Several countries told the US its policies on justice for military sexual assault victims weren’t good enough.
Mother Jones, By Jenna McLaughlin, May 14
The US military has a problem with sexual violence. That’s the conclusion of the Universal Periodic Review Panel, a UN panel that aims to address the human rights records of the 193 UN member states. This is the second time that the panel has scrutinized the United States; the first was in 2010, when the list of concerns included detention in Guantanamo Bay, torture, the death penalty, and access to health care. Its latest report came out Monday morning, and there was a surprising addition to the predictable laundry list of US human rights violations.
In one of 12 final recommendations, the UN Council urged the US military “to prevent sexual violence in the military and ensure effective prosecution of offenders and redress for victims.” Other recommendations included stopping the militarization of police forces, closing Guantanamo Bay, ending the death penalty, and stopping NSA surveillance of citizens.
Al Jazeera: US cited for police violence, racism in scathing UN review on human rights
McClatchy, By Mitchell Prothero, May 15
Irbil – The Islamic State on Friday took control of the provincial government center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, and appeared to be in control of most of the city in a major defeat for the Iraqi government.
Islamic State forces also appeared to be closing in on government positions in two other key locations in Anbar province, the towns of Baghdadi and Karmah, in a broad offensive that if successful would end the government presence in all of the province’s major population centers. The capture of Baghdadi also would cut the supply lines to the Iraqi garrison protecting the strategic Haditha Dam.
U.S. officials offered conflicting views of the events, with the State Department and the Pentagon at first downplaying the significance of what had taken place. But a later statement from the White House made clear that the situation was urgent and that the United States was rushing shipments of heavy weapons, ammunition and supplies to Iraq to deal with the Islamic State advance.
The new weapons shipments will include an unspecified number of shoulder-fired rockets especially useful in blasting car bombs, which the Islamic State used particularly effectively in its Ramadi offensive.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/05/15/266798/islamic-state-takes-ramadi-government.html#storylink=cpy
AFP, By Don De Luce, May 16
Washington – US military scientists have invented a miniature drone that fits in the palm of a hand, ready to be dropped from the sky like a mobile phone with wings.
The “micro air vehicle” is named after the insect that inspired its invention, the Cicada, which spends years underground before appearing in great swarms, reproducing and then dropping to the ground dead.
“The idea was why can’t we make UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that have the same sort of profile,” Aaron Kahn of the Naval Research Laboratory told AFP.
“We will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up.”
RT, May 11
Around 20 vessels representing nine NATO member states have begun the Baltic Fortress 2015 exercises, taking place off the Lithuanian Baltic Sea coast.
Warships from Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the UK are participating in the exercises, accompanied by a Lithuanian Navy submarine unit and two airplanes from the country’s Air Force.
NATO’s ground forces are also currently involved in two exercises in the Baltic States.
Up to 3,000 Lithuanian troops are taking part in the Zaibo Kirtis (Lightning Strike) drills, aimed at perfecting joint action by the army and civilian authorities against so-called hybrid threats combining both military and non-military methods of fighting.
Estonia is also holding its largest-ever military exercises – Siil (Hedgehog) 2015, involving 13,000 personnel.
The war games, scheduled to conclude on May 15, also include forces from the US, the UK, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands.
Since Russia’s reunion with the Crimea and the start of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine last spring, NATO forces have stepped up military exercises along the Russian border – in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.
CBS/AP, April 30
A Senior Defense Department official confirms to CBS News that U.S. Naval forces have begun accompanying American-flagged maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.
The move is in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior in the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week Iranian naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, and detained it and its crew. Iranian officials say the Maersk shipping line owes it money.
Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the Strait Friday.
“We’ve taken this step to prevent harassment or possible interdiction by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces,” the official told CBS News.
The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them. The officials said the Navy won’t escort these ships but will let them know in advance that they will monitor the situation as they transit the narrow Strait from the Gulf toward the Arabian Sea.
The Baltimore Sun, By Ian Duncan, April 23
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter will lay out the military’s new strategy for fighting battles over computer networks Thursday, today, officials said, revealing what analysts say appears be a tougher, more offensive approach to cyber warfare.
It’s the first major update to the Pentagon’s cyber strategy in four years, a period during which American businesses have suffered major attacks, including the assault late last year on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The document, to be unveiled as Carter delivers a speech at Stanford University, includes descriptions of ways the military can use computers in all stages of a conflict, according to a summary provided by defense officials Wednesday — a sign that the department is opening up about its offensive capabilities.
Arrival of 300 US Army soldiers to train Ukraine’s national guard sparks warnings by Russia of escalation in conflict.
Al Jazeera, April 18
About 300 US Army paratroopers have arrived in Ukraine for training exercises with national guard units – a move that Moscow and eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatist rebels have warned will escalate the conflict.
The troops, from the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, are to spend six months training a total of about 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen.
Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, denounced the guardsmen as “ultranationalists … who stained themselves with the blood of women, children and the elderly during their punitive operations”.
Although Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had said the guardsman units could include the Azov Battalion, a far-right formation notorious for using an insignia used by many military units in Nazi Germany, US Embassy spokesman James Hallock said Azov fighters would not be among those trained.
Counterpunch, By William D. Hartung, April 3-5
With the end of the Obama presidency just around the corner, discussions of his administration’s foreign policy legacy are already well under way. But one central element of that policy has received little attention: the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons exports.
The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.
The Nation, By William Greider, March 20
While the Washington press corps obsessed over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails at the State Department, reporters were missing a far more important story about government secrets. After five decades of pretending otherwise, the Pentagon has reluctantly confirmed that Israel does indeed possess nuclear bombs, as well as awesome weapons technology similar to America’s.
Early last month the Department of Defense released a secret report done in 1987 by the Pentagon-funded Institute for Defense Analysis that essentially confirms the existence of Israel’s nukes. DOD was responding to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Grant Smith, an investigative reporter and author who heads the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy. Smith said he thinks this is the first time the US government has ever provided official recognition of the long-standing reality.
It’s not exactly news. Policy elites and every president from LBJ to Obama have known that Israel has the bomb. But American authorities have cooperated in the secrecy and prohibited federal employees from sharing the truth with the people. When the White House reporter Helen Thomas asked the question of Barack Obama back in 2009, the president ducked. “With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don’t want to speculate,” Obama said. That was an awkward fib. Obama certainly knows better, and so do nearly two-thirds of the American people, according to opinion polls.
The last remaining US troops have left Yemen as Sunni and Shia forces wage an increasingly lethal battle.
The Telegraph, By Harriet Alexander, March 21
America withdrew its remaining 100 special forces troops from Yemen on Saturday, in a sign of the rapid unravelling of the country – which on Friday was hit by one of its worst ever terrorist attacks.
The US soldiers left their base near Al-Houta, after al-Qaeda seized the city.
The US commandos, including Green Berets and Navy Seals, have been training Yemeni military forces in counterterrorism operations, but the Americans have not been involved in direct ground combat maneuvers against militants.
Sources told NBC News that the US Special Operations Forces have been based in remote areas of Yemen and considered relatively secure from enemy threats. But one source said that with this week’s deadly surge in sectarian violence, evacuating American commandos makes sense.
Vice News, By Jason Leopold, March 19
Thirteen years ago, the intelligence community concluded in a 93-page classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq that it lacked “specific information” on “many key aspects” of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.
But that’s not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.
RT, March 15
The White House has dropped plans to slash the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan to 5,500 this year, AP reported. Official sources claim the withdrawal is likely to be much slower and have 9,800 US troops remain in Afghanistan well into 2016.
The report, citing unnamed officials, states that no final decision has been made, but discussions are ongoing about keeping US troops in Afghanistan or nearby even after 2016.
It is believed that US President Barack Obama will use Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit later this month as an opportunity to announce a new withdrawal deadline. In the past, Ghani made clear he wanted the pace of US withdrawal to be slower.
US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC said the US would deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian national guard.
Sputnik News, March 3
Washington – The United States will deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian national guard, US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Colonel Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC on Monday.
“Before this week is up, we’ll be deploying a battalion minus… to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces for the fight that’s taking place,” Foster stated. “What we’ve got laid out is six United States companies that will be training six Ukrainian companies throughout the summer.”
The training will take place at the level of US and Ukrainian national guard companies, Foster explained, adding that “we have nothing above battalion staff level” engaged in the military training.
The current plan is for US forces to stay six months, he said, and noted there have been discussions about how to increase the duration and the scope of the training mission.
A new set of search tools called Memex, developed by DARPA, peers into the “deep Web” to reveal illegal activity.
Scientific American, By Larry Greenemeier, February 8
In November 2012 a 28-year-old woman plunged 15 meters from a bedroom window to the pavement in New York City, a devastating fall that left her body broken but alive. The accident was an act of both desperation and hope—the woman had climbed out of the sixth-floor window to escape a group of men who had been sexually abusing her and holding her captive for two days.
Four months ago the New York County District Attorney’s Office sent Benjamin Gaston, one of the men responsible for the woman’s ordeal, to prison for 50-years-to-life. A key weapon in the prosecutor’s arsenal, according to the NYDA’s Office: an experimental set of Internet search tools the U.S. Department of Defense is developing to help catch and lock up human traffickers.
Reuters, By David Alexander & Andrea Shalal, February 2
Facing new security challenges in the Middle East and Ukraine, the Obama administration on Monday proposed a $534 billion Pentagon base budget plus $51 billion in war funds as it urged Congress to end spending cuts which it says erode U.S. military power.
In addition to the base budget and war funding requests, the administration proposed some $27 billion in defense spending at other agencies, primarily nuclear weapons work by the Department of Energy.
The Pentagon base budget proposal broke through the $499 billion federal spending cap for fiscal year 2016, setting up a debate in Congress over whether to continue deep cuts to federal discretionary spending or to amend the limits set in a 2011 law that sought to narrow the U.S. budget deficit.
“The geopolitical events of the past year only reinforce the need to resource DoD (Department of Defense) at the president’s requested funding level as opposed to current law,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
AFP: U.S. commander lifts secrecy on aid to Afghan army