Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: U.S. to Deploy More Special Ops in Fight Against ISIS

Expeditionary Targeting Force.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq. (Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq.
(Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The Obama administration is sending more Special Operations Forces (SOF) to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional hearing Tuesday (December 1) that the Pentagon was deploying “a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces and put “even more pressure” on the leadership of the so-called Islamic State — also known as ISIS and ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

Eventually, Carter said, special operators will be able to “conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”

Carter did not detail how many SOF troops would be sent to the region or where they would be deployed. But Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to several news organizations, said this new force was expected to be based in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq. The number of SOF operators could be between 150 and 200, it was reported by USA Today, the Washington Post and Reuters.

President Obama has already sent 3,500 troops to Iraq and the surrounding region to advise and support — but not fight alongside —  Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. In October Obama authorized the deployment of  50 special ops troops to advise and train Arab and Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters in Syria.

Before that, Obama was — and remains — reluctant to commit U.S. ground forces to fight ISIS, preferring to rely on U.S. led airstrikes on ISIS targets in support of Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians fighting the Islamist terror organization, which has captured chunks of Iraq and Syria.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War. (Click to enlarge)

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee the the air campaign has intensified against ISIS’s main revenue stream: oil exports. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  also at the hearing, said the air attacks had disrupted 43 percent of ISIS oil production. But under sometimes testy questioning, Dunford conceded that “we have not contained” ISIS.

“We are at war,” Carter told the hearing, adding that he meant “this is a serious business … it has that kind of gravity.” ISIS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, and a string of attacks in Paris last month that left 130 dead.

Carter said  the new SOF presence in Iraq will raise uncertainty among ISIS leaders. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night who’s coming through the window,” he added.

December 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: UN Base in Mali Attacked; Boko Haram Bombing; Pirates Are Back; Covering Africa

Another Mali Attack.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Two United Nations peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed in a rocket attack Saturday (November 28) on a U.N. base in northern Mali.

The attack on the dessert base near Kidal (see map) killed two soldiers from Guinea. More than 10,000 UN peacekeepers from several countries — mostly nearby West African nations like Guinea — have been patrolling violence-wracked Mali since 2013, according to the BBC.

The UN mission in Mali — criticized at the time of its approval because there is no peace deal to support — has suffered more casualties than any other in recent years, with 56 troops killed, the BBC indicated in a November 20 video report.

Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN’s deployment in Mali known as MINUSMA, told Al Jazeera the attack was launched before dawn with five rockets landing inside the UN compound. Salgado said 20 other people were wounded, four seriously.

“In the past we’ve had mortar shells land outside, but this time they made it into the camp,” he said.

The armed group Ansar Dine told the AFP news agency it was responsible for the attack. Hamadou Ag Khallini, one of the group’s senior figures told AFP by phone that the attack was “in response to the violation of our lands by the enemies of Islam.”

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, when a rebellion by heavily-armed Tuareg nomads sparked an Army coup in 2012 because the government’s poor handling of the revolt. The Tuaregs, backed by al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists, took advantage of the chaos and swept over half the country — threatening Bamako, the capital — before the French intervened with ground troops and aircraft.

But violence has picked up again. Five UN peacekeepers were killed in July, and just over a week ago a militant assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako left more than 20 people dead. On Friday (November 27), Malian forces arrested two men in connection with the hotel attack, the Voice of America website reported..

Other West African governments are also battling insurgents. Boko Haram, the leading armed group in the region, has this year extended its attacks from Nigeria to the neighboring states of Niger, Cameroon and Chad, Al Jazeera noted.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram-Nigeria.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

The Islamic State-linked militant group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing in northern Nigeria Friday (November 27) that killed at least 22 people marching in a procession of Shi’ite pilgrims.

The blast near the village of Dakozoye, south of Kano, came just days after two female bombers blew themselves up at a local mobile telephone market in Kano, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others in the city of 2.1 million residents, the Voice of America reported.

A statement posted Saturday (November 28) on Twitter referred to the Friday blast as a “martyrdom-seeking operation.”  It also vowed more violence would come as the extremist group presses its six-year campaign for an independent Islamic state, or caliphate, in northeastern Nigeria and the nearby countries of northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Followers of The Islamic Movement of Nigeria were marching from Kano to Zaria through the village of Dakasoye on Friday when the attackers struck, according to Al Jazeera. The followers were on a “symbolic trek” to Zaria, where the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is based, to mark the 40th day of Ashura – the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been labeled the world’s deadliest terrorist group, according to the New York Times.

The militant group that has tortured Nigeria and its neighbors for years, was responsible for 6,664 deaths last year, more than any other terrorist group in the world, including the Islamic State, which killed 6,073 people in 2014, according to a report released (November 18).

The report, by the Institute of Economics & Peace, said the Islamic State and Boko Haram were responsible for half of all global deaths attributed to terrorism. Last year, the deaths attributed to Boko Haram alone increased by more than 300 percent, the report said. The report also found a drastic increase in terrorist attacks last year, with the majority occurring in three countries: Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, where other militant groups besides Boko Haram operate.

*** *** ***

Pirates Redux.

Five Polish sailors have been abducted from a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, according to the BBC and other news outlets.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the men– including a captain and other three officers — were kidnapped Thursday night (November 26) from the cargo ship Szafir.

Pirates boarded the vessel as it traveled from Belgium to Nigeria, according to Polish media reports. Eleven other sailors evaded capture, apparently by locking themselves in the engine room.

Security experts classify the waters off Nigeria as some of the deadliest on earth, with pirates based in the country often targeting oil tankers, as well as hostages to ransom, Al Jazeera reported.

But the region has seen no documented attacks since February, when a crude carrier was boarded with the ship’s Greek deputy captain killed and three crew members taken hostage.

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

FRIDAY FOTO (November 27, 2015)

Up Close and Very Personal.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle over the northern Mediterranean Sea.

As you might suspect from the logo on the refueling drogue, this Stratotanker is assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the U.S. military’s only permanently assigned air refueling operation in the European theater. The Strike Eagle is assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing.

Both air wings while deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, will be supporting Operation Inherent Resolve , the U.S. led air campaign over Iraq and Syria to degrade and defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State — also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh.

November 27, 2015 at 2:10 am Leave a comment

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: [UPDATED 11/25/2015] Refugee Crisis; Winning Over Muslim Immigrants; Water Woes Behind Mass Migrations

Food for Thought: Double Trouble.

Food for ThoughtNews that some of the gunmen and suicide bombers in the Friday the 13th Paris attacks were European nationals have politicians and governments on both sides of the Atlantic fretting and fulminating.

They’re worried that terrorists may be hiding among the refugees swarming into Europe — like one of the attackers in Paris who killed 129 people. They also fear that refugees from Muslim countries like Syria and Iraq — even if they’re fleeting terrorism — may become radicalized by anti-Western propaganda and turn into Islamist terrorists themselves.

In the United States, the governors of more than half the states say thousands of Syrian refugees President Barack Obama wants to bring to America are not welcome. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed to enter the country as refugees next year, according to CNN.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees leave a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Photo by Ggia via wikipedia)

Syrian and Iraqi refugees leave a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.
(Photo by Ggia via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, some countries in Europe, which has been swamped this year by more than 700,000  political and economic refugees from the Middle East and Africa, say they won’t take in any more people. According to Reuters, 1,500 migrants remain trapped in northern Greece unable to cross the border into Macedonia after other countries in the Balkans began limiting their intake to Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Meanwhile, Poland cited the Paris attacks as the reason for not taking in 4,500 Syrian refugees as part of a European Union plan to spread the immigration burden, Britain’s Daily Mail reported. Instead, Poland’s new foreign minister suggested turning the refugees into an army to fight and “liberate their country with our help.”

Here at 4GWAR, we don’t have all the answers to these expanding problems, but we offer two pieces of research that could help point the way to a solution.

*** *** ***

Winning Muslims’ Trust.

You know the old saying “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”? Well, some academic researchers say their work shows harsh rhetoric and cold shoulders can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States — and that can lead to radicalization.

“Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, and in partnership with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it,” say in an article on “The Conversation” website via the Washington Post.

Lyons-Padilla, a research scientist at Stanford University’s Stanford SPARQ and Gelfand, a professor and Distinguished University Scholar Teacher at the University of Maryland, asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the United States to tell them about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities — including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. “We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.”

Because you can’t pre-interview a potential terrorist, they measured two indicators of support for radicalism.

“We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. (For example, they asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad.) “Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it.” This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the United States or Germany upset about how they were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.

“Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views,” the researchers wrote. But the responses of some interviewees  showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country — in effect they were “culturally homeless.”

“The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism,” the researchers said. “Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives.” Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened, they wrote.

The researchers add: “For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.”

The research results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. “Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it,” the authors said. To read the full article, click here.

*** *** ***

Water Woes.

Beyond conflict, there is another contributing factor to the waves of refugee flooding Europe: water scarcity, according to a world renowned environment and development research organization.

Water Stress in Syria and Middle East. (World Research Institute map)

Water Stress in Syria and Middle East.
(World Resources Institute map)

“A well-documented path can connect water scarcity to food insecurity, social instability and potentially violent conflict,’ say researchers at the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.”As climate change amplifies scarcity worries, more secure water supplies could help the lives of millions in conflict zones,” say WRI’s , and

They say drought and water shortages in Syria are likely to have contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s civil war — now in its fourth year. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people — primarily farmers and herders — to lose their livelihoods and leave their land. The farmers then moved to urban areas, magnifying Syria’s general destabilization.

The unstable conditions are likely to deteriorate in coming decades. Syria is projected to be among the 11 most water-stressed countries in the world by 2040. And it’s not alone in the region. Fourteen of the 33 likely most water-stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East. Water stress is an underlying conflict multiplier that will not go away, the trio of researchers say.

Food prices and other food-supply disruptions are caused by a complex series of factors, including the global food trade and government subsidies. But local water stress can make the situation worse over the long term, the WRI researchers says. Part of the reason Middle Eastern countries had to import so much food is that water is relatively inaccessible compared to other food-growing regions, they added.

To read the entire article, including possible solutions to water stress, click here.

 

November 25, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Mali Hotel Attacked

Gunmen Seize Hotel.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A hotel in the northwest African nation of Mali is under siege today after gunmen stormed the building in Mali’s capital city, killing at least three people and taking more than 100 hostages.

While many hotel guests and workers have been evacuated from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, 138 guests and hotel staff are believed trapped inside, according to the BBC.

The hotel has been surrounded by Malian and French troops. A U.S. defense official in Washington said about 25 U.S. military personnel were in Bamako at the time of the incident, and were helping to move civilians to safety, Reuters reported.

France said it was dispatching 50 elite counter-terrorism officers to Bamako immediately. Paris has troops in Mali helping to fight Islamists, but they are based in the desert city of Gao, 950 kilometers away, according to Reuters.

According to news reports, the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a truck bearing diplomatic license plates and started shooting when a guard tried to check their identification.

Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was attending a regional conference in neighboring Chad and has cut short his trip and is reported heading back to his country.

The gunmen’s motivation and affiliation is unknown although some people who escaped the hotel said some of the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”

Mali, a former French colony, has ben wracked by a military coup and an uprising by separatist Tuareg tribesmen since 2012. The coup was sparked by young officers’ frustration with the government’s inept handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the country’s northern deserts. The ensuing chaos prompted the Tuaregs to sweep over more than half the country, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. Radical Islamists linked to al Qaeda hijacked the rebellion, turning it into a Muslim extremist campaign that imposed harsh sharia law and destroyed shrines and tombs deemed idolatrous.

The French intervention in the Malian crisis began in January. (Copyright: French Defense Ministry)

The French intervention in the Malian crisis began in January 2013.
(Copyright: French Defense Ministry)

France launched a military intervention in early 2013 at the request of the Bamako government. Together with troops from neighboring African nations, they rolled the rebels back and have been providing security — along with U.N. peacekeepers, now numbering 12,000, ever since.

French, Turkish, Chinese and Indian nationals were among the guests at the hotel, which is popular with United Nations personnel, businessmen and airline flight crews.

Northern Mali remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year, including the capital. In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners, killing five people, according to the Associated Press.

About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali. According to the Dutch defense ministry, some 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters. Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the U.N. mission headquarters in Bamako, AP reported.

November 20, 2015 at 10:10 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 20, 2015)

Golden Light/Green Beret.

New York National Guard photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

New York National Guard photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

An Army Special Forces Green Beret takes a knee during a noncombatant evacuation exercise as part of Southern Strike 16 at Meridian Naval Air Station in Mississippi.

The exercise emphasizes air-to-air, air-to-ground and special forces training opportunities.

To see some photos of the Air National Guard’s participation in this exercise, click here.

(We feel it is important to note the term Special Forces, refers to the U.S. Army unit known as the Green Berets. When speaking in general of specially trained, elite small units, the term special operations forces should be used.  Special operations forces — under the direction of Special Operations Command — includes units like Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Delta Force operators, Marine Raiders, special aircraft crews in the Army and Air Force, as well as several specialist Air Force positions such as combat (air traffic) controllers and para rescue jumpers.)

November 20, 2015 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

TERRORISM/REFUGEES: U.S. House Seeks to Block Syrian Refugees; Similar U.S. Concerns in 1939

House Defies Veto Threat.

(Photo: Statue of Liberty National Monument Facebook page)

(Photo: Statue of Liberty National Monument Facebook page)

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Republican-backed legislation Thursday (November 19) to block plans to admit thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States.

By an overwhelming 289-to-137 vote, the House voted to suspend President Obama’s program to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. The measure, which 47 of the 188 Democrats voted for, would also intensify the process for screening refugees, according to Reuters.

The measure was quickly drafted this week following the Islamic State attacks that killed 129 people. It would require that high-level officials – the FBI director, the director of national intelligence and the secretary of Homeland Security – verify that each Syrian refugee poses no security risk. After the House vote, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called such screening both impractical and impossible.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill would pause the program the White House announced in September. Ryan said it was important to act quickly “when our national security is at stake.” Some Republicans have said some refugees could be militants bent on attacking the United States, noting reports that at least one Paris attacker may have slipped into Europe among migrants registered in Greece.

The White House has threatened a presidential veto if the bill is passed by the Senate — which remains an uncertainty at this time. Republican leaders in Congress are threatening to include the restrictions in a must-pass spending bill to keep the federal government running past December 11, raising the specter of another government shutdown, the Los Angeles Times reported.
*** *** ***

Deja Vue All Over Again?

The plaque with the poem evoking the spirit of the Statue of Liberty (via wikipedia)

The plaque on Liberty Island with the poem evoking the spirit of the Statue of Liberty  (via wikipedia)

Calls by some Republican presidential candidates and the governors — mostly Republican — of more than 30 states to block the admission of 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States, harks back to a similar sentiment in America just months before the beginning of World War II.

The Washington Post and other media sites have reminded readers about opinion polls taken in 1939 that showed Americans overwhelmingly opposed settling refugees from Hitler’s Europe in the United States. Upon hearing about this opposition, your 4GWAR editor was reminded of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about the Franklin Roosevelt White House during the war years “No Ordinary Time.” In it she noted that some U.S. State Department officials opposed allowing European refugees into the country for fear that some might be Nazi double agents merely pretending to flee Hitler.

An article in the New York Times Thursday (November 19) asked: How apt is the comparison between Syrians today and German Jews before World War II and what can and cannot be learned from it? 

Some historians say that, while the two groups are not completely symmetrical, there are lessons to be drawn. Republican leaders and some Democrats have sought to halt the Syrian refugee program, fearing fighters from the Islamic State could be among the 10,000 migrants allowed to enter the country. “We cannot allow terrorists to take advantage of our compassion,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said. “This is a moment where it is better to be safe than to be sorry.”

In 1938, Jews sought to escape Nazi Germany at a time when the United States was struggling through the Great Depression, and Americans expressed similar concern over accepting refugees, the piece  noted. “I don’t think it would meet the part of wisdom,” said Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota, according to the Nov. 5, 1938 edition of The New York Times. “Our conditions here at home prohibit accepting an influx of population.”

The words of the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus on the plaque above:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(via wikipedia)

November 19, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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