- RSS Channel Showcase 2377405
- RSS Channel Showcase 7282302
- RSS Channel Showcase 2892076
- RSS Channel Showcase 1581004
Articles on this Page
- 08/19/16--18:05: _Venezuela’s militar...
- 08/20/16--08:23: _Here's how the US m...
- 08/20/16--09:30: _17 reasons why the ...
- 08/21/16--06:33: _Syrian jets flying ...
- 08/21/16--11:46: _Yemen's ex-presiden...
- 08/21/16--14:00: _Here's how the sun ...
- 08/22/16--05:55: _Iran: Russia showed...
- 08/22/16--19:40: _Asia's three major ...
- 08/23/16--06:46: _China just took a h...
- 08/23/16--07:26: _US Air Force legend...
- 08/23/16--09:17: _The US Marines are ...
- 08/23/16--12:19: _Why the hype around...
- 08/23/16--13:17: _US Soldier killed b...
- 08/23/16--14:09: _The UK is selling a...
- 08/23/16--14:52: _Just 16 counties ar...
- 08/23/16--15:10: _New US Commander in...
- 08/24/16--06:12: _Philippine police r...
- 08/24/16--12:55: _Russia may set up c...
- 08/24/16--18:36: _Here's how ISIS rec...
- 08/25/16--07:36: _It's official — the...
- 08/20/16--08:23: Here's how the US military would put down an armed rebellion
- 08/20/16--09:30: 17 reasons why the M1 Abrams tank is still king of the battlefield
- 08/21/16--11:46: Yemen's ex-president: We are ready to work with Russia
- 08/21/16--14:00: Here's how the sun almost triggered a nuclear war in 1967
- 08/23/16--06:46: China just took a huge step toward becoming a global military power
- 08/23/16--09:17: The US Marines are dropping the hammer on ISIS in Libya
- 08/23/16--12:19: Why the hype around military drills is bogus
- 08/23/16--13:17: US Soldier killed by IED in Afghanistan
- 08/23/16--14:52: Just 16 counties are fueling America’s use of the death penalty
- 08/24/16--12:55: Russia may set up camp in the base the US and NATO use to bomb ISIS
- 08/24/16--18:36: Here's how ISIS recruits and coerces children
When General Néstor Reverol was appointed Venezuela’s new home secretary, much of the world interpreted it as an ominous sign of growing military influence.
The appointment was a strange one in itself: just one day after Reverol was indicted in the US on charges of drug trafficking, president Nicolás Maduro called him“an exemplary officer”, “a brave man”, and the ideal candidate to stake out the mafioso gangs supposedly holding Venezuela to ransom.
This was the latest in a growing number of military appointments to Maduro’s government.
Only a fortnight before, the incumbent defence minister, General Vladimir Padrino López, was given control of a national distribution network that oversees the administration of food, medicine and basic goods in an attempt to ease the country’s notorious shortages.
From here on, all other ministers will answer to López as the second-in-command of Venezuela’s so-called “economic war” on hoarding, speculation and neo-imperialist forces, embodied on the ground by black marketeers and small-time capitalists.
That so many army officials are being nominated for political positions has not gone unnoticed. Some onlookers are speculating that it amounts to a clandestine coup against the increasingly unstable Venezuelan president, who seems increasingly unable or unwilling to tackle the hyperinflation that has brought the country to paralysis.
All this concern, however, is long overdue. A much longer and slower process of militarisation has been underway for some time.
The Venezuelan military has been extending its influence ever since Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998. An iconic and deeply controversial leftist president, Chávez experienced a political awakening when undergoing training in military sciences and humanism. During his presidency, the armed forces in their many different guises steadily crept into all areas of Venezuelan society.
This began when Chávez announced the start of “Plan Bolívar 2000”, the first of several much-celebrated welfare “missions” designed to rehabilitate the military’s image, which had never recovered from the shanty town massacres of the 1989 Caracazo riots. As part of the plan, soldiers were sent door-to-door to deliver vaccinations and repair schools, homes and churches, as well as co-ordinating educational programmes and improving sanitation.
This humane face of the army found special occasion for display in the aftermath of the massive 1999 landslides, when military officials managed rescue operations, distributed humanitarian aid, and protected the local population. Checkpoints and curfews were introduced to curb theft and looting.
So the advent of military figures in ministerial posts does not signal the start of a new regime: it’s the apotheosis of an old one. And Maduro has been talking about it for some time.
He has often spoken of a “civic-military union”, an idea that Chávez picked up from Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Maduro himself is Chávez’s hand-picked successor, but he’s also a civilian often deemed less qualified for the role of president than certain of his military counterparts. As the crises in finance, energy, and food scarcity have worsened, this union has become more pronounced in the everyday lives of Venezuelans.
Motorway tolls are manned by Kalashnikov-brandishing cadets, supermarket queues and state-run markets are controlled by high-ranking officers, petrol stations and oil refineries are guarded by men in uniform and young recruits search through passengers’ luggage before they are permitted to leave the international airport. This constant and consistent surveillance helps to intercept dissent before it reaches its fullest expression, and reminds Venezuela that power remains highly concentrated within the state – albeit not necessarily around its president elect.
If required, this power will be implemented with violence. Earlier this year, at least 21 illegal miners disappeared in the south-east state of Bolívar. Some Venezuelans suspect they were killed as part of an operation to make way for the Orinoco Mining Arch, a project for the extraction of minerals that’s partially funded by Chinese investors.
Analysts have claimed that the army provides such widespread mechanisms of social control to the Venezuelan government in exchange for privileged access to imported goods and subsidised petrodollars procured at rock-bottom prices. This would explain why Maduro still refuses to drop the country’s remaining currency controls in spite of the abundant evidence they are wrecking the economy.
That the armed forces have already asserted themselves in some of the most precarious sectors of Venezuelan society points towards fairly solid foundations for a full-blown political takeover, perhaps under the aegis of Padrino López. He was a close ally of Chávez, particularly after coming to his defence during the failed 2002 coup attempt, and has long been an influential force in the high echelons of government.
Yet so long as Maduro manages to stave off the recall referendum for a little longer, such a move might not be necessary. If the referendum can’t be held before the spring of 2017, when Maduro will celebrate four years in office, his elected mandate will pass automatically to Aristóbulo Istúriz, the ruling chavista vice-president.
Should that happen, the army may well remain backstage for the time being. But it will remain omniscient, and its mostly latent power will scarcely be undermined.
Since first coming into service in 1980, the M1 Abrams tank has become a staple of US ground forces. The 67-ton behemoth has since made a name for itself as an incredibly tough, powerful tool that has successfully transitioned from a Cold War-era blunt instrument to a modern tactical weapon.
In the slides below, find out how the M1 Abrams became, and remains, the king of the battlefield.
Here is one of the first M1 Abrams in 1979. The Abrams entered service in 1980, but didn't see heavy combat until Desert Storm in 1991.
The Abrams was the first tank to incorporate British-developed Chobham composite armor, which includes ceramics and is incredibly dense.
Despite the British-designed armor, the Abrams tanks were made in Ohio and Michigan.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Twice in the last few days, Syrian jets performing air strikes close to where US SOF are operating in northeastern Syria caused coalition aircraft to scramble.
On Aug. 18, US jets were dispatched to intercept the Syrian attack planes that were attacking targets near Hasakah supporting regime forces fighting the Syrian Kurdish forces. About 300 US military operate in the same area, training Kurdish forces who are fighting Daesh.
Syrian pilots did not respond to the radio calls of the Kurdish on the general emergency frequency nor did they acknowledge calls attempted by the coalition on the air safety channel used for communication with the Russian aircraft operating over Syria.
Anyway, by the time US fighters reached the area, the Syrian planes had already left.
Following the first “close encounter” the Pentagon warned Assad regime to not fly or conduct raids in the area where the American SOF are operating. However, on Aug. 19, two Su-24 Fencers, attempted again to penetrate the airspace near Hasakah.
This time, the two Syrian Arab Air Force attack planes were met by American F-22 Raptors (most probably already operating in the same area providing Combat Air Patrol).
As reported by ABC, a US official said the presence of American F-22 aircraft “encouraged the Syrian aircraft to depart the airspace without further incident. No weapons were fired by the coalition fighters.”
This is not the first time the F-22 presence deters foreign military aircraft from harassing US forces.
In March 2013, few months after two Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes operated by the Pasdaran (informal name of the IRGC – the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) attempted to shoot down an American MQ-1 flying a routine surveillance flight in international airspace the Pentagon decided to escort the drones involved in ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) with fighter aircraft, including the Raptors.
In one very well-known episode, F-22 stealth jets providing HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) to a US Predator flew under the Iranian F-4E Phantoms that had intercepted the drone then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and radioed a famous “you really ought to go home” that allegedly scared the Iranian pilots off saving the drone.
A newly-formed governing council in Yemen could work with Russia to "fight terrorism" by allowing Moscow use of the war-torn country's military bases, Yemen's former president said on Sunday.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former counter-terrorism ally of the U.S. who was toppled by mass protests in 2011, told state-owned channel Russia 24 that Yemen was ready to grant Moscow access to air and naval bases.
"In the fight against terrorism we reach out and offer all facilities. Our airports, our ports... We are ready to provide this to the Russian Federation," Saleh said in an interview in Sanaa.
The ex-strongman may lack the clout to implement such an offer. But officials from the party he heads now run a political council that controls much of the country along with the Houthi movement allied to Iran.
For the first time last week Iran let Russian jets take off from its territory to bomb armed groups in Syria.
Russia is the only major country that maintains a diplomatic presence in Yemen where a 16-month war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels has killed over 6,500 people and raised the prospect of famine in the Arab World's poorest country.
The war has allowed Islamist militants including al Qaeda and the Islamic State to flourish, even though the United States has for years launched drone strikes against groups in Yemen.
Russia abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution in 2015 that imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels.
Moscow's relations with Yemen date back decades and until the break-up of the USSR, thousands of Soviet military advisers and trainers worked in the formerly-independent south.
On Saturday tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied in the capital to show support for the Houthi-led bloc as the head of the group's new governing council vowed to form a full government in the coming days.
In an apparent response to the Houthi show of force, ambassadors from the G18 group of nations, including Russia, that has backed U.N. peace talks to end Yemen's civil war issued a statement condemning "unconstitutional and unilateral actions in Sanaa."
Cold War history is rife with close calls that nearly led to nuclear holocaust.
In September 1983, for example, sunlight reflecting off a patch of clouds fooled a Soviet missile-warning system into detecting the launch of five US intercontinental ballistic missiles that never were. A wary colonel in a bunker ignored the alarm on a 50/50 hunch.
Two months later, US forces staged "Able Archer 83"— a massive nuclear-strike drill on the doorstep of the USSR. Soviet commanders panicked at the show of force and nearly bathed America in thermonuclear energy. Once again, an act of human doubt saved the planet.
Now scientists have one more hair-raising event to add to the books: The "Great Storm" of May 1967.
"The storm made its initial mark with a colossal solar radio burst causing radio interference ... and near-simultaneous disruptions of dayside radio communication," a group of atmospheric scientists and military weather service personnel wrote in a new study, published August 9 in the journal Space Weather.
Hours later, high frequency communications dropped out near US military installations in and near the Arctic— one of the closest places to station nuclear weapons and launch them at a Cold War-era Soviet Union.
"Such an intense, never-before-observed solar radio burst was interpreted as jamming," the study authors wrote. "Cold War military commanders viewed full scale jamming of surveillance sensors as a potential act of war."
A 'Great Storm'
Earth's magnetic field protects life on the planet by corralling the sun's high-energy particles toward the planet's polar regions.
If the sun happens to launch a cloud of solar particles directly toward Earth during a violent outburst, called a coronal mass ejection, it can trigger powerful geomagnetic storms.
This not only leads to beautiful auroras, but can also scramble wireless communications and disrupt radar systems.
While The Washington Post wrote up a story about the storm as "City Gets Rare Look at Northern Lights," top US military commanders sounded the alarms in secret.
The Air Weather Service (AWS) — a relatively new branch of the Air Force — had warned military leadership about the possibility of a solar storm, but US commanders believed the Soviet forces were jamming NORAD systems designed to detect threatening planes and missiles.
As the Strategic Air Command warmed up the engines of bombers and taxied toward the runway, the decision to go airborne may have been kicked all the way up to the "highest levels of government," possibly involving President Lyndon B. Johnson.
"Just in time, military space weather forecasters conveyed information about the solar storm's potential to disrupt radar and radio communications," according to a press release from the American Geophysical Union. "The planes remained on the ground and the U.S. avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union."
"Had it not been for the fact that we had invested very early on in solar and geomagnetic storm observations and forecasting, the impact [of the storm] likely would have been much greater," study leader and UCAR atmospheric scientist Delores Knipp said in the release.
After the near miss, the researchers say the military learned to listen to its space weather forecasters, improve its abilities to see another looming "Great Storm," and avert the first and perhaps final global nuclear exchange.
Russia has stopped using an Iranian air base for launching airstrikes on Syria for the time being, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday, just hours after the Iranian defense minister criticized Moscow for having "kind of show-off and ungentlemanly" attitude by publicizing their actions.
There was no immediate response from Moscow, which had used the Shahid Nojeh Air Base to refuel its bombers striking Syria at least three times last week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran that the Russian airstrikes on militants in Syria were "temporary, based on a Russian request."
"It is finished, for now," Ghasemi said, without elaborating.
Last week, Russia announced it used the airfield, located some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Iranian city of Hamedan. Iranian officials only confirmed Russia's presence a day later.
Earlier Monday, state TV quoted Iran's defense minister as saying that Russia "will use the base for a very short and fixed span." The comments by Gen. Hossein Dehghan came after he chastised parliament this weekend for asking questions about Russia using the base.
Responding to a question about why Iran didn't initially announce Russia's presence at the airfield, Dehghan appeared prickly on the state TV broadcast.
"Russians are interested to show they are a superpower to guarantee their share in political future of Syria and, of course, there has been a kind of show-off and ungentlemanly (attitude) in this field," he said.
Dehghan's remarks also suggest Russia and Iran initially agreed to keep Moscow's use of the air base quiet. Its announcement likely worried Iran's Sunni-ruled Mideast neighbors, which host American military personnel.
The Interfax news agency on Monday also quoted Russia's ambassador to Tehran, Levan Dzhagaryan, as confirming that all of Moscow's warplanes have been withdrawn from Iran. Dzhagaryan said, however, that he does "not see any reason" why the Russians can't use the Iranian base again.
For Iran, allowing Russia to launch strikes from inside the country is likely to prove unpopular. Many still remember how Russia, alongside Britain, invaded and occupied Iran during World War II to secure oil fields and Allied supply lines. But while Britain withdrew, Russia refused to leave, sparking the first international rebuke by the nascent United Nations Security Council in 1946.
Analysts have suggested Russia potentially leveraged Iran into allowing it to use the airfield over either economic or military interests, such as Tehran wanting to purchase Sukhoi-30 fighter jets or its deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missile systems. Russia initially held off on supplying the missile system to Tehran amid negotiations over Iran's contested nuclear program.
Over the weekend, photographs of President Hassan Rouhani were published in Iranian state media near a Bavar-373 missile defense system. That system is designed to be the local equivalent of the S-300 — perhaps an Iranian signal back to Moscow that it's capable of defending itself without the Russian missile system.
In his comments, Dehghan said the Bavar-373 can hit targets at the height of 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) — the same height the S-300 can reach.
"When we make Bavar-373 operational, we will not need to purchase another high-altitude and long-range air defense system," he said.
Dehghan added that Iran still sees the Sukhoi-30 as "an appropriate fighting aircraft," though he acknowledged the U.S. could seek to block any fighter jet deal. The U.N. resolution enshrining last year's nuclear deal with Iran prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved in advance by the Security Council.
"The issue of purchasing the fighters has been raised and we have not heard any negative answer," he said. "We are negotiating to learn how we can do this with the restriction that can be raised for the Russians."
Meanwhile, fighting continued Monday in Syria. In the northern Syrian city of Hasakeh, clashes again erupted between Kurdish fighters and pro-government militias, according to the Kurdish Hawar News Agency. The government and the Kurdish movement have shared control of the city since the early years of the Syrian civil war.
Syrian government planes bombed Kurdish positions in Hasakeh last week as the struggle for predominance in the city escalated.
Foreign ministers from China, Japan and South Korea will meet in Tokyo on Tuesday and Wednesday , their ministries said on Monday, amid rising tensions among the three countries over territorial disputes and regional security.
“Cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea is significant to the region,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
“We hope the trilateral meeting can [help maintain] the cooperation and work towards the goal of setting up an economic community by 2020.”
Lu did not respond to a question on whether Foreign Minister Wang Yi would hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, but said that the summit “has nothing to do with bilateral meetings”.
A senior Japanese foreign ministry official said last month that Japan was considering hosting the trilateral meeting, normally an annual event, in late August. But a flare-up in Sino-Japanese tensions over the Diaoyu Islands since then had stoked worries that the meeting might not take place.
Japan controls the islands, which it calls the Senkakus, but both nations claim sovereignty over them.
China has sent record numbers of vessels close to the islands in recent weeks, putting further strain on ties with Japan.
On Sunday, Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba had told reporters after attending a working-level meeting with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts in Tokyo that the three sides had failed to fix a meeting of foreign ministers.
Relations between China and South Korea have also been tested recently by Seoul’s decision to deploy the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence missile shield, which Seoul says is needed to defend against North Korea’s missile programme.
Chinese observers said the foreign ministers of the three countries would face an uphill task at the upcoming summit to address some major challenges facing the three Asian powers.
“With a strengthened alliance among Japan, South Korea and the US, the situation has become unfavourable to China and has made coordination among the three countries increasingly difficult,” said Huang Dahui, director of the East Asia Studies Centre at Renmin University.
But another Chinese observer said he remained optimistic about the development.
“The trilateral summit has been held every year without fail, even after the Japanese government nationalized the Senkaku Islands in 2012,” said Lian Degui, a professor of Japanese studies at the Shanghai International Studies University.
China is building its first overseas military outpost just miles from the largest US military base in Africa.
The Chinese naval base in Djibouti is positioned on a 90-acre plot of land and expected to be completed next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. China’s construction of the base represents one of Beijing’s latest efforts to establish itself as a global maritime power.
The Chinese naval base is close to Camp Lemonnier, the US base in Djibouti, which supports roughly 4,000 US and allied military and civilian personnel and defense contractors. It is the primary base of operations for US Africa Command.
The Journal reported:
The naval outpost is expected to feature weapons stores, ship and helicopter maintenance facilities and possibly a small contingent of Chinese marines or special forces, according to foreign officers and experts monitoring its development. Its cluster of low-rise concrete buildings and shipping containers, some with Chinese flags, offers the most tangible sign yet of China’s strategy to extend its military reach across the Indian Ocean and beyond. … While Chinese officials deny plans to build large US-style bases and call the Djibouti outpost a “support facility,” they also talk openly about negotiating more overseas outposts where Chinese interests coalesce. … The Pentagon has predicted China will establish several more outposts in the next decade.
China has considerable investments in the region, mostly in oil and gas. China began investing in infrastructure in Djibouti in 2010 and confirmed in February that it had begun construction on the outpost. China has also supplied aircraft to Djibouti’s air force.
China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the outpost was built “is in order to better uphold international responsibilities and duties, and to protect China’s legal interests.”
Djibouti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said that the outpost could house as many as 2,000 troops but would likely have 300. China will pay $20 million for the outpost each year for a decade, he said, and will be able to sign on for an additional 10 years.
A senior Western official told the Journal that the US is worried that sensitive defense technology in the region would need to be moved if vulnerable to Chinese surveillance. Chinese hackers have successfully infiltrated US government computer systems, including the massive cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management database that compromised personal information of 22 million people last year.
The construction of the base comes as China continues to exercise maritime power in the Pacific, making aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea and building manmade islands there. Beijing has refused to accept the ruling of an international tribunal, which concluded in July that China’s territorial claims in the sea have no legal or historical basis.
China has also conducted naval exercises in the South China Sea and built up military bases on disputed islands, in defiance of warnings from the United States and other nations.
You may know that Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager of the US Air Force holds the distinction of being the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound, is one of the force's most prolific test pilots, and is perhaps the greatest military pilot of all time— but did you know he's very active on Twitter?
The legendary general recently weighed in on the $1 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Here's what he said:
"Waste of money."
This is a far cry from the current Air Force brass' ringing endorsement of the "game-changing" aircraft. But with the aircraft costing about $100 million each, and with the highest price tag ever associated with developing a weapons system, perhaps Yeager thinks the money would be better spent on training pilots and maintaining a more traditional Air Force.
So I thought to ask him what he thought about restarting the F-22, the world's first fifth-generation aircraft. While the F-22 costs are also very high, it functions a bit more like a traditional fighter jet than the multirole F-35, which I thought maybe Yeager would appreciate. So what did he think?
So there you have it. According to perhaps the greatest living military pilot, the entire fifth generation of US Air Force jets are a waste of money.
Better luck next time.
Beginning in early August, the US Marines aboard the USS Wasp have conducted airstrikes against ISIS' Libyan stronghold of Sirte from the Mediterranean. This has forced the group to retreat to a point where the Marines can now use the big guns: AH-1W SuperCobra attack choppers.
While drones and Harrier jump jets launched from the deck of the USS Wasp helicopter carrier had been attacking ISIS targets in Libya for weeks, the use of the SuperCobra represents a change in tactics.
Because helicopters can hover, loiter, and maneuver easily, they are ideal for seeking out hidden targets in urban areas. ISIS has been forced to retreat as Libyan and US forces drive the group into the "densest, most built-up part" of Sirte, a Defense Department official told The Washington Post. The birthplace of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Sirte is an important port city in the divided nation.
But the SuperCobras are vulnerable to rocket fire, and shoulder-fired antiaircraft platforms have become common in North Africa and the Middle East. The choice to use manned helicopters suggests that the Marines are confident they have weakened and chased down ISIS fighters in the city.
The SuperCobra attack choppers are guided by US Special Forces on the ground in Libya along with other allied and Libyan forces aligned with the Government of National Accord, a UN-backed government that has requested US assistance in riding the country of ISIS.
The Libyan parliament, however, recently passed a vote of no confidence on the GNA, further complicating the situation.
Before the US air campaign, ISIS was estimated to have 6,000 fighters in Libya, mainly massed around Sirte.
Sirte's position in the Mediterranean means it could be a staging point for ISIS looking to mount attacks in Europe. The power vacuum left over from the death of Gaddafi in 2011, as well as internal disagreements in Libya, has caused the country to become a hub of crime and human trafficking.
Though Libya remains divided, the ousting of ISIS can only be a good thing for the country's stability. A recent statement from US Africom said only a few hundred or so ISIS fighters remained in Libya.
Between rival states, military exercises almost always provoke condemnation, but virtually never wars, and a new study seems to offer some insight as to why.
Now the US and Ukraine are condemning proposed Russian drills in Crimea, with a US defense official saying he was "extremely concerned."
Presently, about 25,000 US and 50,000 South Korean troops are participating in Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which is being condemned by China and North Korea,. Chinese state media has said the drills would “jeopardize peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”
Later this year, China and Russia will hold military drills in the South China Sea, which the US has preemptively condemned, with Adm. Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, saying that the drills could have been held somewhere less destabilizing.
But Trident Juncture came and went with only planned, controlled explosions, just as it has in years past. Most likely, so will all the other planned drills.
A new study says that at least in one specific case at least, war games don't provoke meaningful military responses.
The study, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Beyond Parallel blog finds that US military drills in South Korea do not really cause an increase in belligerent acts from North Korea.
From Beyond Parallel:
The state of US-North Korea diplomatic relations before the exercise period (defined as 4-8 weeks prior) is actually a better indicator of whether North Korea will carry out provocations during or after the exercises. In the study, if US-DPRK bilateral relations were coded positively prior to the exercises, the North’s response remains restrained both during and after the exercises. If pre-exercise relations were coded negatively, then there is a higher likelihood of North Korean belligerence during and after the exercises.
In other words, the military drills are inconsequential, and the larger political context and climate doesn't bend too much to the influence of flashy military drills.
In light of this study, and countless examples from around the world where military drills are protested much, but impact little, it's reasonable to assume that condemning military drills is a formality.
The fact is that ready, often-drilled militaries do deter wars, despite how defense officials might posture and talk tough.
As the Taliban continues to press its offensive in Helmand, the US military announced that it has deployed more than 100 troops to Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Afghan province that has been under siege for months.
The US troops are installed under the guise of Resolute Support’s “Train, Advise, Assist” mission to support Afghan troops, however these troops are often in direct combat with the Taliban. Today, US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) announced that one soldier was killed and another was wounded in an IED attack while patrolling in the province. From the USFOR-A press release:
One US service member died as a result of wounds sustained during operations near Lashkar Gar in Helmand Province today.
Another US member was wounded and is currently in stable condition. Additionally, six Afghan soldiers were wounded.
“On behalf of all of US Forces – Afghanistan, as well as Resolute Support, our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved,” said General John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A and Resolute Support, “We are deeply saddened by this loss, but remain committed to helping our Afghan partners provide a brighter future for themselves and their children.”
The service member was killed conducting Train, Advise, Assist activities with Afghan counterparts under NATO authorities when their patrol triggered an Improvised Explosive Device. An investigation is being conducted to determine the exact circumstances of the event.
US Department of Defense Policy is to withhold the identity of the service member pending next-of-kin notification. We will release additional information as appropriate.
The US has deployed troops in Helmand as part of an effort to prevent the Taliban from taking Lashkar Gah. Despite the positioning of US ground forces and increased airstrikes, the Taliban are known to currently control five of Helmand 14 districts, and contest seven more. [See Threat Matrix report,Helmand capital ‘practically besieged’ by the Taliban.]
Afghan officials paint a bleak picture of Helmand, and have stated the government is painting a rosy picture of the situation in Helmand. From The Associated Press:
The head of Helmand’s provincial council, Kareem Atal, told The Associated Press that battles were underway “on several fronts” in the province, closing off roads and highways.
“Around 80% of the province is under the control of the insurgents,” he said. “There are a number of districts that the government claims are under their control, but the government is only present in the district administrative center and all around are under the control of the insurgents.”
The security problems in Afghanistan are not the least bit isolated in Helmand province. The Taliban has also pressed offensives in the north, west, and east, and the Afghan military is struggling to contain it, despite limited US military support. Kunduz, which fell to the Taliban for two weeks in September 2015,is again threatened. If the Taliban continues to accumulate wins on multiple fronts over the next year, the Afghan military is going to be forced to abandon one or more regions so it can attempt to defend the areas it deems most important.
The UK Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday that it would sell the HMS Illustrious for scrap to a Turkish company called LEYAL Ship Recycling Ltd. for about $2.5 million, after trying and failing to repurpose the ship as a museum.
"We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK, and regrettably all options have now been exhausted," UK Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said in a statement.
Unfortunately, the sale of the Illustrious coincides with an overall decline in Britain's naval and military power at large.
In an essay written at Reuters, David Axe details a decades-long decline in money and attention spent on maintaining the Royal Navy.
Indeed the Royal Navy, once the greatest in the world, has declined precipitously and no longer even employs fighter jets. The entire fleet stands at just 89 ships and one helicopter carrier, after the Illustrious was decommissioned in 2014. In comparison, the US has 11 helicopter carriers, and 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
Meanwhile, the need for stabilizing naval presences has been growing. The Royal Navy has had repeated run ins with Russian ships that patrol the Atlantic and North Sea in the greatest uptick of covert submarine activity seen since the Cold War.
Both the US and France have sent carriers to the Mediterranean to combat ISIS, and British jets do participate in the fighting, but not from their own flat tops.
Earlier this month, a report leaked to the Times newspaper said that the British army would be "vulnerable" in the battlefield against Russia and that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have a "significant capability edge" in state-on-state warfare.
Currently, the Royal Navy awaits the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, which will support F-35B multi-role fighters and will hopefully help improve the capabilities of the Royal Navy. The Illustrious is slated to ship off to Turkey this fall.
"As the former aircraft carrier gets ready to leave Portsmouth, so we can look to the future and the arrival of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, which will ensure that the Royal Navy continues to be a pre-eminent maritime power in the modern world," Mike Utley, former Commanding Officer on HMS Illustrious, said in a statement.
Just 16 counties in the US are driving the use of the death penalty, despite a nationwide movement away from the sentence, a new report from the Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project has found.
The "outlier counties"— scattered throughout Alabama, Florida, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, and Arizona — have each imposed five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015, a major departure from the overall downward trend in death penalty use since it peaked in 1996 with 315.
The report determined that the reasons behind the counties' deviation can be boiled down to three "structural failures" that they tend to have in common: overzealous prosecutors, inadequate defense lawyers, and racial bias and exclusion.
The outcomes of these sentencings, according to the report, regularly resulted in wrongful convictions and excessive punishment of young people, or those who suffer from mental illnesses or disabilities.
"Studies have shown [death sentences] to be extremely expensive, prone to error, applied in discriminatory ways, and imposed upon the most vulnerable, rather than the most culpable people," the report said.
For instance, in Maricopa County, Arizona, the report found that a disproportionate 57% of those sentenced to death between 2010 and 2015 were people of color. The county is notable for drawing national scrutiny in recent days — its sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was referred by a federal judge for criminal contempt charges last week after he allegedly failed to abide by a court order meant to prevent his office from racially profiling Latinos.
Arpaio has been accused by the Department of Justice of overseeing the "worst pattern of racial profiling by a law enforcement agency in US history."
The report also looked into Duval County, Florida, where 87% of its death sentences since 2010 have been used on African-American defendants. The report attributed much of the county's outlier status to State Attorney Angela Corey, who is currently campaigning for re-election and was dubbed the "cruelest prosecutor in America" last week by The Nation magazine.
Corey slammed the Fair Sentencing Project's statistics as being unfair in an interview with the Florida Times-Union on Tuesday.
The study's focus on 16 counties hearkens back to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent in the 2015 Glossip v. Gross case, in which he pegged geography as being a major factor in determining which defendants are sentenced to death.
"Within a death penalty State, the imposition of the death penalty heavily depends on the county in which a defendant is tried," Breyer wrote.
The report, released Tuesday, examined just eight of the 16 counties, while a second report detailing the remaining eight is set to be released in September.
The top U.S. commander for the fight against the Islamic State group said Monday that he is skeptical of any additional military cooperation with Russia in Syria.
And he said he believes he can get the mission done without it, outlining new plans to accelerate the pace and scope of the U.S.-led coalition operations to retake the key Islamic State-held cities of Raqqa and Mosul within the next year.
In a wide-ranging telephone interview from Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said that any decision to cooperate with Moscow is one for the Obama administration to make.
But, "as a soldier, I'm fairly skeptical of the Russians," Townsend told The Associated Press. "I'm not sure how much I'm inclined to believe that we can cooperate with them."
Townsend's comments on Russia reflect a broader U.S. military reluctance to work more closely with Moscow on operations in Syria, despite requests from Russia to the U.S. to join forces against the Islamic State group in Syria. The U.S. is reluctant to cooperate with Moscow because of its alliance with President Bashar Assad; the U.S. is backing rebels who are fighting the Islamic State but who are also in Assad's sights.
Last week, U.S. aircraft scrambled twice to protect American commandos because Syrian government warplanes were bombing nearby.
The U.S. routinely speaks to the Russians in order to ensure safe flight operations over Syria and to prevent collisions. In the wake of the Syrian incidents, the U.S. sent its warning message to Syria through the Russians, who have an ongoing, closer relationship with the Syrians.
Townsend, who took command on Sunday, also said he plans to step up the military operations in Iraq.
"We're going to strike more targets, we're going to strike them at a faster tempo," said Townsend, explaining that he wants to give the Iraqi forces the time and space to reset and prepare to retake the northern city of Mosul.
As part of that, he said he also will increase the training and equipping of Iraqi forces, including a new effort to provide combat training to Iraqi police. The police, he said, will likely face fighting as they follow Army forces into the cities and try to maintain control of the area and provide security for the citizens living there.
"In this kind of environment, even the police need some combat training like soldiers — that's something we haven't done a lot of," said Townsend, adding that the U.S. and some coalition allies will do that training.
Townsend expressed optimism that Islamic State militants will be defeated in their two main headquarters — Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria — over the next year. But acknowledging that the battles will be complicated and difficult, Townsend said it may well take the bulk of that year to meet his goals.
The Islamic State group once controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and has used Raqqa as the de facto capital of the group's self-styled caliphate. But the group has suffered a string of defeats in recent months by local forces aided and backed by the U.S.-led coalition.
Townsend said he wants to retake both main cities on his yearlong watch.
"I think we may have to use all that time but, look, I'm a combat commander and I have a mission," he added. "And I don't intend to turn this over to whoever has to come behind me. It's my intent to get it done."
Iraqi officials have suggested they plan to begin the effort to retake Mosul later this fall, and the fight for Raqqa could also start within that timeline. Townsend's vow to have both retaken in the next year only underscores how difficult U.S. commanders believe it will be to drive Islamic State insurgents from those larger, heavily populated strongholds.
The U.S. and Iraqi forces are establishing a logistics hub at Qayyarah air base south of Mosul, and Townsend said that American forces could begin moving to the base in the next couple of weeks. Right now construction is still being done to prepare the base and build up its defenses.
He also said that as the battle for Mosul gets closer, U.S. advisers may once again accompany Iraqi forces at the battalion level, which is closer to the fight.
Last month, the U.S. revealed that American advisers had for the first time accompanied an Iraqi battalion in order to provide advice on how to secure a temporary bridge the Iraqis had installed over the Tigris River. President Barack Obama gave commanders the authority in April to deploy advisers at the lower level headquarters, but commanders have done that sparingly so far.
"We're about to do larger operations of greater intensity so you could expect that we'll see something like that again," said Townsend Monday. "We will use that capability and authority when situations require it."
Prior to Obama's go-ahead, the U.S. military was not permitted to place advisers at echelons lower than division headquarters, which are farther from the front lines.
A Philippine police report on an anti-drugs campaign that has killed 1,900 people in seven weeks shows an openness and even pride in an escalating body count that has horrified rights activists and unsettled allies such as the United States.
The bloody campaign, launched when President Rodrigo Duterte took office, has reduced crime and won public support, said the report presented to a Senate hearing in Manila on Tuesday.
National police chief Ronald dela Rosa read out from the report, accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation with charts and data, at the hearing.
He said a total of 756 people were killed by police during a seven-week operation beginning July 1 that has been dubbed "Double Barrel". An additional 1,160 people were killed by what police have suggested are vigilantes. Most victims were shot.
"The government's war on drugs is highly appreciated and supported by the public," the report said. However, dela Rosa said there was no declared policy to kill drug users and pushers.
One U.S. expert said that tolerance for such a large body count was inconceivable in the West, where all police killings are intensely scrutinized.
"This is the most heavy-handed kind of street-side justice - and they expect to be praised for it," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former police officer and prosecutor.
Police should only use deadly force as a last resort to defend themselves or others and "never as a punishment", he said.
"Obviously, the ethical implications are extraordinary," he added.
Duterte, nicknamed "the Punisher", won the presidency on a platform of wiping out drugs, and had warned traffickers before he took office to reform or risk death.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said on Monday it was "deeply concerned" by the killings and urged Duterte's government to abide by human rights norms.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned the "shocking human toll" and accused Duterte of inciting violence and "steamrolling the rule of law".
The Philippines police report credits the anti-drugs campaign for a "significant decrease" in overall crime, noting that the total number of serious offences was 31 percent lower in July 2016 than July 2015.
But a further breakdown of the figures showed that the number of murders and homicides had increased by 56 percent.
Experts said the decrease in serious crime could be a genuine drop caused by an increased police presence on the streets; or it could be that fewer instances of crimes such as theft are being reported because police are so preoccupied with anti-drug operations.
More than 100 of the corpses were hog-tied or bound with duct tape, or found with pieces of cardboard bearing messages such as "I'm a pusher. Don't emulate me."
According to the report, a total of 309 of the killings were carried out by what the police call MRCs, or motorbike-riding criminals.
There has been speculation in the local media that some of the killings were carried out by corrupt police officers who were wiping out drug peddlers to avoid exposure.
Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of the president, led the two-day inquiry. Many of her fellow senators expressed support for the police crackdown but concern for the killings.
Among them was boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, who was elected to the Senate in the May general election.
After the hearing, dela Rosa was mobbed by people demanding selfies, while supporters chanting his nickname "Bato", or rock.
Even as the death toll rose, a July poll by Pulse Asia put Duterte's approval rating at 91 percent.
"Do not kill if you are not in danger of losing your life," Duterte told police officers in a speech last week. "But if the resistance is violent, thereby placing your life in jeopardy, shoot and shoot him dead. Can I be more clearer than that?"
SEE ALSO: US Soldier killed by IED in Afghanistan
After Russia's short-lived air campaign out of Iran's Hamedan air base, Turkey's prime minister has said that the Russian air force could possibly operate out of Turkey's Incirlik base, where US and NATO forces are stationed, "if necessary."
Iran cut Russia's engagement at Hamedan shortly after Russia demonstrated a "kind of show-off and ungentlemanly" attitude in publicizing the event, according to Iran's defense minister, when Moscow televised video of bombs dropping from Tu-22s over Syria.
Now a Russian senator, Igor Morozov, told a state-run media outlet that "it just remains to come to an agreement with Erdogan that we get the NATO base Incirlik as our primary air base ... You'll see, the next base will be Incirlik."
For NATO, it seems such a move would be untenable.
"In 2014, we suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia following Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea," a NATO official told Business Insider. "This decision was reconfirmed at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016."
However, Incirlik is not a NATO base.
"Incirlik air base is a Turkish air base, and any foreign nation's operations from there would need to be coordinated with the Turkish government," an official from US Army Europe told Business Insider.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden, who is visiting Turkey on Wednesday, said Syrian Kurds would need to withdraw from the area immediately across the Turkish border in Syria, back across the Euphrates river, to receive US support.
Ankara, for its part, views the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, as a terrorist organization and immediately set out on a sweeping military campaign into Syria, unlike any seen from it before, once the Kurds started operations aimed at taking the ISIS-held border city of Jarablus. For the US, however, Syrian Kurds have been some of the most effective allies on the ground.
Biden also said he was confident that the rule of law would prevail in Turkey in regard to the failed coup in July, after which the government, media, and military were purged of thousands of employees, with tens of thousands arrested.
Yet according to Amnesty International, "the coup attempt unleashed appalling violence and those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses," a far cry from the "rule of law" heralded by Biden.
NATO and US European Command officials did not respond to inquires about the effect of a possible Russian presence at Incirlik.
For now, it seems the US may be toeing Turkey's line to possibly prevent Russia, which has different objectives in Syria, from setting up camp at Incirlik.
State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the US focuses on fighting ISIS in Syria, whereas Russia's focus is on supporting the Assad regime, which often leads to civilian casualties.
"Aleppo is a perfect example of that, where you still see strikes hitting civilian targets and certainly moderate opposition targets," Toner said. "And that is not helping the overall situation in Syria."
This week the world once again witnessed an Islamic State’s use of at least one child bomber, perhaps two.
A child between the ages of 12 and 14 was reportedly the culprit behind a suicide attack – blowing up the wedding of Besna and Nurettin Akdogan in Gaziantep, Turkey and killing 54 people on Aug. 20.
Although now the Turkish government is not certain whether it was a child or an adult, it’s certainly not the only time children have been used by terrorist networks to perpetrate attacks.
The following day, a child was caught before he could detonate a suicide bomb at a Shi’a school in Kirkuk, Iraq.
During the course of research for our book, “Small Arms: Children and Terror,” John Horgan and I have learned how IS socializes children into their terrorist network. We have also had the opportunity to meet with children who have been rescued from terrorist groups in Pakistan.
There are important differences in how groups engage children in militant activities. Differences between children in terrorist groups and child soldiers include how children are recruited and what role the parents and community play in recruitment.
Understanding these differences helps us know how best to approach treating the children’s trauma, and figure out which children can be rehabilitated and which ones might be vulnerable for recidivism as adults.
Access to youth
We have been researching IS Cubs of the Caliphate, so called “Ashbal al Khilafah,” for two years, tracking how IS is grooming the next generation of fighters. Since Syria fell apart, IS has assumed de-facto control over schools and mosques. Though many of the original Syrian schoolteachers remain, they must now teach an IS-controlled curriculum to gender-segregated pupils. Parents continue to send their children to school, although coercion is always present. Failure to do so might place the entire family at risk. IS will punish such families by taking their homes and refusing to provide food and protection.
This is where children systematically learn IS ideology. The school curriculum is little more than indoctrination, but it brings children closer to each other to create a band-of-brothers effect, and brings the children to the attention of IS personnel who talent-scout for children exhibiting early potential for “Cub” status in IS’ dedicated training camps. Through a socialization and selection process, IS implies that entry into the Cubs of the Caliphate is a rare commodity and something desirable for each child. By limiting access, IS creates a competition.
It is unlikely that the children share the radical views of the adults. Rather, they have been manipulated, brainwashed or coerced. It is a trend that IS started in January 2014 and has only increased exponentially. Our experiences in Swat Valley, Pakistan demonstrate that children barely understand the IS ideology. At most, children parrot what they have heard from the adults, but are not radicalized in any real sense.
Ease of access to children appears to be a key reason why there were so many child soldiers in the 1990s. Whether militias exploited orphans, street children or refugees living in camps for internally displaced persons, a common theme was that children who lacked adult protection and supervision were especially at risk. Some militias transition street children, who were previously organized into gangs, into military units. The ease with which militia groups access camps in search of child recruits exacerbates the problem.
Evidence from Sri Lanka suggests recruiters target schools. During the course of my field research in 2002, mothers in the areas under control of armed rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, confided in me that they had started to homeschool their children for fear that they would be recruited during the day.
The 15-year-old bomber who was caught with explosives in Iraq this week had been in an IDP camp for a week when he was sent to blow up a Shi’a school. When stopped for questioning by the police, the child froze in fear and quickly surrendered. Experience shows that children who are coerced will often allow themselves to get caught, since they were coerced in the first place.
Children are the ultimate weapon of the weak. They cannot back out, but they also don’t want to carry out the mission.
Child soldiers vs. children in terrorist movements
It is not just terrorist groups and militias that exploit children.
Paramilitaries and rebel groups, and 10 national governments, recruit or conscript youth under 18 to their national armies, including Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the United Kingdom and Yemen.
The army in Myanmar recruits children en masse. The reason is that the military is required to fill recruitment quotas and recruiters are rewarded accordingly. Recruiters have an incentive to recruit the maximum number of children and youth possible. If adults are unwilling to join the army, children can and will be picked up, threatened and coerced to “volunteer.” The children are instructed to lie and claim that they are 18 years old.
The Maoists in Nepal and groups in Palestine recruit children into cultural organizations well before the age of 15. The Maoists go so far as to abduct children for a few weeks to expose the children to the group’s propaganda and then let them go.
As with any controversial issue, data collection is complicated. The United Nations does not systematically break down the number of militarized children, which is purported to be in the hundreds of thousands, nor do they explicitly explain their methodology for arriving at that number, saying instead that:
hundreds of thousands of children are used as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Many children are abducted and beaten into submission, others join military groups to escape poverty, to defend their communities, out of a feeling of revenge or for other reasons.
Volunteering or coerced?
The willingness of parents to provide extremist organizations access to their children is different from children who are forcibly conscripted as “child soldiers.” Parental “consent” is further complicated by the exigencies of war and the coercive environment in which the family lives. At times, parents will allow violent extremists access to their children not because they subscribe to the ideology, but because they might have no choice if they are to survive.
At other times, parents have been enthusiastic supporters of the movement and encourage and laud their children’s involvement. Such coercion was evident among the parents in the Swat Valley in Pakistan where the Pakistani Taliban went door to door and demanded exorbitant financial payments from residents. Those unable to pay – which comprised most people – then were required to provide one of their children.
Some programs to treat children in militant organizations exist, such as Sabaoon in Pakistan. In Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation programs in Africa and in Pakistan, a child’s family is able to play a positive role in his or her reintegration into society.
With IS, it is often the family that encourages and exposes the children to the violence in the first place, especially among the children of foreign fighters. The children conceivably may need to be separated from their family – making normalization all the more challenging. The number of children who have been exposed to violence in the so-called Islamic State requires efforts be taken to address the trauma, and determine whether these children are victims or perpetrators.
On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a scathing report about the US Air Force's half-baked plan to replace the A-10, essentially concluding that the Air Force had no good end game in sight.
"The Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force do not have quality information on the full implications of A-10 divestment, including gaps that could be created by A-10 divestment and mitigation options," the report from GAO, a nonpartisan entity, states.
The A-10, a relic of the Cold War era, flies cheap, effective sorties and is well suited to most of the US's current operations. But surprisingly, it's not really the plane itself that's indispensable to the Air Force — it's the community.
Ground forces know A-10 pilots as undisputed kings of close air support, which is especially useful in today's combat zones, where ground troops often don't have an artillery presence on the ground.
But there are other planes for close air support when it comes down to it. The B-1 Lancer has superior loiter time and bomb capacity compared to the A-10, but, it turns out, close air support is only one area where the A-10s excel.
The report finds that A-10 pilots undergo much more close-air-support, search-and-rescue, and forward-air-control training than any other community of pilots in the force.
While the Air Force seems determined to replace this community and reallocate their resources elsewhere, the report finds that the cost estimates used to justify the retirement of the A-10 just don't make the grade.
According to the GAO, "a reliable cost estimate is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible."
The report finds that the Air Force's cost estimates for replacing the A-10 are almost comprehensive, minimally documented, and just plain not credible.
Indeed we have seen some pivots on the Air Force's official position on the A-10. At one point, they wanted to retire it, stating that the F-35 would take over those capabilities, but then the Senate told them to prove it.
More recently, we heard that the Air Force wants to replace the A-10 with not one, but two new planes, one of which would be developed specifically for the role.
What the GAO recommends, however, is that the Air Force come up with a better, more concrete plan to mitigate the losses in capability caused by the A-10's mothballing.
Lawmakers were not shy about the relief the report brought to the complicated question. Perhaps the best testimony came from Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot herself:
"Today's report confirms what I've argued continuously — the Air Force's flawed and shifting plan to prematurely retire the A-10 is dangerous and would put lives in danger ... I've fought for and won full funding for our entire A-10 fleet and to make the retirement of any A-10 condition-based, not time-based."