Sponsored by Harris Corporation
19 Jul 18. South Asia Strategy Working in Afghanistan, Centcom Commander Says. While the fighting continues and work remains to be done in Afghanistan, progress there shows the president’s South Asia Strategy is working, the commander of U.S. Central Command told Pentagon reporters today. Speaking from Centcom headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel said Afghanistan’s security forces are improving, but need more time and support to contend with both Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters.
“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said. ISIS-Khorasan — also known as ISIS-K — is the Khorasan province branch of ISIS, and it is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Cause exists for “cautious optimism” that the strategy is working, the Centcom commander said.
Cease-Fire Proves Success
The most dramatic evidence of success was shown recently when the conditions-based approach allowed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan national defense and security forces to set up conditions for the first nationwide cease-fire, he said. Although the cease-fire was temporary, all parties respected the terms and there were no reported breaches, the general added.
“The cease-fire demonstrated the increased desire for peace, not only from the Afghan people, but also from the belligerents in the conflict,” Votel said. “We saw numerous instances of this during the cease-fire, and we have seen many since its conclusion, even in the midst of ongoing combat operations. Our campaign approach of increasing military pressure provided the time and space for diplomatic and social pressure to pursue this opportunity.”
Other examples of ongoing military pressure include increased kinetic strikes in support of the Afghan forces, targeting Taliban revenue-generation mechanisms, and making great progress in expanding the coalition’s train, advise and assist mission, he noted.
Offensive Operations Underway
“All six Afghan National Army corps have been frequently engaged in offensive operations simultaneously, and at one point this spring, they were conducting offensive operations in 13 of … 34 provinces at the same time,” the general said. “This is testament to the great work by not only our forces, but also others in the NATO-led coalition.”
Afghanistan’s national defense and security forces are orchestrating unprecedented reorganization this year, moving more than 30,000 border police and Afghan National Civil Order Police from the Interior Ministry to the Defense Ministry and initiating a territorial army project for long-term local security, Votel said.
“Through implementation of the inherent law, they are replacing older leadership with a new generation of Afghan officers and commanders whose principal experience is driven by the relationship with the United States and other coalition forces, and in association with our modern military education training models and practices,” the general explained.
And despite security challenges, the Afghans successfully registered nearly 9 million people — 70 percent of eligible voters — for the upcoming parliamentary elections, he said.
Resolute Support Has Uptick
Since the Afghans took the lead for their security in August 2014, strong continued international support for the Resolute Support mission has been sustained, Votel noted. “This year, 29 of 39 NATO allies and partners increased their military or financial commitments to the campaign,” he said. “Significantly, we welcome our Gulf partners from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to the Resolute Support mission.”
At the recent NATO summit, international partners agreed to extend funding to the Afghan security forces through 2024. “This is noteworthy and will provide us both time and resources to fulfill the intent of the president’s South Asia Strategy,” the Centcom commander said. While taking a conditions-based approach, “we and our Afghan partners are moving forward with a sense of urgency and purpose to ensure that we don’t miss the opportunities that are being afforded by this continued support from the international community, or that have been created on the ground through activities like the recent cease-fire,” Votel said.
Overall, Resolute Support has witnessed remarkable changes in the environment, largely driven by the new strategy, the general emphasized.
The Afghan people and many Taliban members have become more ready for peace, he added, as evidenced by peace marches, local and international religious condemnations of the insurgency, broad diplomatic support to the Afghan-owned peace process, and the cease-fire, he said. Votel said Pakistan’s role is crucial going forward.
“This is a South Asia strategy, and cooperation from Pakistan remains key to accomplishing the overall objective of a durable political settlement in Afghanistan,” Votel said. “We continue to work closely with Pakistan to help them fulfill the important role that they have indicated they want to play. Now is the time for them to step forward.” (Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
17 Jul 18. Agusta Case: India Fails to Produce Evidence Against Michel In UAE Court. In a setback to efforts to extradite British national Christian Michel James — one of the alleged middlemen in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case — Indian authorities failed to produce any evidence before the UAE courts within the stipulated time, according to the lawyer of the accused. The Indian government was supposed to produce evidence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) court by May 19, 2018 against Michel. “But the government did not present any evidence,” Michel’s lawyer, Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos, told IANS over phone from Milan in Italy. She said the government “does not have any evidence against” him and therefore its officials were unable to produce any, adding that there was “no evidence against Michel in Italy, Switzerland or India.”
Dos Anjos said the Indian government was given a further time of 45 days by the UAE court at its next hearing to produce evidence out of which 30 days had already expired without any movement. Dos Anjos also said that Michel was questioned by CBI officials in Dubai a month ago. Michel is still in the UAE, according to her. Neither the Enforcement Directorate (ED) nor the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were willing to comment on the case. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Indo Asian News Service)
17 Jul 18. High Cost May Disrupt Plans for New Japanese Fighter Jet. The Defense Ministry’s plan to jointly develop a successor to the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter jet has been shaken, as the [20bn yen] price presented by Lockheed Martin Corp. was far higher than the initial estimate. The ministry has been exploring the possibility of jointly developing the successor model with other countries, with Japan taking the lead. Yet questions have been raised over the cost-effectiveness of this approach, in which the proposal from Lockheed had been favored. Currently, the ASDF deploys about 90 F-2 fighters, which are expected to be retired from service from around 2030. Given that it takes about 10 years to develop a fighter jet, the ministry hopes to include its concrete plan to develop the fighters in the next Medium-Term Defense Program for fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2023, which will be compiled at the end of this year. The ministry has studied three options, including Lockheed’s plan to develop a new high-performance stealth jet based on the F-22 and equipped with electronic devices from the F-35. The other two options have been presented by Boeing Co. and Britain’s BAE Systems PLC. Boeing has proposed applying technologies from F-15 fighters — the ASDF’s mainstay fighters — while BAE Systems proposed the use of technologies of Typhoon fighters, which are the mainstay of the British Royal Air Force. These three proposals have been made on the premise of joint development with Japan. Lockheed’s proposal exceeds the other two in terms of stealth capabilities and flight performance. Since the information-gathering stage, therefore, the ministry has viewed it as the leading candidate to develop the successor to the F-2. Lockheed, however, submitted its official proposal Friday with a price tag of more than ¥20bn for the new fighter. This is far higher than the ministry’s initial estimate of ¥15bn, and far above the ¥13.1bn price tag for the F-35 introduced by the ASDF. “It’s just too expensive. We can’t accept this in its current form,” a senior ministry official said. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Yomiuri Shimbun)
17 Jul 18. UN Security Council imposes ban on arms flow to South Sudan. The United Nations (UN) Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan as a measure to prevent the flow of weapons to armed groups in the North African country. The members in favour of the imposition believe that the ban would help protect civilians, while others raised concerns that the policy would hinder the ongoing peace process in the nation. With nine votes in favour of the policy, the resolution has been adopted obliging the 15-member UN body to immediately take necessary measures regarding the arms embargo, which is slated to remain in effect until 31 May next year. The countries in favour of the resolution are Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the US. The remaining six countries which abstained from agreeing to the resolution include Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Russia. The resolution decrees all UN Member States to prevent the entry of arms and related equipment of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and other spare parts, in South Sudan. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “If we’re going to help the people of South Sudan, we need the violence to stop. And to stop the violence, we need to stop the flow of weapons to armed groups that they are using to fight each other and to terrorise the people.”
On 27 June this year, an agreement was signed between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and South Sudan former vice-president Riek Machar to impose ceasefire between the government and opposition forces. (Source: army-technology.com)
16 Jul 18. Allies scramble as POTUS unleashes. NATO allies have been sent into a tail spin as US President Donald Trump challenges the alliance structure, calling into question the wider global alliances of the US. Alliances are the framework that have largely kept the world secure since the end of the Second World War. America has been an essential anchoring force for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) used to counter the then Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, and closer to home, the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Treaty, which meant allies could count on the overwhelming might of the US should they face threats individually or as a collective. President Trump is seeking to renegotiate the deals, particularly with some of the larger members of NATO, namely Germany, who has also drawn the fire of the President for signing a multibillion-dollar natural gas deal with a Russian government-owned natural gas company, over their financial contributions to the collective defence agreement
The President has been noted as saying, “I let them [NATO leaders] know I was extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago.”
Following which the President attributed the US$33bn increase in NATO defence spending over the last 12 months to his efforts. For context, the US currently contributes 3.5 per cent of its GDP to the NATO alliance, while the UK provides 2.1 per cent, France 1.8 per cent, Canada 1.3 per cent, Germany 1.2 per cent, Italy 1.1 per cent and Spain 0.9 per cent. French President Emmanuel Macron was quick to respond, denying any change in policy as a result of US involvement, stating simply that the allies had reaffirmed their earlier commitment to increase defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product by 2024. The US President was clear and direct in his statement: “They’re [NATO Allies] taking advantage of the United States. I’m not going to let it happen.” In contrast, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has credited the President with increasing the NATO defence expenditure.
“All allies have heard President Trump’s message loud and clear. We understand that this American president is very serious about defence spending, and this is having a clear impact,” Stoltenberg said.
Further confusing matters is the burgeoning relationship between the US President and Russian strongman President Vladimir Putin, who will meet in Helsinki in the coming days. The US has pushed for the re-admittance of Russia to the G8 following its expulsion from the organisation in the aftermath of the annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Russian aggression in other parts of Europe, particularly toward the Baltic and Nordic states, has heightened European concern about Russia’s intentions and the nature of the relationship between the two former foes. President Trump has further exacerbated the sentiments brewing beneath the surface with European leaders by changing the language when referring to Russia and Putin in particular, viewing the rogue superpower as a ‘competitor‘ rather than an ‘enemy’.
This newly emerging paradigm of apparent instability could throw Australia’s relationship with the US and its role in the Indo-Pacific into question. Despite the chaos currently troubling NATO leaders, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne reinforced the government’s position and the nation’s alliance with the US.
“Australia regards the United States as the most pre-eminent world power. We want it to be the most powerful military power in the world. And therefore its alliances with NATO, in ANZUS, with Japan and South Korea, are critically important. We don’t want there to be a time in the foreseeable future where any other country has the same military capabilities as the United States, or reach of alliances around the world of the United States,” he said in London.
Particular concerns for Australia come following former Chief of Defence Air Marshal Mark Binskin AC’s comments regarding the militarisation of the South China Sea, who recently said that the build up was “very, very concerning … They’ll put a spin on that it’s only for defensive reasons. But … if you didn’t build an island, you wouldn’t need to defend it. If there are weapons on those islands, they are militarised”.
It is also hard not to identify, if perhaps only coincidentally, recent announcements made by the Australian government, particularly new surveillance drone Triton aircraft and the SEA 5000 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Future Frigate program, and growing concern at some level about the degree of US involvement in the region, particularly in the face of increasing peer competitors. Former prime minister Tony Abbott has echoed the calls made by Minister Pyne in a speech in Washington, DC.
“As a country that’s ‘paid its dues’ on the American alliance, we [Australia] have been treated with courtesy and respect but that’s no grounds for complacency in dealing with a transactional president … It’s certainly less apologetic and still ready to use force, so at least for those allies that don’t shirk their responsibilities, Trump’s America should remain a reliable partner. Just don’t expect too much,” Abbott said.
Serious questions remain for Australia in the new world of Trump’s America, as a consistently reliable ally it would appear as though the special relationship will continue, but as leaders and parties change, policies evolve and the fluid nature of our strategic environment becomes more complex, Australia’s role as a regional security partner and leader may become harder for us to maintain without increased investment in independent capability, especially in the face of an unpredictable US ally.(Source: Defence Connect)
About Harris Corporation
Harris Corporation is a leading technology innovator, solving customers’ toughest mission-critical challenges by providing solutions that connect, inform and protect. Harris supports government and commercial customers in more than 100 countries and has approximately $6 billion in annual revenue. The company is organized into three business segments: Communication Systems, Space and Intelligence Systems and Electronic Systems. Learn more at harris.com.