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08 Sep 18. U.S. Seeks to Mitigate Risk, Learn Ground Truth in Afghanistan. Taliban reconciliation with the Afghan government is at the core of the peace program in Afghanistan, but it will be a difficult path to tread, the spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission and the U.S. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel said yesterday. Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell said new commander Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller is traveling the country speaking to Afghan and coalition forces to get a sense of what is happening on the ground now. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan yesterday. Miller, who has a special operations forces background, has served in Afghanistan many times, and is already familiar with the terrain and the people of the nation. Still, O’Donnell said, the general needs to get the ground truth and is talking to service members about managing risk.
“It is a combat zone,” the colonel said. “We will never remove risk from the equation. But we’ve got to figure out ways to deal with it, and then … balance risk with reward.”
Interacting With Afghan Forces
Miller also is stressing the need for coalition service members to interact with the Afghans, who are carrying the main burden of the war. “We’re in Afghanistan,” he said. “If we’re not speaking with an Afghan, something’s probably wrong — we’re not getting the complete perspective.”
The general is working to get views from all parts of his command. Leaders often have a different perspective than the service member on the ground, O’Donnell noted, and Miller wants to ensure he is getting the straight story. Different parts of Afghanistan offer different challenges. Tactics that work in the desert south, may not work in the mountainous east.
One tool Miller can use is the Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. While the brigade’s headquarters is in Advisor Platform Lightning, its subordinate units are advising, training and assisting Afghan units all over the country. Afghanistan is a complicated country and the subordinate units can tailor their assistance to the Afghan unit they serve with. “The needs of one unit may not be the needs of another,” O’Donnell said. “What we’ve seen is there’s some [units] … that are more competent than others,” he said. The brigade’s units will go where the need is the greatest, he added, and they are able to reach down to the kandak level – the Afghan equivalent of a battalion – to perform their mission. Another effect of the unit is that American service members all around the country are able to report up the chain about the situation on the ground. From a terrorist perspective, the situation on the ground is complicated. The Taliban are Afghans who have taken up arms, and while they are an enemy force, there is the idea that they can be brought back to civil society.
“The enemy are the terrorists that pose a threat not only to the United States, but to the 40 contributing nations to the NATO mission here,” O’Donnell said.
The real threat is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria- Khorasan, al-Qaida and at least 20 other terrorist organizations that will never compromise with any government, anywhere. The area between Afghanistan and Pakistan has the greatest concentration of terrorist organizations in the world, O’Donnell said.
Recent Afghan and counterterrorism operations in Nangarhar province resulted in the ISIS-K self-declared caliphate being destroyed. “But they will try to establish it elsewhere,” the colonel said. “We’ve got to apply that constant pressure to them to not let that happen.”
If the group succeeds in worming its way into another area, it can plot attacks against NATO allies and partners. ISIS-K is a difficult sell for Afghans, O’Donnell said. “We’ve seen ISIS-K not able to grow its ranks,” he added, “but we’ve seen them able to replenish … its ranks.”
One of the ways groups can replenish their ranks is by changing allegiance to ISIS. The porous Afghan border also means that a small number of foreign terrorists have joined the group inside Afghanistan. The main branch of ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been attacked mercilessly. Some the ISIS terrorists who escaped the Syrian or Iraqi death traps have made their way to Afghanistan, but officials haven’t seen a massive influx, O’Donnell said, adding that foreign fighters are not the same problem they were in Iraq and Syria. The majority of the counterterrorism mission is aimed at ISIS-K or al-Qaida, he said.
There is no purely military solution to the problems of Afghanistan, O’Donnell said. The military is one aspect, and diplomacy, politics and economic progress still must catch up. (Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
07 Sep 18. Canada’s military unveils rules governing troop cannabis use. Canada’s military on Friday unveiled a directive governing the use of cannabis by its troops as the country prepares for the drug’s legalization in October. The directive takes effect on Oct. 17, when pot becomes legal. It prohibits members of Canada’s armed forces from consuming cannabis eight hours before any duty, 24 hours before any operation of weapons or vehicles and 28 days before high altitude parachuting, operating in a hyperbaric environment and serving on a military aircraft. Cannabis consumption is also prohibited on international operations, according to the directive, which was provided by the military to Reuters. Canada, a pioneer in approving medical marijuana, is set to become the first OECD country to legalize its recreational use. The pending legalization has sent governments and law enforcement scrambling to set up frameworks governing its use and policing misuse. It is unclear whether the regulated legal marketplace will be able to meet demand and displace the thriving illegal market.
06 Sep 18. U.S.-India Defense Cooperation a ‘Key Driver’ of Overall Relationship. U.S.-Indian defense cooperation has emerged “as the most significant dimension of our strategic partnership and as a key driver of our overall bilateral relationship,” Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the conclusion of the two-plus-two talks here today. Sitharaman and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj hosted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis for the talks between India and the United States. The two nations signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement just before the news conference. Mattis called the agreement a significant step in U.S.-Indian defense cooperation. “The landmark agreement deepens our military-to-military cooperation and our ability to share the most advanced defense technology, making us both stronger,” he said.
“The two-plus-two meeting has helped shared efforts of both sides to promote a whole-of-government approach for our strategic priorities,” Swaraj said at a news conference at the conclusion of the talks.
‘To Cooperate in Every Possible Way’
“The commitment of India and the United States to defend our shared values and common interests is clear and unwavering,” Sitharaman said. “We reaffirmed our intention to cooperate in every possible way, to ensure peace and stability as well as to realize the aspirations of our people for continued economic growth, prosperity and development.”
Both nations have the highest respect for each other’s sovereignty, Mattis said. The result is they are committed to work together “for a safe, secure, prosperous and free Indo-Pacific, one that is underpinned by the rule of law,” he said.
“We appreciate India’s role as a stabilizing force on the region’s geographic frontlines,” Mattis added. “Your nation understands better than many: Peace and prosperity are only attainable when all respect the principles of territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and freedom from coercion — all of these are fundamental to the rules-based international order.”
During the meeting the leaders spoke to regional and global concerns like Afghanistan, North Korea and terrorism, Pompeo said. He stressed the shared values the U.S. and India possess.
“We have a responsibility to advance those shared values: rule of law; national sovereignty; good governance; the protection of fundamental freedoms, rights and liberties; free, fair and reciprocal trade relationships and peaceful resolutions of territorial and maritime disputes,” he said.
India already has a robust military training and exercise program with the United States, but the leaders agreed to ramp it up.
“To enhance our facilities in this area, we have decided to carry out for the first time a tri-services joint exercise with the United States off the eastern coast of India in 2019,” Sitharaman said. “We are also putting in place an enabling framework for further cooperation between our forces.”
India will continue to work with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, but will now also work with U.S. Central Command, Sitharaman said. Following the meeting, the four leaders also met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
06 Sep 18. Afghan troops to train in China, ambassador says. China will train Afghan troops on Chinese soil, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Beijing said, describing the military cooperation as an effort to fight al Qaeda and Islamic State militants bent on attacking China from its western neighbour. Afghanistan has also requested that China provide Afghan security forces with combat helicopters, Ambassador Janan Mosazai told Reuters in an interview. Beijing last month dismissed reports that Chinese troops would be stationed in its war-torn neighbour, after it agreed to help Afghanistan set up a “mountain brigade” in the rugged Wakhan Corridor linking the two countries.
“But yes, there will be some training required, obviously, and that will take place in China,” Mosazai said in the interview on Tuesday.
The Chinese military had promised to supply two fixed-wing transport aircraft for medical evacuation purposes, he added, and crews for the planes were already training in China.
“Those are in the pipeline, and we hope they will be delivered to Afghanistan, to our national security and defence forces, soon,” Mosazai said. “We have requested that they provide combat vehicles, combat helicopters, also air capabilities and reconnaissance.”
Mosazai said China’s response towards the request for the helicopters had been “positive”, and that Kabul wanted Beijing to provide the capabilities or the “grant assistance” so Afghanistan could purchase them. China’s Defence Ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The provision of arms to Afghanistan marks a gradual evolution for Beijing, which had previously offered non-lethal assistance while promising to play a “huge” commercial role in the country’s economic development, a pledge complicated by the security situation there. Mosazai did not elaborate on financial details or types of vehicles under consideration, but said the helicopters being sought were most likely to be older Russian or Soviet-made equipment, such as the MI-35. China has stepped up “direct military assistance to Afghanistan”, including providing small arms and logistics and equipment support, since the two countries established a military dialogue in 2016, the ambassador said. Beijing has confirmed its backing for the Afghan defence forces struggling against a Taliban insurgency that has taken swathes of territory in recent years, but it has offered few details. The Afghan air force, trained and assisted by NATO advisers, has slowly gained strength, but remains too small to meet the needs of its security forces. The United States has planned to help replace Afghanistan’s aging fleet of Russian Mi-17 helicopters with U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawks. (Source: Reuters)
06 Sep 18. U.S., India seal military communications pact, plan more exercises. India and the United States signed an accord on secure military communications that both sides hailed as a breakthrough on Thursday, possibly opening the way for sales of sensitive U.S. military equipment to India. The pact was signed after U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for talks aimed at deepening political and security ties. The world’s two largest democracies have drawn closer in recent years, seeking ways to counter-balance China’s spreading influence across Asia, notably in Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. Before coming to India, Pompeo held talks in Islamabad with Pakistan’s new government and generals, aiming to smooth over tensions after President Donald Trump took a tough new line towards Pakistan over longstanding accusations it is not doing enough to root out Afghan Taliban fighters on its territory. The presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has heightened U.S. sensitivity to the rivalry between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Washington and New Delhi share concerns over Pakistan-based anti-Western and anti-Indian Islamist militant groups. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that was signed on Thursday had been stalled for years because of India’s concerns that it would open up its communications network to the U.S. military.
Pompeo said the accord was a “major step” forward that officials have previously said would allow the U.S. to transfer high-tech equipment such as armed surveillance drones. New Delhi has been seeking the drones to monitor the Indian Ocean where China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been making repeated forays in recent years.
India and the United States also agreed to open a hotline between their foreign heads and hold joint exercises involving the air force, navy and the army off the eastern Indian coast in 2019, the Indian government said.
“The momentum in our defence partnership has imbued a tremendous positive energy that has elevated India-U.S. relations to unprecedented heights,” Sitharaman said.
A senior U.S. defence official said the United States had only signed similar pacts with fewer than 30 other countries.
“It not only allows us to be more interoperable with India, but it allows India to be more interoperable across its own systems…most significantly, it opens up a range of defence technologies to India,” Joseph Felter, deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia, told a small group of reporters.
Felter said that by signing the agreement some Indian weapon systems would see an immediate increase in capabilities, including the C-130 and C-17 aircraft.
The United States has emerged as India’s second largest arms supplier, closing $15bn worth of deals in the past decade. Experts believe the signing of the COMCASA agreement could also reduce the chances of the United States imposing sanctions on India for looking to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. The United States has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, under which any country engaged with its defence and intelligence sectors could face secondary U.S. sanctions. However, a new defence bill proposes giving the U.S. president authority to grant waivers when national security interests are at stake.
Felter said the issue of a potential S-400 purchase by India did not come up during talks. Later, Pompeo told reporters the United States was not seeking to punish India for its proposed purchase.
The United States is also pushing countries to halt oil imports from Iran after Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers that was intended to stall Tehran’s developing nuclear capabilities. India is Iran’s top oil buyer after China, and it is seeking a waiver from the United States. Ahead of the talks in New Delhi, a senior U.S. State Department official said the United States was engaged in “very detailed conversations” with India over Washington’s request to completely stop India’s oil imports from Iran.
“We’re asking all of our partners, not just India, to reduce to zero oil imports from Iran and so I’m confident that will be part of our conversation with India,” the official told reporters accompanying Pompeo. (Source: Reuters)
05 Sep 18. Stay on Indian Rafale deal: Supreme Court to hear plea next week. The Supreme Court will be hearing a petition seeking a stay on the Dassault Rafale fighter jet deal between India with France on the ground that there were discrepancies in the deal. The plea, which will be heard next week, has been moved by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma who has alleged that there are gross irregularities in the deal for the purchase of 36 fighter jets inked between India and France on 23 September 2016. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud considered the advocate Sharma’s appeal that his plea be listed for urgent hearing. According to reports, the petitioner has stated that the cancellation of the older tender without reason and the new deal getting inked without parliamentary approval suggest conspiracy. Sharma has also sought an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) monitored by the Supreme Court, reported CNN-News18. The Congress has been accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government at the Centre over the pricing of the fighter jets. The Congress claims that the deal inked during the UPA rule was Rs 520 crore per aircraft which ballooned to Rs 1,600 crore in the new deal under the NDA regime. Led by its president Rahul Gandhi, the party has demanded that the government reveal the price details of the Rafale fighter jets. Recently, the Congress also attacked the government and Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group over the deal. Dassault entered into a joint-venture with the Reliance Group to fulfil the offset requirement of the deal.
Ambani had in August sent legal notices to several Congress leaders and also told Rahul Gandhi in a letter that his party has been “misinformed, misdirected and misled” by “malicious vested interests and corporate rivals” on the issue.
In its defence, the government has said that it is bound by a “secrecy clause” that was signed in 2008 during the UPA years which prohibits both New Delhi and Paris from revealing details of the deal to the public.
In his address during the debate on no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha in July, Gandhi said the French president Emmanuel Macron had clearly conveyed to him that there was no problem in sharing details relating to the Rafale contrary to what the government has been saying and that the “Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) has clearly spoken an untruth” about there being a secrecy pact.
However, a statement issued by the French government apparently punctured the Congress president’s claim.
“We have noted the statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India concluded in 2008 a security agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner, that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France,” the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs said. (Source: News Now/www.thestatesman.com)
05 Sep 18. China ‘Nearing Mass Production’ of J-20 Stealth Fighter After Engine Problems Ironed Out. A new and improved engine designed to make China’s J-20 stealth fighter a world-class combat jet should be ready for mass production by the end of the year, military sources have said. The WS-15 engine features cutting-edge single-crystal turbine blades and has been in development for several years, but Chinese technicians have struggled to get it into mass production. However, many of the problems – which largely related to blades overheating at top speeds – have been ironed out in ground tests and trial flights, putting the goal of a consistently high-quality product in sight, sources told the South China Morning Post. Beijing is keen to have a stealth aircraft capable of competing with the best in the world as tensions rise in the Asia-Pacific and the United States ramps up deployment of its F-22 and F-35 fighters in the region.
“The WS-15 is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of this year,” one of the sources said. Although some “minor problems” remained, these should be resolved once the engine had been more “extensively run in the aircraft”, the source said. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/South China Morning Post)
05 Sep 18. Australian Army on display at Land Forces ’18. The Chief of Army Land Forces Seminar 2018 (CALFS18) is the Australian Army’s biennial event that brings national and international partners together to consider the role of future land forces in generating military response options within a whole-of-government context. CALFS18 examined the theme ‘The application of Land Power in the Indo-Pacific’. Both Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, AO, DSC, MVO, and Defence Minister Christopher Pyne were keynote speakers at the event, which has become the Australian Army’s leading event bringing together national, regional and global partners to discuss issues relevant to the future of land forces. With a focus on the importance of land power in the Indo-Pacific, this year’s event witnessed strong language from new Defence Minister Pyne, who highlighted the need for Australian engagement, leadership and presence in the region.
“For Australia, the Indo-Pacific region fills our vision across the cardinals of the compass and is the arena where our common future will unfold. Australia lies at the geographic centre of this region and holds the fulcrum between the Indian and Pacific corners of Asia. Australia’s continued engagement and close work with regional partners is an absolute must,” he said.
CALFS18, held alongside the Land Forces Defence Industry Exposition 2018, played host to senior commanders of militaries from around the world.
For LTGEN Burr, the importance of robust international partnerships and the future of the region ever-present.
“Building on our international and industry partnerships is essential to generate capability advantage,” he said.
“As ‘An Army in Motion’ we must continually improve and adapt in order to be always future ready. Over the next three days I look forward to strengthening relationships with national and international security leaders as we discuss the application of land power in the Indo-Pacific.”
CALFS18 comprises four sessions linked to the seminar theme:
- The Indo-Pacific: the region of global connection;
- Land power and countering violent extremism;
- Generating land power through partnering; and
- The character of future Indo-Pacific land forces.
The seminar series is designed to maximise discussion and interaction by capitalising on the collective knowledge and experience of participants. Attendance at the seminar is by invitation only and the proceedings will be published after the event.
CALFS (previously named Chief of Army’s Exercise) has provided the Australian Army and its national, regional and global partners with a forum to discuss issues relevant to the future of land forces for many years.
Minister Pyne echoed LTGEN Burr’s comments, saying, “The Australian Army – including through its engagement with your (foreign partners) countries – plays a critical role in this growth structure from which all partners benefit. Engaging with nations in our region – and beyond – bilaterally, regionally and globally, and doing so through collaborative activities will help us understand our strategic environment to respond to those shared challenges which I mentioned earlier.”
Recent Chief of Army’s Exercises considered topics as diverse as the air/land battle, the human dimension of war, the application of social networking to Army, adaptive responses to complex environments and the modernisation of land forces in the Indo-Pacific. A number of the concepts developed in previous exercises have resulted in action that has improved the modern Army.
“This seminar enables us to strengthen our partnerships with other international military leaders, Defence industry and academia and explore opportunities for unlocking Army’s potential,” LTGEN Burr said. (Source: Defence Connect)
03 Sep 18. Defence companies look to cover air, land and sea at Land Forces 2018 in South Australia. TAE Aerospace announces plan to expand across all sectors of defence industry, including fire and safety systems. The Australian-owned aerospace company has acquired the rights to take over the operations of Kidde Aerospace and Defence Australia Pty Ltd (KADA), which builds fire protection and safety systems for vehicles and is owned by American UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS). The deal, which is expected to come into effect by the end of September, includes an agreement with UTAS that will designate TAE Aerospace as the only licensed overhaul facility in Australia, New Zealand and much of the region for certain UTAS businesses. Approximately half of KADA’s business supports the Australian Army’s fleet of land vehicles, including the M1A1 Abrams, ASLAV, Bushmaster and Hawkei vehicles.
TAE Aerospace Chief Strategy Officer, Darren Hutchinson said the business would be managed from the company’s South Australian facility in the Adelaide Airport Export Park.
The deal consolidates TAE Aerospace’s ability to work on air, land and sea systems.
“It has been part of our growth strategy for a while now to look for ‘interoperability’ between the platforms we service – particularly between air and land-based platforms, but also marine in the future,” Hutchinson said. “Four years ago, we signed an agreement for total logistics support of the AGT1500 tank engine that powers the Abrams main battle tank for the Australian Army. At the time it was considered unusual for an aerospace company to work on a tank engine, but they are both gas- turbine engines and operate in a similar way – it’s just that one runs on diesel and the other on jet fuel – and we knew the skills were transferable.”
More than 620 companies are participating at the three-day exhibition at the Adelaide Convention Centre, including another 30 companies joining TAE Aerospace at the South Australian stand. Although many South Australian companies have concentrated on the large submarine and future frigate projects awarded to the state, companies such as APC Technologies, Codan Defence Electronics, Redarc Electronics, Nova Systems and Silentium Defence all have land-based products.
01 Sep 18. Volker Says U.S. Ready to Widen Arms Supplies to Ukraine. The United States is ready to widen arms supplies to Ukraine to help build up the country’s naval and air defense forces in the face of continuing Russian support for eastern separatists, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine told The Guardian. Kurt Volker told the newspaper in an interview published on September 1 that pro-Western, anti-Russian sentiment was growing in Ukraine and that the Trump administration was “absolutely” prepared to go further in supplying weaponry to Ukrainian forces than the antitank missiles it delivered in April.
“They are losing soldiers every week defending their own country,” Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said in the interview.
“And so in that context it’s natural for Ukraine to build up its military, engage in self-defense, and it’s natural to seek assistance and is natural that other countries should help them. And of course they need lethal assistance because they’re being shot at,” he added.
Moscow’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia. Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 after sending in troops, taking over key facilities, and staging a referendum deemed illegitimate by at least 100 countries in the United Nations. The Kremlin, which has denied sending troops and heavy weapons to the region, has said providing new lethal weapons to Ukraine would foment bloodshed.
Volker said that, while time was not on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side, he would nonetheless likely wait for presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine next year before reconsidering his negotiating position.
“We can have a conversation with Ukraine like we would with any other country about what do they need,” Volker said, according to the Guardian.
“I think that there’s going to be some discussion about naval capability because as you know their navy was basically taken by Russia. And so they need to rebuild a navy and they have very limited air capability as well. I think we’ll have to look at air defense,” he added. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Radio Free Europe)
03 Sep 18. US to cancel $300m in military aid to Pakistan. The US is reportedly set to cancel $300m of military aid to Pakistan over failure to take required actions to tackle militant groups and reduce terrorist actions. The development comes at a time when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to visit Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan. In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Koné Faulkner was quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying: “We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba in the region.” Faulkner was quoted by Reuters as saying: “Due to a lack of Pakistan’s decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy, the remaining $300m was reprogrammed.”
The US Department of Defense (DoD) is currently waiting for the congressional decision on whether the funds reprogramming request will be approved or rejected. Faulkner was further quoted by PTI as saying: “Unfortunately, recent reporting has distorted the details of the CSF by stating several things out of context. The suspension of security assistance to Pakistan was announced in January 2018.
“The CSF is included in the suspension and it remains in place. This is not a new decision or a new announcement, but an acknowledgement of a July request to reprogramme funds before they expire.” (Source: army-technology.com)
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