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07 Oct 21. Marines, Special Ops Troops Secretly Deploying to Taiwan Amid China Tensions, Report Says. U.S. special operations forces and Marines have been deployed to Taiwan and secretly training its military for at least a year as China becomes increasingly aggressive with its territorial claim on the island, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
A couple of dozen special operators and support troops are training small units of Taiwan’s ground forces, while a contingent of Marines is working with local maritime forces on small-boat training, according to the report, which cited unnamed U.S. officials.
The news report came amid a record-setting number of Chinese military flights around the island. The People’s Liberation Army made a total of 149 military flights over four days, including 56 on Monday, The Associated Press reported.
It also comes at a time of heightened U.S.-China tensions over issues ranging from trade to human rights to COVID-19 and seems sure to further stoke Beijing’s ire.
In a statement to the Journal, the Chinese foreign ministry said the country “will take all necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
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The Marine Corps on Thursday directed questions to the Pentagon, which declined to comment directly on the report when contacted by Military.com. A spokesman did release a general statement on the Pentagon’s position toward China and Taiwan.
“I don’t have any comments on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would like to highlight that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” spokesman John Supple wrote in an email statement.
Supple said the U.S. urges a peaceful resolution to the tensions over Taiwan, an island democracy just off the coast of the Chinese mainland that signed a mutual defense pact with America in 1954. Beijing considers it a breakaway province and increasingly has been asserting claims to the island despite tolerating some independence in the past.
The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid considered to be a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, in August warned that a U.S. troop presence on Taiwan would lead China to “destroy and expel U.S. troops in Taiwan by military means, and at the same time realize reunification by force.” The editorial was a response to a since-deleted tweet from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, which incorrectly stated 30,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Taiwan.
Under a decades-old policy, the United States maintains “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan, meaning Washington does not explicitly say it would come to the island’s defense in a conflict with China.
The policy is designed to avoid provoking Beijing while also not emboldening Taiwan into formally declaring independence, a move that could lead to a Chinese invasion.
As part of the “One China” policy, the United States also does not formally have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But U.S. ties with Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan, have deepened in recent years. In the defense sphere, that has included billions of dollars in arms sales.
Defense officials also have issued increasingly stark warnings about China’s designs toward Taiwan, including Adm. John Aquilino, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, telling lawmakers earlier this year that the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is “much closer to us than most think.”
On Wednesday while arguing for a new arms spending package, Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, also warned that military tensions with China are the worst in 40 years and that Beijing could be able to launch a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
During his confirmation hearing in May, Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, told senators he believed Taiwan could benefit from special operations training for irregular warfare, but did not indicate such training was already being conducted.
“I do think that is something that we should be considering strongly as we think about competition across the span of different capabilities we can apply,” Maier said.
07 Oct 21. UK responds to OSCE reports on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Ambassador Neil Bush responds to OSCE reports by Ambassadors Çevik and Kinnunen on Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.
Thank you Madam Chairperson. Ambassador Çevik, Ambassador Kinnunen we are grateful for your reports today and all your efforts towards a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the conflict. Ambassador Kinnunen welcome to the forum for this first time.
Ambassador Çevik, the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM)’s impartial, facts-based reporting remains vital in providing an understanding of the security situation on the ground. While your report showed that the daily number of ceasefire violations – 239 between 7 June and 8 September – had decreased since the last reporting period, it remains markedly higher than the months immediately following the July 2020 strengthened ceasefire. We were also deeply concerned that the Mission recorded a doubling of the use of weapons proscribed under the Minsk agreements and 403 weapons in violation of their respective withdrawal lines, 72 per cent of which were in non-government controlled areas.
Sadly, this violence continues to lead to civilian casualties and fatalities. 14 civilian casualties due to shelling and small arms fire occurred in August alone – the highest monthly number of casualties due to shelling and small arms fire since July 2020. We urge all sides to uphold the strengthened ceasefire and cease the use of weapons proscribed under the Minsk Agreements. Civilians suffer the cost of failing to do so.
Ambassador Çevik, we also share your alarm at the persistent restrictions on the SMM’s access and technical assets. We continue to condemn the unacceptable limitations that the Russia-backed armed formations impose on your Mission’s ability to freely cross the line of contact, which, as you have described today, violates the Mission’s mandate and effectively forces it to act as three separate entities. We note that 90% of SMM patrols’ access restrictions during the reporting period occurred in areas held by the Russia-backed armed formations. This is particularly the case close to the Ukraine-Russia State border temporarily outside of Ukrainian government control, where the Mission has also been denied the necessary security guarantees to open long-planned and much needed forward patrol bases.
We call on Russia to take the necessary action to ensure that the SMM has safe and secure access, in accordance with its mandate, throughout the entire territory of Ukraine, which includes the temporarily uncontrolled border and illegally annexed Crimea.
Ambassador Cevik – Thank you for the information provided on the move of the Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) base to Varvarivka. We hope that this will facilitate an increased operation of this vital SMM asset-class, which has been subject to an unacceptable level of jamming. We condemn in the strongest terms all interference and targeting of the Mission’s technical equipment, including both its cameras and UAV systems.
Madam Chair, we reiterate our support for the Minsk agreements to deliver a peaceful resolution to the conflict in full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the work of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) and the Normandy Four in this regard. We call on Russia to withdraw its military personnel and weapons from the territory of Ukraine and cease its support for the armed formations it backs.
The UK strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, including its territorial waters. We do not and will not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The UK has consistently stood with Ukraine in opposing all instances of Russian aggression towards Ukraine and we will continue to do so, including through sanctions, together with our international partners. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
06 Oct 21. Taiwan defence minister pushes new arms spending, says China tensions worst in four decades. Military tensions with China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s defence minister said on Wednesday, promoting a new arms spending package to lawmakers days after record numbers of Chinese aircraft flew into the island’s air defence zone. Tensions have hit a new high between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the democratic island as its own territory, and Chinese military aircraft have repeatedly flown through Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, though no shots have been fired and the planes have stayed away from mainland Taiwan. Over a four day period beginning last Friday, Taiwan reported close to 150 Chinese air force aircraft entered its air defence zone, part of a pattern of what Taipei calls Beijing’s continued harassment of the island. Just one incursion was reported on Tuesday. Asked by a lawmaker on the current military tensions with China at the parliament, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the situation was “the most serious” in more than 40 years since he joined the military, adding there was a risk of a “misfire” across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
“For me as a military man, the urgency is right in front of me,” he told a parliamentary committee reviewing an extramilitary spending plan worth T$240bn ($8.6bn) over the next five years for home-made weapons including missiles and warships.
However, while Taiwan has complained repeatedly about China’s planes harrying them, the situation is far less dramatic than the crisis ahead of the 1996 presidential election, the last time the two were on the brink of war.
Then, China carried out missile tests in waters close to Taiwan hoping to prevent people voting for Lee Teng-hui, who China suspected of harbouring pro-independence views. Lee won convincingly.
China says Taiwan should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions.
Chiu said China already has the ability to invade Taiwan and it will be capable of mounting a “full scale” invasion by 2025.
“By 2025, China will bring the cost and attrition to its lowest. It has the capacity now, but it will not start a war easily, having to take many other things into consideration.”
The United States, Taiwan’s main military supplier, has confirmed its “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan and also criticised China. Beijing blames Washington’s policies of supporting Taiwan with arms sales and sending warships through the Taiwan Strait for raising tensions.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about Taiwan and they agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement.
Biden appeared to be referring to Washington’s long-standing “one-China policy” under which it officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei, and the Taiwan Relations Act, which makes clear that the U.S. decision to establish diplomatic ties with Beijing instead of Taiwan rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means. (Source: Reuters)
06 Oct 21. Former Officials Call For AUKUS Submarines To Use Low Enriched Uranium. Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Breaking Defense that his nation must pursue a low enriched uranium submarine strategy.
In a new letter, a group of former US officials and non-proliferation experts are urging President Joe Biden to commit the United States to designing future submarines using low enriched uranium, a material capable of powering naval propulsion without the risks of being used to create a nuclear weapon.
It’s the latest salvo in a newly-energized debate about what kind of uranium should be used to power military subs, one that has gained new life since since Biden announced Australia would receive nuclear powered submarines under a new defense pact in September, dubbed AUKUS. The heart of that debate questions whether the world’s superpowers should transition from using highly enriched uranium to LEU to reduce the odds a hostile actor might acquire a nuclear weapon.
The AUKUS agreement, which also includes the United Kingdom, has stirred concerns from both longtime experts on the subject and world leaders, such as the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who told Breaking Defense this week that he would encourage the use of LEU only for Australia’s new submarine.
“Australia is a non-nuclear weapon state and has a commitment to, and a massive vested interest in, the upholding of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said Turnbull, who is not a party to the new letter and had not seen it. “When you look at it from a non-proliferation point of view, or a management point of view or an environmental point of view, LEU is a much better proposition.”
A copy of the letter can be seen at the bottom of this story. The seven signatories of the new letter are:
- Robert L. Gallucci, Distinguished Professor, Georgetown Univ.; Former Ambassador at Large and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
- Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
- Alan J. Kuperman, Assoc. Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs; Coordinator, Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, Univ. of Texas at Austin; former Congressional staff
- George M. Moore, Scientist-in-Residence, Middlebury Inst. of International Studies at Monterey
- Thomas Shea, former senior researcher, IAEA Safeguards Division and Head, Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation Programs, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
- Sharon Squassoni, Research Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University; former nonproliferation specialist with US State Department
- Frank von Hippel, Professor of Public and International Affairs emeritus, Princeton University; former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
“[T]he AUKUS deal to supply Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines fueled with weapon-grade uranium could have serious negative impacts on the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and thereby on US national security,” the group wrote in their letter addressed to Biden, as well as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, State Secretary Anthony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and National Nuclear Security Administrator Jill Hruby. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
06 Oct 21. Taipei warns that China will be able to invade Taiwan by 2025. President Tsai Ing-wen appeals to democracies to help the island defend its independence. Chiu Kuo-cheng told parliament that Taiwan’s army had to ‘strengthen our capabilities quickly.’ Taiwan’s defence minister has warned that China will be fully capable of invading the island by 2025, in the government’s first clear message to the public that the country faces a threat of war. Chiu Kuo-cheng issued the warning after almost 150 Chinese warplanes operated in international airspace near Taiwan between Friday and Monday. “The current situation is really the most dangerous I have seen in my more than 40 years in the military,” Chiu said in a question-and-answer session with lawmakers about a NT$240bn ($8.6bn) special defence budget for anti-ship missiles and warships. “If they want to attack now, they are already capable. But they have to calculate at what cost it would come and what results it would have,” Chiu said. “From 2025, they will already have lowered the cost and the losses to the lowest possible level, so . . . they will have the complete capability.” The remarks follow appeals by Taipei to the international community to support the country against Chinese aggression. On Tuesday Tsai Ing-wen, the president, issued an urgent appeal to stand with Taiwan. Other democracies “should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system. It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy,” she wrote in Foreign Affairs. Over the past year, Beijing has dramatically increased air and naval operations close to Taiwan. According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, 672 Chinese warplanes have flown into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone this year, far outpacing the 380 recorded in 2020. Some US officials and many experts have played down the significance of the People’s Liberation Army flights, saying that they were not the prelude to war but aimed instead at intimidating Taiwan and wearing down its air force, which scrambles fighters in response.
General Mark Milley, chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, in June said the probability of a Chinese attack on Taiwan was “probably low, in the immediate, near-term future”. Tiffany Ma, a Taiwan expert at Bower Group Asia, a consultancy, said it was too early to sound alarm bells. “The fact that China may have the capability under specific scenarios and conditions doesn’t necessarily mean that the intention is there,” said Ma. “For the PLA to militarily take Taiwan, it is going to be very costly. And China is developing a huge toolbox of ways to pressure Taiwan before taking a shot and raising it to the kinetic level.” However, there are concerns in Washington. In March Admiral Philip Davidson, then head of US Indo-Pacific command, told Congress that China might attack Taiwan within six years. Other commanders have also privately expressed concern that China may act more quickly than most experts on the Chinese military believe. But Taiwan’s government has long feared that discussions about preparing for a Chinese attack would undermine public morale. US officials and experts have repeatedly criticised Taipei for being complacent and doing too little to strengthen its defences. Chiu indicated that Taiwan’s military was not ready for full-scale conflict. “Our ability to deal with normal situations daily is absolutely there — having prepared for war for so many years, we are combat-ready,” he said. “But now the situation is extremely severe, so we must strengthen our capabilities quickly.” The concerns about Taiwan come as Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, prepares to meet Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, in Switzerland on Wednesday. People familiar with the situation said the two sides were exploring the possibility of Joe Biden and Xi holding a virtual summit in the coming months. (Source: FT.com)
05 Oct 21. Taiwan says it needs to be alert to ‘over the top’ military activities by China. Taiwan needs to be on alert for China’s “over the top” military activities, the premier said on Tuesday, after a record 56 Chinese aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone, while the president said the island would do what it took to defend itself. Taiwan has reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern part of its air defence zone over a four day period beginning on Friday, the same day China marked a key patriotic holiday, National Day.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions.
The tensions are being viewed with increasing concern by the international community. Japan and Australia on Tuesday urged the two to talk, while the United States said it has been “conveying clear messages” after what it described as destabilising activities by China.
Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “grey zone” warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwan’s forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwan’s responses.
“Taiwan must be on alert. China is more and more over the top,” Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei. “The world has also seen China’s repeated violations of regional peace and pressure on Taiwan.”
Taiwan needs to “strengthen itself” and come together as one, he added.
“Only then will countries that want to annex Taiwan not dare to easily resort to force. Only when we help ourselves can others help us.”
The Chinese aircraft have not been flying in Taiwan’s air space, but its air defence identification zone or ADIZ, a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made modernising the armed forces a priority, focusing on the use of new, mobile weapons to make any attack by China as costly as possible, turning Taiwan into a “porcupine”.
In an article for the U.S. magazine Foreign Affairs released on Tuesday, Tsai said Taiwan falling to China would trigger “catastrophic” consequences for peace in Asia.
Taiwan does not seek military confrontation, Tsai said, “but if its democracy and way of life are threatened, Taiwan will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”
JAPAN, AUSTRALIA CONCERN
The United States, Taiwan’s main military supplier, has its “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan.
China has blamed the United States for the tensions due to its arms sales and support for the island.
In a sign of the fraught atmosphere, a security source confirmed reports in Taiwanese media that a Chinese pilot responded to a radio warning to fly away on Sunday with an expletive.
China’s Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Japan also weighed in on Tuesday, saying it was watching the situation closely and hoped Taiwan and China could resolve their differences through talks.
“Japan believes that it is crucial for the situation surrounding Taiwan to be peaceful and stable,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in Tokyo.
“Additionally, instead of simply monitoring the situation, we hope to weigh the various possible scenarios that may arise to consider what options we have, as well as the preparations we must make.”
The Japanese, U.S., British, Dutch, Canadian and New Zealand navies held joint drills near Okinawa over the weekend, including U.S. and British aircraft carriers.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it too was concerned by China’s increased air incursions.
“Resolution of differences over Taiwan and other regional issues must be achieved peacefully through dialogue and without the threat or use of force or coercion,” it said.
Taiwan has lived under the threat of invasion since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists. No peace treaty or armistice has ever been signed.
Taiwanese people are well used to China’s threats and there has been no sign of panic on the island because of the stepped up military activity, nor undermining of investor confidence on the stock market. (.TWII)
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Sakura Murakami in Tokyo, Colin Packham in Canberra and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast. (Source: Reuters)
05 Oct 21. South Korea aims high on defence exports. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is aiming to position the country as one of the world’s top exporters within a few years.
DAPA told Janes that its ambition is supported by new investment in military technologies, efforts to restructure the country’s defence industrial base, and a strategy to prioritise ‘exportability’.
DAPA also said that South Korea’s defence exports in 2020 are estimated by the administration to have reached KRW1.7trn (USD1.43bn), the same value as 2019. In the next few years DAPA is aiming much higher, it said.
“DAPA aims to become one of the top five defence exporters in five years,” a DAPA spokesperson told Janes. “DAPA is pursuing a strategy [that] intends to transform the current RoK [Republic of Korea] defence industrial structure, which is focused on domestic demand, to an export-oriented industry.
“For this goal, the RoK will prioritise the ‘exportability’ at the systems-development stage, the early stage of acquisition process, to develop globally operable weapon systems,” said the spokesperson.
According to the spokesperson, DAPA is also seeking to boost defence exports through a transition to a “first mover” culture in which South Korean agencies and industry become leaders in military technologies.
The spokesperson said, “DAPA also seeks to move away from its ‘catch-up’ strategy to become a ‘first mover’ [that] leads global efforts in developing cutting-edge technologies.”
This target, the spokesperson said, is supported through a plan to increase investment in defence research and development (R&D) for emerging technologies, especially those in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) domain. (Source: Jane’s)
05 Oct 21. Afghanistan: UK Officials Hold Talks With Taliban. British representatives met with senior group members to prevent Afghanistan to prevent the country becoming “an incubator for terrorism”.
UK officials have held talks with the Taliban for the first time since they took power in August (Picture via Reuters).
UK officials have held talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, in part to prevent the country from becoming “an incubator for terrorism”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said Sir Simon Gass, the Prime Minister’s High Representative for Afghan Transition, and Charge d’Affaires of the UK Mission to Afghanistan in Doha Dr Martin Longden, travelled to the country and met with senior members of the organisation.
A Government spokesperson said: “Sir Simon and Dr Longden discussed how the UK could help Afghanistan to address the humanitarian crisis, the importance of preventing the country from becoming an incubator for terrorism, and the need for continued safe passage for those who want to leave the country.
“They also raised the treatment of minorities and the rights of women and girls.
“The Government continues to do all it can to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave and is committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan.”
The UK Government said the officials met with foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and deputy prime ministers Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund and Abdul-Salam Hanafi, among others.
A statement on Twitter which appeared to be from a Taliban foreign affairs spokesman said: “The meeting focused on detailed discussions about reviving diplomatic relations between both countries, assurance of security by IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) for all citizens entering legally, and humanitarian assistance by UK for the Afghans.”
Abdul Qahar Balkhi said the UK delegation had said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “seeking to build relations with IEA while taking into account prevailing circumstances” while the Afghan side said the UK “must take positive steps regarding relations and co-operation, and begin a new chapter of constructive relations”.
He said: “We expect others to also not work towards weakening our government.”
The Taliban has been in control in Afghanistan since the fall of the western-backed government in August. (Source: forces.net)
24 Sep 21. Malaysia to hold talks with China on AUKUS. A Malaysian delegation will visit China to hold talks with the country’s leadership on AUKUS and understand the concerns that Beijing may have over the newly announced partnership. The matter was disclosed by the country’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in response to a parliamentary question on 22 September. On 15 September the leaders of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom announced the establishment of a new security partnership known as AUKUS. As part of the partnership, the US and the UK would assist Australia in procuring a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Australia has since clarified that it is looking to procure a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered boats that will be built in-country. In an official statement issued on 19 September, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has described the establishment of AUKUS and the submarine procurement plan as decisions that “could lead to the escalation of arms race in the region”. In light of this development, Malaysian member of parliament and former defence minister Mohamad Bin Sabu asked for the defence ministry’s own position on AUKUS, and how it intends to respond to this partnership.
“I have advised the Australian Defence Minister that besides approaching Malaysia they should also approach Brunei given the country’s position as the current chair of ASEAN, and the CMLV [Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam] countries that have close relations with China to understand their concerns,” said Hishammuddin. (Source: Jane’s)
04 Oct 21. The Second Launch of the Zircon from Under the Water Was Successfully Completed. The crew of the nuclear submarine missile cruiser Severodvinsk successfully completed the second test launch of the hypersonic cruise missile Zircon. The second test firing of the hypersonic cruise missile Zircon was carried out by the crew of the nuclear submarine missile cruiser Severodvinsk for the first time from an underwater position, from a depth of 40 meters, in the waters of the White Sea at a conditional sea target in the Barents Sea.
According to objective control data, the flight of the rocket from leaving the water to hitting the conditional target fully corresponded to the specified parameters.
The day before, for the first time, a hypersonic cruise missile Zircon was fired from the nuclear submarine missile cruiser Severodvinsk from a surface position. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Russian Ministry of Defence)
05 Oct 21. Carrier Strike Group Looks Forward to a Busy Autumn in Indo-Pacific and Middle East. With four months of activity alongside allies and partners successfully completed, the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG), led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, is preparing for a series of engagements with Singapore, India and Oman this autumn. Having passed the midway point of its first operational deployment, the UK Carrier Strike Group is preparing for a return transit through the Indo-Pacific, Middle East and Mediterranean. Since the end of May, the CSG has sailed over 32,000 nautical miles from the UK to Japan undertaking a range of air and maritime operations from the Black Sea to the Philippine Sea. As a tangible demonstration of the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt, over the past three months, ships from the Strike Group have conducted a series of engagements with regional partners including Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. In a further demonstration of this international deployment, over the next two weeks the CSG will navigate the South China Sea with ships and aircraft from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States.
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said, “CSG continues to demonstrate our enduring commitment to global security and international alliances, from the Indo-Pacific to the Middle-East and beyond. Our engagement with our allies and partners will endure long after the CSG’s visits and exercises end, with the permanent deployment of HMS Tamar and HMS Spey to the Indo-Pacific and close cooperation with our Five Powers Defence partners around the world. Exercising and cooperation with like-minded allies is vital to tackle the common threats we face, contributing to a safer and more secure world.”
Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss said, “The UK is committed to strengthening our ties across the Indo-Pacific and the deployment of the UK Carrier Strike Group demonstrates our commitment to the region, and our desire to build deeper economic, diplomatic and security partnerships. By visiting, working and exercising alongside our partners we are standing up for our mutual interests, supporting regional stability, boosting our ties and promoting new trading opportunities.”
Later this autumn, the CSG will conduct other engagements in the region before travelling to the Gulf.
The Task Group will undertake F35 exercises with Oman and UAE air forces in the Gulf, and maritime training alongside the Royal Navy of Oman. Simultaneously the British Army will be taking part in exercises with Royal Army of Oman units which will link back to the ship to demonstrate interoperability between land and sea forces. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
29 Sep 21. India dissolves OFB, sets up new defence firms. In 2020-21 the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) posted turnover of INR146.35bn (USD1.98bn). (Indian Ministry of Defence)
The Indian government has established seven companies to undertake the industrial activities of the 41 defence factories operated by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
A notice issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 27 September said these new government-owned firms will oversee the “management, control, operations, and maintenance” of the OFB factories from 1 October.
According to the MoD, the seven companies will have a combined authorised share capital of INR912 bn (USD12.4 bn) and net assets of about INR793 bn. The move increases the number of India’s defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) to 16.
“The government of India has decided to transfer all assets and liabilities of the OFB to the new DPSUs,” said the MoD notice. It said that from 1 October the OFB “shall cease to exist as a body”.
The restructure is focused on seven OFB segments: ammunition and explosives; vehicles; weapons and equipment; ancillary products; opto-electronics; clothing; and parachutes.
The biggest company to emerge from the restructure will be Munitions India Limited, which will produce ammunition and explosives and have assets of INR363.3 bn. This company will be headquartered in Pune and will operate 12 existing OFB factories.
Kanpur-based Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited will comprise eight OFB factories and have assets worth INR122.2 bn. It will also assume management of OFB’s joint venture with Russia, Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL). (Source: Jane’s)
30 Sep 21. India and Australia sign terms of reference for ‘Navy-to-Navy’ talks. The inaugural N2N talk with Australia was conducted in 2005. The ToR was signed virtually between Indian Navy rear admiral Jaswinder Singh and Royal Australian Navy rear admiral Christopher Smith. Credit: Ministry of Defence/Press Information Bureau/Government of India.
The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced the signing of the ‘Terms of Reference’ (ToR) with Australia to conduct Navy-to-Navy talks.
It follows the signing of ‘Joint Guidance for the India – Australia Navy-to-Navy Relationship’ between the Indian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) last month.
The document is the first of its kind that the Indian Navy has signed with any other country.
The MoD noted that the inaugural N2N talk with Australia was held in 2005.
Since then, the navies of the two nations have continued to maintain a close relationship with each other at all levels.
The Indian MoD said in a statement: “The ‘Joint Guidance’ document sets forth the Navy to Navy (N2N) Talks as the ‘Principal’ medium for the guiding the bilateral relationship.
“‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, conduct of trilateral Maritime Security Workshop and RAN participation in Exercise MALABAR are significant milestones, which underline the role played by both navies in bolstering this relationship in recent times.”
The document will support the shared commitment between the countries to promoting peace, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
It enhances mutual understanding of each other’s concerns and future directions and provides detailed guidance for the conduct of N2N talks between the two countries. (Source: naval-technology.com)
30 Sep 21. Japan’s converted helicopter ship to host F-35B flight trials. Japan-based U.S. Marine Corps F-35 jets will conduct flying operations from a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier that is being converted to operate the fifth-generation fighter jet.
Japan’s Ministry of Defense said in a Sept. 30 news release that the F-35Bs, which are capable of Short Take Off and Vertical Landings, or STOVL, will conduct landing and take-off tests on the JS Izumo between the 3rd and 7th of October.
The flight operations will be conducted somewhere in the Pacific Ocean off Japan, and will be used to verify modifications to the flight deck that will allow the ship to operate the Lockheed Martin-made aircraft.
The U.S. ally has a requirement for 42 F-35Bs out of a total of 157 F-35s it is acquiring. It already has eight STOVL jets on contract for delivery beginning in 2024, with the latest Japanese defense budget allocating funding for a further four aircraft in the 2022 fiscal year.
The Marine Corps F-35Bs that will conduct the operations will be drawn from the aircraft currently forward-deployed at Marine Combat Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture. According to the base, the Izumo docked at the facility earlier today “in support of regional security and stability operations.”
It is not clear which Marine squadron will support the flight operations on the Izumo, although it is likely to be the aircraft and crew from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, which has operated the F-35B since 2012 and has been based in Japan since 2017.
The second Iwakuni squadron, VMFA-242, has only recently achieved initial operating capability on the F-35B, having only begun its transition to the type in late 2020.
The first stage of work to convert the ship, whose flight deck previously only operated helicopters, has already been completed, as the ship emerged in June with newly painted lines on its flight deck for fixed-wing air operations.
The scope of work already completed by Japan Marine United shipyard in Isogo, Yokohama, also included the application of a heat resistant coating to the flight deck to cope with temperatures from the F-35B’s exhaust and the installation of landing and other lighting to enable fixed wing aircraft operations.
Japan’s government has already allocated $60m for additional work to convert the Izumo in the defense budget for the 2022 fiscal year. According to a report in Yahoo Japan’s news portal, this will include $32.2m to acquire Raytheon’s Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, or JPALS, and $10.7m to the U.S. military for unspecified technical support.
The next stage of the conversion will include rebuilding the front of the flight deck from a trapezoidal to a rectangular shape, along with changes to the ship’s internal spaces to accommodate F-35B operations.
These changes will likely create an increase in aviation fuel capacity onboard and provision for armored magazines to store air-launched weapons, and is scheduled for completion in 2026. Japan will also convert the Izumo’s sister ship, Kaga, into an F-35B carrier. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
30 Sep 21. Our Next War in Afghanistan Is Already Looming. And It May Be Even Harder. The dangers that kept the U.S. in Afghanistan for so long are already accumulating again, little more than a month after the last troops left in a chaotic withdrawal.
The al-Qaida terrorist group that drew America into the country two decades ago is poised to come back under the ruling Taliban regime, or it never left at all, depending on whom you ask.
It may be only one to two years before the group could again threaten the U.S. homeland, according to a conservative estimate the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA disclosed in September. Then, there was the last spasm of violence before the complete pullout of U.S. forces in Afghanistan — a suicide bombing that killed 13 troops that was attributed to a competing terrorist group, the Islamic State-Khorasan.
Under that looming terrorism threat, former defense officials, lawmakers and experts believe a new U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is likely, maybe even inevitable, in what could be an echo of the withdrawal a decade ago from Iraq that cleared the way for the rise of the Islamic State and years of horrific attacks, killings and more war.
“We are going to have to send U.S. military forces back in some form to Afghanistan,” said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. “I don’t have a crystal ball — I don’t know if that is six months or six years — but the disaster in Iraq took three years to unfold.”
Then-President Barack Obama declared the Iraq war over in 2011. Over the next three years, the Islamic State group grew into a Mideast regional power with control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. It sponsored attacks in the U.S. and around the world, slaughtered ethnic minorities, and released videos of the beheadings of aid workers, tourists and journalists, including American James Foley, in a display of barbarity that swiftly drew recruits to form a pseudo-state before American forces returned.
Afghanistan, where more than 800,000 U.S. troops fought over four presidencies to ensure it wasn’t a terrorist plotting ground, could be the site of the next war on terrorism. But this time, the military may face even tougher conditions, with the region’s remote geography, a lack of bases on the ground, a Taliban regime in control of government, and allies who led a quick initial invasion victory 20 years ago either missing or in exile.
The Pentagon insists it can take out terrorist threats with “over the horizon capabilities,” or long-distance surgical strikes. But there is skepticism over the effectiveness of such strikes, which would be carried out by troops and aircraft stationed more than a thousand miles away. A botched drone strike on Aug. 29 as the U.S. evacuated Kabul showed how such strikes can go wrong — 10 civilians, including seven children, killed by mistake due to bad intelligence collected from the air.
“I would love to say we have this magic ability to reach in and kill any bad guy, and maybe we’ll kill a few of them,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran who served in the war in Afghanistan, said in an interview. “But man, we run the real risk of just creating more enemies than we do killing them.”
New World or Old Safe Haven
The White House sought to turn the page on the war and shift focus as the dust settled in Kabul, even as concerns grew.
President Joe Biden gave an address Aug. 31, telling the country that he “ended 20 years of war” and that the terrorist threat held at bay for so many years by a U.S. military presence had moved elsewhere. It was an effort to explain a military-led withdrawal and evacuation that saw desperate Afghans clinging to a plane departing Kabul, the deadly suicide bombing, and finally the tragic U.S. airstrike that killed only civilians.
“This is a new world. The terror threat has metastasized across the world, well beyond Afghanistan,” said Biden, pointing to Syria, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
Biden’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and the head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Frank McKenzie would later testify on Sept. 28 to the Senate Armed Services Committee that they recommended maintaining troops in the country.
But the Pentagon would instead keep an eye on the region from afar, Biden said in his address. Afghanistan was a priority, but no longer a top priority.
On the same day as Biden’s address, al-Qaida released a statement praising what it called a Taliban victory over the “filth of the Americans,” according to a translation posted by the Long War Journal, a publication of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The United Nations Security Council had reported in June that large numbers of al-Qaida fighters and other extremists aligned with the Taliban remained in Afghanistan. The group was present in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces but was laying low and minimizing communication with Taliban leaders to avoid international attention, the U.N. reported.
“In many ways, we’re in the exact same place we were 20 years ago, and that is with a Taliban-al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan,” Bowman said.
Top Pentagon officials acknowledged the terror group, which plotted the 9/11 attacks, still had a presence in Afghanistan during hours of questioning from the Senate committee on Sept. 28. The group’s original leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a U.S. special operations raid on a Pakistan compound in 2011.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said there were still “remnants” in the Taliban-ruled country, and Milley told the committee al-Qaida exists and wants to regroup from there to strike the U.S.
“Folks, we are going to pay for what we just did,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said during the hearing. “I got young kids, y’all got kids and grandkids, and we’re going to be back in there fighting.”
Few Levers Left to Pull
Any U.S. military return to Afghanistan would likely require a major emergency, something akin to the Islamic State group’s surge through Syria and northern Iraq in 2014, said retired Gen. Joe Votel, who served as head of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, and also led Army Rangers in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Public horror and outrage fueled a years-long U.S. air campaign, which was assisted by a small number of ground troops working with local Syrian and Iraqi forces. A military presence remains in Iraq, but Biden ordered the combat mission to end this year.
“I could definitely see us responding to a threat [in Afghanistan], and I would certainly hope that we would,” Votel said in an interview.
But he said any military operations are likely to focus more narrowly on specific targets there, rather than trying to solve conditions in the country that created them. The U.S. poured $2.3trn into rebuilding Afghanistan over the 20-year war in hopes of creating a functioning democratic government, according to Brown University’s Cost of War project, though that government and its security forces crumbled within days during the Taliban advance over the summer.
Over-the-horizon capabilities, the airstrikes carried out from distant bases, are now the first line of defense, mainly because military options are otherwise limited following the withdrawal.
“We have very few levers in Afghanistan right now because we’ve completely pulled out,” McKenzie said in his Senate testimony.
The U.S. military lost its ground base in Kabul, the partnership with elite Afghan commandos who were the most effective of the U.S.-trained troops, and much of its intelligence feed, making what was set to be a difficult mission over a remote, landlocked country even harder, said William Wechsler, senior director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council.
“Whether we like it or not, we are now in a race, and the race is between the Salafi jihadists’ predictable efforts to build external attack capacities and our efforts to establish an acceptably effective over-the-horizon counter-terrorism capability,” said Wechsler, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism during the Obama administration.
Lack of Intel and Hard Geography
Austin told the Senate that the military’s use of over-the-horizon strikes is fairly common and effective. He pointed to a September airstrike in Syria that the Pentagon said killed an al-Qaida terrorist leader.
“Over-the-horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible, and the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources and not just U.S. boots on the ground,” Austin told the Senate committee on Sept. 28.
But Retired Gen. John Allen, now the president of the Brookings Institution, said that type of intelligence is crucial for such operations. Allen was the NATO International Security Assistance Force commander in Afghanistan, and also served as special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, the U.S.-led group of nations that fought the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“Over-the-horizon targeting implies that you have eyes on the target, you’ve got some form of boots on the ground or intelligence development capability that’s on the ground,” Allen said in a Middle East Institute discussion Sept. 16. “We have none, we’ve basically given it up.”
The last U.S. airstrike of the Afghanistan war, which mistakenly killed 10 civilians in a home near the Kabul airport, illustrated how horribly wrong operations overseen from abroad can go.
After receiving conflicting intelligence about the home being used by ISIS-K for a planned attack drawn from video captured by six Reaper drones watching from above, a strike team located abroad launched a Hellfire missile that killed an aid worker as well as seven children.
“I would reject a parallel between this operation and an over-the-horizon strike against an ISIS-K target, again, because we will have an opportunity to further develop the target and time to look at pattern of life,” meaning long-term monitoring of targets, McKenzie said in a Sept. 17 briefing admitting the botched strike. “That time was not available to us because this was an imminent threat to our forces.”
During the war against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, the presence of special operators on the ground was key to targeting the enemy.
But the withdrawal and the loss of the Kabul airport and Bagram airport, one of the most capable and advanced in the region, has hobbled the ability to insert troops if needed and has put any U.S. aerial operations up against the difficult geography of the country.
“The distances here are considerable, and it’s hard to cover the distances and sustain these efforts when you have a dynamic threat on the ground,” Votel said.
Iran airspace is a no-go for the military, and Allen said Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely try to block any attempts by the U.S. to set up operating bases in the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that box in Afghanistan in the north.
U.S. military strikes could then be dependent on Pakistan giving clearance to fly through its territory. But Islamabad may feel pressure to ally with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, leaving access an open and troubling question as its relationship with the U.S. evolves post-withdrawal, according to Allen.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to say whether arrangements have been made with Pakistan for the U.S. to use its airspace for over-the-horizon strikes.
As intelligence and access have grown harder, the U.S. also faces a third challenge: the loss of local partners. Indigenous forces were key in both the early days of the Afghanistan war and the operations against the Islamic State in the Middle East.
Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance opposition in the Panjshir Valley proved capable in 2001 and gave the U.S. military a toehold. A fledgling anti-Taliban resistance in Panjshir has now been snuffed out as would-be opposition leaders fled into neighboring countries.
The strategic difficulties with continuing military operations in Afghanistan, and the grim terrorism assessments, came as Congress and the Pentagon wrestled with the legacy of the 20-year war.
“I don’t think it’s pre-ordained that we’re going to have to go back,” Austin told senators.
The question is what would prompt the military to go back in, and whether it would take another attack on the U.S. homeland, Kinzinger said. Or would it require a steady drumbeat of attacks and atrocities like those committed by the Islamic State in the vacuum left in northern Iraq and war-torn Syria during the last decade?
“I think it’s one thing to reintroduce troops into Iraq like we did, but Afghanistan is a whole different thing,” Kinzinger said. “That’s a frightening idea.” (Source: Military.com)
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