Sponsored by Exensor
06 Mar 20. US Navy warns China against targeting fleet and aircraft. Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet has responded to Chinese provocations following the targeted laser attack on a US Navy P-8 Poseidon by a Chinese destroyer in international waters off Guam.
A US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was lased by People’s Republic of China (PRC) navy destroyer 161 on 17 February while flying in airspace above international waters approximately 380 miles west of Guam.
The P-8A was operating in international airspace in accordance with international rules and regulations. The PRC navy destroyer’s actions were unsafe and unprofessional.
Additionally, these acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea. CUES specifically addresses the use of lasers that could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment.
The destroyer’s actions were also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between US Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behaviour for safety of air and maritime encounters.
The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A. Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.
The P-8A is assigned to VP-45, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and is forward-deployed to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The squadron conducts routine operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance in the US 7th Fleet area of operations.
“US Navy aircraft routinely fly in the Philippine Sea and have done so for many years – US Navy aircraft and ships will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” ADM Aquilino’s statement said.
The US 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and with the help of 35 other maritime-nation allies and partners, the US Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than a century, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.
This incident follows similar confrontations between Chinese fishermen and the Royal Australian Navy’s flagship, HMAS Canberra during a recent transit as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE ’19). (Source: Defence Connect)
05 Mar 20. China, a Non-Arctic Nation, Meddling in Arctic, Says DOD Official. U.S. competition with Russia and China is manifesting itself globally, including in the Arctic, said a Defense Department official.
Dr. James H. Anderson, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, and Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, provided testimony on U.S. policy and posture in support of Arctic readiness at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
The 2019 DOD Arctic Strategy is anchored in the priorities of the National Defense Strategy and frames the Arctic in a whole of government approach, as well as working with allies and partners, Anderson said.
“The department’s end-state for the Arctic is a secure and stable region where U.S. interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is defended and nations work cooperatively to address shared challenges,” he said.
“The immediate prospect for conflict in the Arctic remains low,” he added.
But the department is monitoring that area should a threat emerge, he said.
Anderson defined the Arctic nations as the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. China, which claims to be a ‘near-Arctic nation,’ is not, he added. Both China and Russia are increasingly active in the region. Russia is making military investments in the Arctic, while China seeks a role in Arctic governance, despite not having territorial claims in the region, Anderson said.
The risk is that China may increase the predatory behavior in the Arctic that it has exhibited in other regions, he said.
O’Shaughnessy said the Arctic is a particularly important region when it comes to defending the U.S. homeland.
However, “the Arctic is no longer a fortress wall and the Arctic Ocean is no longer a protective moat,” he said. “They are now avenues of approach to the homeland.”
To deter, protect and defeat threats against the homeland, the department’s approach is to use a layered defense infused with the latest technology, he told lawmakers.
The layered defense includes situational awareness using sensors which can detect threats from the point of origin, be they on land, on sea, below the sea and in space, he said, “long before they approach our sovereign territory.”
The other aspect to defense is to develop advanced offensive and defensive weapons, he said.
O’Shaughnessy also emphasized the importance of working with allies and partners, particularly those with Arctic nations. (Source: US DoD)
04 Mar 20. Work paused at F-35 jet assembly facility in Japan due to coronavirus, Pentagon says. Work at the F-35 fighter-jet factory in Japan has paused for a week due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, a U.S. defense official said on Wednesday.
F-35 jets are made at a Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) factory in Ft. Worth, Texas but allies assemble jets for themselves at two final assembly and check out facilities (FACO) in Japan and Italy.
“In Japan, I believe they shut down the FACO for a week,” Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, told reporters on the sidelines of a defense conference in Washington.
Still, deliveries were not impacted, Lord said.
“In Japan, to comply with Japanese Coronavirus directives, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) is temporarily closing the Japanese FACO for one week; of note, only Japanese aircraft are produced at this FACO,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.
At the F-35 FACO plant in Italy, “Lockheed has directed their employees to work from home,” Lord said.
Pratt and Whitney (UTX.N), which makes the engines for the jets, has told its team in Italy to telework, but “there have been no impacts to the production line,” Andrews said in the statement.
A Lockheed Martin representative said the company was “working with our customers and partners to mitigate any impacts to F-35 international FACO operations in Italy and Japan.” (Source: Reuters)
04 Mar 20. Afghan conflict: US conducts first air strike on Taliban since deal. The US military has conducted an air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, just hours after President Donald Trump said he had a “very good talk” with a leader of the group.
The US signed a deal with the Taliban on Saturday aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan after years of war.
But a US forces spokesman said it launched an air strike on Wednesday in response to Taliban fighters attacking Afghan forces in Helmand province.
The Taliban has not commented.
It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Wednesday’s strike was the first by the US against the Taliban in 11 days, when a reduction in violence agreement began between the two sides in the lead-up to Saturday’s pact.
In a statement on Twitter, Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the US Forces in Afghanistan, said it was a “defensive strike” to disrupt an attack on an Afghan National Security Forces checkpoint.
The spokesman added that the US was still “committed to peace” but had a responsibility to defend its Afghan partners. He said Afghans and the US had complied with their side of the agreement, while the Taliban appeared intent on “squandering” the opportunity.
On Tuesday alone, he said the Taliban launched 43 attacks on checkpoints belonging to Afghan forces in Helmand.
“We call on the Taliban to stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments. As we have demonstrated, we will defend our partners when required,” he wrote.
The Taliban has so far declined to confirm or deny responsibility for any of the attacks. (Source: BBC)
04 Mar 20. Cracks already showing in US-Taliban peace deal. Barely two days after the signing of the historic Doha peace deal, Taliban officials have announced that they will resume offensive operations against Afghan security forces, in spite of the partial truce in effect since 23 February.
The truce was intended to set the conditions for intra-Afghan talks scheduled for 10 March. Now that the process of coalition withdrawal has been kick-started regardless, it seems the administration of President Ashraf Ghani has been left with relatively little to bargain with. After nearly 20 years of bloodshed, the Doha withdrawal agreement could see the last of coalition forces returning home from the ‘forever war’ as soon as spring 2021.
Pundits far and wide were quick to extol the virtues of a speedy departure, with many ascribing success to President Donald Trump’s decidedly unconventional approach to foreign policy. As he noted so tellingly in last year’s State of the Union address, “Great nations do not fight endless wars.”
NPR, Al-Jazeera and a host of other outlets were quick to see through the confetti. Instead of actively involving the government the US is supposedly there to bolster, Kabul has been left out of a deal which addresses a prisoner exchange dialogue scheduled between Kabul and the Taliban for 10 March.
Speaking at the Afghan capital on Sunday, President Ghani told reporters that this is not a promise the US is capable of making.
Congressman Tom Malinowski similarly gave this pledge short shrift on Twitter: “Two weeks ago in Munich, [Mike Pompeo] made a commitment to me and other members of Congress: the Afghan peace deal would NOT require the Afghan [government] to release Taliban prisoners,” he wrote. “Today’s deal requires them to release 5,000.”
In the context of the 10 March talks, the government wasted little time in pushing back on these assertions. Though suggesting the request could form part of the negotiations (scheduled to take place in the Norwegian capital), the Afghan president emphasised that it could not operate as a precondition to those talks.
The options, as the Taliban sees it, are now twofold. They could fold their cards in part, settling for bona fide participation in a coalition government.
Or – now that the US has signalled its’ fixation on a curt exit – they can say and do whatever it takes to get this withdrawal to happen, before turning on the central government once the last troop carriers have left the tarmac.
Has the US shown its hand too early?
Though the breaking of the truce is troubling, when viewed in the full context of a clearly-evinced US intention to draw down on troop numbers in the run-up to this year’s presidential election, it seems to have longer-term implications; leaving Afghan counterparts holding relatively little in the way of bargaining chips.
At a White House press conference following the signing of the deal, reporters quizzed President Trump about when soldiers can be expected to start leaving the country. “Today,” he replied. “They will start immediately.”
Building on these comments, Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated to an audience at the Pentagon that US command in Afghanistan had been given the go-ahead to begin pulling troops from the region.
This, of course, took place on Monday – less than 48 hours after the deal was struck. It seems the US administration is looking to double down on its word; as many have drawn the link between the proposed withdrawal schedule and the American electoral cycle, this could even make President Trump the first of three successive presidents to fulfil this electoral pledge.
However, Afghanistan is still very much a country fractured along ethnic, sectarian and linguistic battlelines. Taliban strongholds remain peppered across the country; any effort to jointly administer Helmand Province, for one, would soon give way to strong Pakistani influences from the bordering FATA regions.
Though the support among the Australian public for a withdrawal from Afghanistan is strong, doing so in such a high-profile, unilateral manner before the 10 March talks undermines the sovereignty of the Ghani administration – and more importantly, negates any sort of bargaining power the central government would have had over the prisoner swap component.
A brazen approach from the insurgency
While many Western commentators unfamiliar with Afghani geopolitics are comparing this to a ‘snag’ in proceedings, a deal now contingent on prisoner release only poses headaches for one side. Reports have already surfaced of Taliban social media accounts linking the 10 March talks to ‘taqqiyah’; the purposive interpretation of Quranic text that sanctions the act of deliberate deception.
Should this doctrine play a central role in the Taliban’s approach to the 10 March talks (or beyond), we could well see violence erupt with renewed vigour after the departure of coalition forces.
This time, of course, potentially with an extra 5,000 Taliban combatants spread around the country, depending on how the talks unfold. Like so many of his countrymen, Shaharzad Akbar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, voiced his concerns over the weekend.
“The general secrecy around the deal, the lack of presence of non-Taliban Afghans in the process, the fact that the US-Taliban talks seemed to marginalise other Afghan voices, all have made me anxious … if the agreement allows for a reasonable timeline for a responsible withdrawal and ensures intra-Afghan talks, there is room for hope about a substantive reduction in conflict and violence. Peace will require much more.” (Source: Defence Connect)
04 Mar 20. ASPI kicks off deterrence and long-range strike conversation. Marcus Hellyer, ASPI’s defence economist and capability specialist, has kicked off the latest round of conversations about developing a credible Australian deterrence and long-range strike capability to support Australia’s long-term security.
Deterrence theory is as old as warfare and international relations, while the methods have changed throughout history, the concept and doctrine remains constant, albeit, significantly more lethal.
Contemporary deterrence is best broken down into two distinct concepts as identified by US academic Paul Huth in his journal article ‘Deterrence and International Conflict: Empirical Findings and Theoretical Debates’, which states that a policy of deterrence can fit into two, distinct categories, namely:
- Direct deterrence: Preventing an armed attack against a state’s own territory; and
- Extended deterrence: Preventing an armed attack against another state.
The advent of nuclear weapons and strategic force multiplier platforms like aircraft carriers, ballistic missile and attack submarines and long-range strategic bomber aircraft, supported by air-to-air refuelling capabilities, fundamentally rewrote the rules of deterrence capabilities.
Australia has enjoyed the benefits of extended deterrence provided by the global reach and capability of the US since the end of the Second World War and, in particular, following the end of Vietnam and the nation’s shift towards a policy of continental defence.
However, the changing geo-political, strategic and economic reality of the Indo-Pacific and the emergence of peer and near-peer competitors across the region has served to undermine the qualitative and quantitative edge long enjoyed by the US and allies like the UK, Australia and Japan.
For Australia in particular, the introduction of the ‘Defence of Australia’ doctrine directly impacted the force structure and platform acquisition of the Australian Defence Force, as defending the nation’s northern approaches and the vaunted ‘sea-air gap’ became paramount in the minds of strategic and political leaders alike.
“Until the late 1960s, Australian defence planning and policy assumed that our forces would normally operate in conjunction with allies, and well forward of the continent. We saw our security inextricably linked with the security of others,” author of the 1986 Dibb report, Paul Dibb explains.
This doctrine advocated for the retreat of Australia’s forward military presence in the Indo-Pacific and a focus on the defence of the Australian continent and its direct approaches effectively limited the nation’s capacity to act as an offshore balancer.
Only a dead fish goes with the flow
Many would rightfully argue that following the relative decline and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of American hegemony throughout the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, this was a prudent step as Australia positioned itself as a key benefactor of the American peace, with minor constabulary responsibilities.
This shift towards focusing on the direct defence of the Australian mainland dramatically altered the nation’s approach to intervention in subsequent regional security matters. These included Australia’s intervention in East Timor and later, to a lesser extent, in the Solomon Islands and Fiji during the early to mid-2000s.
Each of these missions were further followed by subsequent humanitarian and disaster relief deployments throughout the region, each stretching the Australian Defence Force’s capacity to juggle multiple concurrent operations.
However, the rise of China as a peer or near-peer competitor, driven by an unprecedented economic miracle and corresponding military build-up and overt pursuit of its territorial ambitions, coupled with the relative decline of the US as a reliable tactical and strategic benefactor, has caught many Indo-Pacific nations off guard.
The changing dynamics of the Indo-Pacific, namely on the back of increasing Chinese assertiveness, has drawn extensive commentary from across Australia’s political and strategic policy-making community.
Recognising this, Marcus Hellyer, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) senior analyst for defence economics and capability, has launched a series of analysis articles, beginning with ‘Deterrence and long-range strike capability for Australia’, in which he begins to debate the options available to Australia.
Hellyer’s core driving force behind the radical shift in thinking is the fact that “we could no longer take American military primacy for granted”.
This has been echoed by colleagues like Hugh White, who has called for Australia to plan for the worst, stating: “We cannot use such allies as a basis for our strategic posture and force planning. That is why I argue that we should plan to defend Australia alone. This might come as a surprise in view of the much-hyped network of defence partnerships we have built up over the past few decades.”
Framing the conversation
Much of the debate surrounding the development of a credible long-range strategic strike capability, as formally operated by the Australian Defence Force in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, has been dominated by sceptics and pessimists, who albeit rightly point out that any such capability would expose Australia to unprecedented reprisal, should the capability be used in an offensive manner.
“To paraphrase the sceptics, having a strike capability is pointless, and in fact self-destructive, because any conventional strike on a major-power adversary’s homeland would inflict minimal damage and be repaid 10 times over,” Hellyer explained.
“It’s a fair point, and one that I considered so obvious I hadn’t discussed it. I’m not saying we should get a long-range strike capability to bomb a major-power adversary’s homeland.”
In recognising this, Hellyer seeks to dodge the reductionist, defeatist dialogue that has long dominated much of Australia’s strategic debate since the introduction of the Dibb report to frame the conversation and capabilities up for consideration.
Hellyer also seeks to expand upon the definition of contemporary deterrence theory as explained by Paul Huth to explain two forms of deterrence, stating:
“The two primary forms of deterrence are deterrence by denial and deterrence by punishment. The former seeks to deter by increasing the difficulty of the adversary’s achieving their goals to the point that they regard the risk and investment of resources necessary to not be worth the cost. The latter seeks to deter by imposing penalties. Those penalties could be nuclear, but they could take other forms, such as economic reprisals.”
Based on these factors, Hellyer plans to take a deeper look at the impact of such deterrence capabilities on Australia’s deterrence capabilities and how it may impact the long-term force structure and acquisition plans of the ADF. (Source: Defence Connect)
03 Mar 20. U.N. agency sees sharp increase in Iran’s uranium stockpile, potentially reducing time needed to build nuclear bomb. Iran is dramatically ramping up production of enriched uranium in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed Tuesday in a report that also criticized Tehran for blocking access to suspected nuclear sites.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency reported a near-tripling of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium just since November, with total holdings more than three times the 300-kilogram limit set by the nuclear accord. Iran also substantially increased the number of machines it is using to enrich uranium, the agency said, allowing it to make more of the nuclear fuel faster.
The report is the first since Iran announced it would no longer adhere to any of the nuclear pact’s restrictions on uranium fuel production, in a protest of the Trump administration’s decision to walk away from the deal. Iran has declined to formally pull out of the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which it agreed to sharply curtail its nuclear activities and submit to intrusive inspections in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Inspectors confirmed that Iran now possesses more than 1,020 kilograms of low-enriched uranium — up from 372 kilograms in the fall. The additions to the stockpile theoretically could allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon more quickly if it decided to do so, although the IAEA found no evidence that Iran is taking specific steps toward nuclear weapons production. Iran’s low-enriched uranium, the kind typically used in nuclear power plants, would have to undergo further processing to be converted to the highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear bombs.
In a rare step, the watchdog agency criticized Iran in a separate report for blocking its efforts to investigate claims of undisclosed nuclear activity at three sites in Iran. The agency sent letters demanding access to the sites, where Iran is suspected of storing equipment and other material used in past nuclear research.
After a 2019 visit to one of the sites, IAEA officials reported finding unexplained traces of enriched uranium. Inspectors have since observed Iran carrying out activities “consistent with efforts to sanitize” one of the locations, the agency said in the report.
The facilities came to light after the release of a trove of stolen nuclear documents taken from inside Iran by Israeli operatives in 2018. The stolen records offered new insight into Iran’s well-documented efforts to build nuclear weapons early in the last decade. Iranian scientists conducted extensive research on weapons components as part of a secret initiative dubbed Project 119 but shelved the effort after Iran’s leaders ordered the program halted in 2003, U.S. officials say. Afterward, Iran focused instead on making nuclear fuel, building two large factories for making enriched uranium.
The 2015 Iran agreement was signed by the United States and five other world powers: Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. In it, Iran agreed to sweeping restrictions on its nuclear activities, including limits on its uranium stockpile and curbs on the number of centrifuges — machines used to enrich uranium — that it could operate. Iran also agreed to remove and disable a nuclear reactor that U.S. officials feared could be used to make plutonium for nuclear bombs. Some of the restrictions were set to expire after 15 years.
Donald Trump ridiculed the Obama-era deal during his presidential campaign, calling it a “disaster” and the “worst deal ever.” Although Trump administration officials confirmed that Iran was honoring the terms of the agreement, the White House in 2018 said it was quitting the accord and reimposing economic sanctions in an effort to force Iran to agree to even tougher limits. The other signatories have continued to honor the agreement, although Iran’s recent defiance has spurred concerns that the deal will collapse, freeing Iran to further accelerate its nuclear program. (Source: Washington Post)
02 Mar 20. Taliban Agreement Is Afghanistan’s Best Chance for Peace, Esper Says. The joint declaration between the United States and the Afghan government is the best chance to bring peace to Afghanistan and return U.S. service members home, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said during a news conference today. Under the agreement signed Saturday in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban must negotiate with the Afghan government and agree not to allow the country to be used as a haven for terrorists intent on attacking the United States and its allies.
If the Taliban honors the agreement, all foreign troops may be out of Afghanistan in 14 months.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and veteran of many tours of duty in Afghanistan, also supported the declaration. “A negotiated political settlement is the only responsible way to end the war in Afghanistan,” he said during the news conference.
Milley reiterated that the declaration would not have been possible without the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have served and sacrificed over the last 18 years.
He said the United States owes an extraordinary debt of gratitude to America’s sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice and to their families who have given their all to this nation.
But Esper said the declaration is just a first step. The U.S. and other coalition forces will continue to support Afghan security forces against terrorists whenever they emerge. “My message to the coalition was to stay vigilant because we still have a long and difficult mission ahead of us,” the secretary said.
There were reports of Taliban attacks on government troops today. U.S. officials are watching the situation closely. Milley said the Taliban is not a monolithic group. Some of the terror groups under the rubric of the Taliban are only loosely controlled. Afghan and coalition forces will examine the attacks to figure out who is responsible and take the necessary steps against the perpetrators.
Both Esper and Milley cautioned people not to expect an absolute cessation of violence in Afghanistan. “This is a significant step forward, … and it’s going to lead to inter-Afghan dialogue and ultimately leads to a peace agreement,” Milley said. “But to think that (the violence) is going to go to zero immediately, that probably is not going to be the case.”
Through this process, the United States will secure its national security interests, they said. Of primary importance is ensuring Afghanistan is not a base for terrorism. “We’ll maintain whatever capabilities necessary to defend the United States against terrorists,” Milley said.
Esper said the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be reduced, and that process is starting. “The agreement says that we reduce down to 8,600 it within 135 days … and that drawdown would begin in the first 10 days,” he said. “My instructions to the commander was, ‘Let’s get moving. Let’s show our full faith and effort to do that.'”
The secretary said the coalition forces can still conduct the necessary missions with a force of 8,600. (Source: US DoD)
29 Feb 20. Pentagon sees Taliban deal as allowing fuller focus on China. The Trump administration’s peace deal with the Taliban opens the door for an initial American troop withdrawal that Defense Secretary Mark Esper sees as a step toward the broader goal of preparing for potential future war with China. \zaEsper has his eye on “great power competition,” which means staying a step ahead of China and Russia on battlefields of the future, including in space and in next-generation strategic weapons like hypersonic missiles and advanced nuclear weapons. He sees China in particular as a rising threat to American predominance on the world stage.
To do more to prepare for the China challenge, Esper wants to do less in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. It’s less about moving troops directly to Asia from elsewhere in the world, and more about reducing commitments in lower-priority regions so that more military units can train together at home on skills related to conventional warfare. Predecessors in the Pentagon have had similar hopes, only to be drawn back to crises in the greater Middle East. In the past year alone, the U.S. has sent an extra 20,000 troops to the Middle East, mainly due to worries about Iran.
With President Donald Trump’s emphasis on ending America’s wars against extremists and insurgents, including in Afghanistan, Esper wants to bring home as many troops as he thinks he prudently can so they can prepare for “high end” warfare.
Stephen Biddle, a policy analyst and a Columbia University professor of international and public affairs, is skeptical that the Pentagon will be able to fully shift away from Afghanistan and other regional hot spots like Iraq, recalling that the Obama administration tried the same thing — also with China’s rise in mind — in the 2011-2014 period.
“The trouble was the Islamic State burst onto the scene,” in Iraq and Syria, Biddle said in an interview, and “lo and behold it was right back to a focus on the Middle East and small wars.”
In remarks Saturday in Kabul, Esper kept the focus on prospects for a complete U.S. withdrawal, while cautioning that the United States “will not hesitate” to strike what he called terrorist threats in Afghanistan if the Taliban falters in its promise to prevent extremist groups to use Afghan soil to launch attacks on the homelands of the U.S. or its allies.
“We still have a long way to go,” Esper said.
Reducing U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan to zero is “our ultimate objective,” he said, but added that it will take “many months.”
Late last year, Esper said he would be willing to reduce troop levels even if no deal could be made with the Taliban.
“I would like to do that because what I want to do is reallocate forces to” the Asia-Pacific region, he said at the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum in December. He said he wants to do the same thing in the Mideast, Africa and Europe.
“All of these places where I can free up troops where I could either bring them home to allow them to rest and refit and retrain or/and then reallocate them (to the Asia-Pacific region) to compete with the Chinese, to reassure our allies, to conduct exercises and training,” he said.
The U.S. has signed a peace deal with the Taliban that could signal the end of America’s longest war. If the Taliban meet the conditions of the deal, the U.S. could withdraw its 13,000 troops in the country in a little over a year.
The Pentagon has not publicly spelled out a precise timetable for troop reductions in Afghanistan, but Esper has said the peace deal signed Saturday in Doha, Qatar by American officials and Taliban representatives triggers the start of a drawdown from the current total of nearly 13,000 to about 8,600, similar to the number Trump inherited when he entered the White House three years ago. The reduction won’t happen immediately; it will be carried out over a period of several months and could be slowed, stopped or even reversed if peace prospects turn sour.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said the U.S. will hold the Taliban and Afghan national security forces to their commitments to reduce the level of violence and predicted a “rocky and bumpy” path ahead. “It’s not about trust, it’s about what happens on the ground not only yesterday, which was an important day, but in the days to follow,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told a House committee on Wednesday, “The whole thing is dependent upon conditions and dependent upon Taliban behavior.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/AP/Military Times)
29 Feb 20. Ex-Philippine official warns of ‘tragedy’ if US pact ends. A former Philippine foreign secretary warned Friday that the president’s decision to end a key U.S. security pact will undermine the ability of American forces to help the country deal with major disasters and deter aggression in the disputed South China Sea.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario cited the deployment of more than 13,000 American military personnel, dozens of aircraft and U.S. Navy ships under the Visiting Forces Agreement when Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the central Philippines in 2013.
“Other countries wanted to immediately respond but were constrained by the lack of legal arrangements for their troops to enter the Philippines,” del Rosario told a Manila forum where the repercussions of President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the VFA were discussed.
Duterte’s administration notified the U.S. government two weeks ago that it intends to abrogate the 1998 agreement, which allows the entry of large numbers of American forces for joint training with Filipino troops, including disaster-response maneuvers, and lays down the legal terms for their temporary stay. The termination will take effect after 180 days unless both sides agree to keep the agreement.
“What is unfolding before us is a national tragedy which should be resisted,” del Rosario said. “As a democratic and republican country, we do not believe that one man alone can make this damaging choice for our people.”
The move by Duterte, known for his disdain of U.S. security policies while praising China and Russia, would be a major setback for the two countries’ decades-long treaty alliance.
Haiyan was one of the most ferocious typhoons on record and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million people.
Del Rosario, who was foreign secretary when Haiyan struck, said the U.S. government delivered 2,500 tons of relief supplies and evacuated more than 21,000 people to safety.
Duterte defended his decision Wednesday, saying the Philippines can survive and address a long-running communist insurgency and threats by Muslim extremists in the largely Roman Catholic nation’s south without American military assistance.
“Do we need America to survive as a nation?” Duterte asked. “Do we need … the might and power of the military of the United States to fight our rebellion here and the terrorists down south and control drugs?”
“The military and police said, `Sir, we can do it,'” Duterte said.
Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez told the forum there are efforts to find a way to keep American special forces who provide counterterrorism training, intelligence and advice to Filipino troops in the southern Philippines.
There should be efforts to study how the VFA can be “polished” or improved using other similar status of forces agreements, including one the Philippines forged with Australia, Romualdez said.
“From what I’m told, the door is not totally shut,” he said, without elaborating. “But, again, the bottom line always falls on sovereignty and that is the reason why it is a very ticklish and a very sensitive issue for both our countries in discussing what we want to do moving forward.”
Del Rosario said the country’s alliance with Washington appears to have deterred China from undertaking reclamation and construction in Scarborough Shoal, a disputed fishing area off the northwestern Philippines that China effectively seized after a tense standoff in 2012.
China has claimed virtually the entire South China Sea, where the U.S. military presence has been seen by some rival claimants as a crucial counterweight in a busy waterway where they fear an armed conflict could erupt. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/AP/Navy Times)
01 Mar 20. Be prepared for a global Chinese Navy: RADM McDevitt. Retired US Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt has painted a rather startling image of China’s growing maritime power projection and global naval ambitions, with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) expected to be the world’s largest navy by 2035.
Naval power has always played a critical role in the way great powers interact – competitions to design the most powerful warships often characterising the great power competitions of the past.
Drawing on perhaps one of modern history’s most powerful ironies, the naval arms race in the decades leading up to the outbreak of the First World War saw an unprecedented competition between the UK and German Empire, with much of the emphasis placed on Dreadnought battleships echoing a similar, albeit smaller, naval arms race gathering steam between the US and China.
Despite President Donald Trump’s commitment to achieving a 355-ship fleet, capable of guaranteeing global maritime security, freedom of navigation and stability in the face of increased peer and near-peer competitors – the funding question remains an important one for consideration.
Indeed recently, Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained the importance of balancing readiness with force and platform modernisation to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“This need to balance current readiness with modernisation is the department’s central challenge and will require strong leadership, open and continuous dialogue with others, and the courage to make tough decisions.”
In spite of these factors, the President has sought to capitalise on a surging US economy to pass yet another increase for the US defence budget – expected to see the Pentagon receiving US$738bn for FY2020-21.
While the figure is less than the US$750bn President Trump called for earlier this year, the US$738bn figure will still see a major ramp up in the modernisation, recapitalisation and expansion of the US military at a time of increasing great power rivalry.
Recognising this, retired US Navy Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt has shed light on the growing capabilities of the Chinese Navy as the naval arms race between the world’s pre-eminent superpower – the US – and China’s rising position continues to gather pace.
McDevitt’s analysis for the US Naval Institute, China’s Navy will be the World’s largest in 2035, paints a startling picture for both the US and key allies like Australia, who will be increasingly called upon to supplement the US Navy as it seeks to maintain the post-Second World War regional and global order.
A global force by 2035 – Setting a monumental challenge for China’s industry and America’s
While much has been made about America’s reinvigorated push to achieve a 355-ship fleet, driven by the recapitalisation of Cold War-era platforms like the Nimitz, Ticonderoga, older Arleigh Burke, Ohio and Los Angeles Class vessels, it appears that for the first time America’s industrial capacity may be bested.
China’s fleet, on the other hand, is starting from a comparatively modern base, with much of the fleet, both its ‘blue water’ and ‘green water’ vessels, drawing on the rise of the emerging superpower’s industrial capacity.
Seeking to capitalise on this, China’s President Xi Jinping seeks to develop what he describes as a “world-class force” – McDevitt expands on this, explaining China’s naval ambitions:
“He [Xi Xinping] wants the naval modernisation associated with becoming world class ‘to be largely completed by 2035’, just 15 years away. China has yet to publish its intended navy force structure objective, which remains a state secret.
“To speculate on what the PLAN will look like in 15 years, a good starting point is to assess what it has done in the past 15 years. In this short decade and a half, China launched and/or commissioned 131 blue-water capable ships and built approximately 144 other warships destined for operations only in China’s near seas, for a grand total of approximately 275 new warships.
“During several of these years China’s most modern ship yards were not yet in full production, so it is not unreasonable to forecast that over the next 15 years it could commission or launch 140 more blue-water ships to grow its far-seas capacity and to replace some of today’s blue water ships that were commissioned between 2005 and 2010. In sum, I predict the PLAN’s blue water capable ships in 2035 will number around 270 warships.”
Across the Pacific, amid concerns regarding the potential for the US Navy to become a ‘hollow force’, Secretary Esper speaking to DefenseNews articulated his commitment and ambitions to getting the US Navy to a 355-ship fleet by 2030, with an aim to achieve a much higher number in response to the mounting global challenges.
“To me that’s where we need to push. We need to push much more aggressively. That would allow us to get our numbers up quickly, and I believe that we can get to 355, if not higher, by 2030,” Secretary Esper said.
This statement echoes the statements made by acting US Navy Secretary, Thomas Modly, who stated, “It was also the President’s goal during the election. We have a goal of 355, we don’t have a plan for 355. We need to have a plan, and if it’s not 355, what’s it going to be and what’s it going to look like?”
Discussing the composition of this future force, Secretary Esper posited some interesting ideas for consideration, leveraging advances in unmanned and autonomous/semi-autonomous ships to ensure the US Navy meets its force structure obligations.
“What we have to tease out is, what does that future fleet look like? I think one of the ways you get there quickly is moving toward lightly manned [ships], which over time can be unmanned,” Secretary Esper added.
“We can go with lightly manned ships, get them out there. You can build them so they’re optionally manned and then, depending on the scenario or the technology, at some point in time they can go unmanned.”
Despite a record level of investment in the US Armed Forces, the US Navy’s shipbuilding budget is dominated by expensive, big-ticket acquisition programs, namely the new Gerald R Ford Class aircraft carriers, the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines and Virginia Class attack submarines.
Indeed, the FY2020-21 budget request seeks US$19.9 bn ($29.6 bn) for shipbuilding, approximately US$4.1 bn ($6.1 bn) more than the levels enacted for the FY2019-20 budget request.
As part of the Navy’s budget request, the service asked for two Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, a single Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine and Virginia Class attack submarine, one FFG(X) future frigate, a single LPD-17 amphibious transport dock and two towing and salvage ships.
The US$4.1bn ($6.1bn) reduction saw a cut to both the Virginia and FFG(X) programs, each of which were expected to see two ships funded in the FY2020-21 budget – moving forward, the longer-term budget cuts will also see the US Navy cut five Flight III Arleigh Burke variants.
Additionally, the US Navy’s budget requests US$2.5 bn ($3.7bn) for aircraft acquisition over the 2020 decade, requesting ‘just’ US$17.2bn ($25.6bn) – which would deliver 24 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 21 F-35Cs (split between the Navy and Marine Corps) and four E-2D Hawkeye aircraft.
Despite concerns about a small number of increasingly expensive platforms – think the troubled Zumwalt and Ford classes – US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday remains optimistic about the US Navy’s capacity to adapt and win the fight.
“Our fleet is too small, and our capabilities are stacked on too few ships that are too big. And that needs to change over time. [But] we have made significant investments in aircraft carriers and we’re going to have those for a long time,” ADM Gilday stated.
“Look, people don’t give us enough credit for the gray matter between our ears, and there are some very smart people we have thinking about how we fight better. The fleet that we have today, 75 per cent of it, will be the fleet we have in 2030. So, we have to think about how we get more out of it.”
McDevitt added, “PRC shipyards have demonstrated the ability to turn out destroyers, frigates and corvettes in quantity so building capacity is not an issue. Money, on the other hand, could be an issue, depending on how China’s economy performs over the next decade and a half.
“The PLAN will have an important voice in determining the precise mix of warships, but it may be forced to make sub-optimal choices if economic or leadership developments cause its budget share to drop
“Turning to the near-seas category of warships, I estimate PLAN strength will remain constant. It is currently in the range of 160 ships (144 of which were commissioned since 2005). The biggest change will be replacing the 60 or so single-mission Houbei Class fast-attack craft with frigates or corvettes that retain the same anti-ship cruise missile punch but also add antisubmarine warfare capability.”
This build cycle and national commitment to expanding its influence both in the Indo-Pacific and more broadly is summarised by McDevitt, when he states: “In 2035 the PLAN will consist of approximately 270 blue-water ships of the classes listed in the table above, plus another 160 smaller ships, or special mission units (this total does not include minesweepers, small amphibious craft, and sundry auxiliaries). The result will be a 430-ship PLA Navy that will be the world’s largest, by far. By any measure this navy will have to be judged ‘world class’.” (Source: Defence Connect)
28 Feb 20. Arms-curbing Wassenaar Arrangement agrees to add military-grade software, chip tech to export control list. A group of 42 countries including Japan and the U.S. have agreed to add military-grade software and manufacturing technology for weapons-capable chip parts to an international list of items subject to export controls in an effort to counter cyberattacks and other threats, sources said.
The move by the member states of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies (WA) is apparently aimed at curbing the proliferation of military technology to keep it out of the hands of states like China, North Korea and Iran.
Though Japan plans to tighten procedures for exporting products and technology with military applications under the WA agreement, it might affect some domestic companies as the new measures include cutting-edge fields related to manufacturing.
According to the sources, the agreement was reached unanimously at a meeting in December of the WA, a Vienna-headquartered international nonbinding regime that restricts the exporting of commodities and technologies that can be diverted for use by military forces and in weapons.
The 42 members include Britain, Russia, India and South Korea, but China, Iran and North Korea do not participate.
The WA agreement came amid rising concerns that key infrastructure and military systems might be subject to cyberattacks during the simmering standoff between the United States and Iran. (Source: glstrade.com/https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company