From Save the Olympic Peninsula
From Save the Olympic Peninsula
Image: El Salvador Death Squads
This article was first published by Global Research on January 4, 2013. It is also published as a chapter in Michel Chossudovsky’s book The Globalization of War, America’s Long War against Humanity. Global Research Publishers, 2015
In recent developments the Chilcot Report has revealed the role of Latin-american style death squads in Iraq.
The recruitment of death squads is part of a well established US military-intelligence agenda. There is a long and gruesome US history of covert funding and support of terror brigades and targeted assassinations going back to the Vietnam war.
As government forces continue to confront the self-proclaimed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), the historical roots of the West’s covert war on Syria –which has resulted in countless atrocities– must be fully revealed.
From the outset in March 2011, the US and its allies have supported the formation of death squads and the incursion of terrorist brigades in a carefully planned undertaking.
The recruitment and training of terror brigades in both Iraq and Syria was modeled on the “Salvador Option”, a “terrorist model” of mass killings by US sponsored death squads in Central America. It was first applied in El Salvador, in the heyday of resistance against the military dictatorship, resulting in an estimated 75,000 deaths.
The formation of death squads in Syria builds upon the history and experience of US sponsored terror brigades in Iraq, under the Pentagon’s “counterinsurgency” program.
The Establishment of Death Squads in Iraq
US sponsored death squads were recruited in Iraq starting in 2004-2005 in an initiative launched under the helm of the US Ambassador John Negroponte, [image: right] who was dispatched to Baghdad by the US State Department in June 2004.
Negroponte was the “man for the job”. As US Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. Negroponte played a key role in supporting and supervising the Nicaraguan Contras based in Honduras as well as overseeing the activities of the Honduran military death squads.
“Under the rule of General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, Honduras’s military government was both a close ally of the Reagan administration and was “disappearing” dozens of political opponents in classic death squad fashion.”
In January 2005, the Pentagon, confirmed that it was considering:
” forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency [Resistance] in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago”.
Under the so-called “El Salvador option”, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders, even in Syria, where some are thought to shelter. …
Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret.
The experience of the so-called “death squads” in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region.
Then, the Reagan Administration funded and trained teams of nationalist forces to neutralise Salvadorean rebel leaders and sympathisers. …
John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85.
Death squads were a brutal feature of Latin American politics of the time. …
In the early 1980s President Reagan’s Administration funded and helped to train Nicaraguan contras based in Honduras with the aim of ousting Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime. The Contras were equipped using money from illegal American arms sales to Iran, a scandal that could have toppled Mr Reagan.
The thrust of the Pentagon proposal in Iraq, … is to follow that model …
It is unclear whether the main aim of the missions would be to assassinate the rebels or kidnap them and take them away for interrogation. Any mission in Syria would probably be undertaken by US Special Forces.
Nor is it clear who would take responsibility for such a programme — the Pentagon or the Central Intelligence Agency. Such covert operations have traditionally been run by the CIA at arm’s length from the administration in power, giving US officials the ability to deny knowledge of it. (El Salvador-style ‘death squads’ to be deployed by US against Iraq militants – Times Online, January 10, 2005, emphasis added)
While the stated objective of the “Iraq Salvador Option” was to “take out the insurgency”, in practice the US sponsored terror brigades were involved in routine killings of civilians with a view to fomenting sectarian violence. In turn, the CIA and MI6 were overseeing “Al Qaeda in Iraq” units involved in targeted assassinations directed against the Shiite population. Of significance, the death squads were integrated and advised by undercover US Special Forces.
Robert Stephen Ford –subsequently appointed US Ambassador to Syria– was part of Negroponte’s team in Baghdad in 2004-2005. In January 2004, he was dispatched as U.S. representative to the Shiite city of Najaf which was the stronghold of the Mahdi army, with which he made preliminary contacts.
In January 2005, Robert S. Ford’s was appointed Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte. He was not only part of the inner team, he was Negroponte’s partner in setting up the Salvador Option. Some of the groundwork had been established in Najaf prior to Ford’s transfer to Baghdad.
John Negroponte and Robert Stephen Ford were put in charge of recruiting the Iraqi death squads. While Negroponte coordinated the operation from his office at the US Embassy, Robert S. Ford, who was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish, was entrusted with the task of establishing strategic contacts with Shiite and Kurdish militia groups outside the “Green Zone”.
Two other embassy officials, namely Henry Ensher (Ford’s Deputy) and a younger official in the political section,Jeffrey Beals, played an important role in the team “talking to a range of Iraqis, including extremists”. (See The New Yorker, March 26, 2007). Another key individual in Negroponte’s team was James Franklin Jeffrey, America’s ambassador to Albania (2002-2004). In 2010, Jeffrey was appointed US Ambassador to Iraq (2010-2012).
Negroponte also brought into the team one of his former collaborators Colonel James Steele (ret) from his Honduras heyday:
Under the “Salvador Option,” “Negroponte had assistance from his colleague from his days in Central America during the 1980′s, Ret. Col James Steele. Steele, whose title in Baghdad was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces supervised the selection and training of members of the Badr Organization and Mehdi Army, the two largest Shi’ite militias in Iraq, in order to target the leadership and support networks of a primarily Sunni resistance. Planned or not, these death squads promptly spiralled out of control to become the leading cause of death in Iraq.
Intentional or not, the scores of tortured, mutilated bodies which turn up on the streets of Baghdad each day are generated by the death squads whose impetus was John Negroponte. And it is this U.S.-backed sectarian violence which largely led to the hell-disaster that Iraq is today. (Dahr Jamail, Managing Escalation: Negroponte and Bush’s New Iraq Team,. Antiwar.com, January 7, 2007)
“Colonel Steele was responsible, according to Rep. Dennis Kucinichfor implementing “a plan in El Salvador under which tens of thousands Salvadorans “disappeared” or were murdered, including Archbishop Oscar Romero and four American nuns.”
Upon his appointment to Baghdad, Colonel Steele was assigned to a counter-insurgency unit known as the “Special Police Commando” under the Iraqi Interior Ministry” (See ACN, Havana, June 14, 2006)
Reports confirm that “the US military turned over many prisoners to the Wolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry’s special commandos” which so happened to be under supervision of Colonel Steele:
“US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing,” while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said. An interview conducted by Maass [of the New York Times] in 2005 at the improvised prison, accompanied by the Wolf Brigade’s US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.” (Ibid, emphasis added)
Another notorious figure who played a role in Iraq’s counter-insurgency program was Former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik [image: Bernie Kerik in Baghdad Police Academy with body guards] who in 2007 was indicted in federal court on 16 felony charges.
Kerik had been appointed by the Bush administration at the outset of the occupation in 2003 to assist in the organization and training of the Iraqi Police force. During his short stint in 2003, Bernie Kerik –who took on the position of interim Minister of the Interior– worked towards organizing terror units within the Iraqi Police force: “Dispatched to Iraq to whip Iraqi security forces into shape, Kerik dubbed himself the “interim interior minister of Iraq.” British police advisors called him the “Baghdad terminator,” (Salon, December 9, 2004, emphasis added)
Under Negroponte’s helm at the US Embassy in Baghdad, a wave of covert civilian killings and targeted assassinations had been unleashed. Engineers, medical doctors, scientists and intellectuals were also targeted.
Author and geopolitical analyst Max Fuller has documented in detail the atrocities committed under the US sponsored counterinsurgency program.
The appearance of death squads was first highlighted in May this year , …dozens of bodies were found casually disposed … in vacant areas around Baghdad. All of the victims had been handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and many of them also showed signs of having been brutally tortured. …
The evidence was sufficiently compelling for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), a leading Sunni organisation, to issue public statements in which they accused the security forces attached to the Ministry of the Interior as well as the Badr Brigade, the former armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), of being behind the killings. They also accused the Ministry of the Interior of conducting state terrorism (Financial Times).
The Police Commandos as well as the Wolf Brigade were overseen by the US counterinsurgency program in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior:
The Police Commandos were formed under the experienced tutelage and oversight of veteran US counterinsurgency fighters, and from the outset conducted joint-force operations with elite and highly secretive US special-forces units (Reuters, National Review Online).
…A key figure in the development of the Special Police Commandos was James Steele, a former US Army special forces operative who cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military mission in El Salvador at the height of that country’s civil war. …
Another US contributor was the same Steven Casteel who as the most senior US advisor within the Interior Ministry brushed off serious and well-substantiated accusations of appalling human right violations as ‘rumor and innuendo’. Like Steele, Casteel gained considerable experience in Latin America, in his case participating in the hunt for the cocaine baron Pablo Escobar in Colombia’s Drugs Wars of the 1990s …
Casteel’s background is significant because this kind of intelligence-gathering support role and the production of death lists are characteristic of US involvement in counterinsurgency programs and constitute the underlying thread in what can appear to be random, disjointed killing sprees.
Such centrally planned genocides are entirely consistent with what is taking place in Iraq today  …It is also consistent with what little we know about the Special Police Commandos, which was tailored to provide the Interior Ministry with a special-forces strike capability (US Department of Defense). In keeping with such a role, the Police Commando headquarters has become the hub of a nationwide command, control, communications, computer and intelligence operations centre, courtesy of the US. (Max Fuller, op cit)
This initial groundwork established under Negroponte in 2005 was implemented under his successor Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Robert Stephen Ford ensured the continuity of the project prior to his appointment as US Ambassador to Algeria in 2006, as well as upon his return to Baghdad as Deputy Chief of Mission in 2008.
The gruesome Iraqi version of the “Salvador Option” under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte has served as a “role model” for setting up the “Free Syrian Army” Contras. Robert Stephen Ford was, no doubt, involved in the implementation of the Syrian Contras project, following his reassignment to Baghdad as Deputy Head of Mission in 2008.
The objective in Syria was to create factional divisions between Sunni, Alawite, Shiite, Kurds, Druze and Christians. While the Syrian context is entirely different to that of Iraq, there are striking similarities with regard to the procedures whereby the killings and atrocities were conducted.
A report published by Der Spiegel pertaining to atrocities committed in the Syrian city of Homs confirms an organized sectarian process of mass-murder and extra-judicial killings comparable to that conducted by the US sponsored death squads in Iraq.
People in Homs were routinely categorized as “prisoners” (Shia, Alawite) and “traitors”. The “traitors” are Sunni civilians within the rebel occupied urban area, who express their disagreement or opposition to the rule of terror of the Free Syrian Army (FSA):
“Since last summer , we have executed slightly fewer than 150 men, which represents about 20 percent of our prisoners,” says Abu Rami. … But the executioners of Homs have been busier with traitors within their own ranks than with prisoners of war. “If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we make it quick,” says the fighter. According to Abu Rami, Hussein’s burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising.”(Der Spiegel, March 30, 2012)
The project required an initial program of recruitment and training of mercenaries. Death squads including Lebanese and Jordanian Salafist units entered Syria’s southern border with Jordan in mid-March 2011. Much of the groundwork was already in place prior to Robert Stephen Ford’s arrival in Damascus in January 2011.
Ambassador Ford in Hama in early July 2011
Ford’s appointment as Ambassador to Syria was announced in early 2010. Diplomatic relations had been cut in 2005 following the Rafick Hariri assassination, which Washington blamed on Syria. Ford arrived in Damascus barely two months before the onset of the insurgency.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA)
Washington and its allies replicated in Syria the essential features of the “Iraq Salvador Option”, leading to the creation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its various terrorist factions including the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra brigades.
While the creation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was announced in June 2011, the recruitment and training of foreign mercenaries was initiated at a much an earlier period.
In many regards, the Free Syrian Army is a smokescreen. It is upheld by the Western media as a bona fide military entity established as a result of mass defections from government forces. The number of defectors, however, was neither significant nor sufficient to establish a coherent military structure with command and control functions.
The FSA is not a professional military entity, rather it is a loose network of separate terrorist brigades, which in turn are made up of numerous paramilitary cells operating in different parts of the country.
Each of these terrorist organizations operates independently. The FSA does not effectively exercise command and control functions including liaison with these diverse paramilitary entities. The latter are controlled by US-NATO sponsored special forces and intelligence operatives which are embedded within the ranks of selected terrorist formations.
These (highly trained) Special forces on the ground (many of whom are employees of private security companies) are routinely in contact with US-NATO and allied military/intelligence command units (including Turkey). These embedded Special Forces are, no doubt, also involved in the carefully planned bomb attacks directed against government buildings, military compounds, etc.
The death squads are mercenaries trained and recruited by the US, NATO, its Persian Gulf GCC allies as well as Turkey. They are overseen by allied special forces (including British SAS and French Parachutistes), and private security companies on contract to NATO and the Pentagon. In this regard, reports confirm the arrest by the Syrian government of some 200-300 private security company employees who had integrated rebel ranks.
The Jabhat Al Nusra Front
The Al Nusra Front –which is said to be affiliated to Al Qaeda– is described as the most effective “opposition” rebel fighting group, responsible for several of the high profile bomb attacks. Portrayed as an enemy of America (on the State Department list of terrorist organizations), Al Nusra operations, nonetheless, bear the fingerprints of US paramilitary training, terror tactics and weapons systems. The atrocities committed against civilians by Al Nusra (funded covertly by US-NATO) are similar to those undertaken by the US sponsored death squads in Iraq.
In the words of Al Nusra leader Abu Adnan in Aleppo: “Jabhat al-Nusra does count Syrian veterans of the Iraq war among its numbers, men who bring expertise — especially the manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — to the front in Syria.”
As in Iraq, factional violence and ethnic cleansing were actively promoted. In Syria, the Alawite, Shiite and Christian communities have been the target of the US-NATO sponsored death squads. The Alawite and the Christian community are the main targets of the assassination program. Confirmed by the Vatican News Service:
Christians in Aleppo are victims of death and destruction due to the fighting which for months, has been affecting the city. The Christian neighborhoods, in recent times, have been hit by rebel forces fighting against the regular army and this has caused an exodus of civilians.
Some groups in the rugged opposition, where there are also jiahadist groups, “fire on Christian houses and buildings, to force occupants to escape and then take possession [ethnic cleansing] (Agenzia Fides. Vatican News, October 19, 2012)
“The Sunni Salafist militants – says the Bishop – continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy war proudly, especially against the Alawites. When terrorists seek to control the religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive.” (Agenzia Fides 04/06/2012)
Reports confirm the influx of Salafist and Al Qaeda affiliated death squads as well as brigades under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood into Syria from the inception of the insurgency in March 2011.
Moreover, reminiscent of the enlistment of the Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war, NATO and the Turkish High command, according to Israeli intelligence sources, had initiated”
“a campaign to enlist thousands of Muslim volunteers in Middle East countries and the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would house these volunteers, train them and secure their passage into Syria. (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011).
Private Security Companies and the Recruitment of Mercenaries
According to reports, private security companies operating out of Gulf States are involved in the recruiting and training of mercenaries.
Although not specifically earmarked for the recruitment of mercenaries directed against Syria, reports point to the creation of training camps in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In Zayed Military City (UAE), “a secret army is in the making” operated by Xe Services, formerly Blackwater. The UAE deal to establish a military camp for the training of mercenaries was signed in July 2010, nine months before the onslaught of the wars in Libya and Syria.
In recent developments, security companies on contract to NATO and the Pentagon are involved in training “opposition” death squads in the use of chemical weapons:
“The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday. ( CNN Report, December 9, 2012)
The names of the companies involved were not revealed.
Behind Closed Doors at the US State Department
Robert Stephen Ford was part of a small team at the US State Department team which oversaw the recruitment and training of terrorist brigades, together with Derek Chollet and Frederic C. Hof, a former business partner of Richard Armitage, who served as Washington’s “special coordinator on Syria”. Derek Chollet has recently been appointed to the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ISA).
This team operated under the helm of (former) Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern AffairsJeffrey Feltman.
Feltman’s team was in close liaison with the process of recruitment and training of mercenaries out of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya (courtesy of the post-Gaddafi regime, which dispatched six hundred Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) troops to Syria, via Turkey in the months following the September 2011 collapse of the Gaddafi government).
Assistant Secretary of State Feltman was in contact with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal,and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim. He was also in charge of a Doha-based office for “special security coordination” pertaining to Syria, which included representatives from Western and GCC intelligence agencies well as a representative from Libya. Prince Bandar bin Sultan. a prominent and controversial member of Saudi intelligence was part of this group. (See Press Tv, May 12, 2012).
In June 2012, Jeffrey Feltman (image: Left) was appointed UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, a strategic position which, in practice, consists in setting the UN agenda (on behalf of Washington) on issues pertaining to “Conflict Resolution” in various “political hot spots” around the world (including Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Mali). In a bitter irony, the countries for UN “conflict resolution” are those which are the target of US covert operations.
In liaison with the US State Department, NATO and his GCC handlers in Doha and Riyadh, Feltman is Washington’s man behind UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahmi’s “Peace Proposal”.
Meanwhile, while paying lip service to the UN Peace initiative, the US and NATO have speeded up the process of recruitment and training of mercenaries in response to the heavy casualties incurred by “opposition” rebel forces.
The US proposed “end game” in Syria is not regime change, but the destruction of Syria as a Nation State.
The deployment of “opposition” death squads with a mandate to kill civilians is part of this criminal undertaking.
“Terrorism with a Human Face” is upheld by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which constitutes a mouthpiece for NATO “Humanitarian Interventions” under the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).
The atrocities committed by the US-NATO death squads are casually blamed on the government of Bashar Al Assad. According to UN Human Rights Council High Commissioner Navi Pillay:
“This massive loss of life could have been avoided if the Syrian Government had chosen to take a different path than one of ruthless suppression of what were initially peaceful and legitimate protests by unarmed civilians,” (quoted in Stephen Lendman, UN Human Rights Report on Syria: Camouflage of US-NATO Sponsored Massacres, Global Research, January 3, 2012)
Washington’s “unspeakable objective” consists in breaking up Syria as a sovereign nation –along ethnic and religious lines– into several separate and “independent” political entities.
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From Rick Rozoff, Stop NATO
April 9, 2015
We have compiled a number of official documents by the US military and its NATO allies as well as press reports which shed light on US-NATO War preparations directed against Russia.
These reports are for informational purposes only.
U.S. Army Europe
April 5, 2015
BUCHAREST, Romania: Leadership assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment met with their military counterparts assigned to the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC,) Romanian Land Forces (ROULF,) at the Land Forces Headquarters in Bucharest, Romania on Apr. 2, 2015.
Amongst the leaders representing 2nd Squadron “Cougar,” were Lt. Col. Theodore A. Johnson, 2nd squadron commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Peter D. Johnson, squadron command sergeant major; 1st Lt. Nathan P. Swire, a liaison officer and 2nd Lt. William Crawford, a public affairs liaison, both assigned to the squadron…
“The meeting reflected the strong relationship that is developing between our military organizations,” said Johnson. “We have established the course for our combined efforts to improve military’s capabilities to conduct operations with NATO Allies…”
Copyright US Army Europe, 2015
U.S. Army Europe
April 7, 2015
U.S. Army Aviators support Latvian Spec. Ops. training
By Capt. Scott C. Hetzel
KATTERBACH, Germany: Aviators from the Bravo Company, 3-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, provide aviation support for helocast training April 2, 2015, with Soldiers from the Latvian Special Forces over the Daugava River in Latvia.
Helocasting is a technique used by small unit, special operations forces to conduct airborne insertion into an area of operations, usually over water.
The “Stormriders” from 3-158th are currently deployed to Latvia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO…in the region, in light of Russia…
Army Europe is leading the Operation Atlantic Resolve enhanced land force multinational training and security cooperation activities taking place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to ensure multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO.
Copyright US Army Europe, 2015
April 8, 2015
Ukraine to sign military and technical cooperation agreement with NATO – Yatseniuk
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has said that the Ukrainian government will sign an agreement on military and technical cooperation with NATO, and the Armed Forces of Ukraine will seek to meet NATO standards.
“The government is signing an agreement on cooperation in the field of support with NATO. It is an agreement on support between the Ukrainian Cabinet and NATO, which envisages the implementation of four trust projects with NATO, including military and technical cooperation, communications, new communications and information technologies,” Yatseniuk said at a government meeting on Wednesday.
He said that Ukraine needed to rebuild its armed forces using the example of the strongest armies and associations which are fighting for global peace, and which adhere to NATO standards.
“We are moving in this direction,” Yatseniuk added.
Copyright Interfax Ukraine, 2015
U.S. Army Europe
April 5, 2015
17 Nations get lasered up for Saber Junction 15
By Sgt. Jacob A Sawyer (USAREUR)
HOHENFELS, Germany: More than 4,700 participants from 17 Allied and European partner nations have arrived here for exercise Saber Junction 15. But before most of them do anything, they’ve got to get their lasers.
At the beginning of every training rotation, all Soldiers, vehicles and weapons systems are required to receive a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, or MILES, that allows the training engagements to occur and record the data for analysis and feedback during after-action reviews.
The MILES warehouse at Hohenfels is responsible for the installation of vehicle MILES components, personnel MILES, and the overall integration into the JMRC Hohenfels Training Area battlefield.During Saber Junction 15, the MILES warehouse will install battle tracking systems on over 1,000 vehicles and 3,100 personnel…
Copyright US Army Europe, 2015
Ministry of Defence of Georgia
April 6, 2015
Meeting between Defence Ministries of Georgia and Romania
Within the official visit to Georgia, Defence Ministries of Georgia and Romania held meeting at the MoD today.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mindia Janelidze expressed gratitude for supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspiration. The sides overviewed regional security issues.
Mindia Janelidze delivered information to his Romanian counterpart on the performed and scheduled reforms in the Georgian defence sphere. As Georgian Defence Minister outlined the top priority of 2015 is effective execution of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package and thanked Romanian side for readiness to send a representative to NATO Core Team…
Very soon NATO Core Team will start active work for the implementation of NATO-Georgia Substantial Package…
Copyright Ministry Defense Georgia, 2015
SNMG2 trains with Royal Moroccan Navy
ATLANTIC OCEAN: Ships assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) recently completed passing exercises with the Royal Moroccan Navy (RMN) off the coast of Casablanca following the Group’s visit to the city.
Led by Rear Adm. Brad Williamson (USA), SNMG2 is currently comprised of the U.S. flagship USS Vicksburg (CG 69), Canadian ship HMCS Fredericton (FFH 337), Italian ship ITS Aliseo (F 547), German oiler FGS Spessart (A 1442), Turkish ship TCG Goksu (F 497) and French oiler FS Marne (A 630).
RMN ships RMNS Allal ben Abdellah (F 615) and RMNS Hassan II (F 612) participated in the exercises at sea…
“These exercises were incredibly valuable for NATO, and I am extremely honoured to have trained with our partners in the Royal Moroccan Navy,” said Williamson. “The professionalism and precision in which they operate their ships truly impressed me. NATO’s partner nations are critical to the security of the Mediterranean and we welcome their robust participation with NATO in the future…”
Copyright NATO, 2015
April 6, 2015
Poland places observation towers by Russian border
Poland’s 200-kilometre land border with the Russian Kaliningrad exclave is to be bolstered with the construction of six observation towers.
The towers – which range in height between 35 and 50 metres – are to aid border guards in monitoring the border 24 hours a day, with images streamed to local border control posts.
“We are currently in the test phase of the technical installations on the towers,” Mirosława Aleksandrowicz from the Warmia-Masurian Border Guard told the PAP news agency, adding that “we plan to be fully operational by June this year”.
The total cost of the investment is over PLN 14 million, with 75 percent of the cash coming from the EU’s External Borders Fund.
Poland’s border with Russia is also the external border of the European Union, and has four road crossings into the Kaliningrad exclave, in Gronowo, Grzechotki, Bezledy and Gołdap.
Last year, 3.2 million Poles and 3.3 million Russians passed through the border crossings, up from 2.9 million Poles and 3.2 million Russians passing through in 2013, PAP reports.
Copyright Polish Radio, 2015
April 6, 2015
Estonia and US start joint military exercises
Estonian army units on Monday began military exercises with the U.S. Air Force, Baltic news portal Delfi.lt has reported.
“Within the framework of the exercises, the military will work out techniques of defensive battles and constraints,” the commander of the Estonian Artillery Battalion Kaarel Mäesalu said, according to Ukrainian newspaper Europeiska Pravda.
“In addition, soldiers will be able to practice giving military assistance to allied aircraft,” Mäesalu said.
The exercise will take place in two stages. The first stage will last until April 9 and will focus on tactical activities and exercises, including defense from air attacks.
The second stage of exercises will start from April 10 and will include shooting from 155mm FH70 howitzers, and exercises involving F-16 fighter aircraft.
Copyright UNIAN, 2015
April 6, 2015
United States may give weapon to Ukraine this year – former ambassador
KYIV: Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2003-2006) John Herbst believes that Washington will decide on arms supply to Ukraine this year.
He said this in an interview to Inter Ukrainian TV channel.
“We must stop aggression of Putin here in Ukraine. I do not think that the U.S. president understands that. I think he is short-sighted and does not see the depth of problem and, therefore, has not yet decided on issue of arms supplies to Ukraine,” Herbst said.
At the same time, he added that American political circles understood that the issue concerned the vital interests of the United States.
“So I think that this year Washington will decide on the supply of arms of Ukraine, but the president has not approved that so far,” he said.
According to Herbst, arms supplies to Kyiv could reduce the likelihood of a new attack by Russia.
Copyright Ukraine Inform 2015
U.S. Air Forces in Europe
U.S. Air Force Africa
April 2, 2015
A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve
By Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
As part of the deployment, the U.S. and Romanian air forces will be flying together over the plateaus in the heart of Transylvania for Dacian Thunder 2015.
The U.S. Air Force’s 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft and the Romanian air force’s 71st Air Base’s MiG-21 fighter aircraft will conduct the training to increase relations and interoperability while building upon both nations’ joint capabilities and ensuring a stronger partnership.
About 200 Airmen and support equipment from the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, will participate as a combat capable force able to respond to a wide variety of operations.
The A-10 supports Air Force missions around the world as part of the U.S. Air Force’s current inventory of strike platforms, including F-15 and F-16s. As part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the aircraft will later forward deploy to locations in to reassure Eastern European NATO countries…
Copyright US Air Force, 2015
U.S. Air Forces in Europe
U.S. Air Force Africa
April 2, 2015
Pilots, ground forces exercise Forward Air Controller (Airborne) mission over Estonia
By 1st Lt Allie Delury
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Ämari Air Base, Estonia: At the invitation of the Estonian government, American pilots from the 510th Fighter Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, have a unique opportunity to learn the value of the Forward Air Control (Airborne) mission with Estonians from Amari Air Base and U.S. instructor pilots from Luke Air Force Base.
FAC(A)s provide control of both airborne and ground forces in a close air support role and work closely with the ground commander to coordinate ground targets and de-conflict air assets. This flying training event ensures that pilots gain valuable experience with low-level flying and work with Estonian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers on the nearby Tapa Range…
“It’s important to work with all NATO allies because if we ever go to war, we have to understand each other and understand how different nations function,” said Piirisild. “The main mission is to enhance cooperation between the United States Air Force, NATO and Estonia…”
April 4, 2015
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko again stressed that Ukrainian defense industry has picked up steam and new jobs have been created.
“Ukrainian defense industry that switches to three-shift operation is quickly boosting Ukraine’s military power,” the head of state said in the training center of the National Guard of Ukraine in Novi Petrivtsi (Kyiv region) on Saturday.
He said that “we hit unemployment with tanks and APCs.”
Poroshenko said that thousands of new jobs that have been created at defense enterprises is a contribution in restoration, including in Ukraine’s industrial potential.
An Interfax-Ukraine correspondent reported that on Saturday the presentation of weapon and military equipment samples was held in the training center of the National Guard of Ukraine in Novi Petrivtsi with the participation of the Ukrainian president.
Products of Ukroboronprom State Concern and some other Ukrainian enterprises were exhibited. Special exporters of Ukroboronprom also showed modern devices and equipment made by foreign companies..
Copyright Interfax, 2015
Sofia News Agency
March 31, 2015
USAF F-15s to Take Part in Military Drills in Bulgaria from April 10
US Air Force F-15 fighter jets will arrive in Bulgaria next month to join military exercises in the eastern European country, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Up to 12 F-15s will arrive after Apirl 10, the newswire quoted a Bulgarian defence ministry official as saying.
The deployment, part of the Pentagon’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, will take place from April 10 to June 30.
The operation aims to demonstrate the commitment of the US military to NATO allies in view of tension along the Alliance’s flank in eastern Europe prompted by Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
Moscow has denied Western accusations of providing support to pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
Copyright Sofia New Agency 2015
U.S. Air Forces in Europe
U.S. Air Force Africa
April 3, 2015
ANG general welcomes F-15 deployment to Europe
By Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
LEEUWARDEN AIR BASE, Netherlands: The second theater security package consisting of twelve F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, March 31 through April 1, marking the beginning of their six-month deployment to Europe.
The 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, Jacksonsville, Fla., leads this first ANG theater security package to deploy in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The aircraft and Airmen are based out of units in Florida, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and various bases throughout Europe. Regardless of their origin, together, they make up the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
Maj. Gen. Eric Vollmecke, ANG assistant to the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, welcomed the Airmen and stressed the importance of the TSP in Europe during a visit April 3.
“We are here to reinforce to our allies that the security of Europe is a priority for the U.S.,” Vollmecke explained to the 159th EFS.
The squadron will fly with NATO allies and support OAR [Operation Atlantic Resolve], a demonstration of U.S. European Command and United States Air Forces in Europe’s continued commitment to the collective security of NATO…in the region…
Copyright US Army Europe, 2015
SACT participates to the International Conference on Air and Space Power
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros participated to the International Conference on Air and Space Power (ICAP) at Turkish Air War College, April 2nd 2015.
The ICAP 2015, an International Conference organized in Turkey for the second time, was hosted by Air War College with Turkish Air Force’s contribution. The subjects discussed during ICAP will ensure that today’s and future changing principles of Air and Space Power are clearly understood with the contributions of speakers from partner and allied nations from all over the world..
Anthony B. Newkirk
|Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) ChairmanHouse Committee on Foreign Affairs||Howard L. Berman (D-CA)Ranking MemberHouse Committee on Foreign Affairs|
June 22, 2012
On October 20, 2010, the Obama administration announced approval of projected arms transfer agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia totaling over $60 billion in value. On February 16, 2011, I wrote a letter to you requesting further information. As I have not yet received a response, I am resubmitting my questions in a more public forum.
It is not hard to fathom why the United States and Saudi Arabia have very close ties. The perception that our country is dependent on “Arab oil” is firmly implanted in popular opinion. But the topic of security assistance for Saudi Arabia is not, an example being the 2010 Saudi arms deal. Of course, this is hardly the only problem facing our nation in this time of assaults on job security, social services, and civil liberties. It is also far from being the only problem in the Middle East. However, the Saudi arms deal focuses attention on a range of issues related to America’s fiscal soundness, security, and defense of human rights…
Sofia News Agency
April 2, 2015
US Navy Destroyer Jason Dunham to Enter Black Sea Friday
US Navy guided-missile destroyer Jason Dunham will enter the Black Sea on Friday in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US 6th Fleet has announced.
“The ship’s presence in the Black Sea demonstrates the United States’ commitment to working closely with allies to enhance maritime security and stability, readiness, and naval capability,” the US 6th Fleet said in a statement
Some 750 US Army tanks and thousands of troops were deployed to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for Atlantic Resolve activities, in a move described as a means “to deter Russian aggression.”
US and NATO have said they are holding Atlantic Resolve drills to strengthen security in the alliance’s member states in light of the conflict in Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over growing number of NATO military drills in eastern Europe.
The build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe “is an unprecedentedly dangerous step” that violates Russia’s agreements with the alliance, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
Copyright Sofia New Agency 2015
In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight. It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers. And it was the second time they failed.
On December 6, 2014, approximately 36 of America’s top commandos, heavily armed, operating with intelligence from satellites, drones, and high-tech eavesdropping, outfitted with night vision goggles, and backed up by elite Yemeni troops, went toe-to-toe with about six militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When it was over, Somers was dead, along with Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher due to be set free the next day. Eight civilians were also killed by the commandos, according to local reports. Most of the militants escaped.
That blood-soaked episode was, depending on your vantage point, an ignominious end to a year that saw U.S. Special Operations forces deployed at near record levels, or an inauspicious beginning to a new year already on track to reach similar heights, if not exceed them.
During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries — roughly 70% of the nations on the planet — according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. And this year could be a record-breaker. Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life — just 66 days into fiscal 2015 — America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total.
Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny. In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell, and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.
The Golden Age
“The command is at its absolute zenith. And it is indeed a golden age for special operations.” Those were the words of Army General Joseph Votel III, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, as he assumed command of SOCOM last August.
His rhetoric may have been high-flown, but it wasn’t hyperbole. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, including their numbers, their budget, their clout in Washington, and their place in the country’s popular imagination. The command has, for example, more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 today, including a jump of roughly 8,000 during the three-year tenure of recently retired SOCOM chief Admiral William McRaven.
Those numbers, impressive as they are, don’t give a full sense of the nature of the expansion and growing global reach of America’s most elite forces in these years. For that, a rundown of the acronym-ridden structure of the ever-expanding Special Operations Command is in order. The list may be mind-numbing, but there is no other way to fully grasp its scope.
The lion’s share of SOCOM’s troops are Rangers, Green Berets, and other soldiers from the Army, followed by Air Force air commandos, SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen and support personnel from the Navy, as well as a smaller contingent of Marines. But you only get a sense of the expansiveness of the command when you consider the full range of “sub-unified commands” that these special ops troops are divided among: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; SOCSOUTH, which conducts missions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the globe-trotting Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC — a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by McRaven and then Votel) made up of personnel from each service branch, including SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen, and the Army’s Delta Force, that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists.
And don’t think that’s the end of it, either. As a result of McRaven’s push to create “a Global SOF network of like-minded interagency allies and partners,” Special Operations liaison officers, or SOLOs, are now embedded in 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the special forces of various allied nations. Already operating in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries by 2019. The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among others.
Special Operations Command’s global reach extends further still, with smaller, more agile elements operating in the shadows from bases in the United States to remote parts of Southeast Asia, from Middle Eastern outposts to austere African camps. Since 2002, SOCOM has also been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. Take, for instance, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which, at its peak, had roughly 600 U.S. personnel supporting counterterrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf. After more than a decade spent battling that group, its numbers have been diminished, but it continues to be active, while violence in the region remains virtually unaltered.
Votel now sits atop one of the major success stories of a post-9/11 military that has been mired in winless wars, intervention blowback, rampant criminal activity, repeated leaks of embarrassing secrets, and all manner of shocking scandals. Through a deft combination of bravado and secrecy, well-placed leaks, adroit marketing and public relations efforts, the skillful cultivation of a superman mystique (with a dollop of tortured fragility on the side), and one extremely popular, high-profile, targeted killing, Special Operations forces have become the darlings of American popular culture, while the command has been a consistent winner in Washington’s bare-knuckled budget battles.
This is particularly striking given what’s actually occurred in the field: in Africa, the arming and outfitting of militants and the training of a coup leader; in Iraq, America’s most elite forces were implicated in torture, the destruction of homes, and the killing and wounding of innocents; in Afghanistan, it was a similar story, with repeated reports of civilian deaths; while in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia it’s been more of the same. And this only scratches the surface of special ops miscues.
In 2001, before U.S. black ops forces began their massive, multi-front clandestine war against terrorism, there were 33,000 members of Special Operations Command and about 1,800 members of the elite of the elite, the Joint Special Operations Command. There were then also 23 terrorist groups — from Hamas to the Real Irish Republican Army — as recognized by the State Department, including al-Qaeda, whose membership was estimated at anywhere from 200 to 1,000. That group was primarily based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although small cells had operated in numerous countries including Germany and the United States.
After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves. SOCOM has more than doubled in size and the secretive JSOC may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001. Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies. Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former — as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries. One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001. That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.
“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of SOF throughout the globe,” says Votel. “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.” Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done. But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.
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