intervention by French troops, according to the Voice of America.
Cisse urged Malians to accept the result even though he told reporters at the news conference that he believed there were serious irregularities and incidents of ballot-box stuffing, the Los Angeles Times reported. Cisse said he had not made plans to challenge the result.
The wide open field – 27 candidates – was winnowed down in the July 28 vote to just two contenders: Cisse, a former cabinet minister from Timbuktu and Keita, a one-time prime minister and former National Assembly president from the southern part of Mali.
Keita – widely known by his initials IBK – appears to be the frontrunner, according to the Voice of America. He led the first round with 39 percent of ballots and almost all of the other 26 first-round candidates backing him in the run-off, according to the Voice of America website.
Nearly 50 percent of Mali’s 6.8 million registered voters cast a ballot in first round election last month July. A lot is at stake in the election. The winner will oversee more than $4 billion in foreign aid promised by France and the United States to rebuild Mali, the BBC reported. Final tallies of the vote are not expected until Friday.
Mali, regarded as one of West Africa’s few successful democracies, plunged into chaos last year when Tuareg mercenaries – returning from fighting for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafy – launched the latest in a series of independence revolts in the country’s desert north. That led to a military coup in March 2012 that ousted the democratically-elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure.
The revolt in Bamako, the nation’s capital, emboldened the Tuaregs who swept over the Texas-sized northern half of the country – backed by Islamic extremists, many from outside of Mali. At the request of the government in Bamako, French air and ground forces intervened, driving the rebels back into the mountains before they could seize the capital. France, the former colonial ruler, said the intervention was necessary to keep the country from turning into a safe haven for terrorists to attack targets in Europe.
Meanwhile, a 12,600-strong United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) is deploying to take over security, as France begins to withdraw its 3,000 troops.
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The ruling party in the small West African nation of Togo, has increased its majority in the national legislature following last month’s elections. And that has increased the control President Faure Gnassingbe holds over the country of six million.
Opposition activists say that the ruling Unir party’s 62-seat majority victory was the product of a rigged election. They worry that the party will use its majority to pass reforms allowing Gnassingbé – whose family has ruled tiny Togo since 1967 – to remain in office indefinitely, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Voters went to the polls July 28. About 1,200 candidates competed for 91 seats in the National Assembly.
The electoral commission said the Unir party won 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of the legislature’s then-81 seats in 2007. There have been no elections to the National Assembly in the intervening six years.
One family has controlled the government since 1967 when Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power through a coup and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. The military — dominated by the family’s Kabye ethnic group — picked his son, Faure Gnassingbe, to take over.
The opposition party leader, Gilchrist Olympio, is the son of Togo’s first post-independence president who was gunned down in 1963 by assassins outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital Lome.
Despite one family/one party rule all those years, politics in Togo is complicated according to an article in The Economist.
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When the votes were counted in Zimbabwe following last month’s presidential and legislative elections, one of the few people unsurprised by the outcome was President Robert Mugabe.
The 89-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, won a crushing 61 percent of the vote and his ZANU-PF Party took two-thirds of the seats in the Southeast African nation’s parliament.
But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Party has claimed massive fraud and has gone to court to overturn the election.
The size of Mugabe’s latest electoral victory raised eyebrows in Zimbabwe. In the first round of voting in the previous presidential election in 2008, he won fewer votes than Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC. But Mr. Tsvangirai refused to participate in a runoff because of violent state-sponsored attacks on his supporters, according to the New York Times. More than 200 people died in post election violence, with thousands more beaten and intimidated.
It is unclear when Mugabe will be sworn in for a new term. Under Zimbabwe’s constitution, once there is litigation,administering the oath of office is withheld until the case is finalized. The constitutional court has 14 days to dispose of the case, according to the Voice of America website. If the election is nullified, fresh polls will be called in 60 days. If the case is dismissed, Mugabe will be sworn in within 48 hours after the ruling.
Zimbabwe’s election is expected to dominate the meeting of Southern African leaders in Malawi next week, according to VoA. In 2008, African leaders refused to recognize the 2008 Mugabe victory and forced him and Tsvangirai to form a fragile power-sharing government with the MDC as the junior partner.
LATIN AMERICA: Colombia Defense Industry, Ecuador Border Clash, Cocoa Growing Down, Kerry to Visit Brazil, Colombia
Colombia Defense Industry
After decades of a brutal insurgency by Marxist rebels and equally violent battles with narcotics cartels, Colombia is looking to regenerate and expand its defense industries, according to UPI.
Quoting the Bogota-based newspaper, El Espectador, UPI reports that South Korean defense company LIG Nex1 said it will help Colombia’s armed forces develop sonars and radars for the country’s defense sector. Colombia recently bought 16 missiles from LIGNex1 to be deployed on four Colombian Navy vessels, according to the newspaper.
LIG Nex1 will work with the Colombian defense industry installations in Villavicencio in central Colombia to develop projects to design, develop, manufacture, assemble, integrate and test the operation of sensors, UPI reported.
Colombia has long had close ties with the U.S. military — especially in battling illegal drugs and improvised explosive device technology. But according to the Colombian business magazine, Dinero, South Korean corporations — like LIGNex1′s parent, LG Group — have been increasing investments in Colombia from $30 million in 2007 to $160 million last year. However, the magazine also notes Brazil, Chile and Mexico do much more export and import business with South Korea than Colombia.
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Colombia-Ecuador Border Clash
An Ecuadorean soldier was killed and another wounded in a firefight with guerillas at the border with Colombia. A Colombian army general identified the shooters on the Colombian side of the border as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym, FARC.
FARC, has waged a violent insurgency against the government in Bogota since the 1960s that has claimed thousands of lives. FARC guerillas often seek refuge in Ecuador’s forests when being pursued by Colombian troops. here have been clashes in the past between the rebels and Ecuador’s army, but this was the first known instance of an Ecuadorean soldier being killed in a clash with a Colombian irregular, the Associated Press reported.
Ecuador’s top military leader said the two-hour firefight errupted when his troops surrounded FARC rebels on Ecuador’s side of the San Miguel River, which separates the country from a cocaine producing region of Colombia. Colombian authorities say many FARC units finance themselves through cocaine trafficking.
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Colombia Cocoa Production
Cocoa growing in Colombia — the world’s biggest cocaine producer — fell by 25 percent in 2012, according to a United Nations report.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said farmland under cocoa cultivation shrank from 64,000 hectares (xx acres) last year from 135,000 hectares in 2011. A survey jointly conducted by Colombia’s government and UNODC shows that coca bush cultivation affected 23 of the country’s 32 departments; decreased in 17 departments; increased in the 3 departments of Norte de Santander, Caquetá and Chocó; and remained unchanged in the remaining 3.
Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative in Colombia, said government efforts to eradicate the illicit coca crop were having a visible impact but that farmers often simply replant bushes in new or previously cleared fields, Reuters reported.
Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are the world’s biggest coca producers. (See story below)
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Bolivian Cocoa Down, Too
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime says cocoa cultivation is down again in Bolivia for the second year in a row.
Bolivia’s coca production dropped by 7 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the UN report. This follows an 11 percent reduction from the year before, according to analysis by InSight Crime and reported in the Christian Science Monitor.
The biggest drop came in the largest coca growing region of the country known as Yungas de la Paz, which went from 18,200 hectares to 16,900 hectares, according to the UNODC. The agency says that two major factors played a role in the drop: 1) the government’s efforts to “eradicate/rationalize” the size of the fields and 2) the drop in yield due to the long periods in which the fields have been cultivated.
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Kerry to Colombia, Brazil
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to travel to Colombia and Brazil next week (August 12-13) to improve “cooperation and dialogue with important regional partners,” according to the State Department.
Kerry will visit Bogota, Colombia, on August 12. From Bogota, he will travel to Brasilia, Brazil, where he will spend the day on August 13.
Under the Southern Cross
Under the starry night sky in northeastern Australia, U.S. Marines prepare to collect simulated enemy casualties and weapons during a mechanized “raid” at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia. The Marines are part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which participated in Talisman Saber 2013, a two-week U.S.-Australian training exercise that concluded July 28.
The biennial exercise, aims to enhance collaboration between U.S. and Australian forces for future combined operations, humanitarian assistance and response to natural disasters. To see Australian Defence Forces information about the exercise, as well as more photos a, click here,
The 31st MEU consists of about 2,200 Marines and Sailors equipped with more than 150 ground vehicles, 23 helicopters — ranging from the CH-53 Sea Stallion to the AH-1 attack helicopter — and eight AV-8B Harrier jets all on board three amphibious ships: The USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Denver and USS Germantown. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU — the point end of the spear — and is the Marine Corps readiness force in the Asia-Pacific region.
Click on the photo to enlarge it. To see more photos of Talisman Saber, click here.
Turkish facility attacked
The Islamist militant group, al Shabaab, has claimed responsibility for a bombing at the Turkish Embassy compound in Somalia that killed at least five people including three suicide bombers, the Associated Press reports.
The Saturday (July 27) attack struck a building housing Turkish embassy staff in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. A Turkish security official and a Somali student were killed as well as the three militants, AP said. CNN International reports that a second Turkish security guard was dead.
Al Shabaab, which espouses an ultra strict form of Islam, has been linked to al Qaeda and other attacks in war-ravaged Somalia. Al Shebaab was driven out of Mogadishu two years ago by troops from Somalia and other African countries. But the militants have kept up guerrilla-style attacks and continue to control large rural areas of the East African country, according to Reuters.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, has been playing a big role in Somalia’s reconstruction, including street renovations and building new schools and hospitals, according to the AP and CNN.
AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2013
In the small West African nation of Togo, voters went to the polls Sunday (July 28) to elect their legislature. About 1,200 candidates competed for 91 seats in National Assembly.
The president of Togo’s electoral commission said late Sunday that provisional results show the ruling party increased its share of the legislature in the election — dealing a blow to opposition leaders who had hoped recent signs of discontent would translate into electoral gains, according to the Associated Press.
The electoral commission said the Union for the Republic party won 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of the legislature’s then-81 seats in 2007.
There have been no elections to the National Assembly in the intervening six years, according to the Christian Science Monitor. And Sunday’s vote was seen as an important next step in the nation’s transition to full democracy.
One family has controlled the government since 1967 when Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power through a coup and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. The military picked his son, Faure Gnassingbe, to rule the country of 7 million.
The opposition party leader, Gilchrist Olympio, is the son of Togo’s first post-independence president who was gunned down in 1963 by assassins outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital Lome.
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War-ravaged Mali in West Africa began electing a president Sunday (July 28). According to the Voice of America, there are 27 candidates ranging from several former prime ministers to a geologist with little political experience and a woman from the northern part of the country who stood up to Tuareg rebels and militant Islamists.
Mali, once one of West Africa’s few successful democracies, plunged into chaos when Tuareg mercenaries – returning from fighting for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafy – launched the latest in a series of revolts in the country’s desert north. That led to a military coup ousting the democratically-elected president.
The army revolt in Bamako, the nation’s capital emboldened the Tuaregs who swept over the Texas-sized northern half of the country – backed by Islamic extremists from in and out of Mali. At the request of the government in Bamako, French air and ground forces intervened, driving the rebels back into the mountains before they could seize the capital.
France, the former colonial ruler, said the intervention was necessary to keep the country from turning into a safe haven for terrorists to attack targets in Europe.
Mali has nearly 7 million registered voters but voter turnout has never exceeded 40 percent, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
In The Know
ASPEN, Colorado – Here at 4GWAR, we’ve written about the topic of Human Geography numerous times before. Nevertheless, we were surprised at how often that concept – if not the actual phrase – came up in discussions at the Aspen Security Forum in the Rocky Mountains last week.
Human Geography is a multi-discipline study of not only the physical nature of the earth but the people who live on it and how they relate among themselves and with others along political, economic, cultural, linguistic and geographic lines.
The need for cultural awareness and background knowledge of people and places where the United States may conduct future military and humanitarian operations came up several times during the four-day annual gathering of defense and homeland security experts from government, academia and the corporate world.
With U.S. combat activities in Iraq over, and ending soon in Afghanistan, speakers and panels discussed the new challenges facing the United States.
“You really gotta know the place,” said Ambassador Rick Barton, assistant secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations, describing the complexity of sorting out potential partners among the scores of opposition groups in the Syrian civil war. Time, effort and money need to be spent on acquiring the right intelligence, he added. “If you’re really going to be effective in a place, you’ve really got to have a sense of the context and the balance” he said during a panel discussion on the U.S. role in preventing conflicts.
Speaking on the same panel, Adm. Bill McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) – which oversees the Green Berets, Navy Seals and other special operations forces – said cultural awareness (one of the key aspects of human geography studies) was a key to training partner nations to defend themselves against terrorists. “When we put people into a country they need to speak the language, they need to be culturally aware of what’s going,” McRaven said. But after 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan many of those skill sets have eroded for other parts of the world. “So we are reinvigorating the language programs and reinvigorating the cultural awareness programs,” he said. SOCOM units, like SEAL teams, will be realigned within the various regional combatant commands such as Africa Command and Pacific Command “so that the right people will speak the right languages and understand the right cultures,” McRaven added.
“The problem, of course is the way Americans always come into a country with which there is enormous cultural difference. They don’t always appreciate cultural difference,” Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, told another panel discussion on Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke of 20-something troops and contractors “not knowing how to be deferential to the elders, not knowing how to deal with the mullahs, not understanding the sectarian and religious concentrations.”
And the former head of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Carter Ham (ret.) noted “it’s a particular challenge in Africa, because of the diversity of cultures and languages” as well as religious, ethnic and tribal distinctions. “We have a long way to go,” he said. But he also noted that the assistance of experienced foreign service and U.S.AID officers has helped in the past and McRaven’s promised deployment of special operations forces with cultural skills tailored to the regional combatant commands’ area of responsibility will help in the future.
In a story out this week in Special Operations Technology magazine, your 4GWAR editor examines how special operators are combining new technology and old skills in human geography for missions like foreign internal defense and civil affairs operations. The explosion of social networking and geospatial imagery on the Internet has added many new tools for human geographers and intelligence gatherers. To read more, visit Special Operations Technology magazine, by clicking here.