Archive for December, 2015

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Veteran Reporter’s Thoughts on Media and National Security

Food for Thought: Walter Pincus.

Food for ThoughtIn his latest — and perhaps last — column in newsprint, veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus offers some opinions and concerns about the state of journalism and how the media covers national security, a beat Pincus has covered for decades.

Like a lot of journalists who started out in the business using typewriters and carbon paper instead of computers and mobile devices, Pincus is concerned that in the era of 24-hour cable news, the Internet and Twitter “we have been moved further into a PR society and, sadly public relations has become a key part of government in our politics.”

On national security, Pincus says “the reality of the threat from terrorism” and terror groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda “needs to be put in some perspective.” He believes that even at the height of the Cold War, the United States did not “institute the security actions at home that have been taken and are being contemplated to meet what’s been described as a terrorist threat.”

He also believes, as many do, that when contemplating military involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia, one should remember the experience in Vietnam showed “that the American form of government is not easily transferred to other countries.”

It should be noted that Pincus spent a large part of his journalistic career writing about nuclear weapons, politics and arms control and is finishing a book about the U.S. nuclear weapons program. He’s won several awards but has also been controversial. In February, he says, he will be writing his column for the website, the Cipher Brief.

December 31, 2015 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

SEASON’S GREETINGS: Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines Show Holiday Spirit

Simon Says Do This.

 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan B)

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke

Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Godson Bagnabana supervises inflation of an inflatable snowman on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) at Yokosuka, Japan, December 17, 2015.

Young Santa.

U.S. Navy photo by Grady T. Fontana

U.S. Navy photo by Grady T. Fontana

Joe Gutierrez hands out gifts to students during a community outreach event at an elementary school in Chanthaburi, Thailand, December 21, 2015. Gutierrez, a midshipman cadet from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, is assigned to the USNS Walter S. Diehl.

Military Sealift Command Far East along with partners in Singapore donated more than 1,200 English books to the Pong Nam Ron, Pliu and Ban Trok Nong elementary schools. To see more photos from this event, click here.

Fun and Games.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

U.S. Marines, sailors, and soldiers play games at an early Christmas celebration with Romanian children at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, December 19, 2015. To see more photos from this event, click here.

Santa Wears Combat Boots.

U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

Alaska National Guardsmen and other volunteers deliver boxes of donated food and presents to the residents of St. Mary’s, Alaska, during Operation Santa Claus, December 5, 2015.

Nobody Gets Coal Here.

Air Force photo by Andrew Pena.

U.S. Air Force photo by Andrew Pena.

Service members and volunteers from approximately 30 groups and organizations came together to bring holiday cheer during Operation Santa Claus to the village of St. Mary’s, Alaska, Dec. 5, 2015. This year marks the 59th year of the program, which serves to bring Christmas to underserved, remote villages across Alaska each year. To see more photos from this event, click here.

Toys for Tots.

U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

Marine Corps Sergeant Mauricio Sandoval, front, and Master Gunnery Sergeant Jason Milbery, drive snowmobiles between McGrath and Takotna, Alaska, during Toys for Tots, December 10, 2015. Sandoval and Milbery are assigned to Delta Company, 4th Law Enforcement Battalion and 2nd Maintenance Battalion. To see more photos of this event, click here.

Seranading Seniors.

 New Jersey Air National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Mark C. Olsen

New Jersey Air National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Mark C. Olsen

U.S. airmen sing along with fourth graders from the Seaview School in Linwood, New Jersey, during the 15th Annual Holiday “Songfest” at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland, N.J., Dec. 16, 2015. To see more photos from this event, click here.

December 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 25, 2015)

The Force Is Still Strong.

U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergean. Robert Cloys

U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergean. Robert Cloys

In a war zone far, far away, U.S. service members cheer and clap before they get to see the first showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on December 22.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service partnered with Walt Disney Studios to give troops a chance to see the movie at a deployed location.

Lately, the news from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Paris, San Bernardino and elsewhere around the world has been just awful during what is supposed to be a season of joy and peace. We thought this light moment in a dangerous place –notice the M-16s– might bring you some Christmas cheer.

Here at 4GWAR, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season … and may the force be with you.

December 25, 2015 at 12:25 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: U.S. Army Retires Its Oldest UAS

Home from the Hill.

Soldiers from the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion with a Hunter unmanned aircraft system, ( UAS).  The Hunter flew its final mission at Fort Hood. (Photo Credit: Dave Conrad, Fort Hood Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion with a Hunter unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The Hunter flew its final mission at Fort Hood. 
(Photo by Dave Conrad, Fort Hood Public Affairs)

The U.S. Army is retiring it’s oldest unmanned aircraft, the RQ/MQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial system (UAS) fleet after 20 years of service.

The final flight was at Fort Hood, Texas, the Army announced December 21.

The Army’s first UAS, the Hunter was first fielded in 1996. It was deployed to support NATO missions in Kosovo between 1999 and 2002, and deployed again at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, according to IHS Jane’s 360 website. It continued working in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years.

Mostly employed as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) asset, Hunter can be armed with GBU-44/B Viper Strike glide bomb and the earlier Viper Strike direct attack munition, Jane’s noted.

The medium-altitude RQ-5 Hunter was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and manufactured by TRW, which is now part of Northrop Grumman. Hunter is being replaced by the General Atomics MQ-1C Grey Eagle, according to UPI.com.

In 2016, the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion will receive the Gray Eagle UAS, according to the unit’s flight operators. Gray Eagle can fly for 25 hours, achieve speeds up to 167 knots and reach altitudes up to 29,000 feet, according to a fact sheet from General Atomics.

An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft makes its way down an airfield in Iraq in 20xx.  (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Roland Hale)

An MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS makes its way down an airfield in Iraq in 2013.
(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Roland Hale)

December 24, 2015 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 18, 2015)

Bending Light.

U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Eric C. Burgett

U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Eric C. Burgett

Light, motion and camera speed combine to create a weird imagery effect as a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LDD-4) during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group is underway off the coast of Southern California completing a certification exercise.

December 18, 2015 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

AFRICA/COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Troops Helping African Forces in Fight with Boko Haram

New Drone base.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Headline rewritten to clarify U.S. forces not engaged in combat, just aiding ISR effort.

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

The United States has quietly sent hundreds of troops to West Africa, to help Cameroon’s army hunt the terrorists along the Nigerian border, according to a CBS News report Wednesday (December 16).

They’re searching for Boko Haram, the extremist group that has aligned itself with the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIl and Daesh). Boko Harma has killed more than 20,000 people in the region, mostly in Nigeria, over the past six years.

Cameroon is getting help from the U.S. military, which is setting up another drone base in Africa. Cameroon soldiers are learning how to use their own unarmed drones for surveillance. The U.S. base won’t be fully operational until next month, CBS says.

“The U.S. is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to the Cameroonian forces,” Army Captain Victor Guzman told CBS News. He said the plan is for the Cameroonian troops to take the lead and fight the local threat.

The United States started unarmed drone surveillance flights out of Niger, to the north of Cameroon, in early 2013 to support French forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Mali.

December 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: DHS Comes Up With New Warning System

Six Month Warning.

Department of Homeland Security seal

Department of Homeland Security seal

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled a new terrorism alert system Wednesday (December 16) while advising concerns about “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice.

According to the Associated Press, DHS is adding a new “Bulletin” category to two existing alert categories: elevated and imminent. An elevated warns of a “credible terrorism threat” while imminent alerts advise the public of a “credible specific and impending terrorism threat.”

This is the first change to the National Terrorism Advisory System since it replaced the color-coded system in 2011.

The first bulletin informed Americans that while there is no new intelligence of a specific, credible threat, the public should remain vigilant, according to NBC News. The bulletin will remain in effect until June 16, 2016. That’s right, until the middle of next year.

“We are in a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland. Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of  the Internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice,” the bulletin stated, adding that recent attacks in Paris as well as San Bernardino, California “warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”

December 17, 2015 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 11, 2015

Crossed Lasers.

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class J.R. Pacheco

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class J.R. Pacheco

U.S. sailors train with the LA9/P laser hail and warning system on the fantail (rear deck) of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean. The LA 9/P is a non-lethal, non-blinding way to get the attention of  intruders, warn them off and confuse them optically if they persist.

They have been used to hail, warn and deter people until their intent is determined at vehicle checkpoints.

December 11, 2015 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Is Populism Out? Conservatism In?

Marching to the Right?

South America map courtesy of Nations Online Project

South America map courtesy of Nations Online Project

Is populism on the wane in Latin America’s larger economies?

On Thursday (December 9), Argentina’s new business-friendly conservative President Maurico Macri took office after 12 years of left wing government.

Voters recently dealt an electoral blow to the populist legacy of the late Hugo Chavez and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela — electing an opposition majority to the National Assembly.

Meanwhile lawmakers in Brazil are trying to impeach another populist, President Dilma Rousseff, who is is grappling with a severe economic downturn and a massive corruption scandal in her Workers Party government.

But bad news for leftists is good news to foreign investors, according to Bloomberg News (via the Tico Times).

Venezuelan bonds climbed after the opposition won a majority in Congress for the first time in 16 years, Bloomberg reported, adding that the Global X MSCI Argentina exchange-traded fund has seen asses under management climb since polls showed Macri was likely o win the presidency. Investors have also piled into the biggest Brazil stock, ET< since impeachment proceedings against Rousseff were initiated, the business news site said.

The Venezuelan elections could also have significant consequences for Russian oil development contracts and a slowdown of arms sales to Venezuela, according to RBC Daily (via Russia Beyond the Headlines).

Today Venezuela is Russia’s second largest American trading partner after Brazil. Trade relations between the two countries is largely focused on oil and defense. Russia’s state oil enterprise Rosneft is collaborating on five joint oil production projects in Venezuela, including developing oil deposits in the Orinoco River Valley, according to RBC.

Russia has supplied much of Venezuela’s military weaponry including Su-30 fighter jets, T-72 tanks and Grad multiple rocket launchers, according to RBC.

While Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicola Maduro, remains president, his party’s capability to influence decisions has been significantly reduced, RBC said. The assembly voting is the worst-ever defeat for the leftist movement founded by Chavez in 1999, according to the BBC.

Argentina’s economy isstuck in a prolonged slowdown and facing a recession next year, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts. But Macri’s room to maneuver will be limited by Congress, where the coalition loyal to his predecessor Cristina Kirchner and her husband Nestor — also a former president — will be the largest party in the lower house and have an absolute majority in the Senate, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended impeachment proceedings against Rousseff until it rules on a secret vote that apparently stacked a congressional committee with opponents trying to oust her, according to The Independent website.

 

December 10, 2015 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: U.N. Seeks $2 Billion to Head Off Desert Migration Crisis

Sahel Imperiled.

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

The United Nations is seeking a record $2 billion in aid for North Africa’s Sahel region to counter poverty, insecurity and climate change that could tip the area over, generating a new wave of mass migration, Reuters reported Wednesday (December 9).

The U.N. has increased its appeal for the nine countries of the semiarid band stretching from Senegal on the Atlantic to Eritrea on the Red Sea more than tenfold over the last 10 years, but funding has fallen short each year.

Attacks by militants from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin, as well as efforts by regional armies to counter them, have already forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes — a figure that has tripled in 12 months, according to Reuters.

Toby Lanzer, a U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator, noted the thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East flooding into Europe. “Eventually, you are going to have thousands or tens of thousands of people [from the Sahel] who will seek opportunities elsewhere or, if worse comes to the worst, be forced to flee,” he told Reuters.

A portion of the 2016 funding, part of a $20.1 billion record U.N. humanitarian appeal, will also go toward education, which Lanzer hopes will encourage young girls to finish schooling and cap population growth in a region ill-equipped to cope with a forecast sixfold increase in population by 2100.

The biggest recipient in 2016 will be Chad with $567 million, which has suffered a series of Boko Haram suicide bombings in recent months, followed by Mali with $354 million and Niger with $316 million. Other countries in the Sahel include Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Sudan

The refugee appeal comes just a day after U.N. Security Council appealed for greater international security cooperation and more humanitarian aid to bring stability to sub-Saharan Africa.

Concern about terrorist safe havens in Libya and the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, are at the heart of the Security Council’s warning.

In a presidential statement issued two weeks after the top U.N. regional official warned that the sub-Saharan Sahel region will become fertile ground for recruiting terrorists among its tens of millions of disadvantaged people, the 15-member Council called for a dual policy of combatting terrorism and its havens while eliminating its root causes through aid and development.

December 9, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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