Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Look At How The Afghan Army Will Survive The 2016 Fighting Season

An Afghan policeman inspects passengers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jalalabad province, Afghanistan, April 29, 2016. REUTERS/ PARWIZ

Shawn Snow, Foreign Policy: How Afghanistan Survives the 2016 Fighting Season

Off to a grim and tragic start, Afghanistan must heed lessons from the 2015 fighting season and get creative in their strategies if this year's is to be any better.

Spring has finally arrived, and with it, the beginning of another bloody season of fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan central government. On April 12, the Taliban announced the start of its annual spring offensive — this year, dubbed “Operation Omari,” in homage to the deceased former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar — in what could be a decisive year for both the Kabul-based government and the Taliban. A relative period of calm had permeated the battlefields, from the Helmand Valley to northern Kunduz province. An eerie stillness lingered in the aftermath of one of the bloodiest fighting seasons since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in 2001. That stillness was shattered on the morning of April 19, when the Taliban carried out its worst attack on Kabul, the capital, since 2011, killing over two dozen people and wounding more than 300 others.

Read more ....

Update: Afghan forces launch push against Taliban (Reuters)

WNU editor: The Afghans have no choice .... the U.S./Western military presence is shrinking .... Shrinking US presence in Afghanistan ‘creates security concerns’ (AFP).

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ukraine And Pro-Russian Rebel Forces Have Agreed To An Orthodox Ceasefire



DW: Ukraine troops and pro-Russia rebels agree Orthodox Easter ceasefire

Ukraine's government has agreed a new truce with pro-Russian insurgents, which is set to take effect on Orthodox Easter weekend. The ceasefire comes amidst reports that fighting has reached levels not seen for months.

An agreement has been reached to halt violence in eastern Ukraine - at least until May 9, announced the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday.

The truce is set to begin at midnight on Saturday and covers Orthodox Christian Easter and International Workers' Day on May 1, as well as the ex-Soviet Union's May 9 commemorative celebrations of the end of World War II.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Some are not respecting the ceasefire .... Two Ukrainian soldiers killed, four wounded as guns supposed to go silent before Easter (Ukraine Today).

U.N. Report: 10,000 Killed Since Ukraine Conflict Began

A member of the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic stands by the wreckage of a car destroyed in an explosion in the rebel-controlled village of Yelenovka outside Donetsk, Ukraine, April 27, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

Radio Free Europe: UN Raises Ukraine Death Toll Estimate To 9,333

The United Nations on April 28 raised its estimate of the total killed during the conflict in eastern Ukraine to 9,333 from 9,160 in March.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the UN Security Council that the total number of casualties now stands at 30,729, including 9,333 people killed and 21,396 injured.

He said the latest incident occurred on April 27, when shelling killed at least four civilians and injured at least eight people in Olenivka near the city of Donetsk.

Read more ....

Update #19,333 Killed Since Ukraine Conflict Began, U.N. Says -- AP
Update #2UN says nearly 10,000 killed since Ukraine conflict began -- Global News/Canadian Press

WNU Editor: Everyone that I knew has been telling me for the past few months that the numbers are  20,000 killed, 50,000 wounded, 2,000,000 displaced. But like any other conflict the true numbers will not be known until the war is over, and everyone can then tally up the cost.

U.S. Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court Has Never Denied Any FBI Or NSA Surveillance Request

Image from Slashgear

Bruce Brown, Digital Trends: Can you say ‘rubber stamp?’ FBI and NSA requests never denied by secret court


You likely don’t know much about the U.S. Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court. Though it keeps a low profile, this is the court the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency go to when they want permission to put someone under surveillance. And they don’t get turned down, according to Reuters, citing a Justice Department memo. In 2015 the court received and approved 1,457 requests from the FBI and NSA. There were a bit fewer requests in 2014, but all of those were approved as well.

The surveillance requests are for email or telephone intercepts. If granted, which is apparently always, they generally are carried out with the assistance of Internet telecommunications service providers.

Read more ....

Update: US spy court didn't reject a single government surveillance request in 2015 (ZDNet).

WNU Editor: Not even one request denial. Talk about being a "rubber stamp".

North Korea Vows To Continue Developing Its Nuclear Weapon Capabilities



Bloomberg: N. Korea Vows to Rapidly Advance Nuclear Attack Capabilities

* S. Korea-U.S. drills 'worst' provocation: official news agency
* Kim Jong Un regime to hold Worker’s Party Congress on May 6

North Korea vowed to make rapid advancements on nuclear attack capabilities if South Korea and the U.S. continue with joint military drills, with the warning coming days before predictions that the nation may conduct its fifth nuclear test for the Worker’s Party Congress on May 6.

“Our capability to make nuclear attacks will make fast advancement every time enemies conduct war exercises,” the regime’s official news agency reported, citing an unidentified spokesman at its foreign ministry. North Korea called a joint military drill between South Korea and the U.S. “the worst military provocation.”

Read more ....

Update: North Korea Calls US-South Korea Drills ‘Open Declaration Of War,’ Report Warns It May Conduct Fifth Nuclear Test Next Week (IBTimes).

WNU Editor: More signs that the North Korean leadership wants to make Worker’s Party Congress on May 6 a huge success.

Politicians Allied To Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Gain In Run-Off Elections

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this March 26, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/FAISAL MAHMOOD

Reuters: Iran's moderates make modest gains in run-off election

Politicians allied to President Hassan Rouhani came out strongest in a second round of parliamentary elections in Iran, early results showed on Saturday, but his moderate faction appeared unlikely to clinch an overall majority.

If confirmed, the results suggest Iran's next parliament will be more supportive of Rouhani's drive for economic reforms, but conservatives will remain a powerful force and could limit the prospects for social change.

Iranians voted on Friday for 68 seats where no candidate had won decisively in the first round. Rouhani's allies made significant gains in that vote, held in February, ending conservative dominance of the 290-seat assembly.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The power still resides with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei .... Iran elections: Nothing will change as long as Khamenei is alive, says Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi (IBTimes).

White House Iraq Plan Thrown Into Disarray After Today's Storming Of The Parliament By Pro-Shiite Protestors



Washington Post: Protests in Baghdad throw administration’s Iraq plan into doubt

President Obama’s plan for fighting the Islamic State is predicated on having a credible and effective Iraqi ally on the ground in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

And in recent days, the administration had been optimistic, despite the growing political unrest in Baghdad, about that critical partnership.

But that optimism — along with the administration’s strategy for battling the Islamic State in Iraq — was thrown into severe doubt after protesters stormed Iraq’s parliament on Saturday and a state of emergency was declared in Baghdad. The big question for White House officials is what happens if Abadi — a critical linchpin in the fight against the Islamic State — does not survive the turmoil that has swept over the Iraqi capital.

The chaos in the Iraqi capital comes hours after a visit by Vice President Biden that was intended to help calm the political unrest and keep the battle against the Islamic State on track.

As Biden’s plane was approaching Baghdad on Thursday, a senior administration official described the vice president’s visit — which was shrouded in secrecy prior to his arrival — as a “symbol of how much faith we have in Prime Minister Abadi.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: So much for Vice President Biden's trip to Iraq only a few hours earlier to show support to Prime Inister al-Abadi .... U.S. Vice President Biden Makes A Surprise Visit To Iraq

Editor's Note

Blogging will return later tonight.

Iraq Government In Chaos. Shiite Protesters Storm Parliament. Baghdad In A State Of Emergency



New York Times: Iraq Protesters Storm Parliament, Demanding End to Corruption

BAGHDAD — Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday and entered the Parliament building, waving Iraqi flags, snapping photographs, breaking furniture and demanding an end to corruption.

As the chaos unfolded in the afternoon, Baghdad Operations Command announced a state of emergency, deploying additional forces around the capital city. Checkpoints at city entrances were closed, even as the protests remained largely nonviolent.

The scenes of protest, circulated in photographs and videos on social media sites, were potent demonstrations of the anger that had grown during months of protests by Iraqis who have demanded that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi carry out measures to end sectarian quotas in politics and fight corruption.

Read more ....



More News On Today's Protests In Baghdad

The Latest: Iraqi forces stand down amid protests -- AP
Sadr followers storm into Baghdad's Green Zone, political crisis deepens -- Reuters
State of emergency declared in Baghdad as protesters take Iraqi parliament -- Washington Post
Iraqi protesters breach Green Zone, storm parliament -- AP
Protesters storm parliament in Iraq's Green Zone -- AFP
Reports: Protesters storm Iraqi parliament, use barbed wire to contain lawmakers -- UPI
Iraq Declares Baghdad Emergency as Protesters Storm Parliament -- Bloomberg
Baghdad In State of Emergency After Supporters of al Sadr Storm Green Zone -- NBC
Iraqi Shia protesters storm Baghdad parliament -- BBC
Protesters storm Iraqi parliament -- The Hill
Baghdad in state of emergency as protesters storm Green Zone -- USA Today
Protesters Storm Iraqi Parliament -- WSJ
Iraq: Sadr supporters storm Baghdad's Green Zone -- Al Jazeera
Anti-corruption protesters storm Baghdad’s Green Zone, enter parliament -- RT
Who Is Muqtada Al-Sadr? Supporters Of Iraqi Shiite Cleric Rush Green Zone As Baghdad Protest Heats Up -- IBTimes

Fly With The Fighter Pilots Of The Chinese Air Force (Video)



Popular Mechanics: Scramble with Fighter Pilots of the Chinese Air Force

​This video promoting China's air arm has a little bit of everything​.

A video promoting the People's Liberation Army Air Force—informally known as the Chinese Air Force—has surfaced on YouTube. The video attempts to show the PLAAF as a service fully prepared to defend the country's air space, as well as contribute to fights on the ground and at sea, at a moment's notice.

The video starts with children playing in a field of flowers, wearing various national dresses of China's various regions. Suddenly, shattering the peace of this scene, Chinese air force pilots quickly scramble to their planes.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They are getting better with these promotional videos.

The F-35 Prepares For War Against China Or Russia

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian West watches an Air Force F-35 Lightning II joist strike fighter aircraft approach for the first time July 14, 2011, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

National Interest: F-35 Stealth Fighter Prepares for the Unthinkable: War with China or Russia

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.

The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Harrigian said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian made threats, they said.

“They have got these digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) out there that can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate. being able to replicate that is not easy,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director of the F-35 Integration Office, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They can boast all that they want on what the F-35 is capable of, but the 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system are still causing problems .... Five of six F-35 fighter jets were unable to take off during testing because of software glitches but the Air Force still plans to declare the aircraft combat-ready this year (Daily Mail).

Update: Here is an interesting story .... Commentary: An unusual view of the U.S. Air Force's F-22 (Reuters)

U.S. Congress Tells The Pentagon To Not Retire The A-10 Fleet

ONE BY ONE, THE AIR FORCE KEEPS PEELING OFF PLANES FROM THE A-10 WARTHOG FORCE. IMAGE SOURCE: NORTHROP GRUMMAN.

FoxTrotAlpha: The A-10 Warthog May Be Kept Out Of Retirement By Law

The U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II AKA “Warthog” has become one of the most-recognized and beloved warplanes since it started flying in the 1970s. We’ve been hearing about its impending retirement—and the reason many in the armed services community are against that—for ages, but proposed legislation could keep it in the sky for at least a little longer.

This week House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry submitted his latest version of the defense policy bill that would dictate how military money would be spent. Subtitle D, Section 142 of H.R. 1735 basically says the Air Force would not be able to use any fiscal year 2017 funds “to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage or on backup aircraft inventory status any A–10 aircraft.”

The bill also requires the USAF to keep at least 171 A-10s as “primary mission aircraft inventory;” in other words, ready to rock and roll.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Will this pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by President Obama ....  weshall see.

Why All Of Us Should be Afraid Of The Group 'The Hacking Team'


David Kushner, Foreign Policy: Fear This Man

To spies, David Vincenzetti is a salesman. To tyrants, he is a savior. How the Italian mogul built a hacking empire.

As the sun rose over the banks of the Seine and the medieval, half-timbered houses of Rouen, France, on July 13, 2012, Hisham Almiraat opened his inbox to find “Denunciation” in the subject line of an email. “Please do not mention my name or anything,” wrote the sender, Imane. “I do not want any trouble.”

The editor and co-founder of Mamfakinch, a pro-democracy website created in Morocco during the Arab Spring, Almiraat was one of his country’s most outspoken dissidents and someone accustomed to cryptic emails: Moroccan activists faced jail time for their views and risked their jobs, or even their lives, for speaking out against their government. From Normandy’s capital city, where Almiraat was in medical school, the bespectacled 36-year-old spent his time — in between classes and hospital shifts — mentoring, coaching, and editing more than 40 citizen journalists. The group covered the roiling unrest back in Almiraat’s homeland, where he would soon return after completing his studies. (Almiraat contributed to Foreign Policy in 2011.)

Read more ....

WNU Editor: When Foreign Policy posts a news story that is not behind it's firewall .... you know it is important. And in this case .... it is. It is a long read .... but it impacts all of us. On a side note .... The Hacking team pales when compared to this group .... Russian Researchers Discover America's Crown Jewel In Cyber Spying And This Spyware Is On All Computers.

China Claims Okinawa

The Ryukyu Islands, as seen on a map at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. Samurai Wiki

Michael Peck, National Interest: China Claiming Okinawa Is Like Japan Claiming Hawaii

Unless you are nostalgic for the last two world wars, let's hope it’s nothing more than posturing.

Hawaii belongs to Japan, the Japanese press suddenly proclaims. Tokyo publishes ancient maps and documents that purport to show that the Hawaiian islands were historically part of the Japanese homeland until they were illegally annexed by the Americans. To hammer the point home, a Japanese warship sails into Hawaiian waters.

Does this sound totally insane? It's no more crazy than Chinese claims that the Ryukyu Islands—which include the island of Okinawa—belong to China rather than Japan.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I have been covering this story for quite a long time ....

China Wants Okinawa (January 1, 2016)
More Chinese Claims That Okinawa Belongs To China (June 15, 2013)
China Continues To Lay Claims To Okinawa (May 16, 2013)

This is what I wrote early this year on this topic, and it still holds true today ....

These Chinese claims on the Ryukyu islands (Okinawa included) have been around for a long time. I even heard about it in the mid-1980s when I was working in China .... and even though I said that such claims were beyond ridiculous, my Chinese hosts were very blunt to me that these islands (like Taiwan) belong to them. 30 years later .... it looks like they are "upping" the pressure.

An Interview With A Former Islamic State Fighter

Harry Sarfo appeared in an Isis propaganda video issued in 2015, where two prisoners were executed by other militants

The Independent: Former Isis militant who grew up in the UK says coalition bombing campaign will drive more jihadists to launch attacks

In an interview with The Independent, the former jihadist revealed he once worked for Royal Mail as a postman

The US-led bombing campaign against Isis will drive more jihadists to launch terror attacks in the West, a former militant who grew up in the UK has said.

Harry Sarfo joined the so-called Islamic State in Syria and appeared in one of its notorious propaganda execution videos before becoming disillusioned with the scale of brutality he saw and fleeing the group.

In an exchange with The Independent from the German prison where he awaiting trial on terror charges, Sarfo claimed that the use of air strikes by the US-led coalition is inspiring more followers to commit atrocities in places including mainland Europe.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The impression that I have of him after reading this post is that he is a lost soul .... and a dangerous one at that.

A Look At how Japan Lost The $40 Billion Australian Submarine Deal

Australia's then Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) at the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane November 16, 2014. REUTERS/Ian Waldie/pool

Tim Kelly, Cyril Altmeyer and Colin Packham, Reuters: How France sank Japan's $40 billion Australian submarine dream

In 2014, a blossoming friendship between Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe looked to have all but sewn up a $40 billion submarine deal. Then French naval contractor DCNS hatched a bold and seemingly hopeless plan to gatecrash the party.

Almost 18 months later, France this week secured a remarkable come-from-behind victory on one of the world's most lucrative defense deals. The result: Tokyo's dream of fast-tracking a revival of its arms export industry is left in disarray.

Interviews with more than a dozen Japanese, French, Australian and German government and industry officials show how a series of missteps by a disparate Japanese group of ministry officials, corporate executives and diplomats badly undermined their bid.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Japanese thought they already had the deal, but the French and Germans realized that they did not, and the deal maker was on the issue of Australian jobs. This is a surprise .... the Japanese are the ones who have the reputation of making tough deals, but it looks like this reputation is no longer deserved.

U.S. Army Chief Warns Cadets That They Must Prepare For 'Little Green Men' And 'Hybrid Armies'



Inquisitr: U.S. Military Prepping For Alien Invasion? Army Chief Warns Cadets, "Prepare For Little Green Men And Hybrid Armies Hybrid Armies"

At a symposium marking the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program held at Norwich University on Thursday, April 21, 2016, General Mark A. Milley, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, delivered a speech in which he warned an audience composed mainly of ROTC cadets that as officers they would be dealing with “little green men” and “hybrid armies.”

Members of the UFO community took the message from the army chief and began spreading rumors in the conspiracy theory blogosphere that the U.S. army chief has admitted that the U.S. government is aware of a looming threat of alien and alien-human hybrid space invasion and is preparing the military to confront the threat.

General Mark A. Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, talked about “little green men” and “hybrid armies” during the Norwich University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps Centennial Symposium while highlighting to the cadets the qualities they would need to face challenges in the near-future as global conflicts increase in complexity.

Note: The general’s statement referring to “hybrid armies” and “little green men” occurs in the 34:10-50 time interval in the video below

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I think he was referring to the Russian army and on how they seized Crimea and not aliens .... I think .... maybe .... hmmmm ....

East - West Tensions Grow Over The Baltics



WSJ: NATO Allies Preparing to Put Four Battalions at Eastern Border With Russia

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense says buildup is response to Moscow’s military activity near the Baltics

Western allies are preparing to put four battalions—a force of about 4,000 troops—in Poland and the Baltic countries as part of an effort by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to reinforce its border with Russia as Moscow steps up military activity, officials said Friday.

The U.S. is likely to provide two battalions, while Germany and Britain would likely provide a battalion each, according to Western officials.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, visiting Brussels, confirmed the overall size of the force and said the buildup was a response to more Russian activity around the Baltics—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—where tensions have been rising.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Russia's response to NATO's build-up in the Baltics .... Russia says Baltics should be more grateful (US News and World Report). What irks Russia even more is the German deployment .... Germany Will Deploy Troops in Lithuania to 'Contain' Russia (Sputnik).

Update: So true .... Forward Basing NATO Airpower in the Baltics Is A Bad Idea (Maj. Gen. Ralph S. Clemapril, War On The Rocks).

More News On Growing Tensions In the Baltics

NATO reportedly plans to send 4 battalions to eastern border with Russia -- FOX News
Spooked by Russia, Lithuania spares no money for defense -- Reuters
Germany mulls sending NATO troops to Lithuania – defense official -- RT
U.S. F-22 Jets Land In Lithuania In Show Of Regional Support -- RFE
Analysis: Baltic Sea Heating Up as Friction Point Between U.S., NATO and Russia -- USNI