Posts filed under ‘Iraq’

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were unhappy about the raid and civilian casualties but they told the Reuters news agency that permission had not been withdrawn for the United States to carry out special ops ground missions.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

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.

160330-F-YT673-465

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

FRIDAY FOTO (January 15, 2016)

Cockpit Reach.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Corey Hook

340th EARS refuels A10s and B1U.S Air Force Major Steve Briones (left) and 1st Lieutenant Andrew Kim fly a an aerial refueling KC-135 Stratotanker over Turkey on January 6. Looks easy, doesn’t it?

Coalition forces fly daily missions to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. led air campaign against the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

January 15, 2016 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

AIR FORCE: Report Says Pentagon Rethinking Attack Plane’s Retirement

Warthog Reprieve.

A Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a 2014 joint bArmy-Air National Guard training exercise in Alaska in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Harrington)

A Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a 2014 joint Army-Air National Guard training exercise in Alaska in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Harrington)

According to a published report, the U.S. Air Force is halting immediate plans to retire the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jet — which is playing a major role in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The website, Defense One, reports Pentagon officials are saying plans to retire the heavily armored Cold War era jet known as the Warthog, have been put on hold. This policy shift will be laid out next month when the Pentagon submits its 2017 budget request to Congress, Pentagon officials told Defense One, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the spending plan before its official release.

The Air Force has been trying to eliminate the 40-year-old aircraft since 2014, because of budget constraints which threaten funding for newer aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the planned long range strike bomber. Officials say the A-10 — called the Warthog because of its stubby appearance, punishment-taking air frame and lethal armament — is obsolete and vulnerable to modern air defense missile systems and fifth generation fighter jets.

They also said multi-role fighters like the F-35 could handle the Warthog’s main mission: close air support of ground troops. That claim is strongly denied by Warthog advocates, who include former A-10 pilots, members of Congress and Army and Marine veterans who say they were saved from being overrun in Afghanistan by the A-10’s fearsome Gatling Gun.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

Supporters say high speed fighter jets cannot linger over a battle zone and provide covering fire for an extended period of time like the low and slow-flying Warthog has. The photo above shows the A-10’s big gun (like a fat cigar clenched in its tiger shark teeth) the seven-barrel, rotating 30 milimeter GAU cannon. The gun, with a firing rate of over 4,000-rounds per minute, enables “hogs” to support ground troops by taking out enemy tanks and armored vehicles with its armor-piercing shells.

January 13, 2016 at 11:35 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

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: USSOCOM Chief to Meet With Norwegians on Arctic Tensions

Special Ops in the Arctic.

The Norwegian Brigade North advances during a live-fire exercise in the Setermoen Shooting Range during exercise Cold Response. The heavy Leopard 2 main battle tanks in the background. (Photo by Simen Rudi, Norwegian Armed Forces)

The Norwegian Brigade North advances during a live-fire exercise in the Setermoen Shooting Range during exercise Cold Response in 2014. The heavy Leopard 2 main battle tanks in the background.
(Photo by Simen Rudi, Norwegian Armed Forces)

WASHINGTON – The head of U.S. Special Operations Command and top theater commanders will be going to Norway soon to discuss how to deal with aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic region.

Army General Joseph Votel said the main concern is “Russia and its coercive activities” in the Arctic. “It’s important to engage and understand what’s happening out there and understand the spaces in which they [special operations forces (SOF)] can exert their influence,” he told a SOF-industry conference last week (January 27).

To that end, Votel said he and U.S. SOF regional commanders (probably from Northern Command, European Command and Pacific Command – which all border the Arctic) will meet in a few weeks with their Norwegian counterparts who are “paying significant attention to this.” Norway, a member of NATO, is one of five nations that border the Arctic. The others are Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), the United States and Russia.

Russia has been taking increasingly aggressive steps to assert control in the Arctic where the rapid melting of sea ice is expected to open access to the polar region — which is projected to contain 25 percent of the world’s untapped oil, as well as other valuable minerals.

In 2007, a Russian mini sub deposited a metal Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole. Russia’s new military doctrine, signed by President Vladimir Putin in December, calls for a more aggressive stance toward NATO and boosting its military presence in the Arctic. Those plans include setting up an Arctic Strategic Command and opening 14 operational airfields in the Arctic by the end of 2015.

Sweden has tracked unidentified undersea vehicles – believed to be Russian submarines — violating their territory. In December, a Russian military aircraft flying with radar-evading stealth technology nearly crashed into a commercial passenger plane taking off from Copenhagen, Denmark. In April, Russian fighter jets carried out a simulated bombing raid on Stockholm, Sweden’s capital.

Add to these incidents Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and ongoing fighting between Ukraine’s military and Russian-supported separatists and  U.S. military leaders and their NATO allies have reasons to be concerned.

“I consider this a current and future challenge for us,” Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s commander, told the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium & Exhibition. He conceded that the harsh Arctic environment poses a different challenge after more than a dozen years fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This is something we can deal with. While we have engaged in the Middle East, we have not forgotten about the other areas,” Votel said, adding that with industry’s help “I feel confident we would be able to address that relatively quickly.”

Army Gen. and U.S> SOCOM  commander Joseph Votel. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

Army Gen. and U.S> SOCOM commander Joseph Votel.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

On other issues, Votel said the flow of foreign fighters joining the violent extremist organization styling itself an Islamic State “is staggering.” IS (also called ISIS and ISIL) has attracted more than 19,000 foreigners from 90 different countries to fight with them in Syria and Iraq, he noted. Counter terrorism experts at the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security worry about the threat these fighters pose when they return home to countries in the West.

Votel said SOCOM and law enforcement were also seeing “a growing nexus” between terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations because the crime groups’ ability to move money, people and weapons across borders is very attractive to terrorists. While officials don’t fully understand how these networks interact yet, what is known is “the more they cooperate, the greater the threat,” Votel said.

The SOCOM commander and Army Ranger added that airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-gathering “remains one of our chief concerns.”

SOCOM is “a global synchronizer of SOF forces, focusing on activities ranging from counter terrorism to foreign internal defense and from unconventional warfare to combatting weapons of mass destruction,” Votel added

February 1, 2015 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: Ashton Carter to Replace Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary [UPDATE]

Obama Makes Change at the Pentagon.

President Barack Obama introduces Ashton Carter as his nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense Friday (Dec. 5)

President Barack Obama introduces Ashton Carter as his nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense Friday (Dec. 5)

UPDATES with Obama announcing selection of Ashton Carter to be next Secretary of Defense — subject to Senate confirmation.

It’s official, President Barack Obama has picked veteran Pentagon official Ashton Carter as his nominee to succeed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.

In remarks at the White House, Obama characterized Carter as someone who knows the Defense Department “inside and out.” The president added that Carter would “hit the ground running” if the Senate confirms the nomination — which most observers expect.

Carter was deputy defense secretary under Leon Panetta, but Obama passed over him in early 2013 to tap Hagel as SecDef. Numerous news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times indicated earlier this week that Carter was Obama’s choice this time around.

While he has never served in the military, Carter held key posts in the Clinton and Obama administrations at the Pentagon. In addition to serving as the No. 2 official at the Pentagon from October 2011 to December 2013, Carter, 60, has served as the Pentagon’s chief of acquisition, technology and logistics – the head weapons buyer for the military.

“As a top member of our Pentagon team for the first five years of my presidency, including two years as deputy secretary, he was at the table in he Situation Room; he was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting,” Obama said.

Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter speaks to U.S. troops before a Patriot missile battery at a Turkish army base in 2013. (Defense Dept. photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter speaks to U.S. troops before a Patriot missile battery at a Turkish army base in 2013.
(Defense Dept. photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Carter is known for a keen, well-educated mind – he has a doctorate from Oxford in theoretical physics and degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale. Your 4GWAR editor was impressed by Carter’s candor, intelligence and laid-back but articulate manner at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum, explaining the expansion of cyber security in the wake of the mess caused by the National Security Agency revelations and other disclosures by rogue contractor Edward Snowden.

While the White House hasn’t confirmed Carter’s nomination, the choice isn’t expected to run into much opposition on Capitol Hill. From the moment Hagel’s resignation was announced last month, Carter was among the names Washington insiders considered most likely for the post. The reported front-runner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, took her name out of contention, as did Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and former Army Ranger who sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discusses his resignation during a White House news conference with President Barack Obamal Nov. 24. Hagel will continue to serve as defense secretary until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discusses his resignation during a White House news conference with President Barack Obamal Nov. 24. Hagel will continue to serve as defense secretary until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

The fact that Hagel’s departure was announced without a successor standing by, surprised Washington pundits, who speculated that it showed more disorder in an Obama White House, contending with a shooting war in Iraq, Russian belligerence, global jihad and Taliban resurgence while the United States is winding down its combat role in Afghanistan – all with less money from Congress.

But CNN reported that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, declined to accommodate his resignation announcement until the White House settled on a nominee.  On Thursday (December 4) Hagel discounted reports that he resigned over differences with Obama, Reuters and other news outlets report. However, Hagel did not attend today’s White House event with Carter, according to The Hill.

All we can say is … Stay tuned.

December 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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