National Security

President Trump Designates North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terror

President Donald Trump revealed his intentions to declare North Korea as a state sponsor of terror. “In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said. The president made his remarks to reporters as he met with his cabinet at the White House on Monday. “Should have happened a long time ago,” Trump said. “Should have happened years ago.” He referred to the death of American prisoner Otto Warmbier and “countless others” brutalized by the North Korean regime. Trump said the announcement was only part of his “maximum pressure campaign” to isolate the North Korean regime in response to their actions. In 2008, President George W. Bush took the regime off the list. Trump also previewed new sanctions that the Treasury Department were preparing to level against North Korea. “The North Korean regime must be lawful,” Trump said. “It must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development, and cease all support for international terrorism — which it is not doing.”

This is long overdue.  Pres. Bush should never have removed the DPRK from that list.  Kudos to Pres. Trump for putting that evil and dangerous regime back on the list.  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.

North Korea on verge of ‘catastrophe’ at nuclear site – China warns Kim to STOP tests

Scientists from Beijing believe the Punggye-ri nuclear facility is unstable and that just one more explosion could blow the top off of Mount Mantap, beneath which all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests thave been conducted. That could lead to the mountain collapsing, causing radioactive waste to escape and blow aross the border into China just 50 miles away. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geology and Geophysics warned Pyongyang delegates of the risk during a briefing in Beijing soon after North Korea’s last nuclear test on September 3, according ot the South China Morning Post. Tellingly, the meeting occured two days before North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters at the United Nations Assembly in New York Pyongyang was considering conducting a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. Zhai Mingguo, a senior Chinese geologist who organised the September 20 briefing, told the newspaper: “This is a big, sophisticated problem requiring multiple, systematic approaches. “Our meeting is only a part of the efforts.” The North Korea delegation was reportedly led by Lee Doh-sik, director of the Geological Research Institute at the State Academy of Sciences. Another Chinese professor said the scientist was “a top geologist” but was not involved in the country’s nuclear development program. Sources described the meeting as “friendly” but would not reveal further details of the discussions. Relations between North Korea and China, the rogue state’s only ally, have become strained amidst Kim Jong-un’s obsessive pursuit of nuclear weapons. Beijing has come under increasing pressure from the US to use its influence to try and de-escelate the fued between Washington and Pyongyang. China has said it will strictly enforce UN Security Council sanctions banning imports of North Korean coal, textiles and seafood, while cutting off oil shipments to the North.

And China isn’t doing nearly enough.  The fact that the U.S. now has 3 U.S. Navy aircraft Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) in the Pacific, something unheard of, should be a sufficient hint to China that the U.S. is tired of this dance.

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.

As North Korea threatens electromagnetic pulse attack, questions over lapses in US grid security rise

For more than 15 years, security and intelligence officials — including former CIA Director James Woolsey — have been raising the alarm bells about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. Only now as tensions with North Korea quickly escalate — with the rogue nation refusing to back down from its nuclear testing and threats of such an onslaught — is the matter really generating attention. But according to U.S. defense and security officials, while there are players purporting to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure given millions of American lives on the line, the reality is that no one really knows what will happen and what can be done. “We recognize that an EMP event would have extremely dire consequences for the entire country, but where the challenge comes is in attempting to quantify those impacts,” one high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official, who requested anonymity, told Fox News. “This is not something we have had a lot of real world experience with.” Earlier this month, state news agencies in the Kim Jong Un-dictated country explicitly cautioned that it could hit the U.S. with an EMP offensive. A hydrogen bomb detonated at a high altitude would create an EMP that potentially could abolish prominent parts of the electrical grid. The higher the bomb’s detonation, the wider the scope of destruction. And given that high-altitude nuclear tests were prohibited as per a 1963 treaty, from the U.S. side, there is little scientific data to understand the devastation of a detonation on modern infrastructure. But the potential fallout from such an event is monstrous. In 2001, Congress enacted the since-disbanded Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. with regards to an EMP event, with commissioners testifying that up to 90 percent of Americans could die within a year of such an attack. All the functions communities rely upon — hospitals, water, waste, transport, telecommunications, air control, medical care — could potentially be decimated for not days or weeks, but months or years. “Our ability to know what would happen in the aftermath is highly uncertain. That being said, we are doing several things to deepen our understanding. There is a lot of information sharing,” noted the official. “We are looking at mitigation strategies and developing planning tools. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is involved too as there have been exercises and workshops related to catastrophic planning and EMP events. But DHS does not have authority to compel power operators to do anything, we do not have regulatory authority over grid operators.” The U.S. electrical grid, which is deemed one of the most vital pieces of infrastructure in the country and serves more than 300 million, does not have one singular oversight body responsible for its safeguarding — hence authorities have cautioned that the magnitude of threat has fallen between the cracks. “The military doesn’t think it is their job to make the grid resilient, even though 99 percent of their missions in continental United States rely on the civilian grid. The utilities don’t think it is their job because it is a national security problem. Besides, they don’t want to come up with the money, face more regulatory burdens or fool with making over parts of the grid with uncertain technical consequences,” lamented Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy President…

Absolutely terrifying!  We need to pushing our federally elected officials to address this unacceptable vulnerability in our nation’s power grid.  Call or email your member of Congress and both U.S. Senators and ask them what they’re doing at the legislative level to address this.  To read the rest of this shocking article, click on the text above.