Posts Tagged ‘US military’

Erdogan tells the United States to withdraw any American forces from the Syrian town of Manbij

February 6, 2018


© AFP/File | Turkey on January 20 launched a major operation aimed at ousting YPG forces from their enclave of the northwestern town of Afrin.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the United States to withdraw any American forces from the Syrian town of Manbij, vowing Turkish troops would expand a cross-border military operation to the key strategic hub.

Erdogan blamed Washington for the presence in Manbij of fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, which Ankara sees as terror groups.

Turkey on January 20 launched a major operation aimed at ousting YPG forces from their enclave of the northwestern town of Afrin. However moving east to Manbij — where unlike Afrin there is a US military presence — would mark a major escalation.

Image may contain: 1 person

  President Tayyip Erdoğan

Accusing Washington of breaking past promises, Erdogan said: “They (Americans) told us they will pull out of Manbij. They said they will not stay in Manbij… Why don’t you just go?”

“Who did you bring there? PYD. Who did you bring there? YPG. Who did you bring there? PKK,” he said.

Turkey considers YPG as Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency since 1984 and is designated a terrorist outfit by Ankara and its Western allies.

“And then you tell us not to come to Manbij! We will come to Manbij to return it to its original owners,” he added.

Turkey considers towns like Manbij to be originally Arab-majority territory whose ethnic balance was upset in favour of the Kurds during the seven-year civil war.

Turkey’s Western allies, including the United States, do not classify the YPG as a terror group and have worked closely with its fighters in the battle against Islamic State jihadists.

In 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance dominated by the YPG, captured Manbij from IS.

In a show of anger at Turkey’s NATO ally, Erdogan asked the United States what it was doing in Syria in the first place.

“You do not have a border, you are not a neighbour (of Syria),” he said. “What’s your business there? We have a 911 kilometre (566 miles) border.”

Erdogan also accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama of failing to tell the truth over US support for the YPG.

“They told us many things but unfortunately they did not tell the truth,” Erdogan said. “Mr Obama did not tell the truth and now Mr Trump is heading down the same path.”


Pentagon puts countering China, Russia at center of US defense strategy

January 19, 2018


The US military has put countering China and Russia at the heart of a new national defense strategy unveiled on Friday, the latest sign of shifting American priorities after more than a decade and a half of focusing on the fight against Islamist militants.


The strategy document, the first of its kind since at least 2014, sets priorities for the US Defense Department that are expected to be  reflected in future defense spending requests. The Pentagon released an unclassified, 11-page version of the document on Friday.


The so-called “National Defense Strategy” represents the latest sign of hardening resolve by President Donald Trump’s administration to address challenges from Russia and China, despite Trump’s calls for improved ties with Moscow and Beijing.


“It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” the document said.


Mattis warns of ‘growing threats’ from Russia, China

January 19, 2018


© AFP/File / by Thomas WATKINS | US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) appears with President Donald Trump at a retreat with top Republicans at Camp David in Maryland earlier this month

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that America is facing “growing threats” from China and Russia, and warned that the US military’s advantages have eroded in recent years.Mattis’s assessment came as he unveiled the Pentagon’s vision for the future detailed in a document called the national defense strategy.

“We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models,” Mattis said as he unveiled the unclassified section of the document.

“Our military is still strong, yet our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare — air, land, sea, space and cyberspace — and is continually eroding,” he added.

President Donald Trump and his administration worry that the vast US military force is feeling the effects of years of budget shortfalls and atrophy, and needs a full reboot to restore it to an idealized strength.

Part wish list, part blueprint for the coming years, the Pentagon’s national defense strategy seeks to increase the size of the military, improve its readiness and work with allies — all while operating across multiple theaters including in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“This strategy establishes my intent to pursue urgent change at significant scale,” Mattis wrote in the introduction to the strategy.

“We must use creative approaches, make sustained investment and be disciplined in execution to field a Joint Force fit for our time, one that competes, deters and wins in this increasingly complex security environment.”

Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, told reporters that Mattis’s strategy seeks to deal with the “erosion” of America’s military advantage.

“What it is recognizing is that China and Russia in particular have been assiduously working over a number of years to develop their military capabilities to challenge our military advantages,” he said.

– Strategic competitors –

The new defense strategy follows on from Trump’s national security strategy that he released last month which, similarly, highlights the role of China and Russia in the global security environment.

“China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea,” Mattis wrote.

“Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic and security decisions of its neighbors,” he added, while also pointing a finger at Iran and North Korea for their threats to peace.

The two countries reacted furiously to Trump’s security strategy, with Beijing accusing Washington of having a “Cold War mentality” while Moscow denounced its “imperialist character.”

Trump’s security strategy contrasts with the friendly nature of his first state visit to Beijing in November, when he received a lavish welcome and repeatedly praised President Xi Jinping.

One of the biggest criticisms inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill is that the US military is suffering from a lack of readiness, where troops and gear are not getting the training or maintenance they need.

Mattis said the United States must be ready to fight a war.

“The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one,” he said.

“Doing so requires a competitive approach to force development and a consistent, multiyear investment to restore war fighting readiness and field a lethal force.”

Mattis’s strategy also calls for greater coordination with allies, who Trump on the campaign trail lambasted for not doing enough to share the burden of defending the post-World War II order.

“We expect European allies to fulfill their commitments to increase defense and modernization spending to bolster the alliance in the face of our shared security concerns,” Mattis said, in reference to NATO countries paying more into their defense budgets.

The document makes no mention of climate change, which under former president Barack Obama was recognized as a national security threat. Trump has claimed climate change is a hoax and pulled the US out of the historic climate accords in Paris.

by Thomas WATKINS

Pentagon says not creating conventional ‘border guard’ in Syria

January 18, 2018

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said on Wednesday it was not creating a new army or a conventional border guard in Syria, after Turkey reacted with outrage to US plans to train fighters including Syrian Kurds on internal security.
“The US continues to train local security forces in Syria. The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“It is also essential so that ISIS cannot reemerge in liberated and ungoverned areas. This is not a new “army” or conventional “border guard” force.

Hard to tell how US aid suspension will affect ties with Pakistan — But Pakistan is unlikely to change its strategic calculus in Afghanistan

January 5, 2018

By Nirmal Ghosh
The Straits Times
January 5, 2018

The US government has decided to suspend aid to Pakistan but it remains unclear if the move will change the close but prickly relationship between the two countries.

While American annoyance with its ally is not new, President Donald Trump had “opened an entirely new bargaining space, which is an unexpected positive,” Dr Christine Fair, South Asia expert and Associate Professor at Georgetown University, told The Straits Times.

Pakistan is unlikely to change its strategic calculus in Afghanistan, she added.

“Pakistan is not going to give up (its support for) the Afghan Taleban over this money,” Dr Fair said.

Mr Uzair Younus, director, South Asia at the consultancy Albright Stonebridge Group, said forthcoming polls in Pakistan would have a bearing on its response.

He told The Straits Times : “With elections coming up (in July), the (Pakistan) government will not want to be seen as succumbing to US demands for a few hundred million dollars which, if the need arises, Islamabad could receive from its strategic ally, China.”

Members of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry, tending to a wounded comrade in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said on Thursday the US would suspend military aid until Pakistan took “decisive action” against groups like the Taleban that were are”destabilising the region and targeting US personnel.”

Reuters news agency, quoting US officials, said at least US$900 million (S$1.19 billion) in security assistance would be affected.

The relationship between the US and Pakistan is riven with contradictions. Sixteen years after invading Afghanistan to drive the Taleban out of power in retaliation for their harbouring of Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre, the US is still in Afghanistan, fighting a resurgent Taleban whose fighters find refuge across the border in Pakistan.

If the US withdraws from Afghanistan, the Taleban which controls a sizable chunk of territory may well seize power again in Kabul.

Elements in the Pakistani security establishment see the Taleban as a foil against India which backs the current government in Kabul.

The US pays Pakistan for, among other things, the use of its territory and facilities and air space in pursuit of its military operationsin Afghanistan.

The Trump administration, with its focus on getting more for its money abroad, may be taking a harder line.

“Pakistan has played a double game for years,” Ms Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Jan 2. “They work with us at times, and they also harbour the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan. That game is not acceptable to this administration.”

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador, Ms Maleeha Lodhi, rejected the accusations.

She said: “We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter-terrorism operation anywhere in the world. We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated.”

Dr Fair told The Straits Times that a bigger question was whether the US had thought through what it would do if Pakistan cut off ground and air access for US supplies to Afghan government forces.

Security experts told The Straits Times that would reduce the US options.

The US cannot use the next best option logistically – Iran’s Chabahar port – because of the hostile relationship between the two countries. And an alternative route from Central Asia, would be vulnerable to the reach of Russia.

Somalia: Al-Shabab members killed in US airstrike

December 30, 2017

In this Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP)

MOGADISHU: The US military said a new airstrike in Somalia has killed four members of the Al-Shabab extremist group and destroyed a vehicle carrying explosives near the capital.

The statement from the US Africa Command said the airstrike on Wednesday evening about 25 km west of Mogadishu prevented the bomb from being used against residents of the capital.
Al-Shabab was blamed for the massive truck bombing in Mogadishu in October that killed 512 people.
The US has carried out 35 drone strikes in Somalia this year against Al-Shabab and Daesh-linked terrorists.
The Trump administration early this year approved expanded military operations in the Horn of Africa nation. The new US statement said they assess that no civilians were killed in the strike.

US military to stay in Syria ‘as long as we need to’: Pentagon

December 5, 2017


© AFP/File | The Pentagon now sees an open-ended troop commitment in Syria
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military plans to stay in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State group does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on Tuesday.”We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.

The United States currently has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise partner forces in the fight against IS.

Now that the jihadists have been cleared from all but a few pockets of territory, the United States has been assessing what its presence will be going forward in the civil-war-torn nation.

Pahon said its troop commitment in Syria would be “conditions-based,” meaning that no timeline will determine if and when the US will pull out.

“To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, the coalition must ensure it cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground, or plot external attacks,” he said.

“This is essential to the protection of our homeland as well as to defend our allies and partners…. The United States will sustain a ‘conditions-based’ military presence in Syria to combat the threat of a terrorist-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and to stabilize liberated areas.”

The announcement is likely to rile Russia, which since late 2015 has conducted a separate military campaign to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Dozens of Afghan security forces killed in Taliban raids

November 14, 2017


© AFP | Afghan security forces have faced soaring casualties in their attempts to hold back the insurgents since NATO combat forces pulled out of the country at the end of 2014

KABUL (AFP) – Dozens of Afghan police and soldiers have been killed in a wave of Taliban attacks on checkpoints in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday, as insurgents step up assaults on the beleaguered security forces.

The raids in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah on Monday night came hours after a suicide attacker rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a US military convoy, wounding four soldiers.

The Taliban issued statements on their social media accounts claiming the attacks.

“I can confirm that last night the Taliban launched a wave of attacks on police checkpoints in Maiwand and Zhari districts and we lost 22 brave policemen,” Kandahar governor spokesman Qudrat Khushbakht told AFP.

He added that 45 militants were killed during the fighting that lasted around six hours.

In one of the attacks militants used an explosives-packed police pickup to ambush a checkpoint, Kandahar police spokesman Matiullah Helal told AFP.

At least 15 policemen were wounded in the coordinated assaults.

The attack on the US military convoy in Kandahar added to the casualty toll.

“There were a total of four US service members injured and all are in stable condition in US medical treatment facilities,” a spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said, adding there were no fatalities.

Farah governor spokesman Naser Mehri told AFP nine Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in the province bordering Iran that also claimed the lives of at least three civilians.

“There are signs the Taliban may have used night vision technology to approach and surprise our forces, though they were spotted before reaching the posts and suffered casualties,” Mehri said.

The Taliban have intensified attacks on security installations across the country in recent weeks in a show of strength as the United States deploys more troops to train and assist Afghan forces.

Analysts said the Taliban’s almost daily attacks are intended to show their ability to strike even heavily defended targets with the aim of further demoralising Afghan forces already beset by huge casualties and desertions.

The Taliban often use bomb-laden armoured Humvees and police vehicles stolen from Afghan security forces to blast their way into security compounds.

The tactic was used multiple times last month with devastating effect: hundreds were killed and wounded over a bloody few days that left military bases and police headquarters destroyed or severely damaged.

Afghan security forces have faced soaring casualties in their attempts to hold back the insurgents since NATO combat forces pulled out of the country at the end of 2014.

Casualties leapt by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to US watchdog SIGAR.

The insurgents have carried out more complex attacks against security forces in 2017, with SIGAR describing troop casualties in the early part of the year as “shockingly high”.

In August, Trump announced that American forces would stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, increasing attacks on militants and deploying more troops.


Trump, Fellow Populist Duterte to Meet as U.S.-Philippine Relations Improve

November 12, 2017

Two leaders to discuss renewal of U.S.-Philippines alliance

MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte meets Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump, carrying with him a longstanding animosity toward America that has been tempered by Mr. Trump’s implicit support of his war on drugs and by U.S. help in crushing Islamic State-backed fighters who occupied a southern city.

The firebrand Filipino lobbed repeated verbal attacks at the U.S. when he took office in June 2016, swiftly clashing with then-President Barack Obama on human-rights issues. Relations improved under Mr. Trump, who…

N. Korea slams ‘incurably mentally deranged’ Trump

November 1, 2017


© AFP/File / by Jung Ha-Won | North Korea, known for its florid insults, has described US President Donald Trump as a ‘nuclear war maniac’ and a ‘dotard’, an obscure term for a weak or senile old man

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea slammed US President Donald Trump as “incurably mentally deranged” in a personal attack ahead of his first visit to Asia, as the South’s leader insisted Washington could not take military action on the peninsula without his agreement.Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un have traded threats of war and personal insults against each other in recent months, heightening worries about another conflict on the peninsula where the 1950-53 Korean War left millions dead.

The US leader has warned of “fire and fury”, telling the UN General Assembly that Washington would “totally destroy North Korea” if it had to defend itself or its allies.

Washington and Seoul have been in a security alliance for decades, and the US has 28,500 troops stationed in the South to defend it from the North.

Trump dubbed Kim “Rocket Man” in the same speech — Pyongyang has tested missiles apparently capable of reaching much of the US mainland — and days later Kim responded with a personal statement calling him a “dotard”, an obscure term for a weak or senile old man.

The US president is due in Asia at the weekend and ahead of his arrival the North’s state-run KCNA news agency lashed out at “bellicose and irresponsible rhetoric” by the “master of invective”.

Washington has deployed key military assets including jet fighters and aircraft carriers near the peninsula following the North’s sixth nuclear test in September, which also saw the United Nations impose an eighth set of sanctions on the isolated country.

Trump, KCNA said late Tuesday, “disclosed his true nature as a nuclear war maniac before the world and was diagnosed as ‘incurably mentally deranged'”.

The North has a long history of colourful personal attacks against US leaders. It has called Trump’s predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush a “monkey” and “half-baked man”.

It has railed against former South Korean president Park Geun-Hye as a “witch” and a “crafty prostitute” who had Obama as her “pimp”.

– ‘Tragic history’ –

Despite the fire-breathing rhetoric, South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Wednesday said his country would not develop or possess nuclear weapons, unlike its neighbour.

South Korean media and opposition politicians have called for the return of US tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from the peninsula in the 1990s.

Some have suggested that if Washington does not agree — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed doubts about the prospective move at the weekend — Seoul should develop a nuclear capability of its own, in order to ensure a so-called “balance of terror” on the peninsula.

In his address to the National Assembly Moon, who has advocated engagement to bring the North to the negotiating table, insisted: “There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent.”

The fate of the flashpoint region should be determined by Koreans, he added, saying the country should “not repeat the tragic history” of colonisation and division.

The Korea peninsula was controlled by Japan from 1910 to 1945, and after Tokyo’s surrender ended the Second World War it was divided into separate zones of occupation by Russia and the US.

The latest standoff has heightened concerns among South Koreans, who have over decades grown indifferent to regular threats of attack from Pyongyang.

But even some Trump advisers say US military options are limited because any armed conflict on the peninsula would be expected to cause huge casualties.

Seoul is home to 10 million people and only about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the heavily-fortified border, within range of Pyongyang’s massive artillery forces.

Pyongyang hails its nuclear arsenal as a “treasured sword” to protect itself from potential invasion by its “imperialist enemy” the US, but has threatened to bracket the US Pacific island of Guam with missiles.

Trump’s itinerary includes Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, with all eyes on his message to the North and Kim.

In the South Trump is due to address parliament, visit a US military base, and hold a summit with Moon, although he will not go to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas.

by Jung Ha-Won