Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’
Isn’t that a Flying Car?
This airdrop took place over Malamute Drop Zone followed by paratroopers at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The soldiers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division’s 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team.
For more photos of this operation, click here.
Security Council Votes
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously today (April 25) to approve a peacekeeping mission to the war-wracked North African nation of Mali.
A force of 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers could be deployed as soon as July, the New York Times reported. About 6,000 troops already deployed by member countries from the Economic Community of West African States — as well as about 1,000 French troops — are expected to form the base of the peacekeeping mission. France intervened in its former African colony in January when militant Islamic extremists and Tuareg separatists threatened Bamako, Mali’s capital.
For nifty interactive timeline by the Times chronicling the 16-month-old crisis in Mali, once one of the few working democracies in West Africa, click here.
Meanwhile, Mali’s interim president has launched the country’s reconciliation commission to deal with security and governance issues in the country’s north. But a Tuareg separatist group, the MNLA, refuses to disarm before beginning negotiations with the Malian government, the Voice of America reports.
Nigeria: Business and Bullets
Nigeria’s National Economic Council has approved a $9 billion foreign loan to fund new infrastructure, invest in agriculture and create jobs, Bloomberg reports. The lenders include the Export-Import Bank of China, rthe Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank. Capital interest rates on the loan will be as low as 2 percent and Nigeria will have more than 40 years to repay.
Meanwhile violence has erupted again in the country’s north, according to the Voice of America. Nearly 200 people were killed last weekend in an attack by the militant Islamist group in the fishing town of Baga. But some analysts say many of the slain may actually have been killed by security forces.
In a report that echoes earlier ones by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government says indiscriminate killings and detentions by security forces are “a seroious human-rights problem” in Nigeria, VoA reported.
Understanding People, Culture in Conflict Zones
For centuries, mathematician, inventors, traders and explorers have mapped the Earth from the ancient Mediterranean and Fertile Crescent to the mountains of Antarctica and the undersea canyons of the Atlantic.
Now social scientists, soldiers and businessmen are among those mapping a different kind of geography: human geography.
Human geography is a multi-discipline study of the Earth and how people move across it, where they gather on it and how they interact there. It combines numerous fields including history, agricultural science, economics, political science, meteorology, geology, urban studies and anthropology. Studying human geography can be very important for soldiers, says Lt. Col. Andrew Lohman, an associate professor in the Geography Department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
On-the-ground knowledge can indicate what is normal and what is out of place in a society, a province or a village. And in an era of low intensity conflicts and asymmetric warfare, that knowledge – combined with cultural sensitivity – can be as important as attack helicopters and satellite imagery.
In five deployments to Iraq with Army Special Forces, Lohman said “we learned everything about an area before going there.” The important lesson wasn’t just the facts like what percentage of the population was urban or who the local power players were, he said, but “how is this going to affect what we’re doing when we’re there.” In short, area analysis and mission analysis, Lohman told your 4GWAR editor at a Human Geography conference last Fall.
Lohman said the study of geography is making a comeback in Army circles. Its popularity is growing at West Point where every year 50 to 60 cadets pick it as their major, he added.
To read more of this story, visit the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) website.
Some Additional Background:
In the photo above, soldiers with Texas Army National Guard provide security at the Friendship Gate for team members assessing the progress of the new customs yard being built near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The new facility will help to increase border traffic.
The Army’s Human Terrain program has sent teams of sociocultural experts to both Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to avoid bloodshed and calm relations with local populations during the height of fighting in both countries. But the program has been controversial, both for how it was managed and for its basic concept of using civilian social science professionals for a military program.
U.S. VS. Ansar-al-DineOne of the violent radical Islamist groups at the center of the insurgency in northern Mali has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
In a statement released today (March 21) the State Department said Ansar-al-Dine was deemed a Foreign Terrorist Organization under federal law and also a Global Terrorist entity under an executive order that targets terrorists and those providing them support.
Ansar-al-Dine was one of the Islamic extremist groups that hijacked a largely secular rebellion by nomadic Tuareg tribesmen in Mali’s desert north last year. The rebellion, the latest in a series of revolts since the 1960s by Tuaregs seeking autonomy from Mali’s government in Bamako, the capital, mushroomed after Malian army officers staged a coup on March 22. Ironically, the military coup arose from Army frustration with Mali’s democratically-elected government was mishandling the Tuareg revolt.
Taking advantage of the political chaos, the Tuaregs swept over nearly half the country, between January and April 2012, seizing control of an area the size of France, including the legendary city of Timbuktu. But hardline groups like Ansar-al-Dine, pushed the Tuareg leadership aside and imposed strict Islamic law in the captured region. Punishments included floggings, amputation of limbs and executions. Most music was forbidden and several historic tombs were destroyed.
Ansar-al-Dine cooperates closely with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, another designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, the State Department said. During Ansar-al-Dine’s March 2012 attack on the town of Aguelhok, the group executed 82 Malian soldiers and kidnapped 30 more.
The request of Mali’s new government France, the country’s former colonial ruler, sent troops and aircraft to halt an insurgent threat to Bamako in January. French troops aided by soldiers from Chad and other African nations have driven the insurgents back almost to the Algerian border.
AFRICOM VS. al Shebaab
Speaking of extremists, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says another violent Islamist group, al-Shabaab in East Africa has been “significantly weakened from a year ago.” Army Gen. Carter Ham told the House Armed Services Committee last week (March 15) that AFRICOM was assisting partner nations battle three other violent groups: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, active in northern and western Africa; Boko Haram in Nigeria; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Ham noted that while there’s been good progress against al-Shabaab by the operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia as well as Ethiopian and Somali forces, the group is still dangerous and capable of unconventional attacks to disrupt AMISOM operations as well as the new Somali government.
Asked if he had enough resoures to battle AQIM, Ham said there were “significant shortfalls” in equipment providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information.
More on Mali
France says about 10 Islamist fighters were killed today (March 21) when French and Malin forces repelled an attack on Timbuktu, the Voice of America reports.
French President Francois Hollande said this week (March 19) that military operations in Mali are in their final phase. But military analysts are worried al-Qaeda-linked militants could return to nothern ali’s cities and towns once the French withdraw their 4,000 troops from the region. Another concern, says VOA, the Malian army is still weak. The attack on Timbuktu comes a day after a suicide car bombing killed a Malian soldier and wounded six other people at Timbuktu’s airport.
It was the first suicide attack in Timbuktu since French and Malian troops drove Islamist militants out of the ancient caravan city two months ago, the Guardian reported.
Algerian Hostage Siege
We’ve held off posting on the seizure of hostages at a natural gas plant in eastern Algeria until the situation became a little less confused. But as far as 4GWAR is concerned, the situation is still quite confusing. The Algerian prime minister said today (Jan. 21) that 37 foreign hostages were killed in the four-day terrorist incident.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal also said a “Canadian” citizen coordinated the siege`and that seven of the foreigners killed — during the initial seizure of the desert plant on Jan. 16 or in the attack by Algerian security forces that retook the plant on Jan. 19 — have yet to be identified. Five other foreigners are still missing. Seven Japanese, six Filipinos, three Americans and three Britains have been identified by their respective governments as among the confirmed dead. Others, from Britain, Norway and elsewhere are listed as unaccounted for, according to Reuters.
The Algerians say about 700 Algerian workers and 100 other foreigners survived the ordeal at the In Amenas plant near the border with Libya.
Reuters also reported that an Algerian security source told the news agency that documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified them as Canadians. At a news conference in Algiers the Algerian prime minister said a Canadian was among the militants, adding that: “He was coordinating the attack.”
A leader of the terrorist group, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attack on the gas plant in retaliation for French military intervention in Mali which Islamist militants are threatening to overrun. The AQIM says it was also punishing Alegerian officials for granting French military aircraft flyover permission on their way to Mali (See story below and note the border Mali shares with Algeria in the map above).
In a separate story from London, Reuters reported that Britain said it would increase counter-terrorism and intelligence aid to Algeria and consider giving more help to France in the fight against Islamists in Mali. But Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out any chance of direct British military intervention in Africa.
More on Mali
French and Malian troops have retaken two towns from Islamic militants several news organizations are reporting. The joint force took control of Diabaly and Douentza today (Jan. 21), although BBC reports the towns had been abandoned by militant Islamist fighters fled both towns last week after a French bombing campaign. Diabaly is about 250 miles northeast of Mali’s capital of Bamako. Douentza is about another 250 miles northeast of the capital. Diabaly was the southern-most point held by the militants, Bloomberg reported. Mali is one of Africa’s leading gold-producing countries — even though its people are desperately poor, according to Bloomberg.
The French began airstrikes using helicopters and fighter jets on Jan. 11 to halt the militants’ advance on the capital. They were concerned about Mali becoming a launching pad for terror attacks against Europe. About 2,000 French troops are in Mali already with another 500 expected, although the France, the former colonial ruler of Mali, insists it don’t plan to stay for a long time in an Afghanistan-like mission in Mali.
Meanwhile, an international force from several West African nations is beginning to form. Already about 250 soldiers from Nigeria, Togo and Senegal are in Mali. Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Ghana and Guinea have all pledged to send troops. Chad has pledged to send 2,000 troops and Nigeria will send 1,200 according to the BBC. Funding the coalition force as well as coordinating action among troops from many lands speaking many languages is still a concern.
“The crisis in Mali, if not brought under control, may spill over into Nigeria and other West African countries with negative consequences on our collective security, political stability and development efforts,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan wrote earlier this month in a letter to the country’s Senate requesting approval of the troop deployment in Mali, according to Bloomberg. Nigeria is dealing with terror attacks by its own Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said the objective in Mali was to “totally reconquer” the area seized by nomadic Tuareg nationalists and militant Islamist fundamentalist groups like Ansar Dine, The Guardian newspaper reported.
The African Threat
Do the Algerian hostage raid and French intervention in Mali — coming on the heels of Islamist militant attacks in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia signal a widening of the so-called War on Terror or an expansion of jihad from Southwest Asia and the Middle East to Africa?
A number of analysts have weighed in on that question. Here is a sampling:
An attempted military coup in Eritrea, a country sometimes called the North Korea of Africa, has apparently failed.
Eritrea, which sits just above the Horn of Africa on the Red Sea, has one of the most secretive and repressive regimes in Africa, according to the New York Times. The country won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991after a 30-year war of rebellion.
Eritrea has waged war at one time or another with nearly all of its neighbors. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on the country because of suspected support for Somali militants.
On Monday (Jan. 21) mutinous troops stormed the Ministry of Information and siezed the state-run television service (often a first step in seizing power in coups and revolutions). But apparently nobody took to the streets and soldiers loyal to the government of President Isaias Afwerki put down the would-be revolution. For details, click here and here.
Tooting Our Own Horn
This blog started in November 2009, and we were thrilled to pull in 1,352 viewers for the last two months of 2009. In 2010, our first full year online, 4GWAR was viewed 62,557 times.
So far this year we’ve gone over 200,000 visits. As of 9 a.m. Eastern Time today (Dec. 14) we have had 202, 013 visitors.
According to the elves at wordpress, who keep track of such things, the 4GWAR blog has had visitors from every country on Earth except four in Africa (South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Western Sahara) and two in Central Asia (Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). Yes, we’ve even had a visit or two from North Korea.
Sometime early next year, we’ll get the final tally from wordpress.org, but its been a pretty good year so far.
To our regular visitors and followers, Thank you very much! To first time visitors, we hope you found something interesting and useful. Please visit us again soon — and tell your friends and colleagues about us.
Your 4GWAR Editor
A U.S. Navy SEAL has been killed in an operation to rescue an American doctor kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan.
The Defense Department identified the SEAL killed in the weekend raid as Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
An official statement said Checque died “of combat related injuries suffered Dec. 8, while supporting operations near Kabul, Afghanistan.”
CNN, NPR and other news outlets that Checque was a member of SEAL Team 6, the fabled special operations unit that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout last year. It was not known if Checque, who had been a SEAL since 2004, took part in the bin Laden raid.
Checque was killed during the mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Joseph of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Joseph a medical adviser to the Colorado Springs based aid group Morning Star Development, was kidnapped Dec. 5 near the Sarobi district of Afghanistan’s Kabul province. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said the three men were kidnapped by the Taliban. But CNN says local Afghan officials said the men were kidnapped by smugglers. The other two men, who were not identified, were released about 11 hours before the raid after protracted negotiations. here were conflicting reports about whether ransom was paid to release the men.
Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan ordered the rescue mission when intelligence reports indicated Joseph was in imminent danger of injury or death. ISAF officials said it was a joint Afghan-U.S. rescue operation.
“Tragically, we lost one of our special operators in this effort,” President Barack Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” Obama said, adding: :He gave his life for his fellow Americans, and he and his teammates remind us once more of the selfless service that allows our nation to stay strong and safe and free.”
“Our relief in the safe rescue of Mr. Joseph is now tempered by our deep grief over the loss of this true hero,” Morning Star said in a statement from its headquarters in Colorado. “We offer our deepest condolences to his family and to his fellow team members. We want them to know that we will always be grateful for this sacrifice and that we will honor that sacrifice in any way we can,” Morning Star added.
TAMPA, Florida – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to leverage the resources of several top universities to create its own “think outside the box” research entity to tackle overseas threats that can ignite conflict in struggling regions – like food and water shortages, infectious disease and rapid urbanization.
By 2050, the world’s population will have grown by two billion to nine billion people, straining food and water resources – especially in the developing world, Beth Cole, director of USAID’s Office of Military Cooperation told a Special Operations conference here in Tampa this week.
“We realize that if we want to get ahead of the curve, we’ve got to look out to the future and one of the ways we’re going to [do it] is create a DARPA-like entity in USAID,” she said, referring to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – the Pentagon’s high risk research arm that has achieved several high return successes like stealth technology and the Internet.
Last month, USAID announced it was launching the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a partnership with seven American and foreign universities designed as scientific problem solvers for global development challenges.
According to USAID, the network was created to tap research institutions and their students to: catalyze global action; support entrepreneurship and foster multifaceted approaches to development. Each university will establish Development Labs to work with USAID’s field mission experts and Washington staff to apply science and technology to solve key problems in areas such as global health, food security and chronic conflict. To get the labs going, USAID is providing a total of $26 million to the seven institutions: MIT, the University of California-Berkeley, Michigan State, Duke, Texas A&M University, the College of William and Mary and Uganda’s Makerere University.
Cole enumerated some of the global challenges that will soon confront the world and the organizations trained to keep it safe and peaceful.
Nearly two billion people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. Globally, there’s been a 10 percent rise in water-caused disease. The World Health Organization recorded 1,100 epidemics in the last year – many of them spread by animals. “I want you to think about chickens in large cities,” Cole said, noting that the developing world – where economic and educational disparities, food shortages and disease have fueled violent extremist movements – is fast becoming an urban world.
She noted that 75 percent of the world’s largest cities are in the developing world – many of them in the littoral areas close to the sea. The populations of Nigeria and Pakistan “two fragile, conflict-affected states – one of them with nuclear weapons” are projected to grow 30 percent in the near future.
“How are you going to deal with security in teeming cities affected by one of these challenges,” Cole asked attendees at the Special Operations Summit sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).
She noted USAID and U.S. Special Operations Command (which oversees Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, Nightstalker helicopter pilots and other special operations personnel) have been cooperating for years in places like Afghanistan to improve security and economic conditions.
Go Get ‘em
U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Tacket, launches an RQ-20 Puma, a Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) during training at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Small drones like the Puma are in high demand in Afghanistan, especially with Army and Marine Corps ground forces. The Marine Corps placed a $5.5 million order with the manufacturer, AeroVironment, in April. The Marines want the 13-pound, hand-launched UAV to help spot roadside bombs (known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs), Marine Times reported.
In March, the U.S. Army placed a $20.4 million order with Monrovia, California-based Aerovironment for the RQ-20A AE, the latest version. Called the “all environment” it can fly in all weather, day or night, according to the manufacturer.
The RQ-20A AE is equipped with an electro-optical and infrared video camera that rotates on a gimbal. The Puma is battery-powered and can stay aloft for two hours.
In 2008, U.S. Special Operations Command picked the Puma for its All Environment Capable Variant (AECV) program.
Tacket is assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Air, Sea and Land
At a time when all of the armed services face cuts in personnel, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is one of the few Defense Department entities expecting to increase rather than decrease its force size. USSOCOM leaders also anticipate little or no reduction in funding for Fiscal Year 2013.
In the meantime, USSOCOM is looking for some special equipment to help preform its global mission.
SOCOM is a combatant command with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps elements. So it needs aircraft, boats and ground vehicles tailored to its unique missions: providing a fully capable force to defend the United States and its interests, while synchronizing the planning of global operations against terrorist networks.
SOCOM’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request of $10.4 billion includes — for the first time — overseas contingency operations funding: $2.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. Previously, OCO funding was listed off the baseline budget for years. The Fiscal 2013 request is down slightly from the $10.5 billion sought in Fiscal 2012.
The Fiscal 2013 baseline budget for Special Ops procurement dropped slightly from $1.9 billion in Fiscal 2012 to this year’s $1.8 billion request. Of that, $760.8 million is going for aircraft acquisition and upgrades of existing helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. For example, SOCOM seeks $126.8 million to complete the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into the SOF-configured MH-60M. These upgraded helicopters come in two versions: a troop transport configuration and a Defensive Armed Penetrator (DAP) configuration.
To read the rest of my article on Special Operations Forces, please visit the IDGA website by clicking here.