Situation Report: Republicans want more bombs; Pentagon wants more time in Afghanistan; NATO wants more money, North Korea wants more missiles; the U.N. wants peace talks; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Bomb. Repeat. The field of Republican candidates for president took the stage in Iowa last night — without the dominating presence of Donald Trump, who held his own rally across town — and made their case to the state’s voters. On the national security front, the field was almost ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Bomb. Repeat. The field of Republican candidates for president took the stage in Iowa last night — without the dominating presence of Donald Trump, who held his own rally across town — and made their case to the state’s voters. On the national security front, the field was almost unanimous in calls for more military action against ISIS, more spending on guns and bombs, and more, well, everything. But nothing specific. FP’s Molly O’Toole runs down some of the highlights, which includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz doubling down on his calls to “carpet bomb” the nation’s enemies, and declaring “we need to rebuild the military to defeat the enemy.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio noted: “You cannot destroy ISIS with a military that’s being diminished.” Jeb Bush piled on: “Look, we have waiting lists for veterans that are — that are leaving because of the sequester where we’re gutting the military.”
Staying power. Fourteen years into the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and a year into the Taliban’s renewed assault on the government in Kabul, and top U.S. defense officials are warning against leaving Afghanistan too soon. The U.S. will “stick with Afghanistan, but not just in 2016, that’s 2017 and beyond,” Ash Carter told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. Just hours earlier, Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next general to lead the war there, told a congressional panel that “in some areas we have years to go” before the Afghan army and police can stand on their own, FP’s Paul McLeary writes.
Empty chairs. The United Nations has a problem. A round of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war is kicking off Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, but there’s confusion over who will show up, and when. The main Syrian opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, or HNC, has refused to participate until the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad halts its attacks against civilians, lifts the sieges of rebel-held towns and provide humanitarian access to civilians. As of Friday morning, the HNC was holding to that position. But check out FP’s John Hudson and Colum Lynch for more from the players involved on what might come next.
Burundi massacre. Amnesty International has released satellite images it believes validate witness reports that Burundian security forces killed dozens of people, gathered their dead bodies, and dumped them into mass graves in and around the capital of Bujumbura. FP’s Siobhán O’Grady follows up on the report and has more on what the images show, and what it means.
Iraq mission may grow. There are about 3,700 U.S. troops currently in Iraq, with the vast majority training local forces. But as Iraqi forces prepare to launch assaults on the cities of Mosul and Fallujah, the White House and the Pentagon are considering adding to that number in the coming months according to the New York Times. One U.S. official told the paper that the number likely won’t go over 4,500 troops on the ground, but time will tell.
U.S.A., U.S.A! Kalashnikov assault rifles, once an icon of the Soviet Union and the guerilla movements it armed, will now be made for the American market in the good old U.S.A. FP’s Elias Groll reports that the Kalashnikov USA, a subsidiary of the Kalashnikov Concern in Russia, will be manufacturing the guns in Pompano Beach, Florida after severing ties with its former parent company as a result of U.S. sanctions against the Russia-based firm.
Good morning, all! Things are humming along here at SitRep HQ, but as you know, we can never get enough information, so if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ! Best way is to send them to email@example.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
Who’s where when
11:30 a.m. Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, speaks at the The Institute of World Politics about the challenges that face his service, and the nation.
When Buzzfeed‘s Middle East correspondents visited a prison in the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad, they found phone numbers scrawled on the wall from inmates who had been held there by the Islamic State when it controlled the town. Dialing the numbers put them in touch with former prisoners of the group who gave chilling accounts of the killings that took place at the hands of their jihadist captors.
The Iraqi military is using the recapture of Ramadi and Tikrit from the Islamic State as a template for training in preparation for an eventual assault on Mosul. Reuters reports that the U.S. is helping Iraqi forces learn how to breach through the kinds of landmines, improvised explosive devices, and booby traps the Islamic State used to slow them down in Ramadi, which is still being cleared of ISIS fighters.
A Hamas tunnel collapsed in Gaza, killing seven members of the terrorist group, according to the BBC. The Israeli and Egyptian governments have been on a mission to destroy the underground networks, used to smuggle in weapons and goods, with Egypt flooding many of the tunnels.
Israel’s long awaited Trophy active protection system has finally entered operational testing, Defense News reports. The system is used to blast incoming projectiles such as rocket propelled grenades in flight before they slam into an armored vehicle. Some Israeli tanks have tried out the Trophy system in battle, but Israel will try out the new tech on its Namer armored personnel carrier as part of its upcoming operational tests.
Iran’s televised display of the American sailors it captured in January after their boat drifted into Iranian waters angered many Americans, but legal experts contacted by Navy Times believe the Iran’s detention of the servicemembers may have been illegal under international law. Experts said the Navy boat had the right to briefly pass through Iranian waters insofar as they moved “continuously and expeditiously,” according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and that Iran’s authority under UNCLOS extended only to expelling the craft, not arresting its crew.
Iran flew a drone over an American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and ran footage on state television to prove it. Reuters reports that a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain confirmed that an unarmed Iranian drone flew near the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and “directly over” the USS Harry S. Truman on Jan. 12 in the Persian Gulf. The drone in the footage is a variant of the Yasir, Iran’s attempt at building a copy of the U.S. ScanEagle drone — a small, catapult-launched UAV.
How much of an uphill climb is defense spending for NATO? Well, their latest annual report comes with a headline proudly declaring that this year, “cuts in defence spending have almost stopped.” They’ll need the cash, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said Thursday that the alliance is considering a U.S. request to provide AWACS surveillance planes to help in the fight against Islamic State extremists. He told reporters “we are now looking into that request,” but that there are “different ways” to provide support, and no decision had been made yet. NATO defense ministers are expected to discuss the request at their meeting in early February.
The National Commission on the Future of the Army, appointed by Congress and the Obama administration to make recommendations on how the service should structure itself in the wake of massive force cuts, recommends the U.S. should maintain an Army of about 980,000. The issue is, that’s 60,000 more troops than the Army will have if sequestration carries over into the 2018 fiscal year. The report came out Thursday, and includes a proposal that the National Guard should retain eight battalions of Apache helicopters, something Big Army does not want to see happen for financial reasons.
Force of the future
The Defense Department has announced it will allow new moms 12 weeks of maternity leave as part of its Force of the Future initiative, a doubling of the Army and Air Force policy of six weeks but cutting what’s now allowed for sailors and Marines by the same amount. There are a slew of other recommendations to make serving in the military somewhat more family friendly, but no price tags have yet been attached. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to begin rolling out budget details next week.
Canada’s military may have shrunk a little overall but its special operations forces (SOF) have grown. The Ottawa Sun reports that the size of Canadian SOF grew to 1,745 operators in 2015 and the budget for Canadian Special Operations Forces Command grew by nearly $28 million to $295 million.
The North Korea nerds at 38 North have a new piece up looking at satellite imagery of the North’s Tongchang-ri space launch site, noticing upticks in activity that may herald an upcoming missile launch. The images show activity at Tongchang-ri’s launch pad, including completed fuel storage bunkers and other signs of possible launch preparation activity at the facility. North Korea has used Tongchang-ri for its space program, which experts believe in a cover for developing its long-range ballistic missiles.
Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the kangaroos of terror.
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