Monday, August 21, 2017

World News Briefs -- August 21, 2017





Daily Mail: Eclipse mania! Millions of Americans sit in some of the 'worst traffic jams in history', flock to Burning Man-style festivals and fill camp grounds at 21 national parks ahead of TODAY'S once-in-a-lifetime celestial event

* The eclipse begins its cross-country trajectory over the Pacific Coast of Oregon late Monday morning and will reach South Carolina's Atlantic shore some 90 minutes later
* On Monday, the deepest part of the shadow, or umbra, cast by the moon will fall over a 70-mile-wide, 2,500-mile-long 'path of totality' traversing 14 states
* Officials in Oregon and other states are warning drivers the eclipse could cause the worst traffic jams
* Experts advise people to wear proper protective eyewear or risk lasting blind spots during the eclipse
* Monday's event will be the first total solar eclipse spanning the entire continental United States since 1918
* It is also the first total solar eclipse visible anywhere in the Lower 48 states in 38 years

Twilight will fall at midday on Monday, stars will glimmer and birds will roost in an eerie stillness as millions of Americans and visitors witness the first total solar eclipse to traverse the United States from coast to coast in 99 years.

The sight of the moon's shadow passing directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but the halo-like solar corona, may draw the largest live audience for a celestial event in human history. When those watching via broadcast and online media are factored into the mix, the spectacle will likely smash records.

'It will certainly be the most observed total eclipse in history,' astronomer Rick Fienberg of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) said last week.

The eclipse begins its cross-country trajectory over the Pacific Coast of Oregon in late morning. It will reach South Carolina's Atlantic shore some 90 minutes later.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Iraqi forces advance on Isis-held city of Tal Afar. Iraq: Islamic State militants warned 'surrender or die' as battle to take back Tal Afar begins. IS conflict: Iraq army makes advances on Tal Afar.

US-led strikes killed 27 civilians Sunday in Syria's Raqa: monitor.

Syria war: Russian jets 'destroy IS convoy near Deir al-Zour'. Russian air force destroys 200+ ISIS terrorists heading for Deir ez-Zor, Syria – MoD.

Analysis: The Syrian regime’s offensive towards Deir Ezzor.

Turkey, Iran step up coordination in Syria.

Suleimani: Iran has 'upper hand' in region but is not a source of crisis.

3 Lebanese soldiers killed during offensive against IS.

ASIA

South Korea and US launch Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills.

Joint US-South Korea military exercises not meant to raise tensions, says Moon.

South Koreans split over US missile shield.

China's top diplomat issued stern warning to North Korea, Seoul says.

North Korea warns Australia over joint military exercises with US and South Korea.

War with India won’t give China any clear gain, only cause casualties, assesses govt. India says China stand-off will end 'soon'.

Nine killed in Philippines militant attack: police.

Bangladesh sentences 10 Islamists to death over plot to kill PM Sheikh Hasina.

China-Taiwan tensions show at Universiade sports event.

AFRICA

Thirteen dead in fresh C. Africa clashes.

Aid workers face unique crisis in South Sudan war, says ICRC.

Death toll in DR Congo landslide climbs to 140.

Hospital officals: Nearly 500 dead in Sierra Leone mudslides.

Somalia forces capture key al-Shabab town of Bariire.

President Buhari in plea for Nigerian unity. Muhammadu Buhari addresses nation on return from UK.

Grace Mugabe gets diplomatic immunity, returns home to Zimbabwe pursued by assault allegation.

EUROPE

Police extend hunt for Barcelona attack suspect across Europe. Barcelona search for van attack suspect intensifies, widens.

Spanish town struggles to reconcile locals as extremist cell.

US Embassy in Russia suspends issuing nonimmigrant visas.

Moscow to further examine US decision to limit issuing visas to Russians.

Marseille crash: one dead after car driven into bus shelters.

Moroccan suspect named over Finland stabbings in Turku.

German nationalists try reviving migration as election topic.

Migrants in Rome evicted from office block as UN voices concern.

AMERICAS

Eclipse eve: Millions converge across US to see sun go dark. Millions pour into US towns in path of total eclipse.

Trump will address path forward on Afghanistan.

Most Americans oppose threatening North Korea with military action: CBS News Poll.

British spy behind Trump-Russia dossier could be forced to talk after US court ruling.

President Maduro strips Venezuela’s parliament of power.

NAFTA partners wrap up first round of renegotiation talks.

Leo Varadkar and Justin Trudeau take part in Montreal Pride Parade.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Lebanon says it helped foil plot to down plane in Australia.

Suspect raising money for IS granted bail in Pakistan.

Soft targets and tourist terrorism.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

US business economists fret over Trump policy agenda.

France’s Total buying Maersk Oil for $7.45 billion.

Most expensive British car ever sold goes for $22.5 million.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 21, 2017



RFE: US and South Korean Troops Have Started Annual Joint Military Drills Amid a Tense North Korea Standoff

U.S. and South Korean troops have begun their annual military exercises amid continued angry words from North Korea.

The joint maneuvers, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, started early on August 21 and will run through August 31. The drills will involve computer simulations designed to prepare for war with nuclear-capable North Korea.

The official North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun on August 20 assailed the exercises, calling them an "expression of enmity" and saying they could trigger the "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war."

Some 17,500 U.S. service members and 50,000 South Korean soldiers are participating in the exercises, along with 3,000 troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Officials said there will be no field training, such as live-fire exercises or tank maneuvers.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 21, 2017

US and S. Korean troops start drills amid N. Korea standoff -- AP

U.S., South Korea begin computer-simulated drills amid North Korea tension -- Reuters

US-South joint drills begin amid North Korea tensions -- AFP

South Korean President Moon reaffirms commitment to military reform, reinforcement -- Yonhap

China urges halt to US-S.Korea military drills -- AFP

F-35 fighter jets to surround North Korea -- UPI

James Mattis: Reduction in U.S. troops not North Korea related -- UPI

Japan faces obstacles to deploying new missile defenses -- Nikkei Asian Rview

Trump to present vision for U.S. strategy in Afghanistan war -- Reuters

President Trump to present new Afghanistan, Asia strategy Monday night -- Defense News

US military leaders await Trump decision on Afghan mission -- Military Times/AP

Marine commander in Afghanistan: 'We cannot allow the Taliban to win' -- Marine Times

US Centcom chief stresses sustained ties with Pakistan -- DAWN

Russia's Next Gen Subs Too Stealthy for Enemy's Radars -- Sputnik

How a humanitarian naval mission is boosting China’s global ambitions -- SCMP

Did China Hack the Seventh Fleet? -- RCD

Sweden increases military spending and reintroduces conscription as Russia tensions mount -- The Independent

Europe cannot rely on US support to defend itself – EU Commission chief -- RT

ANALYSIS: Canada's DND uncertain how best to defend satellites -- CBC

Royal Canadian Navy awards Thales support contract for up to 35 years -- UPI

Predator crashes in Turkey; investigation underway -- Air Force Times

Asian Pivot: US Military To Bolster Future Base in Guam -- Sputnik

Trump elevates Cyber Command; split with NSA still an option -- Defense News

Escape From Berthing 2: The Navy’s Dramatic Timeline Of The USS Fitzgerald’s Fatal Collision -- Task & Purpose

Navy Extends, Upgrades Sub-Launched Nuclear Weapons to 2080 -- Scout Warrior

The Navy Is Getting A ‘Game-Ghanging’ Upgrade That Could Turn The Tables On China And Russia -- Task & Purpose/Business Insider

New Navy Rule Will Allow Commanders To Reverse E-4 Demotions -- Task & Purpose

Top Pentagon posts 74 percent vacant as Congress returns -- Defense News

Mattis: Continuing resolution ‘about as unwise as can be’ -- Defense News

Elon Musk, world tech leaders, call for ban on killer robots -- UPI

General Atomics: Export restrictions help China grow its drone tech -- Defense News

Raytheon marks milestone for its Tomahawk, looks to the future -- Defense News

Navy anticipates housing crunch in San Diego region -- Navy Times/AP

A family's anguish: How did Raheel Siddiqui lose his life at Marines boot camp? -- USA Today

Poll results: 79 percent of Army Times readers support Confederate post names -- Army Times

USS John McCain Collision With An Oil Tanker -- News Roundup August 21, 2017





Daily Mail: New catastrophe for US Navy as ten sailors go missing when destroyer collides with an oil tanker, just two months after USS Fitzgerald smashed into Filipino cargo ship drowning seven crew

* Ten sailors are missing and five were injured after the USS John S McCain was involved in a collision with a 600-foot oil tanker on Monday morning
* The US guided-missile destroyer collided with merchant vessel Alnic MC at 5.24am east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca
* The Alnic MC, an oil tanker, is 600feet long and the John McCain is 505feet long
* After collision, the John McCain sailed under its own power and headed to port
* Crew reportedly fought flooding in two crew berthings and the 'shaft alley'
* John McCain sustained damage to port side aft, or the left rear, of the ship
* This is the second collision involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months
* The USS Fitzgerald and a container ship hit each other in waters off Japan in June

Ten sailors are missing and five were injured after the USS John S McCain was involved in a collision with a 600-foot oil tanker on Monday morning, the Navy has said.

The collision between the US guided-missile destroyer and merchant vessel Alnic MC was reported at 5.24am local time.

The John McCain was underway east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, on its way to a routine port visit in Singapore after conducting a sensitive freedom of navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Read more ....



USS John McCain Collision With An Oil Tanker -- News Roundup August 21, 2017

UPDATE: USS John S. McCain Collides with Merchant Ship -- US Navy
10 sailors missing in collision between US warship, tanker -- AP
Ten sailors missing after US destroyer collision off Singapore -- AFP
Ten sailors missing after U.S. warship, tanker collide near Singapore -- Reuters
Stricken US destroyer arrives in Singapore after collision, 10 sailors missing -- Washington Post
10 Missing After US Navy Ship and Oil Tanker Collide Off Singapore -- New York Times
10 Sailors Missing, 5 Injured After Destroyer Collides with Tanker -- Military.com
UPDATED: USS John McCain Collides with Chemical Tanker in the South China Sea; 10 Sailors Missing, 4 Evacuated -- USNI News
Stricken destroyer John S. McCain arrives in Singapore, 10 crew still missing -- Navy Times
10 missing, 5 injured after USS John S. McCain collides with tanker in Pacific -- FOX News
U.S. Navy warship collides with oil tanker near Singapore; 10 sailors missing -- UPI
10 Missing, 5 Injured After Navy Destroyer Collides With Oil And Chemical Tanker Near Singapore -- Task & Purpose
USS John S. McCain arrives at Singapore naval base after collision leaves 10 missing -- USA Today
Damaged US warship arrives in Singapore; search and rescue continue for 10 missing sailors -- Straits Times
3 nations search for U.S. sailors missing after collision -- CBS
Trump sends 'thoughts and prayers' to US sailors in crash -- AFP
Navy ship in collision named for McCain's dad, grandfather -- SFGate
First images of damaged & flooded ‘USS John S. McCain’ after collision with oil tanker (VIDEO) -- RT
Photos Show Collision Damage to USS John McCain as Ship Arrives in Singapore; 10 Sailors Still Missing -- USNI News

Afghanistan To Have A Special Ops Corps



WNU Editor: This is not only a sign that the U.S. will be expanding its role in Afghanistan, but the establishment of an Afghan Special Ops Corps mirrors what the U.S. did two years ago when the Islamic State conquered 40% of Iraq .... US commander in Afghanistan launches special ops corps (National Post/AP).

Americans Have Just Cause To Not Trust The Media

Sharyll Attkinsson, The Hill: Americans don't trust the media, and for good reason

Trust in the mass media is at an all-time low. Two-thirds of Americans believe the mainstream press publishes fake news.

Yes, there’s still much good journalism to be found, if you know where to look. Yet, ask reporters who’ve been around a while, and many will tell you that a lot of good journalism is being left unpublished. Good journalists hate what’s happening to the news.

We have only ourselves to blame.

Firewalls that once strictly separated news from opinion have been replaced by hopelessly blurred lines. Once-forbidden practices such as editorializing within straight news reports, and the inclusion of opinions as if fact, are not only tolerated; they’re encouraged.

Read more ....

WNU editor
: Sharyll Attkinsson is right. If I was to do a blog on the media and how it covers stories, avoid stories, and (heaven forbid) alter and distort stories .... I will be busy 24/7.

The Growing Saudi - Iraq Relationship Is Raising Alarm Bells In Iran

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (R) talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 19, 2017. (photo by Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS)

Al-Monitor: Saudi Arabia engages Iraq at Iran's dismay

Pictures displaying Iran's Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani during the battles with the Islamic State stopped circulating online with the military phase that ended in the liberation of Mosul. The Iranian presence and support for the Iraqi forces were absent in the liberation battles.

Simultaneously, Iraqi officials visited Saudi Arabia and Arab Sunni states that cheer for the Saudi axis. Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Aug. 13-15, with clerics and politicians welcoming him as an Iraqi leader. Prominent Sunni Iraqi cleric Ahmed al-Kubaisi and leading politicians met with Sadr during his visit to the UAE. This was only a few days after his visit at the end of July to Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials had welcomed him.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This rapprochement only started a few months ago. It makes me wonder if there is a Trump White House push to make this happen.

Israel Company Has Built A Sniper Drone



Discover: Israeli Military Veterans Built a Sniper Drone

In 2015, Israeli Special Forces likely made history by using a sniper rifle mounted on a commercial drone to take out a target. The robotic solution that achieved such pinpoint accuracy came from Duke Robotics, a startup founded by veterans of the Israel Defense Forces. That startup has since developed a multi-rotor sniper drone capable of accurately firing a wide array of weapons such as military assault rifles and grenade launchers.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: A few years ago I posted the video below (it looks real but it is CGI), and I said that this is the future. Well .... if the above article is true, it looks like the future is now.

Hat tip to Fred for the above article.

This Is How Japan Could Get Nuclear Weapons

Kyle Mizokami, National Interest: Everything You Need to Know: How Japan Could Get Nuclear Weapons

In a sea-basing scheme Japan could emulate China, France or the United Kingdom, maintaining a force of five ballistic missile submarines, each equipped with sixteen nuclear-tipped missiles. Each missile would be equipped with four 100 kiloton warheads. The one submarine on patrol at all times would be equipped with sixty-four warheads.

It is perhaps China’s and even North Korea's greatest nightmare: a nuclear-armed Japan. Permanently anchored off the Asian mainland, bristling with nuclear weapons, a nuclear Japan would make China’s security situation much more complex than it is now, and force China to revise both its nuclear doctrine and increase its nuclear arsenal.

To be perfectly clear, Japan has no intention of building nuclear weapons. In fact, it has a strong aversion to nukes, having been the only country to actually be on the receiving end of a nuclear strike on its cities. Japan’s strategic situation would have to grow very dire for it to undertake such a drastic and expensive option.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: If the world "goes to hell", I was told that it would take Japan about a month to assemble their first nuclear warhead. Japan has the technology, the nuclear material, and apparently the know-how to make one. But after that it gets complicated .... testing it, making a delivery system, etc. .... it will take months (if not years) for Japan to deploy a nuclear force that would be an effective nuclear deterrent.

The Pentagon Had A Plan to Build A 'Super-ICBM' That Could Carry 20 Nuclear Warheads


Dave Mujumdar, National Interest: The U.S. Military Came Up with a Crazy Idea to Make Sure Its Nukes Survived a Russian Attack

The Cold War arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union produced many innovative ideas on how best to ensure the survivability of each side’s nuclear deterrent.

Among the stranger ideas that emerged was a concept proposed by what was then the Aerospace Corporation under a program called Golden Arrow—launched in 1964. While most concepts being studied at the time looked at mobility, one of Aerospace Corporation’s concepts was to essentially hollow-out a mountain in the Sierra Nevada range to create a super-hardened fortress that could ride out a Soviet nuclear first strike and deliver an assured retaliatory second strike. The concept never got off the drawing board, but many of the ideas were later considered for the subsequent MX program.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is one Pentagon program we should be grateful never got off the ground.

Tweets For Today




A Look At Russia's Modern Day 'Katyushas'

© Sputnik/ Andrei Aleksandrov

Sputnik: Hailstorm of Fire: What Makes Russia's Modern Day 'Katyushas' So Fearsome

The next generation Tornado-S multiple rocket launchers are slated to replace the Russian Armed Forces’ time- and combat-tested Smerch MRLs before this decade is out.

The year 2017 saw the first batch of Tornado-S multiple rocket launch systems being supplied to the Armed Forces and this formidable weapon will eventually serve as the backbone of the Ground Forces’ artillery brigades.

Despite the emergence of high-precision and “smart” weapons, multiple rocket launchers remain an effective weapon against ground targets.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: It's hard to believe that they have improved on the old Smerch MRLs .... but apparently they have.

Picture Of The Day

Legendary photo by a Soviet military correspondent taken on May 1, 1945 showing Soviet soldiers placing the Victory Banner over the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany. © SPUTNIK/ YEVGENY KHALDEI

WNU Editor: The above picture comes from this photo-gallery .... Victory Banner Over Reichstag, Marilyn and Nessi: Most Famous Photos of All Time (Sputnik)

The Pentagon Monitors Russian, Chinese Social Networks

© Sputnik

Sputnik: SocioSpyder: Why Pentagon Monitors Russian, Chinese Social Networks

The Pentagon wants to monitor Russia's most popular social network VKontakte, according to an announcement published on the US Federal Business Opportunities official website on Thursday.
The publication says that the US wants to purchase special software capable of monitoring Russian and Chinese social media, including Russian social network VKontakte.

SocioSpyder's Watching You

The software is called SocioSpyder and was designed to collect information from networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

The stated goal of the program is to help the intelligence agencies in preventing emergencies, terrorist activity and other incidents that require an immediate response.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I thought these social media sites were already being monitored.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

President Trump Approves A Global War On Terrorism Memorial To Be Built In Washington DC

© REUTERS/ Jonathan Ernst

Washington Times: Trump signs legislation greenlighting War on Terrorism memorial for National Mall

President Trump has signed a bill authorizing the construction of a new memorial on the National Mall commemorating U.S. service members who fought in the international war against terrorism.

Mr. Trump announced his signing of the Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act through his official Twitter account Friday evening, paving the way for the monument’s sponsors to ramp-up work on erecting one of the nation’s capital’s newest memorials.

The Global War on Terrorism, also known as the GWOT and the War on Terror, refers to the international military campaign initiated by President George W. Bush in reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including ongoing operations against targets including the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Read more ....

More News On President Trump Approving A Global War On Terrorism Memorial To Be Built In Washington DC

Trump Approves Global War On Terrorism Memorial in DC -- Military.com
Trump signs bill authorizing memorial to service members who fought in war on terror -- ABC News
Trump signs bill authorizing 'Global War on Terrorism Memorial' -- Los Angeles Times
Trump Authorizes Construction of Global War on Terrorism Memorial -- Sputnik
War on Terrorism Memorial will honor veterans of America's longest conflict -- The Intelligencer

U.S. Spy Planes Keep An Eye On North Korea (Video)


WNU Editor: Its amazing to see the U-2 still in operation.

Special Report From SKY News: A New Korean War? (Video)

The White House Talks About War Over North Korea



New York Times: Talk of ‘Preventive War’ Rises in White House Over North Korea

Not since 2002, as the United States built a case for war in Iraq, has there been so much debate inside the White House about the merits — and the enormous risks — of pre-emptive military action against an adversary nation.

Like its predecessors, the Trump administration is trying to pressure North Korea through sanctions to dismantle its nuclear program. But both President Trump and his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, have talked openly about a last-resort option if diplomacy fails and the nuclear threat mounts: what General McMaster describes as “preventive war.”

Though the Pentagon has prepared options to pre-emptively strike North Korea’s nuclear and missile sites for more than a decade and the past four presidents declared that “all options are on the table,” the rote phrase barely seemed credible, given the potential for a North Korean counterstrike against Seoul, South Korea, that could result in tremendous casualties in a metropolitan area of 25 million people.

But as the Trump administration moves ahead on Monday with a new round of long-planned military exercises that involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops, computer simulations of escalating conflict and perhaps overflights of nuclear-capable aircraft, the White House is determined to leave the impression the military option is real.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Not to be undone, North Korea is threatening nuclear war (again) .... North Korea warns of nuclear war if U.S. drill turns to 'actual fighting' (USA Today). But with all the threats and counter-threats .... some are saying that we should not worry .... Don't hold your breath waiting for a war with North Korea (Ted Gover, The Hill). What's my take .... we should start to worry, a 32 year old dictator who has murdered his own family members has in his possession nuclear weapons .... just think about it.

USS John S. McCain Collides With Oil Tanker Near Strait of Malacca. At Least 10 U.S. Sailors Are Missing

Jan. 26, 2003 -- The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) approaches the Kitty Hawk during a replenishment at sea (RAS). An RAS is the method by which ammunition fuel is transferred from one ship to another while at sea. The technique enables a fleet or naval formation to remain at sea for prolonged periods of time. Kitty Hawk is the Navy’s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier and operates out of Yokosuka, Japan. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Todd Frantom. Wikipedia

WNU Editor: This is a breaking news story. Updates will be posted when more news becomes available.



ABC News Online: USS John McCain collides with merchant ship east of Singapore, US Navy says

A guided-missile destroyer has collided with a merchant ship in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca, the US Navy says.

The Navy's 7th fleet said the USS John McCain sustained damage on its port side from the collision with the Alnic MC on Monday at 5:24am (local time).

Search and rescue efforts were underway in coordination with local authorities.

There were no initial reports of injuries.

"The ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore," the Navy said in a statement.

It is the second collision involving a navy ship in the Pacific in two months.

Read more ....

More News On The USS John S. McCain Colliding With An Oil Tanker

UPDATED: USS John McCain Collides with Merchant Tanker in the South China Sea; Ship Underway on its own Power
-- USNI News
US Navy ship collides with oil tanker off Singapore -- BBC
U.S. Navy says USS John S. McCain sailing to port under own power -- Reuters
U.S. Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship -- CBS
USS John McCain collides with merchant ship near Singapore; search and rescue underway -- ABC News
USS McCain collides with merchant vessel -- The Hill
USS John McCain collides with merchant vessel; search and rescue underway -- WAVY
USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship in Pacific -- FOX News
Search and rescue underway after USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship -- CNBC
US destroyer collides with merchant ship near Singapore -- CNN
US destroyer USS John S McCain damaged after collision with oil tanker -- The Guardian

UPDATE: At least ten sailors are missing .... US WARSHIP COLLIDES WITH TANKER NEAR SINGAPORE; 10 MISSING (AP)

Update #2: It looks bad .... BREAKING: The crew of the destroyer John S. McCain is fighting flooding in two crew berthings and in what's called "shaft alley." (Link here)

Afghanistan War News Updates -- August 20, 2017

Afghan Special Forces arrive at the airport as they launch a counteroffensive to retake the city from Taliban insurgents, in Kunduz, Sept. 29, 2015.

VOA: Afghanistan’s Special Operations Forces Transition from Division to Corps

Afghanistan’s elite Special Operations Forces officially transitioned from a division to a corps, as part of a four-year security plan aimed at vastly improving the country's security forces.

“Today, it is a special day because the success you all have achieved for this nation is exemplified here,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at the ceremony in Kabul on Sunday. “This year you defeated the enemy on the battlefield. I can see the results of your fight from last week and I see the huge improvement from last year.”

Read more ....

Afghanistan War News Updates -- August 20, 2017

Top US commander in Afghanistan tells troops 'we are with you' with Trump set to address nation -- The Independent
'Guardian angel' need for advisers in Afghanistan drives call for more troops -- Reuters
Joint Taliban, Islamic State raid killed disarmed Afghan fighters, civilians: U.N. -- Reuters
UN Probe Concludes Taliban, Islamic State Jointly Killed 36 Afghans -- VOA
IS Atrocities Spike in North, East Afghanistan -- VOA
Afghan Air Force to get organic intelligence reconnaissance capability for the first time -- Khaama Press
How Afghanistan is ramping up its fight against corruption — especially among the country’s elite -- Washington Post
ISIL in Afghanistan: A growing threat -- Al Jazeera
Taliban calls on US to withdraw forces as Afghanistan celebrates 98th Independence Day -- Khaama Press
Afghanistan Marks 98 Years Of Independence From Britain -- RFE
Erik Prince's Plan to Privatize the War in Afghanistan -- The Atlantic
5 Rules for Sending Contractors to War in Afghanistan -- James Carafano, Daily Signal
In Afghanistan, a Destructive 'Game of Thrones' -- New York Times
A Reporter’s Anguished Farewell to Afghanistan -- WSJ
The U.S. cannot abandon Afghanistan now -- Washington Post editorial

President Trump Will Address The Nation On Afghanistan On Monday At 21:00 EST





NBC: Trump to Address Nation on ‘Path Forward’ in Afghanistan on Monday Night

President Donald Trump will discuss the "path forward" in Afghanistan in a speech on Monday night, the White House said in a statement Sunday.

The speech, to be delivered at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, at 9 p.m. ET, will "provide an update on the path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia," the statement said.

The address comes after a lengthy strategy review in which White House and Pentagon officials mulled a more aggressive role for the American military in Afghanistan.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: So much for my hope that he was not going to make this announcement very quickly. As to what will be announced .... with Steve Banning gone and this policy now being driven by the Generals .... sighhhh .... I am not optimistic, but I will wait and see.

More News On Reports That President Trump Will Be Addressing The Nation On Afghanistan Monday At 21:00 EST

Trump to lay out U.S. strategy for Afghanistan on Monday night -- Reuters
Trump to address nation on new Afghan strategy -- AFP
Trump to address nation on Afghanistan -- FOX News
Trump to address nation on Afghanistan, South Asia -- The Hill
President Trump to address troops Monday night on path forward in Afghanistan -- USA Today
Donald Trump to Unveil Afghanistan Strategy in Televised Address Monday -- Wall Street Journal

Is Next Month's Russian Military Exercises A Pre-Text To Occupy Belarus?


CNBC: Large-scale Russian military exercises in Belarus feared to be set-up for Putin's next conquest

* There is alarm that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the Zapad joint military exercises next month with Belarus as a sort of Trojan horse or pretext for an annexation of the former Soviet republic, which borders Poland.
* Russia claims there's fewer than 13,000 troops going to the quadrennial war games but some reports suggest the actual amount maybe as many as 100,000 people — and one defense expert tells CNBC "everything points to probably the largest military exercise in post-Soviet history."
* An Estonian defense official back in April disclosed his country and other members of NATO obtained intelligence that Russia planned to send troops and resources to Belarus and leave some military equipment and permanent forces.

There are growing concerns large-scale war games planned next month by Russia with its neighbor Belarus could be a cover for something very sinister by Vladimir Putin — perhaps another Crimea.

There is alarm in Europe that the Russian president could use the military exercises as a sort of Trojan horse or pretext for an annexation of Belarus, a former Soviet republic. Putin has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, particularly since Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

"Russia is billing it as modest exercises under 13,000 troops, but everything points to probably the largest military exercise in post-Soviet history," said Leon Aron, resident scholar and the director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

Read more ....

Update #1:
Russia readies troops for Zapad war games with Belarus (DW)
Update #2: Russian Invasion? Moscow's Rivals Say War Games Are Cover And Troops Won't Leave (Newsweek)
Update #3: #ZapadWatch: Russian Troops in Belarus (Medium)

WNU Editor: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is Europe's last dictator .... Belarus: Europe's last dictatorship (Al Jazeera). It's amusing to see Western leaders worried about his future. And as to the question .... will Russia occupy Belarus after the exercises? As of this moment .... I see no evidence of that happening.

Is A U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia, And India Security Agreement In The Works?


Lalit K Jha, Live Mint: US, Japan to advance security, defence cooperation with India, Australia

North Korea’s dangerous provocative behaviour prompts the US and Japan to advance their multilateral security and defence cooperation India, S Korea, Australia.

Washington: The US and Japan have agreed to advance their multilateral security and defence cooperation with countries like India, South Korea and Australia in view of North Korea’s dangerous provocative behaviour, leaders of the countries have said.

The threat posed by North Korea was discussed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, defence secretary James Mattis and his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera.

The four officials have strongly encouraged China to take decisive measures to urge North Korea to change its course of action.

“We will cooperate to advance trilateral and multilateral security and defence cooperation with other partners in the region, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, India and other south-east Asian countries,” Tillerson told reporters at a joint news conference with Kono, Mattis and Onodera.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: North Korea may be the public reason why these 5 nations are forming a more comprehensive security arrangement, but my gut is telling me that it is China that is the primary reason why these nations are going to work together.

Video Emerges Showing Mass Brawl Between Indian And Chinese Soldiers Along The Banks Of The Pangong Lake, Ladakh



NDTV: Video Shows Clashes Of Indian, Chinese Soldiers At Ladakh

The incident took place on Independence Day when Chinese troops tried to enter Indian terrain along the banks of the Pangong Lake but were stopped by Indian soldiers.

Five days after a scuffle between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh, a video of the clash has surfaced today. The video, which has been widely circulated on social media, shows many soldiers from the two countries punching and kicking each other and throwing stones.

Sources say there were two dozen Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel and nearly three dozen Armymen at the spot; the Chinese troops had similar numbers.

Authorities have confirmed the authenticity of the video to NDTV.

Read more ...

Previous Post: Soldiers From China And India Battle With Fists, Stones, And Iron Rods On Disputed Border (August 15, 2017).

WNU Editor: That is a lot of soldiers having a brawl on the shores of a lake. I am surprised that no one was killed.

More News On A Video Emerging That Shows Clashes Between Indian And Chinese Soldiers Along The Banks Of The Pangong Lake, Ladakh

India-China border brawl: Superpowers throw stones at each other as tensions heighten -- The Telegraph
Here's the video of altercation between Indian, Chinese troops at Pangong lake in Ladakh -- International Business Times
Video Emerges Showing Clashes Between Indian, Chinese Soldiers -- Zero Hedge
Watch: Video claiming to show clash between Indian, Chinese soldiers surfaces online -- Arab News
Video shows Chinese and Indian soldiers' clash in Ladakh, its authenticity unconfirmed -- Express Tribune
Watch: Mass brawl between Chinese, Indian troops -- Arutz Sheva

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Thanks Iran, Russia For Help. Rejects Security Cooperation With The West



Reuters: Syria's Assad says Western plots against him foiled but war not yet won

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday his country had foiled Western designs to topple him but his army had not yet won the fight to end Syria's six-year-old insurgency.

In an televised address, Assad said that even though there were signs of victory after six-and-a-half years of civil war, the "battle continues, and where we go later and it becomes possible to talk about victory...that's a different matter".

He did not elaborate on that point.

However, he said the assistance extended by stalwart allies Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement had enabled the army to make battlefield gains and reduce the burden of war.

"Their direct support - politically, economically and militarily - has made possible bigger advances on the battlefield and reduced the losses and burdens of war," Assad added.

Read more ....

More News On Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Thanking Iran And Russia For Help. Rejects Security Cooperation With The West

Syria: Bashar al-Assad rejects security cooperation with west -- The Guardian/AP
No relations with Syria for countries backing rebels: Assad -- Daily Star
No relations with Syria for countries backing rebels: Assad. -- AFP
Syria's Assad Thanks Iran, Russia For Helping Thwart Attempts To Oust Him -- RFE
Al Assad praises foreign allies four years on from Damascus gas attack -- The National
Assad says Western plot to topple him foiled, praises Iran's support to Syria -- Ynetnews
Syrian President thanks Russia, Iran, Hezbollah for support -- Jerusalem Online

Poll: Russian President Vladimir Putin More Trusted Than President Trump Amongst Some U.S. Allies



MSNBC: Some U.S. allies trust Putin more than Trump

The Pew Research Center published a new report this week on international attitudes towards Vladimir Putin, and not surprisingly, the Russian president is not a popular global figure. The report explained, “Around the world, few people trust Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. A global median of roughly one-in-four (26%) say they have confidence in the Russian leader.”

This is certainly in line with expectations. For much of the world, Putin is an autocratic thug, unworthy of respect. This, however, was the part of the new Pew report that was startling:

Read more ....

Update: US Allies Trust Vladimir Putin More Than Donald Trump, Says Pew Survey (IBTimes)

WNU Editor: The PEW poll results are here .... Publics Worldwide Unfavorable Toward Putin, Russia (PEW Research).

Foreign Policy Report: President Trump Wants To Cut Off All U.S. Military Aid To Pakistan

U.S. President Donald Trump steps from Air Force One as he arrives in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S., after visiting Camp David in Maryland August 18, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)

Daily Times: Trump to ‘cut all military aid to Pakistan’

* Report says US president believes Washington is being 'ripped off' by Islamabad

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is mulling over cutting off all military aid to Pakistan because 'Washington is being ripped off by Islamabad', claims a Foreign Policy report.

As Trump reviewed an array of options for a strategy on Afghanistan with his top national security aides at Camp David, he made no decision on whether he would commit more troops to America's longest war. Committing more troops would also significantly affect the United State's relationship with Pakistan.

The FP report quoted a White House official as saying that "the president thinks we're being ripped off by Pakistan. The president wants to cut off all military aid to Pakistan. That's part of the strategy". The official further said that the Department of Defence views Pakistan and the United State's relationship as 'troubled'.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Foreign Policy article that is reporting the possibility that the U.S. may cut aid to Pakistan is here .... Inside Trump’s Tortured Search for a Winning Strategy in Afghanistan (Foreign Policy).

More News On Reports That President Trump Wants To Cut Off All U.S. Military Aid To Pakistan

Trump wants to cut off all military aid to Pakistan: report -- Samaa TV
No good news for Pakistan in US new Afghan policy -- The International News
US to ‘cut all military aid to Pakistan’: FP report -- Pakistan Observer
Trump wants to cut military aid to Pak, increase troops in Afghanistan: US -- Business Standard

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: President Trump Has Made His Decision On What To Do In Afghanistan


Reuters: Trump has made Afghanistan decision after 'rigorous' U.S. review: Mattis

AMMAN, Reuters - President Donald Trump has a made a decision on the United States' strategy for Afghanistan after a "sufficiently rigorous" review process, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday.

However, Mattis did not provide details on when the White House would make an announcement or what the decision was on Afghanistan, where fighting still rages more than 15 years after U.S. forces invaded and overthrew a Taliban government.

Soon after taking office in January the Trump administration began a review of U.S. policy on Afghanistan, which has expanded into a broader South Asia review.

"I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a pre-set position," Mattis told reporters traveling with him aboard a military aircraft to Jordan. "The president has made a decision. As he said, he wants to be the one to announce it to the American people."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The official announcement and what are the details will be made in a few weeks.

More News On U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' Remarks That President Trump Has Made His Decision On What To Do In Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Says Trump Has Settled on an Afghan Strategy -- New York Times
US Sec. of Defense Mattis tight-lipped on new Afghanistan war strategy. -- AP
Mattis: US reached decision on Afghan strategy after 'rigorous' debate -- AFP
Mattis Tight-Lipped on New Afghan Strategy -- VOA
US in Afghanistan: Mattis confirms Trump administration has decided on new strategy -- The National

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 20, 2017

An Afghan flag flutters next to a U.S. flag as a U.S Chinook helicopter flies over Panjshir province on July 24, 2011. Ahmad Masood / Reuters

Barry Posen, The Atlantic: It's Time to Make Afghanistan Someone Else's Problem

A full withdrawal will force Iran, Russia, and others, to step up.

The Trump administration, as well as its critics, are reportedly wrestling with the question of a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, where the government has shown no signs of being able to turn the tide in the 16-year war against the Taliban. General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with support from Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, has asked for more troops, apparently in service of a strategy that, for the moment, seeks simply to “not lose.” President Trump has granted this request in principle, but these reinforcements have not yet been dispatched, because the president's advisors seem to believe that he is not committed to stay the course. Instead, a strategic review is underway. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain has offered his own strategy for Afghanistan, which appears to be the “old” strategy, with the admixture of a commitment to stay forever and provide the commanders with a blank check for forces and money to do so.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 20, 2017

U.S.-China relations, 6 months into the Trump presidency: Still in search of a strategy -- Jeffrey A. Bader, David Dollar, and Ryan Hass, Brookings

Trump’s Negotiation from Strength -- Patrick M. Cronin, RCD

Planning for Korean Reunification -- Lee Jong-Wha, Project Syndicate

The real revolution in NKorea is rise of consumer culture -- Eric Talmadge, AP

South China Sea: Beijing Raises the Temperature Again -- Euan Graham, Lowy Institute

Balochistan: Spiral into chaos -- Muhammad Akbar Notezai, Dawn

“Neutral” Somalia finds itself engulfed in Saudi Arabia-Qatar dispute -- Muhyadin Ahmed Roble, African Arguments

Q&A: What’s Next for Kenya After Presidential Elections? -- US Institute of Peace

Angola on cusp of change after 40-year journey from Marxism to crony capitalism -- Jason Burke, The Guardian

Stop Poking the Russian Bear -- Robert W. Merry, National Interest

Bosnia's Sordid Independence -- Alexander Clapp, National Interest

Bolivia's Morales Goes Down an Ugly Road -- Mac Margolis, Bloomberg

What to Do With Venezuela? -- J. Weston Phippen, The Atlantic

Socialism – not oil prices – is to blame for Venezuela’s woes -- Kristian Niemietz, CapX

The Real Lesson of the Barcelona Attacks -- Daniel McCarthy, National Interest

Terror in Spain Shows Islamic State Is Down Not Out -- Tobin Harshaw, Bloomberg

The World May Soon Split in Two Trading Blocs—Here’s How to Position Your Portfolio -- Patrick Watson, Maulden Economics

America Can't Afford to Lose the Artificial Intelligence War -- Michael O'Hanlon & Robert Karlen, National Interest

The Meaning of the Eclipse -- Bloomberg editorial

World News Briefs -- August 20, 2017



DW: Iraq launches fresh offensive to reclaim IS-held Tal Afar

Iraq's premier has warned militants of the self-styled "Islamic State" to surrender "or be killed." Iraqi forces have made significant gains over the past year, culminating in the liberation of Mosul.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday announced a new offensive to liberate the strategic city of Tal Afar, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Mosul, from the "Islamic State" militant group.

Dressed in military uniform, al-Abadi warned in a televised speech that the militant group should surrender or meet a violent end.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

PM: Iraqi forces begin operation to retake Tal Afar from IS. Iraq launches offensive to retake Tal Afar from ISIL. IS conflict: Iraq launches ground offensive in Tal Afar. Iraq begins battle to retake Tal Afar, IS bastion near Mosul.

Iraq's Kurds might put off independence vote in return for concessions from Baghdad: official.

Lebanese army recaptures third of IS stronghold of Ras Baalbek.

Injuries as rocket hits near Damascus business fair: state TV.

Syria's Assad says war still not won but West's plots foiled.

No relations with Syria for countries backing rebels: Assad. Syria’s Assad reject security cooperation with the West.

Iran: Top priority to protect nuclear deal from US.

Iran parliament Oks all but 1 of Rouhani Cabinet picks.

Turkish political refugees flock to Germany, seeking safety.

Arab foreign ministers welcome US Mideast mediation.

Israel's Netanyahu to discuss Middle East with Putin: statement.

ASIA

US Sec. of Defense Mattis tight-lipped on new Afghanistan war strategy.

Joint Taliban, Islamic State raid killed disarmed Afghan fighters, civilians: U.N..

North Korea slams upcoming joint US-South military exercises.

North Korea receiving constant oil supply as China refuses to go all in on isolating rogue state.

North Korea: Japan conducts evacuation drills amid nuclear missile threat.

Philippines Church head urges government to 'stop wasting lives' in drug killings. Philippine churches to ring bells to protest drug killings.

Papua New Guinea expands security crackdown to quell post-election violence.

Gurkha protesters demand new state in India.

Mass monsoon floods in South Asia a humanitarian crisis, aid group says.

Crowds rally in Hong Kong after activists jailed.

AFRICA

Kenyan opposition files case at Supreme Court challenging election results.

Two killed in Togo in protests against 50-year ruling dynasty.

Armed group in Uganda briefly abduct South Sudanese rebel, he says.

Mali Islamist police chief gets 10-year jail term for amputations.

Mali president postpones referendum on reforms.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returns from UK. Nigeria’s ailing president returns after 3 months away.

Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe leaves South Africa despite assault claim.

Angola’s ruling MPLA calls for continuity in final election rally.

Sierra Leone mudslides: More evacuations expected as death toll rises. At least 461 now confirmed dead in Sierra Leone mudslide.

EUROPE

Barcelona mourns as police step up hunt for driver of van. Barcelona attack: Royals attend special Mass for victims.

Police hunt for suspected Barcelona van driver. Police say cannot rule out that suspect in Barcelona attacks may have crossed to France.

Muslims fear anti-Islam backlash in tolerant Barcelona.

Finland stabbings treated as terror attack, suspect 'targeted women'. Finnish police say arrested four other Moroccan men over links to stabbings.

East Ukraine conflict claimed nearly 3,000 civilian lives — ICRC.

Putin angers Ukraine with visit To Russia-annexed Crimea.

Knife-wielding man wounds seven in Russia.

Malta 'denies' Defend Europe anti-migrant boat.

UK to release tranche of Brexit position papers.

AMERICAS

Trump dumps Bannon, who returns to conservative website.

Massive counterprotest upstages Boston free speech rally.

Venezuela faces outrage after new assembly takes legislative power.

Disputed Venezuela assembly takes parliament's powers. 'Resistance': Venezuela's parliament dismisses power grab.

Venezuela’s ousted chief prosecutor flees to Colombia.

Eighteen semi trucks set on fire in southern Chile.

Eclipse chasers could form largest mass migration in history.

Special eclipse glasses selling out quickly.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Barcelona attack: Catalan police name 22yo Moroccan as main suspect.

Moroccan Isis terrorists ‘pose a threat on Europe’s doorstep’.

Three men to be charged over Islamic State-influenced terror attack after the fundamentalist Muslim group ‘inspired them’ to set fire to a Melbourne mosque.

CIA torture: lawsuit settled against psychologists who designed techniques.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Apple under pressure to dazzle as market slows.

Hollywood’s hacking pains are bigger than movie leaks.

Kit Kat accused of copying Atari game Breakout.

US to review China intellectual property policies.

French designer in costly dispute over Pitt-Jolie chateau.