Defense

Single U.S. airstrike wipes out 100 terrorists in Somalia

A single American military airstrike killed at least 100 fighters allied with the Somali-based terror group al-Shabab, the Pentagon revealed Tuesday, adding to an escalating body count as the Trump administration ramps up its counterterrorism campaign in the West African nation. U.S. forces working with the Somalian government on Tuesday confirmed an American sortie against a suspected al-Shabab camp ended with more than 100 fighters dead. The strike, which took place 125 miles west of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, was the largest casualty count racked up by U.S. warplanes operating in Somalia this month. And the Pentagon said the up-tempo pace will not fade quickly. “U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats” working with the African Union and Somali federal forces, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement shortly after Tuesday’s strike. Reached by the Reuters news service, al-Shabab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab denied the attack. “It is just … propaganda,” he said. But Somalia’s state news agency SONNA reported late on Tuesday that “about 100 militants” had indeed been killed when U.S. planes and Somali commandos attacked al-Shabab bases in the Bur Elay area of Bay region. The attack on the al-Shabab compound was the fifth by American fighters against targets associated with the terror group that has been fighting a deadly insurgent war against the weak Somalian government. Several militants were killed during a pair of initial airstrikes on Nov. 3, while several more died during a Nov. 14 U.S. strike on an al-Shabab target 60 miles northwest of Mogadishu, command officials confirmed at the time. There are currently 500 U.S. military personnel stationed in Somalia, supporting and leading counterterrorism operations in the country, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said earlier this month. He declined to comment on the exact number of al-Shabab fighters based in the country, or whether other terror groups like Islamic State were gaining a foothold in the Horn of Africa. In one of its first national security actions, the Trump administration in May ordered an escalation of American-led operations against al-Shabab’s network in Somalia. The order came weeks after Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken was killed in a Navy SEALs raid against a known al-Shabab stronghold in the country. His death was the first U.S. casualty in Somalia since 18 American soldiers were killed during the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993. Earlier this month the U.S. warned of a threat to American diplomatic personnel in Mogadishu and directed all nonessential staff to leave the capital. Al-Shabab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since it was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center and carries out terror attacks, Reuters reported.

Score one for the good guys!  Excellent!!    🙂

U.S. ramps up air war against Islamic State in Yemen as fight subsides in Iraq and Syria

As the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria comes to a close, U.S. military and counterterrorism officials are setting their sights on the group’s growing presence in the war-torn country of Yemen. The number of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State’s Yemeni faction has increased in the past several weeks as the mission for American drones and warplanes against the group’s bastions elsewhere in the Middle East ramp down. A trio of deadly strikes this month against Islamic State training camps in Yemen marks a refocus by American counterterrorism forces back onto the Gulf state that has been a regular target of U.S. forces battling the al Qaeda faction known as al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula, or AQAP, for the past two decades. But strikes in the country this month are the first time Washington has gone after the Islamic State inside Yemen. The uptick in U.S. operations against the Yemeni-based Islamic State cells began in mid-October with an airstrike against a suspected camp in the country’s al Bayda governorate. The strike, which the Pentagon said was critical to “disrupting the organization’s attempts to train new fighters,” was the first such strike specifically targeting Islamic State in the country. On Wednesday, American forces launched a pair of airstrikes against another suspected target in al Bayda, reportedly killing nine jihadis tied to Yemen’s Islamic State factions. All told, American warplanes killed roughly 60 insurgents from the group during all three strikes, said Central Command officials, according to reports. “ISIS has used the ungoverned spaces of Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world,” Pentagon officials said after the initial Oct. 9 strike, using an acronym for the group. “U.S. forces are supporting ongoing counterterrorism operations in Yemen against ISIS and AQAP to degrade the groups’ ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to hold territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen,” Pentagon officials added. U.S. forces have launched over 100 airstrikes against al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to figures compiled by the Washington-based think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The high rate of airstrikes this year under the Trump administration dwarfs the previous high of 46 strikes in 2016 ordered by President Obama.

Afghan troops go AWOL in U.S.; IG says wastes taxpayer money, poses security threat

More than 150 Afghan troops brought to the U.S. for military training have gone AWOL since 2005, with 13 of them still unaccounted for and perhaps living here as illegal immigrants now, an inspector general said in a new report Friday.Part of the problem is that the U.S. never puts the trainees through an in-person interview and exempts them from registering as aliens when they arrive — both steps that other visitors would normally have to go through. In-person interviews and requiring the troops to register beforehand would help the government gauge whether someone is likely to go absent without leave, and would give immigration officers information about relatives in the U.S. as starting points when someone does go AWOL, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said. But the State Department rejected those suggestions. The audit said that while no acts of terrorism have yet been traced to the trainees, immigration agents say they’re worried because a number who go AWOL end up trying to claim asylum in the U.S., stymieing any national security investigation into their behavior. Beyond the potential danger, American taxpayers also miss out on the investment in the troops, the inspector general said. “It is clear that Afghan trainees go AWOL while in the United States at a far higher rate than do trainees from any other country, and we believe that the State Department (as well as other government agencies) should use all the tools at their disposal to reduce these occurrences and ensure that Afghan trainees return to Afghanistan and make use of the substantial U.S. taxpayer investment in training,” the audit concluded. The number of troops going AWOL surged in 2015 and 2016 as security back home deteriorated. Some Afghan troops currently being trained in the U.S. said the Taliban threatened their families back home once it became known they had a relative training here. Many of them said the training made them bigger targets when they returned.

All the more reason NOT to bring the here to train.  As someone who spent some time in Afghanistan personally, I fail to see the point in bringing large numbers of (mostly) enlisted troops to train here in America.  Probably 85+% can be trained at home in Afghanistan.  Those few exceptions who might need to be trained here are more senior officers and/or possibly pilots; those that require highly technical training, etc.  But, that’s a very small percentage of the Afghan military.  Beyond that, they should be trained by our folks IN Afghanistan.  Its far more cost effective AND posses less of a national security threat here.

Report: North Korea border guards do not carry bullets

Members of North Korea’s military and secret police have begun to receive distributions of live ammunition, and border guards do not retain bullets while on duty, according to a Japanese press report. The Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday non-border personnel were given supplies following joint U.S.-South Korea drills that began Monday near the peninsula. The newspaper was quoting a source in North Korea who spoke on the condition of anonymity. North Korean border guards and front-line deployment units are banned from carrying live ammunition, because of fear of accidents at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone, according to the report, an indication North Korea is as wary of provoking an unwanted conflict at the border as much as the South and U.S. forces on the peninsula. Live ammunition was instead delivered to Pyongyang’s national security agents and other personnel away from the border. On Tuesday, North Korea warned the United States after it was confirmed the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was to reach areas near the reclusive country. “Extensive strategic assets are gathering in waters surrounding South Korea. This is a sign the United States, pushed into a corner, owing to our rapid nuclear power escalation, is engaging in combative actions,” KCNA stated. U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials are prepared for North Korea to launch its next missile, a provocation that would again raise tensions.

China’s Secret Military Plan: Invade Taiwan by 2020

China has drawn up secret military plans to take over the island of Taiwan by 2020, an action that would likely lead to a larger U.S.-China conventional or nuclear war, according to newly-disclosed internal Chinese military documents. The secret war plan drawn up by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese Communist Party’s armed forces, calls for massive missile attacks on the island, along with a naval and air blockade that is followed by amphibious beach landing assaults using up to 400,000 troops. The plans and operations are outlined in a new book published this week, The Chinese Invasion Threat by Ian Easton, a China affairs analyst with the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank. The danger of a Taiwan conflict has grown in recent years even as current tensions between Washington and Beijing are mainly the result of U.S. opposition to Chinese militarization in the South China Sea and China’s covert support of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. “Of all the powder kegs out there, the potential for a war over Taiwan is by far the largest and most explosive,” the 290-page book states, adding that the growing likelihood of a war over Taiwan will dominate worries within the Pentagon for years to come. “China has made clear that its primary external objective is attaining the ability to apply overwhelming force against Taiwan during a conflict, and if necessary destroy American-led coalition forces,” the books says. Democratic-ruled Taiwan poses an existential threat to China’s communist leaders because the island, located some 90 miles off the southeast coast “serves as a beacon of freedom for ethnically Chinese people everywhere,” the book states. “Consequently, the PLA considers the invasion of Taiwan to be its most critical mission, and it is this envisioned future war that drives China’s military buildup.” Parts of the PLA invasion scheme were first revealed publicly by the Taiwan Defense Ministry in late 2013. The plan calls for military operations against the island to be carried out by 2020. The invasion program was confirmed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the major Communist Party meeting five years ago when Xi committed to “continue the 2020 Plan, whereby we build and deploy a complete operational capability to use force against Taiwan by that year.” Other internal PLA writings that surfaced recently indicate China is ready to use force when it believes non-military means are not successful in forcing the capitulation to Beijing’s demands, and if the United States can be kept out of the battle. Current U.S. law under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to provide defensive weaponry to Taiwan to prevent the use of force against the island. China currently is using non-lethal means—psychological, diplomatic, propaganda, and informational warfare—against Taiwan. Once these are exhausted, the plan for large-scale amphibious assault will be carried out. Any attempt by the Chinese military to take the island will be difficult and costly, the book says. The island has rough, mountainous terrain that has created a wind tunnel effect in the strait that produces very difficult weather for carrying troop and weapons transports, both air and sea. Taiwan is around 230 miles long and 90 miles wide. Taiwanese military forces have been preparing for an invasion since Chinese nationalist forces first took refuge on the island at the end of the civil war with the communists in 1949. However, since the 1980s, China has been rapidly building up its military capabilities for a battle to forcibly unify the island with the mainland. Over 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles currently are stationed within range of Taiwan. According to the book, China’s invasion plan is known as the Joint Island Attack Campaign.

Definitely something to keep an eye on..   Bestselling author, and veteran defense writer Bill Gertz is responsible for that excellent piece.  Bill is very well connected in the defense community, and is a very credible source of information.  To read more, click on the text above.

U.S. Jets Drop Bombs in ‘Show of Force’ Against North Korea

U.S. jets, along with aircraft from Japan and South Korea, dropped live ammunition in the Korean Peninsula as part of a show of force against North Korea Sunday in response to North Korea’s missile launch over Japan last week. The Pentagon announced that two U.S. B-1B bombers from Guam and four Marine Corps F-35B fighters from Iwakuni, Japan, joined fighters from Japan and South Korea in flying across the Korean Peninsula and practicing attacks on the Pilsung Range training area in South Korea, including the use of live weapons. The move comes amid increasing aggression from North Korea. While the show of force was triggered by last week’s launch, it also comes on the back of a hydrogen bomb test by North Korea this month, as well as another missile launch over Japan last month. The U.N. Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions on the regime, cutting off as much as 90 percent of the regime’s exports and limiting its imports of oil. However, that appears to have failed to affect North Korea’s escalation of its weapons program. President Trump is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday and is expected to call for the international community to keep its focus on North Korea in his remarks. He has made repeated warnings to the regime and last week said that, while sanctions were a good step, they were “nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.”

United States to Sell More Military Equipment to Japan and South Korea

President Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that he is allowing Japan and South Korea to buy “a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.” “I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump wrote on Twitter. The tweet comes after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test over the weekend. Trump did not specify what kind of military equipment the U.S. will sell to Japan and South Korea. A White House readout of a call between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday said Trump provided his “conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment” from the U.S. by South Korea. It also said Trump gave his “in-principle” approval to South Korea’s initiative to lift restrictions on their missile payload capabilities. According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, the decision came after weeks of discussions, and is a means to deter North Korean provocations. South Korea is among the “top customers” for Foreign Military Sales from the U.S. and is an attractive market because of its rising defense spending, according to a recent study by the Congressional Research Service. Between 2008 and 2016, South Korea spent 75 percent of its total foreign defense purchases on U.S. companies, but also buys from European and Israeli defense companies. During that time, South Korea FMS contracts with the U.S. totaled $15.7 billion, and commercial buys totaled $6.9 billion, for a total of $22.5 billion. South Korea is to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from the U.S. for a total of $7.83 billion, with the first delivery scheduled for 2018. South Korea is also to purchase four RQ-4 “Global Hawk” drones at a price of $657 million. U.S. military sales to Japan dwarfs South Korea by comparison. Japan spends $11 billion per year on Foreign Military Sales, with more than 90 percent of their purchases from U.S. companies, according to another study by CRS. Recent major purchases include the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing KC-46 Tankers, Northrup Grumman E2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, General Dynamics Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles, and Boeing/Bell MV-22 Ospreys.