1. U.S. Army’s New Cyber Complex at Fort Gordon, Georgia Gets Its First Commander

    August 1, 2014

    The U.S. Army announced today that Major General Stephen G. Fogarty, currently the commander of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, has been designated as the new commanding general of the U.S. Army’s newly established Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Georgia. General Fogarty’s career resume in military intelligence can be read here,

    2 hours ago  /  1 note

  2. Hezbollah Returns to Iraq

    August 1, 2014

    Echoes of Syria: Hezbollah reemerges in Iraq

    Alexander Orleans

    Institute for the Study of War

    August 1, 2014

    Visibility on Lebanese Hezbollah’s current response to the crisis in Iraq has markedly increased, with reliable sources describing that military advisors are being deployed from Lebanon to assist Iraqi Shi’a militia forces. Nicholas Blanford, for example, has reported that sources close to Hezbollah have revealed that a 250-member advisory unit is being deployed to Iraq. The unit’s primary mission is to advise, train, and coordinate Iraqi Shi’a militias operating under the guidance of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The sources furthermore indicated that the advisory unit is also already engaged in conducting intelligence and reconnaissance operations against ISIS forces. This advisory mission echoes Hezbollah’s early primary role in Syria as advisers and trainers of pro-regime forces. 

    Operating in Iraq is nothing new to Hezbollah. In approximately 2005, Iran requested that Hezbollah stand up a group to support the training and operations of the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups in Iraq. The resulting organization was Hezbollah’s Unit 3800 (earlier known as Unit 2800), designed to supplant ongoing advisory efforts to Iraqi Shi’a militias being undertaken by Department 9000 of the IRGC-Qods Force’s (IRGC-QF) Ramazan Corps. Unit 3800 drew on expertise from Hezbollah’s Unit 1800, which provides support to Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas, as well as Hezbollah’s own special operations community.

    According to a 2010 Defense Intelligence Agency report, Department 9000 and Unit 3800 were providing “the training, tactics, and technology to conduct kidnappings, small unit tactical operations, and employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs).” From 2003 to 2005, Hezbollah’s primary engagement was with the Mahdi Army; after the Special Groups emerged in 2006, they became the primary recipients of Unit 3800’s attention. In 2007, with rising tensions between local Iraqi Shi’a and Iranian trainers alongside marked Coalition pressure on IRGC activities in-country, Unit 3800 more and more became the Arab intermediary for Iranian support to Iraqi Shia militias. By 2008, it was reported that Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was spending “several hours” a day on matters related to Iraq.

    As described by Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, Unit 3800 conducted training missions in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran - while also supporting actual militia operations. Unit 3800 trainer and Hezbollah liaison to IRGC Ali Musa Daqduq, who was in custody from 2007 to 2012 before being released by Iraqi authorities, was tied to the January 20, 2007 attack on the Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, which resulted in the abduction and murder of four American soldiers. That attack was carried out by Qais al-Khazali’s Iranian-sponsored Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and later linked to Abdul Reza Shahlai, the Deputy Commander of IRGC-QF Special External Operations Unit. Evidence also exists that Hezbollah may have been conducting its own operations in Iraq as well. When conducting operations outside of Lebanon, Hezbollah has traditionally relied on its feared External Security Organization (ESO), which is responsible for both terror operations abroad and contributes to some intelligence and special operations. If Hezbollah was operating in Iraq beyond providing training, it is likely that ESO members were taking part. 

    Since the departure of Coalition forces from Iraq, Unit 3800 commander Khalil Harb has been spotted in Yemen in 2012 and then-U.S. Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan described Hezbollah as “training militants in Yemen.” Unit 3800’s presence was likely in support of ongoing Iranian assistance to Houthi rebels there. The training requirements of Houthi groups are more conventional than the special operations-oriented training provided to the Special Groups. Thus, between missions in Yemen and the ongoing training of Iraqi Shi’a militias for action in Syria, Unit 3800 has likely developed a more sophisticated and multifaceted training capacity by drawing on both Hezbollah’s more conventional infantry experts and special operators, such as those from the ESO. 

    Elite trainers from Hezbollah, such as those fielded by Unit 3800, have also played a major role in Iran’s assistance to the Syrian regime. While Hezbollah’s support to the Assad regime is clearly multifaceted, trainers in particular have played a major role in contributing to force integration between pro-Assad militias, Iraqi Shi’a militants in Syria, and the Syrian military. Hezbollah’s combat operations in Syria have also produced a new generation of experienced fighters on which it can draw. Hezbollah, alongside Iraqi Shi’a militias that have deployed to Syria, are components of an “Axis of Resistance” that have shown the ability to operate together in multiple theaters. It is telling that Muhammad Kawtharani, who as of 2013 was Hezbollah’s manager of all Iraqi operations, has assisted in coordinating the movement of Hezbollah fighters to support pro-regime forces in Syria. It would be unsurprising for Kawtharani to be involved in Hezbollah’s renewed deployment to Iraq.


     

    Read the rest of this update.

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  3. Israeli Tanks Penetrate Deeper Into Gaza; 62 Gazans Killed, 1 Israeli Soldier Captured by Hamas

    August 1, 2014

    62 Killed in Gaza; Israeli Soldier Feared Captured

    Associated Press

    August 1, 2014

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces, backed by heavy tank fire and airstrikes, moved deeper into southern Gaza late Friday in search of a soldier apparently captured in a clash with Hamas militants earlier in the day. At least 62 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fierce fighting that quickly shattered an internationally brokered cease-fire.

    The truce collapsed less than two hours after it began. The Israeli Cabinet held a rare session after the start of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evening to weigh options, including whether to expand the 25-day-old operation against Hamas.

    In Gaza’s southern Rafah area, the military urged residents in phone calls to stay indoors as troops advanced.

    "We are under fire. Every minute or so, tanks fire shells," said Ayman al-Arja, 45, a resident of the area.

    Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon blamed Hamas for violating what was meant to be a three-day humanitarian cease-fire and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the missing soldier.

    Both Israel and Hamas accused each other of breaking the cease-fire, which had been announced by the U.S. and the U.N. and took effect at 8:00 a.m. Friday.

    The breakdown of the truce and the apparent capture of the Israeli soldier set the stage for a major escalation. The conflict has already devastated large swaths of the coastal area and killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian officials. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians.

    An hour after Friday’s cease-fire started, gunmen emerged from one or more Gaza tunnels and opened fire at Israeli soldier, with at least one of the militants detonating an explosives vest, said Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

    Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old 2nd Lt. from the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken back into Gaza through a tunnel, while another two soldiers were killed.

    "We suspect that he has been kidnapped," Lerner said.

    The White House condemned the incident, describing it as an “absolutely outrageous” action by Hamas. Deputy National Security Adviser Josh Earnest said the soldier must be released immediately.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation that Palestinian militants had “unilaterally and grossly” violated the ceasefire and attacked Israeli soldiers after 9 a.m.

    "Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens," Netanyahu told Kerry, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

    Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, said Hamas had “yet again thrown away a chance for a humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, by deliberately violating this ceasefire.”

    Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ deputy leader, told Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement’s military wing carried no military operations after 8 a.m., when the truce came into force.

    If confirmed, Goldin’s capture could dramatically change the trajectory of the conflict. Any cease-fire efforts would likely be put on hold and Israel might instead expand its ground operation. Israel has in the past gone to great lengths to return captured soldiers. In 2011, it traded hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier who had been captured by Hamas-allied militants in 2006.

    A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, would neither confirm nor deny the capture, saying it was being used — along with news that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the Rafah area — as a cover for a “massacre.”

    The Israeli military said the heavy shelling in Rafah that followed was part of operational and intelligence activity designed to locate Goldin.

    A longtime friend of Goldin’s said he is engaged to get married and that he studied at a religious Jewish seminary in the West Bank settlement of Eli. Goldin has a twin brother who is also in the military on the Gaza front-lines, said the friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have the family’s permission to discuss Goldin’s personal details with the media.

    The soldier’s father, Simha Goldin, is a Tel Aviv University professor specializing in Ashkenazi Jewry, the friend said.

    "We want to support the military in the fighting against Hamas in Gaza. We are sure the military will not stop before it turns over every stone in Gaza and returns Hadar home safe and sound," the father said in a brief statement to media outside his home.

    The shelling in Rafah sent families fleeing from apartment blocks as pillars of smoke caused by the shelling rose from them. One woman carrying two children rushed toward a parked car. “Quickly, open the car door!” she yelled to a man standing nearby.

    Ambulances ferried the wounded to Rafah’s al-Najar hospital, where bloodied bodies on stretchers were carried inside and family members frantically searched for loved ones. Many of the wounded were children, their clothes stained with blood. In one hospital room, four children were treated on a single bed. Others were being examined on the floor.

    The shelling killed at least 62 Palestinians and wounded at least 400 in Rafah, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Rescue workers were searching for people buried under the rubble, he added. He did not say whether those killed were civilians or militants.

    On July 8, Israel launched an aerial campaign against Gaza aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and later sent in ground troops to target launch sites and tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel.

    Four brief humanitarian cease-fires had been announced since the conflict began, but each broke within a few hours. The military said Gaza militants had fired at least 23 rockets and mortars at Israel since the start of Friday’s cease-fire, one of which was intercepted.

    The latest cease-fire had been intended to be the first step toward a lasting truce, with Egypt inviting Israeli and Palestinian delegations to Cairo for talks.

    Despite the collapse of the latest truce, an Egyptian government official said Cairo had not canceled its invitation for Palestinians and Israelis to hold talks there. “Invitations were delivered already to the delegations,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

    After the cease-fire started, Gaza’s residents took advantage of the lull to return to their homes, many of which had been destroyed in the fighting.

    In the heavily bombarded Gaza district of Shijaiyah, less than 1.6 kilometers (a mile) from the Israeli border, residents surveyed the damage.

    Bassem Abul Qumbus found his three-story home — in which he had invested tens of thousands of dollars — shattered. Shells had punched a hole in the ceiling of one bedroom and a wall had collapsed into the kitchen.

    "The work of all those years is gone," he said, as he struggled to salvage flour from bags that had been torn apart by shrapnel.

    In the southern town of Khan Younis, residents searched for bodies in the rubble of their homes as rescuers and volunteers carried away corpses, some charred, on makeshift stretchers.

    Nidal Abu Rjeila found the body of his disabled sister on the ground on the side of the road, her wheelchair flipped upside down. He said her body had been there for five days.

    "I tried to reach human rights groups and the Red Cross, but no one was answering me," he said as he lay down by his sister’s body, overcome by grief.

    Israel says it has tried to spare civilians, including by warning people ahead of military strikes, and has said Hamas endangers Gazans by firing rockets from residential areas.

    Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since the start of the conflict, extending their reach to major cities but causing very few casualties, in part because Israel’s Iron Dome defense system has intercepted many of the projectiles.

    Hamas has vowed to keep fighting until Israel and Egypt lift a blockade of Gaza imposed after the Islamic militant group seized power there in 2007, which has devastated the local economy.

    Gaza’s police operations room said that by Friday afternoon, Israeli ground forces had moved deeper into the Rafah area from the east. There were also airstrikes along the nearby Egypt-Gaza border, as well as heavy shelling.

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  4. Palestinian Fighters in Gaza Strip Demonstrating Increased Battlefield Sophistication

    August 1, 2014

    Palestinian militants inflict substantial casualties on Israeli forces in Gaza

    IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Centre

    August 1, 2014

    Palestinian militants have killed at least 53 Israeli soldiers since the launch of Israel’s latest offensive targeting the Gaza Strip. Mohammed Najib reports from the West Bank on the tactical and operational advances made by militants that have led to this relatively substantial death toll.

    A total of 10 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers were killed in heavy fighting in and around the Gaza Strip on 28 July. Five soldiers were killed when unidentified Palestinian militants used a tunnel to infiltrate into Israel from Gaza and attacked the IDF unit near the Nahal Oz settlement in Israel’s Southern district. Separately, four soldiers were killed when a mortar, launched from Gaza, landed in the Eshkolot area of Southern district, while another soldier was killed when his armoured bulldozer was struck by an anti-tank missile, fired by Palestinian militants, in the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

    The 10 fatalities on 28 July brought the total number of IDF fatalities to 53 following the launch of a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip on 17 July as part of Operation Protective Edge, which began with a concerted series of air, naval, and artillery strikes from 8 July onwards and has since killed more than 1,100 Palestinians. In clashes across Gaza since the launch of the ground offensive, Palestinian militants - and Hamas in particular - have utilised relatively sophisticated tactics and weaponry to embroil the IDF in heavy close-quarters fighting and have inflicted substantial casualties.

    A key element of Hamas’s performance in this regard appears to be its emulation of the tactics of Lebanese Islamist group Hizbullah. A senior official in Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, speaking to IHS Jane’s on condition of anonymity on 22 July, stated, “We have benefited from all the Iranian, Syrian, [and] Hizbullah tactical combat schools, and finally formulated [a] Qassam independent one that matches our situation and [leaves us] capable to respond to our enemy’s challenge.”

    Indeed, the day before, on 21 July, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah telephoned the head of Hamas’s Political Bureau, Khaled Mashal, and the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, offering Hizbullah’s support and expressing his admiration of the two groups’ performance and tactics during the ongoing conflict.

    Hamas’s tactics and high morale have also attracted recognition from Fatah and Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) officials in Ramallah, in the West Bank, who fought the IDF in southern Lebanon in 1982. A major-general in the Palestinian Authority (PA) security apparatus told IHS Jane’s on condition of anonymity on 21 July, “The casualties that the [Izz al-Din al-] Qassam fighters caused since the eruption of this operation… are more than what we caused in all [the] PLO wars in southern Lebanon.”

    Going underground

    Hamas’s continued launching of rockets into Israel during the initial air strike phase of Operation Protective Edge, in addition to infiltration attempts into Israel itself, seemed designed to try and provoke the IDF into a ground incursion, a situation the group had seemingly been preparing itself for. Reports in Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel on 25 July claimed that Hamas had invested “millions of dollars” in digging a significant network of large and wide tunnels beneath Gaza City - referred to as “Gaza Underground” - as well as inside Israeli territories around Gaza that have played a key role during the ongoing clashes.

    Not only has the tunnel network provided refuge from Israeli air strikes, allowing Hamas’s command and control network to remain intact and operational, but it also allows a certain freedom of movement for Hamas fighters. This enables them to infiltrate positions - in Gaza and on the border with Israel, as well as into Israeli territory itself - to launch surprise attacks targeting the IDF.

    In so doing, Hamas appears to be attempting to create the spectre of a continual potential threat to IDF ground units in Gaza, thereby undermining IDF morale. Hamas is also keenly aware of the impact of inflicting casualties on the IDF - not just in the Palestinian Territories and Israel, but in the wider Middle East region - and so it and the PIJ are striving to combine tactics and their geographical knowledge and advantage to inflict maximum casualties on the IDF.

    A highly notable and successful example of this occurred on 19 July, when Izz al-Din al-Qassam militants lured a force from the IDF’s Golani Brigade into a minefield in the Shujaiya area of Gaza, before then attacking the unit’s Merkava Mk 4 main battle tanks (MBTs) and M113 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) with anti-tank missiles. Six IDF soldiers were killed in the attack, while a seventh soldier - Sergeant Oron Shaul - went missing. While Hamas subsequently claimed that Shaul was alive and had been captured by its fighters, Israel stated that the soldier was likely to be dead. A further six Golani Brigade soldiers were killed in separate clashes in Shujaiya on the same day, and the unit’s commander, Colonel Rasan Aliyan, was also wounded, underlining the intensity of the fighting.

    The significance of the IDF death toll of 53 soldiers becomes greater when compared with the last major IDF air and ground offensive in Gaza - the three-week Operation Cast Lead from December 2008 to January 2009 - in which 10 IDF soldiers were killed, four of whom died in friendly fire incidents. Meanwhile, the IDF has claimed to have killed more than 200 Hamas and PIJ militants, although as expected, both groups have claimed to have suffered far fewer casualties.

    Tactical emulation

    The greater IDF death toll in Operation Protective Edge to date is in no small measure attributable to the refined tactics utilised by Hamas. Indeed, a senior IDF commander told IHS Jane’s on 22 July, “The IDF has expected Hamas fighters’ surprises, but they have succeeded in showing distinguished capabilities and fighting tactics.”

    Unsurprisingly, Hamas’s military performance has led to comparisons with Hizbullah, and in particular the latter’s tactics and operational methods during the 2006 war with Israel. A senior PA military officer, speaking to IHS Jane’s on condition of anonymity on 24 July, stated, “It’s very clear that Hamas has adopted Hizbullah fighting tactics in tunnels digging and fighting in urban areas.”

    Hamas has further replicated other aspects of Hizbullah’s operational methods, such as the attempted use of naval commandos to infiltrate Israel by sea, the launching of two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into Israel - which were shot down with Patriot missiles on 14 and 17 July - and the use of mobile or concealed rocket launch sites. Hamas has also shown that its rocket capabilities are approaching those of Hizbullah, with rockets reaching almost 120 kilometres from Gaza. Furthermore, the targeting of Tel Aviv airport with rockets - with a rocket landing one mile from the airport’s runway on 22 July, leading the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to temporarily ban flights to Israel - underlines Hamas’s ability to inflict economic damage on Israel.

    Another tangential explanation for the high rate of IDF casualties during Operation Protective Edge is the fact that the armed wings of Hamas and the PIJ have co-operated and co-ordinated strongly, rather than competing, during the fighting on the ground, enhancing both groups’ already substantial capabilities.

    Outlook

    With a political resolution to the conflict seemingly distant as of 28 July, heavy fighting is highly likely to continue in the short term, especially as Hamas and Israel maintain diametrically opposing views on the basis of any ceasefire agreement. Hamas’s objectives will be to inflict maximum damage and casualties on Israel - both against military forces operating inside Gaza and through rocket attacks on Israeli territory - to exact political concessions in return for any ceasefire agreement, and to maintain its offensive and operational capabilities.

    The extent to which the group will be successful in this regard remains to be seen, but the course of the fighting to date has seemingly done much to raise the group’s morale and prestige - both domestically and regionally - at a time when it was suffering as a consequence of the election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt and his government’s subsequent isolation of Gaza.

    The impact the IDF offensive in Gaza has on Palestinians in the West Bank will also be significant. Hamas is likely to be attempting to use the clashes to inspire and catalyse a third intifada (uprising) in the West Bank in order to stretch the IDF and occupy its forces across two fronts. The IDF has moved its key operational elite brigades, such as the Golani Brigade, into Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge, with reservists deployed to the West Bank. A significant upsurge in violent protests, even if it does not develop into an intifada, would create a substantial security issue for the Israeli government and could lead to violent unrest among the Palestinian population in Israel itself.

    A senior PA intelligence officer in Ramallah, speaking to IHS Jane’s on 27 July on condition of anonymity, claimed that it is only a matter of time before there is an upsurge in violent activity in the West Bank. The officer stated that as the conflict in Gaza continues, and Palestinians in the West Bank become cognisant of the scale and severity of casualties and damage caused by the IDF offensive, there will be no credible choice but the eruption of violent unrest against IDF targets in the West Bank.

    8 hours ago  /  1 note

  5. Russian Army Reportedly Deploying Iskander-K Cruise Missiles That U.S. Believes Violate 1987 INF Treaty

    August 1, 2014

    Russia May be Deploying Missile Tied to Treaty Violation

    Diane Barnes

    Global Security Newswire

    July 31, 2014

    A U.S. analyst says Russia may be putting a new type of missile into launch-ready position, despite its link to an intensifying nuclear feud with Washington.

    The country’s defense ministry last week published a photograph that appears to show soldiers handling an Iskander-K cruise missile canister at a base near Luga, about 75 miles from Estonia, nuclear-arms expert Hans Kristensen said in a Wednesday assessment. The Russian image went public just days before the United States formally accused Moscow of breaking a Cold War arms-control treaty by test-firing a ground-launched cruise missile with comparable capabilities.

    The U.S. State Department has not publicly named which missile it believes Russia launched in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and Moscow has denied committing any breach of the pact.

    "News media reports and other information indicate that the violation possibly concerns the Iskander-K," wrote Kristensen, who heads the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Russia already has deployed a shorter-range, ballistic-missile variant of the weapon, called the Iskander-M.

    Asked recently whether Russia is now also fielding the Iskander-K, one senior government official “did not want to say,” Kristensen wrote. The FAS analyst added, though, that Moscow’s top defense official last year said the military had begun deploying Iskander weapons in complete packages, rather than in “piecemeal” form.

    The vague comment by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “could indicate that the Iskander units are being equipped with both the Iskander-M ballistic missile and Islander-K cruise missile, and that Luga is the first western missile brigade to receive them,” he wrote.

    In his analysis, Kristensen joined other arms-control advocates who cautioned Washington against pulling out of the missile regime in response to the possible violation.

    8 hours ago  /  0 notes

  6. Serious Logistics and Training Deficiencies Hurting the Combat Capability of the Afghan Army

    August 1, 2014

    Afghan military units continue to struggle with key logistics efforts

    Daniel Wasserbly

    IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

    July 31, 2014

    The Afghan National Army (ANA) and contractor Textron are struggling to maintain M1117 Armoured Security Vehicles for the army’s Mobile Strike Force (MSF), highlighting deeper logistics and training issues that officials have long warned could plague the nascent force.

    A 29 July report from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that although the ANA and Textron have worked to field an effective MSF, it has been difficult to sustain because training is scarce and crew members are not easily replaced, and spare parts have not been available owing to security and funding issues.

    "Although the ANA has received the majority of its MSFVs [Mobile Strike Force Vehicles], the ANA’s ability to independently operate and maintain them has been affected by training and spare parts problems," the report said.

    US Army Contracting Command-Warren (ACC-WRN) let two contracts to US-based Textron totalling USD661.3 million for 634 MSFVs, which are based on the M1117, in part to establish the MSF as an emergency response force. The MSF has its 1st Brigade (four kandaks) based in Kabul and its 2nd Brigade based in Kandahar (three kandaks). A kandak is roughly equivalent to a battalion.

    The report stated that Textron “performed well under its contract” to produce and deliver the ANA’s vehicles and provide initial training, but “through no fault of its own” the company has been unable to provide adequate field training and maintenance.

    Too few personnel from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are available to provide security for Textron representatives to conduct the necessary training and maintenance, SIGAR said. Moreover, limited funding prevented ACC-WRN from ordering a full complement of spares.

    For its part, ACC-WRN agreed with SIGAR’s recommendation that contractor support at the MSF brigades should be reviewed, and the command said it would work with the US Army’s combat support programme office to adjust Textron’s contract as necessary. ACC-WRN also said it would “assign additional Contracting Officer’s Representatives or Government Technical Monitors to oversee Textron’s work at the kandaks and brigades” by 31 December.

    SIGAR also recommended assigning government personnel to oversee work at brigade and kandak level. The NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A), however, noted in a response to SIGAR that a US Department of Defense (DoD) position at the kandak level to oversee logistics support is not justified because there are too few - between three to five - field service representatives.

    NTM-A also said that once the MSF programme completes its vehicle preparation, officials will “have more time to visit forward FSR [field service representative] unit locations on a regular basis”.

    Regarding a SIGAR proposal for a new post-Armour Branch School (ABS) to help with education, NTM-A said the MSF programme is developing post-school operator training “in order to provide new recruits with NSF specific training prior to joining their units” and that a ‘quality assurance cell’ will be created to assess the units.

    COMMENT

    SIGAR’s report underscores the difficulty that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are likely to have in maintaining their equipment once US and NATO forces have largely withdrawn from the country.

    The coalition has turned over the lead for ‘combat operations’ to the ANSF and now provides the force with advising and ‘enablers’ such as intelligence, airlift, close air support, and the sort of logistics and administrative tasks that are necessary to maintain a functioning military.

    It does not bode well that, even with around 30,000 US troops (almost 50,000 NATO troops in total) still in Afghanistan, the ANSF are struggling to maintain vehicles and crew.

    US and NATO forces are increasingly handing over control of military operations in Afghanistan to the local government, as Washington plans to have just 9,800 troops deployed there by the beginning of 2015, with the troop presence then dropping to a regular embassy and office sized staff by the end of 2016.

    Officials have warned that the ANSF would still require significant support after US and NATO forces are mostly out of the country.

    Peter Lavoy, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told reporters last year that although the ANSF has been able to lead security operations and fight proficiently, it would require help with tasks such as logistics, ensuring soldiers get paid and fed, and awarding contracts for necessities such as fuel.

    Similarly, Lieutenant General Mark Milley, head of ISAF Joint Force Command, said at that time that the ANSF would need help with “logistics supply at the institutional level” such as ordering and distributing spare parts, as well as with personnel management systems and leader development.

    While logistics support to the MSF may be especially difficult because those units deploy to other provinces, such as Zabul and Helmand, the trouble experienced with new ground vehicles is likely to raise questions regarding the sale or transfer of other, more advanced equipment.

    In a separate report SIGAR recommended delaying and perhaps cancelling the delivery of two more Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). The AAF has two refurbished C-130s that SIGAR reported earlier this month were experiencing “support problems associated with training, spare parts, and maintenance”.

    The AAF also has in service Mi-17 ‘Hip’ multirole helicopters, Mi-35 ‘Hind’ heavy attack helicopters, Cessna C-208 Caravan utility turboprop aircraft, and several smaller platforms. Afghan pilots have, according to the DoD, demonstrated the ability to fly a variety of missions, but the force struggles to keep even these simpler aircraft operating regularly.

    "Although the AAF effectively employs Mi-17s, increased operational tempo during the summer reduced Mi-17 helicopter mission availability due to required maintenance and inspections," the Pentagon said in a report about 2013 ANSF operations.

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  7. New 3D Satellite Imagery Panoramas of North Korea’s Missile and Space Launch Center at Sohae

    August 1, 2014

    Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) 3D Panoramas

    38north.org

    July 31, 2014

    Sohae Panorama, July 2014 Update38 North announces the release of the updated 3D panorama of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (also referred to as Tongchang-ri). This panorama offers a reconstruction of the launch pad at Sohae, with additional details based on satellite imagery and photos of the facility. It allows the user to view the the full look of the tower, from several angles and levels.

    Future releases will reconstruct other facilities in the area, including the vehicle processing building, satellite control command center and fuel storage buildings.

    Developed by Nathan J. Hunt, this updated panorama is exclusive to 38 North. Panorama © 2014 Nathan J. Hunt/38 North

    Explore this new interactive panorama of the launch pad at Sohae here.

    8 hours ago  /  0 notes

  8. CIA Director John Brennan’s Integrity Is Now Being Questioned

    August 1, 2014

    'Nothing Could Be Further From the Truth'

    Shane Harris and Elias Grol

    Foreign Policy

    July 31, 2014

    John Brennan’s week has gone from bad to worse. The CIA director was already bracing for the imminent release of a 600-page Senate report that, as the world already knows, accuses the CIA of torturing suspected terrorists and misleading Congress about it. Then Brennan was forced to apologize for CIA employees who spied on the very Senate staff investigating his agency — an allegation he emphatically denied for months — following a scathing report by the agency’s own inspector general.

    Brennan’s credibility is now at a moment of supreme crisis. At stake is his reputation not only with his congressional overseers, but with a public that is about to read, in vivid detail, how the CIA brutally interrogated detainees, failed to gather any useful intelligence that could stop a terrorist attack in doing so, and then tried to cover up its actions.

    Brennan has a thorny, two-pronged problem. First, he’ll have to defend his agency against the inevitable onslaught of criticism that will accompany the torture report’s release, which could be next week. Second, he must explain his dismissal of the accusations of his chief overseer, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who in a blistering floor speech in March accused the CIA of running roughshod over the Constitution by monitoring her staff’s computers and removing documents that they were entitled to read.

    Responding to Feinstein then, Brennan all but said it would be crazy to think the CIA would so foolishly undermine the most aggressive and politically charged investigation into the agency’s counterterrorism programs. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennan said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on March 11, just a few hours after Feinstein blasted the agency. “I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

    Not so much. On Thursday, July 31, Feinstein said that Brennan apologized to her this week for the CIA employees’ actions, as described in the inspector general’s report. “These are positive first steps,” Feinstein said in a statement, without noting whether she accepted Brennan’s apology. The veteran lawmaker added that she expects a declassified version of the inspector general’s report “will be made available to the public shortly.” Perhaps just in time to accompany the Senate’s torture report.

    It’s a bad day for any senior administration official who has to walk back an emphatic public pronouncement and then prostrate himself before lawmakers. But Brennan is no ordinary official. He is arguably President Barack Obama’s most trusted national security advisor and the head of the most powerful institution in the U.S. intelligence community. Brennan helps decide who lives and dies in drone strikes. He oversees a clandestine network of spies around the world.

    But he also has his own tortured history with the interrogation program. He withdrew his name for consideration to lead the CIA in 2008 amid questions about how directly involved he was in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. In April of this year, after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify its findings, Brennan convened a meeting at CIA headquarters of former agency directors and officials who worked on the program to plan a “counterattack,” the New York Times reported. Former CIA Director George Tenet, to whom Brennan owes much of his success rising up the career ladder at the spy agency, led the discussion. Word of the secret strategy session only gave more ammunition to Brennan’s and the CIA’s critics, who have long accused the agency of covering up its top officials’ involvement in the brutal treatment of detainees.

    "While former CIA officials may be working to hide their own past wrongs, there’s no reason Brennan or any other current CIA official should help facilitate the defense of the indefensible," Christopher Anders, the senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times.

    The CIA inspector general’s report won’t be the last word about the agency’s interference with Congress, where Brennan’s support among Democratic lawmakers appeared to be in jeopardy Thursday.

    "I am concerned about the director’s apparent inability to find any flaws in the agency he leads," Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “Earlier this year he referred to the chairman’s and my publicly stated concerns about the CIA search [of staff computers] as ‘spurious allegations that are wholly unsupported by facts’ and urged us to ‘refrain from outbursts.’ Brennan needs to account for these statements.” Udall also said the administration should appoint an independent counsel “to look into what I believe could be the violation of multiple provisions of the Constitution as well as federal criminal statutes” — and an executive order that governs intelligence activities.

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), another Intelligence Committee member, called on Brennan to publicly apologize for the CIA’s actions. “The CIA Inspector General has confirmed what Senators have been saying all along: The CIA conducted an unauthorized search of Senate files, and attempted to have Senate staff prosecuted for doing their jobs,” Wyden said. “Director Brennan’s claims to the contrary were simply not true.”

    The CIA didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether Brennan planned to say anything about the latest uproar. An agency spokesperson told the Guardian that Brennan has no plans to resign.

    In an earlier statement sent to reporters, Brennan’s chief spokesperson, Dean Boyd, said that the CIA director “is committed to correcting any shortcomings related to this matter” and that he is convening an accountability board — an internal CIA disciplinary proceeding — chaired by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who served on the Intelligence Committee.

    That may help determine why the CIA gave Congress and the public assurances that proved false. But it does little to help Brennan and his agency as they prepare, yet again, to defend themselves from allegations of torture and lying. The CIA director’s integrity is now on the line, just when the agency needs it the most.

    8 hours ago  /  0 notes

  9. The Syrian Civil War: Syrian Rebels Still Holding Their Own in Idlib Province

    August 1, 2014

    Rebel Operations in Idlib Province during the Spring of 2014

    Nate Petrocine

    Institute for the Study of War

    August 31, 2014

    ISIS’s resurgence in Iraq has impacted the dynamics of the Syrian civil war, changing the strategic and operational calculus of regime, opposition, and ISIS forces fighting in Syria. In the late spring of 2014, regime forces concentrated efforts on Aleppo city and Deraa province leaving critical infrastructure in Idlib province unguarded and vulnerable. Rebel operations during this period demonstrate opposition forces’ ability to exploit regime weaknesses, and conduct coordinated offensives indicating organization above a tactical level. Opposition operations set a baseline for rebel activity against the regime. From this baseline, it will be important to assess how opposition groups in north-western Syria contend with the emerging three-front war in Syria. 

    In the spring and early summer of 2014, opposition forces targeted the regime’s logistics system and made significant advances in the province of Idlib. Rebel operations have continued to target the vital highways segmenting Idlib province, namely the M5 and the M4. The M5, which spans the western length of Syria from Damascus to Aleppo, is an essential supply route for both regime and opposition forces. Likewise the M4, which connects Aleppo and Idlib to the coast of Latakia, is indispensable for regime forces currently fighting in Aleppo City.


     

    Shaping the assault on Khan Sheikhoun    

    Prior to the rebel offensive in Khan Sheikhoun, smaller shaping operations focused on liberating checkpoints along the M5 strip between Khan Sheikhoun and Ma’arat Nu’man. Checkpoints in the small town of Hesh and the Wadi al-Deif Military Complex in Ma’arat Nu’man remained obstacles to rebel operations. Seizing these key waypoints along the M5 strip allowed rebel forces significant freedom of movement along the route and prevented regime forces from reinforcing areas of Khan Sheikhoun.


     

    Read the rest of this update.

    8 hours ago  /  0 notes

  10. China Is Developing a Next-Generation ICBM

    August 1, 2014

    China Confirms Development of Next-Generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

    RIA Novosti

    August 1, 2014

    MOSCOW, August 1 (RIA Novosti) -China acknowledged its development of a next-generation ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41), Xinhua reported Friday.

    According to Xinhua, a government environment monitoring station in Shaanxi Province published a document, saying that one of the province’s facilities is developing a ballistic rocket with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV).

    Xinhua quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying in an interview with local media that, “as the US continues to strengthen its missile defense system, developing third generation nuclear weapons capable of carrying multiple warheads is the trend.”

    Apart from that some military observers believe that the development of a new missile is directly linked with the United States’ THAAD missile defense system and their anti-aircraft missile complex Patriot.

    The information that China is developing a new ballistic missile first appeared last month, when the United States published its annual report on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China. The report states, that China is pursuing “a long-term comprehensive military modernization program.”

    The international ballistic missile Dongfeng-41 has a range of 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) and is capable of delivering up to 10 nuclear warheads.

    12 hours ago  /  0 notes