Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’
Deja vu all over again
Back in February, 4GWAR reported that new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was troubled by foreign jihadists streaming into war-torn Syria, which was turning into an incubator for future terrorists.
Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had become “very focused” on foreign fighters heading to Syria, where foreign Islamists have radicalized and complicated the three-year civil war with the Bashar al-Assad regime. The DHS concern is what these fighters will do when they return to their home countries or travel elsewhere, indoctrinated with a violent Islamist mission.
Then in April we reported on another threat emanating from Syria: the rise of the Iranian-backed, Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia as a military force in Syria. In a report, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), another Washington think tank, said that Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia which has been battling Israel and the West for decades, has become a major player in the Syrian conflict.
Hezbollah has been designated as a Global Terrorist organization by the United States since 1995 for a long history of terrorist attacks against American citizens and officials – including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during the 1980s.
Now this: President Barrack Obama says he is sending up to 300 special operations forces to assess the situation on the ground in Iraq, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured several cities in northern and western Iraq in a sweeping attack out of Syria.
But Obama made clear that he will hold back more substantial support for Iraq – including U.S. Airstrikes – until he sees a direct threat to U.S. Personnel or a more inclusive and capable Iraqi government, according to the Washington Post.
At the White House, Obama said “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”
Obama, who withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, said he’s positioned “additional U.S. military assets in the region. Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL. And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it. If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.”
But Obama emphasized “that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead.”
U.S. Special Operations Forces and the FBI have captured one of the suspected leaders of the 2012 fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
According to the Washington Post, the joint special operations and FBI Mission had been planned for months and was approved by President Barack Obama on Friday (June 13). The suspect was identified by the Pentagon as Ahmed Abu Khatallah. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Khatallah is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya. There were no civilian casualties related to the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely left Libya, Kirby said.
Officials said he would be brought to the United States in the coming days to face charges in a civilian court, the New York Times reported, adding that a sealed indictment sworn out secretly last July and made public on Tuesday (June 17) outlined three counts against him in connection with the deaths of Mr. Stevens, State Department official Glen Doherty and two CIA contractors – Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.
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A suicide bomber has killed several people watching a televised World Cup soccer match in northern Nigeria’s Yobe state.
A hospital worker told the BBC that truckloads of injured people are being treated in overcrowded wards. “The injured people are so numerous I cannot count them,” the worker said after the blast in Damaturu town, BBC reported.
An emergency has been declared in three states, including Yobe, amid attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has arrested more than 400 people traveling in southern Nigeria on suspicion they are members of Boko Haram. The men, and reportedly a few women, were traveling in more than 30 buses when they were stopped by the army Sunday (June 15) and detained at an army barracks in Abia state, according to the Voice of America.
Local officials said they were suspected of being members of Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group that has killed thousands of people in the past five years, mostly in the northeast part of the country. But a traditional leader from the north told VoA that the travelers were traders, looking to do business in the south.
Tensions have risen since a church bomb in another southern Nigerian city over the weekend raised fears that Boko Haram is seeking to operate in the southern part of the country. Another attack was reported in the strife-torn north, where more than 20 people killed Sunday (June 15) in the village of Daku. And more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April remain missing, despite pledges from Nigerian authorities and governments around the world to free them.
Needs and Wants, Part II
TAMPA, Florida – At the National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and other Special Operations Forces explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments. Today we focus on another of the three world regions the 4GWAR Blog follows closely: Central and South America.
In some ways, the special operators of U.S. Southern Command (SOCSOUTH) have it easy. Most people in Latin America speak one of two languages: Spanish or Portuguese, although there are 31 countries and numerous cultures from the Andes to the Pampas. (French is spoken in Haiti and several current and former French territories like Guiana.)
But South and Central America is another vast area with climates ranging from bone dry desert, ice covered mountains and equatorial jungles to teeming cities. Four of the world’s top 25 cities by population are in Southern Command’s area of responsibility. Two of them, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are in Brazil.
While most of the region’s countries are democracies and the region’s economy is booming – like Africa’s — there is “a technology gap” between U.S. forces and partner nations who don’t have the air or computer power of their neighbors to the north, according to SOCSOUTH commander, Army Brigadier General Sean Mulholland. But Mullholland notes there is no silver bullet solution. “In SOUTHCOM, we need workable solutions,” he said, adding that solutions must be simple enough to work for foreign partners while being interoperable with existing U.S. systems. “In essence, in SOUTHCOM we are always looking for the next AK-47,” he said referring to the Soviet designed automatic assault rifle that has been manufactured and sold all over the world.
The region is plagued with landmines from past wars and insurgencies – especially in Colombia, which has the second highest land mine problem in the world after Afghanistan. Other technology priorities include riverine patrol boats, persistent intelligence, surviellance and reconnaissance (ISR) through manned surveillance aircraft or drones. And non-lethal technology to deal with the speed boats and semi-submersible drug smuggling vessels that ply the Atlantic and Pacifc coasts of South and Central America. “We have a very serious problem in SOUTHCOM with the rise in drug trafficking,” Mullholland says. While U.S. ground troops can only advise Latin American militaries in counter narcotics operations, U.S. air and naval assets help in tracking and intercepting drug dealers at sea.
TOMORROW: The Arctic
Needs and Wants, Part I.
TAMPA, Florida – At the National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and all the other specialists in Special Operations explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments.
Over the next three days, we’ll focus on what they said about the three areas of the globe we follow closely at 4GWAR Blog: Africa, Latin America and the Arctic. Today we start with Special Operations Command-Africa.
Army Brigadier General James Linder, the head of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) is responsible for an area three-and-a-half times the size of the United States with 54 countries spanning 11 million square miles. Despite weak infrastructure in many of its countries, the continent as a whole, is booming with 5.4 percent Gross Domestic Product, compared to 3.2 percent for the whole world.
Linder, whose headquarters is based in Germany, said his biggest challenges are “how do we move across vast distances” and “how do we maintain situational awareness?”
And it’s not just distance he’s concerned about, but how intelligence is gathered about potential threats or trouble spots – and how is it conveyed in a helpful fashion to allies who don’t have the communication and encryption technology the United States does.
In a place where nearly everybody has a mobile phone, Linder said he needs to keep an eye on social media as well as more traditional forms of communication to keep tabs on public sentiment and spot potential trouble spots. The cyber environment and social media is driving the way the people act,” said Linder.
His main task is to counter VEO – Violent Extremist Organizations – of which Africa seems to have more than its share – like al Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and now, Boko Haram. “Make no mistake, that is a mammoth task,” he said.
To help out, Linder is looking for tools and technology that will help his special operators set up airfields for manned and unmanned aircraft and secure areas – combat outposts, if you will – where a contingent of 50-to-100 U.S or partner country personnel can be moved quickly to jungle or desert environments and sustained for up to eight weeks.
But like most of the special operations commanders in the regional combatant commands, Linder said he’s looking for technology — including unmanned aircraft — that will meet his intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs. But the immediate challenge, he said, was getting that ISR into a format that can be passed to partner militaries quickly and can be quickly interpreted so they can take the proper action.
TOMORROW: Latin America
Wearin’ of the Green.
UPDATES with link to AP story on Air Force report about a botched security drill at another ICBM site last summer.
We know we’ve run photos in the past of the sniper camouflage outfit known as a ghillie suit, but this one caught our eye. With the red plastic training rifles and all green smoke, it looks more like a special effects scene from a science fiction movie than an important security exercise at an Air Force nuclear missile base.
But as kooky as the scene in this photo may appear, it illustrates part of a key training session: keeping the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) sites secure.
Here we see the opposing forces — the pretend bad guys — capturing a missile payload transport vehicle during a “recapture and recovery exercise” at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The exercise involved a mock hijack of a payload transporter and the necessary steps for the 91st Security Forces Group to recover the vehicle.
Such exercises evaluate the missile base’s response force and their abilities to deny hostile intruders access to Minot’s Minuteman III nuclear missiles and their launch area. The drills also hone skills for recovering control of critical equipment if attackers do gain access.
UPDATE: The necessity of such exercises has been underscored by an Air Force internal report on the security team’s “botched response” to a simulated attack at another Air Force base last summer, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. (See it here)
Land, Sea and Air
TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.
Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.
The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.
The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.
The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.
The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
U.S. Army Specialist Josh Schleuss talks with students at Sheragha Shahed High School in Afghanistan’s Parwan province. Schleuss is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment.
To see more photos of this school visit, click here.