The US is a major world power. It’s clear that pivots of the US foreign policy impact developments across the world. Thus, it’s important to know what the US is doing and going to do. SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence team is continuing to provide exclusive reviews of the US official attitude over crucial world events and developments.
Written by Costas Ioannou exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence; Edited by Frank Jakob
On Jan.4, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrived at Africom headquarters in Stuttgart Germany for meetings with U.S. commanders. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. met with Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, and Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the commander of U.S. European Command. Both commands are headquartered here.
Russia and the threat from terrorism dominate the security situation in Europe, defence officials said regarding the background of the meeting. U.S. forces are working to reassure their allies, especially those that share a border with Russia, they said.
[SF editor: Putting Russia on the same level as the terrorist threat marks important developments in the international situation. Especially, when US officials don’t even try to hide their Russophobic plans… ]
The Islamic State of Iraq is also of concern to European leaders, officials said. Waves of refugees escaping Syria and the fighting there are seeking refuge in Europe.
On January 5, 2016, the commander of U.S. European Command stated: For two decades, the United States “hugged the bear” in Europe, but that has to change.
Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, has advocated for more U.S. forces in Europe to counter growing Russian capabilities and capacity. He spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States and its allies saw an opportunity to try to make Russia a partner. But a strategy document signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week names the United States and the expansion of the NATO alliance as threats to his country. Breedlove said the document merely codified Russian actions for several years.
A ‘Revanchist Russia’
“What I would offer is that if you look at Russia’s actions all the way back to ’08 – in Georgia, in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Crimea, in the Donbass, and now down in Syria – we see what most call a revanchist Russia that has put force back on the table as an instrument of national power to meet their objectives,” the general said.
This means there has to be changes in the way U.S. military forces operating in Europe, he added, noting that for 20 years, U.S. military decisions were guided by the effort to make Russia a partner.
[SF editor: US decisions are mostly aimed at making countries dependent and submissive, not equal partners. By creating NATO bases and by stretching the EU across eastern Europe the US tried to place Russia in a checkmate so that it couldn’t fight back once it recovered from the downfall of the Soview Union.]
“Across that time … we have changed our force structure, we have changed our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance allocations, we’ve changed our analytical allocations and we’ve downsized the forces in all the media here in Europe,” he said.
Now, Breedlove said, U.S. military officials look at Russian capabilities and capacity and have to adjust.
[SF editor: It is one of the characteristics of US narrative to portray itself (the strongest military might on the planet) in a constant state of defense. The US is using excuses to camouflage its agressive policies in order to sell them to the public as humane, civilized and aimed at making the world a better place.]
More U.S. Capability in Europe
Breedlove has advocated more U.S. service members and more capabilities in Europe, and that is beginning to happen. A fourth destroyer has arrived in Spain, for example, and the Army is rotating a brigade-sized unit to Europe.
But it is more than simply building up numbers, he added. For 13 years Eucom was focused on training other nations to join the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan.
“We are really good at counterinsurgency targeting,” Breedlove said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve done an air campaign the size of Iraq 1 or Iraq 2, or even in the opening days of Afghanistan. We need to get back to those high-end skills to ensure we have the depth of bench for that fight.
“As Afghanistan drew down, we were prescient, we decided that we needed to train to high-end Article 5 capabilities. That was our plan, even before Crimea.” Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an attack on one NATO ally will be considered an attack on all allies.
[SF editor: Another example of how the US is always camouflaging attacks as defensive actions. NATO has never fended off an atack within a NATO country yet it has always referred to attacks on non-NATO countries as defensive operations.]
Redeveloping High-End Capability
Russia’s actions validate the decision, the general said. “Now every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine that comes to European Command will be focused on redeveloping that high-end kinetic fighting capability,” he added.
All exercises and training will stress these capabilities and Eucom also will exercise at division and corps level in the future.
Breedlove said he cannot tell what Putin intends to do with the military he has re-equipped and retrained.
“Many people ask me, ‘What is Putin thinking?’ or ‘What do you think he’s thinking?’” he said. “I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but I can look at what he’s doing and derive from that what we should be thinking about on our side.”
Africa has its own terror problems with Boko Haram, which is centred in Nigeria, and the al-Shabab terror group is a danger in Somalia and neighbouring countries, officials traveling with the chairman said.
U.S. Africa Command, according to its website, works in concert with interagency and international partners to build defence capabilities, respond to crisis, and deter and defeat transnational threats in order to advance U.S. national interests. The command is headquartered at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, Germany.
The five-year plan
Officials said Africom’s campaign blueprint is a five-year plan with five lines of effort.
The first is neutralizing the terror group al-Shabab in Somalia, and transitioning this effort from a mission led by the African Union Mission in Somalia to one in which the Somali government secures its own territory.
The second line of effort centres around the failed state of Libya, officials said, adding that the effort focuses on containing the instability in the country.
Officials said the third line of effort is to contain Boko Haram in West Africa.
Fourth, officials said, Africom will focus on disrupting illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea and in Central Africa.
Fifth, the command looks to build African partners’ peacekeeping and disaster assistance capabilities.
This is a large job for a small command, an Africom official said. “The only permanent location we have is Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti,” he said. “Everything else is a very light footprint.”
The command does have cooperative security and contingency locations across the continent, officials said, noting these are essentially “cold bases” that would only be used in the event of an emergency.
In West Africa, Dakar, Senegal, is one of the cooperative security locations and U.S. forces used it during the Ebola crisis last year.
Officials said the bases also allow the command to protect American Interests in the high-risk, high-threat posts. There are 15 of those posts in Africa, officials said.
The campaign plan starts with neutralizing al-Shabab. U.S. forces have helped to train, equip and supply AMISOM forces that have played a central role in bringing stability to Somalia.
“Al-Shabab has been pushed out of most of the major population centres and is only a power in the Juba River Valley,” an official said. However, al-Shabab “is not a spent force” and it remains a threat — particularly in terms of targeted attacks against neighbouring AMISOM contributors.
Africom continues to monitor the al-Shabab threats to Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda in particular.
“The emerging issue we’ve seen in al-Shabab over the past six months is the movement at the lower levels of individuals toward [the Islamic State of Iraq,” an official said. “Pro-ISIL sentiment is increasing in Somalia and we’ve seen some efforts by al-Shabab leaders to strike down these efforts. Al-Shabab leaders remain firmly allied to al-Qaida.”
The challenge in Libya
Libya is a challenge, noting “increasing bifurcation between moderates and hardliners.” The weak central government allows the space for ISIL to build a safe haven that acts as a nexus for terrorist operations in northern Libya, U.S officials said. This has quickly become more than a simple problem within Libya, as the group has launched attacks in neighbouring Tunisia. Africom has also seen some foreign fighters going into ISIL in Libya.
Africom is looking to contain ISIL in Libya and degrade it, said officials, who estimate there are roughly 3,500 ISIL terrorists in Libya.
On 6/1/2016, Secretary Kerry spoke today via phone with Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) Foreign Minister Yun regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear test. The Secretary reiterated the steadfast commitment of the United States to the security of the R.O.K. and emphasized the need for a unified international response to the D.P.R.K.’s provocative actions. He also emphasized the importance of continued close bilateral cooperation with the R.O.K. and trilateral coordination with Japan.
Also, Secretary Kerry spoke via phone with Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear test. The Secretary reiterated the steadfast commitment of the United States to the security of Japan and emphasized the importance of a unified international response to the D.P.R.K.’s provocative actions. He also emphasized the importance of continued close bilateral cooperation with Japan and trilateral coordination with the Republic of Korea.
On January 7, Secretary Kerry spoke via phone with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear test. They discussed the highly provocative nature of North Korea’s actions, and its grave threat to international peace and security and blatant violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Wang agreed that the United States and China would continue to coordinate closely in the U.N. Security Council and with partners within the Six-Party Talks framework to take appropriate action.
On January 8, 2016 Army Capt. Chance McCraw spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited several sites in Iraq and met with senior U.S. and Iraqi officials over the last two days.
The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq is still going on, but Iraqi military officials already are applying the lessons, said Army Capt. Chance McCraw, an operations specialist with Operation Inherent Resolve.
The fight for Ramadi was outside the recent experience of the Iraqi security forces, McCraw said, noting that Ramadi was a conventional arms fight that had more in common with the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia during the American Civil War than with the counterinsurgency war Iraqi forces were used to fighting. In Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee held the center while attacking the Union Army’s flank. That was the same plan ISIL had in Ramadi, he said.
The ISIL strategy was to block Iraqi security forces from coming into Ramadi, then using vehicle-borne bombs to attack the flanks of the Iraqi columns.
On January 9, 2016, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. spoke to reporters following a two-day visit to Iraq. During the visit he met with U.S. and Iraqi leaders including Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones and Army Gen. Sean McFarland, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
Dunford also met U.S., coalition and Iraqi troops in Baghdad, Asad and Irbil. He last visited the country in October, just after taking over as chairman.
“I believe the Iraqis now have the momentum,” the general said. The seizing of Ramadi, the operations that have been conducted in Anbar province, the recapture and continued control of the oil refinery in Beiji, and the successful operations cutting ISIL’s main supply line south of Sinjar make him “comfortable saying the Iraqis have the momentum.”
On January 9, 2016 the U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Strikes in Syria
Fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft conducted 13 strikes in Syria:
- Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed an ISIL crane and an ISIL workover rig.
- Near Manbij, 12 strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, suppressed an ISIL mortar position and a separate ISIL fighting position, and destroyed 20 ISIL fighting positions, five ISIL vehicles, and two ISIL buildings.
Strikes in Iraq
Coalition forces used rocket artillery, fighter, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 22 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
- Near Haditha, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and four ISIL fighting positions.
- Near Mosul, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL weapon caches and three ISIL assembly areas.
- Near Ramadi, six strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit, denied ISIL access to terrain, and destroyed 21 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL sniper positions, two ISIL recoilless rifles, an ISIL vehicle bomb facility, and two ISIL weapon caches.
- Near Sinjar, a strike struck two separate ISIL fighting positions and suppressed an ISIL light machine gun.
- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed an ISIL-used culvert and an ISIL fighting position.