Showing posts with label US Military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US Military. Show all posts

February 1, 2017

Trumps Threatens Mexico’s Peña with Military




 Trump threatens Pena with Military invasion




President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there" unless the Mexican military does more to control them itself, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not make clear who exactly Trump considered "bad hombres," — drug cartels, immigrants, or both — or the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remark suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

"You have a bunch of bad hombres down there," Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt seen by the AP. "You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

A person with access to the official transcript of the phone call provided an excerpt to The Associated Press. The person gave it on condition of anonymity because the administration did not make the details of the call public.

A Mexican reporter's similar account of Trump's comments was published on a Mexican website Tuesday. The reports described Trump as humiliating Pena Nieto in a confrontation conversation.
Mexico’s foreign relations department denied that account, saying it "is based on absolute falsehoods."

"The assertions that you make about said conversation do not correspond to the reality of it," the statement said. "The tone was constructive and it was agreed by the presidents to continue working and that the teams will continue to meet frequently to construct an agreement that is positive for Mexico and for the United States."

Trump has used the phrase "bad hombres" before. In an October presidential debate, he vowed to get rid the U.S. of "drug lords" and "bad people."
"We have some bad hombres here, and we're going to get them out," he said. The phrase ricocheted on social media with Trump opponents saying he was denigrating immigrants.

Trump’s comment was in line with the new administration's bullish stance on foreign policy matters in general, and the president's willingness to break long-standing norms around the globe.

Before his inauguration, Trump spoke to the president of Taiwan, breaking long-standing U.S. policy and irritating China. His temporary ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, aimed at reviewing screening procedures to lessen the threat of extremist attacks, has caused consternation around the world.

But nothing has created the level of bickering as the border wall, a centerpiece of his campaign. Mexico has consistently said it would not pay for the wall and opposes it. Before the phone call, Pena Nieto canceled a planned visit to the United States.

The fresh fight with Mexico last week arose over trade as the White House proposed a 20 percent tax on imports from the key U.S. ally to finance the wall after Pena Nieto abruptly scrapped his Jan. 31 trip to Washington.

The U.S. and Mexico conduct some $1.6 billion a day in cross-border trade, and cooperate on everything from migration to anti-drug enforcement to major environmental issues.
Trump tasked his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner — a real estate executive with no foreign policy experience — with managing the ongoing dispute, according to an administration official with knowledge of the call.

At a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May last week, Trump described his call with Pena Nieto as “friendly."

In a statement, the White House said the two leaders acknowledged their “clear and very public differences” and agreed to work through the immigration disagreement as part of broader discussions on the relationship between their countries.


__Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report


November 5, 2016

Active and Retired US Military Backing Clinton in Greater Numbers






Active and retired members of the military have been showing far more support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than for her Republican rival, at least as measured by the checks they’ve written to her campaign.
Individuals who listed their employers as the U.S. Department of Defense or major branches of the military, or who say they’re retired from one of those, have contributed a total of $972,709 to both nominees so far this year. Clinton has claimed $771,471 of the contributions, or nearly 80 percent.
All major branches of the armed forces – including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – have favored Clinton to a much greater degree than GOP nominee Donald Trump. Members of the Army have contributed more than other branches of the service this cycle, giving a total of $191,712 to the two presidential hopefuls, 72 percent of which went to Clinton.
Meanwhile, it’s the Air Force that has given the largest portion of its contributions to Trump, though it still favors Clinton by a lot. Trump received 39 percent of the $110,711 given to the two candidates by people connected to the Air Force.
(Our analysis includes donors giving more than $200; candidates don’t have to provide identifying information about smaller donors to the public.)
If this seems surprising, consider this: Up until the primaries were over, the military favorite was Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who received $374,600. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came in a close third after Clinton.
“People assume the military leans Republican, but I think that has fundamentally changed in the 21st century,” retired Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett said.
Barnett, who has contributed $600 to Clinton campaign so far this cycle, also said that since a single person in the Oval Office can commit the country to war, those in uniform are certainly willing to put some money on the line to help elect a leader they believe has the right skill set. “The last thing we want to see is our men and women in uniform going into a war we don’t need” due to ego, lack of judgment or some other personal flaw, Barnett added.
Retired members of the military seem particularly aghast at the thought of a Trump presidency, based on their contributions this cycle. Of the $135,392 that came from former service members so far, only 2 percent has gone to the brash businessman’s campaign.
Of course, history has shown that campaign contributions don’t necessarily reflect the results at the polls. Despite Obama’s victory in contributions from the military, 2012 Gallup data showed that veterans preferred Romney by 24 points over Obama.
Ramapo College Professor Jeremy Teigen, who studies military and politics, warned that while Clinton — and before her Obama — may be more popular with members of the military who donate to candidates, “that does not mirror the partisan voting tendencies of the military overall. We know, for instance, that the officer ranks trend substantially toward the GOP while the enlisted ranks trend less so but still toward Republicans.”
That Republican leaning has become more pronounced since the draft ended in the 1970s, Teigen said. “Now that the military is entirely self-selected, mostly male, and somewhat more likely to come from conservative social contexts, the men in the armed forces vote for Republican candidates and identify with the Republican Party more than not,” he said. (Teigen noted that less is known about the political leanings of women in the military.)
The New York Times reported on Thursday that veterans are turning to Trump, feeling abandoned by establishment politicians. Veterans featured in the story have called the nominee, “genuine,” and “a breath of fresh air.”
But University of Maryland Professor Emeritus David Segal said he’s seen more veterans against Trump than for him.
“Honestly, there’s not much enthusiasm for Clinton either, but veterans around me seem to have far less distaste for [Clinton] than Trump,” Segal said. “Trump does not value veterans, and in fact, insults families of veterans who have died in combat,” a reference to Trump’s tirades against the Khan family, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Segal, who directs the Center for Research on Military Organization, said there are also concerns among military members that Trump is likely to get the U.S. into another war. He said Clinton, though somewhat hawkish herself, has a good understanding of working diplomacy, having served as secretary of state,
Earlier this year, Trump showed strong support for the use of nuclear weapons during a television interview, saying, “Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” He continued, “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?”
Early in the 2012 cycle, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, too, suffered from lack of support from military donors, raising only $45,738 by March, compared to the $333,134 for GOP primary rival Ron Paul and $184,505 for President Barack Obama. By the end of the cycle, though, Romney had managed to raise $753,691 from these donors, much closer to Obama’s $947,338.
As different as the two candidates may seem, Trump and Clinton are actually fairly similar in the sense that both back strong defense spending. The GOP nominee has been vocal about spending extra dollars on the military, and according to Center for Strategic and International Studies’ estimates, Trump’s proposals would cost $640 billion per year, about $80 billion over President Obama administration’s projection.
“Trump talks about increasing the defense budget, but he’s not paying his taxes,” Segal said. He said it’s difficult for the Republican to win respect from military members when he’s not paying his fair share of the cost of what he’s proposing to spend.
The fate of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which severely restricts spending for various priorities including defense, will be key in determining whether Trump can actually implement his expensive proposals, but he hasn’t made his position clear on the budget cap through 2021 yet. Clinton however, has implied support for repealing the budget restraint in her vague policy statement that supports “ending the sequester for both defense and non-defense spending in a balanced way.”

 
Soo Rin KimSoo Rin covered environmental issues for the Investigative Reporting Workshop during the summer of 2016 before joining CRP as a fall reporting intern. She received her B.A. in May 2016 from the Missouri School of Journalism, where she studied investigative and data journalism. While at Missouri, she also covered community environmental and housing issues for local publications. Soo Rin, who is originally from South Korea, has also written about media law issues while interning at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Read all of 

August 3, 2016

Trump’s Phony Deferments to Keep Him from Serving the Country





Donald J. Trump, center looking fit and healthy as a high school senior in 1964 
at the New York Military Academy.









Photo


Mr. Trump addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Charlotte, N.C., last week.CreditTodd Heisler/The New York Times 

He received subsequent student deferments during his sophomore, junior and senior years.
At Fordham, Mr. Trump commuted from his parents’ home in Queens and played squash, football and tennis. He remembered Fordham for its “good sports.”
At Wharton, Mr. Trump began preparing in earnest for his career in real estate by buying and selling fixer-upper townhouses in Pennsylvania and driving home to New York on weekends to work for his father.
During the Wharton years, he said, he had less time for sports but stayed physically active, playing pickup golf at public courses near campus.
At Penn and other universities, Vietnam dominated discussions. Mr. Trump said Wharton, with its business focus, had been somewhat different. Although he “hated the concept of the war,” he said, he did not speak out against it.
“I was never a fan of the Vietnam War,” he said. “But I was never at the protest level, either, because I had other things to do.”
As Mr. Trump’s graduation neared, the fighting in Vietnam was intensifying. The Tet offensive in January 1968 had left thousands of American troops dead or wounded, with battles continuing into the spring.
On the day of Mr. Trump’s graduation, 40 Americans were killed in Vietnam. The Pentagon was preparing to call up more troops.
With his schooling behind him, there would have been little to prevent someone in Mr. Trump’s situation from being drafted, if not for the diagnosis of his bone spurs.
“If you didn’t have a basis to be exempt or postponed, you would have been ordered for induction,” said Mr. Flahavan of the Selective Service. Many men of Mr. Trump’s age were looking for ways to avoid the war, said Charles Freehof, a draft counselor at Brooklyn College at the time, noting that getting a letter from a physician was a particularly effective option.
“We had very little trouble with people coming back saying, ‘They wouldn’t accept my doctor’s note,’” Mr. Freehof said.
Mr. Trump had a 1-Y classification, which was considered a temporary exemption. But in practice, only a national emergency or an official declaration of war, which the United States avoided during the fighting in Vietnam, would have resulted in his being considered for service.
Neither occurred, and Mr. Trump remained 1-Y until 1972, when his status changed to 4-F, permanently disqualifying him.
“For all practical purposes, once you got the 1-Y, you were free and clear of vulnerability for the draft, even in the case of the lottery,” Mr. Flahavan said.
Still, Mr. Trump, in the interviews, said he believed he could have been subject to another physical exam to check on his bone spurs, had his draft number been called. “I would have had to go eventually because that was a minor medical — it was called ‘minor medical,’” he said.
But the publicly available draft records of Mr. Trump include the letters “DISQ” next to his exam date, with no notation indicating that he would be re-examined.
Since Mr. Khan publicly addressed him in the Democratic convention speech last week, Mr. Trump has been pressed about his sacrifice, including by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Mr. Trump said to Mr. Stephanopoulos. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”









August 1, 2016

US Petty Officer Outed by Colleagues


Outsports story:
                                                                         
Petty Officer Third Class Conner Curnick, 22

In April 2015, I was heading back to my quarters at the naval base in Pensacola, Fla. I was on a high, riding my motorcycle back to base after spending the night with a guy I seeing.

I suddenly felt a lot of vibrations and it wasn't a bumpy road. It was the phone in my pocket, buzzing with Instagram messages.

"Explain this," one said. "Curnick, are you gay? Don't lie to us," said another.

My heart pounding, I pulled over to the side of the road. One of my friends had been going through my Instagram photos and found one of me with another guy on the back of my motorcycle. Their messages wanted to know the truth. I realized my biggest fear had come to fruition.

I was alone at the time and in tears, and I decided to come clean — yes, I'm gay, I told them. The reactions started coming in and, to my relief and surprise, they were overwhelmingly positive. While I did lose a few friends, the ones closest to me became even closer, because I no longer had to lie about who I was and for the first time they knew what was really going on in my life. Pensacola will always hold a place in my heart for changing me in the way it did.

After I came over that final hurdle, I began to live openly, and my life as a gay man flourished. That's not to say everyone in the military is supportive. This past spring, in combat training before my deployment to Afghanistan, someone found out I was gay, walked up to me and said, "I'm glad I'm not deploying with you, I wouldn't trust a fag with my life." This despite the fact I was one of the better marksmen and performers in my class. I use comments like that to fuel my fire to succeed in everything that I do.

If you're wondering why a Sailor is writing a story for Outsports it's because I have been a water polo player in high school and college and still play competitively. I am now in the U.S. Navy, serving in Afghanistan. I have lived in two countries, four states and on both coasts of the U.S.
 
I grew up in a medium-size conservative town in Southern California. I started playing water polo in 7th grade, eventually playing at Great Oak High School in Temecula. My life got interesting after high school. When I was 18 I moved halfway around the world to Madrid, Spain, to attend college and play water polo at an elite level. After a year in Spain I returned to Southern California where I played water polo for another year at Palomar College.
I didn't come out until I was almost 21. I grew up thinking that being gay was wrong — that being gay meant you fit a stereotype. It meant that you were a pathetic, weak, purse-toting excuse for man. I now know that's not the case.

The day I first came out to anyone in February 2014 was the most emotional experience of my life. My hands were shaking and voice was cracking. I lived in Florida at the time, and my two best friends — both girls — were at college in different parts of the country and my family was in California. I was scared. I sent my two friends a group text. They responded with nothing but love and affection. One of them even Face-timed me, and saw me in tears, right next to the guy I was dating at the time.

Next up was my mom. She was at work, so I sent her a text: "Mom, I have something to tell you ... I'm gay." She immediately called, telling me how much she loved me. She had asked me many times growing up if I was gay, but being afraid of who I was, I never could admit it.
 
My struggle came with growing up in the closet and learning to love myself. I built a wall and never let anyone through. It was really tough at first, leading me to very dark places mentally. Reading coming out stories like the one I am writing — and how people were greeted with love and open arms — was what kept me going.
The hardest people to come out to were my fellow military members. I originally enlisted into the most hyper-masculine program possible, the Naval Special Warfare Program. I enlisted in 2014 to serve a purpose greater than myself. There, instructors and fellow trainees constantly threw homophobic slurs around. I distinctly remember one day when an instructor said, "Oh look at those faggots," and then turned to us saying, "Wait, it's OK to be gay, YOU just can't be gay."

This prolonged my life in the closet and I could not be seen as gay to the rest of my class. I ended up getting injured and washing out of training, at which point I was given a new job in the military and moved to Florida. The state is where my life changed forever. It's where I came out, and I learned to live an open life and grow as a gay man.

Many of my fellow sailors washed out of the training alongside me and ended up in Pensacola, where the outing took place that fateful day. I feared I would be rejected by people I once was friends with, terrified that the leadership above me would look at me as less of a man, or that any accomplishment I have will be attributed to me being gay, and not my merit. I was completely and utterly wrong. In fact, some of the most vocally homophobic people ended up being my biggest supporters.
 Connor Spartan
Conner Curnick has competed in several Reebok Spartan Races — 13 miles of running through hills and obstacles such as climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire and through mud.

Since coming out, I have become a much happier, productive and successful person. I have since been to the Middle East twice and been awarded accolades for my achievements. I have received letters of accommodation from leaders at Combatant Commands and won Sailor of the Quarter at my command of 2,300 Sailors.
Since coming out, I have fought to defeat the very thing that caused me to not come out any sooner: stereotypes. I want to be the gay man that I wish I met when I was younger. I want to prove that the gay community is just as strong and capable as the straight world. If I can make one person's life better, all my efforts and struggles will have been worth it.

I still face discrimination, and I understand that it is an unfortunate reality of living openly and fighting for equality. I am currently working with fellow LGBT sailors to start an organization at my base for LGBT service members to promote understanding and ensure equality in the workplace. I hope that in the future, people won't have to "come out," but they can simply say this is my boy/girlfriend and be accepted by everyone.

Conner Curnick, 22, is a Petty Officer Third Class in the U.S. Navy on assignment in Afghanistan. When not on assignment he plays competitive water polo in Washington DC. He can be reached via e-mail (ccurnick@gmail.com),  on Instagram (cdcurnick) or on Facebook.

By Jim Buzinski Published on  Outsports

February 18, 2016

The Largest Drone today is a Submarine



                                                                           
 130 ft. long does not need human intervention for 60-90 days



DARPA released its concept for an autonomous marine drone a year ago, and now it's a reality.

The drone is the largest unmanned surface vehicle ever built, coming in at 130-feet long, Steve Walker, DARPA deputy director, said in a Feb. 10 press briefing according to National Defense Magazine. Called the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, or ACTUV for short, the marine drone is capable of navigating the seas entirely on its own.


The marine drone will be observed by the Office of Naval Research and the Space and Naval Systems Warfare Command for 18 months starting in April, Walker said at the press briefing. The ACTUV could be used for purposes like reconnaissance and resupply.

“Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles,” Walker said.


The ACTUV will use sonar to detect other vessels in the water and will allow it follow disel electric submarines, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Navy sonar buoys will help the drone navigate before its internal software kicks in. The drone's first mission could be as soon as 2017.

DARPA drone sonar© Provided by Business Insider Inc DARPA drone sonar
The drone can operate for 60 to 90 days without any interference from a crew member, Christian Science also reported.

DARPA received almost $3 billion for the 2017 fiscal year that was split up to fund three strategic areas, one of which is called "rethinking complex military systems." The drone was made as part of that strategic area, which aims to "build highly capable military systems, especially to prepare for fights with highly capable adversaries."

Watch the ACTUV rendering below: 

October 31, 2015

Special Ops are the “Boots on the ground” to Syria



                                                                             

President Obama is sending a small number of Special Operations troops to northern Syria, marking the first full-time deployment of U.S. forces to the chaotic country.
The mission marks a major shift for Obama, whose determination to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been balanced by an abiding worry that U.S. troops not be pulled too deeply into the in­trac­table Syrian conflict.
The latest deployment will involve fewer than 50 Special Operations advisers, who will work with resistance forces­ battling the Islamic State in northern Syria but will not engage in direct combat, Obama administration officials said. “This is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
The move, which the president’s national security team recommended late last week, reflects Obama’s growing dissatisfaction with the halting progress in Iraq and Syria and his commanders’ sense that the Islamic State has significant vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
The troops are expected to begin arriving over the next month in Syria, where their main focus will be advising Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces­ who have fought to within 30 miles of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, said a senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The U.S. troops are expected to remain largely at the “headquarters level,” where they will assess the local forces­ and help plan military operations to put continued pressure on Raqqa and a 60-mile-long stretch of the Syria-Turkey border.
A successful attack on Raqqa would mark a major victory for the forces­ battling the Islamic State.
The Special Operations forces, even though they are focused on advising U.S. allies and not direct combat, still face a real threat. “This is a dangerous place on the globe, and they are at risk,” Earnest said. “There is no denying it.” The deployment, like the recent commitment to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan after 2016, would be essentially open-ended, he said.
The introduction of U.S. advisers follows Russia’s stepped-up involvement in the war in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opening at a hastily convened meeting of diplomats in Vienna on Friday to discuss ways to end the increasingly bloody conflict
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has ordered his country’s military to strike Islamic State ­forces, but White House officials said that the Russians are indiscriminately targeting all rebel forces­ arrayed against the regime. Russia’s military actions on behalf of the Assad regime have complicated U.S. efforts to help rebels in northern Syria, where U.S. officials are worried that American-backed forces­ will feel compelled to shift their focus from battling the Islamic State to helping their beleaguered allies fight Assad.
The Russian operations have, in particular, sapped momentum from a push by Syrian Arab fighters to drive the Islamic State from the contested stretch of the border between Syria and Turkey, U.S. officials said. In the past few weeks, U.S. airstrikes in Syria have dropped off dramatically, prompting concern from local fighters allied with the Americans.
The recent deployment of Special Operations forces­ along with new U.S. warplanes headed to Turkey suggest that the airstrikes will soon intensify. The White House plans to send A-10 ground attack planes and F-15 fighter jets to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where they will be able to support ground operations against the Islamic State. The heavily armored A-10s, which fly low and slow over the battlefield, are built to back ground troops engaged in combat.
The planes will also focus on attacking the Islamic State’s supply lines that connect its base in Syria to its fighters in Iraq. Russia was not made aware of the deployment of U.S. troops into the country, the senior defense official said.
The new deployment of ground troops and planes drew a mixed reaction from Democrats, who worried about the deepening U.S. involvement in the war, and Republicans, who said that the small U.S. force was insufficient and disconnected from a broader, coherent strategy. 
"These steps may prove to be too little, too late,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “I do not see a strategy for success, rather it seems the administration is trying to avoid a disaster while the president runs out the clock.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the latest moves “yet another insufficient step in the Obama administration’s policy of gradual escalation.”
Obama first asked for a broader set of options in Iraq and Syria when he visited the Pentagon in July. That meeting came two months after Iraqi army troops were driven from Ramadi, about 80 miles west of Baghdad, by a much smaller Islamic State force.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the administration’s new plan for Iraq and Syria would focus on aiding the slow-moving Iraqi army assault on Ramadi, the military operations around Raqqa and more raids on Islamic State leaders in both countries.
Obama also spoke Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to outline U.S. plans to intensify support for the Ramadi operation and an increase in raids aimed at the Islamic State leadership in the country.
Administration officials said that the U.S. and Iraqi governments are working on plans to establish a joint Special Operations task force to target Islamic State leaders and their network. The raids would be conducted with the backing of U.S. Special Operations forces backed with U.S.-supplied intelligence.
The move was foreshadowed this week by Carter, who told lawmakers that the military’s elite counter­terrorism forces­ would increase the pace of raids like the one in northern Iraq that freed as many as 70 captives being held by the Islamic State and resulted in the death of Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler.
Senior defense officials said Obama remained open to deploying Apache attack helicopters and forward air controllers, who are trained to move with Iraqi forces­ and call in airstrikes, if needed for future operations. 
More costly and ambitious measures in Syria, such as no-fly zones or buffer zones that would require tens of thousands of ground troops, did not receive the backing of Obama’s top policy advisers and weren’t among the options forwarded to the president. Many Republicans and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton have said they favor a no-fly zone in Syria.
Even as the White House announced the measures in Iraq and Syria, senior administration officials played down hopes that the additional forces­ would fundamentally change the circumstances in either country.
“The president has been quite clear that there is no military solution to the problems that are plaguing Iraq and Syria,” Earnest said. “There is a diplomatic one.”
by Greg Jaffe covers the White House for The Washington Post, where he has been since March 2009.
and Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a staff writer and a former Marine infantryman
on: Washington Post

October 30, 2015

The Run Away Military Blimp is Shot Down! [You Just Saw the Future..]


                                    
Highly Intelligent blimp with classified
tracking information systems
      
State police used shotguns Thursday to deflate a wayward surveillance blimp that broke loose in Maryland before coming down into trees in the Pennsylvania countryside.
It could take days, or even weeks, to remove the blimp, which came down Wednesday, said U.S. Army Captain Matthew Villa. He said it is in two "mostly intact" pieces, with the main body and the tail section a few hundred meters apart.
Very sensitive electronics onboard have been removed but the vast majority of blimp is still there, Villa said. The wreckage was secured with additional ropes and state police troopers were using shotguns to deflate it Thursday morning, he said.
The blimp's remains were in trees along a ravine in a hard-to-access area with no roads leading directly to the site and officials are working on the removal plan.
"The terrain is extremely steep," he said. "It's rocky, slippery, leaves, in fact there's a stream going through the site as well."
The slow-moving, unmanned Army surveillance blimp broke loose from its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground and then floated over Pennsylvania for hours Wednesday afternoon causing electrical outages as its tether hit power lines.
The 240-foot helium-filled blimp, which had two fighter jets on its tail, came down near Muncy, a small town about 80 miles north of Harrisburg, the state capital. No injuries were reported.
The radar-equipped blimp, fitted with sensitive defense technology, escaped from the facility around 12:20 p.m. Authorities said it drifted northward, climbing to about 16,000 feet. It covered about 150 miles over about 3½ hours.
Villa said it was also unknown how the blimp broke loose, and an investigation was underway.
Michael Negard, spokesman for the Army Combat Readiness Center, said a two-person accident-investigation team is heading to the site. He said the investigation is considered "Class A," a label applied to an event that might have caused at least $2 million in property damage; involved a destroyed, missing or abandoned Army aircraft or missile; or caused injury.
People gawked in wonder and disbelief as the blimp floated silently over the sparsely populated area, its dangling tether taking out power lines.
Ken Hunter, an outdoors writer and wildlife illustrator, was working from home when he got a call from his wife that a blimp was coming down nearby.
He drove up the road a short distance and, sure enough, there was the tail section hanging from a tree, looking to him like a big white sheet. He took some pictures before state police closed the road.
Hunter said it came within a few hundred yards of his son's house.
"We're very fortunate that there weren't some people hurt up here," he said Thursday.
Hunter took a dim view of the military?s handling of the ordeal, questioning how such a pricey piece of equipment could just float away.
"I don't drive a brand-new car, but I take pretty good care of it. And it’s probably a $10,000 vehicle if I'm lucky," he said. 
AP

April 23, 2015

US Pressure Brings The Saudis To Stop The Slaughter in Yemen


                                                                     

(OBOCK, Djibouti) — Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it was halting a nearly month-old bombing campaign against a rebel group in neighboring Yemen that has touched off a devastating humanitarian crisis and threatened to ignite a broader regional conflict.

The announcement followed what American officials said was pressure applied by the Obama administration for the Saudis and other Sunni Arab nations to end the airstrikes. The bombing campaign, which has received logistical and intelligence support from the United States, has drawn intense criticism for causing civilian deaths and for appearing to be detached from a broad military strategy. 

Open Source: Sighs of Relief From Yemen, Mixed With Fears of More Conflict

Yemeni bloggers expressed relief that the Saudi-led air campaign had finally come to an end, tempered by concern that the conflict was far from over.APRIL 21, 2015
A Yemeni man checked a house in Sana after a bombing that killed at least 25 people. Sana has been bombed almost daily for more than three weeks, damaging factories, gas stations and residential neighborhoods.
Credit Mohammed Huwais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
At Least 25 Die as Airstrike Sets Off Huge Blast in YemenAPRIL 20, 2015
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, as well as a guided missile cruiser, was sent to join other American ships off the Yemeni coast in an effort to discourage Iran's support of Houthi rebels.
Credit United States Navy, via Reuters
Warning Iran, U.S. Sends Two More Ships to Yemen APRIL 20, 2015
A Saudi Defense Ministry statement quoted by the country’s news agencies said that the campaign, called Operation Decisive Storm, had achieved its objectives. But it was unclear exactly how much the airstrikes had advanced Saudi Arabia’s stated goal of helping restore a Yemeni government that collapsed many weeks ago as Houthi rebels took over the country’s capital, Sana. Analysts said the announcement could possibly clear the way for a different type of military intervention.
 
The Crisis in Yemen: What You Need to Know

Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is embroiled in a struggle for power that has serious implications for the region and the security of the United States.


Weeks of fighting in Yemen, which was already suffering from the absence of any central authority, have left nearly a thousand people dead and provided an opening for Al Qaeda’s branch there to expand its territory. The conflict further threatened to entangle the United States and Iran in a potential military confrontation, just as they are about to continue difficult and delicate negotiations that they hope will result in a final nuclear agreement by the end of June.

In an interview Tuesday night, President Obama said he was optimistic that the crisis in Yemen could be settled. “That’s always been a fractious country with a lot of problems,” he told Chris Matthews of MSNBC. “There are a lot of people inside Yemen suffering. What we need to do is bring all the parties together and find a political arrangement.”

The Saudis have long accused the Houthis, whose leaders adhere to a variant of Shiite Islam, of serving as an Iranian proxy. The Obama administration warned in recent days that Iran might be trying to arm the Houthis and moved on Monday to deploy a strengthened armada of warships off Yemen’s coast as a deterrent.
 
The exact role that Iran has played, however, is far from clear. Although Yemeni officials and Western diplomats have said there is evidence that Iran has given arms and other support to the Houthis over the past several years, they caution that the rebel group is anything but a puppet of Tehran and that the Houthis’ actions have stemmed from their dealings with Yemeni factions and their own domestic agenda.

Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken to the Saudi government repeatedly over the past several days, and John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, visited the Saudi capital, Riyadh. A senior American official said Tuesday that there had been a number of discussions in recent days among American, Saudi and United Arab Emirates officials about ending the bombing campaign.
 
 
Asked why, the American official said, “Too much collateral damage.” The United Arab Emirates was one of several Arab nations that joined the Saudi-led campaign.

The Saudis announced the suspension of the bombings just hours after a top Iranian official said he expected a cease-fire to be declared.

“We are optimistic that in the coming hours, after many efforts, we will see a halt to military attacks in Yemen,” the official, the deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said, according to Iranian news agencies.
 
Yemenis on a bridge in Ibb that was reportedly hit in an airstrike that targeted Houthi rebels but is said to have killed civilians. Credit European Pressphoto Agency
It was not immediately clear whether the Saudi and Iranian announcements were public evidence of back-channel negotiating, or whether the Saudi halt to the bombing would lead to peace talks among the antagonists in Yemen. A senior Houthi political leader, responding to rumors of a possible political deal, said late Tuesday that no agreement had been reached.

The aerial attacks began March 26 and were announced in a rare news conference in Washington by Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect the legitimate government of Yemen,” Mr. Jubeir said at the time.

Saudi Arabia has said that the coalition was justified in its campaign to stop the advance of the Houthi militia, based in northern Yemen, which routed the Saudi-backed government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, now in exile. Critics of the Saudi offensive called it a perilous overreaction, based on the false premise that the Houthis were taking their orders from Iran.

The Houthis’ most significant alliance is local, most analysts say, with members of Yemen’s armed forces loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

But the airstrikes paralyzed Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, and left hundreds of people dead and thousands wounded and homeless. Saudi Arabia had come under growing international pressure to halt the bombings, which hit civilian targets with a regularity that human rights groups said could amount to war crimes.

The deadliest attacks included a strike that killed dozens at a camp for displaced Yemenis and others that struck a dairy factory, killing at least 31 workers on the night shift. On Monday, a Saudi airstrike near an air defense base in the capital caused an enormous explosion that flattened homes in a nearby neighborhood and left at least 25 people dead. 

Officials at the World Health Organization in Geneva said Tuesday that Yemen’s health services had collapsed. They said the cumulative death toll in Yemen since the fighting escalated last month was at least 944, with nearly 3,500 wounded. Many thousands more have been displaced from their homes.

There have also been questions about what the military coalition could accomplish with airstrikes alone.

The official Saudi Press Agency, quoting a Defense Ministry statement, said the airstrikes had “successfully managed to thwart the threat on the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries through destruction of the heavy weapons and ballistic missiles seized by the Houthi militias and troops loyal to (Ali Abdullah Saleh), including bases and camps of the Yemeni army.”
 
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The announcement on Tuesday held out the possibility of a political deal and speedy relief for Yemen’s cities, and especially Sana, which has endured airstrikes almost daily. But it seemed just as likely that the Saudi declaration, with its vague threat of new military action, could usher in another phase of combat, analysts said. In one possibility, the Saudis could continue their intervention by other means, including an increase in their support of proxies fighting the Houthis and their allies — a tactic the Saudis have favored in the past.

There was no indication that the Houthis and their allies had retreated from any of the territory they had captured, including Sana and areas farther south, like parts of Aden, a port that has been ravaged by fighting over the past few weeks.

“No one has been seriously weakened,” said a diplomat who once served in Yemen and asked for anonymity to discuss a country’s possible motives. The Saudis “will take a break from bombing Sana, but they will carry on.”

In the absence of a settlement, the Saudi decision provided little comfort to Yemenis who had fled cities like Aden, where there were still clashes on Tuesday, according to local residents.

The halt in the airstrikes is “good for the rest of Yemen,” said Ahmed Kulaib, 30, a resident of Aden who fled the city and lives in a refugee camp in Djibouti.

But fighters in Aden resisting the Houthis, he added, are still facing “heavy work.”

Kareem Fahim reported from Obock, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt and Michael D. Shear from Washington, Rick Gladstone from New York and Mohammed Ali Kalfood from Sana, Yemen

February 10, 2015

The President will ask Congress tomorrow for Authority to Use Force Vs. ISIS



                                                                             


The White House will ask Congress by Wednesday for new authority to use force against Islamic State fighters, congressional aides said on Monday, paving the way for lawmakers’ first vote on the scope of a campaign that is already six months old.
The United States is leading an international coalition against Islamic State, and President Barack Obama launched an air campaign in August against the militant fighters, who have killed thousands of people while seizing swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. 
The administration’s failure so far to seek a formal Authorization to Use Military Force for the campaign has caused some members of Congress to express concern that it overstepped the president’s constitutional authority.
Others have said that lawmakers should weigh in on an issue as important as the use of military force. 
The administration has said the campaign is legal, based on authorization passed under President George W. Bush in 2002 for the Iraq War and in 2001 for fighting al Qaeda and associated groups. 
Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives’ Democrats, told reporters last week the White House would seek an authorization that would last three years. She said there had not yet been decisions about the geographic scope of an authorization or what limits would be placed on combat troops – “boots on the ground.”
That issue is expected to be a major sticking point in debate. Many Democrats want to bar sending in U.S. combat forces, but several Republicans have insisted it would be inappropriate to limit military commanders.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said hearings on the administration’s request would start quickly.
The Obama administration had been in close consultations with lawmakers before making its formal request, which could make the approval process move more quickly, he said.
“There have been serious consultations, and there will be more serious consultations,” he told reporters at the Senate.
Obama is also expected to seek a repeal of the Iraq war authorization, but not the 2001 authorization, which passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Congressional aides told Reuters on Monday that was still the expectation for Obama’s request, given discussions between the administration, lawmakers and congressional staffers. They requested anonymity because they were speaking about private consultations.
The White House has declined to comment on the timing or details of the request.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Steve Orlofsky)
euronews provides breaking news articles from Reuters as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes.
 Patricia Zengerle//(Reuters) –

December 8, 2014

13 Killed Last night in Failed US Hostage Rescue Bid in Yemen


                                                                           


 A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when U.S.-led forces fought Islamist militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, residents said on Sunday. 
U.S. special forces raided the village of Dafaar in Shabwa province, a militant stronghold in southern Yemen, shortly after midnight on Saturday, killing several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

American journalist Luke Somers, 33, and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, 56, were shot and killed by their captors during the raid intended to free them, U.S. officials said. 

AQAP, formed in 2006 by the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the network, has for years been seen by Washington as one of the movement's most dangerous branches. 

Western governments fear advances by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters with links to Iranhave bolstered support among Yemeni Sunnis for AQAP, which has established itself in parts of Yemen, including Shabwa where the raid took place. 

However, since Islamic State in Syria and Iraq began distributing films of its militants beheading Western hostages, the focus on AQAP, which has traditionally used hostage-taking as a way to raise funds, had diminished until now. 

At least two more hostages are being held by the group.

The Yemen-based group, loyal to the wider al Qaeda organisation founded by Osama bin Laden, has denounced Islamic State, but Western and Gulf sources say there may be operational connections between the two. 

"AQAP and Daesh (Islamic State) are essentially the same organisation but have different methods of execution and tactics," a senior Yemeni intelligence official said. 


FREEDOM ATTEMPT

South Africa does not want to assign blame for Korkie's death, government spokesman Nelson Kgwete said on local television, when asked if Pretoria blamed the United States.
  Luke Somers & Pierre korkie (Right)both dead

Korkie's wife, Yolande, who was released in January after being held with her husband, spoke of forgiveness.

"So today we choose to forgive. We choose to love. We choose to rejoice in the memories of Pierre and keep him alive in our hearts," she said in a statement. 

No ransom was paid for Korkie as his kidnappers eventually relented on an earlier demand for $3 million, Gift of the Givers, the relief group that had tried to secure his release, said. The group had expected Korkie to be freed on Sunday.

The South African government said Korkie's body was expected in South Africa on Monday.

Apart from the woman and the boy, reports on social media feeds of known militants said an AQAP commander and two members of the group were killed. Six other members of the same tribe also died, the reports said, although they could not be immediately verified. 

The commander, identified as Jamal Mubarak al-Hard al-Daghari al-Awlaki, appeared to be the same person as Mubarak al-Harad, named by the Yemen Defence Ministry on Saturday as the leader of an AQAP group. 

Several of those said by militants to have died were from the Daghari and Awlaki families, important tribes in Shabwa province. Yemen's government said on Saturday the hostages were being held in the house of a man named Saeed al-Daghari. 

As special forces battled al Qaeda militants in the house, kidnappers in another building nearby shot the two hostages, a local man who identified himself as Jamal said. 

U.S. officials have said the raid was carried out by U.S. forces alone, but Yemen's government and local residents said Yemeni forces also participated.

"Before the gunshots were heard, very strong floodlights turned the night into daylight, and then we heard loud explosions," Jamal told Reuters. "The soldiers were calling on the house's inhabitants to surrender and the speaker was clearly a Yemeni soldier," he added.

Another witness, named Abdullah, said the Yemeni army had blocked access to the area before the raid began.

"When the forces withdrew, we found lots of bloodstains, but did not know if those were of the soldiers or the hostages," Abdullah said. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the operation, the second attempt to free Somers in 10 days, had only been approved because of information that the American's life was in imminent danger.

Abdel-Razaq al-Jamal, a Yemeni journalist who specialises in covering Islamist militants, said AQAP may have originally intended to ransom Somers as well, but appeared to have been angered by the earlier rescue attempt on Nov. 25.

“I don't think this marks a change in position by al Qaeda," Jamal told Reuters.
SANAA/ADEN



(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Manama and Stella Mapenzauswa in Johannesburg; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Angus McDowall and Giles Elgood)

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