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12 Oct 23. Niger: UN withdrawal will intensify aid shortages; instability, conflict risks increase sharply. On 10 October, the military junta ordered the head of the UN diplomatic mission to Niger to depart the country within 72 hours. The request comes after the junta accused the UN of obstructing their participation in the General Assembly, and disrupted UN efforts to distribute aid to Niger through its border with Benin in September. Taken together, these incidents will significantly undermine the UN’s capacity to co-ordinate humanitarian relief in Niger, further exacerbating mounting food insecurity and health risks. The situation is already exacerbated by sanctions impeding access to vital imports and regional markets. Worsening humanitarian conditions will likely increase unrest risks over the coming months, particularly in the capital Niamey. Reduced access to aid will also elevate the threat of intercommunal conflict, as the competition for resources mounts. This will create further recruitment opportunities for armed groups, driving the increased risk of attacks by al-Qaeda and IS-aligned jihadist groups. (Source: Sibylline)
12 Oct 23. North Korea: Nuclear test remains possible amid ongoing tensions; risk of armed conflict remains low. On 11 October, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense claimed in a policy report that North Korea could carry out a seventh nuclear test, or other ‘strategic and tactical provocations’, to distract from domestic concerns such as rising food insecurity. North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since 2017, and resuming such activity would mark a significant escalation in tensions. North Korea is also expected again to attempt and successfully launch a military spy satellite, after failing twice since May. Brief evacuation alerts were previously prompted in parts of South Korea and Japan during a prior launch. South Korea has ramped up security co-operation with the US in an effort to increase deterrence vis-a-vis North Korea, though this has provoked consternation in Pyongyang. While tensions are set to remain elevated, the risk that Pyongyang will initiate a significant armed conflict remains low due to the prohibitively high cost. (Source: Sibylline)
12 Oct 23. El Salvador: Military siege of the capital San Salvador, surrounding areas underscores sustained organised crime risk. On 11 October, over 4,000 Salvadoran troops deployed to the La Campanera, Popotlán and Valle Verde neighbourhoods (San Salvador department) around the capital San Salvador, as part of ongoing security operations under the state of emergency declared in March 2022. Authorities conducted house searches targeting suspected gang remnants after the murder of a seven-year-old shocked the country. As historic gang strongholds, the communities have faced intensified policing under President Nayib Bukele’s crackdown which garnered public support while raising alarm among human rights groups. Over 73,000 alleged members were arrested, with over 7,000 released. As Congress weighs extending emergency powers to enable warrantless arrests, further deployments are likely to curb gang resurgence. However, predominantly militarised tactics risk a backlash from rights defenders. Organised crime and human rights risks persist the Salvadoran government’s anti-gang campaign. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Oct 23. South Korea likely to increase spending on border surveillance assets over next few years, says GlobalData. Following the news that South Korea is considering suspension of the previously agreed-upon border truce with North Korea; Harshavardhan Dabbiru, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:
“In the wake of the surprise coordinated attacks and infiltrations by Hamas in Israel, South Korea is mulling the suspension of the 2018 military agreement with North Korea and resuming frontline border surveillance. South Korea’s move is driven by growing concerns over continued North Korean intrusions and frequent missile tests. Maintaining frontline surveillance over the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which runs for about 240km, is vital for South Korea, especially with events such as violations across the South Korean boundaries by North Korean drones and naval vessels.
“The suspension of the agreement, if it happens, will allow South Korea to utilise its surveillance assets to maintain a constant watch over its neighbour from the border and deploy air-defense assets quickly in anticipation of potential intrusions. South Korea will also likely increase its focus on bolstering its surveillance capabilities by procuring additional surveillance assets, including radars, electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to monitor adversary movements along the DMZ and maritime boundaries.
“According to GlobalData, South Korea is projected to cumulatively spend about $293bn on defence between 2023 and 2028. With events unfolding on the other side of the world between Israel and Palestine, threats of similar escalations along the Korean DMZ will likely make South Korean policymakers slightly anxious, which, in turn, will lead to a further increase in their defense spending.”
09 Oct 23. PLA Holds Cross-Regional Naval Drills in South China Sea Amid US-Philippines Exercise. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently organized some of its most powerful warships to conduct a series of naval drills across several regions in the South China Sea, a move experts said on Monday displays China’s capabilities in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity amid a US and Philippine joint exercise allegedly targeting Chinese islands and reefs.
Several vessels attached to a destroyer detachment affiliated with the navy of the PLA Southern Theater Command recently carried out a coordinated offense and defense exercise under realistic combat conditions in the South China Sea, the PLA Navy said in a press release on Sunday.
The Type 055 10,000 ton-class guided missile destroyer Yan’an (Hull 106), the Type 052D guided missile destroyer Hefei (Hull 174), a conventional submarine and a Z-9 anti-submarine helicopter were among forces that participated in the exercise, photos attached to the press release show.
During the exercise that lasted for many days, the flotilla crossed several sea regions, completed training such as anti-submarine warfare, live-fire light arms shooting as well as takeoff and landing of vessel-borne helicopters, the press release said.
During one of the drills, the Hefei detected several waves of aerial targets approaching the flotilla, which quickly mobilized to take advantageous positions and use anti-aircraft fire to intercept them.
In addition to non-stop aerial threats, the flotilla also dealt with surface and underwater threats.
To recon the underwater situation, an anti-submarine helicopter took off and headed toward the suspected enemy area to conduct searches and checks in coordination with the vessels’ sonar systems, while the Hefei released a small boat to conduct close-in reconnaissance of the suspect surface target as the flotilla switched to tactical assault formation and raised the alert status.
One of the warships fired its main gun and destroyed the surface target, and flares were shot to stop air targets from approaching.
After several rounds of strikes, the flotilla was ordered to move to another region to conduct a back-to-back confrontational drill, practicing the reconstruction of the flotilla regional air defense system and taking advantage of the new-type warships’ advancements.
The exercise accelerated the integration of the new-type warships into the joint operational system and effectively enhanced the flotilla’s capabilities in carrying out diverse military operations, the PLA Navy said.
Featuring air, surface and underwater elements, the exercise included some of the PLA Navy’s main combat vessels, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Monday.
It was a comprehensive drill that displayed the PLA South Sea Fleet’s high level of combat readiness, the expert said.
The drill in the South China Sea is announced at a time when the US and the Philippines are holding the 12-day multilateral Exercise SAMASAMA around Luzon, the Philippines, from October 2 to Friday, which VOA said on Saturday targets China with a focus on China’s Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island).
Analysts said that the Chinese exercise was a routine one that does not target any third party, but displayed the PLA’s capabilities in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Since August, the Philippines has been provoking China by sending vessels to trespass into waters near Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea and hyping up Chinese interceptions.
Chinese naval expert Zhang Junshe told the Global Times that the Philippines has no military advantage facing China, and the US will never engage China in a military conflict on behalf of the Philippines.
The US is only using the Philippines as a pawn to contain China, so the Philippines should not misjudge the situation, Zhang said. (Source: Defense-Aerospace.com/ Global Times)
11 Oct 23. “Procurement challenges” and “lack of capacity” keep SA Navy in harbour. That the SA Navy (SAN) needs to rebuild is borne out by the hours at sea recorded by the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in the 2022/23 financial year.
The latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report has it the SAN “planned for 8 000 hours at sea” during the period under review. It achieved a paltry 2 770 between April 2022 and end March 2023, less than half what was envisaged.
On the positive side more sea time was spent on force employment – 1 413 hours – than force preparation, which weighed in with 157 less at 1 356 hours.
Transposed into day terms, the numbers show SAN crews spent 115 days at sea over the 365 day period of the 2022/23 financial year. Force employment accounted for 58.5 days with the balance of 56.5 going to preparation, including training.
In the 2021/22 financial year the SA Navy spent 7 614 hours at sea, out of a planned 8 000 hours. This is down from the 10 000 allocated sea hours the previous year following a reduction in 2021/22 due to “insufficient budget allocation”.
The rebuilding phase is noted in the maritime defence section of the annual report stating “the SAN ensured maintenance and repair of the surface warfare capability (frigate capability) was prioritised within the resource allocation. This enabled SAS Spioenkop (F147) to achieve mission level of capability and deploy to Mozambique on Operation Vikela (SAMIM – the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique) with effect from 3 March to 31 May 2022”.
The report notes further maintenance and repair of vessels “with the emphasis on achieving deployment status of large vessels for long-range maritime patrols” was ongoing. Hulls named are Type 209 submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke (S102) frigates SAS Amatola (F145), SAS Isandlwana (F146) and Spioenkop (F147), and the replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg (A301) with “major repairs, upkeep and overhauls” underway.
“Persisting procurement challenges” added to “lack of capacity” at the Armscor dockyard in Simon’s Town, the annual report has it, “negatively impacted on availability of naval platforms.”
This state of affairs saw single deployments for operations Vikela and Corona with not one hull allocated to a long-range Op Copper maritime patrol mission in the Mozambique Channel. The SADC initiated and approved tasking aims to prevent piracy and crime at sea in the busy shipping lane east of the sub-continent. South Africa is the lead nation providing maritime and limited airborne platforms with Mozambican military personnel aboard whichever SAN platform is on station. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
11 Oct 23. Angola: Crackdown on government criticism likely to elevate operational risks for NGOs. On 10 October, an appeals court in the capital Luanda increased the sentence to two years for a social media who insulted President Joao Laurenco on TikTok. The influencer blamed President Laurenco for the lack of schools, housing and employment. The sentencing comes amid a rise in socio-economic tensions since June, when the government suspended fuel subsidies to rein in spending; substantial protests followed (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 27 June 2023). Economic challenges are likely to sustain heightened levels of dissatisfaction with the government over the coming months, elevating government sensitivity to criticism. While legal penalties are highly unlikely to be imposed on foreign nationals or entities, a crackdown will almost certainly increase operational risks for the local staff of NGOs deemed to be critical of the government. This will elevate the risk of detention and threats of unilateral revocation of operating licenses. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Oct 23. Nigeria: Bandit groups drive elevated kidnap, attack threat in states surrounding Abuja. In the early hours of 10 October, unidentified gunmen kidnapped four university students from a residential property in Keffi (Nasarawa state), approximately 43 miles (70km) east of the capital Abuja. The incident was likely perpetrated by one of an array of armed groups known locally as bandits, which often conduct large-scale kidnappings. These incidents are both a source of financing and a feature of intercommunal conflict among sedentary farming communities. While in 2022 bandit groups conducted a number of attacks around Abuja, notably abducting around 100 passengers from an Abuja-Kaduna train in March 2022, a subsequent enhanced security presence largely succeeded in pushing these groups back from the capital. However, this latest incident underlines the persistent bandit presence in the states surrounding Abuja. This will sustain kidnap and attack threats to staff during overland movement in and out of the capital and to those based in surrounding states. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Oct 23. Niger-US: Suspension of US co-operation will undermine security capabilities, elevate food insecurity. On 10 October, US officials formally recognised the military’s government takeover in July as a coup, immediately suspending the distribution of USD 500 m in aid. US officials previously refrained from formally recognising the coup and have continued conducting counter-terrorism operations from the US base in Agadez (Agadez region), which is of key strategic importance. Currently, there are no plans to reduce the US presence in Niger. However, US forces will cease training and assisting Nigerien forces, increasing the possibility of a gradual drawdown of the US military in Niger over the coming months. The suspension of US co-operation will likely undermine Nigerien security forces’ capacity to counter rising jihadist activity and existing organised crime networks in the Sahel, increasing security risks to staff and assets throughout Niger, particularly in the Tillabéri region. The suspension of aid will likely undermine humanitarian conditions and prompt the junta to scapegoat the US, raising the threat of domestic unrest targeting assets and staff associated with US authorities, particularly in the capital Niamey. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Oct 23. General Highlights China’s Military Advantages, Disadvantages. There are three things that the Chinese military has that the U.S. military, allies and partners in the region do not have, said Army Gen. Charles A. Flynn, commander of U.S. Army Pacific.
“They have interior lines,” he said. He noted that they’re just 100 miles from Taiwan, and they have anti-access, area-denial means to keep opposing forces at a distance—such as missiles, aircraft and ships, as well as cyber and space capabilities.
“The second thing they have is mass,” he said, meaning they have a very large military force.
“The third thing they have is magazine depth,” he said, which would include large quantities of stand-off munitions.
Flynn spoke yesterday on a panel about land power in the Indo-Pacific region at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting & Exposition in Washington.
The goal of U.S. forces along with allies in the region is to take time and space away from China to deny them key terrain “and to keep our physical presence forward with hard power to deter a war from happening,” he said.
“The goal is no war. We already have a war in Europe. We have another war that just started this past week in the Middle East. We do not need another war in Asia. That is the land powers’ contribution to the joint force to prevent that from happening,” Flynn said.
The anti-access, area-denial arsenal that the Chinese military possesses “is primarily designed to defeat our air power and maritime power. And, secondarily, it’s designed to degrade, deny and disrupt our space and cyber capabilities. It’s not, however, designed to find, fix and finish distributed, mobile, fixed, semi-fixed, reloadable, lethal and non-lethal land power,” he said.
“We present a dilemma to them that they did not design into the A2/AD arsenal that they built. And this has proven out in war game after war game after war game,” he said, referring to anti-access, area-denial.
The general went on to speak about the importance of the U.S. and allied military presence in the region to deter Chinese aggression.
While air and sea power are crucial, land power is, as well, he said. Flynn added that militaries in the region are composed of anywhere from 65% to 80% ground forces.
“Land power and the armies in the Indo Pacific are an absolute central part of defending national sovereignty and protecting their territorial integrity,” he said.
Flynn highlighted steps the U.S., allies and partners are taking to deter China’s aggression, including increased bilateral and multilateral training exercises, the U.S. Army’s new training center in the region, and nations beefing up their defense spending and working together on improving interoperability. (Source: US DoD)
11 Oct 23. Indonesia defense expenditure to reach $9.7bn by 2028, forecasts GlobalData. With a total defense budget of $8.8bn in 2023, Indonesia presently ranks as the second-highest military spender after Singapore in the Southeast Asia region. Driven by ongoing defense modernization initiatives, the country’s defense expenditure is forecast to reach $9.7bn by 2028, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
GlobalData’s latest report, “Indonesia Defense Market Size and Trends, Budget Allocation, Regulations, Key Acquisitions, Competitive Landscape and Forecast, 2023-28,”Australia Defense Market Size and Trends, Budget Allocation, Regulations, Key Acquisitions, Competitive Landscape and Forecast, 2022-27’ reveals that the country’s cumulative defense spending is anticipated to touch $46.6bn from 2024-28, out of which the acquisition budget share is estimated to be approximately 28.4%, amounting to $13.3bn. The defense acquisition expenditure is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.5% over 2024-28 and reach $2.7bn by 2028.
09 Oct 23. Senegal: Reshuffle designed to bolster government candidate likely to raise policy, unrest risks. On 6 October, President Macky Sall dismissed his government, although he reappointed Prime Minister Amadou Ba, the presidential candidate of Sall’s ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) coalition for the 2024 elections, to lead a new government. The government dismissal had been anticipated for some time; a number of Sall’s ministers and senior political figures have withdrawn from the BBY coalition in order to launch their own presidential bids. The decision to retain Ba has raised speculation that Sall is attempting to support his presidential bid, raising policy risk in the months ahead of the election as Bar seeks to bolster his popularity. Additionally, allegations of state meddling as the election approaches will likely drive criticism from the opposition, sustaining an already elevated threat of protests around the polls across major cities, particularly in the capital Dakar. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Oct 23. Niger: Budget revision exacerbates socio-economic concerns, elevates risk of domestic unrest. On 7 October, the military government announced the revision of the national budget for 2023 from XOF 3.29trn (USD 5.30 bn) to XOF 1.98trn (USD 3.19bn) representing a 40% cut. Since the coup in July, sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have severely restricted Niger’s access to vital imports and regional markets. Although the junta has attempted to mitigate the sanctions’ impact by banning liquid petroleum gas exports and pursuing closer economic ties with Burkina Faso and Mali, prices of basic commodities, including food and fuel, have continued to rise significantly. Austerity measures will almost certainly exacerbate socio-economic concerns over the coming weeks, increasing the likelihood of domestic unrest and anti-ECOWAS protests, particularly in the capital Niamey. Demonstrations will likely disrupt movement through affected areas, while opportunistic violence targeting staff and assets associated with prominent member states, particularly Nigeria, cannot be ruled out.
09 Oct 23. Madagascar: Heightened tensions with opposition elevate unrest risks around November election. On 7 October, security forces fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters in the capital Antananarivo demanding the disqualification of President Andry Rajoelina and electoral reforms ahead of the 9 November presidential election. Security forces have employed a heavy-handed response to opposition rallies throughout the electoral campaign period, and this trend will likely continue (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 5 October 2023). As such, campaign events will carry an elevated threat of violent clashes between security personnel and protesters, increasing bystander risks. Incidents of electoral fraud and corruption favouring Rajoelina are highly likely, increasing the likelihood of his re-election. In response, post-election opposition protests are highly likely, particularly in Antananarivo and in opposition strongholds, including Antisirabe (Vakinankaratra region) and Mahajanga (Boeny region). (Source: Sibylline)
09 Oct 23. Inside Asia’s arms race: China near ‘breakthroughs’ with nuclear-armed submarines, report says. A submarine arms race is intensifying as China embarks on production of a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines that for the first time are expected to pose a challenge to growing U.S. and allied efforts to track them.
Analysts and regional defence attaches say evidence is mounting that China is on track to have its Type 096 ballistic missile submarine operational before the end of the decade, with breakthroughs in its quietness aided in part by Russian technology.
Research discussed at a conference in May at the U.S. Naval War College and published in August by the college’s China Maritime Studies Institute predicts the new vessels will be far harder to keep tabs on. That conclusion is credible, according to seven analysts and three Asia-based military attaches.
“The Type 096s are going to be a nightmare,” said retired submariner and naval technical intelligence analyst Christopher Carlson, one of the researchers. “They are going to be very, very hard to detect.”
The discreet effort to track China’s nuclear-powered and -armed ballistic missile submarines, known as SSBNs, is one of the core drivers of increased deployments and contingency planning by the U.S. Navy and other militaries across the Indo-Pacific region. That drive is expected to intensify when Type 096s enter service.
The Chinese navy is routinely staging fully armed nuclear deterrence patrols with its older Type 094 boats out of Hainan Island in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said in November, much like patrols operated for years by the United States, Britain, Russia and France. (Source: Reuters)
11 Oct 23. US Army Command Works to Engage With African Partners. Africa is a continent of potential, and service members at the Southern European Task Force, Africa work every day to help African partners turn that potential into reality, said Army Maj. Gen. Todd R. Wasmund, commander of the unit based in Vicenza, Italy.
“We are responsible for all of the Army’s operations, activities and investments in support of U.S. Africa Command,” Wasmund said today.
Africa is the second largest continent, with more than 50 nations and hundreds of languages. Tens of millions of people live in poverty even as the resources exist to lift up populations.
The African continent contains more ungoverned, under-governed or misgoverned areas, which attract extremist groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaida and the like, according to Defense Department officials.
It’s also a continent with little infrastructure and many natural disasters.
SETAF-AF — as the task force is abbreviated — provides a scalable crisis response option to the commander of U.S. Africa Command. “It is scalable from a platoon all the way to a two-star Joint Task Force headquarters,” Wasmund said. The command had to do that recently following the coup in Niger. The task force quickly stood up and managed the U.S. forces in Niger. There are about 1,000 U.S. service members in the country with a small footprint in the capital of Niamey and the most at an airfield in Agadez. The command provides the facilities for the Air Force and Special Operations Command — Africa, which had the counter terrorism mission.
Yesterday, the State Department said that the July 26 deposition of the elected president was, indeed, a coup, which limits the aid the command may provide to Niger. Restrictions under section 7008 of the U.S. Department of State’s annual appropriations dictate what the U.S. can provide to Niger in foreign assistance, as well as military training and equipment.
“With the announcement yesterday of the 7008 status for Niger, there will be some things that are suspended,” Waslund said. “They do require a little bit more scrutiny of how we might provide some of that partner support. That’s not something we can continue without further policy decisions.”
The 7008 status does not mean no communications between the militaries. The command will continue to maintain communications as the State Department establishes with the Nigerien junta a path to reestablish constitutional government, the general said.
Overall, the command’s operational activities include security cooperation, exercises, key leader engagements, medical readiness exercises, and a whole host of other engagements during the course of the year.
The command also provides crisis response, which they provided when they ran a non-combatant evacuation operation from Sudan earlier this year.
While West Africa is a focus for the command — it is the most populated portion area — it engages across the continent. The biggest exercise each year is African Lion — hosted by Morocco and SETAF-AF. It brings together nations from the continent and from Europe to train together. The command also sponsors a yearly African Land Forces Symposium giving military leaders the chance to meet and exchange ideas.
SETAF-AF and U.S. Africa Command help partner militaries as many of them mount their own counterterrorism efforts. U.S. service members help train partner militaries and help as they establish new capabilities. The Africans train with U.S. Army security force assistance brigades and with civil affairs teams. U.S. military personnel participate in medical readiness exercises and more. “We have a lot to offer, but we are careful about their capacity so that we don’t overwhelm them,” the general said.
The command works hand in glove with the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. Wasmund called the program “brilliant” and said it was a true force multiplier. The program, which started 20 years ago in Africa, pairs a State National Guard unit with an African nation. The first two partnerships were Morocco-Utah and South Africa-New York.
“These soldiers grew up together,” the general said. “That gives us this depth of relationship, continuity. What we’re doing is ensuring everything … we do with the African partner is synchronized and complimentary.” (Source: US DoD)
11 Oct 23. Niger coup recognition limits US to force protection ISR flights. All in-country military assistance and training operations between the US and Niger will be suspended, with its forces confined to military bases.
Following the belated recognition by the US that the July military coup in Niger was exactly that, US military operations in the country will be limited to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) flights, possibly centred on drone operations from Niger Air Base 201.
Announcing the move on 10 October, the US State Department said the Niger coup, which resulted in the overthrow of the civilian government of Niger, had now been “officially” recognised. As a result of this, restrictions under Section 7008 of the US State Department’s annual appropriations “dictate what the US can provide to Niger” in terms of foreign assistance, as well as military training and equipment.
The 26 July coup saw the removal of Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, with presidential guard commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani assuming power in his place. As reported at the time, the coup was announced on state media channels, which also saw the formation of a National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland and the dissolution of the country’s constitution.
The international response from Africa and Europe was firm, calling for the resumption of democracy in Niger and the return of civilian rule to a country that has a long history of military takeovers. The coup is the fifth since the country gained independence from France, with the others occurring in 1974, 1996, 1999, 2010, and a failed military takeover in 2019.
However, Washington continued to prevaricate over how to classify the event, taking nearly two-and-a-half months to come to the same conclusion as its allies in Europe and Africa.
As reported at the time, one of the reasons for the stance was of its military interest in the country, in particular the over-the-horizon capability posed by Niger Air Base 201, which is thought to house long-range MQ-9 drones. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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