Russia’s first reported air strikes in Syria assist regime by targeting broader opposition

Institute for the Study of War reports: Syrian Civil Defense Forces reported 33 civilian casualties from the Russian airstrike in Talbisah in northern Homs. According to local sources, these Russian airstrikes have expanded into the provinces of Hama and Latakia, as well as other rebel-held areas in the northern countryside of Homs. These airstrikes continue to target areas held by Syrian rebels, including Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, Western-backed TOW anti-tank missile recipients, and a number of other local rebel groups. Notably, the nearest positions held by ISIS are over 55 km from the areas targeted by the Russian airstrikes. No Russian airstrikes have yet been reported against ISIS’s positions in Syria.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused international media of conducting information warfare by reporting civilian casualties from Russian airstrikes in Syria. As Russian involvement in Syria continues to expand, Russian disinformation will come in direct conflict with the situation reported by ground forces inside Syria. In this instance, despite claims by Syrian sources that Russian airstrikes are exclusively targeting Jabhat al-Nusra and rebel locations, Russian officials claim that the airstrikes are only targeting ISIS in Syria.

After a vote in Russia’s upper house of parliament unanimously authorized President Vladimir Putin to conduct military operations in Syria, the head of President Putin’s administration stated that the military objective of the operation was “exclusively” to provide air support to the Syrian government forces in combatting ISIS. [Continue reading…]

Fox News reports: According to a U.S. senior official, Presidents Obama and Putin agreed on a process to “deconflict” military operations. The Russians on Wednesday “bypassed that process,” the official said.

“That’s not how responsible nations do business,” the official said.

The development came after Pentagon officials, in a development first reported by Fox News, brushed aside an official request, or “demarche,” from Russia to clear air space over northern Syria, where Moscow said it intended to conduct airstrikes against ISIS on behalf of Assad, according to sources who spoke to Fox News. The request was made in a heated discussion between a Russian three-star general and U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Baghdad, sources said.

“If you have forces in the area we request they leave,” said the general, who used the word “please” in the contentious encounter.

A senior Pentagon official said the U.S., which also has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS, but does not support Assad, said the request was not honored.

“We still conducted our normal strike operations in Syria today,” the official said. “We did not and have not changed our operations.” [Continue reading…]


U.S. military opens a new front in the hunt for African warlord Joseph Kony

The Washington Post reports: U.S. Special Operations forces have opened a new front in their hunt for the African warlord Joseph Kony, moving closer to his suspected hideout in a lawless enclave straddling Sudan and South Sudan, according to military officials and others familiar with the operation.

As their mission stretches into a fifth year, however, U.S. troops have turned to some unsavory partners to help find Kony’s trail. Working from a new bush camp in the Central African Republic, U.S. forces have begun working closely with Islamist rebels — known as the Seleka — who toppled the central government two years ago and triggered a still-raging sectarian war.

The Pentagon has not previously disclosed its intelligence sharing and other forms of cooperation with the Seleka. The arrangement has made some U.S. troops uncomfortable. [Continue reading…]


Why Obama’s drone war has failed in Yemen

Jillian Schwedler writes: The narrative that the West, and especially the United States, fears the Muslim world is powerful and pervasive in the region. The U.S. intervenes regularly in regional politics and is a steadfast ally of Israel. It supports Saudi Arabia and numerous other authoritarian regimes that allow it to establish permanent U.S. military bases on Arab land. It cares more about oil and Israel than it does about the hundreds of millions in the region suffering under repressive regimes and lacking the most basic human securities. These ideas about the American role in Middle East affairs – many of them true – are among those in wide circulation in the region.

Al-Qaida has since 1998 advanced the argument that Muslims need to take up arms against the United States and its allied regimes in the region. Yet al-Qaida’s message largely fell on deaf ears in Yemen for many years. Yes, it did attract some followers, mostly those disappointed to have missed the chance to fight as mujahidin in Afghanistan. But al-Qaida’s narrative of attacking the foreign enemy at home did not resonate widely. The movement remained isolated for many years, garnering only limited sympathy from the local communities in which they sought refuge.

The dual effect of U.S. acceleration in drone strikes since 2010 and of their continued use during the “transitional” period that was intended to usher in more accountable governance has shown Yemenis how consistently their leaders will cede sovereignty and citizens’ security to the United States. While Yemenis may recognize that AQAP does target the United States, the hundreds of drone strikes are viewed as an excessive response. The weak sovereignty of the Yemeni state is then treated as the “problem” that has allowed AQAP to expand, even as state sovereignty has been directly undermined by U.S. policy – both under President Ali Abdullah Salih and during the transition. American “security” is placed above Yemeni security, with Yemeni sovereignty violated repeatedly in service of that cause. Regardless of what those in Washington view as valid and legitimate responses to “terrorist” threats, the reality for Yemenis is that the United States uses drone strikes regularly to run roughshod over Yemeni sovereignty in an effort to stop a handful of attacks — most of them failed — against U.S. targets. The fact that corrupt Yemeni leaders consent to the attacks makes little difference to public opinion. [Continue reading…]


U.S.-trained fighters in Syria gave equipment to al-Qaeda affiliate

The Washington Post reports: American-trained Syrian fighters gave at least a quarter of their U.S.-provided equipment to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria early this week, the U.S. Central Command said late Friday.

In a statement correcting earlier assertions that reports of the turnover were a “lie” and a militant propaganda ploy, the command said it was subsequently notified that the Syrian unit had “surrendered” some of its equipment — including six pickup trucks and a portion of its ammunition — to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria.

The acknowledgment is the latest discouraging report regarding the $500 million train-and-equip program, which Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of Central Command, said last week had only “four or five” trained Syrian fighters active in Syria. Since then, the military has said approximately 70 fighters have been added.

The Centcom statement called the new information on the equipment, “if accurate . . . very concerning and a violation of the Syria train and equip program guidelines.”

It said the equipment had been turned over voluntarily, adding that the New Syrian Force had indicated that on Monday and Tuesday, it “gave” the equipment to a suspected Jabhat al-Nusra “intermediary.” [Continue reading…]


Military analyst again raises red flags on ‘progress’ in Iraq

The New York Times reports: As the war in Iraq deteriorated, a senior American intelligence analyst went public in 2005 and criticized President George W. Bush’s administration for pushing “amateurish and unrealistic” plans for the invasion two years before.

Now that same man, Gregory Hooker, is at the center of an insurrection of United States Central Command intelligence analysts over America’s latest war in Iraq, and whether Congress, policy makers and the public are being given too rosy a picture of the situation.

As the senior Iraq analyst at Central Command, the military headquarters in Tampa that oversees American military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, Mr. Hooker is the leader of a group of analysts that is accusing senior commanders of changing intelligence reports to paint an overly optimistic portrait of the American bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating.

Although the investigation became public weeks ago, the source of the allegations and Mr. Hooker’s role have not been previously known. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials place the dispute directly at the heart of Central Command, with Mr. Hooker and his team in a fight over what Americans should believe about the war. [Continue reading…]


Nick Turse: A secret war in 135 countries

It was an impressive effort: a front-page New York Times story about a “new way of war” with the bylines of six reporters, and two more and a team of researchers cited at the end of the piece. “They have plotted deadly missions from secret bases in the badlands of Somalia. In Afghanistan, they have engaged in combat so intimate that they have emerged soaked in blood that was not their own. On clandestine raids in the dead of the night, their weapons of choice have ranged from customized carbines to primeval tomahawks.” So began the Times investigation of SEAL Team 6, its nonstop missions, its weaponry, its culture, the stresses and strains its “warriors” have experienced in recent years, and even some of the accusations leveled against them. (“Afghan villagers and a British commander accused SEALs of indiscriminately killing men in one hamlet.”)

For all the secrecy surrounding SEAL Team 6, it has been the public face of America’s Special Operations forces and so has garnered massive attention, especially, of course, after some of its members killed Osama bin Laden on a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. It even won a starring role in the Oscar-winning Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty, produced with CIA help, about the tracking down of bin Laden. As a unit, however, SEAL Team 6 is “roughly 300 assault troops, called operators, and 1,500 support personnel”; in other words, more or less a drop in the bucket when it comes to America’s Special Operations forces. And its story, however nonstop and dramatic, is similarly a drop in the bucket when it comes to the flood of special operations actions in these years.

While SEAL Team 6 has received extensive coverage, what could be considered the military story of the twenty-first century, the massive, ongoing expansion of a secret force (functionally the president’s private army) cocooned inside the U.S. military — now at almost 70,000 personnel and growing — has gotten next to none. Keep in mind that such a force is already larger than the active-duty militaries of Australia, Chile, Cuba, Hungary, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and South Africa, among a bevy of other countries. If those 70,000 personnel engaging in operations across the planet — even their most mundane acts enveloped in a blanket of secrecy — have created, as the Times suggests, a new way of war in and out of Washington’s war zones, it has gone largely unreported in the American media.

Thanks to Nick Turse (and Andrew Bacevich), however, TomDispatch has been the exception to this seemingly ironclad rule. Since 2011, when he found special operations units deployed to 120 countries annually, Turse has continued to chart their expanding global role in 2012, 2014, and this year. He has also tried, as today, to assess just how successful this new way of war that melds the soldier and the spy, the counterinsurgent and the guerrilla, the drone assassin and the “man-hunter” has been. Imagine for a moment the resources that the media would apply to such an analogous Russian or Chinese force, if its units covertly trained “friendly” militaries or went into action yearly in at least two-thirds of the countries on the planet. Tom Engelhardt

U.S. special ops forces deployed in 135 nations
2015 proves to be record-breaking year for the military’s secret military
By Nick Turse

You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, they instruct, yell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In many places, more than their particular brand of camouflage, better boots, and designer gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat and gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or third-world bars.

These men — and they are mostly men — belong to an exclusive military fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the nation. Typically, they’ve spent the better part of a decade as more conventional soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen before making the cut. They’ve probably been deployed overseas four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their mid-thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more schooling than most in the military. They’re likely to be married with a couple of kids. And day after day, they carry out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda, Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, Belize to Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most elite troops — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.

[Read more…]


Obama’s ISIS war czar stepping down

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake write: President Barack Obama is about to lose the man he hand-picked to build the war effort against the Islamic State. Retired General John Allen will be stepping down as envoy to the global coalition this fall, and the White House is searching for a replacement to be the face of America’s flailing effort to destroy the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

Allen will leave government service in the coming weeks, four administration officials told us. State Department officials said they were not ready to officially announce Allen’s departure, but he has notified his superiors he will give up his job in early November, after serving just over one year. His chief of staff, Karin von Hippel, will also depart, to join a British think tank.

The timing of Allen’s departure could not be worse for the Obama administration. The incoming Marine Corps Commandant, Lieutenant General Robert Neller, testified last month that the war is at a “stalemate.” Last week, the head of the U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, testified that of the 54 Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. military, only “4 or 5” were still in the fight. And now the Pentagon is investigating allegations by dozens of intelligence analysts that their reporting on the progress in the war effort was altered before being given to top officials.

U.S. officials familiar with Allen’s decision say he has been frustrated with House micromanagement of the war and its failure to provide adequate resources to the fight. He unsuccessfully tried to convince the administration to allow U.S. tactical air control teams to deploy on the ground to help pick targets for air strikes in Iraq. Allen also tried several times to convince the White House to agree to Turkish demands for a civilian protection zone in Syria, to no avail. Nonetheless, administration officials stress that Allen’s decision to leave his post was motivated mainly by the health of his wife, who suffers from an auto-immune disorder. [Continue reading…]


With fight against the ISIS in Iraq stalled, U.S. looks to Syria for gains

The Washington Post reports: With the offensive to reclaim territory from the Islamic State largely stalled in Iraq, the Obama administration is laying plans for a more aggressive military campaign in Syria, where U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have made surprising gains in recent months.

The effort, which would begin by increasing pressure on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, marks an important shift in an administration strategy that for most of the past year has prioritized defeating the militant group in Iraq and viewed Syria as a place where there were few real prospects for battlefield success.

The White House’s top national security officials met last week and will convene again in the next few days to discuss ways to capi­tal­ize on recent and unexpected gains made by Syrian irregular forces. The administration is considering providing arms and ammunition to a wider array of rebel groups in Syria and relaxing vetting standards, effectively deepening America’s involvement in the ongoing civil war.

Such a move could lift some of the restrictions that have slowed the Pentagon’s troubled program to train Syrian fighters in Turkey and other sites outside Syria.

Rather than subjecting rebels to repeated rounds of screening before and during their training, U.S. officials might restrict vetting to unit leaders already in the fight. “The key thing is getting them some [expletive] bullets,” one U.S. official said. [Continue reading…]

Although this report leads by saying “the Obama administration is laying plans,” it sounds more like the military is laying down plans and lobbying by all means — including through the press — to win White House approval. Buried deep in the report is this caveat:

Officials stressed that no decisions have been made and that the White House may continue the current approach in Syria, which includes a mix of airstrikes, direct backing for U.S.-trained rebels and indirect support for other forces.


CENTCOM’s selective vetting of intel on ISIS

The Daily Beast reports: Senior intelligence officials at the U.S. military’s Central Command demanded significant alterations to analysts’ reports that questioned whether airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS were damaging the group’s finances and its ability to launch attacks. But reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny, The Daily Beast has learned.

Senior CENTCOM intelligence officials who reviewed the critical reports sent them back to the analysts and ordered them to write new versions that included more footnotes and details to support their assessments, according to two officials familiar with a complaint levied by more than 50 analysts about intelligence manipulation by CENTCOM higher-ups.

In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations. [Continue reading…]


How the rise of America’s massive military welfare state led to the decline of the civilian welfare state

Jennifer Mittelstadt writes: Over the past four decades in the United States, as the country has slashed its welfare state and employers gutted traditional job benefits, growing numbers of people, especially from the working class, grasped for a new safety net – the military. Everyone recognises that the US armed forces have become a global colossus. But few know that, along with bases and bombs, the US military constructed its own massive welfare state. In the waning decades of the 20th century, with US prosperity in decline, more than 10 million active‑duty personnel and their tens of millions of family members turned to the military for economic and social security.

The military welfare state is hidden in plain sight, its welfare function camouflaged by its war-making auspices. Only the richest Americans could hope to access a more systematic welfare network. Military social welfare features a web of near-universal coverage for soldiers and their families – housing, healthcare, childcare, family counselling, legal assistance, education benefits, and more. The programmes constitute a multi-billion-dollar-per-year safety net, at times accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the Department of Defense budget (DoD). Their real costs spread over several divisions of the defence budget creating a system so vast that the DoD acknowledged it could not accurately reckon its total expense.

Most Americans would not imagine that the military welfare state has anything to do with them. After all, in the era since the end of the draft and the advent of the all-volunteer force, military service has become the province of the few: just 0.5 per cent of Americans now serve in the armed forces.

But the history of the military welfare state tells us a great deal about citizenship and welfare. Its rise correlated with and, in some instances, caused the decline of the civilian welfare state, creating a diverging and unequal set of entitlements. And the recent transformation of the military welfare state – a massive privatisation and outsourcing – signals an even more dangerous future for the civilian welfare state. [Continue reading…]


U.S. soldiers told to ignore Afghan allies’ abuse of boys

The New York Times reports: In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.

“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records. [Continue reading…]


Only ‘four or five’ U.S.-trained Syrian rebels still fighting

The Washington Post reports: The Obama administration is moving toward major changes in its military train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition after the acknowledged failure of efforts to create a new force of rebel fighters to combat the Islamic State there.

In comments that appeared to shock even many of those involved in Syria policy elsewhere in the government, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress on Wednesday that only “four or five” trainees from the program, a $500 million plan officially launched in December to prepare as many as 5,400 fighters this year, have ended up “in the fight” inside Syria.

The course correction would mark the first significant alteration in the Obama administration’s year-old strategy of defeating the militants with air power, along with training and supplies for indigenous forces fighting them on the ground. It comes as critics have drawn a direct line between Obama’s long-standing reluctance to more directly intervene in the fight and the growing flood of Syrian refugees fleeing to the West. [Continue reading…]


Intelligence chief: Iraq and Syria may not survive as states

The Associated Press reports: Iraq and Syria may have been permanently torn asunder by war and sectarian tensions, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said Thursday in a frank assessment that is at odds with Obama administration policy.

“I’m having a tough time seeing it come back together,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told an industry conference, speaking of Iraq and Syria, both of which have seen large chunks territory seized by the Islamic State.

On Iraq, Stewart said he is “wrestling with the idea that the Kurds will come back to a central government of Iraq,” suggesting he believed it was unlikely. On Syria, he added: “I can see a time in the future where Syria is fractured into two or three parts.”

That is not the U.S. goal, he said, but it’s looking increasingly likely. [Continue reading…]


David Vine: Our base nation

It’s not that I knew nothing about U.S. military bases before I met Chalmers Johnson. In certain ways, my idea of the good life had been strongly shaped by such a base.  Admittedly, it wasn’t in Germany or Japan or South Korea or some other distant land, but on Governor’s Island, an Army base just off the southern tip of New York City.  In the 1950s, my father ran a gas station there. On Saturday mornings, I would often accompany him to work on a ferry from downtown Manhattan and spend a dreamy suburban-style day there amid zipping Jeeps and marching troops and military kids, playing ball, wandering freely, catching cowboy or war flicks at the island’s only movie house, and imagining that this was the best of all possible worlds.  And yet between that moment and the moment in September 1998 when Johnson’s proposal for a book to be called Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire fell into my editorial hands, I probably never gave our country’s bases another thought.

In that, I was like millions of Americans who, as soldiers or civilians, had cycled through such bases at home and around the world and never considered them again. And we were hardly alone when it came to the hundreds and hundreds of foreign garrisons that made up what Johnson termed our “empire of bases.” Historians, political scientists, and journalists, among many others, paid them little mind. Our overseas garrisons were seldom discussed or debated or covered in the media in any significant way. No one in Congress challenged their existence.  No president gave a speech about them. Though I hesitate to use the term, there was something like a conspiracy of silence around them — or perhaps a sense of discomfort that they even existed led everyone to act as if they didn’t. And yet they were the face of this country to significant parts of the world. In their profusion and their reach, they represented a staggering reality for which there was no historical precedent. Billions and billions of dollars poured into them. Hundreds of thousands of troops and their dependents were stationed on them. It should have told us all something that they were quite so unremarked upon, but until Johnson came along, they were, in essence, not so much our little secret as a secret we kept even from ourselves. As he wrote with a certain wonder in the second book in his Blowback Trilogy, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, “The landscape of this military empire is as unfamiliar and fantastic to most Americans today as Tibet or Timbuktu were to nineteenth-century Europeans.”

Johnson broke the silence around them — repeatedly. And yet, in an era in which such bases, still being built, have played a crucial role in our various wars, conflicts, bombing and drone assassination campaigns, and other interventions in the Greater Middle East, they remain a barely acknowledged aspect of American life. Why this is so should be considered both a curiosity and a mystery. Is it that a genuine acknowledgement of the existence of a vast network of global garrisons would lead to uncomfortable conclusions about the imperial nature of this country? I’m not sure myself. That they remain largely surrounded by an accepted and acceptable silence, however, continues to be an American reality.

Thank heavens, then, that, almost five years after Chalmers Johnson’s death, TomDispatch regular David Vine has produced a groundbreaking new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, which should once again bring that empire of bases back into the national discussion. Today, Vine offers an overview of what it means for this country to continue to garrison the planet 24/7. Tom Engelhardt

Garrisoning the globe
How U.S. military bases abroad undermine national security and harm us all
By David Vine

With the U.S. military having withdrawn many of its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans would be forgiven for being unaware that hundreds of U.S. bases and hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops still encircle the globe. Although few know it, the United States garrisons the planet unlike any country in history, and the evidence is on view from Honduras to Oman, Japan to Germany, Singapore to Djibouti.

Like most Americans, for most of my life, I rarely thought about military bases. Scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson described me well when he wrote in 2004, “As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.”

To the extent that Americans think about these bases at all, we generally assume they’re essential to national security and global peace. Our leaders have claimed as much since most of them were established during World War II and the early days of the Cold War. As a result, we consider the situation normal and accept that U.S. military installations exist in staggering numbers in other countries, on other peoples’ land. On the other hand, the idea that there would be foreign bases on U.S. soil is unthinkable.

[Read more…]


U.S. spy chief’s ‘highly unusual’ reported contact with military official raises concerns

The Guardian reports: Barack Obama’s intelligence chief is said to be in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against the Islamic State, the Guardian has learned.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is said to talk nearly every day with the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, Army Major General Steven Grove – “which is highly, highly unusual”, according to a former intelligence official.

Grove is said to be implicated in a Pentagon inquiry into manipulated war intelligence. [Continue reading…]


Senators investigating ‘revolt’ by U.S. military analysts over ISIS intelligence

The Daily Beast reports: Leading Congressmen from both parties said Thursday that they’re investigating allegations that intelligence on ISIS was being skewed to match the Obama’s administration’s rosy depictions of the war against the terror group.

The news comes less than a day after The Daily Beast revealed that more than 50 analysts with the U.S. military’s Central Command formally complained that higher-ups were improperly interfering with ISIS intelligence reports. Top d efense and intelligence officials also said they’re looking into the accusations.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. John McCain, told The Daily Beast, “We’re investigating… Our committee is looking at it, we have jurisdiction and oversight.” [Continue reading…]

The Hill reports: Defense Secretary Ash Carter has asked his under secretary of defense for intelligence to make clear to military officials that the Pentagon chief expects “unvarnished, transparent” intelligence, the Pentagon announced Thursday. [Continue reading…]


U.S. will soon have over 700 troops facing ISIS in Sinai

The Washington Post reports: The Pentagon will boost the number of troops it deploys to Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, sending a light infantry platoon, surgical teams, and others as it faces an increasing Islamic State militant threat there.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook disclosed the plan Thursday, saying about 75 more U.S. service members will deploy. The plan will increase the number of U.S. troops there to more than 700, and comes following two Sept. 4 attacks on the northern part of the peninsula that wounded four soldiers from the United States and two from Fiji with improvised explosive devices.

The Defense Department was considering altering the U.S. military presence on the Sinai Peninsula before the attacks, in light of the increase in attacks there this year by the Islamic State. Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed in a few of them. [Continue reading…]


American paranoia and govt. red tape creates multiple barriers for Syrian refugees

Olivia Goldhill writes: [O]nce the US agrees, in theory, to resettle a refugee, authorities then begin a laborious vetting process that can take up to two years, a State Department spokesman told Voice of America.

The refugees, who have already been vetted by the UN, must then be screened by US authorities — involving the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and Homeland Security officers, former State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in February.

Syrians who have been approved for resettlement are often survivors of torture, female-led families without protection, and unaccompanied minors. They can be in danger throughout the vetting process, and delays are common, Daryl Grisgraber, senior advocate for the Middle East and North Africa at Refugees International, tells Quartz.

“Once the person is cleared medically, that medical clearance may even expire while the security check is happening,” she says from Washington. “There’s a whole cycle that makes the process quite slow.”

Syrian refugees face particularly long delays because of anxieties about terrorism in the Middle East. But excessive fears can make the resettlement process redundant. The US does not accept refugees who have given “material support” to armed groups, but this has previously been used to block people for the slightest excuse — a Burundi refugee was detained for 20 months because armed rebels robbed him of $4 and his lunch. The immigration judge decided this counted as “material support.” [Continue reading…]