War on Terror

U.S. military ramps up counterterrorism operations in Africa amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended U.S. military operations around the world, stalled some training at home and troop movements abroad, and halted a host of exercises with key allies from Asia to Europe. But one major American military operation has forged ahead with seemingly little impact from COVID-19: counterterrorism operations in Somalia, which have hit record levels over the past two months. Pentagon officials are racing to keep pressure on the al-Shabab terrorist network and are not allowing a global outbreak to offer even a small reprieve for U.S. enemies. So far this year, American forces have conducted at least 39 airstrikes against terrorist targets in Somalia. That figure has the U.S. on pace to set a record again this year in its war against terrorists in Africa. Last year, the U.S. carried out 63 strikes against al-Shabab and Islamic State targets in Somalia, according to numbers provided by U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent. The pace of America’s air assault in Somalia is rising for a number of reasons, analysts say. Broadly speaking, the U.S. in recent months has slowly and gradually reduced its direct military engagements in other corners of the continent, including in the Sahel region where French forces are now taking the leading role in counterterrorism operations. The shift in the U.S. Africa strategy has left Somalia as the focal point and the most appealing theater to target extremists. Many of the recent airstrikes have targeted al-Shabab leadership, underscoring the Trump administration’s effort to weaken the group by taking out its most senior members. But the COVID-19 pandemic also is likely playing a role. Regional analysts say the outbreak has greatly restricted major ground combat operations against al-Shabab strongholds, leaving Somali government forces and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops unable to mount their own offensives. “There’s just not a lot of political will to conduct sustained ground operations, especially now,” said Seth Jones, director of the Transnational Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “With COVID-19 and with concerns among AMISOM countries, you don’t even have the ground option as a short-term option. They’re just not going to deploy right now. The strikes — that’s really all you’ve got right now.” Indeed, coronavirus concerns have temporarily restricted U.S. ground efforts on the continent as well. Over the past two months, AFRICOM has canceled or postponed several major military exercises, underscoring Pentagon leaders’ efforts to enforce social distancing and keep large gatherings of troops to a minimum whenever possible.

And that’s what’s driving such decisions.  They can do these air strikes all day long..  For more on this story, click on the text above.

US forces launch strikes targeting Iran-backed militias after deadly rocket attack, official says

The U.S. military launched multiple strikes using warplanes targeting multiple bases used by Iranian-backed Shia militias believed to be behind the rocket attack on Camp Taji, Iraq, the day before that killed two Americans and one British soldier, according to a senior U.S. military source. The launch began after 1 a.m. Baghdad time. The U.S. military strike was “proportional,” according to the U.S. military source, and hit multiple bases used by the Kata’eb Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that fired 30 Katyusha rockets yesterday at the Taji Base, which housed American and British troops. Of the 12 troops wounded yesterday, five are in serious condition. “The U.S. does not want to escalate the conflict with Iran,” the U.S. military source said. but wanted to send a deterrent message, according to a message telegraphed by the Defense Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during a briefing to Pentagon press earlier Thursday. President Trump authorized the strike earlier in the day. The Pentagon released a statement following the strikes, confirming that they were conducted in response to the rocket attacks on Wednesday. “Earlier this evening, the United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq,” the Defense Department said. “These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces. These weapons storage facilities include facilities that housed weapons used to target U.S. and coalition troops.” “These strikes were defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces,” the Pentagon added. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said: “The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies. As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.” U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace released a statement later Thursday expressing the country’s support of the U.S. and the strikes. “The coalition stands should to shoulder in Iraq,” he said. “Our forces work together to help the country resist the malign activity of terrorists. When we and others are attacked, we reserve the right to defend ourselves.” “We support the right of the United States to defend themselves, as they have done tonight,” he added. “We reiterate that those who seek to harm our armed forces can expect to receive a strong response.” The U.S. has two aircraft carriers in the region: USS Harry S Truman in the Arabian Sea and USS Dwight D Eisenhower in the Red Sea. But these strikes did not involve Tomahawk cruise missiles, Fox News is told, just multiple aircraft, but it is not clear what jets were used and from which bases they launched. The U.S. Air Force keeps dozens of fighter jets in Qatar and the UAE and B1 bombers in Saudi Arabia.

We still don’t know the names of the two U.S. service members who were killed.  But, the Brit was a young female enlisted soldier.  Hopefully we got those responsible in this air strike.

Child suicide bomber kills at least 9, wounds more than a dozen at Afghanistan wedding

As U.S. officials continue in Qatar to negotiate a peace agreement with the Taliban that would bring an end to the stalemate 18-year conflict – miles away in Afghanistan itself – bombings and bloodshed still define daily life. On Friday, at least nine people died and more than a dozen injured – according to the BBC – when a child was made to detonate a suicide bomb at a wedding celebration in the eastern province of Nangarhar near the Pakistan border. The child, provincial spokesperson Attaullah Khugyani stated, was used to specifically attack a militia aligned with the government. Pro-government groups routinely operate in conjunction with traditional Afghan forces to beef up measures and ensure that fragile territories do not fall into Taliban and ISIS control. While no outfit has yet claimed responsibility for Friday’s deadly onslaught, Taliban officials have denied involvement. The Islamic State branch, known as ISIS-Khorasan, also has clout in the area and routinely carries out fatal attacks. The bombing comes on the heels of a string of targeted explosions striking fear in feeble communities and claiming lives across the ravished nation. On Sunday, the Taliban executed a devastating suicide car bombing in the central Afghanistan province of Ghazni, claiming the lives of 12 people and wounding more than 150 others. Less than a week earlier, the Taliban rocked downtown Kabul, killing at least one person and wounding more than a hundred – at least 26 children were among the hurt, sliced by shards of glass when the bomb fragmented nearby windows.

As I used to say when I was in Afghanistan, myself..several years ago..   Another KaBOOM day in Kabul..    The Taliban, ISIS, and the rest of these Islamo-wakos don’t value life like we do here in America.  They would send out a child as a sacrificial suicide bomber..  Awful..

Thousands of Islamic State Militants Surrender as Group Nears Total Defeat

Thousands of Islamic State militants have surrendered to the U.S.-Syrian Democratic Forces as the caliphate nears complete defeat, according to the group’s spokesman. “Number of Daesh (ISIS) members surrendered to us since yesterday evening has risen to 3,000,’ Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted in English on Tuesday evening. “[Three] Yazidi women and [four] children were rescued, too.” Bali added that the “decisive moment is closer than ever before,” following heavy fighting in the Syrian town of Baghouz, the final stretch of territory in Syria and Iraq still held by the Islamic State. However, the group has not provided a timeline for when the group will be completely defeated. The operation to completely expel the caliphate from the Euphrates Valley has taken far longer than expected, having begun nearly six months ago. On January 25th, the SDF’s commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani declared that the caliphate would be fully defeated within a month, a target the forces have not achieved. Meanwhile, U.S.-led coalition has previously explained that Baghouz had been “more crowded with both civilians and fighters than expected,” requiring troops to evacuate around 40,000 civilians from the area. “The overflow during the lull in battle has been difficult for the SDF and they have responded to everything well,” said coalition spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan last month.

 

U.S. kills 62 al-Shabab militants with massive air assault in Somalia

The U.S. military over the weekend unleashed an intense air assault targeting al-Shabab militants in Somalia, killing at least 62 in a series of strikes aimed at denying the terrorist group a safe haven from which to launch attacks. The strikes in the Gandarshe region of Somalia — which mark the latest step in a growing U.S.-led military campaign targeting the terrorist group in Africa — were conducted in coordination with the Somali government, U.S. Africa Command said in a statement early Monday. At least 34 militants were killed on Saturday and another 28 on Sunday, Pentagon officials said. The military said no civilians were killed or injured in any of the six bombings. “All six airstrikes … targeted a known al-Shabab encampment,” U.S. Africa Command said in the statement. “U.S. Africa Command and our Somali partners conducted these airstrikes to prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks.” “We are committed to preventing al-Shabab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia,” the U.S. military said. “In particular, the group uses portions of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists.” The U.S. in recent months has ramped up its air campaign against the terrorist group, which is affiliated with al Qaeda. There are estimated to be as many as 9,000 al-Shabab fighters across Somalia. In addition to the continuing airstrikes, there have also been clashes between al-Shabab fighters and U.S. forces on the ground in Somalia. Last June, an American soldier was killed and another four wounded in a firefight with militants in southwestern Somalia.

Score one for the good guys!  🙂

Leader of ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan killed in US drone strike, officials say

The leader of an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, who was responsible for a spate of recent bombings that left hundreds of civilians dead, was killed in an American drone strike, U.S. officials told Fox News on Sunday. The deputy spokesperson for Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani announced the death of ISIS-K leader, Abu Sayeed Orakzai, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell said. “I would also add that the United States unrelentingly continues its counterterrorism efforts against ISIS-K, Al-Qaeda, and other regional and international terrorist groups,” O’Donnell said in a statement. The airstrikes were launched in the Nangarhar province, near the border with Pakistan, according to Agence France-Presse. Ten other ISIS fighters were also killed. Orakzai is at least the 3rd ISIS-K leader in Afghanistan killed in the past 2 years. The Islamic State has lost around 90 percent of the lands bordering Iraq and Syria since declaring a caliphate in June 2014. The killing of Orakzai comes just takes after an audio recording of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi apparently resurfaced, in which he congratulated his followers on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday, and referenced Turkey’s recent quarrel with the U.S. over its detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. He purportedly said “America is going through the worse time in its entire existence,” and said Russia was competing with the U.S. over regional influence and clout. Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts has eluded captors since the rise of the Islamic State. His only public appearance was in 2014 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. His last know audio recording was released on Sept. 28, 2017, and there have been several reports of his death or injury. Next weekend, a new U.S. military commander will be taking over in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, the former head of Joint Special Operations Command which oversees the elite commando units Delta Force, SEAL Team 6 and the 75th Ranger Regiment. The U.S. military has doubled its air strikes in Afghanistan over the past year and increased them fivefold over 2016 levels.

Another Islamic wako killed.  Score another one for the good guys!  Excellent!!       🙂

Top U.S. Gen. Warns: Islamic State in Afghanistan ‘Harboring Intentions’ to Attack West

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in Afghanistan has become a significant menace against the West despite the fall of the group’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria, a top American commander warned this week. In June, Brig. Gen. Lance R. Bunch, the top U.S. air commander in Afghanistan, noted that the ISIS wing has attempted to “establish” its own “caliphate” twice this year alone in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar along the Pakistan border, considered the group’s primary stronghold in the region. U.S.-NATO-assisted Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have so far managed to thwart the ISIS attempt to establish a caliphate in Afghanistan, Gen. Bunch declared. Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), charged with overseeing the war in Afghanistan, warned Pentagon reporters on Wednesday the American military is “concerned” ISIS in Afghanistan intends to attack the West. “I think we always have to be concerned about ISIS, whether it’s ISIS-K or whether it’s any of the other branches of it, harboring intentions to operate, you know, much more globally or externally from the areas in which they’re operating. And so, you know, we do have that concern about them,” Votel said. The ISIS branch in South Asia, which primarily operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is known as the Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). Asked whether the U.S. military is aware any links between ISIS-K and outside groups that would potentially carry out attacks in Europe or against the United States, Gen. Votel responded: “I think in general ISIS does have that intention.” When pressed to describe any actual plots by ISIS-K on the West, the top commander added, “I think there probably has been, but I can’t cite a specific example to you.” Back in October 2016, the U.S. military acknowledged that ISIS was “very focused on trying to establish their caliphate, the Khorasan caliphate, inside Afghanistan.” ISIS officially announced its presence in Afghanistan in early 2015, less than a year after the United States declared its combat mission over at the end of 2014. The U.S. has been assisting the Afghan forces in their fight against ISIS in their stronghold of Nangarhar. “We have killed numerous ISIS-K fighters this year,” Gen. Votel told reporters Wednesday. “The military campaign against ISIS has been both continuous and effective.” The general stressed that U.S. efforts towards “reconciliation” between Kabul and the Taliban, the primary goal of American President Donald Trump’s strategy to end to the nearly 17-year-old war, are separate from the fight to annihilate ISIS. “It is important to recognize that while we apply military pressure against the Taliban to bring them to the table of reconciliation, we harbor no illusion about reconciliation with ISIS-K; our mission is to destroy this organization,” he declared. Citing U.S. officials and the latest American intelligence estimates, Voice of America (VOA) reported this week that efforts to root out and decimate ISIS-K have “so far failed to prevent the terror group from maintaining a foothold in the country.” “IS-Khorasan is thought to have more than 1,000 fighters, most of them located in Afghanistan’s southern Nangarhar province, with a small number operating in the country’s eastern Kunar province,” VOA added. The ISIS branch reportedly reached a peak of 3,000 fighters in Afghanistan. According to a report from the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), ISIS-K was behind more than 50 percent of civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country through the first half of 2018. The University of Maryland’s renowned National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) listed ISIS-K among the 10 top prolifically deadliest terrorist group’s in the world last year, separate from core Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Last year, ISIS-K carried out 197 attacks, killing 1,302 people, the study revealed.

So, we’re VERY glad to hear GEN Votel say that his mission is “to destroy this organization.”  Outstanding!!  Having spent some time in Afghanistan myself, I’m thrilled to hear that we’re going on the offense again there.  Excellent!!     🙂