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16 Aug 21. Taliban forces pour into Kabul after president flees Afghanistan. Occupying militants call for ‘open, inclusive Islamic government’ as 20-year US military project comes to chaotic end. Afghanistan’s president fled the country as the Taliban advanced on Kabul, effectively handing back power to the Islamist group almost 20 years after it was ousted by a US-led invasion. Facing virtually no armed resistance, Taliban fighters poured into the capital on Sunday and sought to establish control while US and other foreign governments scrambled to evacuate their citizens and Afghan allies. Late on Sunday, Mullah Baradar, one of the Taliban’s most senior officials, said in a video statement that the movement’s swift victory over the Afghan government had been an unrivalled feat, but that the real test of governing effectively would begin now that it had won power. The Taliban said that it was “holding talks aimed at forming an ‘open, inclusive Islamic government’”. It added: “We are ready to deal with the concerns of the international community through dialogue.” Tumultuous scenes were reported at Kabul airport, as panicked city residents sought flights out, while the US embassy warned of a deteriorating security situation. The Taliban’s entry into Kabul was the culmination of a dramatic week-long lightning offensive in which the Islamist fighters seized control over most of the country, often facing little armed resistance, in an astonishing reordering of Afghanistan’s political map. “The Taliban has entered Kabul,” Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, wrote on Twitter. “The Taliban took over the presidential palace, the police command and other installations. Kabul will effectively fall today.” The onslaught left the government of Ashraf Ghani politically and militarily isolated, and facing an imminent Taliban attack. The president, who had resisted calls for his resignation to pave the way for peace talks with the militia, finally bowed out. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president, confirmed Ghani’s departure and said he was in talks with other Afghan leaders and the Taliban for a peaceful handover. António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, urged “the Taliban and all other parties to exercise the utmost restraint in order to protect lives”. Taliban fighters, who plan to establish an Islamic state ruled by a strict, literal interpretation of Islamic law, were already taking over abandoned city police stations and posts. The US on Sunday increased its deployment to 6,000 troops to support the evacuation of diplomats, allied personnel and thousands of Afghans at risk of retribution for working with the US. Ned Price, the US state department spokesperson, said all embassy staff had been evacuated to the airport, which was secured by the American military. Joe Biden said that Washington had warned the Taliban that “any action . . . that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong military response”. Biden said that the US was working with Ghani and other Afghan political leaders, as well as regional powers, “as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement”. As the US evacuation got under way, embassy staff were instructed to burn sensitive documents, while Kabul residents thronged banks in an attempt to withdraw their savings. Although the Taliban’s week-long onslaught has led to less bloodshed than the extent of their territorial gains might suggest, country specialists warned that Afghanistan, with its diverse mix of rival ethnic groups and fierce community rivalries, was heading towards a civil war. “This is the end of Afghanistan as a nation,” Sara Wahedi, a former Afghan government official who runs a security app for Kabul residents, wrote on Twitter. “No one will be able to lead the entire country.” Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s vice-president who also left the country and whom many predict will mount armed resistance, was defiant after his departure: “I will never, ever & under no circumstances bow to d [sic] Talib terrorists,” he wrote on Twitter. “I won’t disappoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with Taliban. NEVER.” How the 20-year war changed Afghanistan | FT Film Many Afghans expressed fury at the US focus on evacuating its own citizens, leaving the local population at the mercy of the Taliban and its extremist ideology. “I wish I could go to Kabul now and scream outside the US embassy, ‘We are also human beings like you and we also have the right to live and enjoy freedom’,” said a young woman in Herat, which fell to the Taliban a few days ago. She added that the Islamist fighters had already begun searching people’s homes for alcohol or weapons. “How could the Americans hand us over to the Taliban?” she said. The northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a traditional stronghold of fierce anti-Taliban resistance, fell to the insurgent group late on Saturday night after days of heavy fighting. Political figures in the region fled, including anti-Taliban leaders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammad Noor, who sought refuge in neighbouring Uzbekistan, according to local news reports. Analysts said that the abrupt pace of the US drawdown, including abandoning the main US military facility at Bagram air base virtually overnight, had severely damaged morale among the Afghan forces, undermining their will to fight. Recommended The FT ViewThe editorial board History repeats itself in the tragedy of Afghanistan “What we’ve underestimated is the level of Taliban planning with regard to the withdrawal,” Rudra Chaudhuri, of King’s College London, said. “They had a very clear plan. The question is, how did the entirety of the US intelligence community not know this?” Analysts said that some of Afghanistan’s most battle-hardened military leaders had tactically retreated to regroup and were likely to launch insurgencies. “If anybody thinks it’s going to be a peaceful rule for Taliban or Afghanistan is going to be under their complete control and domination — no,” an Indian government official said. “There is always going to be this thorn in their backside.” (Source: FT.com)
13 Aug 21. Troops En Route to Afghanistan Aim to Help Remove Civilians, Pentagon Official Says. U.S. Forces Afghanistan-Forward continue to provide security in Kabul, Afghanistan, at Hamid Karzai International Airport and at the U.S. Embassy, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby told reporters today during a briefing on the U.S. mission.
“These are the existing security elements that were already in Kabul,” Kirby explained. “This comprises the [tactical] and lift aviation assets, infantry, security personnel and some intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets that are already there at the airport.”
The troop movements that were announced yesterday are happening today, he said. Three battalions are preparing to move from their locations in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility to Kabul: a Marine Corps battalion that was already pre-staged in the region and has lift sustainment and support capabilities and infantry; another Marine Corps infantry battalion from a Marine Expeditionary Unit; and a U.S. Army infantry battalion.
“The rest of their forces will continue to flow over the next couple of days. And I expect that by the end of the weekend the bulk of the 3,000 [service members who are deploying] will be in place,” Kirby said.
The brigade combat team from the 82nd Airborne Division that is prepared to go to Kuwait is a Ready Reserve force, which is preparing to deploy, Kirby said, adding that the team would likely arrive in very short order.
Aircraft will support moving civilian personnel, he said, adding that U.S. Transportation Command is working on its plans and sourcing solutions with Air Mobility Command and Centcom to support the mission.
“This is a specific, narrowly focused, tailored mission to help with the safe, secure movement of the reduction of civilian personnel in Kabul, as well as to help support the acceleration of the special immigrant visa process by the State Department,” Kirby emphasized. (Source: US DoD)
14 Aug 21. As Taliban advances, China lays groundwork to accept an awkward reality. A series of photos published last month by Chinese state media of Foreign Minister Wang Yi standing shoulder to shoulder with visiting Taliban official decked out in traditional tunic and turban raised eyebrows on the country’s social media. Since then, China’s propaganda machinery has quietly begun preparing its people to accept an increasingly likely scenario that Beijing might have to recognize the Taliban, the hard line Islamist movement that is rapidly gaining territory in Afghanistan, as a legitimate regime. read more
“Even if they can’t control the whole country, they would still be a significant force to reckon with”, an influential social media commentator known to be familiar with China’s foreign policy thinking wrote on Thursday. The commentator, who goes by the pen name Niutanqin, or “Zither-Playing Cow”, made the remarks on his WeChat channel.
On Friday, the Global Times, a major state-backed tabloid, published an interview with the leader of an Afghan opposition party who said “the transitional government must include the Taliban”.
The Taliban’s momentum as U.S. forces withdraw is awkward for China, which has blamed religious extremism as a destabilizing force in its western Xinjiang region and has long worried that Taliban-controlled territory would be used to harbour separatist forces.
But China also hews to a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
It has also drastically tightened security in Xinjiang, hardening its borders and putting what UN experts and rights groups estimate were at least a million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in detention centres that China describes as vocational training facilities to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.
Last month’s meeting in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin followed a similar visit by a Taliban delegation in 2019, but comes as the group is much more powerful, with Wang saying he hoped Afghanistan can have a “moderate Islamist policy”.
“Isn’t this the same Taliban that blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan in front of world media? Shouldn’t we have a bottom line?” a Chinese netizen commented on the Twitter-like Weibo below a news clip showing Wang standing next to a Taliban official.
In dealing with the Taliban, an increasingly powerful China may be able to leverage the fact that, unlike Russia or the United States, it has never fought them.
When the Taliban were last in power between 1996-2001, China had already suspended relations with Afghanistan, having pulled out its diplomats in 1993 following the outbreak of civil war.
“This is us being pragmatic. How you want to rule your country is largely your own business, just don’t let that affect China,” said Lin Minwang, a South Asia expert with Shanghai’s Fudan University.
“When a major Asian power like China shows it recognizes Taliban’s political legitimacy by meeting them so openly, it is giving the Taliban a big diplomatic win,” Lin said.
State media published at least two analytical stories this week highlighting that Afghanistan had been the “graveyard of empires” and cautioning China not to be mired in the “Great Game”, reinforcing a message that China harbours neither the intentions of sending troops into Afghanistan nor the illusion that it can fill the power vacuum left by the United States.
After their meeting with Wang, the Taliban said they hope China can play a bigger economic role.
“This shows that China might have dangled promises of economic aid and investment to a post-war Afghanistan as a carrot to encourage both sides to stop fighting and reach a political settlement,” said Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at Sichuan University.
The risks to China of regional instability were highlighted last month when 13 people, including nine Chinese workers, were killed in Pakistan in a suicide bombing on a bus. China is building massive infrastructure projects in Pakistan under its Belt & Road initiative. read more
“China’s number one priority is for the fighting to stop, as chaos breeds religious extremism and terrorism,” Zhang said. (Source: Reuters)
13 Aug 21. Kabul residents brace for feared Taliban advance. Displaced families pour into Afghanistan’s capital seeking refuge from fighting and insurgents. Residents of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, are bracing for a potential onslaught after the Taliban seized more than half of the country’s provincial capitals and encircled the city. The insurgent group, which is seeking to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law over the population, on Friday over-ran Puli Alam, the capital of eastern Logar province, just 70km south of Kabul. It was part of a lightning offensive that has seen the militants dramatically alter the country’s political map in just a week, leaving them in control of Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities, respectively. Displaced families were pouring into Kabul seeking refuge from fighting or Taliban control, as the militia has reportedly seized young girls and women for forced marriages in their newly captured territory. Many internal refugees have set up camps in the city’s parks. Afghanistan’s beleaguered president, Ashraf Ghani, has made no public statement on the dramatic military setbacks. He travelled on Wednesday to Mazar-i-Sharif to rally the defence of the city, an anti-Taliban northern stronghold that has seen heavy fighting but remained under government control. Ghani, a former World Bank official, has been under intense pressure from neighbouring Pakistan, which has close ties with the Taliban, to resign and pave the way for a power-sharing arrangement with the Islamist group. The speed of the Taliban’s territorial grabs, often meeting little resistance, as many Afghan troops surrendered after negotiations with the insurgent group’s forces, has left residents of the surrounded capital in despair. Almost 120,000 Afghans have fled from rural areas and towns to Kabul province since the beginning of the year, the UN’s refugee agency said on Friday. The expected arrival of 3,000 US troops and 600 British soldiers in Kabul this weekend could deter an immediate assault, though American military officials said the deployment was to assist with the evacuation of embassy staff and not a combat operation. “Three thousand is a fair old number,” one Kabul-based security analyst told the Financial Times. “I wonder if they are reinserting them to at least give food for thought to the Taliban about whether trying to take Kabul is a good idea.” Many educated Afghans, particularly women, expressed anguish, fear and rage at the country’s rapid unravelling, and especially at the abrupt US withdrawal that had inflicted serious damage on the morale of the Afghan armed forces. “Today, everything has changed,” said Sara Wahedi, a former Afghan government official and chief executive of Ehtesab, a fledgling security app. “My family is having discussions on what to pack, what to sell, what to leave behind and what routes to take out of Kabul.” “This moment feels final,” Muska Dastageer, a lecturer in political science at the American University of Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter. “Tens of millions of us will never recover. There was a belief in a future, in progress in a better tomorrow. And that is being crushed right now.” Recommended Gideon Rachman Joe Biden’s credibility has been shredded in Afghanistan Shafiqa Khpalwak, director of an Afghan foundation that promotes child literacy, said: “Everyone betrayed us. They kept us in the dark and they left us in darkness. I am sure that millions of Afghans feel the same.” Human Rights Watch, the US non-governmental organisation, has appealed to the global community to open its doors to Afghans at particular risk, including high-profile women in public life, local employees of foreign governments, human rights activists and journalists. “Foreign governments should prioritise providing visas and helping ensure safe passage for civilians that the Taliban may target for abuse because of their past work status,” the group urged. Canada announced late on Friday that it was expanding its resettlement program to provide refuge for another 20,000 Afghans at the highest risk from the Taliban, but did not provide a timeline for doing so. (Source: FT.com)
13 Aug 21. NATO Secretary General statement on Afghanistan. NATO Allies met in the North Atlantic Council today to consult on the situation in Afghanistan. We continue to assess the developments on the ground, and we are in constant contact with the Afghan authorities and the rest of the international community. Our aim remains to support the Afghan government and security forces as much as possible. The security of our personnel is paramount. NATO will maintain our diplomatic presence in Kabul, and continue to adjust as necessary.
NATO Allies are deeply concerned about the high levels of violence caused by the Taliban’s offensive, including attacks on civilians, targeted killings, and reports of other serious human rights abuses. The Taliban need to understand that they will not be recognised by the international community if they take the country by force. We remain committed to supporting a political solution to the conflict.
13 Aug 21. Russian defence minister praises cooperation with China at joint wargames. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu praised military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing on Friday and suggested it could develop further, after flying to China for joint manoeuvres involving more than 10,000 troops. The Sibu/Cooperation-2021 wargames concluding in China’s Ningxia region on Friday have been watched by other nations for signs that China and Russia are expanding military ties as they spar with the West.
“We have achieved a high level of interaction between our armed forces on land, in the air and at sea,” Shoigu said in a Defence Ministry statement. “This increase is an important trend towards further activity.”
Russia and China have conducted joint drills since 2005, but Shoigu – a close ally of President Vladimir Putin – noted that it was the first time the Russian military had taken part in an event of this kind in China.
Russia’s Kommersant newspaper this week said the drills also marked the first time Russian soldiers had used Chinese weapons.
Russia this week completed joint drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces near the border with Afghanistan, where rapid advances by the Taliban as the United States withdraws its troops are creating a global security headache.
Moscow pivoted to China in 2014 as its political ties with the West sank to post Cold-War lows over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. China is Russia’s biggest trade partner.
Russian Railways this week said the first railway bridge between Russia and China, over the Amur River, would open soon, a boost for bilateral trade.
Separate Russian drills with Indian forces in the Russian city of Volgograd involving around 500 soldiers ended on Thursday, Zvezda TV said. (Source: Reuters)
13 Aug 21. “India will become the world’s largest arms exporter,” Dr G. Sateesh Reddy; Celebrating the 6th Foundation of MIT ADT University, Pune. “India is self-sufficient in the manufacture of fighter aircraft, missiles, satellites, radar systems and other defence equipment. India is stressing on increasing export of defence equipment to friendly nations. India will be on the top list of global arms exporters in the next few years,” said Defence Secretary (Research and Development) and DRDO President. G. Sateesh Reddy on celebrating the 6th foundation day of MIT Art, Design and Technology University, Pune.
Further Dr. G. Sateesh Reddy said that this is the era of growth in space technology. India has launched more than 40 satellites through PSLV satellite launchers. Heavy satellites are launched into space by the GSLV Satellite Launcher. Work is underway at various levels in India to send a man into space, ‘Chandrayan, Marshyan’. A variety of new technologies are being launched by the Department of Defence.
Today, India is the 6th largest producer of fighter aircraft and battle tanks in the world and the 4th largest producer of supersonic Brahmāstra missiles in the world. The world’s largest range gun is being manufactured in Pune. The development of new technologies is being encouraged through DRDO start-up companies. It wants to establish its identity as a country that will export defences technology. Universities and educational institutions will play an important role in this. DRDO has started several Centres of Excellence in the country. DRDO has signed MoUs with more than 3,000 educational institutions.
MIT ADT University should take the initiative to start a course on Defence Technology. Currently, 8,000 students across the country are doing internships in DRDO’s labs. They are being given the opportunity to study defences technology. An incubator will provide Rs 1 crore to students and Rs 10 crore to industry to encourage innovation. The research will be promoted in Bioengineering Labs, Foot Technology Labs, and Marine Engineering Labs.
Meanwhile, Apple training centre, MIT School of Indian Civil Services and MIT-ISBJ’s Translation and fact-checking laboratory were inaugurated.
Air Marshal Shri. Ajit Bhosale said, “The task of building a successful personality through holistic development should be done by the universities. Teachers should continue to work recognizing their responsibility for the development of the country. National character, nationalism, nationalism and competence for nation-building should be inculcated in the students. Online education is causing huge losses. This has created a gap between online education in urban and rural areas. Webinars, exams, online learning methods have been adopted. Efforts will have to be made to strengthen the education system in rural areas. We need to provide problem-solving education.”
Prof. Dr. Vishwanath Karad said, “MIT ADT University is using research, innovation and creativity in its curriculum as well as the university is providing value-based education to all its students. Through holistic education, the university is working on the overall growth of its students. MIT ADT University is working to create a peace-loving society.”
At the inauguration session Prof. Rahul Karad, Prof. Dr. Mangesh Karad expressed their views.
The 6th foundation day of MIT Art, Design and Technology University was celebrated virtually on Wednesday 11th August 2021. Air Marshal Shri. Ajit Shankarrao Bhosale, Member of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), New Delhi, Prof. Dr. Vishwanath Karad, Founder of MIT Group of Institutions, Prof. Rahul Karad, Managing Trustee and Executive President, MIT Group of Institution, Prof. Dr. Mangesh Karad, Executive President and Vice-Chancellor of MIT ADT University. Prof. Dr. Sunita Mangesh Karad, Prof Jyoti Karad Dhakne, Dr. Anant Chakradev, Dr. Mahesh Chopde and dean, director, teaching and non-teaching staff were present.
About MIT ADT University
MAEER’s Trust which is known to set the strong precedence for the privatization of Engineering education in Maharashtra had taken a first mover’s advantage by establishing the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT-Pune), in 1983, which continues to remain the flagship institute of the group.
MIT Art, Design and Technology University, Pune has been established under the MIT Art, Design and Technology University Act, 2015 (Maharashtra Act No. XXXIX of 2015). The University commenced its operations successfully from 27th June 2016. The University is a self-financed institution and empowered to award the degrees under section 22 of the University Grants Commission act, 1956. The University has a unique blend of Art, Design, and Technology as the core of its academics.
Recently, MIT Art, Design and Technology University, Pune has accomplished the following accolades:
- Ranked 26th for ARIIA 2020 by the Ministry of Education, Govt. of India.
- Received 5 Star rating for exemplary performance by the Ministry of Education’s Innovation Council, Govt. of India.
- Conferred with Best University Campus Award by ASSOCHAM, New Delhi
- Granted with Atal Incubation Centre under ATAL Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Govt. of India
MIT Art, Design and Technology University has been taking a holistic approach towards imparting education wherein the students are being motivated to build a complete winning personality which is “physically fit, intellectually sharp, mentally alert and spiritually elevated”. The students are being encouraged to participate in yoga, meditation, physical training, spiritual elevation, communication skills, and other personality development program. Currently, we have 7500+ students studying in various schools of higher education under the University viz. Engineering and Technology, Food Technology, Bioengineering, Arts, Design, Marine Engineering, Journalism and Broadcasting, Film and Television, Music (Hindustani Classical Vocal and Instrumental), Teacher Education, and Vedic Sciences. (Source: PR Newswire)
13 Aug 21. Taliban capture Afghanistan’s Kandahar as embassies get staff out. The Taliban have captured Afghanistan’s second biggest city of Kandahar, officials said on Friday, the biggest setback for the U.S.-backed government since the insurgents launched a new offensive as U.S. forces withdraw.
The Taliban also said they had captured the third-largest city of Herat in the west, Lashkar Gah in the south and Qala-e-Naw in the northwest.
With phone lines down across much of the country, Reuters was unable to immediately contact government officials to confirm which of those three cities under attack remained in government hands.
Kandahar is the heartland of the Taliban, ethnic Pashtun fighters who emerged in the province in 1994 amid the chaos of civil war to sweep through most of the rest of the country over the next two years.
“Following heavy clashes late last night the Taliban took control of Kandahar city,” a government official told Reuters after the militants announced they had taken it.
Government forces were still in control of Kandahar’s airport, which was the U.S. military’s second biggest base in Afghanistan during their 20-year mission.
The fall of major cities was a sign that Afghans welcomed the Taliban, a spokesperson for the group said, according to Al Jazeera TV.
In response to the Taliban’s swift and violent advances, the Pentagon said it would send about 3,000 extra troops within 48 hours to help evacuate U.S. embassy staff.
Britain said it would deploy around 600 troops to help its citizens leave while other embassies and aid groups said they too were getting their people out. read more
“It’s best to reduce our foot-print not just because there’s an increasing threat of violence but also resources,” an official at the Turkish embassy in Kabul said on Friday.
“Medical facilities are under massive pressure. We also are mindful of COVID-19 and testing has almost come to a pause.”
The speed of the offensive has sparked recriminations among many Afghans over President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops, 20 years after they ousted the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Biden said this week he did not regret his decision, noting Washington has spent more than $1trn in America’s longest war and lost thousands of troops.
The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday and told him the United States “remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan”. They also said the United States was committed to supporting a political solution.
The Taliban had until recent days focussed their offensive on the north, a region they never fully controlled during their rule and the heartland of Northern Alliance forces who marched into Kabul with U.S. support in 2001.
On Thursday, the Taliban also seized the historic central city of Ghazni, 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Kabul.
The government still holds the main city in the north – Mazar-i-Sharif – and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border in the east, as well as Kabul.
On Wednesday, a U.S. defence official cited U.S. intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it within 90.
The United Nations has warned that a Taliban offensive reaching the capital would have a “catastrophic impact on civilians” but there is little hope for negotiations to end the fighting with the Taliban apparently set on a military victory.
In the deal withdrawal struck with former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration last year, the insurgents agreed not to attack U.S.-led foreign forces as they withdrew.
They also made a commitment to discuss peace but intermittent meetings with government representatives have proved fruitless. International envoys to Afghan negotiations in Qatar called for an accelerated peace process as a “matter of great urgency” and for a halt to attacks on cities. read more
A Taliban spokesman told Al Jazeera: “We will not close the door to the political track.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said this week the Taliban had refused to negotiate unless Ghani resigned. Many people on both sides would view that as tantamount to the government’s surrender, leaving little to discuss but terms.
Pakistan officially denies backing the Taliban but it has been an open secret that Taliban leaders live in Pakistan and recruit fighters from a network of religious schools in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s military has long seen the Taliban as the best option to block the influence of arch rival India in Afghanistan and to neutralise Pashtun nationalism on both sides of a border that Afghanistan has never recognised.
Afghans, including many who have come of age enjoying freedoms since the Taliban were ousted, have vented their anger on social media, tagging posts #sanctionpakistan, but there has been little criticism from Western capitals of Pakistan’s role.
The U.N. Security Council was discussing a draft statement that would condemn the Taliban attacks, threaten sanctions, and affirm the non-recognition of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, diplomats said. (Source: Reuters)
12 Aug 21. UK steps up support to help British nationals leave Afghanistan. Additional UK military personnel will deploy to Afghanistan on a short-term basis to provide support to British nationals leaving the country, the Defence Secretary has announced.
- Military personnel will deploy to the country on a short term basis to assist British nationals to leave
- The British Embassy in Kabul is focusing efforts on consular assistance and accelerating work to provide visas for former UK staff in Afghanistan
- Last week FCDO Travel Advice changed to recommend British nationals leave Afghanistan as soon as possible
The additional deployment of approximately 600 troops is in light of the increasing violence and rapidly deteriorating security environment in the country. In parallel, the number of staff working at the British Embassy in Kabul has been reduced to a core team focused on providing consular and visa services for those needing to rapidly leave the country.
Last Friday the FCDO changed Travel Advice to recommend that all British nationals leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, while commercial travel options remain available. Any British nationals who are still in Afghanistan are encouraged to contact the Embassy in Kabul as soon as possible for assistance.
UK troops will provide force protection and logistical support for the relocation of British nationals where required and assist with the acceleration of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP). This will help to make sure interpreters and other Afghan staff who risked their lives working alongside UK forces in Afghanistan can relocate to the UK as soon as possible.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP said, “I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us. The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety.”
The additional military support announced today will arrive in Kabul over the coming days.
Sir Laurie Bristow, the UK’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, will continue to lead a small team in Afghanistan which will relocate within Kabul to a more secure location. This team will focus on helping remaining UK nationals to leave the country, and the continued roll out of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and working with international partners to support the Afghan Government.
ARAP, launched on 1 April 2021, is the most generous scheme of its kind in the world and has already supported over 3,100 former Afghan staff and their families to start new lives in the UK, with more than 1,800 of them arriving over the last few weeks alone. In the coming days UK Government will further accelerate work on this scheme to ensure those who are eligible go through the necessary security checks and have the required documentation to travel to the UK.
The UK remains committed to Afghanistan and will continue working as part of the international coalition to support the country’s government through our diplomacy, development and counter terrorism work. This year the UK will provide Afghanistan with more than £100m of support to improve critical health and education services. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
12 Aug 21. DOD Deploys Forces to Protect Kabul Embassy Drawdown. U.S. forces will deploy to Afghanistan and other sites in U.S. Central Command to ensure safety of American embassy personnel and to facilitate the departure of Afghans under the special immigrant visa program, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
President Joe Biden ordered the reduction of the staff in the U.S. embassy in Kabul. DOD personnel will deploy to ensure their safety.
“We believe that this is the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul,” Kirby said. The Taliban has advanced around the nation.
The first movement is of three infantry battalions — two Marine Corps, one U.S. Army — to Hamid Karzai International Airport. This will occur within the next three days, Kirby said.
“The next movement will consist of a joint U.S. Army/Air Force support element of around 1,000 personnel to facilitate the processing of SIV [special immigrant visa] applicants,” the press secretary said. These personnel will arrive in Qatar in the next few days. Some may deploy to Afghanistan or to other areas where the Afghans will be processed.
The third movement is to deploy one infantry brigade combat team out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait. They will be a quick reaction force for security in Kabul if needed. “We anticipate those forces will reach Kuwait sometime within the next week,” Kirby said.
Overall, this involves roughly 8,000 U.S. service members. As in all cases, U.S. service members have the right to self-defense if attacked. The troops will be under the command of Navy Rear Adm. Pete Vasely, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan — Forward in Kabul.
Kirby said officials anticipate the increased need for U.S. airlift and, “and the secretary has already had conversations with the chairman and with Transportation Command about these potential needs so we do fully expect that there’ll be additional military airlift required.”
The press secretary said the idea is still to complete the drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of the month. (Source: US DoD)
12 Aug 21. Russia arrests top hypersonic research scientist in treason case. A Russian court on Thursday ordered a 73-year-old leading specialist in hypersonic technology to be held in custody for two months on suspicion of state treason, the latest in a series of such cases.
Security officers arrested the suspect, Alexander Kuranov, general director of the St Petersburg-based Hypersonic Systems Research Facility, in Moscow, state news agency TASS cited a law enforcement source as saying.
Kuranov oversaw work on the concept for a new hypersonic aircraft dubbed Ayaks that dates back to the Soviet era, according to his facility’s website. Hypersonic technology allows objects to travel much faster than the speed of sound.
Russia, whose ties with the West have deteriorated to post-Cold War lows since 2014, has been developing a number of hypersonic weapons in recent years that President Vladimir Putin has touted as unparalleled and lavished praise on.
The detainee is suspected of passing secret information to a foreign citizen about hypersonic technology research that he had worked on for a long time, Interfax news agency cited an unnamed source as saying.
Treason and espionage cases are usually held behind closed doors in Russia and case details seldom come to light because of their classified nature.
The court released footage of the detainee being led to the hearing in a tracksuit and hoodie pulled low over his face. He wore a face mask and his face could barely be seen.
A lawyer for Kuranov could not immediately be reached for comment.
State treason is punishable by up to 20 years in jail. That sentence was handed down to an aviation lecturer from Moscow in April after he was found guilty of illegally exporting technology or technical information. read more
A number of Russian scientists, soldiers and officials have been charged with treason in recent years after being accused of passing sensitive material to foreign countries. Critics of the Kremlin say the charges are often unfounded and cannot be scrutinised because they are classified. (Source: Reuters)
11 Aug 21. U.S. Maintains Afghan Support as Security Situation Deteriorates. The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, Pentagon officials said, and U.S. officials are monitoring the situation in the country. News reports indicate more provincial capitals in the country have fallen to the Taliban, and Mazar-i Sharif, a key provincial capital in the north of the country, is under Taliban attack.
“Our focus, right now, remains on supporting the Afghan forces in the field where and when it is feasible from the air, as well as completing our drawdown in a safe and orderly way,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today. “We are on track to do that by the end of the month.”
While the security situation is grim it is not irretrievable. “No potential outcome has to be inevitable, including the fall of Kabul, which everybody seems to be reporting about,” Kirby said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. I think it’s going to [depend] on the kind of political and military leadership that the Afghans can muster to turn this around: They have the capability, they have the capacity, and now it’s really time to use those things.”
Afghan government security forces have fought in some areas of the country, the press secretary said.
He stressed — again — that this is an Afghan responsibility and an Afghan military strategy. The United States has provided support in some airstrikes and logistics. “It really is going to come down to their leadership, … They have the advantage in numbers in operational structure, in air forces, and in modern weaponry,” he said. “It’s really about having the will in the leadership to use those advantages to their own benefit.”
Kirby emphasized that the mission U.S. forces were to accomplish in October 2001 has been accomplished. The main purpose for the action was to degrade al-Qaida terror groups who used the nations to plan, rehearse and launch the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans. Al-Qaida in Afghanistan has been degraded. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
President Joe Biden said there is no need for a constant U.S. military presence in the country.
Still, the U.S. and partners’ presence in Afghanistan sparked incredible progress in the nation. Life expectancy soared. Education opened for ms of girls. The rights of women were increased. A democratically elected government took office.
The president directed DOD to draw down forces commensurate with protecting the U.S. diplomatic presence in the nation. The United States will continue to support Afghan forces through financial means and through some contract support, Kirby said. Finally, DOD needs “to make sure that the greatly reduced threat of terrorism from Afghanistan, stays greatly reduced, and that the homeland doesn’t become victim to an attack, like we did  years ago from terrorist networks that are operating out of Afghanistan,” he said.
The peace process continues between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives. The United States supports that effort. “I don’t believe anybody thinks it’s too late for peace, and we wouldn’t be talking about a political settlement and the need to have a negotiated settlement, if we believed that that peace wasn’t possible,” Kirby said. (Source: US DoD)
09 Aug 21. CENTCOM identifies Iranian delta-wing UAV used in tanker attack. US Central Command (CENTCOM) has indicated that Iran has an anti-ship version of the long-range delta-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that has previously been used to attack Saudi oil facilities.
A CENTCOM slide shows the damage inflicted on the tanker Mercer Street during the 30 July attack and compares the wreckage of the UAV to one recovered in Yemen in September 2020. (US Central Command)
CENTCOM released a statement on 6 August identifying the UAV that was used to attack the tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman on 30 July as the same type that was used against Saudi Arabia in 2019 and has been supplied by Iran to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
This conclusion was reached by an investigative team from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan that boarded Mercer Street after the attack. CENTCOM said there were two unsuccessful UAV attacks on the tanker on 29 July, with a third on the following day hitting the vessel, blowing a large hole in the roof of its pilot house and killing its Romanian master and British security officer.
“Explosives experts were able to recover several pieces of this third UAV, including a vertical stabiliser (part of the wing) and internal components which were nearly identical to previously-collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs,” CENTCOM said. “The distance from the Iranian coast to the locations of the attacks was within the range of documented Iranian one-way attack UAVs.”
It released slides showing wreckage it said matched the vertical stabiliser that extends both up and down from the end of the wings of a type of UAV first seen in the background of a photograph from an exhibition put on by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in May 2014. (Source: Jane’s)
10 Aug 21. Ethiopia urges citizens to join armed forces as conflict spreads. Ethiopia’s government on Tuesday urged citizens to join the fight against resurgent Tigrayan forces now pushing beyond their own region in a nine-month-old war that has sparked a major refugee crisis.
The call to arms came in a statement from the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed: “Now is the right time for all capable Ethiopians who are of age to join the Defence Forces, Special Forces and militias to show your patriotism.”
The statement came six weeks after the government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the northern region of Tigray on the day Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekelle, in a sharp reversal after eight months of conflict. read more
War broke out in November between federal troops and forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which ruled Ethiopia for three decades and now controls Tigray. Fighting has forced more than two m people from their homes, and more than 50,000 people have fled into neighbouring Sudan. read more
The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire in June in an effort to enable farmers to plant, Tuesday’s statement reiterated. That declaration came after Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital of Mekele.
Tigrayan forces have dismissed the ceasefire, saying the government should agree to its conditions for a truce. Spokespeople for the Tigrayan forces and for Abiy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
After retaking control of most of Tigray in late June and early July, Tigrayan forces have pushed into the adjoining Afar and Amhara regions, capturing the United Nations World Heritage site of Lalibela last week. read more
This new fighting has displaced more than 250,000 people in Afar and Amhara, the U.N. aid chief said last week. read more
In an attack in the Afar region on Thursday, 12 people who had been forced from their homes by violence were killed, said Mohammed Yesuf, head of the Dubti Hospital.
An additional 46 people were treated for injuries at the hospital, he told Reuters by phone. It appeared they had been injured in an explosion, he said, citing burns on some of the injured.
Those who were killed and injured had been sheltering at a school and health clinic, he said.
It was not possible to verify the claims. The Afar region’s government said on Friday that Tigrayan forces were responsible for the attack in the Galikoma area. (Source: Reuters)
10 Aug 21. Russia showcases new arms at drill near Afghan border. Soldiers from Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan used new Russian firearms, flamethrowers and surface-to-air missile launchers in military drills which concluded on Tuesday just 20km (12 miles) from the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border.
Moscow and its Central Asian ex-Soviet allies have held two separate sets of military exercises close to Afghanistan this month as Taliban militants overran much of the country’s northern provinces directly adjacent to Central Asia. read more
Tajik Defence Minister Sherali Mirzo told reporters at the training grounds the drills were being held with Afghanistan in mind.
“The situation in Afghanistan is unpredictable,” he said.
Shukhrat Khalmukhamedov, chief of the general staff of the Uzbek armed forces, said that “this situation requires us to remain vigilant and to maintain our combat readiness”.
The drills involved 2,500 servicemen, hundreds of armoured vehicles and 25 aircraft. The Russian forces involved came from the military base located in Tajikistan – Moscow’s biggest facility abroad.
Russian Central military district commander Alexander Lapin said the showcased weaponry would remain at the Tajik base.
Taliban fighters tightened their control of captured territory in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday as residents hid in their homes and a pro-government commander vowed to fight to the death to defend Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north. (Source: Reuters)
10 Aug 21. When Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, it absorbed land and people. But in the process, and with less attention, Russia also took 75 percent of Ukraine’s naval fleet, the majority of its helicopters and the bulk of the country’s ship repair capacity.
With Sevastopol Naval Base gone, the Ukrainian Navy essentially needed to start from scratch. Seventy percent of naval personnel either defected or were dismissed, and the fleet was now just one frigate — a ship that had been deployed at the time.
Since then, the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO members have guided the Black Sea nation to rebuild its fleet as well as its ground and special operations forces. And this summer, the effort has taken another step forward by helping the nation achieve interoperability with NATO forces.
In practical terms, that support has led to a “mosquito fleet” of small vessels for near-shore operations to protect Ukraine’s territorial waters and shorelines, said Cmdr. Daniel Marzluff of 6th Fleet, one of the U.S. Navy’s experts on the region. Teams also improved Ukraine’s ability to send and receive information as well as tap into the Black Sea Maritime Domain Awareness project, which is led by the United States and involves Ukraine, Georgia, Romania and Bulgaria.
In strategic terms, the support is meant as a sign to Russia that the West backs Ukraine and its national security interests, said Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
“In talking about the Black Sea region, you really have to start with Russia’s role in the region and how it has sought to dominate its neighbors in the Black Sea,” she told Defense News in a June 18 interview.
“In 2014, we saw Russia fomenting a war with Ukraine and occupying Crimea, an area into which Russia has brought significant military capability. So when we think about the Sea Breeze exercise, what’s interesting is it’s been around for a long time — this is the 21st iteration of this exercise, with [about 30] countries participating — but of course this shadow of Russian aggression is cast over the region. And it’s one of the reasons why we really do have to work to build the resilience of countries in the region and partner with them and ensure that our forces are interoperable with their forces.”
During the Sea Breeze 21 exercise in the Black Sea the largest ship Ukraine put to sea was a Sea Guard vessel that falls under the State Border Guard Service, an organization akin to the U.S. Coast Guard. Two Ukrainian Navy vessels played the role of aggressor, around which larger warships practiced maneuvering — a sign that the organization is still in its “mosquito fleet” phase.
Marzluff said that when Ukraine lost the bulk of its fleet, it couldn’t start over with large combatants. Instead, the country has invested in small patrol boats that make up most of today’s fleet.
Among the United States’ biggest contributions are patrol boats. The U.S. committed to donating five Island-class patrol boats, formerly used by the Coast Guard, through the Excess Defense Articles program. Two were delivered in 2018, and another three approved in a 2019 request are being prepared for transfer.
At 34 meters in length, each patrol boat is a quarter of the length of a Ukrainian frigate, and about one-twentieth of a frigate’s displacement. But the boats would still be among the larger ships in the fleet.
The U.S. also approved the sale of up to 16 Mk VI patrol boats in June 2020, which, at about 26 meters long, are similar in size to the other classes of patrol boats in Ukraine’s fleet. The U.S. Navy uses these SAFE Boats International-made craft for riverine and coastal security missions. That initial approval still requires congressional consent.
Through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the Pentagon in March 2021 approved a $125m aid package that included two Mk VI boats — bringing Ukraine’s fleet up to eight of the planned 16 — as well as counter-artillery radars, satellite imagery and analysis capabilities, and equipment to support military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures.
Another $150m package approved in June included counter-drone systems, secure communications gear, electronic warfare systems and more.
As its fleet grows, Ukraine can also invest in ways to increase ships’ presence and combat credibility by adding weapons and lengthening deployments. The country plans to eventually procure larger corvettes and frigates in the next decade.
In July, a Ukrainian official revealed on Turkish television that his country ordered two Ada-class corvettes in a December 2020 deal. Ukraine’s consul general in Istanbul, Alexander Haman, said the two vessels will be co-produced by Turkey’s state-controlled defense technologies company STM and a Ukrainian shipyard. The first vessel is to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of 2023 unfinished, and then completed in Ukraine.
The Ada-class corvette can perform location, classification, identification and destruction of air, surface and underwater targets as well as provide naval gunfire support. It can also perform maritime surveillance, patrol missions, and coastal and infrastructure protection.
The 99.44-meter vessel has a maximum speed of 29 knots. It can carry two S70 Seahawk helicopters. Its sensors and weapons include 3D radar. It will also be equipped with electro-optical sensors, an electronic support system, a laser warning system, a torpedo detection/countermeasure capability, hull-mounted sonar, and two 12.7mm guns with an electro-optical capability.
The Ukrainian Navy plans to deploy the corvettes in both the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
Additionally, the Defence Ministry announced July 15 that the Navy accepted delivery of the first Bayraktar TB2 drone from Turkish defense company Baykar. After completing acceptance tests, the armed drone, along with mobile control terminals and spare parts, will be deployed at the Navy’s 10th Naval Aviation Brigade in Mykolaiv. In May, the service’s chief of staff said the drones will operate in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
Marzluff is excited to see the focus on naval power after efforts immediately following the 2014 annexation centered on growing and training Ukraine’s ground forces.
The U.S. also accelerated assistance following a 2018 incident in the Kerch Strait, where Russia fired upon and then captured three Ukrainian naval vessels as well as their combined 24 crew members. The ships were transiting the strait that connects international waters in the Black Sea to the Ukrainian and Russian territorial waters in the Sea of Azov.
“Russia has essentially tried to take [the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov] from Ukraine, and so this is just another example of how Russia is just incrementally trying to undermine Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty,” Marzluff said.
Vice Adm. Gene Black, who commands 6th Fleet, reiterated the importance of making Ukraine’s Navy interoperable with NATO in an interview with Defense News aboard U.S. Navy destroyer Ross during the Sea Breeze exercise.
“At the highest level, it’s helping them assert their sovereignty and it supports their territorial integrity. At the sort of operational Navy level, we want them to be able to have full awareness of what’s going on in their seas, and then the ability to influence it and the ability to interact with or interoperate with partners as necessary into the future. And I think we’re on an outstanding trajectory with their plan, with their procurements and with their willingness to work so closely with us,” Black said.
As Ukraine receives new gear, its training needs are twofold: learning how to use the ships, sensors and weapons; and learning how to plan and execute maritime operations in line with NATO standards and best practices.
On the gear side, the U.S. Coast Guard has been training Ukrainian sailors in Baltimore, Maryland, to operate and maintain the Island-class patrol boats. Marzluff said the Coast Guard finished training the next three crews for the next three ships. (Source: Defense News)
09 Aug 21. Situation in Afghanistan Hinges on Afghan Civilian, Military Leaders. The situation in Afghanistan hinges on Afghan civilian and military leadership, the Pentagon press secretary said today during a news conference. Taliban forces have taken at least five provincial capitals in the country and others are threatened. Press Secretary John F. Kirby said the fighting in the country “is clearly not going in the right direction.”
He said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III shares the concerns of other nations about the situation. Still, he believes “that the Afghan forces have the capability, they have the capacity to make a big difference on the battlefield,” Kirby said. “He has maintained that we will continue to support them with the authorities we have, where and when feasible — understanding that it’s not always going to be feasible.”
This support includes airstrikes and over-the-horizon counterterrorism support.
While most U.S. forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Defense Department has been centered on carrying out President Joe Biden’s order to complete the retrograde from that country by the end of the month. The United States will then switch to a bilateral relationship with the Afghan government, Kirby said.
The United States has authorities needed to continue air support to the Afghan government through the end of the month, Kirby said.
“Whatever the outcome here, when we look back, … we’re going to be able to say that it was driven by leadership — Afghan leadership, political and military leadership,” he said. “That’s what’s vital here.”
The Afghan government has a force of over 300,000 soldiers and police, Kirby said. The Afghan military has an air force, which the United States continues to support and improve. The government forces have modern weaponry and an organizational structure.
“[The government has] a lot of advantages that the Taliban don’t have,” Kirby said. “The Taliban doesn’t have an Air Force, they don’t own airspace. [The government forces] have a lot of advantages. Now they have to use those advantages, to exert that leadership. And it’s got to come both from the political and from the military.” (Source: US DoD)
10 Aug 21. North Korea says U.S., South Korea will face new threats for military drills. South Korea and the United States will face even greater security threats for going ahead with annual joint military drills due to begin this week, Kim Yo Jong, a powerful North Korean official and sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said on Tuesday.
South Korea and the United States began preliminary training on Tuesday with larger, computer-simulated exercises scheduled for next week, the Yonhap news agency reported, despite nuclear-armed North Korea’s warning that the exercises would set back progress in improving inter-Korean relations. read more
The drills are an “unwelcome, self-destructive action” that threaten the North Korean people and raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.
“The United States and South Korea will face a more serious security threat by ignoring our repeated warnings to push ahead with the dangerous war exercises,” she said.
She accused South Korea of “treacherous treatment” for going ahead with the drills shortly after a hotline between Pyongyang and Seoul was reconnected in a bid to ease tensions.
North Korea’s reaction to the drills threatens to upend efforts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to reopen a joint liaison office that Pyongyang blew up last year and to hold a summit as part of efforts to restore relations. read more
U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Martin Meiners declined to comment on the North Korean statement and said it was against policy to comment on training.
“Combined training events are a ROK-U.S. bilateral decision, and any decisions will be a mutual agreement,” he said, using the initials of South Korea’s official name.
A spokesman for South Korea’s defence ministry declined to comment on the preliminary drills during a briefing on Tuesday, and said the two countries were still discussing the timing, scale and method of the regular exercises.
The United States stations around 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace deal, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.
The exercises have been scaled back in recent years to facilitate talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief.
But the negotiations collapsed in 2019, and while both North Korea and the United States say they are open to diplomacy, both also say it is up to the other side to take action.
Kim said U.S. military actions showed that Washington’s talk of diplomacy is a hypocritical cover for aggression on the peninsula, and that peace would only be possible if the United States dismantled its military force in the South.
North Korea would boost its “absolute deterrence”, including a “strong pre-emptive strike capability”, to counter the ever-increasing U.S. military threat, she said.
“The reality has proven that only practical deterrence, not words, can guarantee peace and security of the Korean peninsula, and that it is an imperative for us to build up power to strongly contain external threats,” she said. (Source: Reuters)
06 Aug 21. US Central Command Statement on the Investigation into the Attack on the Motor Tanker Mercer Street. Following the July 30, explosive unmanned aerial vehicle attack on the Motor Tanker (M/T) Mercer Street while transiting international waters off the coast of Oman, an expert explosive investigative team from the USS Ronald Reagan embarked the M/T to examine the evidence and interview the surviving crew members.
The team found:
1) The M/T Mercer Street was targeted by two unsuccessful explosive UAV attacks on the evening of July 29. The crew reported the attacks via distress calls on the evening of July 29. Based on crew interviews, the investigative team found credible the reports of the attacks, which impacted the sea near the M/T Mercer Street. Investigators found small remnants of at least one of the UAVs on Mercer Street that the crew had retrieved from the water, corroborating the reports.
2) The investigative team determined that the extensive damage to the Mercer Street, documented in the attached slides, was the result of a third UAV attack on July 30. This UAV was loaded with a military-grade explosive, and caused the death of two crewmembers; the master of the ship, a Romanian citizen, and a United Kingdom national who was part of the security detail.
3) The explosive detonation following the UAV impact created an approximately 6-foot diameter hole in the topside of the pilot house and badly damaged the interior. Explosive chemical tests were indicative of a Nitrate-based explosive and identified as RDX, indicating the UAV had been rigged to cause injury and destruction.
4) Explosives experts were able to recover several pieces of this third UAV, including a vertical stabilizer (part of the wing) and internal components which were nearly identical to previously-collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs. The distance from the Iranian coast to the locations of the attacks was within the range of documented Iranian one-way attack UAVs. Following an on-scene analysis, some of the material was transferred to U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain and subsequently to a U.S. national laboratory for further testing and verification.
5) U.K. explosive experts were provided access to the evidence at the Fifth Fleet headquarters. Evidence was shared virtually with Israeli explosive experts. Both partners concurred with the U.S. findings.
U.S. experts concluded based on the evidence that this UAV was produced in Iran.
While attacks on merchant ships in the Middle East have increased in recent years, the Mercer Street strike is believed to be the first such attack to result in loss of life.
More details from the report can be accessed here: https://www.uasvision.com/2021/08/02/israel-linked-oil-tanker-hit-by-iranian-drones/ (Source: UAS VISION/U.S. Central Command)
06 Aug 21. North Korea developing nuclear, missile programs in 2021 -U.N. report. North Korea continued developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the first half of 2021 in violation of international sanctions and despite the country’s worsening economic situation, according to an excerpt of a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Friday.
The report by a panel of independent sanctions monitors to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee said Pyongyang “continued to seek material and technology for these programmes overseas.”
“Despite the country’s focus on its worsening economic travails, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to maintain and develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” the sanctions monitors concluded.
North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report.
The isolated Asian nation imposed a strict lockdown last year amid the coronavirus pandemic that has slashed its trade and aid access, hurting an economy already burdened by international sanctions.
In June, leader Kim Jong Un said the country faced a “tense” food situation and much would depend on this year’s harvests.
“Statements made by DPRK suggested a deepening humanitarian crisis in the country, although the COVID-19 blockade means that the relative impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation has probably decreased,” the U.N. monitors wrote.
“With trade all but stopped by the blockade, and last year’s harvest badly affected by floods, the current prospects of the wider DPRK population are poor,” they said.
North Korea has been subjected to U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Security Council has steadily strengthened sanctions in a bid to cut off funding for the programs.
Among the sanctions imposed are a ban on the export of coal and other commodities and the import of oil.
“Maritime exports from DPRK of coal and other sanctioned commodities continued, but at a much reduced level. The import of oil products reported to the panel fell substantially in the first half of the year,” according to the U.N. report.
Pyongyang also continued to access international financial institutions and North Korean workers continued to earn money overseas for use in state programmes, said the U.N. sanctions monitors, adding: “Officials overseas continued to feel pressure to develop revenue streams.”
The monitors said they were continuing to investigate North Korea’s involvement in global cyber activity and collaboration by North Korean academics and universities with scientific institutes abroad, “focusing on studies with potential applications in WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programmes.” The U.N. sanctions monitors have previously reported that North Korea has stolen hundreds of ms of dollars using cyberattacks. (Source: Reuters)
06 Aug 21. JSCD updated on Op Vikela, South Africa’s commitment to SADC Mission in Mozambique. Former defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula with senior army and police officers in Durban.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s final contribution as defence minister was informing the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) that President Cyril Ramaphosa was asked to reduce the number of troops deployed internally in the wake of last month’s violent civil unrest.
Just over an hour after she addressed one of Parliament’s two defence oversight committees, Mapisa-Nqakula heard Ramaphosa, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, inform the nation she was no longer Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. That Cabinet post is now held by former National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise.
The long-serving former defence minister is reported as telling the JSCD 15 000 soldiers will return to bases from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal leaving 10 000 mostly in the east coast province which is “calm, but volatile”. Soldiers also remain on active duty in the Western Cape, which is beset by taxi violence and where Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula earlier this week indicated an agreement was reached between taxi associations warring over routes.
Mapisa-Nqakula re-assured the JSCD the South African military contingent now in Mozambique as part of Operation Vikela (“protect” in isiZulu) has not affected or compromised the internal deployment under the ongoing Operation Prosper codename. This sees the national defence force assist other government departments and entities.
Elements of the SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Army and SA Navy (SAN) are in or on station in Mozambique as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique).
In a short presentation to the JSCD, SANDF Joint Operations Division Chief Lieutenant General Siphiwe Sangweni confirmed, but did not name, 10 SANDF officers who will serve as force commander and chief of staff for the multinational force; three in the SAMIM regional co-ordinating mechanism and a further 10 as staff officers at SAMIM force headquarters.
Committee members heard the South African maritime and strategic intelligence force elements were in position as was a composite landward battalion.
These deployments, according to the three-star general, are in line with pledged SADC Standby Force commitments.
The SANDF deployment to Mozambique is for three months at a cost of R984m for up to 1 495 personnel, but may be extended.
A JSCD statement issued after the meeting “underlined the importance of regional stability in supporting the SANDF deployment in Mozambique to combat terrorism and violent extremists” in Cabo Delgado.
Committee co-chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng say in the statement: “We recognise the threat posed by extremist actions not only to Mozambique but to SADC as a whole. Our support of the deployment is based on the need to protect and promote SADC objectives which include economic development, peace and security and growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of lives of people in Southern Africa being undermined and threatened by insurgents.
“We are confident in the ability, capability and fortitude of our armed forces and confident they will execute their mandate successfully. We are convinced there is a need to suppress the insurgency at source to prevent it spilling over into neighbouring countries.”
As part of ongoing efforts to secure a better funding deal for South Africa’s armed forces from National Treasury, the JSCD will use its budget review and recommendation mechanism to increase the defence budget.
“The committee is confident funding challenges will not be an impediment to the successful execution of Op Vikela,” they said. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
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