Posts Tagged ‘Pentagon’

U.S. Forces in Niger Were Denied Armed Drone

October 28, 2017

New information shows ambushed Green Beret team was part of a larger, potentially more dangerous mission

Members of the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne 2nd Battalion leave pins and salute the casket after the burial of Army Sgt. La David Johnson on Oct. 23 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.
Members of the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne 2nd Battalion leave pins and salute the casket after the burial of Army Sgt. La David Johnson on Oct. 23 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. PHOTO: MIKE STOCKER/ZUMA PRESS
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U.S. military officials sought permission to send an armed drone near a patrol of Green Berets before a deadly ambush Oct. 4 in Niger, but the request was blocked, raising questions about whether those forces had adequate protection against the dangers of their mission.

New information shows the Green Beret team was part of a larger mission, one potentially more dangerous than initially described, and one believed to merit an armed drone. But the request was blocked in a chain of approval that snakes through the Pentagon, State Department and the Nigerien government, according to officials briefed on the events.

One focus of military investigations into what happened in Niger will be what a military official now says were two changes in the mission of the Green Beret team—from initially training Nigerien forces, to advising on a mission to capture or kill a wanted terrorist, to investigating the terrorist’s abandoned camp.

U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers observe Nigerien armed forces service members during an exercise in Niger this year.
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers observe Nigerien armed forces service members during an exercise in Niger this year. PHOTO: ZAYID BALLESTEROS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

On Oct. 4, after the U.S.-Nigerien team had destroyed the camp, four Americans and five Nigerien soldiers were killed in a firefight with suspected Islamic State fighters, and two other Americans and as many as eight Nigeriens were wounded.

The ambush and the circumstances surrounding it have taken on political weight in Washington as the deadliest military clash for Americans since President Donald Trump took office. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has pressed for more information, and a public spat broke out about condolence calls by Mr. Trump.

The drone request suggests that military officials were aware of a change in the security landscape in western Niger, where more than two dozen previous patrols had been conducted without incident. Intelligence indicated a low risk of enemy contact, and there had been no enemy attacks on U.S. forces there for the past year, according to officials investigating the incident.

The initial decision against the use of an armed drone reflects an effort by the U.S. mission in Niger to maintain a light footprint in the country amid local resistance to the deployment of armed aircraft—a challenge for officials also seeking to adequately support U.S. troops there.

An Department of Defense handout shows U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black (top left), Sgt. La David Johnson (top right), Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, (bottom left), and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, (bottom right), the four U.S. soldiers killed in the attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces on Oct. 4.
An Department of Defense handout shows U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black (top left), Sgt. La David Johnson (top right), Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, (bottom left), and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, (bottom right), the four U.S. soldiers killed in the attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces on Oct. 4. PHOTO: DEOARTMENT OF DEFENSE/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

After the firefight broke out on Oct. 4, some military officials also wanted an armed drone, but it is unclear if one was in the area and whether any request was made, according to a military official. An unarmed drone was dispatched, and French Mirage jet fighters arrived about an hour later, followed by French helicopters.

U.S. officials have repeatedly modified the timeline as facts trickle in.

The Green Beret patrol was one of two operating in the area at about the same time, Pentagon officials said. The second consisted of an elite commando team specializing in missions to track down wanted jihadists; both were involved at the time in a hunt for an associate of Adnan abu Walid al-Sahawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, according to current and former officials briefed on the events.

The targeted militant was operating in the border region, moving between Niger and Mali, and the elite team was also operating on both sides of the border, officials said. The jihadist is an important figure in Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, an organization operating in the two countries, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

The Green Beret team’s role in Niger was initially to help train the country’s security forces. But then, before the October mission began, the group was asked to advise the Nigerien quick-reaction force that was to assist the elite commando unit on its mission to capture or kill the terrorist target, according to a military official.

That mission was scrubbed because weather conditions increased the risk for helicopter flight to the site where the jihadist was thought to be, the official said.

The commando unit then sought another U.S. team to check out what appeared to be an abandoned terror camp that the jihadist had used, according to current and former officials briefed on the events.

The Green Beret patrol, now available to be retasked, was sent to the camp, the officials said.

The patrol was made up mostly of Green Berets, with other soldiers attached. All were considered well trained, having gone through the comprehensive work-ups of the elite Special Forces, according to Pentagon records. But their experience levels varied, according to the records; at least one had never deployed and at least four hadn’t seen combat.

The team, along with 30 Nigerien troops, left the country’s capital, Niamey, the morning of Oct. 3.

The new mission, to find the abandoned camp and shelter, was considered relatively low-risk. An assessment showed there was little likelihood of an enemy attack, officials have said, after the wanted terrorist was known to have abandoned the camp.

Military investigators have been examining the official orders that led to the assignment. A key unanswered question is who formally changed the Green Beret-led team’s mission—the U.S. Africa Command, known as Africom, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or another agency.

Investigators also are working to find out if there was adequate intelligence to evaluate the likelihood of enemy contact and whether the team was prepared for helping an elite commando team track and kill Mr. Sahawi’s associate.

Investigations into the ambush by military officials, aided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are likely to take weeks, according to officials briefed on the inquiry.

Mr. Sahawi is considered a top target in the “tri-border” region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, according to European officials. The area is made up in large part of wildlife preserves, allowing militants, often in groups of just a few dozen, to move across borders, hide out and strike as needed.

The joint U.S.-Nigerien team relatively quickly located and arrived at the camp that had been abandoned by Mr. Sahawi’s lieutenant. The team, according to military reports, collected some information and destroyed the shelter they found, though military officials don’t know if it was a regular camp or had only been used once.

From there, late on Oct. 3, the team began the trek back to their base camp, according to a military official.

Based on the reports submitted by the Green Berets after they left the abandoned terrorist camp, the team hiked throughout the night of Oct. 3 to Oct. 4, never staying in one place for more than a couple of hours.

While on the route back to their camp, in the morning of Oct. 4, the Nigerien forces asked to stop at a village to get breakfast and refill their canteens.

When U.S. forces visit a village, it is standard procedure to meet with the elder, explain their broader mission and enlist a measure of support from the local population.

That meeting went longer than expected. At 10:40 a.m. local time, minutes after leaving the village, the troops were ambushed.

Investigators are probing the question of how the jihadists found the Green Berets, since intelligence hadn’t documented any militants operating in the area of the village.

The length of the village meeting has caused some military officials to question whether villagers tried to delay the Green Berets. But military officials said they now believe the village elder wasn’t involved.

Military officials don’t know if the fighters who ambushed the Green Beret-led team were affiliated with the terrorist being hunted by the elite team.

One official noted that the areas were far apart, and the Green Beret team had taken steps to avoid being tracked. Other officials believe he was likely responsible for the attack.

An hour into the fight, minutes after a request from the team for air support, the unarmed drone arrived, allowing more senior military commanders to watch the firefight.

The French Mirage jet fighters from an airfield in Niamey were underway within a half-hour and in the area 30 minutes later, the Pentagon said. French helicopters left from Mali, officials said.

During the fight, four soldiers became separated from the rest of the team. Those soldiers would be the Americans killed.

Late on the afternoon of Oct. 4, French helicopters evacuated two wounded U.S. soldiers. It wasn’t until that evening that the bodies of three of the four U.S. soldiers killed were evacuated.

The body of the fourth soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson, was still missing. He was found two days later by Nigerien forces.

Military officials declined to say why the initial request for an armed drone was made. The U.S. Africa Command, which is responsible for military operations for most of the continent, typically must request permission from the U.S. ambassador or the chief of mission at a U.S. embassy in a given country for any military operation, according to current and former officials briefed on the events.

If the ambassador blocks the mission, the decision can be appealed by military officials to the Pentagon.

That step typically requires a discussion between the secretaries of Defense and State. Military officials said top officers are reluctant to take disputes with an ambassador to the secretary of Defense, out of concern of sending a signal that the command isn’t able to work effectively with its diplomatic partners. No high-level discussion in advance of the Green Beret patrol that began Oct. 3 appears to have taken place.

State Department officials denied that their teams in Africa can block military requests for drone flights or strikes and said diplomats didn’t stop a request for an armed drone in Niger.

“The U.S. ambassador in Niger did not deny support or protection for military personnel involved in the October 4 ambush,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “The ambassador supported all efforts to ensure the safety of our military colleagues in the field.”

One of the officials briefed on the events said sensitivities in Niger concerning the use of armed drones have delayed their use. The two countries signed an agreement in 2013 allowing Washington to establish a drone base there. The $100 million base is set to be completed next year.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com, Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com and Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-forces-in-niger-were-denied-armed-drone-1509146561
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Russia’s Kaspersky to Allow Outside Review of Its Cybersecurity Software

October 23, 2017

Company hopes sharing source code will build trust after allegations its software helped Russia spy on Americans

Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm whose software U.S. officials suspect helped the Russian government spy on Americans, promised to make its source code available for an independent review.

The company said Monday the review is part of a “global transparency initiative” that it hopes will improve the trustworthiness of its products. It said it would hand over the source code for its software in the first quarter of next year but didn’t specify who would undertake the review or how widely the code would be…

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-cybersecurity-firm-kaspersky-to-make-source-code-available-for-review-1508756502
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Image result for Eugene Kaspersky, photos

Eugene Kaspersky

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Kaspersky fights spying claims with code review plan

October 23, 2017 — 0745

Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active

Russian cybersecurity software maker Kaspersky Labs has announced what it’s dubbing a “comprehensive transparency initiative” as the company seeks to beat back suspicion that its antivirus software has been hacked or penetrated by the Russian government and used as a route for scooping up US intelligence.

In a post on its website today the Moscow-based company has published a four point plan to try to win back customer trust, saying it will be submitting its source code for independent review, starting in Q1 2018. It hasn’t yet specified who will be conducting the review but says it will be “undertaken with an internationally recognized authority”.

It has also announced an independent review of its internal processes — aimed at verifying the “integrity of our solutions and processes”. And says it will also be establishing three “transparency centers” outside its home turf in the next three years — to enable “clients, government bodies and concerned organizations to review source code, update code and threat detection rules”.

It says the first center will be up and running in 2018, and all three will be live by 2020. The locations are listed generally as: Asia, Europe and the U.S.

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Finally it’s also increasing its bug bounty rewards — saying it will pay up to $100K per discovered vulnerability in its main Kaspersky Lab products.

That’s a substantial ramping up of its current program which — as of April this year — could pay out up to $5,000 per discovered remote code execution bugs. (And, prior to that, up to $2,000 only.)

Kaspersky’s moves follow a ban announced by the US Department of Homeland Security on its software last month, citing concerns about ties between “certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks”.

The US Senate swiftly followed suit, voting to oust Kaspersky software from federal use. While three months earlier the General Services Administration also removed Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved federal vendors.

The extensive system-wide permissions of antivirus software could certainly make it an attractive target for government agents seeking to spy on adversaries and scoop up data, given the trust it demands of its users.

The WSJ has previously reported that Russian hackers working for the government were able to obtain classified documents from an NSA employee who had stored them on a personal computer that ran Kaspersky software.

Earlier this month CEO Eugene Kaspersky blogged at length — rebutting what he dubbed “false allegations in U.S. media”, and writing: “Our mission is to protect our users and their data. Surveillance, snooping, spying, eavesdropping… all that is done by espionage agencies (which we occasionally catch out and tell the world about), not us.”

We’re proud to keep on protecting people against all cyberthreats – no matter of false allegations in U.S. media https://kas.pr/x78t 

Photo published for What’s going on?

What’s going on?

I doubt you’ll have missed how over the last couple months our company has suffered an unrelenting negative-news campaign in the U.S. press.

eugene.kaspersky.com

But when your business relies so firmly on user trust — and is headquartered close to the Kremlin, to boot — words may evidently not be enough. Hence Kaspersky now announcing a raft of “transparency” actions.

Whether those actions will be enough to restore the confidence of US government agencies in Russian-built software is another matter though.

Kaspersky hasn’t yet named who its external reviewers will be, either. But reached for comment, a company spokeswoman told us: “We will announce selected partners shortly. Kaspersky Lab remains focused on finding independent experts with strong credentials in software security and assurance testing for cybersecurity products. Some recommended competencies include, but are not limited to, technical audits, code base reviews, vulnerability assessments, architectural risk analysis, secure development lifecycle process reviews, etc. Taking a multi-stakeholder approach, we welcome input and recommendations from interested parties at transparency@kaspersky.com

She also sent the following general company statement:

Kaspersky Lab was not involved in and does not possess any knowledge of the situation in question, and the company reiterates its willingness to work alongside U.S. authorities to address any concerns they may have about its products as well as its systems.

As there has not been any evidence presented, Kaspersky Lab cannot investigate these unsubstantiated claims, and if there is any indication that the company’s systems may have been exploited, we respectfully request relevant parties responsibly provide the company with verifiable information. It’s disappointing that these unverified claims continue to perpetuate the narrative of a company which, in its 20 year history, has never helped any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts.

In addition, with regards to unverified assertions that this situation relates to Duqu2, a sophisticated cyber-attack of which Kaspersky Lab was not the only target, we are confident that we have identified and removed all of the infections that happened during that incident. Furthermore, Kaspersky Lab publicly reported the attack, and the company offered its assistance to affected or interested organisations to help mitigate this threat.

Contrary to erroneous reports, Kaspersky Lab technologies are designed and used for the sole purpose of detecting all kinds of threats, including nation-state sponsored malware, regardless of the origin or purpose. The company tracks more than 100 advanced persistent threat actors and operations, and for 20 years, Kaspersky Lab has been focused on protecting people and organisations from these cyberthreats — its headquarters’ location doesn’t change that mission.

“We want to show how we’re completely open and transparent. We’ve nothing to hide,” added Kaspersky in another statement.

Interestingly enough, the move is pushing in the opposite direction of US-based cybersecurity firm Symantec — which earlier this month announced it would no longer be allowing governments to review the source code of its software because of fears the agreements would compromise the security of its products.

Source:https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/23/kaspersky-fights-spying-claims-with-code-review-plan/

Pentagon Takes Control of F-35 Cost-Cutting Push

October 8, 2017

The price of the combat jet has been falling, but some military chiefs are concerned about the pace and source of savings

Image result for F-35, photos

The Pentagon has taken over an effort to cut the cost of the F-35 combat jet, after rejecting plans proposed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and its partners, as it tries to make a program estimated to cost $400 billion more affordable.

The U.S. plans to buy more than 2,400 of the jets over the next three decades to replace much of its combat fleet. But after years of delays and overruns drew flak from lawmakers and Donald Trump, the military has been pressing suppliers to reduce the cost of producing and flying the F-35.

The aircraft’s sticker price has fallen in recent sales to the U.S. and other countries, in part because of a contractor-led effort launched in 2014 called the Blueprint for Affordability that invested $170 million to make the jets cheaper to produce.

Lockheed and the Pentagon announced plans in July 2016 to continue the program, with the company and partners Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems PLC investing another $170 million over three years in cost-saving measures. The contractors said the initial plan saved $230 million and could be worth $4 billion over the life of the program.

Some military chiefs, however, have expressed concern about the pace and source of savings. In January, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also ordered a review of the high-profile program.

The Pentagon opted this summer not to press ahead with the extension and instead last month gave Maryland-based Lockheed a $60 million contract to pursue further efficiency measures, with more oversight of how the money was spent.

“Using a contract vehicle instead of an agreement with industry provides the government with greater insights into the cost savings efforts,” said the F-35 program office, led since May by Navy Rear Adm. Mat Winter.

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II flies over Estonia in April. The U.S. plans to buy more than 2,400 of the jets over the next three decades to replace much of its combat fleet. Photo: Christine Groening/ZUMA Press

The F-35 leadership say they want more of the cost-saving effort directed at smaller suppliers that haven’t been pressured enough. A quarter of the initial $60 million is earmarked for projects outside the main three contractors. The Pentagon said it may boost its investment to $170 million if the initial efforts yield e nough savings.

Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. that makes the engines for the F-35, is continuing a separate effort to reduce costs.

The Pentagon has also yet to approve a plan announced last year for the three main companies to spend $250 million over five years to shave 10% off the running costs of the F-35 fleet over its lifetime, which are estimated to be more than $1.1 trillion for the U.S. aircraft. Allies plan to buy another 500 jets.

That huge bill led the Pentagon to consult with logistics experts at companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to find potential savings. President Trump, who frequently criticized the F-35 on the campaign trail and before taking office, also held multiple direct discussions with Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson.

The company has pledged to aggressively drive down the costs of the F-35 program, which is central to its growth and already delivers almost a quarter of its sales.

Lockheed said the new arrangement won’t affect those efforts, even as the efficiency drive has been hampered by the Air Force cutting its planned annual procurement to around 60 jets from 80.

“The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the success of the original Blueprint for Affordability projects,” said Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager.

The latest cost-saving push is part of a plan to reduce the price of the F-35A model—the plane used by the U.S. Air Force and most overseas allies—to around $80 million by 2020, after adjusting for inflation. Officials estimated that 75% of the target is tied to efficiencies gained from higher output, with the balance coming from efforts like the Blueprint for Affordability program.

Lockheed is currently negotiating a deal with the Pentagon for an 11th batch of jets, which it hopes to conclude by the end of the year. The last sale, agreed on in January, priced the F-35A at $94.6 million each, a 7.3% drop from the previous batch. That price was broadly in line with the Pentagon’s price target before Mr. Trump took aim at the program.

However, critics say the claimed prices don’t capture the full cost of the jets once additional modifications, added later, are included.

“There’s very little transparency about it,” said Dan Grazier, of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-takes-control-of-f-35-cost-cutting-push-1507464002

US agencies banned from using Russia’s Kaspersky software

September 14, 2017

Federal agencies in the US have 90 days to wipe Kaspersky software from their computers. Officials are concerned about the Russian company’s ties to the Kremlin and possible threats to national security.

Headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow (Getty Images/AFP/K. Kudryavtsev)

The administration of US President Donald Trump has ordered government agencies to remove products made by Russian company Kaspersky Labs from their computers.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Wednesday it was concerned that the cybersecurity firm was susceptible to pressure from Moscow and thus a potential threat to national security.

Read more: Facebook, Russia and the US elections – what you need to know

DHS said in a statement that it was “concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies,” as well as Russian laws that might compel Kaspersky to hand over information to the government.

But the makers of the popular anti-virus software have said “no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions.”

US tech retailer Best Buy confirmed earlier Wednesday that it would no longer sell Kaspersky products, but has declined to give further details on the decision.

Ties between Kaspersky, Kremlin ‘alarming’

Civilian government agencies have 90 days to completely remove Kaspersky software from their computers. The products have already been banned in the Pentagon.

US congressional leaders have applauded the move. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the “strong ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are alarming and well-documented,” and asked the DHS if the company’s products were used for any critical infrastructure, such as for voting systems, banks and energy supply.

Although Kaspersky Labs was founded by a KGB-trained entrepreneur, Eugene Kaspersky, and has done work for Russian intelligence, the company has repeatedly denied carrying out espionage on behalf of President Vladimir Putin and his government.

es/cmk (AP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/us-agencies-banned-from-using-russias-kaspersky-software/a-40500232

Trump gives the Pentagon guidance on transgender service people — Car plows through trans lives matter protest after an incident in St. Louis

August 24, 2017

Trump gives the Pentagon six months to kick THOUSANDS of transgender service people out of the military if they are deemed ‘non-deployable’

  • In July Trump announced on Twitter a ban on transgender service members
  • Only now has a memo been sent explaining how that ban is to be implemented
  • It says Defense Sec. Jim Mattis must expel ‘non-deployable’ service members
  • And being transgender makes them ‘non-deployable,’ the guidelines say
  • Opponents say nothing in ongoing transgender treatment affects deployment
  • And surgery could happen on base, just like a gall bladder operation, they said
  • The ban is opposed by nearly 60 per cent of Americans, a poll revealed in July
  • Estimates put the cost of transgender service members at $2.4m-$8.4m per year
  • The military spends $84m on Viagra per year and $6.27billion in total

A month after he announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via Twitter, Donald Trump has issued a memo on how the decision is to be implemented.

The two-and-a-half-page note says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis must consider a service member’s ‘deployability’ when deciding whether to eject them from the military.

That means that if they are unable to serve in a war zone, take part in training or serve on a ship for months, they must go, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It has not been spelled out exactly how the criteria will be assessed, however the Trump administration seems to be implying that it does not believe transgender service people are deployable.

The policy gives the Pentagon six months to oust ‘non-deployable’ transgender service members, bans new transgender hires and orders the Pentagon to stop paying for trans service members’ medical treatments.

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Plan in action: Donald Trump's ban on transgender military members - which he announced in July - has now gone into action after the White House revealed how it was to be implemented

Plan in action: Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military members – which he announced in July – has now gone into action after the White House revealed how it was to be implemented

Kicking out: Defense Sec. Jim Mattis (right) must remove anyone who is 'non-deployable' - which includes transgender service members, according to the new guidelines

Kicking out: Defense Sec. Jim Mattis (right) must remove anyone who is ‘non-deployable’ – which includes transgender service members, according to the new guidelines

Plans: Until now the Pentagon had no rules by which to manage or justify the removal of any transgender service members, who were told they could come out in 2016 by Barack Obama

Plans: Until now the Pentagon had no rules by which to manage or justify the removal of any transgender service members, who were told they could come out in 2016 by Barack Obama

It has been criticized by transgender representatives.

‘Transgender people are just as deployable as other service members,’ said Sue Fulton, the former president of Sparta, a military organization for LGBT people that advocates for open service.

‘Other service members may undergo procedures when they are at home base, just as other service members schedule shoulder surgery or gall bladder surgery,’ added Fulton, who achieved the rank of captain in the army, and is not transgender.

She said that there are no ‘ongoing treatments’ that would render transgender soldiers, sailors and pilots non-deployable.

‘Thus there’s no difference between the deployability of transgender service members’ and that of others, she said.

A Rand Corp study commissioned last year estimated that there were between 1,320 and 6,000 transgender people openly serving in the military.

Advocacy groups put the figure for those on active duty at 7,000 and total figures across all areas of the military at 11,000.

The Rand Corp survey noted that not all of them seek treatment – and those that do have treatment that would render them non-deployable are few in number.

Using surveys and private health insurance data, the study concluded that only 29 to 129 members in the military’s active component would be rendered non-deployable by their planned treatment.

Opposed: Almost 60% of Americans are against the ban

Still ready for action: Ex-Army captain Sue Fulton (pictured) said nothing about trangender people or their ongoing treatment makes them non-deployable

Opposed: Almost 60% of Americans are against the ban. Ex-Army captain Sue Fulton (right) said nothing about trangender people or their ongoing treatment makes them non-deployable

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4818388/Trump-sets-6-month-time-limit-transgender-military-ban.html#ixzz4qf5umdsN
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Car plows through trans lives matter protest: White male driver is arrested after injuring three ‘when protesters began attacking his car’ at vigil for trans woman who was killed by cops in St Louis

  • A male driver has been arrested after an incident in St. Louis on Wednesday
  • The white man allegedly refused to stop for protesters and ran into them
  • Three people had minor injuries, as pictures show them colliding with the car
  • They were at a trans lives matter vigil held for a black transgender woman
  • Kenneth ‘Kiwi’ Herring, 30, was shot dead by police officers on Tuesday
  • Police claim she was wielding a knife and critically injured her neighbor 
  • They fired at Herring after she allegedly swung at them and wounded a cop 

A car has driven through protesters at a trans lives matter vigil honoring a black transgender woman who was shot dead by police in St Louis.

The memorial for Kenneth ‘Kiwi’ Herring turned violent on Wednesday night when a Mercedes driver drove into a middle of a crowd of protesters who were blocking the road.

His car appeared to be attacked by the activists before he drove away, leaving three people with minor injuries, according to the Riverfront Times.

The driver – a white male – was later arrested.

People were gathered to honor the life of Herring, a 30-year-old black transgender woman, who was shot dead by St. Louis police on Tuesday.

Herring was killed by a police after she allegedly stabbed an officer and a neighbor with a large kitchen knife.

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A car plowed into protesters on Wednesday night at a trans lives matter vigil honoring a black transgender woman who was shot dead by police in St Louis on Tuesday

A car plowed into protesters on Wednesday night at a trans lives matter vigil honoring a black transgender woman who was shot dead by police in St Louis on Tuesday

A police spokeswoman said a white male driver was taken into custody for felony fleeing, as photos show protesters on the hood of the man's Mercedes

A police spokeswoman said a white male driver was taken into custody for felony fleeing, as photos show protesters on the hood of the man’s Mercedes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson captured the moment the car hit people with his camera.

He tweeted: ‘Car just drove through protesters on Manchester, few injuries not major, only scrapes. Driver fled police chased not pulling over.’

He then posted pictures and added: ‘Pix from car that drove through protesters, car stopped was surrounded, then drove through, one person ended up on hood, only minor injuries.’

Police spokeswoman Schron Jackson told the Riverfront Times: ‘Tonight, a group of protesters marched from the Transgender Memorial to the intersection of Manchester and Sarah were they blocked traffic in all directions.

‘A vehicle approached, stopped, honked its horn and attempted to drive around the protesters.

‘The protesters surrounded the vehicle and began striking it with their hands and a flag pole. Several protesters also kicked and jumped on top of the vehicle.’

She said the driver of the vehicle – a white male – then drove away when two women and a man ‘fell from the vehicle’.

A vigil was being held to honor Kenneth 'Kiwi' Herring (pictured) a 30-year-old black transgender woman who was killed by cops on Tuesday

A vigil was being held to honor Kenneth ‘Kiwi’ Herring (pictured) a 30-year-old black transgender woman who was killed by cops on Tuesday

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson posted this picture of the moment a car drove into protesters who were in the driver's way 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson posted this picture of the moment a car drove into protesters who were in the driver’s way

Police were responding to a domestic dispute and claim they found a man with stab wounds and Herring wielding a knife, which she allegedly used to injure an officer

Police were responding to a domestic dispute and claim they found a man with stab wounds and Herring wielding a knife, which she allegedly used to injure an officer

The three who were hit suffered minor injuries, but refused medical attention.

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Trump’s muscular response to North Korea morphed into a false narrative about a ‘naval armada’ — USS Carl Vinson Carrier Wasn’t on Way to North Korea

April 19, 2017

Despite representations by Trump and defense advisers, Vinson was thousands of miles away on exercises off northwest coast of Australia

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Sunda Strait in Indonesia on Friday.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Sunda Strait in Indonesia on Friday. PHOTO: U.S. NAVY/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—The Navy confirmed Tuesday that it didn’t send one of its aircraft carriers directly toward North Korea amid growing tensions with Pyongyang, despite representations by President Donald Trump and his top defense advisers that it was on its way.

In fact, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was thousands of miles away on exercises off the northwest coast of Australia and likely won’t arrive near the Korean Peninsula until sometime next week.

The U.S. Pacific Command released a statement Tuesday that said the Vinson is now heading toward the Western Pacific as ordered after a shortened training exercise with the Australian Navy. The statement described the move as a “prudent measure.”

The White House’s avowed deployment of the Vinson came as foreign adversaries from the Middle East to Russia and the Far East have been looking to test the mettle of Mr. Trump. On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that it scrambled fighter planes earlier this week to intercept two Russian bombers off the coast of Alaska, the first such incident since 2015.

How Mr. Trump’s muscular response to North Korea morphed into a false narrative about a naval armada sailing in a show of force toward waters off the coast of North Korea appears to be a story of mixed and contradictory messages that the Navy appeared to notice in the past week, but made no strenuous moves to correct.

“At the end of the day it resulted in confused strategic communication that has made our allies nervous,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “If you don’t have a consistency with your actual strategy and what you’re doing with your military, that doesn’t seem terribly convincing.”

Misunderstandings over the mission of the Vinson appear to have been born in part out of operational secrecy coupled with a desire by the White House to project a tough image. Navy officials were aware of the public misimpressions, according to Navy officials.

The Vinson’s location was earlier reported by Defense News.

A senior White House official blamed the mistake on the Pentagon and said that the Pentagon didn’t realize the error until Tuesday.

A second White House official said the White House didn’t need to know last week that the Pentagon had given misleading information because the details of the timing of the vessel’s navigation weren’t something White House press secretary Sean Spicer or National Security Council officials had discussed publicly. Their comments were about the signal that the movement of the vessel sent to North Korea.

“The only issue is that [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis started to talk about timing and there was some confusion within DoD about whether or not they were going to maintain the exercise,” the official said.

Defense officials first said more than a week ago that a carrier strike group would move toward the Western Pacific as a show of force. White House national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said on April 9 that moving the carrier group is “prudent to do,” given North Korea’s provocative behavior.

Also on April 9, a statement from the Navy said that Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, had directed the Vinson to steam toward the Western Pacific and that planned port visits had been canceled in Australia.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

  • April 8: Reuters prints story about the USS Carl Vinson’s change of mission directing it to the Western Pacific.
  • April 10: U.S. Pacific Command posts a release: “Adm. Harry Harris, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific.”
  • April 11: Navy officials say the Vinson will take part in planned exercises near Australia before proceeding to the western Pacific.
  • April 11: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says that the exercises have been canceled.
  • April 11: Shortly after Mr. Mattis’s remarks, Navy officials confirm port calls in Australia have been canceled, but that exercises haven’t been.
  • April 12: President Donald Trump tweets that North Korea “is looking for trouble” and tells Fox Business Network that he is “sending an armada, very powerful.”
  • April 18: U.S. Pacific Command statement: “The USS Carl Vinson Strike Group is proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered. After departing Singapore on April 8 and canceling a scheduled port visit to Perth, the Strike Group was able to complete a curtailed period of previously scheduled training with Australia in international waters off the northwest coast of Australia. The Carl Vinson Strike Group is heading north to the Western Pacific as a prudent measure.”

On April 11, Mr. Mattis added to that at a press conference, saying that exercises had also been canceled and that the Vinson was “on her way up” to the Western Pacific.

“That’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time,” Mr. Mattis said of the Vinson.

But soon after Mr. Mattis’s press conference, the Navy issued a statement that seemed to contradict their boss.

“As announced over the weekend, the Carl Vinson Strike Group was ordered north as a prudent measure to maintain presence and readiness in the Western Pacific,” said Cmdr. Clay Doss, a Navy spokesman, in a statement issued that day. “While port visits to Australia were cancelled, impacts to other previously scheduled activities are still being assessed during the transit.”

Mr. Trump the next day said, “We are sending an armada.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump said he also told the Chinese leader Xi Jinping of the carrier group.

“I said, ‘Look we have ships heading there,’” Mr. Trump said. “He says he knows it very well. I said not only are the aircraft carriers, we have the nuclear subs, which are far more destructive, and I think you have to let him know.”

Mr. Spicer and a senior administration official did nothing to counter that version of events. Asian and American newspapers widely reported that the carrier was headed toward the peninsula.

A week later, on Tuesday, the Navy stressed it had never said the Vinson was given a final destination to the waters off North Korea. A Navy official said that its messaging had been consistent and that from Singapore the carrier and supporting ships would head to planned exercises near Australia and then on to the Western Pacific, though it didn’t specify where in the Pacific.

“We certainly did not say that and have been consistent with that messaging,” a Navy official said Tuesday when asked if it had ever said the Vinson is headed to North Korea.

On Saturday, the Navy published a photo of the carrier steaming through the Sunda Strait, near Indonesia, thousands of miles from the Sea of Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

Write to Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com and Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-carl-vinson-carrier-wasnt-on-way-to-north-korea-1492559713

Related:

 Graphic: SCMP Pictures

See also:

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/donald-trump-praises-china-for-helping-on-north-korea/news-story/597a5f3f1f77fe1930ee5e9674fa5f13

Trickery and Strategery? — Stupidity? — As Trump warned North Korea, his ‘armada’ was headed toward Australia

April 19, 2017

Reuters

Wed Apr 19, 2017 | 12:26am EDT

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The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Sunda Strait, Indonesia on April 15, 2017. Picture taken on April 15, 2017. Sean M. Castellano/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS
By Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON
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When U.S. President Donald Trump boasted early last week that he had sent an “armada” as a warning to North Korea, the aircraft carrier strike group he spoke of was still far from the Korean peninsula, and headed in the opposite direction.

It was even farther away over the weekend, moving through the Sunda Strait and then into the Indian Ocean, as North Korea displayed what appeared to be new missiles at a parade and staged a failed missile test.

The U.S. military’s Pacific Command explained on Tuesday that the strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-initially planned period of training with Australia. But it was now “proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered,” it said.

The perceived communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts, who wonder whether it erodes the Trump administration’s credibility at a time when U.S. rhetoric about the North’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities are raising concerns about a potential conflict.

“If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it’s only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is. And that could be a logical conclusion from what’s just happened,” said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

The U.S. military initially said in a statement dated April 10 that Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of Pacific Command, directed the Carl Vinson strike group “to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific.”

Reuters and other news outlets reported on April 11 that the movement would take more than a week. The Navy, for security reasons, says it does not report future operational locations of its ships.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis initially appeared to play down the deployment on April 11, saying the Vinson was “just on her way up there because that’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time.”

“There’s not a specific demand signal or specific reason why we’re sending her up there,” he said.

But even Mattis initially misspoke about the strike group’s itinerary, telling a news conference that the Vinson had pulled out of an exercise with Australia.

The Pentagon has since corrected the record, saying the ship’s planned port visit to Fremantle, Australia, was canceled – not the exercise with Australia’s navy.

On April 15, the U.S. Navy even published a photo showing the Vinson transiting the Sunda Strait. here

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) preparing for flight operations. Picture: AFP

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) preparing for flight operations. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

From April 16-18, the website www.gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html reported that the Vinson was in the Indian Ocean.

A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Vinson carried out the exercises after passing through the Sunda Strait and wrapped them up this week.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Related:

 Graphic: SCMP Pictures

See also:

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/donald-trump-praises-china-for-helping-on-north-korea/news-story/597a5f3f1f77fe1930ee5e9674fa5f13

White House and Pentagon intentionally created a false narrative about the movements of the USS Carl Vinson — Not being used to deter North Korea

April 18, 2017

The New York Times is reporting that the White House and Pentagon may have intentionally created a false narrative about the movements of the USS Carl Vinson strike group…

*****************************

WASHINGTON — As worries deepened last week about whether North Korea would conduct a missile test, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior.

The problem was, the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.

White House officials said on Tuesday they were relying on guidance from the Defense Department. Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from a premature announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to an erroneous explanation by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that an American armada was racing toward the waters off North Korea.

By the time the White House was asked about the Carl Vinson on April 11, its imminent arrival had been emblazoned on front pages across East Asia, fanning fears that Mr. Trump was considering a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea. It was portrayed as further evidence of the president’s muscular style two days after he ordered a missile strike on Syria while he and President Xi Jinping of China were finishing dessert during a meeting in Florida.

The saga of the wayward carrier might never have come to light, had the Navy not posted a photograph on Monday of the Carl Vinson sailing through the Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. The picture was taken on Saturday, four days after the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, described its mission in the Sea of Japan.

The Carl Vinson is now on a northerly course for the Korean Peninsula and is expected to arrive in the region sometime next week, Defense Department officials said. The White House declined to comment on the misunderstanding, referring all questions to the Pentagon. “Sean discussed it once when asked, and it was all about process,” said a spokesman, Michael Short.

Privately, however, other officials expressed bewilderment that the Pentagon did not correct its timeline, particularly given the tensions surging in the region and the fact that Mr. Spicer, as well as the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, were publicly answering questions about it.

America Remembers — 15th Anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 Attacks

September 11, 2016

Reuters

By Melissa Fares

9 /11 Memorial and Museum. Photo by Gordon Donovan

NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) – Americans prepared to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on Sunday with the recital of the names of the dead, tolling church bells and a tribute in lights at the site where New York City’s twin towers tumbled.

The names of the 2,983 victims will be read slowly by relatives as music plays during a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial plaza in Lower Manhattan that will pause for six moments of silence.

Four of those mark the exact times four hijacked planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon near Washington D.C., and a Pennsylvania field. The last two record when the North and South towers of the Trade Center collapsed.

The ceremony will be held by two reflecting pools with waterfalls which now stand in the towers’ former footprints, and watched over by an honor guard of police and firefighters.

More than 340 firefighters and 60 police were killed on the that sunny Tuesday morning in 2001, in the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941.

Many of them died while running up stairs in the hope of reaching victims trapped on the towers’ higher floors.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama said it had been one of the darkest days in the history of the nation, but that it underlined the core values and resilience that define Americans.

“We’re still the America of heroes who ran into harm’s way; of ordinary folks who took down the hijackers; of families who turned their pain into hope,” Obama said.

“We are still the America that looks out for one another, bound by our shared belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

No public officials will speak at the New York ceremony, in keeping with a tradition that began in 2012. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, which sits in the plaza surrounded by white oak trees, will be open on Sunday only to family members of the victims.

Houses of worship throughout the city have been asked to toll their bells at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT), the time American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower.

A second pause will come at 9:03 a.m. (1303 GMT), when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower. American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (1337 GMT), then the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. (1359 GMT).

At 10:03 a.m. (1403 GMT) United Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the final moment of silence will be observed at 10:28 a.m. (1428 GMT) when the North Tower fell.

As evening falls across the city on Sunday, spotlights will project two giant beams of light into the night sky to represent the fallen twin towers, fading away at dawn.

Nineteen hijackers died in the attack, later claimed by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which led directly to the U.S. war in Afghanistan and indirectly to the invasion of Iraq. (Reporting by Melissa Fares; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Mary Milliken)

Arlington National Cemetery 9-11 Memorial to Those Lost at the Pentagon

The Flight 93 National Memorial is located at the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked in the September 11 attacks, in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Shanksville, and 60 miles (97 km) southeast of Pittsburgh.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_93_National_Memorial

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

https://www.emaze.com/@ALFIQILL/Pentagon%C2%A09/11

Flight 93 9/11 National Memorial

Turkish Offensive on Islamic State in Syria Caught U.S. Off Guard

August 30, 2016

Behind scenes, coordination between Washington and Ankara broke down at senior levels, according to officials

Turkish troops headed toward the Syrian border near Karkamis, Turkey, on Saturday.
Turkish troops headed toward the Syrian border near Karkamis, Turkey, on Saturday. PHOTO: HALIT ONUR SANDAL/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Aug. 29, 2016 8:43 p.m. ET

When Turkish ground forces delivered a lightning strike on Islamic State fighters in Syria last week, the Pentagon hailed what it described as close U.S.-Turkish coordination.

But behind the scenes, cooperation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners broke down at senior levels, according to officials on both sides. The two countries weren’t as aligned on the operation as their public statements indicated.

While the White House was preparing to consider a secret plan to have American special forces join the Turks, Ankara pulled the trigger on the mission unilaterally without giving officials in Washington advance warning. When clashes started between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish fighters—who are directly backed by U.S. Special Forces—the Pentagon issued unusually blunt calls for both to stand down.
U.S. officials say the Turks’ decision undercut a behind-the-scenes effort to clear rival Syrian Kurdish elements out of the conflict zone first and created a prickly, new challenge for the U.S. as two of its most important partners in the campaign fight each other instead of Islamic State. The breakdown in coordination adds a new layer of tensions between Washington and Ankara on top of those sparked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown since the July coup attempt in Turkey.

Officials in Washington said they warned their Turkish military counterparts Monday that the U.S. won’t provide air support to Turkish forces pushing southward, deeper into Syrian territory. The U.S. will continue to provide air support to Turkish forces moving westward, into the border area threatened by Islamic State.
Likewise, U.S. officials told the Kurds that U.S. air support hinged on their forces moving east of the Euphrates River and on advancing south toward Islamic State’s self-declared capital, Raqqa, to ensure they wouldn’t come into conflict with the Turks, according to the officials. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday that the Kurdish forces had begun to move eastward, easing the friction between the two sides.

Turkey has long accused the main Syrian Kurdish militia of being an extension of the Kurdish separatist group that uses car bombs and suicide attacks in Turkey as part of a two-decade-old fight for more rights and autonomy.

A reconstruction of events leading up to Turkey’s ground intervention, based on interviews with U.S. and Turkish officials and Syrian rebels involved in the offensive, shows discussions between the U.S. and Turkey over a joint operation along the Turkish-Syrian border date back to the spring of 2015.

Under the original Turkish proposal, which Mr. Erdogan discussed with his top generals in June 2015, his government would have sent as many as 2,000 troops across the border. Turkish officials were so convinced of the political will to launch the operation that they had drafted news releases announcing the military decision.

In addition to Turkish forces, Ankara wanted the Obama administration to commit to sending in U.S. commandos, but the White House was cool to the idea, according to U.S. officials. Instead of using foreign ground forces, the U.S. and Turkey agreed to use air power and artillery to support thousands of Syrian rebel fighters who would move in to clear a 60-mile stretch of the border.

Turkey shared the names of the Sunni rebel units that it wanted to spearhead the ground operation, allowing U.S. intelligence agencies to vet them for any possible terrorist ties. One of the largest groups on Turkey’s wish list for the operation—Ahrar al-Sham—was rejected by the Americans as too extreme.

Civil and military authorities on Monday inspected the construction of a border wall between Turkey and Syria near the Suruc, which borders with the northern Syrian town of Kobani.
Civil and military authorities on Monday inspected the construction of a border wall between Turkey and Syria near the Suruc, which borders with the northern Syrian town of Kobani. PHOTO: KADIR CELIKCAN/REUTERS
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But talks between the U.S. and Turkey over the joint operation bogged down last summer as Pentagon leaders and some Turkish generals raised doubts that Ankara would be able to mobilize enough rebels to carry out the proposed mission.

The proposed operation was shelved as unfeasible when Russia intervened in Syria last year to shore up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, especially after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian warplane on the Turkey-Syria border. Many of the Turkish-backed rebel groups were too busy trying to fend off Mr. Assad’s resurgent forces in Aleppo to join Turkey on another front against Islamic State.

Talks renewed in the winter during a short-lived cease-fire. Then, in March, Turkey provided the U.S. with a list of 1,800 Syrian rebel fighters it had identified to lead the operation, a senior Turkish official said.

July’s attempted military coup against Mr. Erdogan ratcheted up tensions with the U.S. But top military officials on both sides said they didn’t want to let the discord affect cooperation against Islamic State.

After Mr. Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Aug. 9, Turkey sent a high-level military delegation to Russia to discuss its planned operation into Syria. The Russians assured Turkish officials that Moscow wouldn’t target Ankara’s forces if Turkey moved across the border, according to senior Turkish officials.

Turkey’s plans progressed after Aug. 13, when Kurdish-led forces backed by U.S. commandos seized control of the Syrian town of Manbij, which sat on Islamic State’s strategic supply route between Raqqa and the Turkish border.

That next week, alarm bells sounded in Ankara and Washington when some of those Kurdish units started to push north toward the Turkish border. Turkey had agreed to the U.S.-backed operation to liberate Manbij from Islamic State after receiving assurances from Washington that the Syrian Kurdish forces spearheading the fight would leave the largely Arab town once the jihadist group was defeated and move back to the east side of the Euphrates.

By Aug 17, Turkey was calling in Syrian rebel militias who were part of the battle plan, according to people familiar with the matter. Turkish security forces began transporting those friendly fighters to staging grounds along the Turkish border.

At the same time, Kurdish elements were taking more villages around Manbij, and not retreating as they had promised the U.S. Some Kurdish leaders also indicated that their next military objective would be Jarablus, a Syrian town on the Turkish border, instead of Raqqa. U.S. officials said the main Kurdish forces they backed never threatened to go to Jarablus.

By Aug. 20, Turkey had a new reason to launch its attack: A suspected Islamic State bomber targeted a wedding celebration in Gaziantep, a city of about two million near the Syrian border. At least 54 people were killed.

Turkish and American officials said the Turkish military wanted to look decisive and to show loyalty to Mr. Erdogan, particularly after the coup.

With their Syrian rebel allies massing, the Turkish military briefed their American counterparts based in Turkey on their plans.

They asked for a contingent of U.S. Special Operations forces to enter Jarablus alongside Turkish commandos, according to U.S. and Turkish officials. U.S. commandos would help call in airstrikes and coordinate with rebel fighters on the ground.

Pentagon leaders backed the plan, which called for deploying at least 40 U.S. commandos. Then, early last week, they began talks with the White House about the proposed joint ground operation.

The Pentagon was looking for a speedy answer. Instead, the White House—cautious about putting American troops on another front inside Syria—told the Pentagon that it wanted certain questions answered before proceeding. Specifically, the White House wanted to know how Special Operations forces would be protected given the presence of al Qaeda-linked fighters in the area, officials said.

Military officials said the White House’s request for more information amounted to a rejection of the plan because they knew the Turks wanted to move quickly.

As White House officials awaited answers to their questions, the Pentagon pressed Ankara to give U.S. deliberations more time. Meanwhile, U.S. officials were trying to get Kurdish forces to leave areas where Turkish forces would deploy.

Late on Aug. 23, the White House told the Pentagon that it was prepared to convene a high-level meeting the next day to consider the Pentagon’s proposal to insert U.S. Special Operations forces as part of the Turkish operation.

But overnight, Turkey launched its offensive without giving officials in Washington advanced warning. The proposal never reached President Barack Obama’s desk, according to a senior administration official.

While Turkey publicly cast the campaign as a joint operation with the U.S.-led military coalition, the first airstrikes carried out by Turkish jets on Jarablus were done unilaterally, not under the coalition umbrella.

Turkish aircraft fired from Turkish airspace, not Syria’s, according to U.S. officials.

When U.S. military commanders in the region realized that Turkish forces had launched their operation without the Americans, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, Gen. Joe Votel, used existing authorities to have U.S. forces in the region provide the Turks with limited air support via drones, F-16s and A-10s.

Instead of participating at the front line, U.S. Special Operations forces took up positions on Turkish soil overlooking Jarablus to try to help direct U.S. strikes from the sidelines. But officials said the commandos could do little from the distance.

The battle for Jarablus, which U.S. officials thought would take days or even weeks, was over within hours as Islamic State militants pulled back without putting up much of a fight.

Turkish officials seized on the quickness of their victory as evidence that the Americans were wrong to doubt their capabilities. “Obviously, the liberation of Jarablus by the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army is proof that our troops were always up to the task,” a senior Turkish official said.

U.S. officials acknowledge that they misjudged Islamic State’s determination to hold that town. But they say they are more worried now about the danger that a NATO ally could get bogged down in Syria and inadvertently take pressure off Islamic State.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkish-offensive-on-islamic-state-in-syria-caught-u-s-off-guard-1472517789

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