Defense News Update – October 15, 2017

Paratroopers descending under canopy. (Photo source Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 6, 2017)
Paratroopers descending under canopy. (Photo source Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 6, 2017)

Defense News Update 20171015 – U.S. in Yemen conflict, why Soviets lost in Afghanistan, conflict over Kirkuk, Gen Nicholson interview, American – Canadian family released from captivity, Afghanistan – and the lessons of Vietnam, more advisors for Afghanistan, a Soldier’s rucksack, and more.

U.S. in Yemen Conflict. The war in Yemen has been dragging on for several years. The U.S. has been engaged in that conflict off and on for many years; usually behind the scenes and under the radar. SOF teams have been in and out on several occasions depending on the political and security situation at the time. The SOF elements have been providing advise and assistance and conducting unilateral counterterrorism operations.. The U.S. is supporting two of the nations in the lead in the Yemen conflict – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – that are fighting against Iranian proxy forces. While U.S. SOF is actively participating in the conflict on the ground the U.S. Air Force is providing aircraft refueling assistance to the Saudi-led coalition. A bipartisan resolution before Congress would order the U.S. military to cease support for the conflict (except operations directed at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Read more in “Lawmakers Want to Force US Military Out of Yemen War”, October 12, 2017.

U.S. – Canadian Family Released. After five years in captivity a family held hostage by the Haqqani terrorist / insurgent group in Pakistan has been released. Circumstances on the release are murky. It appears that a raid was being planned by the U.S. to conduct a rescue but some diplomatic efforts resolved the situation. Pakistani troops recovered the family. A U.S. Air Force plane flew to Pakistan to take the family to Bagram AFB, Afghanistan and then onward to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. But the father of the family (a Canadian) decided he wanted to forgo the formal repatriation process the U.S. wanted to proceed with in accordance with prescribed procedures of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA). So the family flew directly to Canada on a commercial flight. So  . . . now maybe we can find out why the Dad decided that going on a hiking trip in Afghanistan while it was in the middle of a war was a good idea!

More High-Speed, Low-Drag Equipment. As equipment has been getting lighter (batteries, clothing, weapons, etc.) one would think that the infantryman’s ruck would get lighter. Not so much! But the Army is working on reducing the Soldier’s load burden without sacrificing capability. See “Army Working to Reduce Soldier Load”National Defense Magazine, October 13, 2017.

Soviets Failed Attempt at COIN in Afghanistan. Andrew D. McNaughton, a post-graduate War Studies student at King’s College London re-examines why the Soviets lost their long fight against the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. He cites two major factors: 1. the incompatibility between the Afghan communist regime and traditional Islamic society and 2. the changed political situation in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. He places lesser importance on the U.S. contribution of money, equipment, and supplies to the Afghan resistance. Read “Did Reagan Defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan?”, Small Wars Journal, October 14, 2017.

Afghanistan and the Lessons of Vietnam. Wars are easier to start than to finish – and they are more complex than people realize. Read “The Real Lessons of Vietnam – and Afghanistan”, by the historian Jim Wright, Defense One, October 13, 2017.

More Advisors for Afghanistan. General Votel, CENTCOM commander, is getting optimistic on Afghanistan. he points to older Afghan commanders being ‘retired’ with younger Afghan officers taking charge. In addition, the influx of U.S. and NATO advisors to work at the lower (tactical) levels of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) should help the ANDSF prepare for the next fighting season (spring 2018). See “How advisors could win the war in Afghanistan instead of combat troops”, We Are the Mighty, October 13, 2017.

Conflict over Kurkuk. The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are massing troops west and south of Kirkuk, Iraq. Kirkuk is an oil-rich region in northern Iraq that is currently held by the Peshmerga. This action (and other activities) is in response to the Kurdish referendum seeking independence. The U.S. is nervous that we are taking our eye off the ball (ISIS in Iraq) too soon. See “US Calls for Calm as Kurdish Officials Fear Iraq Invasion”Voice of America, October 13, 2017.

ISIS Collapse in Raqqa Imminent. The Syrian Democrat Front (SDF), a combination of Syrian Arab and Kurd fighters backed by the U.S.-led coalition, is about to be ejected from its ‘capital’ in Syria. This will be another in a series of major defeats for the Islamic State fighters. (Deutsche Welle, Oct 14, 2017).

Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ in the Baltic Sea Region. The small country of Latvia recently had a seven-hour long blackout of cellular service. Indications are that Russia used the event for training as part of their recent military exercise in a neighboring country. See “Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’“, Foreign Policy,  October 12, 2017.

“Taliban Can’t Win”. General Nicholson, the commander of the Resolute Support Mission, says that the conditions are right to move from a ‘stalemate’ to degradation of the Taliban on the battlefield. He cites a number of factors for this hopeful shift. Read “The Taliban Can’t Win, Says Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan”National Public Radio, October 13,2017.

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