Smart bombs

 The U.S. reported that their warplanes in Afghanistan had usedmore smart bombs and missiles 746 there during July than any month since 2010.That was also 30% more than the 572 in June, and 113% more than the 350 in May.


The U.S. will no longer release data on the number of enemy fighters killed in Afghanistan because this “body count” data tends to be used as a measure of success or failure. American military leaders point out that this is not the case and that there are numerous factors that go into calculating who is winning — or thinks they are — in Afghanistan. The U.S. also wants to avoid repeating the problems with “body count” during the Viet Nam War, especially pressure on commanders to increase it for the enemy.

Refugee fears

 Because of Iran’s worsening economy, over 15% of the three million Afghan refugees in eastern Iran returned to Afghanistan this year.Nearly all of these refugees are Shia who feared returning while the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State were still active in Afghanistan. These two groups, and Sunni Islamic terror groups in general, consider the Shia to be heretics and target them for death.

Chinese AIP sub

In mid-2018, the Chinese Navy proclaimed that its new air independent propulsion (AIP) system submarine had performed very well. Actually, as described, the Chinese AIP performed about as well as early Western AIP systems. For the Chinese that was good enough because they have had problems getting their AIP to perform reliably, something they had been working on for over 15 years. That changed earlier this year when new a Yuan-class sub went to sea and operated like an AIP boat, and according to Chinese press releases, stayed under for over two weeks at a time.

Chinese sub inventory

The Chinese Navy currently has 13 Song-class, 12 Kilo-class, 13Type 39A/B (Yuan) class and 18 Ming, an improved Russian Romeo class boats. At least a dozen more Yuans are apparently planned, which are meant to replace the elderly Mings.

IS warriors

With IS personnel now in hiding, it has been difficult to get an accurate count. Official mid-2018 estimates were about 17,000 in Iraq and 13,000 in Syria, but that implies that the number of armed men IS had in Iraq by 2014 is the same as mid-2018. How can that be? The answer is that the official estimates include unarmed supporters,including family members. Captured IS members often exaggerate the size of the group he belongs to, as will IS members who try to intimidate local civilians into compliance. IS tries to appear more omnipresent than they actually are.

ISIS crisis

 The Islamic State crisis has forced Iraq to be more prudent with its finances, and government operations in general. The Americans are no longer being blamed for all that goes wrong. Taking responsibility does indeed make it easier to deal with problems, but many Iraqi leaders and politicians still prefer to blame all the problems on America, Israel and so on.

IS arrests

Iraqi police arrested two men illegally crossing the border from Syria. They later admitted they were IS members headed for nearby Mosul to help organize new attacks. The security forces regularly find and arrest IS members in the area, largely because of tips from residents who do not want IS to reestablish themselves in Mosul or anywhere else in Nineveh province.

A drug sanctuary

The U.S. is using its decades of experience with Afghanistan to reduce chaos and prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for drug gangs.If Afghanistan becomes a narco state, Islamic terror groups that seek to conquer, or at least terrorize, the world will find sanctuary there. The Afghan Taliban is divided, especially over the issue of being controlled by Pakistan and responsible for the growing number of Afghan drug addicts.

Troop count

There are about 6,000 American troops in Iraq, as well as about2,000 from other nations, mainly Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Some of the U.S. troops in Iraq are in the Kurdish north where American and British troops have been operating since the early 1990s. Iran has no soldiers in Iraq,but does have several hundred advisors and trainers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In Syria, there are about 5,000 American troops in 22 bases, all of them near the Iraqi border, mostly in the northeast where they advise the Kurdish forces that control the Syrian northeast, which is adjacent to northern Iraq’s Kurdish-controlled areas.

The Northern Alliance

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle exploded near a procession honoring the memory of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tadjik leader who was assassinated on 9 Sep 2001 by al Qaeda on behalf of the Taliban. The Taliban was unable to conquer all of Afghanistan, especially the north, because of Massoud’s military and political leadership. The Northern Alliance, once led by Massoud, still exists and represents the interests of the non-Pushtun majority in Afghanistan. Though no longer a military coalition or even much of a political one, the Northern Alliance has the potential to once again become an armed force opposing Pushtun tyranny.

Another terrorist organization

The U.S. declared Mali-based Jamâ’ah Nusrah al Islâm wal Muslim (JNIM), a foreign terrorist organization and thus subject to all manner of sanctions and restrictions. Most of the Islamic terrorists in Mali belong to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or JNIM. In Mali and neighboring states most of the Islamic terrorists are not the Islamic State and are largely united. AQIM concentrates on its fund raising operations, mostly drug and people smuggling, while most of the Islamic terrorist activity is the work of JNIM, which was formed in early 2017.

Iran pushes

Three mortar shells were fired at the U.S. embassy located in the Baghdad’s Green Zone, but missed the embassy compound. Several days later, the U.S. told Iran there would be military action if Iran kept up these attacks or escalated them by attacking American troops in Iraq. The American retaliation would include going after the “several dozen” short-range ballistic missiles Iran sent to its most trusted Iraqi militias, to be used when Iran believed necessary.

U.S. eyes

The Americans have support from Sunni tribes in Syria and Iraq,mainly to keep informed on what is going on in the area around Tanf. The Americans have too much airpower and too much aerial and ground surveillance around Tanf and the U.S. has declared a “free fire” zone, meaning that any Assad/Iranian forces that get within 30 kilometers of Tanf are automatically attacked. Iranian and Assad forces rarely test this free fire zone because they know it works.

Violent culture

Peace talks with the Pakistani-controlled Afghan Taliban center around the main demands of prisoner exchanges, departure of foreign troops and the enforcement of strict lifestyle laws. The majority of Afghans oppose this,but the Taliban has an army funded by the drug trade and Pakistan, which also provides sanctuary. The Taliban act like local warlords who pledge allegiance to the supreme Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan and is controlled by Pakistan. Afghans are much more aware and angry about this than foreigners,they are also aware of their violent culture even when there is not a major conflict.

Common strategy

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Iran on 7September to decide what their common strategy would be in Syria. At that point, Syrian troops had already assembled in the northwest and Syrian troops had carried out some preliminary attacks. Russian aerial reconnaissance confirmed what the Syrian troops saw from the ground: the rebels were preparing to resist and a lot more of the pro-rebel civilians in Idlib were being armed or were building fortifications. Iranian officers agreed with the Syrians that victory via a quick offensive was not going to work, even with maximum Russian air support.

In a pickle

The results of the 7 September discussions were that the attack would go forward but in coordination with the Turks, who faced a very real refugee problem as the only place the rebels and their civilian supporters could flee was to Turkey. Russia said it would deal with American threats to intervene if Syria used chemical weapons again, but the Russians weren’t going to fight the Americans. Not just because the Americans appeared to be a formidable threat, but because the Israelis might get involved and Russia does not want to destroy its ties with Israel over this.

Strategy revised

The U.S. has revised its strategy in Afghanistan to recognize the key importance of Pakistan. This is where most of the heroin moves from Afghanistan to world markets via the Port of Karachi and where the Pakistan military makes sure whatever the Taliban in Afghanistan needs gets safely to the Afghan border. Since 2002, the U.S. has respected Pakistani demands that American UAVs not attack the Taliban leadership sanctuary in Quetta, but those conventions are being reviewed while all military aid to Pakistan has been  halted. Pakistan had received over $33 billion in aid since 2001.

Implement the terms

France and the U.S. are pressuring the recently reelected Mali president to finally implement the terms of the 2015 peace deal with separatist Tuareg tribes up north. Failure to do so will cause more of those tribes to go rogue and be nothing but trouble for the government. The only thing that keeps the Tuareg tribes in line are the peacekeepers and, especially, the French counterterrorism force. If the Mali government can’t get past its own corruption and prejudice, there will be unspecified and punitive consequences.

Losing support

While the Pakistani military is gradually losing its popular support due to relentless and growing opposition inside Pakistan, the military still controls nuclear weapons. Worse, there is a growing number of generals who are true believers in Islamic radicalism, and some have even joined Islamic terror groups after retiring. These true believers are a minority in the military leadership, but the fact that they exist and that Pakistan was able to build nuclear weapons via corrupt practices, and then secretly offer some of the tech for sale, makes a lot of people inside and outside Pakistan nervous.

Learning the hard way

India has learned the hard way that jet fighters capable of operating from carriers are a very specialized type of aircraft and not just a land-based jet modified to withstand the rigors of landing and taking off from carriers. The failure in this area has been the MiG-29K, which India’s Navy purchased 45 of from Russia for their new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, a rebuilt Russian Cold War-era carrier. India’s Navy was not happy with the performance of the Vikramaditya or theMiG-29K, and India is now trying to force Russia to fix the shortcomings of theMiG-29K.

Silencing critics

The Pakistani military won a major victory in 2018 that they prefer not to publicize. The loser here has been Pakistani press freedom and all that goes with it. The key to calling this a victory is the military gaining control over the courts, especially the highest tribunals, beyond which there is no appeal. The military can now act freely to intimidate and silence any media critics.

A government truism

“If you put the government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.” — Milton Friedman, American economist

In denial

India refuses to talk with Pakistan until its military reduces their Islamic terror activity in Kashmir. Pakistan denies there is any such thing, despite growing evidence from captured Islamic terrorists, documents and electronic intercepts. Pakistan has found that their best tactic in the face of all this evidence is to continue their denial while putting all the blame on India. Even veteran diplomats find this approach tiresome and repugnant.Pakistani elected officials have quietly admitted this because the Pakistani military does not respond well to public criticism.

Thai Muslim violence

The Muslim violence in southern Thailand has been going on for 14years, but is slowly fading away. An estimated 7,000 have died over the years,but over the past decade the violence has decreased. In 2017 there were 489violent incidents compared to the peak year of 2010 when there were 2,061.These incidents now tend to arrive in clusters rather than randomly throughout the year.

Reconsidering strategy

With military aid to Pakistan at a halt, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan’s military have to reconsider their strategy toward the drug trade and their efforts to maintain influence over Afghanistan with violence. By refraining from hitting Afghan Taliban sanctuaries, Pakistan has an incentive to continue allowing NATO to move supplies from the Port of Karachi, by road,into Afghanistan.

More of a liability

Russia has been backing away from Iran because they are becoming more of a liability. Working closely with Iran in Syria was mainly about the2015 treaty that lifted most sanctions on Iran and enabled Russia to do a lot more business there, but that did not work out as expected. Iranian corruption delayed new business and the Arab oil states pointed out that anyone who was really close to Iran would be getting a lot less business from the Arab states.

Political change

A large portion Iraq’s rapidly-growing population — currently at about 40 million, and growing at nearly a million a year — has no memory of life under Saddam where demonstrations or any dissent was forbidden. Today they take for granted that they can protest against corrupt or incompetent government officials and that changes politics in Iraq. Now elected officials can be called out and even lose elections over poor performance, which is quite different and often hard to handle for older politicians.

DABS tested

In July, the USAF tested its new Deployable Air Base System(DABS), which involved moving 161 shipping containers and 60 construction and airfield operation vehicles from Luxembourg to Poland by land. Two C-130s were also used to get everything to a small airport that didn’t normally handle military operations and would likely survive a major Russian attack. Land movement took 24 hours and it took another 24 hours for 57 Air Force logistical and airfield operations personnel to unload, position and get the equipment operational. The initial test found no serious flaws, but there was a long list of little things that would make DABS go more smoothly.

Mystery airstrike

In western Iraq, just across the border in eastern Syria, an Iranian military convoy was hit by an airstrike, killing four Syrians, one Iranian, and three foreign mercenaries; at least 11 were wounded. While no one took credit for the airstrike, it is believed to be Israeli, but the Israelis often try to hide their involvement.

Between Iran & Israel

Russia, Turkey and the Assad government see the continuing Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria as a matter between Israel and Iran. Although Russia, Turkey and Iraq are technically allies with Iran, in Syria the historical record shows Iran is usually the enemy of these three nations and has been for centuries.

Chinese Su-35 deal

By the end of 2018, China will receive the last 10 of the 24 Su-35 fighters it purchased from Russia. China had the Su-35s it already received in service by April 2018, and they have been seen flying off the coast near Taiwan. China seems to be pleased with their new acquisition, however the terms of the sale are still something of a mystery. In 2015, after more than three years of haggling, Russia signed the contract for $105 million each. The big obstacle was China’s inability to assure Russia that Chinese aviation firms wouldn’t steal the new technology in these aircraft.

Having an effect

As revived American sanctions take effect, Iranian oil exports decline. OPEC, which is dominated by Arab oil states, refused to increase production to make up for the missing Iranian oil, angering oil importers who have become accustomed to cheaper oil. Major oil exporters have had a hard time since 2013, when oil tumbled from over $100 a barrel to a third of that, but now the price is on the way up and the Iranian loss becomes a plus for Arab oil states, including Iraq. Since 2013, the Americans have again become a major oil exporter, so the U.S. wins whichever way the oil price goes.

HC-130 update

The U.S. Coast Guard ran into a lot of problems upgrading its surface fleet after the Cold War ended in the 1990s, but the upgrades to its aircraft were a much smoother operation. Currently, the Coast Guard is in the midst of replacing its elderly HC-130H SAR/long range patrol aircraft with larger, faster and better equipped 70-ton HC-130Js. One reason for the hassle-free acquisition of these aircraft is that the USAF operates an even larger number of HC-130 aircraft, and although they have slightly different equipment, like aerial refueling for helicopters, they are basically the same as the Coast Guard’s HC-130s.

Fueled by drug trade

Since 2015, there has been more violence in Afghanistan involving fighting between Islamic terror groups as well as local tribal militias and Afghan security forces. The drug trade, seen as a quick path to wealth by uneducated and unemployed Afghans, drives the violence and, while Taliban attacks on urban areas are big news outside of Afghanistan, what is important to the Taliban is control of key rural areas where opium and heroin.

Chemical weapons

Russia and the U.S. continue to argue over chemical weapons in Syria. The UN agrees with the U.S. that Syria has used chemical weapons against rebels, and Syrians admit that they are ready to use chlorine gas against rebels. Russia insists that the rebels are preparing to use chemical weapons despite available evidence indicating that the Syrian forces are the ones more likely to use chemical weapons.

Accused of treason

A journalist for Pakistan’s newspaper DAWN has been accused of treason for interviewing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif ,who admitted that the 2008 Islamic terror attacks in Mumbai, India, were the work of a Pakistan-based Islamic terrorist group that has long received support and sanctuary by the Pakistani military. The military discourages publishing these sort of things. Treason is a capital offense.

Implacable enemies

While most of the mass media covers the clashes on the Gaza-Israeli border, less attention is paid to what is going on in the rest of the Sinai Peninsula. There, Egypt has persuaded most of the Bedouin tribes to work with the security forces to curb Islamic State activity. As is usually the case, IS arrogance and brutal tactics turned the Bedouin from neutrals, and sometime allies, into implacable enemies. Over 100 Bedouin have been killed by IS since 2016 and that has had an impact.

Maintaining control

To maintain control of the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) calls on another of their “protected” Islamic terror groups: the Haqqani Network. Once a faction in the 1990s Afghan civil war, the Haqqani Network has turned into a criminal gang over the last two decades that also manages terror operations in Afghanistan for ISI. Because of that, Haqqani, at the behest of ISI, also became part of the current Afghan Taliban senior leadership. Most Afghans know all about this and are not happy with how the Pakistani military gets away with it.

Death to everyone

In early October, Iran fired three Zulfiqar ballistic missiles from Western Iran at Islamic State targets in Syria, and the press release noted that each had a name: “Death to Israel,” “Death to America” and “Death to the Saud Family.” The point of these names was to remind everyone that from western Iran, Zulfiqar missiles can hit American bases in Syria, most of which are near the Iraqi border. These missiles can also hit the Saudi capital, although Iran has been trying, unsuccessfully, to do that since 2016. All have been intercepted by Patriot air defense systems.

The F-35

Over the last decade, the increasing costs of the new American F-35 fighter and delays in delivering it have scared off foreign buyers, causing the U.S. DoD to examine how much it really costs to operate current warplanes. Many foreign buyers developed doubts about the cost and effectiveness of the F-35 versus current jet fighters, often F-16s. The F-35A costs more per flight hour to operate, which, in 2013, was 60% more, and today, is 40% more. For European nations with static or shrinking defense budgets and growing demands to help with peacekeeping operations, expensive jet fighters just don’t fit in.

Many news items courtesy of strategypage.com & James Dunnigan. All material ©2019, StrategyWorld, Inc.