Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’
9/11 2001 and 2014
UPDATES with additional Obama remarks, criticism by Sens. McCain and Graham, Middle East coalition agreement and maps of Iraq and Syria by the Institute for the Study of War
It’s the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania that left nearly 3,000 dead, hundreds injured and untold numbers traumatized by an surprise attack from a little known, but vicious, enemy.
Now America is gearing up to battle extremist terrorism again.
In a televised address from the White House Wednesday night (September 10) President Barack Obama outlined plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the violent militant group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The extremist group has emerged from the Syrian civil war to rout Iraqi military units and seize a swath of northern Iraq. The group, also known as ISIL (for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has killed captured prisoners, threatened non Sunni Muslims like Shia and Yazidi with extermination, killed two American journalists in gruesome videos and forced Christian Iraqis to convert to Islam, flee the country or be killed.
“ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” Obama said in his 14-minute address. He added: “And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
The president outlined a strategy for eliminating ISIS, which critics claim has taken too long to evolve and doesn’t go far enough. Obama said he was sending 475 more troops to Iraq to serve as advisers and trainers of Iraqi forces. That would bring the number of American troops there to more than 1,500 — just a few years after the United States withdrew combat troops from the war-shattered country. Obama also promised more airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq, a step he has declined to take in the past. Since August, the United States has launched 150 airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL targets in Iraq. The United States has also been dropping cargo pallets of food, water and other relief supplies to Iraqi refugees hiding in the mountains.
“Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Obama said, noting U.S. actions against al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. He also stressed that the additional forces will not have a combat mission. “We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” he pledged.
But if ISIS/ISIL is left unchecked it could pose a treat to the Middle East and beyond, including the United States. American intelligence agencies believe that thousands of foreign nationals, including Europeans and some U.S. citizens have flocked to Syria over the last three years to fight against the Assad regime and other rebel groups. There is concern that those fighters, now battled-tested and exposed to extreme radical ideology, could return to their home countries and launch terrorist attacks. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made that point back in February.
Obama called on Congress to authorize and fund the training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels. He also said the United States will work with partner nations to redouble intelligence and counter terrorism efforts to prevent a terror attack by ISIS/ISIL in America. Lastly,Obama to keep support relief efforts for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have fled their homes to avoid persecution by ISIS/ISIL. Obama pledged to head a coalition of partner nations to battle the threat. “Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid,” Obama said.
Shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry has born fruit. Leaders from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council – an alliance of the Sunni Arab Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have pledged to “stand united” against “the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” according to The Guardian website.
But the British newspaper notes there are several thorny issues such as whether the Assad regime will allow coalition warplanes into its airspace to bomb ISIS/ISIL and whether U.S. advisers will enter Syria with the retrained rebels. There are also questions about what role pro-Assad Russia will play as well as Shia-majority Iran, which sees ISIS/ISIL as a threat on its border.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.
The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples. The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.
Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.
Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy. She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.
AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria and Cameroon Battle Boko Haram, Kenyan Governor Arrested, Ebola Out of Control
An explosion at a shopping mall in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, has killed 21 and injured 17, according to officials.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack at the Emab Plaza mall in Abuja’s upscale Wuse 2 neighborhood, the Associated Press reported, but many in Nigeria are blaming the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which is behind a wave of bombings, killings and kidnappings.
On Monday (June 23) a bomb at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed eight people. At least 14 more were killed last week in a bomb blast in Damaturu, a state capital in Nigeria’s violence-wracked northeast. That attack came at a World Cup television viewing site. In May, twin car bombs at Jos in the central part of the country left more than 130 people dead. A car bomb at a bus station killed 24 more in the Christian quarter of Kano.
According to the AP, two separate explosions in Abuja in April killed more than 120 people and wounded about 200 more at a busy bus station. Both of those blasts were claimed by Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, government officials are cautioning Nigerians to be on the alert in the wake of the Abuja blast. A government spokesman told Voice of America that the government will continue warning Nigerians about the dangers posed from terrorists. “We have issued the alert earlier on. It’s an ongoing event. Even yesterday we have a security awareness programs with principals of schools, an initiative that was introduced by the government,” said the spokesman Mike Omeri. “We have also been campaigning on the media for citizens to be more careful and they should be alert even before the World Cup, and the venues for viewing should be more secured.”
But critics say the government and security forces have not been doing enough — including finding and rescuing hundreds of high school girls kidnapped in April by Boko Haram. Despite worldwide condemation and pledges to provide assistance in locating and returning the girls, they still remain prisoners, their whereabouts uncertain. According to the Canadian news site CBC News, of 395 students who were at the secondary school in the village of Chibok, near the Cameroon border, on April 14, 219 remain unaccounted for. Meanwhile, witnesses say, Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in northeast Nigeria.
Cameroon’s Boko Haram Crackdown
Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbor to the south, has been having its own troubles with Boko Haram militants and this week Cameroon’s military killed 10 suspected Boko Haram members in a clash near the border town of Mora. Officials said they also arrested 50 Nigerian businessmen on suspicion of collaborating with Boko Haram.
More is just across the border with Nigeria’s Borno state, where the Boko Haram insurgency has raged for five years. The group opposes Western teaching in Nigeria’s schools and wants to create Islamic state practicing strict Sharia law.
Colonel Chioka Pierre told Voice of America that Nigeria security forces have been conducting sweeps as part of an intensified crackdown on violent incidents, believed to be connected to Boko Haram. He said they have been searching more than half a dozen border villages to prevent incursions or to stop militants from using Cameroon as a hideout or launching pad for attacks. He said local residents were cooperating with the military to root out Boko Haram suspects in the area.
Kenya: Governor Charged
A regional governor in Kenya has been arrested and charged with terrorism and murder over attacks attacks in the Lamu district in which scores of people were killed.
Issa Timamy was charged over the attacks on the Mpeketoni town area. He faces several charges including murder. Kenya’s president has blamed the attacks on political networks, despite claims of responsibility by the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, according to the BBC.
At least 60 people were killed in the attacks earlier in June killed, as gunmen descended on hotels and a police station.
NPR is reporting that an Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now the largest and most deadly wave of that virus ever recorded. The first cases were confirmed in Guinea in March. Health in West Africa officials thought they had the disease under control, but they did not. A rash of new cases has popped up in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is calling for “drastic action” and announced an 11-nation summit meeting of the growing crisis.
As of Sunday, 635 cases of haemorrhagic fever – most confirmed to be Ebola – including 399 deaths have been reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, AFP reported via The Guardian. This week the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the outbreak of the virus, which is deadly in up to 90% of cases, was “out of control,” AFP said.
Bombs, James Bombs.
Reading a 50-year-old paperback spy novel, purchased for half a buck at the local library’s used book shelf, we were struck by the prophetic nature of the following passage about two NATO nuclear bombs held for ransom by terrorists.
Bond reached in his pocket for another cigarette. It couldn’t be, yet it was so. Just what his Service and all the other intelligence services in the world had been expecting to happen. The anonymous little man in the raincoat with a heavy suitcase–or golf bag, if you like. The left luggage office, the parked car, the clump of bushes in a park in the center of a big town. And there was no answer to it. In a few years’ time, if the experts were right, there would be even less answer to it. Every tin-pot little nation would be making atomic bombs in its backyards, so to speak. Apparently there was no secret now about the things. It had only been the prototypes that had been difficult–like the first gunpowder weapons for instance, or machine guns or tanks. Today these were everybody’s bows and arrows. Tomorrow, or the day after, the bows and arrows would be atomic bombs. And this was the first blackmail case … if they couldn’t be stopped in time, there would be nothing for it but to pay up.
In a world where China, India, Pakistan and North Korea all have nuclear weapons, terrorists turn jetliners into weapons of mass destruction and the biggest threats come, not from rival nations, but non-state actors, loosely organized international organizations like al Qaeda, Fleming’s fantasy threat seems oddly prophetic. His words leave us with something to ponder in our time. They give us some food for thought.
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Not Quite Ploughshares.
“And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” – Book of Isaiah, Chapter 2, Verses 3-4.
The U.S. defense industry isn’t quite making ploughshares yet, but as U.S. defense spending has declined, the unmanned systems sector has been talking up the capabilities of its robots, ‘droids and drones to help find lost hikers, track fleeing crime suspects and assist firefighters in remote wilderness areas.
Long time unmanned aircraft makers like AeroVironment and Insitu held briefings at last month’s big robotics industry conference in Orlando, Florida, about how their unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could assist police looking for evidence or firefighters battling wildfires. The shift to the commercial market was the talk of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) gathering in Orlando.
Wall Street and industry analysts say the U.S. defense market is flat and while manufacturers may be looking hopefully to the commercial market, business will be slow until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally decides how to integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Air Space.
All this and more is covered in an Aviation Week article your 4GWAR editor co-authored with Mike Fabey in Washington and Christina Mackenzie in Paris. The story Saving Grace: Robotic systems target civil market as defense lags, is the June 16 Defense Technology Edition of Aviation Week.
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)
Looking for Answers
UPDATES with U.S. military’s participation in the search, adds photos, video link.
There are more questions than answers in the continuing mystery of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER which disappeared last Saturday (March 8).
While we at 4GWAR are not going to report every new development – there are many rumors and far too much speculation flying around the Internet – we will note significant updates as they occur.
It turns out that the two people on board Flight MH370 travelling with stolen passports were identified as Iranian men, but INTERPOL, the international police agency, says there is nothing to indicate either man was involved in a terrorist plot. Nevertheless, the revelation that these two were able to fly with stolen travel documents exposed a major gap in airline security and is expected to goad more nations into checking the INTERPOL database of stolen passports and travel documents before allowing passengers to board. Last year, INTERPOL, officials said, one billion travelers were able to board flights without having their passports checked against the database.
Military aircraft and naval vessels from at least eight nations — including the U.S.Navy (see below) — have joined the search in and around the South China Sea. So far, no debris or wreckage has been spotted. Confusing and contradictory information from Malaysian authorities about what they know has angered the families of missing passengers and frustrated the Chinese government among others.
Malaysian authorities say the missing plane and its 239 passengers and crew may have flown hundreds of miles west of its scheduled flight plan after it disappeared from local radar. And a Chinese government agency said one of its satellites may have spotted the missing plane’s wreckage.
The USS Pinckney and USS Kidd – both Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the U.S. Seventh Fleet — are on station in the Gulf of Thailand conducting search-and-rescue operations, the Pentagon said Monday (May 10).
Two Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters are flying off the ships to aid the search, using forward-looking infrared pods to search at night. A P-3 Orion from Kadena Air Base, Japan, is also being employed in the search. The Orion brings long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts. It can loiter in the search area for about nine hours at a time.
Additionally, the USNS John Ericsson, an oiler, is providing logistical support. The American ships are working with ships from Malaysia, China and Singapore in the search effort.
To see more photos, click here.
To view a video report from The Pentagon Channel, click here.