Guarding the Rainforest.
Illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is down — thanks largely to armed militias of indigenous peoples guarding their reserves, which make up about a fifth of the Amazon region.
Armed with shotguns and other assorted weaponry, these ragtag guardians have stopped illegal loggers, tied them up, torched their trucks and tractors and chased them off, the Washington Post reports in a front page story Wednesday (October 7).
As a result, such logging has sharply declined in these territories. But the indigenous groups have faced reprisal attacks and death threats for their actions, raising fears of more violence in an area known for its lawlessness, according to the Post. In a rare visit to the reserves permitted by the indigenous tribes, Washington Post journalists found that many residents support the militias. But others are uneasy about relying on informal armed groups to resolve a problem that should fall to the Brazilian government.
The clashes highlight the continuing grave threat to the Amazon, the world’s biggest remaining rain forest, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the world’s climate and biodiversity. From 2005 to 2012, deforestation plunged in Brazil, as the government increased its conservation efforts and cracked down on illegal loggers. But since then, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2014 alone, almost 2,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest were cleared by farmers, loggers and others the Post said.
The Brazilian government sees the rain forest and the waters of the Amazon as key natural resources that needs to be guarded as much as oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast of Brazil
A 2014 report by the World Resource Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that rural communities and indigenous peoples across the world have government-recognized rights to forests containing 37.7 billion tons of carbon—equivalent to 29 times the annual emissions from all passenger vehicles in the world. In total, deforestation and other land uses represents 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In Brazil alone, the report stated, strong legal rights could contribute to preventing 27.2 million hectares of deforestation by 2050, translating to 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that don’t get into the atmosphere. That’s the same as about three years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
President Dilma Rousseff has promised to reduce illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030. She and President Obama in a visit to Washington over the summer, have agreed to work more closely on curbing deforestation of the Amazon and boosting renewable energy.
Meanwhile, a Brazilian audit court has ruled that Rousseff broke the law in managing last year’s budget, according to the BBC.
The government was accused of borrowing money illegally from state banks to make up for budget shortfalls. The opposition says the court’s ruling – which reports to Brazil’s Congress – paves the way for impeachment proceedings against Ms. Rousseff, the BBC said. She was re-elected less than a year ago but has record low popularity ratings, according to the BBC. The Brazilian government says it would challenge Wednesday’s ruling in the Supreme Court
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Bringing Back Police.
The United Nations’ top human rights official wants the Mexican government to set a timetable for replacing military personnel in law enforcement duties with well-trained police.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Wednesday (October 7) that the government should return soldiers to their barracks because military forces aren’t designed to do police work, the Associated Press reported.
Mexican soldiers and marines began leading the fight against cartels after many police units proved too corrupt or inefficient to take them on. Zeid was scathing in his assessment of how Mexico’s police, judicial and investigative system have failed Mexicans, leading to 26,000 disappearances and thousands of killings that remain unsolved, the AP said.
Zeid said Mexico’s defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, told him the army doesn’t desire a policing role. But Zeid added that better police forces have to be trained before Mexico’s army withdraws or the military will leave a vacuum.
Devil Dogs’ Dog.
The story goes that after the hard-fought battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, the Germans — shocked by the tenacity and marksmanship of the U.S. Marines — fought like “Teufel hunde,” devil dogs. The story may be apocryphal but the Marines had a new nickname: Devil Dogs.
Well here is one of their military working dogs all kitted up with protective goggles, muzzle and safety harness before the start of special patrol insertion and extraction training at the Marines’ Camp Lejeune, North Carolina late last month.
During this kind of exercise the Marines fast rope down from a hovering helicopter. That begs the question: How do you get a dog down from a helicopter that can’t land in hostile territory?
Here’s the answer:
This Marine and his canine colleague, both with Marine Raider Regiment, hang from a UH-1Y Huey chopper assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 167, during special patrol insertion/extraction training at Stone Bay, Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 23, 2015. HMLA-167 Marines flew from Marine Corps Air Station New River to assist Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) with the training.
The Raider Regiment and MARSOC are part of U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees all the services’ elite specialty units like Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force combat air controllers and Marine Raiders
To see more photos of this doggy and his Marine Raider companions, click here.
By Land, Sea or Air.
The military is exploring ways that unmanned systems from helicopters to submarines can be used to transport supplies in hostile or dangerous areas.
Last year, Lockheed Martin and Kaman’s unmanned K-MAX helicopter returned from nearly three years of transporting cargo for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan — the first unmanned helicopter to do so.
With their supply truck convoys frequent targets of roadside bombs and insurgent attacks, the Marines were looking for a safer alternative. K-MAX’s cargo transportation was able to take an estimated 900 trucks off the road and their drivers and escorts out of harm’s way.
But transporting supplies isn’t limited to unmanned aircraft. Manned ground vehicles–from small, rugged all-terrain vehicles to heavy cargo trucks are being converted into autonomously operating vehicles.
The same is true of the optionally manned Proteus, a dual mode underwater vehicle that can deliver special operations forces swimmers or their equipment and supplies to shore from a submerged submarine.
Originally developed by as a swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) for up to six Navy SEALS, Proteus, a massive 8,000-pound submersible, is now being leased by the Navy for testing as a dual mode vehicle that can operate as manned SDV or a cargo-carrying unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). “The idea of using it as an unmanned mule is very feasible,” says George Geoghegan, maritime systems manager for Battelle — which together with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries — owns and operates Proteus.
The almost 26-foot-long Proteus has 170 cubic feet of space in its cargo area and exterior side rails that can carry bulkier cargo although the maximum total payload is limited to 1,100 pounds. Cargo will either have to be sealed in watertight packaging or be water resistant because the cabin is flooded when underway as part of its original mission to allow divers to enter and exit the vehicle while submerged. But that means there’s more room for payload.
Powered by 20 lithium polymer batteries that weigh about 100 pounds each when underway, Proteus has a range of about 350 nautical miles at an energy-saving low speed of 3 knots, and a maximum speed of 9 knots fully-loaded, according to Geoghegan. Like an SDV, Proteus can be transported to a denied area in the dry deck shelter of a submarine. It can work at depths of 150 feet when manned, 200 feet unmanned.
Unmanned, the vessel can be pre-programmed to run underwater from point to point but it does not have obstacle avoidance capability. However, Geoghegan says that’s just another payload that can be added.
Polaris Defense offers their entire line of rugged ground vehicles as capable of manned or unmanned operation. “We build our vehicles with the ability to be optionally unmanned. And it’s everything from tele-operated to fully unmanned,” said General Manager Rich Haddad, adding “we’re not an autonomy company. We’re agnostic about whose autonomy package goes on the vehicle.”
But the company has acquired a ground guidance software package called Primordial “that could easily morph into a mission planning type of capability. We are integrating that into our vehicle but it is not in itself an autonomy package,” Haddad said.
Polaris supplies a range of all terrain vehicles for elements of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Polaris supplied the ground vehicles that contestants were required to drive in DARPA’s Robotic Challenge to identify robots that could perform human tasks in disasters. And a Polaris 6×6 vehicle was converted by TORC Robotics into the autonomous and semi-autonomous Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) that is being studied by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
To read more on this topic, click here to see our story in Military Logistics Forum magazine’s September issue (pages 8-9).
Blue Water Raiders.
Marines and sailors slice through the waters off southern California in rigid hull inflatable boats (RIB) from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans to conduct an exercise known as visit, board, search and seizure. They were heading for a simulated enemy vessel on September 23 near San Clemente Island.
The Marines and sailors are with the Maritime Raid Force of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. This was the first at-sea exercise for these troops preparing for deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of responsibility in early 2016.
To see more photos of this exercise, click here.
We inadvertently failed to post this week’s Friday Foto on Friday and did not notice the error until just after midnight Friday/Saturday.
Our apologies to loyal readers who’ve been kept waiting.
C.A.R. Violence Continues.
The interim president of Central African Republic (C.A.R.) left the United Nations General Assembly opening in New York early this week because of the worst violence this year has broken out in the nation’s capital, Bangui.
President Catherine Samba-Panza arrived home Wednesday (September 30), according to Reuters (via the Voice of America website), but has yet to make a public statement.
At least 39 people have died in inter-communal clashes, raising doubts about a planned election in mid October.The vote is aimed at restoring democracy to a country following a rebellion and years of turmoil. The violence broke out despite appeals by world leaders and local politicians and the presence of French and United Nations peacekeepers.
Thousands of Central Africans have died and hundreds of thousands remain displaced after two years of violence that erupted after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013. Seleka abuses sparked reprisals by Christian “anti-balaka” fighters that drove most Muslims from the south in a de facto partition of the country.
Protesters alleged U.N. peacekeepers and French forces did little to intervene in violence Saturday (September 26) and called for the sidelined Central African army, the FACA, to assume responsibility for security, Al Jazeera reported. French and U.N. forces have been trying to halt the violence since first intervening in December 2013. About 900 French soldiers remain in the former French colony, down from about 2,000 last year.
On Tuesday (September 29) United Nations officials continued to voice their concern over the situation – where more than 30 people have been killed, over 100 have been wounded and thousands are seeking shelter amid the recent upsurge in violence. U.N. officials stressed the need for free movement for aid workers to reach those in need.
According to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA), tensions persist in Bangui, which was the scene of attacks against civilians, violence between communities and attacks against humanitarian personnel since a young Muslim man was murdered on Saturday.
“MINUSCA is conducting patrols around critical areas, with the view of protecting civilians, including one Muslim and two Christian districts in Bangui,” U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
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Special Ops in C.A.R.
Amid the violence in the Central African Republic comes news that U.S. special operations forces aiding in the search for the brutal warlord Joseph Kony are camped out “in a lawless enclave” in the C.A.R. on the borders of Sudan and South Sudan,” the Washington Post reports.
Citing military officials and others familiar with the operation, the Post reports the U.S. special operators are dealing with “some unsavory partners to help find Kony’s trail” — the Muslim Seleka rebels, whose brutal actions two years ago spawned the chaos in the C.A.R.
Tht Post said the arrangement has made some U.S. troops uncomfortable. The Seleka rebels “are playing us,” one military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post. The official described Seleka as a “mafia” that is trying to curry favor with the Americans even as the rebels extort local villagers and engage in illicit trade with Kony’s fugitive fighters.
President Obama first sent U.S. forces to central Africa in 2011 to aid several African militaries hunt Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized Central Africa for more than two decades. Obama will have decide in October whether to reauthorize the deployment and extend it for at least another year.
Several members of Congress think that is exactly what he should do, according to The Hill newspaper. “The United States and other members of the international community must retain our resolve to capture or remove the leaders of the (Lord’s Resistance Army) and any terrorist group the threaten the lives and well being of innocent people worldwide,” said Representative Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican and chairman of the Africa Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat and ranking member on the subcommittee, echoed Smith’s sentiments. Noting that it’s been reported the LRA has dwindled to perhaps as few as small as 200 fighters. “Their intimate knowledge of the inhospitable central African landscapes and total disregard for human life continues to make them a clear and present danger,” she said. Bass called on her colleagues in Congress as well as other U.S. government agencies “to sustain our efforts to rid central Africa of Joseph Kony.”
Staying Ahead of the Threat 2015.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VIRGINIA — In the 21st Century, the U.S. Marine Corps will confront a number of challenges, like the hybrid warfare seen in eastern Ukraine and the rise of teeming coastal mega cities around the world, according to a panel of generals and colonels speaking at this year’s Modern Day Marine expo.
In opening the panel discussion on building the future Marine Corps by harnessing innovation, Lieutenant General Robert Walsh noted hybrid warfare was on the rise around the globe in Syria, Iraq and “going on in Ukraine right now.” The hybrid battlefield contains a mix of non-state actors (guerrillas or foreign volunteers) combined with regular military and “state capabilities” like precision weaponry and high tech communications and propaganda methods. “We’ve got to be able to stay ahead of the threat” through innovation, said Walsh, deputy Marine commandant for Combat Development and Integration.
“The new normal was Benghazi,” said Lieutenant General Ron Bailey, deputy commandant for Plans Policies and Operations. As Libya slid into chaos the Marines had to mobilize a special purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force to handle a rapidly disintegrating situation on the ground, in the air and at sea. In the future, Marines will have to be prepared to fight in five battlespaces: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, Bailey said.
The hybrid warfare in Ukraine “is the reality of the fight we will have to fight” against soldiers in uniforms mixed in with local citizens and volunteers (the so-called Little Green Men, who were believed to be Russian soldiers in mufti). “We need non-lethal weapons that will enable us to fight among the people” and still be able to take out enemy threats, Bailey added.
The future battlefield will probably look nothing like Afghanistan and Iraq, where Marines have been fighting for the last 14 years. Instead, urban areas near the sea and river deltas will be the most likely environment, said another panelist, Brigadier General Dale Alford, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. And that environment will be “complex, congested, cluttered, contested, connected (with the cyber world), constrained and coastal,” he said. The world population is moving towards the cities and 75 percent of the world’s largest cities are in the developing world – many of them in the littoral areas close to the sea.”That’s where our Marines are going to fight. That’s where we’re going to have to operate,” he added.
Pointing at a slide showing images of recent conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa, Alford noted the Marines will have to deal with challenges like iPADs and Google Earth being used to direct mortar attacks, off-the-shelf unmanned quad copters being used by terrorists and insurgents for surveillance and reconnaissance, MANPADs (shoulder-fired ground- to-air missiles) “in the hands of teenagers.”
Like other panel members, Alford said innovation and new techniques bubble up from below, from junior officers and sergeants and corporals who are in the fight. “We need our young pups out there to innovate and figure out how we’re going to do this,” he added. Panel members also called on industry to provide technical solutions for these new challenges.
A video on the topic, a hot one in NATO circles, is here.
[UPDATES to restore dropped word ‘Corps’ in dateline, expand definition of hybrid war, add detail to “cluttered, coastal environment” explanation and recast headlines to reflect changes.]
Red Sky at Morning.
Last week was so busy, we missed wishing the U.S. Air Force a happy 68th birthday. So we thought we’d make it up to the folks work in the wild blue yonder with this photo.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft sits on the flightline before morning sorties at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The aircraft is assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing