Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Wants to Kick Addiction to Airborne Recon

SOCOM’s ISR Roadmap.

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

TAMPA, Florida — U.S. commando forces have a virtual “chemical dependence” on air assets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data, and U.S. Special Operations Command wants to kick the habit, says SOCOM’s intel capabilities and requirements chief.

U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Atkins says 80 percent of SOCOM’s ISR comes from air assets, both manned and unmanned. “This is where our spending and our resource investment has been,” Atkins told a briefing at a special operations conference Wednesday (May 20) on SOCOM’s ISR Road Map.

The ISR roadmap calls for sustaining existing large and expensive ISR air assets like the Air Force MQ-9 Reaper or the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle — both of them unmanned aircraft — while investing in newer, simpler aircraft. The roadmap makes “one thing abundantly clear,” according to Atkins. “We need to reduce our reliance on airborne platforms,” he said, adding that airborne ISR “is not always available and is often the most costly” way to gather intelligence.

So SOCOM will be putting considerable energy into exploring and expanding ground-based and maritime-based ISR, “because that’s where we see the most cost benefit analysis,” Atkins said. Space and cyber-based capabilities will also be studied to enhance special ops missions and to deliver precision intelligence.

The command will need technological help from industry to solve the data transport problem. And because SOCOM will be relying increasingly on partner militaries, it will require ISR platforms to be affordable and employable by partners, with the intelligence sharing components “essentially baked in” to facilitate cooperation.

MQ-7 Raven small unmanned aircraft  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

RQ-11 Raven small unmanned aircraft
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

Atkins said SOCOM is seeing a tremendous demand from partner nations to teach — not only ISR acquisition — but how to use the information in what SOCOM calls foreign internal defense — training foreign militaries how to defend their territory and people themselves and rely less on U.S. assistance.

“A lot of these countries know how to fly the Scan Eagles (a small drone) and other things that they buy, but they don’t necessarily know how to use them” to process information and turn that information into useable intelligence, Atkins told a standing room only audience during the 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference sponsored by TAMPA-headquartered SOCOM and the National Defense Industrial Association. The conference ended today (May 21).

May 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Looks to Future Threats

Preparing for New Challenges.

U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are training Tanzanian park rangers in infantry skills. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Hopkins)

U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are training Tanzanian park rangers in infantry skills.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Hopkins)

TAMPA, Florida — Battling  pirates off the Horn of Africa, violent extremist groups across Africa and the Middle East, transnational crime organizations in Latin America and rogue states in Europe and Asia doesn’t begin to address all the threats facing America in the 21st century, says the head of U.S. Special Operations Command — known as SOCOM.

“SOCOM is looking beyond our current conflicts, in order to gain an understanding of the evolving strategic environment,” says Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s commander. SOCOM’s success in that dynamic environment “hangs on this priority,” Votel stressed.

To that end, Votel told the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa on Tuesday (May 19) that SOCOM analysts were keeping tabs on worldwide technical progress, demographic changes and economic trends to avoid strategic surprise.

Votel, himself an Army Ranger, oversees training and equipping policies for U.S. commando units in all of the armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Considering the many threat issues and the effect of the congressional budget- trimming strategy, known as sequestration, Votel said SOCOM needs to invest in equipment interoperability and integrate with “our international partners,” of which there are nearly 60.

Even if SOCOM continues to avoid the budget ax, cuts to the conventional forces could hurt the command’s abilities to perform its missions because SOCOM relies heavily on the services to supply transportation and logistical support among other things.

May 19, 2015 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOFIC Trade Show Opens

…in a Complex World.

Multi-national special operations forces participated in an outdoor demonstration at last year's SOFIC in Tampa. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Multi-national special operations forces participated in an outdoor demonstration at last year’s SOFIC in Tampa.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

TAMPA, Florida — Few events could better illustrate the theme — Winning in a Complex World — of a special operations forces industry conference opening today than the good news/bad news coming the Middle East last week.

On Friday (May 15) U.S. Army Delta Force commandos killed a key leader of the Islamic State group in a daring helicopter raid inside war torn Syria. About a dozen Islamic State fighters were killed in the brief but intense firefight. No U.S. forces were killed or injured although at least one helicopter was riddled with bullets.

Two days later (May 17) word came that Islamic State fighters had captured Ramadi, seizing a large cache of weapons in the capital of Iraq’s largest province just 60 miles west of Baghdad — despite U.S. air strikes and other support.

The United States is being challenged on a number of fronts around the world from violent extremist organizations across Africa and the Middle East to transnational narcotics cartels corrupting governments in Latin America and West Africa.

Russia and China are flexing their muscles and bullying their neighbors. And there are still the challenges posed by North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan.

And on the front line of these and other hotspots around the world are U.S. special Operations Forces (SOF) tasked with training partner nation militaries, keeping tabs on threatening groups, rescuing hostages and killing or capturing terrorists.

In Tampa this week, leaders of U.S. Special Operations Command USSOCOM) — which oversees the training and equipping of Green Berets, Navy Seals, Marine Raiders, Air Commandos and other SOF units, will be explaining their needs — and their funding constraints — to industry.  At that same time, hundreds of manufacturers and vendors at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference will be showing the equipment, technologies and services they believe will help SOCOM complete its varied missions. Your 4GWAR editor is here to listen to both groups.

May 19, 2015 at 1:40 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 1, 2015)

Green Cockpit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne) Click on image to enlarge for full effect.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)
Click on image to enlarge for full effect.

An Air Force pilot and co-pilot return to base in an AC-130W Stinger II a multi-role aircraft capable of close air support and armed reconnaissance, after a live-fire mission to support Exercise Emerald Warrior on Hurlburt Field, Florida on April 27, 2015.

Emerald Warrior is an annual joint exercise to train special operations, as well as conventional and partner nation forces to sharpen special operations air and ground combat skills. The operation is the Defense Department’s only irregular warfare exercise allowing representative units from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and National Guard to train together with units from partner nations and prepare for real-world contingency operations. U.S. soldiers, airmen and Marines as well as British and Dutch troops participated in this year’s exercise.

 The airmen in this photo are assigned to the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, part of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, out of Canon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

For more photos of this big undertaking, click here and here.

 

May 1, 2015 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS/INTELLIGENCE: Michael Vickers Retiring from Pentagon Intel Post

Ex-Green Beret, Ex-CIA, Now Ex-Pentagon Official.

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 2014 Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado with moderator Brian Ross of ABC News (left) and John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department.
(Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo)

Michael Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence for the past four years, announced Thursday (April 30) that he was stepping down.

A former U.S. Army Green Beret, CIA operations officer, and top Pentagon official since 2007, Vickers was the first person to hold the position of assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities from July 23, 2007 to March 17, 2011. President Obama asked Vickers to stay on in that post when his administration took office in 2009.

Vickers is probably best known as the principal strategist for the largest covert action program in the CIA’s history: the paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan — popularly known from a non-fiction book and movie as “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

But success doesn’t come easy or all the time, Vickers told DoD News. He noted the United States and the West were caught by surprise by Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine, slipping in Russian special ops soldiers pretending to be Ukrainians. But Vickers said “the intelligence community quickly adapted to the situation and was able to track things very well since then.”

He noted that the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or simply the Islamic State) and their rapid advance through Iraq were also surprises.

Obama nominated Vickers to be the third Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence  on September 29, 2010, and he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on March 17, 2011. Vickers served as Acting USDI for about two months in early 20111. As USDI, he played a critical policy and planning role in the operation that hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden.

As the SO/LIC&IC assistant secretary, he was, in effect, the civilian chief of all U.S. Special Operations Forces, and the senior civilian adviser to the Secretary of Defense on counterterrorism, irregular warfare and special activities.  He played a central role in shaping U.S. strategy in the war with al Qaeda and the war in Afghanistan, and led the largest expansion of SOF capabilities and capacity in history.

From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces enlisted man and officer, and CIA Operations Officer. He had operational and combat experience in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia. His operational experience spans covert action and espionage, unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and foreign internal defense, according to his Pentagon bio.

April 30, 2015 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Army Rescue in Nigeria; Nigerien Army Drives Terrorists from Island; Mali Rebels Attack UN Peacekeepers

Army Rescues 293 from Boko Haram.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

The Nigerian Army says it has rescued nearly 300 female captives from the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.

On Tuesday (April 28), the military said it freed 200 girls and 93 women from an area where Boko Haram is active. However, the Army said the girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014 were not among the captives released, according to the BBC.

The military said the girls and women were freed during major operations ending in the seizure of four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest that borders Cameroon.

Whomever they are, many of the women and girls may not be able to go home because Boko Haram has destroyed their houses, families or businesses, or continues to threaten their towns, a Nigerian psychologist and counterterrorism adviser to the government tells Voice of America.

Earlier this month, the human rights group Amnesty International published a report saying that Boko Haram, which is fighting to create an Islamic state in largely Muslim Northeast Nigeria,  has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Al Jazeera reported.  In addition to forcing them into sexual slavery, Boko Haram has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere.

Boko Haram has been responsible for killing thousands of people mostly in the north but also in bombing attacks in large cities, including Abjua, the capital. About 300 teenaged girls were kidnapped from a school compound during a Boko Haram attack last April, sparking international outrage and widespread dissatisfaction with President Goodluck Jonathan, who failed to win re-election last month. Dozens of the girls managed to escape their captors as they were driven away from the school but 219 are still missing.

Newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army general who once took over the country in a coup 30 years ago, has pledged to crush Boko Haram. Buhari takes office on May 29. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, the new leader said he could not promise that Nigerian authorities will be able to find and rescue the missing schoolgirls, but: “I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home.”

*** *** ***

Nigerien Army vs. Boko Haram

Government officials say Niger’s military has regained total control of the island of Karamga in Lake Chad after an attack by Boko Haram.

Nigerien paratroopers train with U.S. advisers during Exercise Flintlock 2007. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson)

Nigerien paratroopers train with U.S. Army advisers during Exercise Flintlock 2007.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson)

In a statement, Niger’s government said Monday (April 27) that its security and defense forces have cleared the enemies from the island, the Associated Press reported. (via FOX News)The government said 46 Nigerien soldiers and 28 civilians were killed in the attack, according to AFP (via News 24 South Africa). Government officials said 126 terrorists were also killed in the attack on the island’s army base.

The island was seized by hundreds of Boko Haram militants aboard motorized canoes at dawn on Saturday (April 25, their second attempt to capture it since February, army and government sources told Reuters.

Lake Chad’s islands, which lie in dense swampland, are an ideal base for mounting surprise attacks on the countries bordering the lake: Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Niger suffered a wave of attacks and suicide bombs in its southern border region of Diffa in February and March, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency there.

Niger joined a regional offensive in January that has been credited with retaking large swaths of territory from the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram, whose fighters had months of gains in Nigeria and pushed across borders. A February attack on Karamga killed seven Nigeran soldiers, and Niger towns bordering Nigeria have also been targeted.

*** *** ***

Mali Again

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Swedish peacekeepers in Mali say they have repelled a rebel attack on Timbuktu twice in two days. Heavily armed rebels in trucks fitted with machine guns retreated north of the city on Wednesday (April 29), a Swedish commander told the BBC.

Fighting has also intensified in other parts of the northwest Africa country in recent days. A pro-government militia said it had recaptured the eastern town of Menaka, while a coalition of Tuareg rebels claimed to have taken the town of Lere, the BBC said.

Timbuktu and the north of Mali were taken over by Tuareg rebels allied with jihadist groups in 2012. France intervened in January 2013 and the UN began deploying 10,000 peacekeepers in July of that year.

Peace negotiations have been complicated by the number of rebel groups with widely differing agendas.

They include secessionist Tuaregs, religious extremists and armed militias vying for control of lucrative trafficking routes.

 

April 29, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

LAT AM REVIEW: Colombian Attack; Mexican Drug Lord Seized, U.S. Coast Guard Focus on Western Hemisphere, Rio Defense Expo

U.S. Condemns Rebel Attack.

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Faxback

Eleven Colombian soldiers were killed in fighting with Marxist guerrillas last week  (April 14), prompting Colombia’s president to resume air attacks against rebel camps.

The attack and the government’s response have many observers worried they could jeopardize peace talks seeking to end a 50-year insurgency that has cost thousands of lives in Colombia.

A spokesman for the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — which has been trying to overthrow the government since the 1960s — claimed the soldiers initiated the fighting near Cauca in western Colombia. But President Juan Manuel Santos called it a deliberate attack by the FARC and ordered the resumption of bombing raids on rebel targets. Seventeen other soldiers were wounded in the skirmish and one guerrilla was also killed.

Despite the violence, the Voice of America reported the two-year-old peace talks resumed on Thursday (April 16) in Havana, Cuba where Colombian government officials and FARC commanders are trying to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement April 17 condemning “the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the FARC.” The brief statement called the attack a “direct violation of the unilateral ceasefire FARC committed to” last December.  “We support President Santos’ decision to continue negotiations but also lift his halt of aerial bombardment of FARC,” the statement added.

The State Department said it reaffirms “our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.”

In February, the FARC said it would stop recruiting fighters younger than 17. Then in March, the two sides announced an initiative to work together to remove land mines, the New York Times reported. Soon afterward, Santos ordered a one-month halt to the aerial bombing of FARC encampments. Just a week prior to the latest attack, the president extended the bombing respite for another month.

Since the peace talks began, there have been other clashes with the FARC that resulted in a large number of casualties. In July 2013, the military reported that 15 soldiers died when the rebels attacked an oil pipeline, the Times added.

*** *** ***

Mexican Drug Lord Captured.

Jesus Salas Aguayo  (DEA Photo)

Jesus Salas Aguayo
(DEA Photo)

The head of another transnational drug cartel has been captured.

On Sunday (April 19) Mexican authorities said they have captured the man who has led the Juarez drug cartel since last year’s arrest of then-leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the Associated Press reported.

National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Jesus Salas Aguayo was caught Friday (April 17) about 130 kilometers south of the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. One of Salas’ bodyguards was killed and another was arrested.

Rubido said Salas Aguayo is linked to a 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez, as well as a 2012 bar attack that killed 15, and the 2009 slaying of a protected witness in El Paso. The website of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Salas Aguayo is wanted in the United States for possession and distribution of narcotics and for conspiracy.

*** *** ***

Coast Guard Focus.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.  (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s not enough to seize thousands of pounds of cocaine at sea or even arrest the people transporting illegal drugs by boat.

Instead, it’s crucial to defeat the transnational organized crime (TOC) networks behind the illicit commerce in narcotics and people, according to the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.

“Last year alone. the Coast Guard took 91 metric tons of cocaine out of the [trafficking] stream,” Lieutenant Commander. Devon Brennan told a briefing on the first day of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. He noted that seizure figure is three times the amount of drugs seized by all U.S. law enforcement agencies “including along the southwestern border.”

But going after transnational cartels is only part of the Coast Guard’s regional strategy. “In the next decade, the Coast Guard must confront significant challenges to maritime safety, efficiency and security in the Western Hemisphere,” the Strategy states, identifying three priorities over the next 10 years: combatting [criminal] networks, Securing Borders and Safeguarding Commerce.

*** *** ***

Brazil Defense Expo.

One of the biggest defense conferences in the Americas, Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD 2015),  just ended in Rio de Janeiro.

Armored ground vehicles, helicopters and small arms were among the items on display at the LAAD 2015 international defense and security exhibition.

“Despite budgetary uncertainties, the Brazilian Army remains steadfast in the pursuit of its key strategic projects,”  according to IHS Jane’s website.

The army’s seven key strategic projects include the SISFRON border-monitoring system; a cyber defense project; the Guarani Strategic Project for (PEE Guarani) for a family of wheeled amphibious armored personnel carriers (APCs);  and the Attainment of Full Operational Capability (OCOP) project, which aims to equip the army at a minimum level of readiness to guarantee the homeland defense mission.

Brazil’s defense strategy includes air and naval asset acquisitions to assert Brazilian control over its deepwater offshore oil reserves and to secure the waters of the Amazon Basin, which Brasilia considers a natural resources commodity as valuable as oil.

Brazil: CIA World Factbook

Brazil: CIA World Faxback

April 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

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