Posts filed under ‘International Relief’

AROUND AFRICA: Ukraine’s Impact on Africa; Attacks in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Somalia

The Ukraine Effect.

The catastrophic damage and disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to spread its effects across the globe.

Now United Nations officials warn the conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow are disrupting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and other goods — compounding the difficulties Africa faces from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic — Al Jazeera reported May 6.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for the continent,” Raymond Gilpin, chief economist for the U.N. Development Program-Africa, told a press conference in Geneva of Friday (May 6).

Hunger in West Africa reaches record high in a decade as the region faces an unprecedented crisis exacerbated by Russia-Ukraine conflict. (World Food Program/Katharina Dirr)

Many African countries depend heavily on food imports and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, two major exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower oil. In some African countries, up to 80 percent of wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. Rising oil prices caused by sanctions against Russian oil have increased fuel and diesel costs.

Nearly 193 million people in 53 countries suffered acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the U.N. said in a report published May 4 was a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, weather extremes and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Countries experiencing protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, had the most food-insecure populations, according to the report.

Gilpin said rising inflation is putting several large investments on hold across the continent. He cited as examples the development of a huge steel mill complex in Nigeria and fertilizer plants in Angola, according to the VOA website.

He warned tensions are rising in hot spots such as the Sahel, parts of Central Africa, and the Horn of Africa as the Russia-Ukraine war begins to fester.

“Particularly in urban areas, low-income communities, which could spillover just to violent protests and … probably also violent riots,” Gilpin said. “Also, and countries that have elections scheduled for this year and next year are particularly vulnerable because this could become a trigger.”

*** *** ***

VIOLENCE/TERRORISM-WEST AFRICA

     Nigeria

Islamic extremist rebels have killed at least seven people in an attack in northeast Borno state in Nigeria, the Associated Press reported via VOA May 4.

The rebels attacked Kautukari village in the Chibok area of Borno a day earlier, residents told the AP. The attack happened at the same time that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the state to meet with survivors of jihadi violence.

The Chibok area is 115 kilometers (71 miles) away from Maiduguri, the state capital, where Guterres met with former militants being reintegrated into society and thousands of people displaced by the insurgency.

Chibok first came to the limelight when Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the community’s school in April 2014, leading to the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign, according to the Aljazeera news site.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, continues to grapple with a 10-year-old insurgency in the northeast by Islamic extremist rebels of Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The extremists are fighting to establish Shariah law and to stop Western education.

More than 35,000 people have died and millions have been displaced by the extremist violence, according to the U.N. Development Program.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said earlier this week that the war against the groups is “approaching its conclusion”, citing continued military attacks and the mass defection of thousands of the fighters, some of whom analysts say are laying down their arms because of infighting within the group.

The violence however continues in border communities and areas closer to the Lake Chad region, the stronghold of the Islamic State-linked group, ISWAP.

*** *** ***

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the safe and “dignified” return of people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed and some 2.2 million people displaced by more than a decade of fighting in the region between the military and Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

During a May 3 visit to a camp for displaced people in Borno state capital Maidugur — the birthplace of Boko Haram — Guterres praised the local governor’s development efforts.

Nigerian authorities plan to close all camps for displaced people in Borno by 2026 – but aid agencies are concerned about security and conditions on the ground in some of the communities to which the displaced will return. While humanitarian support for the camps, is important” Guterres said, “let’s try to find a solution for people, and that solution is to create the conditions, security conditions, development conditions for them to be able to go back home in safety and dignity.”

*** *** ***

Relatives of Nigerians who were abducted by gunmen in a train attack are accusing authorities of not doing enough to rescue them. Nigerian Railway Corporation says more than 160 people have been missing since the March attack, according to a VOA video report.

*** *** ***

          Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s army says it has lost at least seven soldiers and killed 20 “terrorists” following militant attacks on two military bases in the north of the country.

Four volunteers aiding the army in the fight against militants also were killed in the May 5 attacks in Loroum and Sanmatenga provinces, according to a military statement, the BBC reported.

The army said it seized or destroyed weapons, vehicles and communication equipment used by the attackers.

The violence came a day after a soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside blast in northern Burkina Faso.

Armed groups affiliated with al Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have regularly carried out attacks in northern and eastern Burkina Faso since 2015, killing more than 2,000 people and displacing almost two million, according to Aljazeera.

Unrest linked to armed groups also plagues Burkina Faso’s West African neighbors Mali and Niger.

The three land-locked countries rank among the poorest in the world and their armed forces are ill-equipped against a foe skilled at hit-and-run raids, ambushes and planting roadside bombs.

*** *** ***

VIOLENCE/TERRORISM-EAST AFRICA

       Somalia

At least 30 Burundian soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in Tuesday’s attack by al-Shabab militants on an African Union base in southern Somalia, according to a Burundian official.

The official, who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to media, told VOA Somali that 10 soldiers died on the spot, and the rest of the soldiers succumbed to their wounds. He confirmed that other soldiers are still missing, VOA reported.

Al-Shabab said it killed 173 soldiers in the attack on the AU base in the village of El-Baraf, about 150 kilometers north of Mogadishu. The casualty figure has not been independently verified. A separate source told VOA Somali that 161 soldiers were at the camp at the time of attack. The Burundian official confirmed that number.

The Burundian official told VOA Somali that the soldiers had intelligence al-Shabab was gathering in a nearby village about 48 hours prior to the attack. He said the soldiers prepared to defend themselves and dug trenches.

May 7, 2022 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 22, 2022)

Something Different.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

No this isn’t a new space age lighthouse or an upgraded version of the daleks from Dr. Who.

You ‘re looking at the first of the U.S. Navy Zumwalt-class stealthy, guided-missile destroyers, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) steaming through the Pacific Ocean. Zumwalt is underway conducting routine operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet. The vessel’s distinctive knife-like appearance is designed to create a low radar cross-section — the equivalent area seen by a radar — making it harder for an enemy to spot.

Its wave-piercing  tumblehome hull,  whose sides slope inward above the waterline, dramatically reduces RCS by returning much less energy than a conventional flared hull. The Zumwalt class ships were designed to operate in littoral waters against threats of the post-Cold War world. However, the Navy decided to end the program with the completion of the third vessel. Originally, 32 ships were planned, with $9.6 billion research and development costs spread across the class.

The Zumwalts are classed as destroyers, but they are much larger than any other active destroyer or cruiser in the US Navy. Last year, the Navy announced the Zumwalt-class will be the Navy’s first platform to field hypersonic weapons.

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) and USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) are in commission, while the third, the USS Lyndon Baines Johnson (DDG 1002), was undergoing sea trials earlier this year.

April 21, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict; Into Somalia; Savage Attack in DRC

EAST AFRICA

Ethiopia-Tigray War

A convoy of food and other supplies arrived safely in the capital of Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray on Friday (April 1). It was the first aid to arrive in Mekelle since December, the United Nations said.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that more trucks and fuel would follow on Saturday morning (April 2) – a week after a humanitarian truce was agreed between the government and Tigrayan forces.

War broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020, pitting Ethiopia’s government and its allies against rebellious Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF is the political party that controls the Tigray region.

Last week, the federal government declared an immediate, unilateral truce to allow aid into Tigray. Tigrayan forces said they would respect the ceasefire as long as sufficient aid was delivered “within reasonable time”, Reuters reported.

It is unclear how much more aid might follow or how quickly. More than 90% of the 5.5 million people in the northern province of Tigray need food aid, according to the United Nations.

Around 100 trucks of aid per day need to enter to meet the population’s needs. No trucks have been able to enter since Dec. 15, due to a combination of bureaucratic problems and fighting.

WFP Ethiopia said another convoy with more than a thousand metric tons of food would be soon sent to the neighboring region of northern Afar “to communities in dire need”.

This week roads to Tigray from the Afar region had remained closed despite the ceasefire – with the warring parties trading accusations over who was to blame, according to the BBC.

Earlier a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front welcomed the truce as “a step in the right direction” but said there should be “a system in place to ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the needy.” The government has said it is committed to helping the safe passage of aid.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are rampant in northern Ethiopia, where an estimated 9 million people across the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions need critical food assistance due to conflict, WFP says.

*** *** ***

Fighting al Shabab from Afar.

More than 13 months after President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, the head of U.S. Africa Command says the strategy is not working.

Previously, about 700 U.S. troops rotated in and out of Somalia, to train the east African nation’s and help with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But now, says Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM troops based in Kenya and Djibouti are only making visits to Somalia, Military Times reported.

Townsend said he believes periodic engagement, “commuting to work,” as some have called it, has caused new challenges and risks for the troops. The AFRICOM chief told a March 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that by his assessment the change “is not effective, it’s not efficient, and it puts our troops at greater risk.”

The issue is that though the Trump administration pulled troops out of the country, there was no change to the mission in Somalia, where the U.S. supports that government’s efforts to fight al-Shabab. Though U.S.-led strikes have continued, it’s a harder mission to do when it’s mostly remote, according to Military Times.

***

WEST AFRICA

Bloody Attack in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fourteen people, including seven children, were killed with machetes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Red Cross, Al Jazeera reports.

The attack took place in a displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwestern Ituri province on March 19, the humanitarian aid group reported.

Jean D’Zba Banju, a community leader in Ituri’s Djugu area, said the attacks belonged to the CODECO armed group, which has been blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.

“CODECO militiamen entered Drakpa and started to cut people with machetes. They did not fire shots in order to operate calmly,” Banju told the news agency AFP March 20. “The victims are displaced people who had fled Ngotshi village to set up in Drakpa,” he said, adding that five others were wounded.

Gold-rich Ituri province has been plunged into a cycle of violence since late 2017 with the rise of CODECO, which has since split into rival factions. The group is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

Ituri and neighboring North Kivu have been under a state of siege since May 6, in an effort to combat armed groups including CODECO and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ISIL (ISIS) armed group describes the ADF as its local affiliate.

Despite the crackdown, and support from the Ugandan military since late November, attacks have continued and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed from May 2021 to January this year, figures according to the Danish Refugee Council.

April 1, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

PLANET A: Glasgow Climate Change Conference; Climate Risk Analysis by DoD, ONI

Climate Meeting in Glasgow.

World leaders, including President Joe Biden, will gather in Scotland Sunday (October 31, 2021) to discuss the threat posed by climate change, its ramifications and — hopefully — what more to do about it.

Known as the Conference of Parties or COP26, the 26th United Nations annual climate change summit, it will run for two weeks. This year’s summit will focus on negotiations to limit emissions, and could be “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control,” according to the summit’s website.

The meeting comes just a week after several U.S. government agencies, including the Defense Department, have issued reports expressing their concerns about the fallout from climate change — severe weather has caused billions of dollars in damage to U.S. military installations, like Tyndall Air Force Base on Florida’s panhandle and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, on coastal North Carolina. Other military bases on Guam in the Pacific are vulnerable to rising seas.

Damaged aircraft hangar at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, following Hurricane Florence in 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Allie Erenbaum )

And that’s not all, Pentagon planers are concerned that droughts, sea rise, ever fiercer cyclones and hurricanes will spawn massive migrations as people seek food, water, shelter and employment that could overwhelm other nations and spark political unrest and violence.

The Pentagon’s Climate Risk Analysis notes:

Climate change is reshaping the geostrategic, operational, and tactical environments with significant implications for U.S. national security and defense. Increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks and creating new security challenges for U.S. interests.

“Climate migration is absolutely affecting the United States directly, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks told  NPR in an interview October 26. In Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, “where farmers can’t grow crops, their traditional approaches to sustaining livelihood are very challenged. We’ve also seen that happen, of course, from Africa going up into Europe, other regions of the world,” she said.

*** *** ***

DOD Won’t be There.

Defense Department officials will not be attending the global climate conference in Scotland, the Defense One website reports.

Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told Defense One that no one from the Defense Department will accompany the president, but said officials “remain hard at work building climate resilience throughout the department and the force.”

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, and Joseph Bryan, the Defense Department’s senior advisor for climate, are participating in an event Friday (October 28) at the New America think tank to talk about the Pentagon’s new climate report.

*** *** ***

National Intelligence Estimate.

Another government report, by the National Intelligence Council finds that “climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge.”

An overloaded Haitian vessel with interdicted stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard on September 14, 2021, during extensive migrant interdiction operations in support of Operation Southeast Watch. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christian Homer)

The report, which examines climate change risks to U.S. nation security through 2040 arrived at three key judgments:

Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay—and how quickly—and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.

–The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests.

Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources.

*** *** ***

PLANET A is a new, occasional posting on climate change and the global impact it is having national security and the U.S. military. The name is derived from activists who warn that climate change is an urgent threat to the world because there is no Plan B to fix it — nor a Planet B to escape to.

October 27, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 11, 2020)

Brown Water Sailors.

(Photo by Michael Williams)

International students at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) participate in an exercise on Mississippi’s Pearl River, near the John C. Stennis Space Center on December 2, 2020.

These students are participating in the seven-week Patrol Craft Officer Riverine course, which is designed to provide Foreign Security Force personnel with the specialized training to plan and execute security actions in riverine and littoral environments. Missions in the rivers and shallows include supporting interdiction, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics operations . The current semester course includes representatives from the African nations of Chad, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo.

NAVSCIATTS is a security cooperation training command operating under U.S. Special Operations Command in support of Security Force Assistance and Geographic Combatant Commanders’ security cooperation priorities. To date, NAVSCIATTS has trained with more than 12,000 students from 121 partner nations.

December 11, 2020 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Christmas Countdown

’tis the Season.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, U.S. military installations across the country and around the globe have been getting the Christmas spirit and preparing for the Holiday Season. Here are some highlights.

December 2, Colorado

XMAS 2019 USAF Tree Lights.JPG

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Matthew Coleman-Foste)

Air Force Airman 1st Class Vincent Henderson, left, and Staff Sergeant Alex Peffer put holiday lights on a tree at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

December 3, North Carolina

XMAS 2019-2 Army Toy drop.JPG

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Justin W. Stafford)

An Army paratrooper conducts a jumpmaster personnel inspection during the inaugural All American Presents from Paratroopers event at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Paratroopers participating in the event donated toys for a chance to jump from a helicopter and earn foreign jump wings.

December 4, Louisiana

Barksdale Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Miller)

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Matt Baker, commander of the 96th Bomb Squadron, holds his son in front of a Chrstmas tree at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

December 7, Guam

Operation Christmas Drop 2019 Bundle Build

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael Murphy)

U.S. military personnel aren’t the only ones spreading the joy, here is Master Sergeant Koji Okunoapan of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force adding clothes to a package at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for Operation Christmas Drop. U.S., Japanese, Australian and New Zealand airmen participated in the 2019 charity operation.

December 7, West Virginia.

VMMT-204 Stuff a Plane

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Damaris Arias)

Marine Corps Sergeant Blake Mayo, left, and Corporal Eli Drake receive toys from community members during a Toys for Tots event at Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia. Both Marines are combat engineers assigned to the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion. The Toys for Tots program is run by the Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, a Marine reservist.

December 10, Micronesia

Merry Christmas Drop from Woleai

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

An Air Force C-130J Super Hercules delivers humanitarian aid bundles filled with needed supplies to Woleai, Micronesia, as part of Operation Christmas Drop, the Defense Department’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.

The tradition began during the Christmas season in 1952 when a B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi, 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. In the spirit of Christmas the aircrew dropped a bundle of supplies attached to a parachute to the islanders below, giving the operation its name. Today, air drop operations include more than 50 islands throughout the Pacific. 

December 15, Italy

NSA Naples Hosts First Holiday Concert

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Charest)

Sailors with the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band perform during the holiday concert at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.

December 15, California

Service members, families participate in Santa Run

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Andrew Cortez)

Service members and their families sprint from the starting line during the Santa Run at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

December 18, Germany

Paratroopers give back to the Alzey Worms local community

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Sinthia Rosario)

Children receive toys donated by U.S. service members and NATO allies and partners during an event in Alzey, Germany.

And back to Colorado, Christmas Eve …

NORAD tracks Santa 2013

(2013 NORAD photo by Master Sergeant Charles Marsh)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (a joint U.S.-Canadian operation) tracks every aircraft that flies over North America — including, once a year, a certain magical sleigh.

Volunteer trackers, like Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Roderick Schwald in this 2013 photo, answer calls from children and parents across the globe while the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center on Peterson Air Force

For more than 60 years, NORAD has followed Santa on his around-the-world journey from the North Pole, with radar, satellites and Santacams.

Santa Baby, the Man with the Bag, the Fat Man is coming, so try to be good for another day.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night, from the 4GWAR Blog!

December 24, 2019 at 3:52 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (November 22, 2019)

Seems Like Old Times.

Tiger TRIUMPH Beach Landing

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Christian Ayers)

While military planners and strategists say the era of massive amphibious landings like Omaha Beach or Iwo Jima are over, the Marines aren’t getting rid of their landing craft just yet.

This November 19, 2019 photo shows U.S. Marines and Indian forces wading to shore at Kakinada Beach on the Bay of Bengal. The amphibious landing was part of a disaster response training scenario during Tiger Triumph, a humanitarian exercise that aims to improve partnership, readiness and cooperation between the U.S. and Indian militaries.

Organizers said the nine-day exercise on India’s eastern coast, was the first drill of its kind to include the U.S. military and all three of India’s armed services, according to Stars and Stripes, the American military newspaper.

India has held similar exercises — involving all three branches of its armed forces — with only one other country: Russia. During the Cold War, India was closer to the Soviet Union than to the United States, and much of the Indian arsenal still dates back to that era, according to the New York Times.

Tiger Triumph brought together 500 U.S. Marines and sailors, and about 1,200 Indian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel for side-by-side training. While the official focus was to prepare for rescue operations and disaster response, it also included search-and-seizure training and live-fire drills, the Times noted.

The exercise represents “a tangible and necessary implementation of a series of U.S. strategic pronouncements regarding the importance of U.S. international partnerships in general and India in particular,” according to an opinion piece by the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, appearing in Defense News.

November 22, 2019 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Homeland Security Priorities in the Arctic UPDATE

Falling Behind.

UPDATE: Adds 6 new paragraphs at the end, to detail testimony on how the United States is falling behind other Arctic nations in asserting its role and status as an Arctic power. 

The American people and their leaders need to wake up to the fact that the United States is an Arctic Nation before it loses control of its commercial, environmental and strategic  interests in the rapidly warming — and developing — region, a panel of experts told a congressional subcommittee Thursday (September 19)

USS Comstock Arrives in Seward, Alaska to continue AECE

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock transits the Gulf of Alaska headed for Seward, Alaska during Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

Changing climate reduces polar sea ice and opens up access to untapped natural resources as well as maritime trade routes across the top of the globe — including Alaskan waters. And many nations, including Russia and China, which have both identified increased presence in the Arctic as a strategic priority, are moving faster than the United States to take advantage of the changing situation.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic  holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas. Russia, one of five nations that border the Arctic Ocean, has seen a five-fold increase in commercial activity along its Northern Sea Route. It has invested heavily in building ice breaker ships, and at more than 50, has the largest ice breaker fleet in the world

Meanwhile, China — which recently declared itself a “near Arctic state,” even though it is located nearly 1,000 miles from the region — is moving to take advantage of the commercial opportunities in the Arctic’s warming waters. It, too has an ice breaker construction plan, and is investing strategically in economic activity like liquid natural gas drilling in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Beijing is planning a virtual “Polar Silk Road,” of deepwater ports in friendly nations to help cut shipping time from China to Europe by two weeks.

sea_ice_polar_bear

Sea ice still thinning.
(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

No longer an “emerging issue,”  Mike Sfraga, director of the Polar Institute, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee “the Arctic has emerged.”  The Arctic “is no longer an isolated or remote region: rather it is a critical component of our global political, economic, social, physical and security landscape,” added Sfraga, who is also director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He was one of four panelists from Washington area think tanks that research Arctic issues — the RAND Corporation; the Arctic Institute and the Heritage Foundation — called to testify about Homeland Security priorities in the Arctic.

Russia has invested heavily in militarizing its Arctic territory — which contains half of the world’s Arctic region and half of the Arctic’s population, said Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Over the past decade Russia has built or re-activated 14 operational airfields in the Arctic along with 16 deep-water ports, he added.

Arctic Region

Arctic Region (Source: CIA World Fact Book via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the United States does not have a major deepwater port along 1,500 nautical miles of its Arctic coastline — from Dutch Harbor to Alaska’s North Slope. Without a viable string of ports in the U.S. Arctic commerce, search-and-rescue capabilities and national security interests will not be met, said Sfraga.

The U.S. Coast Guard has only two ice breakers, only one of which — the Polar Star — is a heavy ice breaker capable of dealing with Arctic ice. Congress has voted funding for an additional U.S. icebreaker, the Polar Security Cutter, but it won’t be available for years.

“How did this happen?” asked a stunned subcommittee member, Representative John Katko, a New York Republican. “How did we let our guard down to this extent?”

“It goes back to our lack of awareness of our role and our status as an Arctic power” in terms of the policy makers at the Defense Department, Homeland Security and NATO, said Coffey. He noted five of the eight Arctic nations are members of NATO but the latest NATO Strategic Concept, “which highlights all the challenges to the alliance, doesn’t even mention the Arctic.”

“The U.S. is often called the reluctant Arctic nation,” said Victoria Herrmann, president and managing director of the Arctic Institute. She noted the post of special representative to the Arctic region has been vacant for two years. “We do not promote ourselves as an Arctic nation. We are thousands of miles away from Alaska, and those voices just aren’t heard in these halls [of Congress],” she said.

*** *** ***

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

 

September 19, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: U.N. Health Agency Declares International Ebola Emergency

Global Health Emergency in DR Congo.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern.”

MAP-DR Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo (CIA World Factbook)

The public health emergency provision, announced in Geneva July 17, is the highest level of alarm the WHO can sound and has only been used four times previously. But the organization stopped short of saying borders should be closed, saying the risk of the disease spreading outside the region was not high, the BBC reported.

The outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has killed more than 1,600 people, according to the latest WHO report, which noted a confirmed case of Ebola virus disease was reported in Goma, a city of two million inhabitants close to the Rwandan border.

WHAT IS EBOLA?

ebola_virus_virion

Ebola is a virus that initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat. It progresses to vomiting, diarrhea and both internal and external bleeding. Infection is caused by direct contact through broken skin — or the mouth and nose — with the blood, vomit, feces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

Critics have said the emergency declaration was long overdue. A WHO expert committee declined three times previously o advise the United Nations agency to make the declaration for this outbreak, even though other experts say it has long met the required conditions, the Associated Press reported.

While the risk of regional spread remains high, the risk outside the region remains low, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after the announcement in Geneva.

The international emergency “should not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people who are most in need of our help,” he said. Tedros insisted that the declaration was not made to raise more money — even though WHO estimated “hundreds of millions” of dollars would be needed to stop the epidemic, according to AP.

The U.S. Agency for International Development applauded the WHO decision and said agency officials would “continue to scale up life-saving support” to end the outbreak.

WHO Ebola vaccination team in Butembo.

Over 160,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been vaccinated against Ebola at facilities like this one in Butembo. (WHO photo)

It was the fifth such declaration in history. Previous emergencies were declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.

The current outbreak has raged for a year. The virus flared up in spots where it had once been contained and the epidemic hot zone has geographically expanded in northeastern Congo near Rwanda and into Uganda, the New York Times noted.

Violence against health workers has been a constant worry, and intensified after two Congolese workers were killed in their homes last week in Beni, a city in northeast DRC close to the world famous Virunga National Park near the border with Uganda.

July 18, 2019 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 7, 2019)

A Different Kind of Pole Dance.

NCTC Gulfport Prepares Seabees to Work on Utility Poles

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Construction Electrician Lace Johnson)

Last week the Friday Foto showed you Navy SEAL candidates straining under a heavy log or pole as part of their rugged training. This week, we’ve got Navy Seabees high up a pole.

The Navy’s Construction Battalions (CBs or “Seabees”) form the Naval Construction Force (NCF). The Seabees in this photo are attending a Construction Electrician (CE) class at the Naval Construction Training Center in Gulfport, Mississippi.  The three-week course in power distribution systems and line vehicles will advance their skills in  wooden power pole utility work.

With hands-on-instruction, the students gain confidence with using safety gear and climbing equipment — as well as experience in climbing to heights of nine, 18, 27 and 36 feet, while circling the utility pole 360 degrees in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions.

Formed during World War II, the Navy Construction Battalions (CBs or “Seabees”) replaced civilian construction workers who were building naval bases and other Navy facilities in the Central Pacific prior to Pearl Harbor.  Under international law, civilians who took up arms against an enemy attack could be summarily executed as guerrillas when captured.

The first Seabees were skilled construction workers, trained by the Navy and Marine Corps, to fight as well as build in theaters of war.  In all, 325,000 men served as Seabees during the war.

Today Seabees perform a number of tasks from building and repairing bases, airfields, bridges and roads in war zones, to disaster relief work — including debris removal, setting up expeditionary medical facilities, and restoring power and water supplies. Click here to see a short video on the work of modern day Seabees.

June 7, 2019 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Posts

December 2022
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Categories


%d bloggers like this: