29 April 2014

Yemeni army somehow launches "major ground offensive" against AQ

What exactly constitutes a "major ground offensive" in Yemen?

Yemeni troops, backed by air force planes, launched a major offensive against al Qaeda strongholds in the south of the country on Tuesday to try to eradicate the Islamist militant group that had killed hundreds since 2011.

A local official said at least five Yemeni government soldiers were killed in the fighting, in which hundreds of volunteers from a local militia known as the Popular Committees are taking part.

The operation came less than two weeks after more than 55 suspected militants died in a series of air strikes on the militants' main hideout in a remote northern district in Abyan Province, in southern Yemen.

Are we talking 50 soldiers? 500 soldiers? How "major" can Yemen really get?

28 April 2014

Here comes another 118% vote

In other comedy news, Syria's Bashar Assad to "run" for a third term as despot for life president.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Monday he will run for re-election in a vote on June 3 which is widely expected to secure him a third term in office despite a three-year civil war stemming from protests against his rule.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Laham made the announcement during a televised session of Syria's parliament.

Assad's Western and Arab foes have condemned the election as a parody of democracy, saying no credible poll can be held in a country where 6 million people have been displaced, 2.5 million have fled as refugees and hundreds are killed daily.

I wonder what the opposition TV ads are going to look like? Who is actually running against him?

25 April 2014

Anniversary: ANZAC Day

Today marks ANZAC Day among the Commonwealth countries around the world.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn, and Tonga.

The Australian War Memorial website answers many questions, including...

Why is this day special to Australians?
When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

By: Brant

24 April 2014

Ukraine 4/24: The Reconquista?

So the Ukrainians have started to retake Sloviansk.

Commandos have moved on the separatist stronghold of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine days after a new "anti-terrorist" operation was announced.

A number of casualties were reported among the separatists as the commandos, backed by armour, cleared barricades near the town.

Separatists are occupying key buildings in at least a dozen eastern towns.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of "consequences" if Kiev used the army against its own people.

Speaking on Russian TV as news of the Sloviansk operation was coming in, Mr Putin said: "If the regime in Kiev has begun using the army against the population inside the country, then this is undoubtedly a very serious crime."

Silly Ukrainians, you're only supposed to use your army to go into another country undercover and steal someone else's provinces!
If you use your army against your own people, you might get run out of town on a rail by violent protests in the capital that force the government leaders to flee and seek refuge in a friendly neighboring country while the opposition claims victory and the people start to fragment along ethnic lines.
Oh, wait.

23 April 2014

Anniversary: Death of Pat Tillman

Football star-turned-war hero Pat Tillman died 10 years ago today.

Ten years ago today, Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal who walked away from millions of dollars because he felt a call to defend his country after 9/11, was shot and killed by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

The article debunks some of the over-bearing patriotism surrounding Pat Tillman's death.

Anniversary: Death of Pat Tillman

Football star-turned-war hero Pat Tillman died 10 years ago today.

Ten years ago today, Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal who walked away from millions of dollars because he felt a call to defend his country after 9/11, was shot and killed by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

The article debunks some of the over-bearing patriotism surrounding Pat Tillman's death.

21 April 2014

An Undisclosed Location

It's one thing if the mission is actually secret - you don't talk about it in the press. It's another thing if the country you're helping protect is embarrassed to have you there. At that point, you ask them what's more embarrassing - admitting we're there to help, or getting overthrown?

Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s chief artillery headquarters left the South Sound this week for a nine-month assignment at an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

The 17th Field Artillery Brigade took about 60 soldiers from its command group for the assignment, the brigade public affairs officer said. They left Lewis-McChord late Thursday.

The soldiers are not heading to Iraq or Afghanistan. They will serve in a Middle East country that does not want to advertise the presence of U.S. soldiers in its boundaries.

19 April 2014

Ukraine 4/19: US Group Troops to Poland?

It appears as though the issue of US ground troops to Poland is a matter of "when" and not "if".

A small contingent of U.S. soldiers will deploy to Poland and Estonia for a series of upcoming ground exercises aimed at reassuring allies shaken by Russian intervention in neighboring Ukraine, according to a report.

The U.S. is planning to send a company sized Army element of roughly 150 troops to conduct drills with allies, spanning roughly two weeks respectively in both Poland and Ukraine, The New York Times reported Friday.

The land force exercises being planned by the Obama administration are part of a broader undertaking by NATO to beef up its presence in eastern Europe. It is unclear what U.S. unit will be taking part in the exercises in Poland and Estonia, but more details are expected to be announced next week, the Times reported.

On Wednesday, NATO said it would increase its presence in the region both on land, sea and air. Measures include plans for more fighter patrols over the Baltic nations and warships in the Baltic Sea and eastern Mediterranean.

One way to ensure a steadier presence of ground forces in the region is through a series of on-going troops rotations. The plan to send 150 troops to Poland and Estonia could be a first step with more such rotations to come in the future.

“There’s an entire range of possibilities and measures that are being considered,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a Thursday news conference at the Pentagon with Poland’s defense minister Tomasz Siemoniak. “Rotational basis of training and exercises are always part of that.”

One such possibility that has been under consideration is the deployment elements from the Texas-based 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division — the unit already designated as the U.S. contribution to the NATO Reaction Force — to maintain a steadier regional presence.

Warsaw is unlikely to be satisfied by such limited, rotational deployments. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has urged NATO to station 10,000 troops in Poland.

18 April 2014

Ukraine 4/18: Handshakes in Geneva, Fists in Slaviansk

There's been a deal cut, but the separatists on the ground don't look like they're moving.

Armed pro-Russian separatists were still holding public buildings in eastern Ukraine on Friday, saying they needed more assurances about their security before they comply with an international deal ordering them to disarm.

The agreement, brokered by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union in Geneva on Thursday offered the best hope to date of defusing a stand-off in Ukraine that has dragged East-West relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.

Enacting the agreement on the ground though will be difficult, because of the deep mistrust between the pro-Russian groups and the Western-backed government in Kiev, which this week flared into violent clashes that killed several people.

The fact any deal was reached at all came as a surprise, and it was not immediately clear what had happened behind the scenes to persuade the Kremlin, which had up to that point shown little sign of compromise, to join calls on the militias to disarm.

In Slaviansk, a city that has become a flashpoint in the crisis after men with Kalashnikovs took control last weekend, leaders of the pro-Russian gunmen were holding a meeting early on Friday inside one of the buildings they seized on how to respond to the Geneva agreement.

16 April 2014

Ukraine 4/16: Civil War Finally Percolating?

Now that Ukraine is taking actions against pro-Russian violence-mongers, is a true civil war about to break out?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was "on the verge of civil war" in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after acting President Olexander Turchynov announced the start of the operation to reclaim territory.

Russian officials said both leaders "emphasised the importance" during the conversation of planned four-way talks on Thursday between senior diplomats from Russia, the EU, the US and Ukraine.

However, Ukrainian and Western officials have accused Russia of being behind the pro-Russia activism in the region. Moscow strongly denies fomenting the unrest.

Ukrainian counter-terrorism chief Gen Vasyl Krutov, speaking to reporters at Kramatorsk airfield late on Tuesday, emphasised that armed individuals had crossed the border into Ukraine.

"We have to deal with a very serious, highly skilled and very professional opponent," he said according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

"They display a very high level of preparedness, tactical and practical skill. These people must have been to hot spots across the world and on their own territory."

Last month's annexation of Crimea by Moscow was preceded by the presence of uniformed, armed men believed to be Russian troops, although in greater numbers than the similarly dressed and equipped men who have been seen in eastern Ukraine, correspondents say.

The Kremlin has condemned the Ukrainian military operation in eastern Ukraine as an "anti-constitutional course to use force against peaceful protest actions".

MOH: SGT Kyle White

President Obama will award a Congressional Medal of Honor to the former SGT Kyle White.

An Army veteran credited with trying to save the lives of fellow soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan will be awarded the nation's highest military award, the White House said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama will bestow the Medal of Honor on May 13 to former Sgt. Kyle White for heroics stemming from the 2007 battle during which his only cover from enemy fire was a single tree jutting from a mountain cliff.
Six Americans were killed and several others, including White, were wounded in the four-hour attack.
The Medal of Honor is received for conspicuous gallantry on the battlefield above and beyond the call of duty. White will be the seventh living recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
He left the military in 2011 and is now an investment analyst in Charlotte.
White was a platoon radio telephone operator and among 14 American troops and Afghan soldiers ambushed while on patrol on November 8, 2007, in eastern Afghanistan.
He quickly returned enemy fire and was knocked unconscious by a rocket-propelled grenade as he tried to reload his weapon. When he came to, his face was hit with shrapnel.
White and four others were cut off from the other soldiers, who jumped from a cliff. He applied first aid to a wounded soldier and they both moved to the only cover they had: a single tree on the mountain.
His radio not working, White moved into the open to try to reach a Marine about 30 feet away who was so severely wounded he could not move. He braved enemy fire, moving back and forth several times to drag him to the tree although he died of his wounds.
White then exposed himself to withering fire again, crawling into the open to try to recover the platoon leader. When he reached him, the man was already dead.
By this time, the soldier White initially brought to the tree had been hit again, this time in the leg. White applied first aid by using his own belt as a tourniquet.
He then located a working radio and called for mortar, artillery, air strikes and helicopter gunships. But a friendly mortar round landed near him, resulting in a concussion.
After nightfall, White established a security perimeter and ensured that no U.S. military equipment fell into the hands of enemy forces.
The impact of multiple concussions was now causing his own condition to deteriorate, so he called for a medevac. He knew if he passed out, no one there could work the radio and guide the rescuers.
When help arrived, White refused assistance until the other Americans and Afghans were aboard the helicopter.

15 April 2014

Ukraine 4/15: More Bullshit from Russia

Claiming that using force to eject illegal Russians from their sovereign buildings would be a 'criminal' use of force, Russia's foreign minister sounds more like a moron every day.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday warned Kiev against using force to quell pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying the "criminal" act would undermine talks planned in Geneva.

The four-way meeting set for Thursday involving top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union is the latest step in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at easing the worst European security crisis in decades.

"One cannot issue invitations to talks while at the same time issuing criminal orders for the use of armed force against the people there," Lavrov said during a visit to Beijing.

"You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland earlier played down US expectations for the summit, although she maintained that "it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open and will see what they bring".

14 April 2014

Ukraine 4/14: Russian Claims US CIA Chief Visits Kyiv, Demand Explanation

Ah yes, the smell of fresh bullshit in the morning.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged Washington to explain Russian media reports that CIA director John Brennan visited the Ukrainian capital.

Lavrov also accused the West of "off the scale" hypocrisy over the crisis in Ukraine, where protests in the southeast led to fresh violence at the weekend.

"We can remember when violence on Maidan (Independence Square in Kiev) that ended with dozens and dozens of deaths was called democracy, while peaceful protests that are ongoing now in southeastern Ukraine are called terrorism," he said.

"The hypocrisy is off the scale."

The West has accused Moscow of fomenting unrest in Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions by providing logistical support to separatists and sending representatives of its special services there.

Lavrov, however, denied that members of Russia's FSB security service or the GRU military intelligence service were operating in Ukraine's east.

"We are not meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. This contradicts our interests," he told reporters.
"We are not meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. This contradicts our interests," [Lavrov] told reporters.

09 April 2014

DoD Announces START Compliant Structure

The DoD has officially announced their strategic force structure.

Today, the Department of Defense announced the United States' Strategic Force Structure to comply with the New START Treaty (NST).
The treaty limits the total number of deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery vehicles to 800. By Feb. 5, 2018, the total deployed and non-deployed force will consist of 454 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, 280 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and 66 heavy bombers. U.S. deployed forces will consist of 400 deployed ICBMs. There will also be 240 deployed SLBMs. DoD will also maintain 60 deployed nuclear capable heavy bombers, for a total of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, the treaty limit.
This capable, survivable, and balanced force fully supports the president's national security strategy and nuclear weapons employment strategy and maintains strategic stability and deterrence, extended deterrence, and allied assurance.
This force structure maintains the commitments set forth in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the report to Congress on the president's new nuclear employment guidance, and the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review that the United States will maintain a triad of ICBMs, SLBMs, and nuclear-capable heavy bombers within the central NST limits.

08 April 2014

US Weapons to Syrian Rebels?

So it's clear the Syrian rebels are using TOW missiles. War on the Rocks asks the key question: where did they come from?

Fresh video from the battlefields of southern Idlib province show the rebels using US-made BGM-71 TOW missiles. This weapon has never been observed in rebel use before. Coming on the heels of much speculation that the Obama administration has finally made the decision to aid the Syrian opposition with weapons, the arrival of the TOW missile in Syria is certainly suggestive. Former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford recently stated that he expected a move by the Administration to change the military balance in Syria.

The TOW missiles in question are being used by Harakat Hazam, a Free Syrian Army group that is mostly composed of survivors from the now-defunct Kataeb Farouq FSA group, and they are connected to former FSA Supreme Military Council chief General Salim Idris. Both of these facts mark them as being distinctly less jihadist than the powerful Islamic Front, and General Idris has been the most active solicitor of American aid for the FSA. All of these things indicate that Harakat Hazam would be an attractive option if the Obama Administration was searching for “good rebels” to provide with weapons. Interestingly, Harakat Hazam also began appearing with MANPADs recently. The group has participated in a successful rebel offensive in the south of the contested Idlib province, which has mostly removed a siege placed on the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun by Assad forces and seized control of a section of the critical Damascus-Aleppo highway.

07 April 2014

Sec Hagel Tours Liaoning

Secretary Hagel takes a guided tour of the Chinese aircraft carrier and/or port monument (depending on your point of view).

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China's sole aircraft carrier on Monday in an unprecedented opening by normally secretive Beijing to a potent symbol of its military buildup.

A U.S. official said the visit to the carrier the Liaoning, at a port in the northern city of Qingdao, lasted about two hours. No other details were immediately available.

The official believed Hagel was the first official visitor from outside China to be allowed on board the Liaoning, although that could not be immediately confirmed.

China's Defence Ministry confirmed the visit would happen but did not provide details.

Chinese security experts said Beijing could be trying to quell U.S. criticism that it was not transparent about its military modernization.

Hagel's carrier visit, at the start of his three-day trip to China, was quietly approved by Beijing at Washington's request, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 60,000-tonne Liaoning, a Soviet-era vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-fitted in a Chinese shipyard, is seen as a symbol of China's growing naval power and ambition for greater global influence.

The carrier has yet to become fully operational, however, and military experts say it could be decades before China catches up to the far superior and larger U.S. carriers - if ever.

"The carrier has yet to become fully operational" eh? They said the same thing about the second Death Star, too...

Ukraine 4/7: No, This Is Not A Re-Run

Hmmm... pro-Russian "separatists" take over a government building and claim to be independent.

A Ukrainian news agency is reporting that pro-Russian separatists who have seized the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk proclaimed the region an independent republic.

The activists on Monday also called for a referendum on the sovereignty of the Donetsk region, which borders Russia, to be held no later than May 11, the Interfax news agency reported.

The move comes weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region following a referendum, not recognized by the West, in which Crimeans voted to join Russia.

And apparently they're after security buildings with weapons storage as well. Oy vey.

Pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine have seized state security buildings in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukrainian officials say.

The Luhansk security building's weapons arsenal has been raided, police say.

On Sunday, protesters broke into regional government buildings in Donetsk and Kharkiv.

At an emergency cabinet meeting, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed Russia for the seizures.

02 April 2014

Ukraine 4/2: Ripple Effects in Scandinavia

Sweden and Finland are rightfully worried about their belligerent neighbor and new Russian expansionism.

When Russian warplanes staged a mock bombing run on Sweden last year, air defences were caught napping. It was the middle of the night and no Swedish planes were scrambled.

Instead, Danish jets belonging to NATO's Baltic mission based in Lithuania, took to the air to shadow the Russians.

The discussion that incident triggered over Sweden's ability to defend itself has grown with Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. As in neighbour and fellow EU member Finland, Swedes wonder whether to seek shelter in the U.S.-led NATO alliance, abandoning Stockholm's two centuries of formal neutrality.

Sweden has talked of a "doctrinal shift" in defence policy. In Helsinki, where "Finlandisation" became a Cold War byword for self-imposed neutrality driven by fear of a powerful neighbour, the government has talked of an "open debate" on joining NATO.

Talk of NATO underscores anxieties that feed calls for more defence cooperation and spending. But membership seems distant, with voters in both countries sceptical of the benefits, and wary of the costs of taking on new international commitments.

Both nations have a history of dealing with Moscow in their own particular ways. Sweden's loss of Finland to Russia in the time of Napoleon prompted it to give up on war and armed pacts.

Finland, which won independence during Russia's revolution of 1917 but nearly lost it fighting the Soviet Union in World War Two, kept close to the West economically and politically during the Cold War but avoided confrontation with Moscow.

01 April 2014

Ukraine 4/1: Hosting NATO Exercises?

I guess someone might want to point out there's a difference between agreeing to host NATO wargames, and NATO agreeing to come to town for them.

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday approved a series of joint military exercises with NATO countries that would put US troops in direct proximity to Russian forces in the annexed Crimea peninsula.

"This is a good opportunity to develop our armed forces," acting defense minister Mykhailo Koval told Verkhovna Rada lawmakers ahead of the 235-0 vote.

The decision came as NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels for a two-day meeting dominated by concern over the recent buildup of Russian forces near Crimea that US officials estimate had at one point reached about 40,000 troops.

Ukraine 4/1: Questions for the President

The Atlantic has "10 Tough Questions" for the President about Ukraine.

In recent days, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov concluded fruitless negotiations in Paris, while Russia massed troops and materiel on Ukraine’s eastern flank, including 3C-82 mobile broadcasting stations and BRDM-2 armored espionage vehicles equipped with loudspeakers (both of which are useful during an invasion to broadcast orders to enemy troops and civilians on the street). Finland has confirmed that Russia is conducting a three-day nuclear-war exercise and air-force drill on its border. Speaking to a Swedish newspaper over the weekend, Andrey Illarionov, Putin’s former economic advisor (and now opponent), declared that the Russian president hopes to “regain” Belarus, Finland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states.

With the crisis that began with the Kremlin’s stealth takeover of Crimea still unresolved, and threatening to escalate, President Obama and the American public need to start mulling over some serious questions.

follow the link to read it all

Great Shooting from Brit Sniper

Efficiency in action: a British sniper in Afghanistan killed six Taliban with one bullet.

A British sniper in Afghanistan killed six insurgents with a single bullet after hitting the trigger switch of a suicide bomber whose device then exploded, The Telegraph has learnt.
The 20-year-old marksman, a Lance Corporal in the Coldstream Guards, hit his target from 930 yards (850 metres) away, killing the suicide bomber and five others around him caught in the blast.
The incident in Kakaran in southern Afghanistan happened in December but has only now been disclosed as Britain moves towards the withdrawal of all combat soldiers by the end of the year.
Lt Col Richard Slack, commanding officer of 9/12 Royal Lancers, said the unnamed sharpshooter prevented a major attack by the Taliban, as a second suicide vest packed with 20kg (44lbs) of explosives was found nearby.
The same sniper, with his first shot on the tour of duty, killed a Taliban machine-gunner from 1,465 yards (1,340m).