Archive for July, 2011

PRECISION NATO STRIKES HAVE HIT LIBYAN STATE TV TRANSMITTERS

July 30, 2011

News Core reported that NATO had announced July 30, 2011, it had carried out precision strikes on three Libyan television transmitters to silence “terror broadcasts” by Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.

A statement said:

A few hours ago, NATO conducted a precision air strike that disabled three ground-based Libyan state TV satellite transmission dishes in Tripoli … with the intent of degrading Qaddafi’s use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence against them.

The strike was “performed by NATO fighter aircraft using state-of-the-art precision guided munitions,” said the statement released by Alliance spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie.

We are now in the process of assessing its effect.

Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them.

Qaddafi’s increasing practice of inflammatory broadcasts illustrates his regime’s policy to instill hatred amongst Libyans, to mobilize its supporters against civilians and to trigger bloodshed.

In light of our mandate to protect civilian lives, we had to act. After due consideration and careful planning to minimize the risks of casualties or long-term damage to television transmission capabilities, NATO performed the strike.

Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime’s ability to oppress civilians while at the same time preserve television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict.

An announcer on Al-Jamahiriya television said later the Libyan TV headquarters had been hit by a raid. He gave no further details.

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TOTAL FORCE READINESS

July 27, 2011

At a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing, titled “Total Force Readiness,” Congressman Randy Forbes delivered an opening statement as reported by the Blog of the The Weekly Standard on July 27, 2011:

I want to welcome all of our members and our distinguished panel of experts to today’s hearing focused on total force readiness and how the U.S. resource, train, and equip our military for the challenges they face.

No one will dispute that America has the most capable and professional military in the world. However, I worry about our state of readiness, not for mastheads on the horizon or columns of tanks rolling toward us, but for the looming defense budget cuts many in this Congress seem willing to inflict on the American military.

Two weeks ago, this subcommittee heard about the challenges the Navy has faced in preserving and enhancing its readiness and current capabilities. I suspect we will hear today how our other military services face many of the same challenges and how they all would be negatively impacted by hundreds-of-billions of dollars in budget cuts.

As we consider our deficit, federal spending, and the impact on our defense budget, I believe we should be asking four questions:

First, ‘What are the threats we face?’ Second, ‘What resources do our combatant commanders need to protect us against those threats?’ Third, ‘What do these resources cost and how can we obtain them as efficiently as possible?’ and fourth, ‘What can we afford and what are the risks to our nation if we do not supply those resources?’

I believe many in Congress and the White House have been asking only the portion of question four that asks how much they want to expend, and they have been ignoring the other questions almost entirely.

However, in January, Chairman Mullen was quoted saying that ‘any significant additional budget cuts can almost only be met…through substantial reductions in force structure’ which goes ‘against the national security requirements that we see in the world we’re living in.’

Similarly, just before his departure in June, Secretary Gates warned that ‘no further [budgetary] reductions should be considered without an honest and thorough assessment of the risks involved, to include the missions we may need to shed in the future.’

I realize that our witnesses today are in a difficult position. I would simply ask, ‘Help us help you.’ I hope our frank discussion during this hearing can help us all better understand the seriousness of the challenges we face and those still ahead. We must not let our legacy be one of overseeing the slow dismantlement of the greatest military on earth.

We all have a responsibility to ensure our men and women in uniform are given all the tools necessary for the job we have asked them to do. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT WILL BE TOUGH ON CHINA

July 26, 2011

Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned as reported by WSJ on July 26, 2011, that he was taking steps to defend his country’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, including upgrading his country’s military capabilities, in a major policy address after the end of his first year in power.

Mr. Aquino’s latest comments on the South China Sea threatened to add fuel to the fire just days after leaders at a regional security summit in Indonesia promised to work together with China to resolve disputes in the resource-rich sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines and several other Asian countries have overlapping claims.

“We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours,” Mr. Aquino said in the nationally televised address. Although Mr. Aquino didn’t mention China by name, he referred to a part of the sea where the Philippines has clashed with China in the past, known internationally as the Reed Bank but also called “Recto Bank” by some Filipinos after a busy Manila street.

“Our message to the world is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue,” he said. He added that the Philippines is taking steps to modernize its armed forces, including buying more weapons and possibly acquiring more naval vessels, and is still studying the possibility of elevating the dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

GERMANY WILL PROVIDE LIBYAN REBELS WITH 100 MILLIONS EUR GRANT

July 24, 2011

Reuters Africa on July 24, 2011, reports that Germany will lend Libya’s rebel council 100 million euros for civil and humanitarian purposes, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

Berlin has opposed the Western military intervention in Libya but has promised to help oust Muammar Gaddafi through peaceful methods and recognised Libya’s rebel council as its sole legitimate representative.

“We have decided to provide the Libyan transition council with urgently needed funding for civil and humanitarian measures,” Westerwelle said in a statement.

“Due to Colonel Gaddafi’s war against his own people, the situation in Libya is extremely difficult. The funding is lacking to build necessary structures and to overcome supply shortages — from medical care to food.”

“People are suffering more and more from this (shortages), particularly in eastern Libya,” said Westerwelle.

The loan could be paid back from frozen Gaddafi assets once the United Nations Security council releases them to a new Libyan government, according to the German Foreign Minister.

SUCCESSFUL NATO RAID IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN LEADS TO 80 FIGHTERS BEING KILLED

July 24, 2011

UPI on July 23, 2011, reported that a NATO raid in Afghanistan resulted in 80 fighters being killed.

The attack began July 21 in Paktika province and limited fighting continued into the 23rd.

Most of those killed came from tribal areas inside neighboring Pakistan, NATO and local officials told the Times. They were affiliated with the Haqqani group, a militant faction associated with a family originally from neighboring Paktia province, a NATO statement said.

“These fighters were moved into the country by Haqqani insurgents who planned to use them for attacks throughout Afghanistan,” the NATO statement said.

The camp was larger than most compounds where Taliban and other insurgents take shelter along the border with Pakistan.

AIRSTRIKES HIT TRIPOLI – REBELS DEMAND THAT QADDAFI STAND TRIAL

July 23, 2011

Associated Press on July 22, 2011, reported that a rebel spokesman insisted that Qaddafi must stand trial.

NATO jet planes, meanwhile, struck the capital Tripoli near Qaddafi’s headquarters at Bab al-Aziziyah in the early hours of July 23.

Several bright flashes and loud explosions split the night at around 2:30 a.m. local time while jets could be heard circling overhead.

Washington, Paris and Rome have all proclaimed their acceptance of the idea that Qaddafi remain in Libya on the condition that he give up power and the Libyan people grant their approval.
In Rome, rebel spokesman Ali al-Issawi met with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

Asked how the so-called “leave Qaddafi in Libya option” squares with the warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court, al-Issawi told reporters that there was “no contradiction between the two.”

“The first principle is that Qaddafi should step down,” al-Issawi, a leader of the rebels’ executive office said after a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. “After that you can talk about the details.”

“We would like Qaddafi to be taken to the ICC,” al-Issawi said, referring to the Hague-based tribunal.

Al-Issawi’s office essentially serves as a Cabinet for the National Transitional Council, the Benghazi-based anti-Qaddafi front that was recently recognized by Washington as Libya’s legitimate government.

Frattini noted that Libya isn’t among the signatory countries to an agreement obligating arrest for such warrants, and he stressed that while “impunity (for Qaddafi) would be a mistake, it has to be the Libyans to decide” Qaddafi’s fate. Whatever that decision is, “we’ll respect it,” the foreign minister added.

Al-Issawi said that a blast at a Tripoli hotel Thursday where several top members of the regime, including Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, were meeting was caused by a rocket launched from within the city.

“This is a good signal that people inside Tripoli are organizing” against Qaddafi, Frattini told reporters.

The rebel spokesman said the attack “severely wounded” Abdullah Mansour, apparently a high official in Qaddafi’s inner circle.

A Tripoli-based opposition group called the Free Generation Movement said in a statement that three rocket-propelled grenades were used to attack the hotel.

Libya, a major supplier of oil and natural gas to Italy, was Rome’s biggest trading partner before the outbreak of civil war, and al-Issawi assured Frattini that Italy would regain that rank in Libya’s future.

“We invite all the Italian companies in Libya to restart their activities,” al-Issawi told reporters.

Among those eager to return to full operations is Italian energy company Eni, which the Libyan government has banned from operating in Libya due to Italy’s participation in the NATO attacks.

Frattini delivered some good news to the rebel’s political arm. He said that within days, the first tranche of euro350 million ($503 million) in cash and fuel would be transferred to Benghazi to help civilians there, while Italy and other countries wait for U.N. sanctions officials to free up billions of dollars in frozen Qaddafi regime assets.

FURTHER REBEL ADVANCES IN LIBYA AND ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN PRAISED THE REBEL PROGRESS

July 21, 2011

WSJ reports on July 21, 2011, that Rebel fighters have penetrated Libya’s southwest desert and pulled within 80 miles of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s southern stronghold, opening a new front and suggesting the strongman’s grip is slipping even in areas believed firmly in his control.
The rebels captured a small village south of Sebha on Monday. The fall of Sebha, one of Col. Gadhafi’s three regional power centers, would be a huge symbolic and strategic blow.

The city of 130,000 is a logistics hub for the regime, channeling food, fuel and other war supplies northward from southern farmlands and neighboring Algeria, Chad and Niger, said rebel leaders.

With the latest offensive, rebels have now made progress on every front of the war.
Despite the advance, the force threatening Sebha is hundreds of miles south of Tripoli and poses no direct threat to the capital, where Col. Gadhafi and his family are still clinging to power.
The conflict appeared to be at a stalemate for months as the ill-equipped rebels struggled to organize effective attacks on Gadhafi-held territory.

But in recent weeks, rebels made significant inroads. In the Western Mountains, they have advanced to within 35 miles of Tripoli.

In the besieged coastal city of Misrata, they have steadily pushed back Col. Gadhafi’s fighters.
On Wednesday, Libyan rebel leaders met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris and asked him to support their plans to mount a military offensive on Tripoli aimed at toppling Col. Gadhafi.

The delegation of rebel chiefs, which included senior officers from Misrata and a member of Libya’s National Transitional Council, the main opposition group to Col. Gadhafi, said they needed more weapons and logistical assistance to oust the longtime leader.

The previous day, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the civilian head of NATO, praised the rebels’ progress in an interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels:

“The opposition forces are now more experienced, better trained, better coordinated,” he said. The situation on the ground is “absolutely not a stalemate,” he said, adding Col. Gadhafi’s forces have suffered “a very, very clear weakening.”

Due to poor communications networks, lack of Internet and its remote desert location, southern Libya has received scant attention during the Libyan uprising. Reaching residents in southern Libya remains tremendously difficult.

The rebel fighting force that is now rumbling through the southwestern desert was first mustered in late May and early June in the southeastern oasis city of Kufra. A resident of the southern town of Al Qatrun, which rebels took last week, estimated the force includes 60 to 65 4X4 vehicles and as many as 300 fighters.

Earlier this month, the force captured a remote desert airfield and army outpost called Al Wigh, near Libya’s borders with Chad and Niger, and soon after seized the Tummu border crossing with Chad.

The force began advancing north toward Sebha, and last week, the force took the village of Qatron without a fight. On Sunday, pro-Gadhafi fighters attacked the advancing rebels, said a resident of the village and a rebel commander on the ground, Ramadan Al-Alakie.

The retreating Gadhafi forces concentrated in Taraghin, the hometown of Bashir Salah, Col. Gadhafi’s chief of staff, to block the rebel advance to Sebha. The rebel force simply went around the town, and on Monday took control of the tiny village of Umm Al-Aranib, they said.

Now, just 80 miles of empty desert and one tiny village stand between the rebels and Sebha.
Through the first months of the uprising, little information leaked out from Sebha, where the powerful Magarha and Col. Gadhafi’s own Gadhadfa tribes, both pillars of his regime, hold sway. It was long thought that the city was such a fierce bastion of pro-Gadhafi support that it was all but impregnable.

But in recent weeks, cracks have begun to show in Sebha.

Activists from Sebha say the city isn’t a pro-Gadhafi bastion anymore. “Gadhafi’s support in the city is not as strong as people think,” said Mr. Humeida.

NEW U.S. ANTI-TERRORIST STRIKE IN YEMEN

July 18, 2011

Katherine Zimmerman of The Weekly Standard reported on July 15, 2011, that there was a U.S. airstrike report in Yemen’s restive southern governorate of Abyan that seems to have targeted Fahd al Quso, a Yemeni al Qaeda operative on the FBI’s most wanted list. In any case, Quso survived the strike. He was traveling along a coastal road between Shaqra and Zinjibar, Abyan’s capital. Only an hour before, an airstrike hit a police station to the north where al Qaeda-linked militants were meeting, killing at least six militants. Al Qaeda has made significant gains in south Yemen over the past few months, raising concerns that all of south Yemen could fall under al Qaeda’s control.

Al Qaeda-linked militants calling themselves Ansar al Sharia have pushed westward out of traditional strongholds in Yemen. Al Qaeda’s advances in Abyan threaten to continue on toward Aden, the former capital of South Yemen. Quso, along with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leaders Nasser al Wahayshi and Qasim al Raymi, was reported to be in Abyan at the end of June. Previously, Quso was believed to be in hiding in neighboring Shabwah governorate. Quso, who helped organize al Qaeda’s October 2000 attack on the USS Cole and in 2009 met with Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to discuss the plot the workings of the bomb, could connect the al Qaeda-linked militants consolidating control of Abyan to AQAP.

Yemen’s unrest has opened up some space for targeted strikes against al Qaeda militants.

OVER 30 NATIONS RECOGNISE OPPOSITION GROUP AS COUNTRY’S GOVERNMENT

July 16, 2011

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime has been declared illegitimate by over 30 nations on July 15, 2011,who have formally recognised the main opposition group as the country’s government.

The so-called Libya contact group met in the Turkish capital Istanbul to find a solution after almost four-months of Nato-led bombings. Foreign Secretary William Hague attended the talks on behalf of Britain and said the military campaign against Col Gaddafi will intensify.

He announced that four more of the UK’s Tornado aircraft will be sent to aid Nato’s mission.

In a final statement the contact group said the “Gaddafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya,” and that the leader and certain members of his family must go.

The group, including the United States, said it would deal with Libya’s main opposition group the National Transitional Council, or TNC, as “the legitimate governing authority in Libya” until an interim authority is in place.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “The United States views the Gaddafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya.

“And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis.”

The recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government gives foes of Col Gaddafi a major financial and credibility boost.

Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the US will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30bn in Gaddafi-regime assets that are frozen in US banks.

It was also decided at the meeting that the coalition’s military operation will continue during Ramadan.

Colonel Gaddafi has vowed to fight on despite the international support for the TNC which he says is of no significance.

“Recognise the so-called National Transitional Council a million times: it means nothing to the Libyan people who will trample on your decisions,” he said in a message to thousands of his supporters in Zliten, 90 miles (150km) east of Tripoli.

Meanwhile there are reports that security forces have killed at least 32 protesters in Syria.

Activists claim 23 people were killed in the capital Damascus, and others died in the cities of Id-lib, Homs and Daraa.

It was the highest death toll in central neighbourhoods of Damascus since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s autocratic rule erupted four months ago.

He announced that four more of the UK’s Tornado aircraft will be sent to aid Nato’s mission.
In a final statement the contact group said the “Gaddafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya,” and that the leader and certain members of his family must go.

“And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis.”

The recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government gives foes of Colonel Gaddafi a major financial and credibility boost.

Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the US will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30bn in Gaddafi-regime assets that are frozen in US banks.

It was also decided at the meeting that the coalition’s military operation will continue during Ramadan.

Colonel Gaddafi has vowed to fight on despite the international support for the TNC which he says is of no significance.

“Recognise the so-called National Transitional Council a million times: it means nothing to the Libyan people who will trample on your decisions,” he said in a message to thousands of his supporters in Zliten, 90 miles (150km) east of Tripoli.

Meanwhile there are reports that security forces have killed at least 32 protesters in Syria.

Activists claim 23 people were killed in the capital Damascus, and others died in the cities of Id-lib, Homs and Daraa.

It was the highest death toll in central neighbourhoods of Damascus since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s autocratic rule erupted four months ago.

PETRAEUS VIEW ON COUNTERINSURGENCY

July 15, 2011

UPI said on July 13 that General David Petraeus, the outgoing top commander of the NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan, said the counterinsurgency strategy has “borne fruit.”

Petraeus spoke to NATO TV as he prepared to leave Afghanistan.

The general said:

What we have done is implement the so-called NATO comprehensive approach, a civil-military campaign … that does indeed embody many of the principles of the counterinsurgency field manual that we developed back in 2006, and which we employed in Iraq in the surge of 2007-2008,

I think generally, it has borne fruit.

In the past year the coalition and Afghan forces have halted the Taliban’s momentum in much of the country, and reversed the insurgent hold in central Helmand province, districts around Kandahar city and in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul. He also warned there is still a tough fight for control of the country.

The general also said enemy activity in the border area with Pakistan is a serious challenge. He said the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan forces have worked to establish a layered border defense in key locations such as between Khost province in Afghanistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan.

Petraeus said the Afghan regular army forces are “generally doing well.”

Petraeus will hand over command next week to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen, who has been nominated for promotion to general.