ISIS in Iraq. Attacks by the Islamic State have increased significantly in Kirkuk and Salah ad-Dine provinces. Apparently there are some ‘security gaps’ between Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Peshmerga units in some areas of these two provinces. The Peshmerga moved out of some of these areas after a federal takeover in October 2017 and security has deteriorated. Some analysts say there are about 10,000 to 15,000 IS fighters remaining in Iraq who have gone ‘underground’.
Yemen. Congress is applying the pressure on the Trump administration’ support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The number of civilians killed, wounded, or suffering is significant. The U.S. supports the Saudi-led coalition with ISR, targeting assistance, funding, weapons, and advisors.
ISIS in Syria. There are about 2,000 IS fighters left in Syria (according to some senior military leaders) and they are being pressed into smaller and smaller geographical pockets as time goes on.
Syria, Trump, and U.S. Policy. Aron Lund, a fellow at The Century Foundation traces the twists and turns of U.S. foreign policy in Syria and explores how Trump has made policy decisions on Syria. See “The Making and Unmaking of Syria Strategy under Trump”, The Century Foundation, November 29, 2018.
Dirty Bombs in SE Asia. One security concern not given proper attention is the threat of dirty bombs in Southeast Asia. The handling procedures for radioactive materials needs to be tightened up. Read “Stopping dirty bombs in Southeast Asia”, East Asia Forum, December 4, 2018.
Radicalization in Central Asia. Christine Bang-Andersen explores why the recruitment of jihadists from Central Asia is so successful. Read “Radicalization in Central Asia: A Thorny and Enduring Problem”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, December 4, 2018.
Security for China’s Expansion. China has its eye on the future – the near future and the far future. It has a strategic plan for economic expansion around the globe. One instrument for implementing this plan is the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. Many of the BRI projects are taking place in conflict-prone states – generating a need for security to protect Chinese workers and investments. A report by Zi Yang – a senior analyst in the China Program at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore – focuses on how Chinese private security firms are protecting China’s economic interests abroad. Read Securing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP), November 26, 2018.
Australia in the Philippines. Australia’s Operation Augury is a training partnership that sees the Australian Defence Force enhancing the understanding of terrorist threats in the region and providing training opportunities for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Check out some neat pictures of the ADF working the mission. See “Inside Operation Augury – Philippines”, The Sidney Morning Herald, December 5, 2018.
NATO and Europe
NATO Advisor Training in Kosovo. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been conducting advisor training for the past several years for those NATO officers and NCOs preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. This training is a 10-day event held at the Joint Forces Training Center (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland. JFTC also provides advisor training for other NATO missions – to include those heading to Kosovo (and soon to those NATO advisors and trainers heading to Iraq). Major Randle Moon of the Canadian Army is part of the instructor cadre for advisor training at JFTC. He recently participated in a mobile training team that deployed to Kosova to provide adviser training. Read Moon’s article that describes the training provided in “Advisor Training in Kosovo”, Transformation Through Training, Joint Forces Training Center, November 2018.
NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting. A series of meetings were conducted in Brussels this past week that focused on many issues including the INF Treaty, the incident in the Sea of Azov, western Balkans, Afghanistan, and the Alliance’s new training mission in Iraq. Read up on the event in “NATO Foreign Ministers conclude two-day meeting in Brussels”, NATO, December 5, 2018.
More on the Niger Investigation. The team leader of the 3rd Special Forces Group team that was ambushed in Niger in October 2017 has had his letter of reprimand rescinded. SECDEF Mattis and General Thomas (USSOCOM) were displeased with the results of the AFRICOM investigation of the tragic incident that killed for members of the 3rd Group. Read more in “Mattis Erupts Over Niger Inquiry and Army Revisits Who Is to Blame”, The New York Times, December 7, 2018.
Report on Chad – Growing Discontent. Dissatisfied young people in Chad’s Sahel regions risk driving them into the ranks of rebels and jihadists in neighboring countries. The government should end the impunity of individuals guilty of abuses and distinguish between economic migrants and potential rebels. Read a report on this topic in Chad: Defusing Tensions in the Sahel, International Crisis Group, December 5, 2018.
Paper on Militias in Mali. Read a 124-page paper online (or download the PDF) about the rise (and abuses) of self-defense groups that were formed up to combat the spread of Islamist armed groups in central Mali. Take a look at We Used to be Brothers, Human Rights Watch, December 7, 2018.
New Strategy Needed for Somalia. Abdifatah Hassan Ali – a human rights defender, blogger, and co-founder of Witness Somalia – believes the U.S. news a new approach to ending the conflict in Somalia. He feels the use of air strikes to degrade al-Shabaab is not working and helps the insurgent / terrorist group in recruitment. He outlines an approach that he thinks will make a difference. Read “U.S. Lethal Operations in Somalia Are on the Rise. But Are They Effective?”, Just Security, December 6, 2018.
ASSF. Afghan Special Service Forces (ASSF) continue to take the fight to the insurgents across the country. The ASSF has, for the past several years, conducted over 70% of the offensive operations of the government security forces. They are enabled by U.S. SOF advisors, ISR, air support, and other ‘enablers’. Daily reports from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior indicate that the combination of ASSF units and airstrikes by either U.S. or Afghan aircraft are hitting the Taliban hard in many areas of Afghanistan – causing significant casualties.
The Perils of “Remote Warfare”. U.S., UK, and other western nations have drifted to a policy of building up the militaries of regional partners in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. The intent is to improve the ability of these regional partners to provide for their own security (internal and external) so that U.S., UK, and other western nations don’t have to fight in the conflicts with their own troops. There are many names for this type of strategy. One is ‘remote warfare’. However, as advantageous as this ‘remote warfare’ route may be there is the danger that the political aspects of a conflict are ignored. Abigail Watson is a research officer at the Oxford Research Group’s Remote Warfare Programme. She conducts research on the military, legal, and political implications of light-footprint warfare. Read “The Perils of Remote Warfare: Finding a Political Settlement with Counter-Terrorism in the Driving Seat”, Strategy Bridge, December 5, 2018.
Publications and Papers
Multi-Domain Operations. The Army has released a new document that will guide organization, tactics, equipment acquisition, and training for some years to come. The 102-page publication is entitled The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations in 2028, TRADOC Pamplet 525-3-1, November 30, 2018. Prompted by a email dispatch by Dave Maxwell (ret SF officer) I did a ‘Find’ check on the document using the phrase ‘unconventional warfare’. The UW term is mentioned numerous times as threat mechanism used by Russia but hardly mentioned at all as a necessary U.S. capability.
SOLLIMS Sampler. The December 2018 issue of SOLLIMS Lessons Learned Sampler has been posted online by the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI). The theme of this months pub is “Transitional Public Security. The 38-page pub has articles about a number of countries experiencing conflict now or in the past – to include Panama, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sierra Leone.
Videos and Podcasts
SOUTHCOM Snapshot, Defense.gov, December 5, 2018. This short one-minute long video provides a quick view of what U.S. Southern Command is all about.
Podcast – The Battle of Mogadishu. Three men from elite units who were participants in a battle that took part 25 years ago. The Spear, Modern War Institute at West Point, December 6, 2018.
Photo: Winter Parachute Jump March 2018. Photo by SOCEUR.