U.S. deploys 50 commandos to Syria in non-combat role but ‘in harm’s way’

The United States says it will send a small number of special operations forces to Syria that will advise rebels but that the deployment will not be a combat mission.

The Oct. 30 announcement came amid a call by the United States, Russia, and other countries for the UN to launch a new diplomatic effort to halt the 4 1/2-year war in Syria.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington that U.S. President Barack Obama had ordered the deployment of fewer than 50 commandoes to assist moderate forces opposed seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Continue reading

Minneapolis police records shed light on 2014 military training

In August of 2014, military helicopters flew low over residential neighborhoods of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, engaged in a series of night-time training exercises.  The exercises involved the Naval Warfare Development Group – a “special forces” component of the U.S. Navy – and were aimed at enhancing urban combat tactics.

Just as they had two years earlier, military personnel had come to the Twin Cities to conduct counter-terrorism training operations in an urban environment.  And just as before, those operations commenced with little advance notice to the public. Continue reading

U.S. Gives Russia Free Military Equipment Used By Army, Marines

Behind closed doors the U.S. government is giving Russia free military equipment—also used to train American troops—even after President Obama announced punitive sanctions against Moscow and, more importantly, a suspension in military engagement over the invasion and occupation of Ukraine.

The secret operation was exposed this week by members of Congress that discovered it in the process of reviewing the Fiscal Year 2014 budget and the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget request. It turns out that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been providing the Russian Federation with the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES), the federal legislators say. The U.S. military uses MILES for tactical force-on-force training because it has a system of lasers and dummy ammunition to simulate ground combat. Continue reading

Exclusive: USS Nimitz carrier group rerouted for possible help with Syria

(Reuters) – The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and other ships in its strike group are heading west toward the Red Sea to help support a limited U.S. strike on Syria, if needed, defense officials said on Sunday.

The Nimitz carrier strike group, which includes four destroyers and a cruiser, has no specific orders to move to the eastern Mediterranean at this point, but is moving west in the Arabian Sea so it can do so if asked. It was not immediately clear when the ships would enter the Red Sea, but they had not arrived by Sunday evening, said one official. Continue reading

Inside the Ring: Russia boosts Cuba ties

The Russian military recently dispatched a guided-missile warship to Cuba as part of what U.S. officials say are growing military, intelligence and economic ties between Moscow and Havana.

The missile cruiser is the Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, according to state-run Russian news reports. Continue reading

Spetsnaz 2: Special operations forces set for combat

Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov recently said that the Ministry of Defence has formed – and is ready to use – the Special Operations Forces; military units trained to perform combat missions both in Russia and abroad. He said the decision was based on the leading nations’ experience in forming, training and using special operations units, including the best-known of them all – the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM).

Such units have completely altered the very concept of special forces and their operating methods. The key difference is that command identifies only the scene of operations, whereas special operations units act autonomously and define their objectives independently in order to accomplish the ultimate mission. They are actively engaged with space and tactical reconnaissance units and involve Army, Air Force and Navy units. Continue reading

Military plans would put women in most combat jobs

Under details of the plans obtained by The Associated Press, women could start training as Army Rangers by mid-2015 and as Navy SEALs a year later.

The military services have mapped out a schedule that also will include reviewing and possibly changing the physical and mental standards that men and women will have to meet in order to quality for certain infantry, armor, commando and other front-line positions across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Under the plans to be introduced Tuesday, there would be one common standard for men and women for each job.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reviewed the plans and has ordered the services to move ahead. Continue reading

China to conduct digital warfare drills ahead of Obama-Xi meet

Ahead of President Xi Jinping’s maiden meeting with his US counterpart Barack Obama, China today said it will conduct the first ever exercise to test new types of combat forces, including units using digital technology to practice cyber war.

The announcement came amid media reports that Chinese hackers have breached the designs of critical US weapons systems. Continue reading

US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons

US C130 transports stand ready at Middle East air bases to fly into Syria US elite units especially trained in combat against chemical and biological weapons and tactics for securing their arsenals. Western intelligence sources reported Thursday, Aug. 23 that those units are on standby at bases in Israel and Jordan. Their assignments are to engage Syrian troops attempting to move those unconventional weapons systems to battle fronts or Hizballah and to prevent them falling into the hands of radical Islamic rebel fighters, especially Al Qaeda.

Those elite units have been issued with special equipment for chemical and biological warfare including anti-contamination suits. The transports are also fitted with purification equipment for operating in polluted terrain.

Also on standby for stealthy raids into Syria are British special operations forces in Cyprus and French units trained in unconventional warfare in Jordan. Thursday morning, President Obama talked by phone to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande to wrap up the details of their combined operation in Syria, effectively the onset of direct Western intervention in the Syrian conflict.

Some – though not all – of the targeted stockpiles of shells and missile warheads are located around centers of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s civil war such as Aleppo in the north.  They may be inadequately guarded since the Syrian ruler may have been forced to throw the units securing them into battle against rebel forces.

Important stress was laid by Obama in his comments Monday on the fact that he had not ordered US military engagement in Syria “at this point.”  In other words, beyond that point, he was free to change that order. debkafile’s military sources report that direct American military involvement in the Syrian conflict has to all intents and purposes begun and looks like expanding in the coming days.

This is a sharp reversal of the military situation in the Middle East. It could lead to all-out warfare exploding in Syria possibly involving Hizballah ahead of a strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons, although this strike could unfold from the Syrian campaign – during its course or at its conclusion.

Washington is hoping that its direct action in Syria, aside from grappling with the unconventional warfare menace looming over the region, may persuade Tehran to cave into American demands for halting uranium enrichment and turn it aside from its race for a nuclear weapon in order to save itself from attack.

Full article: US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons (DEBKAfile)

British forces in Syria, Assad presidential compound said under attack

Should this be confirmed, be ready to possibly hear that all hell is breaking loose in the middle east (and possibly on the homeland) as described in a previous post — and soon.

Unconfirmed first reports from British, French and Turkish sources say British special operations forces crossed from Turkey into northern Syria Tuesday, May 26, and advanced up to 10 kilometers inside the country. The same sources report heavy fighting around the Presidential Guards compound on the outskirts of Damascus.

debkafile’s military sources note that this compound exists to defend Bashar Assad’s presidential palace on Mount Qaisoun overlooking Damascus.

British and Gulf TV stations are again running interviews with dozens of Syrian soldiers taken prisoner by rebel forces and transferred to Free Syrian Army centers in South Turkey. But this time, they are being aired in conjunction with those two developments, indicating pivotal and coordinated military action inside the embattled country, or even the start of western intervention against the Assad regime. Later Tuesday, Gulf military sources confirmed the presence of British special forces in Syria.

Our military sources estimate that the British military drive into Syria, if confirmed, is designed to establish the first safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, to be followed by more Western military incursions to establish additional zones of safe asylum in other parts of Syria.

This follow-up action would depend substantially on Syrian, Russian and Iranian (+ Hizballah) responses to the initial stage of the operation.

The reported British incursion, if confirmed, occurred at the tail end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 24-hour visit to Israel Tuesday morning and would have posed a direct challenge to his repeated warning that Moscow would not tolerate Western military intervention in Syria and actively prevent it. Similar warnings have issued from Tehran.

As for the timing, the double military drive against Assad also occurred hours before a NATO “consultation” in Brussels on the shooting down of a Turkish warplane by Syria last Friday, June 22,  which Ankara stated Monday “must not go unpunished.”

The two-pronged operation – the reported British incursion and major clash at the front door of Assad’s presidential palace – would appear to be designed to widen the cracks in his regime and speed its final breakup.

Full article: British forces in Syria, Assad presidential compound said under attack (DEBKAfile)

Navy wants commando ‘mothership’ in Middle East

The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, al-Qaeda in Yemen and Somali pirates, among other threats.

In response to requests from the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, the Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos. Unofficially dubbed a “mothership,” the floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by Navy SEALs, procurement documents show.

Special Operations Forces are a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to make the military leaner and more agile as the Pentagon confronts at least $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade.

Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where, exactly, it will be deployed in the Middle East. Other Navy officials acknowledged that they were moving with unusual haste to complete the conversion and send the mothership to the region by early summer.

Continue reading article: Navy wants commando ‘mothership’ in Middle East  (Washington Post)