Pro-government Syrian forces have seized control of the key border town of Qusair, which had been controlled by rebel fighters for the past year. This comes as the United Nations accuses both sides of the Syrian conflict of reaching “new levels of brutality.” Since fighting broke out over two years ago in Syria, more than 80,000 people have been killed and another 1.6 million Syrian refugees have fled. We’re joined by longtime foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn of The Independent, who recently returned from Syria where he reported on how the conflict is spreading across the Middle East. Cockburn warns that pending global peace talks will have no effect without a ceasefire on the ground. “The best you could really hope for at this stage is a ceasefire, get the level of violence down, and then later you might have talks of sharing power,” Cockburn says. “But you are not going to have that at the moment.”
More than 12 years after the September 11 attacks, and the US military establishes that the current american president, and his successors, do have all the authority they need to wage wars around the world, for many more years to come, and they can do so without approval from Congress.
A shocking new report by the Pentagon has found that 70 sexual assaults may be taking place within the U.S. military every day. The report estimates there were 26,000 sex crimes committed in 2012, a jump of 37 percent since 2010. Most of the incidents were never reported. The findings were released two days after the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention unit, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was arrested for sexual assault. We air highlights from Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military sexual assault and speak with Anu Bhagwati, executive director and co-founder of Service Women’s Action Network. “The numbers are outrageous and I think we’ve reached a tipping point,” Bhagwati says. “The American public is furious.”
America’s drone program has played a significant role in fighting the war on terror abroad. The use of the craft has taken US soldiers off the battlefield and allows them to fly drones from the comfort of remote locations, but according to a new study drone pilots still experience the psychological distress of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Dr. Sudip Bose, an emergency medicine physician and Iraq War Veteran, joins us to analyze the report.
Whether or not the American public still has the taste for war is up for debate, but war hawks are focusing on making war quieter and with less impact so the public will not even notice. Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Michael Sheehan made the case for waging shadow wars with a small footprint:
Special operations forces play a major role in security force assistance as well as in direct action, Sheehan noted. Security force assistance takes two approaches, he explained: training local forces to control border areas and deny space and sanctuary to terrorists, and training specialized counterterror forces.
U.S. special operations forces have, throughout their history, focused largely on training host-nation militaries, Sheehan said.
In Somalia, he noted, “the African Union and a multinational force led by the Ugandans … did a darn good job, and we helped them. Their job was to control space … and push al-Shabaab off.” Meanwhile, he added, other units focused on high-value targets and other leaders of the organization.
“Coupled together, we had a strategy that worked,” Sheehan said.
Photo: A Soldier exits a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in the village of Darrah-I-Bum, Badghis Province, Afghanistan; photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian Kester.