This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
- War deaths in Syria now top 100,000.
- The US plans to begin directly supplying arms to the opposition force within the month.
- Experts say that sarin gas use in Syria still cannot be genuinely proved, since the process can’t control for tampering.
- Fighting between rival armed militias in Libya’s capital have killed five and wounded nearly 100.
- Monday saw Israeli air strikes carried out against Gaza in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire.
- At least 16 Lebanese soldiers were killed in fighting with Sunni militants in Sidon.
- A series of bomb attacks in Iraq on Monday killed at least 42.
- A Taliban attack on Kabul has put peace talks on edge.
- The annual report (PDF) from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime shows Afghanistan remains the world leader in opium cultivation and production.
- Pakistan’s former leader Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial has been adjourned indefinitely and a four-member committee has been created to probe treason charges.
- A video of two Czech women captured in Balochistan a couple of months ago surfaced, along with demands by their unidentified captors, that neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui be released by the US. It has not been verified.
- Head of NGO For Human Rights, Lev Ponomaryov, was forcibly evicted from his offices along with staff and beaten by Russian law enforcement.
- China will send peacekeeping troops to Mali.
- HRW says that China has resettled 2 million Tibetans over the past seven years.
- Violence and rioting in the Western region of Xinjiang left 27 dead.
- In response to US threats to end trade benefits over Snowden, Ecuador waived the benefits and offered the US $23 million worth of human rights training.
- Protesters continued to take to the streets in Brazil, facing off against police.
- Dzokhar Tsarnaev has been formally charged with killing four people and using a weapon of mass destruction.
- Marine Gen. James Cartwright, formerly the vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is apparently the target of a DOJ leak investigation regarding information leaked about Stuxnet.
- A new Guardian scoop revealed that the Bush administration email record collection continued for two years under the Obama administration.
- The administration insists anyway, that Bush era data collection ended in 2011, but as The Guardian went on to report, massive metadata mining continues through the program EvilOlive (what?).
- Here’s a pdf of a 2009 draft report of the NSA inspector general regarding the surveillance program, thanks to The Guardian.
- Leaks also reveal massive online data collection by the British counterpart to the NSA, the GCHQ, of information obtained by tapping fibre-optics cables. The info is shared with the US.
- The Army is restricting access to The Guardian’s website in an Armywide filter.
- McClatchy on how memories of Stasi affect Germans’ views of US surveillance practices.
- Glenn Greenwald addresses attempts to smear his reputation and attack his work. David Carr and Jay Rosen both came to his aid earlier this week.
- Two law school professors say the NSA data collection programs “violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law.”
- The Snowden leaks have brought WikiLeaks back into the news.
- A CIA inspector general’s report (PDF) reveals there have been four CIA embeds with the NYPD since 9/11 and raises questions about the limitations they had, the assistance they offered, and the relationship between the two organizations.
- Former US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke rather astonishingly acknowledged to the Huffington Post that the circumstances of Michael Hastings’ crash were “consistent with a car cyber attack.” He was careful to say that he was not saying he thought there had been such an attack.
- The Daily Beast profiles the life and work of incoming deputy director of the CIA, Avril Haines.
- A video interview with journalist and Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill on national security oversight, whistleblowers and the effect of surveillance on journalists and journalism.
- A military court overturned a Marine’s conviction in the murder of a retired Iraqi policeman because Sgt. Hutchins was held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer.
- The Army plans to cut 12 combat brigades and reduce force size by 80,000.
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Photo: Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier stands guard at the presidential palace on June 25th following a Taliban attack. Shah Merai/AFP/Getty
US President Barack Obama gave a speech that was meant to contextualise the global drone war that has escalated under his presidency, outline the framework for future targeted killing, and address concerns about the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay. But did he succeed? To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Carlos Warner, a lawyer for Guantanamo detainees; and Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.
Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill, and Amy Goodman discuss the book “Dirty Wars”
The US military presence in Mali will continue, even if it may be in a limited capacity. Stars and Stripes reports that a small contingent of about ten US military personnel are remaining in the country to provide support to the French and the African-led International Support Mission to Mali:
Since France’s January intervention in Mali, the U.S. has been providing a range of support for the international effort there, including information-sharing, airlift support and air refueling. “To date, we have provided more than 7.8 million pounds of fuel to French aircraft. We have also moved approximately 1,000 personnel and 1,500 tons of equipment,” AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson said.
Also since early 2013, small numbers of military personnel have been in Mali to facilitate coordination with regional allies, according to AFRICOM.
“I cannot provide details on where the personnel providing liaison support have been located due to operational security limitations,” Benson said. “The number has varied as individuals have rotated in and out of Mali since early this year. We remain committed to supporting the French and African forces as they address the security challenges in northern Mali.”
For more than a year, Mali has been in a state of political turmoil. In March 2012, a U.S.-trained mid-level Mali army officer led a coup in the nation, which previously was regarded as one of Africa’s more stable democracies. That forced AFRICOM to suspend military ties with the country, but a small number of troops always remained stationed in the country as part of the U.S. Embassy team.
The US Army recently provided training for the Malawi Defence Force; the military of the small country in southeastern Africa. The Malawi soldiers received training in convoy and deployment operations in preparation for their involvement with UN peace keeping missions. This is just part of a growing trend for the US military: increased involvement in Africa. Despite the so-called pivot to Asia, the military is increasingly involved on the continent and in many cases in not so mundane activities:
Over the past two years, the Pentagon has become embroiled in conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Mali and central Africa. Meantime, the Air Force is setting up a fourth African drone base, while Navy warships are increasing their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa.
In scope and expense, the U.S. military involvement in Africa still barely registers when compared with its presence in Asia, let alone the Middle East or Afghanistan. On any given day, there are only about 5,000 U.S. troops scattered across all of Africa, while 28,000 are stationed in South Korea alone.
But it is becoming more common for the Pentagon to deploy troops to parts of Africa that many Americans would be hard-pressed to locate on a map, such as Djibouti, the Central African Republic and now the West African country of Niger, where the U.S. military is planning a base for Predator drones.
Pentagon officials say their expanded involvement in Africa is necessary to combat the spread of al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa and Somalia and other guerrillas such as Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. And while U.S. military leaders have sought to downplay their rudimentary network of bases on the continent, there are signs that they are planning for a much more robust presence.
Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Shaun O’Brien, Specialists Brandon Yenney, Orin McMahan, Bronson Shipman and Isaac Leihy, Sight Security Team 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery, form a secure perimeter during a personnel recovery training mission in the deserts of Djibouti. (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Michelle C. Lawrence)