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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    Navy phalanx

    The Army uses a defensive weapon stripped from Navy vessels to shoot down enemy rockets and mortars before they can reach friendly troops. And, as a free bonus, they tell nearby artillery units where the enemy’s shot came from, allowing for quick retaliation.

    Phalanx weapons were originally fielded as a Close-In Weapon Systems on Navy ships. Raytheon — responding to an Army request for weapons that would shut down mortar and rocket attacks on coalition bases in Iraq — pitched the Phalanx for the new mission.

    And the Land-Based Phalanx Weapons System performs. A radar scans the air near protected bases. When it sees an incoming round that could threaten personnel or equipment, the gun and a camera-based tracking system turn to watch it.

    At the optimal moment, the Phalanx fires a long stream of self-destructing 20mm rounds from it’s six-barrel Gatling gun. The weapon can fire 75 rounds per second.

    The armor-piercing rounds disable or destroy the enemy munitions. The rounds self-destruct after a set distance, ensuring that they don’t rain down on civilians or friendly forces in the area.

    Of course, the system can’t always down the incoming round, especially when the system is undergoing maintenance. So most C-RAM equipped bases are equipped with a warning system to alert troops when enemy munitions are incoming.

    Either way, the system calculates the most likely point of origin for the enemy round and feeds that information to the fire direction center of nearby artillery units.

    When that unit can get eyes on the shooter, they’re able to quickly fire counter artillery, destroying the jerks who took the shot in the first place.

    SEE ALSO: China may be preparing for a crippling preemptive missile strike on US military bases

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 1,500 happily-married people say the key to lasting relationships isn’t communication — it’s respect


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    Sean Spicer

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer again defended President Donald Trump's first significant military action, a raid on Al Qaeda forces in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an eight-year-old girl, 14 al Qaeda militants, and about 30 other civilians.

    "It's absolutely a success," said Spicer, who later described it as a "huge success."

    Spicer went on to say that anyone questioning the success of the raid, including Senator John McCain who at one point called the raid a "failure," simply doesn't understand the stakes. 

    "I think anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to the life of Chief Owens," said Spicer. "The raid, the action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will be prevented."

    Spicer's comments clash with an NBC report that the raid intended to take out al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula's leader Qassim Al-Rimi, who survived the raid and later mocked Trump on an audio recording. The NBC report quotes a senior military official as saying "almost everything went wrong" with the dead-of-night raid where a $70 million MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft suffered a hard landing and then had to be destroyed in place by a US Marine Corps Harrier jet. 

    In a statement on Tuesday, McCain walked back his "failure" remark but continued to challenge the success of the raid. "I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” said McCain.

    Marines landing MV-22 Osprey

    Bill Roggio, editor of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal, previously told Business Insider that al Qaeda's branch in Yemen does ultimately pose a threat a threat abroad as it is at the forefront of planning international attacks.

    "This is a branch that's at the forefront of launching plots to blow up airliners and attack airlines," said Roggio, who also pointed out that the branch's "primary goal isn’t to attack us. Their primary goal is to take over these countries and to establish local Islamic states."

    Spicer has repeatedly said valuable information gained in the raid would save the lives of Americans and justifies the tremendous human and financial cost of the mission.

    Roggio declined to evaluate the success or failure of the operation, saying it would be "hard to know" if the mission was worth it or not without seeing the intelligence recovered — "and we’re never going to see it," said Roggio.

    SEE ALSO: Yemen: Reports we have demanded a halt to US special operations are 'not true'

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    NOW WATCH: Why the US military's M1 Abrams tank is still the king of the battlefield


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    us wont halt nsa phone spying program ahead of ban

    A former National Security Agency contractor was indicted on Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges he willfully retained national defense information, in what U.S. officials have said may have been the largest heist of classified government information in history.

    The U.S. Department of Justice said Harold Thomas Martin, 52, faces 20 criminal counts, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp when he was taken into custody last August. Prosecutors have alleged he spent more than two decades pilfering secret documents and hoarding them at his home in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

    The contractor also employed Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of secret files to news organizations in 2013 that exposed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA.

    A company spokeswoman did not have an immediate comment on the indictment.

    Booz Allen announced last October that it had hired former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller to lead an audit of its security, personnel and management practices.

    SEE ALSO: White House: Yemen raid a 'huge success,' anyone who suggests otherwise owes an apology to killed Navy SEAL

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    NOW WATCH: Here’s everything we know about the iPhone 8


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    russia victory day parade

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has again scrambled his jets in a snap military drill meant to prepare his air force for a "time of war."

    "In accordance with the decision by the Armed Forces Supreme Commander, a snap check of the Aerospace Forces began to evaluate readiness of the control agencies and troops to carry out combat training tasks," said Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, according to Russia's state-run media.

    "Special attention should be paid to combat alert, deployment of air defense systems for a time of war and air groupings’ readiness to repel the aggression," continued Shoigu.

    Russian snap exercises on the border with NATO happen often, without warning, and they often come with menacing overtones. For some time now, Russia has held a numerical, qualitative, organizational, and timing advantage over NATO forces in the Baltics.

    In 2014, Putin said he could take Kiev in two weeks. In 2015, a Czech general said Russia could take the Baltics in two days. The US and NATO have responded to Russia's rising aggression steadily but slowly, most recently by stationing 80 tanks in Poland.

    But according to a presentation made at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia by Senior International Research Analyst Michael Johnson of the RAND Corporation, Russian tanks outnumber NATO tanks at about 480 to 80.

    In Air Power, even with a US Navy carrier battle group in the mix, Russia could muster up fully one-third of their air force to the fight, according to Johnson.

    F/18 Hornet Boneyard

    Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of US F/A-18s can't currently fly due to budget cuts that lead to a backlog on maintenance and sourcing new parts, Defense News reports. The Marine Times reports something similar — more than half of the Marine Corps' planes couldn't fly in December.

    Even with the US's ship-based aviation crippled by age and budget cuts, the bigger problem is Russia's advanced anti-air systems.

    In October, Dr. Igor Sutyagin, an expert on Russian and US air power and air defenses at the Royal United Services Institute, said even the US's best, stealthiest jets and pilots would have to be "operationally, tactically brilliant" to cope with Russia's advanced S-400 air defenses. 

    s 400

    Legacy fighters from the US and NATO would have their work cut out for them in a battle of the skies and against missile defenses, leaving few planes left over for close air support. Essentially, US troops would fight without total air superiority for the first time since World War II.

    Additionally, by the time US and NATO reinforcements reached the Baltics, the Russians would have long ago established themselves, possibly with more air defenses. US troops would have to go from fort to port, 5,000 miles across the sea, land outside of Russian missile range or air space, and then make their way to the Baltics. The whole ordeal could take up to 6 months, according to Johnson. 

    US NATO Response (DC)

    US President Donald Trump has often called NATO "obsolete," though the current challenges from Russia would argue that the alliance now bears more relevance than any point since the end of the Cold War. Trump, and Obama before him, have both called on all NATO states to pay their fair share on defense, but the US must still lead the fight.

    "There are more police officers in New York City than there are American soldiers stationed in Europe today. So while bipartisan presidents have always called on Europeans to do more, I think we can also look to our own situation in Europe now," said Johnson. 

    SEE ALSO: The F-35C vs. the F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet and the future of carrier aircraft

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    NOW WATCH: How Russia's most advanced military equipment stacks up against NATO hardware


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    Tu 160 intercepted Typhoons

    The Royal Air Force had to scramble Typhoon fighter jets in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers on Thursday.

    The bombers came from the North East past Ireland, ITV News reports. A UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told ITV "at no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.”

    However, some of the Tu-160 bombers carry long-range nuclear capable cruise missiles which can pose a threat to the UK even outside of its own airspace. It is not clear right now which Tu-160 variants were intercepted.

    Russia has recently been holding snap air force exercises, with a directive from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself apparently instructing the force to prepare for a "time of war."

    Russian planes frequently skirt or breach NATO and US allies' air spaces. When detected, the standard operating procedure for most countries dictates scrambling jets to intercept the intruders. 

    SEE ALSO: Putin orders Russia's air force to prepare for a 'time of war'— and NATO doesn't stand a chance right now

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    NOW WATCH: Trump says he shaved $600M off America’s most expensive weapons system


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    nsa

    Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin allegedly stole documents that seem far more sensitive than what has come from the Snowden leaks.

    For more than two decades, Martin allegedly made off with highly-classified documents that were found in his home and car that included discussions of the US military's capabilities and gaps in cyberspace, specific targets, and "extremely sensitive" operations against terror groups, according to an indictment released Wednesday.

    Martin was arrested by the FBI at his home on August 27, 2016. Agents found thousands of pages and "many terabytes of information" there, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times.

    With the release of the indictment, it has become more clear of what was apparently in those files.

    The indictment charges Martin with 20 counts of having unauthorized possession of documents from not only the NSA, but also from US Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. While many of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were top-secret, they mostly consisted of PowerPoint presentations and training materials.

    Top-secret documents allegedly stolen by Martin, however, offer much more specific and damaging details to potential adversaries. Here's a sampling (via the indictment):

    • A 2014 NSA report outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing foreign cyber intrusion techniques
    • A 2009 draft of a United States Signals Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with [computer network operations] used to defend the United States.
    • An NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive US planning and operations regarding global terrorists.

    With just those three documents, an adversary would have details on how the NSA stops hackers from penetrating its networks and what kind of gaps still exist, along with how the agency plans operations against terror groups. Though it's not apparent from the indictment that Martin passed the documents along to anyone, if he did so it would be a huge setback to the intelligence community.

    Soon after Martin's arrest, his lawyers told The New York Times that he "loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.” A US official described him as a "hoarder."

    The indictment continues (emphasis added):

    • An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and US military resources to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
    • A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
    • A USCYBERCOM document, dated August 17, 2016, discussing capabilities and gaps in capabilities of the US military and details of specific operations.
    • A USCYBERCOM document, dated May 23, 2016, containing information about the capabilities and targets of the US military.
    • A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.

    For at least a portion of Martin's career, he served in the NSA's Tailored Access Operations unit, an elite group of government hackers tasked with breaking into foreign networks. Some US officials told The Washington Post that Martin allegedly took more than 75% of TAO's library of hacking tools, a potentially massive breach of an outfit that has been shrouded in secrecy.

    According to The New York Times, some investigators suspect Martin may possibly be the source of the trove of TAO hacking tools that were posted online last year by a group calling itself "The Shadow Brokers." Those disclosures likely spurred "a lot of panic" inside the agency, according to a former TAO operator who spoke with Business Insider last year.

    “The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken trust from a security clearance holder,” Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division said in a statement.

    “Willfully retaining highly classified national defense information in a vulnerable setting is a violation of the security policy and the law, which weakens our national security and cannot be tolerated. The FBI is vigilant against such abuses of trust, and will vigorously investigate cases whenever classified information is not maintained in accordance with the law.”

    Martin faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. His initial court appearance is scheduled for February 14.

    SEE ALSO: US Marine captain writes stinging op-ed: 'We lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This 12-million-gallon 'indoor ocean' can simulate the world's worst wave conditions


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    AH 64E apache

    BERLIN (AP) — The U.S. Army has begun unloading dozens of Chinook, Apache and Black Hawk helicopters at a port in northern Germany so the aircraft can be moved to a base in Bavaria.

    German news agency dpa reported Sunday that 94 helicopters and several trucks from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade in Fort Drum, New York were sent to the port of Bremerhaven.

    Most of the equipment is bound for an Army base in the town of Illesheim, but dpa says some will be assigned to rotating stints in Lithuania and Romania.

    The deployment is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which foresees the continuous presence of an American armored brigade combat team in Europe.

    The mission is meant to help allay concerns from Poland and other NATO allies over an increasingly bellicose Russia.

    SEE ALSO: Putin orders Russia's air force to prepare for a 'time of war' — and NATO doesn't stand a chance right now

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These are some of Putin's most menacing military machines


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    Mexico's Marines said they had shot and killed a major leader of the Beltrán Leyva Organization, an illustration that state security forces are having an impact on the power struggle among drug trafficking titans in the country.

    In a statement on their official Twitter account, Mexico's Secretariat of Marine Forces (Secretaría de Marina – SEMAR) announced that Juan Francisco Patrón Sánchez, alias "H2,"was killed in a shootout on February 9, 2017, in the city of Tepic in the Mexican state of Nayarit, along with seven other alleged suspects.

    Patrón was the leader of the powerful Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), a drug trafficking syndicate established in Mexico's Sinaloa state and known to operate across large swaths of the country.

    The BLO was long an ally to the Sinaloa Cartel, but the two split in 2008, following the arrest of a top BLO leader, Alfredo Beltrán Leyva.

    More recently, authorities had arrested a number of BLO members, culminating with the capture of Héctor "El H" Beltrán Leyva in 2014, one of the group's founders and at the time the top leader of the organization.

    H2 had allegedly replaced El H at the group's helm, but the BLO's near constant fight with the Sinaloa Cartel had taken its toll. In December 2016, authorities captured Alfredo Leyva Guzmán, the son of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva and another of the group's leaders.

    Part of the fighting that led to the death of H2 was captured on video and seemed to show authorities firing from a helicopter in powerful succession. (See video below)

     

    InSight Crime Analysis

    The death of H2 is a sign that the fighting between and among Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) has an important and, often overlooked, third actor: security forces.

    The Marines, in particular, have played a major role in the fight among the DTOs, and at times, it seems to have become personal between SEMAR and the BLO.

    In December 2009, SEMAR killed Arturo Beltrán Leyva after a four-hour shootout. The Marines at the scene then laid money on top of his corpse and took photographs, which were widely circulated in the media. (Photos of a bloodied H2 bear an eerie resemblance to those of Arturo Beltrán Leyva.) The BLO, in conjunction with their allies from the Zetas criminal organization, retaliated by assassinating the family of a SEMAR soldier who participated in the strike.

    SEE ALSO:Mexico News and Profiles

    Lest it be accused of favoring one cartel over another, SEMAR led efforts to capture Joaquín Guzmán, alias "El Chapo," in February 2014 and again, after he escaped, in January 2016.

    El Chapo was extradited to the United States in January 2017, which is what many suppose precipitated the current fighting within the Sinaloa Cartel. It's not clear if the death of H2 is an outgrowth of this battle, but the Sinaloa Cartel -- and in particular El Chapo -- has long been known for its ability to provide timely information about their rivals to the authorities.

    SEMAR is not the only part of the security forces that may be shifting the balance of power in the underworld. The army and the police are also significant players.

    In the embattled city of Juarez, for instance, the federal police played a determinant role in creating the conditions in which the Sinaloa Cartel could take over that important trafficking corridor.

    In the battle for the state of Sinaloa -- the birthplace of many of these large criminal groups -- the army is a significant actor and one that the BLO has allegedly tried to co-opt in the past. 

    It's impossible to know if any of this plays a role in who targets who, but in September, alleged members of the Sinaloa Cartelambushed a military convoy just outside of the state capital, Culiacán, killing five soldiers. 

    SEE ALSO: Mexico is gearing up for a wave of deportations from the US

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    NOW WATCH: Here's footage of 'El Chapo' arriving to the US


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    MiG 29 serbia

    BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia's defense minister says the country is getting a shipment of Russian fighter jets, supplies that could worsen tensions with neighboring states.

    Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic said after returning Sunday from one of his frequent visits to Moscow that six MiG-29s will be delivered to Serbia.

    Djordjevic says Russia also is providing experts to upgrade the aircraft acquired from Russian Army reserves.

    Serbia's arming has triggered alarms in the Balkans, which was engulfed by a bloody war in the 1990s that killed more than 110,000 people and left millions homeless.

    Serbia formally has been on the path to joining the European Union, but under pressure from Moscow has steadily slid toward the Kremlin and its goal of keeping the country out of NATO and other Western institutions.

    SEE ALSO: US unloading combat helicopters to Germany as Russian threat rises

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    NOW WATCH: A new study just blew a hole in one of the strongest arguments against global warming


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    Riad Hijab, chief coordinator of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee (HNC), attends a joint statement with French President Francois Hollande (not seen) following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

    AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria's main opposition body on Sunday approved a new delegation to take part in Geneva peace talks later this month, which include Russian-backed blocs that have been critical of the armed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.

    The High Negotiation Committee, (HNC) the main umbrella group, said in a statement after two-days of meetings in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, that the new 21-member negotiating team included members of two dissident alliances with which it has previously been at odds.

    Those two alliances -- the so-called Moscow and Cairo groups -- have long disavowed the armed rebellion and insisted that political change can only come through peaceful activism. Their members include a former Syrian government minister with close ties to Moscow.

    Mohammad Sabra, who was appointed as chief negotiator, told Saudi-owned Al-Hadath news channel that the delegation brought together various groups. He also accused unnamed foreign powers of trying to impose their views on the composition of the delegation, an apparent reference to Russia.

    The body also chose a new head of the negotiating team, Nasr al Hariri, a veteran opposition figure from southern Syria.

    The next round of U.N.-sponsored talks on the conflict, now in its sixth year, have been scheduled for Feb. 20.

    aleppo syria

    The HNC said in the statement the goal of the negotiations was a political transition under U.N. auspices in which Assad had no role in the future of the country. But it steered away from its previous insistence the Syrian president should leave at the start of a transitional phase.

    The HNC also said foreign powers had no right to present a vision of Syria's future political system without the consent of Syrians. Russian last month tabled the draft of a proposed new constitution for Syria, though it insisted the document had been circulated for the purposes of discussion only.

    syria map

    The HNC represented the opposition in Geneva talks last year. But it was not invited to recently convened talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana. The indirect talks between government and rebel delegates in Astana were held with the aim of shoring up a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia.

     

    (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tom Perry, editing by Larry King)

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    NOW WATCH: 'It's a lie': Jake Tapper calls out Trump during a fiery interview with Kellyanne Conway


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    An aerial view of the Pentagon in Washington August 31, 2010.    REUTERS/Jason Reed

    ALBANY, N.Y. –  The Pentagon is launching efforts to solve a baffling World War II mystery: whether dozens of U.S. sailors listed as missing from a ship disaster were actually recovered and buried all along as unknowns in a New York cemetery.

    More than 130 victims of the USS Turner's 1944 explosion and sinking near New York Harbor are still officially missing. But WWII researcher Ted Darcy found papers last year indicating at least four of them were buried as unknowns in a Long Island military cemetery. He believes the rest could be there too.

    After The Associated Press initially reported on Darcy's findings in November, the Pentagon office responsible for recovering and identifying the nation's war dead said only that the records that could confirm exactly how many of the Turner's sailors are buried in the cemetery were missing.

    Darcy and loved ones of the missing crew members hope that the records could be found, identifications made and that the long-lost remains of the Turner be reburied in marked gravesites with full military honors.

    "I'd like to see if we can have closure on this, find out who's in the graves," said Richard Duffy, a 61-year-old retired mechanic from Ballston Spa, New York, who was named after his fallen uncle.

    The Turner, a 10-month-old Navy destroyer, sank off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, after a series of internal explosions on Jan. 3, 1944. The Navy never determined what caused the initial blast, but an inquiry found that munitions were being handled below deck around the time of the first explosion. Half of the nearly 300 men on board survived, but scores of others were killed and listed as missing. Some remains were recovered from the sunken wreckage during the yearlong salvage operation, but an exact number remains unknown.

    Margaret Duffy Sickles was not quite 5 years old when her family in Whitehall, New York, received word that her brother, 18-year-old Fireman 1st Class Richard Duffy, was among the missing. After reading the AP story in November, she sought the help of New York congressional delegation, hoping it could persuade the Pentagon to make an attempt to identify the remains buried on Long Island.

    "I will work with the families to cut through red tape and ensure that the Department of Defense's POW/MIA Accounting Agency does everything it can to try to properly identify these brave Americans," said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat.

    Sickles, of Kingston, said identifying any of the remains after 73 years would be difficult but not impossible given advances with DNA and other technology.

    "It's quite possible my brother isn't even among any of those" buried on Long Island, she told the AP. "Nevertheless, it was something we didn't know about until this story came out."

    Pentagon officials say the process of identifying the remains of unknown service members must meet strict protocols, and in the case of the Turner, it can't begin until certain key documents, including those containing a sailor's dental information, are found. They noted that the effort is also hampered by the lack of records for any of the 70 unknowns buried at the Long Island cemetery.

    Todd S. Livick Sr., a the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokesman, said in an email that the agency's researchers have spent years searching for files pertaining to the cemetery's burials of unknowns, but so far they've not been located.

    "Without these sources of information, DPAA cannot determine whether multiple individuals were buried in the casket or construct a case for disinterment," he said.

    According to Darcy, a retired career Marine from Locust Grove, Virginia, who specializes in MIA cases, the Agency hasn't done enough for the fallen Turner sailors.

    "These guys died for their country," he said. "They deserve to be buried properly and the families deserve the closure."

    SEE ALSO: US Marine captain writes stinging op-ed: 'We lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Trump says he shaved $600M off America’s most expensive weapons system


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    US Navy uss lassen

    US President Donald Trump may reverse an Obama administration by challenging Chinese claims in the South China Sea with a handful of US Navy destroyers.

    A report from the Navy Times cites US Navy officials as saying that ships from the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group, currently headed to the Pacific, will carry out freedom of navigation operations near China's artificial and militarized islands in the South China Sea.

    The operations consist of simply sailing ships within 12 miles of land features in the South China Sea that China claims. The operations, as their name implies, completely observe all international law and exist mainly to assert the right of the US, or any nation, to sail in international waters.

    But China will likely not be pleased. In May of 2016, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that while ships have a right to travel in international waters, military ships are a different matter. Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain and an expert on maritime Law told Business Insider that not only are military freedom of navigation patrols but that the Chinese navy has passed through US territorial waters in the past.

    According to Brennan, as long as navy ships "go through in normal mode, not exercising weapons, not painting targets with radar, and leave a gentle footprint," these type of operations happen routinely and without incident.

    Sources told the Navy Times that the US wants freedom of navigation patrols to happen so frequently that they become routine. From 2012 to October 2015, then-US President Barack Obama froze freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

    south china sea weapons spratly islands

    The Navy Times report fits in with President Donald Trump's announced intentions to check China as a growing world power, but falls short of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's January statement that the US would possibly "stop" China from accessing their artificial islands

    “It’s what we do. We say, ‘This is international water and we will proudly sail in it, steam in it, or fly over it to protect our right to do so and others’ rights, as well,” Bryan McGrath, a retired US Navy captain, told the Navy Times.

    China has repeatedly asserted that the US has no part in the South China Sea dispute, where six nations have overlapping claims to waters that are home to $5 trillion in annual shipping, and rich in fishing and oil.

    The US maintains that the US Navy has operated in the region for decades, and that it remains committed to making sure no one power establishes hegemony over an international waterway.

    USS Carl Vinson Navy training

    SEE ALSO: China may be preparing for a crippling preemptive missile strike on US military bases

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    NOW WATCH: There will be no one in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal when Trump takes office


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    Putin Missile

    Russia has issued a serious challenge to the US by deploying nuclear-capable cruise missiles that could pose a threat to western Europe, The New York Times reports.

    Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider in an interview that the missiles were likely 9M729s, a ground-based adaptation of Russia's Kalibr missiles that famously debuted by striking targets in Syria, nearly 1,000 miles away, from the Caspian Sea.

    Officials say the missiles violate the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, because they have a range of 620 to 3,420 miles and fire from ground-based launchers, enabling Russia to hit European capitals from its homeland.

    "We knew it was coming for a long time," Lewis said of the missiles. Russia "started testing in 2008. In 2011, the Obama administration decided it was a compliance problem."

    The treaty between the US and Russia represents one of the few successful arms-control achievements in the two superpowers' fraught relationship. In the 1980s, Russia began developing nuclear missiles of an intermediate range that could strike targets in western Europe.

    By 2014, President Barack Obama concluded that Russia had violated the INF. Lewis said that last year at an INF special verification meeting, the US confronted Russia with evidence of its violation, to which the Russians responded with "capricious arguments" that the US had also violated the treaty.

    "None of the Russian accusations amount to the US, in secret, deploying a large number of missiles that violate the treaty," Lewis said. "The US does not have ground-launched intermediate-range forces anywhere."

    Even though both the US and Russia have intercontinental ballistic missiles that can travel around the world, intermediate-range missiles pose significant and destabilizing risks.

    "With ICBMs, you can do things to reduce the range, but they're not optimal," Lewis said. "There's a reason militaries want optimized range."

    Russian kalibr cruise missiles

    In response to Russia building missiles that seem custom-made to strike NATO capitals like Paris or London, the US and NATO pursued a two-track approach, with each developing intermediate-range arms to target Moscow from western Europe and pushing for arms-control agreements with Russia.

    "US cruise missiles and ballistic missiles that could reach Moscow in minutes terrified the Russians," Lewis said.

    Eventually, Russia and the US agreed to stop developing and deploying intermediate-range weapons to halt the nuclear militarization of Europe. By May 1991, almost 2,700 weapons had been dismantled.

    But now the US faces a "compliance nightmare," according to Lewis, because the missiles that violate the INF belong to a family of missiles made by Russia, some of which do not violate the treaty.

    "You're not going to be able to shut down their production facilities, because you'd have to shut down all of their facilities," said Lewis. And if Russia is deploying the missiles with battalions that have other missiles, then the other missiles become violations by extension.

    LRASM long range anti ship missile f 18 us navy

    Without the INF, the US could consider placing nuclear weapons across Europe to counter Moscow's nuclear threat.

    Lewis said the US needs to revisit the two-track solution to countering Russia, but with conventional, not nuclear, arms. The US should "start a lot of programs to scare the hell out of the Russians" while also pushing for treaty compliance, he said.

    "We need to remind Russians why they wanted this treaty in the first place," said Lewis.

    "We wanted the treaty because we didn't want" the Russian intermediate-range missile systems, he added. "But can you imagine the horrifying things we can put in Poland?"

    SEE ALSO: How the US's nuclear weapons compare to Russia's

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    NOW WATCH: 'That makes no sense!': Matt Lauer grills Kellyanne Conway over the timing of Michael Flynn’s resignation


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    Donald Trump Michael Flynn Steve Bannon Reince Priebus

    The most surprising thing about the scandal and resignation of Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn may be how he was caught.

    On Feb. 9, the New York Times published an article citing current and former US officials saying that Flynn had "unambiguous and highly inappropriate" conversations with the Russian ambassador about easing the US's sanctions on Russia once Trump took office.

    But Flynn had to know that agents monitor calls with the Russian ambassador — especially considering his career as an Army intelligence officer he should have been well-aware of how the US carries out foreign surveillance.

    In a December phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Flynn reportedly urged him to not overreact to the latest round of sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama, indicating that the next administration might be more inclined to roll them back.

    Officials told the Times that they were surprised the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief had made those comments, and even more surprised when Trump administration officials denied the claims that were, at that point, on the record.

    Vice President Mike Pence defended Flynn in an interview with CBS in January, saying Flynn "didn't discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."

    Flynn blamed the "fast pace of events" for not giving Pence the full story, and he resigned on Monday.

    Trump's senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said on the "Today" show on Tuesday that it was Flynn's inability to properly communicate with Pence that ended his relationship with the White House, not the collusion with Russia.

    "In the end, it was misleading the vice president that made the situation unsustainable," Conway said.

    SEE ALSO: Kellyanne Conway on Flynn's resignation: 'Misleading the vice president ... made the situation unsustainable'

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    russian jet su 24 baltic donald cook

    Multiple Russian military aircraft came close to a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea on Feb. 10, incidents considered "unsafe and unprofessional," a U.S. official said on Tuesday.The Russian Defense Ministry said no such incidents had occurred.

    The Russian Defense Ministry said no such incidents had occurred.

    "There were no incidents of any kind on Feb. 10, related to flights by Russian military jets in the Black Sea near the U.S. Navy destroyer Porter," Russian news agencies cited a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, as saying.

    But Captain Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, cited three separate incidents involving Russian aircraft and the USS Porter. One involved two Russian Su-24 jets, another a separate Su-24, and the third a larger IL-38.

    "USS Porter queried all aircraft and received no response," Hernandez said. "Such incidents are concerning because they can result in accident or miscalculation," he added.

    The incidents involving the Su-24 were considered to be unsafe and unprofessional by the commanding officer of the Porter because of their high speed and low altitude, while the IL-38 flew at an unusually low altitude, Hernandez said.

    Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the lone Su-24 came within 200 yards (meters) of the Porter at an altitude of 300 feet (90 meters).

    In April 2016 two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea so close that they created wake in the water.

     USS Porter Navy Ship

    SEE ALSO: Russia secretly deployed nuclear cruise missiles that violate a treaty with the US

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    Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov

    The US Navy spotted a Russian spy ship about 70 miles off the coast of Delaware on Tuesday that was headed north, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.

    Fox News reported the ship was the Viktor Leonov, an intelligence-gathering ship that can intercept intelligence from nearby transmitters with a variety of sensors, as well as measuring US Navy sonar emissions. 

    "We are aware of the vessel's presence," said Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Defense Department spokeswoman. "It has not entered US territorial waters. We respect freedom of navigation exercised by all nations beyond the territorial sea of a coastal State consistent with international law."

    US Navy spy ships conduct similar missions near Russia and in international waters around the globe.

    However, the timing of this incident coincides with a flurry of news coming out of Washington about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's resignation for having inappropriate conversations with Russia's ambassador. 

    Additionally, the news broke on Tuesday that Russia has developed and deployed nuclear-capable cruise missiles that violate the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, in a move that is sure to draw a response from the US.

    SEE ALSO: Russia secretly deployed nuclear cruise missiles that violate a treaty with the US

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    NOW WATCH: Top foreign policy expert: Here's why China isn't more outspoken about North Korea's nuclear ambitions


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    A Russian serviceman walks past Russian Iskander-M missile launchers before a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade, with the Moscow International Business Center also known as

    Prominent US senators and defense analysts are calling for the US to respond to Russia's recent deployment of nuclear cruise missiles by deploying missiles of its own to Europe.

    Russia's cruise missile deployment violated a major US-Russia treaty, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), because they have a range of 620 to 3,420 miles and fire from ground-based launchers, enabling Russia to hit European capitals from its homeland.

    “The Russian Federation remains in violation of its INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty obligations not to possess, produce or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

    The INF treaty of 1988 is the only treaty ever to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons. The Arms Control Association describes it as a "key cornerstone of the US-Russia nuclear arms control architecture that helped to halt and reverse the Cold War-era nuclear arms race and remove a significant threat to Europe."

    In short, the treaty stopped the US from placing its own intermediate-range nuclear missiles all over Western Europe after Russia developed its own missiles to target Western European capitals in the 1980s.

    Now that Russia has violated the treaty, many in the US have called for the US to scrap it as well.

    "There's little reason for the US to continue abiding by a treaty whose only other party continues to violate it blatantly. Two battalions of cruise missiles don't just magically appear overnight," said Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas in a statement. "I take this news as evidence that the US should build up its nuclear forces in Europe."

    Russian kalibr cruise missiles

    Sen. John McCain of Arizona echoed the sentiment, saying the missiles pose a "significant military threat to US forces in Europe and our NATO allies," and that the move "requires a meaningful response."

    But because the US upheld its end of the treaty, it has no comparable nuclear-capable cruise missiles with which to match Russia. Still, according to James Jeffrey, an expert on US military strategy, the US will likely respond with more arms in Europe.

    The US would "have to develop new weapons ... you’d have to put in air defenses or additional strike aircraft," said Jeffrey. "We have long-range cruise missiles on ships that you could increase in the Baltics or somewhere else that could reach Russia."

    tomahawk missile raytheon

    Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider in an interview that because the violating missiles are so embedded in Russia's conventional, legal missile production they represent a "compliance nightmare" that would take "a lot of time and luck" to diplomatically persuade Russia to stop making and deploying the missiles to comply with the treaty.

    Instead, Lewis suggested the US should start developing non-nuclear missile systems in Western Europe to"scare the hell out of the Russians" while also pushing diplomatically for treaty compliance.

    "We need to remind Russians why they wanted this treaty in the first place," said Lewis.

    SEE ALSO: Russia secretly deployed nuclear cruise missiles, violating a treaty with the US

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    NOW WATCH: 'Not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue': Spicer defends White House Russia policy after Flynn resigns


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    Performing tactical movements latvia nato close air support

    President Donald Trump posed a question via Twitter on Wednesday morning: "Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?"

    According to NATO expert Jorge Benitez of the Atlantic Council, he was — but there's more to the story.

    "Yes, Obama was too soft on Russia," Benitez told Business Insider. "But so were Germany, France, the UK, the EU, the UN, and Congress."

    Benitez said that the international community's treatment of Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008 was "too soft" and "contributed to Putin’s willingness to attack Ukraine," adding that the softness also added to "Putin’s willingness to break international treaties like the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) and probably attack another of his neighbors in the future."

    But the 2008 invasion of Georgia happened under President George W. Bush's watch. James Jeffrey, former deputy national security adviser under Bush, told Business Insider that there's "very little you can do" about Russian aggression. 

    Jeffrey said that the Russian swiping of Crimea was "unpredictable and unstoppable," just like their move into Georgia, but Benitez says it was the US response to these moves by Russia that came off as too soft.

    "The US and the international community had a lot of powerful non-military options to raise the cost to Russia and make it more willing to stop killing Ukrainians," said Benitez. "Obama’s sanctions are so soft, some Russian legislators made fun of him and begged the US to sanction them."

    But the blame doesn't lie with Obama alone. In 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, Europe was buying almost 30% of their oil from Russia, and Europe remains Moscow's main client for energy exports.

    Russian marines parade during the Navy Day celebrations in Sevastopol, Crimea, July 31, 2016.

    "Russia is so dependent on Europeans buying their energy, that if Europe did even a partial embargo and cut its energy purchases from Russia in half, it would have a crippling impact on the Russian economy and make it impossible for Putin to pay for his foreign aggression," said Benitez.

    Besides sanctions and diplomatic actions, the US had military options for confronting Russia in the wake of their land grabs, which had bipartisan support in Congress. "But Obama was too soft and refused to pursue" options like arming the Ukrainians, said Benitez. 

    Now, fighting and casualties have been on the rise in Ukraine, which is "strong evidence that Obama’s policy on Russia did not work," said Benitez. 

    barack obama

    So while Obama certainly could have done more to counter Russia, an increasingly adversarial state, Trump has rarely, if ever in his campaign or presidency signaled that he may be tougher.

    In fact, Trump's administration finds itself under intense scrutiny after the revelation that former national security adviser Michael Flynn discussed the easing of Obama's sanctions on Russia before the election, and that the Trump administration had been in contact with Russia during the campaign, which Russia influenced by leaking emails from the Democratic National Convention.  

    SEE ALSO: Special Ops General: The government is in 'unbelievable turmoil'

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    NOW WATCH: Trump says he shaved $600M off America’s most expensive weapons system


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    robert harward

    As a teenager in the early 1970s retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward played football and basketball, was popular with classmates and, like many American high school students, was known for partying.

    But Harward, to whom President Donald Trump has offered the post of U.S. national security adviser, to succeed Michael Flynn, spent his teenage years not in his native Rhode Island, but in pre-revolutionary Iran, where his father, a Navy captain, advised the Iranian military.

    During his teenage years, Harward lived in an Iranian neighborhood, attended school with Iranian-American students and played sports against Iranian teams. Those experiences gave him an unusual familiarity with Iran's culture and people in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the pro-American Shah.

    "During very formative years of his life, he was exposed to everything that was Iran," said Joseph Condrill, who knew Harward, known by his classmates as Bobby, when they were students at the Tehran American School. "Iran was one of our homes, and we got to know the Iranian people very well, in a very intimate way."

    The Trump administration has offered Harward the job of national security adviser, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if Harward had accepted, the sources said. A White House spokesperson had no immediate comment.

    Harward would carry his experience into the Trump White House, charged with coordinating national security policy and responding to threats including Iran's ballistic missile program and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

    While Flynn put Iran "on notice," and Trump has tweeted that Iran is "playing with fire," Harward's experience with Iran is more personal.

    michael flynn

    The revolution that brought Iran's theocratic government to power forced the closure of the Tehran American School and cut short the tours of American families living in Iran.

    Rather than being isolated on a military base, Harward and other Americans at that time lived among Iranians, rode local buses, and were exposed to Iran's attractions through field trips, his classmates said.

    "It was not a completely isolated culture for us," said John Martin, 61, of Reston, Virginia, who was in Harward's high school class and attended the U.S. Naval Academy with him. Harward even picked up fluent Persian while he was in Iran, Martin said.

    "For those of us that had once lived in Iran, there's an after-effect, the effect of the Islamic Revolution," Condrill said. "There is definitely a sense of suspicion, if you will ... based upon that experience of the Iran that we once knew."

    It is not clear, however, how Harward's memories might influence U.S. policy, because the national security adviser's job is to coordinate, not make, policy. In addition, administration officials said, Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller have closer ties to the president than Harward would have and would present a rival power center.

    In 2012, as deputy head of the U.S. Central Command, he told a conference that "Iran's well-established past pattern of deceit and reckless behavior have progressively increased the potential for miscalculation that could spark a regional, if not a global conflict."

    Shahab-3 missile Iran

    At the same event, he recalled with some wistfulness his own experience living in the region.

    "I think back to the days when I graduated from the Tehran American School in 1974, where as a Westerner I could freely travel through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other countries in the region and be greeted, and welcomed, because of the policies and strategy the West employed in the region," he said. "Yet I look today, we are in a much different world."

    Harward did not respond to a request for comment and officials at Lockheed Martin, where he is a top executive, declined to comment.

    After graduating from high school in 1974, Harward returned to the United States, joined the Navy, became an elite SEAL and rose through the ranks, eventually serving as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East. He served there under General Jim Mattis, now the U.S. defense secretary.

    Earlier in his career, Harward worked on counterterrorism as a military officer on the National Security Council, an assignment seen as a marker of a rising star.

    Several former U.S. officials who worked with Harward described him as experienced and smart, but not known for his personal experience with Iran.

    Robert Harward

    He is well-liked and respected and seen as unpretentious despite his distinguished military service, according to people who have worked with him.

    "He was a very good and effective bureaucratic player," said Derek Chollet, an assistant secretary of defense under the Obama administration. "He understands the role the military plays within the broader tool set of American policy."

    When Harward was a commanding officer in Afghanistan, he was known for making his rounds without full body armor to send a message that Afghanistan was safe, said a U.S. official who worked under Harward there.

    "He had no ego," the official said, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.

    SEE ALSO: Trump reportedly offered Michael Flynn's job to a retired admiral who told Trump he needed to 'think it over'

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    isis militant

    Armed Islamic State extremists are expanding their influence in a sprawling camp for displaced Syrians on Jordan's border, posing a growing threat to the U.S.-allied kingdom, a senior Jordanian military commander said.

    Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, chief of Jordan's border forces, spoke to The Associated Press during a tour of the remote desert area, just west of where Jordan, Syria and Iraq meet.

    The Islamic State group seized parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, and still holds territory there, including areas abutting Jordan, despite recent military setbacks.

    A flight in a Jordanian military helicopter on Tuesday offered a view of the Rukban camp, an expanse of tents and makeshift shelters housing tens of thousands of stranded Syrians.

    Conditions in Rukban and the smaller Hadalat camp deteriorated sharply after Jordan sealed its border in June, following a cross-border IS car bomb attack that killed seven Jordanian border guards.

    The closure disrupted what until then had been fairly regular distributions of food and water by Jordan-based international aid agencies. In recent months, there had been mounting reports of lack of clean water, the rise of malnutrition among children and the spread of disease.

    Late last year, after months of negotiations, U.N.-led aid groups and Jordanian officials worked out a new arrangement for the camps, located between two low miles-long mounds of earth, or berms, that straddle the Syrian-Jordanian border.

    A food distribution center was set up several miles west of Rukban, while U.N. mobile health clinics consisting of several trailers were established on Jordanian territory, near the southernmost berm.

    Aid officials said tribal leaders help organize the distributions, despite concerns by aid agencies that this will lead to unfair allotments and black marketeering.

    Syria refugee

    In a joint statement on Wednesday, U.N. agencies in Jordan said conditions still "present a survival challenge," while acknowledging the Jordanian military's efforts to coordinate aid shipments.

    "Delivery of humanitarian aid experienced serious delays and interruptions due to logistical and security constraints over the past months," the statement said. "Only one distribution cycle of a month's worth of food rations and essential items, including blankets, warm clothes and plastic sheeting, was made possible to those living at the berm between November 2016 and January 2017."

    The statement said water has been delivered regularly and that U.N. health services were able to provide life-saving care, with the most serious cases referred to Jordan for further treatment.

    On Tuesday, an AP team visited one of the health clinics, where pregnant women and young children were receiving treatment. Patients were transported from Rukban to the clinic by ambulance after security vetting.

    Najah Khidr, who is two months pregnant, said she came to the clinic because she had suffered bleeding the night before. She said she and her eight-member family live in dire conditions.

    "It's too cold there, no electricity and no sustainable food supplies," the 41-year-old woman said, struggling to stand up.

    Another patient, 14-year-old Mathour Yassin Khleif, said a kerosene stove caught fire in his family's shelter, burning him and his sister. Khleif suffered third-degree burns, the clinic report said.

    Mustafa Zboun, an official of the U.N. child agency, said most patients at the mobile clinic are children suffering from malnutrition and pregnant women.

    More than 200 Syrians have been allowed entry to Jordan for medical treatment since November, he said.

    At the same time, the potential IS threat from Rukban is rising, with armed militants "trying to control it and create cells inside the camp," said Kafawin, the border commander. "We are sure they have whole weapons systems."

    jordan refugee camp

    Armed groups clash frequently in Rukban, he said. "We understand that more than 90 percent (of camp residents) are asylum seekers, but the others are extremists or Daesh people," he said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym.

    Jordan also fears an influx to southern Syria of IS militants fleeing a U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive on the city of Mosul, a former IS stronghold. The offensive began in the fall, and IS has been driven out of eastern parts of the city.

    "The threat is increasing, especially in this area," Kafawin said, referring to the border stretch near Rukban. "We consider the whole Syrian border as a potential threat, but in this area, it is imminent all the time."

    Pro-Western Jordan is part of a U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State extremists.

    About half of Jordan's military personnel and resources have been deployed to protect the kingdom's borders, Kafawin said, a sharp increase from before the 2011 outbreak of the Syria conflict.

    SEE ALSO: 'We're being pretty darn prolific' — Top general claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

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