Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’

HOMELAND/NATIONAL SECURITY: Vickers on Counter Terrorism

Counter Terrorism Strategy.

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers (center) discusses U.S. counterterrorism strategy at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado. Moderator Brian Ross of ABC News (left) ,John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice  Department.  (Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo)

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers (center) discusses U.S. counterterrorism strategy at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado with Moderator Brian Ross of ABC News (left) and John Carlin, assistant U.S. attorney general for national security.
(Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo)

The Pentagon’s top intelligence adviser says terrorists in Syria, Yemen and the wild region along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border still pose the greatest threat to U.S. security.

While the number of groups “aspiring to the jihadi philosophy has expanded” and the number of attacks have grown they are mostly focused on internal or neighboring enemies in the Middle East and North Africa, says Michael Vickers. But “the most dangerous threats to the American homeland emanate from Syria, from Yemen and still from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” Vickers, said during a panel discussion on counterterrorism Thursday (July 24) at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Vickers said the extremist  movement that has swept out of war-torn Syria and seized a large slice of Iraq under the name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al Qaeda … and they’re a threat not to be discounted as well.”

Before he became the principal intelligence adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his successor, Chuck Hagel, Vickers served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity & Interdependent Capabilities, where he oversaw strategic forces, conventional forces and special operations forces – as well as advising the secretary of defense on counter terrorism and irregular warfare.

From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer, Green Beret officer and CIA operations officer. During the 1980s he was the principal strategist for the covert paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan (“Charlie Wilson’s War”).

Another security concern for Vickers: the number of foreign fighters streaming in and out of Syria who have passports from Western nations. He said they number in the thousands “so it’s a serious problem.” He noted that the number of foreign fighters streaming into Syria-Iraq is much greater than the flow of foreign fighters during the height of the Iraq War.

“I think Syria is a disaster from a threat perspective” because there are thousands of foreign fighters who a very hard to track, said another panelist, Juan Zarate, a former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism during the George W. Bush administration. He said Syria was “animating the movement” and “drawing adherents” from around the world. “Any time you give terrorist groups — those with global ambitions and potential  reach — the breathing space to operate, to innovate, to strategize, to make connections, that’s a prescription for disaster. And I think that’s a real problem with Syria as it festers.”

Vickers also praised the armed Predator drone as the single most important asset for wearing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Yemen.

July 24, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria bombing, missing school girls; EU Anti-Piracy

Kaduna bombings.

Nigeria in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Scores of people are reported killed by a pair of explosions in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Police say one of the bombs apparently targeted a moderate Muslin cleric who has criticized the Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram, the Voice of America reported.

About three hours after the first blast there was another explosion in a crowded Kaduna market “where a VOA reporter on the scene counted dozens of bodies,” VOA said. The second, deadlier, blast appears to have targeted opposition leader and former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Reuters. Buhari, who was riding in an armored vehicle, escaped harm but a Red Cross official said 50 people were killed in the market blast.

No group claimed responsibility for either blast, but Boko Haram has previously targeted markets and clerics who criticize the group’s hard line ideology and violence. The market blast could also have involved local politics rather than terrorism — given Buhari’s previous political battles with President Goodluck Jonathan. The explosions occurred on the same day that activists marked the 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

Grim Milestone

There were demonstrations Wednesday (July 23) in support of the high school girls kidnapped by the Islamist extremists 100 days earlier. But there is little apparent progress in Nigeria’s attempts to find the girls and return them to their families.

President Goodluck Jonathan met Tuesday (July 22) with the families of the 200-plus girls taken by force. He also pledged to ensure the girls “are brought out alive.” Jonathan also met with some of the schoolgirls who managed to escape their captors.

The suffering continues: In the three months since the girls were taken, 11 of their parents have died, the Associated Press reported. Seven of the kidnapped girls’ fathers were among 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped is cut off and Boko Haram has been atacking villages that are increasingly close to Chibok.

*** *** ***

EU Anti-Piracy Effort

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

The European Union has extended the mandate of its civilian anti-piracy efforts until the end of 2016.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council voted in Brussels, Belgium to extend the mission on regional maritime capacity building in the Horn of Africa (also known as EUCAP Nestor), the Kuwaiti News Agency reports.

The civilian mission is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to fighting piracy in the Horn of Africa – alongside the EU Naval Force Somalia and the EU training mission for Somalia, the Council said in a statement.

EUCAP Nestor works to reinforce the ability of states in the Horn of Africa and along the Western Indian Ocean to better govern their territorial waters to help them fight piracy more effectively. The EU assistance includes advice, mentoring and training for coast guard, maritime criminal justice system and coastal police units. Work is being done in Somalia, Djibouti, the Seychelles and in Tanzania.

The EU mission has 80 international and 13 local staff in the headquarters in Djibouti as well as in several country offices. It has a budget of 11.9 million euros.

Efforts by the European Union, NATO and the United Nations have been successful in reducing pirate activity of the coast of East Africa, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“In 2011 at the height of piracy, 237 attacks took place in the zone of the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the northwest Indian Ocean. So far in 2014, there have been seven attacks, all of which failed, according to the International Maritime Bureau,” the Monitor reported.

Efforts at sea have included the U.S.-led Combined Task Force 151, with navies from six nations. Operation Atalanta of the European Union Naval Force has a special mandate to protect aid shipments to Somalia. The third flotilla is NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield.

USS Farragut (DDG 99) passes by the smoke from a suspected pirate skiff. (U.S. Navy photo)

USS Farragut (DDG 99) passes by the smoke from a suspected pirate skiff.
(U.S. Navy photo)

 

July 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 18, 2014)

Wet Work.

U.S. Marine Photo by Corporal Henry Antenor

U.S. Marine Photo by Corporal Henry Antenor

Two Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) soldiers and two U.S. Marines emerge from the water ready for action while practicing small unit techniques as part of the Japan Observer Exchange Program at Kin Blue beach, Okinawa, July 16.

The soldiers, with JGSDF’s Western Army, have been observing the Marine of L Company for approximately six weeks. The Marines are with the Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The program provides observation and education opportunities on small unit concepts, tactics, and amphibious operations to further enhance interoperability between the two forces as well as security in the region.

July 18, 2014 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria Violence, Ebola, U.N. Drones

HOT SPOTS: Nigeria.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

Another bombing and more deaths in Nigeria where the government is battling radical Islamist militants. This time, the blast was at a market in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the anti-Western extremisty group blamed for dozens of bombings, killings and kidnappings across Nigeria in recent weeks.

At least 56 people were killed by the car bombing, according to the Associated Press, which noted that Maiduguri, [see map] a city of more than 1 million people, has suffered several attacks. In March, twin car bombs killed more than 50 people at a late-night market where many were watching a football match on a big television screen.

But the violence has been widespread. On Sunday, suspected extremists sprayed gunfire on worshippers at four churches in a northeastern village and torched the buildings, killing at least 30 people, according to the AP. Last week, at least 42 people were killed in three blasts around the country, including 24 slain at the biggest shopping mall in Nigeria’s central capital Abuja.

President Goodluck Jonathan will be visiting Washington this summer to attend the United States-African Leaders Summit (August 5-6). On July 31 he will be speaking about his country’s turmoil at the National Press Club in Washington. Jonathan’s government has taken sharp criticism at home and abroad for its inability to stop the bombing attacks or rescue more than 200 high school girls kidnapped from a school in northeast Nigeria in April.

*** *** ***

Ebola Meeting

A different kind of “summit” meeting is being held in Accra, Ghana where health ministers from 11 African countries are trying to “get a grip” on the worsening Ebola outbreak, the BBC reports.

So far, 763 people have been infected with the virus – and 468 of these have died. Most of the cases have been in Guinea where the outbreak started. But it has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The outbreak is the worst since the disease was identified in the 1970s, Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Voice of America. Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea. It is spread through contact with the blood or other fluids of infected people.

Meanwhile, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients from authorities will be prosecuted. Sirleaf issued the warning on state radio Monday (July 1), expressing concern that some patients had been kept in homes and churches instead of receiving medical attention, al Jazeera America reported.

Sierra Leone issued a similar warning last week, saying some patients had discharged themselves from the hospital and gone into hiding. Health workers elsewhere in the region have encountered hostility and some have even been attacked.

*** *** ***

Drones Over the Congo

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

United Nations peacekeepers have begun flying unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft over the war-wracked eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Italian-made unmanned aircraft are the first acquired by the U.N. for peacekeeping missions but their presence is already posing  questions about how the intelligence they collect will be used and who will get to see it,  according to the New York Times. Another question is just how useful they will be in a country of distances far great than their 125 mile/200 kilometer flying range from their base in Goma [see map].

More and more, drones are flying over some of the toughest peacekeeping missions in the world, improving the United Nations’ intelligence-gathering capability, but also raising new issues about what to do with so much important data, the Times reported.

CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

 

July 3, 2014 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Ian Fleming, Future Threat Predictor

Bombs, James Bombs.

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

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.

"Thunderball" cover.

“Thunderball” cover.

Ian Fleming, British novelist, former journalist and wartime planner and intelligence officer wrote those words 53 years ago in the 1961 James Bond novel “Thunderball.”

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.

*** *** ***

Food for ThoughtFood for Thought is an occasional musing at 4GWAR about activities in the homeland security, counter terrorism and special operations world.

 

 

June 24, 2014 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment

TERRORISM: The Widening Syria-Iraq Threat

 Deja vu all over again

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

Syria, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War

Syria, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War

Back in February, 4GWAR reported that new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was troubled by foreign jihadists streaming into war-torn Syria, which was turning into an incubator for future terrorists.

Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had become “very focused” on foreign fighters heading to Syria, where foreign Islamists have radicalized and complicated the three-year civil war with the Bashar al-Assad regime. The DHS concern is what these fighters will do when they return to their home countries or travel elsewhere, indoctrinated with a violent Islamist mission.

Then in April we reported on another threat emanating from Syria: the rise of the Iranian-backed, Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia as a military force in Syria. In a report, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), another Washington think tank, said that Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia which has been battling Israel and the West for decades, has become a major player in the Syrian conflict.

Hezbollah has been designated as a Global Terrorist organization by the United States since 1995 for a long history of terrorist attacks against American citizens and officials – including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during the 1980s.

ISIS Territory in Syria and Iraq Red is area controlled by ISIS Yellow is area claimed by ISIS Via iukipedia

ISIS Territory in Syria and Iraq
Red is area controlled by ISIS
Yellow is area claimed by ISIS
(Via Wikipedia)

Now this: President Barrack Obama says he is sending up to 300 special operations forces to assess the situation on the ground in Iraq, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured several cities in northern and western Iraq in a sweeping attack out of Syria.

But Obama made clear that he will hold back more substantial support for Iraq – including U.S. Airstrikes – until he sees a direct threat to U.S. Personnel or a more inclusive and capable Iraqi government, according to the Washington Post.

At the White House, Obama said “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”

Obama, who withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, said he’s positioned “additional U.S. military assets in the region. Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL. And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it. If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.”

But Obama emphasized “that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead.”

 

 

June 19, 2014 at 10:54 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Benghazi Attack Suspect, Nigeria Violence

Nabbed.

Libya (CIA World Factbook)

Libya
(CIA World Factbook)

U.S. Special Operations Forces and the FBI have captured one of the suspected leaders of the 2012 fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.

According to the Washington Post, the joint special operations and FBI Mission had been planned for months and was approved by President Barack Obama on Friday (June 13). The suspect was identified by the Pentagon as Ahmed Abu Khatallah. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Khatallah is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya. There were no civilian casualties related to the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely left Libya, Kirby said.

Officials said he would be brought to the United States in the coming days to face charges in a civilian court, the New York Times reported, adding that  a sealed indictment sworn out secretly last July and made public on Tuesday (June 17) outlined three counts against him in connection with the deaths of Mr. Stevens, State Department official Glen Doherty and two CIA contractors – Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.

*** *** ***

Nigeria Bombing

A suicide bomber has killed several people watching a televised World Cup soccer match in northern Nigeria’s Yobe state.

A hospital worker told the BBC that truckloads of injured people are being treated in overcrowded wards. “The injured people are so numerous I cannot count them,” the worker said after the blast in Damaturu town, BBC reported.

An emergency has been declared in three states, including Yobe, amid attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has arrested more than 400 people traveling in southern Nigeria on suspicion they are members of Boko Haram. The men, and reportedly a few women, were traveling in more than 30 buses when they were stopped by the army Sunday (June 15) and detained at an army barracks in Abia state, according to the Voice of America.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

Local officials said they were suspected of being members of Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group that has killed thousands of people in the past five years, mostly in the northeast part of the country. But a traditional leader from the north told VoA that the travelers were traders, looking to do business in the south.

Tensions have risen since a church bomb in another southern Nigerian city over the weekend raised fears that Boko Haram is seeking to operate in the southern part of the country. Another attack was reported in the strife-torn north, where more than 20 people killed Sunday (June 15) in the village of Daku. And more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April remain missing, despite pledges from Nigerian authorities and governments around the world to free them.

June 17, 2014 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

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