Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

BREAKING: Coup in Zimbabwe?

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

So it seems:

Several loud explosions echoed across central Harare in the early hours of Wednesday after troops deployed on the streets of the capital and seized the state broadcaster.

The developments in the Zimbabwe capital fuelled speculation that a coup was under way against president Robert Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to “step in” over the sacking of an influential vice president.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused General Constantine Chiwenga of treason over his comments, after the rare appearance of the military vehicles in Harare.

Armed soldiers were assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, according to the Associated Press, while soldiers were seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.

Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one told a Reuters reporter on Harare Drive.

Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.

This is one of those instances where a coup is likely to improve human rights and democracy. I would say it couldn’t happen to a nicer dictator, but there are a few worse than Robert Mugabe (though less than ten). I know extremely little about Constantine Chiwenga, but he’d have to try really hard not to be better than the oppressive misery Mugabe has inflicted on his own people.

Here’s hoping the coup succeeds and that the people of Zimbabwe become at least slightly less wretched and miserable as a result.

Followup: Islamic State Defeated in Battle for Marawi City

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Here’s news from (mostly) a few weeks ago: Islamic State fighters have been defeated in the Philippines:

The Philippines has declared an end to five months of fighting in southern Marawi City between the armed forces and militants loyal to Islamic State, the country’s defence minister says.

“There are no more militants in Marawi,” Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in Clark during a meeting of regional defence ministers.

The announcement comes as Philippine troops captured a building where pro-Islamic State militants made their final stand, and found dozens bodies of suspected gunmen inside, two security officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to make public the latest developments in Marawi, where government forces have begun a gradual withdrawal as the fighting eased in recent days.

Armed forces chief General Eduardo Ano said at least 42 bodies of rebels had been found in two buildings and a mosque in the battle zone.

Despite the battle being “over,” mop-up operations continued into this week when 11 remaining militants were killed in the harbor area of Marawi City. “More than 900 militants, 165 troops and policemen and 47 civilians were killed in the fighting in Marawi.”

Other good news from that battle: Islamic State leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute (AKA Omarkhayam Maute) were both killed, as was Omar’s brother Abdullah Maute a bit earlier.

From the ABC report:

National police chief Ronald dela Rosa told reporters that there was intelligence that a Malaysian militant, Amin Baco, survived and has assumed leadership of the militants, but military officials said they believe Baco was killed in Sunday’s fighting or in recent weeks, and that troops were searching for his body.

“Contrary to recent pronouncements by some officials that it is now headed by a certain Amin Baco, the Armed Forces of the Philippines strongly believes that the group is now leaderless and without direction,” [Maj. Gen. Restituto] Padilla said.

This probably means that the Maute group is effectively defunct, although Abu Sayyaf, of which Hapilon was the head, appears to still be active in Basilan, a smaller island south of Mindanao.

(Previously.)

What The Hell Is Going On In Saudi Arabia?

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

I’m hardly the most astute of Saudi-watchers, but a tremendous amount of upheaval has wrecked Saudi Arabia in a very short period of time:

  • Dozens of the Saudi royal family have been arrested on corruption charges, presumably for opposing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who seems hellbent on dragging Saudi Arabia into at least the 15th Century. (When he starts arresting or sidelining Whabbist clerics, I’ll start believing that he’s a real reformer.) The Saudi government is sayng that these anti-corruption moves are just a start.
  • In a remarkable coincidence, roughly the same time arrests were being made, a helicopter carrying “Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province,” crashed while he was returning from an inspection tour. Given that Mansour was the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former intelligence chief who was crown prince between January and April 2015, before Mohammed bin Salman’s father King Salman pushed him aside for his own son, the chances that this was a mere coincidence would seem remote.
  • Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan stated that Lebanon has “declared war” against the kingdom, which is more than a little loopy. The tiny kernel of truth here is that Hezbollah is, in fact, part of the current ruling Parliamentary majority in Lebanon, and that Hezbollah is backing Assad and Iran in the Sunni-Shia civil war that’s raging across multiple fronts. This followed the resignation of Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s Saudi-backed prime minister over the weekend.
  • The Saudis are also threatening open war (rather than the current proxy war) with Iran over the Houthi in Yemen firing long range missiles at them. Can’t say as I blame them.
  • So what’s going on? Here’s my half-assed guess:

    The Saudis are getting their asses kicked on two fronts:

    1. They’re slowly losing the proxy war against a newly emboldened Iran, which is breathing much easier thanks to the billions Obama foolishly handed them and the sanctions he lifted not so much for a handful of magic beans, but rather the vague promise that Iran might possibly send him a picture of said magic beans.
    2. Their plan to drive American oil sands frackers out of the market by ruthlessly driving down prices backfired, and now they’re hurting on the oil revenue front as well.

    Because America is the Saudi’s unipolar patron and main weapon supplier, there’s fark all they can do about Problem 2. Either they need to take the war directly Iran, or they need to buy themselves some economic breathing room and hope oil prices rise again.

    My guess is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is about to lay a serious perestroika-style smackdown on the largely hidebound, stagnant Saudi economy, along with just enough glasnost to make the whole thing palatable to the non-royal Saudi masses. If this theory is correct, the “hey, woman can drive” thing was actually a trial balloon designed to smoke out the most fervent traditionalists out of the woodwork so he can sideline them while he puts his plan into action.

    Of course they could very well be bracing for more direction action against Iran as well. There’s a lot more they could do against Iran, including more direct support for the largely-Sunni Kurds.

    The Saudis are not our friends, just the least bad of various options in the region (just imagine theocratic Iran or a revitalized Islamic State in charge of Mecca). It will be a significant improvement if Mohammed bin Salman can merely make them a bit less loathsome.

    Deir Ez-Zor Falls

    Sunday, November 5th, 2017

    The Syrian army just ousted the Islamic State from their last urban stronghold in Syria.

    Syrian government forces have liberated the last remaining Isis stronghold in the country as the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate continues to crumble.

    The Syrian military said it had driven extremist fighters from Deir Ezzor and regained full control of the eastern city on the west bank of the Euphrates following weeks of fighting, state media reported.

    Isis had held most of the city since 2014, except for one large pocket where Syrian army troops and 93,000 civilians were trapped for three years.

    Syrian forces and pro-government allies first broke the militant group’s siege on the city in a Russian-backed offensive in September and have been advancing against Isis positions ever since.

    The recapture of the city, the largest in eastern Syria, leaves Isis militants isolated and encircled in the region’s countryside.

    In a statement issued on Friday through state TV, army spokesman General Ali Mayhoub said the military had “completely” liberated the city and declared it had entered the “last phase” of its fight to annihilate Isis.

    Isis is estimated to have lost 90 per cent of its territory since 2014, including key urban strongholds Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in northern Syria.

    Deir Ezzor was strategically significant to the extremist group due to its location near the Iraqi border and its importance as the capital of the oil-rich province which shares its name.

    The city’s liberation all but reduces Isis’s self-proclaimed caliphate to a pair of border towns on the Iraq-Syria frontier.

    Iraqi forces and allied Shia militia are chasing remnants of the terror group inside the town of al-Qaim, on the Iraqi side of the border.

    Deir ez-Zor, rumored to be the Islamic State’s backup capital after the encirclement of Raqqa, was fully invested by the Syrian Army and Syrian Democratic Forces one month ago.

    And here’s the same territory today:

    (Pictures, as usual, from http://isis.liveuamap.com/.)

    Elsewhere in the war against the Islamic State, Iraqi forces have taken Qaim on the border between Iraq and Syria. That leaves Rawa City, a town of some 20,000 east of Quim in western Anbar province, as the last populated Islamic State stronghold in Iraq. That’s expected to fall soon as well.

    In Abu Kammal, one of the last towns in Syria held by the Islamic State, security checkpoints have been abandoned as both civilians and Islamic State fighters are fleeing the area to due to Russian Air Force bombardment.

    What remains of Islamic State territory after that is largely uninhabited.

    After the falls of Raqqa and Mosul, there may be no true “Last Stand” for the Islamic State, no Fuhrer bunker end for al-Baghdadi, just the rest of the supposed caliphate’s territory melting away as onetime fighters flee into the night and try to melt back into the civilian population. Meanwhile, expect the Islamic State to turn into just another stateless jihadist terror network like al Qaeda, blowing people up across the world but holding no territory, and thus no moral authority upon which to demand the allegiance of Muslims worldwide:

    Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.

    It’s possible that the failure of the Islamic State will take wind out of the sails of Islamic fundamentalism for a generation. This wouldn’t mean an end to Islamic terrorism and attempts to Islamicize the west in general and Europe in particular, only a lessening of it.

    But the fall of the Islamic State’s last remaining territory is still a cause for celebration among the millions once enslaved by its brutal medieval death cult.

    Ted Cruz on North Korea

    Monday, October 23rd, 2017

    Ted Cruz has an editorial about North Korea in Sunday’s New York Times.

    On Oct. 31, the State Department faces a critical decision in our relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Iran-Russia-North Korea sanctions bill enacted in August included legislation I introduced that requires the secretary of state to decide whether to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism within 90 days.

    Look at the accusations against Pyongyang: the unspeakable treatment of Otto Warmbier; the assassination of a member of the Kim family with chemical weapons on foreign soil; collusion with Iran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles; cyberattacks on American film companies; support for Syria’s chemical weapons program; arms sales to Hezbollah and Hamas; and attempts to assassinate dissidents in exile. Given this, the decision should be easy. In fact, Americans could be forgiven for wondering why North Korea is not already designated as a sponsor of terrorism.

    Cruz then reiterates the decades of unsuccessful “engagement” various Presidential administrations have attempted with North Korea, to no avail. He then lays out the reasons that North Korea should be re-added to the list of terrorist nations:

    It is time to acknowledge that North Korea may never be interested in negotiating away its nuclear deterrent. Of course we should continue to leave the door open for serious discussions if the situation changes, but the United States government does our citizens — and the world — a disservice if it continually discounts the centrality of nuclear weapons to the Kim regime.

    They are not a mere insurance policy for survival. They are a means to a more sweeping end: reunification of the Korean Peninsula on Pyongyang’s terms. We must seriously consider the possibility that the North’s current leader, Kim Jong-un, is preparing to use nuclear weapons to drive American forces out of South Korea and coerce Seoul — even at the risk of fighting a limited nuclear war.

    Given this, the United States must approach North Korea with sobriety and urgency. The Trump administration has the opportunity to join both houses of Congress in acknowledging the truth about North Korea and using it to open new opportunities to maximize pressure.

    Among North Korea’s many significant forms of illicit financing are foreign slave labor and money laundering. From Africa to Europe, North Korean diplomats exploit their consular posts to launder money at the expense of international comity. If North Korea is relisted, these nations would face a significant decision: Is continuing diplomatic and economic relations with a state that uses diplomacy and finance to export and foment terrorism in their interest?

    It would pose an even deeper question to the United States: Will we continue our diplomatic overtures to the Kim regime on the flawed assumption that it is interested in a future without nuclear weapons? It is because of America’s bipartisan belief in North Korea’s potential amenity in a political settlement, captured in the 2008 delisting, that North Korea can now marry a miniaturized warhead to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Relisting Pyongyang is the first step toward a strategic vision based on facts rather than aspirations.

    We must tell the truth about the dangerous ambitions of North Korea and once again list it as a state sponsor of terrorism, a move that only strengthens our hand and weakens that of Kim Jong-un. I strongly urge the State Department to relist North Korea, and to meet this challenge with the resolve it has long demanded.

    There’s not a whole lot here that will be new to anyone paying attention, but since a Washington establishment gripped by Trump Derangement Syndrome seems incapable of clear thinking or action on a wide host of issues, including North Korea, maybe we need to remind people that a communist scumbag dictatorship is, in fact, still a communist scumbag dictatorship…

    Happy 111th Birthday to Veteran Richard Overton!

    Saturday, October 21st, 2017

    BattleSwarmBlog would like to wish a happy (belated) 111th birthday to fellow Austinite Richard Overton, who, at the spry age of 111, is America’s oldest living veteran!

    Another point of congratulation: After 70 years in the same house in Austin, he just got air conditioning for the first time…

    Guns, Tyranny and Asymmetrical Warfare

    Thursday, October 19th, 2017

    One Standard Anti-Second Amendment Talking Point is that the Second Amendment is outdated and can’t possibly provide a bulwark against tyranny, because no group of citizens armed merely with legal firearms could possibly stand up to the technological might of the U.S. armed forces. The notion has a certain surface-level plausibility, as a bunch of guys armed only with AR-pattern rifles isn’t going to take out an M1A2 tank in open combat.

    Tiny problem with this argument: recent history shows it’s demonstrably wrong:

    Who exactly do you think has stymied the U.S. in Afghanistan for 16 years? The Taliban is made up of Afghan Bubbas. The Taliban doesn’t need to defeat nuclear weapons, though they are humiliating a nuclear power for the second time in history. They use a mix of Kalashnikovs and WWII-era bolt-action rifles. Determined insurgencies are really difficult to fight, even if they are only armed with Enfield rifles and you can target them with a TOW missiles system that can spot a cat in the dark from two miles away. In Iraq, expensive tanks were destroyed with simple improvised explosives.

    If the U.S. government (and the American people behind them) doesn’t want to use nuclear weapons on foreign fundamentalists in Afghanistan, why does anyone presume they’d use them against Americans in Idaho?

    It is not just our fecklessness. All great powers take into account the moral and manpower costs of implementing their rules and laws on a people. And an armed citizenry, especially if they seem to have a just cause to rally around, will dramatically raise the price of ruling them. The British Empire controlled one quarter of the world’s territory and ruled one quarter of the earth’s population in 1922. In that very year, they were forced to make an effective exit from the main part of their oldest colony, Ireland. Why? Because a determined group of Irish men with guns made the country ungovernable. The British technically could have deployed their entire navy, blockading the restive island, and starving any rebellion into submission. But they were unwilling to pay the moral price, or the price in blood. It was precisely this foreseeable event that had caused the British to ban Irish Catholics from possessing firearms hundreds of years earlier.

    And just as in the 1770s or the 1920s, governments in similar positions today or in the future would have a difficult time maintaining military morale while trying to impose rule on a people who resist it manfully.

    Let’s say that liberals get their wish, put Democrats in control of congress and the White House, and instantly pass Australian-style mandatory gun confiscation laws. If Democrats jump straight to violating the Constitution, the gloves come off. Not only will American gun owners form the largest armed insurgency the world has ever seen, but the “civilized” rules of engagement would no longer apply.

    Let’s let Scott Adams spell it out:

    The way private gun ownership protects citizens is by being a credible threat against all the civilians who might be in any way associated with a hypothetical tyrannical leader who uses the military against citizens. Citizens probably can’t get close to the leaders in such a scenario, but it would take about an hour to round up their families, and the families of supporters.

    That would do it.

    America is unconquerable.

    Imagine the top hundred Democratic Party donors in every state being taken hostage by an American insurgency. Imagine the immediate families of every Democratic U.S. Senator and Governor being taken hostage.

    Beltway snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad had two states and a dozen police departments freaking out in the Beltway Sniper attacks of 2002. Now imagine that times a thousand.

    The problem is compounded even further that those same “bubbas” are exactly the sort of men who make up the bulk of the United States armed forces. Do liberals seriously believe that, come an actual civil war and suspension of the Posse Comitatus Act, troops from Texas, Kansas and Georgia will cheerfully do the bidding of elites from New York and San Francisco to disarm their own fathers and brothers (many ex-military themselves) in deep red states?

    Once again, liberals openly pining for a civil war between red and blue America seem to have overlooked the tiny obstacle that red American is the half with all the guns.

    A well-armed citizenry as large as that in the United States would make Afghanistan and Iraq look like calk walks compared to trying to occupy America. That’s why the Second Amendment remains the ultimate bulwark of American liberty.

    Raqqa Liberated

    Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

    The onetime capital of the short-lived caliphate of the Islamic Republic of Iraq and Syria has been completely liberated by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces:

    A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters says it has taken full control of so-called Islamic State’s one-time “capital” of Raqqa.

    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said the fighting was over after a five-month assault.

    Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines, he added.

    An official statement declaring victory in the city and the end of three years of IS rule is expected to be made soon.

    IS made Raqqa the headquarters of its self-styled “caliphate”, implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and using beheadings, crucifixions and torture to terrorise residents who opposed its rule

    The city also became home to thousands of jihadists from around the world who heeded a call to migrate there by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

    “On Tuesday morning, the SDF cleared the last two major IS positions in Raqqa – the municipal stadium and the National Hospital.”

    Here are a series of maps (captured from Syria.livemap.com) that paint a picture of how the battle unfolded:

    June 9:

    July 12:

    August 13:

    August 25:

    September 5:

    October 8:

    October 14:

    Some additional perspective from Robin Wright in The New Yorker:

    “There are other places for ISIS to go and survive, but there’s something special about Syria and Iraq and the Fertile Crescent,” [Will] McCants, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. “It’s the theatre of prophecy. It’s where the apocalyptic drama unfolds. It’s the heartland of the historic caliphate, and it’s the scene of the final end-of-times drama, as predicted by Islamic scripture. Nowhere else in the Islamic world compares with it.”

    McCants said that the fall of Raqqa, a city that was once home to more than two hundred thousand Syrians but is now mostly destroyed, will weaken the group’s ability to recruit fighters and inspire attacks. “The fight will go on, and ISIS will morph into an insurgency and may try to reëstablish another state, but, for now, it’s a crushing blow,” he said. “ISIS put all its chips on creating a state and taking territory as proof of its divine mandate. Some of its followers now have to have doubts.“

    At its height, the Islamic State was about the size of Indiana, or the country of Jordan, with eight million people under its control. ISIS transformed the world of jihadism by recruiting tens of thousands of followers from five continents—faster, in larger numbers, and from further corners of the Earth than any other modern extremist group. The caliphate was formally declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on June 29, 2014, from a pulpit in the Grand Mosque of Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control. It, too, was liberated, in July, after a gruesome nine-month offensive by Iraqi security forces.

    ISIS still holds bits and pieces of territory in both countries. But it no longer rules. Baghdadi, an Islamic scholar who was detained by the U.S. military in Iraq for almost a year, in 2004, as prisoner number US9IZ-157911CI, has not been sighted in public since the unveiling of his caliphate.

    At a press conference on Tuesday, Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition supporting the campaign against ISIS, said, “Over all, ISIS is losing in every way. We’ve devastated their networks, targeted and eliminated their leaders at all levels. We’ve degraded their ability to finance their operations, cutting oil revenues by ninety per cent. Their flow of foreign recruits has gone from about fifteen hundred fighters a month down to near zero today. ISIS in Iraq and Syria are all but isolated in their quickly shrinking territory.” Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS at the State Department, tweeted that an estimated six thousand fighters had died in the battle for Raqqa.

    There’s talk that the Islamic State’s surviving foreign fighters will relocate to Libya, where a civil war has ranged off and on since Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster/execution (thanks, Obama).

    Now if only the various factions fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can finish it off there rather than turning on each other…

    Raqqa’s Fall: “Hours or Days”

    Saturday, October 14th, 2017

    Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and a deal has been reached to evacuate civilians and Islamic State fighters, but not foreign militants, the U.S-led coalition fighting ISIS said on Saturday.”

    Here’s the Syria LiveMap screencap from October 8:

    And here’s a screencap from today:

    It looks like the already compacted Islamic State pocket in Raqqa has already been reduced by 80% in that time.

    Here’s some video of the most recent push:

    I look forward to putting up the “Raqqa Liberated” post in a day or two…

    Islamic State Update: Hawija Falls, Final Push for Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor Fully Invested

    Monday, October 9th, 2017

    Quick update on the ongoing destruction of the Islamic State.

    First, “Iraqi forces have driven Islamic State fighters from the northern city of Hawija, the militants’ final urban stronghold in Iraq, three years after they seized control of nearly a third of the country, the Iraqi government said Thursday.”

    There’s still lots of fighting along the Euphrates, but the Islamic State doesn’t control any cities outside that region any more.

    Second, the the final offensive against Islamic State holdouts in what remains of their territory in besieged Raqqa just began, with commanders of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces estimating that all of Raqqa will be liberated this week.

    Third, like Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor has been completely cut off from the rest of the Islamic State by both SDF and Assad’s Syrian army. SDF also captured the Islamic State’s Deir ez-Zor headquarters.

    (Pictures, as usual, from http://isis.liveuamap.com/.)

    In western Syria, there are conflicting reports about the remaining Islamic State pocket near Hama there. The Syrian government claims it has destroyed the last elements of the Islamic State there, while the Islamic State claims that it is attacking and gaining ground from the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the rival Islamist group in the Syrian civil war that incorporates former elements of the al-Nusra Front.

    In 2014, the Islamic State took and ruled vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. Now they struggle to hold on to what few cities they still control, and soon will rule over nothing at all.