SitRep: U.S. Navy Beefs Up in The Pacific
Saudi White House Snub?; CIA Black Sites; Islamabad needs to Talk; and Lots More
Bulking up. The U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet is moving out, and is sending ships to patrol the waters of the East China and South China seas. The deployment of more Navy vessels to bulk up the Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet likely will not sit well with Beijing, but “this is real. The commitment of the 3rd Fleet [operating] forward is real,” Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of the Pacific Fleet told Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review.
The San Diego-based Third Fleet has traditionally stayed close to the U.S., but Navy leaders say they need to widen the U.S. presence in East Asia. The Third’s Pacific Surface Action Group — including the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Momsen — already deployed to the region in April.
Swift added that the Navy needs to utilize the “total combined power” of the 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft that make up the entire Pacific Fleet, and that ships from the Third will regularly begin making the trips further west, as tensions between China and its neighbors continue to rise amid land reclamation projects, and fishing disputes, in the region.
Riyadh calling. It was billed by Riyadh’s state media as a trip for Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince to meet with President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials. But FP’s John Hudson reports that now that Prince Mohammed bin Salman has arrived in Washington, “it’s still unclear if the president or any White House officials will meet with him,” and “the absence of any scheduled meetings with even National Security Adviser Susan Rice is fueling speculation among Gulf experts about a diplomatic snub.”
Islamabad needs to talk. Pakistan is looking to hire a public relations firm in Washington to make the country’s case, citing the country’s worsening reputation around town for its ties to terrorist organizations. A recent dustup that saw some members of Congress block a planned $669 deal for eight F-16 fighter jets also didn’t help matters, and pushed the decision to seek professional help. (Related: Islamabad now says it’ll buy used F-16s from Jordan.)
One Pakistani official complained, “we are fighting this war on terror at great cost to lives and our economy. Yet we keep hearing that we have to do more. Clearly there is a public relations gap.” A thought: having U.S. forces track, locate, and kill al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Mansour living freely in Pakistan probably hasn’t helped.
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The post-9/11 CIA black sites were ugly, and now new documents released by the agency under the Freedom of Information Act are providing more details into just how ugly they were. The documents show CIA officials scrambling to determine responsibility for the medical care of Gul Rahman after Agency officials froze him to death at a secret prison in Afghanistan. Rahman died of hypothermia after being stripped, doused in water and held in a 32 degree cell. Guards saw him “showing early signs of hypothermia” early into his detention but pushed for further mistreatment in an attempt to “break” him. A subsequent CIA investigation blamed Rahman for his own death, concluding that he would have lived had he not thrown a plate of food at guards.
The man who killed a French couple in the name of the Islamic State used Facebook to livestream himself mulling whether to murder their three year-old child after the attack, the New York Times reports. Police ultimately saved the child, breaking into the house and killing the man, Larossi Abballa. Before his death, Abballa used to the social networking site to encourage followers to carry out specific attacks against law enforcement personnel and journalists. He also intimated the Islamist terrorists would carry out an attack during the upcoming Euro 2016 soccer championship games
As concerns about the rising tide of violence in Afghanistan mount, Russia is sending fresh armor to its base in neighboring Tajikistan. Russia’s military says it’s sending around 100 pieces of armor to the 201st military base in Dushanbe and Kurgan-Tyube, including armored personnel carriers and tanks.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Tuesday that the alliance will rotate an additional 4,000 troops to Eastern Europe, according to the Washington Post. The move was at least two years in the making, dating back to the 2014 Wales Summit. Under the plan, four battalions drawn from the U.S., U.K., Germany, and a yet-to-be named country will be sent to the Baltics and Poland. Russia is expected to be less than pleased by the announcement.
Stoltenberg also announced the inclusion of cyber as one of NATO’s operational domains. The upshot of that bit of alliance-ese is that a cyber attack could now trigger NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense provision, demanding a response from all member countries. For those worried that a prank defacement of NATO’s website could trigger an international war, Stoltenberg clarified that not every cyber attack is necessarily an Article 5-caliber event. NATO has only invoked Article 5 once in its 60-plus years of existence, following the 9/11 terror attacks.
The exodus of civilians fleeing Fallujah is beginning to slow, according to Reuters. Last week, Iraqi security forces opened a secure corridor to allow those trapped inside the Islamic State-held city to leave after facing a months-long siege. 40,000 civilians have fled the city so far, but those numbers have slowed to a trickle. Local officials and workers for the Norwegian Refugee Council, a human rights group, say the Islamic State has threatened those fleeing, at times trying to extract a $100 exit fee for their escape from the city.
Iron Dome, Israel’s counter rocket and mortar (CRAM) system, has attracted a lot of attention for its ability to knock small rockets out of the sky, but so far buyers aren’t interested in purchasing the system for themselves. Defense News reports that Israel’s state-owned Rafael Ltd is having a hard time drumming up potential Iron Dome buyers. Israeli officials say the lack of interest is due to Israel’s unique circumstances being under frequent barrage from Gaza, a situation no other country really faces. The system hits around 90 percent of the targets it engaged and has swatted down around 1,500 projectiles. Israeli officials are currently working on a sea-based version of Iron Dome to protect Israeli offshore drilling sites.
Bots o’ war
The South Korean army is gearing up to deploy a supply drone that can carry 33 pound packages, according to Yonhap News Agency. The drone, jointly developed between the South Korean Army and Korea Aerospace University, is scheduled to undergo flight trials this year in hopes that it will soon be able to ferry supplies to troops at remote posts or carry emergency relief aid during natural disasters. Army officials made sure to point out that the aircraft can carry nearly three times the payload of Amazon’s delivery drone.
Not all heroes wear capes
Hacker @WauchulaGhost has been breaching the Twitter accounts of online Islamic State fanboys for months now. But in act of solidarity following the mass shooting in Orlando, he’s added a new twist to the campaign — tweeting out links to gay porn from newly-hacked ISIS supporters’ accounts.
Photo Credit: MCSN Craig Z. Rodarte/U.S. Navy via Getty Images