Posts tagged ‘Counter Insurgency’

SHAKO: U.S. Marine Corps Turns 247

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USMC

On this day, November 10, 247 years ago the Congress of Britain’s 13 American colonies decided it was time to start looking for a “a few good men” who could fight on land and sea.

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia. The memorial was dedicated in 1954 to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.  (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Master Sergeant Adrian Cadiz) Click on photo to enlarge image

The Marine Corps was created by the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 and since 1921, Marines around the world have celebrated the Corps’ founding under Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, issued by then-Commandant Major General John LeJeune. His order summarized the history, tradition and mission of the Marine Corps and directed that the order be read to every command on every subsequent November 10, the Marine Corps Birthday.

Since the 1950s, the Marines have marked the occasion with a birthday celebration and a cake cutting ceremony, where a senior Marine Corps officer slices the cake — usually with the traditional Mameluke officer’s sword, commemorating the Marines’ first overseas action near the shores of Tripoli in 1805. The first slice of cake is handed to the oldest Marine present. That senior Leatherneck then hands the slice to the youngest Marine on site.

In the photo below, retired Marine Colonel  Frank Harris III, representing the oldest Marine during the ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ), receives a piece of cake from the base commander, Colonel Michael Brooks, at at MCBQ’s Butler Stadium on November 9, 2022.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Eric Huynh) Click on photo to enlarge.

After Congress ordered the establishment of two battalions of Marines in late 1775, Captain (later Major) Samuel Nichols — considered the Corps’ first commandant — advertised in and around Philadelphia for “a few good men” and signed them up at Tun Tavern in that city. Those early Marines first saw action in the Bahamas in a March 3, 1776 raid on New Providence in the Bahama Islands, to capture naval supplies from the British.

Three days before this year’s birthday celebration, General David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, advised his troops to “prepare for uncertainty.”

“When called, we will fight and we will win — today, tomorrow, and in the future,” Berger said in a video message released on YouTube and elsewhere. “These victories are not won by our technology or our equipment, but because of all of you, because of everything you do every day to remain the best trained, the most professional, most ready force in the world. That has not changed.”

The Marine Corps has made drastic changes in force size, composition and weapons to meet emerging threats in the coming decade, primarily from China. With his Force Design 2030 plan, Berger seeks to reshape the Corps so it can operate and survive inside the area of operations of a peer competitor equipped with advanced manned and unmanned aerial systems and cruise missiles.

Critics have questioned Berger’s decision to eliminate all of the Marines’ battle tanks and most of their towed artillery in favor of highly mobile rocket and missile launchers to control maritime choke points. He and other Marine Corps leaders have noted Ukraine’s success against Russian tanks, armored vehicles and distant command and supply centers, using kamikaze drones and the truck-mounted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HiMARS) shows the vulnerability of tanks and the importance of logistics and reconnaissance, which are a key focus of Marine Corps planning.

Marines with 2nd battalion, 14th Marines regiment, 4th Marine division load rockets into a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in California in 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal AaronJames B. Vinculado)

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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.

November 10, 2022 at 8:32 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Lawlessness in Nigeria; Terrorism in Burkina Faso; Counter Terrorism in Somalia

UPDATE: Includes HEALTH/EPIDEMICS –U.S. requiring Ebola Screening for travelers coming from Uganda; ECONOMY/MARKETS — Big African oil conference attendees react to OPEC cuts.

CONFLICT/TERRORISM

WEST AFRICA

NIGERIA: Women, children drown fleeing gunmen.

At least 18 women and children have drowned in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state as a gang of kidnappers opened fire on them, according to the BBC.

The 18 were among dozens of people trying to escape a night-time attack October 5, on the village of Birnin Wajje in the Bukkuyum area. The attackers shot dead at least six people and kidnapped seven other villagers before opening fire on the those fleeing in two boats, a resident told the BBC.

The shooting caused a panic capsizing the boats, the resident explained. A police spokesman confirmed to the BBC that there had been attack on the village and drownings, but could not give casualty figures. The resident said that 18 bodies had been recovered, but several others were still missing. The attackers have also abducted at least 16 people in the nearby village of Dargaje.

According to the Associated Press, the attack was the latest in a cycle of violence of armed groups targeting remote communities in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions. Authorities often blame the attacks on a group of mostly young herdsmen from the Fulani tribe who have been caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between farming communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned in many of the affected communities, while continuing to fight a decade-long insurgency launched by Islamist extremists in the northeastern part of the country.

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NIGERIA: Remaining hostages in March train attack freed.

Nigeria’s military says it has secured the release of the remaining 23 hostages taken during a train attack by gunmen in March, Reuters reported October 5. The attack in northern Kaduna state saw dozens of people kidnapped and six others killed.

Gunmen blew up the tracks and attacked the train traveling between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna. The government blamed the attack on the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. The attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train led to the suspension of a service that was popular with passengers who feared attacks and kidnappings by gunmen on Nigerian highways.

Usman Yusuf, secretary to the chief of defense staff, said in a statement that the military had “secured the release and taken custody of all the 23 passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists.” He did not provide details.

Nigeria’s state railway company initially said it could not account for 168 people who had booked to travel on the train. Most were later traced to their homes, but 65 were confirmed missing. The kidnappers had been releasing hostages in batches.

Security is a major concern for Nigerians as the country prepares for February elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who is stepping down after two terms leading Africa’s most populous country, noted the French press agency AFP.

No group took credit for the March 28 train attack, though officials have blamed jihadis cooperating with heavily armed criminal gangs who terrorize parts of northwest and central Nigeria with looting raids and mass abductions.

Analysts said the sophisticated attack involving explosives indicate Islamist militants could have participated. Nigerian government officials often use the term Boko Haram loosely to refer generally to armed groups.

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BURKINA FASO: Al Qaeda branch claims attack on Army convoy.

The Sahel-based branch of al-Qaeda  — Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) — has claimed responsibility for an attack last month on a convoy in Burkina Faso that killed more than a dozen soldiers, the SITE Intelligence Group said October 4.

Islamist militants attacked a convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on September 26, days before the West African country was hit by its second military takeover this year, Reuters reported.

JNIM claimed credit for the ambush and said it “caused significant economic losses to the enemy and ‘led to a shakeup’ in the army ranks, culminating in the military coup,” the SITE statement said.

Eleven soldiers were found dead and about 50 civilians were reported missing after the attack, the previous government said. But an internal security document seen by Reuters on October 4 gave a death toll of 27 soldiers.

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EAST AFRICA

SOMALIA: AFRICOM says airstrike targeted al-Shabaab leader.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says it conducted an airstrike against the al-Shabaab militant network in Somalia on October 1 in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike occurred near Jilib, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

In an initial assessment, AFRICOM  said the strike killed an al-Shabaab leader and that no civilians were injured or killed.

Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security,” the statement added.

Somalia has been in civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

Until then-President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, about 700 U.S. service members rotated in and out of Somalia, training the east African nation’s military and helping with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But President Joe Biden decided to return up to 500 troops to the Horn of Africa, expediting airstrikes for counter terrorism operations.

“Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa,” AFRICOM said, adding the “Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.”

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HEALTH/EPIDEMICS

UGANDA: Ebola screening for Uganda travelers at 5 U.S. airports.

Federal officials will begin redirecting U.S.-bound travelers who had been to Uganda within the previous 21 days to five major American airports to be screened for Ebola, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued an alert to health care workers to raise awareness about the outbreak but said there were currently no suspected or confirmed U.S. Ebola cases from the Sudan strain, which is behind the latest Uganda infections.

On September 20, 2022 Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola disease, the deadly hemorrhagic fever, caused by Sudan virus, following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda, the World Health Organization announced on September 26. This is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012.

According to Uganda’s Health Ministry at least nine people have died of the disease in Uganda by October 3. Authorities in the east African nation announced the outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever on September 20. There are 43 total cases.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa in 2015. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The screenings in the United States will begin rolling out immediately, the Associated Press reported. Travelers who have been in Uganda at any point during the past 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus, will be redirected to one of five U.S. airports for Ebola screening: Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The screening applies to any passenger who was in Uganda, including U.S. citizens. It involves a temperature and symptom check conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC will also collect contact information that will be shared with local health departments at the travelers’ destination.

The administration says about 145 people per day enter the U.S. from Uganda, with most already arriving at the five large airline hubs. Anyone scheduled to fly into a different airport will be rebooked by their airline, the government said.

Also on October 6, the CDC sent a health alert to doctors, urging them to get a travel history from patients who have Ebola-like symptoms.

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ECONOMY/MARKETS

   SOUTH AFRICA: Attendees at big African oil conference react to OPEC production cuts.

Delegates at Africa’s biggest oil conference have expressed concern about rising prices after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plus nonmembers who also export oil, decided this week to cut production targets.

The OPEC nations, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia announced October 5 they will slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

The move prompted a blistering reaction from White House officials and reverberated almost immediately through domestic and global financial markets, threatening higher energy costs for the United States and European countries already grappling with inflation and economic instability, the Washington Post reported.

Russia will benefit from the cut, because lower production will increase the price of oil — helping Moscow finance its war effort in Ukraine. And it could further test Europe’s resolve to support Ukraine ahead of what economists project will be a sharp slowdown in economic growth throughout the continent. American consumers could also be strained by higher gas prices, potentially imperiling the Biden administration’s determination to lower gas costs ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

In Cape Town, South Africa at the Africa Oil Week conference, delegates expressed concern about rising prices, the VOA website reported.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, secretary-general of the African Petroleum Producers Organization, said the move was aimed at ensuring stability in the global market and ensuring that prices don’t fall too low. “I believe it’s the right thing they did in order to save the industry,” he said, “and I totally think that every country has the responsibility to protect the interests of its citizens. And if by reducing production they see that as in their best interest, so be it.”

Rashid Ali Abdallah, executive director of the African Energy Commission, said it was too early to tell what the impact of the planned cuts would be. “I hope that the price is not shooting up, because in Africa we depend on oil products in power generation,” he said.

Gates Port Harcourt Refining Ltd in Alesa-Eleme, Nigeria. (photo by sixoone via wikipedia)

Natacha Massano, vice president of Angola’s National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, said she wasn’t sure how the announcement would affect her country. Angola is one of the two biggest oil producers in Africa; Nigeria is the other, and both are OPEC members.

“Some countries will be affected more than the others,” Massano said. “Some are benefiting — of course, the producers may benefit from the high prices, but at the same time they are paying also for all other commodities.”

October 6, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 9, 2022)

BOUND FOR UKRAINE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matt Porter)

Senior Airman Natasha Mundt, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and other airmen assigned to the 305th Aerial Port squadron, load Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions to a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on  August 13, 2022.

The munitions cargo is part of an additional security assistance package for Ukraine. The security assistance the U.S. is providing to Ukraine is enabling critical success on the battlefield against the Russian invading force.

On Thursday, September 8, the Pentagon announced another authorization of security assistance valued at up to $675 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twentieth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.

Weaponry and other equipment includes more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that have been playing havoc with Russian facilities — including ammo dumps and command centers — behind the front lines, as this CBS News piece illustrates.

Also going to Ukraine will be: Four 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds; additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARM) that destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems; 100 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); 1.5 million rounds of small arms ammunition; more than 5,000 anti-armor systems; 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems; 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; plus additional grenade launchers, small arms, night vision devices and other field equipment.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department notified Congress it intends to make $2 billion available in long-term investments in Foreign Military Financing. One billion to bolster Ukraine’s security and the other $1 billion for 18 of Ukraine’s regional neighbors.

To date, the United States has committed approximately $15.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian territory in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the United States has committed more than $17.2 billion in security assistance — and more than $14.5 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24.

September 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

AROUND AFRICA: New AFRICOM Commander Visits Africa; U.N. Report Says 50 Killed in Mali Military Ops

U.S. AFRICA COMMAND

New AFRICOM Commander Visits Africa

The new head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) visited Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya recently on his first trip to Africa since taking command on August 9.

During the four-day visit (August 28-31), U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley visited with host nation leaders, senior State Department and defense officials, and deployed troops to better understand the political and military situation in East Africa, to discuss shared concerns and priorities, and observe ongoing operations firsthand.

U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley, the new commander of U.S. Africa Command, meets with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (right) Aug. 29, 2022 during Langley’s first visit to Africa since becoming AFRICOM’s leader. On the left is U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Larry Andre. (Courtesy photo)

While in Somalia, Langley met leaders and troops at operational sites across the country to witness ongoing training efforts and assess security and force protection measures.  He also met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, to discuss shared priorities and operations, such as the shared fight against Al-Shabaab.

“The United States supports the Somali government and its people. We are committed to working together to advance our mutual prosperity for our countries. I appreciate Somalia’s efforts in the fight against Al-Shabaab and look forward to continued partnership between our two militaries.”

Djibouti in Africa. click to enlarge (CIA World Factbook)

In Djibouti, Langley discussed the variety of missions that stage out of Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.  He also met with President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh and Minster of Foreign Affairs Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.

“The United States is grateful for the leadership Djibouti has shown through its contributions to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia and the gracious hospitality the Djiboutians show to our troops. I look forward to continuing to foster our enduring, strong and cooperative relationship,” Langley said.

Finally, at Manda Bay, Kenya, Langley met with the new U.S. Ambassador, Margaret “Meg” Whitman, as well as senior defense leaders stationed at the U.S. Embassy, and leaders from the base to assess security and force protection measures.

 

Before Langley took command, on January 5, 2020, between 30 and 40 Al-Shabaab fighters launched an attack on Cooperative Security Location Manda Bay. The attack resulted in the deaths of Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., as well as civilian contractors Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett. The attack also destroyed six U.S. aircraft, one aircraft owned by the Kenyans and several vehicles.

Kenya (CIA World Factbook) click to enlarge

A review of the attack by AFRICOM and a follow-up review by the Pentagon found no single point of failure for the loss of life or property damage. But both teams looking into the incident agreed on factors that contributed to the outcome of the attack and on recommendations for improved security operations.

“Cooperative Security Location-Manda Bay is an important operational base for U.S. Africa Command forces in the region,” Langley said.

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U.N. Report: At Least 50 Killed by Malian Army.

At least 50 civilians were killed during a military operation conducted by Mali’s army and “foreign troops” on April 19, the United Nations said in a new report, Reuters reported August 31.

The U.N. has repeatedly accused Malian soldiers of summarily executing civilians and suspected militants over the course of their decade-long fight against groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Mali in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Mali’s military government — which took power in a 2020 coup — has been battling Islamist insurgents with the help of private military contractors belonging to Russia’s Wagner group, mercenary military contractors that have been deployed across the Middle East and Africa, including to Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Central African Republic, and Mali. According to the Brookings Institution, they focus principally on protecting the ruling or emerging governing elites and critical infrastructures.

The massacre victims included a woman and a child, the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission MINUSMA said in a quarterly report on human rights violations in the insurgent-hit West African country.

It did not specify the nationality of the foreign military personnel accompanying local troops.

 

September 1, 2022 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Lion 22 Exercise in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia; New AFRICOM Commander Tapped; Troubles in Mali

EXERCISES/TRAINING WITH PARTNERS.

AFRICAN LION 22: Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia.

U.S. Africa Command’s premier annual exercise, African Lion 22, ended nearly a month of training operations across four nations in north and west Africa on June 30.

Sergeant Anthony Ruiz, an infantry squad leader assigned to Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Tunisian troops participate in an integrated training event during African Lion 2022, near Camp Ben Ghilouf, Tunisia on June 21, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Marcela Diazdeleon)

African Lion 22 is a multinational, combined arms joint exercise focused on increasing training and interoperability between U.S. forces and  partners and allies on the African continent to increase security and stability within the region.

Led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force for Africa, the exercise saw operations ranging from maritime training exercises in the Mediterranean waters off Tunisia and Morocco’s Atlantic Coast to field training and combined arms exercises in Ghana and Senegal.

Military units from Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the African nation of Chad, joined U.S. and host nations’ troops in the exercises. A total of 7,500 troops, nearly 4,000 of them from the United States, participated in African Lion, which began on June 6.

African Lion also included a Special Operations cyber exercise, a medical readiness exercise, a humanitarian civil assistance program,  a joint forcible entry with paratroopers, an air exercise with U.S. heavy heavy lift transport, aerial refueling and bomber aircraft.

Approximately 80 Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, along other Guard units from from California, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are training with the Royal Moroccan Army in the northern Sahara Desert as part of African Lion ’22.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Becky Vanshur)

Historically, African Lion has taken place only in Morocco and Tunisia, but this year Ghana and Senegal were added.  While Ghana has participated in the past as observers, “This is the first time that we’re actually doing the exercise in Ghana,” Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, told a June 28 U.S. State Department digital press briefing with African journalists. Speaking from Morocco, Rohling noted that Ghana “has chosen to partner with its African neighbors and the United States to help provide peace and security across the continent.  Ghana has a growing leadership role in regional security.”

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U.S. Africa Command.

President Biden has nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Langley to be the next commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the president’s decision June 9. Langley currently heads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command. He is also the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

AFRICOM, based in Stutgart, Germany, oversees U.S. troops dispersed throughout Africa, including conflict zones such as Somalia, where Biden has decided to return up to 500 troops — withdrawn by the Trump administration — to expedite airstrikes for counter terrorism operations, according to Military Times.

If the Senate confirms Langley, he would succeed Army General Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July 2019. As head of one of the geographical combatant commands, Langley would also be promoted to the rank of full general, making him the first four-star Marine Corps general.

Langley would be in charge of of all U.S. military operations in Africa. The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic, according to The Hill newspaper site.

Speaking from Morocco to a digital State Department press briefing June 28 about African Lion 22, Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, brought up Wagner Group when asked about the rising number of foreign military operations and bases in Africa. The United States and China each have a base in the East African nation of Djibouti and French and U.S. troops have been assisting several West African nations resist terrorist groups like al Queda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

“I think it’s clear that we’ve seen the impact and the destabilizing effect that Wagner brings to Africa and elsewhere. And I think countries that have experienced Wagner Group deployments within their borders found themselves to be a little bit poorer, a little bit weaker, and a little bit less secure,” Rohling said. “So an exercise such as African Lion aims to build capacity as well as the trusted, long-term relationships to address future challenges.  And I think that’s the difference between United States and others that are operating here on the continent.”

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PEACEKEEPING/CONFLICTS

French Troops Leaving Mali.

Concerns have grown that the exit of 2,400 French troops from Mali – the epicenter of violence in the Sahel region and strongholds of both al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates – is worsening violence, destabilizing neighbors and spurring migration.

Coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened France’s alliances in its former colonies, emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of desert and scrub, and opened the door to greater Russian influence.

All the logisticians of France’s Barkhane force are involved in the transfer of military equipment out of Mali after nearly eight years fighting armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and supporting the armed forces of partner countries against the threat. (French Ministry of the Armed Forces photo)

With the withdrawal from Mali expected to be completed by the end of the summer French officials were negotiating in neighboring Niger  to redefine France’s strategy to fight Islamist militants in the Sahel as concerns mount over the growing threat to coastal West African states, Reuters reports.

France’s plan calls for Niger will become the hub for French troops, with some 1,000 soldiers based in the capital Niamey along with fighter jets, drones and helicopters. Some 300-400 French troops would be dispatched for special operations with Nigerien troops in the border regions with Burkina Faso and Mali, French officials told reporters.

West Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Another 700-to-1,000 would be based in Chad with an undisclosed number of special forces operating elsewhere in the region. French troops will no longer carry out missions or pursue militants into Mali once the exit is complete, the officials said.

A key area of concern is how and whether French and European troops will used to support countries in the coastal Gulf of Guinea nations such Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast, where there has been a rise in attacks. Al Qaeda’s regional arm has said it would turn its attention to the region.

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Trouble between Mali and Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, the military-led government in Mali says it is suspending all new rotations of United Nations peacekeeping troops due to national security reasons, the BBC reports. The action comes days after soldiers from the Ivory Coast were arrested on arrival in Mali on suspicion of being mercenaries.

Officials in Ivory Coast said they were there to support the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, under an agreed contract between the two countries. The junta in Mali, which is trying to put down an Islamist insurgency, says its foreign ministry was not informed of the deployment via the official channels.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the troops were not officially part of MINUSMA but came as “support of their contingents,” what he described as “a common practice in peacekeeping missions,” the VoA website reported. The Malian government labeled them “mercenaries.” Ivory Coast has called for their release.

Peacekeepers serving with the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). (Photo: MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko)

The arrests were not mentioned in the statement announcing the peacekeeper suspension.

Since April, the U.N. has been seeking access to the town of Moura, where locals told human rights investigators and journalists that the army and Russian mercenaries carried out a massacre over five days.

The mandate for the mission in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29. During renewal talks, Mali’s U.N. representative said the government would not allow the United Nations to carry out investigations of alleged human rights abuses as part of its mandate.

The U.N. mission in Mali has almost 12,000 troops and 1,700 police officers. It is a visible presence in many of Mali’s northern cities, which were taken over by Islamist militants in 2012 and have seen increasing insecurity in recent months following the French army’s withdrawal from the country, according to VoA.

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Egypt Halts Its Mali Troop Rotation.

Egypt has told the United Nations it will temporarily suspend the activities of its contingent in a Mali peacekeeping mission, citing increased attacks on its peacekeepers who escort convoys supplying U.N. bases, Reuters reported July 15.

The attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year. Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.

July 17, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 24, 2022)

21st CENTURY GUNSLINGER.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal David Intriago) Click on photo to enlarge image.

Corporal Monica Pomales, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773’s Detachment A, conducts live fire shooting drills in a UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter during exercise Gunslinger 22 at Smoky Hill Range, Kansas on June 17, 2022.

Gunslinger 22 is a joint Marine Corps exercise with the Kansas Air National Guard designed to increase aircraft control and training for potential real world contingencies. Pomales’ Venom was accompanied by an AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and both provided close air support and deep air support to the Ground Combat Element at Smoky Hill Range.

HMLA 773 Detachment A, based in New Orleans, is part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey — a 2009 amalgamation of three military facilities in the Garden State: McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, once the home of the Navy’s rigid airships and non-rigid blimps.

To see more photos of this helicopter live fire drill, click here.

June 24, 2022 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 29, 2022)

Desert Water Hazard.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Blake Wiles)

OK, hold on tight. This one will make your head spin.

This week’s photo shows U.S. troops with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) performing a swimming obstacle course during a French Desert Commando Course (FDCC) pre-assessment  — that’s right a Desert Commando Course — in the East African nation of Djibouti on April 19, 2022.

During the FDCC, participants are evaluated on mountain confidence, knot tying, night obstacle courses, aquatic obstacle courses, and battle maneuver tactics as well as physical challenges like timed pushups.  Since 2015, the French Forces stationed in Djibouti, a former French colony, have invited U.S. service members at Camp Lemonnier (the only U.S. base on the African continent) to participate in the course at the 5th Overseas Interarms Regiment base in Dijbouti.

The 5th OIR is a troupes de marine regiment, and has been the Djibouti garrison since November 1969. Despite its name, the Marine troops are part of the French Army, not the Navy.

April 28, 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

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Tensions Grow on Ukraine-Russia Border; Moscow Eyes Svalbard Presence in Hybrid-Strategy

UKRAINE:

Biden Reassures Ukrainian President.

President Joe Biden has reassured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, as the country steels itself for a potential Russian invasion on its eastern frontier.

According to a White House readout of the December 9 call, “President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further military intervention.”

Biden also told Zelenskyy that the United States and its allies were “committed to the principle of ‘no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine,’” reiterating his calls for Russia to de-escalate tensions and choose diplomacy, POLITICO reported.

*** *** ***

(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Seeking Help from Parners, Allies.

Biden also held a separate call December 9 with the Bucharest Nine,” a group of NATO members on Europe’s eastern edge close to Russia — including the Baltics and Poland — that are particularly sensitive to aggressive moves by Moscow, the Washington Post reported.

Thursday’s conversations took place roughly 48 hours after Biden spoke on a two-hour video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he warned the Kremlin leader that severe economic consequences would follow if he once again decides to invade neighboring Ukraine.
During their call, Biden and Putin agreed that their teams would arrange talks on what the Kremlin calls sensitive European security issues, including Putin’s complaints about NATO activities in and around Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. The Kremlin has denied any plans to invade, accusing Washington of fueling a war scare.
*** *** ***
U.S. Not Sending Troops
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. support for Ukraine against a worrisome buildup of Russian forces will not include additional U.S. troops, at least for now.

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters December 8 at the White House. “The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now,” Defense One repored. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not enjoy the collective protection of Article 5, which calls every alliance member to arms when one is attacked. Ukraine seeks to join NATO but Russia opposes its entry into the alliance.

In an exclusive interview for Defense One’s Outlook 2022, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden emphasized in his phone call with Putin that if Russia moves against Ukraine, the United States would levy economic consequences; provide more military gear to Kiev; and deploy an “increased U.S. troop presence and increased capabilities in countries like Poland, the Baltics, [and] Romania.”

But Sullivan reiterated that the U.S. does not intend to send more troops to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the final elements of a $60 million security systems package to Ukraine — initially announced in August — will ship this week, a Pentagon spokesman said December 9.

U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, cut through barbed wire during the Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine, July 2, 2021. The multinational maritime exercise cohosted by U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea since 1997, is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security and peace in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that the last portions of the existing security package, which includes small arms and ammunition, is shipping now. Other parts of that security assistance package, meant to help Ukrainians defend their sovereignty against Russian aggression, included the Javelin missile system, which is already in the hands of Ukrainian servicemembers.

The $60 million package previously included 30 Javelin Command Launch Units and 180 missiles. The Javelins were delivered to Ukraine on October 23. “The United States has committed more than $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine in 2021, and this is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth, a Defense Department  spokesman said in an email to reporters.

*** *** ***

Putin’s No-Ukraine-in-NATO Demand.

On December 1, Vladimir Putin demanded ‘‘legal guarantees’’ that NATO would never expand eastward, ratcheting up the stakes as the West scrambled to respond to Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Putin, who sees Ukraine’s deepening military partnership with the United States and other NATO countries as an existential threat, wants to start talks with the West to reach an agreement that would block the alliance’s expansion. He spoke in the midst of what Western officials describe as a growing threat of military action by tens of thousands of Russian troops massing close to the border with Ukraine — a former Soviet nation that seeks to join NATO.

‘‘The threat on our western borders is, indeed, rising, as we have said multiple times,’’ Putin said at a ceremony for ambassadors at the Kremlin December, according to the Times. ‘‘In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.’’

Putin’s demand is a nonstarter for NATO. ‘‘It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO,’’ Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general told reporters in Riga, Latvia. ‘‘Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.’’

*** *** ***

ARCTIC:

From the Barents Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea

An expert on Polar geopolitics warns that Russia to enhance its presence in Svalbard, a Norwegian-controlled archipelago in the Arctic, the Independent Barents Observer reports.

In an interview with the Norwegian-based Arctic news site, Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan, says “a hybrid-strategy is underway in which Russia bolsters its legitimate presence in Svalbard on one hand while raising tensions in the maritime space on the other hand.” A lecturer in strategic studies at Australia’s Deakin University, says Moscow “isn’t about to annex Svalbard, Russia doesn’t want such a fight.”

Instead, she says Russia will try to assert its rights under a 1920 Treaty that gave Norway sovereignty over the islands, but Russia coal limited mining and other economic and scientific rights.

In recent years, the islands have risen in strategic importance as they reside just north of the intersection of the Barents, Greenland and Norwegian seas (see map above) . Whomever controls Svalbard is also likely to control the important gateway from the shallow Barents Sea to the deeper North Atlantic. For Russia’s Northern Fleet, the so-called Bear Island Gap between mainland Norway and the archipelago’s southernmost island is key to conducting sea denial operations in and over the maritime areas further south, potentially threatening NATO’s transatlantic sea lines of communication, according to the Observer.

*** *** ***

BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations like Poland and Romania border against Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Scandinavian countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

December 10, 2021 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 26, 2021)

Native American Heritage Day.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery ) released)

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, honoring the hundreds of Native American tribes and peoples of the United States. And the day after Thanksgiving is Native American Heritage Day.

Mindful of that, we thought this would be a good FRIDAY FOTO as we near the end of November. It shows Vincent Goesahead Jr. of the Crow Nation during the opening ceremony commemorating the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, on November 9, 2021.

The road to a national commemoration of that heritage has taken several twists over the 20th Century. Originally treated as members of sovereign “nations” for treaty-making purposes, Native Americans were not extended U.S. citizenship — and the civil rights that went with it — until 1924.

Nevertheless, a significant number of Native Americans have served in all of the nation’s wars beginning with the Revolutionary War, according to the Defense Department website.

Twenty-nine service members of Native American heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest medal for valor: 25 soldiers, three sailors and one Marine. That Marine is the fabled Greg “Pappy” Boyington of the Cactus Air Force in World War II — who a member of the Brule Sioux tribe.

In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial commemoration, President Gerald Ford proclaimed October 10-16, 1976, as “Native American Awareness Week.”

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed November 23-30, American Indian Week.

It wasn’t until November 14, 1990, President George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month to honor the hundreds of Native American tribes and people in the United States, including Alaska. Native Hawaiians and those in U.S. territories in the Pacific are honored in Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month each May.

Those who claim to be American Indians in the active duty force as of July 2021, number 14,246, or 1.1 percent of the total force, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center.

In the past, we here at 4GWAR Blog have celebrated the Native American code talkers: Navaho Marines and Comanche, Choctaw and Meswaki Soldiers who thwarted German and Japanese troops listening in on U.S. field telephone and radio communications in World War I and World War II.

On the Pentagon website there are feature stories on Comanche, Lakota and Lumbee Native Americans serving in today’s Army and Navy.

For those who see bitter irony in celebrating the Native Americans who wore the uniform of the national government that frequently warred on them, took their land and tried to obliterate their culture, we offer this photo, of the Apache leader Geronimo, and a caption dripping with irony, that grew out of the response to the 9/11 attacks on the Homeland.

November 27, 2021 at 12:31 am Leave a comment

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