Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant GuardStory by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009 This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults. The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said. “In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said. This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday. Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director. “A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault. Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added. Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage. “It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi. The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added. “You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said. Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents. Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.” “I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said. Training concluded Thursday.
SEOUL—Recent resumption of activity at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, which is suspected of producing the plutonium needed for the country’s nuclear weapons, has fueled existing convictions among some conservative South Korean politicians that Pyongyang will never agree to give up its nukes so Seoul needs a nuclear deterrent of its own.
The issue has stormed into the early days of the upcoming presidential election, with primary candidates openly pushing for South Korea to host nuclear weapons. Yoo Seong-min, a former lawmaker and primary candidate for the People Power Party, said he would “persuade the U.S. government to sign a nuclear-sharing agreement” with Seoul if he became president. Such an agreement would again allow the deployment of tactical and nonstrategic nuclear weapons on South Korean soil for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Another conservative contender, Hong Joon-pyo, has also argued that a nuclear-sharing agreement is needed lest South Korea end up “slaves to North Korea’s nuclear weapons.”
For some in South Korea, it’s not just about hosting U.S. weapons but also about developing their own. Lee Jong-kul, a representative from the Liberal Party, has saidSouth Korea should “choose tactical nuclear weapons as the last negotiating card” against North Korea. In 2017, a conservative group, the Korean Patriotic Citizens’ Union, organized protests that included chants like “South Korea should immediately begin to arm itself with nuclear weapons.” Nuclear boosterism has grown so much that the leading primary candidate for the Liberal Party, Lee Jae-myung, decried it as “dangerous populism.”
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas praised the stabbing attack in Jerusalem that left one Israeli wounded on Wednesday.
“The heroic actions in the West Bank and Jerusalem prove the greatness of our people and their unbreakable resistance. The Palestinians at the West Bank and at Jerusalem are in an open battle campaign against Israel,” said Hamas.
“This is a new world,” President Joe Biden declared, when justifying his pullout from Afghanistan and explaining his administration’s war on global terrorism in an August 31 speech. It will go “well beyond Afghanistan,” he alerted the world, focusing on “the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”
The president will not have to look too far. Bordering Afghanistan, now again under Taliban rule, is Pakistan, one of America’s oddest “allies.” Governed by a shaky coalition of ineffective politicians and trained military leaders trying desperately to contain the challenge of domestic terrorism, Pakistan may be the best definition yet of a highly combustible threat that, if left unchecked, might lead to the nightmare of nightmares: jihadis taking control of a nuclear weapons arsenal of something in the neighborhood of 200 warheads.
Ever since May 1998, when Pakistan first began testing nuclear weapons, claiming its national security demanded it, American presidents have been haunted by the fear that Pakistan’s stockpile of nukes would fall into the wrong hands. That fear now includes the possibility that jihadis in Pakistan, freshly inspired by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, might try to seize power at home.
Trying, of course, is not the same as succeeding. If history is a reliable guide, Pakistan’s professional military would almost certainly respond, and in time probably succeed; but only after the floodgates of a new round of domestic warfare between the government and extremist gangs has been opened, leaving Pakistan again shaken by political and economic uncertainty. And when Pakistan is shaken, so too is India, its less than neighborly rival and nuclear competitor.
Pakistani jihadis come in many different shapes and sizes, but no matter: The possibility of a nuclear-armed terrorist regime in Pakistan has now grown from a fear into a strategic challenge that no American president can afford to ignore.
Former President Barack Obama translated this challenge into carefully chosen words: “The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term,” he asserted, “would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” (Author’s italics).
The nation that has both nuclear weapons and a dangerous mix of terrorists was — and remains — Pakistan.
No problem, really, Pakistan’s political and military leaders have quickly assured a succession of anxious presidents. Whether it be Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehreek-e-Labaik, al-Qaida, or the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura — these terrorist organizations have always been under our constant surveillance, checked and rechecked. We keep a close eye on everything, even the Islamic madrassas, where more than 2 million students are more likely studying sharia law than economics or history. We know who these terrorists are and what they’re doing, and we’re ready to take immediate action.
These official assurances have fallen largely on deaf ears at the White House, principally because one president after another has learned from American intelligence that these same Pakistani leaders have often been working surreptitiously with the terrorists to achieve common goals. One such goal was the recent defeat of the Kabul regime, which had been supported by the U.S. for 20 years. During this time, the victorious Taliban secretly received political and military support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Shortly after 9/11, for example, the terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden, escaped U.S. capture, in part because sympathetic of ISI colleagues. Bin Laden fled to the one place where his security could be assured — Pakistan. In 2011, when the U.S. finally caught up with bin Laden and killed him, Obama chose not to inform Pakistani leaders of the super-secret operation, even though the target was down the street from a Pakistani military academy, fearful that once again bin Laden would be tipped off and escape.
The U.S. has learned over the years not to trust Pakistan, realizing that a lie here and there might be part of the diplomatic game but that this level of continuing deception was beyond acceptable bounds. That Pakistan was also known to have helped North Korea and Iran develop their nuclear programs has only deepened the distrust.
Indeed, since the shock of 9/11, Pakistan has come to represent such an exasperating problem that the U.S. has reportedly developed a secret plan to arbitrarily seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if a terrorist group in Pakistan seemed on the edge of capturing some or all of its nuclear warheads. When repeatedly questioned about the plan, U.S. officials have strung together an artful, if unpersuasive, collection of “no comments.”
Even though U.S. economic and military aid has continued to flow into Pakistan — reaching $4.5 billion in fiscal 2010, though on other occasions capriciously cut — America’s concerns about Pakistan’s stability and reliability have only worsened. Since the debacle in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s barely disguised role in it, serious questions have been raised about America’s embarrassing predisposition to look the other way whenever Pakistan has been caught with its hand in a terrorist’s cookie jar. How long can America look the other way?
The anguishing problem for the Biden administration is now coming into sharper focus: Even if the president decided to challenge Pakistan’s dangerous flirtation with domestic and regional terrorism, what specific policies could he adopt that would satisfy America’s obvious desire to disengage from Afghan-like civil wars without at the same time getting itself involved in another nation’s domestic struggles with terrorists? Disengagement has become the name of the game in Washington.
One approach, already widely discussed, is that the U.S. can contain the spread of terrorism in South Asia by relying on its “over-the-horizon” capabilities. Though almost every senior official, including Biden, has embraced this approach, it’s doubtful they really believe it’s a viable substitute for “boots on the ground.”
Another possibility would be the Central Intelligence Agency striking a new under-the-table deal with the ISI that would set new goals and guidelines for both services to cooperate more aggressively in the war against domestic and regional terrorism. Unfortunately, prospects for such expanded cooperation, though rhetorically appealing, are actually quite slim. Veterans of both services shake their heads, reluctantly admitting it is unrealistic, given the degree of distrust on both sides.
But even if Biden, despite knowing better, decided to continue to look the other way, hoping against hope that Pakistan would be able to contain the terrorists and keep them from acquiring nuclear warheads, he will find that Prime Minister Imran Khan is not a ready and eager ally, if he ever was one. Lately he’s been painting the Biden administration as damaged goods after its hurried exit from Afghanistan. And he has been rearranging Pakistan’s regional relationships by strengthening his ties with China and extending a welcoming hand to Russia. Also Khan may soon discover that his pro-Taliban policy runs the risk of backfiring and inspiring Pakistani terrorists to turn against him. To whom would he then turn for help?
Khan, who won his mandate in 2018, surely knows by now that he runs a decidedly unhappy country, beset by major economic and political problems, waves of societal corruption and the no-nonsense challenge coming from domestic terrorists eager to impose a severe Islamic code of conduct on the Pakistani people. Sixty-four percent of the population are under the age of 30 and more desirous of iPhones and apps than of religious zealotry.
Pakistan is a looming problem with no satisfactory solutions. For Biden, no matter what policies he pursues, it remains a recurring nightmare, the stuff of a paperback thriller: a scary mix of terrorists who may one day be able to seize power and, with it, control over the nation’s stockpile of nuclear warheads — all of this happening in a shaky, strategically-located country that was once an ally.
Since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, geostrategic relationships on the Asian subcontinent have been undergoing important changes. Pakistan has tilted its future towards a closer relationship with China, while its principal adversary, India, has tightened its ties to the United States, both of them sharing an already deep distrust of China. In this increasingly uneasy atmosphere, the U.S. remains concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile falling into terrorist hands. If this seemed to be happening, the U.S. would feel the need to intervene militarily to stop it. Pakistan would likely turn to China for help, setting the stage for the U.S. and China, because of Pakistan’s nukes, to head towards a direct and possibly deadly confrontation which neither superpower wants or needs.
Eighty years ago, imperial Japan used a technology first developed by the U.S. and the U.K.—carrier-based bombing and torpedo attacks—to cripple the American Navy at Pearl Harbor. Americans must now wonder whether China is setting the stage for another devastating attack on American forces using another U.S.-pioneered technology: hypersonic missiles.
China’s July 2021 test of a hypersonic missile was literally a shot “around the world,” according to Gen. John Hyten, the departing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China,” he told CBS News. When asked why China was developing this advanced technology, Gen. Hyten replied, “They look like a first-use weapon. That’s what those weapons look like to me.”
Hypersonic weapons don’t follow a single trajectory like ballistic missiles. They can twist and turn on their way to a target, while their incredibly high speeds—above Mach 5, or a mile a second—make it impossible for existing land- and space-based systems to detect a hypersonic attack until very late in the missile’s flight path. It also isn’t clear whether current U.S. command-and-control systems can process data fast enough to respond to a head-on hypersonic threat.
China tested a second nuclear-capable missile carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle on Aug. 13. This means that Beijing is surging ahead with a technology against which the U.S. has very limited capability for defense or detection.
The shame is that the U.S. has been the primary developer of hypersonic vehicles, going back to the X-15 program in the 1960s. According to Mike Griffin, a former undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, the U.S. effectively shut down its hypersonic effort in the mid-2010s—while China made hypersonics a Manhattan Project-level priority. As a result, Gen. Hyten told the website BreakingDefense.com in October, China has performed “hundreds” of tests of hypersonic weapons in the past five years, while the U.S. has conducted nine.
The U.S. Army isn’t expected to field hypersonic weapons before 2023. Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency hopes to provide a hypersonic missile defense capability by the mid- to late 2020s. This may be too late to deal with and deter a Chinese capability that will only grow. The Pentagon warns that China’s nuclear arsenal will reach 1,000 warheads by the end of the decade. If those weapons can be delivered via hypersonic systems, we are looking at a devastating threat to the American homeland.
The U.S. and U.K. pioneered the use of carrier-based attacks during World War I, but by 1941 the American Navy was still largely reliant on its legacy battleships, which proved all too vulnerable to Japanese bombers. In 1925, Army Col. Billy Mitchell had been court-martialed and driven out of the service for publicly accusing military leaders of ignoring the vulnerability of battleships to bomber attacks. Fortunately, today’s hypersonic threat from China is obvious to everyone, giving the U.S. time to develop some options.
Instead of waiting for the Pentagon to develop a satellite network to detect hypersonic launches—which could take the rest of the decade—the U.S. must quickly deploy a defensive network of existing unmanned platforms to intercept hypersonic vehicles before they reach their targets. The American military has never made peace with unmanned vehicles as the inevitable future of air power. The time has come.
The U.S. must also work with allies to develop a hypersonic capability that will take the initiative away from China and Russia. One of those allies, ironically, is Japan, which is developing a hypersonic missile for use against Chinese aircraft carriers. An agreement among the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, and India on hypersonics—along the lines of the recent Aukus agreement on nuclear submarines—will send the proper signal to Beijing and stimulate innovation and strategic thinking on both sides of the Pacific.
One of the tragic errors that led to Pearl Harbor was U.S. isolation from other democratic allies. The U.K. and France, especially, could have been strong partners against the threats posed by advanced military technology being developed in Japan and Germany. Eighty years after that terrible day, let’s resolve not to make the same mistake.
Mr. Herman is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author, most recently, of “The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World.”
China’s hypersonic missile test demonstrates the next major war will utilize cyber attacks and unmanned vehicles striking from afar. So far the Biden administration is ignoring the warning signs. Images: EPA/Shutterstock/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition
A GOP senator who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee casually suggested that the US could enter a massive ground war with Russia in defence of Ukraine as Russian troops are massing near the country’s borders.
Sen Roger Wicker made the comments during an evening interview with Fox News host Neil Cavuto. He made clear that he was ruling out nothing as a possibility for use in defence of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Mr Cavuto, however, had not mentioned nuclear weapons at any point in his questioning.
During his remarks, which echoed others he made on CNN, Mr Wicker said that US policy is to keep all options on the table when the potential for military conflict arises, including the use of nuclear weapons.
“Well, military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the Black Sea and we rain destruction … on Russia military capability. It could mean that we participate, and I would not rule that out, I would not rule out American troops on the ground. Do you know we don’t rule out first-use nuclear action,” Mr Wicker says.
A full clip of the interview was not immediately available. A representative for the senator’s office confirmed in a phone call with The Independent that the senator thought that President Joe Biden should not rule out the possibility of military action to defend Ukraine, though they cautioned that the remarks about nuclear weapons referred to US policy in general and not the Ukraine conflict specifically.
Russia has repeatedly denied that the buildup of its troops near Ukraine is preceding an invasion of the country. In 2014 Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, while parts of the southeastern regions of Ukraine are now controlled by pro-Russian militant groups following fierce fighting in the Donbas region.
President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone on Tuesday amid the rising tensions, and during the call Mr Biden threatened greater economic sanctions against Russia should the country’s military invade Ukraine. The president stopped short of pledging direct military aid to Ukraine’s government.
Russia has long criticised the actions of the US-back defence pact NATO, and on Tuesday the Kremlin again accused NATO of wanting to “conquer” Ukrainian territory, despite Ukraine’s own public efforts to join the pact.
Mr Wicker is one of the Senate’s loudest war hawks, and his remarks on Tuesday are not the first suggesting war with Russia.
In 2016 during one memorable hearing with former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen Joseph Dunford, Mr Wicker questioned why the US could not unilaterally institute a no-fly zone across the entirety of Syria’s airspace, and was bluntly informed by the general that such a command would put the US at war with Russia, which operated military bases in the region.
Teams supported by Egyptian volunteers continue wreckage removal of As-Shuruk apartment destroyed by Israeli attack at al-Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City, Gaza on June 07, 2021 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]December 6, 2021 at 8:51 pm
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, is mulling escalation with the Israeli occupation over its continuous siege on Gaza Strip, Al-Jazeera reported a Hamas source as saying on Monday evening.
According to the source, Al-Jazeera also said that Hamas had accused Egypt of delaying the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
The reason for the potential escalation, the source told Al-Jazeera, is the continuous Israeli aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque and targeting prisoners inside Israeli jails.
“This will explode the situation,” the source said. “We will not allow the retention of the current situation, and the coming stage will prove the credibility of our warnings.”
Al-Jazeera said that the source is a Hamas leader, pointing out that he said: “We express our deepest displeasure with the behaviour of the Egyptian mediator and its procrastination regarding its promises towards Gaza.”
He added: “Egypt did not respect what it had pledged to Hamas and the Palestinian resistance factions regarding the reconstruction of Gaza and easing the siege.”
The source reiterated: “Egypt continues harassing Palestinian travellers from the Gaza Strip,” saying “it still preventing thousands from travelling without any justifications.”
He concluded: “Egypt’s behaviour means it has given up its pledges to oblige Israel [to respect the ceasefire conditions] in return for the resistance commitment to the ceasefire.”