Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’
AROUND AFRICA: Joseph Kony Surrender Talk; Nigeria vs. Boko Haram, Swedish Drone on East African Anti-pirate Patrol
End of the Road for LRA Leader?
Is he really sick? Does he seriously want to surrender? Those were the questions swirling around Joseph Kony, leader of the infamous, brutal rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. An African Union official told reporters at United Nations headquarters Wednesday (November 20) that many reports say Kony – who has been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court – is seriously ill and on the run along the borders of Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), according to the Associated Press.
Ambassador Francisco Madeira told reporters the nature of Kony’s illness isn’t known, but he said Michael Djotodia, president of the Central African Republic (CAR) told him that his people had been in contact with Kony.
A spokesman for Djotodia went even farther, telling the Voice of America that Djotodia has talked with Kony by phone and that Kony said he is ready to put down his arms and come in from the bush.
The spokesman said Kony is in the southern part of the CAR near the Democratic Republic of the Congo with some 7,000 fighters. Past estimates have placed Kony’s troop strength as less than a thousand.
But U.S. Officials are skeptical that Kony means to surrender, the BBC reported. A State Department official told the British broadcaster that while some rebels have been in contact with authorities but Kony is not among them. Kony created the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the 1980s as a popular uprising against the Ugandan government. But the LRA was driven out of Uganda in 2005 and has been wandering between the CAR, the DRC and South Sudan, wreaking havoc, killing villagers and soldiers and abducting children to serve as child soldiers and sex slaves.
A contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces have been advising African troops in the hunt for Kony and the LRA. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for him.
Battling Boko Haram
Lawmakers in Nigeria have approved a six-month extension of a state of emergency declaration in areas of the West African nation where troops are fighting Islamist militants, the Voice of America reports.
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in May, as part of an effort to defeat the violent militant group Boko Haram.
Last week (November 13) the U.S. State Department declared Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organizations. The U.S. government finding labeled Boko Haram a “militant group with links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)” – al Qaeda’s North African affiliate.
The State Department designation held Boko Haram responsible “for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years – including targeted killings of civilians.” It accused the group of a “brutal campaign” against Nigerian military, government and civilian targets including a September attack that killed more than 160 civilians in Benisheikh and a 2011 suicide bombing at United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that left 21 dead and dozens injured.
U.S. officials accused Ansaru, a smaller group which split with Boko Haram in January 2012, of attacking the Nigerian military and Western targets like the kidnapping and execution of seven international construction workers earlier this year.
Despite the inroads Nigerian security forces have made against the jihadist group in urban areas, Boko Haram killings and kidnappings have increased in rural areas, says John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations. On the CFR Blog, Africa in Transition, Campbell says there are reports Boko Haram is now targeting – and beheading – truck drivers on the road between Kano and Maiduguri (see map, click to enlarge image) in northeast Nigeria, where the group is trying to impose strict Islamic sharia law.
Horn of Africa
Saab’s Skeldar Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) has been operationally deployed aboard a Spanish naval vessel on anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa, the African defense and security website Defence Web reports.
Skeldar is an unmanned rotary wing short-to-medium range aircraft. Mikael Franzen, director of tactical UAS for the Swedish defense contractor, said the Skeldar V-200 is being operated together with a manned helicopter to extend the ship’s surveillance reach in counter piracy activities by the European Union’s Operation Atalanta anti-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean .
The unmanned helo is based on the Spanish Navy offshore patrol vessel BAM Meteoro. Prior to being deployed in the Atalanta mission, Skeldar unerwent successful sea trials aboard the BAM Relampago in the waters off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Defence Web said.
Money’s Tight but Threats Are Growing
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) may be best known for rescuing pirate captives in and around the Horn of Africa and taking out al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan …
… but that’s only a small part of what the SOF community does, says Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command – which oversees the organization, training and equipping of SOF in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
“Our core competency is understanding this human domain,” McRaven, a Navy SEAL, said during a panel discussion at last month’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference in Washington. He was referring to understanding the language, culture, history and human networks of any given battle space before operations begin – whether counter insurgency or hostage rescue.
And that competency will be crucial in future conflicts where landpower intersects with the human and cyber domains, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, another member of the panel discussing the human nature of war and its implications for strategic landpower at AUSA. “Human interaction in a complex environment is going to be key to our success in the future,” Odierno said, noting: “I see SOF as the connective tissue between the [local] population and the conventional forces.”
McRaven has been telling audiences that as threats rise globally – but defense funding dwindles in coming years – SOF is going to have to partner with foreign allies, NATO forces and other agencies within the U.S. government like the State Department to accomplish its missions.
“We have limited resources, we have to figure out where we’re going to apply those resources,” McRaven told the Aspen Institute Security Forum in July. But he noted that working with partners is nothing new to SOF. “The larger part of what we do is help build partner capacity,” McRaven told the Aspen, Colorado conference.
To read more of this article, go to the Institute of Defense and Government Advancement‘s website.
AROUND AFRICA: Hostages Released, Somali Drone Strike; Kenya Mall Attack Arrests, Another Pirate Attack
(Click on images to enlarge)
Hostages in Niger Freed
French hostages abducted from a uranium mine in Niger in 2010 have been released, French President Francois Hollande announced today (October 29). He said France’s foreign and defence ministers have left for Niger’s capital, Niamey, and the hostages would return home as soon as possible, according to the BBC.
The four men were seized in September 2010 in raids targeting two French firms operating a uranium mine near Arlit, northern Niger. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it was responsible for the kidnappings.
Drone Targets al Shabab?
A U.S. missile strike destroyed a car in Somalia Monday (October 28) believed to be carrying a top leader of the al Shabab Islamist militant group, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported.
The attack was believed to be launched from an unmanned aircraft, or drone, but that has not been officialy confirmed. If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will further illustrate the increasing importance placed by estern powers on counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, the AP noted. Among the dead in the attack was al Shabab’s top bombmaker, Ibrahim Ali, one of the group’s members told the AP.
Three weeks ago, U.S. Navy SEALS launched an unsuccessful raid at Baraawe on the Somali coast that targeted a Kenyan of Somali origin, known as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, who went by the name “Ikrimah.” He was identified as the main planner of al-Shabab attack on Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations’
The New York Times noted that the Obama administration has been reluctant to launch drone strikes in Somalia with the regularity it has in Pakistan and Yemen. The Times said that may be in part over whether the U.S. could legally target al Shabaab, which has not tried to attack on American soil. There are also concerns that drone strikes might only incite al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab, transforming the group from a regional organization aimed at driving Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union troops out of Somalia into one with an agenda as violent and international as Al Qaeda’s.
Arrests in Nairobi Mall Looting
Two Kenyan soldiers have been fired – and arrested – for stealing cell phones and other items during last month’s deadly siege at an upscale mall in Nairobi, the Voice of America reported today (Oct. 29).
More than 60 people were killed during the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping center.
Security camera footage showed several soldiers taking things from various shop counters and walking away from stores carrying plastic bags during four-day ordeal.
At first the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the mall’s shops while battling Islamist militants. But after the carnage was over, shopkeepers claimed stores had been looted, including break-ins at automatic teller machines and banks themselves in the mall. Earlier, the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the Westgate shopping center as they battled Islamist militants.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid, saying it was retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention into Somalia two years ago. Kenya sent troops to Somalia to help battle al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a strict Islamist state.
West African Pirates
The new Tom Hanks film, “Captain Phillips” illustrates how dangerous the waters off the coast of East Africa were just a few years ago.
But now the seafarers’ danger zone is on the other side of the continent, in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Christian Science Monitor relates.
While Somalia’s pirates tend to engage in protracted hostage-takings that could stretch for months or even years, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea prefer smash-and-grab operations to steal cargo, according to the Monitor, adding “They especially favor refined oil products like gasoline and diesel that can be sold elsewhere.”
In the latest incident, two American merchant seamen – the captain and chief engineer of the C-Retriever – a 222-foot oil platform supply vessel, were seized by pirates in the waters off Nigeria, where pirate incidents have boomed lately.
The merchant sailors’ whereabouts are currently unknown.
The C-Retriever is owned by the company Edison Chouest Offshore in Louisiana. The ship and 11 other members of the crew were released, the Associated Press reported.
Foreign Internal Defense
WASHINGTON – Michael Sheehan, the former top special operations adviser to the Secretary of Defense, says he doesn’t like to use the word “COIN” – as in COunter INsurgency – anymore.
“Because it’s so overused now,” Sheehan – former Assistant Defense Secretary for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) – told the International Stability Operations Association’s annual summit recently. “For me, counter insurgency is done by local forces and the U.S. helps them do it,” he told the conference of companies that provide services ranging from construction to air transport for humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and development organizations.
And for direct action – when U.S. advisers are doers, as well as teachers – Sheehan says he’s advocated for a long time “that we train the locals to go through the door – not the U.S.” In other words, train and advise foreign armies or rebels – depending on their politics – how to defend themselves, but then taking a step back and let the locals doing the shooting or “kinetic action.”
Sheehan has had a little experience in this field. A former Special Forces (Green Beret) officer, counter insurgency adviser in Latin America, adviser to U.N. Peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Haiti, National Security Council staffer at the White House, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for counter terrorism, a high-ranking official in the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner for Counter Terrorism – retired from the Pentagon this past summer. One of the key assignments of Army Special Forces and other special operators is Foreign Internal Defense: teaching the local population how to defend itself against terrorism by insurgents or a repressive regime.
“I believe this is the future, where we train, advise and assist from behind, both in counter insurgency and direct action strategy,” Sheehan said. That belief is held by other SO/LIC leaders, like Adm. William McRaven, the head of Special Operations Command, which oversees the commandos and unconventional warfare specialists in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
To see a video of McRaven and Sheehan both speaking about these issues at a counter terrorism panel at the Aspen Institute last summer, click here.
Explanation of “Give a man a fish…”
Special Ops in Africa
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) launched two separate raids on terrorists in Africa over the weekend – with mixed results.
In Libya, Delta Force operators and FBI and CIA agents captured a long sought al Qaeda operative and spirited him without incident onto an amphibious Navy transport ship in the Mediterranean for interrogation and eventual trial in federal court in New York.
The objective of the Saturday (Oct. 5) raid was capture of Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai – known as Anas al Libi – who was wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people.
“As a result of the Libya operation, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists was captured and is now in U.S. Custody,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement Sunday (Oct. 6). “Abu Anas al Libi was designated as a global terrorist by Executive Order, was a subject of the U.S. Rewards for Justice Program, and is on the UN Al Qaeda sanctions list. He was also indicted for his alleged role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, and other plots to conduct attacks against U.S. interests,” Hagel added.
The Associated Press reported that members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force l- which has responsibility for counter terrorism operations in North Africa – led the operation against al Libyi. He was taken without incident on the street in front of his house in Tripoli.
In another commando mission on Saturday Navy Seals stormed a beachside compound in Somalia, reportedly to capture another alleged terrorist leader. This time the target was a Kenyan national of Somalia descent, known as Ikrema, a planner for al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia, the Voice of America reported.
After a brief firefight outside the compound where Ikrema was thought to be, the SEALs withdrew without casualties. One or two al Shabab fighters are believed to have been killed, according to the AP, which reported the raiders were from SEAL Team 6 which attacked and killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a helicopter raid into Pakistan in 2011.
According to CBS news, Ikrema was planning attacks on Kenya’s parliament building and the U.N. Headquarters in Nairobi. The raid took place just two weeks after a terror attack on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 soldiers and civilians dead. Al Shabab took crfedit for that attack. CBS also said the SEALs called off the mission because there were too many civilians – including children – to call in an airstrike to get Ikrema.
“We will continue to maintain relentless pressure on terrorist groups that threaten our people or our interests, and we will conduct direct action against them, if necessary, that is consistent with our laws and our values,” Hagel said.
Commando School, French Style
During their initial training, cadets from France’s elite Saint-Cyr Special Military School undergo a four-week training session at Les Saint-Cyrien au Centre national d’entrainement commando (CNEC) — National Commando Training Centre. There they can earn the designation “monitor commando.”
Training ranges from alpine climbing and rapeling to martial arts and aquatic skills as we see here. After jumping from a motorboat going full speed, these cadets have to swim to zodiac boats and clamber aboard.
To see a slide show of all the tricks of the trade that must be mastered, click here on the French Defense Ministry website. Caution, it’s all in French.
Easing Privacy, Civil Liberties Concerns
Unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as unmanned air systems, remotely piloted aircraft or simply, drones — have been getting a lot of attention lately because their use in missile strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Critics of U.S. policy say those strikes also kill civilians, causing hard feelings against the United States among the very people it’s trying to win over.
There is also concern that when the Federal Aviation Administration finally allows drones to fly in U.S. airspace, many will be used by police, government agencies, paparazzi and just plain snoops to spy on people — violating innocent people’s privacy and suspected criminals’ civil rights.
An organization of aviation-friendly state officials is also concerned that a growing wave of UAV-restricting state laws could hurt a burgeoning industry that they predict will some day create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in commercial business and tax revenues for the states.
Already, at least six states have passed legislation restricting UAVs including who can fly them and what they can be used for. Several of those laws limit how law enforcement can use the robotic aircraft in investigations.
Now the Aerospace States Association has come up with guidelines for state lawmakers on how they can regulate UAVs without killing off a job-creating industry in its infancy. The association, after consulting with two state government national organizations and other stakeholders like the American Civil Liberties Union, came up with proposals such as when a search warrant should be required for an aerial search of property by a UAV.
Your 4GWAR editor was at the association’s briefing on the guidelines at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (the Industry’s largest trade group) conference and expo in Washington earlier this month.
You can see that story — written in collaboration with colleague Michael Bruno — in the latest (Aug. 19) issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).
Unmanned aircraft play a vital role in counter terrorism, counter insurgency, maritime and border security as well as special operations.
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.
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.