Tag Archives: libya

These Fast-Acting Response Forces Could Prevent Another Benghazi

Small, high-tech teams stand ready across Europe, Africa and Asia

Events in war-torn South Sudan in recent weeks have presented a dazzling—and sometimes confusing—display of U.S. military capabilities. Emergency operations have been conducted in the unstable new country by troops assigned to three totally different American task forces dispersed across Africa.

The new task forces have their roots in Benghazi, Libya. On Sept. 11, 2012, extremists attacked a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens plus several others.

The military rescue in Benghazi, Operation Jukebox Lotus, was seen by many as having been too slow, too weak and disorganized. Congress and the general public were furious at the Pentagon’s perceived failure. The scandal prompted the Defense Department to review how and where forces are deployed around the world.

The new crisis-response task forces, born in the flames of Benghazi, reflect a marriage of old and new concepts—and are meant to prevent a repeat of 2012′s tragedy.

Marines rope from a MV-22B tiltrotor. Marine Corps photo

Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response

In the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, the U.S. Marine Corps—which handles security for diplomatic posts—established a new unit to reinforce embassies and consulates in danger of being overrun.

When South Sudan went to Hell in mid-December, SPMAGTF-CR rushed troops from its current base in Spain to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and onward to Entebbe, Uganda, where they stood alert. The 500-person task force has its own MV-22B tiltrotors and KC-130 tanker-transports, allowing it to cover thousands of miles in a day.

As the Marine Corps downsizes with the draw-down in Afghanistan, special task forces like the SPMAGTF-CR are becoming more important. They’re smaller, swifter and can be manned on a rotating basis by regiments permanently based in the U.S. The Marines have already stood up similar new task forces in the Black Sea region and Australia.

173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan. Army photo

Army Regionally Aligned Forces and Contingency Response Forces

The Army has followed the Marines’ lead and is now “aligning” rotating forces to specific geographical regions. The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, a tank and infantry unit based in Kansas, has been on standby for emergencies in Africa.

When sectarian violence flared in South Sudan, the 2nd Brigade rushed 45 soldiers from Djibouti to the town of Juba aboard Air Force transport planes. Their mission: to safeguard U.S. citizens being evacuated from the roiling country.

The Regionally-Aligned Forces are just the beginning. The Army is also restoring parachute units to crisis-response duty. For many years, the ground combat branch kept two parachute brigades on constant stand-by for emergencies: one brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina and also the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.

But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan kept those troops too busy for alert duty, and the Army’s ability to swiftly react to a crisis slowly eroded. When militants attacked in Benghazi, the 173rd was in Afghanistan and could do nothing to help.

Now with the Iraq war over and the U.S. fighting in Afghanistan winding down, the Army once again has assigned part of the 173rd to stand alert in Italy. This Army Contingency Response Force is a company-size element with around 200 people. Hopping aboard C-130 or C-17 airlifters, the ACRF can reach most of Africa in just a few hours.

Likewise, the Army has tapped part of the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, based in Alaska, to be an ACRF for the Pacific. The land service is also proposing to send specialized instructors across the Far East to help train allied soldiers. The American troops involved in this so-called “Pacific Pathways” program would also be available to respond to crises.

CV-22B tiltrotor supports a Special Operations Forces training mission in Africa. Air Force photo

Special Operations Command and Control Element-Horn of Africa

At least two Army Special Forces units deployed in immediate response to the attacks in Benghazi. The secretive Delta Force was probably one of them. Both Delta Force and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, were initially formed to fight terrorists, back when “terrorism” mostly meant kidnapping.

Today their missions are much broader. Delta Force, SEAL Team Six and other Special Operations Forces are forward-deployed all over the world and can move quickly to rescue good guys and kill or capture bad guys. The special operators couldn’t get to Benghazi fast enough to help, but a renewed sense of urgency means they could be more responsive in the future.

Indeed, when South Sudan popped off, the Special Operations Command and Control Element–Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti since 2002, quickly sent Navy SEALs aboard three CV-22B tiltrotors to the town of Bor. They were supposed to secure the airport to allow for evacuations of American citizens, but sectarian fighters on the ground had other ideas.

The South Sudanese opened fire on the V-22s, injuring four SEALs and forcing the task force to turn back. A later U.S. mission to Bor succeeded in securing the airport. The inability of the SOCCE-HOA team to initially reach Bor could be seen as a failure, but the fact that American troops responded so quickly to instability in South Sudan is evidence of the Pentagon’s new priorities—and an encouraging sign in the post-Benghazi era.

Sign up for a daily War is Boring email update here. Subscribe to WIB’s RSS feed here and follow the main page here.

Further Reading

France Deploys Troops as Central African Republic Slides Toward Genocide

 — International intervention imminent in world’s second-worst war zone

Seven Autocrats Backed by U.S. Military Aid

 — With friends like these …

South Sudan’s Dream Is Over—The Nightmare Is Just Beginning

 — The world’s newest country pays the price for ignoring political problems as fighting kills hundreds

Published by

We go to war so you don’t have to.

Published December 31, 2013


What You Do Is Not (Necessarily) Who You Are

What You Do Is Not (Necessarily) Who You Are


Among the niceties and travails of meeting people for the first time, there’s no more loaded question than “What do you do?” I would almost prefer to respond to “What is your favorite sexual position?” or “How do you feel about your mother?” because people would be less likely to read into my answer.

I have European friends who loathe the question because they think it’s coded language that only means one thing: How much money do you make? But that’s only part of it. It means that, and several other things. It can also mean: Is what you do significant? Do you have control over what you do? Where are you in the hierarchy of your company? Are you allowed to be creative in your job? Does your job give you status, professionally and personally? and so on.

Then, more implications: What does your work say about who you are? What does it say about where you came from and where you are now?

In its most innocuous version, the question means, do we have anything in common? Is what you do something interesting we could talk about? But given all of the other implications, it’s hard to feel like you’re not being assessed in a much larger way..

English: Tim Hetherington at a Hudson Union So...

English: Tim Hetherington at a Hudson Union Society event with Sebastian Junger, co-director of the Oscar-nominated, Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, Restrepo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a good reason for that. For most of us who actively chose what we do, it’s usually a reflection of, at the very least, our interests. If you’re well-educated and mostly unencumbered by serious financial constraints you likely made a conscious decision to go into your field. (And by serious financial constraints, I mean supporting a family in another country, astronomical medical bills, etc. I am not referring to paying off student loans until your grandkids are in college, which I will probably be doing myself.) It’s unlikely that you woke up one day and decided to become a periodontist “just because.”

This is because we are fortunate enough to have “careers” and not merely jobs. My dad had a job—for over forty years—and the same one at that. He was a local lineman for the Alabama Power Company. He didn’t hate his job, but he certainly didn’t consider it a career. For my dad, “What do you do?” was a boring question. But if you wanted to know what his interests were, you could talk about what he did on the side: he was also a part-time contractor, and I grew up in a wonderful house he built from the ground up. Building things was a part of who he was, but not necessarily what he did.

For me, the question is often complicated. At various points in my career, I’ve been an equity analyst, an entrepreneur, a journalist, a blogger, an editor, an adjunct professor, a marketing director, and a strategy consultant. Now I do bits of several of those things, so my clunky answer to what do you do is, “Uh, a bunch of stuff?” Until a few months ago, I was the editor-in-chief of the New York Observer, and if there was one thing about that job that was easy and convenient, it was that it made “what do you do?” easier and less irritating to answer. No one needs an explanation of what a newspaper editor does. (But for the five years prior to the Observer, the answer was, as it is now, a bunch of stuff.)

In Renata Adler’s Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker, a memoir of her time there and analysis of its state in the late ‘90s, she writes that the imprimatur of The New Yorker was strong enough to render moot any other significant cultural or class signifiers:

“There are many ways, in the contemporary world, in which people who have never met meet, appraise, and identify one another. Accents, clothes, how much they spend, airline class in which they travel, people whom they know, universities they have attended, things more subtle and ineffable. Nothing, for Americans at least, seems more immediate than institutional affiliation, the place where they work, and in what capacity. Among jobs, in those days, there was no qualification for meeting people that seemed, everywhere, less subject to question than working for a respected newspaper or magazine.”

As someone who has worked for several respected newspapers and magazines (though not The New Yorker), I think she exaggerates a bit. People who work in journalism put The New Yorker and magazines like it on a pedestal that’s many a story higher than the average person who does not work in journalism—even the more enthusiastic readers. But there is some refuge in institutional affiliation, as there is in certain job titles.

But what do all of these things really say about who we are? There’s a danger in conflating work with self, even if work has consumed everything we do. In Sebastian Junger’s recent documentary on the late photographer and documentary filmmaker Tim Hetherington, Which Way to the Front Line?, Junger chronicles Hetherington’s work in West Africa, Afghanistan, and Misrata, Libya, where he was eventually killed. Hetherington did extremely important work, and in his documentary, Diary, he explores the tension between his life at home and his life in the field. Just before he left for Libya, he expressed reservations about continuing to work in conflict zones. It had cannibalized other parts of his life. He wanted to pursue a long-term relationship with his girlfriend. He wanted a family. He wanted to explore doing different kinds of work. But he decided to go back into the field one last time and didn’t come back.

It would be disingenuous to argue that Hetherington’s work wasn’t part of who he was, but as Junger’s documentary so beautifully illustrates, it wasn’t all there was of Tim Hetherington.

Producing good work has many benefits, and it certainly contributes to a stronger sense of identity and purpose. But fullness of self is about more than that. It’s about those ancillary but more direct questions: What are our interests? What are our values? Where did we come from, and where are we now? All of these things are qualities that can develop in tandem with work, but they’d probably develop even if we had a job and not a career.

There’s a D.H. Lawrence quote I found in Geoff Dyer’s smart and wickedly funny book, Out of Sheer Ragewherein the author chronicles his aspirations to write a biography of Lawrence and epic procrastinations at doing so—that speaks to this perfectly. “I don’t think that to work is to live,” Lawrence says. “Work is alright in proportion: but one wants to have a certain richness and satisfaction in oneself, which is more than anything produced. One wants to be.

There’s nothing wrong with asking someone what they do, and certainly no harm in answering the question. But don’t assume the answer means everything.

View story at Medium.com



Libya, Somalia raids show U.S. reach, problems



U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures during a news conference at the APEC ministerial meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali island


(Reuters) – Two U.S. raids in Africa show the United States is pressuring al Qaeda, officials said on Sunday, though a failure in Somalia and an angry response in Libya also highlighted Washington’s problems.

In Tripoli, U.S. forces snatched a Libyan wanted over the bombings of the American embassy in Nairobi 15 years ago and whisked him out of the country, prompting Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that al Qaeda leaders “can run but they can’t hide”.

But the capture of Nazih al-Ragye, better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, also provoked a complaint about the “kidnap” from the Western-backed prime minister; he faces a backlash from armed Islamists who have carved out a share of power since the West helped Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.


U.S. says captures al Qaeda leader in Libya, also raids Somalia

The following content is from Reuters!

A U.S. embassy official secures the area around the embassy building after a powerful bomb blast in Nairobi

(Reuters) – U.S. forces launched raids in Libya and Somalia on Saturday, two weeks after the deadly Islamist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, capturing a top al Qaeda figure wanted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. officials said.

Senior al Qaeda figure Anas al Liby was seized in the raid in Libya, but no militant was captured in the raid on the Somali town of Barawe, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Liby, believed to be 49, has been under U.S. indictment for his alleged role in the East Africa embassy bombings that killed 224 people.

The U.S. government has also been offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture, under the State Department‘s Rewards for Justice program.

CNN reported in September last year that Liby had been seen in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. It quoted Western intelligence sources as saying there was concern that he may have been tasked with establishing an al Qaeda network in Libya.


Obama speaks by phone to Iran’s Rouhani, sees chance for progress

Source Reuters!


Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


(Reuters) – President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone on Friday, the highest-level contact between the two countries since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and a sign that both sides are serious about reaching a pact on Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama had hoped to meet with Rouhani earlier this week while both men were in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, but Iran decided a meeting would be too complicated.

“I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York. While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama said at the White House.

Obama said both men had directed their teams to work expeditiously toward an agreement on the nuclear issue.

Rouhani said on a Twitter feed believed to be genuine that in his phone conversation he told Obama “Have a Nice Day!” and Obama responded with “Thank you. Khodahafez (goodbye).”

The two men “expressed their mutual political will to rapidly solve the nuclear issue,” the Twitter account said.



Kenya Mall Attack: Authorities Say They Control Most Of Complex

Source Huffington Post!


Kenya, 2012

Kenya, 2012 (Photo credit: Moridin_)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan officials said security forces controlled nearly all of an upscale mall on Monday, two days after it was seized by members of a Somali terrorist group who invaded with guns blazing, killing at least 62 people.

Four thunderous explosions reverberated through a Nairobi neighborhood in the morning, raising fears for the lives of any remaining hostages still being held by al-Shabab, a Somali armed Islamic group linked with al-Qaida, in the Westgate Mall.

Three attackers had been killed in the fighting Monday, officials said, and more than 10 suspects arrested. Eleven Kenyan soldiers were wounded in the running gun battles. By evening, Kenyan security officials were claiming the upper hand.

“Taken control of all the floors. We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them,” Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo said on Twitter.

Kenya’s interior minister said the evacuation of hostages “has gone very, very well” and that Kenyan officials are “very certain” that there are few if any hostages left in the building.


Nairobi Mall Shooting: Gunmen Throw Grenades, Open Fire At Upscale Shopping Center

English: Flag of Nairobi (Kenya) Español: Band...

English: Flag of Nairobi (Kenya) Español: Bandera de Nairobi (Kenia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Source Huffington Post!



NAIROBI, KenyaTerrified shoppers huddled in back hallways and prayed they would not be found by the Islamic extremist gunmen lobbing grenades and firing assault rifles inside Nairobi’s top mall Saturday. When the way appeared clear, crying mothers clutching small children and blood-splattered men sprinted out of the four-story mall.

At least 39 people were killed and more than 150 wounded in the assault, Kenya‘s president announced on national TV, while disclosing that his close family members were among the dead.

Foreigners were among the casualties. France‘s president said that two French women were killed. Two Canadians were killed, including a diplomat, said the Candadian prime minister. Four American citizens were reported injured but not killed in the attack, the State Department said Saturday.



Free Syrian Army fighters take cover from snipers by crawling on the front line in Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed neighbourhood

Syria meets deadline for chemical weapons disclosure

Source Reuters!

English: Brasilia - The president of the Syria...

English: Brasilia – The president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar Al-Assad during a visit to Congress Português do Brasil: Brasília – O presidente da República Árabe Síria, Bashar Al-Assad, em visita ao Congresso Nacional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Reuters) - Syria has handed over information about its chemical arsenal to a U.N.-backed weapons watchdog, meeting the first deadline of an ambitious disarmament operation that averted the threat of Western air strikes.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Saturday it had “received the expected disclosure” from Damascus, 24 hours after saying it had been given a partial document from Syrian authorities.

It said it was reviewing the information, handed over after President Bashar al-Assad agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons in the wake of a sarin gas strike in Damascus’s suburbs last month – the world’s deadliest chemical attack in 25 years.

Free Syrian Army fighters take cover from snipers by crawling on the front line in Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed neighbourhood




Dennis Rodman plans N. Korea return

Dennis Rodman plans N. Korea return !!! (QUICK READ)

Source ESPN!


Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


NEW YORK – Dennis Rodman is going back to North Korea yet again, and this time he plans to bring a team of former NBA players with him.

Days after returning from his second trip to visit Kim Jong Un — in which he said he became the first foreigner to hold the leader’s newborn daughter — Rodman announced plans Monday to stage two exhibition games in North Korea in January.

The first will be Jan. 8 — Kim’s birthday — with another to follow two days later.

Rodman’s friendship with the autocratic leader has been criticized — and led to a couple of testy exchanges during his Manhattan news conference. But Rodman insists Kim is a good person and wants to have better relations with the United States, and that he’s the one who can help make it happen with his plan for “basketball diplomacy.”

“Why North Korea? It’ll open doors,” Rodman said.

Touting his friendship with Kim and taunting President Barack Obama for not talking with him, Rodman said he will return to North Korea for a week in December to help select local players for the games. He hopes to have stars such as Karl Malone and former Chicago Bullsteammate Scottie Pippen.

Michael Jordan, he won’t do it, because he’s Michael Jordan,” Rodman said.



G20 Leaders Meet In St. Petersburg For The Summit

Obama Grows Isolated On Syria As Support Wanes !!! (QUICK READ)

Source Huffington Post!




English: A screengrab from President Barack Ob...

English: A screengrab from President Barack Obama’s first White House news conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Fred Barbash

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) – White House efforts to convince the U.S. Congress to back military action against Syria are not only failing, they seem to be stiffening the opposition.

That was the assessment on Sunday, not of an opponent but of an early and ardent Republican supporter of Obama’s plan for attacking Syria, the influential Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers.

Rogers told CBS’s “Face the Nation” the White House had made a “confusing mess” of the Syria issue. Now, he said, “I’m skeptical myself.”

Congress will be in session on Monday for the first time since the August recess. Debate on Syria could begin in the full Senate this week, with voting as early as Wednesday. The House of Representatives could take up the issue later this week or next.

Obama is expected to spend the next several days in personal meetings with members.

Some Democratic opponents of a military strike, meanwhile, were looking for a way to spare Obama’s administration the effects of a “no” vote