52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz – Teil 4: The Health-Security Nexus

Zwischen dem 12. und dem 14. Februar 2016 fand die 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz statt. Es ist eine der wichtigsten sicherheitspolitischen Konferenzen während des Jahres. Sie wurde in einer umfassenden Studie der University of Pennsylvania erneut als beste “Think Tank Conference” der Welt ausgezeichnet. In einer mehrteiligen Artikelserie werden die interessantesten Panels und Diskussionen der Konferenz beleuchtet. Im ersten Teil fassen wir die Eröffnungsreden der deutschen Verteidigungsministerin, Ursula von der Leyen und des französischen Verteidigungsminister, Jean-Yves Le Drian zusammen. Im zweiten Teil, geht es um die Herausforderungen im Nahen Osten, im dritten Teil um die europäische Flüchtlingskrise und im vierten Teil um den “Health-Security Nexus”.

Operation United Assistance: U.S. Air Force personnel put up tents at the site of the 25-bed modular hospital (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images).

Operation United Assistance: U.S. Air Force personnel put up tents at the site of the 25-bed modular hospital (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images).

Die Verkoppelung von Gesundheit und Sicherheitspolitik ist umstritten. Einerseits kann eine sicherheitspolitische Auswirkung von Pandemien und Seuchen nicht von der Hand gewiesen werden. Mit der fortschreitenden Globalisierung, der hohen Mobilität und der Vernetztheit können solche gesundheitliche Ausnahmezustände einen direkten Einfluss auf die Stabilität von Staaten haben. Die Frage ist dabei nicht ob so ein Ernstfall eintrifft, sondern wann (David Quammen, “The Next Pandemic: Not if, but When“, The New York Times, 09.05.2013). Andererseits wurde von Patrick Truffer bereits im Artikel “Securitization of everything or how to lose the sense of security at all” anhand des US-amerikanische Unterstützungseinsatzes zur Bekämpfung der Ebola in Westafrika (Operation United Assistance) die Problematik der seit den 1980er-Jahren erfolgte Ausweitung des ursprünglich eng gefasste Begriff “Sicherheit” kritisch betrachtet (siehe auch Alex de Waal, “Militarizing Global Health“, Boston Review, 11.11.2014).

Der “Health-Security Nexus” war auch Thema der 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz, wenn auch bloss im Rahmen des “Nacht-Panels”. Als Einführung sollte das unten angefügte Video den Zusammenhang zwischen Gesundheit und Sicherheit aufzeigen. Leider wurden anschliessend bei den Reden und Diskussionen die beiden Unterbereiche “Krankheiten als sicherheitspolitische Herausforderung” und “die Rolle des medizinischen Personals in modernen Konflikten” nicht säuberlich getrennt und besprochen — hier hat der Leiter des Panels, Robin Niblett, Direktor von Chatham House, nicht das volle Potential ausgeschöpft.

Die UN-Mission für Ebola-Notfallmassnahmen (UNMEER) war die erste UN Mission, welche aufgrund einer Krankheit zu Stande gekommen ist. Trotz der damit verbundenen hohen internationalen Aufmerksamkeit, habe dies gemäss Joanne Liu, Präsidentin von Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), zu keiner Verhaltensänderung der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft gegenüber einer drohenden Epedemie oder Pamdemie geführt. Das zeige der Ausbruch des Zika-Virus-Infektion Ende 2015 / anfangs 2016 demonstrativ auf: Industriestaaten, welche über die notwendigen Mitteln verfügen würden, hielten sich bei der zeitverzugslosen Bekämpfung am Entstehungsort zurück. Sie würden erst dann aktiv, wenn sie selber direkt durch eine solche Epedemie gefährdet würden, was aber die Bekämpfung durch die bereits verstrichene Zeit extrem erschwehre. Die Gelbfieber-Epedemie in Angola stelle ein weiteres Beispiel dar. Ende Februar wurden bereits 462 Verdachtsfälle und 99 Todesfälle registriert, ohne dass dabei viel dagegen unternommen wurde. Liu spricht sich weder explizit für oder gegen eine Versicherheitlichung gesundheitlicher Themen aus, weisst jedoch darauf hin, dass infizierten Patienten nicht als Sicherheitsbedrohung aufgefasst werden dürfen, sondern dass sie die adequate Behandlung erfahren sollten. Dies ist jedoch ein möglicher negativer Effekt bei der Versicherheitlichung neben anderen Restriktionen, wie beipielsweise eine Isolierung der betroffenen Staaten durch umfassende Reise-Restriktionen, wie sie beispielsweise im Falle der Ebola von einigen US-Politikern gefordert wurden.

Was das medizinische Personal in modernen Konflikten angeht, weist Liu auf einen sehr wichtigen Punkt hin. Für sie als Ärztin seien alle Patienten gleich, das schulde sie der medizinischen Ethik. Das heisst, dass sie auch jemand verarzten würde, der einer terroristischen Organisation angehört, ohne dass sie in irgendeiner Weise dessen Handlungen gut heissen würde: der Arzt meines Feindes ist nicht mein Feind! Gemäss humanitärem Völkerrecht sind alle Staaten an diese neutrale Stellung von medizinischem Personal und dessen Schutz gebunden (Genfer Konvention I-IV und das Zusatzprotokoll I an, welche im Falle eines internationalen bewaffneten Konfliktes gelten). Diese Regeln wurden grad in letzter Zeit wieder öfters verletzt: Zwischen dem Oktober 2015 bis zum Februar 2016 wurden medizinische Einrichtungen der Médecins Sans Frontières in Afghanistan, mehrfach in Yemen und in Syrien bombardiert. In diesem Kontext kritisiert Liu, dass humanitäre Hilfe zwar gerne im Kontext internationaler Sicherheit gesehen würde, sie jedoch angegriffen werde, wenn sie diese Hilfe ausserhalb dieses Kontextes geleistet würde.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Eliece Soebbing discusses proper use of a tourniquet with Botswana Defense Force medics as Army Major Pam Aitchison, officer-in-charge of the forward support hospital’s intensive care unit, tends to a simulated patient during exercise Southern Accord, August 8, 2012. Southern Accord is a joint, combined training exercise led by U.S. Army Africa to expand capabilities between the U.S. military and Botswana Defense Force and enhance their interoperability. (Photo: Donna Miles).

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Eliece Soebbing discusses proper use of a tourniquet with Botswana Defense Force medics as Army Major Pam Aitchison, officer-in-charge of the forward support hospital’s intensive care unit, tends to a simulated patient during exercise Southern Accord, August 8, 2012. Southern Accord is a joint, combined training exercise led by U.S. Army Africa to expand capabilities between the U.S. military and Botswana Defense Force and enhance their interoperability. (Photo: Donna Miles).

Kein Zweifel an der Zweckmässigkeit einer Verkoppelung von Gesundheit und Sicherheitspolitik liess der Kommandant des United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), US-Generals David M. Rodriguez. Seit Anfang an gehöre die Befähigung afrikanischer Staaten mit medizinischen Notfallsituationen umgehen zu können zu den Aufgaben von AFRICOM. Während der Operation United Assistance hätten die U.S. Streitkräfte in fünf Regionen innerhalb Liberias über 1’500 Personen des medizinischen Personals ausgebildet, logistische Unterstützung angeboten, 11 Ebola Behandlungszentren sowie 6 Labore aufgebaut und betrieben. Schlüsselfaktoren zur erfolgreichen Bekämpfung der Ebola-Epedemie seien die angemessene Information zum Schutz der Bevölkerung, die Kontaktüberprüfung bei infizierten Patienten, die Absicherung der Grenzen, die Ausbildung von Personal und der Betrieb der Labore gewesen. Nach dem Einsatz habe AFRICOM in 11 westafrikanischen Staaten einen gezielten Fähigkeitsaufbau im medizinischen Bereich verfolgt und die dabei gewonnen Lehren mit dem Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre geteilt. Diese Ausführungen sind natürlich recht positiv gefärbt, denn beispielsweise blieben die von den U.S. Streitkräften aufgebauten Behandlungszentren grösstenteils leer. Ausserdem stellt sich die Frage, ob das für die Operation United Assistance aufgewendete Geld nicht zweckmässiger in für medizinische Hilfe vor Ort spezialisierten Organisationen investiert gewesen wäre.

Der ehemalige General James L. Jones geht sogar noch ein Schritt weiter und sieht die internationale Staatengemeinschaft in einer Übergangsphase. Die klassische Auffassung internationaler Sicherheit werde durch eine ausgeweiteten Definition abgelöst wird, in der nicht nur medizinische Themen, sondern auch Energie-, Klima- und Cyber-Sicherheit ihren berechtigten Stellenwert hätten. Was die öffentliche Gesundheit angehe, so bestehe in einer globalisierten Welt eine Verbindung zur politischer Stabilität. Auf das Eingangsstatement über die Rolle des medizinischen Personals in modernen Konflikten von Liu äussert sich Jones kritisch: Früher hätten die Regeln internationaler Konflikte gegolten und dementsprechend standen Personal mit rotem Kreuz unter besonderem Schutz, doch heutzutage sei die Definition eines internationalen Konfliktes nicht mehr eindeutig. Ausserdem werde medizinisches Personal oftmals als Schutzschild genutzt, was bei einem “Unfall” von der Gegenseite propagandistisch ausgenutzt werde. Jone’s Standpunkt in dieser Angelegenheit ist nicht richtig, denn Patienten sind auch bei einem internen bewaffneten Konflikt unter der Genfer Konvention I Art. 3 und das medizinisches Personal unter dem Zusatzprotokoll II geschützt. Der Schutz des medizinischen Personals ist also unabhängig von der Feststellung ob es sich um einen internationalen Konflikt handelt oder nicht.

Unruhen und Gewalt nach dem Erdbebben in Haiti 2010 (Foto: (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters).

Unruhen und Gewalt nach dem Erdbebben in Haiti 2010 (Foto: (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters).

Auch Rüdiger Krech, Direktor Health Systems and Innovation der WHO sieht wegen dem globalen Ausmass einer Pandemie eine damit verbundene sicherheitspolitische Komponente. Wegen der Globalisierung würden Landesgrenzen heutzutage keinen Schutz vor Verbreitung mehr bieten. Damit würden Lösungsansätze, welche vielleicht vor 20 Jahren noch adäquat gewesen seien, heute nicht mehr funktionieren. Da habe insbesondere auch die WHO Nachholbedarf: Die Ebola-Epidemie habe aufgezeigt, dass die Kommunikation zwischen den von der Ebola betroffenen Gebieten und der WHO verbessert werden müssen. Auch die Vorbereitungs- und Reaktionszeit der WHO seien noch nicht adäquat. In ihren Ausführungen bestätigte Hanna Serwaah Tetteh, Aussenministerin Ghanas,diese Einschätzungen: Auch wenn gesundheitliche Themen bereits vor dem Ausbruch der Ebola mit regionalen Partnerstaaten besprochen wurden, seien die Staaten in der Region durch den Ebola-Ausbruch in Guinea komplett überrascht. Sogar als Ebola sich nach Liberia und Sierra Leone ausbreitete, wurde die Dimension des Problems noch nicht ernst genommen. Gemäss Krech seien Verbesserung wichtig, weil nicht die Frage zentral sei, ob eine Pandemie ausbreche, sondern wann sie ausbrechen werde. Er erwiderte Jones auch, dass der Schutz des medizinischen Personals in Konflikten von den Genfer Konventionen klar geregelt seien. Wenn diese internationalen Vorgaben nicht mehr eingehalten würden, dann werde es kein medizinisches Personal mehr in Krisengebieten geben. Dies sei bereits heute spürbar: Waren nach dem Erdbeben in Haiti 2010 noch 150 Ärzteteams vor Ort tätig, waren nur gerade zwei Ärzteteams bereit in die Ebola-Gebiete zu reisen (zur militärische Katastrophenhilfe in Haiti siehe hier). Leider hinkt Krech’s Vergleich etwas, denn vermutlich war die Bereitschaft der Ärzteteams im Falle Ebola tiefer, weil es sich im Gegensatz zu Haiti um eine schwerwiegende übertragbare Krankheit handelte. Schliesslich waren weder Haiti noch die Ebola-Gebiete Konfliktgebiete.

Weitere Informationen
Daniela Braun, “Health Security: Abwarten ist keine Option“, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e. V., DGAPkompakt 10, 17.03.2016.

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U.S. Military Making Far-Reaching Changes in Preparation for Women Entering Combat

by Darien Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh is a contributor for War is Boring and Reverb Press. He serves on the Board of Directors for Auntie Bellum

The ban on women in combat was lifted Jan. 23, 2013. Though 99 percent of the careers offered in the Air Force were already open to women, the decision will open more than 230,000 jobs across all branches of the military. The DoD had has allowed women to serve as combat pilots for more than 20 years (Illustration by Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony, courtesy of the Air Force/DoD).

The ban on women in combat was lifted Jan. 23, 2013. Though 99 percent of the careers offered in the Air Force were already open to women, the decision will open more than 230,000 jobs across all branches of the military. The DoD had has allowed women to serve as combat pilots for more than 20 years (Illustration by Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony, courtesy of the Air Force/DoD).

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced last week that it has approved plans for women to be integrated into combat roles and all other roles previously reserved for men. The new plans apply to all branches of the U.S. armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

The Pentagon first lifted the ban on women serving in U.S. military combat units, including the Navy SEALs and other elite special forces, in 2013. To assuage skepticism from critics of the decision, the ban came with a stipulation that women seeking to serve in combat must pass all standard mental and physical tests and training.

Of course, bringing large numbers of women into roles they had previously been excluded from requires more than simply lifting a ban. Each branch of the military was given a deadline of January of this year to either complete plans to fully integrate women or request exemptions for specific specialties.

According to CNN, in order to develop plans for effectively introducing women into specialties newly available to them within the military, each branch explored the potential impact of thousands of new women recruits, evaluated possible cultural concerns and questions regarding the physical demands of combat service, and assessed the views of men who would be serving alongside women for the first time, particularly those in special forces units like the Rangers, SEALs and Green Beret.

The plans presented by the individual branches of the military varied greatly in length and detail. According to the Christian Science Monitor, which was among the first to cover the specifics of the individual plans, the Marines offered a 56-page plan with detailed guidelines regarding how to prepare to train and recruit women throughout its ranks, from the infantry to elite special operations command. In contrast, the SOCOM planning document made public consisted of only a few pages and was, perhaps predictably, rather skimpy on details.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley congratulates 1st Lt. Shaye Haver for graduating U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 21, 2015. Haver and class member Capt. Kristen Griest became the first female graduates of the school (Photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez, courtesy of the U.S. Army/DoD).

Whether or not any branches asked for exceptions to exclude women from specific roles, the DoD ultimately chose not to exclude women from any area of service. “There will be no exceptions,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said at a news conference in December. “[Women will] be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”

Anticipating the new opportunities that would be offered to them, Women began signing up for combat positions and enrolling in special forces training before the plans to integrate them were even finalized. Last August, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver made history by becoming the first two women to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School. At least one other women, Maj. Lisa Jaster, completed Ranger School since then. With new plans and regulations in effect, these women should soon receive assignments. Likewise, the first female Navy SEALS could begin getting assignments in 2017.

The transition to include women in a broader range of roles is causing the military to undergo vast institutional changes. It requires major overhauls such as adapting recruiting and training practices, as well as simple but significant changes like making job titles and descriptions as gender neutral as possible. One crucial change concerns the design of the gear that will be worn by women assuming fighting roles.

Women have served the U.S. military in numerous non-combat capacities in war zones for years. In fact, roughly 200 women have died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many more have been wounded in those countries. However, because women have traditionally not served in infantry or other combat specialities, the Pentagon never bothered designing body armor and gear to specifically fit women. As a result, many women in combat zones wear armor that limits their range of motion or doesn’t effectively protect their bodies.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Elana Duffy served in intelligence from 2003 to 2013. She was on the front lines, interviewing insurgents, but her body armor didn’t offer her much protection. “My entire lower pelvis was exposed,” Duffy said in a recent report for Vice. A spokesperson for the DoD told Vice they have budgeted $150 million for a pilot program to develop new protective gear specifically for women. The program began as recruitment tool, but in a move that highlights the DoD’s commitment to making women an integral part of combat units for the long haul, retention became a key factor in assessing the program’s success. “We do believe … that this new benefit will have positive effects on women’s retention, over time,” the spokesperson told Vice.

The military is currently testing new gear that would increase coverage of the pelvic area with a set of chaps that clip on at the outside of the leg. Though, all the gear pictured in the poster won’t be available until 2019 (Image courtesy of PEO Soldier). Click on the image to enlarge it.

The military is currently testing new gear that would increase coverage of the pelvic area with a set of chaps that clip on at the outside of the leg. Though, all the gear pictured in the poster won’t be available until 2019 (Image courtesy of PEO Soldier). Click on the image to enlarge it.

While many have embraced the decision to welcome women into the combat lineup, there have been some critics. Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and West Point graduate who authored the book “Deadly Consequences: How Cowards Are Pushing Women into Combat“, told Time in 2013 that he feared the Pentagon would lower standards to allow women to serve in combat roles. According to Maginnis, this would undermine the effectiveness of America’s fighting forces. “Pentagon brass are kowtowing to their political masters and radical feminists to remove exemptions for women in ground combat in defiance of overwhelming scientific evidence and combat experience,” Maginnis said in an interview with Time’s Mark Thompson. “This craven behavior is terribly dangerous for our armed forces, our national security, and especially the young women who will be placed in harm’s way.”

When Thompson pointed out that the Pentagon had insisted it would not be lowering standards for anyone, Maginnis replied, “I don’t believe them, and neither should the American people… Personnel policy, however, is driven by the ‘diversity metrics’ outlined in the 2011 Report of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. Diversity, not military readiness, is the highest priority.”

While Maginnis’s opinion may not be the most popular, and could arguably be considered archaic, he’s not alone. A recent poll suggested that two out of three male Marines and one out of three female Marines oppose women transferring into combat specialties. Another poll suggested that only 22 percent of women currently serving in the military were “moderately” or “very” interested in being part of fighting units.

The arguments against women fighting alongside men on the front lines tend to echo Maginnis’s assertions. They’re often based on the opinion that integrated units will perform worse than all-male units. Research on the topic has produced conflicting results. A November article from The Army Times suggests that the women graduating from Ranger School performed comparably to men during their training. However, a report published by the Marine Corps only two months earlier claimed that gender-integrated combat units fell short of their all-male counterparts. Both reports were based on a small sample group, which could skew results. For instance, The Army Times article is based on the results of only two women’s performances in Ranger School. And in 2 of the 5 categories of integrated infantry courses the Marine Corps studied for its report — the Tank Crewman Course and the AAV Crewman Course — only 7 women attempted the courses whereas dozens of men did. To get more definitive results related directly to performance in the U.S. military will take additional time and research.

In the meantime, there are more than a dozen nations where women can serve in combat roles. In many of those countries women having been serving in combat specialties for more than a decade. That could provide some insight into the matter, and there is considerable evidence that these nations have suffered no reduction in the effectiveness of their fighting units as a result of integrating women into them. Women also serve in combat roles in militias and other fighting units around the globe. The all-women Kurdish militia units fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq come to mind.

The ability to join fighting units in the U.S. armed forces is crucial to women’s opportunities beyond the battlefield. Service in infantry and other combat units can be vital to career advancement in the military. The plans from the individual branches of the military take this into consideration and seek to expand the path to promotion for female service members. The Marines Corps’ gender-integration plan, for instance, calls for every ground combat battalion to have at least two female officers or noncommissioned officers from the Marines or Navy staffed at least 90 days prior to junior female Marines arriving to the unit.

These women officers will serve their primary military occupational specialty in these units, but they’ll help ensure the units are being effectively integrated as well. “Their presence is also intended to help acculturate and socialize previously all-male units to working with female Marines. Finally, their presence will also create mentorship opportunities with female (and male) Marines,” The Marine Times reported.

Lt. Cmdr. Janet Pesane of NMCB 18 addresses a group of assembled Chief Petty Officers and Seabees during a meeting of Women Mentoring Women. The group meets bi-weekly to discuss professional development for females in the Navy. Intelligence Specialist Chief Petty Officer Gabriel Buitron first began holding the meetings in August 2010. Since that time nearly 70 female Navy personnel have participated in the program designed to address the specific professional challenges and needs of women. (Photo: Seaman Leif Herr Gesell U.S. Navy).

Lt. Cmdr. Janet Pesane of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 addresses a group of assembled Chief Petty Officers and Seabees during a meeting of Women Mentoring Women. The group meets bi-weekly to discuss professional development for females in the Navy. Intelligence Specialist Chief Petty Officer Gabriel Buitron first began holding the meetings in August 2010. Since that time nearly 70 female Navy personnel have participated in the program designed to address the specific professional challenges and needs of women (Photo: Seaman Leif Herr Gesell U.S. Navy).

 
These are positive changes, but there is, of course, still considerable work to be done.

In January officials from the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) hosted forumon the integration of combat jobs and other cultural changes within the military in Washington, D.C. According to an article in The Military Times, the forum sought to provide military women with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve their goals, both personally and professionally. “What we hear from our members is that they still don’t feel like they have a community where they belong,” Julie Patterson, the CEO of SWAN told The Military Times. “They don’t really know where to turn.” Patterson is working to build a supportive and empowering network for the new generation of women entering the military’s ranks. “We’re hoping that because we’re by women, for women, they’ll be more willing to look at what we’re providing,” she said.

Despite the massive overhaul the military is undergoing to become more gender-neutral and inclusive, it appears that there is at least one gender-specific rule that will remain intact for now. Women may be welcome to join fighting units, but they still don’t have to worry about being drafted into them anytime soon.

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Sudan’s Regional Rebels Have Shown Their National Ambitions

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College and a reporter for War Is Boring. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

Sudan’s Arab elites have long fortressed and sheltered themselves in Khartoum, a capital straddling the Nile, from the many civil wars eating the frontiers of the country. When the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the three strongest Sudanese revolutionary movements, traveled hundreds of miles from the Chadian–Sudanese border to the boundaries of the city, assaulting the heart of the Sudanese government’s authority and power May 10, 2008, it achieved what few revolutionaries had since the Mahdist War during the late 1800s. Rebels from the periphery had once again succeeded in storming the capital, but, like the Mahdists, JEM only enjoyed temporary success.

Combatants of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in South Darfur, April 2015.

Combatants of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in South Darfur, April 2015.

JEM and the Sudanese government dispute what happened and when. After the Sudanese government claimed that it had defeated JEM at the outskirts of Khartoum and that fighting had ceased, JEM argued that events were continuing as planned, for it still controlled Omdurman, part of Khartoum to the west of the Nile. The Sudan Tribune maintained a timeline of May 10, when JEM mentioned that it had also seized the three bridges linking neighborhoods of Khartoum together over the Nile. Human Rights Watch asserted that fighting persisted for another forty-eight hours, accusing the Sudanese government of a crackdown on purported collaborators. All observers agreed that JEM had attacked the capital and that, by May 12, the Sudanese government had defeated it there. However, the circumstances behind the attack and whether it represented a true defeat or — somehow — a victory for the now-weakened revolutionary movement remained a mystery. The assault implied that Darfur’s rebels, unlike South Sudan’s during the Second Sudanese Civil War, could expand beyond their traditional battlefield.

JEM’s attack drew from a historical precedent that generation’s of Sudanese rebels had failed to copy with success. In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire oversaw Egypt, which, in turn, controlled the territory that now composes Sudan. The tribes living in this region resented Egyptian–Ottoman authority, known as “the Turkiyya,” so a local cleric declared himself the redeemer of Islam, “the Mahdi,” and rallied a mobilization of guerillas. He massacred the Egyptian soldiers garrisoning Khartoum and their British reinforcements January 26, 1885, concluding the Turkiyya and creating a precedent that only JEM would follow over one hundred years later. The British reconquered the territory before the end of the century, establishing Anglo–Egyptian Sudan.

The late Khalil Ibrahim, former leader of the Justice and Equality Movement that is politically affiliated with the Sudan Revolutionary Front.

The late Khalil Ibrahim, former leader of the Justice and Equality Movement that is politically affiliated with the Sudan Revolutionary Front.

Many Sudanese revolutionary movements have tried to present themselves as national rather than regional despite the regional conflicts in which they involved themselves. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), based in South Sudan 1983–2005; the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), based in Darfur 2003-now; and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A–N), based in the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, have supported a secular state uniting the ethnicities and regions of the nation, including South Sudan. The SLM/A and SPLM/A–N have joined a national coalition, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, with JEM, yet JEM, which may refuse a secular state such as New Sudan and its nationalist agenda, has done more than other members to expand from its regional strongholds to the rest of the country. Considered with JEM’s geographic, territorial expansion, the assault on Khartoum becomes a tactical military failure but a strategic political success. With the ability to attack the capital, JEM strengthens its legitimacy as a national revolutionary movement. It can better challenge the Sudanese government.

The audacity of the attack gained JEM short-term notoriety. The European Union and the United Nations condemned the rebels. America asked JEM and the Sudanese government to stop fighting. Given that members of JEM whom I have interviewed reside in Europe and North America to this day, the condemnation seems to have been political, not actual. “We are not going to stop fighting with the regime,” Khalil Ibrahim, leader of JEM during the attack, told The Sudan Tribune. “They did not abide by the signed ceasefire agreement and we are not keen to have it now. We will not sign a new ceasefire unless a political accord is signed”. He felt that the international community had neglected the conflict in Sudan. “We were waiting on the international community for two long years to put pressure on Khartoum to end the killing and oppression of Darfuris,” he stated. “Unfortunately the international community is not serious in pressurizing Khartoum. Some of the world major players have security interests in Sudan while others have oil interests. All of them actually prioritize their interests to the interest and the rights of the marginalized people in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan.” Signalling that JEM was once again ready to threaten the Sudanese government outside Darfur, an airstrike killed Ibrahim in Kordofan, a large region between Darfur and Khartoum, December 23, 2011. With the attack on Khartoum, JEM had already shown its national ambitions.

The intensity of fighting has varied since then. The Sudanese government defeated JEM near the South Sudanese border last year, yet the movement continues its expansion eastward. JEM remains the strongest revolutionary movement in Sudan.

The Sudanese government finds itself battling across many fronts, all of which are trying to unite as a national uprising. Whether the other Sudanese rebels like JEM or not, they may have to accept it as a necessity if they hope to converge on the capital. JEM has proven itself as a revolutionary movement capable of turning a regional campaign into a national one.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir gestures as he leads victory celebrations after his forces defeated JEM rebels during his visit to a battle area in South Darfur on 28 April, 2015.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir gestures as he leads victory celebrations after his forces defeated JEM rebels during his visit to a battle area in South Darfur on 28 April, 2015.

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The Impending Fall of China (?)

by Eric Stimson. He is a graduate student in International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. You can find more of his overviews of foreign affairs at Transnational Topics.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The People’s Republic of China boasts the world’s biggest population, its second-biggest economy and its second-biggest military. It is generally acknowledged as the leader of the “emerging economies” reshaping global trade and of the developing world as a whole. Its manufacturing sector is peerless. It is beginning to form its own regional organizations and development funds and forging patron-client relationships with its neighbours and parts of Africa. Its navy dominates the South China Sea and is beginning to patrol further and further from the homeland, like in the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska and the Indian Ocean.

With China presenting such a strong, confident, and formidable picture to the outside world, it might seem odd to make doomsday predictions about it. But some observers of the country interpret its strength as masking deep internal weaknesses. In 2007 Susan Shirk wrote a book, China: Fragile Superpower, that argued that the ruling Communist Party is actually deeply concerned and vulnerable and that its aggressive overtures are attempts to compensate for its weaknesses. Chinese tend to react with unusual hostility to any criticism of China, and that’s partially because of historical reasons, but it’s also a sign of profound uncertainty over its own stability. People get defensive when their weak points are probed.

While most scholars acknowledge this and admit that China isn’t as sturdy and monumental as it seems, a few go even further and predict that the whole system — the Party and its monopoly on power at least, maybe even the whole state — will collapse. Normally this is dismissed as a fringe theory, but last year David Shambaugh reopened the debate with such a provocative article in the Wall Street Journal: “The Coming Chinese Crackup“.

Shambaugh makes five main points to demonstrate his thesis:

  1. An unusually high number of rich Chinese are either emigrating to places like Australia or America or moving key assets and buying property there.
  2. Xi Jinping, the Party chairman and overall dictator, is intensifying the Party’s usual strict censorship and repression of dissent or even uncomfortable facts.
  3. Even Party apparatchiks don’t care about Communist propaganda (or Xi’s propaganda) anymore.
  4. The whole system is hopelessly corrupt and Xi’s purge will just hollow it out instead of fixing it.
  5. Xi’s economic reforms from 2013 aren’t going anywhere fast (see also William Ide and Saibal Dasgupta, “Worries About China’s Economic Reform Progress Grow“, Voice of America, 10.03.2016).
Chinese President Xi Jinping, front center, and other Chinese leaders attend the opening meeting of the third session of the National People’s Congress in March 2015 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front center, and other Chinese leaders attend the opening meeting of the third session of the National People’s Congress in March 2015 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The looming historical precedent here, of course, is the collapse of the Communist Bloc. Russia and China have many parallels. Both are vast empires ruling over huge populations and a lot of minorities; both were mostly poor and behind the times; both underwent violent convulsions in the early 1900s that replaced sclerotic emperors with fanatical Communists. Mao Zedong, China’s dictator, consciously modelled his new country after the Soviet Union (although with major differences). Both seemed unshakable, monolithic, and fearsomely strong to foreigners. Both had state-run economies, narrow and totalitarian political elites, and limited access to foreign media or information to keep the system insulated from external influences.

But the Communist Bloc, the Soviet empire, collapsed in a few short years. When the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced reforms to free up the political system and allow free speech, first the Soviet satellites broke away, then the whole Communist system melted down. Six years after he came to power, one of the two superpowers was gone. Foreign observers were flummoxed. They predicted that Gorbachev’s reforms would change the game, for sure; they didn’t think it would cause a total collapse.

Haunted by this failure, they look to China due to its similarities. Its economy is still mostly directed by the state. The Party still controls everything and tightly regulates information. The flag is unchanged; the anthem is unchanged; Mao statues dominate city squares; students study Communist literature like Marx and Lenin.

Meanwhile, economic reforms have made China hardly a Communist country anymore, and information on the outside world is readily available. Chinese can travel abroad (and are doing so in increasing numbers) and foreigners can visit and tell them how different things are back where they come from.

So it’s natural to think it’s only a matter of time before the system falls apart. It’s certain that China’s leaders are scared and nervous, and their anxiety motivates them in their policies. The Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989 was crushed to avoid any developments that might lead to what happened in the USSR shortly thereafter. China’s rigid censorship and tight secrecy are motivated by fear that too much criticism could rock the boat and start the process of collapse. The feverish nationalism that the Party perpetuates is meant to bolster its grass-roots support and distract from unresolved unpleasantness. Beijing’s refusal to even discuss the demands of the “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong last year shows that it sees that movement as the top of a slippery, catastrophic slope.

Tanks of the People's Liberation Army at Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Tanks of the People’s Liberation Army at Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

So is China about to crack up? Well… it’s not that simple. Some of Shambaugh’s arguments do sound fairly unconvincing. A stack of unsold Xi books in a campus bookstore might not be a reliable indicator of impending regime collapse. In fact, Xi enjoys some popularity and presents a more warm, accessible father figure than the dour leaders of the ’00s. Chinese emigration is also nothing new. The millionaires are probably hedging their bets in case of a disaster or emergency, but Chinese have sent their kids to foreign schools and worked overseas for years.

Macau-based professor Chen Dingding makes these points and more in a rebuttal of Shambaugh’s piece in the National Interest. He thinks Chinese officials are delighted by Xi’s “Chinese Dream” and see his policies as dramatically reforming the country. The anti-corruption campaign, he maintains, is a necessary measure meant to shore up the Party’s credibility, since a traditional Chinese hatred of inequality (which is where the Communist movement came from in the first place) was sparking undeniable resentment at crooked fatcats. The economic slowdown is inevitable and a growth rate of 7% is still really fast.

Chen and other Chinese scholars also take issue with Shambaugh’s implied criticism of the whole system and point out that America has problems with corruption and inequality too. The notion that an American-style system would do just the trick for curing China’s malaise (although Shambaugh never actually states this) is obnoxious, imperialist, arrogant, and ignores the fact that most Chinese aren’t really clamouring for democracy, just stability and prosperity. They think that the root of Shambaugh’s and other Westerners’ opinions is a profound discomfort with a powerful China and a refusal to acknowledge that an authoritarian, non-Western social model could actually be succeeding.

Source:

Source: “The National People’s Congress: Unlucky for some“, The Economist, 12.03.2016.

Recent events have added an interesting twist to the tale — and on the face of it, seem to bolster Shambaugh’s argument. Rapid growth in stock trading, huge piles of local government debt, and a real estate bonanza fuelled a giant, increasingly obvious economic bubble. Persistently high growth figures (like 7%), ongoing construction and investment made a lot of onlookers suspicious that China’s economic joyride would last forever. Sure enough, beginning in July 2015 the stock market finally crashed. While only a small percentage of Chinese own stocks, it’s a sign that China’s boom years are done. The government also panicked and engaged in emergency measures to shore up the stock market, which not only put off investors even more, but made a mockery of its hopes to let markets play a “decisive role” in the Chinese economy. Suddenly China’s leaders weren’t all-knowing and wise when it came to economics anymore.

It’s way too early to make any statements about the stock market crash’s effects on China’s long-term economic prospects, but it’s obvious that its growth rate is slowing down and will slow down further. Since a robust economy is the most important pillar of the Party’s legitimacy and popular support, its leaders are even more rattled than before. This moment could be looked back on as the beginning of the end for Communist-ruled China, as Shambaugh writes.

And yet sceptics of the doomsday narrative make good points. A bungled bubble burst won’t seriously damage decades of impressive progress and smart decisions from the Beijing elite. Sceptical scholars like Gordon Chang have predicted the apocalypse for years now with no blatant signs of demise yet. When comparable crises hit the West, only cranks foretell the imminent collapse of the whole system. It’s also worth keeping in mind that, since it’s a one-party state, China has no viable opposition movements, so a political collapse could bring about new bosses who are more or less the same as the old bosses. Don’t expect a quick, painless transition to Taiwan-style democracy and pluralism.

So how long will the Chinese political system endure? The Soviet collapse was really, in hindsight, a historical anomaly. Great powers have collapsed before, but never so fast or entirely due to internal erosion. The miasma left in the wake of the Arab Spring has shown the world that pro-democracy uprisings don’t always have happy endings. But Shambaugh makes good points, and it’s worth keeping his arguments in mind as Xi, Li Keqiang, and the rest of the Politburo navigate the dangerous waters ahead by steering China into the modern world without loosening their rigid control of the system. There’s a reason Sinologists are often called “China watchers”: it’s a country that demands close attention.

More Information

  • The government’s economic plan for the next five years will not live up to its promises of bold reform. Instead of focusing on economic reform, Xi appears more preoccupied with tightening his political grip. Only days before the National People’s Congress opened in early March, the authorities closed a social-media account with 38m followers operated by Ren Zhiqiang, a former property developer and party member. Ren had used it to criticise Xi’s recent efforts to tighten the party’s control over the media. During the NPC censors removed an online article published by Caixin, a business magazine in Beijing. It was accused of posting “illegal content”, apparently by quoting an adviser to the NPC as saying “the right to speak freely must be protected”. (Source: “The National People’s Congress: Unlucky for some“, The Economist, 12.03.2016).
  • Tyler Headley and Cole Tanigawa-Lau, “Measuring Chinese Discontent: What Local Level Unrest Tells Us“, Foreign Affairs, 10.03.2016.
Posted in China, English, Eric Stimson, Security Policy | 2 Comments

A Golden Age for Singaporean Shipbuilding

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

Republic of Singapore frigate Steadfast (FFS 70) steams off the coast of Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kirk Worley / U.S. Navy).

Republic of Singapore frigate Steadfast (FFS 70) steams off the coast of Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kirk Worley / U.S. Navy).

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has traditionally relied heavily upon European-designed vessels, either built specifically for Singapore or purchased following a period of service for its originating state. For example, Singapore’s six Formidable-class frigates were built through a collaboration between France-based DCNS and Singapore Technologies Engineering (STE) while the design was based entirely on the French Navy’s La Fayette-class frigates, an example of Singapore’s move to purchasing off-the-shelf defence technology in the early to mid-2000’s. Meanwhile, the RSN acquired four previously decommissioned Swedish Sjöormen-class submarines and restored them to service in the mid-1990’s, reflecting another chapter in Singaporean defence procurement characterized by second hand purchases.

However, a new era seems to have recently begun in Singaporean defence procurement. From 1998 to 2001, Benoi Shipyard produced four Endurance-class landing platform dock (LPD) ships, designed by STE to replace several aging amphibious assault ships previously acquired from the United States. These vessels, fairly standard in their capabilities, seemed to be an initial foray into military shipbuilding, with all design and construction completed in Singapore. In 2012, Singapore produced a fifth vessel of this class for export to Thailand. At the 2014 Singapore Airshow, it was also revealed that Singapore had taken this design a step further, producing a model of a multirole support ship complete with a helicopter landing pad based largely on the design of the Endurance-class (see photo of a model below).

Perhaps the most impressive revelation regarding the RSN’s future capabilities and the development of a domestic shipbuilding industry, though, is the Independence-class littoral mission vessel. These vessels are intended to replace the RSN’s existing complement of Fearless-class patrol vessels but is larger in size, with a displacement of 1,200 tonnes and a length of 80 metres, and will be considerably more adaptable than their predecessors. In total, eight vessels will be built, the first of which is expected to reach completion by the end of 2016. Following a modular design, the littoral mission vessel also attempts to increase efficiency through increased levels of automation and remote monitoring, reducing the manned crew from 30 to 23 officers and sailors.

The RSN's first-of-class LMV, Independence, during its launch ceremony on 3 July 2015 (Photo: Ridzwan Rahmat / IHS).

The RSN’s first-of-class LMV, Independence, during its launch ceremony on 3 July 2015 (Photo: Ridzwan Rahmat / IHS).

It is important to note, though, that the advent of the Independence-class and the recent flurry of procurement projects could be cause for concern in the region. Historically, the RSN has pursued a very gradual program of fleet modernization and expansion, careful not to spark tensions with neighbours or inspire a regional arms race. China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea may be prompting Singapore’s leadership to throw caution to the wind. When the RSN obtained its aforementioned Swedish-built submarine fleet, it drew condemnation from Indonesia, which interpreted this as an effort by Singapore to obtain a strategic advantage in ongoing disputes over islands littering the Strait of Singapore. Given that the Independence-class is substantially more heavily armed that the Shark-class patrol boats currently employed by the Singapore Police Coast Guard to patrol these waters, there certainly is a risk that Malaysian and Indonesian authorities will take issue.

Obtaining the capacity to design and build state-of-the-art vessels for both domestic use and export, Singapore has entrenched its status as a leader in Southeast Asian maritime security. From 2021, the RSN also expects to acquire a domestically produced light aircraft carrier. Singapore would not be the first Southeast Asian state to obtain carrier capabilities — the Royal Thai Navy has operated HTMS Chakri Naruebet since 1997, though it is in a bad state of repair. But the apparent seriousness with which Singapore is approaching its carrier project, its plans to acquire the F-35B Lightning II in its short-takeoff and vertical landing (STVOL) variant, coupled with the RSN’s submarine fleet and amphibious assault ships will secure Singapore impressive force projection.

This is not to say that Singapore is positioning itself to become an aggressor state. Rather, these procurement projects reflect two goals. The first is to create jobs and promote Singaporean industry by expanding into shipbuilding. The second objective is to enhance Singapore’s international prestige by playing an increasingly active part in disaster assistance and humanitarian relief missions throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. Three of the RSN’s four LPDs were deployed in response to the 2004 tsunami and earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia, providing valuable humanitarian assistance. The LPDs have since been deployed in support of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, and on search and rescue missions in the Indian Ocean region. The Formidable-class frigates RSS Intrepid and RSS Tenacious were also deployed in 2012 and 2014 respectively in support of Combined Task Force 151 to engage in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

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In short, for the coming years, Singapore will be the most exciting state in Southeast Asia to watch regarding fleet expansion and modernization. Singaporean policymakers and diplomats will be careful, however, not to suggest that these acquisitions will alter the balance of power in ongoing South China Sea disputes. Singapore has carefully cultivated for itself a measure of soft power in the region. After all, it is Singapore which plays host each year to the Shangri-La Dialogue, organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies to allow for an exchange of views among the Asia-Pacific region’s defence ministers. Without soft power, Singapore would not have been the venue for 2015’s historic meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s then President Ma Ying-jeou.

To this end, Singapore must offer more information to its regional partners about the strategic intentions behind current and upcoming procurements. A light aircraft carrier could further contribute to Singapore’s soft power in the region, providing a launching platform for humanitarian missions or even multilateral interventions into conflict zones. Badly marketed, however, the carrier could be regarded as threatening by neighbours and used as a tool by rivals to undermine Singapore’s reputation as a peaceful, pragmatic partner.

More Information
Paul Pryce, “Singapore’s Fleet Modernization: Slow and Steady?“, Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), 09.03.2016.

Posted in English, International, Paul Pryce, Sea Powers, Singapore | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The American Drone Base in Cameroon

by Dan Gettinger. He is co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. This article was first published there and re-published by Dan’s permission — thank you!

DG (05 Nov 15) Garoua International Airport, Cameroon (click on the image to enlarge it).

DG (05 Nov 15) Garoua International Airport, Cameroon (click on the image to enlarge it).

Garoua, a city in northern Cameroon, lies along the Benue River approximately 30 miles east of the Nigerian border. Across the runway from the main terminal at Garoua International Airport sits a large white hangar. For years, there was little evidence of activity surrounding the hangar except the occasional deployment of a pair of Aermacchi MB-326 attack planes belonging to the Cameroonian Air Force. On October 15, 2015, the Obama administration notified Congress that it was sending 90 U.S. troops and Predator drones to Cameroon to help aid the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria. That force would eventually be joined by an additional 200 troops. In an interview with Reuters, several unnamed U.S. officials said that the force was headed to Garoua. A satellite photo from November 4, 2015 appears to show the construction of a military base around that large white hangar that sits across the runway from the terminal. All the evidence suggests that it is a Predator base. This is the first photographic record of the newest addition to a network of American drone outposts that stretches across east and west Africa.

Although the Obama administration did not specify in October that Garoua was the intended location of the new drone outpost, the presence of American personnel there is no secret. At a press conference on November 5, 2015, U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon Michael Hoza told reporters that “[t]he Garoua population gave a hilarious and warm welcome to the troops”. In a December 31 article, Cameroon Web reported that construction of the base in Garoua was nearly complete and that 120 of the 300 soldiers had already arrived. In a January 1 article, local Muslim youth leader Bouba Ahijo explained to Voice of America that although he had been told that the Americans would liberate them from the threat of Boko Haram, it remained unclear what they had achieved so far in Garoua. According to the New York Times, many of the 300 American military personnel to arrive in Cameroon will be special forces operators.

Construction Electrician 2nd Class Nolan Long, from Livingston, Texas, left, and Utilitiesman 1st Class Kenna Runyon, from Morgantown, W.Va., both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, replace C-wire with hedge hogs and tie them together with towing cable to be used as soft anchors at an entry control point in Garoua, Cameroon, Dec. 24, 2015 (Photo: Lt. j.g. Jason McGee / U.S. Navy).

Construction Electrician 2nd Class Nolan Long, from Livingston, Texas, left, and Utilitiesman 1st Class Kenna Runyon, from Morgantown, W.Va., both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, replace C-wire with hedge hogs and tie them together with towing cable to be used as soft anchors at an entry control point in Garoua, Cameroon, Dec. 24, 2015 (Photo: Lt. j.g. Jason McGee / U.S. Navy).

The DigitalGlobe satellite image from November 5 shows the area around the large hangar at Garoua International Airport bustling with activity, a sharp contrast to images from previous years. A new perimeter wall rings three sides of the hangar area and, in the bottom left corner, a construction vehicle can be seen erecting the final segments. To the right of the hangar are 14 new temporary Small Shelter Systems — 32.5 feet (about 10 m) long and 20 feet (6 m) wide — to house the troops. In front of the hangar are a collection of shelters that likely provide work areas and could contain some of the command and control facilities for the drones. Of these, two small tents are set up on the apron, slightly separated from the others on the unpaved ground. These tents match the length of a Ground Control Station (GCS) — 25 feet (7.62 m) — although they are about twice the width of a typical GCS.

The American troops had only recently arrived in Garoua when this satellite image was taken on November 5. Their primary mission is to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to the multinational force that is dedicated to fighting Boko Haram. In recent years, numerous towns in Cameroon’s Far North region have come under attack by the extremist group. A September 2015 report by Amnesty International found that civilians in northern Cameroon had suffered both from atrocities committed by Boko Haram and from a heavy-handed response by local security forces. In a statement to reporters in January, Cameroonian Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakary declared that Boko Haram was responsible for 315 raids and 32 suicide attacks that have killed 1,098 civilians in northern Cameroon since 2013. Tens of thousands more have been killed or displaced across the border in northern Nigeria. Cameroon pledged to increase its contribution to the multinational force fighting Boko Haram by 2,450 troops last August.

Before President Obama’s October announcement, American special forces operators were already deeply involved in training their Cameroonian counterparts. In a July 20, 2015 ceremony, President Paul Biya of Cameroon presented an award to General Donald Bolduc, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa, commending the American contribution to the fight against Boko Haram. The effort to train Cameroonian troops appears to be paying off. Earlier last month, a three-day raid on the Nigerian town of Goshi by Cameroonian special forces is reported to have killed 162 members of Boko Haram and destroyed bomb factories and weapons caches.

Members of the U.S. Special Operations forces alongside soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Intervention Rapid (BIR) training together at the Silent Warrior exercise 2013 in Bamenda, Cameroon (Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr. / US Air Force).

Members of the U.S. Special Operations forces alongside soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Intervention Rapid (BIR) training together at the Silent Warrior exercise 2013 in Bamenda, Cameroon (Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr. / US Air Force).

This is not the first time that drones have been deployed to the region, nor even the first time that drones have contributed to anti-Boko Haram efforts. In May 2014, the U.S. announced that it was sending a force of 80 personnel and a single Predator drone to Chad to try and help find the 250 schoolgirls who were abducted by the group. Although the Predator is believed to have since left N’Djamena, the American presence in Chad persists. In the center of N’Djamena International Airport, Camp Tassone remains a base for U.S. special forces troops under Africa Command. In March 2015, the site was host to an international special forces training exercise known as Flintlock.

Other drone deployments have contributed to broader counterterrorism efforts on the continent. On February 22, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama notified Congress that it had deployed additional troops to Niger, where they would support French forces conducting counterterrorism operations in neighboring Mali. The U.S. has outgrown its sprawling military base in Niamey, Niger and has started building a second drone base in Agadez, Niger, some 450 miles to the north in the Sahara. In east Africa, Chabelley Airfield in Djibouti remains a bustling drone hub serving operations in the Horn of Africa. In the FY17 budget proposal, the U.S. has allocated $10.5 million for upgrades to the base. Further south, the U.S. has plans to close the small drone outpost in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, from which American surveillance drones have collected intelligence on al-Shabab since 2011.

The new drone base in Garoua represents an escalation of the American effort to combat Boko Haram. It also reflects the dual special forces and drones combination that has become an increasingly popular American antidote to the spread of extremist groups like Boko Haram. These tools give the perception of a short-term, “light footprint” mission when in reality, bases like Arba Minch and Chabelley outlive the original intentions. While it is difficult to predict exactly how long the mission in Cameroon will last, if the other drone missions in Africa are any indication, it could be a while.

Posted in Cameroon, Dan Gettinger, Drones, English, International | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz – Teil 3: Europa und die Flüchtlinge

Zwischen dem 12. und dem 14. Februar 2016 fand die 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz statt. Es ist eine der wichtigsten sicherheitspolitischen Konferenzen während des Jahres. Sie wurde in einer umfassenden Studie der University of Pennsylvania erneut als beste “Think Tank Conference” der Welt ausgezeichnet. In einer mehrteiligen Artikelserie werden die interessantesten Panels und Diskussionen der Konferenz beleuchtet. Im ersten Teil fassen wir die Eröffnungsreden der deutschen Verteidigungsministerin, Ursula von der Leyen und des französischen Verteidigungsminister französischen Verteidigungsminister, Jean-Yves Le Drian zusammen. Im zweiten Teil, geht es um die Herausforderungen im Nahen Osten, im dritten Teil um die europäische Flüchtlingskrise und im vierten Teil um den “Health-Security Nexus”.

Migranten versuchen Ende Februar in der Nähe des griechischen Dorfes Idomeni die Grenzabsperrungen nach Mazedonien zu durchbrechen. In der Nähe von Idomeni sind über 7'000 Menschen gestrandet, denen eine Weiterreise wegen der geschlossenen Grenze verunmöglicht wurde (Foto: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images).

Migranten versuchen Ende Februar in der Nähe des griechischen Dorfes Idomeni die Grenzabsperrungen nach Mazedonien zu durchbrechen. In der Nähe von Idomeni sind über 7’000 Menschen gestrandet, denen eine Weiterreise wegen der geschlossenen Grenze verunmöglicht wurde (Foto: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images).

 
Refuge Refused? The EU and the Migrant Crisis
Das Panel “Refuge Refused? The EU and the Migrant Crisis” thematisierte die Flüchtlingskrise in Europa. Dazu vertrat Peter Altmeier, Bundesminister für besondere Aufgaben, Chef des Bundeskanzleramtes und zentraler Ansprechpartner für die politische Gesamtkoordinierung aller Aspekte der aktuellen Flüchtlingslage in Deutschland den Standpunkt der Deutschen Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel. Deutschland war 2015 mit 1,1 Millionen zugezogenen Flüchtlingen (und noch zusätzlich 500’000 zugezogenen EU-Ausländern) das mit Abstand primäre Einwanderungsland in der EU (Ulf Poschardt und Thorsten Mumme, “Wenn ich nach Deutschland komme, muss ich mich anpassen“, Die Welt, 13.02.2016). Als Durchgangsland und mit rund 2,5 Millionen Flüchtlingen im eigenen Land spielte die Türkei eine für die EU entscheidende Rolle. Dessen Standpunkt wurde im Panel von Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, seit Ende November 2015 amtierende türkische Aussenminister vertreten. Flüchtlinge, welche nicht über die Balkanroute in die EU gelangen, versuchen über das Mittelmmeer nach Italien zu gelangen. Deshalb wurde Italien im Panel vom italienischen Aussenminister Paolo Gentiloni vertreten. Doch auch die Niederlande, welche im Vergleich zu anderen europäischen Staaten nicht übermässig durch Flüchtlinge belastet war, muss sich wegen der niederländische EU-Ratspräsidentschaft 2016 verstärkt mit der Flüchtlingskrise in Europa befassen. Deshalb vertrat der niederländische Aussenminister, Bert Koenders, die niederländische Sichtweise. Die Internationale Organisation für Migration (IOM) ist eine der massgebenden, weltweiten Hilfsorganisationen im Migrationsbereich und wurde im Panel durch deren Generaldirektor, William Lacy Swing, vertreten (für eine Übersicht der Panel-Teilnehmer siehe Foto weiter unten, von rechts nach links; ganz rechts die Moderatorin des Panels: Christiane Amanpour, internationale Chefkorrespondentin für den Nachrichtenkanal CNN).

Ganz im Sinne der Deutschen Bundeskanzlerin unterstrich Altmeier, dass sich Deutschland bei der Bewältigung der Flüchtlingskrise für einen multilateralen Ansatz entschieden habe. In einer derart vernetzten Welt seien unilaterale, nationale Lösungen nicht nachhaltig. Der Umgang mit den Zustrom der Flüchtlingen habe eine direkte Konsequenz auf die Stabilität Europas, des Westbalkans und des Nahen Ostens. Auch deshalb sei Deutschland bereit eine solch hohe Anzahl Flüchtling aufzunehmen. Doch müssten primär die Ursachen für diesen Flüchtlingsstrom beseitigt werden und für ein Ende der Gewalt und der Bürgerkriege im Nahen Osten gesorgt werden. Die von der International Syria Support Group in der Nacht zum Freitag, 12. Februar 2016 ausgehandelte Feuerpause sei ein erster Schritt in diese Richtung. Bis die Gewalt im Nahen Osten ein Ende habe, sei es wichtig dafür zu sorgen, dass die Menschen in der Region bleiben würden. Das bedeutet, dass den Flüchtlingen in der Region Nahrungsmittel, Infrastruktur und Bildung zur Verfügung gestellt werden müsse. In diesem Kontext lobte Altmeier insbesondere das Engagement der Türkei. Deren Aussenminister wiederum unterstrich die gemeinsame Herausforderung bezüglich der Flüchtlingskrise und dass dazu eine noch intensivere Koordination unter den beteiligten Staaten aber auch mit der EU notwendig sei. Insbesondere die illegale bzw. irreguläre Einwanderung stelle für die Türkei ein riesiges Problem dar. In diesem Zusammenhang lobte Çavuşoğlu das vorgesehene Engagement der NATO zur Unterbindung der Schlepperbanden in der Ägäis.

csm_msc52_12feb16_1708_f1c33d8710

Gemäss Çavuşoğlu brauche es jedoch mehr als das: Umsiedlungsprogramme, eine kontrollierte Migration und Integration, sowie die Adressierung der Hauptursachen für die Flüchtlingsströme. Die 2,5 Millionen Flüchtlinge in Syrien würden dem Staat zusätzliche Kosten in der Höhe von rund 10 Millionen US-Dollar verursachen. Trotzdem verfolge die Türkei weiterhin eine Politik der “offenen Türe”. Seit dem 15. Januar 2016 sei es syrischen Flüchtlingen in der Türkei sogar möglich einer Arbeit nachzugehen. Beim erneuten Anschwellen der Flüchtlingswelle aufgrund der russischen Bombardierung Aleppos habe die Türkei noch einmal 10’000 Flüchtlinge aufgenommen. Für die restlichen, mehr als 20’000 von Aleppo her kommenden Flüchtlingen, sei auf syrischem Territorium, angrenzend an die türkische Grenze, Auffanglager mit Zelten aufgebaut worden. Diese Flüchtlinge würden, wenn notwendig, zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt geordnet und kontrolliert aufgenommen. Dieses Vorgehen sei die Konsequenz einer erhöhten Terrorismus-Gefahr in der Türkei. Gemäss Çavuşoğlu würden die von der EU versprochenen 3 Milliarden Euro, die jedoch noch nicht ausbezahlt wurden, direkt den Flüchtlingen zugute kommen (Çavuşoğlu vergass jedoch zu erwähnen, dass dies eine Auflage der EU war ;-)). Konders räumt ein, dass leere Versprechungen und fehlende Unterstützung der humanitären Hilfswerke, wie beispielsweise des UNHCR oder des Welternährungsprogramms die Anzahl der Flüchtlinge, welche die Auffanglager wegen fehlender Unterstützungsleistungen verlassen, in die Höhe treibe. Bei der Bewältigung der Flüchtlingskrise sei prioritär die Beendigung der Stellvertreterkriege in der Region, die nachhaltige Unterstützung der Nachbarstaaten Syriens, eine verbesserte innereuropäische Strategie, welche auch die nationale Souveränität der Mitglieder in Flüchtlingsfragen einschränken kann, eine verbesserte Kontrolle der EU-Aussengrenzen und eine geordnete Umsiedlung entscheidend.

Gentiloni unterstreicht noch einmal die Wichtigkeit der ausgehandelte Feuerpause um der Bevölkerung von Aleppo humanitär zu helfen. Mittelfristig müsse jedoch ein länger andauernder Waffenstillstand unter den Parteien ausgehandelt werden. Da dies ein sehr schwieriges Unterfangen sei, müsse man davon ausgehen, dass die Flüchtlingsströme von 2015 ein dauerhaftes Phänomen darstelle, auch wenn die Zahlen womöglich nicht immer so hoch sein würden. Alle gegenläufige Beteuerungen gegenüber den eigenen Bürgern sei unehrlich und werde sich langfristig kontraproduktiv auswirken. Einerseits sei es wichtig, dass die Anzahl der Flüchtlinge reduziert werde, doch andererseits könne man Flüchtlinge, welche vor Italien in Seenot geraten, nicht einfach ihrem Schicksal überlassen. Damit teile Italien den humanitären Ansatz Deutschlands und habe 2015 rund 170’000 libyschen Flüchtlingen, welche in Booten in Italien angekommen seien, aufgenommen. Das Problem könne jedoch in der EU nicht auf nationaler Ebene gelöst werden. Es sei wichtig, dass das rein innenpolitische Denken der europäischen Staaten überwunden werde, ansonsten sei die EU als Einheit gefährdet. Alleingänge hätten irreversiblen Konsequenzen auf europäischer Ebene. Beispielsweise sei es schon möglich das Schengener Abkommen auszusetzen, doch die wieder in Kraft Setzung scheine dann sehr viel schwieriger zu sein.

refugees-001

Angesicht der Pull&Push-Faktoren sei für die europäischen Staaten eine Migration auf hohem Niveau unvermeidlich, so Swing. Ohne die Lösung der Probleme in der MENA-Region werde die Migration nicht abnehmen. Doch es dürfe auch nicht ausser Acht gelassen werden, dass die Bevölkerung in den letzten Jahrzehnten in der Region zugenommen habe und so ein höheres Migrations-Niveau generiere. Generell sei Migration nicht negativ zu werten, denn die Industriestaaten seien aus demographischen und wirtschaftlichen Gründen darauf angewiesen — ohne Migration, kein Wirtschaftswachstum. Dass damit Herausforderungen verbunden seien, sei selbstverständlich und müsse durch die richtigen politischen Entscheidungen bewältigt werden. Angesicht der Zunahme der Flüchtlinge nehme die Akzeptanz in der Bevölkerung ab. Leider hätten Politiker insbesondere ihre Wiederwahl vor Augen und damit falle auch die die moralische Überzeugung und Führungskraft. Merkel sei deshalb als mutige Ausnahmeerscheinung zu werten, welche eine mutige, politische Vision aufzeige. Es sei wichtig die negative Narrative zu durchbrechen, den Geschichten über die Schicksale der Flüchtlinge und den positiven Aspekten der Migration eine Plattform zu geben.

Weitere Informationen

  • Schweiz: Der Bund rechnet damit, dass ab Frühling die Flüchtlingszahlen wieder steigen. Nun hat die Armee den Wiederholungskurs (WK) von 5’000 Soldaten verschoben. So soll sichergestellt werden, dass die Grenzwachkorps stets mit der gleichen Anzahl Soldaten unterstützt werden. Sollte das Grenzwachtkorps mit dem Andrang an Flüchtlingen überfordert sein, könnte die Armee dank der WK-Verschiebungen innerhalb von 48 Stunden bis zu 2’000 Soldaten aufbieten (“Armee verschiebt WK für 5000 Soldaten – wegen Flüchtlingen“, SRF, 26.02.2016).
  • Endlich anfangs März haben die ersten Hilfsprojekte aus dem Drei-Milliarden-Euro-Treuhandfonds der EU gestartet. Monatelang hatten die EU-Mitglieder zäh darum gerungen, wer wie viel in den Geldtopf wirft. Doch es geht um mehr als um Hilfe für Flüchtlinge: Ankara soll endlich dafür sorgen, dass weniger illegale Migranten in Griechenland ankommen (Quelle: Peter Müller, “EU, Türkei und die Flüchtlinge: Ein bisschen Hoffnung“, Spiegel Online, 05.03.2016).
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New “Open Skies” aircraft for the German Armed Forces

by Björn Müller (Facebook / Twitter; original published in German). Björn is journalist in Berlin focusing on security policy and geopolitics.

An A319 from the Special Air Mission Wing of the Federal Ministry of Defence. The German Armed Forces want another aircraft of this type for

An A319 from the Special Air Mission Wing of the Federal Ministry of Defence. The German Armed Forces want another aircraft of this type for “Open Skies”.

Last year, or more precisely the day before Christmas, the German Armed Forces placed their tender for their future “Open Skies” aircraft on Bund.de (no longer online). It calls for a used Airbus A319CJ plus surveillance technology for flights as part of the Treaty on Open Skies. Up until now Germany has leased aircraft to conduct its surveillance flights in line with the treaty.

The idea behind “Open Skies” is conflict prevention through confidence building. Those who have a constant view of other parties’ military equipment with surveillance flights feel safer in calculating their own military policy. This should reduce the danger of arms races and war. The total transparency of the “Open Skies” arrangement is of particular importance: there are standards for aircraft surveillance techniques. This is certified by all participating states and is constantly monitored. If, for example, the Russian Armed Forces fly over Germany, officers of the German Armed Forces are always present. The treaty was initiated by the Americans in 1992 and was signed by NATO countries and ex-Warsaw Pact states (see box below). There are currently 43 member states including Germany, Russia, Poland and Turkey. However, of the 34 members only ten states operate their own aircraft. Many flights are made in cooperation or through leasing. Otherwise aerial photographs are simply purchased from interested states.

“Open Skies” was originally brought into discussion by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 as an intelligence-led and confidence-building measure. However, the Soviet Union rejected the proposal and considered such flyovers as espionage. In May 1989 US President George H. W. Bush took up “Open Skies” once more. In the intervening years the US and the Soviet Union had been collecting intelligence-led information using satellites – aircraft flyovers are no different except that they are cheaper to carry out. The treaty was signed on 24 March 1992 by 26 countries from NATO and the Warsaw Pact under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). However, it only came into force in May 2001 after Russia and Belarus completed the ratification process. The Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) is the body responsible for the development and implementation of the Treaty on Open Skies.

 
The Bundestag has approved 60 million Euros for the acquisition of an “Open Skies” aeroplane. The German Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg) estimated that the operating costs will be five to six million Euros per year. The aircraft should be ready for operation in 2018. According to the German Armed Forces verification centre, which is responsible for “Open Skies”, the aircraft’s first surveillance flights are expected to be carried out in 2019. In budgetary terms, apparently 40 million Euros has already been planned for in order to cover the first few years of operation. The whole “Open Skies” package would then have a total budget of 100 million Euros. The author could not clarify whether or not this will be the case.

The reason behind wanting to acquire an Airbus is that the BMVg would like to have a homogeneous fleet and the majority of their military aircraft already in operation are from Airbus. A spokesman from the BMVg told the author: “The platform to be procured should, as far as possible, correspond to the aircraft already in use by the German Armed Forces in order to minimise costs and exploit operational synergies such as aeronautical and technical logistical aspects.”

The German Federal Foreign Office, the political front of “Open Skies” in Germany, describes the range of tasks for the “Open Skies” machine: “In addition to its main surveillance task, the aircraft’s spare capacity could be used for subordinate tasks like MEDEVAC (medical evacuations), GeoInfo data collection, military transportation and to assist in emergency response for the German Armed Forces. It should, however, primarily serve its intended purpose by playing an active role in the Treaty on Open Skies.”

On board a Russian TU-154M during an

On board a Russian TU-154M during an “Open Skies Flight” over Canada on 28 May 2008 (Creative Commons Attribution – No Derivative Works licence).

Even before the treaty came into force 18 years ago, the German Armed Forces had an “Open Skies” machine – a Tupolev 154M from the fleet of the National People’s Army (NPA) of the German Democratic Republic. It collided with a US Airforce Lockheed C-141 Starlifter on 13 September 1997 over the Atlantic approximately 120 km west of Namibia. Twenty-one members of the German Armed Forces lost their lives, together with two of their wives and a technician from Elbe Flugzeugwerke (see “Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Angelika Beer und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN: Absturz der Tupolev TU-154M am 13. September 1997“, Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 13/8746, 06.10.1997). At the time it was decided not to purchase a replacement immediately. The reason: political motivation was lacking. The NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed in the same year as the crash, the climax of the rapprochement between Russia and the West. It was no longer politically fashionable to invest larger sums of money in arms control. In addition German Armed Forces even then wanted a homogeneous fleet. Another mothballed “NPA Tupolev” was ready to be equipped immediately for “Open Skies” but this was not used. In 1999, the second German Armed Forces Tupolev was sold to a Bulgarian airline. A general braking mechanism for “Open Skies” over the years is that politically the German Federal Foreign Office is in charge of “Open Skies”, however budgetary and technological implementation is run by the German Ministry of Defence. It is understandable that the latter have no particular interest in supporting “Open Skies”.

A crew member aboard a US Boeing OC-135B. The latest technology from the 1960s is used for

A crew member aboard a US Boeing OC-135B. The latest technology from the 1960s is used for “Open Skies Flights” such as this film spool. Nevertheless, it is definitely a workable solution.

The Black-Red coalition wrote in their agreement in 2013 that Germany wants to strengthen its arms control – and, among other things, to purchase a new “Open Skies” aircraft. They had to put their money where their mouth is in the Ukraine crisis and in the escalating conflict between NATO and Russia.

The deciding factor was the fact that in 2016 Germany presides over the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is the only security organisation with members from both NATO countries and Russia. The Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) is responsible for “Open Skies” and is connected to the OSCE. At times when highly political forums such as NATO are blocked on convergence strategies, politics remembers the “wall flowers” of security policy such as the “Open Skies” arms control instrument. In addition, the investment from the German side was probably made due to concerns over the operational ability of “Open Skies”. Most of the aircraft currently in use are between 30 and 50 years old. The camera technology used for surveillance is still mainly non-digital. In the budgeting justification by the grand coalition it states: “[…] the Federal Republic relies on leasing and joint usage of aircraft by partner nations. Due to retirements and lengthy modernisation processes, these capacities will decrease to such an extent that the rights arising from the Open Skies Treaty are no longer guaranteed to be fully exercised.”

More information

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Examining Iranian Drone Strikes in Syria

by Galen Wright.

Iran’s Shahed-129 (S129). Click on the image for more photos.

Iran’s Shahed-129 (S129). Click on the image for more photos.

Over the past two decades the number of states operating drones has exploded from just a handful to more than a third of all countries worldwide. Now, the list of countries not just operating armed drones, but using them in wartime, looks poised to make a similar jump.

Recent footage from Syria confirms that Iran can be added to this list, joining the US, UK, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria.[1] The footage shows Iran’s Shahed-129 (S129) providing precision-strike support within the past three months for the ongoing offensives by pro-government forces around Aleppo, Syria.

This confirmation underscores both the proliferation of surveillance/strike capabilities beyond the exclusive domain of the West, and the degree to which the Assad government’s continued survival has come to depend on foreign military support.

• • •

On February 4, Iran’s Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB) aired a short news segment about the Revolutionary Guards’ (IRGC) use of S129s to secure the country’s restive southeast border. However, in addition to footage of the drones operating out of Konarak airport near Pakistan, the program featured two short clips of the aircraft striking targets south of Aleppo.

1_Konarak

The S129’s base in Konarak can be recognized by the runway configuration, and location of hardened shelters used by the Air Force’s alert fighters. (IRIB)

The S129 is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV comparable to the ubiquitous MQ-1 Predator. It was designed in the late-2000s by the Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, a company responsible for many of the Guards’ in-house designs.[2] It was officially introduced in September 2012, reportedly entering production a year later. It first appeared over Syria in April 2014.

According to official statements, the S129 has an endurance of 24 hours, an operational radius of 2000 km, and a ceiling of 25,000 feet (7,620 m). While these claims cannot be confirmed they are broadly consistent with other examples in the same class.

The S129 can be armed with up to eight glide bombs or missiles fitted on two hardpoints, although four appears to be the limit in practice. Both options are based on a common design, which — superficially at least — resembles Rafael’s Spike-ER.[3] Both are fitted with imaging infrared seekers and datalinks that provide video footage through the moment of impact. This feature is instrumental in assessing the two strikes documented thusfar in Syria.

2_Armament

S129 at Konarak pictured with two variants of the “Smart Bomb 324”, which are also believed to be in use over Syria. (IRIB)

• • •

The two clips from Syria are haphazardly arranged between footage from Konarak and earlier tests elsewhere in Iran, making it difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Nonetheless, the imprinted geographic coordinate systems confirm each strike’s position. Both strikes include footage from the seeker and the S129’s onboard sensor payload.

3_Aleppo Overview

The first strike (2:33-2:37) took place at 9:30 pm on an unknown date, near Aleppo’s border with Idlib province (the exact position cannot be located). The target was a small group of men (7-10) gathered on a rural road bounded by farmland on either side. The targets may be armed, but the video alone is inconclusive. After the munition’s impact the UAV circled the target, continuing observation for at least a minute.

4_First Strike

First Strike: Image 1 & 2 are from the seeker, image 3 is from the aircraft’s onboard payload. (IRIB)

The second strike (2:45-2:49) took place at 11:00 am, on the outskirts of Halasah village about 15 km southwest of Aleppo. The munition was fired at short range — just under a kilometer — against a small building, possibly occupied by fighters from the Free Syrian Army or Jabhat al-Nusra. The strike was likely carried out in support of fighters from Kataib Hezbollah or Harakat al-Nujaba.[4]

5_Second Strike

Second Strike: Image 1 & 2 are from the seeker, image 3 is from the aircraft’s onboard payload. (IRIB)

Additional DigitalGlobe imagery — not pictured in this report — shows the building undamaged as of November 22, which suggests the strike took place sometime afterward. This is consistent with reports from that period, which show the front line passing over the area in late-November and early-December.[5]

Footnotes
[1] Although Iran experimented with armed drones during their war with Iraq in the 1980s, the examples then were rudimentary and fall far short of today’s standards. They functioned as remote rocket artillery rather than the surveillance/precision-strike assemblies that characterize the modern phenomena.
[2] For example, the company is responsible for a handful of light attack and utility helicopters (eg Shahed 278 and 285) and UAVs (eg Shahed 121, 123, 125, 129, & 171) associated almost exclusively with the IRGC.
[3] When mockups of the missile were first displayed during the 2010 Kish International Airshow their markings stylistically resembled those used by Rafael suggesting that — whatever the Sadid’s origin — the similarity has not escaped the notice of the company’s technicians.
[4] This claim is based on maps by Twitter’s @petolucem that place these combatants in the area around the time the strike is believed to have taken place.
[5] ibid [4]

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The Syrian Government Dangerously Depends on a Militia

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College and a reporter for War Is Boring. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

Propaganda poster mobilizing supportive civil population (in Spring 2012).

Propaganda poster mobilizing supportive civil population (in Spring 2012).

The National Defence Forces (NDF), a militia designed to support the Syrian Arab Army against the Syrian opposition and the terror organisation “Islamic State” (IS, ISIL, or ISIS), has become one of the Syrian government’s most controversial, critical weapons in counterinsurgency. Militiamen have engaged in hundreds of war crimes if not thousands (John Heilprin, “UN report on Syria lists at least eight massacres allegedly perpetrated by the Assad regime and one by the rebels“, National Post, 11.09.2013). Yet they have often succeeded where the Army, depleted as its officers and soldiers have defected and died over the years, has failed to defend territory.

The Syrian government had long used mobsters and thugs to maintain its authority in addition to policemen and spies. When the Syrian Civil War started, the militias almost formed themselves. Syrian officials only organized these militias into the NDF August 2013, however, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Iran, the Syrian government’s closest ally, oversaw this organization. Some militiamen, like Iranian proxies from other conflicts, traveled outside the country to train. “Iranian training efforts for Iraqi and Afghan groups have previously taken place primarily in Iran”, observed ISW, noting that Iran approached Syria with its traditional expertise. “This effort overlaps with Iran’s second objective of supporting militant groups that can survive with or without Assad.” Though supported by several countries, the Army, now weakened, failed to use the initiative it once had against Israel to fight the Syrian opposition. Reuters described the problems that the Syrian government faced: “Army officers belonging mainly to the minority Alawite sect, to which Assad himself belongs, sit uncomfortably in charge of a conscript army of men who are mostly from Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims. Officers wary of their own recruits say they can create a more reliable force out of irregular loyalist militias spread across the country.” The militias behind the NDF would have a reason to defend whichever progovernment stronghold they called a hometown. “After the events began, our leadership started to lose faith in the army and its effectiveness on the ground in a war like this,” complained one commander. “The Syrian army is an aging one. There is a lot of routine. A lot of soldiers fled. Some joined armed gangs.” The NDF, created to win the Syrian Civil War, could remedy the problems of the Army.

Members of the Syrian National Defence Forces (NDF), one holding Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) flag, in the Christian town of Maalula on 13 June 2015.

Members of the Syrian National Defence Forces, one holding Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) flag, in the Christian town of Maalula on 13 June 2015.

The NDF soon outcompeted the Army. “Youth in their late teens and early 20s and unemployed men are eager recruits to the defense force,” reported The Wall Street Journal. “They often see it as a more attractive alternative to the army, which many consider to be infiltrated by rebels, overstretched and underfunded. Some defense force members say they have received boot camp and more advanced combat training in Syria from Hezbollah operatives or have been flown to Iran for similar purposes.” The militias, guarding their own cities, towns, and villages, excelled at urban warfare. They could match the rebels as infantry. “They are fighting urban warfare with urban warfare instead of going at it asymmetrically,” a military analyst from the American University of Beirut told The Washington Post. The Syrian government developed the NDF into an effective alternative to the Army.

The militia came with its own problems. Though the NDF expanded to include an all-female brigade, a female activist with the Syrian opposition noted that few civilian women benefitted from this development. “They force women out of cars with deliberate roughness, rip off their veils and scream insults at them,” said Majd Amer. “They treat them like they are female terrorists. They call them al-Qaeda… and say, ‘The veil won’t protect you.'” All brigades of the NDF faced difficulties. The Syrian government struggled to control them because it needed them. “Increasing regime reliance on the NDF has opened the regime to the inherent risks of providing state-sanctioned power to decentralized paramilitary organizations,” claims the ISW. “Local NDF commanders often engage in war profiteering through protection rackets, looting, and organized crime. NDF members have been implicated in waves of murders, robberies, thefts, kidnappings, and extortions throughout regime-held parts of Syria since the formation of the organization in 2013.” These crimes affect Alawis and Sunnis, threatening the Syrian government’s support in vital regions, namely the west of Syria. The NDF looted the homes of a religious minority attacked by IS in the countryside surrounding Hama, the country’s fourth-largest city. It sits on the supply chain between Aleppo, Syria’s largest city; Homs, Syria’s third-largest city and one of the closest to another supply chain along the Lebanese-Syrian border; and Latakia, Syria’s fifth-largest city and the capital of the Syrian government’s heartland in the northwest. Members of the same religious minority expelled the NDF because of how it conducted itself. Just as the NDF has proven itself on the battlefield, it has shown the problems of relying on an irregular military.

Whether future developments define the NDF as a success or a failure depends on whether the Syrian government can control it. The Syrian government must secure its rump state.

Notable Syrian Pro-Regime Paramilitary Groups ("The Regime's Military Capabilities: Part 1",  Institute for the Study of War, 26.05.2015).

Notable Syrian Pro-Regime Paramilitary Groups (“The Regime’s Military Capabilities: Part 1“, Institute for the Study of War, 26.05.2015).

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