Posts Tagged ‘drones’

Philippine Air Force gets 6 ScanEagle UAVs from US

March 13, 2018
By: – Reporter / @FMangosingINQ
 / 01:34 PM March 13, 2018

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim oversees the turnover of six ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) units to the Phlippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. (Philippine Daily Inquirer/Lyn Rillon)

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has acquired from the United States six ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), a first in the history of the Philippine military.

The six UAVs were obtained through a foreign military financing grant from the US in the amount of approximately $13.76 million.

PAF chief. Lt. Gen. Galileo Kintanar said the acquisition of this asset marks a milestone in the history of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana led the formal acceptance, turnover, and blessing ceremony at the Villamor Air Base in
Pasay City on Tuesday.

The units would later be handed over to the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, according to PAF Spokesperson Maj. Aristides Galang.

Officials said these drone systems would be used in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions — a big boost to the internal security operations, counterterrorism, and territorial defense operations of the military.

“This acquisition of ScanEagle is one way to deter to those who want to wage war in the country

The latest acquisition is also a sign of “goodwill, deep friendship, and genuine commitment to peace” of the US and Philippines, Lorenzana added.

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Taliban pour cold water on invitation to Afghan peace talks — “Your view [is] that we talk to them [the U.S.] and accept their legitimacy is the same formula adopted by America to win the war.”

March 1, 2018

Above, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani talks at the second Kabul Process conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on February 28. Ghani offered a conditional plan for peace talks with the Taliban, including the recognition of the militants as a political group. (AFP)
KABUL: The Taliban on Thursday issued a cool response to proposals that they should begin peace talks with the Afghan government, a day after President Ashraf Ghani offered a pact to recognize the insurgents as a legitimate party in negotiations.
The movement has not yet given any formal answer to Ghani’s invitation, made at a conference of officials from countries in the so-called Kabul Process aimed at creating a platform for talks to end more than 16 years of war.
But its chief spokesman did reply to an “Open Letter” published this week in the New Yorker magazine by Barnett Rubin, a respected commentator on Afghan politics, who urged the Taliban to accept talks with the Kabul government.
“Our country has been occupied, which has led to an American-style supposed Afghan government being imposed upon us,” the Taliban response said.
“And your view that we talk to them and accept their legitimacy is the same formula adopted by America to win the war,” it said, adding that the Kabul Process was simply aimed at seeking the “surrender” of the Taliban.
The comments come a month after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in which an ambulance packed with explosives blew up in Kabul, killing around 100 people, in the worst attack seen in months.
As part of its new regional strategy announced last year, the US has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military and greatly increased air strikes against the Taliban, in a bid to break the stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.
However, Taliban fighters control large parts of the country, the Kabul government itself is deeply divided and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians are being killed every year.
The Taliban have themselves twice offered to talk to the US in recent weeks, but have ruled out talks with the Kabul government, a key sticking point that must be resolved before any talks can start.
While the international community sees Ghani’s administration as the sole legitimate government of Afghanistan, the Taliban see it as an artificial, foreign-imposed regime that does not represent the Afghan people.
The Taliban statement said the movement was “sincerely committed” to meeting international concerns over Afghanistan being used as a base for terrorist attacks and had no wish for conflict with the US or other powers.
“The crux of the matter is, what is the vital concern of America, is it really terrorism?” it said.
“Or is it extracting the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, imposing a self-styled government, preventing establishment of an Islamic system and pursuing imperial ambitions in the region from this land?”
“In such circumstances, we do not care about America, neither do we want to talk, nor end resistance, nor will we get tired,” it said.

Now That Ashraf Ghani Has Recognized the Taliban — Afghan peace talks a difficult proposition — More fighting and bloodshed still likely

March 1, 2018



Though the Afghan government has offered unconditional peace talks to the Afghan Taliban in the past, President Ashraf Ghani was more specific with this week’s announcement as he mentioned a number of steps Kabul would take once prospective negotiations begin and a ceasefire is announced.

The Afghan president unveiled his government’s strategy for peace at a conference in Kabul attended by officials from 25 countries and the heads of international organizations. This was the second “Kabul Process” regional peace conference aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.


Image result for Ashraf Ghani, photos

The Taliban has in the past rejected every peace overture by the Afghan government, arguing that it was powerless to take decisions. Instead, the Taliban offered to talk directly to the US, with the latest offer made about two weeks ago through a letter addressed to the American people. In the Taliban’s view, the Americans are the power behind the Afghan government and talks should be held with them rather than the Afghans, who are heavily dependent on Washington for staying in power.

Ghani’s new peace bid is at odds with US President Donald Trump, who recently said this is not the time to hold peace talks with the Taliban. However, one would like to believe that Ghani consulted the US before making his offer.

As Ghani’s new offer of talks is elaborate and not vague like in the past, the Taliban could give it a closer look. Still, it seems unlikely the group will unconditionally agree to accept the offer and enter into dialogue with Kabul at this stage.

The specifics in the Afghan president’s offer include recognizing the Taliban as a political party once it comes to the negotiating table and announces a ceasefire. He also offered security to Taliban families and to facilitate the release of Taliban prisoners and remove their names from the UN Security Council’s black-list after establishing a legal framework for this purpose. Ghani also repeated an earlier offer to open an office for the Taliban either in Kabul or elsewhere in Afghanistan for holding peace talks, although he didn’t rule out meetings in other countries.

The trust-building measures proposed by Ghani included prisoner swaps, issuing passports to Taliban members to undertake visits, and facilitating their access to the Taliban office and media. He also offered to consult the Taliban on launching major economic development projects in Afghanistan and on governance issues.

As President Ghani’s new offer is not vague like in the past, the Taliban could give it a closer look, but it seems unlikely the group will unconditionally agree to enter into dialogue at this stage.

Rahimullah Yusufzai

Though Ghani argued that he has made no pre-conditions for peace talks with the Taliban, his offer isn’t open-ended, as the Taliban would need to recognize the Afghan government and respect the rule of law before the steps mentioned by the president are put into practice. This ensures there will have to be some give-and-take to make things happen.

As if he was trying to offer legitimacy to the Taliban in the hope of tempting them to join the peace process, Ghani argued that the decision to bring peace and stability was in the group’s hands and they could join the government for the reconstruction of war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Not unexpectedly, Ghani made no mention of the presence of the nearly 20,000 US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan, even though their withdrawal has always been the Taliban’s main demand. In fact, this is the major hurdle in persuading the Taliban to agree to the peace talks. The one constant the Taliban has demanded is the pull-out of foreign forces. This is obviously unacceptable to the US and its allies, particularly the Afghan government, which desperately needs international support, both military and economic, to survive and run the country.

Though the Taliban has suffered heavy casualties — largely from the intense airstrikes undertaken by US jet fighters, gunship helicopters and drones since Trump’s announcement of his new, military-focused Afghanistan and South Asia policy last August — the stalemate on the battlefield hasn’t changed. There is no evidence yet that Taliban recruitment and the group’s commitment to fight has declined and, until that happens, bringing them to the table for talks remains a difficult proposition.

The timing of Ghani’s offer of talks is important, as winter is on the way out in Afghanistan and soon the Taliban will be preparing to launch its annual spring military offensive. There is a window of opportunity as the warmer weather in Afghanistan has, over the past three decades-plus, been known as the traditional fighting season. That would mean more fighting and bloodshed and less chance of peace.

• Rahimullah Yusufzai is a senior political and security analyst in Pakistan. He was the first to interview Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar and twice interviewed Osama Bin Laden in 1998. Twitter: @rahimyusufzai1



Clashes leave 27 dead as Yemen troops target Al-Qaeda

February 18, 2018


© AFP/File | A Yemeni fighter loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni president stands next to an army Toyota pickup truck in 2017

ADEN (AFP) – Eight soldiers and 19 suspected members of Al-Qaeda were killed in Yemen on Sunday, as the army launched an offensive against key outposts of the extremists, a military official said.General Faraj al-Bahsani, governor of Hadramawt province, told AFP the army had taken control of the Mesini Valley west of Mukalla, a central site for Al-Qaeda in southeast of the country.

Mukalla was the most populated Yemeni city under direct Al-Qaeda control from 2015 to 2016, when the army and its regional military allies seized control of the port city.

Special forces trained by the United Arab Emirates — a key member of a Saudi-led alliance fighting alongside Yemen’s government forces — over the weekend launched the offensive, codenamed “Al-Faisal”, against Al-Qaeda cells in oil-rich Hadramawt province.

Two soldiers were killed on Saturday in the offensive, which targets the Mesini and Amed Valleys — both in the vast province of Hadramawt and home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The two valleys are critical to control over Yemen’s southeastern coastline.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government’s fight against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Radical groups, including AQAP and the Islamic State group, have flourished in the chaos of the war, regularly launching attacks on government and military targets.

The United States, the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen, has ramped up a long-running campaign against AQAP since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.


Trump warns UN diplomats of Iran-Houthi weapons — Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chided the Trump administration for spreading “fake news”

January 30, 2018


Metal debris at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. US officials say it is from arms that Iran provided to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. (US Mission to the UN)

Metal debris at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. US officials say it is from arms that Iran provided to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. (US Mission to the UN)

Metal debris at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. US officials say it is from arms that Iran provided to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. (US Mission to the UN)

NEW YORK: United States President Donald Trump urged UN Security Council envoys to clamp down on Iranian aggression on Monday after they were shown what US officials say are debris from an Iranian-built missile fired at Saudi Arabia.

Trump dined with diplomats from the UN’s decision-making body at the White House after they toured Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington to see the twisted metal fragments from a weapon that Tehran allegedly provided to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The billionaire said the 15-nation body has “much work” on its agenda, including “countering Iran’s destabilization activities” in the region as he seeks to tighten a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the US and other world powers.

He mentioned the “display of Iranian missiles and arms that the regime has transferred to its militant allies in Yemen” that envoys saw earlier on a tour, escorted by Washington’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley.

“We believe what the Council saw today makes it clear that the evidence continues to grow that Iran is blatantly ignoring its international obligations,” Haley said.

“Iran’s aggression is a threat not just to its neighbors, but to the entire world – it cannot get away with this lawless behavior any longer. We will continue to call out Iran’s actions every chance we can until they change course and abide by their commitments.”

US officials say the wreckage displayed at the 905-acre military base comes from an Iran-made short-range ballistic missile provided to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who fired it at an international airport near Riyadh in November.

The missile was shot down and caused no casualties. Iran denies arming the Houthis.
UN Security Council investigators reported this month that Iran had violated UN sanctions on Yemen because “it failed to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles and other gear to the Houthis.

The independent experts said they had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were introduced into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo”.

On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chided the Trump administration for spreading “fake news” about Tehran’s activities in Yemen.

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

US-Iran relations have worsened under Trump, who threatens to leave the nuclear deal unless it is rewritten to permanently block Tehran from building nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

Haley seeks to persuade UN Security Council members to act against Iran, possibly via sanctions. She faces opposition from Russia, which has better ties with Tehran, and Washington’s European allies, who want the 2015 deal to stick.

In particular, Trump has criticized Tehran for backing Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are locked in a grinding war with forces from a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government.


Australia to spend A$3.8 billion to increase stake in global arms exports

January 29, 2018

Above, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the Army’s Holsworthy Barracks in western Sydney. Australia’s annual defense budget was worth A$34.6 billion this year. (Reuters)
SYDNEY: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday Australian military equipment manufacturers will be offered government-backed loans as part of a A$3.8 billion (SR11.54 billion) package to become one of the world’s top 10 defense exporters.
Australia said in 2016 it would boost defense spending by A$30 billion by 2021, purchasing frigates, armored personnel carriers, strike fighter jets, drones and a fleet of new submarines — many of which would be built at home.
The defense industry has struggled to obtain finance from traditional lenders that have been unwilling to fund the arms industry, so Australia has created a A$3.8 billion loan scheme for companies seeking finance to export military equipment.
“Australia is around the 20th largest exporter. Given the size of our defense budget we should be higher up the scale than that,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.
“The goal is to get into the top 10,” he said.
Christopher Pyne, the minister for the defense industry, said Australia would target sales to the US, Canada, Britain and New Zealand.
Australia’s annual defense budget was worth A$34.6 billion this year.
The scheme is also meant to arrest a slide in Australia’s manufacturing sector and provide some support for its economy, which has been hampered by record-low wage growth.
Australia saw a record number of jobs created in 2017 but its manufacturing sector has shrunk significantly following the end of domestic car manufacturing.
Employment in manufacturing peaked in mid-1989 at roughly 1.17 million, or 15 percent of the entire workforce. That shrank to 877,000, or 7 percent, late last year.
Australia has seen a wave of new jobs but companies are not keen on paying employees more, leaving wage growth near record lows in an unwelcome drag on consumer spending and inflation.
Australia’s expansion plans come amid increased global demand for military hardware, led by China and Middle East nations, prompting criticism of Canberra from aid agencies who argue Australia could make human rights violations worse if weapons were sold to the wrong buyers.
Analysts said Australia would need to significantly expand sales beyond its traditional partners to have any chance of fulfilling its ambition.
“There are possibilities, but I doubt US interest especially will go beyond niche capabilities,” said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.

Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military

January 25, 2018

Tehran halts dangerous encounters in Persian Gulf amid tensions over nuclear deal

Image result for Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military,

The Iranian military has halted the routine harassment by its armed “fast boats” of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military said, a turnabout that officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain.

The boats for at least two years would dart toward the U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven’t done so for five months, U.S. military officials said.

The officials said they hoped the respite would continue. “I hope it’s because we have messaged our readiness…and that it isn’t tolerable or how professional militaries operate,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East this week. Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The fast boats, typically armed with .50 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers, have come within shooting distance of American naval vessels, encounters that grew routine even though each one presents potential dangers to American vessels transiting through international waters.

In some of the more serious incidents, Iranian crews have directed spotlights at ship and aircraft crews, potentially blinding pilots as they conduct operations, according to U.S. military officials. In one case, an Iranian boat pointed a weapon at an American helicopter flying off a Navy vessel, officials said. In the most serious incidents, U.S. vessels have fired warning shots in return.

The Iranian boats are typically crewed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, U.S. military officials have said. The IRGC is Iran’s elite military unit and reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Since January 2016, there has been an average of more than two “unsafe or unprofessional” incidents each month, according to the U.S. military. There have been 50 such incidents in the last two years, officials said.

A video grab from the U.S. Navy shows an Iranian vessel heading toward the USS Thunderbolt in the Persian Gulf in July, 2017.Photo: US NAVY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

But in response to a query, U.S. military officials said there have been no such incidents since August 2017.

The apparent shift in Iranian behavior comes as an international nuclear agreement with Tehran is teetering as President Donald Trump threatens to end U.S. sanctions relief provided to Tehran under the deal, signed under President Barack Obama.

Washington’s European allies are discussing ways of heightening sanctions against Iran for actions not directly related to the country’s nuclear program.

Gen. Votel said that the abatement in the Persian Gulf didn’t alone signal a broader “strategic shift” by Iran, noting activities such as Iran’s support of Houthi rebels in Yemen. “I think we have to look at Iran in totality,” Gen. Votel said.

Read More

  • In Common Occurrence, Iranian Boats Veer Close to U.S. Warship
  • Trump to Extend Sanctions Relief to Iran, Keeping Nuclear Deal in Place—For Now
  • Navy Images Show Iranian Boats in Incident Involving Top U.S. General

The U.S. has publicly criticized what it says is Iranian backing of the Houthis. Iran also has sent forces to Syria and backs militants operating there on behalf of the Assad regime.

Military officials noted that while Iranian harassment in the Gulf had declined, the country’s forces weren’t idle. Iran has been observed by the U.S. conducting activities that approach but stop short of what would be considered harassment, a U.S. military official explained.

Officials at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, in Manama, Bahrain, were loathe to guess the reasons behind it.

“We are not going to speculate on the reason for this recent positive trend in interactions, though we hope it will continue in the future,” said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, in Manama, Bahrain.

Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said the decrease in harassment is part of a broader pattern by Tehran to refrain from provoking the U.S. and providing fodder for the Trump administration to blame them for regional instability.

“I think they understand the administration’s policy at this stage is to put the spotlight on Iranians and portray them as the source of all evil in the region,” he said. “The Iranians are certainly part of the problem in the region, but they’d like to be portrayed as part of the solution, not just the problem.”

The lull in harassment coincides with an internal directive last summer in which Mr. Vaez said Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council had ordered the IRGC to stand its ground in the region, but not to harass U.S. Navy ships. The council is presided over by President Hassan Rouhani but Mr. Khamenei has the final say.

Capt. Urban said the U.S. Navy hadn’t modified its operations in the region and would continue to operate “wherever international law allows.”

The last incident, in August, occurred when an Iranian drone flew in the vicinity of aircraft conducting night operations on the USS Nimitz.

Capt. Urban expressed concern about Iranians’ use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to harass American vessels.

“Even with the decreased incidents, we remain concerned with the increased number of Iranian UAVs operating in international airspace at night without navigation lights or an active transponder as would be expected according to international norms,” he said. “We continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”

The U.S. military currently is participating in a joint exercise called Native Fury with the United Arab Emirates, designed for training in ways to get essential supplies into the Gulf region over land if the Strait of Hormuz was ever blocked, as Iran has threatened to do in the past. Some military experts see Native Fury as a message to Iran.

It is “a demonstration of our resolve,” Gen. Votel said. The Iranians also are conducting a two-day exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Nancy A. Youssef at


Seeking New Strategic Weapon, Hamas Is Turning Gaza Into a Laboratory for Future Drone Warfare

January 24, 2018

It was a matter of time before these cheap unmanned aircraft would be utilized by armed groups that don’t have the financial resources of a state

.A view of a drone allegedly used during recent attack on Russia's bases in Syria, at a briefing in the Russian Defence Ministry headquarters in Moscow on January 11, 2018.
A view of a drone allegedly used during recent attack on Russia’s bases in Syria, at a briefing in the Russian Defence Ministry headquarters in Moscow on January 11, 2018.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP

Israeli intelligence believes that Hamas is focusing on greatly improving its drone capabilities in the Gaza Strip, in light of Israel’s success in intercepting rockets and destroying, cross-border tunnels. Rebels and terror organizations in the region are increasingly using attack drones, as was apparently the case earlier this month in an assault on Russia’s airbase in Syria.

The use of drones by such Middle Eastern organizations is not new, of course. Hezbollah launched three Iranian-made Ababil reconnaissance drones into Israeli territory in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, all of which were shot down by Israel Air Force fighter jets. Hamas has also a number of Ababils, which have been spotted over Gaza, but these drones are mainly used for surveillance and have been easily located, tracked and intercepted. In the decade since the Ababil reached Hezbollah and Hamas, the entire drone industry has changed, opening up new possibilities for changing the battlefield.

.A frame grab from a video released on July 14, 2014, by Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, allegedly shows the "Ababil" drone.

A frame grab from a video released on July 14, 2014, by Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, allegedly shows the “Ababil” drone. AFP PHOTO/HO/EZZEDINE AL-QASSAM BRIGADES

Driven by commercial demand, the mass production of small and increasingly capable drones and quadcopters has made these unmanned aircraft cheap and accessible. It was a matter of time before they would be utilized by resourceful armed organizations that don’t have the financial resources of a state.

A number of the groups fighting in the Syrian civil war have produced footage shot by cameras on drones. Hezbollah even disseminated a video claiming to show a bomb being dropped by one of its drones on rebel positions, although the image may have been photoshopped.

The attack that took place three weeks ago on Russia’s Khmeimim airbase on Syria’s Mediterranean coast seems to have been much more ambitious.

skip – Hezbollah using combat drones against ISIL in Syria

Hezbollah using combat drones against ISIL in Syria – דלג

Hezbollah using combat drones against ISIL in Syria

There are different versions of what happened there. The Russian military originally denied there had been an attack, but then acknowledged it had taken place. There may have been more than one attack and according to some reports, soldiers were killed and aircraft damaged. What does seem to have happened was that a “swarm” of drones – between 10 and 12 – were launched on a “suicide” mission from a point that was over 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) east of the base. The drones, which were filled with explosives and guided by GPS, were either programmed, or controlled from afar, to impact on the base’s runway.

Palestinian Hamas masked gunmen shows what they claim a locally-made drone during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group, in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian Hamas masked gunmen shows what they claim a locally-made drone during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group, in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Russia claims to have intercepted and shot down seven of them with anti-aircraft missiles; other reports say the drones got through and caused extensive damage. Either way, this seems to have been the most complex drone strike ever undertaken by a non-state actor. It was likely carried out by Harakat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS – an Islamist rebel group aligned with Al-Qaida.

The drones themselves, at least those presented by the Russian military to the media, are not particularly sophisticated, and wouldn’t have cost more than a few thousand dollars, probably less. However, the way they have been upgraded and used in this operation is unprecedented.

“Hamas are working on similar things now in Gaza,” said a senior Israeli officer last week. Development of its drone wing makes sense for Hamas, as its previous investments in building a large rocket arsenal in the Strip and in creating a network of cross-border tunnels to attack Israeli targets have been rendered near-obsolete.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has achieved an interception rate of over 90 percent, and newly installed underground sensors have detected tunnels, which have been promptly destroyed. Hamas is now investing in new attack options, acquiring and upgrading drones and training frogmen.

In recent years, during military parades in Gaza, Hamas has showcased some of its drones, but following the assassination in Tunisia in December 2016 of Mohammed Zawahri, an engineer believed to have been developing drones for the Islamist organization, it has lowered the profile on its drone project.

Hamas has accused Israel of being responsible for Zawahri’s death. Six months ago, Al Jazeera claimed that Hamas had received 30 drones that were manufactured by Zawahri’s team, with Iranian guidance. But the most recent reports from Syria demonstrate that an organization like Hamas doesn’t necessarily need a state to supply it with ready-made drones or knowhow.

The drone threat on the Gaza border is not new. For a couple of years now, Israel Defense Forces officers stationed there have reported a major increase of small quadcopters hovering over them. Meanwhile, a number of armies and defense industries around the world are developing anti-drone systems, utilizing everything from shotguns, nets, sniper-rifles, radio signal jammers and electronic warfare systems to commandeer the drones and land them safely. Senior defense sources have said that Israel is working on a variety of countermeasures, but no details have been disclosed.


U.S. Turns Military Focus to Afghanistan as ISIS Battles Ebb

January 11, 2018

Pentagon plans to dedicate new combat advisers, drones and other hardware in 2018

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is planning to double down on the Trump administration’s new approach in Afghanistan by reallocating drones and other hardware while sending in approximately 1,000 new combat advisers, according to U.S. and military officials.

The idea is to bulk up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by the time the traditional fighting season begins in the spring. The military will send a larger number of drones, both armed and unarmed, to Afghanistan for air support as well as for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Pentagon also plans to bolster capabilities such as helicopters, ground vehicles, artillery and related materiel, according to U.S. officials, moves made possible by a reduction of combat operations in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State extremist group.

Adding to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the administration will deploy as soon as next month members of an Army security-force assistance brigade from Fort Benning, Ga., to work as combat advisers to Afghan National Security Forces, expanding the U.S. training commitment, the officials said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, right, is briefed by U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, in Doha, Qatar, in April 2017. Photo: BRIGITTE N. BRANTLEY/PLANET PIX/ZUMA PRESS

These moves all accelerate President Donald Trump’s decision last August to approve some 4,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, bringing the number of American personnel to about 14,000. The additional security-force assistance units could push that number higher, although other forces could be withdrawn at the same time.

The emphasis on Afghanistan is part of a broader shift that ultimately is expected to shrink America’s military footprint in the Middle East as it refocuses its capabilities in East Asia.

That shift grew out of a request by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that Army Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, recommend ways to rethink the military capabilities those countries will require over time.

Mr. Mattis, in a video teleconference late last year, asked Gen. Votel to consider how to use military resources for Afghanistan and to counter Iran, while also giving up military capabilities in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where the U.S. faces North Korean hostility and Chinese assertiveness.

The collapse of territory controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria led to calls to shift some of the resources dedicated to that war. But past lessons loom large, and U.S. military planners have said they don’t want to remove troops helping to fight Islamic State and risk allowing an insurgency.

How Islamic State’s Caliphate Crumbled Maps tell the story of the terror group’s violent rise and fall in Syria and Iraq—and show where the homecoming of ISIS foreign recruits poses the next challenge.

One military official described the dilemma by noting how the Pentagon expends massive resources to eliminate tactical threats—say two suspected terrorists riding a motorcycle inside Iraq or Syria—while lagging in some aspects of competition with China.

Mr. Mattis didn’t put a deadline on drawing down resources from Central Command, the military official said. His direction was premised on the need to allocate resources elsewhere around the globe, including the Pacific Rim.

The Pentagon is preparing to release a national defense strategy Jan. 19, building on the White House’s own national security strategy released last month.

Top military leaders publicly hinted at the shift toward Afghanistan late last year. “As assets free up from Iraq and Syria and the successful fight against [Islamic State] in that theater, we expect to see more assets come to Afghanistan,” Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Nov. 28.

U.S. military planners hope to reduce the number of ground troops in Iraq and Syria over the next year, as local forces increasingly take the lead, U.S. military and defense officials said.

The remaining U.S. forces would focus on counterterrorism operations and security for diplomats and contractors, another U.S. military official said. There now are more than 5,000 American troops in Iraq and Syria, according to the Pentagon.

A U.S. Marine looks on as Afghan National Army soldiers raise the Afghan National flag on an armed vehicle during a training exercise at the Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, in August 2017.Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In Brussels, allied officials said they have sensed a shift in U.S. priorities as well, with less pressure from the Americans for contributions to the coalition fight against Islamic State in the Middle East. Instead, the officials said, there is more of a focus by the U.S. on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort in Afghanistan. Allied diplomats say that reflects the gains the coalition has made in retaking territory from Islamic State, and the new troop requirements necessitated by the administration’s strategy for Afghanistan.

U.S. Central Command has enjoyed the lion’s share of Pentagon resources as it has fought wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but officials there recognize many of those resources may need to go elsewhere.

“We are going to use them as long as we have them,” one defense official said. “The clock could be ticking. We don’t know.”

Mr. Mattis’s Pentagon, however, is aware that drastic troop reductions in Iraq and Syria could allow militants to return.

“The real caution, the thing that’s being discussed, is that we cannot make the mistake of taking our eye off ISIS too quickly,” a military official said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “We don’t want to make the same mistake we’ve made before, we don’t want to allow that to happen.”

—Julian E. Barnes in Brussels contributed to this article.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at and Gordon Lubold at


Trump threatens to cut Pakistan aid — “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” — But Pakistan says doesn’t need U.S. aid — Pak Now Allied With China, Russia

January 1, 2018

In this file photo, President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before leaving the White House in Washington on Oct. 7, 2017. (AP)

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump suggested Monday he would cut off foreign aid to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of harboring violent extremists and lying about it.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump said in his first tweet of 2018.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!“
Last week, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was seriously weighing whether to withhold $255 million in already delayed aid to Islamabad over its failure to better crack down on terror groups in Pakistan.
US-Pakistani ties have taken a nosedive under Trump, who in August declared that “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.”
Earlier this month, Trump had already hinted that he may cut off the aid for good.
“We make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” he said in unveiling his national security strategy.
And last week, Vice President Mike Pence told American troops during a visit to Afghanistan: “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.”
‘No more’: US has foolishly given Pakistan aid, says Trump

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that the United States had foolishly given Pakistan over $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years.

In his tweet, Trump accused Pakistan of given nothing but lies and deceit thinking US leaders to be fools. “They give safe havens to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!

‘Will let the world know truth’

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, in a reply to the US president’s tweet, said Pakistan will let the world know the truth and will be responding to Trump’s tweet.

He added that there is a difference between facts and fiction.

We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly inshallah…Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction..

‘Pakistan has done enough, time for Afghanistan and US to do more’

In a news conference held on 28 December, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR), Major General Asif Ghaffor stated no organised infrastructure of a terrorist organisation exists in Pakistan. His statement was in reference to the unfounded talk by the US and Afghanistan on the presence of terrorist bases in Pakistan.

“We have been saying that Pakistan has fought twice an imposed and imported war inside Pakistan. We have sacrificed a lot. We have paid a huge price both in blood and treasure. We have done enough and we cannot do any more for anyone. Whatever we are doing and shall, will only be done for Pakistan.”

The spokesperson clarified that the Coalition Support Fund, received from the US, is reimbursement of money spent for operations in support of the coalition for regional peace.

“Had we not supported, al-Qaeda would not have been defeated,” the ISPR chief stated.

Commenting on blaming Pakistan for inaction against the Haqqani Network, Ghafoor said: “Blame for inaction against [the] Haqqani Network might have been relevant owing to our capacity issues till Zarb-e-Azb”.

However, he added, the Army went into North Waziristan indiscriminately and took action against the Haqqani Network as well. “The effect of any operation does not appear at that time. What we do today or this year, the impact will be felt in subsequent years and months.”

He further said that if there any facilitators or abettors inside Pakistan that can only be addressed if 2.7 million Afghan refugees are sent back to Afghanistan for which pull factors needed to be created by Kabul and Washington.

Trump puts Pakistan on ‘notice’

US Vice President Mike Pence, during an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, said; “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our efforts in Afghanistan. The days to shelter terrorists have gone. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists.”

US President Trump has put Pakistan on notice, says Pence on Afghanistan visit

He said President Trump has “put Pakistan on notice for providing safe haven” to the terrorists on its soil.

“For too long Pakistan has provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations, but those days are over.. President Trump has put Pakistan on notice,” Pence told American troops at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.



Khawaja Asif hints at foreign policy shift from US towards China, Russia

December 05, 2017

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday said Pakistan’s foreign policy has for long remained US-centric, however, the time had come to review the policy and shift its focus towards Russia and China.

The foreign minister highlighted the possibility of a policy shift and said revisiting the Islamabad’s policy was the need of the hour. The minister hinted at an inclination towards the left block of the world, saying “China lives next to us and we have a common wall. Russia can also be our good friend.”

Asif said this while addressing a seminar hosted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in the federal capital.

“We can’t have an independent foreign policy until we are economically strong,” the minister maintained.

Asif said the US has been Pakistan’s biggest trade partner. “We have to convert our diplomatic outpost to trade outpost,” he said, adding that Islamabad must improve and correct its relationships.

Peace in Afghanistan is extremely important for us, he said, adding that the US will have to see relations with Islamabad without the prism of Afghanistan. “We [Pakistan and the US] have a historic and robust relationship.”

Further talking about Afghanistan, the minister said Islamabad wants to live peacefully with all its neighbours and rest of the world. “We want peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan war was a liability for Pakistan. We are still suffering very badly from the Afghan war,” he added.

The minister, however, expressed hope and said: “We are trying to manage the situation and to turn the debris into hope.” He elaborated that the debris includes religious radicalism and said the nation was facing its consequences.

“There is no end in sight,” he said, adding that despite past mistakes the country was moving on. “We are looking for peace and harmonisation in the region,” he maintained.

Some of our neighbours had expressed reservations on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but we have a different perspective as we do believe that its a game changer project for the entire region, Asif added.

“We avoid conflict and maintain a policy of neutrality in relations with Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

We share a long border with Iran and we have a common wall, culture, and language with Afghanistan, the minister said, but deplored the fact that Pakistan was “facing terrorism from the eastern and western borders”.

We have direct and more stakes in Afghanistan’s peace than any other country, he maintained.

We will also have to put our house in order, he said while referring to the Faizabad interchange sit-in. “It was not a good example,” Asif accepted.