What caused the earthquake felt near Baltimore last week? Researchers said the earthquake last week is very important to helping them understand the Earth. The 2011 earthquake in Virginia, which caused significant damage in Baltimore and felt as far away as New York, was a magnitude 5.8, about 30,000 times bigger than the 2.6 magnitude in Baltimore County on Friday.
Diana Stancy CorrellSep 10, 12:44 AM
As Russia and China bolster their own submarine fleets and capabilities, the U.S. Navy has renewed its focus on undersea threats and has labeled anti-submarine warfare a priority for all sailors — and perhaps some Marines, too.
In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to acquire two nuclear submarines equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles, and two diesel-powered submarines. And China, which owns four ballistic missile submarines, boasts a force of 50 diesel-electric attack submarines, the Nuclear Threat Initiative reported in February.
To counter these threats, the Navy reactivated its 2nd Fleet in 2018 to focus on threats from Russia — including those under the ocean — and more recently it has held exercises to improve its ability to fight enemy submarines.
“This is where the fight is … where the competition is,” retired Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, then the commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet, told reporters in September 2020.
“Anti-submarine warfare is a primary mission for everybody in the United States Navy, regardless of what you wear on your chest,” Lewis said.
In recent years, Navy leaders have cautioned about increased Russian undersea activity in the Atlantic Ocean, and have warned that the continental United States is no longer a sanctuarysafe from such threats.
“Over the past several years, we’ve realized that there is a persistent proximate threat in the western Atlantic, primarily from Russian Federation Navy Forces, that has drawn a lot more attention due to the challenges that poses to our homeland defense,” Rear Adm. Brian Davies, commanding officer of Submarine Group 2 and deputy commander of the 2nd Fleet, told Navy Times.
“Specifically, Russian submarines now have advanced cruise missiles that have the range and accuracy to strike military and civilian targets throughout the U.S. and Canada and as a result, we put a lot more focus in the area of theater undersea warfare,” Davies said.
Although the Russian submarine fleet is dramatically smaller than it was at the height of the Cold War, it still has 11 ballistic missile submarines and 17 nuclear-powered attack submarines, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative. These ballistic missile submarines are capable and technologically on par — at least in some ways — with the U.S. submarine fleet, said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
“You’ve got this numbers challenge from the China side, the capability challenge from the Russian side, which in some ways demands different approaches to anti-submarine warfare, but it creates for both cases a big problem,” Clark said.
Bryan McGrath, a former destroyer captain who runs the FerryBridge Group, a defense consulting firm, noted that while the Chinese fleet is not as technologically advanced nor as capable as the Russian fleet, they do have a “ridiculously capable shipbuilding base” that’s churning out submarines.
The undersea threat has become critical now, given the investment Russia and China have made into expanding their submarine forces, McGrath said.
“Bottom line for why now is that both of our major competitors are putting money, resources and technology into this domain,” McGrath said.
Why the Navy re-established the 2nd Fleet
When the U.S. 2nd Fleet was dissolved in 2011 amid the war on terror, undersea warfare was put on the backburner. But the command was resurrected in 2018in response to greater levels of Russian activity in the North Atlantic and Arctic, including undersea.
For the same reason, NATO’s Joint Force Command Norfolk was stood up and the command reached full operational capability in July 2021. According to Lewis, who was also the commanding officer of JFC Norfolk, the command “creates a link between North America and Europe and helps to further develop the desired 360-degree approach for our collective defense and security.”
It is the only operational NATO command on the North American continent, and has air, surface and subsurface capabilities.
The Navy also revived Submarine Group 2 in September 2019 to streamline the Navy’s ability to command and control undersea warfare assets in the Western Atlantic.
Similar to combatant commands, the Navy has theater undersea warfare commanders in Naples, Italy, working with the 6th Fleet, and a theater undersea warfare commander in Yokosuka, Japan, working with 5th Fleet and 7th Fleet. Still another in Pearl Harbor works primarily with the 3rd Fleet. But that same structure was absent for 2nd and 4th Fleet, Davies said.
“We really didn’t have a theater undersea warfare commander that was dedicated to a fleet on this side of the Atlantic serving, basically, NORTHCOM and U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and that made it a natural fill in,” Davies said, referring to SUBGRU2.
The command will soon celebrate its second anniversary, and recently became the organization responsible for training and certifying the other theater undersea warfare commanders to ensure they are fully trained, have all the necessary equipment they need and have the appropriate personnel.
“The command, although not in final operating capability yet, is getting closer every day as we get to train and exercise like we would one day fight,” Davies said.
The Navy had the opportunity to do just that while honing its undersea warfare skills in a new exercise called Black Widow — which just wrapped up its second iteration in August. The exercise aimed to explore new tactics, techniques and procedures, and refine existing ones, Davies said.
Specifically, the exercise relied on a mixture of scripted scenarios, coupled with cutting edge technologies and existing force structure technology that will be used for the next decade, Davies said.
While many of the concepts tested were classified, Davies said “our tactics, techniques and procedures really centered on finding an undersea threat that was very adept at using the environment and the topography to their advantage.”
The Undersea Warfighting Development Center in Groton, Connecticut, is responsible for establishing the exercise’s objectives, and will then use the data collected from Black Widow to provide an assessment of the exercise.
Those results will then be shared with the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center and the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, he said.
“One of the things that the Navy can continue to work on is looking for every available opportunity to train together as this system of systems or team of teams, however you want to refer to it,” Davies said.
“When we have available bandwidth, we ought to be continuing to scratch and claw for every opportunity to get out there and work together in advancing this art of undersea warfare,” Davies said.
Will the Marine Corps get involved in anti-submarine warfare?
Although the U.S. Navy has historically been the service primarily responsible for anti-submarine warfare, that could change since the Marine Corps wants to become involved.
Commandant Gen. David Berger said in November it’s imperative for the Marine Corps to step in and suggested the service could provide logistics support and air defense as ways to counter the undersea threat.
“The undersea fight will be so critical in the High North and in the western Pacific that the Marine Corps must be part of it,” Berger wrote in a U.S. Naval Institute article from November 2020.
Specifically, Berger proposed that the Marine Corps deploy to bases in the Atlantic’s North Sea or the South China Sea to restrict the movement of Russian or Chinese submarines in the event of undersea war.
“By offering forward logistics and support, as well as sensor and strike capabilities, Marine expeditionary advanced bases (EABs) could make a significant contribution to undersea warfare campaigns, including holding Chinese and Russian submarines at risk,” Berger said.
These EABs could also house Navy P-8A Poseidons and MH-60R Seahawks, and the Marine Corps could offer air-defense and logistical support for these aircraft, Berger said.
Another role the Marine Corps could assume is operating unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with anti-submarine warfare sensors and sonobuoys, and then “deploy and operate passive and active acoustic arrays in adjacent littoral waters,” Berger said.
“In the event of hostilities, when cued by these organic sensors or other joint ISR capabilities, EABs could harass and potentially neutralize Russian submarines with ground-launched ASW missiles or light torpedoes from Marine aircraft,” Berger said.
McGrath agreed there’s benefit in having Marine EABs equipped with a series of launchers with land-attack weapons, along with weapons that could sink ships and take down ballistic missiles, as part of a larger architecture within the joint force.
But McGrath has reservations about the Marine Corps becoming too involved in undersea warfare, given the cost of purchasing anti-submarine warfare platforms like P-8 Poseidons and Virginia-class submarines.
“Anti-submarine warfare is a science and an art and it’s difficult, and it is a mission that pretty much only the United States Navy does within the Joint Force,” McGrath said.
“There’s a lot of money that goes into that, and I want the Marine Corps busy doing Marine Corps things,” McGrath said. “And I don’t think finding submarines is among them.”
Clark believes the Navy first must get down to business incorporating unmanned systems before the Marine Corps jumps in to tackle anti-submarine warfare.
“The Navy’s going to have to first work through the use of unmanned systems to a greater degree, because the Marines aren’t going to be doing anti-submarine warfare unless they’re able to tap into what unmanned systems are going to be doing for the sensing,” Clark said.
The role of unmanned vehicles
Experts believe one solution to modernize anti-submarine warfare is to use autonomous systems to track, trail and potentially engage enemy submarines to neutralize the threat, which would then free up other resources like destroyers for other tasks and cut down on operating costs.
“The unmanned systems give you this ability to do persistent anti-submarine warfare, at a lower cost in peacetime than your manned systems,” Clark said.
According to a report from the Hudson Institute issued in September 2020, the U.S. Navy’s anti-submarine warfare approach likely can’t contend with undersea threats in the event of a conflict or crisis.
The report detailed how the Navy currently relies on a complex web for anti-submarine warfare involving seabed sensors, maritime patrol aircraft, destroyers and ultimately, submarines. But that approach could become challenging in the event these manned platforms are required elsewhere — such as in a time of crisis, the report said.
This strategy could also run into problems if enemy submarines were to overwhelm an area. In addition, the cost of operating systems such as a destroyer and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft could become too expensive if there’s a persistent need during periods of flat or declining budgets, the report says.
For example, Clark said it is cheaper to purchase a medium unmanned surface vessel than a destroyer, and then use the unmanned vessel either infrequently or not at all. However, in the event of a conflict, that medium unmanned surface vessel could be deployed while destroyers are conducting other engagements not related to anti-submarine warfare, he said.
“ASW is really a lot of searching around and following and chasing submarines,” Clark said. “It’s not like air defense where it happens very quickly, and so it’s more like just a long-term surveillance mission. So, in peacetime, it is a lot of just waiting around for a submarine to come by, detecting the submarine, and then following the submarine.”
The report called for using unmanned systems, including medium unmanned surface vessels and medium-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles like the MQ-9B SeaGuardian, but noted that not all of the systems it cited are employed operationally yet. As a result, the report suggests that this unmanned approach could occur over the next five to 10 years to allow such systems to mature.
The Navy has focused on developing drones that could participate in anti-submarine warfare, and has started to test out unmanned systems that could be used in tracking submarines.
In November 2020, during the development process for the MQ-9B SeaGuardian drone, the Navy and General Atomics deployed 10 sonobuoys from an MQ-9A Block V Reaper and tracked a simulated submarine target.
Never before had an aerial drone dropped a self-contained anti-submarine warfare system. The testing “paves the way” for additional development of more anti-submarine warfare capabilities from MQ-9s, according to General Atomics.
What’s next for the Navy?
Safe havens don’t exist anymore, and that means the Navy must be poised to carry out combat near its home turf, according to Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, the head of Submarine Force Atlantic.
“Russia took a knee for over a decade and allowed a lot of folks to think the homeland is a sanctuary from Russian forces,” Caudle told reporters in September 2020. “Our homeland is no longer a sanctuary. We have to be prepared to conduct high-end combat operations in local waters.”
If faced with a crisis or outright hostilities, Clark envisions Russia capitalizing on its submarine force, including threatening the continental United States or heading toward Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia to harass U.S. ballistic missile submarines trying to get in or out of port.
Meanwhile, the Chinese’s large submarine fleet would likely try to “flood the zone” to overwhelm U.S. undersea warfare assets, threaten U.S. Naval forces with attack, or try to blockade Guam or Taiwan, he said.
“For the U.S., going against the Chinese, the goal is just keep them away from ships,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter if they continue to operate or not, as long as they stay away from the ships.”
“Whereas with the Russians, there may be a need to actually sink those submarines because they will — once they get towards the East Coast — they’re going to be a constant threat,” Clark said.
McGrath is worried that the type of equipment to deal with these potential threats won’t receive adequate support in future budgets. The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal 2022 includes a request for two Virginia-class attack submarines with a topline budget of $211.7 billion — an overall increase of $3.8 billion from what was enacted in FY2021.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday has emphasized that the service can afford a fleet of approximately 300 ships, but has said that the request aligns with the U.S. Navy’s future fleet design plans.
“My fear is that the expense associated with building the Navy that seriously contends with these threats will not receive the attention it deserves, in and among all of the other priorities that our nation seems to have,” McGrath said.
For the future, McGrath suggested the U.S. build unmanned acoustic sensors, both for undersea and surface vessels, and for the Navy to acquire more P-8 Poseidon aircraft and attack submarines. That’s what “we do better than anyone else in the world is attack submarines,” he said.
“That advantage is something that I think we need to never forget, we need to continue to invest in, and we need to double down on.”
CNN NewsourceSeptember 9, 2021
CNN – Regional
By Security Television Network, Author: by Peter Huessy, Warrior Maven Senior Fellow & James Howe, VP of Vision Centric, Warrior Maven
September 9, 2021 (Security Television Network) — Six decades ago, the US built 800 silos and fielded 800 ICBMs in 4 years. China can match the historical US construction pace and probably has no interest in arms control.
Peter Huessy is Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies
James Howe is Vice President of Vision Centric an aerospace company
In February 2021 an ICBM field of 120 silos was discovered near Yumen, China. One month later, in March 2021 a second ICBM field was identified near Hami with 110 silo. And in Mid-May 2021 a third site with 29 silos was identified.
According to the STRATCOM Commander, China’s major ICBM silo building was a “strategic breakout” and “breath-taking”, giving China the ability to “execute any plausible nuclear strategy it wishes to pursue”.
China’s decision to build these new silos fields coincided with increased nuclear testing at the Lop Nur nuclear test site in 2019 for the DF-41 warhead, after Chinese President Xi Jinping called for accelerating the Peoples Liberation Army Rocket Force strategic deterrence capability.
China’s Silo Construction & ICBM Deployment The key question is how quickly China can build these new silos and deploy ICBMs in them. For reference, the history of US silo construction and Minuteman missile (MM) deployments can give analysts some important reference data.
In March 1961 construction started and the first MM went on alert the day President Kennedy announced the Soviets had placed nuclear armed missiles in Cuba. By October 1983, 300 silos and missiles were completed. And in roughly 4 years, the US constructed and deployed in silos some 800 MM missiles and by April 1967 one thousand MM missiles were on alert.
American construction crews worked 24/7, 3 shift/day and were capable of digging five silo emplacements simultaneously, with each taking 4-10 days. At peak construction operations 1.8 silos/day were being built.
The MM missile itself was authorized for production on 26 March 1960, with the first successful launch on 17 November 1961 and first deployed MM on alert in October 1962. Average MM production rate was 130-160 missiles/year, filling the silos as they were completed. Six decades ago, the US built 800 silos and fielded 800 ICBMs in 4 years. Given China’s advanced construction techniques, China can at least match the historical US construction pace. The US built 300 silos in 2 years—and the Chinese have more than 300 silos under construction.
In March 1961 construction started and the first MM went on alert the day President Kennedy announced the Soviets had placed nuclear armed missiles in Cuba. By October 1983, 300 silos and missiles were completed. And in roughly 4 years, the US constructed and deployed in silos some 800 MM missiles and by April 1967 one thousand MM missiles were on alert.
American construction crews worked 24/7, 3 shift/day and were capable of digging five silo emplacements simultaneously, with each taking 4-10 days. At peak construction operations 1.8 silos/day were built.
The MM missile itself was authorized for production on 26 March 1960, with the first successful launch on 17 November 1961 and first deployed MM on alert in October 1962. Average MM production rate was 130-160 missiles/year, filling the silos as they were completed.
Six decades ago, the US built 800 silos and fielded 800 ICBMs in 4 years. Given China’s advanced construction techniques, China can at least match the historical US construction pace. The US built 300 silos in 2 years—and the Chinese have more than 300 silos under construction. China’s Nuclear ICBM Silos – Shell Game?
The ICBM silo fields that China is building is not a shell game with lots of silos and just a few missiles. Modern intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance prevents that.
Furthermore, such a shell game as contemplated by the US some 50 years ago was jettisoned as it is prohibitively expensive and not workable. And if as some analysts have alleged, China is building up to parity with the US and Russia in order to join a three-way future arms agreement, a shell game is hugely disadvantageous. Each silos under the START arms deals counts as a missile, irrespective of whether a missile is a decoy or real. It is claimed that silos are “sitting ducks” and can easily be killed. However, with a combination of active and passive defenses, ICBMs are very difficult and costly to target as they can require a large number of enemy warheads to kill them.
For example, Russia which is cooperating with China on many military activities, is deploying a layered defense of their fixed ICBM silos and road mobile ICBMs against ballistic and cruise missiles with the Pantsir, SA-300/400 air defense and the soon to be deployed S-500 anti-ballistic missile system.
Russia also has silo terminal defenses which can throw-up a mass of shrapnel to shred an incoming warhead as well as electronic warfare systems to cause the fuze in an enemy RV to detonate early, above the lethal range.
In addition, passive defenses can include not only camouflage and concealment for mobile ICBM’s and fixed silos but for silos the use of ultra-hard concrete. The US Dense Pack sub-scale prototype silo system was tested at 50,000 psi and survived. China also has the necessary command and control to enable ICBM launch policies/strategies if they choose to use these new ICBMs in a:
(1) first strike, 2) pre-empt an enemy first strike, or 3) launch on warning or under attack.
Why? Now what is the answer to the “why” of the China breakout?
One obvious reason is that China is indeed “breaking out”—they intend to be a peer nuclear competitor in order to coerce the US to stand-down in the face of Chinese aggression.
China’s 2019 NWDP or “China’s National Defense in a New Era” called for establishing a “Community of common destiny” guaranteeing China’s “emergence as a great power with global influence” with the objective of transforming “the system of global governance and create a new security architecture.”
And to achieve this, the document underscores that a “powerful military [is] essential” with the Belt and Road initiative and the Digital Silk Road being the economic and political means for China “…establishing itself as the preponderant power in Eurasia and a global power second to none.”
Why Now? The next question is “Why now?”
Three reasons stand out.
(1) Prevent the US from using its extended deterrent as a foundation for the creation of an allied coalition to contain China’s hegemonic goal to dominate Eurasia and threaten the current world order;
(2) Act now before unfavorable demographics kick in—a declining and rapidly aging population and a gender mis-match due to China’s one-child policy;
(3) Resolve the Taiwan and South China Sea issues on terms favorable to China before the US and its allies fully modernize their current military forces.
China’s Silos, Warheads & Missiles
China currently has 259 DF-41 silos under construction with a potential capability of deploying near 2600 warheads, of which 99% could be on alert at any one time, around 266% of currently on alert deployed US warheads, calculated on a day-to-day basis.
China can also back-fit the six Jin Type 094 SSBN missies, for the new JL-3 SLBM with 6 warheads each or 360 warheads. While additional submarines and associated missiles are slow to produce and expensive, an additional six type 096 SSBNs with 24 missiles each are expected to start construction in early 2020’s, could thus around 2030 provide an additional 864 warheads.
In China’s concept of “Integrated Strategic Deterrence” strategic nuclear forces would be integrated with cyberwar, psyops/influence operations, strategic conventional, space and other elements of national power to achieve a dominant “Comprehensive National Power” position.
And this conclusion may in turn be driven by the Chinese Korean war experience where US nuclear power brought an end to the war favorable to the US, which China’s “minimum nuclear deterrent strategy” can not reverse if faced with US power again. Now while China may have strategic nuclear forces that could carry upwards of roughly 4100 warheads in 2-4 years, some analysts doubt China’s capacity to produce the required fissile material. Most analysts however do acknowledge there is great uncertainty over past production and current and future production capability for plutonium, weapons grade uranium and tritium stocks.
There is also the issue of unknown production facilities given Chinese historic capability to construct massive underground facilities, the most recent (known) being the 5,000 km of lighted, ventilated tunnels. Also, little is known about China’s nuclear warhead technology level and the degree to which they have been able to apply reportedly stolen US nuclear warhead designs.
According to Cochran & Paine (NRDC, 1995) a country with advanced technical capabilities only needs 3 kg of Pu 9 (plutonium) or 5 kg of HEU (highly enriched uranium) for a 20 kt WH—which can then be boosted to ~60-200 kt with a few grams of tritium.
It is highly unlikely that China would embark on a massive strategic nuclear force breakout without sufficient stocks of fissile material to produce the needed warheads with the required yields to meet mission requirements.
US Options So, if China does match (or exceed) the US MM rate of deployment and deploys nuclear forces comparable in size to the US, what options does the US have? Right now, five options could be on the table:
1) For the current nuclear modernization program, maintain the course—and accelerate programs where feasible.
2) Upload existing strategic nuclear forces, but to what force level? The US is currently treaty limited to 1550. The US can upload an additional 800 RVs from the active hedge on the 400 deployed MM III as well as deploy an additional 50 MM III in 50 silos for a total of 1350 warheads, but the upload time will take about 4 years.
The D-5 SLBM’s can be uploaded from the current 4-5 to 8 which is the limit that the existing bulkhead can hold providing 1920 warheads in roughly 6-8 months as the SSBN’s return from patrol. The extra W-76 WH are stored at the SSBN bases in Washington and Georgia. There are 3,030 W-76 warheads of which 2000 were recently received life extensions and 1,000 placed in the inactive hedge. The US bomber force has 850 nuclear warheads– 528 ALCM and 322 bombs and can be uploaded relatively soon… 3) Taken together, the complete upload completed over 4 years provides roughly 4120 total nuclear warheads, or roughly an additional 2000 from today’s treaty limited deployment.
4) Deploy defenses (terrestrial and space based) for an integrated offense/defense superior to Russia and China’s. Candidates are land-based SM-3s, additional GBIs and a space-based system (likely most cost-effective with advanced satellite technology and dramatic drop in cost of access to space. All could be deployed in 3-5 years. 5) Develop intercontinental conventional strike and cyber-attack capabilities that will enable the US to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.
And the US upload potential does have some barriers. US tritium stocks (with a 12-year half-life) will have to be accelerated as the current plans were based on maintaining the existing stockpile. Bringing back inactive warheads will deplete tritium reserves and current tritium production plans will not be sufficient. Construction of a new reactor based on advanced technology that produces tritium gas far cheaper than existing sources may be necessary.
China & Russia: US Nuclear Adversaries In summary, the US is potentially facing two nuclear-capable peer adversaries. According to the STRATCOM Commander, the US has been “challenged to revise its 21st-century strategic deterrence theory that considers U.S. adversaries’ decision calculus and behaviors and identifies threat indicators or conditions that could indicate potential actions.”
It appears China has embarked upon a massive strategic nuclear breakout and will deploy a strategic nuclear force of sufficient size and capabilities in order to coerce the US and be prepared to use nuclear weapons to achieve their national objectives.
China probably has no interest in arms control and certainly does not accept US notions of strategic stability. Not only the US and the West but China’s breakout also may place Russia at risk. Russia may have to rethink its collaboration with China, or risk losing Siberia and the Far East to China in the future—the largest storehouse of resources in the world next door to the largest resources consumer in the world.
Connecting the nuclear “dots” tells us the Chinese nuclear build is huge, can be finished quickly, and is required by their hegemonic objectives.
The current US deterrent strategy needs thus to be examined in that light.
Peter Huessy is Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies
James Howe is Vice President of Vision Centric an aerospace company
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Dr. James Hall
Islamic Jihad members clash with guards, set fire to cells over restrictions imposed after jailbreak
Demonstrations in support of Palestinians rioting in Israeli prisons were set to take place Wednesday evening in the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli news site Hamal reports.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian inmates affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terrorist movement clashed with guards and set fire to seven cells at Ktzi’ot Prison in the Negev desert over restrictions imposed following the escape of six inmates on Monday from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel.
Five of the six fugitives imprisoned for attacks on the Jewish state are members of Islamic Jihad. They were still on the loose Wednesday as the massive manhunt continued.
Violence was reported Wednesday in other Israeli facilities, including at Ofer Prison near Jerusalem and at Rimon Prison where two cells were set ablaze.
The Israel Prison Services said that they were on high alert and bracing for more clashes.
The fires were reportedly started by Islamic Jihad members who refused to move between sections in protest of the decision to disperse prisoners affiliated with the terrorist group between detention centers to avoid an uprising in the wake of the jailbreak.
The Metzada Unit, the Israel Prison Service hostage rescue and special operations unit, was reportedly headed to Ktzi’ot Prison to deal with the unrest there.
The Hamas terrorist group issued a statement warning of a response if Israel continued the restrictions on Palestinian prisoners.
“We warn the Zionist occupation against the continuation of these repressive and retaliatory measures against the prisoners, and hold it fully responsible for all the results and consequences of these dangerous policies,” the statement said.
Roi Rubinstein |
Published: 09.09.21, 17:20
The Hamas terrorist group called for a “day of rage” on Friday, including clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, in protest of the sanctions imposed on security prisoners held in Israel after six terrorists escaped from the maximum-security Gilboa Prison earlier this week.”The Palestinian resistance is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the prisoners,” the group said.
Why Washington I Failed to Win Over Islamabad—and Prevent a Taliban Victory
September 9, 2021
The U.S. failure in Afghanistan also reflects the failure of Washington’s approach to Pakistan. Islamabad has been the Taliban’s most important foreign sponsor: it helped birth the group in the 1990s, then worked against the United States to enable its survival and resurgence. Today, prominent members of Pakistan’s security establishment are cheering the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul. Despite billions of dollars in aid and high-tech military equipment from Washington, they remain convinced that their unwavering commitment to the extremist Islamist group was a brilliant strategic gambit.
How could the United States have failed so completely to engineer a change in Pakistan’s behavior in Afghanistan? Why couldn’t Washington convince or coerce Pakistan to join its side?
These questions are even more urgent following the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. With its client established in Kabul, Pakistan remains deeply entangled in its neighbor’s politics. Future solutions to the threats posed by a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan—including the potential resurgence of al Qaeda or similar terrorist groups—will likely run through Islamabad. Recent U.S.-Pakistani dialogues on these issues show signs of friction: Pakistani officials have downplayed the extent of the Taliban’s domestic crackdown and have sought public praise for their assistance in evacuating third-country officials, while U.S. diplomats remain less sanguine about Taliban reprisals and more focused on the threat of resurgent al Qaeda and Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliates in Afghanistan.
The United States has a vital interest in understanding why it failed for two decades to influence Pakistani behavior in Afghanistan—and in developing a new, less militarized strategy for advancing its goals in the region. Washington will need to appreciate just how little leverage it often holds with Pakistan, particularly when it tries to push an overlong list of priorities or makes demands that run counter to Islamabad’s entrenched interests. If the relationship touches on issues of vital American national interest, as it did after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. policymakers will need to level credible threats to ensure Pakistan’s compliance with their agenda.
Short of that, as will most often be the case, the United States should lower its ambitions with Pakistan to transactional cooperation on issues where the two sides mostly see eye to eye. This could include some counterterror and humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, as well as regional diplomacy and crisis management. That cooperation should not be confused with strategic partnership, but even small-bore successes would be an improvement over costly overreach.
PRESENT AT THE CREATION
The Taliban would not exist today without Pakistan’s support. In the chaotic aftermath that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Islamabad saw the group as a means to expand its influence westward and, crucially, to deny the territory to regional rivals such as Iran and India. When the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, they turned Afghanistan into a playground for Islamist terrorists and militants, including groups supported by Pakistan to attack India. Some Pakistani security officials supported the Taliban out of ideological sympathy, while others shortsightedly believed—and continue to believe—that the group could be manipulated to support their own interests at a reasonable cost.
Pakistan withdrew its official support to the Taliban only after the administration of President George W. Bush convinced Pervez Musharraf, the country’s dictator, to join its post-9/11 mission against al Qaeda operatives. But even then it maintained an open-door policy to fleeing Taliban leaders that allowed them to evade American capture. Within months, the Taliban began to regroup and organize new operational hubs from Pakistan, where they launched the insurgency against U.S. forces.
A few short years after the U.S. invasion, the Taliban had made progress in their insurgency campaign. From that point onward, Pakistan never stopped providing a safe haven for the group. Its intelligence agency even provided specialized training and support for the Haqqani network, the al Qaeda–linked branch of the Taliban responsible for some of the most deadly and spectacular attacks in Afghanistan, including ones that targeted American and Indian officials. The Taliban’s recent offensive was marked by a sophisticated application of battlefield lessons from the 1990s that suggests extensive Pakistani assistance with respect to planning, logistics, intelligence, and likely even more direct involvement as well. The campaign unfolded nationwide, as Taliban forces eliminated most pockets of resistance in the north and closed border crossings to Iran before taking Kabul.
Of course, the Afghan republic might have fallen even without Pakistan’s support of the Taliban. The political order that the United States created in Afghanistan offered fertile ground for insurgency, as the government in Kabul was rife with corruption and made enemies of many of its own citizens. But without Islamabad’s aid, the Taliban leaders who fled in 2001 would have been imprisoned or killed, or at least driven underground so completely that their movement would have been crippled. New Afghan opposition forces may have arisen in the two decades after the 9/11 attacks—groups that would not have carried the Taliban’s baggage of such close association with al Qaeda.
Washington would have been less likely to escalate its military operations against just about any other Afghan group and more likely to negotiate an earlier withdrawal. Even the eventual collapse of the Kabul government would have represented less of a strategic blow than the triumphant return of the Taliban.
PARTNER AND FOE
Although it is difficult to imagine as disaster now engulfs Afghanistan, the United States rarely placed Afghanistan at the top of its list of priorities with Pakistan. In fact, the country often placed third, well after countering al Qaeda and nuclear weapons proliferation—and sometimes fell to fourth place when India and Pakistan came to blows. This deprioritization helps explain why Pakistani leaders repeatedly doubted Washington’s seriousness of purpose in Afghanistan. These doubts were only compounded after 2003, when the United States focused greater attention on Iraq, and Afghanistan became what U.S. military officials dubbed an “economy of force” mission.
U.S. efforts to advance one set of goals with Pakistan often produced setbacks with respect to its other goals. The core of the challenge was the U.S. relationship with the Pakistani security forces: every American administration since 2001 simultaneously found itself working with Pakistan’s military and perceiving it as a central obstacle to Washington’s goals in the region. The United States collaborated closely with the Pakistani army and its intelligence service to capture and kill al Qaeda operatives and to improve the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, even as it was clear that the same military was responsible for fomenting terrorism and increasing the likelihood of nuclear war in South Asia.
Washington will need to appreciate just how little leverage it often holds with Pakistan.
Pakistan’s generals were adept at making themselves Washington’s indispensable partners, skillfully exploiting their leverage in the relationship. They would satisfy the bare minimum of U.S. demands on them—for instance, by putting global nuclear proliferation ringleader A. Q. Khan out of business and under house arrest. It helped that the army presented a unified front: Washington rarely found exploitable fractures within it and even feared that sowing such divisions would risk collapsing the single most effective institution of a nuclear-armed state. No matter the implications for Afghanistan, that was never considered a risk worth taking.
The majority of the Pakistani state, as well as a significant portion of the general public, simply never bought into the U.S. vision for a post-Taliban Afghanistan. An important contingent within the Pakistani security forces flat-out opposed any cooperation with the United States and attacked Pakistanis who collaborated with Washington, including fellow officers in the army and the intelligence services. In December 2003, Musharraf escaped two assassination attempts traced to military officers with connections to al Qaeda, and several other plots were also reportedly foiled. Over the next four years, opposition to cooperation with the United States metastasized into a domestic insurgency under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP. The group initially enjoyed sympathy from many quarters in Pakistani society, including serving and retired military officers. As violence spiked against the Pakistani state, including the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence, some U.S. observers grew concerned that the army-led state might splinter.
All the while, even those Pakistanis who were willing to consider cooperation with the United States remained unconvinced that their core strategic aims in Afghanistan could be met by following Washington’s lead. It is true that U.S. officials never demonstrated much sympathy for Pakistan’s concerns in Afghanistan, which they often viewed as overwrought. They never took seriously Islamabad’s anxiety that the Kabul-based government could emerge as a threat, either by supporting irredentist claims on Pakistani territory or by siding with India. The United States also routinely demurred when Islamabad asked for help resolving the Durand Line border dispute and increasingly moved ever closer into its own strategic partnership with New Delhi.
Overcoming Pakistan’s skepticism also became more difficult as the Taliban insurgency grew in strength. Through the Afghan Taliban, and especially through the Haqqanis, Pakistan was effectively working to push India out of the country and target its perceived enemies. It held no other tool of comparable efficacy: it had long ago betrayed the trust of non-Taliban Afghan leaders and lacked sufficient economic clout to buy its way to a position of influence.
The United States tried many times to use coercive measures and positive inducements to win Pakistani support—frequently adopting a mix of both policies at the same time. These efforts, however, never provided Washington with much leverage on Afghanistan. U.S. “carrots,” such as the sale of F-16 fighter jets, were granted only belatedly and after extensive congressional debates that often diminished their diplomatic payoff by drawing public attention to the ways in which Pakistan undermined U.S. goals in the region. Billions of dollars in “reimbursements” for Pakistani military operations were routinely delayed or arrived with various strings attached, making it difficult to calibrate assistance to punish or reward Islamabad’s behavior.
The United States also rarely threatened to make Pakistan pay a high price for its intransigence. Only once during the entire 20-year war did Washington raise the stakes in a sufficiently targeted and forceful manner that Islamabad was forced to change its approach in Afghanistan. This lone success came in the immediate shock of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, when Pakistan’s generals felt compelled to stand aside as their Taliban allies were routed. Musharraf and his compatriots clearly feared what the United States might do otherwise, and they were unwilling to go down with the Taliban.
But Washington failed to seize other prime moments for coercion, when Pakistan’s leaders felt vulnerable and U.S. threats were more likely to be credible. The first opportunity came immediately before the Obama administration’s 2010 “surge” into Afghanistan, when the threat of a major U.S. military escalation could have forced Islamabad and its Taliban proxies into serious negotiations. Washington instead chose to delay negotiations in the hope that its military advances would deliver a sweeping victory over the Taliban or at least an opportunity to negotiate from a position of greater strength. In retrospect, the threat of U.S. escalation probably offered a better coercive stick than the actual escalation.
The second opportunity came in May 2011, immediately after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in an audacious raid inside Pakistani territory. The al Qaeda leader’s presence on Pakistani soil exposed to the world that Islamabad was either incompetent or deceitful—or some messy combination of the two. Pakistan’s military stood humiliated and vulnerable to pressure at home and internationally. However, rather than following up with new threats of what would come if Pakistan did not change course, U.S. officials largely backed off.
These officials likely feared the consequences of kicking the Pakistani military when it was already down and hoped to maintain at least enough cooperation to enable U.S. military access through Pakistan’s roads and airspace into Afghanistan. The United States also believed that Pakistan’s situation could always get worse. Duplicitous generals were less bad than outright Islamists and the army’s ruthless grip on domestic politics more predictable than the messy alternatives.
THE LIMITS OF U.S. LEVERAGE
Washington now finds itself in a position with Afghanistan that looks much like the late 1990s. The country once again risks becoming a base for international terrorism, as the Taliban victory offers a rallying point for global jihadism. The Taliban, and especially the Haqqanis, have never fully broken with al Qaeda, and pockets of ungoverned territory in Afghanistan will offer safe haven to groups such as ISIS or new terrorist organizations with global aims. Taliban rule could also support extremist movements abroad and spark an exodus of refugees, further increasing regional instability.
The experience of the last two decades will make the Biden administration and its successors even more circumspectabout seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in countering these threats. Yet the United States will have relatively few good options to affect Afghanistan’s course, given that none of the country’s other neighbors hold as much sway as Pakistan. For its part, Islamabad will be even more attached to its dangerous proxies, less awed by U.S. threats, and less inclined to trust Washington’s commitments.
Moving forward, U.S. policymakers would do well to appreciate the many contradictions and constraints that have plagued prior efforts with Pakistan. Perhaps they will try again, hoping to avoid past errors. They would be wise to begin by narrowing and focusing their ambitions for any future cooperation with Islamabad. Understanding the limits of U.S. leverage—through inducement or coercion—must be the name of the game. In many ways, the top U.S. priorities remain unchanged: global terrorists need to be deprived of opportunities to plan and implement attacks, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons need to stay unused and securely inside the country.
Washington should heed the lesson of the past two decades: a strategic partnership with Islamabad is currently out of reach.
In Afghanistan, the United States will also seek Pakistan’s support for evacuating refugees in the near term and delivering humanitarian assistance over the longer run. The Biden administration, in concert with its friends and allies, should also keep up the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to facilitate the escape of the thousands of Afghans who fought with coalition forces. However, Washington should also be realistic enough to appreciate that Islamabad’s interests now lie in cultivating firm ties with the new Taliban regime and that it will be difficult to induce Pakistan to play a broadly helpful role in the country. For now, at least, working through Central Asian states, and even Iran, is more likely to save the lives of Afghan allies.
Similarly, only a subset of U.S. counterterror operations will realistically benefit in the near term from closer military and intelligence cooperation with Pakistan. When Washington and Islamabad see eye to eye on the threat posed by groups such as ISIS, they can reliably share targeting information. Of course, the same can be said even of the Taliban, with which U.S. forces have worked to counter ISIS in recent years. Unlike the Taliban, however, Pakistan offers air access from the Arabian Sea and monitoring and surveillance capabilities of its own.
The United States will find it easier to calibrate its relationship with Pakistan if it keeps the relationship transactional and focused narrowly on specific terrorist threats. For instance, if Islamabad helps U.S. forces track al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Washington can help Pakistan against the TTP. Of course, Washington will also likely need to work against terrorist groups that Pakistan and the Taliban continue to aid and abet, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. For that reason, any cooperation should not be confused with genuine strategic partnership, cause for reopening the spigot of U.S. assistance to Pakistan, or even friendlier high-profile diplomacy.
The United States’ other focus with Pakistan ought to be on preventing the use or spread of nuclear weapons. Earlier U.S. efforts to bolster the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile were always of limited utility, mainly because they never engendered Pakistani trust in the United States. Given Pakistan’s tightening ties to China, there is no reason to attempt similar initiatives now. U.S. policy should instead fall squarely on establishing credible deterrent threats to keep Pakistan from using its weapons in a hostile exchange with India or against other targets, including Israel, and to keep it from sharing nuclear weapons and know-how with other states, such as Saudi Arabia.
Pakistani diplomats have already signaled that they wish to turn the page with the United States. Yet Islamabad’s choices over the past 20 years have consequences: a generation of American military officers and political leaders has come of age knowing Pakistan mainly as a spoiler in Afghanistan. The United States should not punish Pakistan simply out of pique for past wrongs, but it should also heed the lesson it has learned the hard way over the past two decades: a strategic partnership with Islamabad is currently out of reach. If a deeper bilateral relationship is to be built, it will take years, if not decades, and the initiative will have to come first from the Pakistani side.
I cover defense issues and military technology.
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France fields a powerful military with sophisticated capabilities, including advanced jets, well-trained commandos and nuclear weapons.
But the French military is also fragile, lacking reserves of munitions and manpower for a sustained conflict with Russia, according to a study by a U.S. think tank.
“France currently possesses one of Western Europe’s most capable militaries, owing to the country’s commitment to maintaining as wide a range of military capabilities as possible and preserving its capacity to handle any kind of conflict, including high-intensity conventional warfare, without the necessity of allies,” according to a report by U.S. think tank RAND Corp.
France has always been the odd bird of the Western alliance. A founding member of NATO in 1949, it withdrew its troops from NATO command in 1966 – only to rejoin in 2009. Mindful of its history as a great power – the armies of Louis XIV and Napoleon once dominated Europe – France since 1945 has pursued a fiercely independent foreign policy that has sometimes exasperated U.S. leaders.
But facing possible conflict with Moscow over Eastern Europe and the Baltic States – and with the U.S. calling for Europe to spend more on its own defense – NATO needs all the help it can get.
France is well-positioned to help. With around 300,000 active-duty military personnel backed by the world’s seventh-largest economy, France boasts an impressive range of capabilities for a medium-sized power. Its Leclerc tanks, Rafale jet fighters and CAESAR 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers are in the same league as advanced American or Russian equipment. France has a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and four nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, as well as spy satellites and cyberwarfare capabilities.
France’s problem isn’t breadth of capabilities, but depth. Not just limited numbers of weapons and munitions, but also crucial support services, such as electronic warfare, air defense and airlift capacity.
“France’s capacity to sustain a high-end, conventional conflict is limited,” RAND said. “The French military might be able to accomplish all its assigned missions at once, but it lacks depth, meaning that such demanding operations would quickly exhaust both its human and material resources.”
Ironically, while France and America have had their squabbles, both find themselves caught in the same dilemma. Like the U.S. military, the French armed forces entered the post-9/11 era configured for Cold War mechanized combat. And like the U.S. military, they had to reorient themselves for counterinsurgency warfare. For years, France has been fighting Islamic militants in the former French colonies in the Sahel — or Saharan — region of Africa, including the nations of Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. Since Operation Barkhane began in 2014, up to 5,000 French soldiers have been deployed in Africa, as well as small numbers of troops fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
TOPSHOT – Soldiers from the French Army holds [+]AFP via Getty Images
But in June 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Operation Barkhane would end, though France will still maintain a military presence in the Sahel. France now has to prepare for both major-power conflict and small wars.
The result is that the French military is designed for segment median, or “middle-segment” warfare, defined as “heavy enough to survive on a conventional battlefield yet light enough to remain expeditionary—i.e., deployable to austere environments, such as Mali, in the absence of ample logistical capabilities,” RAND noted.
“France has been careful to maintain the ability to do full spectrum operations, including for a conventional war in Europe,” Stephanie Pezard, a RAND researcher who co-authored the study, told me. “However, this ability has not been their main focus over the past few years, resulting recently in a new turn toward high-intensity conflict and the means necessary to wage this type of war.”
U.S. leaders such as Donald Trump have long accused Europe of not spending enough on European defense, forcing American taxpayers to pick up the tab. Yet France does see itself as defending Europe – just not in Europe. “The French consider their military’s active overseas operations, especially in the Sahel but also in Iraq and Syria, as burden-sharing—a form of in-kind contribution that enhances NATO and European security even when not conducted under a NATO or European Union mandate,” RAND noted.
Nonetheless, NATO since its inception has focused on the Russian threat. And the French military would be an invaluable asset in a NATO-Russia conflict. “France could support a U.S.-led war in Eastern Europe; it has and is developing the capabilities required to take on a sophisticated peer and help meet some of the needs identified to participate in high-intensity conventional warfare,” RAND noted.
But France couldn’t battle Russia for long without U.S. support. “France is able to conduct military operations across the full spectrum of conflict, but it does not have the ability to sustain the fight during a protracted conflict against a highly capable adversary, such as Russia,” said RAND. “From a U.S. perspective, this means that France could participate in a large-scale conventional war in Eastern Europe for a limited time. Several capability areas, such as electronic warfare and air defenses, might benefit from increased U.S.-French collaboration and could improve France’s ability to sustain this type of conflict.”
Which leads to an even deeper question: how willing would France be to fight Russia? That depends, says Pezard. “If France becomes convinced that the security situation in Europe warrants a larger presence, then this would likely take precedence over overseas commitments — unless these overseas commitments aim at securing France’s overseas territories. Until France becomes convinced that the situation in Europe warrants more involvement on its part, it will continue to secure the next circle, such as the Mediterranean and the Sahel.”