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23 Sep 21. Australia must prosecute the benefits of AUKUS to the Indo-Pacific. Responses to the new AUKUS agreement differ across the region, from outright support through to worry about the increased militarisation of the Indo-Pacific. Australia must continue to prosecute the benefits of the announcement to the region. Responses from Australia’s Indo-Pacific neighbours to the new AUKUS alliance were far from uniform, ranging from outright support from governments through to concern that the new agreement would lead to a new military arms race in the region. However, Australia’s forward planning as set out in the Strategic Update has set the country on course to be an ambitious military player in the region, contingent on the goodwill and support of regional neighbours to preserve ongoing stability in the Indo-Pacific. This is the view of Susannah Patton, research fellow in foreign policy at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre, writing in ASPI’s The Strategist this week. Patton argues that Australia cannot set aside concerns held by the country’s regional neighbours, whose traditional perception of the US typically diverges from Australia’s.
“While some countries, notably the Philippines and Singapore, were positive about the AUKUS announcement, statements from Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur reflected concerns that the AUKUS arrangement would contribute to a regional military build-up, raising tensions and making conflict more likely,” Patton argues.
“And a move like AUKUS that signals a strong US commitment to the region should help prevent China from dominating it, something every country is worried about. They’ll take comfort from the fact that the Philippines, one of the key claimant states in the South China Sea, is much more supportive, and that Vietnam is likely to be, too.”
Patton, however, suggests than many in Australia’s foreign affairs and defence apparatus may overlook these views of our Indo-Pacific neighbours due to strategic naivete, or sideline them by prioritising the opinion of India and Japan – being more strategically influential.
Indeed, she continues that some may even downplay fears of regional pessimism towards the announcement. Patton notes that analysts are likely to suggest that behind the scenes, many of our neighbours may support the action while appearing to be less supportive in public.
This doesn’t mean that Australia can dismiss the feedback.
“Canberra must resist the solace of these approaches and take regional reactions to AUKUS seriously,” Patton continues.
“Regional views matter, because Canberra’s own defence strategic planning describes Australia’s co-operative defence activities with regional countries as ‘fundamental to our ability to shape our strategic environment’. It notes the importance of our defence forces maintaining operational access in the region, and of our being able to lead coalition operations when it is in the interests of the region that we do so.”
As such, Patton outlines that Australia must reassure our neighbours that our goals remain in tandem with their desire for regional stability.
“At the heart of these differing perceptions is this: Australians by and large see the US as a benign and moral actor, upholding the regional security order,” she says.
“By definition, its actions don’t destabilise the region. Some of our neighbours are more ambivalent, seeing both the US and China as contributing to a more tense and unstable region.”
As such, the burden is on Australia to show the positive impacts that the new AUKUS alliance will have on the region, Patton outlines.
“Australia should not resile from AUKUS or the idea that the full range of our security co-operation with the US is beneficial for the region. But because not all countries automatically agree, these benefits must be demonstrated, not merely asserted,” she says.
Beyond the Indo-Pacific, the European Union had publicly unveiled its EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific on the same day, writes Ian Hill in the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter.
“Also caught unawares was the European Union, which released its own Indo-Pacific strategy the same day as the AUKUS announcement,” Hill argued.
“Having been blindsided by the US’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan and earlier by the US volte-face on the Nord Stream 2 project to bring Arctic Russian gas to Germany, AUKUS raised eyebrows among US European allies, and inevitably fuelled calls for greater strategic autonomy.”
Meanwhile, Hill further explains that China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership on the same day.
Such is the competition for the Indo-Pacific.
While providing huge military capability benefits to Australia, the new AUKUS partners must assuage the concerns held by those in the region – even if they are privately supporting the new partnership. The alliance will come under criticism and scrutiny from China and the European Union, thus Australia must proactively and consistently demonstrate the benefit of the alliance to ongoing order in the Indo-Pacific. (Source: Defence Connect)
22 Sep 21. Australian Prime Minister, Austin Discuss New Aspect of Trilateral Partnership. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III sat down at the Pentagon today to discuss how the enhanced trilateral security partnership with the two nations and the United Kingdom will move forward.
Morrison, who met with President Joe Biden yesterday, is in Washington for a meeting of the quad partnership of India, Japan, Australia and the United States.
The new trilateral relationship “is a testament to the strength, resilience and foresight of our relationship,” Austin said at the beginning of his meeting with Morrison. “President Biden has noted that no regional divide separates the interest of our Atlantic and Pacific partners, and AUKUS [Australia, United Kingdom and the United States] is designed to build on our existing alliances.”
The meeting comes a week after the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultation that was hosted by the State Department. “Today, our alignment is stronger than ever, including seeing the region’s challenges through a similar lens and sharing the same sense of urgency,” Austin said. “So, we’ll continue to cooperate closely on force posture, strategic capabilities, regional alignment and military operations. And all of this common work strengthens our ability to deter threats [for a] free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Morrison said the evacuation of Afghans from Kabul showed the U.S.-Australian alliance at work. Both nations had troops on the ground at Kabul airport. But, he said, there was no way the Australians could have evacuated the 4,100 people they did without the U.S. military, and he thanked Austin for that support. He said the evacuation effort is “a symbol of the nature of our partnership. Australia has always looked to the United States, but we never leave it to the United States.
“That is at the heart of our partnership,” he continued. “We both understand our responsibilities in it. We accept them, we share them. We honor them in how we deliver it on the ground in so many theaters.”
This continues with AUKUS, he said. The trilateral partnership, “adds to the partnerships that exist within the region, whether it’s the quad partnerships and relationships, or the wonderful relationships we have with the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] in the region,” Morrison said. “But importantly, [AUKUS builds on] the relationships with NATO, and relationships with our European partners, and bringing that focus to the Indo-Pacific.” (Source: US DoD)
22 Sep 21. UAE, Britain ink defense research and AI tech deals. Here’s what comes next. The United Arab Emirates and the U.K. recently signed a memorandum of understanding on artificial intelligence that would see the transfer of related knowledge, investment and standards. And the next day saw the UAE’s Tawazun Economic Council sign a memo with the U.K. Ministry of Defence to strengthen cooperation in defense-related research and development.
On Sept. 16, Mohamed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the U.K., when the two parties launched a “Partnership for the Future” between the two nations, which involved the AI effort.
“The UK looks forward to further collaboration with the UAE Presidential Guard; between our two air forces through UK participation in the Advanced Tactical Leadership Course, with UK jets from the Carrier Strike Group, and increased land exercises in the UAE,” read a joint communique released after the meeting. “Both countries have developed stronger industrial ties through collaboration in defence and security. This includes blossoming relationships, including Tawazun Economic Council and EDGE Group. The Leaders agreed on working together to support these emerging and future partnerships in order to promote prosperity whilst strengthening business opportunities for both.”
The next day, British Exports Minister Graham Stuart and Tawazun CEO Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani met virtually to sign the memorandum that would see Tawazun work with the MoD’s Defence and Security Exports agency.
After the signing, Al Hosani said in a statement that the memorandum “builds on the growing strategic ties between the two countries, and it aims to establish a framework to strengthen ties in defense and security industry fields and to identify new opportunities for commercial cooperation.”
An industry source with knowledge of the deal told Defense News that the two parties are still in the exploration phase but will eventually concentrate on four areas:
- Aligning existing R&D programs.
- Aligning supply chains.
- Maintenance, repair and operations.
- Further securing supply chains.
The source said the U.K. and the UAE are also looking to support startups and small and medium-sized enterprises in both countries with the hopes of eventually gaining access to a broader portfolio of products and technologies for use by the Emirati military. The armed forces would then import some of that tech with supply support from local companies and receive know-how regarding the development and evolution of those products, he added. (Source: Defense News)
21 Sep 21. Australian documents showed French submarine project was at risk for years. France should not have been surprised that Australia cancelled a submarine contract, as major concerns about delays, cost overruns and suitability had been aired officially and publicly for years, Australian politicians said.
Paris has recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington, saying it was blindsided by Canberra’s decision to build nuclear-powered submarines with the United States and Britain rather than stick with its contract for French diesel submarines.
Yet as early as September 2018, an independent oversight board led by a former U.S. Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter had advised Australia to look at alternatives, and questioned whether the project was in the national interest, a 2020 public report from the country’s Auditor-General shows.
Australian parliamentary hearings and reports on the project, first priced at $40bn and more recently at $60bn, even before construction had begun, also showed problems emerging. In June the defence secretary told parliament “contingency planning” for the programme was under way.
“They would have to have their eyes shut not to realise the danger they were facing,” said Rex Patrick, an independent senator for South Australia, referring to France.
Government ministers said this week Canberra had been “up front” with Paris about the problems.
A French lawmaker also raised questions in parliament in June about Australian concerns over delays, and whether Australia might be considering submarine alternatives, French parliamentary records show.
“We chose not to go through a gate in a contract,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters when he arrived in New York on Monday. “The contract was set up that way, and we chose not to go through it because we believed to do so would ultimately not be in Australia’s interests.”
French officials have not disputed that there were difficulties, as there might be with any big contract, but said Canberra never suggested it wanted nuclear propulsion, even when Paris brought up the subject. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week called the cancellation “a stab in the back.”
“On the same day as the #AUKUS announcement, the Australians wrote to France to say that they were satisfied with the submarine’s achievable performance and with the progress of the program. In short: forward to launching the next phase of the contract,” France’s Armed Forces Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean said on Twitter on Tuesday.
An official from the French Embassy in Canberra told Reuters on Tuesday that an intergovernmental agreement should have allowed for confidential discussions between ministers about changes to political or strategic circumstances.
“No warning, no proposals for discussion were offered,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
OFF-RAMPS AND GATES
The deal was first announced in 2016. A pre-design review was delayed in 2018 because the “work provided to Defence by Naval Group did not meet Defence’s requirements”, the Australian audit said, citing lack of design detail, operational requirements and 63 studies not completed.
The contract between Australia and Naval Group, majority owned by the French government, was signed 16 months late in February 2019.
It included contractual off-ramps in which Australia could pay to exit the project, and established “control gates” whereby Naval Group must meet criteria before progressing to the next phase. The defence department considered these “hold points” for assessing the project’s risk, the Auditor-General said.
In September 2019, with A$446 m ($325 m) already spent in France, the defence department told the auditor it had examined extending the life of Australia’s Collins-class submarine fleet “and the time this would allow to develop a new acquisition strategy”.
The 2020 Auditor-General’s report examining the submarine deal – the Department of Defence’s biggest ever – found the department had been “frank and timely” in communicating concerns with Naval Group.
Naval Group said in a statement to Reuters that it was aware of public discussion, but that official declarations were supportive of the submarine programme. It said Morrison was “very clear that the decision was not a result of difficulties with the Future Submarine Program or Naval Group”.
“Naval Group delivered on its commitments to the Commonwealth of Australia as acknowledged by the letter for termination ‘for convenience’ we received,” the statement said.
According to the Auditor-General’s report, the most recent major milestone in the French contract – a preliminary design review – was in January 2021.
An industry source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Naval Group Australia provided material to Defence in “late January or February”, but that Australia did not consider it to meet requirements.
Morrison’s office created a panel in January to advise an inner circle of his Cabinet on how to proceed with the programme, contract notices and parliament records show.
In June, senators, including Patrick, asked panel chairman William Hilarides, a former vice admiral in the U.S. Navy, if it had advised the government to cancel the French contract.
Hilarides, who had overseen ship and submarine construction for the U.S. Navy, said the panel’s advice was confidential.
The former head of BAE Systems Submarines, Murray Easton, who had turned around a delayed British nuclear submarine programme, joined the panel in February, contract notices show.
It met by videoconference 10 times by June, including confidential briefings for its U.S. members at the Australian embassy in Washington, the parliament was told. Easton and Hilarides did not respond to requests for comment. ($1 = 1.3755 Australian dollars) (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
20 Sep 21. Update: RAF air strikes against Daesh. The RAF are continuing to take the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
- Monday 6 September – RAF Typhoons supported ground forces under fire from Daesh in Iraq.
Royal Air Force aircraft continue to fly armed reconnaissance missions as part of the Global Coalition Against Daesh’s work to support the Iraqi Security Forces keeping their country safe from Daesh terrorism.
On Monday 6 September, Iraqi ground forces conducting security operations approximately thirty miles south of Erbil came under fire from a Daesh position in an area of heavy vegetation.
Two RAF Typhoon FGR4s responded to a call for assistance and, working closely with the ground forces to ensure no risks were posed to either them or any civilians, used a single Paveway IV guided bomb to successfully eliminate the threat.
On Tuesday 11 May, Iraqi security forces encountered a group of Daesh terrorists in a strong defensive position some twenty five miles south west of Mosul. Coming under heavy small arms fire from the terrorists, the Iraqi troops requested air support from the global coalition, and a pair of Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s responded promptly. Liaising closely with the Iraqis, our aircraft attacked the Daesh terrorists with two Paveway IV precision guided bombs. The bombs hit the target and eliminated a number of the Daesh extremists. The Iraqi forces were then able to assault the position successfully and overwhelm the few remaining terrorists. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 Sep 21. Pakistan Finds Faults in Chinese-made UAS. The faults in Chinese-made Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) has been damaging Pakistan’s military capability, said a Bangladesh based think tank. A critical part of Pakistan’s military capability has run into serious trouble with the UAS remaining on the ground due to crippling defects within days of induction.
According to Ourtime BD, three armed drones, designed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group of China and sold by China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), were inducted into Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in January 2021.
These aerial combat drones are part of a larger deal between Pakistan and China to co-produce 50 of them in Pakistan.
Both Pakistani and Chinese military officials had boasted that these armed drones, capable of firing laser-guided bombs and missiles to attack and destroy air or ground-based targets.
According to the think tank, PAF officials who are grappling with the nightmare of these armed drones running aground due to serious faults.
The Pakistan Air Force’s misery is the pathetic service and maintenance provided by the Chinese firm. CATIC has so far been indifferent to desperate calls for repair and maintenance of the grounded drones.
The spares supplied by the firm were substandard and mostly unfit for use. The engineers dispatched to Pakistan to make the grounded aerial vehicles operational at the earliest proved to be incompetent. Pakistani officials have now asked the Chinese firm to send a better trained group of professionals to tide over the serious crisis, the Ourtime BD said.
According to the think tank, there are many failures in Chinese made UAS which include GPS, a key component of an armed drone.
Two of the three drones experienced repeated GPS failures during test flights and had to be grounded.
Equally serious problem was the leakage of nitrogen from EO/IR cameras mounted on the UAVs, which rendered Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO/IR) systems useless.
Serious faults were also detected in High-Performance Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) within hours of its putting the drones into operation.
Another critical failure has been that of SATCOM in some of these drones during launch and take-off stage. On the ground, the SATCOM antenna failed during the Site Acceptance Test (SAT).
Other defects included the failure of the rear fuel pump on the UAV.
The think tank further reported that this is not the first time that Pakistan military brass is realising the unreliability of Chinese military hardware and poor, substandard servicing and maintenance.
Pakistan Air Force has been coping up with a series of inferior military hardware imported from China, including combat aircraft and armed drones, two critical operational components, it added. (Source: UAS VISION/Yahoo! News)
14 Sep 21. Saudi Arabia Considering Israeli-Made Missile Defense Systems. Saudi “interest in the Israeli systems has reached a very practical phase,” per an Israeli source. Saudi Arabia has reached out to Jerusalem about the possibility of procuring Israeli-made missile defense systems, at a time when the American systems the Kingdom has for so long relied upon have been removed, Breaking Defense has learned. Sources here have confirmed an AP report from the weekend that American THAAD and Patriot batteries have been quietly removed from Prince Sultan Air Base, located outside of Riyadh. Those assets had been moved into the Kingdom following a 2019 strike on Saudi oil production facilities; while claimed by Houthi forces in Yemen, US officials assessed that Iran was actually behind the attack. Although a withdrawal of air defense assets from the region had been expected for several months, it was unclear exactly when US assets would head elsewhere. Now, Israeli sources say, Saudi Arabia is seriously considering its alternatives. Among them: China, Russia and, in a move that might have seemed impossible a few years ago, Israel.
Specifically, the Saudis are considering either the Iron Dome, produced by Rafael, which is better against short range rockets, or the Barak ER, produced by IAI, which is designed to intercept cruise missiles. Israeli defense sources told Breaking Defense that such a deal would be realistic, as long as both nations received approval of Washington; one source added that Saudi “interest in the Israeli systems has reached a very practical phase.”
Those same sources say that the Saudis have had low-level talks with Israel for several years about such systems, but that the talks began to take on more energy once it became clear America would remove its air defense assets from the Kingdom.
Ret. Brig. Gen. Giora Elland, former director of Israel’s National Security Council and a former head of the Planning Department of the Israel Defense Forces, told Breaking Defense that he expects “that Washington will not object the sale of these Israeli systems to friendly Gulf countries.”
While Saudi Arabia was not part of the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and both the UAE and Bahrain, government sources say that even without formal relations the two have exchanged security information for some years.
If the Saudis were to buy the Israeli systems, it could open the option up more fully to the nations covered in the Abraham Accords. In a November interview with Defense News, Moshe Patel, the head of the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, said of that possibility: “Since we have the same enemies, maybe we are going to have some mutual interests. I think that there is a potential to enlarge our defense partnership in the future with countries like the UAE and Bahrain. I think that this could happen, of course in the future. There will be more military partnerships. But again, nothing that could happen tomorrow. It’s something that needs to be processed step by step.”
In response to an inquiry, a State Department spokesman said only that “Saudi Arabia and Israel are both important U.S. security partners. We refer you to the respective countries for comment on their defense procurement plans.”
The American withdrawal from Afghanistan already has regional partners on edge, and the movement of further forces from the region will likely do little to calm nerves.
“The withdrawal of the Patriot air defense systems from Saudi Arabia is something that cannot be explained. It’s not only another desertion of a friendly country, but a spit in the face,” an Israeli senior defense source told Breaking Defense.
In a comment to the AP, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby acknowledged “the redeployment of certain air defense assets,” but emphasized the “broad and deep” commitment to its Middle East.
Underlining the issue: Houthi forces have increased their strikes against Saudi targets in recent weeks, both in Yemen and inside the Kingdom’s borders, with the mix of UAVs and missiles that would potentially be covered by the Iron Dome/Barak duo.
On Aug. 29, the Houthis attacked the Al-Anad air base north of Aden, where Saudi-led coalition forces are stationed. The attack killed more than 30 people and injured more than 60. That was followed by a UAV and missile attack on several Saudi targets, including the eastern city of Dammam not far from Bahrain. The target was a facility of the Aramco Residential Camp.
Then on Sept. 11, an attack was launched on the newly renovated and inaugurated port of Al-Makha, located on the Red Sea coast, with five drones and a ballistic missile. The attack damaged the port’s strategic infrastructure as well as warehouses of international aid agencies. No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The UAE is using the port to transport weapons to Yemen, and in the days before the attack vehicles were transferred to the forces fighting the Houthis in the Hadhramaut area of Khartoum. It is possible that the attack on the port is intended to signal to the UAE that its continued involvement in the fighting in Yemen, despite the reduction of forces, has a price.
In March 2021, the Houthis introduced a wide variety of weapons, including drones, missiles and rockets of various types, mortars, sniper rifles, naval mines, and hollow cargo and a shaped charge for mounting unmanned explosive devices, according to Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Segal, a regional military expert. Those capabilities, Segal writes means Iran has turned Yemen into an effective and deterrent military force against Saudi Arabia. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
20 Sep 21. Warning for the West as Russia’s secret army eyes move into Mali. West African country’s military junta poised to call in Wagner Group mercenaries to fill security gaps after France pulls out peacekeepers.
Ben Wallace has warned of the UK’s concern over Russian mercenaries intervening in Mali, after it was revealed the country’s military junta was in talks with the Wagner Group.
As part of the UN peacekeeping mission that is being led by France, British troops were sent to Gao in December last year as part of a three-year commitment in the country.
However, the Defence Secretary told the Commons on Monday that both the UK and France “are concerned about the appearance of the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, in many parts of West Africa”.
The potential involvement of the Russian paramilitary group came to light after France announced its plans to draw down its commitment.
Malian leaders said as a result it would need to pursue a “plan B” which would see mercenaries from the Wagner Group deployed to fill any security gaps left by France. It is claimed that the military government is close to hiring 1,000 mercenaries.
Last week, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defence minister, tweeted: “If Mali’s government makes such agreements with Russia, it contradicts everything that Germany, France, the EU and the UN have been doing in Mali for eight years.”
Senior Tory MPs have also expressed their concern to The Telegraph about the Wagner Group.
Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Russian mercenaries are the secret side of Putin’s empire. They’re looking to profit from Mali’s weakness to get cash and power.”
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, called on the international community to “rally” against the Wagner Group entering Mali “or we will set a precedent for mercenaries replacing legitimate, identifiable and accountable national forces on peacekeeping missions”.
Robert Clark, a defence policy associate at the Henry Jackson Society, and a former soldier who served with 2 Royal Anglian, part of the UK contingent in Mali, said: “Russia know that they cannot directly challenge Western interests, so they do so below the threshold for conflict.”
Mr Clark said the Wagner Group was “frequently used by the Kremlin to challenge the interests of Britain and America across many environments”.
He added: “We saw similar action in Syria and Libya where Russian-sponsored proxies attacked Western-backed forces and even attacked Western targets.”
The origins of the Wagner Group remain murky. Security experts say the images of Russian military casualties returning from Afghanistan throughout the 1980s significantly undermined the-then Soviet Union, and contributed to the regime’s collapse.
As such, it is thought the Kremlin encouraged the outsourcing of military activity to avoid similar risks in the future. Such groups train armies, protect leaders and secure energy and natural resources, such as gold, diamonds and rare earth metals. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
20 Sep 21. British troops in Mali help investigate massacre. UK troops deployed in Mali under the UN peacekeeping mission have assisted with a human rights investigation into a massacre of civilians by violent extremists. Scores of gunmen attacked a number of villages on 8 August around Outtagouna, close to the Niger and Burkina Faso borders in the south-east of the country, leaving dozens of people dead. Armed groups aligned to Daesh and al-Qaeda are known to operate in the region.
In the hours after the killings, reports of the massacre started to reach the British contingent to the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) at their base in Gao, 150km to the north. Drawn from 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment and the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, the Long Range Reconnaissance Group (LRRG) provides a highly specialised capability to reach remote areas by travelling long distances across difficult terrain.
MINUSMA’s Force Commander Lt Gen Dennis Gyllensporre tasked the LRRG to bring forward planned operations and launch immediately to the area in their specially designed off-road desert vehicles, with the 250-strong UK Task Group arriving at the scene less than 36 hours after the attacks.
The troops immediately secured the villages, providing protection from further attack and allowing a special UN Human Rights team to interview locals and collect physical evidence left by the attackers. Due to their rapid arrival, the LRRG were able to provide critical information to support the UN investigation, which will aim to help bring the perpetrators to justice. The UK personnel were also able to use their human security training to engage with all sections of the local population to understand the situation and provide reassurance, with female peacekeepers engaging with local women.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said, “The loss of so many innocent lives is a terrible tragedy. This horrific event is a sad reminder of why UK troops are deployed to this difficult and dangerous UN peacekeeping mission. The UK Task Force’s swift reaction assisted the UN Human Rights Officers to collect vital information about the massacre that might one day see violent extremists held accountable for their crimes, while also providing a measure of security to these traumatised communities in the wake of this disaster.”
The LRRG’s uniquely specialised ability to not only deploy at great distances but also stay out on the ground for long periods, meant they were able to remain at the scene for three weeks, enabling the UN to not only investigate the massacre but also protect the villages from further attack.
Following the return of the UN investigators, the Task Group continued patrolling the area at night and flew unarmed Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) drones over the villages to deter and guard against any further attacks on civilians.
Furthermore, due to the continued security they provided, a field mission from the UN Civil Affairs Division was able to travel to the area, allowing MINUSMA’s community liaison officers to access villages not visited for several years.
LRRG Commanding Officer Lt Col Will Meddings said, “Given the size of the sector we operate in, it is impossible for MINUSMA to be everywhere, all the time. However, this operation clearly demonstrated the versatility and wide range of capabilities the British Army brings to the UN mission, deploying rapidly to remote areas to protect towns, respond to attacks on civilians and enable the UN’s civilian teams to do their work.”
The LRRG have been operational in Mali for nine months, after deploying in December 2020. In that time, the Task Group has pushed out into areas where peacekeepers have not previously had a presence, enabling the UN to protect civilians, gather intelligence and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to remote communities that would previously have been unreachable.
In May 2020, in the first operation of its kind by UN forces in the country, they seized a cache of weapons hidden by suspected Daesh militants who had been threatening local communities. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
19 Sep 21. France demands compensation from Australia over abandoned submarine deal. Scott Morrison Australia’s PM, said France knew that Canberra had ‘deep and grave concerns’ over the proposed deal.
France has called for compensation over the scrapping of a submarine contract with Australia in favour of a new alliance with Britain and the US, a first in a rapidly escalating diplomatic row between the four allies.
“Obviously there will be a need for compensation,” Gabriel Attal, a spokesperson for the French government, told French TV BFM on Sunday about the deal.
“This is the work that will be done now because we need clarification. We need to exchange with our partners to see how they intend to leave this contract since there are clauses which have been signed, there is a whole procedure which has been foreseen,” he said.
He did not specify how much money the French government expected in compensation for Australia’s cancellation of a £72.8 bn deal to buy diesel-electric submarines, in favour of nuclear-powered technology provided by Britain and the US.
The penalties to be paid to Naval Group, the French company which had been tasked with building the submarines, has been estimated by the Australian press at around 250m euros.
On Friday, France plunged into an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with the United States and Australia after it recalled its ambassadors from both countries over a trilateral security deal which sank a French-designed submarine contract with Canberra.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the withdrawal for the first time in the history of relations with the countries as a “very symbolic” act that aimed “to show how unhappy we are and that there is a serious crisis between us”.
Mr Attal added French president Emmanuel Macron would talk to his US counterpart in the coming days.
“There will be a telephone exchange in the next few days between Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden” after Mr Biden requested it, Mr Attal said.
It comes as Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, has hit back at France’s claims of “duplicity, disdain and lies” over the sunken submarine deal between the two countries, saying the French would have known Australia had “deep and grave concerns” about the proposed fleet.
Last week, Australia ditched the £72.8 bn deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of 12 conventional submarines, announcing instead on Thursday a plan to build at least eight nuclear-powered ones with American and British technology in a trilateral security partnership.
The move infuriated France, prompting it to recall its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra. It also riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.
“I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first,” said Mr Morrison, who blamed the switch on a deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific. He has not specifically referred to China’s massive military build-up, which has gained pace in recent years.
“The capability that the [French] Attack-class submarines were going to provide was not what Australia needed to protect our sovereign interests.”
“They would have had every reason to know that we have deep and grave concerns that the capability being delivered by the Attack-class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests and we have made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest,” he added, referring to the French government.
On Saturday, the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced what he called the “duplicity, disdain and lies” surrounding the sudden end of the contract and said France was now questioning the strength of the alliance.
Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has also waded into the row, insisting that “freedoms need to be defended”.
Writing in The Telegraph, Liz Truss states that the Aukus agreement “shows our readiness to be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices and malign acts”, in a thinly veiled reference to China’s growing military prowess and aggressive approach to trade.
It emerged on Sunday that there would be a telephone conversation between the US President Joe Biden and the French president Emmanuel Macron “in the coming days” at the request of the US president.
“We want explanations,” said the French government spokesman, Gabriel Attal. The US had to answer for “what looks a lot like a major breach of trust”.
But Peter Dutton, the Australian defence minister, said on Sunday that his country had been “upfront, open and honest” with France about its concerns.
“Suggestions that the concerns hadn’t been flagged by the Australian government, just defy, frankly, what’s on the public record and certainly what they’ve said publicly over a long period of time,” he told Sky News.
France had won the contract in 2016 over offers from Germany and Japan. The Shortfin Barracuda was to be a nuclear submarine design adapted to be powered by diesel on the surface and battery underwater.
The government has talked down media reports of ructions between the partners in the French submarine project and delays on the original delivery date of 2027. Australia’s first nuclear submarines are not expected to be delivered until close to 2040. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
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