Posts filed under ‘Iraq’

U.S. ARMY: Learning to Win in a Complex World [UPDATE]

AUSA: So Many Tanks, So Little Time.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

UPDATES to clarify late night — sometimes clunky –writing, and add background and perspective.

The Association of the United States Army’s massive annual conference and exposition just ended. And while there were few, if any, tanks on display, enough trucks, and armored vehicles — including a vintage Volkswagen bus with a rooftop machine gun — were on view to satisfy any military gadget junkie

During its three-day run in Washington’s Convention Center there was much discussion at AUSA about where the U.S. Army is going — and how it’s going to get there–  in a world where a war, insurgency, terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks or natural disasters seem to be breaking out every day. Compounding the problem — thanks to budget cuts —  which Congress may reintroduce in a year or so — the Army is shrinking and disposing of war-worn equipment to stay within its budget.

But Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said those previous across-the-board budget cuts meant developing projects like the Ground Combat Vehicle had to be scrapped and there is little money to buy new vehicles, aircraft and weapons that will be needed to tackle future crises. They also said more budget cuts starting in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015) will mean even less money for training and that will lower the Army’s readiness for the complex world it faces. Assistant Army Secretary Heid Shyu explained that congressional budget cutting through sequestration has drastically reduced research and development for new technologies that could help a smaller Army deal with multiple challenges.

We heard at least two generals and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a former Army sergeant, say they didn’t want to see another Task Force Smith  as an example of what could happen if a major crisis breaks out after precipitous, post-war cuts to defense spending. Task Force Smith was a disastrous delaying action by an understrength, poorly equipped and makeshift Army battalion cobbled-together in Japan and rushed to Korea during the first days of the Korean War. The valiant but ineffective effort to stop the Communist advance in July 1950 came as a shock to U.S. leaders and the public just five years after America ended World War II with the largest, best-trained and best-equipped army in the world.

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

Despite the often grim forecasts about defense funding, thousands of military and civilian visitors turned out for AUSA 2014 to see hundreds of armored vehicles, unmanned aircraft, helicopters, small arms and body armor on display in the two floors of exhibits by industry and service organizations. Also on display: the latest sensors and video cameras, robots and communications equipment.

While the AUSA exhibit floor has often been used to unveil industry’s latest solutions to the Army’s problems — like coping with roadside bombs or lightening soldiers’ equipment loads — several big defense contractors this year trumpeted new contracts to upgrade, or extend the lifespan, of aging equipment like the Humvee or Stryker armored vehicle. In addition to pavilions for foreign exhibitors and products, there was also a homeland security pavilion that emphasized the links between defending America over here as well as over there.

In coming days we’ll be exploring some of the things we heard discussed at AUSA 14 including developments like the new Army Operating Concept of what it takes to win in a complex world. We’ll also be discussing the regionally aligned force concept and the Pacific Pathway initiative to facilitate America’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

October 15, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 3, 2014)

Blowing Off Steam.

 U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Card

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Card

How big is the hangar deck of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier? Big enough to store and work on the jets and other aircraft — and still have plenty of room for a half court basketball game.

This photo was taken on the carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The basketball team practicing their passing game is called the Avengers. Make sure you click on the photo to enlarge the image.

The Navy says the George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. But if you click on this link, you will see how busy the flight deck and crew is — supporting air strikes against the murderous extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State — in Syria and the Levant (ISIL)  or Iraq and Syria (ISIS) depending on whom you’re talking to. No wonder these sailors are letting off a little steam.

And it’s important to remember that even below deck, not everyone is off duty at the same time.

Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Catherine Byron performs maintenance on a jet engine aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens)

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Catherine Byron performs maintenance on a jet engine aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens)

 

October 3, 2014 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 26, 2014)

Air War.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq early in the morning of September 23, 2014, after conducting airstrikes in Syria. These aircraft were part of a large coalition strike package that was the first wave to strike Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria. The United States has been conducting airstrikes against ISIL militants besieging villages and towns in northern Iraq since August 8.

But the September 23 strikes by U.S. and partner nation aircraft — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — were the first in Syrian territory. Pentagon officials said the Syrian government was notified through the United Nations that the United States intended to take action against ISIL — which is also fighting the regime of President Bashir Assad — and Syrian air defenses remained in a passive mode during the air raids.

To see more photos of the raid, click here.

The Defense Department has a special page on its website dedicated to the air war against ISIL and humanitarian relief air drops to people driven from their homes by the terrorists.

 

September 26, 2014 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Air Strikes on Khorosan Group, Australian Attack Thwarted

Syria Air Attack.

Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr. details air strikes in Syria at a Pentagon press briefing Sept. 23. (Defense Dept. photo by Casper Manlangit)

Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr. details air strikes in Syria at a Pentagon press briefing Sept. 23. (Defense Dept. photo by Casper Manlangit)

U.S. and Middle East partner nation forces launched air strikes Monday night and early Tuesday morning (September 22 and 23) against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The United States also launched air strikes into Syria to attack the Khorasan Group, a terrorist organization believed to planning an attack against the West, Defense Department officials said.

“We’ve been watching this group closely for some time,” Army Lieutenant General William Mayville told a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday afternoon (September 23). Mayville said U.S. intelligence officials believe the Kkorasan group “was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland,” he added.

U.S. Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf launched a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Khorasan compounds and other targets in Syria. Khorasan Group, an offshoot of al Qaeda has attempted to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives or infiltrate back to their homelands.

The three waves of air attack were directed at ISIL and Khorasan Group. The first consisted of Navy cruise missiles. The second wave employed F-15 Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor fighter jets as well as B-1 bombers and numerous unmanned aircraft. The final wave consisted of F-18 Hornet jets off Navy carriers and more F-16 Fighting Falcons. In the third wave, U.S. aircraft were joined by forces and planes from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Mayville the air attacks were part of a sustained campaign that “should be thought of in terms of years” to “dislodge and eventually remove ISIL from Iraq.” 

*** *** ***

Beheading Plot

Australian security personnel have arrested 15 people in the cities of Sydney and Brisbane for an alleged plot to carry out random public beheadings in those two cities.

Australia (CIA World Fact Book)

Australia
(CIA World Fact Book)

Officials said a man believed to be the senior Islamic State (IS or ISIL) leader in Australia “is understood to have made the instruction to kidnap people in Brisbane and Sydney and have them executed on camera,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The video was then to be sent back to ISIL’s media unit, where it would be publicly released,” according to the Australian broadcaster.

Earlier in September, the Australian government raised the terrorism threat level to the second-highest warning in response to the domestic threat posed by ISIL/ISIS.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the country’s domestic spy agency said the threat had been rising over the past year, particularly in recent months, mainly due to Australians joining the ISIS/ISIL movement to fight in Syria and Iraq, according to Thompson Reuters.

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September 24, 2014 at 1:29 am Leave a comment

TERRORISM: The Widening Syria-Iraq Threat

 Deja vu all over again

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

Syria, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War

Syria, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War

Back in February, 4GWAR reported that new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was troubled by foreign jihadists streaming into war-torn Syria, which was turning into an incubator for future terrorists.

Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had become “very focused” on foreign fighters heading to Syria, where foreign Islamists have radicalized and complicated the three-year civil war with the Bashar al-Assad regime. The DHS concern is what these fighters will do when they return to their home countries or travel elsewhere, indoctrinated with a violent Islamist mission.

Then in April we reported on another threat emanating from Syria: the rise of the Iranian-backed, Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia as a military force in Syria. In a report, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), another Washington think tank, said that Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia which has been battling Israel and the West for decades, has become a major player in the Syrian conflict.

Hezbollah has been designated as a Global Terrorist organization by the United States since 1995 for a long history of terrorist attacks against American citizens and officials – including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during the 1980s.

ISIS Territory in Syria and Iraq Red is area controlled by ISIS Yellow is area claimed by ISIS Via iukipedia

ISIS Territory in Syria and Iraq
Red is area controlled by ISIS
Yellow is area claimed by ISIS
(Via Wikipedia)

Now this: President Barrack Obama says he is sending up to 300 special operations forces to assess the situation on the ground in Iraq, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured several cities in northern and western Iraq in a sweeping attack out of Syria.

But Obama made clear that he will hold back more substantial support for Iraq – including U.S. Airstrikes – until he sees a direct threat to U.S. Personnel or a more inclusive and capable Iraqi government, according to the Washington Post.

At the White House, Obama said “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”

Obama, who withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, said he’s positioned “additional U.S. military assets in the region. Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL. And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it. If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.”

But Obama emphasized “that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead.”

 

 

June 19, 2014 at 10:54 pm Leave a comment

LESSONS LEARNED: Controlling Wasteful Spending in Iraq, Afghanistan

Catching White Elephants

Can't give it away.

Can’t give it away.

By now you’ve probably heard or read about the $34 million military headquarters building at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan that probably won’t ever be used by U.S. troops.

But maintaining the 64,000-square foot, air conditioned windowless building – equipped with modern office space, work stations and an auditorium — is probably too expensive for the Afghans to handle so the brand new building may be demolished by departing U.S. forces.

But wait, there’s more. Less than four months after the Army asked Congress to fund the huge command center, the local Marine Corps commander said it wasn’t needed and made a request – in May 2010 – to cancel the project. In February 2011, however, the Air Force issued a construction contract to build the facility, which Uncle Sam took possession of in November 2012, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR is a government agency created by Congress to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse in Afghanistan reconstruction programs.

The unused $34 million headquarters building in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of SIGAR)

The unused $34 million headquarters building in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of SIGAR)

“Based on these preliminary findings, I am deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a construction project that should have been stopped,” Special Inspector General John Sopko, wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; the commander of U.S. Central Command – which includes Afghanistan; and the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.

Sopko said he was also troubled by the options of either “destroying a never-occupied, never-used building or turning over what may be a ‘white elephant’ to the Afghan government that it may not have the capacity to sustain.” You can read his letter here.

Meanwhile, another special inspector general for reconstruction – this time in Iraq – has a recommendation to avoid future money-wasting boondoggles. In testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Tuesday (July 9) Stuart Bowen Jr., urged creation of a U.S. Office for Contingency Operations (USOCO) to concentrate authority over relief and reconstruction efforts into a single office that would report to both the secretaries of Defense and State – as well as the president’s National Security Advisor.

Now there is no executive branch department with the primary responsibility for carrying out relief and reconstruction activities, Bowen said, noting that Congress has appropriated $60 billion for Iraq’s reconstruction over the last 10 years and his office has recovered more than $200 million through waste and fraud investigations. Instead of a single office, the stabilization operations are just add-ons to the work already being done by the departments of State, Defense, Justice and Treasury, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Current geopolitical events make the need for a reform like USOCO quite compelling,” Bowen said in written testimony for the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, adding “a number of fragile states, including Syria, could soon require integrated stabilization and reconstruction assistance.”

A bill that would create USOCO and assure that the government is preparing for the next stabilization and reconstruction operation ahead of time has been introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas).

July 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm 3 comments

SHAKO: Memorial Day 2013

Ideals Carved in Stone

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

In late May every year, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment – known as The Old Guard because it is the oldest serving unit of the Army – place American flags at every grave marker in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery in advance of the Memorial Day holiday, which honors the nation’s war dead. The cemetery is located in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Washington.

If you click on the above image to enlarge it, you’ll notice the symbols at the top of the headstones of the first three graves indicate (from left to right) the deceased is a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim who all died in the service to their country. Behind these three headstones, on the left, you can also make out the grave of a woman Army officer, who earned the Bronze Star medal in Iraq.

We think these symbols, purchased with blood and carved in stone, are silent testaments of the ideals that America stands for — even if the road to achieving those ideals has been a rocky one since 1776. In the not so distant past, men and women of all races, colors or creeds — even if they weren’t treated equally back home — still answered the nation’s call to serve, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, because they believed in those ideals.

Today, the Army notes that “though they may differ in faith or background, all soldiers bleed the same color for our country. They serve with honor and integrity, and those that fall are all given the same honors.”

Each May, the soldiers of The Old Guard, who also provide military honors at burial services in Arlington, fan out across the cemetery’s rolling lines of graves — and in a matter of just a few hours — place the small flags a uniform distance from each marker and then salute.

On May 23, about 1,200 Old Guard soldiers participated in the “Flags In” event this year, and about 220,000 graves received a flag, as did memorial markers and rows of urns at the cemetery’s columbarium, according to Army Maj. John Miller, spokesman for the Old Guard.

The tradition dates back to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868 to honor Union Soldiers that had fallen during the Civil War, Miller said. The custom was interrupted a few times over the years but the Old Guard revived it after World War II.

Army Sgt. Titus Fields of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment -- The Old Guard -- places an American flag in front of a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 23, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

Army Sgt. Titus Fields of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment — The Old Guard — places an American flag in front of a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 23, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

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488px-Shako-p1000580

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

May 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

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