Posts filed under ‘International Crime’

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Troubles

NIGERIA-Boko Haram.

Extremist attacks of military bases between November 2 and 18, killed 39 soldiers and wounded 43 more, Nigerian officials conceded Wednesday (November 28).

The attacks are an embarrassment and political setback for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has maintained the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram has been defeated. On Wednesday Buhari declared that Boko Haram and Islamic State-linked fighters should be wiped “from the surface of the earth.”

MAP-Nigeria

(Nigeria map: CIA World Factbook)

Shocked by the deaths, Buhari backed off past declarations that Boko Haram has been defeated and urged the military to “rise to the challenge.” He addressed security leaders in the turbulent northeast as he faces growing criticism ahead of next year’s election over the failure to end what he called a “must-win war,” the Associated Press reported.

The Islamic State West Africa Province, the largest IS-linked extremist group in Africa and a recent Boko Haram offshoot, claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack, a Nov. 18 assault on a military base in Metele. Concerns are growing that the group, which has killed two abducted health workers in recent months, is becoming more vicious, according to AP.

Mamman Nu, a slightly more moderate leader of the brutal terrorist group was killed three months ago by his more fanatical followers, according to The Economist.

Claims that the Buhari administration and the Nigerian military are inadequately equipping soldiers for the fight against Boko Haram are reminiscent of similar charges made against then-President Goodluck Jonathan at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency between 2014 and 2015, according to the Council on Foreign Relations blog. Then, as now, Nigeria faced upcoming presidential elections, which Buhari would go on to win. He campaigned on a platform of tackling corruption and restoring security, and central to his campaign was the defeat of Boko Haram.

nigerian-refugees-un-photo

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora in 2015 after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.
(United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)Enter a caption

“The apparent revival of Boko Haram therefore constitutes for President Buhari an electoral liability as well as added danger now faced by ordinary Nigerians in the northeast. Furthermore, according to officials from Niger, the terrorist group recently kidnapped around eighteen girls from two villages near the border with Nigeria. The episode recalls the Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls from Chibok in 2014, though the large-scale kidnapping of school girls has become a common feature of the Boko Haram insurgency. The failure of the Jonathan administration to provide adequately for the military was widely ascribed to corruption. President Buhari has launched a high-profile initiative against corruption, though many Nigerians see it as ineffective. Hence, the revival of Boko Haram and claims that the military is ill-provisioned may call to mind earlier allegations of the Jonathan government’s fecklessness and corruption that Buhari campaigned against,” writes John Campbell on the CoFR website.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military says Boko Haram is using drones — unmanned aircraft — to gather intelligence on Nigerian troop movements, according to the BBC.

In a statement by Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman on Wednesday, the Army said “we have noticed daring moves by the terrorists, increased use of drone against our defensive positions and infusion of foreign fighters in their ranks, according the Nigerian news site Vanguard.

 

 

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November 30, 2018 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 28, 2018)

Dress Rehearsal.

Papa Company Receives New Female Blue Dress Coat

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Vivien Alstad)

Marine Corps recruits try on their blue dress coats for the first time at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina on August 21, 2018.
This photo presents 4GWAR with the opportunity to note that 2018 marks the centennial of women serving in the United States Marine Corps.
Opha May Johnson was the first of more than 300 women who enlisted into the Marine Corps on August 13, 1918, the day after then-Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels allowed women to enlist for clerical duty in the Marine Corps Reserve.
FRIFO 9-28-2018 Add women Parines centennial
In 1918, American women had not yet been granted the right to vote, but Johnson, who was 39 years old at the time, joined the Marine Corps anyway. She served as a clerk at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to ABC News.
Since 2001, more than 15,000 female Marines have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ten women have lost their lives in combat, ABC noted in an August 10 piece on the first female Marine officer to command an infantry combat platoon —  1st Lieutenant Marina A. Hierl.

September 28, 2018 at 11:31 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (February 23, 2018)

What is That?

180221-A-FJ979-548

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant James Avery)

When we first saw the thumbnail version of this photo on the Defense Department website, our was reaction was: “What is that thing?”

What do you think it looks like? Please post a comment below.

According to the DoD (Department of Defense), it’s a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, a rotor craft we’ve seen many times here at 4GWAR — but never from this angle.

The photo was taken February 21, 2018 after the chopper dropped off the soldiers shown taking up defensive positions during an air assault training mission at Fort Drum in far northern New York. The fort is home to the 10th Mountain Division.

February 23, 2018 at 1:43 pm 3 comments

VETERANS: VA Exploring New Ways to Ease Veterans’ Pain, Trauma

Mannequins to Marijuana.

Starting off 2017 with new leadership and a promise of additional funding from the Trump administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is exploring new techniques and new technologies to enhance patient treatment and caregiver training — amid increasing demands from a mushrooming veteran population.

TSIS image-Sim Mannequin

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Simulation Center in Florida provides a high-fidelity training environment by replicating actual patient treatment areas with video recording for classroom debriefing and review. (VHA photo).

In addition to meeting the needs of aging 20th century vets, the VA health care system is trying to cope with a surge of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The number of veteran enrollees in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) grew from 7.9 million in 2006 to nearly 9 million a decade later, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is the most prevalent mental health challenge facing veterans, according to the VA’s National Center for PTSD. VA research indicates between 11 percent and 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD in any given year. For Vietnam vets, it estimates 30 percent have had PTSD in their lifetime. More than 330,000 service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury between 2000 and 2015, according to the Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Dr. David Shulkin, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has pledged to improve veterans healthcare services, including providing timely access, especially cutting the first appointment wait time for vets in crisis, and to do more to address the veteran suicide rate of 20 deaths a day. Veterans Affairs was one of only three federal departments to get a funding increase in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal. The White House is seeking  to increase VA’s funding by 6 percent to $78.9 billion.

Meanwhile, veterans’ groups are calling on Congress to increase funding for complementary and alternative therapies for the “invisible wounds of war,” PSTD and traumatic brain injury (TBI). VA is studying non-mainstream medical practices ranging from natural products like vitamins, minerals and herbs to mind and body practices like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage therapy and chiropractic and osteopathic spinal manipulation.

The American Legion has suggested studying medical marijuana as a therapy for chronic pain. Chronic pain is the most common problem afflicting veterans. Almost two-thirds of veterans say they are in pain, and 9.1 percent say their pain is severe.

VHA has turned to advanced medical simulation and other high tech systems to standardize training procedures and education policies across its 1,233 healthcare facilities, including 168 medical centers.

VHA opened its new national simulation training center near Orlando, Florida last fall. Using computerized mannequins and other high tech equipment, students can replicate actual patient treatment situations that can be repeated as often as necessary. The training can be shared with other VA facilities through on-line video and other digital methods.

These and related topics will be discussed by government, medical and industry experts at the VA Healthcare 2017 conference May 15-18 in Arlington, Virginia. To read more, click here.

March 30, 2017 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SO/LIC Conference, Yemen Raid,SOF Risks

Special Ops Conference.

Riverine command boats GUNEX

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michelle L. Turner)

The annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium opens Monday in Bethesda, Maryland, tackling issues ranging from the acquisition and training needs of special operations forces (SOF) to budget challenges and the demand for cooperation and  information sharing with partner nations.

The four-day conference — sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) — will also address the widening challenge of creating a networked, connected and unified force of SOF, as well as U.S. and international law enforcement and intelligence organizations.

Speakers will include Army General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and James Geurts, the civilian head of acquisition at SOCOM. [More on the conference at the bottom of this post.]

Yemen Raid.

A Navy SEAL was killed in a raid on an al Qaeda base in Yemen late last month. The Defense Department identified the slain sailor as Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois. He died January 29 from wounds sustained in the raid. He was assigned to an East Coast based Special Warfare unit, which most news organizations have identified as SEAL Team 6. map-yemen

The raid sparked controversy in both the United States and the Middle East.

A “chain of mishaps and misjudgments,” according to the New York Times, plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three other servicemen  wounded and forced the raiders to destroy a U.S. V-22 Osprey, when the $75 million tilt-rotor aircraft was unable to take off after making a hard landing during the fire fight. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on February 1 as most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children, the Times reported.

Yemeni officials were unhappy about the raid and civilian casualties but they told the Reuters news agency that permission had not been withdrawn for the United States to carry out special ops ground missions. But they made clear their “reservations” about the latest operation, according to the Voice of America website. A statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington, VoA added, said the government “stresses that it has not suspended any programs with regards to counterterrorism operations in Yemen with the United States Government.”

The White House called the raid, the first authorized by the Trump administration, a success. But Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged that conclusion, telling NBC:  “When you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost, I don’t believe you can call it a success.”

But White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the operation, calling it “absolutely a success,” VoA reported. “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL who died.

Earlier, Spicer said it was “hard to ever call something a complete success when you have the loss of life, or people injured.  But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America and against our people and our institutions, and probably throughout the world in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.”

SOF Deaths.

The  casualty rate for highly skilled and experienced special operators, like Chief Owens, has been on the rise as the United States relies more and more on elite forces.

In the past year — for the first time — according to a New York Times report (via the Seattle Times), special-operations troops have died in greater numbers than conventional troops. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan SOF made up only a fraction of the dead. That they now fill nearly the whole casualty list, the report continues, shows how the Pentagon, hesitant to put conventional troops on the ground, has come to depend almost entirely on small groups of elite warriors.

Meanwhile, Navy SEALS and other elite units are quietly battling a frightening rise in parachute deaths, according to a Military Times investigation.

Between 2011 and 2016, 11 special operators have died in high altitude, free fall training jumps. That is a 60 percent increase over the previous five-year period, according to 13 years’ worth or records analyzed by Military Times.

Southern Strike 17

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride.)

More SO/LIC

The four-day conference is being held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. All the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands will take part in a panel discussion on the strategic and operational implications caused by the necessity to conduct coalition and inter-agency operations.

Another panel discussion on law enforcement special mission units will include representatives from several Department of Homeland Security units, including Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.

February 12, 2017 at 10:43 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA/HOMELAND SECURITY: Trump Taps Ex-SOUTHCOM Chief to head DHS.

Trump Picks Retired Marine General.

President-elect Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Corps General John Kelly to be the next head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to several news outlets.

ltgen-kelly

Kelly in 2012 before he took over SOUTHCOM and got his fourth star. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

General Kelly, 66, who until recently led United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), had a 40-year career in the Marine Corps, and led troops in intense combat in western Iraq, according to the New York Times. Kelly has not yet formally offered the job to General Kelly, in part because the general is out of the country this week, a person briefed on the decision told the Times. The president-elect plans to roll out the Homeland Security Department appointment next week, along with his remaining national security positions — including secretary of state.

Kelly is not expected to face difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Trump’s team was drawn to him because of his Southwest border expertise, people familiar with the transition told the Washington Post. Like the president-elect, Kelly has sounded the alarm about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats that he sees as emanating from Mexico and Central and South America.

Based in Miami, Florida, SOUTHCOM has military responsibilities for Latin America and the Caribbean Basin — 32 countries in all. Those responsibilities include organizing training exercises with local militaries in the region as well as good will/humanitarian aid missions. One of SOUTHCOM’s most demanding missions is counter narcotics.

Before taking over at SOUTHCOM in 2012, Kelly served as senior military adviser to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta starting in 2011. Trump’s selection of Kelly for DHS was first reported by CBS News.

Kelly, who retired from the SOUTHCOM post earlier this year, publicly clashed with the Obama administration on its plans – which were never executed – to close Guantanamo Bay and dismissed as “foolishness” concerns that the military’s treatment of detainees at the facility had cost the U.S. the moral high ground in the War on Terror, POLITICO reported.

Kelly is the latest in a string of former military figures to be nominated for positions in the incoming Trump administration. Trump has also nominated retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security advisor and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as defense secretary. Retired Army general and former Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus is said to be among those under consideration for secretary of state, the Voice of America website reported.

 

December 7, 2016 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: New Commanders at SOCOM, CENTCOM

Ranger In, Ranger Out.

Votel relinquishes command of USSOCOM

Army General Joseph Votel, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the change-of-command ceremony March 30 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Newly promoted Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas assumes command of SOCOM and Votel becomes commander of U.S. Central Command. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence)

Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At the same time Votel moved over to CENTCOM, Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas replaced him at Special Operations Command.

Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.

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Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas at the change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.

Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.

At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.

mapMidEast

U.S. Central Command’s area of operations (in color). (CENCOM  map)

 

 

 

March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

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