Category - Defense & Military

Human Traffickers Caught on Hidden Internet

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.
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Obama proposes $51 billion in war funds

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

Mapping the Blind Spots: Developer Unearths Secret U.S. Military Bases

Mashable, By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, December 13, 2013

If you look closely enough on Google or Bing Maps, some places are blanked out, hidden from public view. Many of those places disguise secret or sensitive American military facilities.

The United States military has a foothold in every corner of the world, with military bases on every continent. It’s not even clear how many there are out there. The Pentagon says there are around 5,000 in total, and 598 in foreign countries, but those numbers are disputed by the media.

But how do these facilities look from above? To answer that question, you first need to locate the bases. Which, as it turns out, is relatively easy.

That’s what Josh Begley, a data artist, found out when he embarked on a project to map all known U.S. military bases around the world, collect satellite pictures of them using Google Maps and Bing Maps, and display them all online.

How the CIA made Google

Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet—

Medium, By Nafeez Ahmed, January 22

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’
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New Year bomb attack on ISIS: America launches TWENTY NINE air strikes over Syria and Iraq in blitz against extremists

  • In total 17 bombs were dropped on Syria and another 12 on Iraq targets.
  • Raids destroyed vehicles, buildings and units belonging to Islamic State.
  • Onslaught brings number of strikes since Christmas to more than 100.

Daily Mail, By Chris Pleasance, January 1

U.S. and Arab war planes launched 29 air strikes against Islamic State fighters and buildings across both Iraq and Syria overnight, according to military chiefs.

Syrian targets included he Islamic State’s defacto capital of Raqqa, and Kobane where Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG forces have been involved in street battles with extremists for months.

The city of Dayr az Zawr, which contains 600,000 people and is the largest in Syria’s east was also among the cities hit.

In Iraq targets were hit around the town of Mosul, which contains an important dam, Fallujah, which is located just to the east of Baghdad, and Sinjar, which thousands of Yazidis were forced to flee after ISIS fighters took the town earlier this year.

[…]

The latest round of bombings against ISIS targets in the Middle east takes the number of strikes since Christmas above 100, as the U.S.-led coalition attempts to weaken the radical group.

[…]

The news came as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that the death toll from the four-year civil war topped 76,000 in the last year alone.

An estimated 17,790 were civilians, including 3,501 children, making it the deadliest year of the war.

US air strike ‘targets al-Shabab leader’

Pentagon says Washington has carried out an air strike against a senior leader of armed group in Saacow in Somalia.

Al Jazeera, December 30

The United States has launched an air strike targeting a senior leader of Somalia’s al-Shabab group, the Pentagon has said.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the raid on Monday hit a target in Saacow, in sourthern Somalia, shortly after the armed group’s intelligence chief surrendered to government and African Union forces.

“At this time, we do not assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties,” Kirby said.

A senior Pentagon official confirmed that the US was targeting Abdishakur Tahlil. US officials identified Tahlil as the chief of intelligence for the al-Shabaab.

BBC: US strike in Somalia ‘killed al-Shabab intelligence chief’
BBC: Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab?

U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan

AP, December 28

Kabul, Afghanistan – The United States and NATO formally ended their war in Afghanistan on Sunday with a ceremony at their military headquarters in Kabul as the insurgency they fought for 13 years remains as ferocious and deadly as at any time since the 2001 invasion that unseated the Taliban regime following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The symbolic ceremony marked the end of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, which will transition to a supporting role with 13,500 soldiers, most of them American, starting Jan. 1.

Gen. John Campbell, commander of ISAF, rolled up and sheathed the green and white ISAF flag and unfurled the flag of the new international mission, called Resolute Support.

“Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership” between NATO and Afghanistan, Campbell told an audience of Afghan and international military officers and officials, as well as diplomats and journalists.

2003 CIA cable casts doubt on claim linking Iraq to 9/11

CNN, By Gabe LaMonica, December 12

A recently released CIA cable casts heavy doubt on a key claim used by the Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

It discounts intelligence that said Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 ringleaders, met with an Iraqi official in the Czech Republic a few months before the attacks.

The Bush administration — which maintained that Atta had met with Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian in Prague in April 2001 — had used the report to link the September 11 attacks to Iraq.

CIA Director John Brennan included a portion of the cable in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan. Levin, the retiring chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the letter public on Thursday.
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France: ‘Major’ anti-ISIS raid taking place in Iraq

AFP, December 5

France said Friday its fighter jets were conducting a “major” raid in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition offensive against the Islamic State group, days after members said the strikes were having effect.

“At the moment, a major raid is taking place,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFMTV, refusing to detail the targets or the number of jets involved.

He said French planes based in the United Arab Emirates and more recently in Jordan had carried out “120 to 130 missions” since the start of the coalition offensive.

These include intelligence gathering missions. Compared to the United States, France has carried out only a handful of strikes on the militants.

Hagel Stepping Down as Defense Chief Under Pressure

New York Times, By Helene Cooper, November 24

Washington – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises…

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

Related, Andrew Bacevich on the Middle East: Five Bedrock Washington Assumptions That Perpetuate Our Middle East Policy Train Wreck.

Fence-mending in Turkey, Biden commits to ‘transition’ in Syria

McClatchy, By Roy Gutman, November 22

Istanbul — Vice President Joe Biden assured Turkey Saturday that the U.S. plans to strengthen Syrian rebels and ensure a political transition “away from the Assad regime,” but he stopped short of committing to regime change in Damascus demanded by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On a fence-mending trip to a critical but reluctant ally in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic extremists, Biden appeared to edge slightly closer to Turkey’s position, but not enough to clarify the central ambiguity in U.S. policy.

“On Syria, we discussed…not only to deny ISIL a safe haven and roll back and defeat them, but also strengthen the Syrian opposition and ensure a transition away from the Assad regime,” Biden told reporters after four hours of talks with Erdogan. ISIL is an alternative name for the Islamic State.

Prior to the meeting, a Turkish official said Ankara sought “a much more comprehensive approach” than Washington to the crisis in Syria and Iraq. He spoke after a long dinner Friday night between Biden and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Group: Death toll of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria tops 900

CNN, By Salma Abdelaziz & Mariano Castillo, November 23

In the two months since the United States and coalition allies first launched airstrikes against ISIS targets inside of Syria, the missions have killed more than 900 people, nearly all militants, a monitoring group said Saturday.

But 52 civilians, including eight children and five women, are among those who have been killed in the coalition airstrikes inside Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The London-based organization is aligned with the Syrian opposition.


US air strikes in Syria driving anti-Assad groups to support Isis

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and several Islamic military groups say Isis is gaining allies or truces due to US bombings

The Guardian, By Mona Mahmood, November 23

US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.

Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.

“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.

In a Shift, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat

New York Times, By Mark Mazzetti & Eric Schmitt, November 21

Washington — President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.

Dempsey Weighs Frontline Role for U.S. Troops in Iraq

Bloomberg, By Sangwon Yoon, November 13

President Barack Obama’s top military adviser said more U.S. troops may be needed in Iraq for a “long and difficult” fight against Islamic State, as military planners assess the shortcomings of Iraqi forces.

Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers yesterday that more complex operations in Iraq, such as efforts to retake Mosul or secure the Syrian border, may require deploying a limited number of additional American military advisers in action with Iraqi soldiers.

“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” Dempsey said at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

His testimony reflects a debate between some military and intelligence officers and civilians and White House officials following Obama’s pledge to end the U.S. war in Iraq. Analysts such as Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, say it’s “far from clear” whether Obama’s current cap of 3,100 U.S. troops in Iraq will “come close to meeting the need.”