Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book - The Charity: One Girl's Journey into the Heart of Terrorism

A new book has been published that deals with the topic of terrorism. The book is about a young woman who threatens to expose the essential funding network of the IRA. Set in Boston, the main character's search for answers to her family's tragedy threatens the finely tuned mechanisms of a network of cells focused on making sure money flows to the Irish Republican Army. Read more about this book, by Connie Johnson Hambley, at the following link - The Charity

Monday, April 23, 2012

Afghans and US Complete Negotiations for Strategic Partnership

The United States and Afghanistan have completed their negotiations for a draft strategic partnership agreement that will spell out the U.S. role in Afghanistan over the next several years. The draft agreement is completed in time for the NATO conference to be held in Chicago in May on Afghanistan. Read more in "With Pact, U.S. Agrees to Help Afghans for Years to Come", The New York Times, April 22, 2012.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Embracing the Fog of War by Ben Connable

A new book is out about conducting assessments and using metrics in counterinsurgency.  It is entitled "Embracing the Fog of War".  The author, Ben Connable, looks at the different concepts and approaches used to conduct assessments of counterinsurgency efforts. This includes a look at assessments conducted in Vietnam as well as Afghanistan.  You can purchase the book on Amazon.com at the link below:

Embracing the Fog of War: Assessment and Metrics in Counterinsurgency

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beards Improve Combat Effectiveness

A recent report indicates that beards improve combat effectiveness among Soldiers. Researchers embedded in controlled study groups exposed to combat over a period of time found a direct linkage to more accurate fire and better performance attributed to those with facial hair. This has, of course, angered the Special Forces community who are of the opinion that proper selection of individuals, intense Special Forces training, and constant preparation and rehearsals are the causes of superior results on the battlefield - not beards.  Read more in "Pentagon Study Finds Beards Directly Related to Combat Effectiveness", The Duffel Blog, April 9, 2012.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review - Isolating the Guerrilla by Michael Trevett

A recently published book (October 2011) entitled Isolating the Guerrilla examines 25 counterinsurgency case studies that span the Napoleonic Wars through the French and U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns in Vietnam. The author, Michael F. Trevett, is currently a LTC in the U.S. Army serving as an intelligence officer with counterinsurgency experience in Colombia and Iraq. The book is based on a classified report conducted in 1965 with the same title by Trevor Dupuy and other authors for the Defense Advanced Projects Agency. Read more about Isolating the Guerrilla here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Navy to Conduct Daily Breathalyzer Tests When Sailors and Marines Report to Work

The Navy has announced it will conduct daily breathalyzer tests on personnel when they report to duty on ships and random tests while on the job in port or elsewhere. This is all part of the Secretary of the Navy's "21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative"
"A new initiative will include breathalyzer tests when Sailors stationed onboard ships, submarines and at squadrons report for duty and randomly elsewhere to reduce the occurrence of alcohol related incidents that can end careers and sometimes end lives."
See "Secretary of the Navy Announces 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative", Navy.mil, March 5, 2012. 

Well  . . . I just don't know what to say about this. Sounds like the Sailors and Marines need "mother" to look after them because they can't be trusted to not show up for work drunk. Certainly Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has better things to do than have his officers running around checking on who had a few drinks the night before. I was astounded and had to check his bio to see if he ever served in the military (if asked I would have said "No"). But . . . here is his bio

So what do Navy personnel think about this news? You can read the "official" reactions of Sailors here in "Sailors React to SECNAV Announcment of 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative", Navy.mil, March 5, 2012. If you feel this is a bit of propaganda then you can't be faulted.

Read the reaction of others on this invasion of privacy and lack of trust on the part of the Navy:

 "The Navy goes Nanny State thanks to Secretary Ray Mabus", Blackfive, March 16, 2012.

"Breathalyzers: Another Navy Dept. nail in the coffin of special trust and confidence", Foreign Policy, March 15, 2012.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Australia's 4th SAS Squadron

 A recent news article provides information on the 4th Squadron of the Australia Special Air Service (SAS).  This is a newly formed unit very similar to the United States Delta Force (a part of JSOC). The unit deploys undercover to many countries in the world to conduct clandestine operations.  Read more in The Secret Soldiers, by Dylan Welch, The Age, March 13, 2012.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Colombia as a Counterinsurgency Lesson

Counterinsurgencies take a long time to wage as the United States found out in Iraq and Afghanistan. One other example of a long-term counterinsurgency closer to home is the won being waged in Colombia. The United States has been a key ally to Colombia in its counterinsurgency fight.  An important lesson to be learned from Colombia is that it takes time.  Read more on this topic in "Colombia's lessons for counterinsurgency - and Afghanistan", by Michael O'Hanlon, CNN World, March 10, 2012.

Rescue of Terror Hostages in Nigeria Goes Badly for British SAS

The attempted rescue of an Italian and British citizen held hostage by terrorists in Nigeria went badly.  Read more in "Nigeria hostages shot dead in toilet as special forces fought to free them", The Guardian, March 10, 2012.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Iraq Finds that al Qaeda Still Active

Iraq is finding that peace is elusive with a still active al Qaeda presence reinforced by Sunni insurgent groups that oppose the Shia regime.  The Iraqi police are distrusted by the population and the Iraqi Army lacks the training and resources to develop intelligence that will help them target the insurgents.  Read more in "U.S. troops gone, al Qaeda makes Iraq peace elusive", Reuters, March 9, 2102.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

History of Army Special Forces

U.S. Army Special Forces or the Green Berets have etched a permanent place in the history of the fight against terrorism and in the counterinsurgency campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Learn more about this famed unit in the History of Special Forces.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Human Terrain Teams - A Good COIN Program That Should Stay!

Counterinsurgency (COIN) is about the population. In COIN it is necessary to secure the population and to engage it to ensure you have a good intelligence flow from the people and to persuade them to deny support and sanctuary to insurgents. Above all else, COIN forces need to understand the people to include their culture, religion, politics, geography and much more. Human Terrain Teams or HTTs help counterinsurgents understand the population. Learn more about Human Terrain Teams.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Act of Valor Opens to Good Reviews

The movie Act of Valor opened to mixed reviews over the weekend. The action scenes were excellent; but the acting performances off the mark a little.  If you want to know more about the movie then visit WikipediA's page on Act of Valor.

Read some of the reviews:

February 24, 2012. ABC News.
http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/review-act-valor-awed-ode-navy-seals-15778570

February 24, 2012.  Rolling Stone.
http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/act-of-valor-20120224

February 24, 2012.  Fox News.
http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/02/24/review-seals-make-act-valor-unique-gripping-shoot-em-up/

February 24, 2012.  CNN Entertainment.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/24/showbiz/movies/review-act-of-valor-charity/index.html

February 24, 2012.  The Christian Science Monitor.
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2012/0224/Act-of-Valor-glorifies-Navy-SEALs.-But-can-they-act-trailer

February 24, 2012. National Review Online.
http://www.nationalreview.com/home-front/291952/act-valor-review-warrior-manifesto-rejects-your-pity/nancy-french

Learn more about the training US Navy SEALs undergo.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Video about NATO Special Operations Headquarters

The NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) is located in Belgium. The major activity there is the coordination of training exercises and the conduct of the NATO Special Operations School.  In the school students learn procedures for intelligence sharing, communications, interoperability, and build human relationships with other SOF counterparts from the many different NATO countries. View a video that explains more about the NATO Special Operations Headquarters.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Train and Advise Mission to Expand to Conventional Army

A very small part of the proposed defense budget is a center piece of how the Army plans to operate in the future. This inexpensive effort includes " . . . international war games, advisor missions, officer exchanges, and other efforts . . ." to engage with foreign militarys in order to build partnership capacity.  In the past many of these types of missions would be performed by U.S. Army Special Forces - whose Special Forces training makes them the ideal unit for these types of activities.

However, with the downsizing of the U.S. Army it is felt that our allies around the world will have to start defending themselves and relying less on the United States - therefore the new approach to building the fighting capacity of our allies or partners. This partnering effort with our allies will involve the conventional Army's units as well as Special Forces - expanding the ability of the U.S. Army to work with an increased number of partner nations around the world.

Read more on this topic in "Army Makes Big Bets On Small Programs: Train, Advise Mission May Spread Beyond SOF", AOL.com Defense, February 14, 2012.

Regionally Aligned Brigades (RABs) of the U.S. Army

A new concept, called Regionally Aligned Brigades or RABs, is being introduced into the Army.  The U.S. Army is going to become lighter, faster, and more flexible in the future.  The Brigade Combat Teams or BCTs will have a third maneuver battalion added to its force structure.  This change is all in conjunction with the reduction in the total number of BCTs and the withdrawal of two BCTs from Europe.  The RABs will deploy more often but in smaller groups - sometimes working in conjunction with special operations forces that are deploying to the same area.  For more info on this topic see "Army Eyes Deeper Brigade Combat Team Cuts, Odierno Says", by Carlo Munoz, AOL.com Defense, February 24, 2012.

Special Operations Recruiting and War Movies

The movie Act of Valor will soon be showing in theaters nation-wide. For those who have not heard the movie actors are real-life Navy SEALs.  While many veterans and servicemen eagerly await a movie that shows "what it is really like" others are criticizing the movie as a military recruiting tool; similar to the 1960s The Green Berets starring John Wayne. Could be.  But I bet it will be a great movie! As far as recruiting goes; I hope the movie is a good recruiting tool - just as The Green Berets was a great recruiting movie. The Special Operations community (MARSOC, Army Special Forces, AFSOC, and Navy SEALs) need high-quality, physically fit, and intelligent men to undergo the intense training and demanding selection process and join the special operations teams.  If a movie helps to attract recruits to those select units then that is a good thing.  If after seeing the Act of Valor you think you might have what it takes to be a special operator then check out these websites below:

Air Force Special Operations
www.afsoc.af.mil

Navy SEALs
www.public.navy.mil/nsw

Marines Special Operations
www.marines.mil/unit/marsoc

Army Special Forces
www.bragg.army.mil/sorb

National Guard Special Forces
www.nationalguardspecialforces.com

And for those who have never heard of the movie entitled The Green Berets you can learn more at the link below at Amazon.com:

The Green Berets

U.S. Army Civil Affairs Units are Busy in CENTCOM AOR

The United States Army Civil Affairs units are one of the most deployed units in the military. Read about their activities in the CENTCOM Area of Operations.  See "CA forces in CENTCOM: Building the SOF enterprise through partnerships", DVIDS, February 22, 2011.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Video of US Air Force Special Operations High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) Training Jump

Watch a video of a USAF Special Operations High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) training jump.

COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Teams (CAAT) Award Providing Services in Afghanistan Protested

It appears, according to the Army Contracting Command at Rock Island, that there will be a modification to the current COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Teams (CAAT) contract. The extension is due to a protest filed against the award (RFP W52P1J-11-R-0071).  The current contract is due to expire on 14 March 2012.  The bridge contract will have an estimated period of performance of a two (2) month extension until 14 May 2012 with a potential of three (3) one month option periods. This extension will provide services to the CAAT based at ISAF headquarters in Afghanistan until the dispute is resolved.  The CAAT organization was formerly known as the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.

Read more news on the "FedBizOpps.gov" website here.

Learn more about the COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT).

Special Operations Boss Wants More Authority to Position SOF Elements Around the World

The USSOCOM commander, ADM McRaven, has asked for more authority to position his SOF units around the world.  This has caused lots of conversation - some observers saying that it provides a quicker response and more flexible force - while others say it undermines the authority of the Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCCs).  Read more in "Proposal to Give Special Ops Boss More Sway Faces Scrutiny", U.S. News and World Report DOTMIL, February 22, 2012.

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Targeted by US Special Forces in Four Central African Countries

U.S., African Forces Mitigate Terror Group’s Impact

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2012 – U.S. special operations forces are helping four Central African nations reduce the size and lethality of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group that has terrorized the region for 25 years, U.S. officials said today.

Navy Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa, said in a conference call with reporters that the LRA is down to about 200 core fighters. Karly Wycoff, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, also participated in the call.

While still under the direction of its leader, Joseph Kony, the admiral said, the group is kept on the run in the remote, shared border region of South Sudan, Uganda, Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- an area about the size of California.

President Barack Obama ordered about 100 special operations forces to deploy to Central Africa in October to train and augment the capabilities of the African militaries in the region.
Read the rest of the article here "U.S., African Forces Mitigate Terror Group's Impact", American Forces Press Service, February 22, 2012.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2011 Not a Good Year for Somali Pirates

The increased security measures, to include armed security teams aboard ship, have forced the Somali pirates to travel farther to plunder cargo ships passing along Somalia's coast. There is a booming business in providing maritime security to cargo ships.  Successful attacks along the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden have decreased while successful attacks in the Arabian Sea have increased. However, piracy is still costing the shipping industry loads of money. Read more in "Somali pirates take more risks and rethink tactics", The Guardian, February 21, 2012.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Middle East Homeland Security Summit to be held in Abu Dhabi, UAE on April 23-24, 2012

The Middle East Homeland Security Summit will be held on April 23-24, 2012 at Park Rotana, Abu DHABI UAE.  The two-day event will consist of sessions and panel discussions. The summit will seek to discuss the challenges that government and homeland security professionals face in their fight against terrorism and offer possible solutions to counter the lurking threats. This platform will address strategic and fundamental issues including intelligence and early warning, defence against and recovery from catastrophic events and infrastructure protection.

Some Key Topics of the Summit:

Enhanced Crisis Management for National Security
Overview of MENA landscape & the latest security threats to Energy Infrastructure
Information / Cyber Security Awareness: Challenges & Counter Measures
Robust Maritime Security Strategies: Trends & the Way Forward
Public-Private Partnerships for the Protection of Vulnerable Targets

Who Should Attend?

Ministries of Interior, Police Forces, Border Security Agencies, Critical Infrastructure Protection Authorities, Customs, Civil Aviation Authorities, Airport and Aviation Security, Coast Guard and the Armed Forces, Chief Security Officers, VPs, AGMs, DGMs, MDs, Directors, and Section Heads.  In addition the Managers & Deputy Managers of: Corporate Security, Physical Security, Industrial Security Operations, Security Regulations, Offshore and Onshore Security, Asset Security, HSSE, Safety, Security & Evironment, Emergency Response Planning, Asset Protection, Fire & Security, Infrastructure, Facilities, Operations & Strategy, Risk & Crisis Management, Business Continuity, Contingency Planning, Risk Assessment, Loss & Preventions and Project Managers, Security Superintendents, Security Training Officers, Policy Advisors, and Security Consultants.

U-28A Plane Crash Claims Lives of Four Special Operations Airmen in Djibouti, Africa

An Air Force special operations plane, a U-28A, crashed on Saturday (18 Feb 2012) in Djibouti.  It was an ISR aircraft that conducts intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of special operations forces.  The aircraft was returning from to its base at Camp Lemonier and crashed about six miles from the airstrip.

The U-28 is a single propeller engine plane that can conduct a variety of missions for special operations forces. The U-28 can be outfitted to carry a suite of sensors and cameras to observe activity on the ground.  It is also a STOL aircraft which allows it to land on short dirt or grass strips.  The U-28A is a variant of the Pilatus PC-12 (see WikipediA for more info).  You can view pictures of the PC-12 on the Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. website here and on americanspecialops.com here.

"Hurlburt’s 319th SOS, which flies the U-28A, a variant of the single-engine Pilatus PC-12, is a pioneer in the field. Air Force Special Operations Command is tight-lipped, as are the U-28A’s small crews, about the aircraft. Its ability to operate on short and unimproved surfaces, and suite of advanced radar, communications, and navigation tools make the U-28 ideal for small, secretive missions.

In 2008, a second nonstandard aviation unit stood up—the 318th SOS at Cannon. It is home to the PC-12 and will soon add additional light and medium twin-engine aircraft. By Feb. 10, the squadron had one of 10 planned M-28 Skytrucks—a Polish light twin-engine transport based on the Antonov An-28 design."  (Source: "The SOF Makeover", AirForce-Magazine.com", Vol. 93, No.6, June 2010.)
News Articles about the U-28 plane crash in Africa:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/02/spy-plane-crash-africa/

The four airmen were assigned to special operations squadrons at Hurlbert Field, Florida. The flyers were identified as belonging to the 34th, 319th, and 25th Squadrons.  See "DoD Identifies Air Force Casualties", U.S. Department of Defense News Release, February 20, 2012.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Private Military Contractors in Afghanistan

"The New York Times reported Sunday that in 2011, for the first time, deaths among civilian contractors working for American companies in Afghanistan outnumbered the deaths of U.S. military personnel in that country. The figure highlights the extent to which modern U.S. military has come to rely on the private sector in carrying out its missions. In September 2009, before the recent surge, contractors made up 62 percent of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Furthermore, many believe that the civilian number is understated because, unlike the military, the contractors are under no obligation to disclose their casualties to the public."
Read the rest of the article in "Civilian Contractors in Afghanistan", Foreign Policy Association, February 17, 2012.  See a list of private military contracting firms providing security, intelligence, aviation, language and training support to the DoD in Afghanistan.

Obama and the Navy SEALs

A recent article explores President Obama's trust with the special operations community.  Read "Navy SEALs: Obama's Secret Army", The Daily Beast, February 20, 2012.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Who Wins and Who Loses with the Proposed Defense Budget on January 2012

The unveiling of the proposed Pentagon defense budget with its deep cuts has everyone wondering who wins and who loses.  According to an online article by Foreign Policy wrote by Robert Haddick the winners are long-range bombers, aircraft carriers, submarines (and cruise missiles), special operations forces, drones, and cyber operations. The losers are ground forces, pay and benefits, old ships and planes, Joint Strike Fighter, and bases.  Read his article "This Week at War: Winners and Losers of the Defense Budget" (January 27, 2012).

See "Defense Budget Priorities and Choices" by the Department of Defense, January 2012.
http://www.defense.gov/news/Defense_Budget_Priorities.pdf

See "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense", by the Department of Defense, January 2012
http://www.defense.gov/news/Defense_Strategic_Guidance.pdf

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Troubles Along the Afghanistan Pakistan Border

A recent Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) FRONTLINE program details the problems in denying the Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan and stopping its fighters from crossing the Afghan Pakistan border.  See the video at the link below.

http://video.pbs.org/video/1908468892

View more news about the Afghan war at the link below.

http://www.afghanwarnews.info/

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Psychology of an Insurgent

Steven Metz, an author of many books and articles, provides an insight into the psychology of insurgents. See his article posted on Small Wars Journal (January 27, 2012) entitled "Psychology of Participation in Insurgency".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Peace Talks with the Taliban

Every once in a while we see a flurry of activity on the diplomatic front concerning the prospect of peace talks with the Taliban.  Over the past several years there have been several peace talk initiatives - mostly hidden from the glare of the media.  It appears we are in the midst of one of those initiatives - where different parties (U.S., Taliban, Karzai, Pakistan and others) are maneuvering to be at the peace talks table.  Each side is articulating their starting positions.  For instance, the U.S. has recently indicated that for the Taliban to participate they will have to denounce ties to international terrorism.  Hmmmm. Read more on this in "US Envoy: Taliban Must Renounce Terrorism to Participate in Talks", Voice of America, January 22, 2012. Read more news about past Afghanistan peace talks and reconciliation attempts.

Monday, January 23, 2012

CIA's Open Source Center

A little known fact is that much of today's "intelligence" is information gleaned off the Internet from web sites and social media.  The CIA is out in front on this with their "Open Source Center". While the Open Source Center is somewhat secret it's existance is well-known to some that track the intelligence world.  A recent news article entitled "CIA Tracks Public Information For The Private Eye", National Public Radio, January 22, 2012 provides information about this organization.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Solar Panel Energy for VSO Sites in Afghanistan?

A recent news article on Army.mil provides information on a solar energy experiment to provide energy efficient power to deployed units located in austere locations.  There was a recent demonstration of different technologies available held at Bagram AFB to include microgrids and hybrid solar power systems. The Energy Initiative Proving Ground (EIPG) will soon be placing a hybrid solar power system into a Village Stability Platform. The introduction of solar energy systems into remote locations where Village Stability Operations (VSO) are conducted will save energy, reduce costs, and lessen the work load of the logistics personnel supporting VSO.  Read the article entitled "Money-saving energy initiatives get spotlight in Afghanistan", Army.mil, January 17, 2012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Strategic Guidance and SOF

A retired Special Forces officer, Dave Duffy, comments on the implications of the newly released Strategic Guidance for Special Operations Forces.  Read his article "Back to the Future for DoD" on Small Wars Journal (January 6, 2012).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

AfPak Hands Program in Afghanistan

One of the more innovated programs established to support the war in Afghanistan is known as the AfPak Hands Program.  Established in September 2009 by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, the AfPak Hands Program's purpose was to develop a cadre of military and senior civilian experts that specialize in the language, culture, history, and other aspects of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  According to a recent news article the program is highly successful.  Read more in "AfPak Hands Program Pays Dividends in Afghanistan, Pakistan", American Forces Press Service, January 4, 2012. 

Learn more about the AfPak Hands Program here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Critique of "Human Terrain" Program

A blogger has posted a recent article critical of the effort to acquire knowledge about the "human terrain" in Afghanistan.  He believes that a lot of intelligence support to the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan got side-tracked into accumulating data that has not helped us win the conflict in Afghanistan.  Read "Counterinsurgency, What Do You Really Know?", by Keith Boyea, January 6, 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Corruption in Afghanistan

Despite the best efforts of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and other Western organizations corruption continues to be an imposing problem in Afghanistan.  Learn more about one of the reasons that much of the population is disenchanted about the Afghan government and lends their support to the Taliban - see Corruption in Afghanistan.