Posts filed under ‘International Relief’
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 war in Afghanistan may be winding down but that’s not the case with homemade bombs and booby traps, according to the commander of the Defense Department unit battling improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“I believe the IED and the networks that use these asymmetric weapons will remain a threat to our forces [overseas] and here at home for decades,” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero says.
Barbero is director of the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Since its creation in 2006, it has used high tech detection systems, body armor, trained bomb sniffing dogs, unmanned air and ground vehicles, and heavilly armored vehicles to thwart attacks on troops and civilians, first in Iraq and now, Afghanistan.
“The IED is the weapon of choicefor threat networks because they are cheap, readilly available, largely off the shelf, easy to construct, lethal and accurate,” Barbero told the House Appropriation Committee’s defense spending panel Sept. 20.
Between Fiscal Years 2006 and 2011, JIEDDO has received more than $8 billion for Counter IED (C-IED) programs. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department has spent billions of dollars developing C-IED capabilities — including $40 billion on mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles – large, lumbering trucks and wheeled-personnel carriers known as MRAPs.
Yet IEDs are still the leading cause of civilian, military and law enforcement casualties in boith Afghanistan and Pakistan, Barbero told a Senate subcommittee hearing last month. “More than 60 percent of U.S. combat casualties in Afghanistan – both killed and wounded in action – are a result of IEDs,” he added.
The spread of IEDs beyond Afghanistan and how to counter them will be discussed at a conference later this month in Washington sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. To read more of my C-IED story, click here.
Numbers to Meet the Challenges
Emerging from more than a decade of unconventional warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military now confronts looming budget cuts in Washington, but leaders of the nation’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) say they don’t expect any slowdown in their operational tempo around the globe.
“We will likely remain engaged against violent extremist networks for the foreseeable future,” Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) told a Senate committee hearing earlier this year.
But that engagement won’t be limited to night raids, hostage rescues and covert insertions into hostile territory. McRaven and other U.S. officials say special operators also will be partnering with the State Department and other federal agencies, as well as friendly foreign militaries, on non-kinetic programs like working with civil authorities and training indigenous troops. The aim of both types of operation is to prevent extremists from capitalizing on political discontent, ethnic rivalries and economic frustration to fuel their strategy of terror and violence in places like Yemen, the Horn of Africa and countries bordering the Sahara Desert.
The Defense Department plans to trim $478 billion in spending over the next 10 years, leading to force reductions among all the services – particularly the Army and Marine Corps. But USSCOM — a joint command that includes the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands as well as the Navy Special Warfare Command — expects its numbers rise from just over 66,000 personnel now, to 71,000 by Fiscal Year 2015.
Even as the number of conventional U.S. troops drops in Afghanistan between now and 2014, when U.S. and coalition forces turn national security responsibilities over to the Afghans, USSOCOM officials expect SOF troop levels there to remain stable, raising their size proportionally as the other troops depart.
To read the rest of my article on Special Operations Forces, please visit the IDGA website by clicking here.
This week’s FRIFO performs double duty. It gives an inside view of all the gauges, displays and switches that pilots of the HC-130H have to monitor to get where they’re going (always a popular topic with 4GWAR visitors). It also highlights this year’s Operation Arctic Shield exercise in the Far North of Alaska.
Arctic Shield, which runs until October is an exercise to determine what capabilities the Coast Guard needs to ensure it can respond to search and rescue or disaster relief missions — like an oil spill — in the harsh Arctic environment. With polar sea ice melting and the world’s thirst for fossil fuel sources of energy growing, more activity is expected in Arctic waters in the near future, including: oil and gas drilling, commercial fishing, tourism and trans-oceanic cargo transport.
But the nearest Coast Guard station to the Arctic is in Kodiak, Alaska – thousands of miles away. The Coast Guard’s only ice breaking vessel is even farther away, so during the summer and early fall, Arctic Shield will deploy a temporary Coast Guard air station at Barrow, Alaska on the Arctic Sea.
Fixed wing aircraft as well as two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters will be deployed in and around Barrow and Coast Guard cutters will be on patrol at sea.
The photo below shows the big four-engine Hercules at Kodiak.
To see a Defense Department slideshow of preparations for Arctic Shield, click here.
For other photos, click here.
Development, Diplomacy, Defense
Even as U.S. defense strategy shifts emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region, there are still a lot of opportunities for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), to tackle development, diplomacy and defense issues on the continent, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on African Affairs says.
Sen. Chris Coons, back from a recent trip to East Africa, says AFRICOM fits into the emerging security framework that envisions more multi-lateral action in regions outside the Pacific Rim.
“Unlike other combatant comands [AFRICOM] doesn’t have significant legacy assets that need to be restructured in this Pacific pivot,” Coons told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Tuesday (June 19).
But the Delaware Democrat says AFRICOM’s leadership still has a way to go in convincing African leaders and communities that it will not turn into a warfighting command like U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since it was created by President George Bush in 2007, AFRICOM has been criticized in the blogosphere and some newspaper columns that claim it is only a front to gain control of African natural resources such as oil, cobalt and diamonds … keep U.S.-friendly – but anti-democratic – regimes in power … or to use the African continent as a chess piece to block Chinese economic and military expansion.
But AFRICOM’s mission statement says its job is to protect and defend U.S. national security interests “by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations.” And “when directed,” conduct military operations in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.”
To date, AFRICOM remains headquartered in Germany. Liberia was the only African nation to publicly offer it a home base.
Coons added that in the end, AFRICOM will have to show it is “really designed to facilitate partnership between development, diplomacy and defense” – and to work in partnership with, and in support of, our regional allies as they pursue missions that also support the security of the United States.
Coons recently completed a visit to Kenya and Tanzania — and Uganda, where he spent half a day meeting with a U.S. special operations forces unit that is assisting a “multi-lateral effort” to track down renegade rebel leader Joseph Kony and his lieutenants.
For decades, Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have cut a swath of terror and death throughout eastern and central Africa. The LRA has pillaged villages and killed or kidnapped hundreds of people in Kony’s native Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
In March Coons introduced a Senate Resolution (S. Res. 402) condemning Kony and the LRA for crimes against humanity. The resolution also supports international efforts to “remove him from the battlefield,” and calls for the United States to continue mobility, intelligence and logistical support of African forces protecting civilians and pursuing the LRA.
The resolution, led by Coons and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With 45 sponsors, it awaits action by the full Senate.
U.S. Marines have begun arriving in Australia in the first six-month rotation as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries. But the pact has raised concerns with China and at least one other country in the region.
About 200 members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment arrived Tuesday (April 3) in the northern city of Darwin. They are the first contingent of 2,500 Marines expected to be deployed in Australia by 2017. It’s all part of an agreement signed by President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard when Obama was Down Under in November, the New York Times reported. At that time, Beijing criticized the move as a figment of “Cold War mentality” that would destabilize the region.
The Marines will be there largely to train with the Australian Defence Force – particularly in amphibious warfare operations, which the Marines see as one of their primary skills – and a primary reason for continued funding in hard budgetary times. The Third Marines are based in Hawaii.
The agreement between the U.S. and Australia also calls for greater access to Royal Australian Air Force bases for U.S. aircraft and eventually more visits by U.S. Navy vessels to the western Australian naval base outside Perth. The Marines, who will be stationed at Robertson Barracks outside Darwin, will also be better positioned to respond to natural disasters in Southeast Asia and provide humanitarian assistance, U.S. officials told the Voice of America. There will be no U.S. base in Australia, officials said.
Australia has been a close U.S. ally since World War II. Australia sent troops to the Korean and Vietnam wars and Australia has been one of the largest non-NATO contributors of military personnel in Afghanistan. Last year, for the fourth time, the U.S. and Australian militaries conducted a biennial training exercise, Talisman Sabre in northern Australia and adjoining waters. Fourteen thousand U.S. and 9,000 Australian troops participated in the exercise last July.
Under the November agreement, the U.S. troops will be rotated in an out of Australia but not permanently based there. The deployment is part of the Obama administration’s strategy shift focusing on the Asia Pacific region after more than 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has also reached an agreement with the island nation of Singapore to base two of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) there. Singapore has been a key player in the efforts to halt piracy in the area near the Malacca Strait, a major maritime choke point through which much of the world’s oil is shipped. Australia is also negotiating with Washington about allowing U.S. unmanned aircraft to fly surveillance missions out of the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean about 1,700 miles/2,750 kilometers from Perth.
The Philippines is also in negotiations with the U.S. to allow a large U.S. troop presence in the former American colony, which evicted U.S. forces from a large air base and naval station there in the 1990s. Filipino law bars U.S. troops from fighting on Philippines oil although there are U.S. military advisers providing medical, veterinary and educational assistance as well as instruction in counter insurgency tactics. But like many of its neighbors, the Philippines has had territorial – and sometimes physical – confrontations with the China, which claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.
In addition to alarming China, the Marine deployment and the other military moves in Asia raised concerns in Indonesia, according the Australian Boadcasting Corp.
Updates with Dempsey visit to Brazil, adds background (in italics)
Colombia Rebels Killed
Government troops in Colombia killed 36 rebels Monday (March 26) in an airstrike on a training camp in the state of Metas south of Bogota, the capital.
It was the second such raid against Colmbia’s main guerilla force in less than a week. On March 21, the Colombian military killed 33 rebels in another air raid on Arauca state near the border with Venezuela, the British newspaper The Guardian reported. That raid followed an early March rebel attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers.
The attacks come just as the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, said it would release the last of its prisoners – some of them held for as long as 14 years – early next month.
FARC has been waging an insurgency against Bogota since the 1960s resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers, rebels and citizens. In recent years FARC has been battered by an increasingly professional and effective Colombian military with U.S. financial aid and military assistance, the Associated Press reported.
Recently FARC said it was halting kidnappings for ransom, a long-time source of income along with the illegal cocaine trade.
Veteran U.S. Officers to Assist Colombia
The United States is preparing to send Army brigade commanders with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan to Colombia to assist a joint task force aimed at defeating FARC guerillas.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, on a tour of Colombia and Brazil, says the U.S. officers will visit commanders of Joint Task Force Vulcano for two weeks to help with leader development and share their experience fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The task force is one of several created by the Colombian government to disrupt rebel organizations engaging in drug smuggling, arms trafficking, illegal mining and bomb manufacturing. The learning experience won’t be a one way street, Demsey says, adding that he fully expects U.S. leaders to learn from the Colombian counterparts.
On a two-day visit to Colombia to meet with high ranking political and defense officials, Dempsey said Colombia had a good strategy for combating FARC. That strategy calls for cutting FARC’s forces – now numbering 8,000-to-9,000 – by 2014.
During his meetings, Dempsey said the Colombians indicated ways to accelerate their efforts on the ground including: border security, protecting critical infrastructure, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, intelligence fusion, airlift and unmanned aircraft.
The Colombians also would like the U.S. to provide additional aircraft to transport cargo and troops, Dempsey told reporters traveling with him, the Associated Press reported.
Getting Closer to Brazil
Dempsey wound up his first trip to South America as chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a visit to Brazil, where he met with Brazilian military leaders and toured the country’s jungle warfare training center near Manaus in the Amazonia region. The world class training center has seen only a few U.S. troops among its students. In fact, it has graduated more officers and non-commissioned officers from France (86) than from the U.S. (25) in its 48-year history.
Dempsey said Brazil, the largest country and largest economy in South America, has a key role to play in the region. The Pentagon, as part of its new strategic guidance, is seeking to enlist the assistance of Brazil, Colombia and other countries in the region to block the spread of terrorist groups and transnational crime – particularly narcotics trafficking.
To protect its the offshore oil deposits and the water and agricultural resources of the Amazon region, Brazil is expanding its military acquisitions under a 2010 defense strategy. It is building five submarines – one them nuclear-powered – in an agreement with French shipbuilder DCNS. France also has a deal to sell Brazil 50 EC725 Cougar military transport helicopters. And Sao Paulo is said to be close to deciding from whom it will buy 36 next generation mult-role combat jet fighters.
Brazil is, itself, a military manufacturer and exporter. Recently it sold the Embraer’s Super Tucan turbo-prop plane, which can serve as a trainer or light attack counter insurgency weapon, to three African nations: Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In the past, when it was ruled by a military junta, Brazil was a leading manufacturer and exporter of armored vehicles, rocket launchers and small arms.
In addition to international drug cartels that move drug shipments by plane, boat and homemade submarines, U.S. security planners are also concerned about the activities of Iran, China and Russia in Latin America and the presence of businesses linked to international terrorist groups – particularly in the largely lawless Triple Frontier region where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay share borders.
Dempsey said he was concerned that transit routes used to smuggle drugs today could be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction in the future, the AP’s Robert Burns reported.
To see a 10-minute French television report on the Brazilian jungle warfare training center click here. (In French except where it’s in Brazilian Portuguese)
Congo Election Violence
A United Nations report say security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) committed numerous human rights violations – including murders, shooting into crowds and arbitrary arrests – during contentious national elections late last year.
Investigators at the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC found at least 33 people were killed in the nation’s capital, Kinshasa, by security forces during November and December, the Associated Press reported. At least 83 other people were wounded and more than 250 were detained.
President Joseph Kabila won election Nov. 28 for a second-five year term with a reported 49 percent of the vote. But foreign observers, including the European Union and the United States said voting was marred by violence and intimidation.
The human rights abuses were attributed to elements of Kabila’s Republican Guard and the National Congolese police with armed forces troops involved to a lesser extent, Reuters reported.
The DRC – the second largest and fourth most populous country in Africa – has been wracked by civil war, invading armies and militias – including the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army – as well as a refugee crisis for decades. But is has some of the world’s largest copper and cobalt deposits – as well as gold, diamonds and oil.
Mali Soldiers and Rebels
Updates with White House condemnation of coup violence
The North African nation of Mali has been battling an uprising by Tuareg tribesman for months and now the army is up in arms over poor equipment, supplies and compensation for the families of slain soldiers.
As soldiers fired their guns into the air Wednesday (March 21) in Bamako — the land-locked desert nation’s capital– and seized the government’s radio and TV broadcasting center, the question arose: Is it a coup, a mutiny or simply a protest?
The answer is now apparent: It’s a coup. On Thursday leaders of the rebellious soldiers announced on state television that they were ending “the incompetent rule” of President Amadou Toumani Toure and suspending Mali’s constitution to protest the poorly led campaign against the Tuareg rebels, the Voice of America reports.
In Washington, the White House issued a statement strongly condemning the coup’s violence and calling for “the immediate restoration of constitutional rule in Mali, including full civilian authority over the armed forces …” The statement added that the U.S. stood by Toure’s “legitimately elected government.”
Soldiers in a base outside the capital. and at another one closer to the fighting with the Tuaregs, began their protest complaining about the government’s inept response to the Tuareg rebellion that has seen several northen towns fall to the nomadic tribesmen and many soldiers killed or captured
Previously, according to the Associated Press, a Twitter message from Malian President Toumani Toure proclaimed: “There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny.” Now Toure’s whereabouts are unknown and several cabinet ministers have been arrested, according to reports out of Bamako.
The Tuaregs have sought an independent state in northern Mali for decades but the latest uprising was spurred by the recent return of heavily-armed Tuareg fighters from Libya where they served as mercenaries for Muammar Gaddafi before the Libyan strongman was deposed and killed.
Many Malian soldiers have been killed in the fighting for which they claim they are poorly armed and equipped. The Tuaregs have seized several northern towns.
Early reports Wednesday (March 21) said the Army revolt was merely recruits venting their frustration for how the Tuareg conflict was being handled but by late in the day parts of the capital were under the muntineers’ control and Toure was holed up in his presidential palace guarded by his elite Red Berets, according to the AFP news agency.
Meanwhile the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is calling on the Tuareg group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad to halt their attacks and take the Malian government up on its offer of peace talks, the AP reported.
Chad: Sahel Hunger Crisis
In another Northern African desert country, children are starting to die from malnutrition as a hunger crisis looms across the Sahel, the arid borderland that stretches across the continent south of the Sahara.
The international relief agency, Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger), says malnutrition has soared in western Chad.
Aid agencies like Action Against Hunger have been warning for months that the Sahel faces a food crisis because of drought, poor harvests and population dislocated by the war in Libya and the Tuareg revolt in Mali.
The United Nations estimates the crisis could affect at least 15 million people across Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkino Faso, Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania.
All maps, CIA World Factbook
Public Enemy No. 1?
If he isn’t there already, crazed African warlord Joseph Kony is well on his way to being the most hated man in the world thanks to a video that has gone viral on the Internet.
In a little more than three days, the video “Kony 2012” has been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, P. Diddy and Justin Bieber have mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook. And money is rolling in to the San Diego, California-based activist group, Invisible Children, which produced the 30-minute video.
Kony is the enigmatic leader of a renegade rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army which has been terrorizing parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic for more than two decades.
In October, President Barack Obama dispatched 100 special operations forces to help Ugandan troops – mostly through training – end Kony’s 26-year reign of terror.
The 4GWAR Blog first wrote about Kony — who is under indictment by the International Criminal Court — and his killer cronies back in April 2010.
At that time Human Rights Watch said the LRA had killed 321 people in a raid on a part of northeast Congo. And 250 other people were abducted including 80 children. The United Nations and other authorities have said LRR turns kidnapped boys into child soldiers forced to kill and girls are turned into sexual slaves.
While the video has raised awareness about Kony’s depredations, and lots of money, critics in both the U.S. and Uganda question Invisible Children’s motives and strategy. They say the video campaign oversimplifies the problem, noting that Kony’s band is just one of the many militias, rebel armies and national troops ravaging Central Africa for years. They also question what Invisible Children is spending its money on since its financial reports indicate only just over a third of its $8.9 million 2011 budget actually went to African programs. The charity addressed many of these points on its Webpages.
AROUND AFRICA: West Africa Drug Trafficking, the Sahel Drought, Senegal’s Election, Nigerian Violence
West Africa and the Sahel
West Africa and the zone between the Sahara and the savannah lands, known as the Sahel, are being buffeted by a wave of troubles from cocaine trafficking and sectarian strife, to piracy and a growing food crisis. Here’s a rundown from numerous press acounts:
South American drug cartels are taking advantage of West Africa’s poverty, corruption, weak law enforcement and porous borders to ship drugs worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Europe, according to a United Nations agency.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that cocaine trafficking in est and Central Africa generates “some $900 million annually,” the Associated Press reports.
And U.N. Secretary Ban-Ki-Moon has growing concern about stability in West Africa and the Sahel region to the north “because of a rise in organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy, a growing food crisis and the influx of weapons from the upheaval in Libya,” AP says.
The United Nations says 10 million people in the Sahel are facing a food crisis brought on by drought, poor harvests and population dislocation in the region due to the Libyan revolt, a Tuareg rebellion in Mali and violence in other parts of the region, according to another press report.
Countries affected by the crisis include Senegal, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Senegal’s government, caught up in a contentious presidential election, doesn’t appear to be focusing on the situation, according to the Voice of America.
Senegal’s capital, Dakar, has been wracked by demonstrations as opposition groups threaten to make the West African country ungovernable if the incumbent president, 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade, runs for a third term in this weekend’s coming election.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is in Senegal as an election observer, is trying to make peace, according to an AP story via Time magazine.
The opposition galvanized when the Senegalese Supreme Court ruled that Wade could run again. At least six people have been killed in demonstrations this year. Previously, the country has been seen as a model democracy and remains the only one in the region where the Army has never seized power.
Meanwhile, more violence is reported in northern Nigeria where a radical Islamist group has killed at least 300 people. The latest incident was a series of explosions in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, in the predominantly Muslim northern part of the country.
There were no immediate reports of casualties but authorities are concerned that it might be another attack by Boko Haram, a increasingly violent group bent on imposing sharia, or Islamic, law in northern Nigeria.