Defense

US ignores China ‘at our peril’ and lags on missile tech, Pacific commander warns

The top U.S. military commander in the Pacific warned Congress that American missile technology had fallen so far behind China due to a decades-old arms control treaty with Russia, the United States may not be able to win a future war against Beijing. “China’s intent is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril,” Adm. Harry Harris, recently nominated by President Trump to be his next ambassador to Australia told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday. “China’s impressive military buildup could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain,” Harris warned. Harris said the United States is blocked from fielding ground-based intermediate range missiles because of the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty. China is not a party to the agreement between Washington and Moscow signed in 1987 banning short and intermediate range ground-launched missiles with ranges between 310 and 620 miles and 620 to 3,420 miles. The treaty does not cover sea-launched or air-launched missiles. Harris said better than 90 percent of China’s ground-based missiles would violate the INF treaty. China’s pursuit of state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles that travel over 7,500 miles per hour through space and could potentially break through the current U.S. missile defense shield worries the Pentagon. “I think that China’s hypersonic weapons development outpaces ours now, and I think we are falling behind,” Harris warned. A similar view was held by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, on Tuesday during testimony by the nation’s spy chiefs: “I feel we may be buying the best 20th-century military that money can buy when many of the threats in the 21st century will be in cybermisinformation, disinformation, and we need to be better prepared.” Intelligence chiefs warned this week China could turn U.S. telecommunications networks into a spy network, warning Americans not to use certain Chinese cellphones made by Huawei and ZTE. They also raised alarm bells about academics and Chinese students sent to the U.S. to gather secrets for the Chinese government. Admiral Harris, who oversees 375,000 military personnel and is responsible for threats to the U.S. across 100 million square miles – half of the earth’s surface – is known as a China hawk. Last week, President Trump nominated him to be ambassador to Australia. Harris also weighed in on the other major threat to the United States in the Pacific. He warned lawmakers not to be fooled by North Korea’s recent charm offensive during the Winter Olympics. Harris said Kim Jung-Un ultimately wants “reunification [with South Korea] under a single Communist system,” what his grandfather and father failed to do. Harris said he rejected the notion that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions were solely about regime survival, but instead intended to “blackmail” South Korea and other countries in the region, including the United States. Should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, Harris said the number of people requiring evacuation would be “staggering.” 200,000 American civilians would have to be evacuated from South Korea. 1 million Chinese. 60,000 Japanese would all require immediate evacuation. “The Republic of Korea and Japan have been living under the shadow of [North Korea]’s threats for years, and now that shadow looms over the American homeland,” said Harris. He and others on the House Armed Services Committee warned about being lulled into complacency by North Korea’s presence at the Olympics under a unified Korean flag. Vice President Pence today, just back from South Korea, explained how he gave Kim Jong Un’s sister the cold shoulder. “I didn’t avoid the dictator’s sister, but I did ignore her. I didn’t believe it was proper for the USA to give her any attention in that forum,” said Pence. Harris also told lawmakers he was concerned about the growing threat from Russia and China in outer space. “We’ve been led astray by viewing space as some kind of a fuzzy panda bear thing,” said Harris. “I think the Chinese … the Russians and others, they view space as the ultimate high ground. They are preparing for battle in space.”

And we fail to look at it in a similar manner “at our peril.”  The good Admiral is exactly right.  Having spent a couple years in the space industry as an Army officer, I personally can attest to the importance of viewing Space as the “ultimate high ground.”  The Russians, Chinese, and to a smaller extent even the North Koreans see it exactly that way.  It’s WAY past time we got our act together and addressed our military space programs with a sense of urgency.

US Air Force B-52 drops record number of precision bombs on Taliban

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress dropped a record number of precision guided bombs on Taliban over the past 24 hours in Northern Afghanistan, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement Tuesday. The bombing was part of a 96-hour air campaign that struck training facilities and sources of revenue like narcotics. The strikes also aimed at stolen Afghan National Army vehicles “being converted to vehicle-borne” improvised explosive devices, the statement read. “The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of the unit, said. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group bent on bringing harm and destruction to this country.” The B-52, which was recently reconfigured with a “conventional rotary,” dropped 24 guided munitions. The U.S. military is pulling its forces from an American-led coalition base in Iraq and shifting them to Afghanistan following the defeat of Islamic State group militants in the country. Western contractors at the base say U.S. troops began the drawdown over the past week, with groups of soldiers leaving the base on daily flights. The exact scale of the redeployment was unclear. According to various estimates, as of 2016, there were more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq, with nearly 4,000 deployed to support and assist local groups fighting ISIS militants. The remaining personnel included special operations forces, logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations, the BBC reported.

Nice!  Score one for the good guys!     🙂

Report: China Moves 300,000 Troops Closer to North Korean Border

China is reportedly moving missile defense batteries and troops closer to its border with North Korea, a potential sign that Beijing anticipates either a large refugee wave north or a military disturbance triggered by the belligerence of communist dictator Kim Jong-un. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo cited Radio Free Asia (RFA) in a report Monday, stating that RFA had compiled evidence that China had “late last year deployed another missile defense battery at an armored division in Helong, west of Longjing in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.” The “North Korean source in China” speaking to RFA also noted that Pyongyang had observed the movement of 300,000 troops closer to the North Korean border and “missile defense batteries near North Korean reservoirs by the Apnok and Duman rivers.” The batteries would prevent the violent outpouring of those reservoirs into China in the event of an airstrike. On Friday, China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported that Beijing was also investing in establishing nuclear monitoring stations throughout the world, but especially near North Korea, to more rapidly gather information about a potential airstrike. While carefully noting that “detection is not targeted at any particular country,” the newspaper noted that the planned 11 nuclear monitoring stations “are responsible for detecting nuclear activities in neighboring countries, including North Korea.” The People’s Daily claims the monitor plan “shows China’s commitment to global nonproliferation.” Taken in tandem with reports of military movements near North Korea, however, this development indicates concern that a major military or political event in North Korea will impact China significantly. Another state newspaper, the Global Times, remarked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week that “risks of US military action are growing.” Trump singled North Korea out as the world’s most egregious human rights abuser, celebrating the plight of North Korean refugees who risked their lives to escape. In December, Chosun Ilbo reported that China is not only using its military assets to prepare for a potential catastrophe in North Korea; the newspaper cited Japanese media that had revealed evidence of China’s building massive refugee camps near the North Korean border, some that could welcome up to half-a-million refugees. Officials reportedly ordered the construction of such camps in Jilin, the same city where state media published a citizens’ guide to surviving a nuclear war triggered by North Korea. The state-run Jilin Daily published an article in December suggesting citizens “close their windows and doors during an emergency and immediately take a shower and wash out their mouths and ears after being exposed to radiation.” It mentioned potential regional tensions without blaming North Korea directly. While state media remained subtle about government fears regarding North Korea, communist academics made clear in December that they believed Kim Jong-un’s regime could not be trusted to keep China out of a major regional war. “North Korea is a time bomb,” remarked Professor Shi Yinhong. “We can only delay the explosion, hoping that by delaying it, a time will come to remove the detonator.” China, North Korea’s largest trade partner, almost single-handedly keeps Kim’s economy afloat. Through a tense year for Kim and President Trump, who has not shied away from challenging the autocrat, China stuck by North Korea, increasing trade to the fellow communist country. Beijing has abided by some United Nations sanctions, however, and forced businesses on North Korea’s border to limit their contact with the regime. According to Radio Free Asia, businesses along the border “are now being severely hurt as wider customs controls are established along the border, sources working in the area say.” Many of these businesses traffic in goods that are not obvious candidates for sanctions, such as cosmetics and paper. RFA suggests that those impacted on the ground have soured on North Korea’s government, as its belligerence has triggered the sanctions. Dictator Kim Jong-un has rejected all attempts by the global community to convince the country to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program and has continued testing ballistic missiles and suggesting that their ultimate destination will be the United States. On the other side of the border, RFA reported that Pyongyang is “stirring up anti-China sentiment among ordinary citizens through conferences and lecture sessions as the closed, authoritarian country’s economy bears the brunt of tough new economic sanctions supported by its longtime ally.” North Korea rarely confronts China on international platforms, but even this line was crossed in 2017, when the Korean Central News Agency accused China, without naming the country, of “dancing to the tune of the U.S.” by agreeing to abide by U.N. sanctions.

Definitely something to keep an eye on…

US OKs selling Japan missiles to shoot down North Korean missiles

The Trump administration has approved a $133.3 million missile defense sale to Japan to meet the escalating threat from North Korea — by shooting down the rogue nation’s own ballistic missiles. The State Department says Congress was notified Tuesday of the proposed sale of four missiles for the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. A State Department official told Fox News that, “Also included are four Mk 29 missile canisters, and other technical, engineering and logistics support services.” The department said the sale would support the U.S. defense industry and underscore Trump’s commitment to improve the defense of allies threatened by North Korea. The system was jointly developed by Japan and the U.S. The missiles could be used at sea with Japan’s current Aegis-equipped destroyers and with the land-based Aegis system its Cabinet approved for purchase last month. That’s intended to bolster Japan’s current missile defense and perhaps curry favor with President Donald Trump who is eager for U.S. allies to buy more American military hardware. “If concluded, this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States,” the State Department official told Fox News. “It will bolster the security of a major treaty ally that has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region. It will also improve (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s) interoperability with U.S. missile defense systems, and increase the protection for U.S. installations in the region.”

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.