Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Prototype Laser Weapon Shoots Down Drones

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Lockheed Martin has developed a battlefield laser weapon to shoot down drones. Here’s video of it in action.

Keep in mind all the caveats of corporate-produced weapon test videos (if a test run was a failure, you wouldn’t be seeing that video), and don’t expect these to be deployed in the battlefield anytime soon. But it’s still promising.

Islamic State Near Collapse?

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

That’s what this headline implies. The truth is a little less dramatic: Raqqa is on the edge of full liberation and the Islamic State is in retreat everywhere else.

Static lines of control that held for months in northern Raqqa have collapsed, as seen in this Syria Livemap screen cap:

Compare that to this map from September 5:

Islamic State fighters are running out of territory in Raqqa to defend.

Here’s a video from the battle of Raqqa:

Southeast of Raqqa, Syrian government forces and the SDF are both pushing toward Deir ez-Zor.

SDF also say they have captured Syria’s largest oilfield from the Islamic State near Deir ez-Zor.

Elsewhere in the theater, “Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces have cleared ISIS out of about 50,000 square miles and liberated more than 6 million people who were living under Islamic State occupation.”

Here’s a map of Iraqi forces collapsing the pocket of Islamic State forces to the southwest of Kirkuk that have been cut off from the rest of the Islamic State at least since the investment of Mosul.

Everywhere within it’s supposed caliphate, the Islamic State is in retreat, and nowhere is it counterattacking successfully. But it still holds a lot of territory, and there’s a lot more fighting left before declaring it dead.

Bonus video: Royal Air Force drone stops Islamic State public execution:

LinkSwarm for September 22, 2017

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Welcome to the first LinkSwarm of fall! Between a new job, car trouble, dog trouble and iPhone updates, you’re lucky there’s a LinkSwarm at all!

  • Final total for J.J. Watt’s YouCaring campaign: $37,131,967.
  • Death toll in the Mexico City earthquake hits 273.
  • Mexican rescue dog saves over 50 lives.
  • 100% of Puerto Rico is without power following Hurricane Maria.
  • Obama Administration official Samantha Power asked for over 260 unmaskings of American citizens. “She continued to seek identifying information about Americans caught up in incidental surveillance right up to President Trump’s inauguration.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • And Obama’s FBI Director James Comey was apparently eavesdropping on Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “House IT Worker At Center Of Scandal Allegedly Abused Three Muslim Women.” “Multiple women in relationships with Imran Awan, the indicted former IT aide for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have recently called Virginia law enforcement and alleged being abused by him, police reports obtained under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act show.”
  • President Trump didn’t forget Poland.
  • “The mainstream media failed to see the rise of Donald Trump in 2016. Now it’s overlooking another grassroots movement that may soon be of equal significance— the growing number of liberals “taking the red pill.” People of all ages and ethnicities are posting YouTube videos describing “red pill moments”—personal awakenings that have caused them to reject leftist narratives imbibed since childhood from friends, teachers, and the news and entertainment media.”
  • “Federal Prosecutors Say Anthony Weiner Convinced [15-year old] Teen To Strip, Touch Herself On Skype.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Evergreen State College has settled a tort claim against it from embattled Professor Bret Weinstein and his wife, Professor Heather Heying, for $500,000, according to an email sent to faculty Friday evening.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Article on the decline of NFL ratings offers and explanation in the comments section: “One after another, cogent, thoughtful comments clearly stating the exact reason that life long NFL fans have turned off the TV, dropped their cable subscription, and moved on.” Sample: “There will be no NFL at my house until the employment of players that disrespect our flag and anthem is terminated.”
  • More signs of NFL’s decline in popularity: Los Angeles Rams can’ even sell out their temporary stadium. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Flashback: Ted Kennedy, drunken serial sexual molester.
  • Wisconsin appeals court dismisses union lawsuit against right-to-work law.
  • Armed citizen stops would-be rapist near downtown Austin. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • “Scientists create world’s first ‘molecular robot’ capable of building molecules.” No indication these 150-atom “robots” can contain programming or self-replicate, so we’re still a long way from K. Eric Drexler’s nanotechnology…
  • Valerie Plame steps in it:

  • Possible Conflict Between Assad/Russia and SDF/U.S. Brewing?

    Saturday, September 16th, 2017

    Remember how a month ago how almost all the different Syrian factions were concentrating on crushing the last remnants of the Islamic State?

    Good times, good times.

    Well the good times may be over, as Russian and Syrian forces launched an airstrike against the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces northeast of Deir ez-Zor.

    Both are converging on Deir ez-Zor, thought to be the de facto capital of what’s left of the Islamic State. SDF also wants to keep Assad’s forces on the western side of the Euphrates.

    Here’s the situation from Syria Livemap:

    It would be nice if both sides could finish dismantling the Islamic State before launching the next war…

    LinkSwarm for September 8, 2017

    Friday, September 8th, 2017

    It would be swell if I could stop leading the LinkSwarm off with hurricane-related news, but Irma is now a class five hurricane headed straight at Florida. If you’re in any evacuation zones, heed authorities, as this does not look like a storm you want to ride out in place unless you have to. Hsoi’s preparedness checklist is also a good thing to go over earlier rather than later.

  • One reason President Donald Trump had to act on DACA: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other states were threatening to sue to end Obama unconstitutional backdoor amnesty program.
  • “¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Obama lawyer who worked on DACA admits it’s probably unconstitutional.” And yes, the ASCII Shrugging Emoji is actually in the headline, so it just wouldn’t have felt honest to leave it out…
  • “Trump’s Crackdown on Illegal Aliens is Driving Wage-Growth in US Construction Industry by up to 30%.” In other news: Basic economics have not been repealed by liberal talking points. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Congress passes hurricane relief bill and debt ceiling hike. Both John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted in favor of the bill. I haven’t read the bill, but I’m hoping it’s less stuffed with pork than the Sandy bill.
  • J.J. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey flood relief fundraiser hits $29 million.
  • What it takes to keep HEB stores up and running after a hurricane.

    One of my stores, we had 300 employees; 140 of them were displaced by the flooding. So how do you put your store back together quickly? We asked for volunteers in the rest of the company. We brought over 2,000 partners from Austin, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley. They hopped into cars and they just drove to Houston. They said, we’re here to help. It’s shitty work. For 18 hours a day, they’re going to help us restock and then they’ll go sleep on the couch at somebody’s house.

  • The bribery trial for New jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez gets under way.
  • “It Appears That Out-of-State Voters Changed the Outcome of the New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Why Israel had to bomb Syria’s chemical weapons complex. For one thing, it looks like Iran, Assad and Hezbollah will all emerge strengthened from the Syrian civil war…
  • Speaking of Iran, they’re amassing new weaponry. “While all eyes are on North Korea, Iran is advancing its weapons technology. The country recently tested and announced the success of their new Bavar 373 long range, mobile, anti-missile defense system. Everything in the system is manufactured in Iran; it requires no support from outside sources.” However, since Iran has (to my knowledge) no wafer fabrication plants to produce integrated circuits, this statement is almost certainly false, at least as far as electronics goes. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • “Bulgaria is projected to have the fastest-shrinking population in the world.” I suspect this is a combination of communism (and its aftermath) sucking, of it wrecking disproportionately more damage on backward, mostly rural countries, and of the general trend in Europe toward a modern, unchurched, welfare state society, with its attendant population decline.
  • Betty DeVos vows to dismantle the Obama-era campus kangaroo rape courts. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Twitter Bans Activist Mommy for Tweeting Her Dislike of Teen Vogue’s Anal Sex Guide.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • This is disappointing.
  • Texans handled Harvey better than Louisianans handled Katrina because both their governments and societies are more functional.
  • Another day, another fake hate crime. (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • The American Railway union was founded on segregation. “George Pullman famously hired African Americans to work for him. Eugene Debs infamously did not allow African Americans to join his union striking against Pullman’s company.”
  • Al Gore’s new book being outsold by scientist’s book debunking Al Gore.
  • I laughed.
  • Israeli Strike On Syrian Chemical Weapons Facility Confirmed

    Thursday, September 7th, 2017

    Looks like we have confirmation of Israel’s strike on the Masyaf chemical weapons facility:

    The Syrian army says Israeli jets have attacked a site in the west of the country where Western powers suspect chemical weapons are being produced.

    An army statement says rockets fired from Lebanese airspace hit a military post near Masyaf, killing two soldiers.

    A monitoring group says they struck a scientific research centre and base storing surface-to-surface missiles.

    Israel, which has carried out clandestine attacks on weapons sites in Syria before, has not commented.

    The attack comes a day after UN human rights investigators said they had concluded a Syrian Air Force jet had dropped a bomb containing the nerve agent Sarin on a rebel-held town in April, killing at least 83 people.

    Funny how Israel is far more willing to enforce Obama’s chemical weapons “redline” in Syria than Obama ever was…

    Did Israel Just Bomb a Syrian Chemical Weapons Plant?

    Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

    Seeing assertions of an Israeli strike on a Syrian chemical weapons plant in Masyaf, Hama this from random people on Twitter:

    Not seeing any confirmation from news outlets yet.

    Developing…

    Update: Yes they did.

    Islamic State War Update: Deir ez-Zor Relieved, Raqqa Crumbling, Tal Afar Captured

    Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

    Before we turn our attention to North Korea, there’s still the war against the Islamic State to be won. And there’s lots of significant news there.

    First, Syrian government forces have just relieved the Islamic State’s three year siege of Deir ez-Zor (AKA Deir el-Zour):

    Syrian government forces and their allies reached the eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Tuesday, ending a nearly 3-year-old ISIS siege on government-held land near the Iraqi border, Syrian state TV reported.

    State TV said troops advancing from the west reached the outskirts of the city and broke the siege after ISIS defenses “collapsed.”

    Breaking the siege, which has been divided between an ISIS and a government-held part since January 2015, marks another victory for President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been advancing on several fronts against ISIS and other insurgent groups over the past year.

    Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have taken the old city of Raqqa:

    U.S.-backed forces in Syria have captured the Old City of Raqqa, the latest milestone in their ongoing assault against the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State’s rapidly shrinking territories, according to a U.S. military statement on Monday.

    Kurdish and Arab fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces secured the neighborhood over the weekend after vanquishing a last pocket of resistance in the city’s historic Great Mosque, the statement said.

    The capture followed a grinding two-month battle for the neighborhood that has proved the toughest challenge yet of a three-month-old offensive for Raqqa, launched in June and still far from over.

    Unlike in Mosul, the Old City does not lie at the heart of Raqqa and its seizure does not signify an imminent end to the fighting, said a U.S. military spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon.

    The SDF now controls about 60 percent of Raqqa, said Dillon, who would not put a timeline on how long it would take to claim the rest but predicted that weeks of fighting lie ahead.

    Here are some maps (captured from Syria.livemap.com) that paint a picture of how the battle unfolded over the last few months.

    June 9:

    July 12:

    August 13:

    August 25:

    September 5:

    For an idea of what it’s like in Raqqa right now, this piece, originally publishing in the Wall Street Journal over a week ago, provides a pretty vivid account:

    Before launching the battle to capture Islamic State’s de facto capital, the U.S.-led military coalition dropped leaflets calling on extremists to surrender. On the ground, militants were going door to door, demanding that residents pay their utility bills.

    Islamic State, long bent on expanding its religious empire with shocking brutality in the form of public executions, crucifixions and whippings, is desperately focused on its own survival.

    Raqqa has been a crucial part of the terror group’s self-declared caliphate. Until a few months ago, public squares were lined with decomposing bodies of those who had run afoul of Islamic State’s religious rules or bureaucracy.

    Instead of ruthlessly enforcing no-smoking decrees and dress codes, though, militants now are doing whatever they can to hold on to areas still controlled by the group—and revenue needed to help keep Islamic State afloat financially.

    They are so preoccupied that some women in Raqqa dare to uncover their faces in public. A few men defiantly smoke in the streets and shave their beards, current and former residents say.

    When the call to prayer sounds from mosques, some residents no longer bother to go. Islamic State used to force shops to close and people to pray.

    Women accused of violating Islamic State’s strict dress code were once whipped. In May, though, militants released two women unharmed after they were forced to buy new robes and all-covering face veils sold by Islamic State’s religious police for 10,000 Syrian pounds each, or a total of about $40, says Dalaal Muhammad, a sister and aunt of the women.

    Ms. Muhammad, 37 years old, says her sister had to beg a family member to borrow the $40 from friends.

    “They didn’t even have enough to buy bread,” she said at a camp for displaced Syrians, wearing sandals held together by twine. “They just wanted to get the money quickly because we were running out of time” to flee Raqqa.

    An estimated 25,000 civilians remain trapped in Raqqa under Islamic State control, according to the United Nations, and more than 230,000 people have fled Raqqa and its suburbs since early April. On Thursday, the U.N. called for a pause in the assault so civilians can escape.

    Fighters for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is leading the assault to oust Islamic State from Raqqa, say on some days they have helped dozens of civilians reach safety. Other days, no one makes it out. Militants execute smugglers helping civilians flee and those accused of collaborating with the U.S.-led coalition.

    The Pentagon has estimated there are fewer than 2,500 Islamic State militants left in the city, down from about 4,500.

    Militants spent months girding for the long-anticipated assault before it began in June. They dug extensive tunnels beneath streets and homes, set up snipers’ nests and planted improvised explosive devices everywhere to stop people from fleeing.

    “They wanted us as human shields,” says Obaida Matraan, 33 years old, a taxi driver who escaped with his family one night just before the battle began. They carried a piece of white fabric to wave as they approached the SDF.

    Before the escape, he saw on public display the bodies of executed men with signs that said “smuggler” as “a warning to others,” recalls Mr. Matraan.

    In early 2014, Raqqa was the first city in Syria or Iraq to fall under Islamic State’s complete control. The group has lost about 60% of the territory it held in January 2015, including its former Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, according to analysts at IHS Markit Ltd.’s Conflict Monitor.

    Even as the self-declared caliphate crumbles, Islamic State has continued to claim responsibility for deadly terror attacks around the world, including in Spain last week, in a bid to project power.

    The SDF has encircled Raqqa and says it has seized more than half the area of the city. But militants are capable of striking behind the coalition’s front lines and are scrambling to hoard the little food and water left in areas they control. Much of Raqqa remains a battlefield.

    The ground advance by the SDF has been aided by coalition airstrikes. At least 465 civilians have likely been killed in those airstrikes since the battle began, independent monitoring group Airwars reported.

    The U.S.-led coalition said it investigates civilian casualties. Monthly reports released by the coalition show far lower estimates of civilian casualties.

    Syrian activist groups estimate that at least dozens more civilians were killed during the past week. Civilians still in Raqqa say the airstrikes seem indiscriminate and kill more civilians than militants, who hide out in tunnels.

    At the height of Islamic State’s control, life in Raqqa and elsewhere in the group’s territory was dictated by so many laws on everyday life that residents struggled to keep track of them.

    Banned items ranged from men’s skinny jeans (too Western and provocative) to canned mushrooms (made with preservatives) to bologna (because the group said it contained pork).

    Enforcement slackened as the Syrian Democratic Forces advanced toward Raqqa through the Syrian countryside and eventually surrounded the city, according to residents who fled recently.

    Checkpoints thinned out as Islamic State leaders and many militant fighters abandoned the city and headed to the eastern province of Deir Ezzour, residents said. The group still holds much territory in the oil-rich region and is expected to make its last stand there.

    People who have left Raqqa say militants suddenly seemed to care much more about money than morals. Islamic State’s revenue—from oil production and smuggling, taxation and confiscation, and kidnapping ransoms—is down 80% in the past two years, IHS Conflict Monitor estimates.

    For months, Islamic State ordered businesses and residents to use only the caliphate’s own currency of gold and silver coins, current and former residents said. The move forced people to trade in their U.S. dollars and Syrian pounds to Islamic State, which wanted those currencies as its territory shrinks.

    Mr. Matraan, the taxi driver, says Islamic State made him pay $30 for water, electricity and a landline telephone bill just weeks before his family fled.

    “They would go to people’s homes and demand payment,” said Mr. Matraan, who wore a San Jose Sharks cap under the searing sun at a camp for displaced Syrians in Ain Issa, a city north of Raqqa. “In the end, their main concern was money.”

    Abdulmajeed Omar, 27, says militants began fining those caught violating Islamic State’s smoking ban, rather than jailing or whipping them. Being caught with a pack of cigarettes brought a $25 fine. The fine for a carton of cigarettes was $150.

    “They didn’t bother with poor people,” says Mr. Omar, who fled Raqqa before the battle and returned with the Kurdish YPG militia to fight Islamic State.

    Before Ms. Muhammad fled the city, militants spent a month digging a tunnel underneath her home in the eastern neighborhood of al-Mashlab, she said. Like many of her neighbors, Ms. Muhammad was afraid to ask them what they were doing.

    Inside one house in al-Mashlab, which has since been captured by SDF forces, a tunnel opening cut through the living-room floor. The fighters filled the hole with broken furniture because they weren’t sure where the tunnel led.

    “We are suffering from snipers and tunnels,” said Dirghash, a Kurdish YPG commander on the city’s eastern front line who wouldn’t give his last name. “The tunnels are all in civilian homes, and we suddenly find [Islamic State militants] popping up behind us.”

    On the western side of Raqqa, a warning painted in silver on the metal shutters of a motorcycle shop simply read: “There are mines.”

    In captured neighborhoods, the walls already are covered with new graffiti by the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia that is the dominant group in the Syrian Defense Forces. Every conquering force that has swept through Raqqa since the Syrian conflict began more than six years ago has left its mark with cans of paint.

    The Islamic State has also reportedly been driven from Uqayribat, its last stronghold in Hama Governorate in central Syria. What little territory they still hold there is completely cut off from the rest of the Islamic State by Syrian government forces.

    Assuming both Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa both fall this month, the Islamic State is left with very little viable territory in Syria, mainly a populated strip along the Euphrates from Al Busayrah to Abu Kamal on the Iraqi border, which is some 63 miles or so.

    In Iraq, U.S.-supported forces also continue to make gains against the Islamic state, including the liberation of Tal Afar at the end of August. “The Iraqi forces killed over 2,000 Islamic State (IS) militants and more than 50 suicide bombers during a major offensive to free Tal Afar area in west of Mosul, officials said.” The operation is described as a “blitzkrieg” rather than the grinding urban warfare that characterized the Battle of Mosul.

    Finally, the anti-Islamic State coalition received a new commander today: Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of III Armored Corps stationed at Ft Hood, assumed command of coalition forces, relieving Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who took over in August 2016. The timing suggests a regular duty/force rotation than any change in policy.

    To quote Funk: “ISIS is on the run.”

    “The War George W. Bush Had Won, Barack Obama Had Lost”

    Sunday, August 20th, 2017

    This video is an antidote to the widespread revisionism that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a debacle from beginning to end and that George W. Bush was responsible for the rise of the Islamic State. One can question the wisdom of many decisions involved in the conduct of the that war, but the fact is that The Surge had largely succeeded in pacifying Iraq and that the country was functioning quite well by the very lose standards of the Middle East before Barack Obama withdrew American troops, facilitating the rise of the Islamic State.

    (Hat tip: Legal Insurrection.)

    Battle of Raqqa Grinds On

    Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

    News from the Battle of Raqqa is hard to come by.

    U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have reportedly linked up to completely surround Islamic State forces. The Islamic State had already been surrounded on land, but their access to a small stretch of the Euphrates allowed some passage of fighters and supplies. That’s now gone.

    Here’s another Livemap screen cap:

    Compare that with this screen cap a month ago:

    It’s obvious that the SDF have taken more of south and southwestern Raqqa.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic State itself is making claims of a successful counter-offensive…that seemed to consist of four car bombs.

    Here’s an interview that suggests that conditions for remaining residents of Islamic State-held Raqqa are desperate, which is exactly what you would expect of modern urban warfare in a besieged city.

    The battle is an urban street fight where IS relies on snipers and traps [IEDs]. From what I’ve been able to gather, Islamic State numbers do not exceed 400 fighters.

    The SDF is slowly advancing with air support from the coalition.

    It’s clear that IS has no intention of giving up easily.

    That 400 fighters would be encouraging, if true, but it’s probably too low. Yesterday’s fighting reportedly killed 95 Islamic State fighters, which would suggest they’re quickly running out of fighters, but given the lack of a sudden collapse in Islamic State resistance, this seems unlikely.

    Indeed, Syrian Kurdish commander Haval Gabar says that the capture of Raqqa could take up to four months:

    “We’ve cleared about half of Old Raqqa … and we’re advancing on all axes,” said Haval Gabar, the 25-year-old commander from the Kurdish YPG militia who is directing the assault on the Old City front in Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold.

    Units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the YPG, fully linked up in Raqqa’s southern districts on Tuesday, encircling the militants in the city center which includes the Old City.

    “The day before yesterday there was still a small gap,” Gabar said on Wednesday. “Yesterday it was closed. We are now pressing towards Mansour and Rashid districts.”

    If you wonder why those northern battle lines seem static, it’s evidently because they’re heavily mined.

    Gabar said that despite resistance, several hundred militants had surrendered themselves, and estimates not more than 1,000 are left. He believes their morale “is zero”.

    “Maybe 600 Daesh have surrendered. It’s mostly foreign fighters left in the city now. Those with families tend to be the ones to hand themselves over.”

    Gabar said that Chechen snipers were especially deadly.

    Supposedly even the Russians are helping out:

    After a sweeping Syrian military advance to the edge of the besieged Isis “capital” of Raqqa, the Russians, the Syrian army and Kurds of the YPG militia – theoretically allied to the US – have set up a secret “coordination” centre in the desert of eastern Syria to prevent “mistakes” between the Russian-backed and American-supported forces now facing each other across the Euphrates river.

    That piece is by Robert Fisk, who says he thinks the Syrian army will be heading toward Deir ez-Zor, where Syrian army units have been besieged by the Islamic State since 2014. But keep in mind this is the man for whom the word “Fisking” was coined, so add as many grains of salt as you see fit…