Sponsored by Exensor
22 Apr 21. ‘We’re going to stay in Iraq,’ says top US Middle East commander. As the U.S. prepares to draw down its last 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, the head of Central Command told reporters Thursday that there are no current plans to begin a similar withdrawal of the last 2,500 in Iraq.
There have been discussions about it with the defense secretary, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told Military Times, but Operation Inherent Resolve’s efforts against ISIS aren’t finished.
“We’re going to be there, our NATO partners are going to be there, to finish the ISIS fight,” he said. “And we’re going to stay in Iraq.”
Though the physical ISIS caliphate has been defeated, reports estimate there are as many as 10,000 loyal fighters still active in Iraq and Syria.
At the same time, Shi’a militia groups funded by the Iranian government continue to operate within Iraq, attacking coalition bases. McKenzie offered that pressuring the U.S. to leave Iraq is one of Iran’s goals.
“I think Iran still pursues a policy of attempting to eject the United States ― and indeed, our partners and allies ― from the region as well,” he said.
Iran’s role in attacks on U.S. and coalition troops makes the case that the threats in that country are not under control in the same way the Biden administration considers the al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan diminished.
“Our troops have accomplished the mission that they were sent to Afghanistan to accomplish,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during an April 14 press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. “And they have much for which to be proud.”
When asked about the end goal in Iraq, McKenzie pointed to the recent strategic dialogue between the Iraqi and U.S. governments in April, adding that it’s likely the NATO mission will expand and outpace the U.S. role there.
There was a brief moment of tension early last year, however, when Iraq’s parliament voted to expel the U.S. following the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Souleimani.
“I think it’s very important to realize that the government of Iraq wants us to stay,” he said, though they had an opportunity last year to rescind their invitation. “They want us to stay. They need us to continue the fight against ISIS.”
At the same time, the U.S. has resolved to pull troops out of Afghanistan despite strong support from that government to continue counter-terror and train-advise-assist missions with the Afghan security forces.
“Clearly, in Iraq, there’s still great work to be done with ISIS on the ground,” McKenzie said. “And I would just avoid a comparison of Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m not going to get into a comparison between Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Still, he said, the Biden administration is reviewing U.S. presence in Iraq, and McKenzie is in regular contact with his boss about force levels there.
“I’m sure we’ll get some guidance and some decisions on this in the future,” he said. (Source: Army Times)
22 Apr 21. Russia orders troops to pull back from Ukraine border. Military personnel to return to barracks but remain in ‘state of readiness’, defence minister says Russian military vehicles during drills in Crimea. Tanks, military aircraft and naval ships have moved to the Ukraine border in recent weeks, according to Kyiv. Russia’s defence minister has ordered tens of thousands of troops recently deployed close to the border with Ukraine to return to their bases in a move likely to ease immediate fears of a conflict and tensions with the west. Europe Express newsletter Sign up here to receive Europe Express, your essential guide to what happens in Europe, sent straight to your inbox every weekday. Moscow had moved as many as 100,000 troops, alongside tanks, military aircraft and naval ships, to its border with Ukraine over recent weeks, according to Kyiv, sparking fears of a potential invasion and prompting condemnation from the US and the Nato military alliance. Russia said the troops were conducting exercises and were no threat to anyone. Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, said on Thursday that the exercises had been completed and that the troops should start to leave the region from Friday. All troops would be back in their original bases by May 1, he added. Russia’s rouble, which is sensitive to any threat of western sanctions, jumped as much as 1.4 per cent against the dollar on the news. The possibility of war between Russia and Ukraine has put more pressure on strained relations between the Kremlin and western powers due to new US sanctions on Moscow, a string of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and international anger at the poor health of jailed opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, watches drills from a military helicopter in Crimea © Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry/AP “I believe that the objectives of the surprise check have been fully achieved,” Shoigu said in a statement. “The troops have demonstrated the ability to provide a reliable defence of the country. In this regard, I made a decision to complete [the exercises].” While the call for a withdrawal looks set to alleviate short-term fears of a conflict, the region will remain a potential flashpoint, with Russia and Nato likely to continue to accuse each other of stoking tensions with the deployment of military personnel. Shoigu on Thursday said all Russian troops should remain “in a state of readiness for an immediate response in case of the unfavourable development” of Nato’s annual Defender Europe exercises, which are taking place in eastern European countries until June. The withdrawal announcement comes a day after President Vladimir Putin used his annual national address to lawmakers to warn western countries to expect a “quick and tough” response if they cross any of Russia’s “red lines”. Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, in a move that precipitated a war between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army for control of the Donbass, the eastern part of Ukraine bordering Russia. Russia’s unexpected decision to conduct the recent military drills came amid a sharp rise in ceasefire breaches in Donbass, adding to the more than 14,000 people killed there since the conflict began. The exercises led Ukrainian officials and a number of western capitals to warn that Russia may have been considering a military operation inside Ukrainian territory, and prompted demands from the US, Nato and EU states for Russia to withdraw the troops. (Source: FT.com)
21 Apr 21. Commander Says Africa Is Too Important for Americans to Ignore. Africa is a fascinating continent of tremendous possibilities but also tremendous dangers, and the U.S. ignores the nations of Africa at its own peril, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command said during an interview.
“China and Russia don’t ignore Africa, and that alone should say something,” Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said.
Africa has 13 of the 25 fastest growing economies in the world, Townsend said. In a time of climate change, Africa has 60% of the arable land on the globe. “This fact alone should show how important Africa is for the world,” he added.
The continent also has a plethora of strategic materials, such as cobalt, chromium, tantalum and more. African resources are critical to 21st century progress.
Africa has a growing population, and demographers estimate that by 2050 one in four people on Earth will be African.
The country is also a crossroads of the world. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait between Djibouti and Yemen is a choke point at the southern end of the Red Sea. There is another choke point between Sicily and Libya. The Strait of Gibraltar is between Europe and Africa. The recent blockage of the Suez Canal threw light onto two more choke points: the Mozambique Channel and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Townsend said. These sea lines of communication are vital around the globe and are ever in Townsend’s mind as he engages the nations of the continent.
A number of Africa countries are among the “most fragile” in the world, Townsend said. These countries have ungoverned or little governed areas that attract violent extremist organizations, which capitalize on economic and political dysfunction to extend their reach.
He said governments in these areas need help. “An African leader once said to me ‘A drowning man will reach for any hand,'” Townsend said. “They are drowning in poverty and will take help from whomever it comes from.”
This offers a perfect opening for Russia and particularly China, Townsend said. “The Chinese sometimes refer to Africa as their ‘second continent,’ and some Chinese military leaders refer to the east coast of Africa as China’s ‘fifth island chain,'” the general said.
China has its first overseas military base in Djibouti and has invested heavily in ports around the continent, he said. The Chinese are playing a long game on the continent. The Chinese Communist Party wants to change the international rules-based architecture to favor China.
Economic pressure on African nations could gather votes in the United Nations and in other world bodies to do just that. Maybe not tomorrow, but some day.
The United States, actually, is the preferred partner on the continent, Townsend said. “We were never a colonizing power in Africa, and we are regarded as an honest broker by many nations,” he said. “In addition, our values are their values.”
Townsend said the U.S. could use this to gain access and influence with the nations of Africa without “debt-trap diplomacy” — a term that refers to China’s lending practices.
A number of violent extremist organizations operate in Africa, including al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab in Somalia and ISIS allies. Al-Shabab has stated it wants to attack the U.S. homeland, and it is a major contributor to global al-Qaida.
Townsend said the U.S. can help Africans confront these groups. “We say we work ‘by, with, and through’ our African partners, so much it is almost a cliche, but it is true,” he said. “It’s the only way to get a handle on this problem: African solutions for African problems is the way we work at Africom.”
More engagement is needed, the general said. Exercise African Lion and the Express series of naval exercises are important to develop the personal contacts needed to operate on the continent. In addition, having more African military officers and noncommissioned officers going to American professional military education would also benefit U.S. relations with the nations of the continent.
The Ebola outbreak of 2014 is an example of what U.S. aid can achieve in Africa. When the disease first appeared, U.S. military epidemiologists worked closely with African medical professionals to contain the disease. They worked to educate populations on ways to stop transmission and developed procedures to care for those infected. U.S. Army units deployed to the region to build care facilities, laboratories and more.
The epidemic ended without becoming a global pandemic. “Ebola is still present in some countries in Africa, but they learned how to contain it,” Townsend said. “Sure, we helped them develop their capabilities, but they have [the] capacity to manage Ebola on their own now.” (Source: US DoD)
21 Apr 21. Rescue vessels begin search for missing Indonesian submarine. An Indonesian submarine with 53 personnel on board has gone missing in deep waters during a training exercise, with a submarine rescue vessel from Singapore already on its way to assist in the search.
The German-built Type 209 diesel-electric submarine KRI Nanggala was declared missing in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time in waters north of the Indonesian resort island of Bali after it failed to report the results of a torpedo drill it was undertaking at the time, according to an Indonesian navy spokesman quoted by Reuters.
Indonesia’s military chief, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, added that neighboring Singapore and Australia had been asked to provide assistance in locating the missing submarine, with ship tracking software showing the former’s submarine rescue vessel MV Swift Rescue already sailing southwards towards Bali as of Wednesday afternoon local time.
The southeast Asian island nation signed a submarine rescue agreement with Indonesia in 2012 and has similar agreements with several other navies, including the United States, to render submarine rescue assistance in the region should a need for such services arise.
The MV Swift Rescue, which is operated by the Singaporean navy but manned by civilian contractors, is equipped with a Deep Search and Rescue Six (DSAR 6) submersible, which is based on James Fisher Defence’s DSAR 500 Class submarine rescue vehicle.
The Swift Rescue will join other Indonesian navy ships already searching for the submarine, with ship tracking websites showing at least two Indonesian corvettes already at the vessel’s last known location, which is reportedly between 700 to 800 meters (2,300 to 2,625 feet) deep.
The KRI Nanggala was built in 1978 and is the Indonesian navy’s second-oldest submarine in its fleet of five boats, having been delivered in the early 1980s and given a comprehensive refit in South Korea in 2012.
Australia has not announced if its own submarine rescue capabilities are being sent for the search. The Royal Australian Navy has a British-designed LR5 which is also managed by James Fisher Defence as its contracted Submarine Escape and Rescue System. (Source: Defense News)
21 Apr 21. US looking at ‘over-the-horizon’ options for counter-terrorism ops in Afghanistan. As US and coalition troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by 11 September, the commander of US Central Command (USCENTCOM), US Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, said on 20 April that the Pentagon is looking at “offshore, over-the-horizon options” to conduct counter-terrorism activities in the Central Asian country, if required. Testifying before the US House Armed Services Committee, the commander said that some of the US troops still in Afghanistan will remain “in the region”, adding that he is currently deciding how the United States will be able to conduct counter-terrorism activities in the area without having a military presence in Afghanistan.
”I’m actually conducting detailed planning, by the direction of the Secretary [of Defense], to look at those options right now. I will report back to him by the end of the month [April] with some alternatives,” he noted.
Gen McKenzie said that if a crisis arises in Afghanistan following the pull-out and the US needs to “go back in”, there are three things the US military will need to do: ”You need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” he said.
A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAV. USCENTCOM Commander Gen McKenzie said on 20 April that Pentagon is looking at “offshore, over-the-horizon options” to conduct counter-terrorism activities in Afghanistan, if required. (General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc)
”The first two require heavy intelligence support, and if you’re out of the country and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible … it will just be harder to do it,” said the commander. (Source: Jane’s)
21 Apr 21. China close to ‘any plausible nuclear strategy’, says USSTRATCOM chief. China is capable of executing “any plausible nuclear employment strategy” within the Indo-Pacific region and will soon be able to do so at intercontinental ranges, US Navy Admiral Charles A Richard, the commander of the US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), said in a written statement to the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services on 20 April.
“They [China] are no longer a ‘lesser included case’ of the pacing nuclear threat: Russia,” said the admiral, adding that such capabilities “bring into question” China’s stated ‘No First Use’ policy declaration and implied minimum deterrent strategy.
The commander said that while China’s nuclear stockpile is smaller than those fielded by Russia and the United States, it is undergoing an “unprecedented” expansion.
“Behind a complete lack of transparency, China is rapidly improving its strategic nuclear capability and capacity, with rapid growth in road mobile production, doubling the number of launchers in some ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] brigades, deployment of solid fuel … ICBM silos on a potentially large scale, an added air leg; and are well ahead of the pace necessary to double their nuclear stockpile by the end of the decade,” he said.
The admiral said that in the “very near term” China will possess a credible nuclear triad, supported by its growing stockpile and weapon systems capable of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).
“The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is developing and fielding precision-strike nuclear delivery systems such as the dual-use DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) and survivable road-mobile ICBMs with the CSS-10 mod 2 (DF-31A)-class missile capable of striking locations within the continental United States,” noted Adm Richard, adding that China has stood up “at least two brigades” equipped with the CSS-20 (DF-41) road-mobile ICBM system which became operational in 2020. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Apr 21. Any Terrorist Attack on U.S. Military Drawdown in Afghanistan Will Be Met Forcefully, Kirby Says. The United States is well aware of Taliban threats to the U.S. military drawdown, which are scheduled to begin May 1 and be completed by Sept. 11, 2021, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby told the media today at the Pentagon.
“We’ve seen their threats, and it would be imprudent for us not to take those threats seriously,” he said. “It would also be imprudent for the Taliban to not take seriously what [President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] both made clear: Any attack on our drawdown, on our forces or our allies and partners, … will be met very forcefully.”
While work remains to be done on the specifics of the drawdown, the previous administration drew up an agreement to leave on May 1, so some preliminary drawdown plans have been completed, the spokesman said. Those plans have to be revised with the president’s direction to begin the drawdown May 1, and military leadership is working on that. “[More] specific tasking will be coming from Secretary Austin very, very soon,” he added.
Kirby said it is not out of the realm of possibility that for a short time there will be some additional enabling capabilities added to Afghanistan to help bring about a safe, orderly and deliberately planned drawdown. The Defense Department might need logistical, engineering and some force protection capabilities temporarily, he noted.
The spokesman emphasized the drawdown will bring home the 2,500 troops stationed there. “The Resolute Support Mission will be ending, and that includes the training support that we will offer the [Afghan National Security Forces]. Going forward will be largely through a financial perspective,” he said, adding Afghanistan has its own air force now, and they are fighting their own missions to defend their people.
“They’re far more competent and capable now than they have ever been before,” Kirby said.
The United States is working on its future bilateral security relationship with Afghanistan, but it’s expected to be similar to the bilateral military relationship it has with other countries. “It will not include a U.S. military footprint on the ground in Afghanistan, with the exception of what’s going to be required to support the diplomatic mission there,” he said.
The secretary said we will maintain counterterrorism capabilities to continue to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks on our homeland, Kirby said, adding that the United States has a vast range of capabilities available from the U.S. Central Command.
The president and the secretary both made clear it’s still in U.S. national security interest that terrorist attacks on the homeland don’t emanate from Afghanistan and that the country won’t be a safe haven for groups like al-Qaida and other terrorist groups that would threaten the United States. “They’re serious about that objective,” Kirby said, adding as the secretary said, “we will maintain as robust as possible the counterterrorism capabilities in the region to prevent that from happening.”
The president’s withdrawal decision also gives the department an opportunity to refocus its efforts on threats and challenges that are more relevant to our way of life, and those that are threatening our way of life here in the United States, Kirby said, calling Afghanistan threats greatly diminished.
“The secretary considers China our pacing challenge,” he said. “We certainly have obvious and deep concerns about where Russia is going, not only in the region but around the world. We’ve got continued malign activity from Iran and the Middle East. And of course, there’s North Korea, where there are a plethora of significant challenges and threats.” (Source: US DoD)
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