Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’
Needs and Wants, Part II
TAMPA, Florida – At the National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and other Special Operations Forces explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments. Today we focus on another of the three world regions the 4GWAR Blog follows closely: Central and South America.
In some ways, the special operators of U.S. Southern Command (SOCSOUTH) have it easy. Most people in Latin America speak one of two languages: Spanish or Portuguese, although there are 31 countries and numerous cultures from the Andes to the Pampas. (French is spoken in Haiti and several current and former French territories like Guiana.)
But South and Central America is another vast area with climates ranging from bone dry desert, ice covered mountains and equatorial jungles to teeming cities. Four of the world’s top 25 cities by population are in Southern Command’s area of responsibility. Two of them, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are in Brazil.
While most of the region’s countries are democracies and the region’s economy is booming – like Africa’s — there is “a technology gap” between U.S. forces and partner nations who don’t have the air or computer power of their neighbors to the north, according to SOCSOUTH commander, Army Brigadier General Sean Mulholland. But Mullholland notes there is no silver bullet solution. “In SOUTHCOM, we need workable solutions,” he said, adding that solutions must be simple enough to work for foreign partners while being interoperable with existing U.S. systems. “In essence, in SOUTHCOM we are always looking for the next AK-47,” he said referring to the Soviet designed automatic assault rifle that has been manufactured and sold all over the world.
The region is plagued with landmines from past wars and insurgencies – especially in Colombia, which has the second highest land mine problem in the world after Afghanistan. Other technology priorities include riverine patrol boats, persistent intelligence, surviellance and reconnaissance (ISR) through manned surveillance aircraft or drones. And non-lethal technology to deal with the speed boats and semi-submersible drug smuggling vessels that ply the Atlantic and Pacifc coasts of South and Central America. “We have a very serious problem in SOUTHCOM with the rise in drug trafficking,” Mullholland says. While U.S. ground troops can only advise Latin American militaries in counter narcotics operations, U.S. air and naval assets help in tracking and intercepting drug dealers at sea.
TOMORROW: The Arctic
Needs and Wants, Part I.
TAMPA, Florida – At the National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and all the other specialists in Special Operations explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments.
Over the next three days, we’ll focus on what they said about the three areas of the globe we follow closely at 4GWAR Blog: Africa, Latin America and the Arctic. Today we start with Special Operations Command-Africa.
Army Brigadier General James Linder, the head of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) is responsible for an area three-and-a-half times the size of the United States with 54 countries spanning 11 million square miles. Despite weak infrastructure in many of its countries, the continent as a whole, is booming with 5.4 percent Gross Domestic Product, compared to 3.2 percent for the whole world.
Linder, whose headquarters is based in Germany, said his biggest challenges are “how do we move across vast distances” and “how do we maintain situational awareness?”
And it’s not just distance he’s concerned about, but how intelligence is gathered about potential threats or trouble spots – and how is it conveyed in a helpful fashion to allies who don’t have the communication and encryption technology the United States does.
In a place where nearly everybody has a mobile phone, Linder said he needs to keep an eye on social media as well as more traditional forms of communication to keep tabs on public sentiment and spot potential trouble spots. The cyber environment and social media is driving the way the people act,” said Linder.
His main task is to counter VEO – Violent Extremist Organizations – of which Africa seems to have more than its share – like al Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and now, Boko Haram. “Make no mistake, that is a mammoth task,” he said.
To help out, Linder is looking for tools and technology that will help his special operators set up airfields for manned and unmanned aircraft and secure areas – combat outposts, if you will – where a contingent of 50-to-100 U.S or partner country personnel can be moved quickly to jungle or desert environments and sustained for up to eight weeks.
But like most of the special operations commanders in the regional combatant commands, Linder said he’s looking for technology — including unmanned aircraft — that will meet his intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs. But the immediate challenge, he said, was getting that ISR into a format that can be passed to partner militaries quickly and can be quickly interpreted so they can take the proper action.
TOMORROW: Latin America
Land, Sea and Air
TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.
Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.
The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.
The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.
The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.
The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
Like green-eyed alien hunters, U.S. Army Rangers peer into the dim light of dusk through night vision goggles. These two soldiers — from Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — are taking part in annual Task Force Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Rangers are constantly training to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency. The 3rd Battalion is being evaluated for how its soldiers perform during operational situations. The Ranger Regiment (despite the high number, there is only one) is one of the components of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
To see more photos of this training exercise, click here. And don’t forget to click on the photo to enlarge it for better viewing.
Battling Abu Sayaf
Fourteen Islamist militants and a Philippine Marine were killed in a clash in a remote southern part of the Philippines this week (April 29-30), the Voice of America reports.
The fighting began Tuesday and continued into early Wednesday near the town of Patikul on the island of Jolo in Sulu Province. About 300 Abu Sayyaf fighters tried to retake a camp captured by the Marines on Monday. They attacked with mortars and rifle grenades, killing one Marine and wounding 19, officials told the BBC.
The Marines, assisted by reinforcements including artillery and helicopter support, were able to drive the rebels off.
The camp had been used as a training base for Abu Sayyaf’s new recruits and as a launching pad for frequent kidnapping raids, Reuters and AFP reported. Abu Sayyaf is suspected of abducting a female Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker from the neighboring Malaysian island of Sabah this month.
Formed in the 1990s with seed money from al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for terror attacks including kidnappings of foreigners and locals who are then held for ransom. Abu Sayyaf is one of many small Islamist groups in the southern Philippines opposed to a peace deal with the Philippine government recently signed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The United States has been rotating about 500 Special Operations Forces experts in the southern Philippines for more than a decade to train the Philippine military how to fight Abu Sayyaf. Philippine law forbids foreign troops from engaging in combat on Philippine soil.
Now this is a different kind of photo bomb.
These two U.S. Navy parachutists are conducting free fall training above Naval Station Rota, Spain. They are assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians are the Navy’s bomb squad, but they are much more than that. They are highly trained in parachuting and underwater diving as well as explosives handling and removal.
EODs “clear the way” for Special Operations Forces including Army Green Berets as well as Navy SEALS. For more information on this military specialty, click here.
For another view of this high altitude training, click here.
LRA Commander Capture.
Uganda’s military says troops have captured a top commander of murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and freed 10 captives held by the notorious rebel group.
A military spokesman said African troops hunting the LRA in the Central African Republic captured Charles Okello, according to the Voice of America website. Most of those recued were children, the spokesman said.
The LRA started out as a guerrilla group in Uganda in the 1980s but morphed into a renegade band that has roamed Central Africa from South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, sacking villages, robbing and killing adults and seizing children to be sex slaves and child soldiers. The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2011, President Barack Obama sent about 100 U.S. special operations forces to advise the military and neighboring countries how to track and capture Kony.
In March, support aircraft and about 150 Air Force personnel were sent to Djibouti to help in the Kony search and capture mission.
*** *** ***
Arms Trade Treaty
With violent conflicts boiling up South Sudan, the Central African Republic and across North Africa, it’s timely to take a look at the effect the international Arms Trade Treaty could have on security issues in Africa. The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington will be holding a panel discussion Wednesday (April 23) on the treaty’s potential impact on conflict.
Last year, the United States signed the ATT, a multilateral agreement to regulate international trade in conventional weapons. Nearly 120 countries have signed the treaty and 31 government have ratified the pact — which has not entered into force yet.
The potential for the treaty to reduce illicit trade could help improve security in areas that need it most — particularly in regions of conflict like Africa, the CSIS said. Speakers at today’s event include: Thomas Countryman, the State Department’s assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University; and Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program.
*** *** ***
Ebola Death Toll
The current outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 140 people, the World Health Organization.
In a statement Tuesday (April 22), the United Nations health agency said at least 230 suspected or confirmed case of Ebola have been reported in so far in Guinea and Liberia, the Associated Press reported. According to the WHO, there have been 129 deaths in Guinea and 13 in neighboring Liberia that were linked to the disease.
Ebola causes a high fever and external hemorrhaging. There is no cure no vaccine for the disease which has a very high mortality rate.
*** *** ***
Algerian Troops Killed
At least 14 Algerian soldiers were killed over the weekend (April 19) when their convoy was ambushed in the mountains east of the capital city, Algiers.
The soldiers were attacked Saturday night in the Tizi Ouzou region, 75 miles east of Algiers. Government officials blamed members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of the radical Islamist terrorist group, al Qaeda, Reuters reported.
The soldiers were attacked as they were returning from a security deployment for last week’s presidential election[SEE Story Below], the Algerian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Three militants from AQIM, were also killed in the gunfight.
As expected, President Abdelaziz Boutefilka was elected to a fourth term with more than 81 percent of the vote. However, opposition leaders – who boycotted the election – accused Bouteflika and his supporters of widespread voter fraud, the New York Times reported.
The strongest challenger, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis only got 12 percent of the vote. Despite a stroke last year, that has put him in a wheelchair, Bouteflika has kept a strong grip on power, ignoring democratic changes prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings in other parts of North Africa.
Mauritania plans to hold its next presidential election in June.
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has not yet announced his candidacy, but his party has asked him to run again, the Associated Press reported. Aziz came to power in a 2008 coup, ousting the West African country’s first democratically elected leader. But he has become a key ally of the West in the fight against terrorism in the Sahara.
The president’s office said elections will be held June 21, with a second round of voting July 5 — if needed.
Nigeria’s elections aren’t until next February, but the Islamist radicals’ campaign of violence has rocked President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and has politicians bickering as never before, according to the Associated Press.
Attacks on a girl’s school in the north and a bombing at a bus station in the capital have shaken the military’s claims that the insurgents’ war-fighting ability was on the wane.
The country’s two main political parties have each accused the other of supporting the Islamic insurgency for ulterior motives. Some politicians from the predominantly Muslim north say that keeping the insurgency going is a way to weaken the north before the elections. While other politicians accuse some members of the military of keeping the strife going — by colluding with the extremist group Boko Haram — so they can profit financially from the five-year conflict.
Before he dismissed the entire military command in January, Jonathan said he believed there were Boko Haram sympathizers and supporters among his cabinet members and high-ranking military.
Meanwhile, Jonathan will chair a meeting of the National Security Council Thursday (April 24) in Abuja, that will include Nigeria’s 36 state governors and military service chiefs, according to the news site ThisDay Live.
Scores of teen-age girls have been kidnapped from their secondary school in Northeast Nigeria late Monday (April 14) by armed men believed to be members of the radical Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
The raid comes just a day after a deadly bus station bombing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, prompting critics to question the government’s claims of progress in its campaign to suppress the militant group. Hundreds have died this year in attacks attributed to Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is forbidden (sinful),” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.
There are conflicting reports about the number of girls taken and how many escaped their captors. The BBC quoted the Nigerian military as saying all but eight of 129 kidnapped girls have escaped. “But the BBC’s Will Ross in Abuja says there is no independent confirmation of this,” BBC added. Reuters reported between 50 and 100 girls were taken and at least 14 had managed to escape, according to officials.
The Associated Press reported that “about 100 girls” between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped and some of the girls escaped by jumping off a slow-moving truck in the kidnappers’ retreating convoy. Citing a security source, AFP said it was told more than 100 girls remained in captivity.
The gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the girls’ school at Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state – one of three under an 11-month state of emergency. All schools in Borno state were closed three weeks ago because Boko Haram has been targeting schools and killing or driving off students. The girls’ school was reopened, however, so they could take their final exams, a local government official told reporters.
The girls were believed to have been taken to the rugged Sambisa Forrest near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is reported to have bases. The Islamic extremists have kidnapped girls in the past to serve as cooks and sex slaves.
On Sunday, 75 people were killed and more than 140 wounded in the bombing of a bus station in Abuja just a few miles from the capital’s government buildings. That attack raised concerns that militants’ attacks were no longer confined to the strife-torn northeast, where traditional rivalries between mostly Christian farmers and mainly Muslim herders over land and water rights have morphed into increasingly violent attacks.
No group has claimed responsibility for either the bus station bombing or the mass abduction but President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders blame Boko Haram, which launched a violent insurgency in 2009 to make the country’s predominantly Muslim north into an Islamic state governed by conservative sharia law. Since 2010, the violence has claimed an estimated 3,600 people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer.
*** *** ***
Central African Republic
Fifteen United Nations and private humanitarian agencies are appealing for $274 million to fund emergency aid for people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic, the Voice of America reports. Nearly 200,000 people have fled the C.A.R. since December, but the U.N. expects that number to grow to more than 360,000 by the end of the year.
The crisis stems from months of sectarian violence in one of Africa’s poorest nations. The mayhem began when Muslim-led Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of longtime President Francois Bozize. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the rebels.
The U.N. Security Council voted last week (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and restore order in the C.A.R. U.N. peacekeepers will relieve about 6,500 African Union soldiers and 2,000 French troops who have struggled to keep the peace in the former French colony.
In Geneva, U.N. officials said the $274 million would be used to meet the needs of refugees from the C.A.R., who have escaped to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Officials in the DRC, where thousands of refugees have fled, are worried the conflict could threaten the security of the entire region.
Lambert Mende, the DRC’s information minister, says his government is concerned because it shares a 1,600-kilometerf border with the C.A.R. “So whatever can happen there, can impact our security,” he told the Voice of America. He added that the DRC was “very eager” to contribute to the stabilization effort. The DRC has sent a battalion of soldiers and a unit of plainclothes policemen to the C.A.R, according to Mende.
Chad has withdrawn all of its 850 soldiers in the AU peacekeeping contingent following accusations that Chadian troops aided Muslim rebels in the C.A.R. – which Chad’s government denied, the BBC and AFP reported.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno ordered the pullout after a U.N. investigation found that Chadian troops “opened fire on the population without any provocation” in the capital, Bangui, on March 29. Thirty people were killed and another 300 were injured, according to the U.N. Chad’s foreign ministry dismissed the findings as “malicious,” adding that Chad was being unfairly blamed for the C.A.R.’s woes.
*** *** ***
President Blaise Compaore has been run Burkina Faso since 1987, but a provision of the West African nation’s constitution bars him from running again when his term expires in 2015.
But 50,000 people turned out for a rally calling for the constitution to be amended so Compaore can seek another term, according to an Associated Press report via Al Jazeera.
The rally Saturday (April 12) follows a series of defections of high-level officials in Compaore’s ruling party over concerns that the president would indeed try to change the constitution so he could seek anothjer term.
Algerians go to the polls Thursday for a presidential election that incumbent President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is widely expected to win, the Voice of America reports. Bouteflika, 77, is seeking his fourth term in office, although he has made few public appearances since suffering a stroke last year.
He faces five opposition challengers, but Bouteflika continues to have the backing of the ruling National Liberation Front party. In February, three Algerian opposition parties called for a boycott of the elections after the government announced Bouteflika would seek another five-year term.
Unemployment is now high in Algeria, especially among youth. And despite the North African country’s vast oil and gas resources, much of the population remains poor.
No “Failure to Communicate”
U.S. Special Operations Forces (Army Green Berets, Navy SEALS, etc.) are going to be doing a lot more of this in the future: training troops in friendly nations to handle their own internal defense against terrorists and insurgents. U.S. Special Operations Command intends to align special operators regionally with the geographic combatant commands, like Southern Command or Africa Command.
To be effective, they’ll have to concentrate on learning the culture, geography, economics — and languages — of those regions.
However, with the exception of the Green Berets — who have been doing just that since Vietnam — most special operators aren’t skilled in foreign languages, especially exotic tongues like Hausa, Kurdish or Tausug. Your 4GWAR editor’s story on technologies that can help bridge that gap appears in April’s Special Operations Technology magazine.
A U.S. pararescueman assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron lowers into the ocean from an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter as part of a water rescue exercise near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 22, 2014.
Pararescuemen, commonly known as PJs (for Pararescue Jumpers) are part of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. They are the only Defense Department personnel specifically trained and equipped to conduct conventional and unconventional recovery operations – over land and water.
The PJ’s primary function is to recover personnel in emergency situations. They are trained in emergency trauma medical capabilities for both humanitarian and combat environments. Their motto — “That Others May Live” — says it all.
The 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron is the Air Force first responder unit charged with personnel recovery in the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa area of responsibility. Based in Djibouti, their mission is to recover aircraft personnel using both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to get to the scene.
To see more photos of this training exercise, click here.